The "Get Out Of Your Car!" Fund

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. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Daily Schedule

Here was my weekday schedule (first month of car-living)
6:30 wake up, drive to storage
7:00 change and wash up at storage
8:00 arrive at work
4:00 get off work
4:00 – 9:30 run errands, get dinner, find a place to sit and read or talk on phone (two days a week I work 6:00 – 9:30)
9:30-10:00 drive to sleeping place
10:00 – 6:30 sleep

My desired schedule (starting the second month of car-living)
6:00 wake up, drive to gym
6:15 -7:00 workout at gym
7:00- 7:30 shower and dress for work
8:00 arrive at work
4:00 get off work
4:00 – 9:30 run errands, get dinner, find a place to sit and read or talk on phone (two days a week I work 6:00 – 9:30)
9:30-10:00 drive to sleeping place
10:00 – 6:00 sleep

I don’t feel like I spend much time in my car. I stay over at work and take walks rather than sit in the car.  On weekends, I might spend more time in the car, but so far I’ve spent a lot of time at church and then at friend’s houses after church on Saturday. Also, talking to people on the phone and surfing the Internet make the time go by fast.

On October 1, four days ago, I had a personal training session at the gym. The workout was really what I needed. I believe if I do those exercises Tyler showed me, my abs will flatten. I hope to workout every morning. That would be a wonderful benefit of being homesless, because I wasn't looking for a gym except to shower. Even more, showering when I’m done won’t look so odd after a sweaty workout like what I did today.

After sleeping in my car all night with knees bent most of the time, a morning workout is probably just what my body needs.

That was 4 days ago, today is the first day this week I haven't gone to the gym to work my abs and arms. I was proud of myself for keeping it up for 3 days. 

I slept late because last night was the 2nd night in a row I went to bed late because I was researching camping and camp stoves. I’m excited about the topic - as excited as I can be under the circumstances. I wouldn’t normally be interested in this at all.

If you make plans, you don't have to make excuses.

I made a plan for today’s paycheck. I printed it out and posted it above my desk (with a cover sheet covered with stickers). At the end of this month, I will have another $1000 saved for the house renovation fund. Remember, last month’s extra $1000 established my emergency fund.

It feels good to know that ALL  of the money I get from any of my 1-3 jobs will go towards debt or savings (and of course a few bills, such as insurance, that are not going away). I teach a full-time day job, teach an evening adult class, and may get another 1/2 time position from my company in the mornings for an hour a day. 

Update on gas: 
I've done really well at not using a full tank of gas each week. My budget is $40 a week for gas, but since prices dropped ($3.29/gallon right now), I've been putting $35 a week in the tank. I still don't use the whole $35. Now, in October my church is having a series of special events that I really want to attend. I'm sure I'll go over the $40 limit each week. On the other hand, they are offering dinner each night. So what I overspend on gas will hopefully be made up for in the food budget.

There is therefore now no condemnation

Mama said again that she feels so good having someone helping her with the house renovation.

Mama went to the house with a contractor a few days ago. Daddy called and asked, “Is the contractor still there?” Mama said, “She just left.” Daddy asked, “What are we going to eat tonight?”

I laughed when Mama told me this story. We would expect Daddy to ask, “What did the contractor say?” 

However, I think Daddy is depressed and weighed down with a lack of self-forgiveness. After the house was damaged 8 years ago, Daddy got physically sick and angry with the world. He took the little money they got from the house insurance and spent it on “contractors” who had no plans and no expertise. The money was gone in no time. Eventually the utilities were turned off because they couldn’t afford to pay them. That’s when my sister, Sasha, stepped in and told my mother, “You don’t have to live like this.” So, my mom went to live with Sasha, and Daddy eventually followed. He came to visit Sasha's house one day and just never left. That was like admitting defeat.

I think he still feels defeated.

How do I approach the subject (since he will vehemently deny feeling bad about anything)? 

I want him to know that he is not defeated. That the past is the past and no one is thinking about the past. We are all moving forward. Fortunately, God has blessed us with the resources to get the house repaired now and we should ALL  be excited about that. We want him to take a lead in this project and give input all the way. Just accept his children’s help as a gift because we love him. 


I talked to Daddy shortly after this post. Like I thought, he listened carefully to every word I said, then denied feeling guilty or being uninvolved. But he vowed that I would see another side of him from now on. A few weeks passed and there was no change. 

Well, today is November 27, 2013. For the past week, he has been accompanying Mama to meet contractors and stated that he likes tan bricks for the retaining wall better than gray bricks. Sasha was as amazed as I was to hear that he had an opinion about something. This is the old Daddy. It's nice to see him coming back. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

My Favorite Advice For Losing Debt

I logged back into MyFitnessPal today. I haven't used it to keep track of my diet since May. I reread a blog post that I wrote entitled "My Favorite Advice for Losing Weight."

I was surprised at how perfectly the advice for losing weight also applied to losing debt. So, I'm posting the advice here.

1.   Be consistent. Set a plan and do the same smart actions over and over.

2.      Don’t be in a hurry. Focus on each day, not just the big goal. 

3.       Have fun with weight loss. See calorie-counting as a game. 

4.       Give your body and mind “rest days” – aka “cheat days” or “off days” or “high calorie day” 

5.       Visualize progress with graphs and pictures. 

6.       Start a lifestyle change – not a diet.  Don’t make changes you can’t stick with for a lifetime. 

7.       The best exercise program is the one you can enjoy and stick with.

8.       Don’t let yourself get hungry.

9.       Educate yourself about how weight loss happens. Read books and blogs. Learn about nutrition, reading labels, the science of exercise, and the philosophy behind any new habits you begin. 

10.   If you make plans now, you won’t have to make excuses later. Plan your meals.

11.   Decide which calories are worth it. 

12.   Measure (weight, waist, heart rate, food portions, steps)

13.   Eat what you like. Make sacrifices, but don’t live a deprived life.

14.   Be honest about how much you eat. Buy a food scale so you’ll know for sure. Eat accurately.  - Be honest about how I spend. Analyze my bank statements. Keep track of my expenses for a week. 

15.   Find or learn to cook nutritious foods you can enjoy as much as your old standbys. – Learn to enjoy things that I can afford on a small budget. I look forward to getting a $200 smartphone rather than the $600 one I was saving up for. I look forward to my next car being used, and getting a cheaper Android tablet than an Ipad.

16.   Alter the foods you already eat (grilled instead of fried, ground turkey substituted for ground beef, skim instead of whole milk, cook veggies less thoroughly).

17.   Try something, If it works, stick with it. If not, try something else.

18.   Look at what you can do now (touch your toes, walk farther, etc) – Look at how I feel now when I have savings, how I handle emergencies, how I feel when I know I have money in the bank.

19.   Keep a food and exercise journal and keep it up even when the data isn’t pretty. This is a way of being honest with self.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

If You Must Be Homeless, Being a Teacher Has Benefits

There are other homeless people with jobs, but being a homeless teacher has some distinct advantages. I’m humbled as I list them:  

One morning, I came to school and had on yesterday’s clothes. I was able to iron and change clothes in my classroom really quickly before school started.

Not only that, in the program that I teach for, I don’t have students yet. They have to be referred and screened. All of that is done without my involvement. So, during the month of September, I’ve been using this available time adjusting to being homeless.

I have access to a lot of useful resources – microwave, fridge, Internet, wi-fi, plugs to charge appliances, heat and AC, good people. I also have a key to the building. Although I try to avoid coming here on weekends and after hours, sometimes I have to.

Finally, I have space to store things. I set up my own kitchen inside my classroom. I have a pantry hidden in my cabinet behind books. I can keep fresh fruit on my desk. I keep my work shoes under my desk and change into them when I arrive each day. I have some items stored in my classroom that I may not use this year, but didn't have room in storage. 

One Month Anniversary as Mobile Homeless Person

I have completed one official month as a mobile homeless person, or maybe I should call myself a car camper. What do I have to celebrate on this one-month anniversary? 

1. I’ve paid off $360 in small bills
2. I've set aside a “Life Happens” Fund of $1000. 
3. I’ve taken back possession of a condo I used to have and it has a rent-paying tenant inside. 
4. Most importantly, I’ve proven to myself that I can survive. I’m off to a good start and I feel a lot of hope and enthusiasm. 

I calculated that by not renting a room I save $13 a day. I save $40 a day not staying in my old studio, closer to $50 a day not staying in a one bedroom apartment and paying utilities. Imagine if I said I’m saving $13 to $50 a day and just putting in savings. That would be phenomenal. That’s what I’m doing by paying off debt – inverted savings.

Using my new classroom kitchen, today I had rice, vegetarian bacon strips, and grapes for breakfast. A real home-cooked breakfast – the first in a month. What a way to congratulate myself for this big move I’ve made towards paying down debt and housing my parents!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Complete Classroom Kitchen

A few people online have said that living in a car brought on more bills than living in an apartment. Maybe they were just talking about food, since many mobile homeless people buy their meals one at a time and can't prepare their own foods in bulk.

This weekend I worked on the issue of how to cook and eat foods while living in my car and holding a teaching job. This weekend, I bought an electric skillet for $12 at Big Lots.

My plan was to purchase a whole lot of little appliances - a microwave popcorn popper, a single burner, a rice cooker, a hot pot for soups and tea, etc. Forget that. I'm going to try to use this electric skillet for all of that. Today I scrambled an egg with cheese (delicious!) and I popped popcorn (only 50% popped). I’ll also try toasting bread and cooking brown rice in it.

I have the skillet hidden behind the white Cricut die cut machine in my room.

This electric skillet + the school microwave + my toaster oven hiding under my desk = all that I need to have a full kitchen and cook all my foods

This is important not just so that I can be comfortable, but also so I can tell my family in the other state that I am cooking my own meals and keep my homelessness a secret. My mom knows I enjoy cooking and she will be suspicious if I haven’t cooked something in a while.

Well, that takes care of daytime weekday meals (as long as school is in - not on holidays and vacations). 

Weekends are still a challenge when it comes to eating. I’m trying to decide if I should buy a propane stove (faster, hotter) or use alcohol canisters (cheaper, safer in my car). I see myself using alcohol canisters to heat water for soup and tea on snowy or very cold days without ever having to leave my car. If I get the propane, I might as well invest in a two-burner stove and really cook a meal while at the park.

I also want to learn how to cook foods in aluminum foil. For that reason, I checked out books on camping yesterday. It was encrouaging to see different recipes on how to cook potatoes, corn, one-skillet meals (I need more recipes for that!). And, can I wrap Marie Callendar meals and other frozen dinners in aluminum foil and heat them up over a propane or alcohol stove over the weekends?

I used to eat somewhat on a schedule. Now I eat when I can. I went to a children’s ministry meeting Friday night and I took a salad with me. Lo and behold, Sis. Ella brought soup! It was good (although I missed cornbread). I saved the salad for the next day, and packed an extra bowl of soup to go.