Friday, September 17, 2010

Leaving Eden

Things had gotten ridiculously hard after Michael was born. Within the second week of his life a bill had already arrived announcing how much his first stay in this world had cost: $250,000.

Steve and I had always tried to be self-sufficient. We had had to turn to family at times, but we always liked to repay the debt. There would be no way that we could pay for this baby by ourselves, and the realization was frightening and humbling.

As we looked into alternate methods to pay, we looked first to the hospital charities that were available. They took care of the bulk of the first charges. Then we turned to the state and got accepted for Medicaid. With the medical bills in some sort of order, we then started feeling the crunch elsewhere.

Steve had lost his tele-commuting web work job during the dot com crash. He tried working at a local computer store in a town 45 minutes away from home for a little while, but when he realized that he was making less there than he could doing his own business, he drove full force into the entrepreneurial life.

We had owned and managed a web hosting company for about 5 years, and though it paid some of the bills it had never managed to pay them all at once. Steve spent all of his time trying to bring in more web hosting clients, and I got some work for us building websites for a few local companies.

Steve had taught me html, and though I was still very shaky on the how-to's of building a website I wanted to help out too, so I came up with the ideas for the layout and he wrote the code. We charged $200 per website, which was nothing to sneeze at, but after all of the time it took to create them we were probably just making minimum wage.

Before Michael was born, Steve and some friends had started a wireless internet company... or tried to. In the fall and spring they could get reception, but during the summer when all of the leaves were on the trees the signal remained low. They tweaked, and worked, and got dishes up on cell phone towers, but no matter how hard they tried, their best wasn't good enough and after a year and a half they threw in the towel.

Unfortunately, a new business is expensive to start, and each of them had invested a lot of time and money, and just because they decided to call it quits, our credit card company still wanted their money.

When I learned that we had put $20,000 on the credit card in expenses for the business, I was devastated. We were making such a small amount of money a month and didn't have any extra. We were bound tightly. We worked hard and had little to show for it. The time came when we were only able to make interest-only payments on our mortgage.

My mind started turning to Utah, where we were both from. Good paying jobs were easy to find there with Steve's skill-set. My family was all there, sans one brother and sister-in-law, and Steve's grandma and lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins were all there. In Kentucky, we had Steve's parents and some younger siblings, and they had been a wonderful help while Michael had to go back time and again for more surgeries and I went with him and left Steve to being a single parent raising our other 5 children alone for weeks at a time. Maybe going back to Utah would provide some relief financially and we could spread out the need for help throughout a wider family network there. I talked to Steve and he agreed, telling me that he had been feeling the same way. So we put the house up for sale in November and had a buyer by January.

The cold and flu season hit our family hard that year. Instead of packing for the move, we were nursing each of the children, each other, and ourselves. When the day came for the move, we were ill prepared.

Many from our church family came to help us pack up the rest of our things into boxes and then into the moving truck. I asked one friend to direct everyone as to where to put things and what to do, and I sat and fed Michael and tried to keep him warm while we had the door opened most of the time in that February weather.

Eventually it was all ready to go, and my heart panged. This had been my Eden, my haven from the real world. Though I had been anxious to get moved so that the terrible financial struggles would end, now I almost regretted that decision: leaving the markings on the wall that showed how my kids had grown, leaving my beautiful soapstone woodstove, leaving all 120 acres of my haven that had made me feel like Simba, because everything that the sun touched was mine. My heart felt so heavy as we drove down that driveway for the last time.

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