I think I've reached my breaking point.
Yesterday morning, I woke up in good spirits. Since I've been working so many extra hours at the school, this was the first time in AGES when I didn't have that sick worried feeling churning around in my stomach as the end of the month rolled around. Those extra hours at work were really paying off. I even told Henry, "Maybe we can get Davanni's for dinner tonight!" (Davanni's is our favorite local pizza place...pricey, so it's a rare treat for us).
And then I checked my email.
I have a notification setting on my checking account. It lets me know when my account dips below a certain amount, just so I can be sure everything is hunky dory in my little financial world.
Apparently it wasn't.
With a dull ache starting behind my eyes, I immediately logged onto my Wells Fargo bank account...and just about shit my pants when I saw that it was not only below what I thought it would be, but $50.00 negative. I had almost $800.00 in there. That was going to help cover part of my rent, all of my electric bill and provide one more small grocery trip. Was.
Trying to avoid having a complete freak out, I called Wells Fargo. The person I talked to was very friendly, and told me that my account had been frozen. "Frozen??" I said, "frozen how? By who??".
I obviously didn't start thinking about the bankruptcy process early enough. A law firm representing Discover Card filed a levy against my pitiful "earnings" and was able to go ahead and have Wells Fargo empty my checking account.
At this point, I decided "fuck it" and let the freak out begin.
The guy at Wells Fargo gave me the number to their Legal Department, unfortunately that Department is located in Arizona and therefore wouldn't be open for another two hours.
I had nowhere to turn, so I called my pro-bono attorney.
And she calmed me down. She told me exactly what information she needed, and said she'd help me.
So yesterday, which was the day that I had originally thought was going to be spent doing a grocery trip (of course this is the week we are completely out of dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, soap and have one roll of toilet paper left in the house), shipping out some eBay purchases and maybe, just maybe ordering some take out for my kids was spent on hold for a total of 2 1/2 hours (yes, 2 1/2 hours. I counted.) waiting for a representative from the Legal Department. I also spent over an hour sitting in a banker's office at my local Wells Fargo branch. A wonderful, 25 year old banker who showed more compassion than I thought I would ever see from a bank.
As I sat in his office and wept, he handed me a tissue and didn't say much. When I was done relaying what had happened, he asked me, "Can I ask how all of this happened, Jenny?". So, weeping some more, I told him the whole story (condensed version, of course). How I used to be a stay at home mom of four kids, married to a real go-getter who was just about to grab the brass ring in the business world. I told him how my go-getter got up and left, and how things were ok for a bit. And then I told him about the last two years, how I watched as everything I had slipped through my fingers: my credit, my house, my sanity.
He handed me another Kleenex and said, "My mom raised my brother and me all by herself, with nothing. And I want you to know that someday your kids are going to realize all that you've done, all that you're doing. I'm going to do whatever I can to help you, Jenny."
Fresh tears started then, and all I could get out was a muffled, "Thank you."
So he and I sat in that office, sharing stories, talking about life. He showed me pictures of his mom and brother, told me about his amazing family and how he hasn't talked to his dad in over ten years.
That kid (yep, I'm calling him a kid. Realistically, I could have birthed him) made me feel a tiny bit better. Not all the way, not by a long shot, but for that hour or so I spent in his office, I felt better.
I talked to my attorney later in the afternoon. This law firm that had authorized the garnishment of my pathetic pile of "earnings" never gave me notice that they were about to do so. If they had, I would have had a chance to claim exemption from having my money taken. You see, I get my health insurance through the state of Minnesota. It's not free, I pay for it every month, but it's good insurance and it's cheaper than anything I would be able to get on my own.
The fact that I get my insurance through this state-run program means that I am receiving "Relief based on need". And that means that I'm poor. It also means that a giant faceless, nameless law firm or collection agency cannot go into my bank account and take the money that I have worked so hard to get. The money that is supposed to keep my kids fed and keep my rented roof over our heads.
But if you've ever dealt with the legal system, you know that the words "fair" and "swift" aren't tossed around too much.
And so I wait. As of right now I have two overdrafts, and my account is due to be charged another $125.00 for my electric bill tomorrow. I scraped together $100.00 to cover the overdraft that was in there this morning. It was a check I had written to Costco, to get my daughter's glasses fixed.
Rent is due on the 1st. Cell phone bill comes out on the 2nd. And so on, and so on.
And I think I have finally found out exactly how much I can take. If I lose my checking account, I've officially lost everything. I'll have lost my ability to pay for necessities, pay my rent, buy gas, buy food, buy anything. I keep thinking, how on earth can I be in this situation, when Big Daddy hasn't paid child support in over two years and hasn't had his checking account so much as sneezed at? I slept for a couple of hours tonight but woke up a bit ago feeling sick and fearing that my heart would literally beat out of my chest.
This may be it.
This may be what breaks me.
I'll keep you posted.