They say that when life hands you lemons, you should add some sugar and make lemonade. Teddy and I made some lemonade together this past week and I do have to agree that it was certainly delicious. Unfortunately though I’ve found that sometimes life PELTS you with lemons to the point that you end up sitting under a giant sour pile with a weight that just seems too heavy to bear. I’m currently writing this post from deep below my own huge pile of citrus fruit, and it’s pretty dark down here.
Things are about to get real, so get ready.
I’m a single mother, and I don’t talk about it much because, well, being a parent can feel close to impossible whether you have a partner or not, and furthermore I’ve just chosen to focus on how goshdarn lucky I am to have one of the most caring, loving, smart and goofy little boys around.
My sweet Teddy bear changed everything in my life. He made me (way) more patient, more loving, more silly, and basically just showed me the true meaning of life. He is truly an old soul and I am absolutely sure that I didn’t just give birth to him, but he was given to me, and I am so thankful for his unconditional love.
The reality of it though is that it has been very hard being a single parent while trying to grow my business, and frankly I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in the past 6 years of running my business. I’m so thankful for all the clients who let Teddy crawl around in the other room while we had our shoots, or wedding couples who waited a little bit longer for their photos because I was up with a sleepless baby all night for weeks and would fall asleep mid-editing. I’m thankful for the clients who have told their friends about me, or left me lovely reviews, or have trusted me to capture their families year after year.
Having to work exhaustingly, but to have a career that I love and am fulfilled by while being able to support my son while doing so is without a doubt a yummy glass of lemonade.
Recently though, things have become too difficult for me to handle on my own, and while I have always been fiercely independent and reluctant to ask for assistance I’m at the point where we truly need help more than any other time in our lives.
So, here goes.
Last July, as you all know, we lost our rental home to a fire. This was super scary, but everyone was ok, and we were lucky enough to not only receive lots of little acts of kindness and support from friends and strangers alike but we found our current home in West Roxbury. As renters we’ve moved literally every year, and this is the first place that has felt like a true home to us. The fire was a major financial and emotional hit, and we had to live quite a bit more leanly in the subsequent months, but we made it through relatively ok. This July I wanted to give Teddy a simple vacation during the summer when I’m usually away every weekend working weddings. I found a relatively affordable lake cabin in New Hampshire and we had a wonderful week and shared it for a few days with my Mother, her boyfriend, and my dear Aunt.
Then, on the last night of vacation as we went out for dinner, we were violently rear-ended by a car going full speed. I still don’t know how she couldn’t have seen us, as we were clearly stopped with our blinker on waiting to take a left turn, but my car was smashed so hard we spun around 180 degrees in the road, my mother went to the hospital to get checked out, I had bumps on my head that would later turn into headaches for a week, and Teddy was miraculously totally uninjured. Tragically the woman who hit us was in far worse shape and seemingly had some pretty major injuries. So. This was tough, of course. Emotionally Teddy was hit hard, and I was left feeling totally defeated and quite frankly terrified by the bad luck I seemingly have in the month of July. It’s so frustrating when I know how hard I’m trying and keep getting pretty major setbacks. Then. Things got infinitely worse. Here’s why.
Back in November I was in a teeny tiny fender bender. A woman stopped short in front of me in a traffic-y rotary and I barely hit her. She had no visible damage to her car, she apologized to me for braking, I didn’t bother filing a police report and we all went on our way. I made a claim to my insurance company Geico for the front end damage. Now keep in mind I have 1. never owned a nice/new car like the Prius and 2. haven’t had to file an accident claim in over 10 years. I trusted the system and assumed it would work out. Even though they were supposedly working for me, Geico said I was at fault, increased my “points,” and when my policy was up for renewal in June raised my rates to a whopping $380 a month. A month!! My mother pays that every SIX months for her car insurance. I couldn’t believe it. I had one infinitesimal accident and 2 speeding tickets in 7 years and I was paying almost $400 a month? It couldn’t be right. I called Geico and they were awful to work with. I couldn’t get any information and I was frustrated. Because I couldn’t bear giving such a terrible company any more of the little money I had I took my coverage down to the state-mandated minimum while I looked into changing insurance companies, filing an appeal on my case, and generally trying to cut some of my very high monthly expenses. Yup, that’s right, I took collision coverage off my policy, wrongly assuming that I wouldn’t be victim of a major accident just two weeks later. And. Get ready for it…..the woman who hit me does not have any car insurance as it is not required in the state of New Hampshire. So now I’m left with a car that I can’t drive, that will cost more than it’s worth to fix, I owe $11,000 on the loan, and I’m getting no money from any insurance even though I have faithfully paid my insurance company for the past 3+ years. It’s truly a nightmare. Turns out that I should never have been allowed to take collision off of my policy but 1. Geico never told me that and 2. Toyota Financial never told me that. Furthermore there is an inexpensive rider you can add to your insurance to protect against uninsured motorists that I was never told about. I totally understand that a few poor decisions on my part got to me this place, but honestly I think that the punishment FAR outweighs the crime in this case, and every time I went to Geico for their guidance and expertise I was failed.
So, to sum up.
1. Geico price-gouged me to the point of ridiculousness.
2. As a smart consumer I looked into a new company and reduced my coverage in the meantime while getting poor information and a lack of guidance at every turn.
3. I was smashed in a not at-fault accident by a woman with no insurance.
4. I am left with no car, no coverage, and an $11,ooo loan I can’t pay.
5. As a single Mom supported only by my Photography income we have no financial safety net.
And guys, I’m scared. I don’t know what to do, and honestly since this is such an insane situation no one else knows what to do either. So here Teddy and I sit with a smashed car it cost $755 to tow down from NH in my driveway and not enough money to pay off the loan and get a new vehicle.
I don’t know if there is enough sugar left in the world to make this situation into lemonade, but, I’m trying to find some way to keep Teddy and I in our home through the winter and get some sort of transportation so that I can get him to kindergarten in the fall.
So. I’m going to hustle. and breathe. and hope. and love on my baby. and try to trust that this will work out in a way we can manage.
Some friends have suggesting setting up a Go Fund Me campaign or something similar but that just isn’t my style so instead I’m doing a few things to get business going a bit.
First thing I’ve decided to do is have a “Lemonade Sale” and offer some of my travel/landscape/etc photos for purchase.
The link is here: http://photographybyklc.shootproof.com/lemonadesale
I have various print sizes and canvases for purchase and if youd like to see any other size/type of product that isn’t listed just shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m happy to do a custom order.
Second I’ll be announcing the dates for 3 days of late summer and autumn mini sessions at the end of this week – keep an eye out because those dates always go quickly.
Third I am offering a few special event-based documentary photo shoots at a special price for first come first served. I’ll be offering only one each of 1. a beach day session 2. a first day of school session 3. a grandparent session. Again, email me at email@example.com to learn more and grab one of these special experiences.
Fourth I am reactivating every gallery for every client from 2014-2015. So all weddings and family shoots will be put back up online with prints, products and digital files available for purchase. If you’ve been meaning to print photos from your session but never got around to it this is your chance. Photos make wonderful gifts – go through your gallery and surprise your grandparents/aunts/friends with a few prints from your event or session. As an incentive I’m offering 15% off all orders. Just use the code ‘LEMONADE’ at checkout (applicable to current and past client galleries – not for the art prints).
I have a few more offerings I’ll be rolling out in the next few days and weeks but this is a good start.
And finally, Teddy and I would be so appreciative if there is any help at all that you think you could offer. Some things I thought of:
1. Anyone with connections in the car/collision repair biz. I need help getting the car towed and need recs for trustworthy repair shops who may be able to give me some assistance in figuring out the next steps.
2. Anyone who works in car sales and could give me guidance on potentially rolling over my current car loan into a new one, or could offer me some or ANY money for my car as-is.
3. Anyone who works in the insurance field and can give me further information on my options, if I have any, and whether I should pursue a complaint with the Ma Division of Insurance.
4. Anyone who knows anyone in media who thinks that there is a story here with Geico’s ridiculous rate hikes. I’ve done a bit of digging and it seems pretty standard that Geico keeps rates competitive until any sort of surchargeable offense and then jacks premiums sky-high.
5. Anyone who wants to offer Teddy and I a ride, or even has an old adult bicycle laying around I could purchase for cheap.
6. Anyone who wants to pay us a visit!! Teddy has been quite bored since this all went down and I feel awful that we’re spending the last few weeks of summer house-bound. We love having visitors, and we’ve already made lemonade for you! 🙂
7. Anyone who can provide legal help and guidance while I explore my options of taking the other driver to court.
8. Anyone who wants to spread the word about Photography by KLC – referring my services is the biggest compliment I can get and 70% of my new business comes from referrals from past clients. It would mean the world to me, and help keep my business running, if you would recommend me to your friends and family. My bookings for next year have been slower than I’m used to and it’s make my financial insecurity much worse. My business is seasonal, and having to spend so much money now on all of this means there won’t be any left, and much less coming in, in the winter months. That’s what I’m the most scared about.
Last but not least 9. Just send us some love and hugs, whether virtual or in person. Honestly when things get this hard I tend to withdraw, but I read every text, email, and FB message that come in and it means a lot to us.
It is terrifying for me to put this all out there in the public forum and to share so much about our private life, but I’m hoping that the good vibes and support we can crowd source will help make a dent in this horrible situation. We’re not asking for too much, I just want to be able to keep capturing memories for my clients and bringing them joy while supporting my son and not having to worry about if we’ll be able to stay in our home or have enough food on the table. Any and all help and love is welcome, and thanks so much for taking the time to read this.
KLC and my Bear