Archive for May, 2013


Contradictions

Sorry I’ve been absent for so long. I’ve had about 30 potential posts run through my brain, but always when I was doing something that didn’t even allow time to stop and jot the idea down. And I’ve had several things to work through mentally. So after all that, I don’t really have much to share–at least, much that I should share–except this major point of frustration that I’ve hit:

1. If you are financially stable when you get married, but the main breadwinner loses a job shortly after you get married, even if you spend a whole year searching for a job and living on savings that you DID have built up, apparently you weren’t financially stable enough to get married in the first place and should have waited until you could support yourself. I can only surmise that this means no one should get married until they’re able to live on savings for the rest of their life.

2. If you don’t work, you’re lazy. Even if you’re searching for a job and can’t find one. Even if you’re applying outside your field of expertise. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have a job so you’re lazy.

3. Don’t keep things bottled up inside. You must get it out. If you just stuff it down, that’s unhealthy. But don’t tell anyone. Or say it out loud where anyone could possibly overhear. Or write it down because someone might read it. Or record it because someone might see/hear it.

4. Keep a clean house. Because you’re a terrible person if you don’t. But stop worrying about cleaning and spend time with your children. Because you’re a terrible person if you don’t.

5. Similar to 4, make sure you put a lot into your job and try to get ahead. For your family. To support them. Because you’re a terrible person if you don’t. But don’t spend all your time working, your family needs you. So stop working and spend time with them. But work and make money to support them. But to make the money necessary to support them, you’re working too hard. Stop working and spend time with your family. But don’t forget to work.

6. If you don’t have money to spend on a gratuity gift (or, if you prefer, an obligatory gift) for someone, you’re financially irresponsible. This one really throws me for a loop. You’re taking care of your money and being frugal, but because you don’t have the money for something that really isn’t essential to life but is just expected based on the mores of our society, you’re financially irresponsible. For NOT spending money, you’re financially irresponsible. Mind boggling to say the least! (Kind of like the fact that if you thank someone profusely, it’s still not thanks enough until you send an obligatory thank-you card. Because apparently gratitude is only real if it’s on paper and written in a pre-formatted and stilted style. But that’s a separate irritant of mine.)

Are you catching the general drift of my frustrations? Everyone has opinions, and that’s fine. But sometimes it’s like every single person has an opinion on exactly how I’m not living my life right. And according to those opinions, apparently, a successful life is impossible.

And ironically, the thing that people push the most seems to be whatever they struggle with the most. “Stop cleaning and spend time with your kids, moms!” says someone who cleans a ton. “Stop texting and look up, you’re missing the moments!” says someone who spends too much time on her phone. “No, you already spend plenty of time with your kids, take some time to yourself!” says the one who needs a break.

I’m tired of it. No one is perfect. I’m still learning and growing. You’re still learning and growing. We’re all still works in progress. We can help each other and encourage each other and share the wisdom we’ve acquired with each other, but how about we give each other a little bit of a break? Life is a delicate balancing act. When someone is tipping one way, how about we stop shoving so hard that they fall off the other side instead? How about we just support each other sometimes? I mean, yeah, part of that balance is that we might need a little shove here and there. But not a barrage of shoves back and forth. We’re not tennis balls.

That’s all I wanted to say today. Not about hoarding, not about my childhood, not about my personal struggles right now. Just about the barrage of accusations that surround us, and surround us even more so since this lovely thing called the Internet came about. Let’s just remember that part of helping each other balance is to give each other a break sometimes. Speak in love, because you don’t know how many verbal (or written) shoves the person you’re talking to has received lately.

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Amendments

It has been brought to my attention that my post Personal Cleaning Responsibility may not have exactly expressed what I intended to express. I want to make this clear:

There was a lot of cleaning to still do in the house. But we were not told the exact day we needed to be out (YES partly through our own fault of not checking earlier to verify it) until a few weeks earlier, and we had been told by our friend we lived with that he wouldn’t be leaving until Tuesday, in a way that made it sound like we could keep coming and doing different things in the meantime. We had worked hard and tried hard to get things done, but we just hadn’t finished everything. We didn’t know that there was a time crunch involving more to be done that weekend, rather than just having it done by Tuesday. Our plan was to spend as much of Saturday as possible, then all day Sunday after church until it was done. We literally found out Friday night that they needed more done that weekend and were moving some things in. So like I said, yes, it’s at least partly our fault that we didn’t know about some of this stuff, but I wasn’t frustrated about being told there was more cleaning to do, but about having someone check with us to make sure we were going to be doing it, and really, about that being the first time we WERE told that there was so much that had to be done that very weekend. Which I think was also partly because we were talking to the person involved who tends to be super easy-going, and the other one doesn’t know us as well and may not have felt comfortable mentioning it to us. And possibly didn’t even know that we didn’t know that. So basically, I’m just saying it wasn’t really anyone’s fault, especially not anyone else’s fault, it was just frustrating.

And the other thing is, I may not always come across this way, but when things happen I’m usually more angry at myself than at other people. This blog is my way of working out my frustrations, so yes, it probably sounds like I’m blaming everyone and everything else. But I’m seriously just really mad at myself because I can’t seem to rise above all of this. I’m getting there by baby steps, but I’m not there yet and I feel like I should be. And people tell me I should be–I’m an adult, part of an adult is just taking responsibility and doing what I need to do, just because my parents didn’t doesn’t mean I can’t. But it’s a LOT to learn all at once, and I’m not there yet. Then I’m mad at myself for not being there yet. And yes, sometimes at other people for not understanding why I’m not there yet, but I’m not REALLY mad at the other people. Most of the time, at least. And in this recent situation, I wasn’t mad at the other people. I was frustrated at the situation and mad at myself for not being a better person. So I try again. I’m doing better in this new place we’re in–fresh start–but not perfectly. But we’re at a sort of weigh-station right now, off again in just a few weeks, and then it’ll be a fresh start yet again. So this is where I’m trying to focus on doing well for a short time, so that it can become more ingrained and hopefully I’ll do better at the next place.

I am improving. And I am fully aware that a lot of things are my own fault too. Even if I don’t always come across that way in this, my venting place.

And that is all I wanted to say.

Yup, changing topics today. Because I recently found out about ConAgra Food’s Child Hunger Ends Here campaign.

As a child who was hungry a lot–or just eating the same thing over and over–this strikes a serious nerve with me. Especially when I entered a code and started exploring the rest of the website. It lists how many children face child hunger in my state, then it lists how many codes have been entered in my state. Some simple math told me that with the amount of codes entered in my state, there are enough codes entered to give one meal to less than 9% of the children facing hunger in Maine.

ConAgra Food brands that may have codes on them (taken from the Child Hunger Ends Here website) are:
Healthy Choice
Peter Pan
Orville Redenbacher
Marie Callender’s
Chef Boyardee
Hunt’s
Snack Pack
Manwich
Kid Cuisine
Crunch ‘n Munch
Rosarita
Van Camp’s
Wolf Brand Chili
Blue Bonnet
Egg Beaters
Pam
RediWhip
Ultragrain
Banquet

In the event that some of you (hopefully many of you–I hate when other people have been in bad situations) don’t know what childhood hunger in the United States looks like, let me tell you a bit about what it looked like for me. We had many times growing up that we had bags of popcorn for a meal, buttered or plain pasta several days in a row, etc. And the Ramen! Since I left my parents’ house for college, I have alternated times of craving Ramen and times of being nauseated by Ramen–and, actually, sometimes both, when I would crave it but be nauseated before I was done eating it–because I ate it SO much growing up.

We would get creative, too. Pasta with various spices and some olive oil mixed in. Sounds good, right? It’d be great with a salad and maybe some chicken. But no, I’m talking an entire meal of seasoned starch. And boxed mashed potatoes can be prepared without butter or milk if necessary, and still seasoned to be at least palatable. If there was a can of corn somewhere, hallelujah! That was a delicious meal! And would you like to know what Hamburger Helper tastes like without any meat? Let’s just say, I wouldn’t recommend it. The flavor comes out significantly stronger and slightly different. But hey, it was something to eat.

Yes, we had a food pantry–at least one–near us. Eventually, when we were down to eating sugar out of the bag (no, we never had to do that, though I think my brother did it voluntarily, but it’s about where we were) my mother would say, “I guess I’m gonna have to break down and go to the food pantry.” Actually, I remember hearing her say this for at least a week or more before she finally would do it. When she finally went, there was finally food in the house. I went with her a few times. She would fill out a form saying our income and how many people were in our house. And then people would give us bags of food. Generic cans of sauce, apple sauce, and vegetables. Bags of sliced bread and jars of peanut butter. We knew how to spice the sauce and apple sauce (since none of it had spices) but the peanut butter was something else. It was like eating oil in a peanut texture. I think that’s how peanut butter-and-sugar sandwiches were born in our house, actually.

No, my life wasn’t like this the entire time I was growing up. We went through cycles. My parents didn’t budget the money, so one month we’d squeak by, another month we’d splurge on tons of groceries but may or may not get all the rent paid, and another it seemed like we had nothing for anything. We got reduced lunch at school, and sometimes didn’t even have the 35 cents for lunch money. I don’t really know what happened with the money to make the months so variable. But I do know that when we had lots of food in the house, we didn’t know how to “budget” the food either, and would eat about 3 weeks’ worth in a week or so. Then we had nothing again.

So all I’m saying with all of that is this: it’s not a perfect system. I’m not sure what a perfect system would be. In our case, we wouldn’t have been without food if my parents budgeted properly. (And believe me, people tried to help them do that.) We also wouldn’t have been without food if my mother had been willing to go to the food pantry more regularly. And to be honest, we were very rarely completely without food. But there were times I was willing to miss a meal rather than eat plain pasta or boxed mashed potatoes again. And there were most definitely times when we could have had food if we were willing to bake a cake. Literally. Marie-Antoinette jokes notwithstanding.

But right now, I’m not able to offer any perfect solution. This is not a political post about how to fix this. This is just a post of awareness, to let you know that ConAgra Food is doing something to try to fix this by partnering with Feeding America. In fact, The Pampered Chef has partnered with Feeding America in their own way, so you could do more through them too. Because no, this won’t actually end childhood hunger as long as there are parents who won’t do what they need to do and go get the food available for them to get. But if you buy a ConAgra brand and enter one code to give one child one meal, that’s something.

Additional note: please take an interest in people. I don’t know who I would be or where I would be today without the many people who took an interest, and even though they couldn’t take me from my parents’ house (though several did make phone calls to try to get some intervention), they at least took me out to meals, bought me food, and just showed me that they cared. There are children without much to eat but with very loving and nurturing parents who sacrifice to make sure the children have something. But there are way too many children whose parents do not nurture them, perhaps even neglect them entirely, and this is why they have no food. They’re all over the place, in cities and small towns. If you encounter one, if you have an opportunity to provide some small amount of the missing nurture, please do. It can change two lives–yours and theirs.

As of when I’m typing this, we still don’t have internet. Supposedly it was going to be on yesterday, but after a big long ordeal . . . well, suffice to say, it still isn’t.

But I’m personally more concerned about something else. See, we just moved. And someone else is going to the old place to clean today. Why is someone else going to the old place to clean? Your guess is at least as good as mine. There’s one more person living there until Tuesday. Some renovations are happening after that, so it’s not like it’s going to stay clean. And though we have some prior obligations during the day today, we’re going back this evening and tomorrow after church to get the rest of our stuff and clean.

I know most people would say, “Awesome! I don’t have to do all the cleaning!” But that is not my first or primary reaction. My reaction is more like . . . I cried when I found out they were going to be there cleaning today.

To be honest, we did as much Thursday and yesterday as we could. We had help Thursday, but I still have a young child and there’s only so much we can do with him while moving. Though he “helps” sometimes, it’s only so helpful and he still needs to be constantly watched.

And, as I said, we have some prior obligations today during the day and can’t be there until this evening. Probably at the expense of the better part of a birthday party that happens to be in the same area as the other obligations, and which I was really looking forward to attending. But duty first—we have to get the rest of our stuff out of there and get things cleaned. And I can not can not can NOT leave the rest of the cleaning to other people!

Why? Because the greatest shame of my life—more than when a friend told me she wouldn’t come over to my house anymore because it was so awful; more than when my mother would say things like, “It’s just impossible to keep the house clean with kids around”; more than when my father would say things like, “These kids complain about not being able to find anything to eat in the house, then I look and find things to make something fit for the [famous restaurant of some sort]”—more than any of that, the greatest shame of my life was when I realized that someone else had to clean up The Big House. The worst house we ever left.

And once I realized that, I realized someone had to clean up after us every time we moved out of anywhere. Whether we left behind a lot or very little, the place was always still a mess. Food splatters everywhere. Spaghetti still stuck to the ceiling from “is it done?” tests. Floors that we didn’t even sweep, vacuum, or mop on our way out. Sinks, mirrors, and windows that hadn’t known a cleaner since we’d been there. Sometimes some things that were broken—not necessarily even our fault, but that we hadn’t told the landlord about because then he would see the house. Not to mention the cat pee that was often left in carpets, and it’s hard to describe just what a toilet, tub, and bathroom floor that are never cleaned can look like when used by many people and several cats for a year or more.

To be honest, it’s not that we absolutely never cleaned in the time we were in each place. It’s just that it was mostly up to us kids, and frankly, we had no idea that the toilet should be cleaned at least monthly or more often. (Probably weekly for the amount of people we had in each house.) We had no idea that kitty litter should be emptied with a scoop every few days, rather than just waiting until the whole litter box was well beyond use and then dumping it all into the trash and refilling. We had no clue that we should be using a wand to vacuum the edges of the carpet, not vacuuming the middle and calling it good. We didn’t know how to pick up the little extra things that float around and get shoved into corners. If there was a clear path to walk through, wow, that room was clean!

I digress. My point was this: we left house after house after apartment after apartment after house with way too much cleaning left to do. I don’t know if my parents ever got a security deposit back. To be honest, I’m not sure they know they can get it back. (Well, they’re not stupid, they consciously know this. But I think they kind of assume it just never really happens and they blame it on unfair landlords or something.) So when I moved out on my own, I swore that would never happen. I will clean every place I move out of. I may still be learning how to keep a clean house while I’m there, but I know how to go back through and make sure it’s clean after I move out. No one will have to clean up after me.

But there’s something I still don’t have down: how to pack efficiently and get everything moved all in one day. I’m just not organized like that. I’m not efficient like that. I don’t know how to DO that. Which means I can’t just move everything out and then clean my way out of the house. (Especially not when our former housemate is still living there until Tuesday.) So I cleaned the whole bathroom. I wiped down the front of the cupboards in the kitchen, cleaned the stove, and mopped. Still need to move the fridge because there’s a ton of crud between the counter and the fridge—visible, but not accessible until the fridge is moved. I mopped the laundry room, but our bedroom isn’t empty yet to be mopped. The windows and mirrors have been cleaned, except the ones in my bedroom. The living room, dining room, and our bedroom have the most stuff still left in them. It’s just a matter of getting everything out and doing that last bit of cleaning. And even though they’ll get dirty again, I will still vacuum the carpets. Once all our stuff is off of them, they will be vacuumed. They will.

But people are going to clean today. What are they going to clean? I have no idea. Maybe I’ll find out they already moved the fridge and cleaned up the crud in there that I didn’t clean yet. Maybe I’ll find they straightened out the liners in the kitchen cupboards and drawers and cleaned those before I had a chance to. Maybe I’ll find they piled all our stuff in one place and mopped the bedroom for me. Maybe I’ll find they cleaned the bottom of the full-length mirrors that my son smudged up with his fingers.

To be honest, I’ve done most of the biggest cleaning. Other than the kitchen sink, cupboards, drawers, and space between the stove and fridge, there really isn’t that much to do. But I still hate the idea of someone else having to do it.

There’s so much organizing to do in our new place, and I want to get more of it done before the landlord comes in an hour or so to fix something that wasn’t quite ready when we moved in. Yet all I can think about is that today, someone else is going to be cleaning up after me.

Note: I wrote this several days ago, during the move and before we had internet again. Some of the details have changed a little–for instance, I apologized profusely for not being there to help finish all the cleaning, and was assured that it was okay. Some things frustrated me more, some things assuaged my frustrations. But basically, by now the whole house has been cleaned one way or another and I’ve more-or-less moved on with life. But I still figured I’d share this since it’s what I was thinking/how I was feeling at the time.