The "Get Out Of Your Car!" Fund

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 It doesn't seem to enter their minds that maybe these people have unsaleable, outdated, 6-year old computers like mine).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?