Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Depression

In all honesty I am not sure I should post this post. But this is the only journal I have and I want to write this down for posterity. You are welcome not to read because it might be a little depressing and a little too much information. I am not complaining because I expect anyone to do anything or help me but just because I want to remember it so I can be better prepared next time.

I used to make a little fun of my grandparents for saving everything. I knew why they were that way... they were from the depression era. But really... do we need to re-wash our plastic disposable plates or save the aluminum foil for another use? I thought the pieces of plastic that covered my grandmother's windows in the winter were unnecessary and got in the way of the view. I didn't understand why you would keep the same old pieces of furniture or why you would wear clothes that were 20 years old. I didn't understand what would compel someone to mend old nylons or why you must be certain to turn off every light before you leave the room.

And secretly I wondered what that must have been like? When no one had work and they lost their money in the banks. I wondered what it would be like to realize that you had lost your job and then not be able to find another one. I wondered what it would be like to all live together in the big house because no one had enough money for their own house. Secretly when I was a teenager enthralled with history, I thought it would be interesting to experience. I thought that it would be exciting to conserve and do without and yet make it all work out.

I remember studying the 20's in school-barely. They were not interesting because everyone had money. I skipped over the 20's in my mind only enthralled with the down time.The Great Gatsby didn't interest me and I didn't understand the significance. I didn't understand that America had lived with more and then had to live with less. I didn't understand how hard it was to not be able to afford the luxeries that they had easily had before. I wish I would have understood. I wished I would have understood that the time of prosperity was a preperation for the time of famine.

I don't think I took the story in the Bible to heart enough. I didn't understand that there were 7 years of plenty in Egypt where everyone was rich and then there were 7 years of famine. I didn't understand how long 7 years is and how hard it really would be to save for those years of famine and have enough. I didn't understand what a blessing Joseph really was to Egypt and how he saved them from certain destruction because 7 years is a very long time.

This recession is really hard. It is different than I imagined. I didn't realize that in the depression they had to have less and less. I didn't realize how it would feel to realize that you can't afford the things you thought were necessary before. I didn't realize that they probably still had car, refrigerator and other payments to make with much less money to make them with. I didn't realize how it would feel to worry about whether you would have a job tomorrow or whether there would be work to do when you arrived at work. I didn't realize that even if you were a hard worker and the best at your job it might not be enough. I didn't realize how that worry would feel. I didn't realize that you might not be starving but still not want or know how to cook the food you could afford to buy. I didn't understand how it would feel to not have a coat for your daughter and to wonder how you were going to buy one. I didn't realize how it would feel to know that you need to cut more from your budget when you have already cut things you couldn't live without a year ago.

I didn't realize how it would feel to realize that your friends have it worse. I didn't realize how it would feel to realize a neighbor might lose their house and that a friend lost their job. I didn't realize how it would feel to have a friend not have any insurance when her daughter breaks her leg. I didn't realize how it would feel to realize that you can't help those who need help. I didn't realize how helpless I could feel.

I yelled and screamed and cried at my husband who got stain on his old pants because he needed to be able to wear them more. And he scrubbed it all out with mineral spirits and I rejoiced. I contemplated applying for WIC only to find out we still don't qualify for it even with our cut income. I got in trouble because I decided to buy school pictures for Ali and we shouldn't have. Cameron comes home from work in a bad mood because he sat at his desk for 8 hours with nothing to do and he worries that he might be told not to come to work for the rest of the week.

Last night we hung a blanket by our stairs to keep the warmth downstairs and not let it escape to the upstairs. It does not look nice but I did it for warmth not aesthetics. Our Elder's Quorum is going to chop wood tonight and they are going to cut enough wood to give to every family because we all need it. No one is exempt from the need for wood to keep us warm this winter. I am keeping a fire going all day to keep us warm because I am afraid to turn on our heater. Our garden froze last week even after we covered it and it scared me because I wondered how I was going to buy those extra things at the grocery store now. I have fed my family meals this month that were entirely from food storage. I will pull the last can of vegetables from my cupboard for dinner tonight. Our freezer is almost empty of meat and for the first time in my life I wondered if I should buy a deer tag. Cameron made the comment that the squirrels and birds are better prepared than we are. I wonder if I should use more of my food storage or if I should buy more food because it might get worse.

We still have a paycheck. And I still have money to spend. We still get money every two weeks and I think it will be enough for us to get by on. I pay tithing. I pay our bills and our rent. I buy diapers and wipes. We fill up our cars with gas so Cameron can go to work and the girls can go to school. And then I go to the grocery store and try to wisely spend the money. And I get a sick feeling in my stomach as I look at the prices of apples, bananas, and other fruit. I usually don't buy much. I quickly decide against fresh lettuce and broccoli because I am afraid that it might go bad. Often I skip right over it. The cans of vegetables are so expensive that I rationalize that there might be enough at home and I don't buy them. Most of the meat is too expensive and I don't buy enough to last the whole time. I skip over this and that deciding that we don't really need it. I buy what my children can't do without (milk, bread, eggs, cheese and a few other things,) and think that perhaps there is still enough of other things to last. And then I end up at the check stand and realize that I still spent more than we should have. More than the budget allows. At home I load the food in the cupboards and it looks like less than we had last month even when it is fully stocked. When I cook dinner I realize the kids are bigger now and they need more food and I didn't make it for them. Not that we are starving or anything but that the food budget is growing bigger and bigger.

I still want to go out to eat. I still want to have times where we are reckless with our money. I want to go on a long drive and see something new. I want to go out on a date with my husband and see a movie. I want to buy a new sweater and a new coloring book. I want to buy new socks, a new computer, and a bigger car. I want to take the kids to the pumpkin patch and the fall festival and movie night at the school. I want to say yes when my girls ask for something fun at the store. I want my girls to have dance lessons, piano lessons and play sports. I want, I want, I want.

And sometimes I actually get. I do buy things and forget for a moment that we do not have the money. Sometimes I buy my kids a new shirt or the pants that they need. Sometimes I buy a dress so they have something to wear to church or I buy myself a new sweater. Sometimes I buy new tongs for my kitchen because we haven't had any in two years. And sometimes we go out to lunch or dinner even when we can't afford it. And then I feel guilty because I should be paying some other bill or saving. I feel guilty when I realize that we have come to the end of the bank account and it is nearly a week before we get paid again. And we have to borrow just to make it knowing that it will make the next paycheck even smaller. Sometimes we plan to go on trips we should go on because I forget that although we could afford these things two years ago we can't really afford them now and it is hard. It is really really hard to forget what we used to afford. It is really hard to stop having dreams of the way it used to be.

I am tired of the recession. It is not exciting. It is not fun to figure new ways to do things. It is not fun to be stressed out about every thing you purchase. I am tired and it hasn't been 7 years. It hasn't even been a year since Cameron started furloughs and it has only been a year since he has been unable to work any overtime. Only one year and I am tired and a little scared. I need to figure what else to do to make our budget stretch even further. I don't want to. I am scared it might be a lot longer before it gets better and it scares me to not know.

I understand and I see why my grandparents saved everything. They knew that it would not just happen once but that after their time of prosperity it would happen again. They understood what I could just not imagine. I know that we were counseled to save and prepare a food storage and I felt that I didn't have enough to save then. But we had far more then than we do now and I could have saved some if I had really understood what might come.


Jesse said...

This is so aptly stated, Melissa. We find ourselves looking at the calendar and thinking, 'shouldn't things be getting better by now?'
Sounds like you are doing everything you should. I like the blanket idea...

Shar said...

this was beautifully written and i'm so glad you shared. i have definitely not prepared in the way i should, and it scares me. i've been trying to realize i can do without - we don't need all the things that we so constantly have bought. your words were a very good reminder. i will pray for you guys - will you pray for us?

Mama Bean said...

Thank you for this wonderful post. I agree with you that we are all affected by this recession!! If you do what you can to help your family Heavenly Father will fill in the rest!

Unknown said...

We too have felt the crunch that the recession has brought. I hate the worrying, the stress, the not-knowing. However, the last few weeks have helped to change my perspective a little. I have tried to worry less and focus on our blessings. We are blessed. We live in abundance, even when we wonder how we are going to buy food or pay bills. The Lord doesn't want us to fear. It sounds like you are living a good life and you are leading your kids in truth and righteousness. I know those feelings of wanting to do more or have more opportunities or experiences that money can provide, but the Lord always has something in store for us. I love your honesty and candor. It is wonderful to see you and your family be blessed through your trials. You are a tremendous example to me. Thanks!

Oh, and what is your address these days? I have your address in Fernley, NV.