FLOTSAM


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Poverty is grueling. I know there are people below me and people above me. I thank god we have heat, hot water and were able to pay the rent on time…this time. i feel it in our make-do, hand-me downs, that are neither what we enjoy wearing or suitable. There is a daily battle over trying to make stuff work, and making sure there are enough clean clothes available to do so. Our washing machine broke, first the dryer, which I made do by line drying. Now the washer. It costs $2.25 to do a load off clothes. It adds up when you have kids and a limited amount of clothes. I have been hand washing loads in the tub, and either hanging the to dry, or takimg them over to the dryers in the laundry room. It is ok. thankfully I can really wring out the wet clothes using the spin cycle. it really makes you appreciate clean clothes more. Mindful labor. Hand washing is not hard, but wringing out is hard on the hands. In the winter you really need to get as much water out because it takes so long to dry. Now that I don’t have instant access to washing when I need, all my clothe rags and hand towels are more problematic. I can see paper being a more viable option. Meanwhile I boil them and hang dry them until laundry day, otherwise they become mighty nasty.

Food has been a challenge because one gets used to eating what one wants, when one wants, as much as one wants. Going back to frugality means making do with odds and ends, days without as much vegetables as you’d like, and maybe no fruit. Meat we spread out over the week and beans have been making a comeback, something that actually makes me happy. There is nothing more delicious that a plate of black beans over rice, topped with fresh cilantro and a bit of soy sauce. It is hard to deal with the kids though, trying to maintain a food budget with fruit. I have a girl who would eat the entire bag of clementines if I didn’t step in. School hot lunch is not their favorite, but thank god it is there. They complain how bad it is and I believe them, but this is what we have to do; I can’t do lunches every day, and not lunches that they’d want to take anyway. You almost want to weep when you see how fast a big container of yogurt goes, or that bag of clementines. What can you do? On the bright side, we are eating beans, and I am having to get creative in the kitchen. I am baking bread again. One thing that has been hard is weaning off take out. I’m good now, but the first week, you have to really whip your reptilian brain into submission. NO MORE shwarma and fries! NO MORE CAKE! No! No! No!  It feels a lot long than it has been, to be honest. This has been a slow decline into making do, and making even more do…. almost rock bottom. Your pantry gets depleted pretty fast when you are in budget mode. Pantry being, all the well stocked staples, some of which are a pricey initial investment. I can’t wait to have enough “extra” to be able to save money (takes money to make money… or save money) for a trip to the next biggest town and buy jasmine rice in bulk from the Asian grocery store, and bulk meat from the halal butcher. Spices and legumes are also more affordable in bulk there, than the regular supermarkets.

Now, I don’t feel like I am sobbing here, asking for sympathy, I’m just laying it out on the line. Add to all this the other costs of getting to affordable grocery stores or work or school….cars and gas. We have two cars, both old, one from 1991, which needs to be smogged. Old cars do not get the discount price of a coupon smog, and it takes awhile to find a place that will acually smog such an old car—$66 then the fees with DMV for that $80. This car is old, and is not great for going long distances or high speed, however it works a lot better than our other car right now. That one is newer, and has been more reliable until now—now it wants to die on you. We have to try and make it work until we have enough money to afford a mechanic. It is dicey. Wehn you have no money for gas, you use one car anyway. Still challenging.


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Another Golden Day

Good sleep, good morning.Beautiful day, humming. Bees, sun, butterflies. Distant hum of an airplane. Other than that, quiet.

Made a smashingly good chicken salad for lunch. The mail brought good news. I can put gas in the car, buy any spark plugs we need, get quarters, buy the best dishwasher detergent (this morning’s “clean” load, was NOT clean).

Oh and the house is clean, fairly clean. And that makes things good.

We are going to make caramel apples later, something else to look forward to…


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Stress and Poverty

Poverty is exhausting.

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Fall is the most beautiful season because it is full of crisp air—- golden days where time hovers rather than flying off.

Today there was blessings in the air. Despite the fact that everyone in our complex has been stressing out about having inspections, today was serene, and golden. Many of us were still trying to cram stuff into the dumpsters this morning, and you could hear that people were getting their last minute cleaning done. It is really stressful for the management, since it is usually a third party that wants to inspect, whether it is the State, the City, or the Tax Board.. Sometimes we are lucky to be randomly chosen ahead of time, which is good because you can do a quick clean on the patio and front door, make sure your blinds are straight, etc. Not knowing is REALLY stressful. You have to be ready, whether they chose you or not. Since they flush your toilets, check you fridge, turn on the stove, open windows, and look under sinks—you really have to clean, not just tidy up. There is something really unpleasant about letting a group of strangers into your home, and watch them check every room and utility. When you have company, of your own choosing, you may not care how your house looks, or you may just clean the front room and the bathroom- the essentials. I know they are not looking to see how tenants rate on the messy house scale, and that it is in the interest of tenants to have these inspections- they are making sure that the subsidized housing is not being a slumlord and leaving people in sub-par units. However, it is physically and emotionally exhausting. I wish that all the parties interested in view our units, would do so all on one day. You also have to understand that each inspection, means getting a pre-inspection done by the management to make a to-do list. Management is not so bad, and once you’ve been there, they are a bit like family. Still, gotta clean and avoid the shame. On the plus side, my house is clean and I could handle visitors without freaking out! This time around was really exhausting because my husband hurt his back earlier in the week, and I had to do a lot of furniture shuffling, and bed hauling by myself. I am pooped, but I have a nicer home.

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Poverty is exhausting… well. Yes, these damned inspections and all that cleaning! This week I almost cried a few times because of trying to clean ahead of time, on top of normal day-to-day cleaning, all the while my little monkeys making more mess. And our washer broke, so now we are out of a washer and a dryer (I was line drying or hauling wet stuff to the laundry). Sooo. This means having to have quarters on hand and not being able to do laundry on whim. This means every towel that the kids wipe something yucky on is tragic because it depletes my towel reserve and my energy. Laundry that the kids slosh water on, becomes a chore that demands going out to get quarters, and starting a load in the laundry room, despite all the other things you have to do. It means having enough money for quarters, or having to choose between gas for the car, laundry money, or toilet paper.  Ya Allah! Poverty is not having money to fix a car, or gas to visit family. It means weekends at home, no farmers market escapades, or going out with the kids for a treat, which is OK, but you know, sometimes you need to not “feel poor” and be able to do some low budget things out in the community. Sometimes it is wanting toilet paper, and having to wait and make do. That is the worst. Putting up with crappy low cost dishwasher detergent is not fun either (at least I’m using it up despite how not-great it is).
Poverty is not being able to buy your kids clothes that they kind of need or you know they will need soon… We get pretty creative, and thank god I never emphasized looking “smashing” or matching. I don’t care to much about my own clothes, and when I do it is easy just to back-burner the feeling. With kids though. It is harder.

It is just exhausting, and I do pray things will pass. That my husband can find a job, that I can wrangle my moods and energy and find a way to make a little too. I am thankful we live in a nice town, in a nice complex, have really good neighbors, and that as a family, we are pretty awesome–and that is quite a lot.


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Home

Sometimes I find myself looking back and trying to pinpoint when things went downhill for me, either in spirit or health. How did I end up as this pathetic, ineffective, over-weight, fuddy-duddy (and despite how sad that sounds, I do love myself)?

In spirit, well, the glass is half empty. When did that start? Why didn’t I learn to see ahead with hope? This effects one spiritually, as in the soul-not religiously, and when it comes to figuring out how to be “successful”. You do this, and you do that, and you can have what you want! I remember visiting my Grandmother, back in her hometown, back when she could drive, and having a mini breakdown after seeing beautiful little homes that I felt I could never have access to because I could never do the A+B to get there. I was bawling by the time we got to the grocery store, so my grandmother took me to the Starbucks next to it to sit for awhile. That was pretty surreal. I don’t think I was able to explain this sadness to her, but she respected it. I had good childhood memories and not so good ones of that town. The good ones were house related, built by the daily walks to and from school which were pretty blissful–no one to make me feel miserable, or tease me. I soaked in the seasonal beauty, and the smells of the trees, grass, and homes. I visually explored every home and yard.  Anyway, I stopped crying. We went shopping, and afterwards the bagging clerk, who was instinctively kind, turned to me before he left and said it would get better.

Home has plagued me. I dream of homes that are left for me, and finding new apartments that are really neat and full of soul. Throughout college I couldn’t focus on school because I wanted “something real”, which I think meant home, family, and community. Dating men, and playing house kind of filled the hole. I try to imagine what college would have been like if I had been secure enough, and  “filled” enough to enjoy it, not to mention clearly seeing that A+B+C= D. Would I have been more successful, and career oriented? I had so many opportunities. I can only say, with some sad sort of pride, that I got into Art School and Architecture School—but I couldn’t follow through because I wanted to be settled more, because I was starting to get exhausted in the evenings, and I couldn’t see ahead career wise.  I wish I could have given myself love and support, and had the vision to drive me through.

Health-wise, I have a feeling that somewhere around here I started to get emotionally tired, and more exhausted at night. I think I was pretty healthy, because I didn’t eat nearly as much or as bad as I did back then, plus I walked everywhere, all the time, Boston style. I also started being very unhappy, and tried therapy, unsuccessfully. I was pretty moody and grumpy. I don’t think I knew how to take care of myself, or how to examine whether certain things were making me feel worse.  Later, After my second child was born I fell through the last layer of what ever was holding me together. I had major depression, and a whole lot of anxiety. It is funny I didn’t even recognize my feelings as anxiety, really. It was a relief to find a label for it, and go ah-ah! Anything is better than the unknown when it comes to feeling like you are loosing your marbles. Weight-wise… Food fills a hole, a void, and hole. I must need a lot of dopamine, and reassurance. I’ve been through a lot of ups and down in my marriage, and with my faith—all emotional baggage. Now add to that NOT being in Boston where walking is enjoyable, and having kids, which makes you prefer to drive, and have to drive, and for Pete’s sake—even walk slow! You can also add to that list profound fatigue, whether weight related or not—makes it hard to have energy for exercise AND daily existence, which includes household upkeep and managing kids, cooking, shuttling people around, etc. Hmmm, one more thing–I am very overwhelmed by situations that are frenetic, or social visits—both zap my energy as well, and I need time to recoup in silence and solitude (hard to do when you are a mom).  All this, that I am putting out is not a pity -party, just a list of obstacles, and conditions that I must navigate around to function.

To be continued…

 

 

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