I’ve been at my new day job for seven weeks now. In that time, I’ve posted on Twitter or Facebook only a handful of times; published three blog posts here; checked my email occasionally, but not nearly as often as before. In the past, I’ve gone quiet when I’ve been overwhelmed with life — gone into hiding, in a way, from everything that threatened to topple over and bury me under its weight.
This is not that.
I work in a place that provides a wide range of services to members of our community, most of whom don’t have other options. (more…)
At the beginning of 2014, I started a project that would turn out to be far more ambitious than I’d expected, and ultimately change my life in big ways and small. I made a budget. For most people, that’s a small thing itself. For me –
I grew up poor, and that never really got better. I can’t remember a time I felt as though I had enough money to pay my bills, month after month, for more than a couple of months in a row. Over the years I got into bad habits with money, the kind of habits that come from knowing, for a sure and certain fact, that you will never be able to afford everything you need to get by, and you’re going to have to choose which thing to pay, and which to incur late fees on, or lose completely. Tiny, insignificant, choices, become monumental. Deciding whether to take my son to McDonalds for an order of chicken nuggets becomes a choice between giving my child a treat he’s been begging for all week, when he is cold and not feeling well and we haven’t been able to afford toys or movies or treats of any other kind and I already feel terrible that I can never do for him what other parents do for their kids — or washing a load of laundry we’ll need to get him into clean clothes for the school week. After a while, any money that comes in is paying off what’s already behind, and there’s never any hope that you’ll be able to build up savings, and the things you need to be even remotely comfortable and fed and safe are added to a growing list of things you mean to buy, someday, when you can…
The last couple of years have been the hardest for me that I’ve been through in a long time, but while all of that was happening, I figured out that I had everything I’d need for a good life right in front of me. In pieces, anyway. I had my writing, my son, the ability to do well at an administrative day job, and someone who made me want to be a better/more successful person. I had drive and skills, but those bad habits and some obstacles that felt impossible to overcome (debt, a lack of stable childcare, a horrible living situation) fed into the lack of hope that kept me from thinking any plan I put into place would actually work. Eventually I decided the future I could have was worth trying for, even though I was certain that everything I reached for would eventually be taken away. (more…)
Let my tale of woe be a lesson to you, kids: always know your rights. (more…)
Where I live, we have several options for buying food. In addition to the local grocery store chain, there’s a fancy yuppie market, a “whole foods” -style store that sells a lot of vegan/veggie foods, a farmer’s market (a couple of days of week through the summer), an Aldi, Walmart, an Asian market… even the Target has a grocery section. Usually, I do one or two big shopping trips to Aldi a month, and that covers everything except for what I get at the Asian market (lumpia wrappers, pancit noodles, etc), and a a trip to the chain store to get the few items I can’t get otherwise (or I’ll get them if I have to go to Target that month).
The last few weeks I’ve been so busy that instead of taking the time to shop at Aldi*, I’ve been picking up just what I need most, at the chain store. It’s much more expensive, and though it’s quick, it’s a time spent on lot of little trips. Plus, instead of having a fridge full of food to choose from, I end up stressed and annoyed that I don’t have choices; I don’t eat as healthily, and it’s tempting to get fast food or order delivery instead of yet another trip to the store to get dinner…
Growing up in Central California, where the summers are hot and dry, I equate the Fourth not with some grand celebration but with blue skies, beer, and grilling. Fireworks when I was younger–those coils that flare up and then leave black snake patterns on the asphalt, or the spinning pinwheels of death we could only light up at my Grandpa Merle’s house in the desert–and backyard parties when I was older. Driving with the windows down, singing along to the radio.