A past problem that haunts me still

While I may not be vocal about this, I spend a bunch of time thinking about a problem that is not currently a problem of mine. That problem is food insecurity, and if you don’t know what that is, you can read about it here: Understanding Hunger and Food Insecurity.

While I say this thankfully is not currently a problem of mine, it certainly has been a problem of mine in the past. Long ago, way before I had a well-paying job in a lucrative industry and was married to a person in the same position, I lived in the basement apartment of my father’s house, and did not have much of a salary. At 27 years old and with a recently deceased mother, I was going through somewhat of an emotional and lifestyle crisis. My dad had threatened to kill himself after my mother’s death, and asked me, his only daughter, to move in with him. I had a respectable job in publishing in New York City, but telecommuting was not done back then, so I quit and moved three hours north to one of the poorest counties in the state.

dad

My dad and me, a couple of months after my mother’s death. The door seen on the left leads to my apartment.

The house and property were large but extremely run-down. The main house itself had a living room, dining room, kitchen, one bathroom, and three bedrooms. It also smelled horribly of smoke, as both my parents smoked three packs of cigarettes a day. At first, I slept in the bedroom I had stayed in when I visited, but the daily smell of smoke was getting to me, and I asked to move into the basement apartment.

That apartment was not unknown to me, as I had lived there a brief period when I was 18-20 and going to junior college. It had a large living room, a very small bedroom, and an even smaller kitchen and bathroom. And I use the term “kitchen” loosely. When I was younger, the kitchen had a sink and a refrigerator. Moving back there, both of these items were gone.

Trying to make money in a poor, rural community is difficult. As a student at the local massage school, I got a student job in the bursar’s office. I was allowed to work a maximum of 10 hours a week, and I made $9 an hour. After taxes, that was about $300 a month. I had to pay for my classes, of course, and also gas for my car. My father allowed me to live in the apartment rent-free, since it would otherwise just stand empty.

Sometimes I try to think back on what I would eat on a day-to-day basis. When I first moved in with him, my dad provided me with every meal. But as I moved to the apartment and started school, I saw him less. In those days, I would have a granola bar for breakfast, a cup of free coffee at the bursar’s office sometime during the day, and whatever he made for dinner. I was hungry from skipping lunch every weekday, but there was no real suffering.

Eventually, we grew further apart as our lives went on. My dad met a woman and spent a lot of time with her, so there were no more prepared dinners most nights. I had a microwave in my apartment, so I started having microwaved popcorn almost every night. Remember, I had no sink, so I didn’t want anything that required dishes or utensils. Also, I had nowhere to store food that needed to be cold. So, I largely lived on granola bars and microwaved popcorn for two years of my life, and it wasn’t the worst that could have happened.

I remember being hungry all the time. A bag of microwaved popcorn is about 300 calories and a granola bar is about 150, so with the coffee, I was having about 500 calories a day, most days. As a comparison, I now eat about 1,100 calories a day, most days, and the average adult woman eats about twice that (2,000 according to Google). Of course, some happy days I did get other food. Sometimes my dad brought home a bucket of KFC. Sometimes I went to a friend’s house for dinner. Sometimes, when it was payday, I treated myself to a sandwich from the gas station when I filled up my car.

Let me be clear in saying that I did not have it all that bad. But what I do want to emphasize is that it is now many years later, and I still look back on that time of my life often and with a feeling of existential dread. I wanted to write about some things I do that help the situation and also alleviate my anxiety, but this post has gotten pretty long, so I’ll save that for next time.

Laser eye surgery — another minimalist adventure

When surgical vision correction came out many, many years ago, I immediately wanted it. But I was young and it was expensive, and a bit new and scary. But I’ve always liked hiking and outdoor things, and when I was younger, I even enjoyed camping, and always thought how much better it would be if I could participate in those activities without having to worry about my contacts. Of course, I also had a pair of glasses, which I wore at nights and sometimes if I was just hanging out at home. But I’m not one of those people who looks good in glasses, and the weight of them was often enough to give me a headache.

So a few weeks ago, I had Lasik performed. What made me go through with it, after contemplating it for so long? I don’t even know. At one point, a few years ago, when I started writing, I thought a good reward for me when I sold books would be the surgery. (Yes, I thought of surgery as a reward.) Anyway, I realized that I had made more in profits than the cost of the surgery, so I consulted a few friends who had the procedure, and went in to find out what it was all about.

One of my complaints was that when I was knitting and/or reading while doing something else that require far vision (watching television or making sure my kids weren’t dying), I would have to lift up my glasses to see the up-close activity. Obviously with surgical correction, I would no longer be able to do this. But they gave me a trial of unequal contact lens to test. In this test, my right eye (which is my dominant eye), would be fully corrected for distance, and my left eye would be under-corrected for near vision.

I tried this out for a week, and it seemed successful, so I went through with the surgery, only a day after my birthday. The day of the surgery was rough. I am a little freaked out about anything having to do with my eye, which I then realized was probably why I put off the surgery for so long. And the place forgot to call my husband to pick me up after, so I sat around for two hours, completely blind and confused as to why he wasn’t there yet.

eye

Not my actual eye!

That night, I had to keep on these kind of awful plastic shields over my eyes that caused beads of condensation so dense that I could barely see a thing until the next morning. And then of course, there was the endless stream of drops, which will continue for about a month. But I can see! I keep waking up at night thinking I forgot to take out my contacts, but no, I won’t need them again! It’s only been a little while, but I have to say it was definitely worth it, and I probably should have just done it sooner!

So what’s with the title of this post, me calling this a minimalist adventure? Well, there aren’t many people who wouldn’t like to minimalize the amount of things they have to do to get ready in the morning, and I’ve found another way to cut down that list. Plus, I got to donate my glasses, and give away my contact lens solution!