When I was thinking of a title for this post, I wanted to dig into the real meaning of “calling a spade a spade.” I know how I would use it, but I wondered if it was appropriate.
This is what I found:
From Wikipedia…..To “call a spade a spade” is to speak honestly and directly about a topic, specifically topics that others may avoid speaking about due to their sensitivity or embarrassing nature.
I found the right title! Today I’m going to share what made us stumble and fall, but most importantly, the first step we had to take to pick ourselves up again.
It was a combination of naivety, stupidity, and external forces we had no control over (the economy). They all formed their own ropes around our legs, and fall we did.
I left for college a week after I graduated from high school in 2000. I was a farm girl that had only ever taken a few road trips in her life….Dad was tied to the farm and we didn’t get away much. I was leaving and never coming back (I’ve since realized I should never say never)! I attended school for a year, studying art, and then I met the most amazing, intriguing, ambitious, gentle man. I had actually eyed him a bit in high school (a story for another time). He swept me off my feet, and we married in the summer of 2001. We were young, yes, but almost 12 years later, I think it was the best decision I ever made.
Of course, we were poor. But I hadn’t grown up wealthy. I didn’t know much about money, but I did know how to be frugal. It was in my blood. Dave and I both worked and went to school until I had our first beautiful little girl in the spring of 2003. Then Dave buckled down and worked enough for both of us to finish school. I still can’t thank my mother-in-law and little sister enough for helping watch J. while I finished classes. I couldn’t have done it without them. If I can ever figure out how to repay them, I’ll do it. I’m so grateful for their help! Anyway, I took classes on budgeting (sounds silly, but I wasn’t ever taught that and wanted to manage what little money we had in a good way). I cut Dave’s hair and made our own bread. We lived in some pretty dumpy places to keep our rent down. We almost made it out of college with no debt, but a man Dave was building a home for ended up in prison our last semester. Dave had some building supplies on an account, which family helped us pay, but we had no money to finish school so we borrowed a small amount. We figured we were still better off than most people, chalked it up for some bad luck, and graduated from college in 2005.
Then we moved to Colorado Springs, where our son was born. Dave has always been in the construction field, and the field was booming! He had seven job offers out of college, and a few that kept calling him even when he took the job in Colorado. We took the job that was most family friendly. We drove an ’81 (I think) white boat of a car with peeling red roof so we didn’t have to borrow money. It was like those old seventies cop cars. We joked we were going to put some antlers on the front and curtains in the windows….it was so ugly. We were still living pay check to pay check. I never made myself save. If we were making ends meet and staying out of debt, I figured that was good enough.
Then a man offered us a job to start a new development back home. Dave loved the idea….I didn’t, but it doubled our income. We sold our town home in Colorado for a good profit in 2006 and moved back.
We started building a house. We thought we were doing everything right. We lived with Dave’s dad while we built our home to save money. We put as much money into it as we could, Dave did as much of the labor as he could, and we figured since everything was going insane we could sell it for profit in another few years. We still weren’t saving anything, but we were minimizing out debt, so we thought we were ok.
In another turn of events, right before our house was finished, the man in charge of our paycheck and the new development went to jail for real estate fraud in another state (seriously, you would think we could sniff out these kind of people). In all credit to Dave, he didn’t sit and wring his hands in agony. He started his own construction company. Unemployment can always be called self employment, we would joke. However, it was now 2008. The Great Recession was knocking on our doorstep. Family gave us work to start with. The thought of me designing hadn’t even formed yet. I was taking care of my two babies, and our third girl was on her way.
Our house, which used to be 1/4 of our income as recommended, had turned into 1/2 of our income. My young husband worked endless hours bringing home as much as he could, but I started to see him age (shoot…tears). I budgeted what I could, but the pressure was becoming very heavy. We chose to give birth to our daughter with some midwives so we could pay for it. (While money was what pushed us to make that decision, it was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had, but again, a story for another time). Another year rolled by, and I developed a painful hernia. We had no money to pay for an operation. It was a slow downhill, but here and there I was putting money on the credit card for food. We had always paid it off immediately before, I reasoned. We could do it again….sometime. We tried not to, but the school clothes and car repairs also went on the credit card.
The first time Dave had to go to the school to ask for assistance to pay for our kid’s lunches, we felt like absolute deadbeats. Part of me felt like screaming, “This isn’t who we are,” but yet, it was. Then the choice came down to putting food on the table or paying the house payment. I tell you, that’s not a fun place to be. We knew it was the house that was killing us, so we put it on the market, but the market was too far gone. No one wanted it. We tried every available option to us, but in the end, we lost our home. Remember this post? At the time, it sounded like we were just moving. That wasn’t really the case. The sheriff had showed up at our door; a bashful man that quietly handed us our eviction notice.
My saving grace? Tears had watered my pillow for too many nights, and I had found some information about Dave Ramsey. He calls that point, “Being sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Well, we were. While we knew we couldn’t save the house, we realized that if we didn’t take charge of our lives and our money, we would still be broke ten years from now….right when our oldest daughter would be leaving for college. Hoping that our luck would turn or that our ship would come in, we realized, wasn’t really a plan at all.
So the first question is simply this: Are you ready to change? Do you have to wait until you are so broken that it forces it, or are you willing to pull your skeletons out of your closet now? Why do you need the latest designer clothes or flashiest car? There’s something deeper going on. You have to believe you are something without these things.
It’s time to call a spade a spade.
For us, our weakness is our houses. We realized we should have built a much humbler home….and why I never saved anything for a rainy day? I don’t know. It was just dumb. What we did left our lives in ashes, but that fire caused some kind of chemical reaction in us. Our hearts will never be the same. During it all, not only had our hearts changed, but a beautiful jewel had started to form. I had started studying interior design. It was my one bright point in all the gloom. And where it would lead me? I won’t know until the end, but it’s taking me on a grand adventure.
Next Tuesday I’ll share what we did after we decided it was time to change…….now, are you ready to be honest with yourself?