The Decision - This one is a bit long....
It was an enormous emotional struggle for me as I saw people I called friends take sides and no longer associate with me. We had a very public divorce since we both were so very active in our community with volunteering and in business. It was hard on both of us.
When he moved out almost a year ago, we were very behind on our mortgage and the utilities. I had a job, but no clue how I was going to bring everything up to date by myself, nor how my income could possibly keep the bills paid each month. The stress I felt daily was horrific. I had three kids, ages 9, 12 and 14, looking to me to make sure their world was going to be ok. Then my employer and I decided that it wasn't working out, so we parted ways. Now what???
I had reached out to the mortgage company to start a modification process while I had my job, but now it was overwhelming to even begin to think of what I was going to do. I spent 6-9 hours a day researching and applying for well paying positions because I knew I had a minimum income I needed to earn in order to keep the house, pay the bills and survive. I thought that maybe I needed to find a new husband and get that second income added back. Wait....WHAT?!??! Oh, heck no. At this point, I had decided that marriage is no longer a choice I'm willing to make. It's gonna be just me from here on out.
I faced some incredibly hard choices. I could no longer afford to feed my horses and my kids, so I gave away my two horses that still had use left in them and helped my last one cross the rainbow bridge upon the advice of a compassionate vet and the financial assistance of the San Diego Horse Coalition. This was a very gut wrenching decision to make, but I knew I would end up on the news with starving horses if I didn't.
At this point, I was seriously broke. I applied for public assistance and got "food stamps," and my church made sure we always had plenty of food and household basics, but I continued to struggle and figure out what I was going to do. How was I going to make this work? All the while, I was getting notices from the lender about the impending foreclosure of our home Every day was a battle of insecurities, unknowns and absolute terror about how we were going to make it to the next day. Most of that was never let outside of me. I did my best to hold it together and be the leader my children needed me to be.
Externally, throughout all of this I kept my trademark positive attitude that everything happens for a reason and that everything works out the way it is supposed to. I had to believe this. I knew it was true, but I was starting to lose faith. Then I got a call from a friend telling me that he heard a radio ad for a marketing something or other at a radio station. He said I should check it out. It was in Temecula, which is over an hour away from home and that was downright scary. But I went on the station's website, found the information about the job (it was for an Advertising Account Executive), quickly customized my resume to fit the job and emailed it off to the station.
Within 20 minutes, I received an email from the station manager asking for an interview. That was Tuesday. I was offered the job on Friday. Yay and yikes at the same time. I was going to be commuting 2 1/2 hours each day. I could do this. I arranged for my kids' after school activities and care between incredibly helpful and supportive friends, and the local Boys and Girls Club. I started my new job the first part of September. I was overjoyed to be doing what I love - helping people with their advertising campaigns and writing commercials. Marketing, advertising, writing and sales were my ticket to financial freedom. Eventually. I'll write more about that later.
In the meantime, I had made the decision to walk away from the family home. The fight and struggle to keep had become so overwhelming that I no longer cared and knew I had to find another living solution. I just couldn't make the numbers work, no matter how creative I got. I couldn't afford the house, and I was burnt out trying to make it happen. I had informed a friend that I was walking away and letting the bank have the house. She offered her help, but I told her that the foreclosure auction was in less than 30 days. She is a real estate agent who specializes in short sales. She asked if she could at least try. I figured I had nothing to lose, so we met, signed papers and listed the house. We had eight offers in four days. The bank initially turned us down, but my dear friend persevered and took the offers to the bank anyway. They postponed the auction. We were on track to have a short sale accepted. While this meant little to me financially (the house was included in my chapter 7 a few years back), it did mean I would have more time to figure out what I was going to do and where would we live, so it was a victory.
I continued to search for housing options. I couldn't imagine putting my kids in an apartment complex in our home town. It may offend some, but I didn't think any of the complexes in Ramona fit my standards for a safe, uplifting environment. I had only heard bad things. Besides, the cheapest one I could find was a 2 bedroom for $1200 a month. I kept thinking how crazy that sounded - put my kids in an apartment environment for only $300 a month less than I could rent a house for? No, that wasn't going to happen. I also have six dogs. Who is going to rent their house or an apartment to me when I have six dogs? I contemplated rehoming them, but the process is very similar to deciding which of your children you will send to live with strangers, so all six would stay.
Again, I kept thinking positive thoughts. Keeping the "why" in my head and the "how" will present itself is a philosophy I ascribed to for years. It had to work. I knew I would somehow figure this out. I had already considered living in a trailer temporarily, but how was I going to get one and where would I put it? That was crazy, anyway. I mean, really, 3 kids, 6 dogs and 2 cats in an RV????? Yeah, right. Or was it so crazy?
I started visualizing living in a trailer. I started really taking into account how much time we spent at home, what we do when we are home and evaluating the reals costs of housing all our "stuff." What did we really need to survive? To thrive? How much of this was just not needed in the grand scheme of life for optimal happiness? I might be onto something here. I laughed at my collection of books about simplified living like "The Survival Mom," or "Living a Simplified Lifestyle." I had always been drawn to the idea of an uncomplicated lifestyle. I also remember feeling jealous of friends I knew who did live in RV's. This thought process was moving from crazy to pretty darned serious. I began to search for a home on wheels.
With a chapter 7 bankruptcy, a brand new job and past due bills on my credit report already, how in the world would I buy a trailer to live in? I applied to credit unions, private lenders, and finance companies that claimed "we finance everyone." Nope, not everyone. I was turned down repeatedly. It turns out this was an incredible blessing. Everything does happen for a reason, remember?
Then it occurred to me. My parents had a 5th wheel trailer that they only used about once every three years. I wonder what their plans were for it? I sucked up my pride and sent them an email. Again, what could I possibly lose here? If they said they didn't want to sell it, then at least I know I tried. Then the email reply came back. Hallelujah!!!!! Not only were they going to sell me their RV, the price was much lower than blue book and they were willing to take payments. Oh happy day! We were on track to have a home!
The decision had been made. An RV was now being acquired and it was all starting to sink it. Life was about to change. Majorly change. And in between bouts of sheer terror and questioning, I know this was the right decision to make for my little family. This really is a dream coming true. Being independent, free, un-anchored, and redefining personal "success" is intoxicating!!!! My kids will know that they truly can be and do whatever their hearts desire and that the "American Dream" means finding their purpose and pursuing their passions and not defined by what they have, how much they make or what zip code they live in. I am fully at peace with this and can't wait to start this adventure! Like they saying says, "Live, Laugh, Love."