One Crazy Year

I HAD NO IDEA THAT ONE YEAR LATER, I WOULD BE WHERE I AM NOW. No longer a business owner, no longer a homeowner, and happier than I have been in quite some time. The only real constant has been my job. Even the family has had an addition and several subtractions. To describe the last 9 months as crazy is an understatement. Best to start at the beginning.

Summer is a particularly tough time for the meal assembly business. Many people take the summer off, and trying to retain customers is difficult. Combine that with the state of the economy and no cash reserves, and that made last summer our first and last. We didn’t actually close our doors under mid-October, but the writing was on the wall. I won’t go into the gritty details, but I will say that we made the decision very quickly, at a point where we could pay our employees, refund or provide food to our customers, and help out some of the other Dream Dinners owners nearby. So we no longer own Dream Dinners in Hagerstown, and that started all of this (unless you count me knocking up the Boss earlier in the year).

Then comes Kaylee Elizabeth. Our second beautiful daughter was born on October 22, and she is as sweet as her sister. I never did think I wanted kids before I met the Boss, but I think being Daddy is the best, and this little Kaylee-bear makes it even better. Life was a little rough for the first few months, as she was colicky and had a bad case of acid reflux. Now she’s cutting her first teeth, working on her first word, and crawling everywhere. She is quite chatty, which is no surprise if you know Bella.

While we were adjusting to life with Kaylee, we were still dealing with the financial implications of closing the business. We had a 10 year lease, a $220k loan, outstanding vendor invoices, and royalties, all of which we had to personally guarantee. This meant that declaring personal bankruptcy was a foregone conclusion. Maybe in the near future I’ll talk about that process a bit, but the wild card here was that we also had over $370k in mortgages on a house that was worth much less. Combine that with a 90 minute commute each way, all the time and money costs of home ownership, and the Boss and I had a very hard decision to make. The bankruptcy gave us a chance to walk away from the house, and we did. We moved back to Virginia, just 8 miles from my office, into a rented townhouse.

Needless to say, this has taken a bit of adjustment. We’ve gone through several rounds of getting rid of stuff that we didn’t need. We still have a garage and a storage unit full of boxes. We miss our big kitchen and yard, but we don’t miss having to take care of a house that was poorly built. Not to mention that it takes me 15 minutes or less to get to and from work. There is just no price I can put on getting back 10 hours a week of my life. Even this close to these hard choices, there is nothing in the world I would trade for 2 hours a day with my girls.

I’ve barely scratched the surface here. There is just so much to talk about, and my head is finally clear enough to do it. Yes, I am still going strong with GTD, and I have that to thank for being able to make most of these decisions and know for sure that I am doing the right thing. Expect to hear more on that soon.

Todd Palino


I'm a dad, a small business owner, a systems engineer, a developer, and any number of other things.

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