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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

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Mindful of the Miracles

On Tuesdays, I pay bills. This week, I paid all the bills. I can't remember the last time I was able to do that —just write the checks, matter-of-factly, in order of due date, without having to shuffle anything to the back of the pile or dial an 800 number to ask for more time. It seemed like a miracle. It is a miracle.

Before anybody gets the wrong idea, and quits their day job to become bloggers and at-home graphic designers, let me hasten to say that this sense of abundance is relative to some very lean years. We are a still a one-Korean-car family. Our home is lovely, but modest. I still carry a wad of coupons to the supermarket check out, and our children are in no danger of losing their grasp on the concept of "not in the budget."

I did overhear them telling someone that they had more presents than ever before this Christmas. But, again, that is relative to before. It was our second credit-card free Christmas, and it felt bountiful in many ways, the least of which fit under the tree.

Our horizon line is still pretty short, probably a lot shorter than most salaried people would tolerate. But the distance between us and the edge feels like it is widening. My shoulders stay at shoulder-level (as opposed to earlobe level) for longer and longer periods of time.

I could get used to that. But I'd like to stay mindful of the miracle of Tuesdays.

I've been very moved by some of the emails and comments I've been receiving from people who feel like my article in Good Housekeeping on staying married through financial hardship speaks to their situation. God bless every one of you. Hang in there.

Beyond offering up moral support, I would have liked to include some brass tacks resources in that piece, but space and other considerations precluded it.

Awesome reason #154 to have a blog.

First, the financial advisor who cheered and counselled us through, Linda Bessette, has a book, and it is wonderful. Everyone, rich or poor, needs a Linda, and now you can have her. Here's the link.

Linda, who announced her retirement last year (it is possible we drove her to it), did not know I was going to write about her part in our story. I waited anxiously for months to place a copy of the magazine in her hands.

"What were you thinking of, retiring?" I said to her. "The world needs you more than ever!"

Happily, other former and future clients had already convinced her of the same, and she has withdrawn the "gone fishing" sign. If you are in the Little Rock area, and would like to get in touch with her, please get in touch with me at kyranp c/o gmail(dot)com, and I will give you her contact information. Meantime, buy the book. It is so much more than just another how-to book on money. It's a chiropractic alignment of attitude.

Secondly, as I wrote in the article, we entered a debt-repayment program to handle the formerly-manageable credit card balances that began to cripple us as we fell under the wheels of the predatory lending machine. I include mainstream institutions in that indictment. Nobody forced us to use their credit cards when we needed gas or groceries and were out of cash, but the penalties they imposed were no more ethical than the neighborhood payday lender. As we learned the hard way, they prey upon vulnerability. I don't see how it makes good business sense, and I hope recent federal legislation will go a long way to correcting a model based on kicking people when they are down.

We've been enrolled in the repayment program for a year, and our balances and interest rates have come down dramatically. Before you dial the number on the late night TV commercial for a similar-sounding service, I recommend you contact The National Foundation for Credit Counseling, (800) 388-2227 to find a reputable, truly non-profit one, as we did.

Finally, miracles don't just happen by themselves. When no one else would give us a chance, a few relatives and family godparents helped pull us out from under the wheel. Their help gave us the time we needed to sell our house. We repaid what was lent, and hope to pay forward what was given. God willing, and then some.

I can tell you from personal experience, what is a small matter to one person can be a miracle to another. In the sidebar to the left, near the top of this page, is a link for Kiva. It is an organization through which you can make very small or big loans to people around the world who are willing to work hard and sacrifice for a better life, but need that chance that others are born with, or luck into.

You don't have to be a millionaire to work miracles, and the person you help might make one happen for the next person. How lovely to imagine where it could all end.



Blogger ....who knows?! said...

thank you....just thank you.
and too bad we're in Northwest AR not Little Rock...we could use a Linda!

2:39 PM  
Blogger michele todd said...

Really appreciated your Good Housekeeping article. It was wonderful to be inspired about marriage. Can't thank you enough and I'm proud of Good Housekeeping too. It was weird to read your line, "I don't know if I can ever forgive you," as I had imagined saying them to my husband if I had to live one more day in our overcrowded house. After reading your article, I decided never to say them, and I think he will appreciate it!
thanks again,
Michele Todd

3:24 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

I just finished reading your article last night. I always love to read stories about you and Patrick, how far you came to be together and how far you have come to stay together.

In today's world anyone can benefit from your advice and I surely appreciated it and recommended the article to others.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Sheri said...

I haven't read your article yet, because I wait for my neighbor to bring me her magazines when she's finished. But I can't wait to read it, and I'm so happy for you.

We've been in your situation, although I don't write about it because it's still too painfully close to mention. We'll get further and further away from the edge too, and I look forward to the day-bill paying day-when I don't get a migraine because of the worry.

And you're so right, small things mean can mean when you have nothing. Small things can give hope when it seems like there is none.

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Kyran. I just finished reading your article in Good Housekeeping, and I LOVED IT. You are an amazing writer! I wish I had your ability to capture a reader. You have reminded me just how much I love my own husband. Keep at it! I can't wait to read more of your blog.

6:40 PM  
Blogger SUEB0B said...

It is interesting. Back when I made $24k a year, I was debt free and had $5000 in the bank. Then I got involved with someone who made quite a bit of money and my income went up significantly...and I started to take on debt and have been stuck in it ever since.

Last night I started the 13-week Dave Ramsay "Financial Peace University" class at my church. The advice is all basic stuff - pay cash, develop an emergency fund, save for purchases instead of using credit...but it feels good to make a conscious effort and to do it in a group of like-minded people.

Congratulations on your efforts. I hope to make as much progress as you have.

8:22 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Hey Kyran! I picked up GH last night and read your article. Or perhaps devoured your fabulous article would be more accurate. It's awesome - I love to read your writing and wished the article had been 20 pages long! Or an entire book, of course. I guess I will have to subscribe to GH now.
In summary, you rock. XXOO

10:45 AM  
Blogger Dena said...

Hi, Kyran,
I'm the girl that bought 12 copies of Good Housekeeping that boasted your previous by-line. I found you accidentally searching Mommy blogs and got so excited to see more of your writing. And now--you with another article and the accolade of "contributing editor" makes me smile and makes me very happy for you and your family. I love your writing style. Oh! And because of your blog, I'm going to the Mom 2.0 conference in February. I've been dragging my feet for too long on the question, "To blog or not to blog." So I'm up (probably thanks to you) and I'm traveling sans kids and husband to Houston. Much deserved congratulations to you!
Dena Hein

4:12 PM  
Blogger Timmy said...

I'm so happy for you!
This post is another refreshing reminder of your beautiful writing, positive outlook, and heart full of love for the people and world around you. I thoroughly enjoy reading what you have to tell us readers. :]!!

I can understand your disclaimers about still being a little less than comfortable. I am pretty sure that I will be in that financial situation, too. I have to admit, though, I'm kind of looking forward to it.

I plan on being a high school teacher and if I marry my current girlfriend that will make two teacher salaries, hers coming from the elementary ed. level. That won't be horrible, but we plan on having a family and giving plenty of moula to wonderful people who need it and programs that support them.

That Kiva organization is beautiful! I'm bookmarking it for future reference.

"I would have liked to include some brass tacks resources in that piece, but space and other considerations precluded it." You could always write em on here! :]

4:46 PM  
Blogger nicole said...

Thanks for your post and for your article in GH...which I read at the bookstore! I appreciate your candor and your advice was timely in my life. Thank you.

11:07 PM  
Blogger Lunch Buckets said...

Isn't a wonderful feeling to realize that your shoulders really aren't attached to the side of your neck?

11:48 PM  
Blogger Bernadette Finnerty said...

Hi Kyran...Your article really hit home with me and my husband. We bought a business three years ago. It was a bad decision on so many levels. We sold it a year and a half later. I thank God every day we got out before the mortgage market tanked completely. Still, we lost a lot of money and home equity in the process. We made it through our first full year since the sale, and I'd like to think we're heading out of the danger zone. I've spent so much time digging myself out, that just now I'm starting to have flashbacks of the time leading up to the purchase of the business, which I regard as the biggest mistake of my life. I think of everything as before the business and after. It was so reaffirming to read how you and your husband held things together. I found that my husband and I have handled our distress similar ways, like not blaming each other, being thankful for what we do have, especially the kids. It's heartening to read that there are others out there like us. Congrats on getting into GH...Bernadette

6:21 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

I don't have a very meaningful comment to add, just that I enjoy reading your blog for its honesty and inspiration.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Harbourside said...

I read your article in GH and man did it hit a nerve with me. My husband had a business (that I never really supported) and he eventually went in debt of almost $200,000 and lost the businesses. I said to him the same words you said to your husband. I was seriously thinking about divorce if we lost our house. Thankfully, we found a credit union that were able to remortgage our house and we were able to pay off $150,000 of that debt with the equity in our house. We still owe the tax man the balance of that money, but thankfully we are in a much better place now. This by far, has been the most stressful thing to happen in our 11 year marriage. I'm glad I stuck with him and saw this through. Marriage really is for better or worse, for richer or poorer.
My new mantra is - Everything will be Okay. And you know what, it will.
You're a great writer, loved the article.

7:06 AM  

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