Really, this isn't a "usual" blog post. It is more along the lines of: this is a place I have that's fairly convenient to direct people to if they want more information on our house situation. If you didn't get directed her, likely you're not interested. :) Feel free to move on or back or stick around - whatever suits you.
Trigger Warning: dark subject matter, depressing, potentially may come across as whiny (though not my intention at *all). If you're still here after that, know that this is part of a (personal) campaign to raise money to get ourselves (my husband, my self and our children) out of dire financial straights.
One last chance - I figure three warnings is enough before I commence. So, if you're still here...
2008 Dave was laid off. During his unemployment job searching, his spinal osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, & spinal stenosis presented and was diagnosed. His condition quickly progressed and it became clear that work was out of the question, but we were glad that his initial diagnosis was *not* the death sentence the first doctor told us.
Through 5 years of struggles with surgeries, the medication trials-and-errors, clinical depression and (after the small bit of unemployment ran out) struggles to cope with raising and homeschooling 2 active boys with *zero* income, his disability turned down 4 times, he *finally* qualified for disability. Just about a year and a half ago, he started getting $700/month – which may not seem like much, but after 5 years of $0, it was *such* a relief to be able to sit down on the first of the month and actually pay our utilities! No worries about having to call any of the social help groups to pay them for us, no shut offs, just satisfaction. We still had to struggle to decide between toilet paper & toothpaste some months, but we had utilities!
During that time, we started up our business, Smithfits Bazaare Emporium, to have a creative outlet, and to try to create a way to support ourselves. (It isn’t to that point, yet, though we are breaking even.) We donate our time and skills to the community, and to others, giving back in what we have (time and skills) for our peace of mind and to offset (in our own minds) our food stamp support we get.
Earlier this year, I lost my ability to drive. Driving is one of the hardest things on Dave’s back, so he’s had to take over not only all the driving, but *extra* driving to events an hour apart (one way) when we’re double-booked with our business, to try to supplement the disability payments.
Also earlier in the year, our camera broke, making our ability to sell online all but impossible. (Setup and arrangement of stock with the right lighting takes time and space & we just don’t want to impose on folks for that very often, though we have had a friend who has helped.) Another setback/obstacle (everyone being a little more demoralizing, a little heavier veil on the self-sufficiency scale, another notch down the self-confidence scale…).
Our kids have suffered, and one has been more affected by this hardship than the other. We’ve struggled with coping with their needs & disappointments, along with our own feelings about being inadequate parents. Especially when we can’t feed them as well as we used to be able to (the oldest started out with all organic, handmade baby food).
We’ve gradually sold off anything of value we had, and a lot of things that didn’t have much monetary value, but had much sentimental value to us. Most everything left to us was given to us or we pulled out of the trash (because someone more well-off didn’t want/need it, but it was still “good”).
Throughout all that, our ONE constant, our one solid rock of hope we could cling to, was that we would (as long as it didn’t rot down around our ears) always have our home, because it had been paid off in full before the gradual decline began. We were worried about taxes, but as time went on and sheriff’s sales happened (for back taxes) and no bids were made, we felt more confident that no one else wanted our ugly, old, run-down house. We felt we’d be safe until we could start making a profit with Smithfits or until we could figure out a way to pay off the back taxes we owed.
Just a couple weeks ago, we discovered that Dave could fill out paperwork exempting him from property tax, because of his disability! That brought *so* much relief, we finally (for a brief period) felt *safe*!
About a week before we got notice, a friend told us that they’d heard through the grape vine that if your house didn’t sell at sheriff’s sale enough times, the city could take over ownership of the property. That was worrisome, but as the sheriff’s sale for this year had already happened, we figured we had the better part of a year to figure this out.
Then, the bomb dropped and everything that had just solidified underneath us, all fell out. The taxes we need to pay to retain ownership of our house aren’t that high, but all the court costs & fees from the sheriff’s sales more than double our taxes!! Our taxes are under $2,000, but our total for taxes + costs is $25,000!! So demoralizing… If we can’t afford to pay the taxes themselves, how could we afford more than 10x that??
Cue many phone calls, talking legal-speak, learning on the fly with our brains handicapped with stress, to find out there may be a slim possibility: If we can come up with a lawyer fee to file chapter 13, that will stop the process of the city taking over ownership, as soon as the bankruptcy is filed. (The city takes over in 8 days, on August 25) At that point, we have some breathing room/time to figure out the rest, but it will *not* be “solved” – not by a long shot.
At that point, the lawyer will research dates, fees & possibilities. He’ll help Dave fill out the paperwork to exempt him from taxes. Likely, since his disability went through a while back, he’ll be able to get 1 or 2 years worth of taxes removed from the bill; possibly the court costs & fees from those years, as well. Because we haven’t been getting certified mail notifications, he may be able to get rid of some more of the court costs and fees, but we won’t really know until he’s paid and started to work. Bottom line is that it is likely that the final total will be less than $25,000; how much less, we can’t say. The math on that total has us paying $400/month, which is totally not do-able on a $700 a month budget that doesn’t quite meet our basic needs as it is.
So, after the lawyer fees (whatever there is beyond the “getting started” fee of $1,310), we’ll still need help paying whatever that final bill *is*. We’re estimating $20,000 at the moment, knowing that can be adjusted later. The more we can pay off before the final amount is set, the less our monthly payments will be.
On top of all that, we don’t know if this monetary ability to pay our taxes (even though it is donated by others) is going to count against us with regard to our food stamps and set us back further. Uncertainty is just an entirely different level of stress – one that I, personally, do not deal with very well. It is something I need to deal with by putting it away until something can actually be measured or done to change it, so I work more. I focus on other things, volunteer my time more, make sure I am Always busy. People often remark on how much I do and how busy I am, but it really is just me saving my sanity.
All this above is not to brag or for sympathy or attention – I’m usually pretty close to the vest about my deeply personal stuff, difficulties, and hardships… But, when it comes to my kids and making sure they’re safe & secure, I have no shame and no limit to what I will endure. I *know* this will get passed around the homeschool community and there will be judgment and gossip - which I have endured before – but none of that means *anything* to me, if it results in my kids having a roof over their heads. (Just in case you don’t know anyone at this level of poverty, $700 a month will not rent anything and will buy only a few with enough money left over for utilities, much less necessities. If we lose this house, we will be truly, in the full sense of the word, HOMELESS. Living in a tent or out of our car HOMELESS. Literally.)
So, all this was because I know people want to know the story before they donate. You know. If you don’t contribute, that’s fine; everyone has their reasons, their morals, their standards. If you do, you will have my everlasting gratitude and a special place in my heart forever, regardless of if you write a note, share your name or remain anonymous. If you are a friend or fellow homeschooler (or worse - *both*!), I will feel vast shame with my gratitude, at the necessity of needing to take from a friend. It doesn’t mean I’ll love you any less, though. Just the opposite ♥.
And so, now I’ve bared my soul to the world – or at least my shameful predicament – and feel the need to lighten the mood, because joking is what I do to feel better. J Enjoy this funny meme I found yesterday (relevant links below):
If you need links, see below.
If you'd prefer to donate anonymously or through a fundraising site, our friend, Nicole, set up a YouCare site here, where you can track progress: https://www.youcaring.com/desmith-903720 It takes a little longer for the money to come through and there is a credit card handling fee involved that comes out whenever the money is transferred to our account, just so you know the details.
If you'd prefer to donate directly without having fees, you can send as "friends and family" (to avoid fees) directly to our business PayPal, which has a debit/credit card we can use to pay things right from the account: SmithfitsBazaarEmporium@aol.com (slightly different than the actual name, because aol would not let me use all the letters, so I had to cut one out when I created the account and one of the 2 Es together seemed like a good choice. At the time. :D )
If you would like to purchase one of our art pieces (that have been loaded into the Etsy store - still loading in more as we get pictures [sorry about the quality!] taken), please visit our Esty shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/smithfitsbazaare If you would like to custom order something made just for you or you saw something at one of the craft shows that you're not seeing on the Etsy, please contact us through our Facebook page, Smithfits Bazaare Emporium or through our email: SmithfitsBazaarEmporium@aol.com
Updates will be forthcoming, though just where I'm not sure yet, but when I do, I'll edit this to let you know.
I'm still not sure about the update location, but here's one!:
Good News update!
We just heard from the lawyer's paralegal and not only do we have an appointment tomorrow to get this ball rolling, *but* he also gave us a discount from the $1,310.00, so we just need $810.00 to get started! Just a few more bucks to go and we can get going tomorrow 10am!!
Bad News update...
Attourney appointment went well. They said if we could get the credit counseling class taken today (online) and early enough, they may be able to file today. If things didn’t work out that way today, they’d file Monday for sure. Variations on payments & length of time we have details are different than I’d hoped, but more on that later.
Headed home to do the class and grabbed the mail on the way in the door. Found a letter from the county (not certified). Order Of Forfeiture. Call the lawyer. Explain that we were SUPPOSED to have 30 days to take care of this, which isn’t up until Thursday the 24th. Lawyer says “they’re acting like it sold”. But it never *actually* sold – they just offered it to the city for the cost of filing fees. Filing is supposed to have 30 days. Lawyer says he’s going to try to file “a motion to vacate the order”. He can’t say how it will go, it’s a new judge, it really depends on what the judge decides. Which says to me, if he got up on the wrong side of the bed, had a bad lunch or has some sort of issue with desperately poor people, we’re shit out of luck. Lawyer asks if we’ve applied for AMHA housing. O.o Says, “If you haven’t you better head down first thing Monday morning and do that. Just as a precautionary measure. But I strongly recommend it.” Excuse me while I swear.
THIS sort of shit is exactly why I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I don’t know if it just my viewpoint, but after 22 years here, ever passing year it seems more and more like the city has it in for us. They’ve been dying to tear down our house for years, trumping up charges against us for “code violations” that nobody else gets sited for, calling CPS on us, charging us outrageous fees on TOP of the court costs for every tiny little code violation – there for a while, they were coming up with a new list every month! I wouldn’t put it past them to “speed up the process” by greasing someone’s palm.
I’m beside myself right now. I’m mostly just numb…