Saturday, May 30, 2015

Panhandling on Virtual Corners

How bad does it have to get before you ask for help?
Last night I posted this status on facebook: I'm going to spare you the details, but our financial situation is bleak. If anyone is inspired to buy us a case of toilet paper that would be awesome...

And in the early morning hours, when I wasn't sleeping, but wished I was, I realized that facebook status was me standing on a virtual corner panhandling, begging, with a virtual cardboard sign that took the form of a facebook status. 

It's embarrassing to admit how many times I've been on this corner: posted a facebook status, written a blog post, or offered up items for sale, in a desperate attempt to increase our cash flow.

It's hard for others to know how hard we have worked, only to end up staring into the financial abyss once again. It's discouraging to recount how many hopeful job interviews have ended up with a "thanks but no thanks," and how many job applications never even got a response. It's hard to acknowledge publicly that once the mortgage leaves the bank account on the first we don't have any money to pay the rest of the bills, that we can't afford dental floss, that we need to ask our friends if they have it in their hearts to buy us toilet paper.

Sometimes when we pass a person standing on a busy corner, holding up their cardboard sign, I say, "Maybe it's time for me to stand on a corner and beg for money."

 Last night I realize, I already am. 

(Come join the conversation at Some Days Are Hard on facebook by clicking HERE.)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Choosing to Live Simply

Stories like this Piss Me Off!

She's a French Accountant who owns a house in France, which is being rented and is making her money. She *chooses* not to use that money. She has financial security, she has an education, she is French and does at least admit that because she's French she has privilege that illegal immigrants from quite a few other countries simply wouldn't have.

Pretentious, privileged people who *choose* to "live off the waste of others" get cute little articles written up about them - articles that shame homeless people for not wanting to eat food that comes from the garbage.

People who choose to live simply, people who choose not to spend the money they have, people who have financial security to back up their life if they ever face a crises of any kind, need to check their privilege. The difference between choosing to live simply and having no choice but to live simply is a vast chasm.

If you've never lived simply because society doesn't value the work that you do enough to pay you a living wage, because you have never had mental or physical limitations, because you've never faced prejudice, because of so many variables beyond your control, then don't hold your values and choices up as superior. You just don't get it, you can't really, unless you've lived it.

Here's the article that brought about the above rant: 

How to live a middle-class life in New York City on less than $5,000 a year
Marie is a French woman living in Brooklyn who has no job, no visa, and lives in a three-story house for free. Her secret: living off the waste of others

Marie was mixing basil for pesto on the kitchen counter of a brownstone in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn when the doorbell rang. Her friend Janet Kalish was early for lunch: the butternut squash was still cooking. “I found kilos of carrots yesterday,” Kalish said joyfully. “I have to give them away before they turn bad!”
Kalish had collected the carrots on the street, just like the parmesan Marie was grating had been rescued from the trash. The pair became friends when Marie started dumpster diving three years ago.
Drifting from the American philosophy of incessant consumption, some have adapted to a system of interdependence and sharing – and eating for free is just the first step.
Marie lives a New York middle-class life spending less than $5,000 a year. Kalish, who travels more, needs $10,000. They work, eat, have a home, but there’s no rent bill or grocery shopping. No regular salary, even. Money isn’t their currency.
Marie is a petite, black-haired French woman who looks just like the conventional fortysomething Brooklynite. But she has no job, no visa, and lives in a three-story house for free. Living in the US also comes with an additional bit of daring: she’s an illegal immigrant. For privacy reasons, she asked to be identified with her first name only.

Read the rest of this article HERE.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Finding Comfort through Netflix

Sometimes adults express frustration or irritation with small children who want to read the same book over and over, or watch the same video for days on end. Many parents (most parents?) set limits, control their kids' screen time, and down right refuse to play that video or read that book one more time.  Not me, I'm with the kids. When your mind is spinning, life feels out of control, or you are feeling worn out by all the everythingness of life sometimes you need to curl up and watch something you've watched before.

Yesterday I needed to make progress on some fiber projects that need to get done in the next week. Mentally I was exhausted from life, coping, supporting those I love: the neverendingness of poverty and chaos that permeates every corner of my existence. Heading to Netflix I tried watching a series I'd just started, but it was jarring and uncomfortable. Giving up on that show I clicked on the pilot of White Collar. There they were, those characters I'd journeyed with to the end of their story. My mind settled, my body relaxed, and, with my crochet hook in hand, I escaped.

Don't underestimate the power of the familiar, for you or for children. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day Can Be Hard

It's Mother's Day. For many people it's a day of warm fuzzies, love and appreciation. For many other people it is a really hard day. It is a day of longing, pain, and disappointment. Some people mourn the children they've never had, others mourn the mothers they wish they'd had. People who had nurturing mothers may mourn the passing of a precious person who they miss every day. Other's feel guilty because they are relieved their mother is no longer around. There are mothers who feel painfully unappreciated or those who are still so desperately trying to keep up with caring for their babies and small children that they don't have time for so much as a celebratory cup of tea.

I can't begin to list all the reasons people struggle on Mother's Day. It's a difficult day for a whole lot of people: mothers, fathers, children, and those who have never been mothers.

Some Days are Hard, holidays are often those days. If you are struggling today I wish I could give you a hug, bake you some cookies, and listen while you talk about your feelings. Remember, there are no wrong feelings. Feel your feelings, write a letter about your feelings, write a little to your mother, your child, or your younger self and tuck it into a secret box or burn it, draw a picture, buy yourself a plant and a pretty pot, yell, cry, dance.  Allowing yourself to feel your feelings is an important part of taking care of yourself. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

If I Lived in a Fishbowl.

If I lived in a fishbowl it would never be necessary for me to tell you what I wish you knew. You could see that my house is a beyond cleaning, my yard beyond taming, my existence a point on a line between holding it together and falling apart.

If I lived in a fishbowl you would know the days that start with a message from my bank telling me my account balance is below $100, or below $0. 

If I lived in a fishbowl you would witness the days when my hours are spent listening to my children, trying to be positive about their hopes and dreams but knowing there is no money to make even the smallest ones possible. "Mom, I'd like to go rollerskating sometime."  "Yes, that would be fun. Hopefully someday soon we can do that." Knowing full well that even rollerskating is not in the budget. You would see all the hours I spend being there for the members of my family, their emotional support person, trying to be what they need in whatever challenging moment they are facing.

If I lived in a fishbowl you would know about the hours I spend blogging and writing, trying to make the world a better, brighter, place from the dark corner of my bedroom. Working to inspire and encourage others, while deep down desperately hoping that someone will inspire and encourage me.

If I lived in a fishbowl you would see how many people I've hidden from my facebook feed. You would know that most days I want to be happy for all the people who go out to eat, go on trips, explore the world on their own terms, and shape their lives into the adventure of their choosing, but I fail.

If I lived in a fishbowl you would see the reality of my life, but would you understand it even if you could see it? When you said those words "I understand...." would you really? Would seeing it make it possible for you to realize how different our lives are? Would seeing my life more clearly stop the words "Oh, I'm right there with you!" from leaving your mouth when you try to compare your need to decide where to cut back so you can afford more adventures, to my need to stretch an income that doesn't even cover the bills just a little further?

If I lived in a fishbowl would it be any different from how it is right now? Me on the inside, swimming circles in my tiny little world. You on the outside, thinking I should be grateful that someone sprinkles a bit of food onto the surface of my water every day, telling me how lucky I am to have such a cute little bowl, decorated with duckweed and shiny rocks, because many other fish don't even have that.

If I lived in a fishbowl would you even look at me as you walk by, as you breath air, as you walk out the door into the sunshine. Would you think, in passing, that it's just too bad I don't have it in me to pull myself up, to grow a set of lungs, to stand up on my own two feet, because my life would be so much better - more like yours - if I would simply try harder.

If I lived in a fishbowl, would you even take the time to peer inside?

(I think of this a s spoken word poem, not a blog post. 

Hopefully, eventually, I'll find a way to make that happen.) 

Monday, May 4, 2015

So, I *Deserve* This Shit?

I got up this morning, did all the usual morning things, walked out the door to drive my husband to work because we only have one car and my daughter's boyfriend needed it to go to a job interview this afternoon, and there it was:

I'd like to think the trail of dog shit leading from the top of our driveway all the way to our front step isn't anything personal, but really? I can't imagine a dog did that on their own. For anyone who believes in Karma I'd like to point out that the night before last we put out a fire in our neighbor's yard while they were fast asleep. A big fire, a fire that could have caused a lot of damage for at least three homes in the neighborhood, including ours. I don't think our reward for that is dog poop on our front step. I don't think we get a reward for putting out that fire. We didn't expect one, we just did what needed to be done. 

I also don't think we deserve dog shit on our front step. Obviously someone does, but that's not what I'm contemplating at the moment. Right now I'm fixating on the word deserve. People toss that word around a lot and I find it annoying at best. "No one deserves this/that/whatever more than you." "You deserve better."  "They've worked hard and they deserve the luxuries they have."

"Poor people are lazy, they don't deserve help." "Poor people feel they are entitled, but they really don't deserve anything." "You get what you deserve."

I disagree. You get what you get. Some people work hard and are successful. Some people work even harder and live in poverty. Some people inherit great amounts of money so they can afford a lavish lifestyle, other people work for every penny they ever get. And yes, on average people who are successful have worked hard, but I assure you that, on average, people who are poor work at least as hard or even harder.

And while my yard is over grown and there is moss covering my leaky roof, we are the family that feeds the neighbor's cats when the neighbor's can't be bothered, we are the family that puts out fires, we are the family that struggles with physical and financial limitations that prevent us from keeping up our house in the way we'd prefer, and probably that our neighbor's would prefer. But really, I can't think of one reason why we deserve to have dog poop dumped on our front porch. Then again, I don't think that's something anyone deserves.

So now, before I go wash dishes I will go clean dog shit off my front porch. Gee thanks to whomever decided to gift me with that task. I hope you are kinder to your dog than you are to other humans. I'm sorry that you and your life are such that you decided that doing something mean to someone else would make you feel better. I hope your life is less shitty in the near future, not because you deserve it, but just because I wish that for everyone who is struggling.