Livin’ in the Projects

I know my apartments are nothing like inner city living. I have new carpets and a place to put a stackable washer/dryer. I have 1.5 bathrooms, and my daughter has her own room. I have a dishwasher. I have streetside parking, and a view of snowcapped peaks. I breathe fresh air and have miles of open space where my child can run free. We have a playground on site.

However, its still a housing project. You can’t live here unless you make 60% (or less) of the average income. I am probably one of the more fortunate residents. I bring in a single paycheck, and I still make 60% of the average Durango income. There are a few college students living on my row, but I think I’m in the minority when it comes to having a completed degree.

 My next door neighbor (the 22-year old single mom) works as a rental car agent at the county airport. Since her boyfriend took off with the car last week, I have no clue how she is getting to work. Her daughter goes to daycare, and she has 60/40 custody with her ex. She’s also onWIC.

When I got pregnant during what they call now “The post-Katrina baby boom”, I was on medicaid. Both LB’s dad and I were working construction, gutting houses and helping to rebuild. I think my jobsite morning sickness was starting to freak out the good ole’ boys, because by the time I was 6 weeks along, they told me to stop coming to work. Stop working? I had college loans, a car payment, not to mention we were still technically responsible for the rent on our Durango apartment. I was getting calls from collection agencies, and my savings was slowly draining.

So, I tried to find work elsewhere: Target, Taco Bell, any place that would hire me. My measley income was not enough to cover our expenses, and we soon began to realize (as so many other Katrina victims would) that promises were being broken all over the place. Our contractor told us the local guys were refusing to pay him for the grueling work were were doing every day. LB’s dad and I waited for the money we earned, but it never came. Turns out he was taking everything for himself so he could pay for his divorce back in Colorado.

We finally made it home, our tail between our legs, broke, pregnant and miserable. I lived off WIC for the next year and a half. I could barely afford diapers. For the first 3 months of LB’s life, I stayed at home and tried to make a life out of poverty and pain, while Roofer man did his thing. I hardly saw any money, and my student loans were in serious default at that point. So I got a part time job on the weekend, and was able to chip away at my ever-growing debt.

Can I just say that when you are so blindly in love with someone, you will do anything. I look back at the things I gave up so wilingly, and I am ashamed now. My paychecks eventually went to paying for water, trash, fuel and electricity for our shabby, spider-infested cabin. I stopped paying my student loans again. The money just wasn’t coming from anywhere else. My Ex said he owed a lot of people cash, and that he basically was working just to pay them back.

I’m going to skip the ugly part where it reached the boiling point. I’ll have to blog about that another day. All I can say is that now, even though I live in a housing project, and my daughter is still on State Health Care, I don’t live in a situation where fear and co-dependency is served for dinner anymore. My car may get egged by punk kids every once and a while, but at least I have enough money to pay for a whole gallon of gas at a time.

Last night someones car alarm went off at 3 am. I lurched myself out of bed in a panic, thinking it was mine, stumbled down the stairs, and frantically searched for my keys in the dark. It wasn’t mine. Someone eventually came and turned off the alarm. I stood in my living room, half-asleep, half-high on adrenaline.

Across the row from me, I could a hear the little 4-year-old Mexican kid crying and banging on his front door. His parents are constantly threatening to lock him out if he “continues to act like a little sh**head.” I guess last night they finally were true to their word. Eventually they let him in.

Even with the windows open, LB continued to sleep like the dead.

Yeah, I live in the projects, but I wouldn’t trade it for my old life. Not in a second.

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18 thoughts on “Livin’ in the Projects

  1. Strong for sure. I’m so glad you no longer have to live in the cabin. Don’t feel shame though, all of us have had someone in our life that was only there when they felt like it or to use us for what we could bring to the table. I’m so glad you and LB are in a better place now. Love ya both!

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  2. I think you are magnificent! Ok, so you live in the projects, but honey…you have a HOME…not a place to live, not a dwelling a HOME. A place that you worked your a$$ off for, a place that you and your angel can live and be happy and safe, a place where there is love. I’d say things are pretty darn good.

    I’m so pleased for you…you deserve it. 😉

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  3. I know all about having an idiot ex, my ex husband is awful and I moved far far away and because we have three kids I still am stuck putting up with his crap! You have made a home for yourself and your kid and that is more important then anything ,and some can’t or won’t do that ,so be proud of yourself!

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  4. Gosh – seems idiot exes are a dime a dozen these days! I also went thro the whole co-dependance battle!

    But we won and came out the other side smiling! I had to move home with my folks which is still a daily battle but it is SO much better than where I was!!

    WELL DONE and keep the faith – we will be ok!!

    Heartbreaking about the little boy though ;(

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  5. Good for you getting out of a crappy situation and giving your little girl a good life takes guts. Stay strong! Good Luck to you.

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  6. Wow–that’s a beautifully written account of getting through an excruciating situtation. Good for you for moving forward with your life–it’s a super hard thing to do. School loans SUCK.

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  7. I can definitely relate to this post, too. I whine about not having enough $$, about having to move (again), and my ex never paying child support. But at least my stomach isn’t tied in knots anymore when I check the bank account. heck, at least I have a bank account!
    Congrats to all of us who have picked ourselves back up again.

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  8. DAMN! You’re one strong chick!

    And you know, I complain about my neighbors A LOT, but they’ve never locked a 4-year-old outside at 3am…so I’m gonna stop bitching now!

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  9. Thanks for visiting my blog. We were at a race one time and after the drivers meeting on the front stretch a guy told his gf to look up in the stands. The middle row held up signs, “Heather, will you marry me?” She said yes. It was kind of neat. Some people might think its dumb, but those of us who live at the race track every weekend think its romantic! 🙂

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  10. I couldn’t imagine going through the hell of Katrina and then going through the second hell of dealing with your ex. I’m glad you were able to pick up the pieces and work your way up. Stay strong Mama!

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