Monday, November 29, 2010
Was very despondent yesterday and the weather matched my mood - dark, grey and rainy. The boys were able to have pizza when they went over to their older brother's to watch the Bear's game but I was stuck with leftover 4-Bean Chili minus any cheese which is pretty much the best part. Couldn't sleep last night. Worried about the food budget and holidays, being able to have some kind of celebration for the boys. My oldest was upset this morning, needing $1.50 for his PE bowling class which I could not give him. He was also critical of what he felt was a meager lunch (PB & J, apple, goldfish crackers and a few cookies). After they boys left for school, I was able to register at a toy drive that allows "shoppers" to purchase gifts for their children at greatly reduced prices. I saw this event last year as it was happening and made a mental note to remember it this year, if needed. Not everyone who wants to participate can do so as spots are limited so I got on the phone first thing. The line was busy but within 15 minutes I had secured an appointment. The sale is of course geared to younger kids but I was assured that there would be plenty of a selection for my boys. Anything is better than nothing.
I then had to go to the local grocery store to write a check for a small amount over some minor purchases to afford gas for both vehicles. Then I headed over to the food pantry where a very kind woman volunteer and I have gotten friendly. She said she was so stuck by my asking for a stick of deodorant for my sons the last time I was there and the fact that they didn't have any to give me that she cried. She spoke to her husband that night and both of them would like to put together small gift bags for each boy. She said it won't be much but again I am grateful for anything my sons might have to open and enjoy. In terms of what they want, it is items like body wash, shampoo, sugarless gum and mints (which have been cut from our budget), socks and underwear. Nothing extravagant. A few years ago I might have not accepted this woman's offer but I can no longer do so. I still feel incredibly ashamed to be in this condition. Our society isn't kind toward the poor, even during the hard times many of us are going through. I feel stigmatized and humbled at the same time.
The nice woman at the food pantry said she knows of another pantry operating out of a church and if I didn't mind, she would pass on my name. They actually deliver a weekly box of food to your door. I also agreed to this. We have reached such a low point that my food budget is practically non-existent and it will probably take me a month or two to recover. During which time I am forced to rely on pantry donations as difficult as it is. Today's food pantry visit was a good one because I got to choose three loaves of bread and a dessert. Sometimes there is no bread or just hard unsliced loaves of French or Italian. A red letter day to be able to leave with a loaf of light Italian, extra large loaf of white sandwich bread and a hearty grain type, which is my preference.
From the pantry I headed over to the town hall to register for yet another program. This one only gives gifts to kids 12 and under but they do provide a box of fresh food including potatoes and vegetables so it was worth it to sign up. It is also possible that a family or business will "adopt" us but that is not a guarantee. I go to a local church to pick up my box of food and they will also offer items at a garage sale of sorts - donated items of all kinds, free for the taking. We've been shopping at the Goodwill and I go to antique stores so what is the harm in browsing at the items offered? Maybe I can find a few "gently worn" items as they say for the boys or even myself.
The social worker overheard me talking about a program I've learned about that is actually a class to teach suburbanites how to be poor since so many of us have never had to face circumstances like this. She asked me about the program and I promised to provide her with the info. That is part of the problem as I see it. I've never lived in an apartment or had to search for food from pantries. There have to be others out there like me who just don't know the ins and outs of navigating the system. The social worker referred me to yet another food pantry that provides fresh food items. Talking to her, I sounded like a social worker myself. At that moment of realization part of me said to myself, "Get off your butt and look for work in your field. Stop selling yourself short. Your are a professional, you'll eventually find a social services job. And heck, now I even have personal experience in grief, loss and poverty - better equipped to assist clients." Part of the problem though, is that being in this place takes a tremendous toll on one's self-esteem. I blame myself for my situation and don't feel worthy looking for a better job. That is kind of the pattern of this cycle...
By the end of the day I felt a little better. All this running around took up the majority of my time, which is another characteristic of living under reduced circumstances. It takes extra time to figure all this stuff out. Dinner was thankfully not more 4-Bean Chili! I feel I've done what I can to try and improve the holidays but still am depressed and down about it all. I am not motivated to put up a tree and wish the holidays would just fast forward and go away. I am also reconsidering not going to the knitting group this week thinking it is not a good time to do so. It will feel like rubbing salt into a wound if I am surrounded by women chatting in gay spirits about their holiday decorations, plans, parties and trips. Maybe it would be better to start with the group at the new year. These women all know one another and I'm not sure it is the right time to enter a group that has been together in the midst of the holidays. Anyway, I've even lost some of my desire to knit which comes with my being down.
But then it becomes reinvigorated again when I think that I should whip up a holiday towel and pot holder set to give to the kind woman at the pantry. And I'll need something for my girlfriend and my son's girlfriend. But the thought of decorating and baking exhausts me. Just trying to locate available food pantries that will serve me has taken its toll and part of the joy out of this season. I always believed that the holidays were the one time of year all of us were assured of some happiness. Just another illusion that has been shattered.