Heat Stroke

I don’t know if it’s the heat lately or if it’s just that I’m fed up with having to fight for every little thing that I get/need/want. It’s like I’m always having to claw my way up out of a hole only to have someone/something smack me back down and sometimes I fall so far down that I’m starting at a point worse off than I was to begin with.

In the past three years I’ve been homeless twice. TWICE. The first time Matt and I were both working. We were paying a motel (it was Sept-Jan up north). Both our paychecks went for the motel. There were months we didn’t have “extra” money for food or bus fare to work. I walked 3 miles to work in the snow, sat at work in went pants,shoes all day and then walked 3 miles back to the motel. I did this for four months while I was pregnant. But I didn’t complain. I did what had to be done at the time. We were working and not getting anywhere. With all our money paying to keep a roof over our heads we couldn’t save any for a security deposit, first month’s rent and utility installations in an apartment. We were stuck.

Then Matt’s new boss said one of his tenants were moving out and said we could move in. He said don’t worry about the deposit because I know where you work. He said the tenant had paid for January so we wouldn’t have to pay rent until Feb. We moved in Jan 12. When the baby came we moved again and Matt got a new job. We had made it to the point where we could pay for rent and bills and even have some money here and there for “stuff”…like towels, kitchen things, clothes, baby stuff.

A year later he got laid off. We moved South because if we needed backup his family was here to help.  Because we couldn’t afford a moving truck to come all the way down here (it would have taken half our savings) we had to sell what we could, give away things ppl would take, and throw away everything else. We flew down (sale airfare, 1/2 the price of moving truck) with what we could carry and moved into an extended stay hotel.

We still had no car so Matt walked for hours in the late summer heat of the South looking for work. Every day. He talked to people he met, followed up on job leads, spent time at the Dept of Labor and perusing newspaper ads and while he was out walking the town (to not waste money on cab or bus fare) I was online filling out applications online. You can check the archives. One day I covered 72 places. SEVENTY-TWO!

Again, we were blowing through what savings we had so we left the motel and moved in with his family. It was a last resort for both of us. We’re not the kind of people who do that. We WANT to take care of ourselves. We don’t think anybody “owes” us anything or feel entitled to higher standards for any reason. We believe in setting goals and working to achieve them. However, when you have no money and no one is hiring you get frustrated. He found a job and we moved into a motel that was a 2hr walk from his work. Staying with family was stressful. We didn’t feel like we belonged there, we felt like we were intruding and we weren’t comfortable being ourselves. (Like, not entitled to watch what we wanted on tv cause it was their tv. Making sure they were all done in the bathroom before we ran in and did whatever we had to do FAST because we didn’t want to inconvenience anyone who might have needed the bathroom. When you’re thinking of things like that it doesn’t take long to be riddled with stress.)

In the new motel we felt so much better. Relieved even. It wasn’t permanent, wasn’t really a home, but it was ours. We relaxed for the first time in ages.

Matt walked 2hrs to work and 2hrs home and if we needed something I’d put the baby in the stroller and wheel her where we needed to go. On the side of the highway. (There are no sidewalks here or shoulders at the sides of the road for that matter.)

In January (almost to the day we left the first motel) we moved into our house we’re renting. Matt’s boss’s friend owns rental properties and he vouched for Matt. We had the deposit and most of the rent. A week later we paid what we owed for that. We paid a deposit for the electric company and the water company said they’d bill us. We had a house.

With nothing in it.

We were happy to have a house. We had a roof over our heads. It was ours. We slept in borrowed blankets on the floor and felt the cold air blowing through the window and door frames. After a while Matt’s boss asked what kind of furniture we had. Matt was honest and said, “Nothing.” (we had what we brought from PA, and 2 pans we’d bought down here to use at the motel)

His boss, over the course of a few days, came over with his truck and literally filled our house. He brought a couch and loveseat, a tv, a mattress and box springs for us, his grandson’s outgrown toy chest, a kitchen baker’s rack, a spacesaver for the bathroom, kitchen utensils, pots and pans and dishes and silverware. A few weeks later he came back with a pink Dora the Explorer toddler bed for Abigail.

And then the bills came in. We didn’t have enough for rent and bills. Matt had taken a second job, but hadn’t gotten paid yet. We weren’t sure we could afford the house. It was too soon after being homeless. We had no hope because we knew how quickly things can turn and everything can be taken away.

It worked out…and we worked ourselves up to the point where we had the rent and bills covered. We could buy our own things like kitchen towels, bath towels, bedsheets! (we’d been sleeping on a bare mattress.) Little stuff like that. We were doing well enough that when Matt got his tax return we used it to get a car. It’s 12 years old, doesn’t work right, but it runs. We bought it this past May, just in time to not have to walk in the heat.

Matt takes the car to work because he needs it there (he goes to the bank and if they run out he goes to other stores to borrow supplies). If Abby and I need something we have to walk. Yesterday it was 105 in the shade. I stood on the front porch talking to visitors and was covered in sweat after 5 minutes. Just from standing there. When you’re walking and the sun is baring down on you it’s even hotter. From here to a store takes about 25 minutes for me to walk. that’s 25 minutes Abby is in the sun. again, we walk at the side of the highway because there are no shoulders and no sidewalks. At one point in the walk we have to walk on the highway inbetween groups of cars driving past because there isn’t anywhere to walk on the side of the road.

On the rare occassions we splurge and use gas money to drive downtown (a 3-4 hr walk) to the park we don’t spend other money. At the park we let Abby run through trees, walk along a path, look at ducks and it’s hot so she’s turned bright pink after 4-7 minutes. And she’s two, so at some point she gets tired. One of us has to carry her. It’s so hot I can’t stand having my own hair touch my neck, and then I need to carry a heavy toddler who’s making body heat? Ugh. When it’s so hot you can blink and work up a sweat you shouldn’t be touching each other.

When Matt is with us he will carry her. Until his arms give way. Then I must. We take turns, the three of us get overheated and at the end of the day our bonding family outing has become a physical overexertion and we don’t ever want to leave the house again.

When Matt’s not with us and we need to walk to the store I have to push her stroller on  the embankments beside the highway and hope we don’t slip downhill and I can keep her on the very narrow “path” there. Most of the time I can. Picture full sun in 100 degree heat while walking and wrestling with a stroller carrying your hot sweaty baby, getting to the store covered in sweat and looking like you just got out of the shower. If I don’t take the stroller I’d have to…I’d have to carry her because she can’t be walking next to or on the highway like that.

Anyway…we’re down to one income again. Back to being able to pay bills and rent, but JUST. Food is iffy. I don’t have summer clothes. What we do have are clothes people gave away. I have a few thigns, but not for summer, and Matt got a bunch of stuff. i’m wearing his shorts and t shirts and look like a troll.

Being thankful? After having everything taken away or having to sell the things that mean something to me to survive (my digital camera, abby’s crib) I’m thankful. I don’t want to be thankful that I was fortunate enough to have so much to have taken away. I’d like to be thankful for what we’ve accomplished.

At this point? What is that exactly? I can’t think. It’s over 80 inside in the air conditioning.

I’m trying to be thankful.

I’m trying.

We both are. It’s hard to be hopeful when you’ve seen how ugly life can be. We’re struggling onward.






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