Achieving (Dubious) Fame…

Still searching for fortune!  Here is one writer’s reasonably sympathetic and mostly accurate take on our situation:  A columnist who writes on frugal living, she ends the article with advice for her readers on how to avoid falling into similar circumstances.  Shades of that poster I highlighted a few weeks ago!  “ Mistakes.  It could be the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.”  LOL!

While I generally try to maintain a certain amount of privacy in my blog, for my children’s sake (hence the ‘not her real name’ in the article), I do think this might be the time to say something in response to the people who commented on the article, asking ‘where’s the father?’  I adopted my children as a single parent and that’s all I plan to say about it.  It was my own choice and at significant expense – one of the reasons why I didn’t have the recommended emergency fund of 6 months worth of living expenses.   

Yes, some of my own choices led to this situation – in hindsight moving to the mountain state to look for a better standard of living was a mistake.  If we had stayed in California after my son came home we would still be living in a 3-bedroom condo.  But then again it would have lost value after the housing bubble burst and I might still have lost my job since my field (environmental permitting) relies on developments and construction projects.  So, who knows?  So that’s the thing guys – while it’s comforting to think a person is somehow to blame for the bad situation they find themselves in – there are MILLIONS of Americans in similar situations now – and it’s hard to believe they were all stupid,  naïve, or bad in some way.  Sometimes bad things do happen to good people!  And then we just have to make the best of it and I welcome new readers who want to follow us as we attempt to do just that! 

We have never lived a life of luxury.We drive a 2003 mini-van with 141000 miles on it and did before we lost our house. We didn’t have fancy toys- we had second hand bikes, a cast off tv (not flat screen)- we didn’t take vacations or eat out much. The kids didn’t have a load of expensive lessons- they belonged to scouts and particpated in school and church events.   I had built up some debt due to my kids’ health (two were born with heart defects,and one had hearing loss that needed to be dealt with through surgeries and speech therapy)  and other issues.  But that was my choice and where I put my money. 

And now, since we have to pull the trailer out of the RV Park for the next 72 hours (and my heartfelt thanks to some internet friends who are helping us to do that), it’s time to start tidying up and strapping things down!

BTW- Thank you all who have kindly made a donation!  That is really nice of you and we appreciate it. Donations are going in my account for a new larger trailer to allow us some additional space, get my son off the floor where he sleeps and provide a little privacy- all necessary for our mental health and well being!

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39 Responses to Achieving (Dubious) Fame…

  1. Holly Backman says:

    After reading an article on MSN I came to your blog. After reading your story I cried not only for your family but mine as well. So many of us are only one step or bad event away from facing what you have endured. Yet you are handling this with such strength that I dont think I could muster if faced with your situation. I applaud you for everything you have done and are doing for your family. You are an inspiration to me to start living more simply and better preparing for the future for my family. I will be praying for you and your family. Best wishes in the future. If you guys ever hit the road and find yourselves in SC you are welcome at my home.

    Have you thought about writing a book about your experiences?

  2. Jasmin_Australia says:

    Like alot of other people here I read about your blog at GRS, I would like to say that by reading your words you have truly made me think and opened my eyes, I felt so touched by your words and everything you have gone though.
    You have truly made me feel more grateful for what I have, I was feeling abit down because of money and then i read your blog which made me think yes there are people worse of, but sometimes unfortunately I don’t see that I think poor me and stress over things that really don’t matter.
    I will keep your blog in my mind and try to be more self – less, thankyou again very much, I’m not much of a God person although I do think his out there and I will pray for you and your children.
    I believe that you have what it takes to make your life great,even now without all the materialistic stuff you sound like your doing a better job then most people because you’ve gotten back to what really matters which is the family foundation.
    God Bless you and Big Hugs, all the way from Australia

  3. Shevy says:

    Grace (Graceful Retirement) pointed me in your direction and I’m glad she did! I’ve just finished reading all your posts and I wish there were more. I’ll definitely be checking back regularly to see what happens.

  4. Mary Beth says:

    Your writing is wonderful, well researched and illuminating. As a fellow well educated, long employed,single mom with multiple adopted children, I know that I am only a step away from the circumstances in which you find yourself. I also suspect, strongly, that I would not have the grace and the motivation to give back to the world in the way that I see you giving to all of us through your blog. I am truly stunned by the judgmental nature of comments that you have received as a result of the article on GRS. My response to that is to make a small donation to your family through your paypal account. I wish it could be more, and hope that you know that I consider it payment for VALUABLE services rendered. I really appreciate your blog.

  5. Pingback: Parenting, Autism, Jenny McCarthy, Food Stamps and the Marshmallow Test — ChildWild

  6. peter says:

    Greetings from Europe,

    You got all my sympathy, it appears that you are a great person! All the best.

  7. Dave Lakhani says:

    Your story is as inspiring as it is sad that you have to struggle so hard in this country. I haven’t read your whole blog yet but the writing is compelling and I hope you’ll consider approaching newspapers and magazines and offer to sell an ongoing piece or a longer format story. Also, not sure if you have access to a video camera but capturing some of what you are going through as well as your thoughts on video would get some great views on YouTube and you could become one of their advertising partners and include their ads on your videos. I was listening to a YouTube exec on television a few days ago saying that video that gets a million views earns about $1000 a month. I have now doubt that you could get a large following but it also gives a lot of people who are well meaning and who would like to help a way to help. They can send people to your video which increases views and ultimately revenue. It also makes it easy for people to say yes to sending their followers to your video. Hang in there, I know you’ll make it, and you’ve inspired me to leave a donation and I’ll come back often with more. I’m also going to spread the word of your blog, I hope others will follow my lead and if they find what you are doing as inspiring and eye opening as I do that they’ll leave what they can too.

    Warm regards,
    Dave Lakhani

  8. Lola says:

    You are very generous and I really admire you for doing this.

  9. Little House says:

    How wonderful. I kind of figured you adopted based on the way you answered the “father” question. I know you are busy moving your RV this weekend, but when you have a moment, could you write a post about how went through the adoption process? It’s something my husband and I have talked about. Your posts are really well-written. I wish you luck!

  10. Jennifer says:

    I have been trying for two days to write to you. I’ve prayed for you- stewed and fretted about you. Your writing is beautiful, raw and honest. I can’t, for even one minute, put myself in your shoes. Once, a long time ago when Yugoslavia was coming apart at the seams, I tried very hard to imagine what I would do if I had to flee in the middle of the night with two young children. What would I take? How would I walk over those mountains? You are walking over mountains and have shown a graceful resilience that is beyond admirable. Your children have a wonderful example.

    The comments from others about earning money for your blog are good ones. There are people, like JD at GRS, that make a living doing it. Your writing may carry you somewhere.

    In the meantime, you have a lot of people pulling for you (as evidenced by your ever climbing hit counter). Be proud of yourself, give your kids a hug and keep your fingers crossed. You can do this. I promise.

  11. William Byrd says:

    Best of luck. I found your site through GRS too and I have been hanging on every word.

    I have no doubt an intelligent and well spoken woman like yourself will have no trouble finding a way to turn things around and get back on top.

  12. Nicole says:

    These are amazingly well-written. I hope in addition to the other avenues you’ve been exploring that free-lance writing is one of them. I’d love to come across your articles in MSN Money or in the NYTimes sometime.

  13. stew says:

    Came here via GRS as well & will be a regular reader from here on. As someone else suggested, you could make some small $ from ads, either adsense or join a blog network (ie: Best of luck to you & your family.

  14. Pennie says:

    GRS-link reader here, as well. I have great respect for you: your strength, resistance to self-pity, and determination to be there for your children.

    I am a nurse, and am always shocked by the blame and shame game cast upon those suffering misfortune, agreeing that it is a self-placating way for someone to artificially insulate themselves from the fact that, but for grace go they.

    After reading your posts, I tossed and turned all night–trying to come up with something “helpful” to suggest, but came up regrettably short by daybreak. 🙁

    Pitiful at best, I know, but with your science-based degrees you could easily slip over into a healthcare certification or underdegree quickly that would get you employed fast for the short haul, i.e. Medical Assistant, etc., which in my area offers hourly employment in the $15-20/hr range. The American Red Cross (Blood Collections Division) hires MA’s fresh out of programs, and as they are unionized, offer relatively good pay and benefits given the low educational investment. ARC has a presence in nearly every mid-size (and up) city. Obviously this would be a short-term solution, but doing something outside of your past experience might be a hand out of the current squeeze.

    Please stay focused, and take care of your health as you navigate your way through a tough patch. I care!

  15. T. says:

    I am sure that you have considered these options, but just in case they may be helpful… Have you considered selling add space on your blog? Since you have a masters you would also be qualified to teach under an emergency credential (much easier to get if you can teach H.S. math or science) or teach at a community college. If nothing else you might be able substitute teach. I realize that these are more short term ideas. Best wishes.

  16. david says:

    I just found my way here via GRS and read every word, riveted. I am inspired and touched and deeply moved by your story and I am so thankful that you have the courage to keep telling it. The thing that impresses me the most is your honesty, and your absolute refusal (whether conscious or not) to indulge in melodrama. I am truly in awe.

  17. Sweet Tooth says:

    You’re amazing! I just read your story and I feel so helpless. I’m sending positive thoughts your way and lots of hugs. Tonight I will say a prayer for your family.

  18. Ciaran says:

    Hi! I found you through GRS and I am glad I did. I have spent the better part of today reading your posts and I am in awe of your grace and your courage. Thank you for sharing a most difficult time in your life. Know that you are not alone. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and my prayers. Keep your head up!

  19. SoCalGirl says:

    Today you taught me how to be grateful. Thank you.
    Your story is so important. Your writing is great. You are gifted. Please hang in there. -SoCalGirl

  20. Sierra says:

    Hi! Thanks again so much for sharing your story with me!

    You’re so much more than a cautionary tale. You’re an inspiration as a mom going through incredible challenges with wit and wisdom, and as a writer creating a window into this experience and connecting it eloquently to the larger recession we’re all living through.

    I’m sorry some of the GRS commenters were so rude. I had my own run-in with the mother-blaming, victim-blaming trolls of the Internet last week, over a travel problem. Someone kindly gave me a guest post about the “Just World” fallacy that feeds that kind of thinking.

    I hope the vast majority of voices continue to offer support and sympathy.

    • No worries. You have to take the bad with the good when you put yourself out there! Funny how the worst of them won’t share their email address! LOL. Whereas the best of them do. I hope more people will be willing to look around a little more, listen a bit more carefully to the clues their friends or neighbors are giving them that things aren’t going so well and will be willing to lend a hand or a shoulder as needed.

      Soldier on!

      • Claygirlsings says:

        Since hearing about you on GRS, I’ve been reading from your first post up to your most recent. You said:

        “I hope more people will be willing to look around a little more, listen a bit more carefully to the clues their friends or neighbors are giving them that things aren’t going so well and will be willing to lend a hand or a shoulder as needed.”

        These are the thoughts that have gone through my head. Whether or not I am able to help you, I can definitely look at people in my hometown and the men with signs I see on the interstate exits in a fresh and real way and see what I can do here, where I am.

      • That is exactly what I’d hoped people would do! Good for you!

  21. Margot says:

    A lot of my friends are suffering financially. I don’t know of any situation where someone is in financial dire straights and it wasn’t at least in part due to their poor choices. That doesn’t mean they are “bad” and it doesn’t mean that factors out of their control also negatively affected them. But, almost everyone in poverty contributed to their problem. In some ways, this is a good thing — if you contributed to your situation, then you can do things to get yourself out of it. If you are in a bad situation due to forces entirely out of your control, then the solution is also out of your control. I don’t know anyone who is in a bad financial situation who didn’t spend too much money on general American consumerism. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t bought more luxuries (clothing, electronics, etc) than they truly need. I don’t know many Americans who choose to live as cheaply as possible before they hit rock bottom. I don’t know anyone who has saved as much as they could. I know a lot of people who continue to be unemployed because they won’t take low-paid jobs temporarily that they think are “below” them. There are a lot of things that all of us can do to avoid financial ruin if we stop buying into the notion of the lifestyle we “deserve.”

    • david says:

      @Margot: Poor choices like getting sick? Is that what you mean? Or do you mean poor choices like getting laid off from a job where you worked hard and well? Oh – maybe you mean poor choices like a child needing special medical attention? Or poor choices like your rent going up? Wait – I know, you must mean poor choices like your insurance payments going up. Or poor choices like needing expensive dental work. Yeah – that must be what you mean. Or maybe you mean poor choices like paying for school supplies for your kids. Or paying for their food. That’s a really stupid choice, I can tell you.

      Your bullshit is as old as humanity itself – blame the victim. Women are raped because “they asked for it,” black people have just as much opportunity as white people and should just “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” gays want “special rights.”

      You make me sick. Go back to your (edited) McMansion and stay away from the decent people who are persevering in spite of unbelievable challenges and maintaining their dignity (and helping others) in the process.

      As for the author of this blog, if I can achieve a fraction of what she has under far less difficult circumstances, I will consider my life to have been a success. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that she will make it.

      • Jesse says:

        @David ~ (edited in the interest of civility). Margot made a valid point. Many of us ARE in dire financial straits because of our own financial stupidity. I count myself as one of those people who just narrowly avoided becoming homeless for the SECOND time. Before you jump all over ME, I’d like to point out that I’ve spent the past 3 years acquiring the financial skills I never bothered to acquire before. My financial life is a whole lot different now.

        My point in my own personal case, as is Margot’s I suspect, is that increased insurance rates/sick children/getting laid off had nothing to do with what happened to my family. What happened to my family was that the stewards of the ship (mainly myself) had no idea how to stop spending and ‘just save’. As a result, we took on every damn mortgage offered to us by greedy lenders until our house was totally encumbered, took out more loans on top of that for RVs and cars, and spent over $100 each and every day on calculated consumerism. We ended up losing it all. Not just once but twice I am sorry to say. I am putting this out there for the simple reason that it is true that many, many people are in big trouble PURELY because of their inability to manage money. The roots of such behavior usually lie in deep seated mental and emotional issues as in my case.

        I hit my own personal rock bottom with 4 kids in tow. It was a frightening and desperate time but it was also a situation that had developed because of my own failings.

        I also want to add one other thing. I, too, have lived in an RV with 4 children at one point because I couldn’t afford to live any other way. I lived in the RV for two years, all the while trying to pretend to my kids that it was an extended camping adventure, which I guess looking back it really was. My financial situation, however, kept repeating itself. I have filed bankruptcy twice. So, that’s my point. I ended up in the RV because of my inability to stop spending, a character deficiency on some level that I have worked – and continue to work- to keep under control even to this day.

        To the author: good luck to you my dear. We are all imperfect, flawed beings but we do the best we can with the situations we encounter. Things are going to turn around for you, I just know it.

    • bitchphd says:

      I agree absolutely that many people who are in financial trouble are there because they made poor choices.

      The thing is, though, that what with being human and all, it’s impossible *not* to make bad choices sometimes. None of us is perfect, none of us can predict the future, none of us has perfect control over our lives.

      The difference between people who make bad choices and suffer the consequences, and people who make bad choices but manage to avoid or ameliorate the consequences, is mostly luck. The luck of not having a child whose health problems forced a move, or the luck of having a job in an industry that isn’t affected by the current recession, the luck of having family members with the means and generosity to help one through a bad patch.

  22. Tracy says:


    I linked here through GRS too. I’m so sorry, and I hope things work out.

    Perhaps you’ve already thought of this, or it’s crazy or not available in your area, but I’m going to mention it just in case. I just signed up for the summer for a worker share of a CSA (community supported agriculture) — I will work for a few hours a week in exchange for a box of produce. Presumably doing such barter jobs would not affect unemployment eligibility?

  23. Igor says:

    It is remarkable how you manage this situation.
    However, I suggest that you learn more about the official help that is available to you. I live in Europe, so it is difficult for me to give you exact tips, but I suggest that you start here
    Although US has different system of social benefits you must have at least some. And dont let sometimes lazy and unhelpful officials to stop you from obtaining what you are entitled to.

  24. Nancy says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, I also linked here through GRS. I am shocked by the lack of compassion people feel for others–as someone pointed out, they want to feel like bad things are someone’s fault, so they can pretend that bad things indeed don’t happen to good people.

    So many Americans are generous when it comes to those in need in far away lands, because of natural disasters, but seem to have nothing but contempt for the poor here.

  25. Rockzann says:

    I came here from GRS and found an amazing lady. Yes you write about a depressing topic but you are resiliant! You are going to make it. I live in a mountain state so I hope it’s not the one you moved from but even if it is, my community would welcome you with open arms. Shame on your church friends, I guess they don’t get christianity but you certainly do. I will be praying for you and Ben and Tricia tonight.

    God Bless and take care!

  26. After reading the article from Get Rich Slowly, I felt like tearing up. I truly feel for you. Stay strong and good luck!!

  27. Kate says:

    I also came to your site through GRS today and have spent a good chunk of time reading through your posts. Your willingness to tell your story is quite courageous and your insights and writing are compelling to read. I will definitely be checking in regularly to continue reading.

    I agree with Tami that many people who are critical are attempting to create a sense that “it can’t happen to me”. The sad reality is that the disparity between wealth and poverty continues to grow and many people who never once considered that they could lose material wealth and comforts are faced with a new reality.

  28. Sam says:

    Some people can only feel better by tearing others down.
    Other people have been so blessed in their own life that they have no concept of what others must do just to survive.

    While hindsight can make ya kick your self (I kick myself almost daily for some pretty bad choices I’ve made), I believe strongly everything happens for a reason – sometimes it just take a long while for the reason to become apparent.

    I agree with the one commenter – most Americans are very uncharitable. I belonged to one parish once where everyone was very, very nice & helpful but except for the once instance critical seems to be the norm.

  29. jenny says:

    You go girl!!!

  30. What I have realized over the years, having worked with so many people in crisis, and having been one of those people myself, is that those who blame others in crisis are generally trying only to comfort themselves. They are trying to create a reason to prove that the same crisis would not happen to them. Blaming the unfortunate for their sorrows somehow creates a false sense of safety for those not yet suffering. The truth is, most people are truly only steps away from being completely under themselves. We know this but want to look for ways to prove to ourselves that it couldn’t happen to us.

    Don’t look back. We all make choices that have results that are often out of our hands.

    You have invested in the future of five wonderful people (including yourself), and your investment in life is far greater than a temporary (even though that seems impossible right now) crisis. Those children are your heart. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You are not to blame for today’s crisis. You are called only to care for their hearts in the now.

    May we all remember that blame has nothing to do with unexpected crisis. The only proper response to people living through great challenges, is to show love, give hugs, and look for practical, tangible ways to support them.

    God bless you!

  31. Bitchphd says:

    Like you, I get really sick of the American rhetoric of “choices”. Not to mention our lack of charity–there always seems to be an assumption that the solutions one can think up off the top of one’s head somehow don’t occur to people in bad situations, never that maybe the solution/situation might be a wee bit more complicated than a casual glance suggests.

    YOU MUST BE PERFECT AT ALL TIMES. Especially if you have kids.


  32. Jon Spooner says:

    Wow I read about your site through GetRichSlowly – I am so glad to read about your survival through such incredible odds. Keep up the great work and I hope luck turns around for us all!

    best wishes-
    Jon Spooner

  33. Little House says:

    I just read your story on GRS, it’s amazing and eye opening. You seem very intelligent and resourceful. We also have something in common, I have a BA in anthropology (not an MA though). Based on your response to “where’s the father?”, are you saying that you adopted your children? That’s an even more amazing aspect of this story. I wish you and your family well and hope that you are able to land a job soon. Good luck and I’ll be checking back for updates!

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