Zero

In my post, Disconnect, I talked about feeling disconnected from the people around me. I said one of the reasons I felt this way is, “2012 was a rough year.” You got some of that in the post about Cassie’s birthfather. But there is a second, even bigger reason that 2012 was rough.

Max had been working as an independent technical writing contractor for a man who was himself contracted to create training materials for the PGA. I suppose you could say that Max was a subcontractor. Either way, he had this job, with an excellent boss, an incredibly flexible schedule, and a very lovely paycheck, since October 2009. The contract with the PGA was going to end, and we thought Max had a contract set up to start soon after that. We thought he’d have one month, maybe two before the new contract started. However, that client put their project on hold indefinitely. Suddenly, Max didn’t have a job anymore.

I had been working part time as an independent technical writing contractor since April 2010. One of my clients was the company for which I worked full time in 2008 & 2009. I hated working with them. I called them up anyway, to find out if they’d have any work for me. Turns out, they were reorganizing, spinning off a company, and going through a bunch of changes. I will probably never hear from them again. One of my clients is a sort of government agency. They liked me, I liked them. They were supposed to have a project for me over the summer, but it never materialized. It wasn’t until October that I found out why – they, too, had been going through the pains of reorganization. The project slated for summer 2012 is now tentatively slated for 2013. That didn’t help me in spring and summer 2012.

Anyway… because Max and I were both independent contractors, we were not eligible for unemployment benefits. Max received his last paycheck from his boss on March 1. That was the last paycheck we knew he’d get. And I wasn’t working until who knew when.

At that point, we had no income. Zero. $0.00. Zip. Nothing. Nada.

You get the idea.

So I’m standing around at pick up at school waiting for the kids to come out, and people are talking about swim lessons, horseback riding lessons, day camps, and other summer activities, and I just have to sort of play along and be vague about what we’d be doing over the summer. There was no way we could afford the summer pass for the Water Park (which is ridiculously overpriced anyway) or the annual pass for the Regional Park system (which is a bargain when you consider all you could do with it). We knew we had to pay for soccer and soccer camp, because Jackson loves soccer, and that was it. No swim lessons (which are insanely expensive but so very worth it) or day camps (except one week at a camp our friend’s father runs).

We did not have any credit left, because we used our major credit card to charge the expenses for Cassie’s adoption. We had figured we’d be able to pay it off over the course of 2012 & 2013. We didn’t see this situation coming.

It’s another case of: we thought we had done everything the right way. We didn’t walk away from our house in 2010; we added on. We didn’t have fundraisers or ask for help getting the money for Cassie’s adoption. We thought we had contracts lined up for 2012. It’s amazing how much can change.

We applied for the Cal-Fresh program, otherwise known as SNAP, most commonly called Food Stamps, or EBT. We applied for Medi-Cal, which is our state’s version of Medicaid. We received both. I’m going to write more about each of these in two other posts. We applied for assistance to pay our electric bills. I’m sure that sometime soon we will pay that forward, gifting money to the program so they can continue to help others who find themselves in such a predicament. We applied for modification of our first and second mortgages, which I may write about separately.

I’d like to point out that we did have Max’s first three paychecks of the year to live off of. We were never broke; we just didn’t have any new income. Before we bought or paid for anything, we had to ask, “Is this 100% necessary?” And yes, soccer was 100% necessary. I wasn’t going to do what my parents did, and jettison everything my kids loved to do when the going got tough. We were never going to starve (thank you EBT!) or be thrown on the street (thank you HARP!). We just had to be very careful with the money we had.

Very few people knew the extent of what was going on. My grandmother. My dad (if he paid attention). My sister. Two or three of my friends.

After seven months of searching, Max found a new job at the end of July. He had to take a significant pay cut. He’s been freelancing some on the side. The good news is, we finally have health insurance!

In October, my “good” client called me and wanted me to work about 80 hours for the rest of the year. I’m now looking for something part time. Ideally, my “good” client will come through with more projects for me. I’m doing my best to maintain and cultivate relationships there.

We made plans thinking life would be a certain way for the foreseeable future. Then, it wasn’t. It’s certainly true that “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

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