Getting Over You

My son has liked this one girl at school, S, since they were in kindergarten together (for newbies, he is in 4th grade). They happened to be in the same class every single year until this year.

When he was in K, I remember Valentine’s Day rolling around and he said he wanted to get something small and nice as an extra thing for S. So we bought a very small candy heart thing and he gave it to her with her valentine and she thanked him and he was over the moon about it.

Last year, when he was in 3rd grade, I remember talking to S’s mom during a class party and we were talking about our two kids playing together in the classroom at the party, and I hinted that my kid kind of liked her daughter and she was great about it. She said we could come over anytime for a play date if we wanted, they have a little hill in the back that’s great for sledding and kids come over all the time, but D would never do this. He is too embarrassed and shy to go to a girl’s house that he likes. He said to drop it so I did.

When classroom lists came out at the end of this summer for 4th grade, the first thing he did was check to see who of his friends were in his class. A few were but most were scattered into other classrooms. Then he observed that this was the first year S wasn’t in his class.

On the playground a couple weeks after school started, apparently one of D’s friends went to S and told her that D liked her. D told me about it when I picked him up from school that day, on our drive home, which is when we get into some good but brief talks about uncomfortable stuff. I asked what she said and he said that she told the other boy, the one who told her how D feels, “Oh! I didn’t know that.” I asked if that was the end of it and he said yes. It’s been a few weeks since then and he mentioned her one day after school, so I brought up the playground incident again and asked if S has approached him or addressed this comment in any way since then and he said no.

So I told him, that means she doesn’t feel the same way about you, and he said I know, and he volunteered that he wouldn’t bring it up again to her or say or do anything about it again and I said that was good. I said you know, when you get older, that might change, and she might end up liking you because you guys are all really young right now, but it might not, and at least for now, she just likes you as a friend. You’ll be in middle school next year and will meet all kinds of girls from other schools that you didn’t know before, and you might end up liking someone else instead of S. He said he will probably always like S because he always has, but he gets that she doesn’t like him, and that’s ok.

hopelessly

I know my kid is only in 4th grade but I think these conversations are important to have. Equally as important as how he is doing in math or music or gym or who he sits with at lunch or whether or not he has seen anyone being bullied. When I was in 4th grade, I had my first kiss and I know times are changed and kids don’t get a lot of alone time away from parents, teachers or other types of adult supervision that allows for these sorts of situations, but I also know kids are crafty and I think it’s better to stay on top of these things rather than leave him to figure it out on his own.

Lest you think I’m some great parent, let me also say that I let my kid watch a video this past week with the greatest moments from Beavis and Butthead and now he imitates Cornholio and said “Dammit” all weekend when he dropped stuff, in full Beavis voice.

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The Wheel’s Still In Spin

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There is so much going on right now I can hardly keep it straight anymore. I have so many bids out for potential work right now I can hardly think straight, and doing my usual billing and collecting efforts on outstanding stuff, my regular weekly writing for existing clients, taking meetings, business calls, phone interviews, following up with editors on my essays they are sitting on, OY.

Sometimes I wish for the more simple days of having one fucking job and going to work there every day and knowing what I’m doing every day, getting paid the same rate per hour no matter how little or much I had to work, and then going home at the end of the day and being done. And in return, besides a fat paycheck, getting things like health coverage and maybe even a 401K account.

This FT freelancing thing has a lot of upside. It really, really does. I remind myself of that all the time, and will talk about that for a second. But it’s also very difficult to pay bills with such sporadic bursts of unpredictable income. Things go overdue and unpaid for a long time until money comes in, and when I get a check, I rush to pay everything at once.

Since I left the world of full-time restaurant and retail more than 15 years ago, I have had a steady paycheck, a FT job with benefits, until last July when it all ended. I would occasionally pick up a second job when I needed to fund something extra, like the year I worked at Dillard’s to pay for my wedding, or the 18 months I worked at Macy’s to pay for my IVF procedure. I worked there through my 7th month and though I wasn’t able to completely offset the cost, at least it helped a little.

Stuff like medical coverage, even shitty coverage with high co-pays and deductibles, was a given. Vision coverage, dental. I got a tooth filled about two weeks ago at a dental clinic for low-income individuals. The dentist I had was very nice and though I was technically only there for an evaluation, he said he didn’t have any other appointments that afternoon, and instead of making me come back, said we could take care of the filling right there and then if I wanted, since it was small. I said ok. I was in and out of there in like 20 minutes, which was great. But I’ve had problems and pain since the filling. I tried to make an appointment to go back, but they said the dentist wasn’t taking new appointments until end of NOVEMBER, more than two months later. They said I could be a walk-in at the clinic, but I had to show up at 6am and then wait until 7:30 when they open to see if I can get in. And that they only take 12 patients per day, and everyone shows up at 6 so I might not get an appointment even if I came every single day that week at 6 and waited. I can’t come at 6 anyway, I have to take my kid to school, and she said if I couldn’t come until 7:30 when they open I should probably not bother coming because I will never get an appointment. I argued and argued about this, and finally after being a bitch, an appointment magically opened up with the original dentist for the end of last week. He suggested a bit of grinding down for a bite adjustment, and it seemed ok when I left but it is still bothering me, days later, and is sensitive. I don’t know if he did a bad job, if something is really wrong now, if there’s another adjustment needed, if it’s not filled deeply enough, but I’m just so tired of having to call and make a scene just to get what would be a normal follow-up appointment after seeing a dentist. It was never like this when I had insurance. When I was considered a real patient with a real and normal problem, to be seen back right away if something was wrong, and where they would work to fix it until it was corrected.

Right now I have three bills that are sitting and waiting for me to pay them because I am waiting for checks to come in that clients have said they are sending. I used to take for granted the ability to pay all my bills at once, on or the day after payday. I used to complain about payday being “transfer day,” and how I had so little leftover after paying all my bills, I felt like I was really struggling. And, I was. There wasn’t much leftover. I am pretty leveraged with debt from having run up credit card debt for things like IVF and medicines for my ulcerative colitis when I was sick and didn’t have insurance. But now, I can’t even pay those bills. Bills like the electric bill or my Target bill that used to be painful to pay in full, but it was possible, now get only a few dollars sent to them at a time. I owe the county an enormous amount of money due to an accounting error (on my part) back when I was receiving unemployment, and I’ve told them I simply can’t pay the bill. I wonder if I will go to jail about it.

When I’m not scrambling about work, I’m waiting in line for free food and trying to rehabilitate it and use it in some type of edible dishes to keep me in relatively decent health. It’s not working all that well. I’ve gained a significant amount of weight since I lost my FT job last July. My cholesterol has gone up to the highest level yet, and my triglycerides, which are influenced a lot by how many carbs you eat (all the “free” items at my food pantries like bread, pasta, rice) are extremely high. I have so many injuries now, compounded by things like chronic muscle and ligament weakness from being on Cipro on and off over the years, I can’t really work out much. I can’t walk very often because of a mysterious horrible pain in my foot that nobody seems to be able to diagnose or fix, and my chronic back pain only allows me to get so far before I have to stop. I’ve been doing some aqua exercise at the rec center here and there, but my suit is disintegrating and are is too small because it is old, and I can’t afford to buy a new one. It’s just not as easy as everyone says.

Compound that with the current political environment in this country and all the dredging up of the numerous times I’ve been assaulted and it’s kind of a rough time. Each day feels like running through quicksand. I lie flat across it overnight, catching my breath, only to get up again in the morning and be dragged back down.

I’m trying to find my way through to the 100% freelance life that allows for a life of comfort and financial ease, as I have friends and colleagues who do it, but the journey is so tough. I never wanted to own my own business, or do accounting, any of this.

I try to look on the bright side, every single day. I don’t have a work commute. With 133K miles on my car, this is a good thing. I don’t have to wear makeup or get dressed in any fashion any day, unless I have to go take a meeting or interview. I rarely wear a bra, or anything but tennis shoes and very casual, comfortable clothes. I don’t have to go to meetings or set annual goals or have a review where I’m told how many ways I am failing. I don’t have to waste time talking about how my weekend was or attend someone’s birthday or retirement party where I decline the cake because I’m not much of a fan of sweets and then get chastised for being a “food snob.” I am not subject to the regular comments about how “mad” I look walking down the hall because my natural expression, over which I have no control, is not one that appears happy to many people.

At lunch, I cook my own food and clean up when I want. If I want to take a break and clean the whole kitchen and sweep and mop the floor, I can. My laundry is always kept up now. I have time to pick stuff up off the floor each day and keep it relatively decent looking in here. I rarely have to wear my hearing aids or glasses. I can start an elaborate dinner at 4 that won’t be ready until 6 and still find time for a nap during the week when I need one. If I want to have a glass of wine with lunch, I can. If I want to have coffee at 7 p.m. and stay up until 2:00 a.m. with a good book or because I’m enmeshed in Pinterest, I can. So that’s the trade-off.

I keep feeling like I am super close to making enough money to make this struggle worthwhile, but the existence is so piecemeal and sporadic, I am not there. I wake up each day determined to make more money than ever, to get new and better paying clients, to finally sell my book, and by mid-afternoon or end of the day am so tired mentally from chasing so many different avenues and answering so many different emails it’s hard to stay grounded and feel in control. I feel out of control a lot of the time, and then the next day, super on top of my shit. Looming above it all is how incredibly much I’m going to have to pay at tax time because of all this contract work. It’s terrifying.

And Christmas is coming. The kid still believes in Santa, recent conversations have confirmed. He’s 9 and this is likely the last year. I want it to be special, I want it to be normal. I just don’t want to keep failing and pretending to be ok.

Doll Heart

 

cline avenue house

My house, today. Condemned.

 

 

Last night I dreamed that my mom was moving from my childhood home and had hired a huge group of people to pack up her stuff and move it out in a day. They were from another country and didn’t speak much English and they were talking to each other in their native language, furiously working. I hadn’t had time to go through and select what I wanted to keep and it was like a race against time as they were working so fast. I tried to tell them to skip certain things or wait, but they didn’t understand or didn’t care and appeared to work around where I was, then as soon as I moved, they’d snatch whatever I was sitting on or standing near and take that away.

I was looking over books in a really tall, big bookshelf and I got to one shelf and recognized some books as belonging to an ex of mine. I knew the ex would want them and we are friends, like I am with a lot of my exes, so I paused for a minute and went in another room and called him to tell him how funny it was I had found these books, and I knew they were rare and maybe expensive and to make arrangements for him to get them. He didn’t answer but I had a nice convo with his wife and we laughed about it and said we’d figure it out. I went back to get the books and the whole bookcase was gone. I then noticed my dollhouse was gone too. The dollhouse is key to understanding the dream. The dollhouse I had growing up was unconventional and a little odd, like me. It was made entirely of metal, some kind of lightweight, probably aluminum, and it had scenes and contents for each room sort of painted on as part of the metal, and then the pieces had been stamped out and fit together, probably some assembly kit someone did in China or something, I don’t know. So like all the pieces were smooth, and you could put stuff inside, but there were already items in there, pictured, as part of the walls and floor.

 

dollhouse2

It looked just like this inside each room

 

My sister played with it before me and then I did, and it stayed in the attic of the house I grew up in. There was a bedroom in the attic and I moved up there in middle school and was there until high school, when my mom no longer wanted to live in the master she had shared with my dad, and gave that to me and she moved upstairs to the attic bedroom. That dollhouse was up there the whole time, along with boxes and boxes of stuff from my childhood. Clothing, mementos. My dad was a semi-pro photographer and took boxes and boxes of pictures he had made into slides, as he felt those kept better long-term. Many of those were up there as well, even after my parents split.

When I went away to college in 1987, my mom had to sell the house per the divorce agreement from years prior, and my dad stepped in and bought it. He told me it was because he wanted to have mine and my sister’s childhood home available whenever we wanted to come home. Mom moved to Cleveland and started her life over, which was a great decision. My dad moved all his stuff in and mom, knowing he was the buyer, left some things there so the house was a mixture of their things and those belonging to me and my sister as children, including that metal dollhouse.

Only three short years later, my father had a stroke in that house and collapsed, never to regain consciousness. His family, who hated me and my sister because we went to live with my mom in the divorce, had control over my dad’s property because my dad “wanted to leave a man in charge” of things, thinking we two girls would be too upset to manage his affairs. It was an awful decision, sexist and dumb, and he knew they hated us, but he felt we would all bury the hatchet when he died and they’d take care of us. That’s not what happened, of course.

Right after he died, when talking to these relatives on the phone, I said I wanted to get a ride from college so I could go in and retrieve some personal mementos and belongings. They angrily told me to stay away, and said an inventory had to be done for legal reasons of all the things in the house that comprised dad’s “estate.” They said they’d let me know when I could go in. I followed up a couple days later and they screamed at me that me and my sister were ingrates and never loved our dad, and we should talk to the lawyer’s office from now on.

At the funeral, they so mistreated us that the funeral directors said they had never seen anything like it. I called and called the lawyer’s office to find out when I could go in the house, but was stonewalled and left messages that were never returned.

Almost immediately after the funeral, his family arranged to have the contents of the house auctioned off to anyone who wanted them, gave his car to my cousin’s wife, and sold the house to the first bidder. They threw a “memorial dinner” in his “honor” at a church he was never a member of, so they could charge the estate for the costs, to minimize what me and my sister would be getting as much as they could.I found out about all this when I called the lawyer’s office again, demanding to know when I could come in and retrieve belongings, and, after a very long time on hold, the SECRETARY had to come back on the line and tell me how the house was gone, and all the contents had been auctioned off the week before. They were not required to tell us about it, so they didn’t.

This is what it must be like to lose your things in a fire. One day everything is there, and then the next, it isn’t, and you’ll never see any of it again. I went to therapy about it, but you never really get over betrayal like that, and the loss of your things. I know life is not things, but things do make memories.

In the dream, I raced out to the trucks where they were loading stuff in. The bookshelf was lying down in the back of a pickup truck and all the contents were gone. “I need those books,” I said, “and WHERE IS MY DOLLHOUSE?!” “They’re gone,” they said, “All gone.” “But WHERE?” I screamed at them. “THOSE THINGS MUST HAVE BEEN TAKEN SOMEWHERE. WHERE IS THAT PLACE SO THAT I CAN GO GET THEM FROM THERE?” They just looked at the crazy lady, screaming, and I know how irrational I looked but I couldn’t help it. I was really angry about my dollhouse, and about everything else.

metal dollhouse

It wasn’t this house, but this was the style.

That was 28 years ago.

In light of current news, I thought this story was important to share so that people understand that there are some wrongs, some invasions, some hurts that you never, ever get over, and they can continue to surface and cause you immense pain, even in your dreams, decades later.

 

 

I Wonder Who’s Watching Me Now

cicada

You are not gonna believe what happened at my eye appointment today. So, as I am now “on the dole,” I can’t see my long-term providers like my dentist or eye doctor, and have to go where they’ll take my insurance. I looked up providers in my neighborhood and made an appt with an eye place down the road, and the appointment was this morning. I was the first patient of the day when they opened at 9, and when I pulled in, another lady pulled in next to me. We both got out, she had a young teenaged daughter with her and I went in and they came in after me. The receptionist was just getting things going and we were both new patients. So she gave them paperwork to fill out and took me back to do the preliminary stuff with the puff of air and everything. Then she had me sit in a small waiting area with 5 chairs and gave me a clipboard to fill out my paperwork, said the doctor would be with me shortly. She went up and told the lady and her daughter they could go on back to the waiting area too. I was sitting in a row with 3 chairs, by myself, and they sat perpendicular to me in the other two chairs. We finished our paperwork and all of us had started looking at our phones and the doctor came out, saw us, and said, “You can all come on back.” So we got up and followed her, because that’s what you do when they call you back. She led all three of us into the exam room and asked me if I wanted to go first and I was like….uh, ok. She told the other two ladies they could have a seat, and she shut the exam door.

We were all looking at each other like, what the fuck is happening here even? The daughter shrugged her shoulders at me and I did the same and the doc starts asking me about how long since my last exam and everything. And I’m thinking geez I hope I don’t have to get into how I lost my job and am on Medicaid now and that’s why I haven’t been in a long time and my regular eye doctor doesn’t take Medicaid but I just told her how long it had been and she didn’t push it. But it was SO WEIRD because these people are sitting there and all three of us are very uncomfortable about it. She takes my existing glasses and is examining them to figure out the prescription and I felt I should say something. So I said, “Well, uh, I guess, welcome to my eye exam?” and the ladies were like, “Right?” but the doctor just pressed on, and I thought man I hope she doesn’t find something wrong with me in the exam, like what if I have cataracts starting or macular degeneration or something, I really don’t want to get bad news in front of these strangers this is so fucking weird. They also thought it was weird but just buried their heads in their phones and tried not to look intrusive because we were all thinking, welp, I guess that’s just how they do things here but this is super, duper freaky.

When I was finally done, she was like, “Ok Kaitlin your turn now,” and she says to me, “You can have a seat there,” and I was just like, I am not staying here during this chick’s exam, this is just too much so I said, “Shouldn’t I go out and pick out some glasses or something?” and she’s like “Oh, sure, if you’re done and you don’t want to wait for them, I thought you’d all want to look together” and we all three were just like WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING HERE and finally the mom says, “But we aren’t together” and D.O. is like WUT and we said yeah no, not together, we don’t know each other at all, we are strangers and I start cracking up because the doc is so caught off guard and the lady and her daughter are laughing too, and we’re all SO UNCOMFORTABLE. Immediately I can tell she’s thinking she’s in trouble and so she comes out right after me and the receptionist is like OH MY GOD THERE YOU ARE, WE WERE WONDERING WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU I THOUGHT YOU WERE IN THE BATHROOM THIS WHOLE TIME and all three of us have come out now and we’re like no, nobody knew WTF was going on and then the DO comes out and TRIES TO BLAME IT ON THE RECEPTIONIST, who didn’t do anything wrong, saying the receptionist lady told the doctor we were together and I’m like NO SHE DIDN’T, you’re the one that came out and said, “You can all come with me.” She apologized and was clearly mortified but trying not to show it because THIS IS SO BAD, IT’S A SUPER DUPER PRIVACY VIOLATION AND MAYBE EVEN HIPAA and so she just closes the door and starts doing the other chick’s exam. Meanwhile the receptionist, who is also the person who did the eye puff tests AND is also the person who fits you with glasses and handles billing and insurance so obviously way overworked is looking like it’s all her fault. She helps me pick out some frames and we sit down and she starts putting stuff in the computer and I’m like, first of all, you should be very clear that you didn’t do anything wrong, the doctor made a weird assumption, and I told her again exactly how it all went down. Then I went on to say how I am pretty easygoing and I just think it was all so fucking weird, I’m not mad at all but to make it up to me she has to promise to razz the doctor about this THE WHOLE REST OF THE DAY such that when she has people waiting she has to ask her how many patients she wants brought in, or like if 3 people are waiting, ask the doctor if she should put an extra chair in the exam room so they can all come in at once and she’s laughing and laughing now.

It was seriously one of the weirdest things that’s happened to me in my life, but EVEN WEIRDER was how my exam was free and my glasses only cost $7.80 but I paid an extra $30 to get the no-line bifocals so I walked out of the eye doctor only paying $37.80 for an exam and a pair of nice glasses and THIS IS THE WAY IT SHOULD BE FUCKING EVERYONE. #Medicareforall

This One’s Kinda Tough

roasted chix

I made a pretty nice dinner yesterday, something I’m able to do more often since I’m not working full-time. I got a giant chicken for free at the food pantry the other day, and it took two days to thaw out so I roasted it in my dutch oven a good long while yesterday on top of some sliced potatoes (also from the pantry) with lemon, white wine, garlic, and lots of herbs. As I was cooking, I snacked on the pickled radishes I had made the day prior. These were also a freebie. They were in fairly bad shape but after cleaning them well and cutting a lot of the outside away I still had enough to pickle, and boy are they good.

I put a piece of the dark meat on my son’s plate, and a few of the potatoes and called him in to dinner. “WHAT’S THIS?” he exclaimed, looking at the tiny amount of chicken. I had plated up the chicken on a platter, and indicated he could take as much as he wanted, I wasn’t going to serve it for him as I wasn’t sure if he wanted dark or white meat.

This is a ploy. I know he “only” likes white meat.

So he ate a bit of it and moaned and said how good it was, and so soft. “Which is this?” he asked. “That’s the dark meat,” I said, “I think it’s better.” He grabbed a piece of the sliced up breast from the platter and ate it. “Ew, this is more dry,” he said. EXACTLY, I thought. He heaped a bunch of dark meat onto his plate and we happily munched away, talking about his day and how many earths would fit into the moon, which I apparently am way too stupid to know.

Yesterday when I dropped him off at school, the extended care lady said something about college to him and I said I was hoping he might go to a trade school actually, but that college is also on the table. While we were eating, I reminded him how one day he’d be glad that he had a mom that was a pretty good cook, or who cooked at all, because some moms don’t (and a lot of dads don’t too) and how it took until I went away to college for me to realize what a good cook my mom was. He has heard me talk about going to college and how bad the food was there.

“So mom, how bad WAS the food at college?” he said. I told him (again) of the story the first week of college when some newfound friends of mine in my dorm sat in my room and cried after getting takeout food from the cafeteria. It was so bad, and we missed our mother’s and their cooking and we all talked about what we wished we could have that our moms would make, what our favorite dishes were. “Was it like jail food?” he said. I’ve explained to him this is about as low quality food as you can get, and have used it as yet another reason to never, ever go to jail. He isn’t quite sure why I know what jail food is like, and has directly asked me if I’ve been to jail, but I dodge this question just to be coy and make him think he doesn’t know everything about me.

“It wasn’t quite as bad as jail food,” I said. “Like school cafeteria food now?” he said. “Pretty close to that, I guess,” I said. “Nothing homemade or really high quality.”

“HOW AM I GOING TO SURVIVE!” he yelled, “I’LL STARVE TO DEATH!” Sometimes it’s like living with a Peanuts character. I explained it wasn’t so bad he would starve, it just wasn’t great. That there were always chicken fingers and fries and pop, but that those aren’t very nutritious to live on. “WHAT DID YOU DO? DID YOU JUST COOK FOOD?” I told him all about the little coupon books we had back then, and how I sold mine for less than half of their value, took the bus to the grocery store down the street and bought a few real food items I could keep in my room and cook on my single burner or in my hot pot. Ramen noodles, bagels, canned soup. “BUT NOTHING REALLY GOOD? NOTHING YOU COULD COOK?” We actually had a stove down the hall in the laundry room, and that was where I made my first casserole, I told him. I had called my mom in tears, asking how to make Baba’s macaroni and cheese, a sort of poor-man’s knock-off of a Greek style macaroni dish, with cottage cheese, parmesan and lots of butter in the absence of feta, which we couldn’t get in my hometown. I had made the casserole in the never-used oven in the dorm, and it was so good.

“Is all college food bad?” he said, “Or was it just your school.” I explained that if he went to a fancy, private school, the food would probably be better, like if he went to Harvard or Yale, but that it’s likely close to $100,000 for ONE YEAR at Harvard (I knew this was an overestimation, but I was trying to make a point), which is like 5 times as much as I paid for my entire four years at a state school. His eyes got big. “How do people go there?” he said. I explained that other than coming from a very rich family, some people go on scholarship, and then explained what that was. But those only pay for your school, typically, you still have to pay for your dorm and all the food you eat. “WHAT ABOUT TRADE SCHOOL?” he said. “WHAT’S THE FOOD LIKE THERE?” I had to laugh, realizing that he’s making future life decisions at age 9 based on HOW GOOD THE FOOD IS at school. I’ve created a monster! I explained that trade school is like a commuter school. You just go there during the day and then you go home at night, or sometimes you can take classes in the evening and you work during the day, but either way you come home at night. “Like I do now!”  he said. “Yes.” “Well then I could just come home! And eat your food!” I threw back my head and laughed. I reminded him that once he’s 18, he’s on his own and won’t be living with me anymore. Of course, that isn’t the case for a lot of parents, but the kid doesn’t know that, and I’ve been preparing him for this eventuality for a couple of years now.

We also covered community college and how my niece has done that at times, and you live at home at night, or with roommates or on your own if you can afford it, so there are lots of options.

He really wanted to know more about the food aspect so tonight I’ll show him menus for the week from my old college cafeteria vs. this week’s menu at Harvard. I’ve decided this fall, we will visit some local college cafeterias and sample the food there so he can see the difference between them. Baldwin-Wallace, Cleveland State, Case.

Hey, whatever spurs him onward to do better, whatever will motivate him to reach as high as he can for the best possible experience, I’m going to find that avenue and drive it home.

 

Can’t Find No Place To Grab On

fair flowers

Dining hall decor at the Randolph Fair

I dropped my son off for his third day of 4th grade this morning. School started last Thursday, but he was with his dad last week so he handled the first couple of days. I’m all stocked up with stuff to pack for his lunch, thanks in no small part to a friend who shipped me a ton of snacky things for packing, and thanks to the government, who has granted me food stamps during this difficult time.

As we walked into the school I took note of his outfit, as I always do, every day since Sandy Hook, whether I’m dropping him off at summer camp or school. Today he had on a red OSU t-shirt, red and blue mottled nylon shorts, and his new black and white Nike tennis shoes his dad bought him, after I begged him to please buy the kid new shoes as I couldn’t afford to do it this year, nor could I pay for half. He’s also sporting a new haircut, thanks to his dad, which I also had to ask him to handle as I couldn’t. Even if I had the money, I’ve been out of state over the last week taking care of my sister in Wisconsin who was recovering from major surgery, and the week before that I was caring for my partner, who also had surgery. I guess it’s surgery month.

I’ve been cleared for surgery on a long-injured ankle that’s permanently loose and which causes me all kinds of problems, but I can’t see clear a time when I will have to undertake surgery and recovery. I’ve got a lead on a possible temp job that may start in October and which would last for several months, and I can’t really take two or three weeks off from a temp job that’s hired me for a particular project unless it’s a real emergency, so I can’t schedule it.

The temp job will effectively kill my government benefits, which is ok; that’s the way it’s supposed to work. It isn’t a ton of money, but it would be a lot more than what I’m making now.  The job, if I get it, is expected to last just shy of the 20 week minimum that would make me eligible to receive unemployment again when it ends. So if I get the job, I’ll have to re-enroll in the ACA as I won’t get Medicaid anymore, then go through the agonizing process when the job is over of reapplying for all the government assistance programs. I really feel like I’m going crazy sometimes, with all the calls and paperwork and things to keep track of. I was auto-enrolled into a Medicaid program because I had to go to urgent care for pink eye, and was informed on Friday that because I “changed insurance” and am now a Medicaid patient, the MRIs I was supposed to have today are no longer covered. The MRIs are part of the case I am building to apply for disability because of my horrible back problems, and are required. I could call them and appeal, but I’ve already switched to another plan and that one starts September 1, so we are going to have to go through the whole process again of applying for preapproval and my doctor trying to convince insurance these are medically necessary tests. Meanwhile, I unenrolled from the ACA and they keep sending me letters saying I have to re-enroll, so I have to call them as well to try to find out what their problem is.

It is definitely easier to just have a full-time job with benefits, even shitty benefits, and not deal with all this, but those jobs are disappearing, and are harder and harder to get. I have picked up some freelance work and keep stringing myself along with that. It’s very difficult to be on public assistance and freelance because your income changes constantly, week to week and month to month, and the system is not set up for people who make a living off a series of one-time payments. The case workers don’t know how to handle you and the system is set up to screw you at every opportunity.

I did sell some things online and managed to take the kid to the super rural county fair yesterday that we always go to. They have more animals than any other fair, and we spent hours going through every barn, reading all the factoids about horses and cows and pigs and stuff. The 4H kids really put a lot of heart and soul into their displays and work, and I respect it. We ate in the dining hall, where my parents always made us eat because it was “real food” and somewhat cheaper than getting a lot of stuff from stands and walking around. We did get some fries as is our tradition, and because it was 90 and I was dying from heat stroke, we got ice cream. Then we came home and went to the pool. It was about as fun a day as I can manage at this age and stage of my life, but it was super exhausting and sometimes I think I had my kid too old and am not doing him justice. If I was younger, I’d have more energy. I’d probably be able to get a good job too, instead of languishing in the world of part-time freelance employment as I’ve done for the past year. But he has love and clothes and food and a roof over his head and that’s going to have to be good enough, as it’s all I’ve got.

Soon, businesses will be open, and I will spend hours on the phone haggling about bills, trying to sort out letters and inquiries, and trying to figure out how much I can send to this creditor and that one and still have enough money to buy things like trash bags and printer ink.

I’m so tired.

Full of Venom and Rage

broken now

Poor people are incredibly tired. It certainly requires a lot of work and causes great fatigue to work any full-time job, but being poor and trying to get help is like a full-time job and honey, it’s exhausting. It’s MENTAL exhaustion as well as physical. I claimed unemployment wrong one week back when I was receiving it, and the company I was temping for reported income on a different week than I did. It’s just a mix up, and I did report the income, but later on. So, it wasn’t deemed to be “fraudulent” but has taken weeks to clear up, and the resultant outcome is they want me to pay back the whole week of unemployment they paid me back then, which is a lot of money. I’m fine with this, theoretically. Though I claimed the work in another week, there was yet another week where they paid me back pay that had been waiting for release even though I claimed other work, and to try to go back now that the claim is over and fix this problem would be a compete nightmare. They overpaid me, now I owe them the money, fine.

I called them and said, look, I am working like 12 hours a month right now, I can’t pay you. Like I want to, but I can’t. “Oh, you can pay it off a little at a time,” they said. “But I can’t pay it at ALL. I’m in the middle of communications with my ex about how I can’t buy my kid ANY new school shoes this year, and no, I can’t pay for half. He also needs a haircut. Every time the kid needs a haircut, I suggest to my kid that he ask his dad to take him but then he comes back to me the next week, his hair longer than ever. We’re supposed to split expenses related to the kid, but it gets hairy (ha ha) when it comes to things like clothes and shoes and haircuts because we buy our own clothes for him at our own places, and don’t really share, though obviously stuff goes back and forth. We split the package of school supply expenses, but stuff like haircuts invariably fall to me again and again, because I am the “non-fun” parent and going and getting a haircut isn’t a fun activity like going bowling or whatever. I have been fine with that for a while but I can’t afford it anymore, so I had to expressly ask, when I am out of state next week will you PLEASE take the kid for a haircut before school starts, and I cannot pay half and I’m really sorry, but please do it. I’ve asked him before to take care of it and then when it’s trade day he says he just “didn’t get to it” so hopefully it will happen this time.

So yeah, I don’t have hundreds of dollars to send back to unemployment. I offered to pay them a dollar a month and they said that’s fine, but after “a certain amount of time” (they didn’t say how long), the claim will be turned over to the Ohio attorney general’s office so they can collect it. I asked if this would negatively affect my credit and they said no, it’s just after so many days, it goes to the AGs office, you can still take as long as you want to pay it off, but they are going to go after you for the money. This is a little disturbing.

So I wrote a letter to Mike DeWine asking for help and faxed it to his office and some dude from there called me a couple hours later. He said, we don’t have your claim here so I can’t help you. I said yes I know you don’t have it NOW, I’m trying to be proactive here. I am an Ohioan, he’s my state AG, this is obviously going to be forwarded to your office sooner or later and I’m trying to get ahead of it to avoid getting into trouble for non-payment. He said call us back when you get notice that it’s gone over there, and we can discuss it then. No idea what or if anything can be done about it, but that’s where I am. Writing the letter, tracking down the fax, the convo, that’s a couple of hours, easy.

I also realized I am now eligible for county childcare assistance. My kid participates in the before and after school program at school and it’s important we keep him in that. First off, every other week he’s with his dad so he needs the program for before/after care. But secondly and most importantly, if I *do* somehow get a job at any time during the school year, if he isn’t enrolled up front, he might not be able to get in because the program does max out and then we’d be screwed. There’s literally no other program in our area that starts as early and goes as late as the school’s extended care program. So I went ahead and enrolled him a couple months ago as I keep thinking ONE OF THESE DAYS I WILL HAVE A JOB AGAIN, AND WILL BE OUT OF THIS HELLHOLE I’M IN, but it hasn’t happened yet and school starts next week. So I go poking around on the web trying to find out about childcare assistance because NOBODY TELLS YOU A FUCKING THING, you have to figure out for yourself what you can get and how to get it.

I find information about the program and read the requirements and I’m eligible for sure, but I can’t figure out how to apply. You can apply for food and health care assistance online, but I don’t see anywhere for the childcare application. I find a PDF you can fill in so I spend 2 hours filling out the 10 page application and gathering up the other pages of stuff I have to submit with it and go to print it out and my printer isn’t working. I spend 90 minutes troubleshooting the printer and turning stuff off and on again and finally uninstall it and reinstall it and then it’s working. I run out of ink partway through, so I have to go down to Target and charge a new thing of ink. Except I won’t be able to do that much longer because Target has apparently gotten wind of my financial situation and is sending me notices demanding a “credit review.” MY ACCOUNT IS CURRENT AND PAID ON TIME. I have never missed a fucking payment and kept the card completely paid off in full every month up until early last month when my unemployment ran out. Now it’s carrying a large balance and all of a sudden they don’t like me anymore. The credit review will result in the available balance being cut off to something less than the current balance I carry, immediately a) causing my credit report to become worse, as my debt-to-income ratio shrinks further b) causing me fines because I am over the limit on the card and c) causing them to cancel the card because of item B. How do I know? BECAUSE THIS HAS HAPPENED WITH ALL THE CREDIT CARDS I’VE HELD OVER THE PAST YEAR. This is one of the last ones, and once they take Target away, I’m fucked. Anyway so I get new ink, print out the application, and look all over the website for a fax number. It says on the site you can fill out the application online, or you can mail it in. But it’s a big thick packet of papers and I don’t have an envelope that would hold them, and then I’d have to go buy an envelope just to fucking mail in something begging for help. I’m just tired of being nickel and dimed to death when I really need the few nickels and dimes I have. So I call the agency and get a guy on the phone and he’s like, you can’t fax it in, you can only fax changes to an existing application. I say can I do it by phone, as it says on the site you can apply via phone. He says no actually all we do is fill out the application with you on the phone THEN WE MAIL IT TO YOU SO YOU CAN REVIEW IT AND SIGN IT, THEN YOU HAVE TO MAIL IT BACK. I’m exasperated at this point and he says well you CAN apply online and I say no you can’t. He’s like go to such and such I’m like yeah I’m at that page, it’s just an interactive PDF form, YOU CAN’T ACTUALLY SUBMIT THE FORM, it says when you’re done to print it out and mail it in. He’s like huh, I thought they fixed that, they told us that was fixed and we could tell people they could do it online and I’m like WELL IT ISN’T FIXED SO HOW ABOUT ANOTHER SOLUTION FOR THOSE OF US NOT STOCKED UP LIKE OFFICE MAX AT HOME WITH UNLIMITED ENVELOPES OF ALL SIZES AND LOTS OF POSTAGE FOR MAILING BIG PACKAGES. He says you can go to the nearest office and that there’s a “kiosk” you can drop the application off at.

So after I got up from the nap I had to take since I was up at 4:30am today wondering how to pay back the unemployment office and I was tired all morning I couldn’t function, I drove down to the office and went in and it’s like the 7th circle of hell. Some woman was coming out and talking to me in Spanish and showing me her number, like a number you pull at a deli. 68, her number, and I’m like oh, so we have to go pull a number? Like I have no idea what she’s saying. I go in and fail the metal detector twice because I have my car key in my pocket and keep forgetting, because I’m depressed and exhausted. Finally I go in and I have no clue where to go. There is a big line on one side with these self-service kiosks but I see nowhere to insert any forms there and I already have my application done. I see a bunch of teller windows like in a bank and assume that’s for the people who take a number, and there are like 100 people waiting in chairs and then another window that says “child services” or something so I go over there hoping to talk to someone and ask where the fuck I can drop this thing off at. But nobody is working at the window, you’re supposed to sign in and there are two pages of sign in people in front of me. I don’t want to sign in. I want to drop off the fucking paperwork. The people behind me are impatient as they want to sign in and I walk around the whole room looking for some obvious place to drop this application but there isn’t one, and you can REALLY SEE HOW PEOPLE COMPLETELY FUCKING LOSE IT because I am RIGHT THERE on the edge of my sanity.

I finally go back over to the security station and ask them, and they point out to the front doors. There is a small black mailbox there and THAT’S where you can put applications. A MAILBOX IS NOT A KIOSK. But you have to fill out the envelope on the front to put it in, and they want your case worker’s number. I have no idea what my case worker’s number is and I don’t have a pen. I go back in and the security guards don’t have pens so back out to my car, where I always have a pen, then back in, and I put my name on the envelope, put my application in, sealed it and dropped it in. Probably they’ll throw it out because I don’t have the case worker’s name on it. Probably nobody will do anything about it because that seems to be SOP with the county. When they checked on my Medicaid last week the woman said, “Well it seems like your application is just sitting there but nobody is doing anything about it.” THIS IS MY LIFE. THIS IS MY FUCKING LIFE. Hours and hours of my days are devoted to crap like this.

If I EVER hear one person say something about poor people being fucking lazy I will be going to jail for assault. WE ARE NOT LAZY. WE ARE EXHAUSTED.