Saturday, July 30, 2011

But Mom, That's Not Fair!

As adults, we are well aware that life isn't fair.  It just so happens that my almost-7-year old son, Quinn, has been going through a phase of "That's not fair!"  Wouldn't life be great if it was?  But perhaps it is true, it isn't fair that Quinn has chores when his little brother Max is too young for that kind of responsibility.  Don't get me wrong, a 21-month-old can be helpful, but it is above his abilities to expect him to be accountable for daily chores.  Apparently it isn't fair that we can't watch kid shows on TV all evening.  As adults, these seem petty, but to kids it means the world. 
Growing up and not always getting my way - and my parents were very good at not spoiling us - really helped me get through the roughest financial times.  No, it doesn't seem fair that we had no air conditioning  for almost 3 years because we couldn't afford to run (not to mention keep repairing) our ancient, inefficient unit.  No, it doesn't seem fair that pretty much the only holiday gifts Quinn got for 2 Christmases, outside from the very modest loot that Santa left, were from relatives at family gatherings.  No, it's not really fair that Quinn had to wear a snowsuit that was too small last winter because we simply could not afford to get him another one.   The list could go on and on.  Hopefully my kids are still young enough that there wont be very many long-term emotional effects.  In fact, I highly doubt Quinn ever recalls melting over the last 2 summers.  He was too busy playing outside with his friends.

Like any mother, I feel like I (and my husband) should be able to provide more-than-adequately for our children.  For the first year of financial difficulty, I was too proud to ask for help; not from friends, family, or elsewhere.  It was embarrassing to admit that we couldn't afford to keep our cupboards and fridge stocked.  We were barely making the mortgage payment, let alone keeping the electricity on (which I needed since I work from home) or gas in the car.  The breaking point was when I found out I was pregnant with Max.  I was terrified since I didn't have any health insurance and knew there was absolutely NO WAY that we could ever tackle a hospital bill for delivering.  I just knew that I would be giving birth at home with a 5-year-old as my nurse.  That was when I finally called Health and Human Services and they got me hooked up with Medicaid.  I was a bawling basketcase over the phone, and I am surprised the poor woman could understand a word I said, but the gravity of our situation and that we had to do something was just too much with the hormones I had going on at the time.  We also got signed up for food stamps, which was a GODSEND.  I guess I had just always pictured the stereotypical people (the type you see on Cops) on public assistance, not middle class folks who look the picture of financial stability.

I guess where I'm going with all this is that yes, life's not fair.  Instead of being bitter or spiteful, we just have to deal with it the best we can, make do with what we have, and work toward getting out of the rut.  It's been a very long road these last three years, and we're not completely out of the woods yet, but it has definitely shown us what we are made of, and I suppose that's a fair trade.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Not-So-Brief Introduction

A little bit about me:   
I am a 34-year-old SAHM/WAHM (stay-at-home and work-at-home) mom to a 7-year-old (well, 7 in less than 2 weeks), and a 21-month old, both boys.  I am a part-time medical transcriptionist (MT) and I relish the luxury of being able to work from home - a HUGE money saver! The company I work for is wonderful in that they allow me the flexibility to work around my kids schedules and no set-in-stone hours.  I am generally typing midday, when my little one is napping, and then for a few more hours after the kids go to bed.  In addition to MT work, I help my husband with his small business at his golf store.  I generally go for a couple hours every morning and tidy up, restock, take deliveries, and other miscellaneous things.  I've been known to take a shift here and there, but I try not to do that too often. 

Pertinent history that got me to this point: 
Three years ago my husband opened a golf retail store in our small town (pop. 3000).  The goal at the time was to do mostly internet sales.  However, in order to carry the selection of brands we needed, those suppliers required a "brick and mortar" store, and so we opened up a small shop.  With the economy in the tank it probably just wasn't the best time.  Internet sales were okay and local foot traffic was dismal.  It really felt like the world was crumbling around us.  We went from stable life in the the military, where all needs are "inclusive," to investing all our time, money, and energy into this business.  Things just were not moving along well enough to meet our everyday needs.  I had been trying to be optimistic, thinking "things will be better in a few months!"  Next thing you know, I am preggers with #2, we have no money, empty cupboards, and no health insurance.  It was a pretty low time in my life.  I had to act like everything was just dandy not only for my son, but also for everyone in town who didn't know our "real" situation and just saw us as business owners.  It was immensely humbling having to have to apply for food stamps and Medicaid.  Even with those benefits, that doesn't buy clothes, personal hygiene items, laundry soap, etc.  I spent a lot of time browsing the internet trying to find ways to do everything low-cost and homemade.  I made a lot of discoveries and learned a lot about making do, and really just realizing how unimportant material things are and what a big role marketing has in making us think we "need" certain things that frankly we really don't!

Finally, last summer it was getting to the point that we were so far in the hole that we were literally a few weeks from closing the store doors and filing for bankruptcy.  However, my husband has a very determined personality and decided to move our shop to the outlet mall a few miles up the road just off the interstate.  It was a last desperate attempt at making the store a success.  And guess what, it's working!  In the last year, we have dug ourselves almost completely out of the hole we dug over the first 2 years of business.  Don't get me wrong, we are not even close to easy street.  We are still functioning on a very low overall income with very little extra, but we are able to breathe a little easier.

Why a Blog?
Frankly, I'm not sure.  Seems as good a place as any to get it all off my chest, perhaps share a few ideas and tips that have helped us over the last few years.  Being in a dire financial situation is NO JOKE and we seriously would not have made it through without the help of government assistance, family, and friends.  

My Goal:
To be completely candid about our situation.  Though many times it feels very isolating, I know there are millions of people who have been  are in the same, if not worse, situation.  If I can bring a smile or make someone else feel like they're not alone, mission accomplished.