Living on the edge – still

Recently I have become, if not complacent (I don’t imagine I’ll ever be complacent again), a bit more at ease with our situation. We have a home and I’m employed. We don’t have much – in possessions or cash- but we manage to make it through the month without too much deprivation. We can’t afford yearbooks but did get the textbook fees paid before they were fatally overdue. Our planned vacation is 4 days of camping not a trip to Disney World. We don’t eat out but we can afford groceries. So all in all we are somewhat content.

But we’re like the 63% of Americans who are one paycheck away from disaster.  And we don’t have credit cards to bridge the gap or a retirement plan to raid (BTDT).  It doesn’t take much to shove us back over the edge into the abyss of anxiety and want. In our case it was a one-two punch – a broken molar that required a crown that the insurance (with its $3,000 deductible) wouldn’t pay for and unexpected and urgent car repairs. The cost of these two emergencies is the equivalent of one-and-a-half paychecks – paychecks that are already slated for the payment of regular monthly bills like car insurance and utilities and expenses such as gas and food.  We use the money I earn. As it is I’m lucky if we end the month with $50-$100 left in my checking account just enough for odd expenses like field trips, new shoes, or a visit to the vet.

This spring I was thrilled to be offered a professional development opportunity that would earn a small stipend and I immediately started day dreaming about getting the air conditioning fixed in the car, or installed in the house. Or maybe I’d be able to order propane on the cheap end of the cycle and fill the tank this summer instead of paying the higher fall/winter costs. I happily put in the 30+ hours of work which ended at the beginning of May. When my molar broke I quit daydreaming – no air conditioning (it’s bad for the planet anyway) – instead the stipend check would pay for my crown. And then the car went from being our daily transportation to an unmovable lump and I mentally started negotiating a payment plan with the dentist and reallocated the yet to be received check to the mechanic.

Only the check hasn’t arrived so my entire paycheck went to the mechanic and the dentist bill goes unpaid, as does the electric and phone bill that the paycheck would have covered. And the refrigerator is nearly empty and the cupboard offerings are slim. This weekend’s camping vacation will be cancelled and I’m scouring the house for things to sell on eBay and staying awake nights worrying about unpaid bills.

Yes, we’ll survive this just as we’ve survived everything else. I have a paycheck coming in ten days and the stipend will arrive at some point. We may be hungry but we won’t starve or be thrown out onto the streets and the kids will eventually forgive me. In the end the damage will only be to my barely recovering credit rating, my self-esteem as a provider and our emotional well-being. It’s a reminder of just how close to the edge we – and millions of other Americans – live. A reminder that although the Great Recession is over and the recovery well underway it’s still too close for some of us.

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Overdue Update

Apologies for the long delay between updates! Winter, such as it was, is over and spring has sprung bringing new life and all manner of growth.  The most obvious of this is our crop of baby goats who are gamboling and frolicking around bringing smiles and joy to all who see them.

tripletsBudiesIMG_0146We have baby chicks as well – not as photogenic as their cute stage has passed and they are into that partially feathered awkward stage. Our grown up chickens, led by our surprise Easter Egger Rooster, are happily exploring the new buds and bugs and laying more eggs than we can eat.


I’m enjoying spring break (despite cool and cloudy weather) as are two of my kids. The third is thoroughly dissatisfied and professes herself “Bored!” as we have no plans to go anywhere (such as Florida where ALL her friends have apparently gone). I explain again that public school teacher’s cannot afford Florida vacations – at least not new (single parent) school teachers, but still feel guilty that staying home sleeping in until 7 AM, catching up on my reading and doing spring cleaning is sufficient for me.

Once school starts again (Monday) I will be very busy with teaching, coaching the science team for academic bowl, and taking part in two leadership teams – the STEM initiative team and our CLASS team. Although both of these (and volunteering as a judge for the regional science fair and the eCybermission Competition (an online science fair)) take a fair amount of time and are uncompensated, they are something I enjoy and a validation of my contribution to our school. That I was asked to take part in the teams also reassures me – I will probably have a job next year!

My oldest daughter is doing well in college and is busy with classes, and working backstage at the Musical Arts Center part-time. Because her scholarship only pays for room and board the first year in college she has applied to be a Resident Assistant in the dorm next year and we are waiting to hear if she’s got the job. If not she may have to return home. She’s also volunteering at a therapeutic riding school as part of one of her courses and has been accepted to study abroad in Italy this summer. While I hope she can have this experience, it hinges on whether she can get a scholarship or save/raise enough money to cover the travel expenses. I’m hoping to sell enough baby goats to be able to contribute towards the trip (we are also hoping to set aside money to have our air conditioning hooked up before summer as the forecast is for a hotter than usual year).

I have several professional development workshops/classes scheduled for the summer and will be trying to complete the computer programming class I’m taking online through Harvard University. Our new science standards have a substantial computer and engineering component and I’m trying to stay ahead of the demands that we anticipate. I had my science classes participate in the Hour of Code earlier this year and found programming to be a lot of fun (the Harvard course is somewhat more taxing) so I’m hoping to have the opportunity to teach in this area.  The current plan is that each science teacher will have the chance to teach a STEM class once we are up and running next year.

On the home front, although we experienced a mostly mild winter we had a combination cold snap and power outage that resulted in our outside water pump freezing and cracking.  This was the second water pump failure so after much thought and consultation we opted to remove the essentially useless dishwasher in the kitchen and install a new pump in the house in that space. It was awhile before I could save the money for this so we’ve been hauling gallon jugs of water for several months – water that we heat on the stove to wash dishes and hair and that we pour into the toilet tanks in order to flush them. I’m happy to say this situation is now close to being resolved and before long we will once again have running water (as long as we have rain to fill the cistern).

Looking ahead, this summer I hope to put the porch on the back of the house, install some sort of deck/patio in front, have a thriving vegetable garden and plant some screening evergreen trees.  And maybe, as much as I’d love to  spend time relaxing with my family, look again for a second job to help us keep our heads above water.  I finally got a small raise (about $55 a month) but the mid-30k salary that a new school teacher makes in Indiana is still not equal to our expenses. I keep telling myself we are making progress even if it is baby steps but honestly I feel too old to be taking baby steps!

That about catches you up – I hope those of our readers who are still checking in from time to time are doing as well or better than we are!


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Happy Holidays!

From our funny farm to yours!  Our goats thought you’d like to hear their favorite album!All silliness aside – our best wishes to all our blog readers and supporters! We appreciate you and hope you have a wonderful holiday and the best new year!


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