Category Archives: finances

Things That Matter

Last January, I bought a new car – a Nissan Versa in gun-metal gray that I named Jet. Jet does not have many bells or whistles – he does not have power windows or locks, heated seats or back seats that fold down or  lot of other things. That’s fine with me. He has what matters – the ability to get me dependably from point A to point B. He does that quite well and doesn’t use a whole lot of gas in the process. In fact, I discovered this morning that he also does quite well on snow and ice.

For me, getting divorced took me from a house full of stuff to an apartment full of half that stuff. The longer I lived in the apartment, the more stuff I got rid of. When I moved in with Cycle Dude, I got rid of tons more stuff. Truth be told, I could probably get rid of even more stuff.

Stuff wasn’t the only thing I got rid of. Friends who knew ex and I together seemed to evaporate. I also got rid of a great deal of anxiety, suspicion, and (eventually) anger. I felt like my life was like an onion, peeling away layer after layer. I finally got down to the things that matter.

I don’t have the latest, greatest and most updatest of everything – I don’t need it. Jet doesn’t have tons of bells and whistles – I don’t need it. I don’t have a walk-in closet full of clothes or shoes – I don’t need it. I don’t have a house full of knick-knacks – I don’t need it.

What do I need and what are the things that matter in my life? My faith, my children, my grandbaby, my sweetheart (Cycle Dude), my pups, my family, a roof over my head, food in the fridge and a job that meets my financial needs. My perspective has changed a great deal over the past seven years. My needs are met with simplicity and my wants are few. I find happiness in relationships, not things. I get to come home each day to three of my favorite people – Cycle Dude, Jack and Shirley. And for that, I am grateful! Stay tuned. . . .

 

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Blessed

Christmas is only a few days away. I am keenly aware that this time of year can be incredibly stressful on its own without adding the additional stress of going through a divorce. I also know that the holidays can be a painful part of the year, too – especially if one has experienced a loss during the year. I remember the first holiday season after my dad died – we felt empty, like something was missing. The holidays are still a rough time for my mom because she misses my dad so much.

I divorced right before Christmas seven years ago. As a result, I didn’t have much money, but I did have a great deal of anger. I was angry that my finances were shot. I was angry that my children did not have good holiday memories like I did. I was angry that ex had more money and was able to give my children more for Christmas than I was. That first Christmas after my divorce was not a very good one.

I was so angry for so long that I lost sight of one thing – how blessed I was. I had a roof over my head, a job, food in my cupboards, a car that ran and people who loved me. God had provided the things I needed. There is a big difference between needs and wants. Our needs are those basics we need for survival, food, shelter and clothing. The wants are everything else – a car, a cell phone, new shoes. Even with as little as I had, I was still richer than many people in other parts of the world.

I am blessed. I do not have the latest and greatest of everything – I don’t need it. I don’t have a car with all the bells and whistles – I don’t need it. I content with what I have, where I am, and with whom I am sharing my life. I have man who loves me. I have a new grand baby. I have six amazing children. My mom is in good health. My siblings are all doing well. I have a good job and a good boss. I have two hilarious pups who think I am everything. I have wonderful friends. What else is there?

The floor beneath my Christmas tree is not stacked high with gifts. I didn’t go into debt to buy gifts this year. My bills are paid. I am content. I am blessed. I thank God for keeping me in His care. As this year comes to a close, I do not wish for next year to bring financial prosperity or more stuff, I wish for more opportunities to serve – my coworkers, my family, Cycle Dude, my church and my community. I am blessed and I wish to bless others.

Keep a quiet heart this holiday season as you meditate on the reason for the season – Jesus. Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed by expectations, relationships and unfulfilled promises. Know that you are loved. Stay tuned. . . .

Get Rid of It!

The only reason I would post twice in one day is because I read something that I MUST share! During lunch today, I tapped into the internet to get an update from my favorite news station. The screen that appears before I access my ‘favorites’ is the ISP’s news page. I followed a headline entitled, “Removing These 31 Things From Your Life Will Make You Happier and More Successful” (Credit: Mary Cate Williams).

My top 10 from this piece (in no particular order) are: comparing yourself to others, creating unrealistic expectations for yourself, bad spending habits, fear of the unknown, living in the past, unhealthy relationships, the need to be in control of everything, your need to have the best things, feeling sorry for yourself, and grudges. Five bonus things to get rid of: jealousy, blaming others for your mistakes, resisting change, holding on to stuff you don’t need and your social media obsession.

I see a couple of themes here: be responsible for yourself, be yourself, forgive others, stick to a budget, and it’s okay to let life happen. Your only responsibility is to and for yourself – that includes your time, your money, your resources. Forgive others – your grudges only hurt you. Unforgiveness is like drinking poison, hoping the other person will die. Forgive and move on! And for goodness sake, ditch the social media! Is anyone ever who they really are on social media? Do you really need someone else’s life issues to brood over when you have your own?

Don’t spend beyond your means – you really don’t need the latest and greatest of everything. Like the saying goes, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without”. Stuff begets stuff and you can’t take it with you. Cycle Dude and I have been on a minimalist kick for a few months. Nothing is as liberating as taking a car full of your old stuff to Goodwill. A constant theme I see at estate sales is the amount of stuff people collected and thought they needed to live a good life.

It’s okay to let life happen. Life is an adventure- live it! If you live the rest of your life cooped up in yourself without ever venturing out to learn something new, go somewhere you’ve been dreaming of or are afraid to love again, you will die a sad, angry person. Live the adventure called ‘life’. If you happen to find someone along the way to live it with, that’s a bonus. Get rid of the negativity, anger and bitterness. Look at the good things in life – nature, friends, grandchildren – and resolve to live a good life. Don’t be the old Ebenezer Scrooge. Be the Ebenezer Scrooge who found a wonderful new life, resolving to keep Christmas in his heart each day of the year. Stay tuned!. . .

 

Being Resourceful

Eighteen months after I got divorced, ex stopped paying court-ordered spousal support. He felt he was above the law and able to make that decision. I tried legal means to get him to pay the remainder of the money, but he just ignored my attorney and his attorney when they tried to contact him. I didn’t have the money to pursue him any further. He said it was his job to “make (me) stand on (my) own two feet”. We weren’t even married anymore! How could he think he still had power over my life?!

I guess I could be grateful for that time in my life because it taught me how to be resourceful. I had a lot of debt and not a lot of money. I had to get creative with meals, bill paying, Christmas and birthday gifts, etc.

1. Keep a change jar: My change jar was often my lifesaver, even it was just $5 in my gas tank. Change adds up quickly.

2. Grocery shop for items that will last a while: Frozen fruits and veggies instead of fresh, rice and pasta, tea bags to make your own iced tea, etc. I remember making a rice dish with whatever was in my refrigerator. I had that for lunch and dinner for one week. Yes, it got boring, but it filled my tummy. Eat oatmeal and eggs – not just for breakfast but for other meals as well. Both will fill you up.

3. Make gifts with what you have on hand: My siblings and I exchange Christmas ornaments every year. One year, My Christmas ornament was a laminated maple leaf from the tree beside my house. The leaves were a deep shade of crimson.

4. Be creative – use your talents: Another year for a Christmas ornament, I knitted Christmas trees and attached small buttons as ornaments. If you sew, use your material scraps to make “hodge-podge” ornaments. If you like to take pictures, frame your favorites and give them as gifts.

5. Turn down the heat, turn up the air conditioning: Turn the heat down a few degrees in winter (68) and turn the air up a few degrees in the summer (75). Invest in a fan and open your windows. Conserve water by running your dishwasher only when it’s full. Shower and do laundry at night when the energy demand is less.

6. Use public transportation (if possible): I would often park my car and take the bus from my apartment to work. Granted, I had to walk a mile and a half, but I didn’t have to worry about gas or wear and tear on my car.

7. Exercise self-control: There were so many times I had to tell myself ‘no’ – and I hated it! No to ice cream bars, no to new clothes and shoes, no to eating out. Once you learn how to have self-control, saying ‘no’ to yourself is not so bad.

I learned a great deal during those lean years – about me, about my ability to be resourceful and about others who love me. I knew I’d never go homeless or without food, but it was up to me to do whatever I could to take care of myself and be responsible for my financial obligations. I know now that I am a better person for enduring those lean years, even though they were so hard at the time.

If you are in the midst of some lean years, be encouraged, dear one. You will make it through this. Keep your chin up! Stay tuned. . . .

 

Be Prepared

I walked into work Tuesday morning to find that a survey team from a national  healthcare accrediting organization was on campus. The people at Myjob have been preparing for this organization’s visit for the better part of a year. The organization comes every 2-3 years to inspect the hospital for re-accreditation. Even though we expected the survey team in the fall, my boss said they could come as early as late spring or early summer. My boss has been preparing his team for this visit since October.

I am glad we have been preparing for this event. I have learned a great deal more about healthcare and what it takes to run a hospital. I have learned that it is better to be proactive than not. It is better to anticipate possible scenarios than to sit back and “let it slide”.

One thing I have learned, especially through my divorce, is to be prepared. I can honestly say, I was not prepared to divorce and then to deal with all the emotional, physical and financial flotsam and jetsam that accompanied it. Sure, I knew it was coming – I knew that several years before it actually happened. But I was still not prepared.

I wrote about this subject in a post entitled, “Storm Warnings”. However, I’d like to apply a little of what I have learned in preparation for this healthcare accreditation organization visit.

1.  Categories: Organize your divorce preparations into categories – financial, household, relational, work-related, etc. Sit down and make a list of these categories, then add the following: under financial – income, budget, savings, retirement, emergency fund (even though you may get alimony, don’t count it as income because it’s not going to be around forever and you don’t want to become overly dependent on it); under household – will you sell your home? Move into a new home/apartment? Need to have a yard sale? Need to replace household items? (hint: estate sales are good places to get household items – furniture, dishes, etc. if you need to set up a home.); under relational – How soon will you tell people of your (impending) divorce? Who will you tell? How do you break the news to important people in your life (children, parents, siblings, etc.)?

2. Rank: Once you have your categories and have broken them down into sub categories, give each sub category a ranking from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) in order of priority. What things will you take care of first? What things can wait? Work on the #5’s first and cross them off your list when done. Number fives should be things like income (how are you going to support yourself?), housing (where are you going to live?), and debt (pay off old debts and don’t create any new ones until your are financially stable).

3. Finish: Once you have finished an item, cross it off your list. If you are really good and make a spreadsheet, hide that column/row when you’ve completed it. Once it’s done, it’s done.

4. Document, document, document: Keep a copy of all your records. Keep a phone log of your conversations with ex or of any electronic communication with ex. You may have to produce this information if it comes down to “he said – she said” in court. Be aware that unless you inform someone you are recording the conversation with them, that communication may be against the law. A good rule of thumb regarding keeping records and documents is 10 years. Instead of tons of boxes full of paper crowding up your spare bedroom, scan documents and store them on a flash drive, backup hard drive or on the ‘cloud’.

Everything we experience in our lives in a learning experience. We can take what we learn in one aspect of our lives (ex. work) and apply it to other aspects of our lives (personal). The thing is we should never stop growing and learning. And, yes, we can even learn from an unpleasant experience like a divorce. Stay tuned. . . .

Rollercoaster

I remember when a theme park close to my home built a new rollercoaster. It had several loop-de-loops in it and ran fast. My children couldn’t wait to go on the rollercoaster! After much coaxing, they got me on the ride with them. However, I closed my eyes and screamed when we went on the loop-de-loops! I have always been afraid of heights and the rollercoaster scared me. My children said, “Aww, come on, Mom! That wasn’t scary!”

There are many times when life can seem like a rollercoaster – scary and not fun, ups and downs, twists and turns, moving so fast that you find it difficult to hold on. Your divorce recovery can feel the same way. I remember feeling happy that I was finally liberated from ex, but unhappy that my life was in such turmoil.

Some people don’t assess the risk of a rollercoaster before they get on the ride. They are all out gung-ho to feel the excitement of all the twists and turns, the stomach jarring drops, the negative G turns. Going through a divorce can be like that as well. You just want to be rid of that extra weight (ex) and you don’t give much thought to the ‘ride’ itself – the emotions you will face, finding your new normal, etc.

How does one assess the risk of divorce?

1. Are all your eggs in one basket and is he holding the basket? If he will not let you participate in the family finances or doesn’t allow you to see the bills, especially the credit card bills, there’s a good chance he is hiding something. Open up your own checking account. Open up your own credit card. Separate your finances and establish financial stability in your name only. Do not cosign for anything for any reason. And by all means, do not give him access to your accounts!

2. Who does the ‘lion’s share’ of work around the house? I found myself mowing the yard because ex would get ‘heart palpitations’ if he mowed (and his family has a history of heart issues). He complained about having to load and unload the dishwasher when I went back to school at night. Laundry went undone unless I did it. I was the one who cleaned the house, washed the cars, raked the leaves, etc. And I was working and going to school full-time, besides being a full-time Mom.

3. Are bills missing? Are there odd charges on household bills – cable, etc.? If you have any cause to question, question. Trust your gut. Chances are, he’s up to something.

4. If you feel that your marriage is headed that direction, get professional help: Marriage counseling is a good place to start. However, that’s not always successful. Professional help not only includes a good counselor, but also a good lawyer. Most lawyers will give you a free 30 minute session in order to help you determine a course of action. You need to protect yourself.

5. Protect your assets: Find out if your state has a community property law and what that would entail for your personal and shared assets in a divorce. Make sure the divorce decree spells out in detail who is responsible for what, how long, etc. There was one issue that was not intimately spelled out in my divorce decree and ex found the loophole. He shoved my face in it and left the state owing me more than $21K in alimony.

In my experience, divorce was the roughest when I was not prepared. I was not prepared for some of the actions ex took, even though they didn’t surprise me. I truly felt like I was on a rollercoaster. Divorce is painful, there’s no mistaking that. Hindsight is always 20/20 – we look back and see the red flags in our marriage and think about how we should have been more proactive when our gut told us something wasn’t right. If you are going through the rollercoaster of divorce right now, buckle up and make sure you are protected. Stay tuned . . . .

Unexpected Sinkholes

Normally, I don’t post twice in one day, but . . . . it seems I’ve done that quite frequently! I live in a part of the country known for its karst topography, or the numerous limestone caves. Limestone is a sedimentary rock. Millions of years ago, this part of the country was underwater, which accounts for the limestone. Limestone is made out of the shells of sea creatures which contain calcium carbonate. As rainwater falls, it picks up carbon dioxide and forms a weak carbonic acid. This acid eats away at the limestone, producing caves and sinkholes. Some sinkholes are harmless, but others cause quite a bit of destruction (Google ‘sinkholes’ and you’ll see the recent ones in Florida as well as the giant one in Guatamala City several years ago).

We got word today after lunch that our grounds manager discovered a sinkhole. Luckily, it is not as big as one we had a couple of months ago that closed several lanes on the freeway. We’ll see if this one expands or if it is fixable in its current state. We should have expected this because of all the rain this part of the country had over the last weekend.

Whether you are divorced or not, you will run across sinkholes in your life – things that threaten to shut down or sideline your forward progress – illness, financial problems, job issues, relational difficulties. When the sinkhole at Myjob was discovered, we called out the appropriate personnel – the Department of Transportation, the utility provider, and the management at Myjob. Each person has their own sphere of responsibility in resolving the sinkhole issue.

When you face a sinkhole in your life, call out the appropriate personnel or experts to help you shore up that weakness: illness – seek medical help or professional help if you have mental issues; financial – seek out your banker and sit down with them to determine your best course of action; job issues – talk to your boss or someone in your Human Resources Department; relational difficulties – speak to a counselor who specializes in relationship issues. And pray, asking God for wisdom in dealing with the sinkhole. The sinkhole is not permanent, but if you don’t deal with it when you first notice it, it will only get bigger and cost more to fix. Dear one, give yourself grace as you deal with the sinkholes in your life. They are a learning experience. Stay tuned . . . .