This blog serves to both discuss the amazing thing the LotRO community and others did for me recently, and also to serve as a means of accountability. As a sometime game journalist, ethics and transparency and disclosure are all important to me, and I believe it fair and just to report to those who contributed to the kindness especially financially to know exactly how their money was spent.
First, the backstory. In mid-November, my gas furnace started acting up. It would fire up for no more than 2 minutes and then shut down. With the temperatures falling inside my house, I knew this wasn’t normal behavior. I talked to some friends and they gave me some ideas of DIY repairs or checks I could do. Ultimately, these failed, so I broke down and scheduled for a furnace repair person to check it out. I paid $94 just for a guy to come in, take less than five minutes to look at it and announce ‘your heat exchanger’s cracked here, here, and here, and if you turn this thing on again, you could burn down your house, you’ll have to replace the whole thing’. He scheduled a followup for a ‘comfort specialist’ to come over and assess the situation and give me an estimate of how much it would cost. Two days later, that guy came over and told me it would cos $3650 to replace the furnace, including the cost of a new furnace.
Thing is, he offered financing, but I was declined. Despite the fact I own a house, my credit is apparently too poor to get financing through them. So I turned to my bank. They declined, pointed at my credit score, and shrugged. Irony here: my bank account with them is old enough to drink, and they have a complete history of my finances and know how long I’ve been steadily employed (15th anniversary at my current company next month!), and have 21 years of history of biweekly direct deposits from that and my previous job since moving to Cincy. But they saw a three-digit number and told me nope. The furnace people suggested a local credit union whose policies aren’t as conservative. Apparently they couldn’t/wouldn’t help either.
I remarked on social media in limited fashion about the issue and got lots of awesome suggestions for things like online lending companies, etc. Ultimately, it came down to the same thing: ‘get a co-signer, since your paid-off ride isn’t worth enough to cover the loan as collateral, and despite the fact you’ve owned your house for 6 years, you have no equity in it yet.’ I chose not to explore other bank-related avenues because every inquiry was lowering my credit score.
And in case you want to know why my credit score sucks, I have two words for you: student. loans.
I checked out government programs friends suggested for low-income assistance. Those programs require you to be below a certain percentage above the poverity limit. Well, I make more than those programs allow for. A bit frustrating, to be sure, but I won’t begrudge government assistance to folks who need it much more than I.
So by December, I had bought several space heaters to keep key places in my house warm, particularly the basement where the pipes are and my bedroom, did a little more baking in the oven than usual to take advantage of the ‘free’ heat, and used more blankets and put on a couple more layers while I was at home. The cats would often sprawl in front of the space heaters if they weren’t curling up on me because I am apparently made of warm too. I knew I could save the money over time, I just had to hold out.
Note, during this time, I didn’t ask for financial help from friends, or seek a cosigner, or beg my family for help. You see, when I was a kid, I was taught that I didn’t deserve anyone’s help. I was constantly reminded that others had it worse than I did (true, but we were still pretty damned poor because my psychotic stepdad couldn’t hold a steady job more than a few months or even a year). So, I started setting aside all unnecessary expenses and began cataloguing stuff I owned that I could sell. My comic collection is worth something, and I have a lot of toys I don’t use or have on display, and there’s a dearly-beloved 57-reissue American standard Fender Stratocaster I own in nearly pristine condition. That same model and color in similar ‘very good’ condition is on sale for over a grand on a site like Reverb. The logistics of ebaying most of my unnecessary belongings was mind-boggling and seemed insurmountable.
The only luxuries I allowed myself were my two game subscriptions and my Twitch subscriptions, because at least the latter helped friends. I had a plan and a timeline and based on a conservative estimate that I wouldn’t get decent prices for my stuff. It wasn’t a good one, to be fair, looking at possibly April before I could sort it out. I canceled any plans I had to go to my sister’s convention in the Seattle area in January and mentally crossed PAX East in April off my list just in case.
Then on New Year’s Eve, I got the email with my electric bill, which completely reversed the savings I had already set aside for the new furnace and threw my plans right out the window. I went to bed that night thinking I’d never get this fixed until next winter and wondering how I would manage through the worst of this winter. I was super stressed and heartsick and honestly, feeling like I didn’t even really want to wake up. I put my phone in silent mode, since I didn’t have to work New Year’s Day, and decided to just sleep in and stay under the pile of warm blankets and cats where I was warm for as long as I could that day.
I woke up in the afternoon with several Discord messages and a deluge of Twitter notifications announcing an extremely humbling and amazing thing. McVeganPants, an official LotRO streamer whom I met last year at PAX East, had seen my tweet about the situation and had decided to do something about it. You see, I didn’t talk much about the situation on social media. I rarely use FB to begin with, and my Twitter usage has gone down a great deal. I also didn’t want to beg for help. Again, I was taught through bitter experience with an abusive stepfather that I didn’t deserve the kindness of others, that I shouldn’t try to ‘seek attention’ or ‘whine’ about my situation, because other people have it worse. I mean, I know other people have it worse. One of my friends is currently in the middle of chemo, for pity’s sake! I know I have the privilege of being a white American, and despite the current political shitshow going on right now, living here is still a damned sight better than a lot of other places on this blue marble. I get it. So in my few social media remarks about the situation, I never asked anyone for financial help. All I wanted from my friends was advice, things I could do on my own to try to get this problem resolved. Quite frankly, I didn’t want to be a burden to them anymore than I’ve ever been in the past.I was tossing around the idea of a gofundme on Twitter, but observed that I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea.
Imagine my surprise to blearily look at my phone as I woke up the next day to the messages. McVeganPants chose to light the beacons of Gondor, as she said in her initial tweet. She started streaming and doing a fundraiser, and by the time I got up, it was already almost $900. She’d set a goal of $1000, not knowing the actual amount needed, but it didn’t matter, I spent most of the day ugly crying, because I hadn’t ever been the subject of such kindness before, not like this. I’m used to being the person who organizes charity stuff for others, or donates to funds for other people to help them out. Hell, it took me 17 hours last year to raise $900 for St. Jude, the children’s hospital charity. I did my turn streaming on the official LotRO channel for Extra Life, another children’s charity. I’ve donated to Movember in honor of my friend undergoing chemo. I don’t do these things to be rewarded or to be recognized as a good person. I do them because I like helping people. In many ways, it’s easier for me to help others than it is to help myself, again due to that years-long systemic abuse teaching me on a very deep level how unworthy I was to be receiving help.
After McV got done with her stream, she’d raised almost $1200. Gussymoose raided us, StinePlays raided us from the official LotRO channel, people kept promoting it on social media, RTing and replying, and doing whatever they could do to help. Being in Twitch chat was helpful. There are some people who were apologizing for not being to help, or for the amount of the money they chipped in, but I tried my best to acknowledge those contributions, because even an RT helped. It got the campaign out there amongst the community. I chose to keep it going during my stream, and dear relatively new friend to the LotRO community Sabs, aka ‘CallMeSabs’ on Twitch, decided to also fundraise on his late-night stream. By the time the night was over, we had over $1700. This didn’t include the bits and subscriptions to my personal channel.
As I was posting to my socials the next day, my former SWTOR guildmistress Kayeri and her husband Sableflame super-generously dropped a rather large amount into the coffer. Some folks from FB chipped in after Seraphina Brennan practically demanded the donation link, and then my dad asked how much was left. By that time, it was only $856 needed to hit the total of $3650, and he and my stepmom sent a check for $1600. Of course, since myself, McV, and Sabs used streamlabs donation links for our fundraising, Paypal took a cut, but there was more than enough, and my dad said that any extra out of what he sent me was to be used for other home improvements or to donate as I saw fit. So, here’s the breakdown of what I got.
- $2,762.12 – Total Paypal donations after their 3.5% cut
- $86 – Twitch Revenue (Bits, Subscriptions)
- $1,600.00 – Donation via check from my dad
- $4,448.12 – Grand Total
So, what did I do with that money? That’s where the accountability comes in that I feel is crucial to this matter. I would like you to note that all of the funds raised except what my dad sent me does not cover the total needed. So, for the purposes of this accounting, his money represents the final amount needed and any excess is from his funds, not anything coming from the community or my friends.
When I reached out to the furnace people to schedule the installation, they cut me a $350 rebate because we were no longer going to be financing the amount, just doing it as a lump sum. So I had my bank cut a cashier’s check for the reduced quote of $3,300 and got it scheduled. It’s a side amusement to note that I was trying to schedule it on a Thursday so I could crash +Cord of the Rings, and some idiot named me told the guy ‘the 19th’… which was a Friday. Durr. I still had the half-day off that Thursday and crashed the show anyway, cos why not? However, on Friday, I handed the nice guy the cashier’s check for $3,300, and they got the new furnace installed. It’s amusing to me that one of the guys took a look at my system (the PCs and monitors are in the basement near the furnace) and asked ‘are you a streamer?’ Thank god I didn’t have to explain WTF that was. 😀
Here’s a picture of the beautiful fiiiiiiiiiiiire that the new furnace makes. It warmed up my house fast and I’m thoroughly loving the sound it makes when it’s going. It’s a sound I missed the past two months, that’s for sure. It’s smaller than the unit it replaced, but it’s brand new and has a warranty and is all nice and shiny. This is what you have done for me. Now, I am going to take my dad’s advice for the remainder of the money, since his is all that’s left over. The community’s money was well spent expressly for the purpose you gave it to me, and I am still so grateful. I’m getting misty just thinking about what you have done for me.
Now, on the date the furnace was installed, some guys cruising the neighborhood for tree-trimming work noticed the dead tree in my front yard and asked if I wanted it down. I asked how much, since I’d already been told it needed to come down now before it toppled over and had gotten a quote of $1,200 from a professional service. They said $700, and I said okay and hooked them up. Since I also got paid during this time between when I received the community and my dad’s funds for the furnace, it was paid off and now I’m doing okay, I could budget for that. So, the tree’s now down in my yard in pieces (anyone want free firewood?), and it won’t fall over and hit my house, my ride, or the utility lines. I also heard that an acquaintance in the EverQuest community (one of the community managers who used to work for LotRO‘s publisher Daybreak Games when it was still known as SOE that I’d met at the last SOE Live a few years ago) was in need, I followed my dad’s instructions and donated $100 to her gofundme. The remaining funds from this adventure are sitting around until such time as they are needed, either for other home improvement projects or to donate, as my dad asked.
So, at the end of the day, the community stepped up to help one of their own in the way that I’m used to doing… for other people. We also had DesertOwl, the husband of LotRO community member TheCookieMama – a lady I’ve known for longer than LotRO‘s existed – offering free custom jewelry to the top donators, so he’s working that out with them. Never in a million years would I have thought that someone even as awesome as McVeganPants would think of me so kindly to be willing to organize an fundraiser, much less how well it did in terms of the actual fundraising but also the massive social media campaign. Hell, even the friend going through chemo chipped in an amount. How damned humbling is that?
‘Thank you’ seems so inadequate. I have said that so many times, and I will continue to do so. I’m still trying to process what I did to deserve such kindness, but I hope I never disrespect it. I will strive to be the sort of person worthy of the community’s generosity and do my best to give back to this wonderful community as best I can.