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Monday, October 29, 2007

Ups and downs

I got home last night at about 9:30pm, I was just exhausted, and absolutely everything was making me angry. DH hadn't cleaned anything while I was gone, so there was a pile of dirty dishes, dirty laundry, and empty pet food bowls and full garbage, and although realistically, I don't expect him to do much, I got home and there he was, stretched across the bed (again as usual) watching TV. There was no place for me to lie down, and I got crabby. I was standing in the living room trying to decide what to do, as I hadn't slept in nearly 48 hours and absolutely needed to lie down, and DH came out of the bedroom and asked me what was wrong. (!) That in itself was shocking, because I can't remember the last time he did that, but when I told him I was really crabby, he told me that he was going to go in the living room and work on his bankruptcy forms and he turned on my reading lamp for me and told me to go to sleep and he'd stay in the other room so that I could sleep. I almost started crying, I was so surprised to have him be concerned about me and want to make me comfortable.

Then this morning when I woke up, I was still crabby, but not quite so bad. So when he told me that he had found one of the 20 dollar bills that I had stashed (he must have really been searching), and he had spent it on "munchies", I was mad about that. Why on earth, when all you have to your name is $40, would you go and buy cookies and candy and pop, instead of gas or something important.....I knew he wouldn't have any money left. He said he thought Jason was getting irritated with him never having money, so he felt like he had to buy some stuff. I wanted to say "if people are getting irritated with you for spending their money, why can't you just say something like 'well, I don't have any money, so I'll just make do with what we have at home--you just buy stuff for yourself.'" To me that would be easy. For him, apparently, it never even entered the realm of possibility. And so I realized that while things do seem better lately, he's still not thinking right....I'm trying to just focus on the positives.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

My mom is out of surgery

My mom is out of surgery, everyone believes it went well. She's still pretty out of it from the anesthesia, but she doesn't seem all that bad. Hopefully everything gets better from here, at least with my mom. One nurse told me that she might only be in the hospital for a week, then go to the nursing home where we live for rehab, and she might only need to stay there for a couple of weeks. So hopefully she's on the mend, although I'm a little worried about any changes that my mom might have to deal with, especially regarding her mobility....well, we can only have the hand we're dealt, right?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mood swings and parenting

DD has been grounded this week, because she made arrangements to visit a friends house for an overnight without telling us that she would be unsupervised, and also for telling her friend's father that we were aware of that and were ok with it. She's always been sneaky, but this was a little more sophisticated than we were used to. Too bad for her, we are aware of her tendency to not be entirely honest, so we check everything out ahead of time.

Anyhow, apparently there was a Halloween party tonite at some other friend's house. DD had not been told "for sure" that she could not go on account of being grounded, but that she probably could not go. We were giving a little hope because we try to encourage DD to socialize and if her behavior merited, we might relent on the grounding just for the party and nothing else. But I really doubted it and told her so. Nevertheless, she "invited" the same friend from the previous paragraph to go with her to the Halloween party. Then she found out that her friend could not go to the party unless she was able to stay overnight at our house. At that point we decided that DD cannot take matters into her own hands like this, since we hadn't been consulted on this and had not given permission for either the party or the overnight....and we told her "you are grounded and cannot go." Then her friend called her and asked her what time they were going. Argh. Once again, she was told there would be no party. But Jason overheard DD telling said friend that "yes, I'll be there" "I can't talk now, call me at my bio mom's house" (she had a visit scheduled for tonight). So a quick call to the bio mom and we learned that DD had already called bio mom to make sure that she would be able to go to the party. Of course DD neglected to mention that we had grounded her and that we had told her she couldn't go. We explained the situation and bio mom was ok with DD not having a visit tonite. DD was not ok with that, of course, and her big plans were foiled. She made up a bunch of stupid lies like "I only called my mom to see if she wanted to go to the Halloween party, I didn't say I was going" (like a 45 year old woman is going to be interested in going to a high school Halloween party???) Anyhow, DH decided he was going to be the one to break the news to DD that she was staying home.

When he did that, she called him a bunch of swear words, told him she hated him, and ran off, intending to get to town some other way (we knew she wouldn't make it, so we weren't worried). DH started to have a mood swing like he does whenever anyone is upset with him or disagrees with him. I could see his mood change from "stern parent" to "extremely angry and offended person" in an instant. Sometimes when he has these mood swings, he says hateful things to DD just out of anger, and that's the bipolar talking. I pointed it out and he said he could tell he was having a mood swing and he was going to need a Lorazepam to calm down. Then we talked for a few more minutes and I went and fed the chickens, and when I came back, he was fine again. I asked him if he took his pill and he had forgotten all about it, because he didn't feel like he needed it any more!!! That is the absolute first time in a year that something like that has happened, especially with DD because she is never afraid to say hateful things when she is angry. DH and I were both shocked and excited by this. So maybe there has been progress??? I hate to get my hopes up.

And for anyone who is wondering, DD is spending her evening in her room and in addition to being grounded for an extra week, she has lost her TV privileges. Plus it's her problem to deal with the consequences of inviting a friend to a party when you don't have permission to go yet. Before she went to bed I made sure she knew that we still love her, but not her sneaky behavior.

My mom is in the hospital

Hi everyone, I'm sorry I haven't posted in the last few days, my mom fell in her assisted living apartment and broke her hip. She wound up being transferred to a hospital about an hour away from where we live, and they were possibly going to do surgery last night, then they were going to do it first thing this morning, then "sometime today" and they still haven't done it and I still have no idea what is going on. I've never known anyone who broke their hip, so I don't know how frustrated I should be--it could be that waiting a couple of days for surgery can be a normal thing....but it seems like it's taking so long!!!!

My mom is 78 and in reasonably good health. She had a few episodes of confusion and has been diagnosed with some mild dementia, so two years ago she moved to the assisted living facility which is only 4 miles from my house.

She likes it a lot, she says it's just like having her own house, except with some help. She's really done well there, except for a heart attack that she had last November. She has her cat, Thor, and probably the only complaint (and she doesn't voice it, I just know) she has is that with all this bipolar stuff going on with DH, I haven't had as much time to spend with her, and for that I do feel really bad. I know she gets lonely, although she does talk with the other residents, its not the same as me coming over, or taking her for a ride or going to Dairy Queen (one of her favorite things). She knows some of what's been going on, because I wanted her to understand that I wasn't just ignoring her, but sometimes I still feel really bad. Right now is one of those times, because I am working and not at the hospital with her. I keep telling myself that she is resting, they are giving her morphine and other pain killers as she lays there waiting for her surgery....ok, maybe my frustration is showing, I hate seeing her in so much pain and, I'm not a doctor, so I don't know if they're being reasonable or not.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

Well, here it is, Thursday, and "That Guy" still seems to be missing in action. DH seems to be very understanding, and willing to listen to reason, and that is so wonderful!!!! Today, DD came home, apparently she got in a fight on the school bus with an 8 year old boy. DH was ready to go and "have a word" with the boy's parents. I reminded him that DD does not have a reputation for truthfulness when she gets in trouble, and that the school bus driver and the school authorities could handle it without him "having a word" with anyone....and he actually looked at me and said "Ok". I was floored. At the very least, I expected an argument of some sort, and I also expected that he wouldn't even hear what I was saying, let alone "listen" to it....

I was really expecting a mood swing. Actually, every time I look at him, I am expecting him to be upset about something, and it isn't happening. He just keeps saying "no problem" and "ok". So I suppose the next mood swing will be a doozie.

I have noticed that the big drama and mood swings seem to happen more frequently on Fridays, when I'm not home. So, being as tomorrow is Friday, I'm expecting to run into "That Guy" again and have my hopes dashed. But I'm very willing to be proven wrong!!!!

Here are some things he has done in the last couple of days that have been wonderful: He sold one of his guns to Jim for $140. He spent $70 of that quickly, then asked me to stash $60 for him, so he would not have easy access to it!!!!!! Amazing. Hopefully he won't get angry with me during a mood swing for stashing it, that has happened before. And.....drum roll please.....he started to fill out his bankruptcy forms!!!!!!!!!!! He didn't finish, I don't think he was expecting them to be as time-consuming as they were, but he did start on them, and that's more than he's done since May!!!! That really gets me excited, because maybe we're making some progress....I know I shouldn't get my hopes up, but every time he acts like his "old self", I start remembering what things used to be like and I want that back so badly....

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Still no Gold Dollar solution

I've been contemplating the fact that it's been weeks now since I discovered that DH had stolen my gold dollars. I had really hoped that as I put time between that day and now, I would be better able to accept and forgive him, and start over with the gold dollars again.

But I still haven't been able to do it. There have been several times where I've had an extra dollar or two and thought about getting gold dollars. But I still can't bring myself to do it. I end up with this resigned "What's the use?" attitude, and then I go buy a can of pop or something equally useless. I've got to get through this somehow, but I don't know how.

I've forgiven DH for stealing from me. I know it was his bipolar that caused him to do something that the man I married would never ever do. But I haven't forgotten, for sure. And I keep thinking about "where would I put the bucket now?" Because the only place that I KNEW my collection would be safe, was in our bedroom, under lock and key. So it really seems pointless to do it again, because if I keep it in our bedroom, who's to say it won't happen again? And if I keep it elsewhere in the house, well, dd stole from us before we put the lock on the bedroom door, so I couldn't feel comfortable about that either. We only have a 2-bedroom house. It's painful to think about.

I was really hoping that maybe since I'm feeling more hopeful about DH today, that I could get past the gold dollar thing. But apparently not yet.

"That Guy" on Vacation

Yesterday DH got home from therapy and offered me the opportunity to ride along with him to drop off a job application (he is getting help and "motivation" from the organization that finds jobs for mentally ill people). This was a pretty normal occurrence before bipolar, but nowadays it's unheard of. I truly thought "Uh-oh, he's bought something and wants to convince me that it's smart". But I went along with him anyhow, because another part of me was thinking "ok, the therapist wants him to address something with me".

I was actually wrong (to the best of my knowledge) on both accounts. I asked him how therapy went, and he told me that once again, the therapist asked a lot of questions about me. I asked DH if he could pick up on what the therapist was getting at, and he had no idea. So we're still in the dark there. But then DH said, "I told him that I think I'm losing you." I didn't say anything at first, because during these last two days, had I been asked, I would have said that was the case. Then I asked him "what makes you think that?" And suddenly I realized that "That Guy" was not in the vehicle. It was all DH and nobody else. I cherish these moments.

He talked about how I take care of him, pay all the bills, clean the house, cook the meals, but I don't seem very happy to see him any more and how I seem to get irritated with him when he's in the bedroom (of course I do!!!! He's in the bedroom about 23 hours a day, lying on the bed, watching TV and sometimes eating dry cereal by the boxful so he doesn't have to come out into the kitchen!) and how I seem to not really want to spend time with him lately.

Anyhow, without bringing up any of the things that have really given me reason to rethink the entire relationship, I simply asked him "What do you think I am getting out of all this?" He couldn't answer me, but I still don't think he was seeing....so I said, "there are so many ways that, even when you're having a "bad day", you could tell or show me that you love me" and I offered to make him a list. I still wasn't 100% sure "That Guy" wasn't somewhere in the car, so I thought I was going to get in trouble for that. But instead, my very concerned husband asked for examples. I said "You used to call me just to say hi when I was working. Now you tell me you'll call and then you don't." "You used to ask me how I was doing, how my day was going". "You used to say "Thank you" and "I'm sorry". "You used to tell me how lucky you were to be married to me." "Now all you do is tell me I'm a nag and a bully". And I kept my mouth shut about the spending, and the stealing and the not working and the anger parts.

I started to cry, but I tried to hide it (not very successfully, I'm afraid). And I think he started to see what I was getting at. I'm getting absolutely nothing back from him except grief lately. And you know what he said???

"Well, you know, I really hate to say this, but, well, my memory isn't as good as it should be, and I'm not sure I remember how to not be selfish. I know I've been really selfish these last few months, and I need to stop. Can you make me that list of how I can do better?" Holy Cow. Blow me out of the water.

Here comes that hope again....this is the man I married talking.

I know "That Guy" will be back, he never stays away too long, but I'm hoping that by putting this down in words, that maybe next time "That Guy" is back, I can remember that my DH is still in there somewhere....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Thoughts on the California Wildfires

This blog would be remiss if I did not mention my concern and sadness for the people of California who are living through these horrifying wildfires. The more I read, the more I see on TV, the more real it becomes. I have to confess, that at the outset of these fires, I heard the reporting on the news about "California wildfires" and I just thought, "Oh, well, they go through that every year". But the more I see and hear about these fires, it becomes clear that they are not an "every year" or even an "ever seen before" occurrence. A newspaper here in MN is now reporting that over a million people have been evacuated. I don't remember ever hearing about anything like that before in my life, except possibly Hurricane Katrina. For anyone interested in up-to-the-minute news on the fires and evacuations, click here.

Then I read this story about the brave rescuers who are trying to save pets and livestock. I couldn't even read it to the end. My first thought was "I can't imagine leaving my animals behind in a situation like this". My pets would be the first and only things I thought to grab. But I have heard so many tales about how people had to just drop everything and go, I suppose you do just that and worry about your pets later. I've never been in that kind of situation, so I have no idea what it's like. Undoubtedly it's something that will affect these people for the rest of their lives, even if their houses escape unscathed, so I'm certainly in no position to second-guess them.

I also saw a comment posted to a news story that said something like this: "Nobody cares about all those rich so-and-so's in Malibu, they've got insurance, let 'em burn". And I was appalled. But I have heard similar things from others as I've discussed these fires, so I know it's not an altogether uncommon sentiment. I just can't believe that anyone would fail to have empathy toward their fellow humans because "they're rich". After all, my family is not "rich" by any stretch of the imagination--I'm not sure many people would even regard our income as "middle class" right now, but I (and my family) am undoubtedly "richer" than quite a number of people. And I have insurance. But the prospect of losing my home, my woods, my neighbors, my heirlooms, my memories, that has absolutely nothing to do with how "rich" I am, it makes me want to cry for these people, whether they are millionaires or the housekeeper that scrubs the toilets. And it makes me want to cry for the people who respond with such cruelty. I hate the thought that I am even walking on the same planet as someone as full of hate as that.

Anyhow, if you are reading this and are of the praying type, maybe adding California into those prayers wouldn't hurt? They're added into mine, for sure.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Easy Frugal Recipe

This is a recipe that I use quite often because everyone likes it and it takes about 15 minutes to make, and I can feed 3-4 people for about a dollar per serving or less.

You will need:
1/2 or 1 lb ground beef (average for a pound in our area=2.00/lb)
1 can corn (drained) (about .50)
4 packages creamy chicken ramen noodles (about .60 total)
Makes 4 generous servings, about .80 per serving. Or even less than that if you only use 1/2 lb of meat.

Brown the meat in a large skillet. While you are browning the meat, boil the noodles in a large pan of water until they are done/soft. Don't add the sauce/flavor packet(s) yet.

When the meat is done, drain all but about a tablespoon of the grease from the pan. If you are a healthier person, you can drain all the grease, but the flavor is better if you leave a little in the pan.

Add the noodles to the meat in the skillet, mix well. Leave the heat on for the skillet so that everything heats up. You can cut up the noodles if you like. Add the can of corn to the mix, and all four seasoning packets from the ramen noodles. Mix it all well and serve hot. Serve with a salad or vegetable if you like. I have not yet met a person who doesn't like this.

The reason I say 1/2 or 1 lb of meat is, that if you are really trying to stretch your budget, you can use 1/2 lb of meat in almost any recipe that calls for 1 lb. Your family will probably not notice at all. My family doesn't. Most of the time I use 1/2 lb of meat.

Bipolar Drama Update

Well, after yesterday's drama, I'm sure you're wondering what happened.

Ok, then, well, nothing.

I was very angry. I had a coupon for a $19.99 hotel room and gave some serious thought toward using that, but I didn't want to waste it when the night was almost half over. So I went home and went to bed. And when I woke up, DH's friends were really nice to me, and DH acted like nothing had happened. I'm really afraid of what I might provoke by bringing it up again right now, but rest assured, I will. And of course I will let you know what transpires!

See, I guess I need to explain something about DH's bipolar mood swings. When he is having one, he comes across as very angry (usually) or very excited (usually about something he has spent money on). When he is in either of these states, it is like he is a different person. He's "That Guy". "That Guy" doesn't listen to reason, and he gets angry at the smallest perceived slight. He is irrational, and if I express frustration, "That Guy" is always wanting to "leave". Or kill himself.

"That Guy", however, is not my DH. It feels strange to even type that, let alone try to explain it. DH is a calm, rational person, a person who strives to make me happy, a person who, if I say "I WILL NOT TOLERATE (whatever)", he will make a very strong point of not even coming close to doing that, because he wants me to be happy. He wouldn't argue with me about it, he would just accept the fact that "my wife can't stand (whatever)" and get on with things. "That Guy", on the other hand, is only in it for himself. DH is the guy who, when one of our cats did not want her nails trimmed, and bit him THROUGH his thumbnail, leaving a hole(!), calmly said "Well, I guess she isn't going to let me trim her toenails tonite." He doesn't lose his temper, especially with the animals. I believe it was "That Guy" who was talking yesterday. It doesn't make his actions acceptable, for sure. And whether it's DH or "That Guy" abusing the dogs, it needs to stop. And I will have to address the issue strongly at a time when I'm confident that DH is "all there" and ready to hear what I have to say. It makes it easier for me to wake up and have DH back for a while, and not have to say much about what happened yesterday. Yet, anyhow.

I have a tough time sometimes with "That Guy". Ok, in all honesty, I would like to divorce "That Guy". But every once in a while, DH comes back, and, as I've written before, I a) get my hopes up and b) fail to immediately recognize when "That Guy" has taken over again.

I'm not saying that any of this is my fault, except for my expectations, of course, I DO NOT LIKE "THAT GUY". But DH, well, I love him dearly and want him back really bad. Does that make any sense at all?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Yesterday I stood in line for two hours for free food.

It wasn't a food shelf, though. Because we live in a very poor area, our area employers sponser a truckload of surplus food to come into the community and then they give it all away. They advertise it in the paper for anyone who wants/needs extra food. You don't have to qualify, you could be a millionaire and still get the food. Usually it's cereal, day-old bread, box mixes and some canned goods. I've gone several times. In the past, I've stood in line for two hours and walked out with about $80-$100 worth of food and other goods. The last time I went there was a 10lb bag of frozen french fries which, when cooked, turned out to be the most tasty fries I have ever made. I made the french fries with the frozen chicken patties they sent home with me, and, viola! (tee hee) a free meal!!! I do know that someone pays for it, but to me directly, there is no cost except the time I spend standing in line.

This time, though, here's what I got: 6 20-oz bottles of Diet Coke, 3 boxes generic stuffing mix, 2 boxes Triscuits, 1 box cereal, and a box of macaroni and cheese mix. And I was happy to get it. After all, free is free, right? I am pinching pennies at home, and it will get eaten, for sure. But I was surprised. It was so much less than last time, or the time before. Sometimes we would get chicken leg quarters or generic lunch meat or cans of spaghettios, but mostly I remember that the last time I went (last month), I brought two laundry baskets, they filled them full, and then I needed an extra box, too. This time I only needed half of one laundry basket.

I know the price of food is going up, and that is what I told myself. Kind of scary, though, for sure, because that free food does really help stretch our food budget. But then I read this article called "Poor Stretching Paychecks to Breaking Point" on CNN, and it became clear that it's not just my truck full of free food that's coming up emptier, it's the food shelves, the energy assistance programs, and the people themselves that are coming up empty. I know that since DH hasn't been working, we've been straddling the border between lower class and middle class. And I don't have many luxuries. We have the cheapest satellite TV you can possibly get, because we don't get reception otherwise. I could probably live without the TV--we didn't have a TV for the first 2 years we lived here, but when 9/11 came around, I really wished I had a TV, so I've kept up the cheap satellite service ever since. I've got a cheap cell phone plan because of my long (90-mile one way) commute and DH's mental illness (when he's having a crisis, sometimes it's imperative that he be able to contact someone or that I be able to contact him). We have a pretty cheap (by most peoples' standards) mortgage with a fixed rate. We get eggs from our chickens. I grow some of our own food. I keep a price book. I stock up when things are on sale and I can afford to. It's not like we're taking big vacations or eating out all the time (although DH does like to do this a lot, since I have no idea where he gets his money to do so, I don't count it in our family budget). It's tough out there, folks. And from the sounds of it, it's only going to get tougher. What about the families that waited in line with me for 2 hours who really really couldn't do without that food? Who've incorporated it into their food budget because their rent went up? How long are two boxes of Triscuits going to do it??? Mark my words, I think we're all in for a rude awakening!!!

Bipolar Logic

Hi again!

I was thinking, as long as I'm here debating with myself as to what the smart thing to do is (should I call him and tell him I was wrong, when I don't think I was?) (Is he going to try to kill himself?) (Will he leave?) (Am I expecting too much?) (Am I being unreasonable) etc., I figured I'd add a little more info to the drama.

DH has huge feet. He wears a size 15 shoe. So it's hard to find shoes that fit him. He usually has to spend $100 to find a nice pair of dress shoes.

My cat Tilly was dying of kidney failure this past summer. She went to the "rainbow bridge" in August. She was getting fluids every day, and she was having a tough time making it to the litter box. Apparently she decided that DH's size 15's were good enough, and she used those instead. Several times. He was angry when he found out.

He was very angry. For almost a week all I heard was "YOU OWE ME A NEW PAIR OF SHOES!". I don't figure I OWE him anything. I pay his half of the mortgage. I pay his car insurance. I pay for his cell phone. I have paid for his bounced checks. I have paid bill collectors on his behalf. I took a loan out from my 401k to cover one of his loans. AND HE SAYS I OWE HIM A PAIR OF SHOES???????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now that's bipolar logic. I owe him Jack. He owes me. $300 in gold dollars. Countless dollars that I've shelled out for his prescriptions, his medical bills, his loan(s). Not to mention the mortgage that he hasn't paid for the last year. Or the light bill. Or getting the septic pumped. BUT I OWE HIM A PAIR OF SHOES. right.

Epilogue: With Jim staying with us, DH took his sob story about the shoes to Jim. "How can he go to a job interview without dress shoes?". So Jim goes to the shoe store and DH gets the shoes from Jim. And a $150 pair of steel-toed boots too. This is beyond ridiculous. But I don't think Jim has the full view yet, that DH is a spending machine and will make him broke faster than you can snap your fingers. I think he sees it a little, but not enough.

You know, I re-read this and sit here and wonder: "what on earth am I doing with this loser?"

But he wasn't always like this. And I made a vow. I'm just struggling right at this moment to convince myself that it's all going to be worth it someday.

Oh for Pete's sake!!!

Well, he called me back because he's "scared". I know he's "scared" that I'm going to tell him to leave. I never have yet, but I get closer every time something like this happens.

I told him he should be.

He asked me if I want him to leave, I lied and said "no, but you need to make sure this never happens again. I WILL NOT TOLERATE ABUSE." "Talk to your therapist, get anger management, I don't know, but I WILL NOT PUT UP WITH THIS."

He said he didn't abuse the dog(s) and I said "well, if you had punched ME, it would have been abuse, so what's different?"

He said "WOMAN, I HAVE NEVER HIT YOU." And I said "that is true." "But there's a first time for everything, and when you abuse the animals, it makes me scared and angry."

And he hung up on me. WOMAN. Right.

It sure would be easier if he was gone when I get home. But I suppose he won't be, because his stupid truck is stuck in the woods. Oh. And the gun(s) are home now, too, for hunting season, so who knows what mistakes I've made by trying to be understanding....

Absolutely fed up

Well, earlier today I got a call from DH who had received a call from a bill collector who was threatening to put a lien on our house if he didn't pay up. I have done quite a bit of research on this, because my name is on the house, too, and from what I can tell, the worst they can do is put a lien on it, they can't force us to sell the house or anything like that, because MN has a homestead exemption of $200,000 and our house is only worth half that on a really good day, so as far as having a place to live, I think we're safe, but I am not a lawyer and have never dealt with this before, so I could very possibly be wrong. I advised DH to start filling out his bankruptcy papers ASAP because I do know that if he gets those debts discharged in bankruptcy, nobody can do anything to our house. "Oh, I will do that as soon as I get home."

Well, a couple of hours later I called to remind him to fill those forms out, because he either "forgets" or "never gets around to it" or "gets sidetracked" without a zillion reminders.

The first thing he tells me is that his pickup is stuck really bad on the far edge of our land. "Why on earth did you bring it back there?" "Well, Jason bought a deer stand and we wanted to set it up". Never mind that it has been raining for about three weeks straight, there are puddles in the puddles, and the truck can get stuck back there without any rain...to me this seems like a really really stupid thing. Now he's either got to ask our weenie neighbor who I hate for help, or leave it up there, unless he and Jason come up with some other solution. But waiit!!! There's more!!!!!

Our screen door doesn't close right. It closes but unless you latch it yourself, it doesn't latch. Megan (our lab/pit bull mix) has figured that out and decided she was going to leave. Then DH let Molly out and she left with Megan and they were running up the road. So DH got Megan in the truck by promising her a ride, but Molly wouldn't come to him. I guess his friend Jim got a hold of Molly and put her in the truck. DH says that he "punched her hard" and she bit him. So that pissed him off more, so he kicked her and "threw her in her kennel". I am absolutely speechless and furious. I think I need to ask him to go someplace else. I cannot live with someone who abuses my animals, and I cannot live with someone who scares me. And the fact that he would do that to our innocent animals does scare me.

I'm about ready to cry. I keep expecting him to act like he used to, and things just keep getting worse and worse. I'm afraid of what his not paying the bills will do to me, our house, our family...I'm afraid that he keeps on making really stupid decisions, and I'm afraid because he admittedly used violence towards our animals. I hope he feels bad enough and just leaves. Maybe he can go get a place with his brother. Right now I can't see straight and am absolutely furious.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Jobs for all

Well, today I was able to fill in for the same company that I work for at my second job, but at a different location than usual, only 4 miles away from home. That was a real treat, and I really really wish I could find some work that's closer to home. My main full-time job involves a 90 mile one-way commute, and after doing that for nearly 8 years, it's getting really really old. So my second job, which usually only involves a 30 mile one-way commute, seems so close to home!! But working at someplace just 4 miles away from home, now that's heaven!!!! I wouldn't even need a car, if I could find a job that paid the bills!!! But that's not likely, as it's a small rural town and there are very few jobs of any kind available, especially the kind that pays the bills! But it's still fun to think about, and I do apply for everything that even remotely seems like something I could do, but from what I understand, most of the time you've got to "know someone" to get in around home. Darn.

On a brighter job front, tomorrow DH is meeting with a lady who works for an agency that places mentally ill people in jobs. So he is hopeful that soon he will have a job, and that would be nice too. But then I think about the creditors and how they can garnish your wages or seize your bank account (not that he has one any more), and all the money worries start up again. I sure wish he could get that bankruptcy back on the road. ...I hope that if he starts working again, that maybe he'll be able to contribute to the family again, that would make me feel so much better, and I'm sure he would feel more manly too. But with his last job, he wasn't doing that, he was just spending his entire check(s) on fun stuff, not even paying HIS bills, let alone anything that I was responsible for, so I'm not holding out a lot of hope, but a little, anyhow....

Bipolar hunting solution





I think we have worked out a solution to the deer hunting situation that I can live with.

The guns will be locked at all times, with DH's friend in possession of the key(s). The guns will only be unlocked for hunting, and if DH's friend or I determine that we are concerned about his mental state at the time, the guns will remain locked. After hunting season, the guns will go back to my mother-in-law's house. DH agrees that he is ok with this. I think he believes that I am on some kind of power trip, out to just boss him around or something. When I made it clear that I really don't care what happens to the guns as long as he can be refused access to them if his mental state dictates, he seemed to be less angry, but I still think he doesn't really get it, that this is not me being the "controlling bully" (that's what he has called me in the past, when I've tried to get him to see that certain things that I advocate are in his best interest(s)).

That's been the toughest thing about this whole mental illness thing, HE expects that I (and everyone else) treat him as if he was a normally-functioning adult, and becomes angry when that isn't the case. Even when it is pointed out that right now, he is not a normally-functioning adult, it doesn't matter. So, sometimes I give in to the benefit of a doubt, and treat him as if he was a normally-functioning person, and I end up disappointed, because he continually fails to hold up his end of the bargain. And then the next time it happens, he doesn't remember it at all, so we do it all again.

I always thought that a person with, say, depression, was just sad all the time, or maybe slept a lot. I thought that a person with bipolar was either really really happy or really really sad. Nobody ever told me about this "losing touch with reality" stuff, and the fact that I see it is bad, but the fact that he DOESN'T see it, is even worse.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bipolar deer hunting

We live in a rural area, in the "north woods". The unspoken culture of our area is "All real men go deer hunting. People who don't hunt aren't real men." Basically if you are a male over the age of 12 and have to functioning legs, you are expected to hunt.

The problem I have been having is this: Deer season starts in early November. In March, I took DH's guns away because he was suicidal. Now he wants them back for hunting season. I am damned if I do, damned if I don't, because he is still not mentally stable, although I don't THINK he's suicidal, I'm not absolutely positive about that. But for me to refuse to allow him to have his guns or go hunting or whatever, that is tantamount to me taking away a claim to his manhood and while I don't have a problem with that, he is getting very angry about the possibility. I don't know what to do. I go back and forth. On the good days, I am absolutely positive that it would be fine for him to be hunting, and on the not-so-good days, I'm scared to death of the prospect. It's a horrible place to be in.

And I hate being the "grownup" in our relationship. I hate making the decisions because he doesn't make good ones. Today I'm just tired of worrying about all of it. It's times like this that I just get sick and tired of being married and wish he would just go somewhere else. I know I'll probably get over that, but right now, that's how I feel.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Is my marriage doomed because of bipolar?

I have seen a statistic several times that states that "90% of marriages in which one partner is bipolar end in divorce". I saw it when DH first started to do the wild spending. I looked up the strange things that I was seeing at home, and all my searches came up "bipolar". So I knew for quite a while, even though the "experts" were still treating "depression". And the statistic has stuck with me. When things are going well, and when things are going not so well, that statistic pops into my head and makes me scared.

I can easily see why people would give up. A person can only take so much!

And when I realize that I am vicariously getting some of my emotional needs (regarding appreciation and recognition) met by DH's friends because he is not able to, I wonder about it, and how long it will be before things start to resemble "normal" again, and if I can hang in there that long. Today I am SURE that I can, but all it takes is a lie, or another bad check, or DH getting angry with me because I'm a "controlling bully" and I start worrying again.

It's like finding out you have cancer, and you have a 10% chance of making it. So incredibly discouraging. But I try to keep in mind that even with those kind of odds, 10% do make it, and my goal is to stay in that 10%.

Standing up to Bipolar

Today I read a blog post that advised loved ones to Stand Up to Bipolar.

As I read it, it seemed to speak directly to me, as that is one of the things I've found so difficult with this. I want to be a supportive wife. I want to say to myself, DH, and everyone else that "DH is ill, he can't help himself."

But sometimes it seems that when I do that, I'm really giving him permission to make things even tougher than they already are. Even though I know that the resentment that comes my way when I stand up to bipolar is much less troublesome than some of the consequences of not standing up to bipolar, I tend to choose the pain that will probably happen tomorrow over the pain (of standing up to bipolar) that I KNOW will happen today.

One of the greater aspects of this is DH's memory. I couldn't begin to count the things that he SHOULD be doing that he forgets to do without reminders. I don't know how much of that is due to the bipolar, but I know some of it is, he was never this forgetful before. For example, he decided in May that he needed to file bankruptcy. His creditors are threatening to sue him, and it depresses him to think of all the spending he has done (and is still doing). About a month ago, his mother gave him money to pay for the bankruptcy. (I had given him money a month or two before to apply to the bankruptcy, and he spent that.) He contacted an attorney who sent him some papers to fill out. Those papers have not even been opened, and his mother's money has been long since spent. Every time a bill collector calls, DH gets very depressed and down on himself. It's very clear to me that getting the bankruptcy started could only help, both with his mental state and with the bill collectors calling. But I remind him and I remind him and he never "gets around to it". So as far as I see it, I have a couple of options regarding the bankruptcy:

1) I can tell him that he WILL fill out those papers or I will obtain power of attorney or whatever is applicable and I will do it for him. If I take this option, he will no doubt be very resentful.
2) I can pretend like I think he knows what he's doing. So basically we keep going as we are now.
3) I can tell his mother what has happened with the bankruptcy. This is probably the worst idea.

It's pretty clear that option #1 is the most realistic. I have yet to talk to an attorney about protecting my interests as best I can, I keep telling myself "he is getting better" and that is not helping me any. So this is a situation where I need to "stand up to the bipolar" and I'm finding it terribly difficult. Our marriage has always been a partnership. It is so very far out of my comfort zone to take charge and say "WE ARE GOING TO DO THINGS MY WAY, WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT". It pains me to even think about it, because that is not the kind of person I am, and I continually put off acting like that person in hopes that by the time I get around to it, things will be back to normal.

So the "standing up to bipolar" post was more relevant than I would like to think about. But reading it made me feel powerful.

Comfort and Relaxation

Here I am at work (again, as usual), and I've been thinking about how relieved I am to have DH's friends there this weekend. Not so much because they've been helping me out more than he has, but mainly because they are not mentally ill and they are not tied into buying any of his weird ideas or excuses. That being said, he is still spending huge amounts of Jim's money, but I know that Jim is mentally healthy and will put a stop to it when he feels it is completely out of hand. I also feel comforted by the fact that if something goes wrong at the house, there is someone stable there to take control. I didn't realize how nice that was, until his friends got here.

DH is very worried that his friends are going to realize that he is not the same person he was two years ago, and that they won't like him any more. Jason knows DH has been diagnosed as bipolar, but I don't think Jim knows quite as much, because DH is afraid to tell him. Jason has kind of tended to lose interest in spending time with DH since this started, and I really can't blame him, it's absolutely no fun, even on the best days lately. He's whiney, full of self-pity, and can't do a single thing without spending money, and most of the time, doesn't get around to doing much at all. So when a person is broke, things are even worse. I'm married to him, I'll be there no matter what. But I can see where it would be hard for friends to want to be a part of that. I expect that in the next week or two, I'll have a chance to talk to Jim about everything, if he wants to bring it up (I won't, that's not for me to do), I'm sure he has a lot of questions. DH has told me that he has told Jim "a lot", but I get the impression that it has been "sugar-coated" because he doesn't want Jim to think less of him because of the mental illness. It's a troubling state. I am hopeful, though, that he won't lose these two friends, because they have been his friends since childhood, and so things will probably go on still.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Friends and the Bipolar Hubby

This weekend again, DH has his two best friends over. Usually I abhor company, but I really seem to relax more lately if there is someone else around to keep an eye on DH.

He is still very upset about his brother and wife, every time he talks about it, he gets so agitated, I have to remind him to try not to think about it. He's truly as upset as if he was the one who had been cheated on. Every time he talks about it, he ends up needing to take a pill to calm down. From what I know, though, DH's brother is hurt, upset, depressed, but doing about as well as you could expect.

I think DH's friend Jim (the one who served in Iraq) is starting to see more of what has been going on. He's really been treating DH as if nothing was wrong, but guess what? DH has been spending Jim's money as fast as Jim can get it out of his pocket. I think Jim is starting to see that now. I know Jim gave me a weird look when DH asked me for the check card to buy food, and I wouldn't give it to him, I really wish I would've somehow been able to explain that any food in the house is there because I did NOT let DH have the check card...

Anyhow, one of the things I've been noticing is that DH's friends are really going out of their way to help me around the house, where they never did that before. Jason did ALL of the dishes before I woke up, and Jim, who is also building me the new duck/chicken setup, took care of all of them (ducks and chickens) before I left for work. I went out to do my evening chores and they were all done. It feels really good to have people being considerate again. Not that Jim and Jason have ever been inconsiderate, they're truly quality people. But before all the stuff with DH happened, they were just DH's friends and they really pretty much stayed out of the "helping the friend's wife" thing. It's been so many months where every single thing is always about DH, his ups, his downs, his meds, his appointments, his spending, his lack of job, lack of motivation, etc., and I've kind of lost sight of me in the process. And it feels really good to have someone help out, even if it isn't my DH. More "manly" stuff has gotten done at our house in the last week than has been done all year, and that feels good, too.

Oh, and since infidelity seems to be the topic of the week, don't worry about any infidelity issues with Jim or Jason, they're just nice guys who are friends with my DH. I could never ever do that to DH, and I won't. But I do appreciate them very much, that's for sure. And sometimes they both make a point out of telling DH how great I am (I believe it's an attempt by them to get DH to see how much he has been taking for granted and all that), and I do enjoy that too, because even if DH is not able to appreciate me right now, the fact that his friends think highly of me makes me remember that I am valuable.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Drama roller coaster

Today while I was sleeping, DH woke me up to tell me that his brother (my Brother In Law [BIL]) had found out that his wife of three years had been having an affair for two of those three years.

I have to say, we were all pretty surprised, I don't think any of us had her pegged for something like that....but she has always been pretty hard for me to take.

When DH's brother announced that he was getting married, we were shocked but happy--we didn't even know he was seeing anyone. I was very excited to meet her, because I have always gotten along incredibly well with all of DH's friends and family, so I just assumed that since I got along so well with his brother, I would probably find a new friend in his wife-to-be. I invited them over for a celebration dinner.

That first impression really did color all of my future thoughts about her, though, sad to say. At the time, our 15 year old cat was dying of kidney failure and I was trying to prolong his life until the quality was gone. But he was pretty skinny, and I didn't want her to think that he was skinny because we weren't feeding him or something, so I explained that he was dying of kidney failure and that I was trying to do whatever I could to keep him more comfortable. Instead of saying something like "oh, that's too bad" or even "I'm not really a cat person" or whatever, she gave me this condescending look and said "Everything dies."

That's it. "Everything dies." Because I didn't know that, I was extremely grateful to have that explained to me. Duh.

Ok, so maybe she got off on the wrong foot, right? Maybe she was nervous and said something stupid, right? I really tried hard to give her the benefit of a doubt. They were having trouble living within their means, so BIL wanted me to go shopping with her and show her how I kept our food budget down to a very manageable $125/month. We went to Aldi. That's where I buy a lot of my canned goods, because canned veggies are often $.25/can, and canned soups are .40-.85 a can. And milk at Aldi is about a dollar a gallon cheaper than anywhere else. The catch is that everything is "store brand", meaning not name brand. She would say things like "I only buy brands I've heard of". Ok.

We went to Walmart, where I bought the big bags of Malt-O-Meal cereals. "They're kind of generic, aren't they?" she said, as she stuffed a few $6 boxes of organic name-brand cereals in her cart. Last but not least, we stopped at the local scratch-n-dent store, where I splurged $2.00 on a pound can of coffee (an off brand, of course, but sometimes we don't have coffee at all, because it's really a luxury, isn't it?). She told me that she was sure it wouldn't taste good, she only buys the beans and grinds them herself.

So, my attempt to be frugal with her didn't work. I probably wouldn't be getting any phone calls saying "Carol!!! Did you see the paper??? They've got hamburger on sale for $1.25 a pound!!! Do you wanna come with???" Sigh.

And that was kind of how things went. She was not only condescending to me, but to DH's mom and brothers, too. It got really hard for me to say anything, because I was afraid one of my little sarcastic jabs would pop out, and then the family would think I was trying to start something. But I really had a tough time finding anything to talk to her about, as she knew everything there was to know about everything, and that was that.

And she was not shy about pointing out that she knew everything about everything. Someone would complain about the price of gas. Someone else would say, "Just be glad we aren't in Europe. Gas there is like $10 a gallon." And she would say, "Actually, it's only $9.45 and they buy it by the liter there." "I know because I was there three years ago." So there.

So I didn't like her, and I think that most people who gave her the benefit of a doubt as to what my BIL saw in her, found it difficult to like her, too. My thoughts about the whole thing were that when he started thinking with the upper brain instead of the one in his pants, he would realize what the rest of us already knew, and he would get sick of it and leave her. I would've put money on that scenario. My BIL changes careers and religions at the drop of a hat. I had no reason to think that he wouldn't change wives too :-) Despite the things about her that I just couldn't find a way to like, I never would have dreamed that she was lying to him for two years. But I have to say, I guess it's good that at least I didn't have much love invested in her!

DH, on the other hand, is just devastated for his brother. His brother is planning on getting an apartment and just ending the marriage. DH is almost suicidal over it. He wants to go and tell my sister in law off. He wants to go to his brother's house, even though his brother has not requested it or even hinted at that. I keep telling DH that a situation like this isn't one where most people want their brothers or sisters in law to get deeply involved, except on the support side. "Be there when he needs a shoulder, or someone to help him move, but putting yourself in the middle of this is not going to help things." And he agrees with me, and then starts in again. I do feel bad for my brother in law, I really do. I like him a lot, and I was hoping that he had found the same thing that I had found with DH prior to the bipolar rearing its ugly head.

But he's a big boy, and nobody has a life that doesn't have problems, and he has a plan to get through it, so I think he'll be ok. And if we continually offer love, support, and assistance, maybe if he really needs it, he'll ask.

DH spent the entire day being as upset about his brother's marriage as I think he would have been if he had found out something like that about me (and I am as faithful as they come). He is just devastated. Just going on and on like the world was ending.

I get so tired of all the drama. Sometimes I just let it roll right off my shoulders and don't even react to it any more. Yeah, it's terrible, what's going on with BIL and his wife. Ok, what should we have for supper? There's not much I can do about the situation, so I am not going to waste time stressing out about it. But sometimes I still manage to get sucked in, mostly because on some level I still respond to DH as if he had rational thoughts. So when a rational person, who has always been rational before, thinks that the end of the world is here, sometimes I start thinking that it must really be awful, and I start acting as if that is the case. But not as much as I used to.

OH. And another thing. He TOLD dd about it, too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Repeat after me: Not her business. She's 14. She should not be involved in any way in grownup problems. Especially ones that involve sex. All she would ever need to know is that her uncle and aunt had problems and split up. And she wouldn't even need to know that today. Probably not until Christmas, when BIL's wife wasn't there.
I'm angry about that. He has a hard time drawing the line between "the parents" and "the kid". In other words, if it's something he would discuss with me, he has a hard time not telling her too. And that really wasn't a problem until the bipolar stepped in, either. He used to have a pretty clear idea that there are things you don't share with the kid(s). Argh.

There are all these little things that the "books" don't tell you about mental illness. And I can't begin to put them all into words, but I'm getting better at that.

Ramblings regarding mental health parity, prescription drugs, health insurance, and more!

I've been reflecting on how our lives might have been different right now, if my "good" health insurance had truly been required to provide the care that my DH needed the first time he was hospitalized. DH was in the hospital for three weeks, which is, in itself, remarkable. But he was still suicidal when he left the hospital. His psychiatrist in the hospital had begged the insurance company to allow him another few days' stay, just to see if the meds kicked in, and to make sure that my DH was truly going to be safe. He (my DH) was not only required to leave the hospital before anyone involved in his case (except the insurance company, of course) thought he was "better", but also, two of the drugs that had been prescribed for him while he was in the hospital, were not covered by the insurance at all. (As an aside, Minnesota, the state where I live, does have a mental health parity law, but it can only be applied to insurance companies that operate out of Minnesota. Other insurance companies, like mine, that are based in other states aren't affected by the law.)

I was doing some reading tonite and I read this story about a senator's son, called "What you Don't Know Can Hurt you" and I was convinced that since issues like these mostly tend to affect us working-class people, and you typically don't think that a senator would take notice of something like this, the fact that a senator was affected and decided to try to do something about it, signifies to me that there are probably a lot of unsophisticated people out here who are just being raked over the coals by their "good" health insurance, especially for mental health coverage and issues.

There is such a shortage of prescribing psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners in our area, that if my DH has a bad reaction to his meds, or if they don't work, he has to go to the hospital to get them changed, or else he can wait 6-8 weeks for an appointment. His regular physician is comfortable ordering refills of mental health drugs, but not prescribing new ones. All of this "hurry up and wait" is really hard on the patients and their families.

To me, what all of this says, is that the fact that mental health patients are not being treated in the same way as patients with arthritis, diabetes, and heart problems (parity), is probably doing a huge favor to all those people writing about how the mental health system is overwhelmed, because if people got the treatment and medications they really need before a crisis hits, then maybe it would end up being tantamount to going to the doctor, finding out your blood pressure is high, and getting a prescription for that before you have a stroke. It all seems so common sense, and yet so full of red tape.

Some of you might remember that I briefly touched on the fact that our new prescription drug plan (through my job) is potentially going to kill us next year (See Whew! post, October 6).

I cringe every single time DH takes his pills, which, even with the copays that we won't have at all next year, cost us about $160/month, which, for this newly one-income, not-rich-by-any-standard family, is quite a hefty sum, but if he stays on the same drugs that he is on right now, we will be shelling out over $900/month for prescriptions. So. We basically will probably need to start over with the meds, trying to find cheap ones that work well, because for me to pay for those prescriptions, well, it would be either DH's sanity, or the mortgage. It's a tough call, for sure. But I know I'm not the only one struggling with these issues. I know I'm lucky that I still have insurance of any kind. Like I said, I haven't mentioned any of this to DH yet, I don't need him to be stressing out about this, that's my job for now!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

One of those days

Today I really didn't have much of a chance to talk to DH at all, except for the 27 times I had to wake him up because his friend Jim (the one who is going to build the new chicken house) was knocking on the door, wanting to get going. But once he was really awake, it seems like today was probably another "good" day. I'm not sure if we can credit it to the new meds, to Jim being there, or just to dumb luck, but no matter what, I'll take it.

We had a meeting for DD's IEP plan for school this morning, too. I was so proud of her, all of her teachers had wonderful things to say, and her reading level has gone from the low 4th grade level to the high 6th grade level in ONE YEAR!!! I just beamed all the way home, I'm so incredibly proud of her!!!!

Basically, aside from that, I just slept all day, until I had to take one of our dogs (Kirby--age 14, blue heeler mix) and one of our cats (Ninja--age 1, mutt kitty) to the vet. Kirby has been having some problems with losing weight, it appears that his kidneys are not functioning very well. But I was pleased to see that he had regained all the weight that he had lost in the last few weeks, so with him, we are just going to play the "wait and see" game.

Ninja, on the other hand, has been having an eye problem ever since we got him neutered about a month ago (he was one of those strays that I always seem to end up with!) Anyhow, he has entropion, a condition where the lower eyelid turns inward and the fur/hair rubs against the eye. The vet has seen this often in dogs, but never in a cat (lucky us!) so we have to hope that we can get it fixed without surgery, but it's looking like that might be a possibility. But Ninja doesn't seem too bothered by it, he just sucks up all the attention like a sponge, then flops down on the vet table and shows off his glamorous tummy, just in case someone hasn't noticed that he needs some attention. That cat would take attention over food any day, even if he was starving to death!!!

Anyhow, I guess it's been a good day, apparently any bipolar drama seems to have been contained, and that is always a very good thing!

Hope springs eternal

Well, I was thinking that I was going to post about DH's therapy today. First, he said the therapist helped him sign up with this organization that finds jobs for mentally ill people. I had thought about suggesting that, but I didn't want to offend him, and I didn't know if he was "bad enough" to get involved with something like that, but apparently he is. So my initial take on therapy today was that it gave DH some employment hope.

My second "take" on the therapy (based on DH's description, as I wasn't there), was that DH was upset. He said the therapist was asking him all kinds of questions (for about a half hour!) about me, and that if it was anyone else besides his therapist, he'd think that they wanted to "get to know me better". I think he was puzzled (as am I) and a little upset by this. Also, he apparently discussed the possibility of going to jail for the bad checks with the therapist, and the therapist apparently told him that "it might do him good to sit in jail for a few days" and he was offended by that, too. So on second thought, I didn't think therapy went all that well.

But then tonite, DH seemed more clear-headed and motivated than he had in a long long time. He made an effort to do some laundry, and, he even folded it all!!! (Since this all started, he has been really good at taking clothes out of the dryer and leaving them sit, and that's a pet peeve of mine).

I really enjoyed talking with him tonite. I wish I could be assured that his mind would still be this clear tomorrow, but I know that the odds of that are slim. But a girl can hope, right?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Irony

It's kind of ironic, isn't it, that I have such an interest in money, how to save money, how to conserve money, how to get out/stay out of debt, etc., and I suddenly find myself married to a man with a bipolar disorder, who has such an overspending problem that it could be compared to a hardcore alcoholic needing a drink!

I guess once again I should "count my blessings", because if I didn't pay so much attention to "all things financial", we'd probably be in a much darker place. As it is, things aren't pretty, and I get discouraged, but every once in a while I see a glimmer of light (for just a brief moment) at the end of the tunnel....it's been so hard adjusting our two-income middle class bills to a one-income, almost lower class income. But for the most part, I've succeeded. It's just that discretionary income has really become a thing of the past.

But all things considered, I'm reasonably happy with my finances (today anyway!)

Great blog post on living within your means

Chock full of good advice--I love down-to-earth articles like this!

From Mish's blog:

Drowning in Debt: How do we protect ourselves?

In response to Is the Fed Deflating? I received several reader question similar to this one from Mike:
Thank you for your analysis. Could you please tell me, and others, what we should do to protect ourselves per your warning below?"
"Those who ignore the warnings are likely to drown."
Sincerely, Mike

Thanks for the question Mike. It's a good question and not often discussed enough. Let's add two more words to the very end of the above warning then see if we can answer your question:

"Those who ignore the warnings are likely to drown in debt."
The best way to avoid drowning in debt is to not get into debt in the first place. Those who are in debt should attempt to get out of it as quick as they can. The way to do this is simple: Live within your means or better yet live below your means.Those who carry credit card balances from month to month are not living within their means. Far too many people treated their house as an ATM, taking out cash to pay off credit cards, only to run up credit card or auto loan debt time after time. The housing ATM is now shutoff but consumers keep buying more than they can afford. The result is that credit card debt is soaring once again.

The number one rule in all of this is:
Don't Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford

Click here to see one of the funniest Saturday Night Live skits ever.

In this tenuous jobs market (see Moonbats Active Again in Massive Jobs Disaster), one needs to be prepared for the loss of a job. It can happen at anytime in any industry. The housing spillover has just started. It is highly likely the financial sector will continue to get hit. A downturn in commercial real estate and retail appears to be starting.The Wall Street Journal reported Durable goods orders declined 4.9%. Target and Lowe's both warned. See Target Warns and Blames Florida - Lowes Blames Dry Weather.Just as the housing problem spread from subprime to Alt-A to prime, job losses are highly likely to spread from housing, to commercial real estate, to retail. To protect oneself from a loss of income, it is imperative to have actual cash savings in a money market, short term treasuries, or short term CDs. Those barely able to make home payments now and who have no cash savings, will be in serious jeopardy if they lose a job. Don't be one of them.

Have a Years' Worth of Living Expenses in Cash
Before thinking about vacations, new cars, or even investing, I would recommend for people to have 12 months of living expenses in cash, short term CDs, or short term treasuries. Those who say "cash is trash" have never lost a job for an extended period of time. I have and I know what it's like. Consider a decision to have "emergency cash on hand" as sound financial planning and as an additional means test on purchases as well. Can you really afford an expensive vacation, a boat, or a new car if such purchases would deplete your savings leaving nothing for emergencies like the loss of a job?

Buy Food On Sale
Food prices seem to be soaring. Get an electrically efficient freezer and buy what's on sale. Food can easily last three to six months or longer, if properly wrapped in plastic and/or freezer paper. My parents did this. Mom would buy what was on sale, dad would wrap it in freezer wrap and label and date the package. It seems to be a lost art.
Even as non-sale prices seem to be rising, sale prices on meat (the largest part of our food budget by far), have hardly budged for six years. I routinely get center cut pork chops for $2.49 or so but the regular price is now often $4.49 or higher. Whole chickens, vacuum sealed so they don't even have to be wrapped can be purchased on sale for .49 lb. or so. I wonder how they can raise them for that price.
Last week I bought round steak for $1.49 lb. Round steak was a loss leader at .99 lb when I worked in a grocery store in 1971. That's hardly any inflation in over 30 years! Many stores will grind meat for free. Why pay $3.98 lb for ground round when you can pick up a round steak for $1.49 and have the butcher grind it for free? It's the same thing with ground chuck. Besides, you also know exactly what you are getting that way as opposed to buying a package of ground beef wondering "what the heck is in this and how fresh is it?"
Prime rib on sale is $4.99 lb not on sale is $10 lb. A 20 oz bottle of White Rain shampoo is .99. If you buy the advertised name brand shampoo it will cost over 5 times a much and it won't clean your hair any better.If you can't afford to eat out, then don't. Even if you can afford to eat out there is nothing wrong with cutting back on the frequency and saving for a rainy day.

Consider Wants vs. Needs vs. Affordability
Do you really need an SUV? Can you afford one? What about the cost of filling it up? Auto sales persons, real estate agents, and in fact nearly every sales person's job is to convince you that what you are looking at is affordable. If one has to stretch a car payment out to 5 years to be able to "afford" it, the car is simply not affordable in my book. But even if the car is affordable what about the increase in auto insurance? The salesperson is 100% guaranteed not to mention it.
Cars, trucks, and boats are depreciating assets. If they are depreciating faster than you are able to paying off the loan, then they are not really affordable. It's best to pay cash for such items. But if you can't do that, at least make sure you are not upside down in the loan a few years down the road.
Interest only loans and teaser rates on houses do not make houses affordable either. Many are finding that out the hard way right now. Perhaps the sales agent forgot to point out escalating association dues, hurricane insurance costs, property tax, and heating bills when considering "affordability".

Reduce Leverage
Paying down mortgage debt is a reduction in leverage. It's a good idea. In contrast, some financial advisors are recommending that people take out home equity loans and buy stocks. This advice is based on the premise that the stock market always goes up over time. The current advice is to Aim High. I disagree.
Didn't we just hear the same thing about home prices?
At 20% down homes are already highly leveraged. Increasing leverage for the purpose of investing stands a good chance of losing twice. All it takes is a continued decline in home prices and another bear market in equities. Both are likely. Risk is a two way street. It is not always rewarded. Leveraging up and throwing the rest into stocks is simply poor financial advice no matter how it turns out.
Stock prices and housing prices fell for 18 years in Japan. The same can happen here. I'm not saying they will, I am saying they can. There certainly have been many 10-20 year periods where stocks went down to sideways. It's a huge mistake to judge things from the recent bull market.

Consider Retirement Plans
The closer one is to retirement the more risk avoidance is likely to come into play. The key here is to understand your timeline as well as your risk tolerance. Someone five years from retirement does not have ten years or longer to break even if the market takes another slump. Someone in the S&P and holding from 2000 is just now back to even.
Look at LBOs now being balked at by Citigroup (C), Lehman (LEH), Merrill Lynch (MER), Goldman Sachs (GS), and Bear Stearns (BSC). As long as they could securitize the debt they were fine in pumping it. Buyout Bingo has now stopped. If Citigroup does not want the debt or the deals why should anyone else?
One of the reasons that earnings have been high is underwriters were able to pass the CDO and mortgage trash to pension plans and foreign investors, collecting enormous fees along the way. Another reason was that people continued to buy stuff they could not afford, primarily on the belief that home prices would continue rising.
Investors needs to understand how the credit binge affected earnings as well as the likelihood that the credit binge grinds to a halt. Traders have no such considerations.
No one really knows for sure if stocks are going to drop or not drop, but they certainly are nowhere near as cheap as most make them out to be. Historically stock market returns with this backdrop have been weak to poor. Is this time likely to be any different?
Bear markets have a way of exposing fraud and all sorts of other problems. One look at housing should be proof enough. The stock market is not immune either. Risk has increased and one should factor that risk assessment into investment decisions.

Challenge Traditional Thinking
The past several years have been rather amazing. Nearly every asset class around the globe rose in unison. This is not normal market behavior. What was correlated on the way up can easily be correlated on the way down. In that regard, diversification does not guarantee success nor does traditional thinking.Traditional thinking still boils down to a recommendation of buying a mix of stocks and bonds (with bonds specifically meaning corporate bonds). Unfortunately there is no magic formula that can properly allocate stocks and bonds in a portfolio by a person's age as some attempt to do. And if the economy is headed into an economic slowdown, default risk will rise and corporate bonds (especially junk bonds) are likely to be punished.
In general, corporate bond spreads are simply too low vs. treasury yields to make them a good buy at this juncture. But that has not stopped advisors from recommending them.
There are ways to hedge stocks but those ways are seldom mentioned by advisors. And there is nothing at all wrong with seeing increased risk and pulling some chips off the table. There are also currencies, commodities, and precious metals to consider.
Advice on all these issues has to be given individually and that advice also needs to consider the goals, risk tolerances, and timelines of the investor as well. That is what we do at Sitka Pacific Capital Management. Mike Shedlock / Mishhttp://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/

Gold Dollars


Throughout my marriage I've collected the "gold" Sacagawea dollars and Susan B. Anthony dollar coins, and more recently, the presidential "gold" dollars. It's been my way of saving some "emergency" cash that I have on hand, just in case something Katrina-like happens, where people can't access their money via ATMs or whatever. My collection hasn't been huge, I add a few dollars to it here and there when I have a couple of one dollar bills in my pocket and happen to be near a place where I can get the gold dollars. My logic for saving gold dollars as opposed to "regular" money has been that if I have fifty one-dollar bills, it's a lot easier to grab them and justify an "emergency" trip to WalMart, where the gold dollars would be harder for me to break down and spend, because I like them and they're different.

DH has always known that I've collected them, the last time I counted them, we counted them together, there were 260 gold and silver dollars in the bucket. That was probably about two years ago, and I have regularly added at least a dollar every week or so, sometimes as much as $15, when I'm feeling "rich". The gold dollar collection has been a huge source of security for me. I figured there had to be $400-$500 in there now. And if that relatively small amount wouldn't necessarily pay our mortgage in an "emergency", it would buy gas if we ever needed to evacuate, and it would buy food if we needed cash.

About two weeks ago, I cashed my paycheck for my second job, and got three new "gold" dollars. As I was adding them to the bucket, I thought to myself, "I wonder how much I've got now", and counted my bucket of gold dollars.

$112. That's it. The rest was gone. I knew who had taken it, because there were only two people who had access to that bucket, and I wasn't the one who had spent that money. The only other person was DH, as the bucket is in our bedroom, which is always locked due to DD stealing from us when she first came to live with us. Only DH and I have keys.

I was devastated. I had been robbed by my own husband. I knew it was the bipolar again, he had to find some money to spend, and there it was. But that didn't help me feel any better. My security, my collection, all the pride I took in that I had found a way to save cash and keep it in the house and not spend it. Even just writing this is making me feel sick to my stomach.

I left the bucket where it was, on the bed, and went for a drive to clear my head. I decided I would go back home, take care of the animals, and go for another drive. When I got home, DH was just leaving, he was suicidal because he knew what he'd done, he knew what it had done to me, and he felt like I would be better off if he killed himself. So then, as DH's therapist so gently puts it, "DH messes up big time, hurts you big time, then gets suicidal, then you comfort him, then he's off the hook for what he's done, because you are worried that if you express your anger, he'll kill himself."

And that's right on the money (no pun intended). I am not able to bring up how angry I am, how hurt I am, how betrayed and disrespected I feel, because even though it was DH that messed up, he can get suicidal and I shut up. What a dysfunctional marriage.

Anyhow, I'm trying to get past that, although every one of these incidents that happen tears away at my love for him, I'm trying to just be understanding and wait for the meds to start working. I really don't know what else to do, but I suspect that if DH ever gets back to a level where I could expect a relationship between equals, the gold dollar thing will be something that will need to be addressed in some kind of counseling, as I am stuffing a lot of anger right now.

My current problem regarding the gold dollars is this: the other day I had three dollars in my pocket, and usually, if I found myself with extra money like that, I would run and get some gold dollars. I thought about it. And I couldn't do it. I just thought to myself "what's the use, I saved and saved and don't have anything to show for it anyhow." I know I need to get back up on the horse again, so to speak, but I'm really discouraged about all aspects of my (and our) finances right now, and I have worked so hard, it's like trying to swim up a river with a cement block tied to your foot.

And that doesn't even take into consideration the fact that there is no place in the house now that is sacred, where I could trust that my gold dollar collection would be untouched. I could keep it in the bank, but the point of having those dollars in the house was for non-computerized access to cash. I have a savings account at a bank already.

I was thinking that maybe putting all these thoughts down in the blog would make me a little clearer-headed on what I need to do next, but now I'm just feeling sick and discouraged, even though I do feel a little more unburdened than I did before writing. The right answers, I guess, will come to me when the time is right.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

I've created a bookworm!

Well, you might recall that I mentioned my daughter (dd) and the fact that she is adopted and that she has special needs. Well, I just wanted to share with you an amazing milestone.

When she first came to live with us, she didn't have any stories to tell about her own life. All of her stories about "her" life were taken from TV shows. For example, when we had sparklers for the 4th of July, she told us a story about "herself" that was almost a verbatim recitation of a scene from a movie that DH had recently seen, where a little girl does cartwheels with sparklers, and dances. She told us how she always does cartwheels and dances when she has sparklers, and described exactly the same scene as the movie. Then when we handed her a sparkler, she was terrified, LOL.

She had no interests at all except TV and movies. And the kicker was that she could not read at all and she could not write. At age 8. Not a bit. She had been attending a special day treatment center where academics weren't as important as good behavior, and so she really had no reason and no encouragement to read or write.

I set out right away to change that. When she misbehaved, she always had to write an essay about what happened, what she was feeling, and what she needed to do different next time. We started a routine bedtime story. And required her to read for 30 minutes every day, whether it was a school day or not. Oh how she fought to not have to read!!!! But now it's just another part of her day. She comes home, does her homework, and then reads for a half hour, usually out loud, because when we started the "read every day" rule, we only knew if she was really reading if she was reading out loud.

This fall, she took some standardized tests at school and for the first time ever, her reading score fell into the "low normal" category, and so we had a celebration to recognize all her hard work.

Tonite, though, took the cake. DH was driving one of his friends home, and I needed to take a nap before work. DD was home and was instructed to be quiet and not wake me up unless someone was bleeding or the house was on fire.....I woke up shortly before her bedtime, and went to get her ready for bed, and there she was, lying on the couch, reading a chapter book!!!! And nobody made her do it. And she wasn't grounded from the TV. She was reading because it was a "good story". I have just been beaming from ear to ear!!!

Counting my blessings

Even though this journey through mental illness has not been something I would have asked for, I truly have a lot to be thankful for, and sometimes I forget that. Here are a few of those:

1. We bought a relatively inexpensive house, and so far I have been able to pay most of the important bills.
2. We both have strong family ties and both of our families have helped us with financial stuff and emotional stuff.
3. While we have been hesitant to share the truth about DH's bipolar, the friends who DO know what is going on, have, to the best of their abilities, been supportive, and even if they are uncomfortable with the situation, they have not abandoned us.
4. Our daughter, who was pretty unstable for several years before this, has been mostly stable for the last several months.
5. Because of our daughter's special needs, we have been less troubled about receiving services via the county than we would have otherwise.
6. I had learned to conserve money and to be frugal before I was forced to live that way.

As I was typing, I realized that there really is an endless list of things I am thankful for. And most of all, I need to remind myself that there are families that are going through much more troubling times that ours is--it's just that I have never dealt with these issues before, so I guess I still have a lot of whining to do! But I do understand that our problems are probably pretty small compared to some of yours, and remembering that also helps me remember to be grateful.

Friends are good

Well, today DH has two friends over. One friend knows what has been going on, and I think doesn't really know how to handle it, so he hasn't been calling or coming over as much as he used to, and it really bothers DH. I don't know what to say, though, because if I went to my friend's house and my friend just stayed in bed all day and didn't want to do anything, I probably wouldn't be all that excited about coming over there either.

The other friend, Jim, was a soldier in Iraq for two tours of duty. When he got discharged, he went to Egypt to work as a civilian "mercenary" and made really good money. He knows a LITTLE about what's been going on, and he even gave DH $2000 (!) to bail out his checking account a couple of months ago (it didn't work, it's back in the negative again, of course), but he doesn't really know the true extent of what has been going on. He does know that I've been working 2 jobs, and DH hasn't been working at all. I get along well with Jim, although he has more energy than I think I've ever had....anyhow, I guess he told DH that he wants to build me a new chicken house and a new duck house (!) I tried to get some pictures of the chickens, but I think it was at the wrong time of day--anyhow, the chicken house and the duck house are really falling apart, and DH hasn't been able to help me fix them. I've done what I can, and made them draft proof and all, but they look bad, because I don't have all the tool knowledge that I probably should have. So it sounds like I will be getting new houses, paid for by Jim!!! It feels a little weird to have one of DH's friends do something like that for me, there is no way I can pay him back except with home cooking and the occasional conversation, but I am not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, for sure!

I counted last week and right now we have 41 chickens (not counting the 2 mamas sitting on eggs). About 15 of those are roosters and I just don't have the heart to do anything with them. I know if I sell or give them away, pretty much their only value is in someone's soup pot, and I hate the thought of that. So Jim proposes that the new chicken house will have one part just for roosters, so I won't have to part with them, and if they are away from the "girls", then they hopefully won't fight with each other.

And the best part of all of this, although I'm excited about the chicken house and the duck house, is that DH is so happy to have his friends here, and so today has been a really good day. He even bought me a frozen pizza at the store (I am really really hoping that Jim paid for it, he's the only one around here with money!) so that I would have something for supper at work tonite. And he volunteered to give Molly her ear drops, too. (Of course, I'll have to remind him about a dozen times to do it, but the thought is so nice). I really get my hopes up on days like this, and even though after all this time, I know that "what goes up must come down", and that in a day or two he'll probably be depressed again, I welcome these "good" days with open arms.

Molly McMutt


Here is a picture of my dog Molly, whom I referred to in the previous post. As near as we can guess, she's a mix of Collie and German Shepherd. But we aren't sure at all, because I found her in a parking lot; she was all skin and bones, and at that time, she had curly hair, like a poodle!!!

But now her hair is long and flowing, she is a beautiful dog. And smart as a whip, too. Molly is by far the smartest dog I've ever met, and we currently have five dogs, so I am not exaggerating. She is also by far the happiest dog I've ever met, and the dog who most enjoys having her picture taken (she knows she's glamorous!)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Whew!!!


Well, nothing like a little panic to set your priorities straight! I just got a look at our new prescription plan for next year and whoa. It looks like DH's prescriptions are going through the roof. I have no idea how to pay for these, I can't pay what they cost now, and that's nowhere near what they will cost next year. It's pretty sad when you have a "good job" with insurance and you can't afford to use it and you can't afford the prescriptions. I'm hoping we can get some kind of assistance somewhere, or things will be looking pretty bleak.

Even if I stop contributing completely to my 401k, which is the only retirement we have, I still don't think there's any realistic way I can cover those prescription costs. I'm scared. But I won't tell DH yet, because it'll probably send him into another tailspin and he hasn't recovered from the one last night.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Something's just not right

I just got off the phone with DH again and I don't know what to think (more drama, of course). He sounds like he's had too much to drink or is overmedicated or something, his voice sounds "thick" like it's hard for him to talk, almost like it's such a struggle to be conscious that he can't talk right.

He swears that he hasn't done anything he shouldn't, and that he hasn't overdone any of his PRN Lorazepam that he takes for anxiety. I don't necessarily believe him, of course, I've been lied to too many times throughout this ordeal. When I asked him what he was so upset about last night, he still doesn't know. He says he doesn't feel right. When I asked him again if I had said or done something to upset him, he says he doesn't know.

I don't know what to do to stop worrying. I worry that the animals are making him angry because he isn't usually alert enough to pay attention to their patterns. For example, Molly, one of the dogs, needs to go outside at midnight, otherwise she will NEED to go out before 7am. But I'm not sure that when I'm gone, he can remember that, and then I think he gets angry when she needs to go out at 4am because she's been holding it since midnite. But he gets so angry over so many things these days, I don't have a clue how to stop all the things that make him angry.

P.S. In case you were wondering, I don't think he gets abusive towards the animals when they make him angry (when I'm not home), he just gets angry. Although I have been thinking about getting some sort of recording device just to make sure....nobody (none of the animals) seems afraid of him, and nobody seems any worse for wear when I get back from work, so I'm about 85% sure that he doesn't hit them or kick them or anything like that...

Marriage: Not as simple as it looks

I talked with my best friend last night, she’s the only one who knows what is going on at our house, but I sense that she is uncomfortable listening to the things I tell her, so I don’t share as much as I would like. Anyhow, the things she said made me sad. She confessed that she believes her husband is cheating on her with other women and with their 18 year old foreign exchange student, too. She told me that he hasn’t kissed her or held her in over three years, not even when she asks. I told her she didn’t deserve that, and she said some very sad things: “I really don’t care what he does any more, as long as he doesn’t knock anybody up”, “I can’t afford to leave, we’ve got too much debt for me to go anywhere, so as long as he keeps bringing in his paycheck, I’ll keep up the fa├žade” and then she said the thing that floored me in a way, but on another level, I completely knew what she meant: “If he just stopped coming home, that’d be fine with me.”

And I could relate, I really could, with that statement. I get so tired of the mood swings and the ups and downs, three different times now, he has gotten angry enough with me to walk out, and then he comes back. But you know, when he has been gone, things are so much more predictable, so much more stable, I confess, that sometimes I do feel the way my friend does.

I didn’t sign up for this. I remember how I used to share every thought with him, how supportive he was, and how he always wanted to do things around the house because it would make my work easier. I remember how he would remember my little comments like “I wish our kitchen was yellow” and I would come home from work to find that he had painted the kitchen yellow. I remember how thoughtful he was, and how he could calm me down when I wasn’t thinking straight. And now all that is gone, and I really feel like I got myself another special needs child, except he has access to adult situations, like work, banking, credit, and I can’t control him at all.

He finally called me today (I’m working again) and told me he had no idea why he was so angry last night. I asked him if I said or did something wrong, “No”, I asked him if something happened at home , “No”, he just didn’t have any idea why he was so angry. That’s pretty typical. A lot of times he gets extremely angry over little things that usually don’t make him (or anyone else) angry, and usually things that would make people say “oh, bummer”, become the end of the world.

Sometimes I wonder whether, even if he gets completely better (and how likely is that), how much our marriage will have been affected. I’ve become the “person in charge” by default in a marriage where all decisions used to be made jointly. It was difficult to become that person, it’s not who I naturally am, and I’m not sure what, in the long run, it will do to our relationship. I do know, though, that despite all my misgivings and seemingly negative thoughts, that if our roles were reversed, I would want him to stand by me, and I can’t assume that his needs are any different.

Confused and Frustrated

That ought to be the title of about every other post on this blog!
The last three days have been "good" days, and since DH's Seroquel dose was upped, and they added Lamictal into the mix, I thought that maybe the good days were the result of the new/additional meds. So, once again, I started to think we were going to get back to normal. But apparently they were just as much of a "fluke" as usual.

From what I understand, some bill collector called (they call all the time these days) regarding a check that he wrote over the summer that bounced and apparently (surprise) hadn't been taken care of. Some other collector had called for the same reason (albeit a different check) last week, too. Anyhow, both of these collectors said that if he didn't cough up the money, that they were turning it over to their attorney(s). He asked what that meant, and was told that a warrant would be put out for his arrest. He hasn't worked since August, so basically the only way he can get these checks taken care of is by me neglecting some other bill so that I can pay off his bad checks. Which I have already done several times this year, but have been told by his therapist not to do any more--he made the mess, he has to deal with it.

It's hard for me to watch him be so upset and so worried, I really am fighting back my urge to help him, although all the other times I've paid off checks for him hasn't convinced him to stop writing them, so maybe he really does need "tough love". I don't know. All I know is that he's really down today, and he's insinuated that if our positions were reversed, he would pay my checks...and that makes me feel mean and guilty....but I've paid checks, I've paid bills, I'm on the line for loans that I never signed for....(remember back in the beginning when I told you to make note of that loan that we got for the well? Well, apparently in my "happy marriage" naivete, I apparently signed an "open-ended" loan agreement, which basically said that either of us could take out a loan without the other. I KNEW he would never abuse my trust...anyhow, earlier this year he moved his 4-wheeler loan and his truck loan (totalling about $13,000) from a different bank to that bank, with neither of us realizing that by him doing that, it made me jointly responsible for those loans)...anyhow, I am sick to death of paying things that he messed up, but I also don't want to see him feeling bad.

What if his current depression is only related to those bills he incurred when he was "not in his right mind" and maybe by not paying them, I'm making things worse? On the other hand, how many times have I paid things and things just kept going full speed ahead? (debt-wise)....and what do I do if he goes to jail? Do I bail him out, or is that enabling too? I never in a zillion years imagined that I would have to wrestle with these types of thoughts.

Anyhow, on to tonite. I'm at work. Every time I called him to see how he was doing, he sounded really really down. I had to remind him four different times to go and close the door on the chicken house. (That's basically the only 'chore' that I expect him to do while I'm at work). And when I called him for time #5, he didn't answer the phone. When I finally got him on the line (after 20 minutes), I asked him if everything was ok, and he said he had to "cool down" before he talked about it. Talk to you later, bye. And I haven't heard from him since. So that leaves me so open-ended--wondering what on earth is going on and I'm afraid to call him and upset him more.