The Quicksand Story

Our story through the quicksand of our own financial crisis

Archive for the tag “relationships”

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.

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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.

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.

Loyalty

I have grown up believing that loyalty is a great thing to have.  And I agree.  But I also believe that it has been manipulated on us for to help those who have perceived power over us as people.  Be loyal to your job even though they cut your pay, decrease your benefits and increase your workload….  Don’t go and work on a business in your own time that will increase your wealth and not theirs.  Or this thought,  I can’t start a direct sales job on my own time, it is against company policy.  Who cares that that policy doesn’t give a hoot about you or your family.

I think it is time to redefine loyalty and who we give it to.  Be loyal to your family, your immediate family.  Your wife and children family.  Be loyal to yourself.  If you feel badly about doing something you are asked to do, don’t do it.  You have to sleep with yourself and your family at night not your employer.  You would think this is commons sense.

How about when it applies to your bills and mortgage.  It is not so clear cut.  You are underwater on your house so you can’t sell it yet your credit cards are calling you 5 and 6 times a day and you need to feed your family.  I know how it is to have trouble letting go of a house from loyalty, I also know how difficult it is to receive those call from our friend, BILL.  Ultimately be loyal to your family and yourself.  Look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  The greatest responsibility is to feed and cloth our families and put a roof over their heads.

There is no shame in Bankruptcy or short sales if it allows you to care for yourself and your family.  Don’t lose hope, there is always a way through the quicksand.

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.

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