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Limbo

Kiawah Island SC

We are in limbo with regards to permanent addresses.  We pushed the reset button on our finances and moved out of our apartment in Ladson.  I finally realized that we need to learn how to live on my income alone, and not depend on any sporadic income from Katy and her substitute teaching. This allowed us to stop paying 700.00 worth of living expenses that we were struggling to stay on top of.  We stayed at InTown Suites for two weeks.  I am so glad we are out of that place.  The room was nice but the walls were closing in on us.  The beds we were sleeping on had paper thin mattresses which means that we did not do a lot of sleeping.  We were lucky to sleep for two hours before our backs woke us up.

Fast forward to this weekend, and we are now out on Kiawah Island.  We will be here for three months in a snow bird rental, until we can fix up a condo that we found over by Northwoods Mall.  A friend of mine has this condo and it has been unoccupied for some time.  I will need to do some make ready work in lieu of a security deposit which is fine with me.  The living room needs painting and the linoleum in the kitchen is starting to curl up at the edges.  Hopefully a hot glue gun will fix that problem.  In the 90 days we are here we can take care of our final electric bill so that we can have electric turned on at the new place.  We can also check out Charleston water to make sure we are good to go with them and pay any deposits.  The first thing we will have to do is buy a king size bed.  We are going to want to buy that one new so we will probably go to a Mattress firm outlet and buy it on time.  After that is done we can start going to Goodwill stores and finding a kitchen table with chairs and other items we might need.

So, we are going to rebuild again for the second time. The first time we did this was in August of 1997 when we had a huge yard sale , sold most of our stuff and then loaded the rest of it with our three kids into two cars and headed to Atlanta Georgia.  This rebuild project is going to benefit from the knowledge we gained from our first experience.  Luckily we do not have three small children and we are not traveling from Texas to Georgia.  The good news is that this place is gorgeous and we are coming into the Fall season.  I am looking forward to being close to work.  I can drive to work in less than 10 minutes.  I also plan on getting back into the habit of walking on a regular basis.  We are about 5 minutes from the beach and beautiful nature trails.  We are going to view this as a working vacation.

I am looking forward to taking Willow (our lab and rescue dog) on trips to the beach.  I know she is going to love the water.

What about you dear reader?  Do you have any stories where you feel like you were in limbo and in between places or stages of life?  I would love to hear them.  Be sure to leave a comment.

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25 years of marriage as of May 12th

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As of May 12th Katy Moffitt and I celebrated 25 years of marriage.  That is right, back in 1990 we stood in a Baptist church in Houston Texas and before God, friends and family we vowed to be husband and wife no matter what.  For better or worse both in sickness and health.  To round out our vows we privately added a coffin clause.  The only way out of this marriage is if you are in your coffin.

Over the last 25 years we have known or seen many different marriages which have wound up in divorce court.  Marriage takes a lot of work, love, tears and commitment.  A commitment to do whatever it takes to make the marriage work.  Marriage takes love, patience, communications and lots of forgiveness.  Despite our best efforts it is almost impossible to change the other person.  When we get married we can easily fall into the trap that if we love someone enough that we can change the person to be who we want them to be. 

Katy and I have faced our fair share of ups and downs.  Some of the challenges that we have faced would have been catastrophic and would have ended most marriages.  I still remember our first premarital marriage counseling sessions.  Katy and I met an older couple out in Sugarland Texas at their home and shared a dinner.  We had a nice chat during dinner and then the genders split up and went to different parts of the house.  After it was all said and done Katy and I were amazed to learn that we would never have a successful marriage. 

The marriage counselors identified some things that were probable pit falls that would prove to be more than we could handle even if we were in love at that time.  Katy comes from a family that had to deal with alcoholism.  I came from a really messed up home life as a child.  I still remember the man stating that he could tell that “ I had been through some pretty rough spots” up until that point.  We were told that because of our past that I would never be willing to be in the relationship for the long haul and that if I did leave Katy she would wind up being an alcoholic. 

I am glad that Katy and I did not buy into that negative crap.  I grant you that these people were older and wiser than us and they could see some potential problems if we had allowed this to happen.  Katy and I discussed those things and decided that together and with the help of God we would be able to overcome them. 

As I look back over the last 25 years I can see several things that have required us to lean on each other and our faith in God in order to remain steadfast to our wedding vows.  I still do not understand how people can weather the storms of life without a faith in God.  I know that some folks do not understand faith and they view those of us with faith as weak people who are in need of some sort of fairy tale figure in our lives to run to when times get tough.  

One of the things that we seem to have always had to deal with are the financial struggles.  Nothing will destroy a marriage faster than financial stress or one or both spouses being unfaithful.  Looking back over the last 25 years I can see that while things have been a bit shaky at times with regards to finances our needs were always met somehow.  We always had a roof over our heads, food to eat and clothes to wear. It did not help that we made some stupid decisions along the way early on.  We suffered from the “I wants”, and decided that we would rather have it now and pay later.  What the credit card industry and marketers do not tell you is that paying later means you will pay dearly for the privilege of having things that you do not need quicker.  Katy always told me that she did not marry me for my money (or lack thereof) and I did not marry her for her cooking skills.  Luckily for us those areas have gotten much better over the years. 

Over the last 25 years we have lived through different seasons.  We lived through the honeymoon stage and entered parenthood with 3 children.  Jessica, Kristina and Justin Moffitt were born to us.  I have a son named Jeremy who was from a previous marriage.  The children went from being toddlers to adolescents to adults in what seems to be the blink of an eye. During this time we experienced the typical things that most families experience with 3 children.  We had our fair share of emergency room visits and hospital scares. 

I remember when we lived in Atlanta Georgia and I worked for Delta Airlines as a contractor.  Justin fell out of a 2 story window and banged his arm and head on the patio.  We rushed him to the ER and we got a lecture from a DSS worker who was concerned that we did not call an ambulance much less let our son fall out of a window.  It is tough to watch your children have to endure pain and suffering and not have the ability to keep them from that. 

I also remember when our Jessica Ann, when she was 10 years old, started to have blinding head aches and other neurological symptoms such as being dizzy and not being able to keep food down.  We found out that she had a baseball sized tumor in her head.  Emergency surgery removed 95% of the tumor but the rest of it that was wrapped around her brain stem would eventually kill her. The doctors gave Jessica Ann 12 months to live and 14 months later she went to heaven. 

I remember sitting at MUSC Childrens hospital with the team of doctors and our pastor.  We were told that she only had one option left but it was harsh and it could possibly kill her quicker than the cancer.  A bone marrow transplant would be performed and she would be in the hospital for 6 weeks while she was isolated from others to keep her from getting infections.  There was no promise that this would work even if we decided to go that direction.  I remember talking to Jessica at the tender age of ten and telling her what the options were.  I remember how she looked and reacted when what we told her sunk in.  She decided that she wanted to go home and not try the bone marrow transplant. 

That 14 months that we lived out as a family back in 2000 and 2001 was the hardest 14 months on our family. I have been told by the medical community that most families that lose a child to cancer typically wind up destroyed and scattered to the winds and in divorce court.  I remember when Jessica Ann died and the funeral director in Goose Creek told me that the statistics showed that we would be divorced within a year.  I remember how angry that made me and I remember telling that man that I rejected that idea.  We would not wind up in divorce court over this.  We would dig in and do whatever we could to survive this event. 

That was 14 years ago in August.   Our family was not destroyed but it certainly was impacted in a negative way.  None of us have been the same since that day we lost our Jessica Ann.  I am proud that Katy and I were able to hold things together and work through all of those things and that our marriage survived despite all odds.  I would also state that this season of our life was probably the one thing that did shake my faith in God down to the very foundation.  

Now we are empty nesters.  Justin lives in downtown Charleston with his girlfriend and Kristina lives in Oregon.  I guess you could say that we are in the last season of our lives.  We are sliding into our golden years and second childhood.  We are both in our 50’s and while we would like to think that we are in our middle years neither of us expect to live another 50 years.  I suppose that none of us know when our lives will end.  We have to live our lives one day at a time and leave all of the eternal issues up to our God and creator who created us and the world we live in. 

I am so very blessed to be married to my Gizmo.  Katy has been my best friend for the last 25 years. I remember sitting at First Baptist church in Houston Texas and telling Katy that we would only be friends.  I remember how that made her cry.  I guess that God had shown her that I was her husband before he told me.  I remember saying that I would never marry again until I saw a burning bush in the middle of I-10 at noon time.  Apparently there was a burning bush (or car) at some point because Katy chased my heart down and captured it.  There have been no regrets and no looking back.  I am glad that I am married to my Katy and I am looking forward to us growing old together. 

I am a better man because of Katy.  Katy has always been the most selfless person I have ever known.  Katy is also the most faithful person I know with regards to her faith in God.  Katy has a quiet faith that is very strong.   Katy has always believed in me even when I did not believe in myself.  Katy has taught me how to be more selfless and more loving of other people.   I really am not sure how she has put up with me for all of these years but she has.  I believe that makes her a saint.

 

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A new season

In less than 30 days we will be saying good bye to the house we are living in and moving down the street to a newer and more modern domicile.  Currently we are living in a 3 bedroom and 1 bath house that was built in the 1950’s era.  We moved here from Johns Island because we needed a cheaper place to live that was centrally located in Charleston.  We wanted the teenagers to be close to school and we needed to be halfway between Berkeley County where Katy did substitute teaching and Kiawah Island where I work.

It has been a short 3.5 years that we have lived here, and now it is time to move.  Our teenagers took the GED road instead of completing High School, so we no longer need to live close to a high school.  I just happened to find out about this townhouse through a friend of mine that we play cards with on Johns Island.  I had gone over there for our monthly card game and my friends wife was talking about a friend of theirs who is renting their town home.  They are charging 100.00 more than what we are paying for this house but it is much newer and nicer than what we are currently in.  Originally Katy and I had talked about finding a smaller house or apartment that was more economical.

I thought about the possibility of moving in but figured that with our 3 dogs, 3 cats and 3 kittens that the owner would charge an astronomical pet deposit and that would be the end of that.  I never called the owner but they wound up calling me instead.  Two weeks later and the deal has been confirmed.  The owner of the new place is a pet lover and we have made the proper arrangements for the critters to be outside in a fenced in area when we are at work during the day.  I am also thinning the herd and finding a new home for the cats and kittens.  As of this writing we only have one kitten left that my son begged me to keep for him.

It is amazing to me how this happened but right after we made the commitment to move Katy landed a teaching job in Berkeley county.  Katy will be teaching a special education class at Sedgefield Middle school.  Katy was certified as a teacher in South Carolina exactly one year ago in October of 2012.  Katy has been looking for a full time teaching job every since that month last year.  We have lost count as to how many interviews she has been on.  The road to full time employment for Katy has been nothing less than frustrating.  Katy has been able to substitute teach when school is in session during the school year, but this last year during the summer she was unable to find employment of any kind.  That means that she was not bringing in any income whatsoever and my pay check was being vaporized and not leaving any extra funds for emergencies.

There is nothing more frustrating than to get paid , pay the living expense bills and then be broke for the next 13 days.  I realize that there are a lot of folks in the world that are much less fortunate than we are so I get that.  I guess that we would like to be able to do more than merely survive from one pay check to the next.  We live by faith , one day at a time, hoping and praying that nothing happens to the one full time job, mine, that is sustaining our current life style.

I can only imagine what it must be like for those folks that were one income families that found themselves unemployed due to no fault of their own.  We have been there, done that and had no money for a tshirt.  Back in 2002 I was working a nice I.T. contract job in Greenville and we had relocated to Simpsonville SC.  That contract was ended prematurely by the company that hired the contracting firm and I went from making some serious cash to living on unemployment of 8 bucks per hour.  We went from living in a nice 3 bedroom 2 bath house to a single wide trailer in Travelers Rest.  Our plans at that time was to be debt free within 18 months of working that contract job and we could have easily done it.

I suppose that it all boils down to perspective and priorities.  One of the ways that we survive is to learn how to live on a very strict budget.  If the expense is not on the budget it does not get paid.  You have X amount of dollars and you have to spread that out as best you can.  There is a complicated juggling act that has to be done in order to keep all of the utility companies and the landlord happy.  We also have had to learn how to live more frugally.  We have had to learn that when you go out to eat away from the house that you use coupons and share food.  That alone cuts your expense in half or more.  We have had to learn how to be content in the mean time.

We have had to learn how to stop comparing ourselves to our neighbors and friends.  We have had to learn that God is our provider and that He will take care of our needs and every once in a great while we get our wants.  In the book of Matthew in the new testament of the bible there is a scripture that says “Seek you first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”  Sometimes it can be difficult to take your eyes off of your circumstances and put it where it belongs.

 

 

 

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Love of money , root of all evil?

It seems that no one likes this particular topic but I know it is near and dear to our hearts. This particular thing is one of three things that can destroy a marriage. This thing I speak of is money. We have all heard that money makes the world go round. We certainly understand how it affects us when money is in short supply. The bible states that the love of money is the root of all evil.

As I sit here and contemplate that biblical principle I wonder if the love of things is the root of all evil.  Money, in and of itself, is fairly worthless until you leverage it to purchase things or services.  Money certainly does not purchase love or peace of mind.  I have never been out of the U.S. as an adult, but I have spoken to several folks who have made mission trips to third world countries.  They have shared with me how they have to pray and ask God to soften their hearts when they come back.  After you spend time with people who have nothing it is difficult to not see the differences between the “haves” and “have not’s”.  Do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with having things or financial resources.  Having things or resources is not bad.  What we chose to do with those things or resources can create imbalance in life.

In a third world country you may find entire families that live in card board boxes or crudely built shacks made out of cardboard.  Most of the houses have dirt floors and there is no such thing as clean running water or plumbing. Clothing, food and medical services are things that are not readily available.  It is hard to believe that people live that way.

As I look around my home I realize that we have all our needs and everything else should be considered a want. Do we need a flat screen TV and cable television service or high speed Internet to survive?  Do we need leather furniture to survive?  Do we have to have closets that are full of clothes that we hardly ever wear in order to survive? Do we have to have ….. You fill in the blanks.  I think that we all have more than we need.  We live in a “get rich quick” and “instant gratification” society.  How do we get sucked into this mess and more importantly how do we get out of it?

In order to find balance and sanity in the midst of this materialistic madness maybe we need to take inventory of our hearts. What is driving us to want more stuff that is better and faster than before?  Are we allowing ourselves to get hooked by all of the marketing that we see, that is telling us that in order to be successful we must be better than the Jones’s down the street?  I think that once we look around and take an honest inventory of where we are at, we will realize how blessed we are.

Maybe we can find contentment in where we are, and figure out how to bless others with our extra stuff.  At what point do we become hoarders and get entrapped by our own desires for stuff?  The Bible tells us that when we covet things that we put those things on a throne and we worship those things more than God. That turns into idolatry which is a sin.

As parents what are we teaching our children about money?  When they grow up and get out on their own will you cringe to think that their financial success may hinge upon what you lived out in front of them?  Our children are sponges and they learn about life from what we do and not so much from what we say.  Sure, you can tell your children one thing and do something exactly the opposite but what is that teaching them?  It is teaching them that you are not following your own advice. Making mistakes is all part of life and even though some financial mistakes can take a life time to unravel it is an awesome platform from which to teach.

As a parent I have sat down with my adult children and I have said this.  I may not be able to tell you how to become a millionaire or a successful money manager, but I can tell you what not to do.  I believe that part of our legacy as parents is to help our children to learn how to not make the same mistakes that we do.  You tell them, I did this and this is what happened.  These are the consequences of my/our financial mistakes.

I realize that perhaps there are people who are reading this that may be successful money managers and they received good foundational teaching about finances from their parents and this is not an issue.  I also realize that my wife and I are not alone in that there are going to be people out there that need to hear this.  Yes, financial mistakes can be painful.  Making a bad financial decision or mismanaging your resources does not make you a bad person.  It just means you made a mistake and you need to learn from it.

The good news is that there is still hope.  You can learn from your mistakes and you can ask God to give you the wisdom and knowledge you need in order to make better decisions.  Over time you can overcome those bad decisions and build a better future for you and your family.

No one is born with all knowledge.  It is up to us to find those folks who do know how to make the right decisions and learn from them.  Maybe it will be your parents or grandparents.  Another resource could be an older couple at church, or one of the folks in church leadership.  Maybe Dave Ramsey would be an excellent starting point.  The important thing is to stop making the bad decisions and to put a plan into action that will make your financial future a brighter tomorrow to look forward to.

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