{real life} when life isn’t a party there’s still hope

As I sit here typing on the keyboard with my Silhouette humming next to me, I’m working up the courage to share the journey that J and I have been on the past two years. It’s not an easy thing to share especially since we’re still in the midst of it, but I do so to encourage that one person who may be facing the toughest time in their life. There is hope and even though you may not see it now…there’s a plan. You’ll be amazed at how all the little pieces fall into place.

Piggy Bank Parties Hope Art Prints 1

The years leading up to launching Piggy Bank Parties, we ran a successful handcrafted stationery and digital calligraphy business in the Chicago area. All of our business came via referrals. No advertising. No social media. After creating thousands of high-end handmade stationery items each week for 10 years, I was exhausted. When clients started asking me to copy other people’s work and demanding more for less money, I knew I needed a change. A BIG change.

Long story short, we were ready to move away from the hustle and bustle of Chicago. We wanted to take long walks along the water and ride our bikes to run errands instead of crossing four lanes of traffic to pick up a gallon of milk. We changed from handmade to printables and moved our business completely online in order to give us the freedom to travel and work wherever we landed. Piggy Bank Parties was launched and we’ve had an amazing adventure. Loyal fans, fantastic collaborations, magazine and party blog features and a crew of bloggers that are rock stars! It was just the change we needed.

After six months though, there was one thing that wasn’t falling into place. A big thing. Our sales had hit a plateau. We had 6 months of custom orders booked but our sales figures were dismal. We went from six figure sales for our handmade invitations and stationery items to poverty level in a matter of months. We poured ourselves into the business working 14…16…18 hour days. Every day. Every night. Sometimes through the night. We weren’t living. We were surviving.

When we decided to make the move online, we cut back on all of our expenses, had a retirement fund and no credit card debt. We kept our local business open until I could no longer juggle running two companies. Marketing is not my strong suit but I worked my way through social media and built a strong following. We collaborated with amazing event planners and stylists and our products were featured over and over. We thought we were doing everything right, but our sales figures didn’t budge.

Piggy Bank Parties Hope Art Prints 2

Then things started to fall apart in our “real life.” Due to the financial stress, J’s childhood food allergies resurfaced after 20 years in the form of severe eczema and his gout flared so bad that he was put on medicine that he will have to take the rest of his life. With our sales in the red every month, we carried credit card debt for the first time in order to keep up with our monthly expenses. Financially, we were living on borrowed time. We kept working harder and longer. We cashed in our retirement to keep up with our mortgage payments and pay down some of our credit card debt. We worked with our mortgage company to apply for federal assistance with our mortgage. We were denied assistance because we actually made a bit more than poverty level and our credit was too good {crazy!}.

We were exhausted. Physically. Emotionally. Financially. In December, we had depleted our savings and we did something we never thought would ever happen. We stopped paying our mortgage. It was such a humbling moment when you realize that you can’t pay your bills. You question why you spent money on things you wanted versus just what you needed to sustain you. We also knew that the foreclosure process was inevitable and possibly bankruptcy.

We held tight to each other and to our faith. Our hope was small and wavering at times…but it was always there. I don’t often talk about my faith here on Oink!, but I can’t share our story without it. God placed a number of people in our life when we needed them most. We had a lot questions about the foreclosure process and bankruptcy and our church in Chicago offered free legal counsel. We met with Roger, a lawyer, one evening and he turned our upside down world right side up in a matter of 20 minutes! He encouraged us to contact a real estate agent and attempt to sell our house during the foreclosure process. Church friends got us in contact with Linda, our mortgage broker, who listed our house on a Monday and sold it by Friday. Of course, the short sale took 4 1/2 months to close and we jumped through countless hoops, but we walked away with money in our pocket towards moving expenses which is so unbelievable!

Piggy Bank Parties Hope Art Prints 3

Our former church also runs a care center which provided us with food and dental services when money was too tight to buy groceries or get our teeth cleaned. Friends brought us bags of groceries, moving boxes and skunk deterrents when Mr. Stinky tried to move into our basement. Except for our mortgage, we never missed a single payment on any of our other bills. Family and friends would send us checks out of the blue because God laid it on their hearts to do so. We were able to stop using credit cards and extra sales would come in right before a bill was due. I shared our story with a few party girls and each time we were met with love, support and encouragement. Many shared stories of how they faced or were facing a similar set of circumstances. We were not alone. There was hope.

When we thought we might be homeless, both J’s mom and my family offered to have us live with them. We originally thought we would move to Georgia with J’s mom, but I kept feeling like it wasn’t the right “move” for us. After checking out how much it would cost to move from Illinois to Georgia, we knew Michigan was the best financial move we could make at this time. Little did we know that moving to Michigan was part of God’s plan for us. The day we arrived on my family’s doorstep my sister, Nora, had her first major MS episode. We are so thankful that we were here to help my mom and big sis, Dorothy, with emergency room visits, an ambulance ride and a hospital stay. Nora has a lesion (common with MS) on the base of her brain which is affecting her vision and ultimately her balance. She’s pretty self sufficient except for that walking-seeing thing, but she can’t move without an escort so we’re grateful to be here to lend a helping hand.

Piggy Bank Parties Hope Art Prints 4

In the midst of our financial troubles, we couldn’t see all of the pieces falling into place, but God had a plan and it has been amazing to see how perfect it was. We cried mountains of tears, stomped around in anger and frustration, wallowed in our woes and wore out the knees of our pants from praying. It has been the hardest time of our adult lives. We’re still recovering emotionally, physically and financially, but we’re excited about the future. The new adventures we’ll embark on personally and professionally as well as the opportunity to share our story in hopes of encouraging others.

Thank you for allowing me to share our story, for following this lil’ piggy’s adventures and for your support of Piggy Bank Parties. To show our appreciation, I created these Hope Art Prints for you. All four prints are included and they fit in a 5″ x 7″ frame.

Piggy Bank Parties Hope Art Prints Download

HopeArtPrintsClickHere

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing some of the changes we’re making around the PiG PeN and we’ll get back to doin’ what we love…partying with YOU!

A special thank you to our family and dear friends who supported and prayed for us throughout this difficult time—Mom T, Dort, Nora, MomSue, Debi and Dad, Buchanans, Kelly, Jen and Jon, Steve, Roger, Diamonds, Jenny, Brittany, Jen, Lynlee, Kristy, Jill, Maria, Mariah, Mayra and all those who I’ve neglected to mention right now. You held us up and offered us hope…thank you from the bottom of our bacon-flavored hearts!

I hope you’re inspired to share our story with someone who may need to hear that there is always hope.

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About Hank

I'm Hank, the Piggy Bank Parties' mascot, and all around fun pig. My favorite movie is "Babe," my favorite song is "This Little Piggy Went to Market" and my favorite book is "Charlotte's Web".

3 thoughts on “{real life} when life isn’t a party there’s still hope

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I have always loved your website, and it is illuminating to see the hard work and heartache that goes on behind the festive scenes. Your story is inspirational, as is your optimism and resilience. I seriously hope that you can keep on brightening our days, and that yours get brighter and brighter. And I hope that your sister is OK…

    Wishing you much love and happiness,
    Noelle

    1. We so appreciate your sweet comment and support! Our family is so grateful for your kind words and my sister is slowly improving. We’ll be back with holiday inspiration very soon.

      Have a wonderful day!

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