Friday, August 23, 2013

Poor

It's been a weird week--mostly because I'm on jury duty. I haven't been to work; I haven't vegged at home. I've been at a courthouse for 4 days in a row from 8-5 on Monday, 8-3 on Tuesday, 8-3 on Wednesday and 8-4 on Thursday. I've been working a little bit--such as what I can do over e-mail--but mostly I've been reading and observing. I'll write about jury duty after the gag order has been lifted. For now, though, I'll write about something I have learned outside the courthouse this week.

When I was growing up, I had a large dose of being poor. My mom and dad divorced when I was really little, and she decided to get her master's degree in a slightly obscure medical-related field. She had an internship during her schooling, but it didn't pay much at all. The two of us lived in a ramshackle Section 8-type place in Ohio and subsisted on government-subsidized food. And while we were there, our ramshackle apartment got burglarized so all the valuable (?) possessions we did have (a color TV that you had to turn the dial really hard to change the station with no remote and a camera) were stolen. Kick people when they're down.

Eventually my mom graduated, and she got a "real" job but we had to pay our own moving expenses to Texas. You might think all medical fields are high-paying. They're not. A slightly obscure medical field where you play with bodily fluids isn't that high-paying. It's one of those noble professions that you do because you like to play with bodily fluids for the intrinsic (?) reward or something like that.

Life improved for us, i.e., certain things got easier. We were no longer government-subsidized in any way. My mom bought a little house. We reduced our hot dog intake from 5 days a week (ick) to 2-3 days a week. But a lot stayed the same. We were on a tight budget. I was never allowed to buy a school yearbook because it was a waste of money. I rarely got new clothes and, if I did, they had to be off the 70% clearance rack. I couldn't join any school clubs with fees. Being a cheerleader while in middle school was not an option because it cost several hundred for all the stuff.

Now, despite things getting a lot better for my mom (since she's an awesome saver, not because she gets paid a lot), she is still extremely frugal. We all make fun of my mom's car. It's a 1991 economy sedan that is rusty, and when you open the doors, they squeak and groan like an elderly person's joints. It has well over 200,000 miles on it. The rest of us would have sold it or junked it ten years ago, but she keeps driving it because "it still works just fine." My mom isn't one to waste money. She thinks decorating a house is a waste of money, so she still has her couches from 1976, and they sure look it. If she does need/want something, she scours Craigslist for good deals. We often get these Craigslist "deals" as Christmas presents. "Mom, really, you don't need to get us anything for Christmas. REALLY!" (I am proud that she is computer savvy at over 60 years old though. She's even on Facebook even though she made up a fake name and has no profile picture because she's a bit paranoid.)

I have told people that I grew up poor because 1) I did and 2) I'm proud of where I came from. My mom is the shining example of the intent of government programs--to help when you're down and out and then give you the skills you need to be successful on your own.

What I've learned this week is that there is more than type of poor. I haven't had much time to ruminate on the other types of poor, but I know I wasn't those. They are the hopeless, quicksand versions of poor that you can't get yourself out of and you can't even see how to. There are so many things stacked against you (education, addiction, no drive, etc.) that there is such a small chance that you will overcome them to be successful.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Getting back on track

July was a difficult month food-wise. My in-laws were staying with us, and there were treats constantly around. I have a hard time saying no to such things, but I think it was more that I was so on edge while they were here that I reached for food to make me feel better, even if it is temporarily.


After being married 13 years and working for the same organization for almost as long, my in-laws STILL do not know where I work or what I do. 13 YEARS! They tell me that I should move wherever my husband gets a job; I can get a job anywhere. (Let's ignore the part that I earn more and have the health benefits for us.) Apparently, they think I'm a typist, and that's it. Thank goodness my husband doesn't think I'm just a typist. He thinks we should make any career/moving decisions together.
The message I hear from the in-laws: My job is not important. Eat a piece of cheesecake.


The in-laws made comments about how they think we should parent our child. They think we're hard on our daughter. For instance, we were at a restaurant together, and my daughter ordered orange juice. She took one sip and said she didn't want it. They wanted to get her apple juice, but I said no. If she doesn't want her oj, she can have water. My intent in that parenting decision is not to be mean. My intent is to show her that you have to think about decisions carefully, and once you make your choice, you need to follow through. They don't understand our parenting philosophy.
The message I hear from the in-laws: We don't know how to parent our child. Eat a bowl of ice cream.

Two big aspects of my self-worth--my job and being a parent--were shaken a bit in July. Although I know with all my heart that I like my job and understand the bigger picture as I'm raising my child, I feel like I'm not good enough to be a "proper" wife and mother in their eyes. That makes me sad. It makes me slightly angry.

I've felt so much better since they left. I feel back to normal. I still have a few residue pounds to work off, but I feel more like "me" now. And I feel slightly more disciplined, like I can get those pounds off with a laser focus on getting back to where I was physically before they arrived.

Feeling energetic and hopeful. :)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Family Secrets

A few weekends ago we had a hectic weekend. Usually our lives are pretty calm. But that weekend we had the in-laws in town, my aunt was in town, we got invited to 3 BBQs, 4 birthday parties, and 2 other events. I usually like to go to everything, but that weekend it was physically impossible without cloning being an option. We ended up spending time with family and going to 1 birthday party, and even that felt like a lot. I took off that Friday so I could spend some time with my aunt.

Some families are those warm, fuzzy families where everyone knows everyone's business, and they text 243 times a day. I wasn't born into one of those families. I was born into two families (speaking about my mom's side and my dad's side) that didn't really talk. My grandparents on my dad's side made stuff up, so I never believed anything they said anyway. My mom has never been open, and I learned quickly that there's a long list of Things You Should Never Bring Up In Front of My Mother Unless You Want To Die. In order to avoid death, I tried to only speak when spoken to. When I did talk, it was only about facts and never about such things as feelings.

When my mom was in the Persian Gulf War, I lived with my aunt and uncle (from my mom's side). It was a short war, and I was only living with them for a couple months. At the time, I was 13, which is perhaps my most embarrassing time, as I wore a black hat all the time, put oodles of obnoxious-smelling perfume on, and had a penchant for green eyeshadow. I was still a kid in although at the time I thought I was a very mature almost-adult.

I talk with my aunt, but we really have never spent any time alone since I was 13. My mom has always been around when my aunt comes up for a visit. I did go down to California to visit my aunt, but my uncle was always around.

I took off that Friday a couple of weeks ago, and she, my stepdad, and I went to the casino while my mom was at work. My stepdad went off to do his own thing when we got there, so it was just my aunt and I in a nearly empty casino, as it was 10am. Only the hardcore (and us) were there at such a weird hour.

My aunt and I had a good conversation. As for gambling, neither of us are gamblers. So we really spent the time talking instead of tending to the slot machines. My aunt was concerned about my mom and stepdad, and that led us to talk about other things. I asked my aunt about my mom's past, as there were some things I never really understood. Either my mom had said something in an offhanded way that related to the Things You Should Never Bring Up list, or I had always wondered. Conversely, there were things I knew about my mom that my aunt didn't know about. Basically we exchanged information to get us to approximately the same knowledge base.

It was enlightening. I've always wondered so much about my mother and WHY she is the way she is. I wondered WHY she married my dad. I wondered WHY she made some of the decisions she did. My aunt didn't necessarily know the answers to those questions, as she and my mom have a weird relationship just like my mom and I do. But she could at least give me more context, and that was very much appreciated.