family values (McDonald’s)

Pulling into the drive-through, I apologized to my daughter’s friend. I joked about how inconsistent this move was with our community’s shared values. As I ordered my enormous Diet Coke, I was energized by the conversations we had. We all agreed that giving money to McDonald’s was the biggest problem. Drinking the artificial unhealthy-chemicals laden beverage wasn’t great, either.

I’m grateful for our shared values—at my daughters’ school, in our Religious Society of Friends community, and among most of my friends and family. We care about whole and healthy foods, jobs that pay a good livable wage with benefits, small and local businesses, and a whole host of other Earth-loving issues. It’s lucky to be surrounded by people among whom I feel a little sheepish when I’m in one of these waves of drinking this garbage.

Part of living my values, however, is recognizing that finding balance matters. As I wrote about a couple years ago in the Bangor Daily News, sometimes my choices need to be inconsistent with my deeper values. In “Let us eat junk,” I pointed out that sometimes super-quick and not-so-healthy food choices are the right ones. My daughters and I have talked about how the number of calories per dollar is pretty amazing, and the fat helps the eater feel full; sometimes that’s what matters for families who have no food to eat. We don’t judge harshly people who eat McDonald’s or other food that I call garbage food.

I love that my daughters think going to McDonald’s is gross. I love that their friends have either never eaten it, or think it’s gross that they have. We are lucky and we’re all pretty healthy. I’m also glad we can think critically and talk about the many issues surrounding our food (and drink) choices.

What is Whiteness? (a linked NYTimes article)

I don’t usually focus on the fact that race is a social construct, because I think it can detract from the reality of our institutionalized racism. That said, I think if we white people read things like this and talk about the ideas, we could start some important internal and personal changes that might add to a foundation we need to help make structural changes in our institutions.

If you look at the #blackoutday tag on twitter it becomes really clear how race is a social construct. There’s no real way to “look black.” From the article:

Eliminating the binary definition of whiteness — the toggle between nothingness and awfulness — is essential for a new racial vision that ethical people can share across the color line. Just as race has been reinvented over the centuries, let’s repurpose the term “abolitionist” as more than just a hashtag. The “abolition” of white privilege can be an additional component of identity (not a replacement for it), one that embeds social justice in its meaning. Even more, it unifies people of many races.

cheating (fake poverty)

Because it’s true that I’m only just on the edge of financial stability and saving money now will protect my stability in the future, this “no groceries challenge” isn’t fake. It’s not borne out of crisis, though, so it’s a little more like the SNAP challenge I criticized in the Bangor Daily News. So, I cheated.

Yesterday I bought a few bags of frozen fruit (buy $15, get $5 at Hannaford!) and yoghurt. When our fresh fruit runs out, we’ll still be able to make smoothies—until a few days ago, my daughters weren’t fans of smoothies, but that seems to’ve changed.

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No matter how my business is growing, I know I would not have come out of that situational poverty without the support of my ex-husband and also gifts from my family. I’m an example of how unavoidable life circumstances and personal choices can lead to poverty. I’m also an example of how family background can make all the difference in getting out of the hole. My great uncle left me money that I used to buy a nearly-new car, for example. Car failure crisis averted.

The first time I did my no groceries challenge, I did it because I had been in a position where I didn’t have the money to buy groceries. Times are better, but the near-trauma of that experience looms large. I never want to go back there.

 

no groceries challenge #4

In May of 2013, I imposed a “no groceries” rule on myself to see how long I could go without going to the supermarket. I learned quite a bit more than I expected. I repeated the challenge in less stringent forms a couple more times. (To view those posts, you can visit the “no groceries” category on this site.)

With the full involvement of my daughters, we’re embarking on the challenge again. Two weeks of summer camp (paid for with scholarship money) for the last two or three years aren’t available this summer. This means decreased childcare and increased expenses. With some good luck and some good choices, I’m not currently facing the threat of negative bank balances. But, bills will come due. Without some drastic budget cutting or with some bad luck, it could be dire.

Most of my expenses are fixed (rent, phone, Internet, tuition, insurance). One area where we have some control is food. I don’t expect it will make all the difference we need as I look towards the challenges of summer, but as it was before, just the actions themselves—knowing I can do something—keeps me on the side of gratitude rather than fear.

Full disclosure: I will not have a zero-tolerance rule for this challenge. We’ll get fresh fruits and vegetables as we need them, and, after a chunk of time going without (almost) entirely, if there are one or two ingredients that will make a meal complete, I’ll get them. No “grocery shopping,” at all. No remembering “I need x or y” when I’m picking up a prescription, etc. No “I wish we had a frozen pizza, I am so bleeping tired…” purchases.

We went to Hannaford today which I only recently learned has much better prices than the Shaw’s we had been using (I assumed grubby = cheaper!) and stocked up on some staples like dried beans and kale (to parboil and freeze) as well as some perishables that will last like tofu and sweet potatoes. We’re ready.

with all this time

In less than two months, I’ve learned a few things about having all this extra time now that both of my daughters are in school five days a week:

  • Everyone I talk to thinks about how much time they have, don’t have, how they could use it better, how best to manage it;
  • Because I allow myself time for tasks that previously fell much lower down on my priorities list, I’m more busy than before both girls were in school;
  • My too-busy is stressful, but it’s at a more mindful pace than when I had at least one kiddo with me most of the time;
  • The chronic health issues I’ve dealt with over the years might have been expressions of the physical and emotional stress that came with trying to make a living while single parenting non-school-age children (tbd);
  • Having time available to contemplate how to best manage my time is a significant improvement in my life;
  • I think about—I’m an introvert in the extreme, so I don’t act on this much—having a personal life beyond the survival level;
  • Self-care is rising on my priorities list.

Anxiety over finances has me considering a new no groceries challenge. With 3-5 school lunches x2 each week it would be a much more significant challenge. Perhaps a modified version…

(Just a “checking in” blog post to stop the darned spammers from thinking this site is inactive!)