Flashback Wednesdays: You've Come Along Way, Baby - Part III



This is the third installment of my homeless series that I wrote several years for the holiday season. It's not the holidays - YET. But you know it will be here soon. ABC Family has their 31 Days of Halloween and then Hallmark will begin their Christmas movies on November 1st. It's coming guys and it seems like it gets earlier every year.

So, without further ado - Part III.

Okay, by now, you're probably thinking - what were you thinking? Why didn't you get help? Why didn't you ask your family for help?

First, if you've ever received help from the community, know this: getting help around the holidays is really hard. That's why I encourage anyone who gives, to give especially well during the holidays - your efforts will not go unnoticed.

Second, and it's only now that I can vocalize this - I was really messed up as a young adult. I was never one for drugs or heavy alcohol use (alcohol doesn't agree me...and I don't care for it much, either). I wasn't a troublemaker by the regular definition. I just wasn't completely 'there' mentally.

My Little Bro and I were raised by my mother. Like most children who live in single-parent homes, we became very close to our mother. But no matter how close you get to a parent, that one parent cannot possibly take the place of two. So, as a result, I always felt as if there were a father figure missing from my family equation. (Well, of course, there was - my mom was a single parent. But I really didn't have ANY positive male role model while growing up).

So, somewhere along the line, I got this strange idea that when I got older, I wanted a guy to take care of me. It probably stemmed from the fact that I saw my mom struggle so much by herself. What I failed to realize, however, is that life is a struggle no matter if you're alone or with someone for life. In many ways, life IS struggle. Still, in my 20 yr old mind, I decided that the Man Beast should take care of me and our son; no matter that Man Beast was just a child himself at 18.

Anyway, back to my story.

The Man Beast and I were beat emotionally. We were both physically exhausted and it pretty much goes without saying that our spiritual life was dead. There is nothing scarier than feeling like you're all alone in the world - even if you're surrounded by people. The Man Beast's boss at the Pawn Shop was a pretty good guy. He knew our plight. The Pawn Shop had a regular customer - he was a preacher. Somehow, some way - the week after Christmas, we were out of hotel housing and living in a double-wide trailer split in half (I'll give you a second to process that. A double trailer. Split in half. A family living on each side. Small? Yes. But better than a hotel).

I later found out that The Man Beast's boss had given him a Christmas bonus even though he hadn't worked at the Pawn Shop for very long. The preacher had loaned The Man Beast money. We paid him back with TMB's next paycheck.

I'd like to tell you that at this point in the story, things magically got better and everything turned out happily ever after.

No. But this is where my story, for all intense and purposes ends.

And why do I air 'my dirty laundry' as I've heard it referred to on other blogs? Not for you to feel pity for me. Certainly not.

But what I do want you to feel is the knowledge that there are people out there - at this very moment, in your very community - who are struggling like I did with my family nine years ago.

Just because someone is in a homeless shelter does not mean that they are alcoholics, strung out on drugs or 'lazy bums'. Many times, these are people who are just down on their luck. And for someone reason, when it rains, it pours. Many would call this The Rule of Three or Karma, but since I'm a Christian, I don't believe in any of it.

What I do believe is that it's so much easier to kick us when we're down. It's easier to lose hope when we're already down, too. This is why it's so important to reach out to people when they are hopeless and give them hope.

Especially in our trying economic times.

Did you know that homeless shelters are filling up with MIDDLE CLASS; men and women who have college educations, have lost their jobs and are now too qualified to get even the simplest of jobs? It's true.

So during this holiday season  I encourage all of my readers to put money in that red bucket. (And yes, I consider Halloween the beginning of the Holiday Season. Thanksgiving is just around the corner! Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye and it will be 2019 before just. like. that.) Do not avert your eyes at the bell ringer, pretend you're digging in your purse for something, or go out another door to avoid them. The Salvation Army's donations go to good use. When you walk by an Angel Tree, pluck an angel off and shop for that child.

I know times are tough. Even little things help. Next time you go to your local Dollar Tree to buy stocking stuffers for your kids, buy an extra toy or two and plop it in the donation box by the door. Literally, every little bit helps. Sounds trite, but it's so true.

One last thing - as you gather around your tree, opening gifts or around your dining room table, feasting on your bountiful (or not so bountiful) harvest, take a moment to send out a prayer to all of those who might be going through some things this year. I know two of my readers offhand whose Christmases might not be as merry as years past. But they surrounded by family and friends who love them.

And let's not forget the true meaning of the season. It's not about the gifts or the food. It's not about the cookies or even the decorations. It's about the birth of our Savior. What better way to honor our Savior than to put Him first and act more Christ-like?
 photo TSOP Signature.png

Flashback Wednesday: You've Come a Long Way, Baby Part II

(To read Part I of this story, click here)

The second part of my story is a bit hazy. I'll share what I remember. It will be fragmented, to be sure, but there are just some things you just cannot forget no matter how hard you might try.

Do you know what it feels like to drive in a car and not have a destination? It's not like joy-riding when you're a teenager and you're cruising, using your freedom and your wheels as a chance to escape school and home. Because you see as a footloose and fancy-free teenager, after you're done joy-riding, you have a home to go home to. When you have no home, you have no real destination and no real place to go home to.

This is how it felt for us after we left Denny's. I had some money (although not a lot) that I had brought down to FL with me. When The Man Beast left a month, previous, I had applied for a job at the local CVS down the street. I worked developing film and although I was a 'single mom', juggling work and a baby, I did enjoy the work. It was a chance to forget it all and just be Iva for a couple of hours a day. A chance to forget that my husband was 12 hours away. A chance to forget that while we lived in the Salvation Army apartments, we were, in fact, homeless, even though we had a physical address where we could receive mail.

That first night, we stayed in a motel. We got The Boy some diapers and some sandwich fixings (nothing perishable, the hotel didn't have a fridge).

The money didn't last long. One day, we found ourselves driving aimlessly, burning up gas needlessly. With no money for a hotel and no room in the car to sleep, we went to the only place we could think of: a homeless shelter.

The shelter would only take The Boy and me on one side. The other side was for men. The Man Beast dropped us off at the shelter while he went to look for a job. The job at Disney was a bust. The Man Beast was able to get a job at a local pawn shop but to ensure that we had money nightly, he got a job at Steak n Shake. But more on that later.

The Boy and I only stayed in the homeless shelter one night. But one night was enough. It absolutely killed The Man Beast to know that he couldn't provide for his family and we were stuck in a homeless shelter - hence the two jobs.

The Boy and I got a room to ourselves. There were two sets of bunk beds and a crib. The room was very small. I slept on the bottom bunk and the boy was in the crib. Most of the details are very fuzzy for me. But I do remember that I had a really bad sinus infection. I've never had a sinus infection this bad and of course, I had to wait until it went away on its own because we didn't have insurance or the money to go to the doctor and buy medicine.

I didn't talk to anyone that first night. I remember sitting around the TV, letting The Boy play with some of the other kids and the toys.

The rules were a bit strict. But I suppose they would have to be. I remember getting up in the morning after a very long night. Even though we had a room with a closed door, I had never stayed in a homeless shelter before and I was very scared. (Looking back, I knew I didn't have to be. The people who worked there were nice for the most part. There was one lady who was kind of mean, but again, I think she had to be. The people who were staying there were mostly moms with kids. I people watched and listened to conversations. They seemed to be just like me - just people down on their luck).

The next morning, after changing The Boy, I went out to the cafeteria. What I forgot to bring, however, were all of my belongings. After getting fussed out, returning to the room and getting our things, I went back out to the cafeteria for breakfast. Luckily, it was only the sleeping dorms that were separated. I saw the Man Beast in the cafeteria for breakfast. We had to leave the shelter by 8 o'clock that morning. We were allowed to return, but we'd have to come no earlier than 5 - and there was no guarantee that there would be a bed. They went fast.

We never returned.

I don't remember exactly why but the job at Disney didn't work out. After Disney, he juggled the two jobs. He would go into work at Steak n Shake for third shift, come back to the hotel to sleep a couple of hours and then go work at the Pawn Shop.

To say that life like this was hard is a huge understatement. I did not work at this time - couldn't afford to - so The Boy and I were stuck in a hotel all day long. When Daddy would come home to sleep, I'd have to keep the Boy quiet - no small feat for an active two-year-old.

Looking back, I don't see how we did it. We fought a lot. Tensions were high. It was around that time that I started withdrawing from people other than my son and my husband. I would hold on to this hermit-style attitude for many years. Truthfully, it wasn't until I started taking care of bills and grocery shopping (something I had not done during the early years of my marriage) that I started getting a voice.

We lived hand-to-mouth for three weeks down in FL. Most nights, The Man Beast only made enough in tips each night to pay for the hotel (it was around $50 a night - this was Orlando, after all). Whatever extra money we did have went to feed The Boy. Because it was close-by (and gas was an expense that we had to conserve so that The Man Beast could get to work), we went to Wendy's and Burger King. I remember praying that my boy would get full before he finished his dinner so that I could eat. More times than not, I went without. I'm not sure if The Man Beast ate at work (Steak n Shake) or not. I don't think he did because he was usually very hungry.

I remember vividly two very low points during this time (as if begging that your son wouldn't finish his food so that you could wasn't enough). Save a Lot was right down the street from the hotel. It was there that I bought the Boy's diapers. I remember one instance paying for a pack of diapers (I don't even remember how much they were) and crying when I got back to the hotel because someone had stolen two diapers out of the pack. Instead of taking the package off the shelves, the wise people at Save a Lot, trying to make a buck no doubt, decided to tape up the diapers and sell them at regular price. Being hungry and sleep deprived, I wasn't paying attention and grabbed the first package of diapers I came to.

I remember going to the store (I think it was Food Lion) and buying diaper inserts (do they still make those?), to make diapers more absorbent. I am absolutely ashamed to say that I would save the wet diapers and reuse them with the new inserts. It wasn't until the second round of pee or a dirty diaper, that I would throw it away. Just seeing it in print like that makes me feel that I have ultimately failed as a mother. What mother does this?!

A desperate one.

My last memory of this time in our lives was on Christmas. The Man Beast didn't work. We went to eat somewhere - I don't remember where. I think it was a hole-in-the-wall place. In the lobby was a crane machine. The Man Beast is a pro at the Crane Machine. In the 22 years, I've known him, I've never seen him walk up to one and come away empty handed.

This time was no exception. The Man Beast took a quarter out of his pocket and set his sights on an orange dog. He got the orange dog. The Boy loved it.

That year, that Crane Dog was the only gift my boy received for Christmas.

This was probably the lowest I'd ever felt. I was away from family. I was alone in a town where I didn't know anyone. There was no Christmas tree. There was no holiday dinner. There was nothing.

Luckily, most stories have a happy ending, including this one.

to be continued...

Until next time
, photo TSOP Signature.png

Featured Post

Keto Journey: Week 7

Like many of you, I created a New Year's Resolution. (I know! I know!) I stepped on the scale soon after Thanksgiving and I did not ...