Since my last post? What have I been doing? Oh yeah, compensating for the December rut. No, I am not a Christmas person. Continually being impoverished during the most consumption-happy time of the year does that to a girl. On the plus side, I am a fan of Winter Solstice. I don’t mind the rain, but bring back the light! At some point, though, my mildly pagan leanings were upstaged by the presenting of Christmas lists brought on, no doubt, by the influence of Christmas celebrants whose parents buy them everything their greedy little hearts desire. By the kids’ fifth grade years, the hypocrisy between what many Arcata liberal parents preach and what they practice became evident. Can you drive around with a “Stop Endless War” sticker on your Outback bumper while buying your son Grand Theft Auto 3 to play on his own TV in his room? I mean, obviously you can – but can you keep a straight face while doing so?
I remember being so poor, trying to do Christmas for five on $100, and still aiming for crafty, local, sustainable gift-giving only to overhear the store owners whose businesses I was patronizing coming discussing the merits of Target vs. Costco – and don’t forget the Dollar Store!I mean, whatever works for you, works, I guess. And sure, we’re most of us hypocritical to a degree. But if you’re gonna talk the talk, can’t you at least walk the walk once in a while?
It’s funny, though: the more money I make, the more protective I get of it. Now that I’m back in the working poor/low middle class side of things, I’m much more of a miser than when I was getting by on student loans and food stamps. Back then, having a treat like going out to dinner or buying a mocha was one of the only ways to reassure myself that being broke didn’t mean being unworthy. Even if society doesn’t think raising kids and going to school is valuable enough to support, I know it is – and I deserve a break, damn it. Now that I have a teensy bit of money left over out of the paychecks, I scrutinize more carefully. Why would I spend $4 on a mocha when I can make fine coffee at home? Why go out to dinner for $60 when Bobby and I make food just as good and more to our liking? Why give some bum on the Plaza a buck now that the divide between him and I is so much more tangible than it used to be? After all, once I get my credit cleaned up, I could maybe possibly somehow even buy a house now! Or at least take a vacation or two. Now that I have something to lose, my spending habits have changed. Don’t get me wrong – that “leftover” bit doesn’t go far. Neither have I foregone the gratuitous swiping of the ol’ debit card. But I’m trying, I’m trying.
Have you ever noticed how taboo talking about money remains? In a society where porn spam and celebrity gossip abound, somehow to discuss money on a personal levels remains viewed as crass. Most people will share details about their sex life more easily, which is a shame, because really, I’d rather know how you manage your bills than the fact you discovered you have a thing for anal sex. I could learn something about money management.
In other news, the UCSF doctor advised upping Nick’s Lantus (long-acting insulin) a unit-and-a-half, which seems to have done the trick. Whew.
Kaylee came down with what seems suspiciously like the Baywood virus, causing me to miss two days of work, but seems fine now. Whew, again.
Chelsea turns 18 in 63 days. What that means in practical terms remains to be seen… But damn. Eighteen. Should I hold on to the fact that I’ve been carded twice in two days to mean I’m not looking quite as old as I feel?
Surfing? Ha. It is December. Which for some people is a cause for celebration. Like Humboldt’s own Craig Spjut, below.
For me, the amount of daylight factored against the size of swell times the jobs and the kids equals not surfing more often than a jaunt to the water. I’ll get it if I can, but mostly, I write December off and hope for a good January. Love having a truck, though. I’ve driven out to the Jetty three times now. What a spoiled, lovely feeling.
It is when you have your least that you appreciate when you have that little. You know what I mean? I was raised by a single mother of 7 who did what she could. She gave me this little broken steam engine when I was 7 years old and we lived in a two bedroom house in front of a chicken farm in Petaluma. Why I remember that present over the bikes and other carnal gifts I do not know. I would guess it was knowing that this gift came from her heart and I knew she was doing the best she could. Then she got a union clerks job in Eureka in the 60’s and our life changed drastically. She was able to buy a home and sent me to St Bernards and CR. But I remember that broken steam engine……..
Aw, that’s so sweet, Richard. Seven kids? Wow.
I mean “wow,” in the sense of that must’ve been amazingly tough, especially as a single mom.
Jennifer-amazing? My Mom always took in strays also. We had full household of all types of characters. My Mom was benevolent to a fault. I always try to emulate her charity, but come up way short. Miss her greatly.
I can completely relate. Being the nice guy in a rather amicable divorce set me way, way back. But, knowing that over half of my take home pay is going to help my ex-wife take care of my daughter. My daughter is 18, too. But, I placed into the settlement that she would be covered until she is 21.
Mass amounts of overtime and a second job keep me to about $50 at the end of the pay period.
Christmas? I have a very wonderful employer who have us a $300 bonus as he does every year. Even though it is in the form of Costco, Mervyns and Gottschalks gift cards that are meant for the employers and not as a reason to spend them on gifts. Still, everyone in the office uses them for gift buying.
Life comes with different circumstances. I am glad to have a job that I like, that allows me to work overtime and can take off early for my 2nd job if I need to leave. And thank God for health insurance from my employer. Try to find that at a retail establishment or most other employers. I hear as high as 72% of employers don’t offer insurance benefits. THAT is just not right.
Credit Cards and a divorce drove me to bankruptcy. Credit cards and a new loving relationship will help drive me out. From Ladyfriend, I learned to use the new credit card as a means to establish credit. I use it once a month, or so, to go out to dinner and then, pay it off completely so you don’t wrack up any fees or late charges.
My only saving grace for retirement, and it really is not that far away, is that I do have 401k sponsored by my employer. If our company is sold to another company, that may be the end of that.
My biggest fear….honestly, is that I will not be able to bail out my daughter when she gets into financial trouble while up in Portland in this following year. My parents came to my rescue, oh, about 20 times over the year. Even, if it’s a few hundred dollars here and there. And they were just lower middle class folks themselves.
Ladyfriend doesn’t understand why I don’t have dreams and plans of a future. It’s because I am too busy living week to week.
This is a tough time of year – for almost everyone I know. I tend to squeeze my eyes shut, grit my teeth and try to hang on until January 2 when some amount of normalcy comes back.
Happy Solstice, Jen!
Thanks, Kristabel! Right back at you, too.
Eko, I nodded along to everything you wrote. Yes… yes… yes… Me, too. Right now I’m waiting to lose what health coverage (Medi-Cal) that I have. Exciting times…