Succeeding by Surviving

Things aren’t awful, I keep saying. But, I wouldn’t get all silly and start calling them good either. Mostly, they’re stable. And stability feels good even if life is shit on paper.

The stove still hasn’t been replaced, but I have a plan to make that happen. The toaster oven has been doing a good job of picking up the slack.

The furnace is chugging along, for which I am profoundly grateful. I supplement with an electric space heater (safely) to avoid taxing the furnace. It’s got some issues, so I am treating it as gently as possible.

The plumbing situation is still vexing, but I am managing. Poorly some days, better others. I have a crudely drawn diagram of the issue that causes these problems courtesy of the previous residents, but I’m not certain of its accuracy. When finances permit, I want to get one of those cool plumbing cameras inside the pipes and get a very clear picture of the problem and a plan to prevent its recurrence or to just fix the damned thing permanently. The luxuries of which I dream…

I’ve settled into the second job pretty well. I’m getting some hours, which is good. It’s another low-wage job so I sometimes have a difficult time being grateful for the meager earnings that I should celebrate on the days I work ten or twelve or fourteen hours combined between the two jobs. I’m holding my head high though. This is another rung in the ladder out of the Hellhole my abuser shoved me into. It took him years to destroy me; its going to take time to rebuild. I am Unwife, hear me grunt and force my way back up.

The job is easy and the only pressure I feel there is the pressure I put upon myself. I’ve been able to sneak my homework there and get some of that done, which is rather nice. My manager likes me and shows appreciation for my contributions. It’s a nice feeling. A respectable salary and benefits would be even better, but, hey, one thing at a time.

My first job has picked up. My boss cut my hours drastically heading toward Christmas. Then, two people quit and I’m taking up some of the slack from each of them. My originally slashed hours have doubled. In an average week, I work both jobs on one day and have roughly 1.5 days off. My family misses me, but they like that food I keep buying and those pesky utilities I keep paying. Heat – pshaw – who needs it?

I am struggling to keep up with school and my grades are suffering. My 4.0 GPA is history. I’ve decided to cut myself a little slack though. It’s not like I’m partying instead of studying. I’m working my ass off, cooking, doing all the extra things that being too broke to replace broken things forces me to do, helping my family heal from abuse, and managing full-time school. A couple of Cs aren’t the end of the world. Not this semester anyway.

In the spirit of moving forward and ever working toward the future, I bought a small greenhouse. I like to garden as cheaply as possible, but I did drop a few dollars in the hopes of having some extra food this winter. I dream of the year when I finally get my cold frames built, but this will do for now. I hope. I’ll let you know my progress. So far, the greenhouse is up. I need some time off of work to start seedlings.

I really do need a couple of days off. Not that I have any idea what I would do with myself if I had them.

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Solution I Forgot I Had

I knew about the stove before I moved in here. I had considered it and figured out a temporary solution if it went out. I have long since put it out of my mind. Until yesterday.

When I first found out about the stove, I knew I wouldn’t have the money when it went. No brainer there. I could try to save, but, just in case, I made a plan. The grill, of course, was my go-to. I love grilling. Plus, it’s an easy cleanup. So much win.

Did I mention that my ex did something really shitty to my grill? Did I mention that the shitty thing he did rendered it useless shortly after I moved here? So, um, backup plan went to Hell. <sigh> He knew I loved my grill, of course he did something to fuck it up. That really hurt when it hit me.

Back when I was contemplating preemptive solutions, I also figured a toaster oven might be a good backup. Especially when it’s just too cold to grill no matter how superhuman I try to be. Then I started researching and trying to get the best deal. Then I started reading about them catching fire and discharged the idea from my backup plan.

Then, a week ago, the oven went out. Stove top still works, mercifully.

But, I make everything from scratch. Sorry, guys, no sandwiches. No biscuits. No cinnamon rolls. No bread.

I need to buy a new range and I need one ASAP.

And yet, it is awfully close to Black Friday. Somebody’s got to have a deal somewhere that I can manage. But a month without an oven is a nightmarish thought. So, I’ll just go and see what I can find on my next day off. Which is, fuck, sometime next week if I’m lucky. (Two jobs is really crushing this whole day off thing.) Well, in that case, Black Friday isn’t so far away.

Last night, I went to Target. One of the kids needed a little retail therapy and dipped into stashed cash to get a little pick-me-up. We also needed food and I only worked one job yesterday so why not. I decided to wander around the small appliances.

I spotted one little guy on sale. It had a bake setting and reached the temperatures I need to make bread. Oh yeah, it was on sale. I picked it up.

This morning, I made bread.  And sandwich rolls. While they were baking in the toaster oven, I fried doughnut holes on the stove top. And things were good.

So, we’ve got a temporary solution. And I can hold out until Black Friday (ugh).

And the kids aren’t allowed to use the toaster oven without direct supervision. I may have found a stop-gap for the oven situation, but I am not about to risk their safety to use it.

RIP My Oven

Fuck. Just fuck.

I’ve known since before I moved here that the stove wasn’t going to last forever. Hell, I knew it wasn’t going to last long. It’s officially over. The oven is done. The range top is still pathetically limping along, but the oven is done. I have to replace the whole thing.

I’m trying not to cry. I’m trying not to get down. I’m trying to be grateful that I still have stove access until I can get this replaced. I’m trying not to scream, “Why me?” at the top of my fucking lungs.

It’s all going to be okay. I’ll make it okay somehow. For now, I feel like wallowing in a bit of “This fucking sucks!” I’ll adjust my attitude tomorrow.

Squeaking Through the End of the Month Again

Yet I feel profoundly grateful. Only one utility is past due and I’ll be able to pay it in just a few days. Sure, I’d love to be behind on nothing, but being not terribly behind on one thing isn’t too bad.

The new job saved me by the skin of my teeth. I am barely able to pay my health insurance on time and buy just enough food to cross over into November. If not for that one utility bill, I would be doing a happy dance.

I had a moment of complete panic earlier this week. I ran out of flour. Costco stopped carrying my safe brand and the price is significantly higher everywhere else. Not to mention the sizes just don’t work. Walk out of Costco with 40lbs of flour and nobody bats an eye. Walk out of Target with 40lbs of flour and you’ve cleared a shelf.

Money was so tight that I didn’t buy any. I thought it would be alright because I had already purchased extra meat for a dinner with my father. I roasted it at his house and portioned it off into a few days’ worth of planned leftovers. Afterward, I went home. Flourless and meatless! I forgot much of this week’s food at his house. That’s when panic set it. No flour and a lot of missing meat. We were gonna have sandwiches and fried rice and stew and…well, you get the picture.

Did I mention he lives a little drive away and I work two jobs? I couldn’t have run back for it even if gas money wasn’t an issue. <sigh>

Fortunately, he was happy to freeze everything up for when I can come back. This week’s fright will turn into another week’s boon. Meanwhile, I hit up pretty much the last of everything I had at home. Boy was I happy to discover pork chops I thought I’d already used and a nicely sized turkey breast that fit almost perfectly into the slow cooker. The freezer is pretty bare, but there is food in it. At least enough to get by for a few days, albeit very creatively.

So, I made it and I’m grateful to have done so. Off to figure out November.

Second Job Conflict

So, yeah, I took a second part-time job. Because I need one. Because I nailed the interview. Because I can’t find a full-time job. Because the kids said they could pick up some slack and don’t always need me around. Because somebody offered me another job and who the fuck do I think I am to not accept.

Coincidentally, my child’s depression was growing. Two days before I began the new job, I found out just how bad it had gotten. I spent that day working to keep my little one’s emotions in the + column. I found a way for my child to release some of the pain and worked to keep smiles and laughter plentiful. Anything to loosen Depression’s grip on my precious child.

And I would slip into the kitchen here and there where I could cry privately, because sometimes the tears just come. The lid just won’t stay tight on this one.

And I debated about even starting the second job. Individually, the kids expressed that maybe I just shouldn’t. Maybe I should just tell them there was a family emergency and I had to attend to it. Hours from starting the job, we all agreed that I would start the job, but reserve the option to quit if it negatively impacted the kids. Each week, we agree that I will give notice on the coming Friday if the time away detracts from my little one’s healing.

I have refused to become attached to this job and the people I work with. I feel for the manager, I was a different person in my interview. Surely she has no understanding of why the personable, cheery woman she first met is standoffish now. I haven’t known her long enough…I haven’t been there long enough… Timing just sucked. I can’t be attached because that would add stress and make it harder to cut ties if I need to.

The thing is, it’s not an awful job. It pays less than my other job, but it offers me more hours. I have to clean – a lot – including toilets…but, that is exercise and it’s less than an hour total per day. It can get hectic, but it gives me a lot of time to think. I have the potential to make more there than I do at the first job. I could quit the first job and just devote myself to this one, with maybe less stress on the family. Or maybe not. The overall environment at the second job is more than a billion times healthier than the first. That is fucking refreshing. On the other hand, I can bring my kids to the first job. Like, not even just for a visit. We have a routine. My boss almost does not care. The depressed one comes with regularly and nobody bats an eye. Healthier environment or not, I cannot bring any of my children with to work at the second job.

I am so conflicted about whether starting was the right thing to do. Maybe it will work out. Maybe it won’t. Maybe the hours will balance out perfectly and it’ll never be a problem. I don’t know. I just don’t know. And I don’t know what to do about not knowing.

I’m not Intending to Ignore this Blog

Things have been hectic. I haven’t shared with you all yet, but I really should have.

I decided to go back to school full time. I am intelligent enough to succeed. Time management has proven challenging, however.

I have also found another job. I’m still underemployed; I’m just underemployed in two locations, with two commutes, and two tiny paychecks now. See time management.

One of my children has fallen into a significant depression following a situation with the ex. This is, by far, the most important thing on my mind at this time. I am working with all of the appropriate professionals, but this situation won’t just evaporate. It’s going to take time and work. I’ve already decided that second job is optional if the extra time away proves to be too much. I can’t undo what he did or the depth of the scars he has caused, but I can skip meals if I have to in order to be there for my child.

I’ve learned some things over the last few weeks. One is that I need this blog. It’s a release. I’ve been losing my damned mind without it. Another is that I can take some credit it when it’s due. I AM a single mother with all the duties of an 1800s housewife (all food from scratch, lack of major appliances – seriously bread making is a much bigger chore when you have to hand wash all of your dishes after you’ve invested a couple of hours into making the bread), school, two jobs, and the emotional needs of children who have been traumatized by circumstance (well, circumstance and a very large asshole). I balance more on my plate in one day than most people deal with in a week or a month and that is big.

Rather than hating on myself when I pass out with a sink full of dishes,  an overflowing trash can, or the fact that my lazy ass didn’t get bread made on a given day, I’ve learned to appreciate what I did accomplish. Getting everyone to class, finishing homework, making sure nobody had to walk home, hand washing favorite t-shirts because I didn’t have the money to go to the laundromat, cobbling 2-3 meals together from my pantry and freezer, meaningful conversations with each kid, washing *most* of the dishes we used that day, putting in 0-12 hours between one or both jobs, and making sure the kitties got some quality petting and scratching. Maybe what I didn’t finish doesn’t make me a failure – maybe it just makes me human. And, maybe, just maybe, what I did manage to do makes me a worthy human. I’m always searching for ways to improve, to be better, to be worthy, to be more efficient, just to improve. I think I’m learning that my drive to improve at everything doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m a failure at everything when, in reality, I’m managing to almost hold my own against nearly impossible odds. Fuck feeling like a failure; I don’t have a minute to waste feeling anything that isn’t contributing to improving our circumstances.

Back to School Rant

This post is all about common courtesy and the people who need to learn some.

It’s back to school in my neighborhood. That means there is a lot of extra traffic six times per school day. Pedestrians, cyclists, personal vehicles and buses all heading to a single destination with most dispersing in all directions after reaching it. There are rules and guidance from the schools to make things orderly, but you need more than 15% of the population following it. So, here’s a bitchy list of reminders for parents, caregivers, people who live in the community, etc. You’ll know which ones apply to you by how pissed off you get reading them. 😛

1. You are not special! Neither is your kid. Be grateful, not an asshole.
I’m sorry, you and your kid are normal. Your brains and limbs work properly, your child does not need an IEP or 504, you have access to a vehicle that you can use to drive your child to school. That’s pretty fucking normal. So follow the rules, be courteous, and wait your turn just like all the other normies. You probably wouldn’t last a day in the life of one of those parents who gets “special treatment” just because her/his child has a condition that necessitates it.

2. Follow the Routes. Treat Pick-Up and Drop-Off like a Drive-Thru, not a Drive-By.
Do you know why the schools bother mapping out those drop-off and pick-up routes? It’s because of people like you who go all Mad Max, stopping traffic, double parking, dropping their kids off wherever the fuck they feel like it. You don’t want to wait in line for 2 minutes? Really? Is that a pathological condition? Is there a pill for it? You have job to get to? Well, jobs may be scarce in this economy, but I’m pretty sure you’re not the only working parent in the world. Follow the route, get in line, wait your turn, and teach your child how grown-ups are supposed to behave. You wouldn’t be making illegal U-turns and nearly running kids down grabbing your morning coffee from McDonald’s or Starbucks, would you? If you would, stop driving right this moment. You are a menace.

3. Yield to Buses
They’re huge, they’re unwieldy, and they are filled with dozens of future yous. Cut the driver some slack and let the bus through. The three seconds of courtesy won’t cause you any harm and might even earn you some much needed karma points. Especially if you are a shining example of points 1 and/or 2.

4. Watch out for Kids
This should be a no-brainer, but there are kids on foot, bicycles, skateboards, etc and some of them are not paying as much attention as they should be. They’re kids; they do that. Be mindful, be alert and be aware. Since everyone is now being courteous, yielding to buses, and following the lines, the kids will be easier to see.

5. Use your Parking Areas
If you choose to live near a school, choose to park like a decent person. Street parking during high-traffic times when you have parking on your property is just rude. Put your car in the driveway or lot so the buses and, now well-behaved, parents can get through. Just because it’s unlikely to be your car that gets hit when the bus swerves to avoid it, doesn’t mean that nobody gets hurt. Just put your car where it belongs for twenty minutes. Help keep the street clear.

6. Keep your Sidewalks Clear!
There is nothing more gut-wrenching than watching kids walk through slippery streets in the winter because homeowners and renters cannot be bothered to shovel and salt their sidewalks. Get it done, people! After you’ve done yours, do your lazy neighbor’s, too. Burn the extra 40 calories, earn some karma points, and keep those kids safe.

Be kind, be courteous, be thoughtful, be responsible. Be an example of how people should conduct themselves. It’s honestly not that hard.