Adventures In Poverty

The last year or so has been tough.  Actually, my whole life has been tough, but the last year has been worse in some ways.

Last August was rock bottom.  Really, because it's been a struggle to go up, but I've been going up since then.

In August of last year, my husband moved out.  And my power got turned off.  Yup.  August sucked.  Thus began the adventure without electricity.

And it was an adventure.  First, was moving everything from the refrigerator to a cooler, and trying to use it as quickly as possible.  Son loved that we ate ice cream for dinner that day.

Next came grocery shopping to try to find stuff that could be eaten with having to cook it.  Lots and lots of canned goods.

The gas was still on, so the hot water heater worked, so we were still able to take baths, which was good.

For the computer, I would spend most of the day at the community college that I was attending, with my laptop plugged in at the student lounge.  They have wireless internet access there, so I was able to get logged on and do my work.

Then in the evening, it was walk home and turn on the candles.  My son and I would play board games by candle-light, or read books.  It was good times.

Then in September, the gas got turned off too.  Technically, the gas and electric should have been turned off at the same time, but apparently there were issues with the gas meter at that house.  Showers were now impossible, but I didn't let that get me down.  I went to the women's locker room at the college everyday to take a shower.  My son spent a lot of time at my step-dad' house after that.

Then in late October, I got a student loan disbursement that was large enough to pay the over $1800 that it took to get power and gas turned back on.  Just in time, too, as the night they turned it on, it dropped below 40 degrees!

I've had people ask how it got so far behind, why I didn't just pay my bill, and why I didn't go to the state for assistance before it got so bad.

First, my husband at the time was not working a very high paying job.  We had enough for rent and for the utilities through the summer, but winter 2006/2007 was expensive.  Our heating bill skyrocketed to over $600 a month.  And the landlord refused to install better windows or put in insulation.  We paid as much as we could.  By May, the past due bill was up to over $2000.  I continued to pay as much as I could on it.  I had begun working from home, and was contributing my small income to the bills as well, but it wasn't enough.

The bill continued to add up.  By August, with the payments I had made and the added ongoing bills, I had it down to less than $1400.  It wasn't enough.  They turned it off.  I went to the state.  They couldn't help.  They were limited on funds, and could only pay $650, not enough to get it turned back on.  I spent every day for a month calling the Salvation Army first thing in the morning to try to get on their list, but they'd run out of funs before I could get through.  It was crazy.  By the time my student loan came through, I had to pay the past due bill, a reconnect fee, and a huge deposit.  Yeah, it hurt, but at least I had power again!

When you live a tough life, when you go through tough things, you learn how to cope, how to adapt.  You find tricks that work.  Like what to eat when you can't heat it up.

But the funniest thing, my son still talks about those two months like they were the best in his life.  There were fewer distractions, and it was like camping out for him.  I miss that.  I think tonight, we'll camp out with candles and play board games in the spare bedroom.


Gwynne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erica M said...

"my son still talks about those two months like they were the best in his life. There were fewer distractions, and it was like camping out for him. I miss that. I think tonight, we'll camp out with candles and play board games in the spare bedroom."

We too had a rough time from Dec 1998 - May 1999. I was 14. Our family of 9 lived in a rental without any heat, no washer/drier connections, a 5-gal hot water heater, and no stove or fridge.

Fortunately, it was winter and we could keep the perishables out on a porch. We filled the washer with a bucket from the bathtub. (which is also how we fed out animals in the barn... no outdoor water supply!) We took VERY fast showers. We cooked on a wood cookstove, which also helped to keep us warm. Even with that, and another wood stove, we could still write our names in the front on the walls when we'd wake up in the mornings! I hung the laundry out on a line, and most of the time it would freeze dry.

The whole experience as crazy, and people can't believe we lived like that for 6 months. But, it's also the time I remember most from my childhood. We were closer then we'd ever been. We had to work together just to stay alive, and it created such an appreciation for what we had, and ended up with after waiting so long.

Yes, it was like camping. Even I chopped wood, birthed animals, and stoked fires. And, I loved every moment of it!

(we weren't really poor, but it sure looked and seemed that way! my folks had just bought a 200 acre farm to move onto, but the weather turned bad and we couldn't get our trailor moved on, a driveway built, or a well dug!!! so, we rented less than 2 miles up the road so we could cut firewood on our own land, plant an orchard, and start clearing the space for the trailor and building fencing for our animals. our hardships were by choice, but that didn't make them easy!)

Your son will talk about those "hard times" for years to come, and he will have learned a valuable lesson... contentment!

Thanks for commenting on my blog,!!

@technomomreview and @fishbowlsense

coffee and a cigarette said...

That was a really heartbreaking/heartwarming story.
I just stumbled onto your blog,so am not uptodate.I love finding strong empowered woman like yourself,which is really hard.