Alright, time to clear up the mystery of what's really been going on in the life of the Ashleys. It's not easy to share, or to even admit to myself that it's all actually happening.
I found out a few weeks ago that my job is being reduced to part time. This actually ended up being good news because by the time I was told, I had convinced myself that I was being laid off completely and was already in full on panic mode.
I have to preface this all by saying that I work for a fantastic company. I know this decision isn't anything personal, my supervisor is probably the best boss ever, and the corporation itself isn't some faceless, scheming empire or anything. I work for a big company in desperate times and have been impressed with their compassion, and inspired by some of the emails from our higher-ups.
It is just really hard because I LOVE my job. Shout it from the rooftops--LOVE MY JOB. It was my dream situation and has made me so happy. That sounds so bizarre to say about a job of all things, but really--it was fantastic. It makes me really sad that things have to change. Even above and beyond the money situation, I am going to miss working full time. I enjoyed keeping my brain busy that way.
However, from a financial standpoint...this situation makes things impossible. When Mr. Ashley took his new job last year, his salary was half of his old job and me getting this job made up the difference. It has worked for this past year and enabled us to continue bailing out our sinking ship, but this new turn of events means it is time to put down the buckets and look for a life raft.
Unfortunately, my city was just listed as #3 on a list of places with the worst job markets. I know waiters with 10 years experience in the finest dining establishments in town that can't get a job waiting tables at the new Chili's. A second job is most likely not a realistic goal right now. Our area has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and we're going into "off season", where commerce slows down dramatically for several months.
We cut out just about all of our extra expenses back when Mr. Ashley lost his job last year and the only significant one left to cut is............housing. Ugh. We can no longer afford the house.
Cuntrywide (that's how I spell it now) isn't too worried about it, but obviously we are. We built this house. We brought two babies home to this house. This house has the spanish tile porch inlaid with the handpainted Talavera tiles from Mexico given to me by a really cool, world traveling old lady. We helped design the slate mosaic backsplash that was created by three Croc wearing, pot smoking lesbians. It took me 5 years of bitching to get Mr. Ashley to put up my custom address plaque. I have the bath tub of my dreams here. We put a lot of real money down on this house, proceeds from our first home which was a foreclosure that we put a ton of sweat equity into.
It royally sucks, truly. It feels like we're going through the 7 stages of grief here, shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger and bargaining, depression and I think we're just now rounding the corner to acceptance (but I still cry about it every day, accepting it doesn't mean it doesn't completely break my heart.)
I am nowhere near comparing the pain of losing a house to the pain of losing a person though. Both of my bestfriends have lost their fathers to cancer within the last couple of months and Catfish's mom is now battling cancer as well. If anything, the unfairness and the hurt of all that has made me realize that my situation is not that bad. It is scary, but it is not tragic.
I also realized at Catfish's dad's funeral that I was living my life wrong. That we were so busy trying to keep it all going and stay above water that there was no time to enjoy life. We were stressed and tired. We worked too much. We prioritized wrong.
Catfish's dad's eulogy got a standing ovation. The church was packed like it was Christmas mass. He made an impact and you could undoubtedly say he lived a good life. It made me realize that I want to re-prioritize and love my family more and appreciate my friends more and try to be a person who truly enjoys and lives life. It's just money, it's just a job, it's just a house--you only get one life.
We've decided to move while our credit is still good for fear that it will get trashed while Cuntrywide makes us play these bizarre games with them, and because the thought of possibly being forced into the rental market with bad credit, school aged children and four pets is terrifying.
We've found a house to rent in a great school district, in a great neighborhood, that's as big as ours for considerably less. We'll put this house on the market and hope that the mortgage company will eventually consider a short sale or a deed in lieu of foreclosure or something. It's really hard to think like this, and so scary. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and think, "We are crazy. What are we doing? We can't do this!" but then I realize that it isn't really a choice, and that there really isn't any other way. Sure, we could stay until they kicked us out but that's not right either and would be even more nerve wracking.
It's also so embarrassing. I feel like all of my hard work for the last ten years has dissolved into nothing. I'm going to be working a part time job and living in a rental. That was definitely not in the Life Plan.
I was walking around Target the other day and found myself overcome with anger and resentment that this was happening to me. My eyes burned with tears and my hands itched (a fun, new anxiety symptom of mine) and I thought again that if there was a God, I was pretty pissed about the state of the world right now and who needed Him anyway.
Just then I rounded an aisle and leaning up against a stack of towels in completely the wrong section, was a big sign that said, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."
It is so corny, and you all know I don't do a lot of touchy-feely cheesiness or anything, but I felt like there was my sign. (I didn't buy it or anything, because I'm poor and all.) How many times have I hoped for a sign that things would just be okay, and there it was, leaning against the towels in Target.
I felt like laughing out loud when I saw it and it's been a bit easier to look forward instead of back since then. I'll still get to do my job and make some money, I'll have lots of time to be with my kids (who I love more than ever, achingly so, same with Mr. Ashley--when you're facing your worst case scenario, it's amazing how much easier it is to focus on those you love), I'll have a nice home in a nice neighborhood that I can actually afford, we will all be okay.
So there it is. The thought of telling you all was worse than the thought of admitting it to family and friends. I told Mr. Ashley that it would have been easier when things still felt more anonymous and he quipped, "Oh, the price of fame!" which cracked me up and made me realize how silly I was to care what the Internet thinks. He also brought up that others are going through the same thing and that if sharing it even made one person feel better about being in a parallel situation, then it was worth sharing. Yeah, it's embarrassing and difficult but we have no false pretenses around here about me being perfect or anything. Because I'm definitely not.
So, stay tuned to hear about the New, New Life Plan, and the ups and downs that house hunting brought us, and the joys and pains of moving with the ever neurotic Big Kid.