Archive | March, 2009

Finding peace

31 Mar

Today is a better day, the plumbing problem of yesterday was resolved…it seems that putting the carrot scraps down the garbage disposal was a bad idea. Turns out that the fabulous carrot cake I made Sunday night was worth $150, its going to take the Spousal Unit a while to live that down, since he is the one who clogged the plumbing.

However a comment left by a friend yesterday has reminded me of the need to live in the moment. Its a lesson I struggle with especially as someone prone to panic attacks. The last big attack was a couple of years ago and was pretty costly since it required a trip to the ER.

I generally seek peace in the Bible and through prayer but truthfully I often come up short. In all my years of living,I find it’s a lot easier to be in the moment when my needs are met. I suspect I am not alone, in fact its no wonder poor folks especially in the US tend to kick the bucket too soon. How does one be in the moment and be at peace when you are struggling to get the basics such as food, shelter and utilities and be an upstanding adult and honor your commitments to other creditors?

In recent months, we have heard of folks who are so bogged down with financial pressures that they choose to take not only their lives but the lives of family members. Clearly many of us are grappling with the increasngly turbulent financial landscape, a place where despite working one still may not earn enough to pay their bills…jobs with no benefits, etc.

Yet nothing is ever promised, even the pursuit of education no longer translates into a good steady paycheck though you can be assured that if you took out loans to get that education, you will have that debt hanging over your head…just one more pressure to add to the many that so many of us face.

I wish I had the answers, then if I did, I would probably be selling it. No, I don’t know that there is an answer but I have started a seemingly simple activity that makes me see the value and joy in each day….even the bad ones.

I end my days writing out the 5 things that I am thankful for or that gave me joy in the day. As of late, its included things such as my daughter not having tantrums, the Spousal Unit taking her out to give me a break and so on. Its really the small things at this point that add the joy and make me realize that its not all gloom and doom despite the low numbers in my bank account and the fact that I owe more than I can afford to pay out.

So when the world feels like its going mad, what do you do to find the joy and seek peace in your life?

When it rains, it pours…

30 Mar

To say I am in a foul mood would be an understatement, actually it’s that sense that no matter what I do, getting ahead is always just out of my reach. I make plans, figure I will work those plans and good things will result. Problem is that is rarely the way things work. I seem to live a life were shit is always happening and its not always good.

After planning and reworking the budget it seemed that my getaway was going to happen, that was until the Spousal Unit finished the taxes and it turns out our debt is a few thousand higher than I initially estimated. Once again being self-employed while it has its perks has turned into a financial curse. That pesky self-employment tax is a bitch.

Even the taxes though didn’t steal my joy….no my joy got stolen last night when the plumbing in my kitchen decided to go haywire. Right now the Spousal Unit is dumbing out the water that was in the wash and I can barely use my sink without it overflowing…looks like a possible clog in the line. However we won’t know for sure until the plumber arrives to give us an assessment and I am not looking forward to that.

Yet while I rarely blog about my faith, this is one time I will. Last night when I was praying before bed, like many before me, I cried out for help. I told God that I really don’t know how much more I can take, lately I find myself feeling a lot like Job but wondering when will I emerge from this financial hell that threatens all that I hold dear.

God answers but sometimes its not in the way we want but the answer is revealed…that answer came in Psalm 46 this morning that a friend who is in seminary mentioned on Facebook.

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. I won’t write this psalm out in its entirety but I will say that it gave me sense of peace that I had not previously felt, while I have no concrete answers I will plod away but trust that things will work together.

Hope your Monday is good!

Taking care of Mama

26 Mar

How come when you are trying to abstain from things…say spending money, temptation lurks everywhere. Now being that I am in super frugal mode, I have my budget planned out between now and summer..no joke. I have to watch what I do otherwise I can very easily get off track. I have already had a few bad days this month, but taking the girl child out on a Mama-daughter day to the Children’s Museum was worth blowing the budget. Plus that weekend trip last weekend to the local farm for Maple Syrup Sunday here in Maine when the first sap of the season starts running and you get the best maple syrup around also hit the wallet hard. Of course had I not gone on a spending spree at the farm store it would not have been a bad visit. (note to self: farm stores are designed to make you spend money)

However today a buddy of mine sent me email that now I wish I had not opened, a chance to go on a yoga retreat in the Berkshires and its all women of color. Check thisout. A weekend of yoga, African dance, and sista fellowship. Look, I live in Maine, land of not too many Black women and a chance to fellowship with healthy living Black women sounds like paradise, plus that would be 2 days sans the child and Spousal Unit and access to a whirlpool too. If you are the mother of a small child reading this, tell me this does not sound good?

It seems we can get a discount that makes the price not too bad and if I carpool with my girl, that will really keep the cost down. Problem is that $400 is not really in my budget, truth is I do have a raise starting soon, so technically I can make it happen but as a responsible Mama and wife I keep thinking just say no.

I have to be honest though I am about 70% sure that I am going, see as much as I am thinking that no its not in the budget, its starting to hit me that as the young folks say, I need to do me. My poor body aches due to a bad bed (by the way, some things have come to pass and a new bed will be here shortly…turned out a recently divorced friend has the fairly new bed from her former marriage and her new partner refuses to sleep on it..my gain) , both my office chair at home and work suck so generally speaking I am a ball of knots.

I keep thinking its a sign that mini-me aka girl child now is ok hanging with Daddy to the point that I think she will be fine if I am gone 2 days and if she isn’t its close enough for me to get back quickly. It hit me this evening though that its time to take care of me and while I do it often in small ways sometimes it needs to happen in large ways. I don’t know if I can afford to go home to Chicago soon, but this getaway is affordable and realistic compared to a trip home.

Yes, that $400 could be put to good use but living in a 100+ year old house there is always going to be something to do here. So I share my story to say sometimes it feels good to look out for the big Kahuna in this case, that would be me. Too often as women and Mamas we give and give until we have nothing left and lately I feel my spirit telling me I need a break.

That said, guess I may have to wait on that lovely sewing machine I looked at today, but that’s a story for another post.

Just tired

25 Mar

Today is one of those days that I really don’t have much to say, I am just tired…tired of everything. No, I am not depressed or getting ready to whack myself off but sometimes it seems like why the fuck do I try so hard?

Yesterday I wrote about the situation at work which has me feeling a tad down, since I took this gig I have busted my ass and truthfully I don’t earn much considering my background. Yet one of the best rewards comes from the simple things like kids giving me a hug when they come to the center or this weekend I ran into a few of the kids while out with the family and it was all good.

No, I am talking about being tired of living in a world that does not give a damn about folks who do work that adds real value to society, folks like: teachers, social workers, CNA’s, cops and the list goes on. Some of these positions require a fair amount of schooling yet you end up in debt, possibly living paycheck to paycheck just to make a difference.

Instead as a society we have decided to elevate folks who earn tons of money, one only has to turn on the idiot box and  look at the variety of shows to see what we value. Who Wants to be a Millionaire, The Housewives of Insert Swank Town, Biggest Loser, and the list goes on and on.

How come there is no show about real housewives? You know folks living on one check who make ends meet while raising kids? Or who wants to be a social worker? My guess is its just not glamorous enough, after all who wants to see a show about folks with advanced degrees who are in their 30’s earning some $28,000 who often swipe a few cans of food from work to make ends meet until payday? Yeah, that was actually a co-worker of mine back in Chicago many years ago.

Only social workers or non-profit folks I have ever known who were not necessarily struggling either came from family money which allowed them to do good works or they were married or partnered to someone with a good job. Otherwise most weren’t much better off than the clients they served.

I’m tired of living in a world where we are all ecouraged to be all we can with the assumption that we will end up with lots of material goods or material comfort all under the guise of empowerment. What about realizing that we can’t all be rich or even at the top of the middle class ladder. After all if we were all rich, who would do the tasks that the rich like to farm out? I mean I doubt a millionaire nanny would want to watch another millionaires kids…know what I mean?

How about valuing that everyone has something to offer and realizing that all humans are worthy of creature comforts like housing, food and healthcare? That to level the playing field does not mean helping out slackers but actually works for the good of us all.

I don’t know, I am almost at a point of thinking of taking a hiatus from current events, seems I am getting madder and and madder each day. Just today I was reading the letter from the guy at AIG who quit and is going to give away his bonus. I admit his story if true offers a different perspective but still offering to work for a buck for a year all the while knowing you are getting a million dollar bonus (or about 750K after taxes) still doesn’t make my heart break. Gee, it must be hard planning to live off a mere 750K for one year….maybe he should switch places with me. He might have a new appreciation for that mere 750K.

So its Wednesday, hump day, have a good day and here’s hoping my mood changes.

 

 

Driven to steal

24 Mar

I hesitate to post this because while I am not breaking any issues of confidentiality, as the director of the center I work at, I should probably keep my trap shut. However we are living in difficult times and well I think as times get rough we will see folks doing some desperate shit despite whatever the fallout may be.

My center serves low income, at risk kids and their families. The primary program we offer is an after-school program along with some other programming, its really a safe haven in an area that lacks for quality kids programming for the low income crowd.

We have a family, that has been involved for a while, several of their kids attend our program, on the surface the family seemed like good folks. I had no reason to have an unfavorable opinion about that, I know they struggle financially but truthfully considering that the area we serve has poverty rates that start at 50% and up depending on the block you happen to be on, its safe to say that most of the families we serve are struggling to make ends meet.

Well we have had a fund-raising activity going on, I can’t describe it since it would give away too much information but lets just say its a big activity and respective families can sell a certain product and raise a lot of money. Money that goes towards a really great cause. Well this family I noticed had not been around for the past few weeks, which I thought was strange but knowing how transient low income folks can be, it really did not register as strange on my radar. That was until yesterday, when it was brought to my attention via the group we are partnered with, that this family seems to have raised a lot of money in the name of the cause but have yet to turn in the money, folks are mad because they have not gotten the product and coupled with the fact that the kids have been MIA from the program, you can see where I am going with this.

So I called the family and basically was given a convoluted story that sounded crazy, but the bottom line is they don’t have the money and there are a lot of folks who spent money to get a product who won’t be getting. From my professional perspective, I have no idea how we will handle this. On the other hand from a personal perspective, I see a family that most likely started out with good intentions, the money started coming in and temptation arrived at their door.

I was reminded of a time many years ago when I was married to the now former spousal unit when we made some less than correct choices in order to stave off the collectors, buy Pampers, etc. Times when I stretched the truth and did what I had to do to survive. Its one of the reasons that when I heard this situation, I just wanted to talk to the family because I have been poor and I know lack of resources will make you do some really questionable shit including stealing from a kids group. Thankfully I never did anything on that magnitude but the line between this family and where I once was 15-16 years ago was not that great.

I think that as the economy spirals out of control, good people may find themselves tempted to do all sorts of shit they ought not to do and I am not talking taking a few paperclips from your job. However these same hard times while they can bring out the bad in us can also serve as a way to find the good in ourselves and we need to seek that good at a time when we can no longer count on the mall trips and other things to make us feel good about ourselves.

As for the family, well…I don’t know what will happen. If their kids come back they will be welcomed since its not my policy to turn away kids but I wish the parents would come clean.

Thrift is the new Black

23 Mar

It seems in the past few months every where we turn, we are hearing about how ordinary Americans are looking to save money, and basically live a frugal and even sustainable lifestyle. Its clear that as the US and even world economies continue to tank that folks are looking to cut back either by force such as a decrease in income or just the realization that constant consumption is no longer the in thing.

In fact with the announcement that First Lady Michelle Obama is using part of the White House lawns to start a garden, I suspect that one of this season’s hottest new hobbies will be gardening. Yep, no longer will folks be coveting the latest pair of Jimmy Choos or some other high end item, instead folks will be talking about the latest heirloom tomato they are growing. Ok, that might be a tad much but seriously, I do see things such as gardening becoming quite popular.

Already in my little town it seems there is talk of establishing a community garden, which I must admit I am excited about. I don’t have much usable land that gets sunlight so the idea of a plot of land to garden in is actually making me excited.

I must say that I am glad to see Michelle Obama taking up the issue of healthy food, I suspect as a native of Chicago’s south-side she is quite familiar with the lack of access to healthy foods that many poor folks and folks of color have to live with….in my Grandma’s old neighborhood which was on the south-side of Chicago, you could find whatever type of alcoholic beverage you wanted to quench your thirst and take away your sorrows. However finding the fixings to make a tossed green salad that was not made of iceberg lettuce was comparable to getting the winning numbers of the lottery. Hard as hell to do.

While organic foods have been in style for a while, fact is that for a large segment of the US population, organics are no more acessible than a lobster dinner to most folks, so seeing Michelle’s face along with area DC school children in the dirt looking to plant food is a good thing.

It seems as a culture we need role models to guide our process. Anyway for those of us who practice being thrifty and already had plans to grow some food, we are trendy. Let’s just hope that like Starbucks took over our lives for years that this quest to live simply catches on like a $4 latte.

Electronic front porch or something else….

20 Mar

I will admit I am an internet junkie, I spend way too much time online. It started almost 10 years ago when I was contemplating going natural (translation, no more chemical relaxers in my hair), at that time I knew no one in my day to day life who was natural and needed some support. Since the first time I tried to dread my hair at 18, it was a failure since I didn’t know at that time that dreads on relaxed hair don’t work. (I basically was just washing and going with no combing…it was a hot mess)

So almost 10 years ago I came across an online community of women of African descent who were either natural or also contemplating the move. It was a great little community and allowed me to also connect with women who lived in Chicago as well so I could get some live examples. At that point in time, my internet usage was still pretty tame since I was in Chicago and not relying on the net to fill any voids in my life.

Then 7 years ago we moved to Maine and a sista was lonely with a capital L, starting all over 1100 miles from family and friends is no joke, despite daily calls back home, the only person I talked to daily face to face was the spousal unit…it was a rough time.

A year after the move was when my Mom got diagnosed with cancer and thus started the journey that ended with her death 8 months after being diagnosed. By then the sistas from my online discussion group really did become my support, after her death the women from our board organized and sent a gift to help my family out since they knew that my Dad was out of work and I had been helping my folks out.

It was after my Mom’s death that I truly knew the women in my group were not just online folks but many are indeed friends, I know that I can travel to anyplace and if there is a sista from our group, I won’t be alone. In fact early in my time here in Maine, a sista came through and we got together.

That said as my time in Maine goes on, I reached a point where clearly I needed to find some real life buddies and in 7 years I will say that I have built a decent support group, though sadly one of my dearest friends is getting ready to relocate to southern New England. She is one of my few Black girl friends here and to say I am dreading the day she leaves is an understatement.

Now I shared all this to say that I clearly see real value in using the internet as a sociliazing tool, even Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with old friends, so despite the many changes even Facebook serves a purpose.

However I must admit that as of late it bothers me how may folks use the internet to connect with versus face to face interactions, actually a dear real life friend admitted she sees Facebook as an electronic front porch of sorts…I don’t know but I don’t quite see it the same way.

I fear that as we gravitate to using text messages and mediums such as Twitter and Facebook, that it has the ability to take away from the human experience of connecting. Lately I have noticed that on Friday and Saturday nights I find myself online chatting with folks who are only 10-15 miles away from me and that just seems strange. No one can find the time to get together for a coffee or drink but we are all sitting in our respective homes on our computers chatting and while there is nothing wrong with that, I remember as a child that on weekends my folks had friends over or we went to visit others.

I sense we are losing a piece of our humanity by reducing ourselves down to digestable soundbytes to the point that even I have noticed my attention span is not what it used to be and that scares me.

While I realize I would never want to go back to life without this amazing technology, lets also not forget the value in really reaching out and connecting to one another.

Have a happy weekend and welcome Spring!

Frugality versus reality

19 Mar

I have a problem, it seems my bed is dying and what that means for me is every morning I wake up feeling like I went a few rounds with Mike Tyson back when he was in his prime. Seriously, my bed is so uncomfortable that I actually dread going to bed. I spend a fair amount of time each night tossing and turning, trying to find a position to sleep in that is comfortable where I don’t feel the springs prodding me into my side.

Now once upon a time when the Spousal Unit and I were flush with cash, I would have remedied this situation by going out and buying myself a new mattress and box spring. Problem is cash is not flowing and with many items on the agenda coming up, namely taxes to the federalises and the state as well as house insurance and house taxes, this is a pretty bad time to need a bed.

Now kids this is what I call a problem, my back is hurting so bad that I am inhaling Aleve and other pain killers like a child gobbling up candy the day after Halloween. I have been trying to pretend the pain is not that bad but really it is…so this morning I woke up with one thought. Rent-a center. You know the place where for a few dollars every week you pay on a item until one day you own it.

The problem is any rent to own item goes against all I believe in, for starters by the time you actually own the item you have paid 2-3 times what it would have cost, had you just saved up your shekels and bought it outright. I think places like Rent a Center and others of its ilk prey on poor folks, so its always been my policy that if I can’t buy it or at least charge it then I just don’t own it.

In theory this is a great idea, except that if I put away $15 a week, every week it will take about 30 weeks before I have enough cash available to buy a bed outright, that is a lot of nights and days to walk around with a hurting back and neck. Plus there is the cost for all the Aleve I have to buy to be functional during the day and that says nothing for my poor kidneys processing all that shit.

Nope, you can see where I have a problem. Now I don’t mind buying used except that with the resurgence of bedbugs, I am scared as hell to buy a mattress off say Craigslist. I have a buddy who used to get all her furniture and bedding used, well they got bedbugs and it was a mess. In the end they had to get rid of al their furniture and their place had to be fumigated by professionals. It doesn’t help that I was recently at a meeting where the local code enforcement officer spoke against getting used items like couches and beds because bed bugs have made such a resurgence in this area.

A table from Craiglist?Yes. A bed? No. So you can see where I have a dilemma, and no I can’t charge it because my neither of my two remaining credit cards have enough room, actually both cards have small limits. So while my frugal brain says no and to suck it up for 30 weeks, my back right now says get thee to Rent a Center and get a bed.

What say you? I could use some friendly frugal advice because my back is hurting.

Edited to add, I just called Rent a Center and it seems the cost to rent a bed is $22.95 a week, it takes a year to get the bed paid off and I can get a new one that has never been used. I don’t know but after doing the math, I feel less inclined to go this route, that’s a shitload of cash. Still how do I get by until I have enough cash in hand to buy a bed is the question?

No forks for you

18 Mar

I know I have been on a current events kick but seriously there is so much going on, its hard not to comment about it. Anyway it seems ole Bernie Madoff had some help with his elaborate scheme (duh…of course he did) and the latest word is that his accountant is being indicted. Oh well, Mister Accountant had to know that was coming.

It also seems there might end up being some form of justice with regards to Mrs Madoff too, it seems the powers to be are looking at taking everything ole Ruthie owns and that includes $65,000 in silverware…damn, I wonder if bacon and eggs taste better when you eat it on expensive silverware. Of course by the time the federal-es are done with the Madoff family, they ought to be happy if they are not walking around in orange jumpsuits, much less eating off expensive silverware.

No, Ruth the gubments wants your forks, knives and I hear they also want your expensive piano. Like I said a few posts back, a woman with a degree in nutrition does not earn enough on her own to afford million dollar homes unless she is some sort of Paula Deen or Martha Stewart. Ruth, the gig is up….you know you and the kids were all in on Papa’s get rich quick scheme.

No, it seems in America as many of us face unprecedented economic challenges, folks are not in the mood and we want to see folks pay for their wrong doing. Hence all the pressure on the folks at AIG about the bonuses, fuck contracts, use common sense.

Anyway while going after crooks won’t put any money in our pockets, there is a sort of perverse pleasure to be derived from seeing crooked bastards pay for their deeds. In fact it goes a long way in restoring a sense that maybe there is justice and its not just us who get fucked over.

Eating local

17 Mar

 

These glorious pics are far our first pickup from our Spring share of our CSA, as regular readers know I strive to eat locally. One of the joys of living in Maine is that I have easy access to farms which means fresh food is easily accessible, yes it costs a tad more but from a taste perspective, nothing beats local eating.

We started buying locally about 6 years ago, I joined our CSA and was immediately hooked, though Mister Spousal Unit is not as sold on the concept as I am of buying local though he admits the local ground beef we get is far tastier than the regular stuff at the store.

Anyway spring is in the air with the arrival of greenhouse greens and other goodies. By the way our first share has eggs which mini me had the pleasure of playing with the lovely hens that laid the eggs when her and Papa did the pickup. In addition we had onions, cabbage, carrots, greenhouse salad greens and beets…oh, can’t forget the beans (red).  Its been great having daily salads again now that I can get real lettuce, the stuff available at the grocery store is tasteless in comparison.

Not much time for a long post since my computer spent most of the day at the computer shop being repaired, apparently she wanted a vacation…catch ya later.