Don't faint! Life has been 'full' for the past few months, as Sarah wrote earlier. I'm a firm believer in the effectiveness of prayer, so thank you for them!
There is no way to recap the entire insanity our family has embraced, so I'll hit the highlights.
Our daughter got married in June. We are blessed that both of our children are practical and that our daughter's new father-in-law generously took care of almost all the expenses.
My husband endured year #2 of an incredibly rotten teaching/coaching experience. He was relieved of the coaching part of his job last month and is trying hard to find another job pronto, as the 'powers' want him outta there. He hasn't done anything wrong; he just isn't a good ol' boy and never will be. Looking for another teaching/coaching job has been challenging for a number of reasons, not the least of which is his age (61 next month) and job security. He has tenure in the county where he is now (50 miles away); being closer to home would be fantastic for gas, time, and energy savings (and the drop in income from head coach to assistant wouldn't be so traumatic), IF he were able to land a job closer. With the economy like it is, however, tenure speaks volumes, and a transfer within the county is the most practical way to go if he can swing it. He'll hopefully learn before the holidays begin next week that a switch is possible with a teacher at the feeder middle school. He'll do whatever he needs to do there, but he wants to continue coaching at a different (i.e., rival) high school. He's already been asked to fill an assistant coaching position there, but they won't have a teaching position until the end of the year (it's not in his field, but he could do it). If the current 'powers' will back off until then, that would work, too. Thankfully, the superintendent really likes him and will surely do what he can to make the transition as easy as possible. What a huge boost it would be for hubby to have fun coaching without the responsibilities and headaches of being the head coach... and NOT have to worry about the reduction in income!!!
Which brings me to the third big development.
After trying to get our pitiful financial affairs in order by trying to refinance, talking to debt management reps, working out plans with some credit card folks, applying for a state grant, and checking on mortgage assistance plans at the credit union, we have landed smack dab at the end of the proverbial line and have begun the bankruptcy process. Last Friday I talked to a paralegal at the office of a bankruptcy attorney, and I felt almost instant relief just talking about our situation to someone who could provide much-needed guidance. This is what has happened in less than a week's time:
1. The first move was to close all our bank accounts and open new ones because several years ago I started making online payments at the respective creditors' sites. THEN I discovered Dave Ramsey, who said do not EVER do that. I felt enormous relief knowing that no one had access to our accounts any more, nor do I have to worry about making sure there was somehow money in the special account for credit card 'plan' draft payments! That account is HISTORY.
2. The paralegal said to stop paying all credit card bills NOW. I couldn't believe it and asked her to confirm what I thought I'd just heard. My husband's coaching supplement had come at the end of November, and I had proceeded immediately to pay bills - LOTS of them. While I hated to think I'd already paid them after just hearing to stop, I also felt a tiny bit more responsible in putting out effort until the last minute.
3. By paying a portion of the attorney's fees yesterday (which I had because I wasn't using it to pay credit cards), I am now to direct all creditors' calls to the attorney's office. What a freeing experience to not only not dread the phone's ringing, but to hope it's a creditor! As one of the cards had advanced to 'prelegal' status and another was in collections, I feel about 99% freer already.
4. Because of our debts, the paralegal said at the initial meeting that we qualify for Chapter 7. Since I had been thinking Chapter 13, I had to wrap my mind around the likelihood that all the credit cards will be discharged as opposed to our paying them out over the next 5 years. The paralegal explained that Chapter 13 is becoming less successful because of the economy, that if our income dropped again, we'd be in trouble if we couldn't maintain our repayment agreement.
Bankruptcy isn't what we had planned and certainly not what we wanted. The embarrassment and feeling of failure and irresponsibility is hard to shake when we've worked hard and tried to fulfill our obligations for years although it's never been easy. But life hits with a thud sometimes, and we don't always get our way. This won't be a fun process, as the paperwork is grueling (I've already prepared 3 batches of grueling paperwork for previous attempts to get us straightened out and will have taxes after this), and it will be a black mark on our records from now on. I must say, though, that I already feel more optimistic than I have in a LONG time that we'll get back on our feet and learn mightily from this experience.
Will we be debt-free if the credit cards are discharged? Not by a long shot. We'll have the mortgage, the second, our daughter's car payment (to be paid off shortly after her husband is hopefully able to land a teaching job), the balance of medical bills for hubby's blood clots last year, and school loans, which have been in deferment and forbearance until a winning lottery ticket blew into the yard. When it's all done and I know what we have, I'll have Sarah tutor me on how to do the debt ticker.
We are thankful for the chance to start over - sorta - and look forward to a much brighter 2012 when this process has been completed.
I won't be posting nearly as often as Sarah (shocker!), but I will update along the way.
Thanks again for being here for both of us! Best wishes to all for a happy, blessed, frugal(!) Christmas and new year -