“Half the world knows not how the other half lives.” ~George Herbert
[Oct.16] Rats, I was doing so well with “PostaDay,” till today. (Which will be “yesterday” by the time this is available to read.) The good news: my Miss isn’t due to lack of writing. Here I am writing. The Other-news: our internet is shut off, which is why I’m writing but won’t be posting today. It’s okay–my husband will pick up his paycheck tomorrow, we’ll pay the overdue internet, overdue phone, overdue electricity, and overdue car insurance. Woohoo! A payment for a freelance writing job just paid the overdue second-half of our October rent, and the gas gauge is still a hair’s-breadth above “E.” Woohoo again. (Last payday our poor car literally lurched and coughed that last stretch to the gas-pump. We’d already gathered up all the loose change we could find, and emptied the lawn mower’s gas-can into the car, just to make it till then.)
[No, the title above is not intended as sarcasm. Read on.]
My freelance writing brings in some money here and there, but of course we can’t count on a regular amount. My husband’s job (almost) covers the fixed bills: rent on our trailer, phone bill for our shared cell, car insurance, electricity, internet (maybe our one “luxury” item–though I do all my freelance work online, so we consider the $35 well-spent), and child support. (Our two youngest spend a greater percentage of time with their dad than with us, so I owe. The payment, which adds less than 5% to dad’s monthly income, is a full quarter of ours. I try to remind myself that this is supposed to be about the kids.) Oh, and gas. Our car belonged to my grandpa (no payments, yay!)–it’s 20 years old and solidly built and gets hungry often, especially since we live 40 minutes from hubby’s job. He’s keeping his eyes open for something nearer, especially since they’ve been cutting everyone’s hours for “slow season” at his current workplace. But the economy being what it is, and with our combined total of 28 months of job-hunting-experience in the last three years, we’re tickled that he HAS a job.
That’s it, folks, the sum total of our expenses, and those take up the entirety of our whopping $1100/month regular income. A lot of people we know have less. We have friends without phone or car, living in shelters. We also interact with some people for whom it seems impossible to grasp the concept of not having financial resources available. When we were unemployed, both of us, for months on end, my ex-husband kept trying to “shake the tree” for money to cover extra expenses he incurred on activities for the kids. In one phone conversation–after I had pointed out that we were on Month Seven with zero income, had no credit cards or savings or assets, house in foreclosure, etc.–he came back with: “I don’t understand why you don’t just pay me.” Seriously? It’s just not within his realm of comprehension that a person might not be able to “put it on a card” if they don’t have cash ready to hand.
There was a bit of a learning curve for the younger kids–who are accustomed, with their dad, to eat out a lot, go to the movies or arcade, and successfully wheedle for toys and video games… But (unlike their dad) they get it that circumstances are different at our house. And guess what? They don’t have complaints–even the 7-year-old, who doesn’t yet have that “social filter” and says aloud everything she thinks. They don’t miss TV (in fact, they complain that it’s never turned off at Dad’s house). They love my husband’s cooking. My son says they “eat too much at Applebee’s,” and my daughter (apprentice cook) gets out her apron and step-stool to help with every meal. The whole family cuddles up on our big bed to watch a movie together on a rainy afternoon. We read aloud. We play board games. We take fishing-poles and picnics to the lake by our house. They understand that there isn’t any extra money–not even for that cheesy little toy at WalMart, or a stop at McDonald’s. My son commented that “Dad’s house is the video-game-house and Mom’s house is the reading-house,” and I’m well content with my part of that. In fact, we hear a repeated chorus of: “We wish we could spend more time with you.”
Our kids aren’t “in need”–even our older son, who doesn’t have a richer house to retreat to. That’s not to say he wouldn’t like to have more sometimes, but he’s fed, and insured, and clothed (his winter coat can take the blame for our current internet outage), and LOVED–and he holds down a weekend-job that keeps him in cash for gas and dates and the athletic shoes that we just rolled our eyes at. (“Honey, I love you, but I wouldn’t buy those for you if we DID have the funds. We’ll admire them appropriately if you decide it’s how you want to spend YOUR money.” Post-script: he bought them and then didn’t like them. Ah, Wicked Stepma wasn’t off-target on that one, was she?)
We used to have more stuff. Just a few years ago–before we met–my husband and I each made over 70K a year. Big houses, nice cars, lots of bills… And each of us was trying to drink our way out of the life that went with it. We were trying to drink our way out of LIFE. All that money, but I didn’t laugh anymore. I didn’t write anymore.
My Life now? Well, I get to wake every morning in our cozy little trailer and find myself in God’s hands and my husband’s arms (with a cat purring on my feet). I get to share a cup of coffee and a morning prayer and the A.A. “daily reflections” and a lot of laughs with my favorite friend. I get to write.
My mother once gave me a decorative plate that said, “When in doubt, look Up.” What DO I see when I look up? The poverty line? Sure, it’s somewhere up there above our heads. But no–I get to look up to see the Big Smile of the Big Guy who’s got our backs. We live richly.