Saturday, March 1, 2008

Baby on the way!

We have all had hard times. When hard times coincide with great joy the emotions can be overwhelming. Some wonderful ladies are having a virtual baby shower for Liz over at the house of h. There are even PRIZES involved!! Please head over and have a look and consider participating. Liz is a terrific lady and I only wish I didn’t relate to what she is going through. I didn’t have blog friends when I was in trouble and I am not entirely sure I would have been brave enough to reach out. She is a courageous woman and I admire that.

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Below is a bit of my story. It is not the same as Liz’s – but it is still meant to say – she is not alone.


I don’t write about this. I haven’t made it a secret but it’s not a favorite blog topic for me. My bankruptcy. It was 4 years ago this month. It’s not an anniversary I celebrate but it saved me.

Sitting in the room before these trustees who were going to decide my fate, I was amazed at the people there trying to win a bankruptcy like it was the lottery. One of the trustees was questioning a woman who was all attitude and little substance.

“I see you petitioned for bankruptcy 2 years ago. Your bankruptcy was not granted. Is that correct?”

“Yeah.” Spoken with her chin thrust upwards.

“And I see that your filing now contains an additional thirty five thousand dollars. Correct?” He was looking at her quizzically now.

“Yeah.” She looked a little bored.

“Tell me what happened between the last time you filed and today, to add thirty five thousand dollars to your filing?”


“Did you have extraordinary medical expenses? Was legal action taken against you for some reason? Where did the additional thirty five thousand dollars go?”

She didn’t seem to understand why he was asking the question. As if somehow adding that amount of debt in 2 years was an even better reason to grant her petition and not a fact to question.

I sat through several of these types of interviews. When my turn came I was horrified but not surprised to feel tears beginning to form as I made my way up to where the trustees were seated. The trustee was reading my paperwork as I sat down, and then looked up.

“Your total debt is thirty five thousand dollars?” He asked kindly.

“Yes.” I looked down and tried to force my lips to stop trembling. As if I could.

“Tell me what brought you here. What happened?”

I looked up and saw he was looking at me sadly but intently, patiently waiting for the answer he already knew. He had heard it many times before.

I took a shaky breath and started telling him. “It was 10 years of trying to keep my head above water after my divorce. I was trying to take care of my kids and myself and I am just in too deep now. I couldn’t keep my house, I used credit cards to pay bills when I didn’t have any other way. I can’t make even the minimum payments now…”

The trustee was nodding his head and gently interrupted me. “You just can’t keep up anymore.” A statement not a question.

I had to look down again, I was so ashamed to be sitting there in this roomful of people who seemed to think bankruptcy was not a last resort but something they just expected to receive. After the rain you expect the sun to shine, right? Like that. I could barely hold my head up because I felt like such a failure. I wondered how this could possibly be that easy for anyone.

This nice man sitting in front of me was focused on me and my story at that moment. He looked into my eyes as I was talking and silently measured me with the knowledge of a man who has heard it all. But for a few moments he was simply a human being listening compassionately to another – not a government official who had the power to change the direction my life would take from that moment onward.

The look lasted less than a minute and apparently having seen what he needed to he nodded once more and looked down at the papers in front of him.

I was granted my petition that day but more than that – I was granted a fresh start. Somehow the kindness of the trustee who signed my paperwork made me feel forgiven. I didn’t feel dirty or ‘less than’ anymore. He didn’t think I was scamming him, he knew I did not take what I was doing lightly, and he knew I had done everything I could to avoid it.

It isn’t my favorite subject. But it is part of my life and part of my story. It was a huge decision for me and one of the hardest I have ever made. And I am not ashamed.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. Bankruptcy is more common than most people realize. People don't talk about it because traditionally, it's been viewed so negatively.
    For people like you and Liz, sometimes, there is just no other alternative.
    You are very brave for sharing this and thank you again for helping our friend.

  2. I'd like to thank you too, for sharing. My husband has been made redundant twice this year already and although is in employment now we have lost over half of his salary, scary!!! Some very difficult decisions are going to have to be made......Its a lonely place to be!

    Mandie xxx

  3. There is a horrible stigma with bankruptcy and unfortunately there are people who use it to simply not be responsible. I tried everything I could before I did it - and remembering how absolutely miserable I was facing it - I wish I could do more.

    Mandie - It IS a horribly lonely place to be, and one word I would also use is 'terrifying'. I understand and I hope things work out well for you and your family!

  4. This is a really brave post. It's scary to me how easy it is to slide down that debt hill. I can't even imagine how hard it must be to hold things together as a single parent. I don't even know what I would do.

  5. Nothing to be ashamed of....bad things happen to good people.

  6. Its awful that you , or anyone has to go through this .
    I know the feeling of waking with pound signs in front of my eyes , literally at three am , after my husband left , knowing I was soon going to be a thousand short on the monthly outgoings each month . You know you can cut back a few pounds but a thousand ( 2 thousand dollars .... when you have a twelve year old ... ) , doesnt work .
    But as people said to me , things change , dont forget to breathe , and I didnt go under .
    But , its awful .
    Its great that this baby shower is happening , and if your post helps one person feel less ashamed , less bad , less guilty , thats a great achievement , well worth it .

  7. Oh PS Happy Mothers Day !!!
    have a great day .....

  8. Scary thought - we have gone down to one car to help us to live at the moment - luckily things seem to be picking up with my dh's business and we probably will be fine but we have contingency plans ready!

    {{HUG}} Happy Mummys day BetteJo

  9. I think we are all vulnerable to being in that type of situation whether it be job loss, catastrophic illness or whatever. It's scary to even imagine and you lived through it and survived!

  10. It IS a terrible thing. Feels awful. Unfortunately when I came out of my divorce I was a babe-in-the-woods about money. I made some really bad choices. The bankruptcy gave me a new chance.

    I don't own a house, I don't have credit cards to fall back on and I rarely have anything you could call savings. But I don't have that crushing debt and the panic it brought. I wish I could have done something else but - there wasn't anything else.

    I still live check to check but I really wanted to help Liz because I understand the emotions involved. And I don't know, when you help one person - maybe later when they can - they will help someone else.

  11. You are an inspiration!! What a gift you give to be able share your story and help others !

  12. Thank you Sue! You see why I needed to surround myself with color? :)

  13. Thank you for sharing that. I know that wasn't easy. You have nothing to be ashamed of and I'm so glad that man saw your depth of character in your eyes that day.

  14. Not a wonderful time in my life, that's for sure. But honestly - one reason I blab about my my business is because I hope it will help someone else. Too many people are ashamed of too many things.

  15. I agree BetteJo my motto is - if I can help one person who is going through something I have already gone through it was worth it.

  16. I'm just now getting to catch up on my blog reading...
    But I want to thank you for sharing your story with us, BetteJo. And also to thank you personally for all your support and loyal blogship.
    I think that the stigma that's attached to bankruptcy comes also from people NOT talking about it. I'm not a bad person, I didn't take vacations or buy fancy jewelery...neither did you. We went through some shit and are just trying to survive. We are good, normal people...and I have to believe that the process of claiming bankruptcy is in place for people just like you and I.

  17. No, we're not bad people. Not at all. And I hope everything works out for you - I really do. Especially with the baby on the way. I love babies. :)

    I hope you get some cool stuff from your shower!!!

  18. This very moving post about your bankruptcy - and the house of h's money problems - has really stayed with me the last few days (I read it when you posted it but needed to process my thoughts before I commented).

    It would appear that many of us are in the same boat; as I type this I can hear the phone ringing ... it's a bill collector. I can't pay that bill without losing electricity/water/groceries etc.

    I don't have a lavish lifestyle. The last time I went out to dinner in a restaurant was two years ago. The last time I bought new clothes or shoes was almost four years ago.
    I have no health insurance. The last time I went to the dentist was in 2000. The list of things we go without is pretty long.

    There is something fundamentally wrong with the way this country is functioning when the majority of our population, who are smart and hard-working people, cannot afford what is considered the basics, while a small percentage are busy buying their second yacht.

    No I don't think you're a bad person or a failure. On the contrary, I think we as a society failed YOU.

  19. What a great comment HS Rose!

    Ouch, just reading it made me wince....

  20. Oh Rose. I feel for you. I made some bad mistakes with money, number one being tying to keep my house knowing it would depend on my ex-husband's payments. I should have sold it from the get-go - and get something more affordable. I don't really feel that society let me down, my ex and I did it. That's one reason that the bankruptcy was so tough - I believe in working for what I have. I don't expect to have anything handed to me. I don't know, I wish I had done things better. But people make mistakes. I know you and your husband are working to get a better life for yourselves. But it's hard. So hard. Especially when you've got kids. It's exhausting trying to keep your head above water. Just exhausting.
    Forgive - I am very tired - may even be sleep-writing. :) Take care - you'll figure it out and come out the other end or however you want to put it. Sometimes it just sucks in a major way until you get there.