Pebbles in a Well (Backstory Part 2)

Wishing Well

“Wishing Well” by Phil Parker is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Not like too many people are going to see this, but I figured I’ll vent anyway.

My life is like a well. The water is like resources. Small, seemingly insignificant problems are like pebbles. You can throw a few pebbles in the well and it’s no big deal. However, if you get enough of them over time, the well fills up and there are no more resources available. No money, no “out”, no hope.

My phone quit charging. This is an insignificant problem. Something that I would normally say, “Oh well, it has insurance, no biggie.” I said “we can work around this” and “Oh, it’s not that big of a deal,” over a million of times.

The reason why we aren’t out in the street yet, is because we are capable of working around problems. We lasted four years with barely an income and we are all still fed, have a roof over our heads, not ill, etc. I also believe that God has helped us here and there. I know it sounds odd, but if it weren’t for some donations from the church, and a few random “coincidences” it would have been over a few months ago.

That comes to an end a few days before this month is over. Mike has applied for jobs left and right, but not one call – in spite of the fact that all of these businesses still have “help wanted” signs out.

Then there’s me. It seems that every time I start to pull ahead, an insignificant “setback” arises. I start working on the “MOMETEK” blog. I get pregnant. No problem, Mike has his job and I have nine months to make sure the blog gets ahead. Mike loses his job. No problem, we can work around this. He has a great work history. Unfortunately, there isn’t a job that would pay enough to allow us to stay in VT.

We decide pick up and move to Texas. We “accidentally” find a church that we really like. Getting a place to put our Camper, find a bunch of companies that are very interested in hiring Mike. It was almost like God wanted us there. Everything felt like it was falling into place.

This means my blog gets put on hold. We wait until after the baby is born. What was supposed to be a three-month job turns into 8 months. Problems include replacing parts of the foundation because it was actually rotting, replacing some electrical problems, a delay in the siding, a baby that had to be fed every one hour and thirty minutes.

I could go on, but we didn’t get to the campground as soon as we thought we would. We were paying for a lot that we couldn’t use.

We get to the campground and find that the jobs that were available are not anymore. We took too long in getting down there. Mike mentions that he has plenty of retirement to take the year off.

For two years, I tried keeping up the MOMETEK blog. My Amazon affiliate account got cancelled because something about Vermont Taxes. No problem (again), I’ll just (according to them) reapply and get a new ID.

After a month, in spite it was used on my MOMETEK blog, I didn’t get enough referrals (i.e. no one bother clicking on it). It got cancelled again. It didn’t matter anyway, it wasn’t like I was able to keep up on it. The internet seemed to only fail when I worked on it. Had no problems with cute cat fails on YouTube or arguing about the election with people who were wrong.

I could go on, but that’s just a very small sample on what’s been happening for the past. Four. Years. I didn’t even mention all the other problems that we had.

Recently, I’ve been working on a story blog. My kids seem to like it so I thought I use this opportunity to make something of it.

The majority of hits are crawler bots. Only a few hits or clicks from FB or Twitter.

I honestly don’t think it’s anyone’s fault. I see this on Facebook all the time. I post something to the extent of “Hey look, I’m 40 now!” and I get more than a few hits. Post something that might help my family financially… nope. Not one hit, or comment.

Another example: Post something on imgur that essentially was just what I taught myself on Gimp. The link took people to a site I used to teach myself. 350+ hits and a few upvotes. For someone who doesn’t post to imgur much, that isn’t bad.

Do it again with Blender 3D that has a link to the story site? 20+ hits and almost half were mine from checking to see how many hits I’ve had. This, in spite that I’ve linked to it on Facebook, through the story blog and twitter. I have 239 friends on FB, and over 800 followers on Twitter. I may get two hits from each.

Okay, no problem. It’s going to take a little longer than I thought. There’s a threshold that I have to cross and once I do, I won’t have to focus on promotion anymore. I’ll have to use data on my phone to try to get the hits I need.

If you made it this far (and you actually read the beginning) you know what happens next. My phone quit charging. I have no idea what happened except it was charging and it quit. I tried another charging port. Still no luck. Tried the cable with a different phone. Works fine. It doesn’t even connect to my laptop.

I definitely do not blame my followers or friends. I suspect that algorithms in Facebook would push most of my posts to the bottom. On Twitter, I don’t like spamming, so most of my posts also get pushed down. Most of my followers are also following a few hundred people who tweet all the time. Of course, the massive tweet fest probably only happens only when I post. Or so it would seem.

sigh

I’ve told Mike that I’m concerned about coming to the library today. It might catch fire.

We are going to Walmart after the movie is done and I will be getting a replacement. However, it will be almost two weeks before I get a new phone. The only time I can be online at all will be when we go to the library twice a week, and maybe a few minutes after church. I have a hard enough time trying to interact with others online as it is. The less I interact, the more likely my posts become less important on FB and Twitter.

Maybe when I get my phone back, I’ll just download Farmville and play that all day.

No, not really. I’m just too stubborn. If I was on the Titanic when it sunk, I would be that person still trying to bail the water out. Later, explorers would have found my shoes and a bucket still on board the deck.

The well is full of pebbles making the water inaccessible, and I’m in there trying to dig the pebbles out with a teaspoon.

Next : Why I’m not angry with God.

Treasure

My MIL sent some jewelry for the girls. As soon as Ethan saw it he exclaimed, “Look! Treasure!”

This gave Mike an idea. He grabbed some scrap wood and built Ethan a treasure box. All the jewelry that the kids didn’t want went in there and Ethan, Stephanie, and Benjamin played treasure hunt the rest of the day.

New griddle

Griddle with stir fry veggies- but who cares, right?

Stir fry beef and veggies

Mike bought me a decent griddle with a gift certificate we had for Walmart. I have a nice round frypan that worked okay, if stir-fry wasn’t the main course.

One problem with living in the camper with a large family is the stove is way too small. You have to use larger pots, but they don’t quite fit. So you have to use the smaller pots, but this means more dishes in a small sink.

The griddle holds considerably more than my fry pan and while it is still rather large, it is a lot less combersome than my giant stockpot. It comes apart into three sections, making the entire griddle easier to clean.

Storage on the other hand might be a problem. For now, it resides on my stove. Tonight, I’ve used it for stirfry. Tomorrow it will be eggs and turkey bacon. I will be able to cook at least half of the package of bacon in the oven and eggs for everyone at once!

Or maybe I’ll make pancakes. I can make enough for three people at a time. I hadn’t made pancakes in a while because it would take a an hour to get through everyone, and then everyone wanted seconds. It would be a couple of hours before I was able to clean up and get started on other chores.

The real test will be in a week, when I’ve had a chance to use it – and I will be using it al lot. Since I don’t have a place to put it, it will stay on the stove for a while.

Note: I was not paid by Zojirushi or by Walmart. The gift certificate (code) was leftover from my damage phone insurance. They didn’t have the phone, I got a cheaper and nicer one, the leftover funds we used for the griddle and misc. groceries.

Still going at it

Note Cards Everywhere!

What a mess

It’s been almost 8 months since our accident. We lost a lot of stuff and the rest, we are still sorting through. In the picture above, I finally decided to go through my notes that I had been gathering since before we left Vermont, less than four years ago.

A lot of these notes were notes that I took at Church and Bible studies. Some, however, were short segments of my book that I wrote. A lot of them, lost forever. Well, I still have the ideas in my head, but I would have to rewrite a lot of them, when I think of it.

This is actually the reason why I’m sorting through my notes. I had procrastinated until this point because I knew I lost a lot of work.

So now, I will go through what is left of my notes and start adding more. I hope that by the end of this week, I will be able to have enough to start writing  the first draft.              

Yes, I’m still alive

It’s still quite crazy here. I still don’t have internet so when I go to the library, I spend most of the time updating tablets and posting to my story blog. I might do some online shopping – if I have time.

When I’m using my phone, I stick to sites that is mostly text or I’m updating my OneNote. Sometimes, like now, I’ll post to my blog (which is something I need to do more often) or post to instagram.

Facebook, even the website version, burns data very quickly. I try not to go on when I’m using data because I will be out of data before the month’s up.

Then, when I’m at the library, I don’t have much time.

So, you will not see me much on Facebook, except through one of my posts through external sources (blog, twitter, or instagram).

Perhaps I will be posting more on this blog more often. So I will be making a commitment to post here every night.

How many people actually read this on the other hand…

Backstory

You don’t know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from. – Cormac Mccarthy

First and foremost: For all of those who prayed for us, thanks.

Our Challenging four years began when Mike lost his job at GE. Even though I was 3 months pregnant when that happened, we had enough in savings and retirement so at the time, it was no big deal.

Then, after some research on the internet, Mike had a crazy idea. Why don’t we take a vacation without the kids to Athens Texas.

It seemed to be a place with lots of opportunities. A few good businesses were hiring, the weather seemed to be about right, and the laws seem to be aligned to our philosophy.

Mike bought a plane ticket and we headed out to check out the area. All went really well and everything seemed to work out well.

One example that comes to mind at the moment, we immediately sought out a church of Christ. Turns out that there’s more than one in Athens. The first one we looked for, we couldn’t find, so we went with the second.

As it turns out, the businesses that Mike wanted to apply to, were owned by a few of the members of that church.

It seemed that everything was falling into place.

Until we got home. We wanted to put the house on the market, but before we do that, we had to invest some of our money so we can at least get what we ow on the house. What started out as only a “few things” ended up being thousands of dollars of repairs.

That was the beginning of our problems. We couldn’t sell our house, so we asked my brother if he knew of anyone who would rent it. Keeping it heated in the winter in VT, even if it was at 45 degrees  is expensive.

And we found a renter who also wanted to buy the house. This seemed to work in our favor, so we charged $200 less than what we were paying on our mortgage, with hopes that she would use the opportunity to save her money to buy her own house. We kept the water bill in our name because it’s considered a tax in that town. If she was late, the town could put a lien on the house and we wouldn’t have been able to sell it.

Fast forward a few years. Mike had a job and then had to leave. The renter who was on time with the payments, stacked up a huge water bill. As it turns out, she had more than the legal limit on how many could live in the house as a rental.

We had to tell her that she either had to leave or buy the house.

Fortunately, she found another house to buy, so there wasn’t too much trouble. But we did have a $1400 water bill – and then Sewer bill doubled that.

At this point, we had gone through almost all of our savings, and Mike was now working random electrical jobs. He couldn’t get his electrician’s license so he was relying on a retired master electrician to give him work.

We still had a mortgage and a car and camper payment. There seemed to be no end in sight of “gee, are we going to make it this month?”

Then the Green Mountain Church of Christ had asked us to help them out this summer.

(to be continued…)

Back to Normal, for now

That’s it. we are finally on our way. As it turns out, there were two problems.

The first was a bad connection. Using his meter, Mike found that one of the wires were bad.

So he salvaged a cable from “we may need this someday” wire and charging adapter bag. It worked, or so it would seem.

After a while, it was obvious that the battery wasn’t charging, although it seemed to go up a little. So we stopped at another TA truck stop.

Mike spent a lot of time on the mechanics forums. Trying to find another solution.

Finally, he tightened the belt.

The voltage shot up.

We’ve been on the road for an hour, now and the batteries are fully charged. Looks like the only stop we’ll be making is for fuel.

Going home… slowly

Finally after all of the problems that kept cropping up, we are on our way. A trip that was supposed to be only a few weeks, ended up to be almost six months. 

In retrospect, the accident we had at the beginning of the summer wasn’t the worse thing that could have happened. We essentially lost two loans that we weren’t sure if we could pay off. The Church gifted us the balance of the cost of the motorhome so we owe nothing to a bank.

It’s not to say that our problems have ended. At the moment, we are having elecrical problem with the alternator. We finally figured out that the connection is bad.

Maybe, after we get the batteries charge at this TA truck stop, we can make it to a service station that will fix this problem. We did make it 300 miles on the last charge.

The last leg (When Vacations Go Wrong finale)

To see the beginning of this story, check here.

I wasn’t looking forward to driving. Not that I was complaining. After all, I was driving something that I wouldn’t normally buy: a Chrysler Town and Country Van. I can at least pretend to be rich.

U-Haul, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Chrysler Town and Country van.

The rental and the U-Haul. Ethan was playing with his “kitty”.

Mike was going to drive the U-Haul, and I get to drive the rental. We told Nathan and Michala that if there were few stops, we may be able to make it to Vermont before midnight.

I was hopeful that since we weren’t pulling a camper anymore, that we would be there sooner.

The good news, the drive was without incident. Ethan still handled himself pretty well and slept most of the way. Unfortunately, there were a lot more stops than planned, so it was very late when we stopped in New York for the night. What’s more, Americade beat us to it, so there were no more rooms available.

So stopped at a gas station and I picked up a strong large coffee (supposedly with more caffeine than normal coffee). I wanted to make sure I was going to stay awake for the next few hours.

We finally made it to my mother’s house around 1:00am on Sunday. We didn’t want to wake them (in hindsight I’m sure the dogs certainly did), so we stayed in the car and finished our night there. I slept in the passenger side, Nathan slept in the back, and Michala and Mike slept in the U-Haul.

It was the longest four days I experienced in recent memory. However, it is just the beginning of rebuilding, pretty much from scratch.