Monday, December 2, 2013

being poor

I've been poor a lot of my life.

I remember when my mom and my dad first got divorced in 1972.  Not a great year to be a single mom.  I slept in a crib until I was 4.  I remember eating oatmeal for dinner.  Because it was what we had.

There were lots of years with enough.  My mom worked when she didn't always need to so I could have dance lessons or voice lessons.  But in high school my step dad was in construction so there were lots of lean times while we waited to get paid.  I learned how to eat from a garden.  And cook weird cuts of meat you only get when you butcher your own hog.  Or get paid by a farmer in half a hog instead of actual money.

When I got married the first time, we didn't manage money well.  We struggled financially but it was our own doing.  We learned from it, I guess.  Then my ex-husband lost his job and has been underemployed ever since.

Somehow in the past 9 months, he's decided it's OK to not pay his child support.  His whopping $200 a month for 6 kids child support.  Granted, we have joint custody.  But I paid for all the haircuts.  The new shoes.  The school supplies.  Now I don't even get his help with that.

And my husband doesn't make enough money at his job.  The child support he pays is $1000. He makes a little more than that each month.  So that leaves me to earn the bulk of our income.  In the past 18 months we have gone through my retirement.  Through my savings.  Not living extravagantly.  Just living.  We have never taken my kids to a restaurant for a meal.  I've taken all 6 of them to Carl's Jr once in the past 18 months.  There is just no money for dining out.  We aren't starving.

We get food stamps.  And I am very good at budgeting that money.  I'm thankful that I know which cuts of meat are cheaper and how to prepare them.  I know how to do a lot from scratch.  I know how to use leftovers so food doesn't get wasted.  I'm so thankful for all I know.  So even though the bank account is nearly empty, we can sit down to a good meal and enjoy each other's company.  I can have snacks for my kids.  I'm thankful for that.  It makes a holiday like Thanksgiving go by without a hitch.  I can do a big meal with lots of family togetherness.

What I can't handle is the next holiday that is coming.  Watching Christmas specials with my kids leaves me in a puddle of tears.  I don't want to give them the world.  Or even electronics.  That's not the family we are these days.  I want to just be able to give them something. And today I don't know where the money will come from for that.  I really don't.

We have depleted the savings.  All of the extra money will soon be spent to pay this month's bills.  I don't know how we will pay our rent in January.  I believe that God is faithful.  I do.  I have seen Him come through for us time and again.  I like having a few hundred dollars in the bank for just in case.  Or to know that if I don't work enough hours, we will have something to fall back on.  I don't have any work scheduled after January 2.  Nothing.  No work.  No income.

My husband has been trying to get another job where he earns enough for the 14 months we have been married.  Doors keep closing.  He is discouraged to put it mildly.

I keep waiting for the change that I expect to come.  It's not coming.  All that's coming is tears.

I'm used to being poor.  I don't mind going without.  I don't mind having second hand furniture.  I don't mind shopping for my clothes at Goodwill.

But I just want to know that there will be enough.  Enough to buy my kids some things for Christmas.  Enough to pay the bills.  Enough for my husband to visit his children.  Enough work to pay the bills.  Enough faith to hold on another day.  I only ask for enough.