January 22, 2012

It was a cold, clear day; no leaves left on the tall sticks in our backyard that we used to refer to as trees.  In January, the dead of winter here in the Midwest, the Sun sets before dinnertime.  I’ve always found this time of year to be somewhat depressing because of that. The only good thing about daylight savings time, if you’re in an area that participates in the age-old tradition of resetting your clocks twice a year, is that it forces you to get up and at ’em at an earlier hour.  If you don’t, it will be dark before you get out of the house. The bad thing is that if you work during normal business hours is that there is little-to-no sunshine left for you by the time you get home from work.

It was one of those nights, unfortunately, for my husband.  As usual, I was pacing the floor and holding our 6-month-old daughter who had a propensity toward crankfests around dinnertime most nights.

“Hi honey!  How was your day?”  I kissed him, embarrassed by the fact that I was still wearing pajama pants and a messy ponytail when he had already been dressed for the office for at least 10 hours.

“Tiring.  Good to be home.”  His response is usually something of the sort.  How can both our days be so hard until we are reunited?  Everything is so much easier when he’s home.  All of the frustrations of my day melt away.  My daughter’s cries soften, there’s someone to help me with all the little messes that keep popping up over and over again throughout the house, eyesores as obvious as mold on bread, and there’s someone to make me feel like life isn’t so hard after all.   Strangely, he feels the same way.

I handed him the baby and started making dinner.  I don’t remember what I made that night, but I remember how I felt that night while cooking; like my heart was suddenly t-boned by a mack truck.  Jefferson might have been driving that proverbial truck, but the malfunctioning brake was as much my fault as it was his.  “Michelle, we need to talk.”

Readers, be warned.  If anyone ever breathes those words to you, something terrible is about to be shared.  I know this because my dad shakily spoke those same words to me years ago before announcing that they found a tumor.  My heart sank.  “What’s up?”  I turned to find my husband squinting at a computer screen, my sweet cherub-faced little girl smiling beside him, baby food mushed strategically across her face like an adorable baby beard.

“I was looking at our finances, and it’s not pretty.  D0 you know how much credit card debt we have?”

Quick; pop quiz!  How much credit card debt do you have?  Do you have any?  Do you know?  I had no freaking clue!  This isn’t good.  This is terribly stupid and irresponsible.  How could I not know?  What kind of moron doesn’t pay any attention to their finances?  The kind that has a new baby and thinks her husband makes a decent enough salary to not have to worry apparently.  “I don’t know?  $10,ooo?”  I kept stirring.

“Michelle, we have over $20,000 in credit card debt.”  The mac truck switched to reverse, its thickly treaded tires pulling me under once more.

“Wow.  Are you serious?  How can that be?”  I dropped the slotted spoon, letting whatever the hell I was making burn for all I cared.

After mindlessly eating our dinner, going through the motions of helping the boys with their homework and putting the baby to bed, we spent the next few hours going over our budget and trying to figure out what went wrong.  It wasn’t one thing; it was many little mistakes, overly optimistic moments, ill-contrived plans, and tiny buckets of misfortune that added up to the giant mess we sat amongst at that moment.

That night, Jefferson asked me if I wanted to start a blog together to document our debt reduction goals.  He said it could help keep us accountable for our spending, and give us more motivation, since we obviously lacked enough of it on our own.  It would involve outing ourselves to the world, letting everyone know that “Hi, we’re Jefferson and Michelle, and we were once dumb with money.”

Sure.  Why not?  I felt hopeless and exhausted, but I knew that I’d always felt better about every other problem in my life after writing about it.  The blog would serve as a diary of our spending, our earning, and how to balance the two and end up on the right side of our budget.  That same night, on January 22nd, Jefferson hopped on Blogger.com and opened an account.  “What should we call our blog?”

“How about “See Debt Run?”  I said after thinking for a minute.

“I like it!”

Jefferson wanted to bounce around some other ideas, but I was already in love.  The same thing happened to me with each of my children’s names, my wedding dress, and even with the house we live in today.  When you know, you know.  I don’t even remember what other names we discussed, because once “See Debt Run” was confirmed as being available for the taking, I said “Well? Make it happen!”

Congratulations!  It’s A….Blog!

After a few weeks of chugging along with our little baby blog, we started exploring the idea of joining a group.  Neither of us thought it would go anywhere, but we also knew it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try.  We joined the Yakezie challenge and I really think it has helped us immensely.  In the nine months since, we have met a ton of great people, many of whom we now consider friends.

The personal finance blogging community is one of the nicest groups of people, ready to help you when you need support, advice, or even a boost in esteem.  There are so, so many talented writers who end up quitting early on when they don’t experience enough support.  Jefferson and I have never thought about quitting, but I can tell you that we have seen hard times, and might not have made it through unscathed had it not been for the friendships we’ve discovered in this short time of being a member of Yakezie.

Thank you so much to those of you who have made me feel like my voice matters.