Just hanging it all out there

Trust me when I say this: What you see before you wasn’t intentional. I never set out to become “greener” by kicking the dryer in the name of the environment and hanging our clothes out to dry. In fact, when I moved that first unfortunate load from the washer to the dryer yesterday and discovered that our dryer was no longer interested in drying things, I started crying. Yep. Like a child who didn’t get her way. Again. I walked in to the room where Craig was sitting, calmly informed him the dryer was no longer working, started crying again, then headed straight to Walmart for some hooks, clothes pins, and clothes line.

It’s not the end of the world, is it? People have hung their laundry out for centuries. And I’ve been in the reverse situation where I’ve had a defunct washing machine, but a working dryer. I will take a working washer over a working dryer ANY day.

But my perspective at the moment of discovery wasn’t so clear. In the interest of hanging all of our laundry out on the line for everyone to see, I thought I’d give you a more detailed peek. No, not of the embarrassing underwear that also got hung out there (my kids were mortified), but the events leading up to this moment that made me cry when the dryer didn’t work.

A few years ago, when we were still in St. Louis and never planning to move again (ahem) we took advantage of the “new home buyer” housing loan which would be paid back over time out of our tax refunds. When we moved last summer, we forced an early pay-back on that loan – payment in full – we didn’t realize just exactly how that was going to play out until last month when we found out we owe the Federal Government around $7,000 by mid-October this year. #Ouchie

Speaking of moving, did you know it’s expensive? We popped quite a few things that summer on our credit card and in typical Dave Ramsey sob story fashion, those things kept piling up. So we have a bit of a credit card bill to pay off now.

Not all of the things on that bill were necessarily our fault. Many of them were, though. It gets pretty easy to justify paying for school books and uniforms and just about anything else on a credit card when you are convinced your kids MUST HAVE THEM NOW. In truth, many of those expenses could have waited.

We don’t have traditional medical insurance anymore, but instead are part of a health care cost share group. What this means, practically, is that big things like Craig’s kidney stone surgery earlier this year and Millie’s ER visit this summer get paid for by the other members of this group. But things like well child visits, physicals, ear infections, wart removals, UFRs (unidentified flaming rashes), and dental/orthodontist visits to get Invisalign don’t get covered at all. Guess how many of those kinds of things I just popped right on the credit card over the past year? Let’s see, about 4 well child visits/physicals, 1 ear infection, 2 wart removals, 1 UFR, and 6 trips to the Twin Leaf Dentistry where they took a full round of x-rays on all of us because it had been a while since we’d been seen. That was fun. And expensive.

I’m pretty sure that card is also holding a $900 van repair bill from the summer as well as an $850 plumber bill, also from the summer.

Last fall we had a guy from the energy company come out and do an energy conservation study for us. During this process all of our heating units were examined and we were informed that the one that heats the upstairs, though it works, has a major issue in which the pilot light has burned through the thing it’s not supposed to burn through and we could burn the whole house down if we use that one. I saw it on the little video camera he snaked in there. It was freaky. So we didn’t have heat upstairs all last winter, but that wasn’t such a big deal. We had heat downstairs and we bought three space heaters to use upstairs and we made it through a very mild Oklahoma winter just fine. Fast forward to February of this year – both of the downstairs heating units decided to quit. Awesome. Again, though, it was February and we had space heaters and sweaters. And we live in Oklahoma. We were fine. But we are now looking ahead to a new winter season soon with no working heating units in our house. We had an estimate this week to get them replaced. A mere $25,000. Again, Awesome.

Our van has had an overheating problem for more than a year. We’ve been nursing it along by dumping anti-freeze into it every 6 weeks or so and that’s been doing the trick. Two weeks ago the van overheated on me and stalled on one of the busiest roads in Oklahoma City during one of the busiest times of day. I pulled over to dump more anti-freeze into it (I keep an emergency jug of it in the back) only to find it was full. Drat. So our temporary solution is now over. Now the van overheats within 20 seconds of idling every time you sit there idling. So stop lights are bad. Busy backed-up interstates are worse. I actually prefer to drive Craig’s unairconditioned car now because I’m not afraid of stalling on the highway when I drive it. So guess who needs a new vehicle? The same people who need new heaters. The same people who need to pay off some credit card debt. The same people who owe the Federal Government $7,000.

So now maybe you can see why, after letting all of these things simmer for a few weeks, when I walked in to switch the laundry and the dryer didn’t work, I just broke down crying.

Earlier this month Craig and I had another come-to-Jesus conversation in which everything was laid out on the table and I realized how much of a mess we’re in and how much of it really is my mishandling of things. No, I didn’t knock the heaters out or kill the van. But I did make most of the credit card decisions and while they all seemed like justifiable decisions at the time they were made, are now just a big fat weight.

So one of my assignments this year is to go through the whole Dave Ramsey course again on the days the girls are in school. And one of my first assignments of that is to, you know, come up with $1,000 for an emergency fund. So far I’ve saved $825 for our emergency fund. After this I’m supposed to begin funneling all extra money into the credit card pay-off. After that I’m supposed to build the emergency fund up to about three months’ worth of living expenses. That doesn’t even seem possible at this point in time, but that’s a post for another day. At any rate, I’m trying.

But when the dryer went out on Sunday, the LAST thing I wanted to do was to take that whole emergency fund I’ve worked so hard to build and hand it over to the Maytag Man.

So we’re hanging it all out on the line. Six lines, to be exact. And I’m thinking of stringing a few inside the house in the weird long hallway we have between the kitchen and the back room so we can still dry clothes on the cold/wet/etc. days to come. The girls actually think it’s fun and beg to be the ones to pin the clothes up on the line and take them down again when they are dry. I don’t know how long this phase will last with them, but I’m milking it while it’s here. And, shocker, the clothes really do dry faster outside, so we’re actually caught up on laundry right now. The girls were lamenting earlier today that we had no more dirty laundry to wash and I laughed. Wait an hour and that will be taken care of. Maddie just had one request: Can we please not have the laundry hanging out when we have people over. I promised her that I wouldn’t embarrass her with the laundry when people are over. I didn’t promise to not hang towels and such, though. *grin*

So here we are. I find myself tempted to despair and yet every time I do I find my thoughts turn to that prayer that Jan Karon so eloquently calls the prayer that never fails: Thy will be done. Yes, I’d love a miracle. Yes, I’d love for God to trust me not to make a big fat mess out of whatever solution He deems appropriate for us. Yes, I’d love to win the drawing from the Oklahoma State Fair for the jazzy little sports car or $50K, your choice (I’d take the money and run…to the bank). But that may very well not be the plan God has for us. I may be dreaming of a new dryer when he wants me to hang six lines in the backyard.

I am on the front end of getting a bit more serious about finding meaningful work I can do on the two days my kids are in school. I’ve considered applying at various local retail places, but I balk at the low hourly rate. I’m full of pride. I guess I feel like my time is worth more. Perhaps it’s time I reevaluate my worth.

It’s a tricky dynamic – trust God, try to find a job, pray that thing about God supplying all of our needs, clip coupons and serve more beans, breathe the words, “Thy will be done,” while making a list of what that will should look like.

Oh, I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.