Monday, January 14, 2013

In Which I Speak of the Unspeakable

Haven't written anything in quite some time.  And the greater likelihood is that I will write what I'm thinking of tonight and then delete it away.  And here's the reason why:  My family is suffering from a horrible problem, one that lots of people suffer from, and most people worry about at least some time in their life, but yet the entire subject is so humiliating and so taboo, you almost never hear details about it.  If you have a terminal illness, or some other horrible problem, you can go to your friends and talk to them about it, and they give you emotional support to get through it.  They know you're not asking them for a cure, you just need someone to talk to about what's gnawing away at your insides.  But THIS problem is one of the last social taboos.  You can't talk to anyone about it out of fear they'll think you're asking them to help you solve it, so you suffer in silence.  I've been trying that tactic for a really long time, but I find now that I can't think, I can't write, I have trouble smiling or laughing, and I'm having violent nightly panic attacks from trying to hold it all in without venting. Worrying about it consumes most of my waking hours, and often haunts my dreams.  Having it changes the way I eat, speak, think, my hobbies, the way I look, and everything else about me.  It is something so horrible and so dire that  I sometimes hide in the bathroom so that no one hears my sobs.  I find I can no longer write on my blog because this thing is so big and so bad, I find it difficult to concentrate on or talk about anything else, and when I TRY to think of something funny, or amusing, or on the lighter side, this thing is lurking in the shadows, always hovering over me, reminding me that I shouldn't be laughing, or smiling, or thinking frivolous or happy thoughts, because IT is coming for me, and it's going to get me.  This thing I'm talking about is severe financial problems.  Poverty.

I didn't try in school.  I was smart, and I knew it, and I thought I could get by with just that.  I knew I wasn't going to college, and I figured I'd work at odd jobs and pioneer and hopefully marry someone who could help me make ends meet.  I married Charles, and he had a home already, that he was buying, and his vehicles were paid for, and I thought that gave us a head start.  He worked laying brick and I worked waitressing, temping, whatever I could find, so that we could try to cover our bills. 

Brick masons are out of work when it's below 30 degrees outside, or if it rains, or if there's a downturn in the economy and people stop building things.  Charles was always missing work and we were always in bad shape.  With waitressing, the tips are up and down and sometimes nonexistent.  I was still a kid then, really, and was still trying to pay off a car, and wanted to go on trips and do other stuff, and we were always on the brink of financial disaster, even way back then. 

Then we started having children.  Charles changed jobs and has tried several things, he cleaned carpets for awhile, which was not very lucrative, but better than the brick thing.  Then he got a job teaching masonry for the high school, which was great, but they got rid of the masonry program and laid him off after three years.  He worked delivering wine for awhile after that, but fell off the back of the delivery truck one day and broke his wrist and shredded his rotator cuff, and required three surgeries and months of therapy to try to fix it.  It's still not right.  Since then he's worked for the city, but the pay is minimal, the benefits cover him only, and it's definetely not enough for a family of six to live on.

I've done everything I could think of over the years to try to make some money.  Including :Waitressing, temping, making and selling baked goods, making and selling jewelry, selling Avon, making calls for a nursing company, working at Old Navy, cleaning houses, working as a lunch lady, and working as a janitor.  Most of the time, I've done two or three of those things at once, trying to keep us afloat.  We had finally, FINALLY gotten to a place where we could safely pay all our bills and have a little bitty bit left over when we were working for the city, working being a lunch lady, and cleaning a bank at night.  And that's when I got pregnant with the twins.  Then it all went to the proverbial hell in a handbasket.  Now we're down to just the one job, Charles working for the city, and me taking care of the babies twenty-four seven, and worrying myself into hysteria about how we're going to survive.  We now make HALF of what we did before we had the twins, and we've added two people. 

We are almost surely going to lose our house, and probably soon.  It seems ironic, given the fact that this house is already way too small for our family, and in the ghetto, and falling apart and we can't afford to fix it.  But we can no longer afford to pay even the mortgage on THIS house. 

We have applied for and receive all the proper government aid, which it humiliates me to even admit, because I know how many people feel about such things.  Yes, I'm admitting it, we survive off food stamps.  And my kids only get to go to the Dr. because of Medicaid.  Charles has insurance through work on himself, so that just leaves me.  When I have asthma, or my depression is really bad and I need to change meds, or my thyroid needs to be checked, I have to mull over whether or not I can live through it without going to the Dr., because we  SO cannot afford it.  And when an emergency happens, such as, say, last year when I fell on my face while trying to stop my kid's rooms from flooding in our leaky basement, and I turn black and blue and it feels like something's broken in my cheek, I choose to ignore it.  People say things like "That looks broken!"  "You should go get that checked out!"  Well, I can't afford to.  And I have no insurance.  And I'm sure it'll be fine if I just ignore it long enough.  And that is how it came to be a full year later and I still have a giant dent on my cheekbone where I apparently broke it or damaged the underlying tissue so badly, my face will never be the same.  I can live with the dented face, but one of my biggest worries is that next time, instead of a dented face, I find a lump in my breast, or something like that, and can't get it treated because I'm uninsured and poor, and my four children end up without a mother, homeless and living with their father in our van.

Speaking of the children, I look at them, and I feel horrible pangs of guilt because I wasn't more careful with birth control.  I sometimes wonder if I'm a horrible, selfish person because I didn't give up my beautiful babies to someone more responsible than I am who can actually pay their bills and provide them with a decent place to live.  They are so wonderful and they deserve a great life, and yet they have an idiot for a mother who wasn't careful and therefore had them unexpectedly when she couldn't afford to take care of them.  They deserve better than me.  Knowing that is such a severe blow to my ego, I cannot even put it into words.  I am so thankful every day that they are here and healthy, but feel so guilty at the same time that they are here when I can't afford to properly take care of them.

The older kids need stuff for school, that seems so simple, "I've gotta have a display board for my science project and it's due on Thursday!"  "My Spanish professor says we have to have a Spanish/English dictionary, she's mad we don't already have one, cuz it was in the syllabus."  "Can you get me a jacket to wear to school in uniform colors?  It's freezing in our classroom, but they won't let me wear this one you got me at the consignment shop because it says 'Old Navy' on it, I need a plain navy blue one."  There's something like that nearly every day, something they want or something they need, and they're certainly not trying to be brats about it, they just need what they need and what can they do but ask for it?  Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out how I can make the kids use only so many squares of toilet paper for the next few days, and what we can feed the cat instead of cat food, because we HAVE to make it till payday before we can buy ANYTHING.  Much less a jacket, or a dictionary, or a display board. 

After the meeting when everyone's going "Y'all going to eat? We're going to Katana!" or wherever it may be... and Dalton's going "Can we go?  My friends are going?"  and Brenna's saying "Can we, Mom?  All my friends are going too!"  And no, we can't go.  We have to go home and eat whatever I bought on sale with food stamps and cooked the day before so that we could have something ready when we got home from the meeting.  That part is not so bad, at least not to me.  It's not a necessity to go out to eat.  But I know how it feels to be a teenager, and everyone else is going, and you don't get to because your family is poor.  I HATE that for Brenna.  I just hope that going through it makes her a stronger, better, more understanding person when she's older.  The kid's big going-out-to-eat-treat is Saturdays in field service when we stop at McDonalds for break.  I do everything in my power to save enough money so that when we do that, they can at least enjoy a little fast food then with everyone else.  I guess  technically I should NEVER spend money on us eating out, and pack them little snacks and make them have that instead, but I just don't have the heart.  And when there's a decent movie on at the 2$ movies, I take Brenna if I can.  We both need a little escape and a little treat now and then. 

We'll survive.  I know we will, we always have.  And I pray ALL THE TIME and I have family members praying with me that something miraculous happens and we be able to keep our house, or I somehow find a way to work without all the money I could earn going straight to daycare for the twins and Dalton, or that Charles suddenly gets a HUGE promotion, or that someone calls and offers him a wonderful new higher-paying job with lots of benefits.  I keep reminding myself that the Bible promises we won't have more than we can bear, and that if the flowers and the birds are dressed beautifully and have enough to eat, so will we.  Having sustenance and covering, we will be content with these things.  I pray about it, and I feel better sometimes, and then something else happens and I feel like I'm losing my mind sometimes, and up and down and up and down on the roller coaster that is life I go.  Fortunately, I've gotten old and fat and I now have a huge dent in my face, so even if I were desperate enough to want to, I couldn't fall back on a career of stripping!  Lol!  JUST KIDDING!!!!  (A little humor popped out there, I had a happy/funny thought, I love it when that happens!)  I know that many people go through this stuff, and some of my family's even going through stuff like this with me right now.  It helps to know I'm not the only one, and it helps to talk about it too, from time to time, but only with those who will not make it their personal mission to try to "fix" it (really only Jehovah can fix this one, and I HATE feeling like a charity case, and part of the reason I refuse to talk about this is because I don't want anyone to think I want them to give me money! Sometimes you just need a friend to vent to!) and those who will not judge ("I saw her buy a 2.50 bottle of wine!  She shouldn't even be purchasing that when she's living off government money!")  So if anyone reading this feels tempted to do either one of those things, DON'T and bite me.  But I guess I felt that I couldn't keep it bottled up much longer.  Trying to hide how bad things are and sound amusing and happy is just too much of a hypocritical charade for me these days.  I'm down to my last thread of sanity here, and it's a frayed one!  My sister said I should just stop trying to hide it all and maybe others would help pray for my family and the prayers would make a difference.  So this is what I am asking anyone who reads this for:  Please pray for my family to figure out our way.  Please pray for us to have food, clothing, and shelter, and to be able to live simply but have what we need.  Please pray for me to keep the shred of sanity I have left, and to keep my faith strong, and to have hope and courage that things will get better.  And please pray these things for all the others out there who, like me, worry about these issues all the time but rarely speak of them in detail with others out of complete humiliation.  Most of all, please pray that the time comes soon when none of us have to deal with poverty anymore.  And anyone who's reading this who is going through or has gone through the same kind of thing, please tell me all about it so I don't feel so embarrassed and alone!  Because I swear to you, I would rather post a picture of my obese self buck naked than to post what I have written here.  But I started this blog to tell my story, and right now, this is the only story that I have to tell. 


  1. That's the bravest thing you've ever done. Frankly, the system stinks. A lot of people can't make it any more. And a lot more have to work two jobs to survive...and that's just not possible with baby twins in the house.

    I wish I had an answer for you, but of course, I don't. I do have prayers, and hugs, and hope that you'll get many more from people who've braved lousy rotten situations, too.

  2. Shelly, you know we all love you and will do whatever we can for you, and will most definitely be praying for you and the family. You have been faithful in putting Jehovah first in you life and he's not going to forsake you. Somehow, I don't know how, you'll make it through. May be hard going, but you'll make it. Jehovah is faithful and true.

  3. Please Shell go ahead and vent, tell us your troubles.....but please oh please don't post the buck naked pictures!!!! (Sorry I couldn't resist)
    Sorry things are so had but one thing I've learned is that when it can't get any worse, it has to get better and it will somehow and we do live through things we think we can't deal with. Doesn't make it easier while you're going through it though.
    Of course we are all praying for you and we'll keep on. We love you all. Try to stay strong! Wish we could fix it! Lovey

  4. I agree with Betsy you are brave. Brave to share how you feel. I also agree with Amy DO NOT POST NAKED BUTT PICTURES. I wish I had an answer or could help you in some way. Only Jehovah can and i know your faith is strong. Though we are not at the moment on the verge of poverty, we have been and right now I have Family plus some living with us. I think we may all be living together before the end. Keep standing firm and know that many prayers are with you.

  5. I don't know a single servant of Jehovah who hasn't gone through money woes. There is nothing shameful about taking advantage of every type of governmental funding that is available, that's what they are there for. We are temporary residents in this world, and yes, Jehovah will provide for you, as he does all of us. Continue to throw your burdens on him and relief will come. I'm sorry that you have to worry about these things, but I'm proud of you at how well you handle it, and continue to put Jehovah first in your life! Making all of your meetings, going out in service, these are the most important things. And you have come up with the most creative healthy meals for your family and on a limited budget, that's awesome! Money has never been the key to happiness or the end to our worries and I feel sad for those who rely on it for a sense of security. I will do the one thing that I can to help and include you and your family in my prayers, relief and solutions will come, I know they will! Oh and one more thing- No your kids are not better off with some other family, this of course you know, but a relationship with Jehovah is the most valuable gift you can possibly give them! And growing up with not getting everything they want and knowing the true value of a little here and there is invaluable. I grew up poor, but the worst part is that my parents were dumb and refused government funding, so we didn't get food stamps or healthcare, so we weren't properly taken care of, when I was 5 was the last time I went to the dr until I was pregnant with Alex. I had plenty of cavities because I never got my teeth looked at. I knew the want of wanting cooler clothes and toys I couldn't have, and the "embarrassment" of having noisy older cars that always broke down, but now, looking back, I'm glad I was poor instead of a spoiled rich kid. I learned the difference between wants and needs, and I have the know how to be one frugal lady. This world stinks and is full of disgusting worthless things, hang in there, the best is yet to come!

  6. I agree wholeheartedly with Katie. I grew up dirt poor in a tiny house riding in embarrassing rusty, blown head gasket, noisy station wagons, but there was love and Jehovah and I am thankful I had the parents I had and the life we had and wouldn't trade it for any of my friends' lives who seemed to get whatever they wanted. I didn't get to take dance classes or music lessons or go to Disney World or go out to eat after the meeting every week. I only got to go to xray school after high school because tuition was $250 for 2 years and books $500. I spent all the money I got from high school graduation presents to go to xray school, because I wanted to pioneer but knew my parents couldn't afford to get me a car and pay insurance and put gas in it, and I wanted to be able to do it myself. I learned to be frugal, to be content, and to work hard. Your children will feel the same way when they are grown and reflect on their childhood. They are wonderful, mature children who love Jehovah, because of you and Charles. Please don't forget that! I love you.

    1. Awww! Thanks you guys! I remember your tiny house and your station wagon (the brown one) Paige. I just hope that my kids will remember the good parts and learn good, hard lessons from their life and not grow up traumatized and resentful. I can't BELIEVE Katie went so long without going to the Dr., that's the kind of stuff I worry so much about, them not having a stable home or enough to eat. Honestly, in the few days since I wrote this, I've felt MUCH better and haven't had another panic attack or even a crying jag! I don't know if it's the added prayers or the emotional word-vomit or a mixture of both! Lol! I know there are good qualities to be learned from having less, I'm more worried about losing our home with 6 people to house and that sort of thing. When "less" becomes "not enough to have the basics" is when you start climbing the walls as a mother! I think I'm gonna start looking for a night job, just not work on meeting night. It's the only thing I can think of to do that will help even a little bit. Not optimal, but you gotta do whatcha gotta do! Thanks for all the prayers and kind words peeps! I REALLY needed them!

  7. Sis, is it OK if I comment on this? I don't really know you, but wow it feels like you are my REAL blood sister in addition to my spiritual sis!!!!! ("bite me" being one of my very favorite vituperative phrases!)

    I've been where you are, although with fewer children and so I won't minimize your pain by saying I know EXACTLY how you feel. But I do know what it's like to go to the food pantry and the welfare office, feeling bad about it but knowing we were doing the best we could AND knowing that we totally deserved what little benefits we were getting. Our problem started with my husband having a nervous breakdown shortly after the birth of our oldest child. He has only worked off and on since that time, 22 years ago.

    When my babies were 2 years old and 6 months old, I decided my body had enough of housecleaning and had to go back to school. So it took me 3 years to get a 2 year business degree. At the beginning, I would come home from cleaning other people's houses to my own messy one, hold my baby with a bottle propped under my chin and a book next to my plate and sometimes I would be so tired and confused that I would try to stab a piece of food with my highlighter instead of my fork.

    To make a short story long (haha), I got offered a full time job with a few benefits shortly after I started school, and I have worked full time ever since, for 19 years now. I'm in sales and things are a struggle now that my husband is again not working, especially when the economy goes south and my commissions are down. I also cry and try to hide it because my husband already struggles with depression so I don't want to make it worse.

    I make just enough to cover the bills and we'd be living really well if it werent' for the gobs of money we owe Visa. Credit cards are truly the work of the devil...

    If I knew you, I would hug you and our congregation would figure out how to get you what you need in a way that wouldn't make you feel bad. We're getting good at that since we all struggle. We pass clothes and purses around like nobody's

    I know your name so I can talk to Jehovah about you. If you feel a warmth all of a sudden, it's because I asked Jehovah to let you know when someone was praying for you. You are a dear, wonderful sister and it's easy to see how much you love your family and love Jehovah. May the God of all comfort bless you and provide your "way out" soon.

  8. Your comment was so sweet, it made me cry! Thank you!