Feeling Low and Looking Lower

I’m still struggling with the final, bitter dregs of this illness. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever feel human again. Am I recovering slower because I’m getting older, or because bugs are becoming more insidious and diabolical? I don’t plan on looking into that very deeply, because neither conclusion would be pleasant. Bleh.

In times like these, I tend to want to look back at even more awful periods in my life. No, I’m not a masochist. I just like to remind myself that I survived that, so I’ll survive this.

So while lying here in a stupor, encased in flannel, I suddenly remembered a time, not too long ago, when I was in such dire straits that I actually had to start a crowdfunding campaign to get me through. I learned a lot from that experience. It was humiliating. It was heartwarming. I’ve never been more vulnerable in my entire life. It showed me who my friends really were. And it taught me how important it is to pay it forward.

Check out my blog post entitled The Fine Art of Begging to get all the details. You can also find it in my first book. And as a follow up, I’ll say that I’m still not in contact with those relatives who thought I was an embarrassment to the family, and I don’t miss them at all. And I have paid it forward every chance I’ve gotten, and will continue to do so for as long as I live.

Sending you love and light, dear reader, and hoping that I’ll be back amongst the living very soon.

Light at the end of the tunnel
See? There IS a light at the end of the tunnel!

The Web of Good Deeds

Recently, I was talking to someone I hadn’t talked to in ages. She is the cousin of a dear friend. She lives here in the Seattle area. When I was moving 3100 miles, I was really stressed out about my housing situation, because I was bringing my two dogs and all my stuff with me, so if I didn’t have a house lined up before I got here, I’d have been in a real fix. I couldn’t afford to fly out in advance and set this all up, so I had no idea what I was going to do.

I did find a house on line, and my friend called his cousin, and, without knowing me at all, she took the time out of her busy schedule to go and check out the house for me and take pictures, so I was comfortable enough to put down a deposit sight unseen. I couldn’t have done it without her. The whole relocation thing would have crumbled like a house of cards.

That means that all that came afterwards, my great job, my financial security for the first time in my life, my husband, my happiness… none of that would have happened were it not for her kindness to a stranger. Needless to say, I thanked her profusely. But I’m sure she doesn’t get what a significant thing that was for me.

If you look at the big picture, our entire existence can be attributed in some way to the kindness of others. I’ve had so many people throughout my life who have given me a leg up. Scholarships. Crowdfunding. Letters of recommendation. Most of the clothing I’ve worn throughout my life has been from thrift stores, made affordable only through donations by others. Most of the furniture I’ve owned has come from the side of the road. People have given me advice. Others have stood between me and violence. Untold numbers have helped me find my way when I was lost.

We all walk upon a web of good deeds that is so densely woven that it has become a tapestry. I feel certain that much of the goodness is behind the scenes. We are able to stand tall for reasons unknown and often unappreciated. This decency forms the very fabric of society.

Even in these times of great division and conflict, I genuinely believe that most of us are fundamentally good. It’s important to remember that. It’s important to appreciate it, and never forget its value.

So, thanks again Sarah, and thanks to all the others who have come before you in my life, and all the ones who will surely come after you.

Tapestry

Portable gratitude. Inspiring pictures. Claim your copy of my first collection of favorite posts! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

The Fine Art of Begging

Recently I racked up $9,000.00 in debt by moving 3100 miles across country to start my life over after a series of setbacks that, frankly, are becoming too boring to even discuss. Everybody has problems, right? But a friend suggested I do a crowdfunding campaign through the Indiegogo website to help me get my head above water. I set a goal of 5k for my two month campaign, never really expecting to get a response.

The campaign ended just the other day, and much to my shock and awe I did reach 50 percent of my goal. But even more valuable than the money was all that I learned from the experience, about myself and about others. I never realized what a ride it would be until I hopped on.

First of all, as one might expect, it’s kind of humiliating to have to beg for money. Essentially, you are telling the entire world, “I can’t do this on my own.” No one likes to admit that.

Second, you spend a great deal of time dealing with the complex issue that a certain percentage of people are bound to assume that you are asking for something that you don’t really deserve because you’re lazy or you’re a scammer. There’s really no simple way to protest your innocence. “I am not a crook” didn’t work for Nixon, and it wouldn’t have worked for me, either.

And then, at least for me, there was a nagging feeling that maybe it was true. Maybe I didn’t really deserve help. I can think of at least a billion people who are worse off than I will ever be. Who do I think I am? What makes me so special? Those are really uncomfortable questions to have to wrestle with.

The moment the campaign was launched, the vultures started circling. “For just $200.00, I can make your campaign go viral!” “Sign up for tips on how to increase your visibility.” These e-mails made me really uncomfortable. It was like my financial desperation had somehow become a business opportunity. For me, this wasn’t business. This was my life.

Also, I got some really weird reactions from distant family members. One even told me that what I was doing was inappropriate and an embarrassment to the family. Wow. Several of them still aren’t speaking to me, and the irony is, none of them helped out, even emotionally, and I never expected that they would. They had never stepped up before, so it would have surprised me if they did now.

But the amazing thing, the thing that still brings tears of gratitude to my eyes, are the people who did step up. Many of them, I know for a fact, are struggling themselves, and they were often the most generous. Then there were the people from my distant past, many of whom I hadn’t had contact with in decades, who supported me without hesitation. And total strangers who said, “I’ve been where you are. Here. Good luck.” Some people said, “I wish I could contribute, but I have no money to give. But I wanted you to know that I heard your story and I’m pulling for you.” Even those who just shared a link to my campaign on their Facebook pages hold a special place in my heart.

I am humbled by everyone who supported me emotionally as well as financially. The memories of that will be more precious than gold long after this debt is nothing but a bad memory. And some day when I’m able, I plan to pay this generosity forward. That’s a promise.

It is when you have to bare your soul and humble yourself way beyond your comfort zone that you truly discover who your friends are, and that the world is a generous place, indeed. What a gift.

gratitude-printable

 

A Florida Transplant to the Pacific Northwest

My upcoming relocation to the other side of the continent is constantly on my mind, as you can well imagine. This is going to be a dramatic change for me. I’m a Florida girl who has never had to deal with Pacific Northwest-y stuff. I’m anticipating having to ask a lot of stupid questions, and I’m quite sure things are going to come up that I don’t expect. Here are some of my biggest concerns.

  • I have never driven in snow in my entire life. I don’t know any of the tricks or rules or… anything. Will I need snow tires? Chains? Where do I get them? How do I put them on? Do they salt the roads? How do you avoid rust?
  • I don’t know what footwear to get to deal with rain and snow.
  • I don’t know how heavy a coat I’m going to need. Should I get thermal underwear?
  • What’s a good setting for your thermostat so you don’t freeze to death but also don’t get an insane electric bill?
  • This is going to sound silly, but I basically don’t know how to dress. Here, it’s t-shirt, shorts, flip flops, and you’re good 90 percent of the year, even in nice restaurants. I think I’m going to need more long sleeve shirts…
  • Do people dress up when they go out to dinner? Or is it as casual as Florida?
  • How often will I experience earthquakes? What do I do when one happens? What do you do if you are driving during one?
  • How do you keep mud off your carpet?
  • My lease says I have to wrap the outdoor hose bibs every October. What do I wrap them with, and where do I get it? Wouldn’t it just be easier to keep them wrapped all year round?

God, this is embarrassing. I feel like I’m about to be dumped off on another planet with no orientation whatsoever. I feel like I’m 5 years old and have wandered away from my mother in a department store. I realize that this is all part and parcel of my general free floating anxiety about this relocation, but seriously… help!

Between these silly questions and having to beg the world for help on my Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, thereby putting my fat pasty self on a video and getting all emotional for the whole world to see, this change has been a huge lesson in what it feels like to make myself vulnerable. It’s a good lesson to learn, but it’s hard to swallow.

puss in boots

[Image credit: wallpaperfly.com]

“Tell Him Chuck Sent You.”

So here I sit in the hot sun, on a greasy chair, in a greasy parking lot, in a really scary side of town, with an ominously sedate and extremely dirty pit bull lying at my feet. The prostitutes are staring at me. And I’ll be here for hours. Just one more curve on my downward spiral, it would seem.

You know, I really try. No one can say any different. I started earning money when I was 10 years old. I am law abiding, I pay my taxes, I’ve never defaulted on a student loan. I give blood. I just gave my 51st microloan to a woman in a 3rd world country.

I just also seem to get ripped off, have my car totaled by a woman who ignores stop signs, choose the wrong thing to study in school, invest my money poorly, and fall in love with someone who then dies. Before his body was even cold, my landlady kicked me out of my apartment. Just when I thought I couldn’t lose any more, I also choose a really, REALLY bad mechanic. So here I sit. With a pit bull.

Things did seem like they were starting to turn around, though. I got this great job offer in Seattle, and when I discovered how outrageously expensive the relocation across the continent was going to be, I did a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. And people have really stepped up. They’ve given me what they could. Strangers. Friends I haven’t seen in decades. Ex-boyfriends. Seriously! Ex-boyfriends. It humbles me. It brings tears to my eyes. But as of this writing, the campaign seems to have come to a grinding halt, far short of my needed goal. And now this. I’m really scared.

Yesterday I decided to get a tune up and an oil change in anticipation of my 3100 mile trip. It was the smart thing to do, I thought. The last thing I need is to get stranded on the side of the road with my dogs in the middle of South Dakota. So I bring it in and they get to work.

Several hundred dollars and several hours later, they tell me all six of my exhaust pipe brackets have broken off, my mufflers are hanging in mid air, and the brackets need to be replaced. 80 more bucks. Has to be done. Go ahead. An hour later they walk in and say, “Can you smell that?” I could. I had for the last 15 minutes. A nauseating burning, rotten egg smell. I didn’t realize it was coming from my car. “Your catalytic converter is glowing cherry red.”

At that point, I nearly lost it. Because I know what this car is worth, and I know how much catalytic converters cost. And I know at this point this car has become nothing but a 2000 pound paperweight. How am I supposed to go across country now?

But then, he goes and makes a few calls. Believe me, I’m making a call or two myself. He finds someone who will do something less than legal to deal with the catalytic converter so it will be at least drivable. Washington State has emissions control though, and it will never pass inspection.

Thank God, my sister came through for me again. She’s going to give me her van in exchange for my P.O.S. I’m grateful. Gas costs just tripled, probably, but I’m grateful. But the thing is, I still need this car to be drivable for her. So here I sit, with a pit bull, while something not exactly legal is happening with my car. It’s amazing just how far one can sink.

But he confirms what I already suspected. This problem was caused by them doing a horrible job with the tune up, and it’s still messed up. At least I won’t have to worry about it bursting into flames. But it shudders. It lurches. It backfires. And I have so much to do between now and Seattle, and dealing with this problem on top of everything else is going to add a lot of pressure to the situation.

But in an odd, off handed kind of way, this illegal mechanic and his pit bull are really helping me. He even says if I bring it back on another day when he can have it all day, he’ll at least figure out what the heck they did wrong with the tune up. And he’ll do that for free. But I’ll need to find someone who will give me a ride home and pick me up, too.

And as I sat here, I looked at the piece of paper that the original, incompetent mechanic gave me with the pit bull mechanic’s contact info on it, and I notice something that I didn’t notice before. This referral was through a friend of a friend, so he wanted me to know his friend’s name so pit bull guy would know how I found him. It said, “Tell him Chuck sent you.”

Chuck just happens to be the name of my boyfriend who passed away in March. And he used to say to me when we had a problem, “We can fix this. It may not be pretty and it may not be perfect, but we’ll fix this.” I look down at the pit bull, whose massive head is now resting on my shoe, and I smile weakly.

pitbull

[Image credit: mprgroup.net]

I Really Need Your Help

Believe me, I hate to ask. I’d much rather help others than be helped myself. The fact is, I’m desperate.

I’ve been through a lot in the past 5 years. I’ve been swindled out of 3,500.00 (read more about that here), my car has been totaled, I lost my life savings (read more about that here), I incurred another useless degree and a student loan to go along with it (read more about that here), the love of my life died unexpectedly (read more about that here), and I was therefore kicked out of my apartment.

But I have this one chance to turn my life around. I got this phenomenal job offer, one that would change my life dramatically, but it’s on the other side of the continent. Relocating will cost me $10,000. I’m about $5,000 short, so a friend suggested I try crowdfunding. The fact that I’ve already had contributions, several from people who have never even met me, others whom I haven’t seen in decades, humbles me and brings tears to my eyes. This reaffirmation of my faith in humanity is even more valuable than the money could ever be.

My life is one Big Do Over, so that’s what I decided to call my Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. Check it out here. Also check out the related video below.

Even if you are struggling as much as I am, and therefore can’t help financially, you can help me a great deal by spreading the word. Repost this blog entry, please, or share it on social media in as many ways as you can. Thanks in advance.

(For those of you who get this via e-mail, the video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNC1bagplxo )