Her name was Minnie, my faithful companion in homelessness. When we first became homeless and started living out of it, my youngest was only one and half years old. My oldest was only about 9 years old then. To my youngest, the rv was home. It wasn't until we came to my friend's house did I realize just how much living out of the rv had affected my daughter until she said "I don't like it in here. I want to go back to OUR house, the rv." That’s when it hit me that her memories of what “home” is are based on the three of us living out an old Minnie Winnebago. She was only 21 feet long from bumper to bumper but she was ours and as long as I took care of her, she took care of us.
See at the time, I couldn’t afford childcare as it was $900.00 a month for both kids and my rent was only $460.00. Add to this the absence of child support and losing your job because you slipped a disc in your back and voila! You have the makings of homelessness. I knew it was coming and in April of 2004, we moved from a two-bedroom apartment into the Minnie. All the furniture we had I either sold at a yard sale or donated to neighbors and thrift stores. Everything else went into a small storage unit. What little money I had I used for gas while waiting to get food stamps and basic health care through the state. In the meantime, I knew I had to find work and fast!
I managed to find a part-time job working for a now extinct newspaper plant in Kent. My shift started at midnight and the place had its own private parking lot that was fairly secure. The plant was in a rural area so it was quiet and I made sure to park the rv where I could see it from the warehouse windows. My kids slept while I worked and in the morning, I would drive to the nearest grocery store to get them something for breakfast before taking my oldest daughter to school. She was so embarrassed by the rv that she would ask me to park down the street so she could walk to school and not be seen by her classmates. I did so.
During this time, I had managed to save a little money to let my youngest daughter have a birthday party. We got lucky that year and had an unusually early summer and to hide the fact that we couldn’t afford a “real birthday party”, I invited friends and relatives to a neighborhood park for a “Summer Time Theme Party.” I found some balloons at a dollar store (in fact I think the paper plates and decorations were all from a dollar store!) and did the best I could at decorating a covered picnic area. I was able to borrow a friend’s kitchen to bake a “Hello Kitty” cake and to make it look store-bought, I went down to a local grocery store and to my surprise, they gave me a plastic cake box for free. To this day, my youngest has no idea that I made it and she still considers her fifth birthday party to be the best birthday she’s ever had!
As for my oldest..well the memories aren’t so fond. For her, living out of the rv was a nightmare with no end in sight. She didn’t care about going to school since school was a never-ending exercise in dread. What if her peers found out she lived in a run down rv? I know it’s been hard for them both and I have done everything I could to keep them busy with all the other activities in life that everyone else has but all that seems to hinge on money. You need money for gas, money to eat, money to do just about everything but the one thing money could not buy was me. It wasn't long after this that I landed a job in financial services with a national company. They didn’t know I had another job working nights at the newspaper and I had no intention of telling them until my body forced me to. That’s when the migraine seizures started. I can remember leaving my day job feeling a little funny. A friend and supervisor caught me by the arm and asked me if I was alright. She was about to call an ambulance but I shook it off and said I could drive myself to the nearest hospital.
I almost made it up Smith hill in Kent when the left side of my body went numb. The first thing I thought was that I was having a stroke because I couldn’t feel the left side of my arm and I was trying to drive steer with my right. My symptoms got worse as I drove on but I was able to call my friend who had just started babysitting for me to tell her that I was parking the rv at a local garage. Thank goodness her husband knew the garage owner and he allowed me to park the rv at his shop until I got back from the E.R. . By the time my babysitter’s husband got me to the emergency room, my speech was slurred and I was vomiting. I couldn’t move my hands and he had to help me sign forms. I stayed at the hospital for six hours. I don’t remember much after that except for when I woke up in my babysitter’s room. She was holding my head up trying to get me to drink something. It took me two weeks to be able to stand up but I was so dizzy I couldn’t stay up without help. The pain in my head was like a jack hammer but I was determined to get back to my rv because I could not afford to have it towed.
Eventually, Minnie needed more repairs than I could afford so last July, I sold her to a mechanic living out of his car. I got him to tell me his story and he said he just got out of a bad divorce and he was living out of his car at his place of employment in Seattle. His employer knew he was homeless with his dog and at least the garage was safer than the streets. I sold the rv to him for $200.00. At least this guy could fix it better than I could. It was only by a sheer stroke of luck that my friend's neighbor decided to give us a free mini van….with a dying transmission! Ah well….even so, guess it is the thought that counts.
I haven't been on Blogher for a little while because in spite of everything, I have been out trying to make my own opportunities. It was while living out of the rv that I began to write poetry. I don't smoke, I don't drink and don't do drugs and never will. There is only so much stress relief that can be gotten from gum chewing so I started writing. Now I don't have the money to self-publish a paper book so I got the idea to put together a small collection of poems and put them on Kindle( http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004QWZCLK). I figure in this day and age with Social Media becoming so prevalent and our young people spending so much time online, why not meet the modern world where it's at? Saving paper in the meantime isn't a bad plus either!
My book of poetry is called "Writings from the driver's side" because that's exactly what they are. Here's one of them now....
Angst “I” at ease
Anxieties, worries, stresses, strain, unknown futures calling me
Nothing guaranteed, knowing that I won’t be free
Silent tears, hidden pain, when a new day will I see?
I saw my reflection the other day, past a window on display but….
The woman I saw, who looked like me, couldn’t remember what she used to be
Thinking back to childhood days, soft green grass and summer days, I never thought
I’d see a different reality, a different me
Blue, green, yellow, black, wish I could get my life back, but wishing on a star
That’s just fantasy. I’ve got to find a way back to me. I once met a girl, she was nineteen
She sat nearby, watching me. Somehow she guessed, somehow knew, guess she’s seen a few
“Be careful,” she said quietly, “you’ll lose your mind out here.” I watched her then, sitting there
Wondering how long she wandered through nowhere.
Sun gone down, the night is black, looking up I see its tracks
The Great Bear, it shines the way, sometimes the only one who hears me pray
No matter what I do or what I say, how come things are still this way?
I think about the people who, when asked to help, didn’t come through.
Excuses plenty, yes I’ve heard every, and even though with that mindset
They should know I won’t forget
I’ve learned a lot on the way, when to run and where to stay and stranger still
I can’t give up, never will. Eyes are watching, young and new, watching everything I do
When you see me walk on by, when I see you I won’t cry. You had your chance and you failed
Now I have a story to tell. Won’t be fun, not what you want to hear
Won’t be about people you have near. So while at home, snug in bed
Knowing you have nothing to dread, someone on the street,
dies tonight in their sleep.
“If they can’t feed their kids don’t breed them!” “It’s their fault they’re there”
“I don’t feel sorry for addicts and drunks” “Don’t give them money, they’ll just buy junk”
“I’m not paying for their welfare” “Not my problem so I don’t care”
This is the message society gives, this is the attitude they want to live
I find such attitudes to be odd, when did they become God? Christian charity, hah, not likely!
Conversion before giving to help the living, Forcing beliefs or no relief, they have forgotten!
One man came, one man said, “Give us now our daily bread”. There was no inclusion
No list of exclusions, apathy and indifference feeds the delusion
My mind is set, the goal is clear. With perseverance a new day is near
The system is broken, has been awhile. Sold our children down the Nile
Inadequacies are built-in addictions, that’s why you see so much affliction
It’s up to us, call it intuit, stop the excuses, just do it!
This isn’t what we’re supposed to be, stresses, strains and angst “I” at ease.
No matter what happens in life just remember that tomorrow is a new day dawning.
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