Friday, September 30, 2016

money is cheap

I'm standing in our unfinished kitchen at our second-hand stove stirring a pot of thick mashed potatoes in a hand-me-down pan bawling.  

Not that sweet kind of crying they do in movies the real kind of crying where your nose runs and your face gets red & puffy.  
BC leans over the kitchen island he built drinking a $1.27 tall boy beer dressed head to toe in second-hand clothing and covered in sheetrock dust. He is at a total loss as to what to say to me. 

It's not that he hasn't tried it's that each time he tries to tell me "it's okay", "it's not worth crying over", or "you will think of something" I had responded with "it is worth crying over", "it's not okay", and "we can't fix this".  I remind him I am the gym parent. I shoulder the weight of it alone and that he really has no idea what is ahead of me. 

The statement that finally silences him is "I know it is the right thing to do but that doesn't change how crappy it is."  

I leave the stove and return with the indisputable hard evidence: a thin battered blue folder.  Meet Season is written across the front in black marker.  Inside is every team account statement I have ever gotten.

It only takes a few round of throwing out fictitious future earnings for BC to concede: Beach's meet season will be one BIG meet shorter than her teammates.

Actually, the decision was made years ago when facing the same sort of financial hurdles. 

In level 6 Beach chose to go on an out of state meet with her team while I stayed behind to save the expense of a second costly plane ticket to Minnesota.  After she returned she swore she would never do a travel meet without me again.  

Each year before Season begins I ask her, "If it comes down to having to miss a big travel meet would you be willing to go alone?" Her answer has been no; no,  she is not.  

So we had known all along this was going to happen but when the moment got closer I asked her again just in case she had changed her mind- but she hadn't. For her own private reasons, she will not do it "alone". 

And then while I was at the grocery store standing in the coolness of the meat section for an uncomfortably long time pricing cuts of meat.  Picking one up putting it in my basket. Staring at it a moment then taking it back out and putting it back on the display. The butcher restocking the pork politely looked away.  Back at home, my phone, which I had left on the coffee table was blowing up with notifications.  The big out of state meet that was held by a TBA on the schedule had been announced and travel plans were being made....

One of the phone calls pending when I returned from the store with 3 lowly looking "thin cut" round steaks, 3 potatoes from the discount bin, and a $2 bottle of Fair Life Chocolate Milk for Beach, was from Sophie's dad.  I called and explained to him I simply didn't manage to get enough money stored away to pay for all of the travel expenses and her monthly tuition. He half accepted it. Telling me fine, I wasn't going but that Beach still was. 

But Beach is not......we can't even afford what is right in front of us.

I sent off the official e-mail.  I told a coach in person.
It won't be the end of it.  It's only the beginning. 

But between those 2 moments, after talking to Jeff  and before having to show up at Gym for pick up was when how long we will have to wear the banner of "scarcity" set in and that is what breaks me.  Because as much as Beach doesn't want to travel "alone" she will be all alone when she tries to explain it to her teammates- many of whom have no idea what it is like to live a household that REALLY survives pay check to pay check.  She will have to stand like a lone pillar under the pressure from her coaches supporting a house she didn't build.

She will be alone out on the floor as the meet gets closer and closer and she is not going.

One of the things they tell us as gym parents is to not share the financial concerns of our child's sport with them.  It's good advice if you always know where your next meal is coming from.  For us, it is important that our kids understand the value of what we have and what we can manage.  We cannot afford for them not to understand.  And what would I say to her? You don't deserve it, it doesn't matter to us? It's like the Santa Claus thing- he just likes rich kids more than he likes poor ones...

There is no way to hide the cost of life from a kid who is always on my hip,  a kid who can unit price, who flinches when a friend in the car suggest we go to Arby's instead of my offer of Wendy's because she knows the few dollars difference between them is a deal breaker for us.

Around here the cost of things isn't something you have to teach them or talk to them about, it is cause and effect.  We say yes to a movie with friends or an afternoon at the climbing gym and the next week we don't have cheese to make homemade pizza, the bread is "day old" until it is gone and then it isn't replaced, and the turkey meat for lunches is marked "manger's special".     

I know we are doing what we can.  This sport she loves is so out of our price range I have moved all the metaphorical mountains I can in order to give it to her without up-ending all that I value.  

We were not set up for this kind of adventure.  We thought we would be raising our kids quietly in the open fields of Glendale, camping in the desert, canoeing, eating peanut butter and jam sandwiches.  Not traipsing across the country dragging a cooler of yogurt and apples through hotel lobbies and scrounging up $4 bucks for a bad cup of coffee.  

I don't turn down shifts at work, even though I am tired.  Tired, in a treading water sort of way.  Tired in my heart and soul.  I work sick and work after sleepless nights, after long days of helping BC with the business end of his work, running a farm, homeschooling alone with almost zero funds, shopping for what we need with the slimmest of margins. 

Did you know as a family we could put everything we have purchased NEW or from a "real" store, not a scratch and dent or closeout, on our kitchen table (which of course is second-hand) and it would fit there just fine!

In return for our sacrifices, Beach has followed her passion, backed it up with hard work, gratitude, and dedication.  She is an amazing kid on an amazing journey! 

To come up short for her is devastating.  

I'm not breaking because we could have done better.  Obviously, we could have. We could have skipped buying a couple of beers out at the Cinders concert or not forgiven the loan to the Kids for the down payment and first month's rent on their apartment when the baby got sick. Or not fixed my car, not bought a few new books for school, not gone out of our way to pick up a stranded teammate on a weekly basis, or not said"Arby's? Sure we can do that." late at night to a kid laughing a giggling in striated light of the backseat.  There are thousands of pennies we could have NOT thrown into the well of life. 

There are other things, though.  Other places and adventures to invest in.  Times and places to give up the last few dollars in your wallet to someone else's need and free fall on faith that it will work out.  

This moment will pass.  Perhaps not soon enough but it will be gone. She will get over it.  The meet she skipped that one season will be a tiny drop in her life experiences. 

It is all fine to say, “Time will heal everything, this too shall pass away. People will forget”—and things like that when you are not involved, but when you are there is no passage of time, people do not forget and you are in the middle of something that does not change."  John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

And when she does I hope she will drink up the sweet drops in her bucket and use the bitter drops to water her blooming empathy and compassion.

On the day I was bawling before a second-hand stove my back to a bone-tired BC, one of the Gym Moms was across the valley writing a note to Beach. In it, she slipped a pressed green ten dollar bill.  She had no idea what was going on in our house that day all she had heard was that Beach was saving up for a "real" camera (her heart is set on a Canon Rebel) and the mom simply wanted to help her out.   

 "Anything that just cost money is cheap." John Steinbeck

Sunday, September 25, 2016

the music of life

In the dark, over the music, I lean in and yell in BC's ear, "We have paid for a really good life for our kid." He smiles back and begins laughing, "Yes, we have. We've paid a lot for it."
We are downtown in a "club" on a busy SLC weekend. Not only is it LDS conference weekend but the circus is in town. Over the work-week summer crashed close, floor routines were hammered out, parent-teacher conferences thinned the parent bench, and a tornado touched down in a state not known for such things. 
For us, the weekend has been about Region One camp followed by a private CINDERS concert. The girls have no idea that rotating between clinics and classes as if there were rides at an amusement park is not normal.  
And here they are on a Saturday night after working out all weekend rocking out in an all girl dance party with their parents in the room, dancing and watching and egging them on. They don't know or just don't care....
It's not just because they are young- some of them, a lot of them are in high school. It is because they are gloriously protected from a lot of outside forces that would tell them they and their world is not enough. 
But it's not the gym that does this. It's all them, it's Team. 
 Team is like gravity.  
It keeps you grounded. 
It holds you together when you might otherwise fall apart.
It reminds you where you stand.
And they stand strong together. 
With their parents & siblings, and their coaches cheering them on.
We are lucky to have found this place.
Lucky that this place has made it possible for us to buy our way in.
While the Little Giants go marching conquering their world, earning their way.
All the way through (well at least until 9:30 PM).