Bankruptcy Blues

One woman, three cancers, and a cash crunch

Julie White

Julie White
Ohio, USA
June 16
writer, editor, dreamer-in-chief
After careers in teaching and librarianship, as well as a stint at editing, I jumped ship to become a freelance writer. I have worked primarily in educational publishing. In 2009, I took a part-time job at a library, trying and failing to make ends meet. Bankruptcy followed. I'm using a pseudonym, because I have to write about money or the lack of it, trying to make sense of my life as an educated, underemployed, aging woman sliding into poverty status.


Julie White's Links
JANUARY 2, 2012 2:15PM



To declare bankruptcy effectively, it helps to have a job, preferably one that pays well, and not to have any chronic illness. I’ve failed in both of these areas, which is why I have high hopes for 2012; the past year was the worst year of my freelancing… Read full post »

DECEMBER 26, 2011 11:36AM

A Born-Again Tightwad


That’s how the instructor of our New Start class—the last piece of the bankruptcy proceedings—referred to herself, explaining that her mother had always been a saver, but that she herself had strayed from that path. She had, in the manner of all the redeemed, repented and wa… Read full post »

DECEMBER 10, 2011 2:27PM

On Being Mostly Silent at the Hearing

In one of the collects (opening prayers in an Episcopal service), we ask for grace to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Scriptures. I did not follow this formula with the letter Geri had sent me about appearing before the trustee; I knew what the letter was, noted the timeRead full post »

DECEMBER 2, 2011 10:28AM

A Sartorial Dilemma

What does one wear to a bankruptcy hearing, I wondered? If I look too prosperous, would I be suspected of having an offshore bank account? If I dressed down, would I be regarded as taking this lightly or showing a lack of respect for the trustees? (One doesn’t face a judge,… Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 23, 2011 11:40AM

In the Red on Black Friday


Having just written out checks for the radiologist, anesthesiologist, urologist, and dermatologist, on top of new tires and insurance payment for my car, I’m pretty sure my holiday shopping will have to wait. That’s okay.

I don’t get Black Friday, but then again, I’m… Read full post »

NOVEMBER 15, 2011 9:03PM

The Problem of Tomorrow


A friend recently loaned me a book called I, Francis, about the impetuous young Italian from Assisi who founded a Roman Catholic order focused on poverty. The author, writing in Francis’s voice, proclaims that by taking on the vows, these Franciscans have solved the problem of tomorrowRead full post »

NOVEMBER 12, 2011 3:29PM

Buy the Insurance!


The medical bills are beginning to mount up again. I have just totaled five different invoices from four different providers: $968.12. The sum represents last June’s a pre-surgery EKG; anesthesiologist for said surgery; the final CATscan for ovarian cancer; removal of two skin growths,… Read full post »

NOVEMBER 6, 2011 9:09PM

Before the Filing

[Note: This was written summer, 2010, in the midst of preparing for the  bankruptcy filing. My friend's child is fine now.]

I woke up sad this morning, mostly because I just found out that a friend’s young child is facing open-heart surgery. But I’m sad for me, too. I’ve been… Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 30, 2011 9:58PM

Occupy Hartford!


I’d like to propose we start protesting in front of health insurance company headquarters.

      I’m grateful that last June’s CATscan should be the last one. I don’t like all that radiation rolling around in me—between my X-rays as a kid beinRead full post »

Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 22, 2011 8:37PM

Stiffing the Hospital

The latest and last-for-now hospital bill had finally arrived, so I could file for bankruptcy. I knew the full extent of my indebtedness to all three hospitals where my seven surgeries had taken place. The last one wasn’t awful, in and of itself—under two thousand dollars for the half day… Read full post »

OCTOBER 14, 2011 8:56PM


  I’ve been doing some more thinking about the lessons of Mary Poppins,

in particular a couplet that Bert the chimney sweep sings:

“Chim-chim-inee, chim-chim-inee, chim-chim-cherroo,

 I does what I likes, and I likes what I do.”

Most of my friends have understood the… Read full post »

OCTOBER 8, 2011 5:24PM

A Moment of Panic

 I’d known that bankruptcy would require court, and thus a lawyer. I had a lawyer, but he was related to someone I used to work with. Trying to keep the number of people who knew my true financial situation to a minimum, I was loath to give him the case. Maybe… Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 30, 2011 8:37PM


To declare bankruptcy, one must list out all debt. I had a rough idea of what I owed; I’d been tracking it for some months. But I’d not done it in an official, for-the-lawyer way. To do so meant I had to find all the bills.

I got the paperwork… Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 24, 2011 9:17PM

Buying Nothing

Recently I met a friend for lunch (I was being treated) and antiquing. We used to joke about trying to buy back our childhoods, calling out to one another, “We had one of these!” as we wandered down the aisles of antique shops.

I put a $5 bill in my… Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 18, 2011 8:13PM

Bankruptcy and Cancer


 I’ve realized that bankruptcy and cancer are alike—both are viewed as ultimate worst case scenarios. After my initial cancer diagnosis I became a bit reckless in my driving. A car crash didn’t worry me; I already had the big scary disease that until a few decades ago… Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 5, 2011 7:58PM

Foraging for Food


My mother was a trickster, as surely as if she’d been born to an African spider or bred in a briar patch. I figured it was a byproduct of growing up in the Great Depression, a middle child of seven surviving children, born to Austrian immigrants, her father… Read full post »

 The credit card companies count on suckers like me. I believe all their promises:

0% interest for one full year!

cash back on all purchases!

5 cents a gallon cheaper!

special rewards!

These offers are terrific if you are a person who never carries… Read full post »

AUGUST 25, 2011 9:10PM

Credit 101, Part 1

I had planned to keep at least one account in good standing so that I could use it for necessities (I had six credit cards—I know, I know). A department store had issued that chosen account, but was a Visa card, not just their store card. I was nowhere near maxxing… Read full post »


I had to see a new doc—nothing huge, just some spots I wanted checked and removed—and thus had to fill out a multitude of forms. All of them asked for my birth date or my age. The spots turned out to be some perfectly normal growths, not a… Read full post »

AUGUST 15, 2011 8:51AM

A Second Chance

Not long ago, driving out of a city I visit once or twice a year, I noticed a billboard. Two well-fed gentlemen in dark suits—lawyers, I assumed— stood at the left; the right side of the board proclaimed “Bankruptcy: A Second Chance.”

That’s a little simplistic. One do… Read full post »

AUGUST 13, 2011 11:44AM

Poverty Levels

 The federal government sets minimum wage standards. States can set their own wage laws, but the federal law applies if the state’s law is less. The current minimum wage in my state is $7.40 an hour, fifteen cents an hour above the federal law. Thus, a person making the state minimum,… Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 11, 2011 10:04PM

How To Be Underemployed

      Most of my bright ideas for making money haven’t panned out, for one reason or another. Last fall, I got excited about a whole new career move. But the training would have cost me $3,000, which I would have had to pull from my retirement savings, plus the cost of… Read full post »

AUGUST 9, 2011 5:02PM

The Price of Gold is Skyrocketing!

A friend suggests I consider selling off any gold or sterling silver jewelry I might have, but I did that last fall, back when gold was “only” $1000 an ounce. For months I’d been watching the ads from local jeweler to buy gold and silver; the offer extended an extra 20%… Read full post »

AUGUST 8, 2011 6:13PM

a big thank you

Tuesday evenings were set aside for my father, an insurance salesman only slightly less desperate than Willy Loman, to balance his weekly accounts. After supper, the dining room table was cleared and an adding machine brought out of hiding. This large black piece of equipment had a handle on the righ… Read full post »

AUGUST 7, 2011 7:48AM

A Little of What You Fancy


When the checks for freelance work finally do come, I feel rich, expansive, and generous. I celebrate with food (actually I like to do anything with food) so I may call a friend and meet for coffee, lunch, or—less likely now—dinner. I recently spent almost $20.00 on lunch,… Read full post »