Tag Archives: food

Diary of a Pregnancy, Part I

Missed period one day, two days. No. Could I be? Nahhhh, I can’t get pregnant. Three days, no period. Starting to get really hungry all the time. Eating ravenously. Four days…ummm, maybe I am? Ok, getting antsy here. Day five. I CAN’T STAND THE SUSPENSE! Damn, where’s the food?

Went to dollar store to pick up cheap test on advice of a friend “I had two friends use them, and they work!” Found $1 prego test. Peed on stick. Holy crap! Both lines indicate pregnancy! I’m pregnant! Must eat!

Wait. It was a crappy $1 test. Don’t get too ecstatic. Make doctor’s appointment. It’s not real until the doctor says it is.

Ok, doctor amazed the dollar store test actually works. I am pregnant!!!! Wooo-hoo! James has some mighty strong swimmers! First prenatal appointment: February 24th.

Hit the Baker’s Square restaurant afterwards to celebrate. I had the tomato basil soup, salad and french silk pie. Five hours later, suffered terrible stomach ache. Darn gall bladder-less body! Apparently, food too rich for my body to take.

Hungry, gotta pee. Damn, I’m starving! Don’t forget the prunes. You know what happens when you don’t eat the prunes!

Daily dietary journal:
Morning: 2 servings Malt-o-Meal with butter and brown sugar.
glass of milk

…Still hungry

Snack: 1 thing of orange cream yogurt
1 mango (discovered the skin tastes too peppery for me)
1 nectarine

…Still hungry
(pees)

Lunch: 1 bowl leftover home made beef stew
1 bowl spinach, tomato, carrot, and celery salad with bacon ranch dressing

Still hungry
(pees again)

Snack: 1 can Healthy Choice chicken tortilla soup with bacon ranch dressing added.

Finally full
(pees yet again)

Nap: 5pm – 8:30pm
Gotta pee and feeling ravenous!

Snack: broccoli and tomatoes smothered in bacon ranch dressing
Dinner: leftover beef stew

Still hungry! Sending husband to store for chips and salsa. We’re out of salsa and I want to mix it with the bacon ranch dressing.

Damn.  Forgot the prunes.

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Holy Crap! I’m Poor!

How poor am I?  I’m the poorest person in my family. I’m practically a disgrace to my upper middle class upbringing, and by golly, I just don’t care. At least, not right now.  I don’t care because I know I’m not a slacker, I’m not lazy, nor undeserving.  

My husband is a student, unemployed and received a government grant for the semester totaling $2000, give or take. I have a disability, making it hard for me to find and get to work. I receive about $1000 per month in Social Security Disability Insurance. Now people may think I’m taking money I haven’t earned, however, I worked for this money. I have spent nearly twenty years of my life contributing to Social Security and the agency determined my monthly payout by the amount of money I’ve earned.

That’s a huge misconception many people have.  That Social Security is from money you haven’t earned…i.e. it’s a hand-out. It’s not.  About a week ago, Rush Limbaugh implied that retired people who depend on Social Security (or anyone else for that matter) is using the government for a hand-out.  What a dick. He said something to the effect that on principle he would refuse any Social Security benefits because it’s tantamount to begging.  Lucky him.  He’s a millionaire and won’t have to depend on it, if he invests his money wisely.  

Newsflash:  all those retired folks on Social Security are not receiving handouts.  They’re getting money they earned by contributing to the funds.  Granted, social security payments are peanuts. Of course, it won’t always be there and the money is running out, but that’s a post for a later day. 

I’ve been unemployed since August. When I moved here from Texas, I spent nearly every day looking for work. When it looked like I wasn’t going to have any luck finding a job soon, I bit back my pride and applied for re-admission into the SSDI. (I was receiving it for a couple years while in college). It took a month for them to approve me, and during that time we were both biting our nails about money. He was getting ready to return to school and wanted to focus his attention on his studies. But, he said, he was willing to work if necessary.

I thank God I was able to get back on SSDI, because this semester has been a killer for my husband. Our first few months of marriage have pretty much consisted of him being holed up in the back bedroom studying and losing more hair. Poor guy.

Back in Texas I was a social worker, assisting the deaf and the poor in finding work. I know how to look for a job. I know what a good resume’ looks like. I know the drill. I’ve done it for years. And even so, finding work up in Chicago is an entirely different beast altogether. In Texas, it’s still fairly easy to find work, whereas here, I contacted our local grocery store three times about jobs to no avail. I’ve started to resort to doing online surveys for extra money. So far, I’ve accumulated a whopping $2.00! I’m rich! 

We don’t have a lot of luxuries. My brothers have no idea what it means to be poor. They’re well-off, live in large, spacious homes, and think if you’re poor, it’s somehow your fault. Really.  Just read my post “I’m Just a Texan in Chicago – The Rant.”  Seriously. I included a verbatim quote from one of my brothers about this very thing. 

So yes, my husband and I are officially poor.  Our yearly income next year will total less than $20,000.  How can two people subsist on less than $10,000 each per year?  By living very, very frugally and taking advantage of as many resources as possible. 

In this economy, many people are in the same situation as I am. Or worse.  Thankfully, I have no children.  I got rid of my car which was more of an albatross than anything.  So now I have  no gas costs, but at one time, it did cost me $14 per day to travel to and from work.  That’s $70 per week on transportation costs alone, and that’s for job related expense only!  Add that up, and that’s about $303 per month, and about $3,640 per year.  Right down the drain.  

So, how are we doing it?  How are we living on $1000 per month?  How am I living frugally, happily, and not starving? Below is a list of things I’ve done and I highly encourage everyone to do the same.

  • I joined the local freecycle group in my area.  Since I’ve joined, I’ve given away some bicycle tires we didn’t need, shoes, and a couple other things.  I’ve also received (free) tons and tons of fabric scraps, two large trash bags full of clothes (some of which I couldn’t use and re-freecycled them), kitchen knives and utensils, and a beautiful, gorgeous leather coat with a fur lining  Unfortunately, the coat is way too big, so I think I’ll barter something for it on craigslist.  I’ve also gotten a new Black & Decker iron, and a stuffed toy I gave to my neighbor’s son.  People on freecycle offer food, baby items, clothes, computers, phones…furniture, appliances.   
  • I joined craigslist and I’ve traded and gotten free items, too.  For example, I had a Blackberry Curve 8330 that I no longer needed because I’m no longer on Sprint.  The device worked perfectly, it just had a few dings from where I’ve dropped it.  Blackberries are tough.  (I can’t tell you how many times I dropped that baby, but like that old Timex commercial, it took a lickin’ and kept on tickin’!)  I listed the Blackberry on craigslist to barter for a digital camera because my Nikon’s display went white (and they want to charge me $90 to fix it!) , my old HP 735 sucks battery juice like an alcoholic in a bar, and my husband’s camera is even more ancient at only 2 megapixels but “built like a tank,” according to him.   I got a lot of responses to my ads, some offering me a pittance in money, but I held firm!  And for my persistence, I was rewarded with a fantastic trade!  I succeeded in getting a Kodak MD853 with software, battery, and memory card in exchange for my Blackberry! It’s not the world’s greatest camera, but it’s definitely a step up from the dinosaurs in my possession.  (Side note here:  before you agree to a trade, make sure the item you’re receiving has been reviewed, especially if it’s an electronic item.  The Kodak I traded for got consistently good reviews).  
  • Free stuff on craigslist.  I can’t afford a luxurious haircut at the Art + Science salon down in Wicker Park.  One look at craigslist, though, and I found a ton of stylists looking for subjects for free cuts.  What I found out is that these stylist have to take “continuing education” classes and they are tested on their technique.  And so they give away free cuts to people in exchange for helping them with their testing.  In this way I got a really good modified bob perfect for my light and airy curly hair. Audrey, my stylist, was skilled and won me over!  My husband loves my hair color, even with the gray coming in.  However,  I don’t!  Come spring I’ll probably check out the free colorings, after my old blonde grows out.  
  •  I visit thrift stores and clip coupons.  I have become familiar with the weekly sales and offers of each thrift store in my area.  Unique Thrift offers 50% off everything in the store each Monday and has a great selection of women’s shoes. The Brown Elephant has great men’s clothes and a fantastic selection of art,  but has a lousy shoe selection. The White Elephant is one I haven’t been to yet, but every dollar of profit they earn goes to benefit the Children’s Memorial Hospital.  I think I’ll head out there sometime and see what’s up there. The Another place is a little more expensive but has a fabulous selection of winter coats.  And yet, another, has 90 cent deals on anything from sweaters to shoes.  I have yet to mention the Salvation Army store, which occupies a warehouse building and spans two sprawling levels.  The down side to all this thrift store shopping and bargain hunting is the constant elbowing and careful navigating around the crowds required to get from point A to point B to point wherever! 
  • I recycle the foil I use as much as possible, even washing it until it’s so ripped and crinkled that it’s time to retire it to the recycle bin.  
  • I shop at the dollar stores.  I found cooler wrapping paper at the Dollar Tree than I’ve seen anywhere else, so I got 2 rolls of 30 foot paper.   
  • I ride my bike to wherever I need to go whenever possible.  Just the other night, I rode my bike while it was snowing out.  It was really pretty, and thankfully, the wind wasn’t blowing.  the snow looked like glitter falling from the sky! And if you have good mittens and keep your legs moving, you can actually sweat, even in 10º weather.  
  • I buy cheaper meat. I usually don’t like dark meat on chicken.  I prefer breasts and wings.  Those, however, are the most expensive parts of the bird.  At our local produce market, I found chicken quarters for 39 cents a pound.  Holy crap!  My husband and I grabbed four pounds of those babies.  That’s about 6 pieces.  We spent $1.76 on freshly cut chicken.  My advice is to shop around, check out the ethnic food markets or produce markets, instead of grocery stores, because even that price beats Wal-Mart, and I hate Wal-Mart.  Wal-Mart, in my not-so-humble-opinion, is simply EVIL. They’re so bad, they don’t deserve a link!  I think I mentioned why a couple posts back, but I’ll repeat it here.  Wal-Mart management refused to give my new father-in-law the day off so he could attend our wedding.  A month in advance, and they still refused.  He ended up trading shifts with a co-worker at the very last minute.  Vampiristic vultures! Wal-Mart died the day Sam Walton was buried.  No joke. 
  • Sorry-ass SOBs!

  • I scan the internet for free deals and coupons.  And, if absolutely necessary, I swallow my pride and stand in the food bank line.  I’ve only had to do that once, and ironically, it was when I actually had a job.  Bills piled up and I couldn’t afford to eat! 
  • I’ve joined websites like Helium.com and Associated Content and submitted articles.  Sometimes I’m paid for them, sometimes I’m not, but at least I’m doing something, being productive.  But just because sites offer to pay you for writing doesn’t mean they won’t try to sucker-punch you for a few bucks.  I joined a couple freelance sites that were hawked by “advice” columns.  ELance.com and Guru.com.  They both ended up being crap.  Why?  If you have a basic membership (i.e. – free) on elance, you can only bid on three jobs per month.  On Guru, if your profile doesn’t fit every aspect of a particular job description, you are forbidden from bidding on it.  So basically, you’re screwed if you have the free service.  Upgrade and pay a monthly fee for the “privilege” of bidding on jobs you’re qualified for?  Huh?  Since when do I have to pay to work?  Screw that. I’ll keep my free profile, use my 3 bids per month on elance and see if anything comes of it.  Hell, why not?  But I’ll be damned if I give those parasites any of my money just for the luxury of bidding on a job.  They can kiss my, slightly corpulent, lily-white tushy-roo. 
  • Grow your own food.  Or, as Monty Python ordered, “Bring me a Shrubbery!” This year, we haven’t been able to do it because we’ve been busy setting up house and getting things in order.  However, I’m planning on getting a few large plant tubs and growing my own tomatoes and veggies in my home.  Yes, you read that right.  I’m going to start a micro garden right here inside my home!   Our landlords have a lush garden in the front and back yards during spring and summer and into early autumn.  They grow tomatoes, squash, green beans and a few others veggies.  But the yard is small and there is no room outside for us to grow our own. So, I shall grow my own edible shrubberies! And our cat will probably annihilate it.    
  • We have cheap rent/utilities.  Collectively, we pay less than $70 per month for gas and electricity.  Why?  We live in the basement of a house that’s been converted into apartment homes.  Our landlords live in the top level, and their radiator pipes run across our ceiling.  When it’s cold outside and they have the heat on, the pipes that carry the heat to their level, heat up and radiate heat in our place.  The boiler room is also on our basement level, and it heats up our hallway.  Our electricity is so cheap because we changed out all the bulbs from standard bulbs to the new energy-saving kinds.  They last a long time and are just as bright 
  • I have another website that’s a bit more family-friendly over on blogspot.com.  It’s also more ad-friendly, so I’ll generate income just by having people click on the ads.  I’ve just recently set it up, so I’m still in the “I wonder how lucrative it’ll be” stage.  I’ve also become an associate with Amazon.com, so I’m looking at every facet of the internet in which to make money.  
  • My husband and I have made a decision to keep our Christmas as frugal as possible.  We purchased a small tree for $10 off a local lot.  It’s about four feet high but absolutely beautiful!  We still haven’t finished decorating because I’m making the decorations.   I’m also making Christmas gifts for the family with the great Brother sewing machine my husband got for me as an early Christams gift (from craigslist, of course!)
  • Finally, if you don’t have one already, you should acquire an extremely affectionate cat or dog.  Why?  They keep you warm in the dead of winter by cuddling up against your side, or better yet, your head!   

    The Cat as a Hat

    The Cat as a Hat

So, there you have it.  In all of its dull glory.  I’m poor.  But man, do I feel rich!

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Chaos

Utter Chaos

Utter Chaos at the Valley Stream, New York Wal-Mart where a temporary employee was trampled to death. Photo was taken by a witness to the event.

What is wrong with these people???
Seriously. What’s the deal?

I used to work for a major department store in the early 90’s and let me tell you, I hated Black Friday.  Hated it with a passion.  Even with a hearing loss, and being 300 feet inside the store, around a far corner in the back, I could still hear the pack of hyenas licking their chops, smacking their mouths, salivating over the sales they’d find in my department.  As they worked their way towards my area, I always cringed.  They almost always came in packs of at least three.  Gaggling, flailing their arms like drowning swimmers, they tossed around the merchandise like Nerf Balls, leaving total chaos in their wake.

I’m not an aggressive person by nature and these displays of wild-eyed, animalistic greed always made me question the sanity of people willingly and willfully bullying others just to get a bargain.

Scenes like this have been around for decades.  I remember the fervor of the Cabbage Patch dolls of the 80’s, of people fighting over the last Tickle Me Elmo doll in the 90’s.  I remember hearing about a kid who was murdered because another kid coveted his Nike Pumps.  Beanie Babies…I admit, I collected them for a while.  Then I decided to sell them on Ebay because they were cluttering up my space, and quite frankly, I didn’t think they would ever be true “collectibles.”  They were artificial collectibles, created solely for the purpose of collecting and that rarely works for long. At least I made some good money when I sold them!

So now, we have folks fighting over not Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch dolls, but xbox, Wii, PSP and other “gotta have it” gadgets.  The displays of such base savagery, the fierce competition, the grunts, the growls, the elbowing and shoving of others from people in order to get that new plasma TV for one-third its regular price is unbelievable.

Are people not aware that they can buy many of these items online, in the comfort of their own home?  No lines, no hassle, no aggression.

Here’s a video of what happened at another WalMart on Black Friday.

I understand that humans are competitive by nature.  It goes back to the survival of the fittest argument.  Those who are best able to defeat their competitors in the quest for food, mating rights, etc., are assured a place in the genetic pool.  Yet, the key word here is survival. The people who rampaged both the Valley Stream, NY Wal-Mart and the Florida (?) WalMart in this video did not depend on the goodies they fought tooth and nail for.  In essence, when you get right down to the bare bones of it, they were fighting, stampeding, for status.

Status of owning the newest, shiniest new toy gadget, status of having fought off your rivals for the stupid piece of Chinese-made electronic crap you don’t need.  The need for status, to collect as much stuff as possible, is a basic human need.

By the same token, logic and the ability to make reasoned, well thought-out observations, is a distinctly human trait and one which should override our “cattle” mentality when it comes to consumerism.   In the video above, you see a lady in a white top trying to get into the group to pick up the XBox 360.  She finally gives up and walks away.  She didn’t fight.  She knew better than to try.  But the driving need for instant gratification of Black Friday shoppers who fight and argue over insignificant crap just astounds me.

The chaos of Black Friday is precisely the reason I actively avoid going to stores that foster large crowds, such as Wal-Mart, Target, and any shopping mall with department stores.  It’s dangerous, it’s annoying, people are rude, the employees are harangued until they resemble Itchy and Scratchy.  It’s pathetic what parasitic consumers will do to get their “latest fad fix.”

Before I married my husband just under four months ago I made a conscious decision.  I made a decision to live without a TV, to live without a car, to live without a lot of things.  My husband didn’t  own a TV by choice.  He didn’t own a car by choice.  In Texas I had both and felt I couldn’t live without either, especially my car.  My favorite TV show is CSI  (Las Vegas).  I used to watch it religiously.  I found the characters of Grissom and Stokes extremely sexy, and I identified with Grissom because of his hearing loss.  Finally!  A leading character of a series who was like me!  I haven’t seen the show in months, now and I suppose I’ll wait for the dvd to come out.

Prior to my move, I shed about 75 percent of the things I owned simply because I had no need of them.  Most of those things were, of course, clothes.  I love clothes, shoes, accessories, but when I took a long, hard look in my closet and dressers, I knew that I could realistically do without most.  I donated the cast-offs to charity.  And four months later, I’m happy.  I don’t miss the stuff I owned and I honestly don’t remember what most of it was.

We, collectively as a nation, have become sheep to large corporations and consumer ads that scream “BUY! BUY BUY!”  TV news casters even advise consumers not to miss out on the bargains out there on Black Friday.  And because it is advertised, because it is the cool thing to own, because it’s new and shiny and no one else has one,  those who brave the elements overnight impatiently waiting on the doors to open are willing and able to knock down anyone in their way.  The fists go flying, and sometimes people get hurt, or worse, killed.  It is a sad, sad testament to the American mentality.

I would like every person who reads this to remember what the season is all about.  It isn’t about getting your kids the newest and the best gifts.  It’s about sharing your love.  Believing in something bigger than ourselves.  We owe it to our children to set good examples for them and when I see adults fighting over video game consoles or trampling a store employee to death, I have to wonder: what values are these people instilling in their children?  What does Christmas or the the Holiday season mean to them? To us?

To those who would fight, trample, shoot, and argue with others over that next “gotta have it” item, consider this:  You’re lucky.  Incredibly lucky.  You are an American.  You have the money and/or credit to shop for meaningless things to show off for others. For those who don’t have the cash or credit to buy the latest things, be thankful you have the things you have. You may feel as though this economy has decimated you.  You might be on the brink of losing some things you’ve grown to value and depend upon, like your home or car.  It’s devastating.  I’ve been in your shoes.  I’ve stood in those donation lines, I’ve subsisted on my share of Ramen noodles.  Even so, it could be worse.  You could be the family of the man who was trampled to death.  Or one of the throngs of people around the world on the brink of starvation.

Celebrate life, celebrate love, remember the true meaning of the season, smile at a stranger. Go to your local food bank and volunteer. Donate food for those Americans who have fallen through the cracks and can’t afford the basic necessities. Not everyone is as fortunate as we. I’m not a religious person by a long shot, but even the Bible admonishes us to share what we have.

Give of yourself.

(This video may be over twenty years old, but it’s still a valid message, no matter where you are.)

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