A Two and a Half Year Journey

March 28, 2010 at 2:21 pm (Employment, Finances, Job Satisfaction) (, , , , )

After two years in Scotland we abruptly cut our stay short.  Josh was planning to work another year, then get started on his PhD.  He wasn’t originally planning to do PhD work, but his advisor talked him into it.  He was accepted to continue at U of E.  During our years of marriage this was the happiest I had seen him.  Though he was incredibly intimidated by the bright young minds he would be studying with and wasn’t sure if he could do it after being out of school for 5 years, he did very well and graduated with distinction.  He was also excited to continue his studies and began informal research for his thesis (dissertation is done for masters and thesis is done for doctorate in the UK).

But a couple of strange phone calls from Josh’s mom had us worried.  She sounded confused.  She thought we had secretly moved back to Chicago and didn’t tell her, even though she had made the international phone call to us.  She would call and hang up.  She was mad and we didn’t know why and wouldn’t talk to us for a while.  We talked with Josh’s siblings.  Their stories collaborated with ours, but they told us to continue on in Scotland, not to come home.  But she asked us if we would come home.

In just a matter of one or two weeks we decided that we would pick up and leave.  Josh’s sister would be home for part of the summer and we wanted to be there shortly after she left, thinking this would bring her comfort.  We decided that we would not look for jobs, but help care for my FIL who was invalid and could not communicate.

Things did not go as planned.  I purposely did not share what was going on on my blog out of respect.  I hid everything except small illusions to those close.  I will not share details, but I will tell you it was like living a Dicken’s novel for 3 months.  Even longer, after we moved out.

We were treated bad.  We were not even welcomed when we arrived.  After 3 months we decided we could not handle it any more.  I began having mini panic attacks whenever we were on the road to get back home.  I still do.  By that time we were kicked out.  We had to find a car (we were dependent on hers) and a place to live without any income.  We had to set up house again.  Since we had been in Scotland we had no cleaning supplies, no condiments, we had given many things away so we didn’t have to store them.

It took 2 months for us both to find work and it was only seasonal and part-time.  I worked a horrible 6 weeks at Target and Josh was at UPS.  That ran out and it took another month to find work.  I was part-time at Chase in Hobart, a 45 minute drive from where we were living, and Josh found work through a temp agency.  He worked cleaning carpets and sucking up flood water, being on-call 24/7 for $9/hr.  We had no life and gas was reaching toward $5/gal that year. 

The vehicle we purchased needed a new gas tank right away.  We didn’t realise it was leaking.  A few months later it needed a new transmission.  We were incredibly grateful to friends who had given us their old car.  And one that got 35 miles to the gallon!  Otherwise there is no way we both could have worked.

At the worst point of it all we were $13,000 in credit card debt.  It is not that we lived frivolously.  That is what it took for us to have a subsistence living.  We had to put everything, EVERYTHING on the cards.  We had three cards, which we had gotten intermittently.  When the 0% APR ran out on one, we got another.  When I started work at Chase I applied for another.  Being an employee, this gave me 18mos no APR.

With Josh doing so much overtime we were able to start paying down some of the debt.  Little by little.  Something would always happen and push us back a bit.  It was such a sickening feeling that our wages were hardly livable and even though we put everything we had on those credit cards, they only went down hundreds a month.  I quit reading articles on saving money and cutting spending because they were absolutely ridiculous to me.  They talked about getting rid of certain cell phone packages.  We were only paying $10 each on my dad’s account!  They talked about going out to eat only once a week.  Are you kidding?  Going out to eat?  What was that?!  They said to get rid of certain cable or satellite TV packages.  We have never even had a TV.  The articles were useless to me.

We were so very thankful for my mom’s friend who had given us a temporary place to stay for VERY cheap!  There is no way we could have gotten an apartment with no jobs.  But that was just it.  It was temporary.  She had it on the market and every time they showed it we were nervous.   We ended up staying there 8 months and she decided to take it off the market, but they were going to let their son and his family live there.

So we had to move…again.  And we had to by furniture, because we had nowhere to sit.

At least we were both closer to work.  Just a 15 minute drive for me now and Josh walked.  I would sometimes walk with him.  It was a very good situation for us and we wished we had done it sooner.

But before we moved we had mentioned the idea to my parents about maybe buying a house together.  One with related living or something where we could live in a separate part of the house and we all could maintain our privacy.  We found a house and 3 months after our move to the apartment we moved..again.

Though we did not have our cards paid down, we still had excellent credit (mine was 810!).  We needed money to put down and for closing costs, so for a few months we only paid a little more than the minimum on the cards so we could have cash in the bank.  So that set us back a bit again.

When we moved in we thought the area that would be our bedroom would be ok for the time being.  But it was like being in a cave.  It was a dark hole and cold air gushed in from the tiny 3 foot closet.  It was November and SAD would be kicking in.  Josh was now a one hour drive from a job he absolutely hated and we were both depressed about him having to work it.  He was promised a promotion and it was given to a family member.  This being the last straw he asked me if he could quit, despite not having something else lined up.  I was happy for him to quit, but now we were just living on my part-time income.  We purchased our first house, but things were still depressing.

Josh put out resume after resume.  The only place that responded was a sandwich shop that had just opened.  He would be a delivery driver.  Problem was, there were 20 positions and they hired 55 people, thinking most would not show up.  All of them did.  Did they remember what kind of economy this was?  So he worked 10 hours a week.

In December I got a new job.  A full-time one.  Josh applied as well, but they didn’t want to hire him because he was over qualified.  He applied for another position that opened up during my orientation and got it.  The pay was still incredibly low, especially for someone who was going to be starting up a whole new program.  He was promised 2 raises within the first year.  He got one after a year. 

So back to the bedroom.  It was too dark and depressing for us and we didn’t even have room for our clothes.  There was no way to tidy because we had piles of clothes that had nowhere to go.  We already had plans for a new bedroom, a new kitchen (we don’t have one in our living area), and to make the half bath a full bath.  Josh’s brother does construction work and work was very slow for him.  So rather than saving up to begin the work, we wanted to give him some work.  We just did the bedroom and we are so glad we did.  We shifted it so now it had two windows rather than one.  We made the walls completely white and with a light tile.  It made a world of different as far as sunlight.  We also make a larger closet.  Still not huge, but we got rid of bags of clothes and can now fit ALL of our seasonal clothes in the closet.

So that was another thing that set us back.  And there are always car problems.  We have never had a car younger than 12 years until recently when my parents gave us their 2000 Impala.  (Yes, if you were counting we now have 3 cars.  But one is parked in the garage and is used for hauling and camping trips)  And now that we are home-owners there are problems that come up.  And of course, now that we have an acre of land I could no longer put off my dreams of having a garden.  As much as Josh practically begged me to wait a year, I could not and it brought me so much joy last year.

So that has been our journey and I shared all of this to say, we are now no longer slaves to the credit cards.  This last pay we were finally able to make the full payment on our last card.  It will still be a month before we can actually put money in the bank because I think our employer was not taking out what they were supposed to in taxes and we now owe $1000.  And I had to pay nearly $1000 for my heart issues but the bills keep coming.  I am hoping they have stopped.

It is such a relief to no longer be under that cloud.  We have denied so much to ourselves (though at times we have given in, too) so that we could get that paid off.  And we have not been able to make certain decisions about work because we have been so reliant on that income.  I have been wanting a Kitchen Aid or Cuisinart 11 cup  food processor since our early days of marriage and once we have a kitchen I may be able to get one!  🙂

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A Visit To A Church

March 22, 2010 at 6:48 pm (Visiting Church) (, )

When I arrived at my client’s apartment she informed me that she wanted to go to the evening service at her church.  I worked with her last Sunday.  I knew she went to church in the morning, but I didn’t know she liked to go in the evening.  I looked down at myself.  I was dressed in jeans which I had been outgrowing and a loose fitting button down top with a shabby sweater.  I was dressed to stay in for the night.  I knew which church she went to very well.  Not that I had ever visited, but I spent some of my early years in a similar tradition and my parents had friends in this tradition.  I remember being told to change into a skirt because one of these friends was coming over and they did not want to offend him.

My first thought was, “Oh, gosh.  I’m not even wearing dress pants, let alone a DRESS!”  Then I thought, “Well, we’ll see how they treat me.”  All they would know is that I am staff.  I was required to be there for work.

This church is a fairly large church.  I already knew that, but when I walked into the church I thought, “Where do all these people come from?  I mean, why do so many people CHOOSE to go here?”  It is a fundamentalist baptist church.  Very strong in their beliefs, I will give them that.  But I think it is safe to say that most of the time they do not actually think about WHY they believe what they do.

We walked through the church to find a place to sit.  I with my head held high looked people directly in the eye.  Or tried to.  If someone accidentally glanced in my direction I smiled, but they looked away.  At least the kids smiled at me.

When we were singing I was thinking about how it probably blew someone’s mind away to see a sinner like me wearingn jeans and lacking puffy bangs to be singing hymns.

The pastor began with the verse (not passage, just the verse) in Philippians that goes: He humbled Himself and made Himself obedient to death, even the death of the cross.  He pulled one word from this verse: obedience.  He chose to use this verse to talk about obedience.  The obedience of children to their parents, wife to her husband, husband to God.  When he began this I moaned from within and thought that there were so many more profound and deeply spiritual things he could have drawn out from this passage. 

He proceeded to jump around from verse to verse all over the Bible pulling out little phrases that worked for his message, screaming out a word or two hear and there just to make sure you are awake.

About 20 minutes into the sermon the pastor stopped and shouted out, “Will you stop looking over there?!  John is sick, but HE IS SAVED!  He has a heart problem and he got saved!  He was supposed to die one year later but he is still alive after 8 years!  You all need to stop looking over there and listen to this sermon!  You NEED to HEAR THIS SERMON!  You are RUINING your time in CHURCH TODAY!”  I had no idea what was going on.  I thought the pastor was the one ruining things.  All I could guess was that someone with a heart condition must have had to call an ambulance and people were concerned about what was going on outside the windows.  It ticked me off that the pastor was more concerned about his sermon than someone who could be scared and in pain and for the family who may lose a loved one that night.

The message proceeded and the pastor talked about how kids are supposed to obey their parents no matter one.  It is rebelious for them to ask ‘why’ and for a parent to answer the question only brought on more rebellion and disobedience to God.  I snickered at his examples of rebellious kids smoking and drinking.  I think these people live in a very small world.  And when I shared this with Josh his reaction was, “Right, cuz those are listed as some of the 7 deadliest sins, aren’t they?”  😉

Then he rants on about how wives need to be obedient to their husbands, even if their husbands ask them to do something immoral.

I did give him credit that he continued on to the husbands (appearantly his wife complained that he always finishes with the wives) and his responsibility to keep his house in order and to love his wife.

And then there was the alter call and the baptism for those who “got saved” while their church members were out “door to door soul winning” the day before.

And as we left not one person said hello to me.

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I just.don’t.get.it

March 22, 2010 at 6:17 pm (Healthcare)

I am not one that likes to stir the waters or rock the boat, but healthcare is one thing that really gets my blood boiling.  I just cannot understand how it is fair for people who cannot afford the skyrocketing prices of healthcare to remain untreated or to die because they are poor.  Or to even be able to maintain or prevent issues from arising because they do not have the money to see a doctor.  Even a well built house will eventually turn into shambles when the owner cannnot affort upkeep.  In the end it will cost even more to repair the damage.

I cannot understand how people can be so heated against doing any kind of healthcare reform.  It really blows my mind away.  It seems incredibly small minded to me.  I am not trying to be insulting with that statement.  I just CANNOT understand it.  I personally knew a person who died because she did not see a doctor for pain she was having since they did not have health insurance.  Once her husband’s employer’s insurance kicked in she went to see the doctor and was diagnosed with cancer and died within weeks.  It would have been treatable had they caught it weeks earlier.

We have been working hard over the last 2 1/2 years to pay off a debt we incurred after moving back to the States.  We will finally for the first time in years have money to put in the bank next month.  We could have had this debt paid off more than six months ago if we didn’t have to pay what we do for insurance.  And our insurance isn’t even that good.  Now we are paying off expenses from the issue with my high blood pressure (which was work related but cannnot be a workman’s comp claim, but that is another post about labor law) and the bills keep coming in.

It just boggles my mind to see so much resistance and hostility.

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