The "Get Out Of Your Car!" Fund

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Chitchat about money

December 1, 2013

Yesterday I told Uncle Theo that I have repossession of the condo and that the current rent doesn’t cover the mortgage. I didn't tell him that I have a surplus each  month in my budget and 'm paying down debt despite the mortgage situation.

He told me that he has started using Title Loans and check cashing places. He was looking in the mail yesterday for a check that didn’t come as anticipated. He wanted to cash it that night.

It feels so good to not live paycheck to paycheck, although the trade-off is living in my car. I’d rather live in my car and be more free than go back to being a slave to the paydates on the calendar.

Dec 6

Mama sounds so excited about the work being done on the house. I hope it’s a good quality. they have a storm going on down there right now, so we’ll see if the roof is really patched up. I wonder what Daddy thinks about the work. She has had trouble sending me pictures. I also hope she hasn’t used up more than $5000, (just wishful thinking).

Uncle Theo's 180

Sept 14

I told Uncle Theo today that I lost my  job. He offered me his place and said I have a place until I get myself on my feet. I just looked at him. 

Did he realize that just 3.5 months ago he raised the rent on me, wanted to charge me by the day to keep my dog, and told me that he felt I was taking advantage of him? Then he added that he used to think I was just holding back money. Sasha thinks he's had some time to rethink things and now he's having a change of heart. 

I told him I started my emergency fund and paid off all small bills in October. Maybe later, I’ll tell him when I’ve paid off credit cards and about the work being done on my parents' house down South.  I’ll have to tell him that I made tremendous sacrifices to pay off on bills and maybe tell him that I didn’t have to pay Jasmine rent (which would be true). 

I shared with him about Dave Ramsey’s teachings. He said he was in crisis mode because of two bills that have come up, but that’s not crisis mode. Those are ongoing things that he knew were on the back burner. I asked if he had a budget. He thought about it (which means no), then said, "Yes, the bills that they send me." So, he doesn’t know what a budget is and what crisis mode is (or a real emergency). I want to lend him and Aunt Theo Dave Ramsey’s CDs and encourage them to listen to them. 

My coworkers are probably more stressed about the lay-offs and reductions in hours than me. People have mortgages and rent. I don’t. People have car notes. I don’t. People don’t have savings in the bank. I didn’t either 4 months ago. Even though I’m living in my car, and that’s a gigantic trade-off, I know that in January, I will still pay my bills and eat. Nothing much will change. Even with unemployment, I may have enough to pay bills and eat, especially with the second job and Asana’s rent

I know that when people seem to be ok, that’s not always the truth. We tend to live up to the amount of money we earn. Even when we earn nice money, we tend to spend more. So, many coworkers probably live on every penny that they and their spouses bring in and can't handle a reduction.

I went ahead and called credit card companies, and one of them won’t charge late fees for 3 months. The other said I can’t skip payments, but offered to lower my interest rate to 13%, then they realized, it’s already 13%! Then the lady on the phone asked “Is there anything else we can do for you?” Yeah, allow me to skip payments! 

I will put student loan on deferment for 6 more months. I will live on the back pay owed me. That should last 2 months, and I will file unemployment.

Looking Middle Class While Living in a Car

(This post may seem random, but I've been intending to post it for some time. )

Concealing Homelessness

When I’m in public, I want to look like I’ve stepped out of a vehicle – not slept in a vehicle. In the morning, I want to look like I washed up at home. So I work hard to keep myself clean, hair looking good (not matted down). Since I've been car-camping, I keep my hair braided quite often. 

I keep the car clean and try to keep the inside uncluttered to not draw attention. I used to try to make the bed and covers in the back seat lie down flat during the day. Now that I have a mummy bag, I just stuff it into its bag during the day and leave the whole bag in the back seat. 

I try to keep the number of objects in my car down to a minimum. I want to keep the windows clean and  car vacuumed in between washes, but I haven't been so great at doing that. I was trying to get to the point where I leave work daily as soon as work is done at least 2 days a week.

I’m very mindful of how much time I spend in one place using my computers. I don’t get kicked out of restaurants because I take my laptops and papers and I set up an office space and stay busy. People don’t bother working professionals or students who are studying. One day a McDonald's worker walked over to a guy who was sleeping with his head on the table and told him he can't put his head on the table. He looked like he was so in need of sleep, that I wondered if he, too, was homeless. He wasn't even there as long as I had been. 

To blend in, I may pull up to a sleeping spot and if people are walking around, I will take out my phone and pretend to talk or actually call somebody. I make up excuses for people who are wondering why I was at McDonald's when they called me two hours ago and I’m still there. Or why I need to warm up food in their microwave rather than at home. Or why my trunk is so full.

Aunt Theo rides in my car more than anyone else. I wonder sometimes if she notices anything – trunk full (or how I avoid opening the trunk), houseshoes under the drivers seat, gloves and hand warmer packets in the back seat. Last week I showed up at her house with pants on under my skirt. She asked what was going on. I laughed and told her I refused to get sick this year and it was a cold day that day. I took the pants off once we got to church. I reminded her that I got the flu last year around this time. She laughed and agreed and encouraged me to do whatever I have to do to keep from getting sick. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

no taxes

Wednesday, Dec 4

I went to HR Block thinking this was going to be the last time I do my taxes and I could file tonight and look forward to a refund. However, the tax guy I spoke to this time was very particular about me needing certain documents. I think I will go to storage and find ALL the past tax documents and take him the whole box until we finish all the the taxes for  last year and any previous years I’m having him look at.

It was really discouraging to leave there and not make any progress. I went to get some food to eat to cure the stress, and found out KFC has really tasty green beans. 

i lost my job yesterday

December 10

Yesterday I lost my job. I’ve been at this school 3 years with great relationships with teachers, students, and parents. The principal raves about me. I turn in my paperwork on time and generally error-free (if there are errors, they are nothing major. The company has never complained about my paperwork). My evaluations have been glowing for the past two years. I participate in meetings and collaborate with coworkers in other schools. Yet, today I was told that the company was letting me go. They refuse to offer any explanation of their decision rubric or what factors came into play in their decisions.

They are retaining people who just walked onto the job in August. 

I have found one other coworker, Layla, who is being laid off. She believes, as I do, that we costs too much. I just applied for tuition reimbursement for the $1800 worth of CEU classes I just signed up for. I’m up for a $10,000 pay jump next year. Layla is at the top of the pay scale, and is being reimbursed for taxes that they calculated incorrectly in the past.

I cried profusely throughout the day yesterday. My biggest cause for crying was not a loss of paycheck, but the loss of the work environment. I love this school. I love people’s attitudes here. I love the conveniences that I have since I live out of my car. I am growing professionally every single day.

People tell me, “God must have something better,” and my response is, “But it doesn’t get any better than this!” (then we all laugh). I believe and trust in God’s leading. But as Liesl said, “When one door closes, another one opens, but it’s hell in the hallway.”

So, right now, financially, I’m in what Dave Ramsey calls crisis-mode.

I have to cancel my credit card auto-payments and extend student loan deferment. I can’t add to my long-term savings each month (however, I have an emergency savings fund). My spending has already been tightened as tight as I can make it.  I had to rent another storage unit to store teaching materials. Money from storage may have to come from the credit card payments. I need to go to the unemployment office and find out about that process.

My head hurts from crying on and off all day yesterday.

I won’t have a way to cook food other than using the park now. I won’t be able to use the school to access the Internet or work.

I’m not worrying – I’m praying.  Whatever happens next is more of the adventure of living.

Dave Ramsey's Envelope System

December 1, 2013

I know some of these posts are out of order, but I record my thoughts onto my cell phone, then type them up when I get a chance. 

On this day (the date above) I spent several hours at a “new” McDonald’s mostly listening to Dave Ramsey CDs. I created my envelope system with cute envelopes with pictures of dogs on them. All 8 envelopes fit inside a fabric bag that also looks cute - makes using the envelope system less of a drag. Instead of carrying paper to remind me of my financial decisions, I decided to take pictures of my debt snowball plan and store in my phone.

More "God Spoils Me"

More God Spoils Me

Today I went to REI for their garage sales. They said they sell lightly used items for half off! Maybe I could score a mummy bag, some cooking materials, some wool socks, or other items. Well, when I arrived (after Sabbath) it was over. TB!

Anyway, I wandered over to the sleeping bag section for the second time this week. Just browsing. I wanted a 0 degree bag – which were as little as $239 on clearance.

The weather on Thursday is supposed to dip below 20 degrees for the first time this season. The last time it got to about 23 degrees, my big toe on my right foot was numb. I knew then that avoiding frostbite would be a real concern for me if I want to keep saving money like this.

Eventually, I would have to bite the bullet and pay the $$250 or so for a life-saving bag. The fact that 3 people froze to death in California yesterday was helping to push me towards making a purchase.

A salesperson came over and asked if I needed help. I told him the length and comfrotb level that I wanted. He found one in stock that fits me (it’s 5’6” and I’m 5’2”). They don’t come smaller than 5’6” it appears. He let me try it out by getting insdie and zipping it up. He told me how to care for it, other accessories (compression bag, liner) to help make it compact and easier to carry (I asked, he wasn’t just trying to get my money), how NOT to care for it, and all the features of it that I needed to know. I feel like I just took a class in winter sleeping bags.

The price was…$99, on clearance.

And it’s a lovely pink color on top of that (I wasn’t too impressed by the colors that I saw on the sleeping bags that were on the rack. He pulled this one off a different shelf).

I feel spoiled. I wasn’t planning on purchasing anything unless the garage sale was still going on. I definitely wasn’t planning on spending $100 or buying a mummy bag just that night.

So tonight, I’m zipped into a mummy bag and the temp is about 28 degrees. I am cozy warm. My feet get cool when pressed against the door or propped up against the window, but I don’t think forstbibte is a concern. I;m not even wearing long johns, gloves, or a zipped up coat. I feel ready to tackle the 17 degrees that is supposed to come this week.

While at REI this police officer was looking at me really hard, but I guess because I was staring at him.  I was watching because the last time I went to REI there was a police officer and police car parked out front, too.

I think this experience is another example of God preparing me. He led me to visit REI on Tues so I could go aahead an dstart thinking about what I would buy and the price. I could see my options. When it was time to buy, he led me to a color I love so I wouldn’t walk away wondering if I should have waited to find something better I like.  

Job is cutting hours

December 8, 2013

My job is cutting people’s hours drastically. One lady’s hours were cut from 35 to 12 per week. No, that’s not a typo. Monday I have a meeting with my boss to find out what my new hours will be.

I just paid for CEU online classes and I need to hang in there with this company long enough to get reimbursed, which may mean until the end of the scool year.

I’m on a 4 year plan to pay off all debts and another half year to build up 6 months of emergency expense money. It would be fun to find a group of people to talk about financial independence with. I won’t talk to friends or family. I feel like I have the opportunity to make more serious financial progress than anyone I know. Not trying to take away credit from my friends, but I don’t want jealously or resentment to find a foothold.

I was hanging with Uncle and Aunt Theo this weekend. Uncle Theo was telling me that he now uses check cashing and title loan places to help get by. (He may have been using them all along, Idk). I shared with him about my tenant and how she’s paying rent but it doesn’t cover the old mortgage payment. I don’t want it to seem like I’ve got it easy now and racking up money. I believe that’s what he thinks I was doing while I was renting from him.

God Spoils Me

December 1

Two weeks ago I was ironing at the Laundromat when 2 ladies walked over and told me I couldn’t iron there anymore. One said it was a fire hazard (I don’t believe my little iron is a fire hazard in a Laundromat). The other said ironing uses up electricity and customers don’t pay for that.

Anyway, for two weeks, I’ve been wearing shirts that don’t need ironing. My pants weren’t too wrinkled after taking them out of the dryer.

 Well, today I had the idea to go to my old apartment complex – the one that I lived in this summer. There is a laundry care center in each building accessible from the outside. All of them have accessible outlets. I went into one tonight that was not being used and it had a brick wall outside the front door (so no one was likely to pass by and happen to peek in). I ironed clothes for the week and a dress for Sabbath, and I even hemmed (with hemming tape) some jeans I bought at the thrift store yesterday.

I was not rushed or watched. There are no security cameras on the property that I noticed all summer or tonight. In fact, it doesn’t even look strange for me to walk across the parking lot with clothes in my hand or on hangers. Because of the layout of the parking lot and the laundry room, no one can really tell that I came from the Laundromat and not my own apartment. I only need to go there once a week, and since there are at least 12 buildings, each with a clothes care center, it will be easy to rotate and not be noticed. I may not use the same building twice for 3 months!

While I don’t like using the electricity when I’m not paying for anything there, I appreciate the fact that God introduced me to that particular apartment building just this summer. It was a big help tonight. Unfortunately, my ironing is nothing to brag about, and it gets worse trying to iron on top of a dryer. My clothes didn’t look too much better after ironing than before! I guess I’ll get better over time.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I asked my sister, "What if I told you I was living in my car?"

San told me that one of her friends, Max, moved to Nashville and claimed to have a job waiting for him, but after he arrived he started living in hotels and with other people, renting rental cars, and holding at least 3 jobs. This all happened within a few weeks or months.

Then we talked about Braxton living between his own apartment and Taylor’s. I asked her, hypothetically of course (wink, wink), “What would you see if Max told you he was living in his car? What would you say if I told you I was living in my car?”

 She said, “Oh, I don’t know…I don’t even know what I would say.”

I wonder if she got the feeling that this was NOT hypothetical. I didn’t take the conversation any further.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

More Attempts to Stay Warm At Night

Last week, I bought wool socks and hand warmers. 

The first night, I put the hand warmers in the socks, went to sleep, and woke up sniffling. I drank TheraFlu to stave off a cold. 

The next night I bought houseshoes just for wearing to bed - pretty pink to match the pink wool socks. I added hand warmers to the socks. That night, it was 28 degrees. The handwarmers inside the wool socks didn’t work - they were cool when I woke up, but I think it was the househoes that kept my feet from getting cold. 

The rest of me was toasty warm under my blankets and it was very dark under there, too. I’m usually surprised when I take the blankets off in the morning how much light there is outside.

Friday, November 29, 2013

3rd month anniversary

 In preparation for the 3-month anniversary mark, I thought I'd post a little differently. 

Look at what I can do now:

I can sign up for CEU classes, which I've been putting off for 1.5 years. I can even choose to take 2 or 3 classes. $ is not the deciding factor. I can decide based on how much time I have.

I can either rent a car of fly to get home. (I chose to fly).

I can either get my hair braided or trimmed. (Without money, the only option was to keep it trimmed. That's cheaper).

I can go 2 weeks without counting the days until the next payday. I almost forgot that today was payday.

I can choose between buying something I need and paying extra on debt this month.

What do I have to celebrate this month:

1. We brought one of our credit cards current. I was $600 behind. I couldn't pay more on debt because I have to pay for CEU classes this week and take them over Christmas break. It feels good to take these classes that I've been putting off for 1 1/2 years due to lack of funds.

2. I learned to use Sterno to cook at the park.

3. I found more McDonald's restaurants to work at on my computer.  (Sometimes people bash homeless bloggers by telling them to sell their computers to make money. It doesn't seem to enter their minds that maybe these people have unsaleable, outdated, 6-year old computers like mine). It makes more financial sense to keep the computer than to get rid of an item that helps you stay organized and connected to others. But I digress)

4. I added pictures to my online journal (this blog).

5.  I've gotten used to sleeping in 30 degree weather. That seemed scary two months ago. Now, it's all about mastering 20 degrees and preparing for single digits.

6. I created a Debt Snowball and made plans to create and use an Envelope System. I listened to Dave Ramsey CDs.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Who wants to read about a strong, independent, mentally-healthy homeless person?

I was reading today about a woman in the UK named Anya Peters. She published a book in 2006, but a lot of people online think she’s a fraud - someone who arranged her homelessness and refused to accept help to create a good story and ultimately a book deal. Some homeless bloggers have made book deals (I’ve never read any of their books). David Gardner has a blog at He took down all of his posts and replaced them with “Blog suspended in anticipation of the book.”

I’m very different from Anya Peters and probably most other homeless bloggers (I don't know about David Gardner). I’m very upbeat and positive. I have no mental health issues (don’t ask my sister for her opinion on that!). I work full time. I wasn’t abused growing up, and I have family, friends, and great coworkers. My situation is as temporary as I want it to be.   

My story wouldn’t make a good book deal, and I’m not searching for one.

I don’t tell my loved ones about my situation/choice because (#1) I need help (which I’m not against asking for) but I need months and months of help. I don’t think anyone is capable or prepared to help me with that. My friends have little space in their homes (or live far away from my job) and they have debts of their own. Why would I ask them to give me their limited space for free for a year while I happily pay off my own debts and they continue to struggle?

(#2) They will worry for me. I don’t need people to be so upset that they need me to console them. I don’t want people giving me warnings and reminding me how dangerous things are. One thing that helps me daily is the feeling that I am strong and capable and vigilant. I pay attention to local news stories of people getting assaulted. I don’t need to hear it from all sides.

I obviously don’t mind accepting help – which I why I posted the thermometer and the Paypal button. But, who wants to hear the story of a strong, determined homeless person who will do whatever it takes (legally and ethically) to improve her life?

First day of Thanksgiving break

Nov 27

I have a feeling this Thanksgiving break will pass quicker than I imagined. Today is Wednesday and I had a full day.

This morning I left the parking lot at the hospital and drove to a Taco Bell parking lot where I had leftover chicken and cole slaw for breakfast. While eating, I designed a worksheet for my class. Then, I drove to a university to use their library, but their parking rules were still in force so I couldn’t use any of the free parking lots for faculty. So, I drove to the public library and cleaned out my glove compartment while waiting for it to open. That was a good use of time. I had a ton of old condiments to throw away, and more space when I was done

When the library opened. I sat down for 4 hours and here is what I did:
bought a plane ticket – I’ve been procrastinating on this for a month (wasn’t sure if I wanted to fly or rent a car, but I the return ticket was on sale today!)
2.    completed 3 company docs that are due Friday and sent them in electronically
3.    Bought a battery for my computer on Amazon
4.    drove to bosses office to deliver documents for her to sign so I can take CEUs
5.    spent at least 90 minutes signing up for the CEU classes on the computer. One of the classes is supposed to start in 6 days. They cancelled the class due to low enrollment. They needed 6 students and only had 5! I would have been number 6. I prayed that if it was God’s will that He would make the class happen. I really want to take that class and this is the perfect time for it (approaching Christmas break). I called the school with an unrelated question, and when the lady on the phone discovered the closed class, she made some contacts and the class was reopened!
6.    blogged
7.    watched Judge Judy while walking on the treadmill
8.    showered
9.    ate at Ledos and surfed the Internet
1.  went to bed at 10:00

If the rest of Thanksgiving break is like today, it will go by very fast. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Brother homeless, too

I found out last night that my brother Braxton has been sleeping in hotels and with our brother Taylor for two months. Braxton sorta broke up with his girlfriend. 

Man, I hate hearing that. I know how awful it can be for other people to be without a place of their own. Shoot, I would like to have a place of my own that I can afford comfortably. 

I think Braxton and his girlfriend are good together. I hope they work it out. They’re still talking, and he did stay at home last night. All of his clothes are in Sasha's truck. 

Unlike me, he has no job although he would really like to have one. I wish I had a money-making idea for him. I can’t imagine him 10 years from now in his fifties still lounging around every day doing nothing. Finding a job
doesn’t get easier with age.

I was reading a blog post last night from a woman who didn't like "homeless" to be defined as "people who live with friends or relatives." Maybe if you pay a competitive rent price to rent a room, then you aren't homeless. However, there are a large number of people without their own place who can't even afford a room (like me). 

Will I be in my car for 7.5 years or 4 years?

November 27, 2013

So, how come during the month of October, when I was driving to church 4 extra days a week, the gas prices dropped down to $3.15? How come I managed to go a whole week on one tank of gas each week when I had trouble doing that during September? God really stretched the gas. Now that October has ended and gas prices have gone back up to $3.35, I've still managed to get by on one tank of gas each week.  

I’m so blessed - even while living in my car to pay off debt. 

I've been informed that my company will probably cut jobs in January and February. For those who remain, I don’t know if they’ll cut the pay as well. 

My coworker Liesl and I talked about that. She said if they cut her pay in half they might as well cut her in half. She just became full time this year and has started to see light at the end of the debt-paying tunnel. She described how slow progress is – don't I know it! 

I have seen so little progress over the years (and I WAS working full-time – not part time). That’s part of the reason I decided to go to extremes.

If I rented an apartment right now, $1000 a month would go to rent, $1000 a month to debt (those are just the required minimum payments - not extra, and $400 would have to be split between insurance, food, gas, utilities, 
toiletries, etc. Of course, that won’t work. $400 is not enough for all that. 

That’s why I have to pay down this debt and get back to a reasonable level of disposable income.

If I pay $1000 a month on debt (above and beyond the minimums), it will take 90 months to pay it off. That’s 7.5 years of living in my car. So far, we’ve paid off $4k in two months. If we keep up the double rate, that’s 3 years 9 months of car living. Either way, it’s way too long.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Organizing Nazi

September 23, 2013

I am proud of how I’ve organized storage. I’m glad that I don’t have to keep more in my classroom than what’s already there. I don’t want my classroom looking like living space. I’m glad that I can drive around with my back seat cleared off, even if that means the trunk is packed full. I feel good having a gassed up car, outfits ironed for the week, and storage places (storage unit, classroom, and car) that are not packed to capacity. I’ve done a good job over the years of organizing and dwindling down.

I’m not a clutter bug. I declutter well. Everything in storage is books, classroom manipulatives, necessary clothing, cooking utensils. There is nothing old, unusable, unused. I don’t have things to throw away, just things waiting to be used.

However, I’ve got to get even better. During Thanksgiving, one of my goals is to digitize and computerize or throw out some of my paper. Some of it consists of ideas that need to go on TPT. I need to really find ways to super-manage my time and super-organize like an organizing-Nazi. 

One day I took a box out of storage and put it in the back seat. Minutes later, while driving I spotted a huge cockroach climbing on my passenger seat. Ugh! I stopped at a store and sprayed the car with Raid, which I keep under my seat. I couldn’t find the little booger, but I hope the spray got him.

Hot Dog Sleeping/ Reddit post

November 24, 2013

The weather is consistently down to 25 degrees. I have created what I call “hot dog sleeping.” I put a red comforter on the back seat to cover the bottom and the back where your back goes. Then I lie down under a white blanket and a blue comforter that is doubled over. Then I fold the red comforter down on top of me. So I’m lying on one layer of red comforter with a white blanket, two layers of blue comforter, and one layer of red comforter on top of me. I sleep in my winter coat, two hats, gloves, and long johns. Last night I was generally warm. It took all that and I was generally warm.

I think sleeping in the garage always feel warmer because it blocks the wind. On really cold nights, that’s where I need to be.

Here s what someone wrote on Reddit under the title “I am a college university student that lived in my van.”
“I’m not trying to victimize myself or make people feel sorry for me. I don’t blame anyone because no one is at fault for anything. It’s just a choice I made. No one is to blame for something I knowingly got myself into. I’m doing this AMA because I thought I had an interesting story and wondered if anyone would like to hear it. In addition, there are other people who are considering this path (for whatever reason) and I’m glad to share my experiences so they know what they’re in for.”

Ditto it all. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

I'm not alone in my classroom

Oct 31

This post is one I meant to post back in October.

Visitors came on Monday. My desk was a mess. I was so embarrassed that I cleaned it up after they left. At the end of the day, I left a peach on the desk since I was going to eat it for breakfast the next morning.

The next morning, there were big bites in the peach.

At the end of that day, I threw away a container of cornbread. The next morning, the cornbread was half-eaten and the lid of the container was thrown behind my desk with bite marks in it.

Apparently some other creature has decided to move in with me. So, I simply alerted the custodian, who swept, mopped, and emptied the trash. That same day, my boss and boss’ boss came by for a visit. The room was clean and my desk was still clean from Monday. I felt so proud of my room.

I see this mouse, I presume it is, as a sign from God that I need to work harder to keep a clean space. He prepared me for a good inspection from my boss just in time. However, I need to always be prepared.
I wash my dishes at the end of each day. However, I need to wipe my desk and food prep areas, bag or double bag some items, keep inventory, and be extra watchful for crumbs.
I don’t want to tell the principal about the critter. I don’t want him to bring in exterminators to go through the cabinets and other places and find my food stashes. I don’t want a mandate to go out that we can’t store food in our rooms. I don’t want anyone asking, “What do you expect? Look at all this food in your room. What’s going on?”

The van at the Dollar Tree and more "Staying Stealth" stories

Last night, I was at the Dollar Tree and there was a van with all this stuff piled in the middle and back seats.

Previously, I wouldn’t have thought anything about it, but this time I wondered, “Are they living out of their car, too?” I thought about Mama’s van, which has looked like that in the past (and probably still does), and I thought, But she’s not homeless. Actually, she is. That’s why her van and often my car look sometimes like this van in the Dollar Tree parking lot.

I notice people more and wonder if they’re homeless, too. I see that other people online who have been homeless often become advocates for the homeless. I don't know if I'll do that, but I definitely need to do something when I reach the winning side (post-homelessness, goals achieved) to encourage those who are still on the journey.

 On another note: Here's more of me trying to avoid looking homeless.

Andrea, the educational specialist at my school, came in last week to ask me something, but I was still teaching. So she went to the back of the room and waited. While there, she looked around. I’m sure she saw the electric skillet. After that, I decided to start keeping the electric skillet in the box with the toaster oven. The box under my desk that holds the toaster oven is large, but you can’t see the toaster oven unless you really make an effort to see what’s in the box.
Yesterday, Andrea came in to meet with me and brought her lunch. She asked, “Do you have a microwave?” I said, “No." She said, “You don’t have a microwave in here?” I said no again. She said, "OK, I’m going to go heat up my lunch." I thought it was strange that she asked that question twice, so I think she saw the toaster oven under my desk one day. One day, I’ll really have to tell her all that was going on so she won’t think I’m a total oddball. I hope she doesn’t think I was being rude and not wanting to share my “microwave,” but it’s much stranger to say that I have a toaster oven under my desk.

I chatted with one of the personal trainers at the gym this morning. He noticed that I only “come in and do two push-ups.” However, he also noticed that I build muscle easily. He was surprised that I’ve only been coming for two months, since my body looks like I've been working out much longer than that.

So, I can balance out the fact that I don't work out much by saying, "I'm just here to stay in shape and stay toned - not to be muscular or even to lose weight." That’s my excuse for not working out harder. However, I did sign up for the free boot camp class next week since he is the teacher and he said he focuses on abs. I would like to flatten the abs.

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Weekend Restaurant on the Grill

November 16, 2013

Today I experimented with weekend cooking. Again, cooking on a grill will just be for times when I really have to. I don’t plan for it to be my regular thing, but since the weather was close to 60 degrees and feeling good, it was a good day to practice for colder times to come – when I need to boil water for a cup of tea or heat a bowl of soup during the snow.

Cooking Type
I couldn’t get the charcoal to light up this time. It rained overnight and I think it got wet when I put it in the grill and that killed it. 
concentrated dry fuel that I got from Freecycle
This stuff has a cute little stove that comes with it. I’d love to get it to work. It looks amazingly light to carry and simple to use. The box of fuel claims it burns as hot as gas. I couldn’t get it to light at all. I’ll have to find videos on Youtube and see what I’m doing wrong.
sterno cans
Easy – shmeasy! It took two cans to boil a pot of water – but I think stainless steel was the wrong pot to use. Sterno easily warmed up a ceramic bowl of soup. It was good and hot! I should the ceramic pot next time for boiling water.

I put the boiled water in a bag of Coleman dehydrated food – chili. Not to my taste. Seasoned well, but I like more corn in my chili – or cheese. I was good and full when done, though.

2-month anniversary

I've been so busy lately that I didn't write a two-month anniversary post like I'd planned. Well, it's been 2.5 months now. Here are some highlights.

1. We've paid down $2,685 in debt and still have $1000 in the emergency fund.

2. We've braved temperatures down to 28 degrees at night, but no longer think about maybe stopping this experiment and giving in.

3. Mom has broken ground (literally) on the home renovation. She's cleared out the backyard and will have the ground leveled this week. She's happy, and that makes me happy.

4. My old size 6 and size 8 clothes fit better and people have given me compliments on my healthier look.

5. Tonight, my car cabin and my desk at school look clean. That's not the case every day, but it's the case TODAY - and that feels GOOD.

6. I have to be creative to meet my needs, but I don’t have any needs that aren’t being taken care of right now. I’ve improved or discovered my reliance and survival ability.

New goals to work on for the next two weeks until the 3-month anniversary.
1. Finish filing taxes for this year.
2. Drink more water - like a bottle a day.
3. Get rental contract for the condo.
4. Take another step on the home loan modification process.
5. Get a contract for the contractor and plan a starting date for the work inside the house.
6. Improve my discipline. This living situation requires an extreme measure of time management and physical organization. I believe by the end of this experience, my character will be new stronger becaues of the discipline, humbled attitude, and sensitivity to others that I need while in this position.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mom's Hope is My Motivation

November 16, 2013

I got this text from my mom today:

"Talked to the man doing the retaining wall, we r going 2 meet Mon, MOVING ON UP (YES)"

She’s very excited about getting this work done, and so. Am. I.

Her enthusiasm makes all this "sleeping on the back seat" stuff worth it.

I think over the years, I haven’t tried to do more sooner, because I really didn’t know how serious and exasperating the experience has been for her of living in a small room in someone else's house. She hasn't tried to take action sooner because there was no money and no hope in sight.

Once I called in a loan this summer and she heard me make the phone call, she changed. Last month she paid a man to clean out the backyard, and Monday, she's going to have part of the yard leveled so we can install a retaining wall. I didn't even know about this move. She's moving without me! That's a sign of hope.

To catch you up on things, we have a contractor to do work on the house at a reasonable price. I've mailed my mom some money to get started (I took out a line of credit). When she cashes that check (and when the waiting period passes, if the bank imposes one), then the contractor can begin. I think we will get 75% of the work done before Christmas. Wow! That sounds amazing to say, after, what, 8 years of waiting?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Meal Plan

This week I made a schedule of foods to eat so I won't go hungry. I went 3 days without eating fruits or vegetables, and I was really craving them.

cold cereal or oatmeal
baked sweet potato
pb crackers and applesauce
couscous and grape juice
salad (cranberry spinach, cole slaw, carrot salad)
popcorn and fruit
Biscuits (with sausage, applesauce, or eggs)
rice dish
chips, nuts, and fruit
egg dish (omelet, scrambled with vegetables)
steamed vegetables

pb and fruit, or tv dinner

sauteed spinach or greens
pb and fruit, or tv dinner
tv dinner
steamed broccoli, okra, carrots
deli sandwich
cold cereal or oatmeal
canned soup or chili
pb crackers and applesauce

I made vegetarian chicken cordon bleu in my classroom skillet. That's a dish I was saving to try at the park. However, I've decided a better plan is to make my meals at school and church. I will only use the park and the public grills when I really have to, rather than trying to make them a regular part of my routine. Furthermore, when I cook camp meals, I should try to prepare them in my room first. Chop vegetables and wrap them in foil in my room, season vegetables and put them in bowls, etc. Anything to make this mobile life easier.

Here is some rice I made.
 Here is couscous and spinach.

The Folder System

The school removed the laminator from my classroom. It sat on a large table next to my pantry cabinet where I keep fod and dishes. The laminator was supposed to be available to all teachers, which means anyone can come into my room and use the laminator and possibly see the toaster oven under my desk, the electric skillet behind my printer, or other curious telltale signs in my room. Without the laminator, I lost the convenience of having the laminator right there, but I'd rather have the privacy as well as the large table space where it used to sit(which makes it easier to prepare food or swap out eating dishes quickly).

This year I started using a folder system with my students. Instead of teaching small group lessons, children receive individualized education plans in their own folders with work tailored for them. They can move at their own pace and receive minilessons from me when they need them. The first week it worked great except that I can't find my assessment books. They are somewhere in storage. If I can't assess kids, I can't find out what they know and what they need to learn. My favorite activity today (on a Sunday) will be sitting down planning my lessons for this week.

Weather Below freezing now

I went home with Aunt Theo after church. We had relatives visiting after church. It felt so good to have a warm place to eat, relax, and use the bathroom for hours (not use the bathroom for hours - you know what I mean).

The weather has gotten down to 32 degrees at night. That's cold. For the first time in six weeks, I'm really feeling the cold. I started to rethink this homeless project. However, I realized that God has been preparing me for this moment. I know what I need to buy at the store to keep warm (balaclava, wool socks, etc).

Yesterday I got another comforter and some long johns out of storage. I wore the long johns under my day clothes. I slept sandwiched between one comforter and I put the other comforter doubled on top of me (3 layers of comforters on top of me). Then I felt warm again.

This week, I got concerned about the probability of me getting blood clots due to sleeping in the fetal position so much of the time. Sometimes, I straighten my legs and stick them between the two front seats so they're not bent the whole night. However, this week I dared to straighten my legs and prop them up in the backseat vertically. I think you really can't see them if you were a security guard passing by because I'm so short. It feels good to stretch my legs.

I also read that raising my legs above my heart can help prevent blood clots.

I don't sleep at Wild Overland apartments much anymore. I don't see the point in staying on the street without security when the two hospitals have such convenient parking and apparently security doesn't see me there. I also see the mist on my windows as a curtain. I haven't thought about getting windows tinted lately because the mist keeps me from being seen in the morning. I just need to keep my front seat clear of belongings at night so they don't tempt people who might pass by with a temptation to steal something.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pix of me sleeping in my car

These are pictures of me sleeping in my car. Can you find my head? I'm lower than the windows so I can see why it's hard to notice me. >

Saturday, October 19, 2013

New phone, new abs, new students

So much has happened in the past week or two since I've written (it feels like 2 weeks, but apparently it's only been 8 days). 

I found out that Uncle Theo’s father was diagnosed with leukemia this summer. His dad’s condition worsened two weeks ago, and I gave Aunt and Uncle Theo $60 for gas to make an unplanned trip to visit him (the father lives 4 hours away). His father died five days later. 

Asana hasn’t paid the rent on time. I’ll have to drop in and pick it up. She claims she has it.

Last week, it rained almost 36 hours straight and my trunk was soaked. Apparently water is getting in through the dent on the side of my car. My trunk started to mildew. I need to cover the driver side of the trunk with plastic on the inside and maybe the outside. So, last night I slept inside the garage instead of on top. There are security cameras inside the garage, so I just try to get next to a car that’s between me and the camera.

I have flatter abs due to the gym membership. I work out every other day.

One night I taught an extra class for my evening job. That’s $75. I think of all money now in terms of what it can buy. $75 is one week of food, two weeks of gas, or pet rent for Joey for one month. 

God has blessed again. I’ve been putting off getting a new phone because I want to save money. After two days of not being able to use my phone because the screen became unreadable, I went into a Tmobile store. Wouldn’t you know it? The screen became readable while I was there. 

However, I knew that was not a sign to get a new phone. That was a sign that I was supposed to go ahead and get some information off it, like text messages and voice recordings before it died completely. Then the salesguy lowered my phone bill by $20 a month. The phone was $170 with the tax. That means in less than 9 months, I’ve paid for the phone just by saving on the monthly bill. 

The weather has been mild until today. Tonight, it's supposed to drop into the 40's. I'll let you know how that goes.

The reason I haven't written much lately is because I now have a caseload of students to teach on my day job. I may have to just blog on weekends. Now, I really need to be super organized.  Now that I have students to teach, I can’t let survival interfere with my source of income, despite the fact that survival takes up so much time and energy. I must say, cooking in the classroom - I have a really good setup with the classroom kitchen. It's easy for me to get the items I need and it's not an inconvenience. I'm working on weekend meals and cooking in the park. 

Last weekend, I went to the Laundromat just to iron clothes. I entered through the door farthest from the cashier so she wouldn’t see me coming in without a load of laundry. 

I used to go to storage each morning, get clothes for the day, and take the clothes to the gym. That way I could put on work clothes after I shower. Now, I go to the gym first, shower, put back on the clothes I slept in, then I go to storage. I change clothes in my storage unit so I'm not carrying around an extra set of clothes into the gym. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Rethinking Tithing (or rather, NOT tithing)

I thought about how I used to return tithes. I stopped when I got so sick with worrying about finances that I got stomach cramps – I think they were ulcers. One day I will have to stick with God until death, but I couldn’t even hang in there with stomach pains. I’m re-thinking the whole “not tithing” thing.

2.5 Hour Breakfast

October 4, 2013

It took me 2.5 hours to make breakfast in the classroom this morning. I’ll have to get better – like down to 30 minutes. I made scrambled eggs with onion, tomato, and spinach as well as sweet rice and kool-aid.

It took the rice 90 minutes to cook (same as last time, so now that I know that, I need to keep cooked rice on hand). I don’t need to cook rice with the intention of eating it that day.

Time would have been saved if I had chopped the onions and tomatoes ahead of time. That’s doable.

If I had made those preparations I would be eating breakfast at 8:30 instead of 10:30.  You live, you learn.

Security - Too Close For Comfort

October 8

Last night was my first cold night. I wore a sweater over my t-shirt and I wore gloves. I slept with the comforter pulled up to my nose and avoided tossing and turning and exposing my body to cold air. It was only in the upper 40’s. This is nothing compared to what’s coming.

During this past week, I finally saw a security truck at Peace Hospital. It was in the morning, not at night. I had a horrible time sleeping on Sunday night. I slept at Willow Acres Hospital. As soon as I arrived, I looked around briefly then went to the back seat and laid down. As I was still adjusting my body and the blanket over m e, I heard a vehicle pull into the spot next to me. When it got quiet, I waited to hear the door open and shut. I waited to feel the ground of the parking lot vibrate as the driver walked away. Instead, I heard and felt nothing. Was the driver just sitting in the car waiting on something? I slowly raised my head to see and was mortified. A security truck had parked next to me and the driver was sitting in it looking around.

I was not in a comfortable position but I didn’t dare move. How long would he stay there? The answer is – all night long. Periodically, I raised my head during the night and he was still there. Sometimes I heard him talking on his CB.  I  moved very little all night long and spent large parts of the night in uncomfortable positions. I can’t believe he never noticed me. Either I am just that good, or he noticed and decided not to say anything. Maybe he thought I was trying to be close to someone in the hospital.

So after those two experiences at the hospitals, I slept at Wild Overland Apartments last night. I woke up late so there were lots of kids walking to the bus stops. When I raised my head, my windows were covered with my trusty misty curtain, which I had forgotten about since the past week has been so warm at night. Foggy windows make me feel more secure getting up in the morning.

Two weeks ago,  I went to a college alumni event with Aunt Theo and a friend, Carol. Since we arrived early, we wandered around the hotel where the event was being held. It was fun going down hallways that we didn’t know where they would lead, and opening doors and going oops! At some point I asked, “Where are the securitiy cameras? I don’t see any.” The Carol said, “Yeah, but I’m sure we’re high on somebody’s radar right now!”

I thought about how Carol phrased that. Everywhere I go, I assume I’m high on someboday’s radar. Even when I can’t see a security camera I act as if there is one. Even at Peace Hosptial, I feel like somebody probabably notices me and is just letting it slide night by night. I read on one website, that if someone questions you just tell them “My goal is to be cleam, quiet, and unnocited, and they may leave you alone because that’s what they need you to do as well. They don’t want loud music or unclean habits and if you stay invisible they may turn a blind eye.