Saturday, January 25, 2014
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
There are about six cats trying to survive in the scant protection I am able to provide. They have learned to be afraid of humans and so they will not come indoors and they run when I go out to give them food or sweep the snow away. This particular cat is injured, but I cannot help her.
There is a small pump in the pond that mostly does a good job of keeping a little space free of ice, but when it gets this cold I need to pour water on it to thaw some for the cats. It's the best I can do for them, but I do not know how they survive outdoors in this.
How can people put out their cats and dogs and then go to bed under warm covers and sleep like they deserve to be warm and cozy?
People who do not treat the weakest among us with any compassion will treat humans the very same way.
These homes don't look like much perhaps to the casual eye, but each is as different and unique as the occupants themselves. We range from young to old and in every color and every heritage imaginable. We keep to ourselves for the most part, but we know one another, where we live and everyone - everyone - smiles and says hello. We have patience with each other and even though we mostly haven't been inside each others homes, on a warm afternoon we will be sitting on our porches, an occasional banter across the way, sipping soda or coffee and smiling at each other.
But George Street itself, this short one block of it, has its own personality. For one thing, it is a narrow street with parking only on one side, which owning two cars makes rather difficult for both the owners and the others living here, but it seems to work. Often in winter, the snowplow and salting trucks miss this tiny street and so we are piled high with snow when others are clear and bare.
On this short street every house has a personality and displays its individuality with hanging bells and birdhouses, flowing colors of fabric that blow in the wind, and whirligigs and Christmas lights all year round. Some people dance on their porches, some gather with friends, feet up sipping beer. There are signs that welcome, signs that congratulate, signs that dogs ignore while peeing on the grass, there are new babies, and kids who play outdoors the way kids ought to be doing instead of inside watching TV or playing video games. It's a street that feels safe to me.
Winter - a forecast unlike any I've ever seen before.
May 2013 - my first garden on George Street
Two months later - July - my beautiful tomatoes
Lancaster grows roses like nobody's business. These were planted by the person who lived here before me and what a gorgeous surprise. Heavy bloomer all summer long.
After living nearly my entire life on the Pacific Coast in or around Seattle, WA, this smaller town of Lancaster which is mostly wonderfully flat, has lots of sidewalks and places with coffee and such tucked here and there. One of the friendliest cities I've been in. There's an energy that lends itself to excitement but also says it's okay to do nothing but plant your garden and watch it grow.
Monday, January 20, 2014
Bankruptcy is ugly
I’m not talking about a corporate form of bankruptcy undertaken primarily to deprive people of their pensions and creditors of their due, that is a different kind of ugly.
I’m talking about the soul-destroying destruction of one’s own personal worth, financially of course but what’s worse, spiritually, as the walls start tumbling down.
I am 69-years-old and bankrupt. Behind me are over forty years of outstanding credit which I pulled from the ashes of a nasty divorce and a repossessed home. The details are mundane; suffice to say a young woman with four small children and no child support is going to have significant financial setbacks. To recover from economic devastation, my financial rules then and now are simple. Pay the rent first, a roof over the head, a base. Every month I paid the rent, I paid the bills, all of them. Not one month in all my lifetime following repossession of my home was I ever past due, not one bill went unpaid, ever. Credit history having the importance it has in virtually every aspect of one’s life, mine reached excellent after a lot of hard work and a lot of time, and it stayed that way for over forty years.
Then came 2008
By 2008 I had been retired for over a year and managing well enough to pay my few bills, put about $100 a month aside for what I call the “all at once bills – auto insurance, just in case money, and fuel for the furnace,” buy the occasional birthday presents and Christmas presents, and take care of my pets.
I was on my way home from early coffee with my daughter and needed gas for the car. As I pulled into the station; I glanced at the reader board and felt my stomach give a little lurch. Gasoline had gone up, overnight, by several cents a gallon. It continued going up for days and weeks and months. Those increases drove prices of everything else higher until they doubled, tripled and in many cases quadrupled. They never came back down and they never will. It is part of a planned destruction of our economy. My income could not keep up.
Simple, really, what happened then. First I did all the things one is taught to do when money is tight, let go of cable, researched and found cheaper internet access and cell service, had my land line removed, cut out non-essentials at the grocery store and elsewhere, since I’m a vegetarian, I wasn't spending a lot at the grocery store anyway. The high end of my grocery expenses prior to the nightmare of 2008 was around $89 a week. That quickly hit $100 a week and up as gas prices rose.
At a certain point I started using my credit card to survive because I had spent all my savings and was running out of money well before the end of the month. The credit balance grew and the payments grew. I always paid more than the minimum balance trying to keep interest down. Prices kept going up but my SS stayed the same. I was paying the credit card bill after rent but before food and other necessities. In early 2013 I called the credit union with which I had done business for 35 years and requested a one-year moratorium on interest on my credit card to enable me to make some headway. I did NOT ask to have my payments lowered. They ignored that and only offered to ‘possibly’ lower my payments for six months. Period. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that would have resulted in an even greater burden than the one I already had, not to mention more interest for THEM, so I next wrote to the President of the Credit Union with my request, mentioning my 35-year membership and my near-perfect credit rating and he denied my request. Saying it wouldn’t be “fair” to the other members. I’m wondering how “fair” my bankruptcy is to them.
I have never eaten cat food, after all I have cats and they need it, but I’ve skipped meds, cut meds in half, and stopped taking some altogether. I put off doctor visits because of co-pays and high deductibles (and those have increased EVERY year along with premiums and "co-insurance").
I do not buy clothes anymore, not even at my usual places – thrift shops - so I’m looking pretty ratty. No new shoes, no oil changes, no auto repairs or car washes, no vet visits for my pets. Spending $5 on a coffee and a bagel is off budget, but I occasionally toss caution to the wind.
Eventually I ended up here and by ‘here’ I mean in bankruptcy, a place so chilling, so devoid of positives that fear is the only thing that grows. My heart lives in a tiny little box with no windows and no doors, no way out. I don’t think about my good financial history being flushed down the toilet, I don’t feel bitter, I just don’t feel. There are a multitude of complexities involved here, most of which I understand and can do nothing about.
But all of that isn’t the worst of it
This is the worst of it: When people who know you, who know your personal financial history make judgments about what YOU must have done wrong and look at you with those thoughts seeping out of their eyes with disdain as if you need to be kept at a distance with a stick dangling a piece of dog shit on the end. THAT’S the worst of it.