Photo Credit: © 2006 Lynne Holder

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Oh, My Brain

Our first meeting with the Moneywise mentor was Thursday night.

Dwayne was here for almost an hour and a half, which was enough time to fill my brain to capacity, and then some, with information I never wanted to hear in my lifetime; but then, I have never been in such financial straits in my lifetime.

Dave Ramsey certified or not, some of what he had to say went against everything I have ever stood for, but it all boils down to this: desperate times call for desperate measures.

You mean, I will purposely NOT pay some of my bills?, I asked, as I felt my stomach lurch.

Dwayne drew a box on his legal pad. These are the 4 walls--the house (to include utilities), food, clothing, and transportation. These are the necessities that are paid first. The rest fall outside the walls and are paid only if there is cash left over.

If we don't have the cash left over, we don't pay the credit cards. And yes, they will be ill about it. We have to call them every month that we don't have cash left over, and tell them we're not paying.

I slumped in my chair and looked at Dwayne like he had just handed me a death sentence.

Yeah, that's the look I get, he said.

I have NEVER not paid my bills, I protested. I sold my car, canceled the car insurance, quit taking my prescriptions, canceled my health insurance, haven't bought clothes/shoes in I don't know how long....

It just seemed wrong, you know? I'm no deadbeat. But if there isn't any cash to pay everything that falls outside the necessities, we have to do this. The vicious cycle of robbing Peter to pay Paul has to stop if we're ever going to be able to, as Dwayne says, spend at the speed of cash.

*sigh* Someone hand me a very large alcoholic beverage.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Keeping Hope

Yesterday, I acted on an intuitive nudge. I like to do that, regardless of the outcome.

Having finished my shopping trip at Costco, I headed south toward home on Highway 9. I've passed it many times, but this time, my eye caught the Dover Saddlery in the shopping center to my right.

They might be hiring. Go check.

Almost involuntarily, my hands steered the car hard right into the parking lot.

Dover Saddlery
I walked into horse heaven. I took a deep breath and smelled leather; looked around and saw the most beautiful stable-like decor. It was a feast for my senses and my horse-loving soul.

I walked to the register counter and saw a small sign with a stack of papers. They are accepting applications for employment. I admit, I got a little excited about the prospect.

I took the application home, filled it out, and thought about it for a while. I decided, if I am looking at working in a retail setting, I can't think of a better environment for me.

I returned the completed application to the store today. As I handed it to the assistant manager, she invited me to stay and browse around. I smiled from ear to ear.

I could happily wander in here for hours, I replied.

I love horses, horse people; even things like shipping boots, feed buckets, and horse cookies (I used to make a very special recipe for my horse and probably should have tried to market them. I might still--who knows).

So, hope lives...hope for employment, and hope for my equestrian soul to find its fit in the world, despite being presently horseless.

If this works out, you will definitely be hearing about it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What A Week

It's been beyond unbelievable.

My husband lost his wedding ring. For the second time. You would have thought he'd learned his lesson the first time, but no......

This time the ring was lost at the gym and no one has turned it in. I imagine it will provide its finder with quite a nice chunk of cash, given that it cost me $600 and the price of gold has only risen in the last 2 years.

I say often, "I wonder when I will stop crying."

Sure, a ring is "just" a symbolic thing. But there is such an emotional element to that symbol that you place on your spouse's finger on that one day in a lifetime.

As the counselor said, "You have each other." He still has his wedding ring.

I can't go to the gym without looking at the floor for the ring, then getting teary-eyed.

Not the way I would have liked to end anniversary week.

When I realized that, after exhaustive searches, the ring is not likely to be returned, I got past the anger (while keeping my mouth SHUT) and finally, cried like a baby while Leland held onto me and said he was sorry--over and over.

Yes, we still have each other. A ring is just a thing, and in the last several years I've lost much and learned to detach from things, but this loss was a very emotional thing from which to detach.

Maybe it was just too much to add to the already heaped pile of stuff we have to face every day. Regardless, I think this would have been tough under any circumstances.

I will never see Leland's left hand the same again. I hope I won't always be this sad though.

We still have each other.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

One Of The 3 Out Of 10

I'm going to take a moment and allow myself to sidetrack on an issue that is really beginning to bug the heck out of me.

I've been reading far too many "Atta Boys" for Tommy Jordan and his childish, vengeful actions against his daughter's Facebook rant, that I feel compelled to voice my side of the discussion on whether he is a good or bad parent. 

I have seen some people actually writing that they would vote for this guy if he were to run for President.

God help us.

First, let me say that no one can be judged on their overall parenting skills based on, as he calls it, his 8 minutes and 23 seconds of fame. He has obviously provided well for his daughter, or she wouldn't be acting like the spoiled child she appears to be (and yes, I do realize she's 15 and childish rants are par for the course).

However--I take issue with the fact that he says in his video response to Dr. Phil that what he did in his original video fiasco of blasting his daughter and shooting her laptop, was "accidental". 

Mr. Jordan, do you not see that you are so much on your teenage daughter's level? You responded to her tirade against you in the same teenage fashion. Then you made excuses (it was an accident) when you were called out on it. 

Dr. Phil is accurate in his assessment, in my humble opinion. Tommy Jordan didn't commit the worst act of parenting in history, but it was a severe lack of judgment on his part. He missed an incredible teaching moment for his daughter; one that would have probably changed her life and caused a degree of growth.

Would it not have been much more impactful, albeit, less attention-getting, to tell his daughter that her behavior was completely unacceptable, and that as a result of her disrespect, she would lose her privilege of owning a laptop? Just imagine if he had been the adult and had an adult conversation with her about her behavior, then put her and her laptop in the car and driven her to the nearest battered women's shelter or homeless family shelter, and had her personally hand over the laptop to those who could never afford one. I guarantee that a day spent with those who don't have a fraction of what this girl has been blessed with, and hearing their stories, would change her life.

Sadly, none of this happened, and now what we have is yet another sensation-filled, reality TV-ready drama. Tommy Jordan is now infamous. But it was all by accident.

Mr. Jordan, I'm proud to be one of the 3 out of 10 who think your actions showed a severe lack of maturity and sound judgment. You have perpetuated in this next generation what has, as you have stated, been your experience when you could have raised the bar for her.

For you and your family, I wish you the best; that you would take this experience, the lessons it has hopefully taught you, and quietly move on. America doesn't need anymore trashy "reality". 

Friday, February 17, 2012

God Bless The Kind Among Us

One thing about being in a tough financial situation is the realization that, generally speaking, the world seems like a very cold, hard place to be.

Case in point, I called Fidelity Bank to inquire of an account manager about the possibility of a loan payment holiday. They had offered this a few times in the past and I thought they might again, if I asked.

You never know until you ask, right?

My answer was swift and heartless.

Unemployment is not a hardship, Mrs. Holder, according to our policies.

Oh really?

I explained to the account manager that if it wasn't, I didn't know what was. I thought, Terminal illness, maybe? She followed her statement on unemployment with the contractual obligation speech, basically saying only employed people should have car loans.

I explained to her that I DID have a job when I bought the car, but no matter, I ended the conversation by explaining to her that I would deal with the payment that month, but the next month there wouldn't be one, because the car would be sold.

Okay, was her response. I thanked her for her time, said goodbye, and walked away feeling about as low as road kill.

The world doesn't give a crap about hurting people. It just sucks.

I sold my car a couple weeks later and paid off the loan. It's funny how that felt. I was crushed and relieved all at the same time.

Practice Kindness
Now for a complete 180.

Waiting until the last possible moment, with fear and trembling of nearly Biblical proportions, I called Chase credit card services to explain that I could not make my payment by the due date (a first for me), but would have the money next week.

This time, I heard a sympathetic, very helpful person with a soft, non-judgmental voice on the other end of the conversation. She offered me options, with the reassurance that I'm not the only one going through a rough patch right now.

I chose the option to make the payment next week, understanding there would be a late fee assessed.

To hear someone in a financial institution say she hoped I didn't take what she was saying as hard or unsympathetic was, even in light of the situation, uplifting. She, like the character in the drawing, was trying to shield me from hurt.

Without a lot of effort, what a difference practicing a little kindness can have.

p.s. The car loan was paid off with a perfect record.  I received a credit card offer from Fidelity Bank in the mail today, which I immediately filed in the nearest bin. *smile*

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Red Light

Our first meeting with the Moneywise mentor, Dwayne, was canceled at the last minute. New date TBD.

I had read the first 3 chapters of The Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey, in preparation for this first meeting. I was looking forward to asking Dwayne this one burning question:

How on earth do we apply these principles to our freelance, creative lives, when all Ramsey's success stories involve people with jobs that deposit money in their checking accounts every 2 weeks?

I can't really say I have any arguments with a word of those first 3 chapters, but there is this one constant in reaching financial freedom--steady income earning.

Are we a hopeless case then? 

I'll have to wait for the answer, and I will be sure to let you know what it is.

Unless Dave Ramsey would like to speak to me himself. That would be lovely.

On the expense paring, I have cut another $136 from our monthly expenses. No more hormone replacement therapy. Did you know that Novartis's Vivelle Dot patches are $100 for a box of 8 (one month's worth)? The compounding pharmacy supplied progesterone capsules; one month's worth for $36. Since this is not a life-saving necessity, it wasn't hard to cut the expense.

I may wake up in the middle of the night sort of warm (please don't miss the sarcasm here), or have a bout of insomnia, but hey, I don't have a job and I can take a nap. That's worth an extra $136 a month.

Dave, call me.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Two Years

Today is our anniversary--our second.

It didn't have the best beginning, with our concerns over our financial state of affairs.

It was around midnight. We talked about how we wouldn't be able to make credit card payments on the due dates.

Tension mounted. Voices grew intense. Fear washed over me like a tsunami.

I broke down in tears.

The last thing I remember before falling asleep (which I didn't think I would be able to do) is being wrapped up tightly in Leland's arms, flooded this time by love, as he prayed for God to protect us.

This is why I married Leland Holder. He has such a huge capacity for love that his heart fills up and spills over.

Fear now conquered by love, allow me to share some special memories of our wedding day, 2 years ago today.

Snowmageddon hit Atlanta the day before the wedding and it was nothing short of miraculous that all 4 of the kids and 2 significant others made it here before the airport shut down. Here is what I woke up to on wedding day:

Photo credit: Chris Mothershead (c)2010
Photo credit: Chris Mothershead (c)2010

It was a pretty shaky beginning to the day. The florist called to ask if we were still getting married. The hair salon never opened. But my kids were all here and that's all that mattered to me. I knew the groom would make it, even if he had to 4-wheel it in his Pathfinder.

It all came together beautifully. The snow started melting off by noon. My friend and makeup artist, Katie, made the trek from her home to Dawsonville to do my hair and makeup, even though I had resolved to do it myself (you're an angel, Katie). The flowers, cake and cupcakes, and Leland, all made it safely to Nightfire Lodge in Chestatee in plenty of time. Here's the happy ending:
Photo credit: Chris Mothershead (C) 2010

 There's a photo album on my Facebook page, click here.

A couple of video clips:

How this makes me smile! God has blessed us, no doubt about it!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Breaking Silence

I will say, right up front--this is hard. Pride makes being transparent hard.

I have thought carefully about whether to continue blogging, in light of the unhappy turn my and my husband's lives have taken, but my conclusion is, this is my canvas on which to paint. I wouldn't be the first to paint something that was scorned by some, but critics have never stopped me before. Why start now?

If you don't like harsh reality then navigate away right now; however, in my heart I hope you follow me on the path we are walking.

Neither one of us is dying. We enjoy reasonably good health, but the financial disaster that we have here feels like death--death of dreams, death of progress, death of any hope of a future. After all, the rest of our lives doesn't look very long at our ages. We need a resolution ASAP.
FYI, we haven't come to this by charging furniture, vacations, home remodeling (although that one was tempting), or other such keeping-up-with-the-Atlantans kinds of things, on our credit cards. No, we suffered the same losses as many others in the recession--upside down on the mortgage, loss of business (Leland is a freelance pro photographer), savings wiped out to survive, no luck in my job search--and when there's no cash, there's credit for survival. Emergencies happen. Medical and dental issues come up. All you can think is, just fix it and I'll gladly charge it to feel better.

You get the picture.

If you care to follow us on our journey, we have taken our first steps:
  • We have a Moneywise mentor through our church, North Point Community Church (, who we will meet this week. Part of that program is reading Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover.
  • We are in counseling at The Summit (, to keep our marriage healthy as we go through what is the demise of many relationships.
  • We have spiritual support, and more, from our small group.
  • In the last few weeks we have pared over $700 from our monthly budget by selling my car (also ending the need for insurance), canceling U-Verse cable TV, and dropping our health insurance for membership in Christian Healthcare Ministries.

What is the point of our suffering and obstacles in life, if we don't share them? What if no one ever heard of how God guided us through this?

I want to shout the events of the journey to financial freedom from the rooftop.

That way, God's got an audience.