First, I must preface today’s post: I know I do not haul water two miles in African heat. I know no one in my family has cancer. I know I have a roof (on an apparently crooked and unstable house). I know all of those things. But I am still in a pickle.
Family finances have become the very most troubling thing about my life. I guess that’s okay- some people have more dire trouble. What’s a mom to do when her kids’ shoes have holes, the police pick up her son at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning to take him to the police station to pay $500 on traffic tickets ($400 of which came from mom and dad), and she’s fending off medical bill collectors by her sheer wit and creativity?
My daughter’s own roommate has apparently blasted me for not helping Hilary make her rent. I am a bad mother.
Last week, I sold some family silver to raise grocery money. I have a few family heirlooms left but it just breaks my heart to think of parting with them. I am also a bad descendant.
I don’t get invited to friends’ birthday parties, I think because it is known we cannot afford to participate. I could not take a gift to a wedding recently. I am a bad friend.
I applied for summer jobs, but in this economy, no one wants to hire summer seasonal. There is not enough business to need summer help. So I am a bad potential employee.
And then there’s the house. My beloved house. We tried to sell it this summer, planning to use the equity to pay off a majority of our debt. It has been declared structurally unsound and pulled off the market, so there goes that plan.
So what do I do? I am literally at wit’s end here. So here is my plan:
1. Diet. I think I can manage on saltines and apples, as long as I have pinot grigio to dull the hunger pains.
2. Ride my bike everywhere, so that I can save on gas. I may have to leave for work at 3:00 a.m. but I will have some awesome leg muscles.
3. Sell a kidney. I only need one.
Okay, not really.
Trav and I have been married for twenty five years. We have always struggled. Always. Some times have been harder than others. When Hilary was ten months old, we were evicted and had our car repossessed in the same week, the very week I finished my undergrad work and got a job offer from Northside ISD in San Antonio. We dug our way out of that, but our marriage has been a long and constant battle to stay just a nose above drowning. We have both made crucial financial gaffes. He took out a credit card in my name once without telling me, I had elective surgery that I had to finance in part. We deferred our undergrad loans until the additional interest added about fifteen thousand to our balance. I went to grad school (loved it, but the financial burden of that has not been good. Only a five hundred dollar annual raise, no new job offers, but another big lump of debt). And then there’s the kids. Hilary has struggled to get through school, especially this last year, Travis Austin has had medical and legal woes, and Libby is accumulating all the usual expenses of a high school senior: portraits, college visits, wardrobe, prom.
What is a real plan? I do not know. We are under all sorts of contracts and payment plans, so there’s no relief there.
Right now, I just try to be grateful for the moment.
Right this minute, I have a healthy family that loves each other.
Right this minute, I have a house. I have air conditioned shelter.
Right this minute, my tummy is satisfied with the turkey and cheese sandwich I had for lunch.
Right this minute, I have good friends (even if I cannot afford to socialize with them).
Right this minute, my kids are okay.
That may all come crashing down. One more unexpected expense and it will. But I cannot live in fear of what may happen. I can only choose to place one foot in front of the other, sometimes with laughter, sometimes with tears. But always, always, with life.