Sunday, December 20, 2015

Count Your Blessings

Count Your Blessings 2015

Pondering the Miracle of Christmas

I want to start this post by wishing all of you a very blessed Advent, a very Merry Christmas and the best of Happy New Years for 2016.

I sit here trying to write this blog post as my body is trying to pass two kidney stones.  I have now learned my lesson that even if I skip eating because the store is so busy with customers that I still need to make sure I drink water.  People are not being overly dramatic when they say that the pain from a kidney stone is equal to childbirth.  Thank you God for the different chemists who created all the different pain, nausea and relaxation drugs that I have taken over the past two days both orally and via iv at the hospital.  I am so thankful for my staff who covered the store on one of the busiest Saturdays of the year when I was unable to come into work.  One of my best friends dropped everything and spent the last twenty-four hours taking care of me while Debbie helped take care of the littles.  Another single mom sent one of her teenagers to check on me after I had posted a desperate plea trying to find someone to take me to the ER so that I could avoid paying for an ambulance ride.  These are all blessings that I can never repay enough.  A nurse lecturing me to "go home and stop worrying about the store.  It will still be there after you pass these stones.  I love your store."......all blessings I can never repay.  The first kidney stone has passed, but not the second yet.  Pray that it passes in the next day or two so that I can celebrate Christmas with my children and extended family.  I would like to go home for Christmas and not end up stuck in an ER trying to pass a kidney stone.

The next part of this post is what I don't know how to express accurately.  Every time I think we have a financial plan in place to get everything paid off at the store and personally....every time I think that we have emotionally processed everything we need to process I find out I am wrong.  I have been in charge of all our personal bills since March 2014.  I took over the store and the duplex in May 2015, and yet I still just got "found" by creditors this month about unpaid bills (personal and store ones) that I had never received any bills for in the mail.  When I came back to one creditor and asked him what address they had been mailing the bills to he refused to tell me since he had been"working with Jason, not you."  Yet, now of course the unpaid bills have been forwarded for me to pay since I agreed to take on all debt with the now I am facing having to file for bankruptcy.....and it is a matter of figuring out which type we are filing for.  I am hoping that we can do a Chapter 11 or Chapter 13 so that we can restructure and save the store.

Several people have asked me, "Why?"  "Why keep the store open?  Why do this to yourself?"

To answer that is a very complicated answer that I can't accurately express to anyone.  I am the reason why there is a UPS Store in Steubenville in the first place.  It was the first franchise that I desperately missed after moving here from Pensacola.  It drove me crazy to have to buy a box at Wal-Mart or the post office and then go out to the parking lot to pack it.  My copies were not usually completed correctly at my one competitor's store.  I love my customers and I believe that the feeling is reciprocated.  I lost track of how many customers told us what a blessing we were to them this many times I almost cried because they don't know how close we are to having to shut down the store.  I just told them with a smile to come back and see us in February.

My counselor and several friends keep reminding me that there is no shame in filing for bankruptcy or deciding that it is time to put the "For Sale" sign up on the store or even to just close the store up and call it quits.  They remind me that this is not something I did myself, but rather something that was done to me.  That it is just one more way I have been victimized and deceived.  All these things just make me want to fight for it even more.  I have worked so hard and paid off so much debt already.  I put all my employees ahead of myself when it comes to paychecks and taking lunch breaks.  I try to treat my employees the way the Marines work with the whole "officers eat last" mentality.

I love my store.  While I never thought that owning a UPS Store is what I would "grow up and do" for my career, it is a job that I love.  I don't mind getting up each day and going to work.  While some people might see the job as "Different day, same old thing" mentality, I don't.  Every package we ship has a different story attached to it.  Every print job and notary service has its own story.  From shipping a frozen casserole to a niece dying from cancer who requested it as her last meal to people missing their hometown Giannamore's Pizza or Snyder potato chips to a "just because I saw it and thought of you present".....all small things that I get to help be a part of.  Helping people complete the business of their daily life, both at work and personally-all small things that I get to be a part of.  The founder of UPS once said that "the heart of the foundation of UPS is service".....I love to serve others and to be a part of a company that prides itself on giving world class customer service to every person.

I have learned how to complete freight shipments and we have learned how to print blue prints and wide format banners.  Every week I learn more and more about graphic design work, business cards, etc, etc.  Both my employees and myself have stepped up to the plate and haven't turned down a single job.  We have figured out how to get it done so we can stay in business.  We ended the last two weeks of August in the Top 10% of freight services in the country.  We won awards in October and November for being in the top 10% of other services in the network.  Honestly, our store is just starting to hit its stride.  People in Steubenville are still discovering that our tiny store is here and that we offer professional print and business services.  We haven't even reached the potential of what our store can do.  If I can just climb out of this hole my ex created-if I can be given a fighting chance,  know that we will not only stay open, but we will be a model store that others will look to and use as an example.  If anyone is interested in giving a business loan or becoming a partner in our store, please contact me directly.

So, I come here to ask for help......if you can help donate to help me get through the next three to four months.....til we can get through refinancing or filing for bankruptcy (if that is what the accountants and lawyers help me decide is the right plan of action)....if you can help me pay off the heat remodeling job and other past due personal bills since I have still not been paid back by the Ohio Attorney General's office for the thousands of dollars I am suppose to be reimbursed for from counseling that has been received as part of the Ohio Victim's Assistance fund......words cannot express how thankful we would be.  It you can't, I understand.....Please just continue to pray for more miracles because God has given us a miracle every day since May 1st.  Most of all just pray that I will have peace about whatever decision I have to make.  All of these decisions are painful, but something can hurt and you still have the peace from God that this is the right decision for you and your family.  Pray that my pride won't blind me from seeing the path before me as I stand amongst the trees.  Donate here if you can.  If you don't want to use the GoFundMe, then please mail donations to the address at the bottom of this blog post.  If you are new here and don't know what happened, the please read blog posts from May 2015 to the present date.

Earlier this week as I found out about yet more unpaid bills and was trying to figure out how on earth my ex was able to hide all these things from he was able to come home each night at regular times and be there for every event and yet have some alternate life that I knew nothing about, "like what address was all these bills going to?", I wrote the following to one of my best friends:

"I feel like I am drowning. The only time I felt worse was when my kids were gone for those 4 days....I feel as if I am lost at sea and can see the shore but keep getting swept in a rip tide that I can't escape. I keep swimming, but every time I come up to breathe I get hit by a wave and swept back down. The only reason why I am getting up each day is for my kids and because I keep reminding myself that this dark night shall pass just like the darkness did when Chris died.....but this trial is far worse.....far far worse. I always believed that with God I could do anything, but now I don't....why must I be stripped bare when I already had nothing left. I thought I had been through my Calvary before, but now I realize that worse than Calvary is the scourging at the soul is being torn to shreds and just when it begins to heal then it is ripped open again and this time the nails and piercings go deeper. The scourging is far worse because then each day after my soul has been ripped open again I have to carry the cross. This scourging is "my dark night of the soul." The choice to follow Christ, to not give in to immoral ways to make money, to choose honor and integrity and love.....the pain that it takes to become a Saint takes my breath away. As a type A planner I have always had a plan, but now I truly don't know what my day will what way will I be scourged? So I just try to choose moment by moment what action or choice will lead me to as I am drowning in pain I see God's light through the darkness, the light of heaven and I keep reaching towards it even as my breath fails me."

I thank you for continued prayers for a miracle for myself, my children and our business.  If I don't get another blog post made in the next month, please pray that my ex is offered a plea deal and that we can avoid a trial.  Otherwise his trial is suppose to be the week of January 19th.

Thank you for being like the people in "It's a Wonderful Life" who bring the money to George Bailey-that has been all of you to me and the kids since May 1st.....thank you for reminding me that I am loved by God and by so many unknown people who have left anonymous notes and money......that makes me like the General from "White Christmas" whose troops surprise him and where I try to fall asleep "Counting My Blessings"......

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years from our home to yours!!!

May you feel the sweetness of God's peace with you as you begin the New Year,


Donations can be mailed directly to:

Stephanie LS Rivers
The UPS Store
117 S. Hollywood Blvd Box 114
Steubenville, OH 43952

Monday, November 16, 2015

Thanksgiving Thankfulness

Walk With Me

Bravely Walking into the Future

I have been intending to post for several weeks now, but have been dragging my feet....

Hoping that I would be able to announce some good news, like Jason had taken a plea deal OR that the store was in the black and debt was paid off Or something else that equals peace in my life.....Yet, I am at situation "normal".....relying on the Grace of God each day that the store will make it through......having to ask for help financially again to help with our heat situation  It is part way done, but is of course running into delays and extra supplies.  We are about $5, 000 short of what we need to finish paying for the heat remodel and to help keep the store open this month.  (Remember: this old farmhouse didn't have any duct work.)  Please donate here if you can or leave donations at our store if you can.

So many people have helped these past few months, and you have no idea how much your cards and prayers have meant to me and the children.  While I don't want to list individual names in case I would accidentally forget a name, (plus so many people left money and cards anonymously), I decided that I would list all the companies that have stepped up to cover repairs at our house, store and duplex in just the last three months.  I hope that you will send them your business if you can.  They have truly stepped up and helped God provide for the "widow and orphans."  Here is the list in no particular order:

Thomas Heating and Cooling (formerly known as Hockenberry Heating and Cooling)
Y.C. Construction (Jim Sarlo)
St. Thomas Construction (Jason Hendricks)
Wetherell Enterprises, LLC (Shane Wetherell, Septic Tank pumping & repairs)
Landon Property Management (Benjamin Clark)
Peter Stetson (painting & wallpaper removal)
Pivotal Propane from St. Clairsville, OH (propane heat tank & installation)

Also, while they ended up not completing our heating remodel, I would like to thank the following four men/companies for being willing to bid on the job and for offering advice, again in no particular order:

Todd Zimish
G&L Heating & Air, Dillonvale, OH

I would be remiss if I did not mention my two "right hand man" companies that are helping me to get through this maze of life right now:  Both B.J. Nurczyk from D'Anniballe Accounting and Dean Bucci (along with Michelle Tedreau) from Payroll Plus have answered countless questions and talked me off many an emotional cliff the past few months.  They have been very patient because I am sure I have asked them the same question several times when I have forgotten the answer.

Francesca Carinci (my attorney) and her secretary Amanda have also offered endless support as well.

Finally, Marissa Bortz with Alive, Inc.  has also helped to explain the new twists and turns that certain events have taken things during the past few months.

When I was praying about what I should write about I got stopped by the school principal to let me know that a parent had called expressing concerns because my littles have been talking.....So, I write the following to the families in my community and for any future victim families out there.......And I am open and as honest as I can be right now since I have to be very careful since there is a court case still ongoing with the possibility of a trial and for the protection of my children.

So, as I have previously mentioned my younger children don't understand what is going on at all.  We know that at least of one of the younger children was hurt while she was sleeping.  She thankfully seems to have no memories of the event, nor do the other two children who were sleeping in the same room seem to have any memories of what happened to their when they come crying to me about missing their daddy, who they are not allowed to have any contact with, and ask, "Why can't we see or talk to daddy?" I have replied over and over again, "Daddy is sick.  The judge says this is what he needs in order to get better."  When they have asked over and over, "What did daddy do that was so bad" I have replied over and over, "Daddy is sick.  Daddy hurt children."  Well, you see the littles are seven, six and four, so trying to process the reality that "Daddy is in jail.  I can't see my daddy.  Daddy hurt kids" is incomprehensible to them.  They are his biggest defenders.  They will say, "My daddy didn't mean to do bad things.  He wouldn't hurt kids.  He didn't know what he was doing" because to them He is still that hero.  He is their defender.  They don't know what he did AND we want to keep it that way......But they also don't understand that it's not socially acceptable to be going around and say, "My daddy is in jail."  They are little and they don't understand the social baggage or connotations associated with that statement.  They simply say the truth over and over again, "My daddy is in jail.  He hurt kids."  And sometimes, many times, they say this at school.

So, I apologize if these statements have caused any families that didn't know what was going on in our lives stress.  I am thankful for the parent that called the school concerned wanting to double check if the statement, "My daddy in in jail.  He hurt kids" is true.  It is good to know that your child trusts you to come and talks to you about what one of my children said.  We have had yet another conversation at home and have now come up with the line that my children can just say, "My daddy made bad decisions."  I went over yet again that they don't need to mention their daddy at all.....BUT THEY ARE HURTING AND GRIEVING.  THEY DON'T KNOW OR UNDERSTAND ALL THE CHANGES IN THEIR LIFE.  One of them came back and asked me, "Do I raise my hand when the teacher asks, 'Who has a dad?'" To which I said, "Yes, you still have a dad."  "But I don't.  He's not here anymore."  "Yes, sweetie.  You still have a daddy.  He may be in jail, but he is still your daddy.  He loves you and he prays for you everyday.  He's sad that he's sick.  He's sad that he can't be here anymore.  He misses you.  He wishes he could talk to you  He's still your daddy.  You can just tell people that he doesn't live here anymore.  That you don't get to see him.  Unfortunately lots of kids don't get to see their daddies."  Tears fall down all our cheeks......."Why would a daddy hurt kids?"  "Why???"  The only response I can give to my kids is "Daddy got sick."  But we all know the reality is both an illness and SIN and other personal info that stays within just our family.....but that is for future discussions as they grow older.  Not for right now.  Right now, "Daddy is sick" is all they need to know.  

The deal is that all five kids will now be in counseling starting in December and honestly, they are handling the situation better than most adults in their lives are handling the situation.  Nothing is more important than my children.  We are all doing the best we can, and I am doing the best I can at raising them.  I make mistakes, but my end goal is still to raise their beautiful souls to heaven-that they stay honest, sweet and loving.  That they grow up to serve "God, family and country."  So, I don't want them NOT to feel like they can talk about their dad.  They need to process the reality of their life and the reality is exactly what they say, "My daddy is in jail.  He's sick.  He hurt kids."  And with time they will realize when they can and should talk about it and when they shouldn't.  The first month of school we were having my most "adventurous kid"-the one who is the first to try something new become so anxious about going to school each day that she would throw up on the way to school.  One day she refused to get out of the car.  So I pulled over in the parking lot and got her out of the car and sat with her on my lap and cried with her in the parking lot in front of all the other families dropping of their kids as she kept asking, "Why?  Why did daddy have to go to jail?  Why can't you teach me anymore?  Why did everything have to change?"  And after I was able to convince her to go to school that day and made it to work I immediately called to put in the request with Victim's Services to get her in counseling immediately.

Honestly, if it was a perfect world, all five kids plus myself would have all started counseling last May, but Victim's Assistance is a reimbursement program, so I have to pay for all the counseling sessions up front and then be reimbursed......the paperwork for Round 1 and Round 2 of five out of 6 of us took me over 3 weeks to complete last month.....and I am an organized person......not dependent on drugs or alcohol or sex to comfort myself.  I'm pretty good at staying organized even during chaos.  I get up each day by God's grace and plug away at my endless to do list, but I now sympathize with all other victims or the parents whose children are in foster care.  I thankfully am my own boss so I can set the schedule to get off of work for myself and the children, but it IS a burden both time and financially and I have now paid over $2,000 in counseling bills without reimbursement.  Hopefully that money will be coming in time for Christmas, but MOST families can NOT do that.  Most single moms have to worry about losing their jobs and can't make it to counseling sessions during the day.  So, I know that God will have me become an advocate in the future to try to help other victim families.  If I can help one other family then it will help all this endless pain be worth it.

Rivers Family 2015: From the Sweetness of our Home to Yours

We had our family picture taken last month by Eileen Marrow.  The photos are gorgeous and she captured exactly what I wanted her to walking into the future.  God has been faithful for the past six months and somehow beyond understanding, we have heat-we just need to finish paying for it.....Our store is still open for business (truly every day it is open is a miracle).....but most important, we are walking through a dark time for our family together.  My teenagers still choose to stay home most weekend nights with us.....we watch movies, we play games, we have dance parties, we go to church together, we experience the thankfulness of a beautiful family extraordinary, yet ordinary sweet family life.....

Thank you for walking with me on this journey: your prayers and financial help have made all the difference.

The Sweetness of an Indian Summer Fall Day

From the sweetness of our home to yours-Happy Thanksgiving!



If you can donate, please go here.......

If you want to read past posts regarding the crisis my family is now in, please visit the following links:

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Miracles Still Needed

What You Do For Yourself Dies With You, What You Do For Others Lives For Eternity


Thank you for last month's miracle, but unfortunately I now need the miracle of a new furnace and heat.  If you can donate please go here right away!

If you are reading my blog for the first time please read the following blog updates to understand fully what has happened before reading the rest of this blog post:

I have been meaning to write a blog post for the past two weeks-to give you the update that thanks to all of your prayers, donated money and small loans we were able to make it to Labor Day.  Honestly, EVERY SINGLE DAY THAT MY STORE IS STILL OPEN IS A MIRACLE.

Business has thankfully started to pick up, but so have the bills to make that business happen (like ordering more boxes, paper for print jobs, etc) and now I have had to start paying on some of the big debt that a few companies were willing to postpone until September so that I didn't have to close the store.  I still haven't cashed a paycheck since July.  I am trying to pursue some peer lending sites for a personal loan that way since due to unfortunate circumstances I still don't have signed divorce paperwork almost two months after our final divorce date.  This means that I still can't refinance and IF that miracle ever happens the paperwork process to make that happen takes 6 LONG WEEKS......and it will be cold by then........

We need a new furnace in order to have a warm house.  The dual coal/wood burner that we have needs to be fed wood or coal every two-four hours.....if you spend 1-2 hours stoking it in the morning you can sometimes get a burn that will last maybe 6 hours without having more coal or wood added......but I am gone 12-14 hours a day.  I also do not feel comfortable asking my aging mother-in-law to risk getting burnt each day to keep a fire going......Since the CPS investigation is being kept open until either Jason's trial is complete or he makes a plea deal I cannot run space heaters or propane heaters in the house....I need a new propane furnace and additional duct work asap because it will be freezing cold sometime within the next six weeks.

I asked two of my best friends what else I should write you because I am so tired of humbling myself and begging for help.  I have also officially went from "adrenaline crisis stage" into "grief stage".......I am grieving the loss of the life that I once had and that can never be again.  I try to fake a smile each morning and be cheerful to get my children up for school each morning, but I cry with them at times that I can't stay at home and teach them anymore-that I have to take them to the wonderful schools they are enrolled at so that I can go to work and try to help put food on the table, clothes on their back and a roof over their head.  It is a lot of change for ALL of us......we lost our complete way of life along with a father, husband and best friend.......and I have the added "benefit" of knowing each day how close we are to losing the business to help take care of my children.  Like last month when I begged for help we had less than $100 in the bank with both payroll and a $2, 000 UPS weekly shipping bill to pay.......My grief is exhibiting itself in the form of "forgetfulness"-like leaving my cell phone somewhere seven days in a row and small things making me cry.

So, this is what my best friends told me to tell you about:

Stephanie with a the rental brush hog

They told me to tell you what I have completed in the last month while working six days a week:

 Labor Day week was thankfully only a five day work week for me.....But I paid to get my butt kicked by a pull start walk behind brush hog.  You see, unfortunately, the land around my mother-in-law Debbie's house was never leveled out after her house was put in.  I have been promising her a yard for the past four years-and starting this summer my children have been there every day.......It took me two months, and tons of asking with rejection, but I finally found two different families willing to risk their brush hogs to help get the 6 foot tall weeds knocked down back in July to surprise Debbie as her birthday present.  It had been six weeks and some of the weeds had regrown up to 3 1/2 feet tall.  I am stubborn and was honestly so tired of begging people for help that I didn't call to ask either of the two families to come back.  We tried mowing it with our regular lawn mower, but the ground is too I spent FIVE hours on my day off pushing this heavy mower around-getting stuck a few times and having my Joey help me pull the mower out......And I have since been scolded by several people for not asking for help muscles hurt for several days even with several epsom salt baths.  I WILL ask for help next month to get the weeds knocked down one more time-or spend the same amount of money to PAY someone to do it instead of getting my butt kicked physically again....Now I know that yes, I can do it for myself if I have to, but I know how well spent every blessed dollar for brush hogging truly is.  Hopefully next spring we can afford to have the ground leveled and then we can just mow it with the regular mower.  Joey has been diligent about doing all the regular mowing and weed wacking.

In August Joey helped me for several hours to finish cleaning out Jason's apartment on my Sunday afternoon off.  We gave stuff away to several neighbors and a charity and figured out what tools to bring home to use for ourselves and started to figure out which ones to list for sale.  The next weekend we started working on cleaning out the garage which we also have worked on for the past three weekends as well in order to help make things easier for the new furnace installation.  Hopefully we will have the garage finished in the next week so that the furnace can be installed in the next few weeks.  Besides the furnace we have several other major things that need to be fixed so I have had workers out for those projects as well, giving me estimates and then starting the work.  My hope is that as soon as a plea deal is made we can have one last inspection and have the CPS issue firmly in our past.  Now if only things would stop breaking so that I can have some breathing space.

We still need $15, 000 to fix the furnace and other repairs to the house......please donate if you can.

My $5 thrift store picture to remind me it's okay to relax and take care of myself
It says, "Le Bain, Cherish Life's Simple Pleasures"

I have lost over 30 pounds in four months, which equals the last seven years and three pregnancies worth of weight.  I forget to eat and even with medication I still have trouble sleeping for more than four hours at a time.  But I friend pointed out that I have been diligent about taking care of myself.  If I feel like I am getting sick I make myself rest and take some medicine.  I make myself go to bed at a decent hour every night (even though the "to do list" is NEVER complete) and even if I only sleep for a few hours.  I make myself take baths to help relax and help heal all the sore muscles of working at a UPS Store since I can't make it to the chiropractor as often as I would like.  I make myself take the anxiety medicine that my primary doctor wants me to take until we get through this crisis.  I try to remember to take my other medications and eat, but all too often I send the employees to lunch and maybe eat once a day.  With the grief I rarely "feel" hunger anymore.  It's not until I start to feel shaky that I realize that once again I have forgotten to eat.

But mostly when I'm not learning new things at work: like completing my first two freight jobs and designing in less than 24 hours my first 24 page program book from start to finish I do this:

Anna and Katie with Libby photobomb: Pokemon and Pirate themed birthday party

Making sure my kids are happy!!!

Last month through the generosity of some friends we gave a combined birthday party for Katie and Anna at a local park since their birthdays are only six weeks apart.  The park we had it at has a splash pad so the kids got to run around while getting wet and then the teenage brothers and sisters started a game of kickball on the baseball field.  We played "pin the pirate on the pirate map."  Later today we will celebrate Anna's actual birthday that is later this week with the special menu she planned:  home made taco casserole with chips and ice cream.  For breakfast it's Captain Crunch Peanut Butter cereal and pizza for lunch after church.

Joey and Jessie playing "Hungry Hippos" in the back of the store after a lunch break before Saturday soccer

Joey and Jessie both play soccer on their high school teams.  In one week between just those two teams they had 7 games.  I try to see part of each home game, but don't go to any of the away games.  Several friends and family members helped me to get all the littles ready for their school year by helping to purchase their uniforms and school supplies.  One family member is helping so that three littles can still take dance lessons and that the middle two can see a reading tutor.  We are starting two more children in counseling sessions this month.  All these things help to keep "life normal" for them.  I make myself sit down on the couch to be in the same room with them which is hard for me to do when I know that so many things need to be done around the house.  I try to watch a movie with them each weekend via library, rentals or Netflix-with both my big and little kids....that means that I have to try to NOT fall asleep with the littles on a Friday or Saturday night so I can spend time with Joey and Jessie.  Since the three littles are still in crisis mode and are afraid to sleep by themselves, I make myself lie in bed even when I can't sleep so they can "feel my presence"-so they can reach out and still touch me or cuddle close.  I am gone so many hours (averaging 12-14 hours per day) so I know that right now they need that quiet reassurance at night that I am still here and that "I won't stop being their mommy" which was their fear when I told them about the divorce.  They are afraid that I too will one day go to work and not come back.

We celebrated Chris' 40th birthday with a candle and prayers.  Anna got up in the morning, looked at the calendar and then immediately sang "Happy Birthday to Mr. Chris".....I miss him so much!

Picture of Chris holding Joey on his 1st Birthday-Happy 40th Chris!!!

So, there you have it.....same story as last month. I know that God has some amazing plan for me and the kids......and for that matter for all of you.  Thank you for being a part of my journey........"But by the Grace of God Goes I"........Words cannot describe the thankfulness in my heart for all the prayers AND the money that has been donated to help us stay in business AND to pay the bills at home.  For those that have given small loans, THANK YOU-thank you for believing in me-That I can do all this and provide for my kids.

Katie, Anna, Jessie and I at their summer track banquet last month
Not my most flattering picture, but as I have blogged about the girls need to see that I am okay with my body image.
I was exhausted that night, but so happy to be with my girls and see them smiling.

Since I can't get financing before it gets cold I beg you now-hopefully one last time-for help to make the repairs around the house and to provide heat for my children.  I hate asking since I know so many people are in need.  In just the last few weeks I know of a family whose house burnt down, another one where the father was burnt at work and another one with the diagnosis of cancer.......but God keeps saying, "Ask for help" and friends keep reminding me that this is my year to let others help, Please donate if you can and pray.....hopefully this leg of the journey will be done soon and true healing can begin for all of us.

Wishing you a blessed fall and knowing the warmth of God's peace,


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Please Be A Part of Our Miracle!

The girls and I in July

Miracle Needed
Our Go FundMe Update

My oldest-how did he get taller than me?

I am in need of a miracle to keep my store open and I believe that all of you can be a part of it.

We are just three short weeks away from entering the fall increase of business that leads to the wonderful busiest time of year to provide for my children's next year of life.  BUT AUGUST IS THE SLOWEST MONTH OF THE YEAR BUSINESS WISE.  People are busy finishing their vacations and getting their kids ready for school to start.  Not much shipping or printing takes place until after labor day.  (As I said in earlier posts, usually the money made in May gets us through June, July and August, but I instead had to use that money to get caught up on bills that Jason hadn't paid back in March and April just so we could stay open.)  

We need $5, 000 by the end of this week and $15, 000 by the end of the month in order to keep the lights on and the doors open at the store.

I know that this can be done because the God that I believe in is the God of big and small miracles.

Yes, I have applied to banks, but my now ex-husband destroyed my once perfect credit rating.  I can not get a loan the traditional way for either the business or as a personal loan.  All the credit cards are completely maxed out.

I have started calling local business men to see if anyone is willing to give me a personal loan, but they have all said the same thing, "It's August and business is slow."  They have all promised to pray that someone else (or numerous people) will step up and be willing to help out.  I did apply and got a approved by one of those "quick loan places", but that loan was INSANE.  They were going to take $342 out of the bank EVERYDAY to pay back the $20, 000.  I would have ended up paying them $32, 000 so I walked away from that loan.  The idea is to keep us open-not to go further into crazy debt to do so.  If I had that kind of money then I wouldn't have needed the loan in the first place.

I have "doubled down".....I emptied my personal checking account into the store this week in order to cover our franchise loan payment.  I don't have any money left to put into the store.

Yes, I have asked family for help.  I bought groceries this week because my dad sent money.  I haven't taken money from either my dad or my mom since I was 19 years old.  I cried in front of my employees when my daddy called to say money was on its way.

Yes, I have sold everything of value that I can quickly sell.  That is why the store was able to stay open as long as it has.  I am listing more personal and business stuff for sale, but none of that will probably sell before Friday.

Yes, I have minimized payroll as much as I can.  Yes, I am working.  I work 10-14 hours per day basically six days a week, because I always stop in on Tuesdays (which was suppose to be my second day off each week until school starts besides Sundays.)  Several times the UPS driver is there at 6pm chiding me for being at work on my day off.  Many of you business owners know how you "stop in to deal with one thing and you are still there four hours later."  Two different customers can testify that I came in twice on a Sunday to help them with their orders.

No, it doesn't make sense to sell my new car.  That dealership was the only one who would give me a loan and took the falling apart Yukon in as part of the trade-in.  I did check with a used car place and their loan payment was more than what I have for the new car and I got six "denial" letters from banks from them just trying to get me a loan.  That certainly didn't help my credit rating.

Yes, my divorce is final.   Paperwork just has to be signed and completed over the next few weeks.  The store is all mine, including the debt and financial fines being assessed by Jason's past actions.  He signed over all rights to me, but I am responsible to pay off all the vendors and debt.  It's a small, yet big price to have to pay in order to provide for my children.  Let people know that my ex-husband doesn't have anything to do with our store anymore and that I have five children to provide for and several employees.

Now this miracle I need can take place in several ways.  First pray!  I am still standing and fighting each day because I am sustained by your prayers.  Second, share this post with all your friends.  Post it on facebook, help make it go viral.  I have been praying since last Wednesday when I realized that certain fines weren't going to be waved.  I have "peace from God" that my store will make it once we get to September, but God kept saying, "Ask for help."  So I humbled myself and started making phone calls and sending messages to people asking for help.  I said something to my dentist on Friday and I hit up my mechanic on Saturday.  I talked to several families at church earlier today.  I am trying to be that "squeaky wheel" for God, and humble about it.

Third, donate if you can!!!  If you don't want to donate to the Go FundMe page, then you can mail money to our store.  Checks or gift cards can be made out to "Stephanie Rivers",  117 S. Hollywood Blvd Box 114, Steubenville, OH 43952.  Fourth, if you know if any business men or family members willing to give me a loan, then PLEASE, PLEASE send them my way.  I am willing to pay them back with interest.  If they can't do $5, 000 or the full $15, 000 then whatever small amount they are willing to loan I will pay back with interest!!!

Finally, DO BUSINESS WITH ME THE NEXT THREE WEEKS.  If you have something to ship, then come ship with me.  If you need copies (color or black and white), or blue prints, or banners, or yard signs or notary stamps made, or pens ordered for your business, then come to my store and keep our doors open.  Tell your friends and family to do business with me.  Stop driving past me to my competitor.  My prices for printing are less anyways and when it comes to color print jobs I also print on better quality paper so your copies look sharper and more professional.

Pray that I can negotiate some more deals for more time.  Pray that instead of August being our slowest month of business that it becomes a great month for business.

Pray that someone will step up and give me a loan so that I can sleep at night knowing the store can stay open and my kids will be provided for.

I am still standing here fighting the good fight.  I am so close to our miracle being completed that I can taste the victory, but yet I am so close to the crash of defeat.  I feel almost like an Olympian....I can see the finish line and the victory is almost there yet the failure of falling short is so very real.  I just need my cheer squad (all of you) to help get me across the finish line, to help me get through one more month until the busy time for the store and all the bills can be paid.

The small donations add up as well.  I was able to fill my car up with gas because someone handed me $40 at church.  Two weeks ago our picnic dinner for parents night at scout camp was paid for by a facebook friend who stopped in the store and handed me a gift card for Riesbecks.  All those small "paying it forward" gifts have kept the kids and I going for the last few months.

Please, please help me.  I have done so much since my world fell apart on May 1st.  For those of you who are still struggling with anger at my husband for what he did then help get "vengeance" me keep the store that he was stealing from open.  Help me overcome all the obstacles and make our store one of the most successful ones in our region.  I am there everyday trying to make that happen.  Will you help me?


If you are new to my blog then here are the posts 
that explain what has happened to my children and I:


Praying that all of you get the miracles you need in life as well!!!!



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Surreality of Divorce




Jesus with me at the foot of my cross

Yesterday I finally had my emotional breakdown in the adoration chapel during my prayer hour.  Some friends came in to say "Hi" to Jesus while out on a date......which is one of the things that he and I used to do: go to our 5pm adoration hour and then go out to dinner and/or sometimes a movie....sometimes just go grocery shopping together after we spent time praying to God......and after they left it hit me that I would never have a date like that again.....and in one of those rare occurrences during my prayer hour there was no one else in the adoration chapel and I began to sob......begging God to take this cross away from let me wake up from this nightmare and to let my life go back to the way it once was......maybe we could compromise.....maybe Jason could still have had an affair or have stolen from the store, but just NOT have hurt our kids or have any child pornography???  At the start of the next adoration hour I was found still kneeling on the floor and another friend knelt next to me, rubbing my back and holding me, just listening to me sob and beg God to take this cross away-to lift my burden.  After approximately another fifteen minutes I tried to stop crying-having looked at the clock and realizing that I needed to get home to my kids.  I guess I mentioned having to go buy food for supper and the friend offered to go buy us supper so that I could have more time to calm down and to spend in prayer.  After she left I tried to move and then realized that I had lost all feeling in my legs so I managed to crawl back to my purse and laid my head on it until someone else came in to say "Hi" to God at which point I sat up and just sat on the floor looking up at Jesus and I felt His unending love and peace flood my soul.  He knew this cross before I was ever born-before I ever married Jason....He saw Jason's sins (and my own) in the Garden of Gethsemane and He still chose to get on that cross and die for us....He died for my kids.......we will survive what seems unbearable to me right now........

Yet today still felt like a dream.  Jason was brought over from the jail and here I am talking to my husband in an orange jump suit and handcuffs about what we were both agreeing to for the divorce in front of a sheriff deputy and my lawyer.  With the verbal agreement in place the lawyer goes to the judge to ask to make it a "final divorce proceeding."  We then go into the court and everything is stated for the court record by the lawyer and then we go up one at a time to the stand and answer "yes" to all the questions being asked to us-that we were both of sound mind and knew what we were agreeing to it....then with the sound of a gavel in less time than what it took to say our wedding vows the last nine years were dissolved......we were no longer married due to "incompatibility".......Jason was led away to go back to the jail and after briefly talking to my lawyer there I am all alone......completely a single mom with sole custody of five children and the hope and prayer to God that He is the God of the widow and orphans, which is what we basically are now since Jason will be in jail for a very very long time for the crimes he committed.


My St. Martha candle

My original patron saint from when I came into the Catholic Church is St. Martha-and her feast day is on July 29th....I have been praying for her intercession as well each night leading up to what would have been our anniversary for we were married on her feast day. She is the patron saint of servants. When I was inducted into the National Honor Society over twenty years ago I really took seriously what candle I wanted to light and I chose “service” as the guiding light for my life.....whenever I wonder about which path to follow I always end up choosing which path would serve God best through my own service.

Yet, I have peace....I know that somehow this is all works for God's good.....that there is a reason for all this pain in God's master design......and now I know that my children are safe from him especially since the youngest do not understand what is going on.

Infant Jesus Child of Prague Statue at St. Mary's in Martins Ferry, OH

When I went to the Infant Jesus Child of Prague Novena Prayer Service tonight I realized that it was the 4th novena service which means that we are half way done....this also means that hopefully all the legal paperwork to make everything final for the divorce will be completed before the end of the novena. Earlier this month when I was driving home from the novena one of my kids took this picture of a double rainbow-not the best, but we were driving at sixty miles per hour and it was on a cell can faintly see the second rainbow in this picture.....a rainbow, God's promise to us all.

Faint Double Rainbow over Ohio River

Last week I managed to spend some time alone at Lake Erie. While driving home I had grabbed a “not so detailed map” at a rest stop.....I made some wrong turns since my gps wasn't working, so I didn't end up at the original beach I wanted to find. I ended up at East Beach in Loraine, Ohio and spent two hours sitting on the beach, journaling and just praying......letting the endless waves and the sunset start to heal my bruised soul. I ended up discovering this beautiful rose garden and took this picture of the American flag while listening to the Loraine County community choir and band perform “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Sometimes God's wrong turns are just what we need in life.

East Beach Rose Garden

May you all experience the scary sweetness of new beginnings especially those that begin when something old fades away with the setting sun........



Monday, July 13, 2015

July Go FundMe Update

Infant Child Jesus of Prague

My July Go FundMe Update

On July 1st, 2015 my small world was rocked again when Jason was arrested and charged with first degree charges of harm against one of his own children.  My soul felt like it was spinning out of control for a full week.  It wasn't until after I got through grand jury indictment testimony that I began to feel God's peace again.  At times it feels like I am living in a really long nightmare that I can't wake up from, but unfortunately it is my real life.

I have continued to be fully cooperating with the investigation.  Jason is back in jail where he should remain for a very, very long time.  There is no way he can possibly explain these new charges to me.  Again, hopefully with time God's peace will fill this "unexplainable" hole of "why?" that I can't comprehend.  Ohio's Victim Assistance Program is a reimbursement program so for counseling we are starting with just me and the two children that we have proof were hurt.  (Jason's mom's counseling is being completed on her own.)  We will add the three other children as we can afford to in the future or if the situation changes and the counselors decide that we have to start counseling immediately.

Before I go on about personal matters, one of my best friends has reminded me that people can't help me unless I ask for help.  So again, besides begging for prayers, I come asking for financial help if you can do so.  The appeal in May has brought in over $4, 000 blessed dollars.  

Half of that money was used to pay half of May's unpaid bills.  The other half was used to purchase a new vehicle for myself since the Yukon had once again broken down.  The repair estimate was over $2, 000 for a vehicle worth between only $4, 000-$5,000.  It took several people urging me to take the plunge, but I managed to use a corporate employee program to buy a new 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander.  Here I am right after the car was delivered to me:

Stephanie with her 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander

The UPS Store franchise has a special deal with Mitsubishi and they were also willing to take the black truck as a trade in even though it was 11 years old for this Mitsubishi Outlander. I was shaking as I wrote the check for the down payment because I am trusting in God that I will be able to pay for this vehicle each month. The dealership put a trailer hitch on for me and will add my luggage rack that is on back order in the future. A friend delivered the truck to me since the dealership closed before my store. Two minutes after this picture was taken I was crying because I feel unworthy to have a new truck. I have always driven used vehicles. This truck costs more than my undergrad education (even though it was on a full ride scholarship, but if I had to have paid for it this truck costs more than that.) But it can hold all of us for those times I have all 5 kids with me and it will save on gas and hopefully will have minimal repairs for the next 6-10 years. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!! The children all love it and kept saying how awesome and beautiful it was when I took them for a bedtime car ride on that first night we got it.

We still need to raise money to change over our dual wood/coal furnace to a propane furnace and to finish installing duct work in most of the house since Jason had only completed duct work to two rooms last winter.  (We have two other wood stoves and some really old electrical wall heaters.)  I need to purchase a large propane tank for the fuel as well.  There are other repairs that still need to be made on the house.  I have been selling many personal items, but just had to use most of that money to pay property tax bills for the past two years that Jason said he paid, but never paid.  He instead lied and used the money for his hidden sin life.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of you who have donated money or shared this post with others asking them for prayers and money.  I find that words are so inadequate to express my thankfulness.  Your prayers and generosity have kept the children and I going.  I thank you ahead of time if any of you would be so kind as to donate again.  I still have the second half of May's bills to pay off so we are hoping to raise at least $10, 000 more dollars, but $20, 000 is what we really still need to get caught up on everything.

Personal Update:

God's Plans for My Life

Just as when Chris died, there have been so many moments where I now see God's hands in all these events:

Our St. Joseph cake made by Aubrey's Bakery for our annual dinner: we fed 79 people this past March.

As many of you know I have a strong devotion to St. Joseph.  In fact I have blogged about our annual St. Joseph Altar dinner that we give every March in the past.  Jason was first arrested on May 1st, which is the feast day of "St. Joseph the Worker."  May is also the month of Our Lady St. Mary.  (Several different friends pointed this out to me a few days after he was arrested.)  Jason not only helped me honor St. Joseph with preparing the large St. Joseph meals, but he had of his own volition written a prayer and vow to St. Joseph to take care of me and his stepchildren at our wedding as St. Joseph took care of St. Mary and Jesus.  We now know he was stealing from our business, which is the exact opposite of being like "St. Joseph the Worker."  He also said honored Mary under the title "Our Lady of Victory."

This past winter Jason kept saying how he wanted to sell our rental duplex, that it was too stressful for him to maintain (even as he had moved his mistress into it and was paying her bills there.)  I had bought a statue of St. Joseph to put inside the duplex (NOT to be buried in the ground as some people do).  He never took the statue there, so in April I pushed it into his hands saying you can't ask St. Joseph to intercede for the selling of the duplex if you don't take St. Joseph to the house for it to sell.  So, he ACTUALLY took the statue of St. Joseph to the duplex, but didn't put it in the empty unit.  He actually took St. Joseph into where the mistress lived.  Eight days after the two of them were arrested, my friends helped me search the unit where she lived (that I am the landlord of) so that we could hand over her electronic devices to the sheriff and we found St. Joseph hidden in a kitchen cupboard.   St. Joseph is known as THE TERROR OF DEMONS.  No wonder they were thankfully finally caught by the Sheriff due to an anonymous tip.  YOU DON'T MESS WITH ST.  JOSEPH.  Jason actually took the statue of one my patron saints-THE SAINT THAT HE HAD VOWED TO BE LIKE-into the place where he was committing adultery.

A few days later, a large box arrived at the store as I left to go to his bond hearing (where the bond was lowered.)  The next day one of the employees reminded me that the large box sitting in the store was mine.  Inside it was a statue of the Holy Family THAT I HAD ORDERED BACK IN FEBRUARY FOR OUR ST. JOSEPH ALTAR DINNER.  The statue arrived three months later on the day of Jason's bond hearing as one more reminder from God that St. Joseph is interceding for me and the children in heaven.  It comforted me so much that I am not even annoyed about how long it took it to arrive.  Obviously it came right on time!!!

Two days later I broke down sobbing in our store and an hour later the customer that was in the store when I started crying brought in beautiful yellow roses for me with a kind note.  A friend later pointed out to me that it was the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.  Our lady is called "the mystical rose"-what an amazing gift to receive from heaven brought to me by a customer whose heart was moved by the sobs I couldn't control from the back of the store and whose sounds she could hear in the front of our store.  Thousands of people saw the "sun dance in the sky" at one of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, so yellow roses really were appropriate that day!

Then last week as I sat down next to my mother-in-law at the preliminary hearing where the prosecutor had to admit evidence of first degree rape, Debbie leaned over and whispered, "It's the feast of St. Maria Goretti."  Oh, the irony of it all.  St. Maria Goretti was murdered as she resisted unwanted sexual advances.  She forgave her attacker as she laid in agony dying from fourteen stab wounds.  Her murderer later converted in part due to her act of forgiveness as she died and the forgiveness her mother extended to him.  Yet one more reminder from God that His protecting hand is in all of this and for me to continue to pray for Jason's soul and that of his mistress' soul every day.  The past few weeks I have really truly been struggling with forgiveness.  I can't believe he hurt our beautiful kids. 

That day was also the start of the Novena to the Infant Child Jesus of Prague down in Martins Ferry that I try to attend annually.  We prayed to Jesus under that title for a safe delivery of our four year old and we have prayed many times to Jesus under that title for financial needs.  I told the organizer of the event last week that I was greatly comforted that Jason's preliminary trial had been held on that first day of the novena and she replied that she would be adding "praying for his soul" to her own novena prayers.  I am lifting up everyone who has prayed for us, given financially, helped with babysitting and house/lawn repairs-all of your personal intentions are being prayed for by me during this nine week novena.  The kids and I would not be surviving half as well as we have been without all the love and support we have received these past few months.  I can't even begin to give back to all of you what you have given to me, but I can pray.  So many miracles have been given when Jesus has been honored and prayed to under the title of "the infant Jesus."  So, I offer up my prayers and sufferings for all of you-may you receive God's peace within your own lives.  (If any of you would like to attend the novena it is at 7pm every Monday night at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Martins Ferry, Ohio until the end of August.  The beautiful prayer service lasts just one hour.)  

I have been overwhelmed by all the beautiful messages, cards, letters, gift cards, gifts of work around our house and other presents that the children and I have received, especially the ones from complete strangers.  A protestant church in a neighboring town dropped off a 4th of July care package.  Another customer brought in a basket of beautiful stuffed animals that my girls just love playing with.  I tear up just thinking of all these blessings we have received.  Last month two of the kids had birthdays and we have been fighting a weird stomach virus.  We seem to be going through round two of it again.  Thankfully God has protected me so far from the illness (but extra protection prayers for my continued good health would be greatly appreciated!)

We are doing our best to keep moving forward.  Life goes on even though I would like it to reverse back to before all this evil happened.  My littles will randomly say to people, "My daddy is in jail."  That is their new normal.  I just try to roll with it and try to read people's faces for how to reply or intercede.  Most of the time the littles just say that and then keep talking or run off and play.  I don't want to "hush them" or "shame them into silence"--obviously it's what is still on their mind and they need to get it out.  My big kids are still running off to all their teenage activities.  They have both been my rocks: working, helping with the littles, cleaning the house, doing yard work...making me laugh.....just being the awesome kids that they are.  They haven't complained to me once even though their lives have been turned upside down.  Once again I find that I get out of bed each morning because I have five kids depending on me (plus my employees of course-but it's mostly my kiddos.)
There was not any contact between Jason and the kids when he was out of jail for those few weeks.  Even though it would probably have helped my littles to hear his voice on the phone or to have a letter written to them, there has been absolutely no contact between him and the children.  Just as when Chris died and there was no body to bury for a funeral, Jason went to work one day and never returned: he has just vanished from their lives, but yet the littles are haunted because they can't understand why they can't talk to him on the phone or write letters back and forth.  I keep telling them that their daddy is sick and this is what needs to happen for him to get better.

Jason will have his indictment hearing this week and then most likely not much will happen for several months.  After that hearing then all "the lawyer games" will begin where both the defense and the prosecutor will file different motions.  Justice will take time to be served, but it's already being served since neither he nor the other woman can hurt anymore children in jail.  Please pray that I am able to get more things sold quickly so that I can complete the repairs to the duplex so that it can be rented no later than September or October.  I am so blessed by the good neighbors that live around  the duplex.  They have been keeping an eye on things for me and that can never be repaid either.

Thank you to all of you who have kept shipping at our store and letting us serve all your document copying needs.  Hopefully in a short while the divorce will be complete.  Thank you for all who have been spreading the word to still use our store for shipping and for copying.  I greatly appreciate everyone who has been telling others that I now run the store and that I have five kids to feed.  May God bless and keep you forever!!!!

May you all have a blessed July and hopefully have some sweetness of summer relaxation in your plans!!!