Or I could be in complete self-denial

I should be crying, or drinking, or walking the beach in a haze of worry, yet a weird optimism maintains a hold. Perhaps this is what it feels like when one  finally loses one’s mind? After all, our income has taken serious hits in the last few months. Bobby was laid off, I just undertook a 40 percent paycut at the paper. The combined loss in income is the equivalent of two years’ rent. A year of college for one of the kids. Ten trips to San Francisco for Nick’s medical appointments. My cut alone is groceries each week.

With Bobby in construction and me working two jobs, we’d found ourselves in the middle class at last, after years and years and years of riding the line dividing the impoverished from the working poor. Suddenly we were able to do things “normal” people did. Buy shoes when the kids needed them. Go snowboarding for a day at Shasta. Keep the car maintained. Pay bills. See movies in the theater from time to time. We were living the dream (albeit without the credit cards that allow our peers to have bigger TVs and newer cars).

Enough so that when the occasional other job came up that I might have been qualified for, might have been interested in, I passed it up, preferring to keep the creativity and flexibility of the paper, the perks of the radio, the excellent coworkers at both. Ha! Once again, my lack of foresight has resulted in a scramble to keep the auto insurance from being canceled.

Of course, this kind of struggle is what a friend once blew off as “first world problems” and that’s true. Certainly my house is still warm and safe, the ocean still only a 10 minute walk away, the children clothed, a DVD rental still manageable. I have paid the bills this month; the tax refund is due in a week. Money is tight enough that taking Nick to his appointment – scheduled two months ago, when I still expected my paychecks to remain the same – means no buying groceries till Friday, but I think we can get by on the essentials already filling the fridge.

(“I just want to write more,” I’ve been saying. “I never get to surf enough,” I complained. Thanks, Universe, for the go-ahead!)

A chance to freelance, ride out the recession on resourcefulness instead of worry, right? Not that worrying is a choice – no matter how hard we work a garden, watch our propane use, minimize our expenses, the fact remains that poor unavoidably equals powerlessness in some ways. If the state budget crisis affects Nick’s health expense coverage. If serious problems spring up with the car. If Bobby’s asthma worsens. If one of the animals suffers an injury or illness. Even “little” things like the sports team going out for pizza night unexpectedly can trigger a chain of not-enough-money events. The list goes on and I will likely expand upon it during one of my sleepless nights.

For right now, though, a chance to reassess priorities and reconnect with what makes life worth living. We’re planning to use part of the tax refund to join Eddie Tanner’s Deepseeded CSA – having a share in a community farm is something I’ve wanted to do since we moved to Humboldt 11 years ago, so yay! for that.

Nick’s diabetes isn’t keeping him from sports or friends. He has good care and is still on track to acquire an insulin pump, which diabetics say is a huge improvement over shots.

I have an awesome bike (thanks KSLG and Revolution) and with Bobby able to chauffeur the kids and no office hours to make, I should be able to ride to Ferndale more often, saving gas and wear on the car –  Green-Wheels even has some ways to offset bike commuting costs. I’ve been using Mint.com, which is helping me track my spending, bills and balances better than ever, so that should alleviate some of the wondering what the hell is happening with my bank account.

Radio perks include my membership at Praxis, where Ceci has already kicked my ass (and heart and lungs and triceps and muscles I didn’t even know existed) into healthier shape and which is such a pleasant place to be that my entire psyche improves with each visit (and, noteably, my surfing with each paddle-out!).

I still like my jobs.

I have books to read, movies to watch, a family to gather round, an abundance of friends, Surfrider chugging along successfully, a new president justifying hope in a country I thought might be beyond saving. (Follow Obama’s keeping – or not – of his campaign promises here.)

I say this all now and out loud because I need to solidify this optimism into evidence that I do truly have so much and – as long as luck holds (Hey, luck! Please hold!) and I stick to what I need – things just might be all right. (Cue Bob Marley… “Every little thing/gonna be – “)

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15 thoughts on “Or I could be in complete self-denial”

  1. i absolutely cherish and admire your ability to maintain positivity in situations where i might be likely to plummet into despair.

    you rock.

  2. You need an agent. You need to figure out what you can write about that will sell, and get published. You cannot make it on hourly wages.

    You have a prodigious talent. A beautiful and evocative way with words. That is a rare gift. Make it work for you.

  3. If nothing else – get adsense on this blog – put up a donation/PayPal link.

    Do it TODAY. Start bringing in extra money. Look into Pay Per Post gigs.

    There are people who are putting their kids though college off money made blogging.

    Yours is worthy. Do it.

  4. Creatives – artists, writers, etc. find it hard to market themselves – put themselves out there, ask for money – that is why an agent would help.

    Women, when asked to do something, say yes, I can do that, and don’t ask for money.

    Men tend to answer the question with yes, but it’ll cost ya…

    You’ll have to adopt that outlook. That means not feeling bad about adsense on the blog, for example.

  5. I know exactly what you mean. I’ve taken a lot of hits financially in 2008, and so far, ’09 isn’t looking much better. I also work for a paper and there have been rumors of lay-offs looming on the horizon. I’ve watched our revenue decline and people worry. I look at my bank account and see cobwebs where savings once were.

    But for some reason, I’m still upbeat and optimistic. I told myself that no matter what happens, I am going to enjoy this year. So far it’s working.

  6. Thanks, Morgan! A bit of positivity now… a bout of whining later… I like to think it all evens out.

    And, thanks, Rose, for your kind words. WordPress doesn’t allow Adsense, but per your nudge, I am checking into some other options.

    I totally agree about the man/woman asking difference – in fact, someone wrote a book about that very topic and how an unwillingness to ask for more money, for pay, etc. collectively costs women millions each year. A woman who read the book was then inspired to start her own blog about asking one thing a day that she normally wouldn’t – I’ll find the names and post links.

    Eric – Your blog always brings happiness into my reading life! Good luck with your continued endeavors. I’ll be watching!

  7. It was another writer who said this – and I don’t remember who, might have been Hemmingway – he said something along the lines of ‘everybody has ideas’ and that the secret to his success was that he made an effort, every day, to take one of those ideas and do something with it…like I said, I forget the exact words, and even who it was, but that concept does make a difference.

  8. Also, there’s wordpress,com and wordpress.org – one of them allows ads, I think, since alot of the big bloggers use it .

    Could always switch back to Blogger.

  9. Jen- Jen: If you’re not already getting them, have you considered applying for food stamps? That can help at least pay for most of your food needs.

    The downside to them is the requirements are stricter than for MediCal, believe it or not. You can’t have more than $2000 in cash on hand at any one time and you have to file an income report every three months.

    We were on them for a while until they booted us last year. The wife’s got stopped first because she was on Social Security Disability (believe it or not) and mine a bit later because we made too much money.

    It was nice when we were getting them, though, because we knew we could at least pay for our food when all our money was being spent going to UCSF all the time.

  10. Hey Jen,
    just found my way here… love the way you write!
    I’m sure you’ll do well. Your talent and positive attitude will win out in the end.
    With Rose on your side you can’t loose!

  11. This story is playing out way too often in Humboldt County. We are looking at a 15% unemployment rate soon, and many have their hours or pay cut back also.

  12. Fred, food stamps and I go way back. As do me and Medi-Cal and cash aid. Those and student loans were the only way to make it through college without having a complete breakdown or trying to do finals while illegally camping out in the forest. I figured I’d at least look into getting back on Medi-Cal, given Bobby’s asthma issues, but not sure what’s happening given Cali’s budget nightmare.

    Rose, et al, this is my Blogger account – less fun to use, rather like Mac vs. PC – but how’s it look from the outside? Think the ad option will be worth switching back? I can’t export from WP into Blogger, so nothing that’s here can go there…

  13. Dear Jennifer,

    You are a talented lady and I am sorry to hear about your financial woes. Another suggestion would be Food for People. As far as I know, there are no strings attached. I have you and your family in my prayers.

  14. Google AdSense is one option. There’s also Blogads, but it may be invitation-only now. Paypal is a definite, set up a ‘tip jar.’

    There must be somebody around here who can give advice on this, my googling hasn’t gotten me any answers. Just alot of “Get Rich Now” junk… though maybe they do know what they’re talking about… do a story, investigate how they work…

    You may not be able to export into Blogger, but, a little time and copy/pasting and you can manually transfer all your posts.

    Evaluate where your traffic comes from… surf related? make it THE happening place, then.

    Coping with diabetes? Become the place to go for advice ideas, support, good cheer, commiseration when needed, understanding, updates on medical progress.

    Mixed in with your unique personality, poetic writing, and human touch- I think you will be a raging success.

    And you can always keep a quiet, just for reflection separate space.

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