Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Our Christmas blessing




This sweet stocking stuffer arrived on Christmas Eve! She already has her proud grandparents wrapped around her tiny finger!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Sarah
 

Monday, December 12, 2016

An unexpected detour

Part of DS's Christmas present was tickets to a local production of "A Christmas Carol." (This show is amazing. It has been going on for 40 years and has toured internationally.) The tickets were for yesterday's matinee. That was the plan, anyway.

DH and I went to church in the morning - our boys attend a different church and DS1 picks up DS2 every Sunday. Always - always - I check my phone in between service and our life group. Always.

Except yesterday.

When I finally glanced at my phone, I saw a 2-hour-old text from DS1 saying we needed to go home immediately. He said his brother needed us. While grabbing the hubby, I was frantically texting back asking what was going on. He said DS1 had an awful stomach ache and had stayed home from church.

When we got home, we found his caregiver still there - two hours past his scheduled departure time, bless him. DS was as white as a sheet and grimacing in pain. It took me about 3 minutes to diagnose kidney stones so off to the ER we went.

Six hours later, my diagnosis was confirmed. I refrained from saying "I told you so" to the doctor.

The stone, which is still there, is supposedly small enough to pass. DH had to travel to the next town to find a pharmacy that could fill the prescriptions late on a Sunday night. For now, DS is not in pain and we are praying he passes this thing before Friday's graduation. Or before his last final exam on Wednesday.

This isn't his first bout with a kidney stone - one of the more unfortunate downsides of spending most of your hours in a wheelchair. I don't imagine it will be his last. He's a trooper, my boy. Instead of bemoaning the fact that he missed seeing the show he was looking forward to, he apologized for ruining our plans.

Just need to get through this week ...

Sarah
 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

An exciting month!

It's December! That means DS graduates from college next week! As we were once told he wouldn't live long enough to graduate high school, this is a BIG deal. A really big deal. I sent out announcements and invitations to family and close friends and invited family to join us for the ceremony and for an early dinner at a local restaurant. The festivities begin at 1:30 next Friday, so I only expected our closest family who live nearby to attend.

Wrong. Cousins and children of cousins are taking off work and making the trip. I'm currently at 21 coming for dinner and still have several I haven't heard from yet. So it's going to be a budget-buster. But you know what? This is one of those times that I just don't care. We want to celebrate this incredible young man and we're not going to rain on his parade by worrying about a few hundred dollars.

The only downer is that DH's boss is saying he can't have the day off. Seriously? A couple of co-workers are banding together and vowing to get the work done for him. I know this is crunch time for the business, but sometimes there are circumstances that trump business. This is one of them. DH will be at graduation. Just hoping he will still have a job afterward.

An equally exciting event on the horizon is the birth of our first granddaughter!! DD is due anytime and is SO ready for the pregnancy to be over. With any luck, the little peanut won't arrive in the middle of her uncle's graduation ...

And it's almost Christmas! All my presents are wrapped and under the tree. I did the vast majority of my shopping online and got some pretty good deals. I do love this time of year and knowing I don't have to fight the crowds at the mall takes the stress off and allows me to enjoy the season.

Oh, and it FINALLY turned cold here! Well, probably not by many of your definitions, but I have to wear a jacket now. Sure beats the 70-degree weather we had up until last week.

Hope everyone is enjoying their December!

Sarah
 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Still here

Not sure where October went. I was mostly spinning wheels ...

Not much happening on the debt pay down. It's all sort of on autopilot and there hasn't been much extra to add. To be honest, I've lost that gazelle feeling and am not terribly focused. As long as it's still going in the right direction, I just don't have the energy to focus on it much.

Some major life changes are on the horizon. DS will graduate college in December and not sure what he will do next. He is trying to piece together a few small jobs and volunteering to fill his time. I worry about him losing a social circle when he's not on campus anymore. It's tough when your chair prevents you from going to friends' houses and they're moving on, anyway.

He found out last week that when he graduates he will lose funding for 30 hours/week of caregiving. Those are his daytime hours. He has a young man who drives him here and there and helps him out with whatever. He is crushed that this will be gone because it means that he will have to totally rely on me, which I think makes him feel guilty. As we already pay out of pocket about $15,000/year for caregivers to get him to bed, get him up, showered, dressed, therapies etc., there's nothing left in the tank to replace his lost daytime hours.

Insurance denied a new wheelchair for him so now I'm in full battle mode. His current chair is falling apart and because  he has gotten so much weaker in the past few years, it is difficult for him to maneuver. He desperately needs a whole new system better suited to his abilities.

We had a hurricane blow through here a few weeks ago. Left us without power for four days. Thankfully, a friend lent us a generator so we could charge the wheelchair. I lost all the food in the fridge/freezer, but it wasn't full, thank goodness. I had skipped going to the store to stock up - which turned out to be a good thing.

Can you tell I'm frustrated?

OK, enough whining. A lot of people have it way worse than we do.

We are less than two months away from meeting our first granddaughter! DD is doing great. We had her baby shower this weekend and, despite all the family drama, it turned out to be a lot of fun. She got so many nice things - people were so very generous. We are ready for a new baby around here!

It's still in the 70s/80s here and the leaves haven't turned so it doesn't much feel like fall. But November is one of my favorite months and I'm ready for a fresh start on the calendar.

Happy Fall, y'all!

Sarah
 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Finally Fall

I have been waiting for fall since July. I'm still sort of waiting - but the temps have dipped into the 80s in recent days. What I'm really looking forward to is no longer hearing the A/C running!

A week or so ago a problem with a gas pipeline in Alabama caused a bit of panic in my parts. Prices went up, pumps went dry and people went nuts. For years, our local government has been debating the value of installing a light rail system. I'm hoping this will push them to quit talking and start doing.

We pushed the button on a new wheelchair for DS. We've done our part. Met with vendor. Had him evaluated by OT/PT. Got his neurologist to sign off on all the needs. All letters of necessity written. Everything submitted to insurance. And now we wait. I'm told that because it's all done electronically now, the wait time is reduced from the last time we went through this. Hope that's true.

Extended family drama has taken up some of my time. Two members of my family got together with DD's sister-in-law and decided to throw her a baby shower. They divided up duties ... and then the two in my family bailed at the last minute. So DD's mother-in-law and I are stepping in to help by providing the food/cake. DD is upset because she wanted the two of us to be able to sit back and enjoy the shower. I have been reassuring her that we will have a great time and none of this will matter. Gotta love family.

Hope everyone is doing well. I read your posts, even if I don't do a very good job of keeping up with mine!

Sarah
 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Summer's end ...

It's the last day of August and DS is in full swing with his college classes ...

Summer is over.

I love summer. I love the lack of schedules and the chance to have some guilt-free Netflix time. DS and I got into a regular library habit to keep us busy. I've read probably 15 books since June. I made homemade ice cream, got to spend time with my daughter and soon-to-be granddaughter and made sure to be thankful for A/C. Older DS was less visible due to a seemingly serious girlfriend who entered the picture some months back. (He's still my sweet and thoughtful boy, though - called me on the spur of the moment last week and invited me to lunch - his treat.)

We took care of some house projects. Painted the dining room, cleaned out the attic and did a lot of decluttering. The roof and gutters were replaced and we had a ceiling lift installed in DS's bedroom and bathroom. We did thoroughly neglect the yard. I have horrible allergies and DH is apparently allergic to yard work. DS1 used to take care of it for us but then he went and moved out. ...

All in all, it was a good few months. No serious health issues since my surgery in April, which was a nice respite.

Financially, it wasn't the best. The projects cost a lot of money and there were lots of little expenses that needed to be tended to, in addition to DS2's caregiving expenses. This year is definitely not going to be a great one when it comes to debt payoff. But we are staying the course ...

I am hoping that by declaring the end of summer, the end of the insanely hot weather will be disappearing as well .... Hope springs eternal.

Sarah
 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

It's that time again

Today, we start shopping for a new wheelchair for DS. His current one is five years old, which we have found to be about the lifespan of these things. But, more importantly, that's about the max time that can be allowed in between customizations as his needs change dramatically over time.

He came home from a quick trip to campus in preparation for school starting this week (his last semester!!) looking rather dejected. Turns out, driving on the bumpy paths at school caused his hand to be knocked off the joystick, leaving him stranded until someone stopped to help. Now he is worried about the logistics of getting around. We have had to hire another caregiver to stay with him part time while he's on campus.

So part of the chair concerns will be what kind of options there are for controlling it. His joystick is clearly a no-go from here on out.

Then there's the bottom line ... his current chair cost $38,000. No doubt this one will blow that total out of the water. Very, VERY thankful for decent insurance. It will come down to which add-ons insurance deems unnecessary but which are absolutely vital. It will be a fight. It always is.

My heart is breaking for my young man. He rarely complains and instead simply adjusts to his limitations with a grace that I doubt I would have. He just wants to keep up and his body continues to betray him. He deserves more.

Sarah
 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Attic treasures

Last weekend, I talked DH into cleaning out the attic. This is not a job for the faint of heart, mind you. We have lived in this house for almost 21 years and some of the stuff has been up there just as long. But the worst part? It's a pull-down attic. That means no walking around perusing things and deciding what you want to keep. Stuff is shoved to the end of the space with no way to get to it.

So .... he pulled everything out. Everything. From my wedding dress to current Christmas decorations. And I started sorting.

Some of it was easy - there was a lot of junk up there. The to-the-dump pile got scary high. Then there were the tubs of mementos. Like a paper on ice hockey I wrote when I was in the sixth grade. I kept that just because DH was so happy to find it. I found high school yearbooks that I thought were long gone and a scrapbook I made in middle/high school (which led me to spend an hour trying to figure out what all the things I put in there meant - my memory is not what it used to be).

But the best finds - and what I had been after in the first place - were the baby clothes and toys. Opening up a tub of tiny pink baby dresses in perfect condition nearly brought me to tears. I can't wait to take pictures of my granddaughter in her mommy's dresses! Most of the toys were in great condition, too, which made me happy. I even found the little table and chairs that was mine first and then used by my own kiddos. One chair is wobbly, but the table and the other chair are ready for more use by the next generation.

So now we have a clean attic and lots of goodies for our granddaughter when she arrives. Win win!

Sarah
 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Big-time expenses

July has been an expensive month. First, after a 6-month odyssey with DS's portable lift, we gave up. The company didn't know what was wrong and just kept sending parts, none of which fixed the lift and all of which we were expected to pay for since insurance refuses. We finally said enough and sent them back their parts and told them to forget it. I've never much liked that company anyway. But we still had to have a lift to transfer DS so we bit the bullet and bought a ceiling lift. No way was insurance going to touch that, so I wrote a check for $5,200 and tried not to cry while handing it over. The good news is that we LOVE the lift! It is so easy to use and so much safer for DS. We're going to call it a necessary and worthwhile purchase.

Meanwhile, our roof was replaced as a result of a ferocious spring hail storm. It also took out the gutters and exposed some rotting fascia. Our part of the bill came to $2,700. I wrote that check yesterday. I am very thankful that we were able to pay for the lift and the roof in cash, although our savings is now scary low. We are going to have to focus on building it back up quickly.

I am also dreading the coming power bill. It is so hot here that it's hard to breathe outside. The A/C has been in overdrive (I sure am thankful for it!) and I know we're going to be paying for it.

In better news, we found out this weekend that DD is expecting a little girl - it's been 28 years since we've had one of those around here!

Sarah
 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

New service takes the bite out of summer

Here in the Deep South, summer is mostly humidity, watermelon and mosquitoes. Lots of mosquitoes. By July, we usually can't even sit on our patio without getting eaten alive.

Last year, I saw a few signs in yards advertising a business claiming to be able to get rid of the little buggars. I laughed. I mean, seriously? How is that possible? Even if you sprayed your yard, what about the neighbors' mosquitoes?

Fast forward to this year and I happened to meet the owner of that company. After chatting for a bit, he offered to spray our yard for free so we could see how well it works. Since I'm all about free, I told him to bring it on.

His crew showed up the next morning with power sprayers and hit all the bushes on the perimeter of the yard as well as around our house itself. Took about 15 minutes. Twenty minutes later and I kid you not, there was not a mosquito on our property. And we didn't see one for the next three weeks, which is the duration of a spraying and the life cycle of a mosquito. I'm told it creates a barrier around our yard that the mosquitoes won't cross.

Whatever it is, we're sold. We signed up for the remainder of the season (until mid-October). It is costing us $249 to have the yard sprayed every three weeks. Next summer, we'll pay for the entire season.

And it's worth every penny.  Plus, we're saving a fortune in calamine lotion!

Sarah
 

Monday, June 6, 2016

For once, it paid to eat out

We have a favorite restaurant. It's expensive - of course. So it ends up being the celebration spot. We end up going once or twice a year for special occasions. A couple of years ago, we were seated in the section of a server who was fabulous. Without hesitation, Sam took care of DS - cutting his meat while talking to him like a person and not making him feel uncomfortable. The next time we went, we requested him and our evening was just as great. Now he's our go-to guy, even though we only see him every six months or so.

Last time we were there, Sam was talking to DS and asking about his accessibility at home. DS mentioned the ramp to our front door and that because the wood had warped, it made for a bumpy ride which is uncomfortable for him. Just making conversation.

On Friday, this wonderful man showed up at our door with two other workers and announced that they would be rebuilding the ramp. Apparently, when he's not working at the restaurant, he's doing construction work. They spent the bulk of the day Friday and a good part of Saturday working until the rain started. The ramp is almost finished and looks amazing. I knew that Sam was paying these other two guys to work on the project and I asked how much we owed him. He handed me the receipt for the wood and said I only owed him what the materials cost. The rest was on him. Having priced out ramps before, I know this was a gift of a couple thousand dollars. 

We are so very blessed. I cannot wait until we are out of debt and we can pay it forward.

Sarah
 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A HUGE milestone!

Five years and five months later ... and we have paid off just over $100,000!

That number is an actual reduction in debt - we have actually paid way more in interest along the way. But I'm not going to dwell on that.

I am so proud of us. I truly feel like we are conquering the impossible. Thanks to all of you for continuing to encourage me on this journey.

Sarah
 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Excited about a budget-buster!



This was my Mother's Day present from my daughter and son-in-law - our first grandbaby is on the way! This kid is already making waves - he/she is due Dec. 23!

Sarah

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Good news, not-so-good news

I got good news yesterday - the pathology report from my thyroid surgery was benign. I'm relieved and grateful.

As for the repercussions of the hail storm, both the roofer and the insurance adjuster decided a new roof is in order. They decided on the final price for such is $9,600. Fifteen years ago, we paid $5,200 for a roof. Hard to believe it's gone up that much. The bigger, more unpleasant surprise, is the deductible. We have a $500 deductible on our homeowners - a privilege I can only presume we've been paying extra for all these years. Yeah, it doesn't count for hail and wind. For damage from those two, the deductible is $1,000. "Most people don't know that," the friendly adjuster says. You think? I am glad we decided to beef up our emergency fund and can handle it without a problem.

Sarah

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hail no!!

I was sitting on the sofa yesterday, minding my own business while recovering from surgery, listening to the thunder in the distance ... And then the rains came. Sort of like I imagine it rained when Noah was watching from the ark. Within minutes, I heard the hail. By this time, I have the Labrador sitting on my lap scared to death.

In all my 52 years, I have never seen a storm like that. The hail - which measured 3 inches in diameter (I checked) - came down hard for about 15 minutes. The yard was a sea of white. And all I could do was watch as the golf balls bounced off the cars in the driveway and came pinging off the roof.

I can't imagine there is no damage to the roof. It was just too severe of a storm. I have a roofer coming Thursday to check it out. If he finds anything, then it will be on to file a claim with homeowner's insurance. The roof is 15 years old, so I guess it wouldn't be an awful thing to have it replaced. I just hate that we had our first claim six months ago because of water damage in the ceiling and here we might have to make a second claim. Always something.

My surgery went well. I had a total thyroidectomy last Wednesday. It took three hours, which surprised me. This was my very first surgery ever. I learned that anesthesia makes me extremely nauseous. Once that passed, I was OK. Pain was minimal. I've started hormone replacement, but am told it takes several weeks for your body to regulate it properly. Meantime, I am tired. So. Tired. I don't like the feeling and I have way too much to do. Anyway, I see the surgeon on Friday and will get the pathology reports then.

For now, I think I'll take a nap ...

Sarah

Friday, April 15, 2016

Life goes on

Decided it was past time to check in. Life has been going at full speed and it's all I could do to keep up.

The highlights:

- Medical equipment malfunctions. DS's robotic arm had to be sent to Canada for repairs. Without it, among the many things he cannot do is feed himself. That means coordinating his meals - where he will be and who will help. The lift we use to move him to/from his wheelchair also went to kaput. We are still waiting on the part to arrive. Meantime, I scrounged until I found a loaner lift - which also went kaput last week. Sigh.

- We lost our sweet 14-year-old Bichon pup last month. He made it clear it was time and we respected his wishes. I'm still not used to him begin gone and am always surprised when I open the door and no one is there to greet me. RIP, Sammy.

- Looks like I'm heading for surgery in 2 weeks to have my thyroid removed. I've been treated for a year since a routine physical uncovered multiple nodules and hyperthyroidism. The meds aren't working and will eventually turn toxic, so it's time.

- We've put a semi-pause on the debt repayment to add to the savings. (Meaning we are paying minimums, but nothing extra.) As of now, we have $5,200 in regular savings, $750 in savings for vehicle repairs, and $1,100 in the catchall account to cover small expenses outside of the regular budget. It sure is easier to sleep at night with a cushion.

And that's about all the news there is to tell. Happy Spring, everyone.

Sarah

Friday, February 26, 2016

Dumb, dumb, dumb

Every once in a while, I take a look back at where we were and how we got there. It's not a pretty picture, but it keeps me motivated to stay the course.

A huge amount of our debt is the result of the insane costs associated with having a child with complicated special needs. Necessary equipment that insurance considers "a luxury" (like a bathroom seat and a wheelchair ramp ...). Doctors, hospitals, therapists, caregivers ... they all cost big bucks and while our insurance is good, there are still co-pays, deductibles and denials.

But I can't blame it all on the medical costs. There was a lot of dumb packaged in there. What was the dumbest, you might ask? Well, I asked myself that very question. And, oh my. ...

We bought a dog. And paid for him with a credit card.

Yes, we charged a dog. I can barely type that without kicking my former self into next year.

Who in their right mind would think that's OK? Oh, yeah. We did. I quit looking at past purchases after that. Because that right there says it all.

Life is so much better now that we pay cash. This year, we've even managed to take care of some much-needed and long-neglected home repairs/maintenance. Always in cash. Maybe there's hope for us after all.

Anyone else want to share stupid purchases so I don't feel all alone in this?

Sarah

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Decisions, decisions

Our tax refund hit our account, so I paid off Discover before Murphy could get his hands on it. Discover is especially satisfying to be done with because of its 20% interest rate. We debated what to do about that account, but in the end decided to leave it open and the card in the lock box. All of the previously paid off cards were already closed by the time we paid them off so this is the first time we've run into this issue. We decided we're no longer the risk that we were of running up credit unnecessarily. In other words, we've learned our lesson. But we do feel like we should have a card with a credit line available. And, of course, there is the issue of the credit score. We agreed that if we ever charged anything on that card that wasn't an agreed-upon emergency, we'd close it immediately.

This was probably the last huge payment for awhile. Now that we have cleared off a number of accounts, we'd like to beef up our emergency fund and savings. We know we will probably have to replace our HVAC sooner rather than later and we want to be prepared.

It feels strange to actually have enough leeway financially to have decisions to make about what to do with the money. Previously, our minimums ate up the paychecks without a problem. There weren't any choices to be made. Maybe this is just a taste of what it will be like down the road when we don't owe anyone. Oh, what a happy day that will be!

Sarah

Friday, February 5, 2016

Another one gone ...

Yep, Citibank is history. That was the last of the five cards we had in a Balance Liquidation Program (lowered interest rate and fixed payment for 60 months). And we paid every one of them off early. Pardon me while I pat my own back ...

I'm waiting on a hefty tax refund, thanks to some horrifyingly large medical expenses this year, and have plans to knock out another debt ... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

After so many years of just whittling away penny by penny, it sure is satisfying to see the big picture changing.

And speaking of years ... our daughter and son-in-law have invited us to dinner tomorrow night to celebrate our 30th anniversary. Thirty years. I can't even.

Sarah

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Whoop!

I received a check for a freelancing job and it was enough to pay off the last Chase card!! I am so excited to be done with Chase! I'm even more excited to see the debts finally falling off the chart! (See, Kim - I'm not sneaky. Now just keep on keeping up!)

Insert Happy Dance!

Sarah

Sunday, January 3, 2016

New year, new will

The last time we made a will was 2005. Our kids were all minors and our concerns were different.

So we sat down this weekend with Legal Zoom and drew up a new one. The hardest part of this will was actually saying in print that we are disinheriting a child - especially since he is the one with the greatest needs. We cannot leave anything specifically to DS or he will lose all benefits related to his disability. And because those benefits include caregivers, which are essential, we have to be vigilant that we not do anything to jeopardize them when we are gone.

For now, we have left everything to our other two children, with a special gift to each of them that is designated for the care of their brother. As well, we are leaving them our house, with the provision that DS be allowed to live there for the remainder of his lifetime.

I cannot imagine either of my other two children not making sure their brother is cared for, but we are hoping this makes it easier on them. Since DS was diagnosed, we have made an effort not to heap responsibility on them, but in the end it will be them who are left holding the bag if DS outlives us.

I think the best thing we will be able to do for them ultimately will be getting out of debt. We will have to live a few more years for that to happen, God willing.

We ended 2015 having paid off $16,178.06. Not our best year, but I am pleased given the medical costs we have incurred. In my five years of blogging, we have paid off $91,692.89. When we started, our debt was nearly twice our income - a gap so large most financial pros advise bankruptcy. We now owe less than we make and are chipping away at that every day. In case anyone believes it can't be done, we are doing it. It just takes patience and a whole lot of time.

Sarah