Friday, August 23, 2013


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.

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