The Quicksand Story

Our story through the quicksand of our own financial crisis

Holiday Reflections

So my computer has broken this week and it has been both a frustrating experience and a wonderful one. Without a computer to do my work I have only been able to check emails and the rest of my time has been spent preparing for Christmas. My week has been filled with baking cookies, pulling out our decorations, Christmas music and of course the joy on my children’s faces as this holiday season unfolds before them. These are memories that they will have for the rest of their lives.

That brings me to my subject. As I sit here writing on a borrowed computer I am thinking of all of the Christmases in the past, both the good ones and the not so easy ones. No matter how challenging the time before Christmas was it always had a way of working out for the best. It was as if the excitement of the holidays was infectious from the children. Their optimism was never-failing; Santa was never going to skip their home for Christmas. It is the law of intention to its core; the deep, unwavering belief that leads to success.

Just believe and it will happen. Children do it every year. Why can’t we as adults participate in this as well?

During this season is it possible to put aside all of our worldly stress and fear to capture some of the magic we felt as children?

How were we going to make that Christmas magic happen for our children? I had to make a choice to move away from the fear surrounding the season and just live in the moment like our children do. I used to find that by concentrating on the children and their excitement and their activities I could focus less on how we were going to afford the food and the gifts, by doing this, the season became something else for me. Joyful.

As adults, let’s look to our children for their example of what this Holiday season means. Let’s live vicariously through our children to bring peace to ourselves, and through our positive energy spread the joy and peace to others.

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Relapses

Like any recovery there are times where some days are more difficult than others. It is how you overcome those challenges that matter. Let’s take yesterday. There is no reason I should have had a bad day yet I did. What didn’t help this day is the fact that not only was Paul feeding into the energy but the kids were to. Where ever I turned I was facing negativity. Though I find I am good at buffering negativity from my life when everyone around me is feeding off it than I find I fall into the trap.

So back to my bad day; I need to look at it in the big picture, It’s okay to have a bad day as long as I don’t feed into it. So what do I do now?  Bad days are the most important days to baby yourself.  Watch a movie, read a book, disconnect from it somehow. Lick your emotional wounds and then move on.  Sometime talking about it helps too, just find a way to let the energy go.

Let me tell you why my day is bad.  I am feeling beaten up.  Paul goes to work at 6:30 in the morning and doesn’t come home until 6:00 or 6:30 at night.  He is inundated with work to do, not only his own but others as well so this leaves him tired and grouchy.  We are one of the few people I know who make a good salary yet can’t get a mortgage, and are subsequently forced to rent a home.  We also in making a good living somehow barely manage to make ends meet. Some weeks this is more difficult to do than others because of the cyclical nature of bills it always ends up that they are all due at around the same time.  The end of the month and the beginning of the month are always the most stressful. This is where my bad day comes from.  I am tired of making a good living but never able to set money aside, I am tired of having to rent a home rather than owning, I am tired of having to pay more for my bills because my credit is not stellar. I am tired of feeling behind on everything.

Now I’m going to turn this thinking around: I am thankful I have enough food to put on my table, while eating a full meal myself. I know that it always gets more difficult before a big break comes, so this bad day must mean a really good day is around the corner.  I am thankful that I can pay all of my bills; there are many people out there who can’t. I am thankful I have a home to live in because there are many people who are living on the street or in hotels.  I am thankful for this opportunity to help others by telling my story.

I am okay with what has happened to us as long as I can make something good come out of it.  I am thankful to everyone who helps me with this mission.

The Best Intentions

The lessons I learned growing up were all about making sure you pay your bills and be a good citizen.  These are great values to have and teach children.  As a child, we need to learn right and wrong and it is all very black and white.  Life, however, is all shades of grey.

When I married Paul he was very wealthy, and we decided to purchase a home that was a little larger in a different town.  At the time we thought we could afford this home.  It was larger than any home I had ever lived in and I was very proud of it.  On the contrary, all I ever heard from my parents was that this house was too much for kids our age.  My parents felt we were living beyond our means, it didn’t start that way but it ended that way.

When our income fell, I couldn’t tell them that.  I would call my mother and talk about the struggles of being home with the children and the question of what our financial plans and means would always come up.  My parents were trying to help but the focus was always on what I didn’t have and what I couldn’t get. I wanted to talk to them but they pushed me away by constantly judging what decisions we were making.

I wasn’t practicing at that time to be home for the boys.  My parents strongly disagreed with this.  They were pushing me to work.  At the time, I felt they were looking for the doctor in the family and not what would make me happy.  I wanted to be there for the boys, and didn’t want anyone else raising them.  Raising my own children was and still is very important to me.  The phone would ring constantly with people wanting to be paid.  Creditors would call 5, 6 and 7 times a day, every day including Sundays.  I was inundated with trying to buffer this stress from the boys and dealing with the creditors harassing us.  This would go on for years to come.

All I wanted was a safe place to go, to talk about how I was feeling.  I couldn’t talk to Paul, he was unreachable.  I couldn’t talk to my friends because I was afraid of how we would be judged.  I couldn’t talk to my family because they were so concerned with telling me what I was doing wrong that they did not leave a door open for me to safely vent my feelings.  Those were very lonely years for me.

It was at this point that I began to feel the effects of negative thoughts so intensely.  It would be a few years more before I learned to separate myself from the negativity in order to move beyond.

I can only control myself and my own reactions I can’t control anything or anyone else.  That is one of the most valuable lessons I have learned from my life.

Cranberry Cornbread Dressing

Well Thanksgiving has past and we are now all back to our normal lives.  I have had some people ask me for my stuffing recipe so here goes.  Enjoy.  The most expensive item on this list is the cranberries.  Everything else is very economical especially if you shop a sale.  The sausage can be frozen if you find it on sale and want to buy it in advance.

Cornbread Cranberry Dressing

1 package of sausage, the kind in the little roll you find by the hot dogs.

1 package of Cornbread mix

1 package of Pepperidge Farms Herb Stuffing

2 Celery Stalks, chopped.  Even the leafy part.

1 Medium Onion, chopped

1 package of dried Cranberries

½ c white wine

Make the cornbread according to directions and set aside. When cool enough to handle, dice in medium-sized chunks.  It will fall apart, that is okay.

Cook the entire package of sausage on medium high, breaking it up as you go so it is in small pieces when fully cooked.  Drain the fat and set it aside.   Turn the heat to medium and add Olive Oil to the pan to cook the onions and celery until soft.  Once they are cooked add white wine to the pan to get all of the yummy good stuff off the bottom of the pan.  Add the cranberries at the last-minute to heat up in the wine and veggie mixture.

In a large bowl add all the ingredients together mixing gently to preserve the cornbread.  Everything is all cooked so taste it and add salt and pepper if needed.  Just try to not eat the whole thing before dinner.  I know it’s difficult not to.  As you cook your turkey add some of the turkey juices to the dressing and bake at 350° for 20 minutes.  Broth will work too if you are not cooking a turkey with it.  I also serve this with a pork roast.

Enjoy.

Living in Denial

As you could understand my life as I knew it was changing.  Everything was changing.  My family, my finances, my cars, and even my friends.  I had many friends through the year and many groups.  I have traveled across the nation and across the world with them.  We would usually fly first class and stay in the best hotels.  Money was really no object.

It was not uncommon for me to come home from work and at the drop of a hat jump in the car and go to Manhattan for a night, more specifically, Little Italy.   Drop several hundred dollars in an evening and not bat an eye.  Dinner at Angelo’s – several bottles of wine, usually a nice penne ala vodka for me and always a stop at Ferrara’s for a cannoli or three.   Life was good but when Karen and I started having financial trouble, more specifically losing everything I just couldn’t afford to make a trip and now with 2/3 kids it included a babysitter.  I tried to make excuses like, my kids need me to snuggle them to bed or last-minute my babysitter cancelled.  I was embarrassed.   I couldn’t tell these guys that I was broke and couldn’t afford to run with them anymore.

Looking back on it one of the main reasons we fell so hard was my unwillingness to change and to continue trying to keep up with the Jones.  If I had just looked at my situation and sold my house and my cars as soon as I my expenses were greater than my income Karen and I would have had probably had about a year of issues and then climbed out much faster.

I want to make something very clear; because I was sailing down a river in Egypt I made my situation so much worse. If I had truly and honestly looked at our situation and acted accordingly we would have lived a very different life the past few years, one that would have been much easier.

Life begins to crumble

I think about where this all started and I can vividly remember one event….

We were living in Trumbull at the time.  Emily was not born yet and we were struggling every month to pay our $3600 mortgage.  It was always a battle to figure out where the money would come from to pay it.  This particular month we had the money in the account and the check had been sent.  It was such a good and bad feeling.  I felt a sense of freedom that it was paid for another month, but, I can remember thinking that this was probably going to be the last time we were going to be able to pay it.  I was bothered by that and was quite depression about it.

I remember fighting with Paul.  He would say to me why can’t you just enjoy what you have right here and now.  You are making yourself miserable…  I would say I just want to pay my bills.  I am not looking for anything more.  Why can’t we downsize and just pay the bills.  This repeated fight was a big issue for us at the time.

Well the next day. He goes to work and comes home in a wonderful mood.  A better mood than I had seen him in in months.

I said,” What did you do today you’re in a good mood?”

He said,” I went shopping.”

“Oh” I said,” what did you get?”  I thinking he would say a shirt, a pair of pants something for the boys….

“Some clothing, a couple of suits, some shirts.”

I sat down heavily and asked,”So you cot a check today?”

“No” he said,”We had the money in the account and we paid the mortgage a few days ago, so I thought I would take the extra money and buy some suits at Mitchells.”

I was shocked… I couldn’t speak because I was choking.  I felt like I was lost at sea and sinking. I felt abandoned and betrayed.  I couldn’t breath but managed to ask how much he spent.  He very happily and easily replied $3000.

“We had the money…”  I began to cry.

He asked, “Why are you crying now?”

I asked, ” Was the mortgage check taken out of the account by the bank?”

He said,”No why?”  And then he realized what he had done.  He spent our mortgage money on suits at Mitchells.  He spent our mortgage on clothing for himself.  How could he be so selfish and shallow.  So idiotic.

At that point I felt myself sinking down into a pit of despair.   I began to sink into quicksand that would take us almost 6 years to get out of.

I just need to get out of this mess

I understand the idea of wanting upward mobility but to go from welfare to even middle class is a task that is not for the faint of heart.  I remember being in line to register for State Support after we lost everything.  It was the most humiliating experience of my life.

I was 3 months pregnant, needing to get health insurance for my children.  I drove down to Bridgeport and filled out the application.  Me, someone with her children in private school, wife of a business owner, living in Trumbull.  Was I elitist?  Probably.

It was one of the most degrading experiences of my life.  I walked into this building that was dark and depressing in a not so nice area of town.  I walk into the building to find the social services offices and the security guard tells me where to go like I am a piece of dirt.

 ‘ It’s through those doors right in front of you. ‘ he said.

 I mustered up as much dignity as I could and walked through a pair of dirty double doors.  The maintenance guys hadn’t been there yet so it smelled of decay and there was dirt smeared across the door at child height.  I felt like one of those streaks of dirt crawling into that room.

In contrast the room on the other side was relatively neat.  I filled out the paperwork, which took about 30 minutes, with kids crying and playing around me.  I was the only one over the age of 25.  I got called into my case worker’s office which is about 4×6 in size.  The woman who was there before me smelled. Cigarettes, alcohol, dirty body.

The case worker barely looked at me and asked, ‘Are you in the right place, honey?’

I assured her I was. She looked over my paperwork and asked for my tax returns.  I didn’t have them with me, partially because they hadn’t been done but I offered to fax what I had.  That’s good enough.  I was going to have insurance starting January first.  Then the woman looked at me and asked me if I knew what the children should be eating.  That they need to have vegetables every day and that they should be drinking milk.  She began advising me on how to discipline my children without hitting them and that I was required to take classes how to raise my children and how to feed them.  I’m a doctor and I could teach these classes but I had to take these classes.  Okay, that’s fine I said.  I just said yes to everything they said.  I was defeated.   Keep my eye on the prize I was going to have insurance.  And I walked out in shock.

I never did take those classes, I had to draw the line somewhere. How do you fight against that to climb up?  I can tell you it is not even remotely easy.

What the hell is wrong with us?

Driving the children to school today I heard a commercial for a title loan on your car. The premise of the commercial is: why would you go and get a job paying money, even one you don’t like, when you can just go and get a title loan on your car and get the money that you need. Every inch of my brain screams out at this. Haven’t we gotten into enough trouble in this world borrowing money and not honestly working for it? Yet these companies are continuing to promote that lifestyle. A world of excess, living outside our means and not working for our income.

We as citizens are expected to earn a living and pay our bills, where is the responsibility of the bankers and large corporations for making honest deals. I don’t call advertising to borrow money on your car an honest deal, especially when they make it seem that the money doesn’t have to be paid back. Wake up America!!!! Take responsibility for your actions. Don’t buy it if you don’t have the cash and if you need money go and work for it, let’s stop borrowing money to only dig ourselves deeper in debt.

Let’s look at the credit reporting agencies too. They want you to get more credit cards to improve your credit score. What happens when you don’t have quite enough money coming in to live. Maybe you are just $100 short every month. You are tempted to charge the medicine you need, or you have to have TV so you charge the bill every month. What do you do when you reach your max? How do you pay down the card? Not only do you owe more on the card, but you can’t pay what bills you have. The cycle perpetuates, you credit score drops and you owe even more money. Quicksand!

Consider an alternate option. It is really a simple one. Cancel the TV service. Then all of your bills are paid and you don’t need to have that credit card. Stash away a cash reserve for the emergencies. Stay cash! If you have the cash buy it, if you don’t leave it. Your credit score will still drop but at least you can afford to live. Why is a credit score so important anyway? It is so that the large banks can make more money. We have been fooled into thinking that we need credit in our lives. We don’t!

I know it is difficult when you don’t have enough money coming in to cover he bills. I know that constantly being hounded by creditors is tiring and makes everything difficult. But ultimately how did we as a society get into this pickle? We borrowed too much money to support a life we couldn’t afford and we couldn’t pay it back. Many of us will be paying it back for decades to come. Wake up and smell the coffee, or the shit from the shit storm. We made this mess and only we can clean it up. Personal responsibility is part of what will clean it up. Going back to a cash based life is part of that responsibility.

Most of all stop these commercials that glamorize debt.  Come on!! It’s time to wake up!

600 Bucks Short

This time was different.  I had cars yanked 3 times before.  But every other time I had some warning.   Either it was just so far behind that it was inevitable or I saw them pull up the street and down the driveway.  I always had the time to pull my personal effects out of the car.  I remember it as if it were yesterday.  It was June and since we couldn’t afford the AC on our windows were open.  I remember I lay their dreaming.  I heard the truck pull up to the driveway and back in.  I heard his truck door open and I heard him start to leave.  But I didn’t move.  I was still asleep.  It was as if I was having and “outer body experience” you know one of those mornings that you’re still asleep but you’re dreaming that you’re on stage dancing like a rock star to Sheena Easton.  Only to find have some dude chime in with the morning traffic report and you unfortunately wake up to realize you were dreaming to your clock radio.  Only problem this time is when I woke up I still herd the truck.  I jumped up out of bed only to look out the window and see the tow truck put on his yellow strobes and turn right out of our driveway with my truck on top.  I almost threw up.  I had so many things rushing though my head.  Oh my god what will my neighbors think, did they see,  what did I have inside, would they know I worked for AWD, I just got it washed, worse…I just filled it up with gas, even worse…did they see my mini-van and were they going to come back for that one later.

I jumped in the shower and was out the door in a matter of 10 minutes.  I knew that sometimes they would stage there repo’s in parking lots then grab another an tow one on the bed and one behind.  I didn’t want him to show back up and grab my mini-van too.  If I could have chosen one car for them to take it would have been the mini-van.  We have three kids and they are slobs.  They would have filled up 10 bags pulling all the stuff out of that van.  I am sure they would have stuck to a few things in there as well.  So I left Karen and the kids at home and I drove off to work and show up a little early.  Once again Karen was there to deal with something alone.  We spoke on the phone but it’s not like being there.

Later that day I called Ford.  The only way I could get the truck back was to pay it off.  I tried to just make it current.  I could have done that on Friday, I wouldn’t have had much food for a week but hey we have had less.  They wouldn’t budge.  They wanted it all or nothing.  I tried to speak to a supervisor.  They wouldn’t let me.  I couldn’t afford an attorney so I just let it go.  I gave up.  In the end I got a bill from Ford for $399.00.  The balance after the auction.  It’s just another thing to clean up.

Step By Step

Life is difficult. The bill collectors are calling and you are worried about making your mortgage, you are worried about paying for your car. You wonder how you will get through another tiring day.

I remember the days of being afraid to answer the phone for fear of who would be on the other side. The tactics that are used by bill collectors are emotional warfare. They intentionally call repeatedly; they intentionally are verbally abusive, they intentionally lie to you; all with the purpose to scare you into paying their bill. It doesn’t matter to them that you have $100 left and you need to feed your family. They Don’t Care! They use these tactics to wear you down and break you apart emotionally. They do it so that they get their money.

There were days where I felt if one more person called I would jump. I couldn’t because my children mean too much to me but he thought did cross my mind. On those days I put one front of the other and focused on that just to get through the day. Was I depressed? YES! But I had 3 children to take care of. I have even had collections agents call me scum, and tell me I did not earn my degree because I couldn’t pay the bill. It doesn’t matter that their demands were so inflated that there was no hope of even paying.

Having grown up in a family that values paying your bills and your credit score it found it difficult at best to handle what was said on the other side of those phone calls. I had difficulty until I realized one thing. Step by Step.

God will not judge me for not paying my bills, but he will judge me for not feeding my children and educating them and keeping them healthy. Ultimately what do these collectors mean to me? Even my family, what do they mean? Nothing, if I can’t live with myself. One step at a time.

First step….  Take care of my family. Second step…. Keep a roof over our heads and food on our backs. Third step…. Keep the car. I began to look at life in simple steps. Each step is important on its own, but if you skip steps you will fall.

First Step, feed my family, take care of them. I focused on this and I began to move out of the depression. I am not saying don’t pay the bills, I am saying that there are more important things than your credit score. When I let go of that the collectors did not have such an impact on me. They will get paid in due time when all the other things are taken care of. Family, home, transportation, job.

Step by Step.

Best Darn Meal I Ever Had

I guess to know me is to understand that I love food. I love the whole dining experience. The service, the ambiance. I love the way wine can be paired with cheese. I love the way a filet minion can taste wrapped in a little piece of bacon. I have eaten in some of the best restaurants in Manhattan, Miami, LA and Paris. I have spent over $700 on dinner for two. I will remember them, and talk about them for the rest of my life.

I was completely out of work and money. The only thing we were doing was working with a company called Melaleuca. We were trying to make it big there. But it was hard. I didn’t know it then but the people we were trying to get involved saw our desperation. I don’t know if they knew what they saw or just saw that something was off. Normally our checks were $20-30 dollars. I went to mailbox before I had to pick up the boys at school and saw the oversize envelope from Melaleuca. I knew it was money and a sense of relief swept over me. I figured I could get about a week’s worth of Pasta and Milk for $20. I opened the envelope and found a check for $405.00 dollars. Seems a couple of the people underneath us had introduced some new customers. It was awesome. I sat in my truck and cried. We had food. I called Karen and she jumped in our Excursion and ran and got the boys. We rarely used that truck because it was a V10 and expensive to run. Probably looking back on it now it probably wasn’t insured and the registration was suspended. I took the check and ran to the pawn shop. I couldn’t take it to our bank for two reasons. One it was an out of state check and it would take 4 days to clear and two we were over drawn by the same amount, so if I deposited it the check would be gone. So I would cash it at the pawn shop and pay 1.5% and get cash. I cashed the check then I immediately went to Burger King because it was close. I went to the drive in and ordered a Whopper meal with a Coke. I paid the cashier and pulled away. I didn’t even put the truck into park I tore open the wrapper and bit into the sandwich. I was awesome. The “special sauce” squeezed out the backside of the sandwich all down my shirt. I really didn’t care. To this day I can still taste the fresh crispy onion. I drank the coke like it was just given to me by Jesus Christ himself during his Last Supper. Just last week I went to a different BK and got a Whopper meal. I flashed back to that day. It tasted just as good as it did that day. Out of all the places that I have eaten, of all the delicacies I have dined on none of them tasted as good as that Whopper Did that day.

Abandonment

For two years there was no communication.  For two years I was alone in a marriage that was in trouble.  For two years I thought about leaving one way or another.  I never considered myself a weak person but those two years made me feel it, which made it even worse to bear.  The only thing keeping me going was the children.  Through it all was the financial meltdown we were in.  We would have creditors show up and I would not know what to say.  They would call all the time.  Citibank called every day, 7, 8 and sometimes 9 times a day, 7 days a week.  I told them they were harassing me and they said that they were allowed to because we owed them money.

At that time there was no help for us because there were no programs to help people in our situation.  It is a lot different now.  My stock answer was Paul is dealing with it and I don’t know what he’s doing with it.  You need to talk to him.  No I don’t know when he will be home.  No he isn’t home right not and I can’t reach him by cell phone.  I’ll tell him you were here when he gets home.

I remember there was this one mom that had been asking to get her son together with us for a play date.  I invited her over to play for awhile.  She wasn’t there for more than a half an hour when the sheriff showed up to serve us lawsuit papers.  I was so embarrassed I wanted to just run away up the street.  I felt like a worm about to become smashed under a shoe.  Slime.

I shrugged off the event with as much dignity as I could and lied to the woman saying, “Trucking, it happens all the time.  Someone is always trying to get money from you.”  I quickly stashed the paperwork out of site and tried to go on as if it were not uncommon.  On the inside I felt abandoned.

Paul went out again to “go and see a customer.” I at this time began to understand that that meant that he was going to get lost for a few hours.  He must get a call when these people are coming and just run and hide.  It always seems to go down when he is MIA.  I was happily exchanging pleasant conversation while on the inside I am broiling mad that I have to deal with this again.  How could he abandon me this way!!!

Perspective

There are so many reasons to write this story. Life experiences make us better people. As a former police officer I am often asked if I liked the work. My answer is always, ‘Yes I did like the work. There are times that I miss it. The experiences have shaped the person sitting in front of you today.’ My time in law enforcement taught me a lot about people and what drives us to do what we do. Most importantly I learned how to talk myself into and out of difficult situations. I convey that experience and knowledge to my children every day. I want them to learn how to make decisions without being in law enforcement. I don’t want my children to see what I have seen or do what I have done; I show them from a safe perspective. It is the same reason I want to tell my family’s story.

As a police officer I learned to hear what people were saying; sometimes what we say and what others hear is different. We can say, “I am having a tough time” when we really mean, “We’re filing for bankruptcy. My wife left me and I drink too much.”  Telling our story will help others learn what not to do or how to climb out of a tough situation.

When I was growing up and well into adulthood I never understood why people I perceived as poor were poor. As far as I was concerned it really didn’t matter. They are poor and I am rich. I used to think others were poor because they were lazy and I was rich because I worked hard. That’s just not the case. We all make choices.

Health Insurance??

We had a bit of a scare last week.  My 10 year old son got bitten by a bug and it got infected.  It is bothering him but he waits a week to tell me.  It is high on the back of his leg and he is embarrassed, I can understand.  BUT…… we ended up with an issue.  By the time I saw it, it was a yucky blob of infection so I took him to the doctor.  I am thankful that we have health insurance but I know many families out there do not.

We got him on antibiotics because the the infection was a little too aggressive and the following day we ended up with 1/4 inch bleeding hole where the bug bite had been the day before.  It is almost gone now a week later but we found out over the weekend that it was a MRSA infection.  MRSA is an antibiotic resistant strain of staph.  It can be really bad and scary.  I have known people to be seriously disfigured from MRSA infections.

After this experience I began to think about what I would have done without health insurance.  How many times do kids get bumps and scrapes where we as parents shrug it off as just a kid thing?  We are lucky to have health insurance, but more so we are lucky to budget $500 per child for emergencies.  When we lived without health insurance, I used to live in fear that something would happen.  I relate to the tons of Americans out there who do not have it.  If you are one of the people out there who do not have it I would recommend you set aside approx. $500 per child for emergencies.  Stash it in your house if you need to.  Start small, but grow it, because how valuable is the peace of mind that comes with knowing you can afford to take your child to the doctor if you need to.

I do not want to think about what could have happened if we did not get treatment for my son when we did.

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Rice Salad (Yummy Yummy)

Like any one eating on a budget is not an easy thing to do.  Or at least eating well and healthy on a budget.  Fast food always seems to be the fall back when on the run with children.  Even fast food isn’t always cheap or fast.  It takes forever for our children to decide what to eat when faced with any menu.  It can be frustrating at times.

When going to a picnic where you need to bring an item I became really good a digging in the pantry to put something together.  This recipe I recently brought to a function and I was asked for the recipe.  So I am giving it here.  I got it from a friend and adapted it for us and what we like.  Most everything I get from the farmer’s market.  One of those little holes in the wall that have fresh local produce at inexpensive prices.  I love going to these places and buying a weeks worth of fruits and veggies for about 20 dollars.

1 Onion

1 Pepper

2 cups Wild Rice medley

1 or 2 sticks celery

1 Apple

1 cup Garbonzo beans (optional)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Balsamic Vinaigrette ( You can make your own if you want)

Cook the rice in 4 cups of water for 20-25 minutes until the water is absorbed.  Rinse the rice under cold water when done cooking and put into a bowl for mixing.  Chop the vegetables  and apple small so that bits of veggie get through the whole salad.  Mix all of the veggies, rice, beans and apple together with the dressing until it is all coated.  Add Salt and Pepper to taste.  (It may need a little more than you expect.  The rice can get bland.)

This is a really hearty cold salad that I find goes a long way for me.  Enjoy and feel free to play around with it.  Add whatever your family will eat and enjoy!

 

 

Survival

Some days and weeks I went the whole day with only a piece of toast. I would move my dinner around the plate and put it in the fridge for someone else the next day. That was a big sore spot with Paul and of course we would argue. He said I wasn’t eating enough and I would argue that I had to eat last so everyone else could eat. If there was enough I could eat.

When we would get an extra twenty dollars in a week I would run to the store and buy protein. Buying meat on a bone meant I could use the bones to make stock. We had broth in the house and there were times when we would have six containers of broth in our freezer. Adding rice to the broth could make that one piece of meat our food for two weeks instead of one. Broth was our protein and I got creative. I added sour cream and cheese to rice cooked in broth for Special Rice for the children. We ate that a few times a week and when the sales were right we would also have ground beef in our Special Rice.

Chefs often recommend making your own stock. It is more flavorful and uses more of the meat and bones. For us it was a cheap source of protein to feed our growing children. I did what I could to feed my family. If that meant I did not eat then so be it. That was fine as long as the children were healthy and full. Sometimes I wouldn’t eat anything for a day or two. Life is tough when you haven’t eaten in two days and are still too embarrassed to go to the food bank. In those days I couldn’t tell you where to find a food bank.

If we were in that situation again I would go simply to keep my family fed and myself healthy. Survival.

No Matter How Much I Love My Children

My children are the light of my life.  They have in one instant change my life forever and do so again and again everyday.  I would do anything for them, but our minds play evils tricks with us.  We have been through hell and back.  We have survived our quicksand and yet I torture myself with the; What If…..

Really it is about Emily.  We chose to have Emily and I am so happy for that decision.  But, what if we had made a different decision.  Sometimes when in my darkest times I would look at her beautiful sleeping form and wonder how our life would be different, easier without her.  I gave up so much to have her.  I could work like normal if not for her.  Getting a house would have more options without her.  Because of her we need at least 3 bedrooms, yet, 2 bedroom homes are so much cheaper…..School is so expensive and we haven’t started saving for college yet.  Usually at this point I am crying because I love her so much that even the thought of life without her is physically painful.

If we never had Emily I would not have the giggles when the three of them are goofing around.  We would never have the flowers picked by her from the yard.  We would never have the little pink shoe hanging from our Garage door to remind us of how stinky her feet would get after wearing Crocs.  I never could understand how such a compact, cute, bubbly little girl could have such smelly feet.

After following this line of thought and having a good cry, it is at this time that I know that we are on this path for a reason; to help others.  I am not alone in having these feelings.  I am not alone in knowing that I would trade everything again for her, it still doesn’t make it easy to swallow.  It helps to know I am not alone.

Choices and Changes

When our choices impact our family’s future we are forced to look within ourselves and find a way out of our own mess. Society doesn’t let upward mobility happen easily. I had fallen from millionaire to pauper. Try renting a house when you have a bankruptcy, foreclosures, repossessions, tax liens and evictions on your credit report. The reality is that it doesn’t matter if you can pay the rent today and tomorrow. You are the number not a person and that culture needs to change.Bad things happen to good people and good people make bad choices.

My mistake during the years of financial meltdown was that I didn’t change fast enough. I made poor financial decisions because I couldn’t or didn’t want to see we were out of money. In 2002 Karen and I spent a month on vacation to the tune of $20,000. When we returned we had trouble paying the bill and it was then that I should have recognized something was different. I’m not sure it was denial at first, but rather the inability to recognize what was changing.

If I had recognized change I would have made different decisions for my family. We would never have sold the house in Milford or bought and leased new cars. I spend a lot of time thinking about how if I had buckled down at that time how different our lives would be today. There were a lot of opportunities that I couldn’t see while we were in the middle of it. I chose not to see opportunity to change and instead unwittingly chose to live in denial.

No Matter How Good It Is

So, Paul and I have been doing well the past year since moving out of Connecticut.  He has a good job, the kids are happy, I am happy.  No matter how good things are there are always mistakes.

Last year Paul got a ticket in Pratt County Kansas.  By the time paperwork caught up to us it was May 2011.  We wrote a check to the court for the ticket because obviously Paul was not going to fly back there to go to court.    We did our Civic Duty, Paid our fine and moved on with our lives.

Flash forward to yesterday…

We go to change car insurance to find a lower rate. (This is something everyone should do at regular intervals.) We get an email from the insurance company to call them.  So we do.  Come to find out Paul’s license is suspended.  As we investigate why it is suspended. We find out it is for this ticket in Pratt County.  Wait. We paid that!!!  Well apparently Paul’s information was never updated on the system and his license was suspended.  We would never have known about it if we didn’t re-evaluate our car insurance.  Thank goodness we did, because how bad could that have been…

This leaves me with one question:  How is it that we as citizens are held accountable for our actions (which we should be) yet the government, politicians, and their employees are not?  We did our duty and someone else did not yet we are penalized for it. What is wrong with that?

Conscious Decisions

Chefs often recommend making your own stock. It is more flavorful and uses more of the meat and bones. For us it was a cheap source of protein to feed our growing children. I did what I could to feed my family. If that meant I did not eat then so be it. That was fine as long as the children were healthy and full.  Sometimes I wouldn’t eat anything for a day or two.  Life is tough when you haven’t eaten in two days and are still too embarrassed to go to the food bank.

In those days I couldn’t tell you where to find a food bank. If we were in that situation again I would go simply to keep my family fed and myself healthy. Survival.

On the days I didn’t eat I could feel the fatigue. My body was eating itself to wake me up. I would supplement food by drinking milk.  I remember feeling like there was a hole in my stomach And that I would never feel full again.  Some mornings I forced myself to get out of bed. It was a conscious decision to live another day. It was also a conscious decision to awaken to the power of positive thinking.  I felt that if I gave up on the positive thinking that I would not be able to get through another day.  Some days the positive thinking just did nothing to help.  I thought about stopping my mantra but it was my lifeboat giving me hope in a sinking ship.

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Trash Talking

I had been self-employed but we needed the money. We were going to lose another house if we didn’t start bringing in cash.

A dispatching position was posted in the New Times. While it was a bit beneath me I needed a paycheck. I was mentally exhausted and in no shape to handle a management position in spite of all of my jobs having been in management. Even in college I was a manager not just an employee. Having management experience meant I could handle high stress situations and employee conflicts. Not to mention I liked a challenge and needed my head to be anywhere except at home with bills piling up.

With only a phone number listed in the ad I did a reverse phone number search online. The name of the company was Diversified Waste Disposal. That was about all I found while sleuthing online but I made the call.

I spoke Rick C. and scheduled an interview with Rick and his colleague Bobby G.. At the interview they treated me well and asked about my resume. I had a lot of experience and they asked if I would eventually be looking to move up the corporate ladder. I said yes. They explained that there would be some room for advancement in the near future. I thought they were just talking about expansion and no idea that ¾ of the management team would be going to jail in the near future. Talk about trash…

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Life is as tough as you make it

Life is as tough as you make it and boy had we made a mess! Choosing our reaction to our tough life is a choice. For years I had read books about changing your mindset and changing your life. It wasn’t until I was in my darkest days that it all clicked. I began each day saying my mantra over and over again:

I would like to believe that I can make a million dollars.

I am open to imagining that I can make a million dollars.

I trust that I can make a million dollars.

I can make a million dollars.

I am making a million dollars.

Those five lines kept me going. I chose to react to my tough life differently. I didn’t even believe it could happen (at first) that we could have more than $50 a week for food or that we could see light at the end of our dark tunnel but I said my mantra.  Over and Over again I said it until I began to believe it.  Then one day I did believe it.  That is the day Paul came home with a raise.  It was small but it was enough, and it was a start.

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Love & Marriage

Karen and I met at the University of Bridgeport pool. (Thank goodness I wasn’t wearing a Speedo!)  I noticed her eyes first, the almond shape and the peculiar color. She was (and is) strong and self-confident.  We were there certifying lifeguards and she was re-certifying.  Honestly she knew more about lifeguarding than me and my certification partner put together, but the long and the short was she needed her certification.

The second thing I noticed was the scar peeking out of her bathing suit. I wondered to myself how she got such a scar. Anyway she was pretty impressive. There was this old guy who was trying to re-certify, he had heart and was in pretty good shape but just not quite at the level physically that all the others were in the class.  My partner assigned Karen to work one-on-one with him.  So we deputized Karen and she was working one-on-one with this guy.

Training for rescuing people who are in trouble in the water is a hands-on task. Karen’s ‘student’ was all over her and she handled it gracefully. Well as gracefully as a girl in her late 20’s can handle it when a guy in his 70’s is feeling her up!  What we didn’t know at the time was that he had tried to get her fired because she was eating in the pool area on an 8 hour shift.  It was one of the things that attracted me to Karen.

She is a very strong woman. Sometimes too strong.

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Pit of Doom

I want people to know that just because you make some mistakes you are not a bad person.  Bankruptcy, foreclosure, repossession, eviction are not things that make you a bad person.  Bad things happen to good people.  Don’t judge yourself by the events that happen in your life.  Learn from them.  Take the lessons and make yourself stronger and smarter, and don’t give into the negativity.  By participating in the negativity you will only make it worse.  Some of the best time you can spend is to learn to change your mind set.

Negativity is like a pit of doom that can be very difficult to get out of and it can be the very definition of hell.

Everyone has their version of a Quicksand Story.

 

 

 

 

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Full Circle & Mommies who Drink Beer

Tugging my pants he said, “Officer Paul, my mommy drinks beer every day” and walked away.

Wow. These kids just saw their dad beat their mom and get hauled off to jail. Their mom got taken to the hospital. They have no food, no furniture and no parents.

As I sat at home around our big screen television in one of our two living rooms on a set of brand new couches I told my roommates about my adventures.  We kind of laughed at them. How could someone not have enough food or even furniture?  How sad.

Several years later the joke would be on me. I would be sitting in a living room/kitchen with dishes in a sink waiting to be washed because we had no dishwasher.  Plywood was exposed because some tiles were missing.  We had couches but they belonged to our landlord. We had lost ours in an eviction. Our three children slept in the same bedroom. There wasn’t much food in the fridge and I kept looking out the window for a tow truck to take my minivan.

Life can definitely come full circle.

I Refuse

I refuse to be one of those people whose life ends at bad news.  I was that person once and it is not a fun place to be.

I am tired of being asked,” So how are you doing, really…..”  and their eyes reflect thousands of innuendos.

Yes I have heart problems.

Yes, I am tired all the time.

Yes, I need to be careful and no I can’t run, jump and cavort like an 8 year old ever again.  I don’t need these things to be a great mom.  I don’t need these things.

I am a Powerful, Strong, Beautiful woman who is on this earth to do more than just sit and be a victim.

I am a Cancer Survivor – twice.

I am a Cardiomyopathy patient.

I am a business woman.

I have lost every material thing in my life – twice.

I am educating people about the mistakes we have made in the hopes to help them make better choices in lives.

I refuse to be a victim.

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The Cipolla Project: Quicksand the Book

Guest post by Anne McAuley, McAuley Freelance Writing

I met Karen at a networking group in Arizona, far from Connecticut where we both grew up. Turns out her husband Paul went to high school with my best friend. Crazy how life happens and how people, places and situations are brought together.

As Karen and I shared our stories it became clear The Cipolla Story was one that had to be told. Our “random” meeting was more than likely part of God’s plan and not coincidence. The Cipollas had gone through losing a family business, losing homes in foreclosure, losing friends, losing material things to Karen nearly losing her life after the birth of their youngest a daughter named Emily.

Karen and I sat in a coffee shop in Gilbert, AZ for our first meeting and at the end I asked, “Do you feel there is light at the end of the tunnel?” After all it had been just a year or so since they had begun a life in Arizona.

Karen replied with her signature smile and said, “Honey, we’re IN the light! We climbed out of a well and are standing on top of the world!”

So here we are launching a blog that is part of a book. The book is part of a story that needs to be told around the world.

Thank you, Karen and Paul, for trusting me to tell your story.

McAuley Freelance Writing was recently featured in the Arizona Republic story of Renewal and Reinvention. We provide freelance writing services and social media management for small businesses. We create and deliver high quality products and service because your business is our business. Contact Anne McAuley at 480-206-6452, anne@mcauleyfreelancewriting.com and visit our website www.mcauleyfreelancewriting.com

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Regrouping

As I sit here writing on my new computer I am so thankful for the path I have walked with my family. Though it has not been easy it has changed us in a way that I can never look at people and the events in this world the same way. Though unfortunately many people go through difficulty and come out of it with disdain for others and the willingness to go to any length to benefit themselves. There are fewer that will take their experience and help others.

That is what I am attempting to do here. Help others.  By telling my story and the thoughts and feelings I have experienced through it all I am letting others know they are not alone. I am giving hope to others who are in the thick of their own crisis that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I order to do this I must relive my experiences in order to write them down and record them for the blog and the book. This in itself may seem innocent and in many ways it is but it is also energetically draining on me. It is not always easy to relive in our memories experiences that drained us completely the first time around.

What I have done this Holiday season was recharge my batteries. I have taken a break so that I can move forward in this project with out the negativity of the memories creeping into my present life and negatively affect me now. I want to thank you for your patience in this short time while I regrouped and prepared to bring you more stories in this new year.

Thank you for following me and the stories I bring to you. I look at my life and I am amazed at what has truly happened to me. You really can’t make this shit up.

Here is to an amazing 2012 and may all the positive energy in the world be at your fingertips.

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