Let’s Have a Saturday Chat…

What a week! It’s been frustrating to say the least. 

On Thursday, Jim woke up with the car gone. We knew what had happened. The sad part is that last month, I had made two car payments to try to catch up, but it just wasn’t enough and we severely hurt ourselves doing that. Now, we need to figure out how to get it back. Thank Goodness, the loan company will let us get it back, we still have a week to figure it out. They give you ten days in Pennsylvania. 

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Not having a car with Jamey’s medical complications is scary. People have said that they didn’t know what we do with all of our money. Yes, Jim makes a decent wage. I’ve never lied about that. But once you figure in taxes, insurance, prescriptions, co pays, travel to Pittsburgh, bills and other expenses, theres not much left. One unexpected expense can start a downward spiral. This last one started with needing school shoes. We’re still in a rut that we can’t get out of. 

I can’t see anywhere that I can cut costs. Yes, Ed has a cell phone, he has it because theres times I need to get a hold of him in an emergency. It’s not a negotiable expense, I have a cell phone, it’s how I get a hold of all of the boys doctors and how I stay in touch while we’re in Pittsburgh. I’ve tried going down without the phone, Jamey and I ended up walking around New Kensington for the day. He was miserable and it took days for him to recover. It is also not a negotiable expense. We have internet. It’s part of Jamey’s therapy. The car… car insurance.

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I’m aware that those don’t sound like much, but we’re really struggling. We’re not wasteful. There’s no nights out on the town, no movies, heck, theres no purchased movies. Half the time, I can’t afford the grocery budget for five people. It would be easier if my father would actually eat what Jim and I raised the boys on, but he won’t. He won’t eat any sauces, no sausage… I used to make fried potatoes or pierogies with peppers and kielbasa.  Less than $10 a meal with pierogies less than $5 with potatoes. Stir fry with whatever meat was on sale. Under $8 a meal. Breakfast for dinner is next to nothing a meal. Instead, I’m forced to buy things everyone will eat. My crew will not eat beans, so Chili is out. It is impossible to try a new recipe. Making two meals is a waste of money. 

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Let me explain a few things about the working poor. Or in our case the working middle class. It’s not that we want anything for free. We don’t. We just want to be able to afford to actually live. Our children go to school with your children and want to fit in. A lot of times that includes electronics that are out of our price range, clothing that we can’t afford, and experiences that break our hearts not to be able to provide The boys have learned to deal without quite a lot without complaint. The adjustment is easier for Ed than it is for Jamey. Ed was 10 when Jamey came down sick, he’s grown up with us not being able to afford much. Jamey on the other hand was able to get much of what he wanted for 15 years. And we feel so guilty not getting them at least some of what they want, that we sometimes give in despite what we can afford. 

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When your kid is just asking for a sweat shirt with their school name, it’s really hard to say no. Especially when there was a time you could simply write out the check to get it. When your kid wants pizza or a movie… They don’t stop wanting things just because they are poor. And it’s not wrong. Jim and I both grew up poor. We wanted better for the boys. Once we moved back to Pennsylvania, I stayed home until Ed was in 1st grade, then I went to work until a year after Jamey came down sick. I like working. I like earning my own way. 

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Obviously our income doesn’t leave room for one vehicle, let alone two. Transportation is a HUGE issue for us. We don’t live on the bus line. With Jamey not qualifying for any assistance programs, we generally have to either ask for rides or ride down to work with Jim and catch the bus. It runs about $20 dollars a trip, or two meals. Yes, when you are poor, the cost of necessities are how you gage life. The appointment alone is $20. Two more meals or with $40, I can buy three and a half prescriptions. 

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The ride down is about an hour and a half, an hour for the appointment, an hour and a half back. That’s four hours. Since we leave at 6:30 am, no one has eaten, food and drink are necessities Especially when the medication he is on tears up his stomach otherwise. There are very few healthy options to choose from, even fewer cheap ones. If we are lucky enough to stack appointments, almost every price is higher depending on if they are at the same hospital. 

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It’s a rare occasion that Jim takes the day off. Usually that happens when we have extra long appointments or procedures. That means Jim loses out on overtime. We took the bus down the day my Mom died. I called Jim home to come get us so that we could be with Ed, the day Mom broke her foot, she fell before we were supposed to leave, Jamey had an appointment at Children’s, Jim took an emergency day off. And the day of Mom’s funeral (all in one pay period) A mix up was made and only one vacation day was paid. It was an honest mix up, a mistake, but it’s a mistake that killed us financially. We still haven’t dug out. A day and a half off of work is a financial strain. 

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We don’t choose between eating out and co pays. We choose between eating and co pays. We don’t choose between the dentist or the movies, we skip both. It was hospitalizations or rent. He went in to the hospital. It’s not robbing Peter to pay Paul, it’s neither gets paid. I’m honestly not complaining. I’m explaining our life. This is how we live. We do try to make the best of things. We have many things to be grateful for. We could be a lot worse off. Heck yeah, I wish things were different, but I won’t risk my sons life. 

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Other than Starbucks and our own home, I don’t really miss what we’ve given up. No matter what, as long as he lives, as long as he has what he needs, as long as Ed stays healthy and has what he needs, it’s all worth it. I can still get a few of their wants. And it is a struggle, but we do see to their needs. Dad will lend us some inbetween pays to pick up prescriptions or what not. I just keep praying that he qualifies for SSI this time. OK I do feel bad about my teeth, but usually only when theres pain involved or I take the time to really look in the mirror. It’s embarrassing because people assume that I just don’t care how I look. Or that drugs are the reason. It’s not the case in either situation, it’s just that my son means more than my vanity. 

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Today was our towns Christmas parade. I really wanted to go. Dad woke up this morning with everyone’s day planned. It didn’t include time down town. I ruined his plans for tomorrow. Ed’s going to his football banquet with my sister. It was supposed to be father son bonding time, but once stuff happened with the car… He’ll enjoy his time with his aunt. The tickets paid for, it’s a free lunch for both. 

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So what’s your poison? Coffee? Tea? Soft drinks?