Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Q-TIPS AND SANDWICH BAGS

How poor have you been before? I felt that we were poor but some would say we were not poor at all. Never on the street but hanging by a thread I believed.

My daughter ask for a Q-Tip the last time she was here. I brought her one and she looked at it and said, "We can't live without Q-Tips, yet I never remember using them when I was growing up."

"We couldn't afford them." I replied and she looked at me in shock.

As a single parent, head-of-household, I learned to pay it backward. In two years I worked my way out of State support for daycare and in four years I earned enough to no longer qualify for subsidized housing. But once you accept assistance, you feel like you're taking two steps forward and three steps back and can never manage to break even. Every raise I made in my career was going to reduce some debt.

Every day I had to make decisions about what to spend our budgeted funds on. Aluminum foil had to serve a multi-purpose. Lunch sandwiches were wrapped in foil because I could not afford both foil and sandwich bags and foil could be used for a lot of things.

God forbid we run out of toilet paper but we always had extra napkins from McDonalds to use.

We had laundry detergent but rarely had fabric softner, spot remover or other laundry products that would be luxuries to me.

Gift giving was a difficult task. Of course the kids were given birthday and Christmas gifts but I could not afford special gifts for my siblings or extended family because I needed a reserve in my gift budget to pay for baby showers and wedding showers of my co-workers. Neglecting family for strangers really pissed me off.

Sometimes when I open our pantry today, I am overwhelmed. It is full. I have baking products and lots of vegetables, soups, meats, cereal, chips, etc.

The children and I dressed nicely. It was important for me to look the part of an executive and important for my children to be able to compete with their peers. Others might judge me and say I was putting on airs while I simply was taking on a role in my fight to get ahead.

When some idiot created casual Fridays it was almost the death of me. I did not own casual clothes. Well, I had tacky shorts and slacks that could be worn around home for yardwork and such, but I never wasted money on classy casual things. At first we were given a choice to dress casual or wear regular work atire. I opted to wear my normal work clothes. Our bank President, in a performance appraisal of mine, mentioned that the others thought I was acting upity by not dressing down on casual Friday. I went out that weekend and purchase a classy casual outfit for $110.00 and blew the rest of our budget for the month.

My children knew we had to stretch the treats and they knew their lives depended on not taking the last of anything. They could help themselves to what they wanted but they had to know it would be a while before we could shop and it would be replaced. And they knew I was very protective of my portion by saving the last piece for me. They can tell you how crazy I would go when they could not resist taking that last piece.

As the years moved on I believed I was reaching a place to get ahead. Then it was time for the children's college. The irony was, if I had remained on State assistance in the 70's and stayed at home to raise my children on welfare, their college would have been paid. Instead I pulled myself up (surrounded and helped by loving parents and family members) only to earn too much to receive assistance the for the children's school and it was back to broke town for me.

This tale could go on and on. Primarily I was asking how poor you've been? They say those on Wall Street and those in Washington cannot even begin to relate to the various stages of day-to-day life American's struggle to endure. Do you think they could manage without Q-Tips?


12 comments:

annie kelleher said...

there were weeks when i was a single mom and after all the bills were paid i had 40$ to my name. it never occured to me to seek public assistance. i have a large family and they chipped in and helped. but i can still stretch a dollar further than anyone i know and nothing thrills me more than a bargain in the store... it took me a long time to be able to pay full price for ANYTHING - and even now, i really have to WANT it to buy it.

Changes in the wind said...

I was a stay at home Mom/wife but to do that....I sewed most of our clothes, cut our hair, drove the same car for over 10 years, cooked lots of stews, chili and etc. groomed our poodle, made a lot of our home decorations like macramé hangers for plants and etc. and lots of other things. Not only would those on wall street not know how to do without q-tips they don't know one end of a gun from the other so don't look to them for protection or to bring home food if it isn't at the local grocery store ....they only know how to play with numbers and other peoples lives.

Linda G. said...

First, GA...I read this with tears in my eyes, I just feel so..impressed by your courage, by you struggling to improve your own lot in life..

We've never had much money, pinched pennies, grown a garden and put up food for winter..
I've always had some job or another to help us get by...
At least those of us who have had to struggle know how to manage with next to nothing...

namaste said...

annie, what an amazing experience you share here! we are not rich or poor, my family and i, but we do live from paycheck to paycheck. i am working on changing that. with my daughters, however, you would thing we were wealthy. they don't feel the pressure.

Darlene said...

I can empathize with you, Annie. We had moved to another part of he country so my husband could take a job. The job didn't work out and we didn't have any money left to move back home. We had to give our beloved dog away because we couldn't afford to feed her. You only buy the absolute necessities when you are in that spot. Some people have never really endured hardship so they can't relate to those who have. (Politicians, come to mind.)

Tabor said...

I lift a glass of wine to toast all the single mothers that raised the citizens who know the value of a dollar and a days hard work! You should be very proud of yourself.

Riot Kitty said...

You are admirable! I think it's amazing that people can get kicked in the ass for bettering themselves. I can't believe the "uppity" comment - that is just ridiculous. (Especially having been a journalist, I tried my best to look nice at work, because so many of them dress like complete slobs.)

I've had debts but never gone without. However, my husband has. For that reason, when I used to freak out about layoffs and such, he explained how lucky we really were - and he was right.

Jamie Dawn said...

You should be held up in front of the nation as an example of HOW to take responsibility for your life and family and pull yourself up and out of muck. I admire the strength and endurance you had all those years ago and the example you provided for your kids.
It is ridiculous that our system makes it harder for people to pull themselves up and out of poverty. When you start to make more money, they snatch away your daycare which makes it more sensible to stay on the government payroll.
I strongly believe in compassion for people in need.
I'd love to see our government use lots of tax dollars helping people get OUT of poverty and dependence on welfare, but that does not seem to ever be the focus of social spending. I hate seeing people who have lost their self confidence and have no desire to better their lives.
You did it, and now you are living a comfortable life which I believe you deserve.

I have never been poor. We were not rich when I grew up, but my dad worked very hard and long hours, then later my mom did the same once we got a little older and in school. They are the reason my brother and I had nice clothes, attended Christian school, and went to college. My parents still work very hard, and my dad is retiring this summer. I will cry when that happens because I am so grateful for all the work he's done over the years... all my life. I think he deserves a bailout and deserves to go on vacation for the rest of his life.

kenju said...

Annie, you are to be commended for your lifestyle and for not taking handouts, since you were able to fend for yourself. So many others do not.

I have never been really poor, but we've had some hard times and I try not to take anything for granted.

Granny Annie said...

annie k., you are a champion for not seeking assistance. I can't imagine surviving if I had not had the help of day-care assistance and project housing. I never took welfare or food stamps but I sure needed the other. You are amazing!

Monica, you are a champion for the ability and skills to challenge yourself in the home. My mother and my sister and my daughter are those persons who can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear and I admire women like you guys.


Linda, thank you for saying I had courage but I absolutely did not. I was terrified and made many major mistakes. The first being the desire to push myself forward in a man's world. I had led a sheltered and pampered life until I married, divorced and learned I had no skills. Then acquiring the skills actually only made things worse as I became a target.

Maria, believe me, my kids thought we were wealthy. We laughed and enjoyed life. When we moved from our housing project into a real neighborhood I thought the kids would be delighted but they missed the huge group of friends they had at the apartments. We celebrated every small perk that came our way so for that reason, little is sometimes better than lots.

Darlene, you truly endured hardships and like the champion you are, you survived and excelled beyond it. I do not begrudge the Wall Street fat cats and the politicians who have a lot but I do begrudge their lack of knowledge of those who truly struggle day-to-day. How do you ever teach sacrifice to those born with a silver spoon in their mouths and never live anywhere but in the land of milk and honey?.

Tabor I'll raise that glass of wine to your toast, and I know single mothers have gone above and beyond but some have not. Some got in the net of assistance and never found their way out. Basically Ron was my bailout because he caught me in time to teach me how to live a bountiful life on a shoe string.

RK, I wish I could feel worth admiration but I know I could have done a better job if I had taken my energy in a different direction. If I could have seen the future I would have selected a career that would not have required such high maintenance..

JD, you would not believe the number of women who signed up for government assistance the same time I did (we were the Nation's divorce boomers in 1975) and continually increased their benefits instead of moving away from assistance. They seemed to be doing as well or even better than I, but they managed to keep their aid. I never understood how they did it because you had to show pay slips and as your pay increased, you benefits decreased. That's how it should be but others managed to stay on. Yes, JD, your dad, my dad, so many others truly deserve the bailouts. Wouldn't it be great if we could reward those people some way?

Thank you Judy, but I did take handouts. Everything I could get, I took. My employers paid for my continued education. My parents helped me keep a functional car for our transportation and thankfully the entire family helped me over and over without rubbing their own success in my face or seeming to care that I was continually in need. I will never be proud or believe I should be commended for having to scrape out a living because I did not prepare better for my future.

Thank you all for your comments. I truly did not post this to demonstrate how great I am, I posted it to say how ignorant our lawmakers and others in power are.

Michele said...

Whoa! I felt like I was reading my life story past and present! Your words were music to my ears. I also get pissed off when I have to fork over money we don't have for a gift I know someone else I barely know doesn't need. Love you! Thanks for the story and I've always admired your courage and strength!

nora said...

You are amazing - and I love hearing how the daycare credits and other available aid works. We need to fix how it decreases incrementally at a greater rate than your pay.