In the middle of the week, NY Rising finally steps out from behind its smoke screen with some solid information: they have again mismanaged our file, and need me to find, organize, and upload a year’s worth of mortgage payments, bank statements, and rental receipts along with any lease agreements proving I have not been vacationing in Bali for the last year. This I accomplish before bedtime Wednesday.
Thursday evening I have parent-teacher conferences. Between school and the meetings, instead of working through dinner, I drive to a friend’s house. She has invited me and prepared a relief package to be enjoyed slowly over an hour and a half. I cross the threshold, and baking smells and hugs immediately wrap me in warmth. More warming arrives in a round, wide cup I can really cup: a coffee experience to be tasted and held. One fresh strawberry-banana smoothie, one wholesome hearty chunk of pumpkin bread, several overdue conversations, one shining ribbon sunset, and a half hour of happy little girl snuggles later, I am readier to return to work than if I’d slept a full night on my old (sniff sniff) Tempurpedic mattress.
By 9:00 that evening, my workday is done, and I can go “home” and snuggle up with my computer. I am pleased to see that my petition asking the governor not to deny us grants has 500 signatures. However, as soon as I check the Facebook page dedicated to people fighting for funding, I grow immediately disillusioned. Back in the spring, Governor Cuomo and New York Rising had promised to close all the gaps for everyone so we could afford to rebuild. All we had to do was fill out an application, have an inspection, and agree to stay in our homes for five years paying taxes like good citizens. We have done this, and more, and more, and more, fighting through week after week of red tape even more tangled than FEMA’s, through four assignments of a caseworkers, inspectors’ crossed wires, differing and actually opposing instructions from case managers and inspectors, three lost-file incidents, one instance of someone else’s paperwork turning up in our binder, and office workers telling us “not to worry,” “not to stress,” that everyone was getting money and also, they would pay our mortgage until we got back home. Until, of course, they informed us that we would be ineligible, they think, but again, we should not worry because NY Rising is a hot mess and nothing they happen to tell us is necessarily true.
Trolling this group page for helpful information, I see that hundreds of others have found their final promise wilting before their eyes. From our last flower of hope, NY Rising is picking petals and taunting us: We will help you, we will help you not. We will help you, we will help you not.
Late Thursday night, Steve and I worriedly discuss where our rent money will come from next month, causing Lucy to pace like a caged elephant. If we can’t help ourselves we can help our poor dog, so depressed in her displacement. I convince Steve that we should take her for one more walk. As we turn the corner, I spot a folded $100 flapping around in the street. It is a sign! I love signs! It is a gift! We have one-eleventh of our rent.
Friday. I wake up fighting sick again, just like last week, and we have plans for the evening. Ups and downs, glimmers and dimmings, yin and yan. I know I need to right the balance, and go to school—and in the evening I must fight the urge to cancel and crash. Getting dressed in the morning, I discover that my final under-sweater long-sleeve T has been mutilated at the Laundromat. Rifling through plastic bins and bags, I find something slightly off-season to wear, and race out the door. Halfway through the morning, a friend drops a gift card onto my desk.
I can buy T-shirts.
See what’s happening? I am getting exactly what I need. I just need to open my eyes and see it, and I need to say yes. Both Friday and Saturday nights I pushed through and was richly rewarded with gourmet dinners lovingly made by and happily shared with friends.
I will do what I need to do to pay the rent and get back home by spring. I will circulate my petition, make my copies and calls, and keep finding and sharing information–and if in the end I have to, I will manage to pay off over $100,000 in debt. But whether or not I get the help I was promised from New York “Rising,” I know I will always have everything I need.
Please click below to sign the petition—and then SHARE! We know people who are paying rent, mortgage, a second mortgage (SBA disaster loan), and two college tuitions. They are disqualified from receiving state grant money because they took the disaster loan they were told (as we were, erroneously) was the only current option available for rebuilding–and that taking it was the only way they could eventually, possibly qualify for grants! Now, some will have to walk away from their homes, unless they are permitted to use grant money to help pay down their loans. Please help them by simply adding your name, hometown, and state below, and spreading the word. Thank you!