Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Meanwhile in Oklahoma

Pawel Kuczyński
[This is a guest post from Bonnie.]

Here in Oklahoma what you have been predicting for some time is here already, with exception to the full brunt of the collapse. The grocery still has food, the system is still operating, but we are all essentially indigent. For example, I am now out of dishwashing liquid and running low on laundry detergent; they are right there within walking distance and cost less than six dollars for both, but I cannot purchase them. But we will find a way... I am bilingual and educated and skilled in more than one trade, but while visiting Walmart last month my children and I sat on the bench in the entry waiting for my husband and someone handed each of my children one dollar out of pity. I was devastated. We have everything we need. We're financially poor with no need for vanity. We are educated and self-sufficient and can make most everything we need, but until the majority of the population comes down to our level this ability holds no real value. All it means is that we are already running low on supplies but have no cash to reacquire them, while others still have some cash left. And this makes feel lonely.

Our local financial and political environment is so pathetic that I barely leave home lest I hang my head in shame among those who refuse to move themselves beyond denial. To them I am a loser, a worthless individual because only I am unemployed but I am also criminal—because despite our education and adaptability, despite being highly skilled and capable, we cannot afford car insurance. You see, we have this outlandish requirement that we survive in a sustainable manner. Were it not for the federally funded Lifeline service we would have no telephone. Remarkably, I have paid (yes, actually paid!) for the Lifeline service for five years through four different phone companies and never had a reliable phone. It finally got to the point where I can call out but incoming calls do not ring. And so, I cannot run ads for my skills, I cannot include a phone number when apply for jobs, or have a doctor contact me, all because the phone does not work properly. My doctor gave up (rendering my new Obamacare benefits useless), employers think I am irresponsible because they cannot call me, and self-employment opportunities are severely limited for someone without a reliable phone. No amount of contact with local representatives is able to solve the problem of making the phone service reliable.

Meanwhile, there is no money and everything is increasing in price. We don't need to worry about our lack of car insurance because my husband is well-established with the local police department. They know; they understand. We are not any trouble for them, but what if a new cop were hired, with a different attitude? This can happen at any time, and the new penalties recently enacted to discourage driving without insurance digs a deeper hole for us, one impossible to dig out of. Meanwhile, we must drive where we cannot walk, and the design of the place is such that most places cannot be reached on foot. New job opportunities might open up, if only our car were allowed to venture just outside of town, or if we could actually afford the fuel, the mandatory auto insurance or an actual working telephone. More importantly we must purchase gas to mow and trim our lawn. Keeping up appearances is more important here than anything else. A manicured lawn is a vane symbol, but it is also a legal requirement that is important for us. We are terrified of talking to the wrong person at the wrong time about the wrong things. Even though we are law-abiding citizens, we could easily become victims of more oppression.

I don't mean to sound depressing, but this is the reality. In spite of it, we do very well for ourselves. Occasionally, some neighbors will admit in private and outside of earshot that they look up to us. Some profess to envy what seems to them our ability to do as we please, feeling free of the constraints of this corrupt political and religious system hell-bent on oppression at every turn. They have to stretch their minds really hard to comprehend that we use newspaper in place of toilet paper, or that paper towels having been missing from our lives for more than five years, replaced by real napkins. Yet our adaptions are not a question of style but forced upon us by circumstance and pure necessity. We installed a wood-burning stove to reduce our enormous electric bill, not realizing we would eventually have to cook on it too. We are now gathering all the local wood for future fuel before we are have to compete with the neighbors for any that is left. Even so, it will become our most valuable asset. All those tiny twigs that everyone throws away in the trash: we break down every single one of them for kindling. It's tedious, but also it's commonsense and a constant reality check, though the now obsolete “modern” ideas and concepts continue to cloud my mind. Guilt and, sometimes, self pity rear their ugly heads when I compare my lifestyle to those nearby, who still lead “normal” lives even though my tomatoes, compost piles and essential supplies are far more valuable because of what is coming—for everyone.

Why is everyone still just babbling about these things? Don't they know they need to start now? Don't they know, like me, that they should read your lessons ten times over take careful notes because those lessons may not be accessible in the future? Don't they realize that gardening and growing one's own food requires years of practice and failure? Do they think that someone will provide them with free training instructions at no cost? Do they to think that reading about gardening is insufficient for success?

Whatever it is they think, it is a matter of time before they are bled dry and forced to join us. The utilities here are three times the national average. We live in a corrupt municipality that survives off these outrageous utility bills. It is using this free money to build a huge, gleaming new building to house the police and fire departments. The city strong-arms its residents into supporting their pet projects and pad their paychecks by bundling the utilities with the water (it is all or nothing) and maintaining zero tolerance for late payments. If we want to live within our means and not use electricity, we will have no water. Access to jobs here is controlled by cronyism—not education or qualifications. I complained about this years ago only to find unsympathetic ears and suggestions that I was making excuses. According to them I was not being slighted; I was just lazy. In truth, I was foreseeing being catapulted into a third world country and that is exactly what has happened in my area. I secretly look forward to a time when those same critics struggle to heat their homes. Will they remember me? Probably not.

“Your utility rates will necessarily skyrocket,” President Obama said recently. That hasn't even hit yet! And how will they pay for those sky-high rates? Only last year did minimum wage workers in Oklahoma get a raise to $7.50 an hour. Before that they were making $5.50, $6.50 if they were lucky. One woman working as a maid in a local nursing home began at $6.00 fifteen years ago, and has since received only one raise of $0.01 per hour, because she was adamant in asking for it. She finally got a raise last year to $7.50. Still, she brought up two children and sent them to college without a supporting spouse. Oklahoma holds a major advantage: it is already poor. What may devastate another society may only scratch ours. Some of our elders have raised their children in shacks with dirt floors and not having running water until the children were in their teens. But Oklahoma also has very few financial options, except in the metropolitan areas. That is to say, we have no cash.

But apparently it is just not yet time for Oklahomans to come together in action. Everyone has their own plan or is still in denial. While I feel alone, it is not because my poverty is an isolated case. I am lonely because I am one of the few here with a good education, but I remain indigent. But I will not be alone for much longer: mutual poverty will break the insecurity threshold that many uneducated Oklahomans have. I can profess nobility in deciding to prioritize staying at home with my two young children and abandoning any miniscule hope of ever paying off my student loans. I will stay under the radar as an indigent person, so that I can utilize that time to fully equip my children for survival in whatever world awaits them. It is difficult enough to teach them the methods; even worse that I must learn them myself first!

But even those who know the methods are being challenged by the destabilizing, rapidly changing climate. Were it not for the imported trees we would be in the middle of another dust bowl: our January through July average was the hottest in eighty years, frustrating even the most experienced and adaptable gardeners. Remember, we have wicked weather as a normal part of gardening, coupled with an inconsistent growing season. In spring or early summer, as soon as we provide makeshift shelters for our tomatoes under a thunderstorm or tornado watch we have to start covering them up for an unexpected freeze. These are normal adventures, but we are now forced to include methods of gardening in extreme drought rather than relying upon the local water supply. Hugelkultur helps, but it's backbreaking work to build it without a backhoe. Many are looking to move to more stable climates. I have no choice but to dig in.

Dmitry, as depressing as all this sounds I've never been more happy, more free or more content. I live the dream of actually raising my children, teaching them myself and providing for their spiritual needs. I do not need miss one single day of the sparkle in their eye or the necessary moments of nurture expected of a mother. Their two older siblings were not so fortunate. If I could do it all again, I would have remained poor for them too.

Thank you for your advice and outlook. I am now at peace with my decision to willingly accept poverty for the rest of my life, in order that my children may fare better. If I can learn to modify my soil, grow a garden and live at rock bottom, then anyone can!


Malagodi said...

"What we need to do is make the world safe for poverty." ~John Cage

jeffchristopher said...

I am thinking that perhaps I can write one of these as well. From New Orleans as I've been out of work for almost 2 years and my UI has run out. I live with my sister and her 2 kids and they have absolutely no clue what so ever what's on the horizon and I've learn the hard way any advise I might have for them is unwelcome/resented. So I keep to myself, grateful to have a rent free place to live. I ate my car recently (sold it for scrap) and yesterday I sold my iPad after which I went to the store to buy some groceries, so this morning I am eating that also. Yum.

ghpacific said...

Wow, after listening to the interview at extraenvironmentalist and absorbing the lessons there, to then read the reality of life a few states from me is really sobering. I have to temper this with what I read at the 'Survival in Argentina' blog that covers the reality of collapse in an urban civilized society and having lived in Latin America and SE Asia growing up, I feel I will not suffer the shock and awe of collapse as much as the 'regular' suburbanite, but at the same time I know I am way too soft and effete to be able to adapt comfortably to the new, new thing. Great reality check and shows the truth that survival really rests on inner strength and resolve and the rest is just noise.

Anonymous said...

Keep your head up. You aren't alone and you aren't doing anything wrong. Your bravery and honesty are admirable. It seems like if we just hold on, the traps will fall apart by themselves.


Frank Chapeau said...

I'm going through a Canadian equivalent of your experience and found it reassuring to know that I'm not alone. The similarities are pretty amazing, down to the dish washing liquid and laundry powder. (note to self: gotta get that lye production pilot into gear) Because from the people around me I get the impression that the inertia of the modern world is irresistible. My gut feeling tells me otherwise but sometimes I guess I just lose faith for a while. The collapse IS already happening, Oklahoma, and people like us are just the bleeding edge of a massive wedge.

NickelthroweR said...

Bonnie is way ahead of the curve. When the final collapse comes, her neighbors will be beating down her door asking for help and advice.

In 2008, my wife and I liquidated pretty much everything we had and moved on to a sailboat. We practice such things as sailing, camping and harvesting food from the ocean. We produce our own electricity and can make our own water even when we are out at sea.

We also live in a great community where EVERYONE has radios, radar, first aid kits, binoculars, energy production, etc. Because sailing is such a survivalist activity (who is going to help you when you are 200 miles off shore?) that we can prep without causing any unwanted attention.

75% of the Earth is its oceans and there is a lot of room out there to hide. Anything that requires gasoline to run will be sitting still forever once its fuel runs out but the wind blows eternal.

subgenius said...

I found this today, randomly


Interesting to look at how much stuff my life entails (I reconcile that with the fact that a large majority of it is what allows me to make the meager amount I do)

I definitely can see a time when being at the level of mobility of the yurt couple will be handy.

I will miss my many books (most the rest of my stuff) most of all...

Tom said...

9Put one part hardwood ash and 2 or 3 parts hot wate rin a container and let it settle for a day. Next day the wood ash will be at the bottom and the clear liquid will be lye water. One could make soap by cooking it with fat or oil, or it probably would wash fairly well with just some of the lye water.
The same lye water can be used to nixtamalize corn for making hominy, pozole, or tortilla masa.
I hope Bonnie and some the commentators stay in touch and shares some of their living tips.
I also hope Bonnie keeps a journal because no one is reporting from the other side of the mirror. Here is what WW1 soldiers were saying about their experiences in the trenches:
By 1917 in the war soldiers on all sides hated war profiteers and “literary types” (those who we controlling public perception of the war) more than the enemy. Soldiers complained that going home on leave was painful because people didn’t want to know about it. They wanted the public perception propaganda to be confirmed. Soldiers began to feel that their home societies were not real, and that it was the trenches were where reality was.

“When we get back and tell our stories, it is we who will be wrong.” - Unknown French soldier.

Jayhawk said...

But according to CBS Evening News today the economy is turning around because some companies are planning to increase their "seasonal hiring" for the upcoming holiday season. I did a running total in my head, and it comes to 8000 more temporary jobs nationwide this year than last year. I am so excited I can hardly contain myself. House prices are increasing too, they said.

I am so pumped up by the 8000 new jobs and the 3% increase in home prices that I'm running out tomorrow and buying two or three houses.

Maybe I'll settle for buying lunch.

Jeff said...

Poor people aren't a new invention, dependent on any particular economic situation.

The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. - Jesus Christ

Unknown said...


I have been close to there more than once. We were living in Victoria, CA, and while I was working, it was not even close to paying the rent, let alone food. I eventually did pick up a job, but it required moving across country(s - it was in Maryland), and the job itself evaporated after a year. During the time in Canada, we were eventually down to the point where I was not eating more than one meal a day to insure my kids had three. I was also college educated, with nearly three decades (at the time) of IT experience, and even several books to my credit, but that didn't make much difference at the time.

The good news, if there really is any, is that once we get past the first of the year, a great deal of uncertainty should resolve, which I believe is keeping companies from hiring more than anything. Similarly, I think there are demographic factors that will likely affect the jobs market positively for a few years. However, that's cold comfort when you're out of a job and struggling to keep a roof sturdier than cardboard over your head.

Lennon C. Tucker said...

You have no family that will help you get a gophone at Wal-Mart for about thirty bucks? It seems that the main problem you have is with the phone. Most things could fall into place from there.

I respect your ability to thrive in a society that hasn't caught up (or caught down) with you yet, but it seems you might be straining a little harder than you need too.

Until the majority of people are living third world, it will be much harder for you than it would be if most if society could empathize with you.

Unknown said...

I wish Bonnie the best, but as a lifelong resident of Oklahoma - rural, urban and suburban - it's a lot better here than in most of America. Unemployment's around 5% and the cost of living is cheap. I would suggest relocating to Tulsa or OKC to take any job within walking (or bus-route) distance, or take oil field jobs with Halliburton near Duncan. These options presume we'll carry on with business as usual for a while, and that collapse is not imminent, but you sound unhappy with your situation. I do agree that our land-line phone service SUCKS.

Unknown said...

I find myself wanting to chime in on this thread because i am from the Big Pasture (south central Oklahoma and far north Texas east of the Panhandle). I grew up in what Larry McMurtry described in his novel "The Last Picture Show" as an abandoned place. The assumption McMurtry makes on behalf of his characters is that there is the very difficult task of "what to do with oneself in an abandoned place" inherent in the physical and economic landscape described by the author of the post. Basically, the issue is whether to stay in a “ghost town” and deal with the issues that are present or try to get out to a place that at least isn’t without any identifiable future.

I have struggled with that issue for decades since my personal character was informed by the circumstances of living in a town, Burkburnett, Texas, that had been abandoned by the time I was born.

To that end, I finally made my way to the ideas of Orlov in “Reinventing Collapse” and this blog.

Just the other day, I ran across a video on YouTube that captured several of the current questions about sustainable consumption, post-consumer society and cognitive dissonance in a presentation by Dr. Maurie Cohen, Associate Professor, New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Here is the link:


Here is the question that caught most of my interest:

“Is it possible to avoid nostalgic idealizations premised on romantic repeasantization?”

It occurred to me while reading Bonnie’s post that some thought about “nostalgic idealizations” and “romantic repeasantization” could yield some illumination as to how to intellectually and emotionally cope with life in a ghost town located on an abandoned landscape.

At this point in my thinking I consider Orlov’s advice of cultivating a nomadic existence to be the best I have run across so far. I also think developing a taste for jackrabbit is a good idea.

neroden@gmail said...

Contact the native Americans, who have been used to dealing with extreme poverty for a long time....

...oh wait, the tribes in Oklahoma got rich off of oil. Right. Hmmm.

If it gets too difficult where you are, the key things to do are to move a lot further north (to deal with climate change), and to find a community which has already abandoned the psychology of "if you're poor it's your own fault" (there are many such communities -- but they tend to be rather "under the radar"), which will be the greatest rebuilding aid you can find.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful guest post.

The fear of “falling to the bottom” keeps many people addicted to an unsustainable and collapsing system. While we are still fortunate to be part of the “middle class” we cut our income significantly when my wife stopped working to stay at home. We decided the need for sustainable skills significantly outweighed the need for extra taxable income.

So while I have less cash to buy trinkets from China, I have fresh-baked bread most days. I have a wife who hands me a glass of beer (not homemade – yet!) as I walk in though the door, and a meal on the table, consisting of food that has travelled less than a few miles on average. Our own food production is still small, but we’re learning from our mistakes.

Bonnie said she’s never been more happy. A positive attitude is such an important part of accepting change before it is forced upon you. Imagine how much happier are those who make these lifestyle changes as a choice, not as a reaction.

Send her my thanks, not only for a message of hope, but also for drawing my attention to Hugelkultur – I had never heard of it before. We’re taking out two trees before winter, now I know what to do with the excess wood.

Alex said...

Bonnie -- OK the phone sounds like a major thorn in your side. Maybe I can help.

First, if it's one of those "cordless" phones, get rid of it. Get a plain, simple, *reliable* phone. The kind people are throwing away all the time. Plug that in and have someone call you and see if the ringer works. It should.

If not, then don't feel bad about getting rid of your "cordless" or in any other way "modern" phone, they're too complicated anyway. You need plain and reliable. But, the problem is likely in the connector or the wires. Fortunately, phone wiring is really easy. Check the connector that plugs into your phone, make sure that's not wonky. Check the wires in your wall that screw onto the back of the phone jack in your wall, there will be 4 screws that hold the wires down. Make sure the connections are tight and good. If that doesn't solve it, then you can check the wiring where the phone line comes into your house, that's another place where wires get connected and sometimes come loose. If you have a voltmeter, the pair of wires your phone is on should have a voltage of 30-50 volts all the time. That's called CO, or Central Office, power. It's why your phone works even when the electric's down, because the phone system was set up before most people had power, and would run this DC voltage off of batteries.

It's just a matter of checking the wires and finding the place that's loose, not making good contact.

Maybe your local library or online, you can find some stuff to familiarize yourself with phone wiring. It can even be a handy skill you can make some money with. You can go around on a bicycle and carry all the tools you need to work on phone wiring.

Unknown said...

I'm a marketing exec and business admin. I spent 4 years in Malaysia; I went there first as a science major, but then changed careers and went into marketing. I ran big companies and successfully launched small ones.

I thought coming back to America with these newly acquired skills would be the best decision ever. God was I wrong...

I came back here 8 months ago and have been out of work ever since. The homeless shelters here in Oregon have no intention of helping us get back on our feet. The more homeless they have to take care of, the more funding they receive. I put out nearly 150 job applications, went to 3 employment specialist and employment centers... still nothing.

I've also talked about this issue a bit over on my blog. It's good to see someone else can confirm that its not just me.

Atao said...

What means legal today? What means illegal? Indeed there are those right now making huge profit with this legal/illegal game. I can understand that you wish we will soon be back to good old legitimacy.
I hope you have enough land to grow your annual calories for the family!
Have a look at http://opensourceecology.org/. It's not exactly a solution but can give some interesting ideas.

Anonymous said...

if there are chestnut trees near your place, you can try to use the nuts to produce your own laundry detergent. I recently saw a video (only in German: https://wk3.org/posts/474164 ) about how to make it and think it's worth a try. But I'm not sure if it only works with the "common horse chestnut" or with other kinds growing in your region as well.
First you chop the chestnuts, then put them into water for about 12h. After that you can directly use the water for your laundry.
To store the chestnuts, you should let them dry well.

Ahavah said...

I agree that the phone problem seems to be your worst issue. Until very recently I used a $10 pay as you go cellphone from Virgin Mobile and the payments are only $26.50 with tax every 90 days if you hardly use it, as I did. That budgets out to only $10 a month plus the initial $10 for the phone, which I got at Radio Shack. They also have a $15 phone that has a camera, if I recall correctly. You can make payments online or in person at Radio Shack for the pay as you go minutes.

I also think ditching the cordless phone might work - we keep an "old fashioned" phone handy in case the power goes out anyway - there are still some around. If you can't find one at walmart of some such try goodwill or see if there is a local electronics recycling place that might have one they would give you if you explain the situation. And checking the wiring is always a good idea.

If you have internet access, the VOIP system could work for you. There is free software, and it can be set up with a virtual "answering machine" that you can check regularly. All you need is a cheap microphone headset, again about $10 or so for a cheapie.

Also, in some rural areas there are still party lines. Maybe you could go in with a neighbor?

Blessings on you and your household.

bon said...

If I had one desire from all of this would be to show appreciation for Dmitry's dedication in providing this information for those of us willing to adapt and to let others know they are not alone. While miles may separate us, there's always someone who can understand. Feel free to contact me if you need an ear boniyah2000@gmail.com I hope it's okay to post that here. If not, that's ok. There is a gentleman who survived the war in Bosnia. He describes the horrible situation there and the struggles. Eventually he tells of American pilots dropping supplies and food. He states it wasn't so much the food and supplies (that were badly needed) but that someone cared and they had not been forgotten. It gave them a sense of dignity and the reality not all the world is harsh and unforgiving. That's the hard part!

bon said...

Frank; "I guess I just lose faith for a while" I do, too. It's hard to continue to be motivated about doing something no one else has any interest in aside from self-deceived persons considering you delusional about things even though experts such as Dmitry have been harping about this reality for years!

Nickel; It sounds like ya'll are really on the ball with sustainability. You remind me we need to MOVE. lol

Subgenius; That is an awesome article.

Tom; A journal! That is a very good idea. I keep a number of them for my children but had not considered it for the "times".

bon said...

Jayhawk; Just today my husband was speaking of the seasonal hiring. He's attempted, in the past, to gain employment at Wal-mart but there are too many applicants. They chose the other guy because we live 30 miles out of that area. I guess they need narrow it down considering all the applicants.

Jeff; Blessings to you and yours.

Kurt; You touch on what Dmitry points out and also what I believe - there will be times of deception where the economy or certain industries that prove lucrative leading some to think the economy is recovering.

bon said...

Lennon; I don't mean to sound defiant but there is a harsh reality of not having any disposable income. I'm still working for solutions for this. The phone is a major issue and it is still ongoing.

Lee; Again, not to sound defiant. It's more difficult to get out than it is to stay, sometimes. There just isn't enough money to move. Most folks assume there is a cash flow involved and that is not the case. No money for downs, bad credit scores for the necessary downs and I do not have any family, either- a point that often gets missed by me. No support. However, it really forced us to live sustainable and responsibly with what we have and to become creative and industries when necessary.

bon said...

Dapper; I see you understand the dilemma of potentially moving some place where better financial opportunities exist (and also forming new dependencies) or sticking it out where I know there is a good parcel of land to live off of. We have, in total, approximately half an acre - quite large enough to support ourselves on for the future. The climate is very ridiculous, though, and a move may be required, still. Also, I recently put up a (common place) internet list ad stating a happy home exists for any bunnies that are no longer wanted. I have acquired five so far and built their housing and feed them from the land. They provide rich fertilizer for the soil and, who knows, they may be useful later on for other things.

bon said...

Neroden; We are definitely open to the option of moving. Husband and I joke that we may end up walking out with our belongings wrapped in a cloth sack attacked to the end of a pole just like the "hobos" or "okies" who left for California during the dust bowl. lol

Harry; That Hugelkulture really does work. The deeper it is, the longer it lasts and better it works.

Kasey; Can you send me a link to your blog? I would love to read it.

bon said...

Atao; I'll check out your site. We have about half an acre and with guerilla gardening and some funding I should be able to turn this place into an edible garden. I hope!

kaos - We lost all our black walnut trees to the drought. Unless we receive adequate moisture in the winter, the pecan trees will also be toast. I've looked into grey water systems but haven't the funds to install the necessary piping. I can plumb my sink and washing machine right to the garden area, for example, making good use of available moisture in this drought.

bon said...

Ahava - Shalowm. After all this time I believe there is also a problem with internal wiring. Of course, the phone company would charge for that repair. At this time I'm dealing with a cell phone. Adding insult to injury everything is long distance from this little city. Therefore, a cell pone seems more viable - to eliminate unnecessary long distance charges. I mostly need the phone for business such as doctors. I use skype for most of my personal calls, etc.

bon said...

I really wish, sometimes, that our "system" was set up like that which Dmitry describes of Russia. Of course, I'm conservative at heart - albeit politics is pretty non-issue at the time - but I'm open to things that actually "work" and many cultures outside of America are designed to help support each other. Still, America is a great country full of wonderful people and I never give up on our potential to make things better for all when we're allowed the freedom to do just that.

Horatio Nelson said...

on needing piping for greywater: you don't. you just need to remove some existing piping and place some tubs, buckets or basins to catch what is coming out of your pipe.

if you're talking sinks, remove the P (elbow-shaped curved pipe) at the bottom, stick a bucket under there and empty it regularly.

if you're talking the clothes' washer, usually they have a hose that is attached to either a sink or a drain. get a large enough container that won't tip over (hopefully your manual will tell you approximately how many gallons will be used each time)and secure the hose to drain inside it.

yeah, you probably didn't also want to tote water out there but you can still save your trees. trees are a heckuva lot more important than waiting around for cash for pvc pipes.

our gophone (ATT, although i can't recommend them for service and don't even know if they still offer it to new customers) costs us $25 every 3 months.

justjohn said...

(sorry this reply was delayed due to website issues - sounds like you are working on the phone issue)
Bonnie, thanks for your eloquent essay. I can't directly relate to your lifestyle, since I have a job and work in a college town that is still doing OK. And I will admit to looking at homeless people, etc in the past and thinking of them as somewhat defective, but I have mostly beat those thoughts out of mind. Anyway, it sounds like you are thinking of your family and doing the best you can, good luck to you.
Now, as a guy, I have to say "ahh, she has a problem, how can I fix it". A big issue seems to the phone, I would suggest you look into pre-paid wireless. I'm using PagePlus thru KittyWireless. I have a $30/month plan (1200 minutes, etc) but they have a monthly plan at $12, or you could just use a $10 card and limit your usage. You would need to come up with a Verizon phone, but thousands of those go into recycling bins every month (hint).
Furthermore, get a free Google Voice account, that will give you a phone number with a reliable voicemail system, assuming you can get to an Internet connection every so often to check it. (hmmm, I suppose you might not have a computer? perhaps relying on a library one, not sure if that would work with google voice without installing software which probably isn't allowed)
Finally, possibly your state has a public service commission. I would suggest drafting a letter to them explaining the crappy landline service. Mention the children and safety issues. Then call the current phone company and tell them they have three days to fix it, or you will send the letter. (doublecheck that the problem isn't with your equipment: try a second phone, and there is probably a box on the outside of the house, open that and you will find a phone jack to plug into, that bypasses all your internal wiring so they can't say it is your problem)

izzit said...

Recommend a book called Ordinary People As Monks & Mystics. Yes, a NewAgey title, but still relevant. Maybe even more relevant to you: author posted an ad in small-town papers, looking for people who didn't fit the mold, who had decided to live differently and maybe retreat from the world a little bit. There was one common thread - the people around them freaked out at the change - and usually, like in your case, onlookers & relatives framed it as misfortune rather than as transcendence. Sometimes, yes, they even became hostile - because for them, after thinking someone's down in the gutter, it's worse to realize that they have something you've never had, and will never have the way things are going...

I'm kinda where you're at, mentally: I live in a tiny mobile home, which neighbors are happy to literally look down upon. It is always very odd to be invited to a party and have the host say, "If you think this is bad, you should see where Izzy lives!' to their friends. Then they turn to me and with a jovial, benevolent air say, "I don't know how you do it!" Sometimes I wonder how they'd react if I made clucking comments about their oversize mortgages, their inability to sell, their high condo fees. They'd be shocked at how rude it sounds, to diss someone's home & lifestyle in the guise of 'sympathy'. But, my mama didn't raise any shallow, rude people... so I never call them on it. On a bad day, I wonder how they'll react when I do have a nervous breakdown & run to them crying, "I can't do it anymore!!!" Bolt their doors, probably.

I made a conscious choice to downsize & reduce my debt, got tired of shilling out most of my monthly pay to others. Unlike my neighbor's bigger "manufactured homes", I own mine outright. I chose a small trailer so I could move easily if I wanted to. My house is insulated and heats up fast. This is very disappointing to neighbors who like to console themselves that if their house is always cold & uncomfortable, mine must be freezing. What am I saying - they just ignore me and decide I'm lying to cover my regret & shame, the way they do.

Sadly I doubt a reversal of their own fortunes would help. The county is now coming after them - it wants the land, to give to big company hq's. My little trailer is safe, it can go anywhere. My neighbors, upper-middle-class retirees, have been caught off-guard at this development. "Well, if we just go explain to them how nice it is here and how we're good stewards of the land and how we love it, they'll have to listen, right?" My neighbors don't realize that to the county, these "manufactured homes" are no different than the old Winnebagos parked across the road that the neighbors like to have towed because it 'ruins their property values'. The 'property values' of retired professionals are of no interest to the county.

And so my 'low-to-the-ground' lifestyle is justified.


One must have a phone. Even the Amish have phone access. Desert nomads in Africa now have phones (yes they do) - so should you.
Get a pay-by-minute cellphone or you have net somehow - get Google Voice, check it at 3:30 each day. Free, just needs an old computer, headphones, it'll even transcribe them into txt

I don't know about you but I'm realizing I have to keep up appearances - haircut, shave/highlights, comb, newer pants, decent shoes...

BTW Orlov, never a problem w/ your site in Firefox.

dltrammel said...

Wow, a very well written and sobering look at being at the economic bottom.

I was born in Muskogee myself in the late 50s, and while I'm living in another state now, I still go back and visit relatives. (fingers crossed) They are doing ok in this economy, though my brother was out of work for over 2 years recently.

It sounds to me like you have learned a lot in managing to make due. I wonder if you would stop by the GreenWizards.Org and share some tips and ideas you have with others.

We are John Michael Greer's daughter site, off his well known blog "The Archdruid Report" We are trying to re-develop skills and crafts to make a easier slide into the new Dark Age.

As an example, one of our members, Sevenmmm, is doing alot of work with "Hugelkultur", composting using logs and tree limbs, and has posted almost a dozen videos of his work on our forum.

I invite people to stop by.


To Dmitry: We will be having our 2nd year anniversary soon over on the GreenWizard site, and we were planning to give away some books at the Yuletide. I was wondering if there is a way to buy one or two of your books thru the best method for you, to include in the give away?

Bobster1 said...

I also lived in Oklahoma for many years, but in one of the cities. You're correct about Oklahoma being a lot closer to the bottom than other places, thus less to fall. There are of course more opportunities in the cities, but still many, many people struggle. I was an inner city landlord for many years and witnessed how many people, even when supposedly unemployment is low, live almost hand to mouth. I charged very little and still people struggled to pay their rent. Even when times are good, the odds are stacked against so many people.
I also lived in a very rural, isolated valley in Oregon, where many people also lived hand to mouth, but there was a real, strong sense of community and much more knowledge of how to live on very little money. There was a strong barter economy and many people knew how to do almost everything for themselves. It seems that, in order to get along, you have to create an independent local economy of your own, in cooperation with other people, and reject most of the money economy, over which you have no control. It's a lot easier to do this in some places than in other places (easy in some parts of rural Oregon).

neroden@gmail said...

"Neroden; We are definitely open to the option of moving. Husband and I joke that we may end up walking out with our belongings wrapped in a cloth sack attacked to the end of a pole just like the "hobos" or "okies" who left for California during the dust bowl. lol"

I'm really sorry you're in the situation you're in -- you might just do that. And it might not be so bad.

I think the key is to find a community. You don't have family, but do you have friends? Even if things aren't objectively much better elsewhere, being somewhere where you have friends can make a huge difference in rebuilding.

Although I am very lucky in many ways, I am acutely aware that I'm not very good at collecting friends, and that my friends are scattered thinly across the globe. I still think I have several potential communities I could run to if things got bad.

But it is very true that some places there *are* serious communities intent on supporting each other, and other places there aren't. The self-sustaining ones don't advertise and they don't invite immigrants but if you find them and you have skills, they are fairly safe places to be.

I can't make generalizations about where they are, since they are in isolated pockets in rural, urban, and even suburban areas scattered all over -- and from the outside they look *exactly* like the atomized, unsupportive communities. You have to actually know the right people to find yourself in one. The Internet makes it a lot easier to do this, in some ways, than it ever was before. You may be able to sound out friends from the Internet to see if any are involved in this sort of community (if so they'll usually be quite discreet, but you may hear comments which give it away), and then you have a potential target destination.

If you manage to collect enough trustworthy and skilled friends where you are, though, that's probably the best bet.