The poverty special


The kids are coming for dinner on Sunday.

What to make?

The Sunday dinner before Scott gets his “big” monthly paycheque is always a challenge.

That’s because, in the car business, the middle of the month paycheque is always puny. It’s what they call a draw and it’s $500 which is supposed to last us two weeks. After we fill up the gas tank –$65– and pay for a big bag of dogfood, there isn’t a whole lot left so by this time in the month, we’re living on fumes.

So tomorrow I will be making my poverty special, a dish I made many times when I was a single mom. Strangely, it’s Marissa’s favorite.

The poverty special is a creamy pasta sauce featuring a can of tomatoes, jarred roasted red peppers, garlic, onions, a pinch of sugar and a splash of cream. The whole thing costs me three dollars  to make — including the pasta– and it is indeed yummy. With a  caesar salad, the whole meal is less than five bucks.

When you live most of your life as a single mom, you thrive on next to nothing. When the kids are little, it’s not that hard. Marissa used to love shopping at The Dollar Store and she could purchase a pile of clothes at Value Village for $20. As long as you can afford a few treats and you can still  keep the cable, lights and internet on, you’re golden.

Still, it wasn’t the life I had imagined for myself when I was living in the large house on the hill with Mr. Big. I foolishly tried to keep that house when Mr. Big took up with the White Witch of Bermuda and by the time it sold, I had lost twenty thousand dollars I couldn’t afford to lose. That’s when real estate wasn’t the equivalent of gold in this country.

I went to the bank to get a mortgage for a small townhouse. I had the down payment but the bank loans officer who had been so wonderful to us when Big was in the picture pretty much laughed me out of his little office. I had income but most of it was in the form of support payments — which didn’t count (ladies of divorce, listen up) so my meagre personal earnings couldn’t get me a condo in the worst part of town.

Back in those days, support payments were taxed in the hands of the spouse with the children, while the other spouse got a tax deduction. That meant that while I was living on less than $40,000, and Mr. Big was a millionaire, I owed about $5,000 in taxes every year while raising three kids. Mr. Big got a lot of that money back.

Needless to say, even though I was able to manage a small mortgage on a townhouse, I grew deeper and deeper in support payment tax debt. Eventually, I gave the keys to my house back to the bank just to pay back taxes.

That was a hard pill to swallow.

When I began my life as a single mom, my financial picture wasn’t great, but I had planned for a rainy day. I’d socked away nearly $100,000 into RRSPs — not bad for a 35-year-old — but I used most of that money to put money down on a house and keep our little family afloat. Ten years later, I didn’t have a pot to piss in. (Though my new financial advisor, the bankruptcy trustee, congratulated me on being a creative money manager.)

I tell this story to my kids when they look all googly-eyed about love and their future plans. I tell them this: “Okay, wonderful, you’re in love. Now imagine yourself divorced. Remember how we lived when you were kids? If you are prepared to settle for that, then go get hitched, have a family. God bless.”

My life lesson hasn’t swayed them, of course, nor should it. Two of them have wonderful spouses and they’re happy.

And so am I. I took the plunge once again, and I’ve never been happier.

We should all be happy. A person shouldn’t have to live life in a cynical space, as I did for a decade.

I’ve learned to be optimistic but always plan to live The $10 Life.

You never know what’s going to happen — especially if you’re a woman and especially if you have children.

Men leave one way or another.

They either go out the door on their own steam, or they go out feet first.

Wise women learn to make creamy tomato pasta sauce.

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