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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1 Comment

  1. Kacie said,

    yaaaay. Your story is striking and real, and shows what can happen when average people get caught off guard and society doesn’t provide a safety net. I’m so glad things are looking up!

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