11/26/2006

IT STARTS AT HOME

Did you ever have the feeling that there was something you wanted to do, something big, but you had no idea what it was?

Okay, maybe you had ideas, but all of them were vague and undirected?

That's me, right now. I can't put my finger on it, although I think it has something to do with serving and helping government get the house in order. That's somewhat strange, yet fitting, because at this moment in my life, I am getting my own house in order. I guess if you want to serve others, and in this case, if you are going to be a part of some solution (whatever that may be), it's best to practice in your own house first.

Six and a half years ago, my wife left me for another man. Later the following year, after deciding to file for divorce, she also decided to file for bankruptcy, but not before she had spent the prior year abandoning the financial commitments that a husband and wife seem to accumulate over the years. I was left with every conceivable bill, gathered during a ten year marriage, utilizing two incomes to stay current. Obviously, I couldn't stay current, less one income and still with the same amounts to pay each and every month.

My attorney advised me to file for bankruptcy with my soon-to-be-former wife jointly, before the divorce was finalized. Otherwise, many of our creditors may have seized an opportunity to come after me had we allowed my former wife to file after the divorce. I am still not certain how that could have been possible, that a divorce settlement split right down the middle could turn into a divorce settlement that meant I still owed for every debt my former wife reneged on.

The day my wife left me was the hardest, longest day of my life. The day I had to sign for the bankruptcy settlement was the second, hardest, longest day of my life. I looked at myself as a failure; as someone who should have been able to make everything work, but somehow couldn't. It seemed as if the bankruptcy was the exclamation point on my failed marriage, as if someone were saying to me, "Bankrupt! That's what your marriage was from day one, and that's what you are now!"

It is almost five years since the morning I spent in the courthouse signing bankruptcy papers and nodding my head as I listened to the judge grant our petition. Inside I was dying, ashamed, alone. Outwardly I simply nodded, as if to say, "Yup. I deserve this."

I am a long way from those days, and quite a few bumps in the road have occured since. Last year, I had to buy a different truck, using a car loan I obtained at twenty-eight percent interest. Truly, the options available to someone with horrendous credit records are not favorable to a comeback, but comeback I have. Today, that loan is eighteen months old, and I am a mere six months from completing the terms of that loan, over a year early. When I received the money to buy that truck, I vowed to myself that there was only one way to beat a high interest loan; and that was to never give the bank a chance to collect on most of that interest by paying more and more towards the principal balance each month until the balance became too small for the high interest rate to have much of an effect. I am sure the bank was salivating over lending money at twenty-eight percent interest rates, seeing in me a man who was maybe so grateful to receive the money that he would never dream of defaulting. In that same man, they saw a person who probably couldn't afford the only way to beat a high interest loan. They were wrong. It was hard work, and hard to stay disciplined. But the goal was worth it.

Now I am trying to buy my house back. That, too, was lost in the divorce through foreclosure. But a strange thing happened on the way to moving out of the house. The fellow who bought my house stopped by one day and asked if I would like to stay here, to rent it from him. It took me about five seconds to say, "Yes! Thank you!" I had been dreading moving everything by myself; it was so daunting I actually told my best friend that I couldn't see beyond today, I couldn't see my way through it all.

You can imagine the types of loans I am being offered right now. Interest rates are high, and they are all ARM's. That's okay. I know the secret to ARM's; it's the same way I'll deal with every other greedy, money marketing banker. I will never give them a chance to collect on that type of interest. They may have a small profit for a few years, but once my credit rating is returned to where it belongs, I will obtain a new loan with a more favorable rate, and say goodbye to the high interest ARM with the balloon payment. During the time I have that loan, I will be paying extra money towards the principal balance, offsetting as much of the effect of the interest rate as possible.

So I am getting my house back, hopefully. I am getting my house in order. I don't know for certain what my other plans are, but I know that there is more I can be doing, and I feel as if I should be serving in some public venue. I am a citizen of a free country. I feel the desire to serve. Maybe I will learn much more in this process of setting my own house in order, maybe I will learn things that can be applied to a much bigger, more complex house.

I am a fairly straightforward man. I see many things in black and white, although I admit that when it comes to people and issues of the heart and soul, grey has become predominant most of the time. But I maintain that there is only one way to serve your town or county or state or country; humbly and with gratitude for the opportunity. That leaves no room for skulduggery or for backhanded politics. Whatever I decide on, be it volunteer work, or possibly elected work, I will apply many of the life lessons I have learned through the hard times of my life.

The biggest of those lessons? I give it to you free of charge; You are never without a hope in the world, and from every valley bottom, you can see the peaks that you are trying to reach. So long as the peaks are in sight, you can find a way to get to them.

I guess I am just fed up enough with the current political climate in our local and national government to try and do something about it in my own small way.

You know what they always say; it starts at home.

5 comments:

MMM said...

After reading this, I am even prouder of you. :) I'm glad you were disciplined enough to do what needed to be done, and I thank God that you learned whatever lessons bankruptcy taught you.

I especially love the comment about the valleys and seeing the peaks.

Blessings on you!

Tom Reindl said...

MMM,

"I thank God that you learned whatever lessons bankruptcy taught you. "

Well, for starters, it has taught me to be far more frugal. But another aspect to it, and one that plays a part in why I don't date too much is that I just don't trust easily in relationships (the divorce had a little something to do with that, too), especially when it comes to finances. I guess I keep my eyes open all of the time, because honestly, I don't ever want to go through that again.

Ellie said...

Hi tom, thanks for the kind comment you left on my new blog. :o)

thanks for sharing this post with us! it was really encouraging for me.

Mercy said...

Ah - from one builder to another .. keep the faith - it truly works itself out .. even 6 years later .. :)

Tom Reindl said...

Mercy,

Thanks. I vidited your blog. Sounds like our stories are pretty similar. You keep the fasith, too, sister.