tuesday recap: routine building, couponing and panhandlers

I’m starting to settle into a slightly more productive routine on days when Ben is not home with me. I spend the mornings working on freelance projects, catching up on email, and applying to jobs online. I take a break mid-morning and spend an half hour or to an hour cleaning the house, usually doing dishes, laundry, and putting things away. I keep working until early afternoon, at which point, I take a shower and get dressed, and then go run errands before rush hour starts. I’m home by 5:30, at which time, I can start dinner and get ready for Paul and Ben to come home.

Unfortunately, I have a gimped-up left foot right now, so I haven’t been able to incorporate exercise into my routine yet. I rolled my ankle and hyper-extended my foot tendons in Vancouver last week, when I walked off my sister’s front step. It was getting better, and then I decided I would learn to jog last week, and screwed it up again. I was hoping swimming would be easier, because I wouldn’t have to carry weight on it, but it hurt to extend my feet and kick when I took Ben swimming on Monday. So I guess I’m stuck sitting around for a few days until it gets better.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I’m re-building my schedule, one thing at a time, and re-cultivating work habits in a self-paced environment. And honestly, it’s hard to not sit around and watch back-episodes of Degrassi High all day (thank you, Hulu.) It’s hard to stay off the Wii, or keep from opening The Sims. But my days go by so fast, I know I will regret spending too much time on non-productive activities. There’s just always so much to do, in both my professional and personal spheres.

Besides, I only have a few more weeks until Ben is home with me more. We have to give thirty days notice to reduce Ben’s weekly daycare time. We haven’t given it yet, because we didn’t know how much child care we would need. Paul and I need to be able to take Ben to school if one of us has to travel for work or a job interview, and we would especially need daycare coverage if I have to start work in a new city and leave Paul as a single parent during the week until he can move with me. Besides, we learned this less in 2009, when I was laid off, and we dropped Ben’s coverage to two days a week. When I was re-hired, we kept having to hope, every trip, that there would be an empty slot somewhere for him to take as a drop-in baby. There is no guarantee that Ben could go to school on a Wednesday if he’s only a Tuesday/Thursday student, and so, we’ve been discussing how much we actually want to reduce his days, based on our new budget, my new workload, and Ben himself. We will probably drop Ben to two or three days a week, so I can manage all my own projects, and bond with my son…but we have yet to make the final decision. The one thing I do NOT want to do is to drop preschool entirely. Ben LOVES school, and he has lots of tiny friends, and is doing very well with the structured curriculum. He definitely needs to go to school, but we still need to figure out how much he needs to be there.

In the interim though, I like having the time by myself. I was even able to take some of yesterday afternoon to go grocery shopping and do what Paul calls “Moderate Couponing”. This is where I use the lists provided by the Grocery Game, and go stock up on non-perishables and staple groceries. I subscribe to lists for Vons, Ralphs and Whole Foods that tell me which coupons to stack on top of sales to get items for the lowest price possible. This does become a little time consuming, but it’s kind of a hobby for me. I watch reality TV and clip coupons, and just shut my brain off doing those menial tasks. Then I spend a few hours hitting the stores once a month, and have a pantry full of staples…and enough left over to take to the food bank.

But on my way out of Ralphs at the end of the day, I was approached by a man in his 20s. He came up to me, as I was loading groceries into my car. “Hey, Miss Lady? Miss Lady? I gotta ask you, I ain’t got no job, and I got two babies to take care of, and I was wondering, could you give me just two dollars?”

I looked him him. He was neat and clean, wearing cargo pants and a Burberry T-shirt OF COURSE it was probably knockoff, but it was still a new, label T-shirt. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I don’t have a job and I have one baby to take care of. I totally sympathize with you though.” And then, because I felt like both being nice AND testing his story, I said, “I have some extra cereal here. Would you like some cereal for your babies?”

“Uh, well,” he said, and I could see him scrambling for an excuse. “That’s real nice of you Miss Lady, but um, I’m walking around right now, and I can’t carry it. But maybe if you could give me just two dollars, Miss Lady, and I could go in and buy the milk, because, um, for the baby, it’s a new baby, Miss Lady, and needs the milk.”

I sighed internally. New babies don’t drink grocery store cow’s milk, and I wasn’t giving this guy cash under any circumstances. So, just because I felt like screwing with him, I kept going. “I’m sorry, I can’t give you money, but I just bought juice boxes. Would you like juice boxes for your babies?”

“Um, well, no, maybe next time. Thanks Miss Lady.”

Dear panhandlers: it would be advisable not to panhandle while wearing clothes nicer than those of the people you are begging from. I wanted to be able to tell this guy that there ARE people out there who are in a situation where they have children and no money. Oh, not me – I have a husband with a well paying job, and a well stocked rainy day fund. But I can see those mothers – and sometimes those fathers – every day at the bus stop on 3rd and Vermont, at the same Ralphs. And here’s this punk-ass guy, blatantly lying, wearing a designer T-shirt, coming up to people in a parking lot asking for cash. I have no problem giving hungry people food, or clothing, or grocery store vouchers or meal cards, but I’m not handing out cash, and just because I’m the only Caucasian woman shopping at a store doesn’t mean I have enough race/class guilt to make me completely stupid enough to do so.

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