Friday, December 27, 2013

When You Ain't Got A Pot to Pee In Or A Window To Throw It Out Of

We’ve all heard rich people say that having a bunch of money doesn’t make you happier. Well, first of all, they’ve obviously never had to choose between toilet paper and a jug of peanut butter.  Second of all, I don’t believe it. Let me walk a mile in your Choo's, and then I’ll deliver my verdict. 

Yet, somehow, I think they’re right.

We’ve all fallen on hard times, and we know what they’re like. If you haven’t, then let me paint a starving artist's Polaroid for you. In the heat of summer, you turn off the air and sit in the dark to try to keep your power bill down. During the dead of winter, you sleep in sweats and wool socks so you can leave the heat shut off. You borrow money from piggy banks until your paycheck hits.

You feel like you’ve won the lottery when the landlord offers to renew your lease. You sit up at night wondering if things will ever get better. You see a change in your kids that even though it hurts like hell to see, it makes you so proud of them you feel like your heart’s gonna explode. Y’all, that’s when character is born.

After our oldest son, was born, we were beyond broke. I’d gone back to school in Alabama, my husband was working a maintenance job for the apartment complex we lived in. We barely had enough gas money to get me to school. But what I remember most are the holidays from that year. Being in a college town, we had several friends that either couldn’t afford to go home or didn’t have a home to go back to.

So we talked about it, and we decided to fix a Thanksgiving dinner in our apartment for our friends in town. Notice I didn’t say feast, I said dinner. Most of it was vegetables straight out of their dented cans. We couldn’t afford a turkey to go with the cornbread dressing; all we could swing was a marked-down pack of chicken legs that I boiled and put in the dressing. We sat our buffet up on the metal table that served as our dining room furniture, and we were more thankful for that meal than we’d been for anything in a long time.

At Christmas time, we got a $5 tabletop Christmas tree from Dollar General, which we decorated with two $1 garlands, two strings of leftover lights, and a box of candy canes. And guess what? We talk about it every Christmas, and there’s no doubt we always will.

Even Santa was struggling that year. Our son, the first of three miracles we were told we would never conceive, woke up on Christmas morning to a little red wagon, a dancing Elmo doll, a children’s Bible, and a coloring book with four crayons.

And guess what? He looked at and played with everything he got. And stranger still, we remember every gift he got that morning. The Hokey Pokey Elmo doll? We were at the store the night they were putting the unpaid layaways back on the shelves. God had somehow come through for us, and we finally had the $20 it took to bring Elmo home.

My heart hurts thinking about how tough those times were, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. We’ve had ups and downs since then, and while it never gets easier to tell your kids ‘I’m sorry, we just can’t afford it,’ you’d be surprised how much they understand. Kids don’t lose respect for you when you go through
hard times. 

They may get their panties in a bunch when you feed them instant mac-n-cheese (made with water since you can’t buy milk right now) for the third time this week, but they can get glad in the same pair of drawers.

So what if the cable got shut off and they can’t stare at the t.v. all afternoon? Again, they will survive. Make up games with them.  We made one that is probably gonna make us famous one day:  Balling Bowl. It’s kind of like Skee-ball, but requires bouncy balls and mixing bowls.

Yeah, it sucks like a Kirby when the year you said you’d go to Italy, you’re doing good to get to Olive Garden.  Yes, it blows like the hair dryer at the beauty shop when you can’t go on vacation because even if you got a free place to stay, you couldn’t afford the gas to get there.

But y’all, it’s just money. It’s not losing a parent. It’s not a cancer diagnosis. It’s not losing a best friend. It’s not being homeless. It’s not crying a hungry baby to sleep. It’s….just….money.

Today, I am thankful that even though God ain’t shown me the winning Powerball numbers yet, He’s shown me something more important:  how to be happy with what I have. I don’t sit back and pout when we can’t go out for dinner and a movie. We’ll go pick up a $1 movie at the Redbox, and we’ll have “Popcorn Movie Night” in the living room.

I wouldn't trade the blanket-fort-days with our kids for anything. Even if we had the money, we wouldn't buy my kids everything they asked for. Kids that are given everything grow to be adults that expect to be given everything. These people that leave work and run to the school because little Bobbie Sue doesn't like the school lunch that day are creating monsters. It's one lunch, not her last meal on death row! 

Sure, she'll pitch a fit, but guess what, Mommy dearest? You made 'em that way. I feel sorry for my kids because they'll be the ones working alongside your 30-going-on-3 year old brats. But don't worry...when you're used up and can't manipulate the world for them anymore, your butt will be in an old folks home faster than you can say "please pass the oxygen."

But anyway...when life hands you lemons and you ain’t got the sugar for lemonade, don't stand there and tell them they deserve to have lemonade. Teach 'em how to juggle them bad boys, and see if they can't earn enough spare change to go buy some! When you ain’t got a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out of, don't run to the government housing office and get one off of somebody else's dollar. I'm not talking about people that need help getting back on their feet. I'm talking about people that turn welfare into a career. Have some self-respect, people!

Do what you can, don’t give up, and thank your lucky stars you didn’t choose the Hokey Pokey Elmo. If you’re struggling and at the end of your rope, tie a knot in it, climb on that bad boy, and gimme your best Tarzan yell. After all, it’s hard to be down in the dumps when you’re the king of the jungle. 

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