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.

The Heart of Summer

Ok, I know I should have taken my camera to the hot springs for LB’s day o’ swimming, but honestly I don’t know how I would have managed to hold onto a slippery toddler and take our picture without completely water logging the camera. I promise I will have a game plan for next time, cause it was such a blast. We spent almost 3 hours in the water. Near the end, my 2-year-old was getting so confident in her tadpole-like swimming skills, she starting saying “Let go mommy, let go!” Um…

LB has also befriended a 6-year old who lives at the end of our row at the apartment complex. Ok, maybe befriended isn’t the right word. Basically the little girl came knocking on our door and said to me “Does LB have a lot of toys?” Um….why don’t you see for yourself? After checking with her mom, I became host to LB’s first “play date” with an older kid. SO WEIRD. I’m used to babies and toddlers. They have fairly simple questions and don’t say things like “Wow I think you need to clean your bedroom.” Yes. I was shamed by a 6-year old this weekend.  But damn….LB followed this kid around like a puppy ALL MORNING. I actually got to read some Single Mom Seeking while they tried on all my shoes and played in the mini-kitchen. Is this why people have more than one child? I TOTALLY GET IT NOW!

In ex-fiance news, I swear I had hallucinations this week. As I was driving home from watching The Dark Knight(yeah it was orgasmic..I’ll have to blog about it later), I saw a shirtless dude standing on the side of the Hwy holding a cardboard sign. As I got closer I started squinting, trying to see what the sign said, and I got a wierd feeling in the pit of my stomach. That dude looked wicked familiar. There was also a girl sitting in the dirt next to him. Weirder feeling. As I got to the point where I would have been able to positively identify him, the dude turns away really quickly, hides his face and his sign. WTF?! I actually called some of my friends to see if they would drive by the spot and see if it was my Ex. No luck, but MAN….totally sketch, huh?

The next day I saw him driving in his shop truck, so the whole “side of the road” situation didn’t really make sense, but you never know with him. He could be flying a magic carpet to Denver one day and then be stranded in the middle of the New Mexico Desert the next. I didn’t get a call until 8:45 pm Saturday night, finally wanting to set up visitation for Sunday. I didn’t really want to come out and ask if he was the shirtless guy holding a cardboard box sign the other night, so the mystery will probably never be solved. I’m really not a stalker, I promise.

Visitation went well, though I still get kind of nauseous/infuriated whenever he and his girlfriend tell her kids to give their “sister” a hug goodbye. The girlfriend also kisses LB goodbye and its like a dead weight in my stomach. I wonder if I will ever get over this. At least its almost bearable now. His girlfriend did introduce her father to me, which was big of her, I guess. They also tell LB to call her father “Papa”, so now apparently she has 3 grandpas. I really can’t even wrap my head around what LB must be thinking. How can a 25 month old really understand any of this dysfunction?

Went on a killer hike while LB was with her dad. I usually do something extremely physical when she’s with him, cause it helps to release the stress and other conflicting emotions I really haven’t figured out yet. Usually I just clean my house like I’m on speed, but yesterday I had to get out. Today I majorly hurt. My calves hurt. My ankles hurt. Even my WRISTS hurt. I’m thinking of making it a weekly ritual in self-torture. Should build some character, right?

I’m also checking my mailbox obsessively for my flat iron. I’m gonna look hot for Jiji’s wedding. Speaking of hot, my next door 22-year-old single mom neighbor asked me if was interested in meeting someone, and I said “Does he have a job?” Apparently the rude-o-meter was off on both our parts because she countered with “He thinks you’re hot. He likes big boobs.”

I think she’s trying to hook me up because I paid $35 for her cab ride the night her boyfriend broke up with her. He moved out, took everything with him, including the car they had been sharing. She had no way to get to work, or pick up her daughter. It was late at night, she was crying and it was pouring outside.

Did I mention I am a Pisces and I have “sucker” stamped on my forehead at all times? Maybe I’m riding the “Single Moms Stick together” horse a little too hard. And since she actually depends on her child support payments, I have yet to see the money again. Hey if she can get me laid, I guess that’s enough payback.