On Being Poor

I just found this article called The 5 Stupidest Habits You Develop Growing Up Poor: http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-5-stupidest-habits-you-develop-growing-up-poor/ and found it quite interesting.  I expected it to be funny… instead I realized that I’m not as far from feeling poor as I pretend to be.

For those readers who have not experienced being poor the article might come across as sarcastic or stupid… for me it was eye opening.  I do every. single. one. of those 5 Stupid Habits!  It is not so much that we grew up poor… it’s that trying to learn how to be a self sufficient adult in the worst economy since the Great Depression is hard.  I frequently feel poor.  I finally found a job that makes enough money that I shouldn’t feel poor, but in the year that I’ve had this job my husband has quit a job, been laid off, and been let go… Now he is having a hard time finding another job that’s not in a call center, and he’s not going back to a call center because that’s what he tried last year and obviously it didn’t work! We have been getting by with a hairpin tight budget and the help of our credit cards, which are there for emergencies after all.

I was quite fortunate when I graduated college not to have any student loans.  I managed that by:

1) Having a scholarship with so many requirements that  it felt like a job but also paid incredibly well and gave me great opportunities.

2) Working one-two jobs the whole time I was in school until my last semester.

3) Going to a State University instead of the far off expensive University that I couldn’t even afford to apply to, let alone attend without a full ride scholarship like I had always dreamed of doing.

What I didn’t manage to do was find a job in CollegeTown after graduation that paid enough for me to stay.  So I tried for five months and accepted the first job that was offered to me… and it was in another city, so I moved into a garage so I could work there.  In one of my earlier posts I mention that the animals I took care of ate better then I did… I wasn’t joking.  They had fresh rotisserie chicken, rice, and gourmet dog food.  I had pot pies, dollar bags of pasta, and ramen.

Like the article explains when you finally begin to crawl your way out of “being poor” you, well I, found that I wasn’t well equipped to live with money.  If I get money for a birthday or a holiday, I use it to buy something “I wouldn’t buy for myself” because I can’t rationalize buying the new clothes/books/games/or fancy dinner when we’re living so close to the edge.  It sucks to buy your groceries on your credit card because you’re afraid you’ll need the cash in your account to make your car payment.

We are trying to get better about budgeting and such but it is quite discouraging how fast credit card debt climbs and how slowly it goes down.  I had a credit card that was over $3000 when I moved to BigCity.  We finally paid it off recently!  We did it with the generous financial contributions of our tax return, holiday money, and a mentality of JUST PAY THE DAMN THING AND EAT RAMEN FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS!  We did it! Woo!  FINALLY! We spent a blissful four days dreaming about how fast we were going to pay off my husband’s car now that we had so much “extra money.”

And then of course life hit and now that same card has crept back up to $1871.46 in less then 6 months.  It’s not that we go out all the time and buy frivolous things… it’s that after years of “not being able to afford to go to the doctor or dentist” we finally went and SURPRISE: I needed 2 root canals and 4 fillings and my husband needed 7 fillings.  I had one root canal and am getting the fillings done next month and my husband is getting his fillings done this month.  Also, his car broke down again.  I hate playing what I call “Car Roulette.”  Car Roulette is when your car breaks and the mechanic spins a giant Repair Wheel before telling you how much it’s going to cost to patch up the car this time.  Bonus points:  routine maintenance that should get done soon.  Add to that the rising cost of electricity now that it’s summer… We’re hoping he gets a job soon!

Bright side:  The dentist I found was EXCELLENT and it was the best root canal I’ve ever had.  (For the record, it was my third root canal.)  It was so not-as-awful-as-I-expected, that I’m not as scared about the next one (which I will have when we can afford it).

Another Bright Side: This too will pass.  We have made it through tougher times together and someday we’ll look back on all this and laugh.

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Not an April Fool’s Day Prank

Living with a crazy lady for five months appears to have made me reckless.

I am now living with two guys BW (18, in high school) and CR (25, works at Website).  They are fellow nerds but also rock climb and do projects and drive motorcycles/speed bikes (ZK1490? Ninja and Kawasaki).

As living at Roommate’s became more and more awful, I stopped writing about it and telling people how bad it was.  After we agreed to extend our agreement, the situation rapidly deteriorated.  By the end of February I was ready to look for other options (as evidenced by my last entry.)  I began searching at the beginning of March and on 3/31 I moved out of Roommate’s and in with the guys!  I’m already SO much happier!  I have roommates!  They’re nice!  We’ve had dinner together my first two nights!  They helped me move in!  I have my own room with just stuff I want in it.  I can lock them out!  I get to keep things in the bathroom!  I get to keep things in the kitchen!  I have a closet!  I have a ceiling fan!  I have a fan that doesn’t squeak ALL the time!  I have a key to the house!  I get to sleep in the house!  If I did die in the garage, my roommates would notice!  There are no pets or crazy old ladies!  I only live 7 miles from work instead of 20 miles!  I won’t have to get up at 4:30 am anymore!  There are no pets!  I get to use the light switches!  I don’t have to check my bed for crickets before crawling under the covers!  I don’t have to wipe out the kitchen sink after using it!  I can throw away paper towels!  I can use their pool instead of just looking at the pool in the backyard!  I know how many people have access to the house!  I can turn off the TV!  I can take a hot shower!  I can get home from work and eat dinner instead of spending an hour feeding someone else’s pets!

I met CR three times before deciding to move in and BW only once.  I saw the house before agreeing and moved in four days later.  A week before that I learned CR was/might be looking for another roommate.

Tonight they took me riding.  We went 145 MPH!!! We also popped a wheely! (Author’s Note:  This is NOT an exaggeration.  Those things really happened (not at the same time. duh.)  Yep, I was definitely reckless!) I rode on the “world’s fastest production motorcycle!  IT WAS AMAZING!  OMG the adrenaline! WOW!  What a thrill!  I did really well!  It was a great roommate bonding experience!  We came home and I made cookies! …There is so much to say about all that has happened.  Most of me doesn’t want to remember any of it (despite the amazing story stuff I could get form it all.)

I keep procrastinating because I don’t want to sleep because that means I will wake up and have to go to work.  I will now go to sleep.  Perhaps when it’s not so immediate I’ll be able to document these recent events.

(Author’s Note: Nope.  Didn’t really happen.  I have happily let most of those shenanigans fade into the black hole of memory and time and occasionally will bring up a few stories if I’m quite intoxicated and asked directly.  Those stories do make a great comedic stand up act….)

Anxious Reality

I can’t sleep because I’m so anxious.  Things are not bright at the moment.  I have slept less than seven hours the last two nights combined because I’ve been so anxious.  Things that are bothering me/I’m anxious about include:

My dad’s health

My mom’s health

My parent’s relationship

Boyfriend

The Babies (Olddog and YoungDog)

My job

My health

My living situation

My car

Money

MONEY

So, there are other worries also, but these are the ones with resounding echos and repeats in my head.  I am writing them now to get them out of my head so I can try to sleep and let the echos bounce within the pages of my journal.

(Author’s Note: Sadly, I still worry about many of these things even though it’s been 3 years…  I dithered about whether to include this post or not on my blog because it’s very personal and it includes things I don’t like to discuss with people.  I finally decided to include it because I want this blog to be a place where I can be myself and if people in the world see that, even the dark parts, then that needs to be ok.  Maybe someone else with anxiety induced insomnia will stumble across this post and realize they are not alone and it might help them.  I don’t know because I sat down to enter this and read through it and got all anxious myself so hopefully it doesn’t make someone else’s anxiety worse!  I can’t worry about other people’s feelings right now.  It’s time for me to be selfish.  This blog is about me and my feelings.  I try to find the magic in the world because a candle loses nothing by lighting other candles.  I hope that if I go through life as a candle helping bring light to other people that maybe it will burn some of the darkness out of me where it hides because I try not to show it to other people.  I don’t want to add more darkness to the world.  I want to add light.  That’s why this post is hard to write and why I’m stalling by doing this Author’s Note… *sigh* No more excuses.  Here is a glimpse of the shadows flickering behind my light.)

My dad’s health:  My dad has back/spine/neck damage/problems.  Disks 3&4, 4&5, 5&6, 6&7 all have problems.  He was a landscaper his whole life and worked incredibly hard physically (and in general).  There are a few different causes but the terrifying reality is his severe pain and his inability to work like he has for his whole life.  He’s so hurt he can’t even really play XBox anymore.  That really sucks because that used to be his way of zoning out from the pain and giving himself a break.  He needs back surgery on his spine.  The kind where they go in through his throat and fuse his bones together with a metal plate.  He could have had the surgery 5 years ago and so it was that bad then but now its 5 years worse!  He’s scared.  He hasn’t told me that in as many words but I can tell.  He’s gone to a physical therapist and wants another option besides surgery.  There’s not really another option.  He’s scared for his quality of life as he gets older.  I’m scared for him too.

My parent’s relationship: I think both my parents are really depressed.  I worry that they might get a divorce even though they are getting along much better than they used to.  My dad’s unemployment is about to run out and my mom doesn’t make enough money herself to cover all the bills.  On top of that they have medical bills, 2 dogs, and no end in sight.  My dad really can’t work.  Between cutting out the hard or not at all physical labor and having to pass a drug test (he uses pot medicinally to help with his spine pain), things are looking quite grim indeed.

My mom’s health: I think my mom pretty much hates her job.  The nepotism at the library is so over the top I don’t know how she deals with it.  It infuriates me to hear some of the stories about her work.  I hear “library” and think “how awesome!  I’d love to work there!” but then I hear about what it’s really like and yeah it has really awesome elements but on the other hand people insist on doing things the same way they’ve always done them, just because they’ve always done them that way.  That’s not logic, that’s being stubborn and I don’t understand why people are so resistant to change if it’s helpful change.

Cousin: My awful cousin is FINALLY gone to boarding school so he is out of my grandparent’s home.  They seem to be going/have gone BAT SHIT CRAZY though.  When did that happen?  How did I miss it?  Oh yeah, I missed it because they’ve chosen that awful cousin over literally the rest of the family and pushed everyone away.  They are so hurtful and supportive and cruel to my family now and it breaks my heart.  They used to be so loving and supportive and held all sorts of family events and their home was a place of love and celebration.  Yeah, sometimes grandpa would get drunk and yell at everyone but once we got that out of the way the party could continue… “Poor AwfulCousin” is all they care about now.  They did not even get Christmas presents for anyone else.

My parent’s other property in NeighboringTown to HomeTown: Things keep getting worse there.  I still don’t really know just how screwed we are but the more I learn, the scarier it gets.  Every time we think we have good renters the jerks just come and steal them.  Literally they wait until a couple of months before their lease is up and go up to the front door and tell the renters that we are raising the rent (which is a LIE) and who knows what else.  Then they tell them that their property is just like this one and oh hey, is even cheaper a month (because it IS since the used the floor plans that my parents developed and bought the corner lot adjacent to this one that my parents were going to buy the following month and then built the same set up we have and instead of finding their own renters they keep stealing ours and undercutting the rent which they can afford to do because they can afford to do that.)  I really hate people.  I mean, who does that?  What sort of lifelong friend stabs you in the back over a piece of land in a town that looks like it will have good property values in a couple years but right now is pretty worthless and then continues to twist the knife at every opportunity?  I just cannot wrap my head around it!

I don’t have a safe/happy/good reality at the moment and even fiction stories are not helping me block it all out.

Today my mom told me they are considering bankruptcy. The unfairness of IT ALL strikes me and makes my throat ache.  My parents have lasted through cancer, cancer again, a kid (me), a kid going through college (me again), a home business that was on and off again, addictions, people screwing them over, so many obstacles and trying to invest and then cruel and deceitful people finally break everything.  It’s SO unfair!  I know the world is unfair but I don’t understand why bad things always seem to happen.  And why do they always happen at the same time too?  I’m almost paralyzed with fear for was.  What can I do to help?  What will happen to us all?

Pets: OldDog is so old.  He tired to jump onto my bed last time I was home visiting and missed.  That has never happened before.  I picked him up and held him and cried and cried while he licked my arm trying to comfort me.  He can’t help where he goes to the bathroom anymore.  It’s gross but he’s old and can’t help it and we still love him.  I don’t think he’s in pain but I’m terrified he is and I’m just not around enough to really know.  The time is approaching when we are going to have to decide if he needs to go to sleep.  I’m unsure and terrified of what will happen.  He’s been my baby since I was in third grade.  I already miss him so much because I don’t live with him.  I sometimes call the house when I know my parents are gone and leave a voicemail to the dogs telling them what good puppies they are and asking if they want a treat.  When my parents get home the dogs are all excited and barking and jumping around and they know its time to give them cookies cuz I left them a happy voicemail.  YoungDog is so dumb and has learned such bad habits from OldDog that I worry about what will happen to her.  She’s really sweet but such a spazz!

Boyfriend: Things with Boyfriend are alright.  We still love each other madly and are planning on our future together.  I can see now and I don’t know how to move forward.  I don’t know how to get to where I want to be.  There are no sure or right answers to these tough questions.  He has his stupid 6 month lease that he signed since I moved up here, his job that he seems to love (or at least really enjoy) that he is amazing at, and a car, and a life in CollegeTown.

Living situation: I’m in BigCity living with a grandma who’s never there, a goat, a cat, and two dogs that eat better then I do.  I work 10-12 hours a day at $10 an hour.  I can’t afford to move out of this house.  I don’t know if I even want to move out if I can’t move in with Boyfriend.  I can’t afford to live because I make so little money.  I spend a ridiculous amount of money on gas EVERY week because this place is so far away. It’s really super scary trying to make it on my own.  And I am because my parents are not really in a position to help me.  They say they can help if I need it but how can I believe them when they say that but then also tell me about all the financial worries they’re facing?  How do I go on with my family in so much trouble?  How can I just live down here and selfishly try to do what I want when maybe if I moved home and got a job it could help them out? What do I do if they are going to file bankruptcy?  Is it too late to do anything anyway?

Job: My job is SUPER boring and I HATE it!  I literally loathe it. I’m already bitter and it hasn’t even been four whole months yet.  Cycle Counts are interesting but I just need more money.  The Tech test is $130 and getting that much money seems hard to me! That’s pretty surprising because I thought it would be easier by far to move to that position.  The test itself is a lot of math and memorizing abbreviations.  I may get hosed if I do spend the money and then can’t pass the stupid test.

Car: My car is old and is my only mode of transportation.  I live too far from work in BigCity to take a bus or even a series of buses to get to work.  Also with my strange hours the buses don’t even run that early in the morning or that late at night if I was to switch shifts to night shift.  Troubling. It’s all troubling.

My health: My allergies are INSANE!  I have an allergy appointment on Wednesday morning with an allergist in BigCity instead of the one I’ve tried to still see in CollegeTown.  I don’t know the company name, address, or Doctor name at the moment.  I hope it helps me be able to breathe.  I don’t like being reminded of my serious problems with the most basic part of being alive (breathing)!

I took two Benadryl before I started writing this and am finally falling asleep!!!! FINALLY  I have friends but it worries me too.  I wonder about the future and can see where I want us all to be in that future but I don’t know how to make it happen. I wish magic was real so there would be an easier answer or at least more options.  I’ll write more later because I’m going to go sleep like a rock.

Interesting Friends You’ve Got There Roommate

Today was another interesting day!  This time it was an interesting work day with a good evening thrown in.  It’s almost 10:30 but worth it because I had so much fun with Roommate of all people!  I finally got more training at work today!  Two jobs at once actually… which literally gave me a headache.  I learned receiving and cycle counting.  To start my day some dumb guy yelled at me about a cart.  That completely sucked because I don’t deal well with being yelled at and it took me completely by surprise too.  But on my morning break I talked with some fellow gamers!  We compared Halo tips and they were impressed with my “Bro bashing techniques.”  It was awesome!  The number of shelves for stocking were the lowest ever!  I got to go to Roommate’s best friend’s house for dinner after work.  (They are the ones that watch Roommate’s little dog sometimes.)  They have a wonderful interesting house!  That’s the nicest thing I can say about them… they also have a HORRIBLE not at all trained dog.  It stole my napkin off my lap during dinner three times and even stole my flip flop right off my foot!  The only way they can get the dog to do anything is to run to the counter and get him a dog treat and then trade it for whatever he stole.  The dog gets so many treats I don’t know how he can run instead of roll except that he just runs Roommate and her friend around and around in circles as they chase after him trying to retrieve all the things he steals… Bright-Side: I ate so many raspberries my tongue hurt!  After dinner Roommate and I hung out and chatted back at her house.  I learned a lot about her and her best friend.  I think she learned a lot about me too!  It was awesome because we really have not had many chances to talk together even though I’ve lived here almost a month.  It’s the first time we’ve had this much time together anyway.  Boyfriend called and we talked more tonight, right before I wrote this in fact, and he’s just amazing!  We’re so happy and in love.  The distance sucks but we’ve gotten much better at the whole long distance thing.  I miss him and can’t wait for him to move up here but we are good for now and that helps a lot with the waiting.  Now- sleepy time!  It’s still tired in here!