A little over a month ago, a fellow church member sent out a note asking for help with an ESL and Welcome Center she started at her daughter’s school. It was the first time in a long time that I jumped at something. One because they offered childcare. Two because it was among a diverse group of people that wanted to learn English and I know English kinda good enough. And three because they had childcare. The first time I showed up there was a Spanish speaking man with a great grasp on the language who told me a lot of his story. I just sat a listened. He has only come back once, because he is busy, and probably just came those times for fellowship in an otherwise boring day. That is fine.
A month or so in I am the childcare often. With today at one point six kids under my charge, three of which didn’t speak English and none of which wanted to listen to me…including my own spawn. But I dealt, even though I was really close to not going today… because of Junior not listening anymore.
I went because I truly want my kid to know people of other colors and languages and personalities. I want him to remember when he is 16 or 26 or 36 that not all people of color are moochers, terrorists, abusers, or untrustworthy. I want him to remember a friend from when he was this age or 4 or 6 who he had a great time with and liked. I also want the kids and parents there to see me, a larger white male smiling and listening to them. Because I know television dominates a lot of homes and time. And I know a lot of the coverage on television is negative currently.
I don’t know if it will do any good. I don’t know if Junior will grow up and move to a town with even less people of color (doubtful). I don’t know if I will continue to be willing to smile and listen without speaking and groaning. I don’t know if any of us will be as open as we are now again.
But I also don’t know what else to do to make this world okay.
It is chilly and raining today. The plan was to move a pile of mulch around the yard today, but it just doesn’t sound fun, unlike sitting in the big chair and doing nothing. So I sat down to write and typographically vomited about the ridiculousness of politics and media and facebook stories. And well, it looked like vomit which no one needs to see, and I don’t feel like trying to pick out the good points and construct something. Because that would be like rebuilding the food digested…this has gone too far. Instead I finished a blog post about all the penny clicking I do to pass time and attempt to help us stick to budget. So if you don’t want to know how to get rich quick*, I will see y’all next week.
*richness not guaranteed
We – the beautiful Hannah and I- live in a nomadically transplanted city. Most people aren’t from here and most won’t stay… as we are learning. People come for work, school or adventure often in their 20s and stay as long as they can or want. The city houses a lot of people with grand dreams and plans who hang out until another job, partner or dream pulls them away. We came as part of that group.
The beautiful Hannah has over a decade here. I have lived here four times as long as anywhere else in my adulthood and am approaching that decade mark too. We have lived in multiple parts of the city and are on the edge of it now it sometimes feels. The mountain can be seen from our patio window when the leaves are gone and the sun is out. The coast is an easy drive away and allows us to have lunch after a nice drive if we have a free day to play. The food is amazing. The beers were good and hopefully will be when we can go out again. People are generally laid back and welcoming. And even though it is touted as the Whitest City in (US) America and part of the Least Churched Region in North America, we have many people of other colors in our inner circle…and our “local” church. People think and act similar enough to us for us to feel accepted. We don’t get weird looks for talking to homeless or people with special needs. We can own chickens, garden and buy only from the edges of the grocery store without judgment and know a lot of others that do the same.
We really like it here. We have a house in a neighborhood that has a lot of real locals. We have our spots, our stores, our communities, our old and new neighborhoods and the beautiful Hannah has a career at a school that won’t be transferred or moved. We plan to be here a long time.
But we are consistently saying good bye to friends with whom we have connected it feels. They move because of work promotions. Because they want to move closer to family before having kids. Because it was a short term thing that lasted many years and is now over. Because parents need them back home. Or because housing is silly expensive and they didn’t buy a place yet and can’t imagine living paycheck to paycheck just to stay here. Whatever the reason, Junior has a lost a lot of friends as have we and we realized we need to start making more connections again. And in chatting with people we have heard that many are planning to head back “home” at some point. When the kids need to go to school, or when it’s time to have kids, or when they need a real job.
The beautiful Hannah and I initially bonded over not wanting to live near where we were raised again. Shortly after we met we began to make Portland our city together. We shared with each other what we loved. We started combining traditions, routines, drinking spots, eating spots, and friends. We made our home and are strengthened ourselves in the communities that would take us. Those communities changed and shifted with marriage, work changes, and Junior and his demands. And they change substantially when close friends move to green pastures they find or dream.
Leaving is not our plan or story it seems. So I guess we are a little different here but that’s ok.
As I write this, Neil my robot vacuum is cleaning. And all I can think about is lack of money. How we make spontaneous decisions that require money, generally not budgeted money. How we decide things will pay off eventually, but struggle to see the rewards. Somehow getting chickens was supposed to reduce our grocery budget. And even though we haven’t bought eggs since July, we haven’t had extra on that line. How growing a garden still has kept us in the red. How going to the farms in the area to pick berries, beans and peaches has filled our freezer but not our budget lines.
I like to see rewards and there don’t seem to be any. It might be because costs are slowly rising everywhere. Or it might be that we decide to add more line items to the budget.
A couple weeks ago, stressed about seating and storage we decided we will build an addition to our dining room. It will be amazing but even planning for it we noticed it will wipe out 20% of savings. But both the beautiful Hannah and I think it will make the house more “livable”.
Last week we made the incredibly adult decision to buy a car at a party. We went to say good bye to friends we were connecting with again because they were moving away and back to family. And while I checked into how move prep was going for them we ended up test driving a car. And then a couple days later had a payment contract and they took 60% of our savings as a down payment. We wanted a car instead of a truck because, well, an older standard cab Ford Ranger is not a family car. Junior can sit in it but the seats don’t conform to the car seat like a standard family car for some reason. So he just bumps and sways. Which of course he loves, but I imagine his foot kicking the door handle open, and his bumping seat flinging him through some magical serious events through the straps into a mailbox. We had talked about upgrading and about selling the Ranger, but didn’t actually plan for it. So now we have 3 vehicles and no leads on going down to two.
Also now, we don’t really have savings, as we go into winter, which has increased costs. But the beautiful Hannah gots a raise at her work. And in the middle of writing this, I sold a lawnmower. Talk about multitasking! Apparently this is what we do to get by, or what SAH parents do to pay bills. At least that is what I have heard. But they don’t have robot vacuums.
PS. Here is the link for the Ranger if you know anyone and missed it above. https://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/cto/5811924702.html
It’s been a year since I worked. And it hurts in a lot of ways that I didn’t expect when I decided to stay home with Junior. I have figured out how to protect and care for a two year old better than imagined. I can cook, clean and garden well enough. But mentally it is difficult to continually have the company of a human that just doesn’t get me. But mostly it bugs me because I failed.
Every time I see the little USPS vehicles I am reminded of how hard it was. How I was miserable. How I hurt every night. How my intake of coffee had to be supplemented by Gatorade to not become dehydrationally sick but still be awake. It is worse when I see someone I worked with still doing it. How we used to struggle together but now they have made it. How 7 day 70 hour work weeks were just too much for me but not them. How they were able to stop long enough to realize they could survive…or just never thought about the future.
I blamed family commitments. But in honesty it was me. It was my inability to work in a negative environment that used unions to protect employee’s jobs while they insulted each other. It was my inability to imagine working within systems that were made by someone(s) who sat in an office on the other side of the country in different weather and demographics and conditions…and the lack of ability to speak my mind. The inability to intellectually contribute to my work life. My inability to accept the lack of air conditioning and heating in vehicles and warehouses. And most of all my lack of desire to invest in something that seemed to be failing horribly and would soon become an Amazon company.
But at least once a week I wake up breathing heavy because I just had to climb a big hill with my full satchel in my dream. Or because I ran from an old supervisor after I abandoned a vehicle full of “work”. Because I made a deal to work just one week to pay off the credit card. Or because I feel like I failed my family by not providing.
The hardest thing about being home all the time is not contributing monetarily. I know I am not alone in this as I have talked to other stay at home moms and SAHDs. But generally after I make another purchase at Home Depot to fix the house or urban farm I wonder how I can give. After I see my handy work on something small, I just hope we can afford a professional to fix major issues and improvements on the house. After I scour the budget for $10 again…I just want to help.
So I sold my body through a needle for the plasma center for a month until there was no bonus with the basic pay. I helped a friend reside his house for a few days. I mowed a neighbor’s lawn while it was being prepared to be sold. I often scour the internet for part time jobs that allow me still to maintain the urban farm, our marriage and Junior timewise. No one seems to want to hire someone for just 10 hours a week though. So I spent last week getting a few hundred dollars of project supplies for free from friends and Craigslist, and jumping on a deal for strawberry plants that should provide buckets for the cost of a pint at the store next spring. The urban farm continues to be my work outlet.
That is my SAHD life right now. I hang out with Junior, we garden, play with chickens, and go to the community center a lot. I think I am also ready to restart the blogging routine so will attempt to find time to sit and write once a week. There is enough happening in my head I should be able to force some out again.