Saturday, August 10, 2013

Life is a whirlwind. We have given it to God and are trying our best to avoid complete financial collapse.

So, I am involved in some extensive wheeling and dealing in the past week (in trying to reduce our monthly spend now that it is getting close to the time the unemployment ends). Not having the Mitsubishi payment will give us more freedom to pay priority items. This will allow us to have our costs down to the bare minimum if I don't succeed in getting a job (and if I do find a job, we will have less financial stress).

Our sole vehicle that is paid for (our older Chrysler Sebring with 185,000 miles that has served as a backup vehicle in case we lost a vehicle due to repossession) is now a casualty of our need for the Handicap Van. I am picking up the Handicap Van early this morning and bringing it to our home. Given the real need for this vehicle (to ensure I have the means to get to a future job in case of a major gout attack while using a wheelchair to ensure I can ambulate safely), the Handicap Van will become the backup vehicle (even though it is paid for, it is an older vehicle that only gets 15 mpg on average so it is not a good commuting vehicle for me.... it's purpose is for when I have bad gout attacks and/or to be able to transport Penny's 80 year old father as his ability to ambulate becomes more problematic). I will also use it on occasion if our Church should ever need the service of helping bring a disabled person to the church for services.

And then... later today, I will be trading the 2003 Sebring straight across for a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander LS with 124,500 miles with a gentleman 2 states away. The person who I am trading with was looking for a smaller vehicle that gets good gas mileage for his daughter to use, and he no longer needed the minivan nor did his daughter wish to have a soccer mom vehicle (so this resolves both of our needs). We will then be going to the Mitsubishi Dealership at the beginning of next week to see if they will take both the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander and the 2006 Chevy Uplander in... in order to satisfy the $32k loan still outstanding on the Mitsubishi. The Mitsubishi retails still for $24k (and that leaves $8k to be covered by the Uplander which is worth about $5,500k retail).  If they took both and then Mitsubishi Credit considered it paid off, we can use the 2001 Chrysler Town and Country as Penny's primary vehicle and I'd use the Handicap Van no matter what.

If that doesn't work, Penny will be using the 2001 Town & Country as her primary vehicle (and the $204 monthly payment on that vehicle is within our long term budget) and I will be using the 2006 Uplander as my primary vehicle and the Mitsubishi will then be handed over to Mitsubishi (and we'll have to take the financial hit since it will be a "planned repossession). At $640 a month, we cannot afford it as long as I am unemployed and Penny is disabled and it has cost us over $7,000.00 so far in payments since I last worked. If we didn't have that payment, we would have more money to dedicate to the basics such as shelter / food / medical / etc..... and given I am still unemployed, the Mitsubishi is a unnecessary drag on our finances at this point. We have perfectly good older vehicles that are well maintained, we don't need a newer vehicle at this point (we need less financial stress).

I will be sitting down with the Church elders and our financial counselor this week regarding the next approach to take. Bankruptcy is much harder to go through now and is a last resort regarding every entity we have spoken with  (and honestly, we are trying everything we can regarding Bankruptcy being a last resort).

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Handicap Van is everything we thought it was (and more):

So, Travis and I went to see the Handicap Van this evening. It is definitely a 1997 Econoline E150 (and I confirmed it has 145,000 miles on it).
It started right away (remote starter) and the lift doors / lift itself are managed from the right front door. When you take the wheelchair and back into the lift, there are also controls on the lift itself to make sure you have complete control..... He drove it around (demonstrating how everything works) and I was stunned how smooth it is. The tires, brakes, suspension all were smooth. The engine was quiet and powerful (and the exhaust works great) All electronics work (except for the light inside the Instrument Cluster.... which I will have to fix). It is needing some cleaning inside, but that is due to the fact the owner fishes a lot (the carpet needs cleaning). The exterior is in good shape for the most part (it is definitely NOT a rust bucket). =)
Essentially, it runs very well, has had recent work done to the suspension, a tune up, exhaust work, etc. and he has receipts on all work he has had done. The drivers seat turns and allows transfer from a wheelchair within the van. It also has a remote start feature so the van can be started during the winter or bad weather before the driver gets into the vehicle. The only interior issue is that driver's seat has 2 tears in the leather (that the owner put duct tape on), and the same thing with the front passenger seat) and I can fix those with a leather repair kit to make the seat look good again. The fundamental interior is sound and is in great shape. The rear of the van is in good shape. It also has an electrical connection for trailers (a hitch only needs to be added). I already have Hubcaps for the tires in the garage (that I can put on). 
The front of the van only has a small bend in the bumper and in the grill (which I can fix for minimal cost), otherwise... there are no major dents or major body issues. The lift has a hand control and allows one to take the wheelchair inside the middle in order to transfer to the drivers seat. It also allows one to take someone in a wheelchair into the van and allows the wheelchair to be tied down).The hand controls are all there and are working. The rear is clean. The owner is also letting us have the subwoofer.
We agreed on a final price of $1,000 (he no longer needs it as he bought a new one that accommodates his limitations more and he is paying it forward by allowing us to get his old one at minimal cost). In my opinion, it is worth about $4,000 given all of the features and the condition the van is in. So we will finish this transaction on Saturday (August 11th).
We are looking at possibly auctioning off the 2003 Sebring for fundraising purposes and if we lost the Mitsubishi because of the $640 monthly cost... we will be down to the Chrysler Town and Country (for Penny's use) and the Handicap Van (for my use). The goal is not having any car payment for the foreseeable future.

Here are pictures taken the other day by the owner and also by myself last night.







Thursday, August 8, 2013

Physical labor and acknowledging reality.

I was going to be starting on repairing the brakes on the minivan today. I've had the parts for a while (months now) and Penny stopped me (reminding me that I am not a younger guy anymore and that my legs cannot handle the difficulty of crawling under a van anymore). Given I just turned 50 and still remember being able to do anything I wanted up until recently, this is a difficult thing for me to accept conceptually as I am trying to save us money by doing things myself... and it is difficult to do a lot of what I used to be able to do.

The brakes are getting pretty bad (the drivers side in front is gouging into the left rotor), so they have to be done and soon so Penny can take it over when we lose the Mitsubishi (which appears inevitable at this point). So Penny and I went to our local auto repair shop close by us and saw the owner there (a gentleman who I have dealt with before on a couple of occasions). I asked him if I gave him the parts (4 rotors and 4 sets of ceramic pads).... what would he charge me. He indicated he would charge 75 minutes book time (about $108.00 plus tax). Considering Merlins/Car-X/Midas would normally charge over $600 for replacement of the Rotors and Pads on both axles, that is a fantastic deal and it would be nuts for me to not have it done (and he will warranty the labor).

So we'll be having that taken care of tomorrow.

I am also looking at the Handicap Van tomorrow evening (to see if it is as viable as the owner indicates it is). If it passes muster, I will be picking it up on Saturday. We'll then have a paid for vehicle that I can drive despite any gout attack. We are also looking at selling or auctioning off the Sebring to raise additional funds. At least we have "options" still, and we are trying everything we can to keep our heads above water.

In the interim, Penny's Cystoscopy is coming up soon (so we have a lot of work to do around the house) so life does goes on.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Our Shangri-La is back up and ready for the rest of the summer / fall. =)

We have had a 10x10 metal Gazebo on our 14x12 rear wooden deck for 5 years now (we picked up the Gazebo from Aldi for $79 at that time). My mother absolutely loved this deck/Gazebo during the last 2 years she lived with us before she passed away, and she would have coffee or tea on the deck many mornings while it was nice out (or during the rain as it was dry under it). It enhanced her calm and it does the same for Penny now regarding her battle with Cancer.
We call it Shangri-La.
We have 2 grills (a 6 burner gas grill and a charcoal kettle), a storage/sitting bench, table with 3 chairs, surrounding red/white/blue rope light, Penny's Garden plants (tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers), and a stone water feature which makes for a very enjoyable comfortable / blissful place to relax.
Unfortunately, during that time... we keep on going through the canopies (they are made thin and are easily damaged by wind / weather). If you look around suburbia, many people have these gazebos and many are just shells as people cannot find the correct canopy replacements. This year, I could not find a replacement canopy that fit no matter where I went or looked (we got one on clearance from Target 4 months ago and it said 10x10 but was actually 11x11 so we had to take it back after trying to install it as it was truly too big).
I finally found another one on clearance on and we took a chance (and the price was right - they usually are $50 to $99 and we got it half off... thank God for a credit card to make it possible). It arrived yesterday and I was feeling good enough to try to put it on today. Well, the top tier barely fit (but with elbow grease, it did), and the rest of the canopy was too long at the ends by 2 inches. So, I made lemonade out of lemons and used plastic ties to tighten each corner so it was tight as a drum. The fabric is better than the ones we've had previously, so hopefully we will be able to keep this one for at least 2 years.    
Here it is again in its full glory (seen from the kitchen).
 All is dry under the canopy (while it is raining).
The bench.

The storage / sitting bench and water feature. A temporary gate was put up for the dogs (I will be making a gate this weekend).

I am paying a price for getting up on the 5 step ladder to put the canopy up, but it was worth it (Penny and I enjoyed a few minutes this evening sipping on smoothies with the trickling water dancing in the background).

We don't need a campground to escape to, we have our backyard and Shangri-La to enjoy instead without leaving home. =)

Monday, August 5, 2013

My first Doctor's visit using Vetcare (a Success) =)

Today… I saw my normal doctor this morning (I am now officially in the IHFS system and he is accepting it) and the visit was covered by a $15 co-pay (normally $69.00 for a patient with no insurance). We’ll see how it is all billed out and if there is any additional cost outside of the accepted rate negotiated between IHFS and the doctor’s office.

The doctor’s office wasn’t sure what Vetcare was when I walked in (I did a lookup on the “Illinois Health Connect” and my Doctor was listed on it with a PCP # and a I brought a print out of that with me as proof), so it helped my showing that and my IHFS medical card also… plus a print out of the Vetcare Webpage that shows services allowed along with the listed co-pays for specific services. This way they couldn’t claim they didn’t know (and rejected me due to their lack of information). Always be prepared is my motto.

My doc then prescribed me 3 medications (Tramadol for my pain regarding the gout, Metoprolol for High Blood Pressure – this is a new diagnosis, and Allopurinol for my gout). Normally, the charge would have been $96.00 for all 3 prescriptions, but with Vetcare IHFS…. they were $6.00 each at Walgreens for the generic versions (who found me in the IHFS system also). So I saved $68.00 as a result.

He then referred me to a Psychiatrist regarding my depression (11 months of unemployment, my gout attacks, and Penny's cancer treatment have taken their toll on me) and also to a urologist due the blood in my urine. He believes there are docs out there who will take IHFS as he does (I am doing the lookup as we speak). I am hopeful we can now get my medical issues dealt with before my unemployment runs out.

So it appears the medical insurance is acting exactly as Illinois Medicade (under the term “Vetcare”).  So far, it would appear it is definitely worth it to fight for this and that other vets in need should do so while also trying to get VA Healthcare. Once the billing starts hitting my mail, I will update people regarding that. I will also be putting together a “punch list” of things Vets need to provide when applying for Vetcare. If I can get it, surely others can also (they just need the right info sent to Springfield and a “how to” regarding the process).

I hope that this provides a glimmer of hope to Vet specialists that there “are” options outside of VA healthcare and that one can add “Vetcare” to one's quiver of tools to help Vets.
In the interim, I am doing a lookup of Psychiatrists in the area and will try to get an appointment with Penny's former Urologist. We'll see how that goes.
All in all, a good day and hopefully.... the medication kicks in and helps my long term health (it is a dream I have).

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A beautiful day at Church & then at Coon Creek Days =)

Well, we've had a great day today. Our Sundays always include going to Fox Vallley Church in West Dundee (about 7 miles from our house in Huntley) for 2nd service. Pastor Tom Atchison is usually the head pastor who preaches, but in this case... the associate pastor (Adam Miller) gave an excellent sermon today (Pastor Tom is recovering from being in Cambodia/Vietnam preaching the word there). Pastor Adam has truly grown on me as he has become older (he has learned over time how to reach out to those of us who seek God's truth) and I have also been humbled enough to realize that I need to truly listen to the "word" even if I don't have a connection to whoever is giving the word and I am finally connecting to what he is saying. I think his humbling journey in Arizona was an experience which shows in his present preaching and I am truly understanding the perspective he is giving (and I have been humbled enough in the past 18 months to finally get past myself and be patient enough to really listen).
Penny and I then went to "Coon Creek Days" (a festival in Hampshire, IL.). We first saw what was left of the parade (real tractors from the 40's/50's pulling floats and hay wagons), a true "small town" festival with people of every age enjoying the shindig... especially the children. Penny walked and I hobbled one block from the place we parked into the festival grounds (my right foot being healed enough to walk without a cane). What is great about this festival is that we see our friends from church, friends from our High School days, and most of the people there are busy enjoying the festival instead of trying to get drunk (and cause "drama"). So we sat down before "7th Heaven" was coming on (they are a festival cover band who does 70's/80's/90's/& present music plus some music of their own). Their new lead singer placed 4th one year on American Idol so the pipes are there and they sound great together as a band. We got a place up front (and used our firm camping chairs for our comfort). Penny went into line for the free corn (boiled corn on the cob dripping in buttery juices) and came back with 2 for each of us. And Free????? *Bonus* =)
The sun was right behind Penny when I looked up at her, I was actually smiling the whole time except for this split second (I swear). The tri-color corn? Yummo. =)

Penny actually had 2 ears of corn also (she is starting to get her appetite back). =)

Penny "being Penny" dancing in front of me (she always pays later for the few seconds she dances tho given her back and knees). This is the real Penny most people don't get to see, but I always see (she is very fun to be with). =).

I must say, whenever we look at each other... she consistently looks at me like this (like we are still 2 kids falling in love). It's been almost 22 years of Marriage and enough life has passed that I can honestly say... I can't imagine life without her.

We then saw our friend Walt (who was with his wife Deb in the Beer garden seeking protection from the Sun), Penny's friend Michelle, Travis' friend from school - Jessica, and Dana plus her hubby from High School (along with quite a few others).

Then we went home and stopped by the "Dairy Mart" for dipped Ice Cream Cones and brought home to Travis a Pineapple Sundae. It is clouding up now, but the temperature is a perfect 72 (with hardly any humidity).

A wonderful beautiful day..... and a particular scripture comes to mind to describe it:

Fear not, for I am with you;  be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10