Middle class dropout survival

I do not believe this darkness will endure.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

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I’ve been among those who tut-tutted about older people and their obsession with using every little thing they can over and over until it literally falls apart.  “Well,” we say with a little shake of the head, “you know they lived through the Depression.  I guess they just can’t get over being afraid that it will all go away again if they don’t save every little thing.  I wish they’d lighten up.”  Ah, walking a few miles in those patched shoes has now taught me WHY these older folks have the mindset they do.  And I believe it’s not because they are determined to keep living in the past.  It’s because they learned something that many people didn’t for a few decades.  But now many of us are experiencing the events that led them to conserve religiously, and I, for one, have had an awakening that I couldn’t have had any other way.

Since I retired from education with little savings due to several catastrophic life events, and I haven’t so far been able to connect with a part-time job to supplement my meager income, I’ve developed, by necessity, a conservationist style of living.  Every day I have to make decisions, like whether to splurge and buy three boxes of tissues, or just to take a few out of one box and spread them throughout the house.  (Allergies, anyone?)  Or whether to go to Dollar Tree and buy a large bottle of generic diet soda for a buck  that I’ll have to end up drinking even when it goes flat instead of getting my great Diet Pepsis in little bottles like I love.  I’ll decide to use black thread on every piece of clothing I mend that will even come close to matching rather than go purchase the thread that is the  perfect color.  I’ll watch the free movies on TV even though I’d dearly love a night out at the movie theater for a change.  Eating out means choosing which dollar item I want and drinking the Dollar Tree soda with it at home.  Our couch came out of the trash and is held together with duct tape, with an old comforter draped over it.  I paid $1 for my living room lamp and $10 for the end table.  Certainly not the decor I imagined when I was taking all those college classes culminating in one Master’s degree and 39 hours towards another!

But a strange thing is happening.  I’m developing a philosophy of life that is cognizant of what constitutes, for me, a luxury or a necessity.  To me,  a few beautiful things are a necessity for my mental health and to ward off the clinical depression with which I am afflicted.  I have to have flowers occasionally.  I have to have a new pillow, or vase, or shirt in a beautiful color once in a while, even if they cost a dollar.   I have to get a frame so I can hang the photo of my precious granddaughter in her Christmas dress.  Without a few simple beautiful things in my life, I don’t want to live anymore.  I mean that very literally.  When I deprive myself to too extreme an extent, I start to feel that living is less enticing that not being here to face such painful existence and constant unbearable challenges.  That’s not healthy and doesn’t make living that frugally worth it.

However, I have developed the habit of examining everything I buy or do to see just how far I can make it stretch, just how much I might make do with something in capacities I hadn’t thought of before, and just how much I might have wasted not only my own resources, but those of the world around me, in times I had more money.  I color my hair myself now, as opposed to spending almost $100 to have it professionally colored and highlighted a few times a year.  I do my own nails instead of paying $20 to have the luxury of having them done.  I buy my clothes, like I did yesterday, on the sales rack at K-Mart for $3.99 instead of paying $40 for a top somewhere else.  Once I find a job, I won’t go to such extremes, but neither will I just spend the money for services and goods without carefully considering whether it’s really necessary.  Because I would rather have a safety net of money in the bank or else help someone else who needs it than spend even $10 that I wouldn’t have to.

I’m convinced that is what is really behind the Depression-era behavior of some of our parents and grandparents.  Not that they are afraid.  They rinse and re-use their plastic bags not because they have to but because they learned a way of living that involves really thinking about their habits and how they can be minimized to have more bang for their buck.   It gives them, like me, a feeling of control over a whimsical economic environment that can feel overwhelming and leaves them with a feeling of integrity to know they are getting more from less.

Some things I’ve learned by being poor will stay with me even when this situation, which is temporary, improves.  I am a different person now.  I will always know what it feels like to drive away from a home with no new home to drive to.  I can always feel in my gut what it’s like to go into a seedy motel room at night knowing I am not there on a vacation and that I have to go down to the lobby to heat up my one-dollar frozen meal in the microwave, then share a plastic spoon with my son as we eat our last containers of yogurt..  I know what it feels like not to be able to shop even at garage sales or thrift stores when I need something.  And the time and anguish it takes to go to a food bank is an experience everyone should enjoy at some point in their life.  (No, you don’t just go pick up a box of food.  You wait for hours in line first, listening to crazy people shout things at one another.  Same thing for riding the bus.)

Most of the time, the only way to truly understand something is to experience it first hand.  That can be a blessing as well as a curse.  I am being cursed with one of life’s hands while being blessed with its other at the same time.  And it’s changing my soul forever in ways I never would have anticipated.

“We do not dare to use even a little soap, when it will pay for an extra egg or a few more carrots for our children.” –  an unemployed father in 1930 Oregon

TIP:  If you are currently financially comfortable, try this: choose something you like and buy regularly and impose a “scarcity” ban on yourself with this item.  See if there is a bare-bones replacement, or force yourself to do without it entirely.  See how little money you can spend on this one item.  Then try to imagine a life where every single, solitary expenditure has to be played out under these rules!

Survival for Dummies

I have two minds on my new little, cheap Motorola flip phone: first I feel like a dummy and a failure when I look around and see almost everybody except the ninety-year-olds with IPhones, Androids, and Blackberries.  Second, though, I feel like a smarty-pants because I’m not spending as much as they are and I can still text, call, and get onto the internet.  I’m spending about $30-45 a month compared to their $100.  My phone cost $30 compared to their several hundred.  But it’s still hard to shake the feeling that I’m now an outsider.

I felt pretty much the same way when my kids were little and everyone I taught school with wore contacts, but, as a single parent, I couldn’t afford them.  At the end of the day, when the kids had gone and we stood around chatting, I’d listen as they talked about contact lens solutions, losing a contact, how glad they were not to be wearing glasses anymore, the cost of their lenses, etc.  I’d just stand there in silence like a little mouse in my brown horn rims. It was the same when they talked about going away on family vacations, buying new furniture, or anything beyond basic survival.

For a number of years, by working two jobs, I was able to lift myself up enough to hang in there with a few of the things I saw other middle-class families have and do.  I was able to buy my boys decent clothes, take them skiing, buy a new car (every ten years!), and take an occasional little trip.  I still didn’t have any savings, and I still had to watch every penny I spent, but my kids were able to be in the school band, Boy Scouts, ski club, YMCA, have a tutor when they needed one,  and go on trips with the church youth group. I even took tap dance lessons myself for four years, and loved it!  Whenever my kids asked to join a club or an activity that I thought would improve their wisdom, social or other skills, or develop their character, I always said yes and then tried to figure out how I would manage it.  We still had old hand-me-down furniture, no VCR, no Nintendo, or other extras, But my sons have grown up to become extraordinary men, and I believe I did the right thing in providing those opportunities for them.

I don’t want my granddaughter to grow up feeling poor and different from the other kids.  I felt that way as a child, and that feeling is coming back to me now that virtually everyone I know is living in a more abundant world than my family and I are.  The feeling of being on the outside looking in while others talk about their purchases, trips, vacation homes, vehicles, and jewelry, all things that I feel that retirement-age people deserve out of life and have worked hard for, that’s something that I and others my age are now having to endure, something we never envisioned.  We have worked just as hard, sometimes even harder, than everyone else, but due to life circumstances, such as divorce, death, job loss, disability,or illness, (or in my case d: all of the above) many of us have been left  in a tremendously fragile and vulnerable state.  It’s scary!

“Thinking Outside the Box”  is the way to get out of the rut and progress.  Seeking traditional employment, not ever easy, is a mountain to scale for anyone over fifty today.  No matter how many skills and assets one might have, no matter how young one might appear, true chronological age is an impediment to gainful employment today.  So I’m having business cards made (as soon as I can spare any money above rent and utilities!) that tout my sewing, organizing, tutoring, writing, and other skills I can offer as an individual to those in need of them.  The problem lies in getting any kind of quick cash turnaround.  These businesses take time to develop any kind of customer base.  But since I have to start somewhere, I’m starting.

A survivor is “one who out lives, outlasts, remains alive.”  I’m outliving the recession, I’m outlasting the negativity, and I’m determined to remain alive to dance at my granddaughter’s wedding someday.  It’s harder than you think.

“Relax.  They’re not going to kill us.  They’re going to TRY and kill us.  And that is a very different thing.”   Steve Voake, The Dreamwalker’s Child

TIP:  Brainstorm to determine what skills you have that could be translated into cash.  Can you cook?  Build bookshelves?  Dogsit?  Garden?  Then go out there and sell your skills to other people who don’t have them.  The things you can do that you take for granted are valuable to someone else.

Chase Dreams

I have a tee shirt on today that says “Chase Dreams” in sliver letters across the front.  I’m wearing it because I believe so strongly that one of the most important things I need to concentrate on right now is the belief that I can still make my dreams come true, no matter what has happened to me or how old I might be.  I want to remind myself that the desperate financial situation I am in at present is not the “new normal”, and I hope to be one of many Americans who say, also,  “This America is not the new normal.”

My parents and grandparents lived through the Great Depression in the thirties.  I heard about it often as I was growing up.  I heard about the things they ate, or improvised to eat, when the foods they wanted just weren’t available without money.  I saw Daddy eat crackers with sugar and milk in lieu of cereal and we all ate delicious desserts that had became family favorites after Mamaw had learned to make wonderful dishes with few ingredients.   I heard about my Papaw traveling the roads near and far away looking for a job.  I heard about Mamaw secretly considering aborting her pregnancy when she became pregnant for the fourth time.   I heard about my childless uncle and aunt wanting to adopt my mother to relieve the burden on my granparents, and how angry Papaw was at the suggestion he would ever consider giving up one of his children. I heard about Mamaw going to a neighbor’s house to borrow a few feet of thread so that she could mend some clothes. I heard about Grandma going to the junkyard to find things to decorate her house with, and coming away with a big piece of old wood that she turned into a headboard for her bed.   I heard about Grandpa stealing bottles of milk to feed Daddy and Uncle Bill when there was absolutely nowhere else he could turn.

But one thing that none of my relatives ever talked about was settling for the Depression as the new normal.  They never talked about deciding that poverty was all they were cut out for, or that they “deserved” what they got because of the choices they had made.  They never talked about the fact that it was their “own fault” if they were not rich.  And neither did anybody else.  That kind of blame-the-victim mindset just didn’t seem to exist back then.  The people in America who were suffering considered themselves still to be the great middle class, a people with a strong work ethic and integrity.  They kept the perspective that they would still be able to go after their dreams and those they had for their children once the crisis was over.  And they never doubted that the crisis was temporary, because they believed in what America stood for.  Friends, families, and neighbors pulled together to help each other and reached out to the weakest or most burdened to assist however they could.

Even though my son and I are suffering financially more than I ever have before in my entire life, I still have many things my parents and grandparents didn’t have during the Depression.  But our society today is different.  You can’t get to work without a car some places, like the small town where I live.  You have to have electricity in your home.  There’s no ice man to deliver ice for an icebox.  You don’t have a pump outside to draw water, so you have to pay a water bill.  I pay twenty times the rent that a similar house would have cost then.

Today there is a poisonous epidemic of blame- laying at the feet of victims.  “They bought more house than they could afford.”  “They didn’t finish school.”  “They chose to have too many children.”  “They didn’t save enough money for a rainy day.”  I could add many more that we all hear every day.  Quick, simple statements that, for many people, relieve their guilt and any sense of responsibility or compassion for their fellow countrymen, even including their own friends or relatives.  There’s a sense that these victims are a drain on the “good” people who are doing well.  Someone once said to me, “All the homeless are a bunch of bums.”  Just a few years later, I found myself and my son homeless when I lost my job and couldn’t pay my mortgage payments nor even afford the lowest possible rent.

But I choose to channel the strength of my ancestors.  I choose to decide that I am a person of worth and integrity, a person who has always worked hard and tried her best to make choices that, first of all, benefitted those I loved and for whom I felt responsible, whether the law said I was technically responsible for them or not.  I have made decisions from my heart.  The monetary benefit of my decisions was rarely my first or last consideration.  Had it been, perhaps I could actually be rich by now.  But I feel richer in satisfaction that I am living the life my parents and grandparents would be proud of, putting the love of my family first, continuing to believe with all my heart that if I chase dreams, I am sure to catch one eventually.

“Look in the mirror, and don’t be tempted to equate transient domination with either intrinsic superiority or prospects for extended survival.” – Stephen Jay Gould

TIP:  What are your dreams?  Do you even know?  Today, take time to write down your dreams and give them a physical, visible reality.  If there’s one thing that’s true of life, no one can ever fully predict what good things the future will hold.   Amazing, miraculous things happen in the world every day, and your dreams are very likely candidates for future glory.

My first month out of work after retiring felt great.  I was able to go to sleep late at night like my body always wants to.  I was able to sleep as long as I needed to so that I woke up with bright whites in my eyes instead of red blood vessels.  I could move at my own pace doing things I wanted or needed to do all day long, then sit down to watch my favorite TV shows in the evening, catch up on my email,  talk to friends on Facebook, or play with my granddaughter, Lonnie.  The house was truly clean for the first time in years.  It made me realize just how stressful my job had been and after a while, I knew that I wouldn’t have the stamina to ever return to school counseling and its overwhelming workload and demands.

After two months out of work, I was ready to start looking for a part-time job to supplement my Social Security.  I was glad that I’d had a chance to get moved to Florida, unpack most of my belongings, bond with Lonnie and adjust to my new surroundings.  I felt a small twinge of sadness because I couldn’t continue being completely retired, but I didn’t allow myself the luxury of dwelling on it since I knew, being a widow with an adult disabled son to partially support, too,  that I couldn’t afford not to work.  So I started applying to businesses where I could find more of an outlet for my creative nature, like Hallmark stores and fabric and crafting stores.  Since I sew, make cards, do calligraphy, knit, embroider, and make all kinds of crafts, I had little doubt I would get hired at one of these places in no time.  I’ve almost always gotten any job I applied for because I’m intelligent, hard working, well educated, friendly, and super organized.  These are skills I’ve worked hard to polish over my forty-five year career in education.

After filling out a few applications (everything is online now and you don’t get to actually talk to a real person) and not hearing back for several weeks, the concern set in.  I didn’t really want to apply to places like Wal-Mart, K-Mart, or Target, but I felt that I couldn’t go any longer without additional income.  So I applied for several more jobs at major retailers and even some smaller, local businesses that advertised they were hiring.  Again, several weeks went by and I was only called for one interview, which was Metro Self-Storage.  I knew from the outset of that interview that the man was not interested in me, and I suspected it was because of my age (sixty-three.)  I know I look quite a bit younger than that, but I think he had his mind made up ahead of time that he was looking for someone who would be more likely to stay a long time.

My son, Adam, and I went to a place called Southwest Florida Works, a government-sponsored employment agency.  Ed, the guy who talked to us, was pretty discouraging about our being able to find any work here.  He said, “Go into the medical field.”  That’s not suitable work for some people, and Adam and I are two of them.  He helped us tweak our resumes, advising me to take the dates off of mine and suggested going into the businesses to introduce ourselves after filling out the online applications.  I accepted his advice and implemented all his suggestions.

Two months, three months, four months passed and I still had not connected with even a measly part-time job for minumum wage.  I had an interview at Books-A-Million, a chain bookstore, and the manager said, “You’re really well spoken, you’re friendly, and, maybe I shouldn’t say this, but very attractive, too.  You’re just what we’re looking for.  But I don’t have any hours I can give you right now.  You are number one on my list of people to hire when something opens up.”  At Cracker Barrel restaurant when I applied to work in the front retail section, the manager told me, “You would be great for this job!  But I don’t have any openings right now.  Check back with me every couple of weeks.”  (I have done so for months, and nothing is ever open.)  The manager of the cosmetics department at Macy’s said, “You look wonderful!  You already look like an employee!”  I received an email from Macy’s the next day saying, “Your skill set does not fit any openings we currently have.”   I have retail and customer service experience in addition to education!  Does “skill set” really mean “age”?

Bad things happen when you’re out of work.  You have to begin choosing between food and gas, between the electric bill and medicine, between the rent and getting your sick dog to the vet.  Then depression sets in, and just when you need extra energy, enthusiasm, and motivation for continuing to look for work, you can’t get out of bed and you feel like you’re walking underwater, or that your feet are stuck in tar.  Your looks start to suffer because you can’t afford the toiletries and services, like haircuts, that keep you looking presentable.  And you can’t sleep, so you have dark circles and an overall look of pallor.  Healthy foods are not affordable anymore, so you get colds and other maladies more often.  God forbid you should get truly ill, with no health insurance!  If the car breaks down, there’s no money to fix it and no way to go to a job interview if one should turn up.

I can’t even start my own business without money.  I can’t even make things to sell on etsy without money for materials.  I feel stuck, and I am stuck.

You can’t shop for things you need, not even at garage sales or thrift stores.  You can’t go anywhere because every drop of gas needs to be conserved.  Even going to lie on the free public beach is out due to the gas needed to get there.  Our area in Florida has lots of activities:  festivals, craft shows, quilt shows, concerts, plays.  But you can’t go to any of them.  Even free events are out of the question because of not only gas, but also the fact that you might be out and need to buy a sandwich or a drink while you are out.  Even if you have friends in the area, you can’t call and suggest lunch or any kind of outing.  Forget movies.  Sometimes even having the dollar for a Red Box rental is too much.  You can’t buy anything for the house, no paint, no curtains, no furniture, no candles even.

I apply for about two jobs each day, but my heart isn’t in it anymore.  I do it because I know I have to, but I feel like it’s just a waste of time.  I suspect that many businesses are advertising that they have jobs just to keep the competition thinking they are doing well.  Because even though the managers tell me they want me, they can’t hire me.  Maybe the big suits have seen that their businesses are getting by overworking their current employees, so they think, why not continue, even though they might not have to anymore.  That’s the only explanation that makes any sense to me.

Multiply my issues by the several million Americans who are out of work, and you begin to see the big, scary picture.  I’m really happy for the 270,000 people who got those jobs that were added in February.  I hope I, and several hundred thousand more people, are in the new numbers for March.

“You take my life when you do take the means whereby I live.” – William Shakespeare

TIP:  Do what you can on the good days.  On the bad days, accept it, rest, sleep, do whatever you are able to do that day.  Know that some days are better and that one of them might be tomorrow.

Straight Cheap Talk

My Blackberry Curve died at I suppose could be considered an opportune time.  It happened within a day or two of my two-year contract with Verizon coming to a blessed end.  With my extremely limited income since retiring last June and my inability to find a job so far in my new Florida location, my finances have been a nightmare.  Month after month I’ve been unable to pay my entire, outrageous Verizon bill, and always have had to make payment arrangements, still leaving me with a shocking balance.  I never felt like I was getting my money’s worth from all these dollars I was very reluctantly throwing Verizon’s way, and every time I called them asking for a way to reduce my costs, they always told me the same thing:  “You’re on the lowest-cost plan now.”

I’ve tried doing without a cell phone, and for a widow often traveling around alone, it’s just not safe.  And it’s not safe for my disabled son, Adam, either.  In addition, I have to have a working phone in order for employers to call me (theoretically, at least.  For twenty applications filed I’ve gotten two calls for interviews.) The only reason I ever signed up for a contract with Verizon was that I never could afford to buy a good phone without their up-front incentives.  Of course, I more than paid for it in their high monthly charges, but coming up with several hundred dollars  to buy two phones was never something I had enough money to do.  They count on that!  Add to that injury the insult of their rude customer service employees, and it’s a recipe for rage.

I’d heard about no-contract plans and that they provided a way to have cell phone service at much less cost.  I worried, though that I wouldn’t be able to afford to buy a phone.   I approached the process with trepidation.  Adam and I went to Wal-Mart to look over what they had available.  It was a little confusing, but it appeared that with several no-contract plans we could get service for around $45 per month each.  Wow, that was about half or less of what we had been (trying) to pay with Verizon.

After reading the printed material about the various plans, we decided to go with Straight Talk.  Wal-Mart has their own plan which is very resonably priced, but the catch is that you have to purchase a $25 “set-up” card for each phone in addition to the $45 activation cards and the phones.  Straight Talk gives you unlimited text, calls, and internet for only $45 a month and no set-up cards are required.

Adam’s Curve is still working fine.  However, he would have to call Verizon to unlock it so he can use it with the new plan, and they’re not going to do that until our balance (nearly $400) is paid off.  So we both had to purchse new phones.

We decided to give the cheapest ones a try.  They’re tiny Motorola flip phones, not cool and pretty clumsy when it comes to texting.  You have to type words in and then a drop-down menu appears with choices, like spell-check does, and you click on the one you want.  If your word isn’t there, you have to back up and laboriously type it out letter by letter, using the same drop-down menus.  I’m beginning to get the hang of it now, and I can do it pretty fast, but it will never rival the speed of a keyboard.  And I look dorky using it.

Straight Talk has another plan that’s only $30 a month.  It provides service that includes 1,000 minutes of calls, 1,000 texts or picture messages, and 30MB of data for mobile access.  If you run out (and it keeps you informed of how close you are) you just reload your minutes by credit card or purchase another $30 card.  So you don’t have to ever worry about huge charges if you inadvertanly go over your allotment.  When my $45 card runs out, I’m going to try the $30 card the next time and see how it works for me.

I want an IPhone 4.  I want a Kindle.  I want a cashmere sweater.  I want a house with four bedrooms and a pool.  I want to go on a cruise.  I want to go to Hawaii and Europe at least once.  I want a few pieces of gold jewerly that I never have to sell.  I want a brand new convertible (American made!)  I want a lot of money in the bank.  But it’s OK that I don’t have these things.  I’m not going to tell myself that I never will, because none of us ever knows what a day will bring, that’s something I’ve certainly learned by now.

I’m just feeling pretty happy  that I’m talking again to my friends and loved ones and that I can keep hoping that precious call from my soon-to-be employer will come today.

“You’re all right for now, you’re all right for now.” – Tom Petty

TIP:  Take control of your cell phone life.  You don’t have to play by the rules of the big companies anymore.

The glittering, brightly colored roulette wheel stood before us, big, impersonal, yet so promising.  Surely we could win just this once.  But surely we could lose, too, and what would be the consequences of yet another loss?  The knots in my stomach would be familiar to any gambler who knows that this bet was a serious one.

Today is the day the water is supposed to be shut off for non-payment.  Tomorrow is the day the electricity goes.  The next day, bye-bye internet ( and job hunting, all on the internet now.)  And the $325 due for the rest of the February rent is still hovering around in my head in bold red.  The gas tank is almost on empty and my son, Adam, still has a week to drive to work before any more money comes in.

There’s a nice deal at our credit union.  You can get a “payday” loan, even if your credit is bad.  But maybe not.  You have to pay a $25 non-refundable fee to find out if you’re approved or not.  If you’re not approved, you lose the $25.  Now payday loans are something I swore I would never ever get involved with again.  I had to once upon a time when I lost my school counseling job in Indiana when I was fifty-seven and couldn’t find another one.  It was necessary then because I had nowhere else to turn after having exhausted my relatives and friends.   But in this last round of destitution, Adam and I both have had to use payday loans to keep our household surviving.

The credit union offers a better alternative.  You can borrow a percentage of your monthly income and pay it back at only $50 per month instead of all at once on the next payday.  And the interest rate is “only” 18% instead of 268.79% (no, I am not kidding about that.  Go into a payday loan office and look at the interest rates that are posted.  Take your defibrillator with you.)

Because I’ve had a bankruptcy (a Chapter 13 where you pay everything  back, which illness prevented me from ever finishing) I was automatically ineligible for the credit union loan.  But all the bills we had due were utilites, and Adam is responsible for those while I pay the rent with my Social Security.  So he decided to go for the credit union option.

Problem!  Neither of us had $25.  Adam had $16 in his checking account and nothing in savings and nothing in his wallet.  I had 97 cents in my checking account, nothing in savings, and nothing in my wallet.  So Adam couldn’t even spin the wheel of chance without coming up with another $10.  And if he did, and spun and lost, he would be losing our last $25, all for nothing.  We had just come from a payday loan office where I had tried to get a loan, but was denied because I already had a payday loan out with another office.  We were going to use some of that for the credit union app fee.  Things were not going well, and it was already 4 P.M.

My other son, the father of my granddaughter, Lonnie, (this son’s name Is “Anonymous” according to our agreement!) gave Adam and me each five one-dollar coins for Christmas.  It meant so much to us because he’s in the same financial boat we’re trying to row.  He’s completing an optician’s internship and making barely enough to keep himself alive, let alone a baby who depends on him as a single father.

Adam said, “We could use the coins for the last $10.”  What a sinking feeling that gave me, but feeling we had no choice, I drove back home and we got the coins.  I also went through my jewelry box again to see if I could part with anything else in there that might bring in some cash.  As I fingered the small gold cross my late husband, Dave, had bought me when we were first married and contemplated the fact that it would have to go, the big, hot tears welled up and finally started to spill over and down my weary cheeks.  I knew then that no matter what I had to face, I couldn’t let that go.  I tenderly placed it back where it belonged.

I texted Anonymous and asked him if he had $10 to loan us until next week so we wouldn’t have to use the coins.  He said yes and that he would transfer it over to Adam’s account.  We drove back to the credit union and signed in to see someone about the loan, then waited, feeling absolutely wretched.

Debbie, the loan officer,  was very sympathetic and friendly, and as she processed Adam’s information, I felt like it would probably be our last $25 wasted.  I want to be positive, but so much has happened to us that it’s almost impossible anymore to believe things will go our way.  Debbie stopped her fingers over her keyboard and said, “Adam, how are you going to pay the $25?  Your account is only showing $16.”  I texted Anonymous again, and he said that he had transferred the money but it was showing “pending”.  Debbie said it might be midnight tonight before the money transferred.

I sighed, turned to  Adam, and told him to take the coins out to one of the tellers and deposit them.  He did.  His receipt showed a balance of $26, so Debbie went forward with the paperwork.  The whole process took about fifteen minutes but seemed like fifteen hours.  Debbie got up silently from her desk and walked out of her office.  When she came back in she said, “Good news.  You are approved.”   Ding, ding, ding!!!

We finished up, smiled a lot, and got into the car and drove over to the pawn shop.  I went in with my baggie of silver jewelry and my one and only piece of gold I owned, other than my cross, which was a pair of gold hoop earrings I swore I would never sell.  The silver jewery included things that I thought I could never part with, the last vestiges of anything of even miniscule value that anyone would want to buy.  After waiting for the unfriendly clerk to examine and diss my pieces,  I walked out with $90 for jewlery that had probably cost $1000 total originally.

We drove home and Adam sat down at his computer and paid the bills that had their toes over the end of the plank about to drop off into the ocean.  I dreaded calling my landlord and telling him I still didn’t have the rest of the rent money.  He was so wonderful and said not to worry, I could pay him next week.  (There is a special place in heaven for men like him.)  Then we went back out and bought some medicine, some potatoes, some gas, and a couple of bones for our two old doggies, Greta and Maggie, who have been there loving us unconditionally even when they’ve been eating little more than dog food dust from the bottom of the bag.

My one and only Dooney and Bourke handbag came back into the house with me.   It was safe for tonight, but probably not for long.  Lonnie needs a bed when she stays at my house (my God, we were poor growing up, but at least we had beds!) and I have a feeling that I’m going to have to part with my Dooney to help pay for one.  Ah, the bag that supports the last of my delusions that I’m still a member of the respectable middle class.

If I can somehow quiet the Anacin hammers that are lined up and pounding away in my brain, I’m going to go to bed now and try to sleep.

“What’s a soup kitchen?” – Paris Hilton

TIP:  I know what you’re thinking, and NO, you wouldn’t be better off dead.  Don’t EVER give up.  There are people who love you, and God didn’t create you by accident.  There will be better days ahead.