How I Live Now

There was a time, not so very long ago, when I could have told you the exact amount of cash I had in my wallet, down to the penny. I’d wake up in a cold sweat, wondering how I’d pay my bills, or what on earth I’d do if I became seriously ill with no health insurance. For most of my life, I was about one flat tire away from utter homelessness. It was exhausting.

I learned to add rice to a can of soup to make it a meal. I was the coupon queen. I wore clothes until my meager sewing skills couldn’t keep them together anymore, and then I’d replace them at the thrift store. My shoes would all but disintegrate on my feet.

For entertainment, I’d play with my dogs, or take a walk, or watch PBS. I checked out mounds of library books. I knew when all the museums and galleries were free.

I’m not saying that all the joy in life is brought about by money, but life sure has improved now that the financial pressure has eased considerably.

I still keep a tiny bit of cash on hand for emergencies, but I couldn’t tell you how much. Mostly, I sleep through the night, and while I still avoid extravagant, unnecessary bills, I don’t worry about my ability to pay the ones I do incur. My health insurance is probably better than what most people have here in America. (Which isn’t saying much.) And recently I replaced all four of my tires at once without batting an eye. (Okay, maybe I swallowed hard for a second, but there was absolutely no eye batting.)

I still don’t eat at five-star restaurants, but I actually buy organic fruits and vegetables without considering them a splurge. And if I really want something in particular to eat, I figure out a way to get it. I can’t remember the last time I even opened a can of soup. I still use coupons, but I’m not ruled by them. I still shop at thrift stores mostly, but every once in a while I’ll get myself something really nice to wear. And my shoes are in good shape.

I have a lot more fun than I used to. I can afford to get out there and engage with the world. I eat out. I see the odd movie. I pay admission fees without perspiring, and occasionally donate a little extra to museums. I still love library books, though.

Sometimes I’ll look around and wonder how I got to this place. It was a long, hard struggle. It doesn’t seem real to me. I doubt it ever will. I keep expecting to wake up to another can of soup. And I doubt I’ll ever be able to retire. Because of that, I’ll always appreciate how I live now. I’ll never take anything for granted. I’ll always feel as though I’ve taken off a pair of shoes that were two sizes too small. For now, it really feels good to wiggle my toes!

Life. It’s so fragile, so precarious. Enjoy it as much as you can, while you can.

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Dedicated Drawbridge Openings

As a bridgetender, I have the privilege of operating one of the world’s biggest pieces of heavy equipment every single day. It never gets old. A friend of mine likes to say that with my index finger, I move hundreds of thousands of pounds of concrete and steel. I try not to let this power go to my head.

When I do an opening, I often see people come to a dead stop and gaze in awe. I wonder how many photos I’ve been responsible for during the course of my 17-year career. Thousands, no doubt. Every bridge opening is an event for someone.

The fact that every opening is special gave me an idea. I could dedicate a bridge opening to you, dear reader! We’d both be on the honor system here, but all you have to do is donate US$20 to your favorite charity (or if funds are tight for you, volunteer, or donate a pint of blood or your hair for wigs or something like that) and then write in the comments section below (or on the View from a Drawbridge Facebook Page) who you donated to and who you’d like me to dedicate the bridge opening to. I will reply in the comments when I did the opening and give any unique details about it. DO NOT SEND ME ANY MONEY. That’s not what this is about.

Important note: I cannot just open the bridge willy-nilly. There actually has to be a boat that requires an opening. Otherwise traffic would back up for miles, and it would also break several Coast Guard regulations. I’d kind of like to keep my job, so I can’t promise an opening on a specific day or time. But I promise I will do it.

Here’s your chance to make a big move! So get out there and make your donation, and let me know. I look forward to hearing from you!

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Idiotic Policies

I had a weird conversation the other day with Bloodworks Northwest, my local blood bank. It seems that I can’t donate next time because if I do, I’ll have given blood more than 6 times in a 12 month period.

Me: “Can’t you give blood every 8 weeks?”

Them: “Yes.”

Me: “6 x 8 is 48, and there are 52 weeks in the year, so sometimes you’re bound to be donating more than 6 times in a year.”

Them: “But you can only give 6 times a year.”

Me: “So you’re saying you don’t want my blood?”

Them: “Not until after June 22nd. Would you like to reschedule now?”

Me: “No. I’ll get around to it. Maybe. Later.”

WHAT AN IDIOTIC POLICY!!!!

This makes absolutely no sense. By doing this, they are alienating their most faithful donors. They are rejecting every 7th donation. That runs entirely counter to their mission.

I could swallow it if there was a logical reason behind it. But nothing makes me chafe more than being told, “That’s just the way it is.” There are some policies that I deal with at work like this, and they make me want to scream. Someone needs to tell the emperor he has no clothes. “Your highness, not only are you naked, but you’re also stupid.”

So, Bloodworks Northwest, if you wonder why you’ll never be seeing me again, it’s because I’m taking my blood down the road to the American Red Cross. They let you donate every 8 weeks, full stop. Just like every single solitary other donation center I’ve used my entire adult life. Sorry. That’s just the way it is.

giving blood

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Donating Yourself

Times are tough and there’s so much need out there that it can be overwhelming. But it’s understandable when people can’t make financial donations. I for one am struggling to make ends meet. But there are so many other ways to help.

Here are some ways you can give of yourself, show the world how wonderful you are, and improve the lives of others without spending a dime, and if you need added incentive, in many cases you can write these donations off on your taxes.

  • Become a marrow donor. If you’re between the ages of 18 and 44, a simple cheek swab will get you registered, and if you become a match it could save someone’s life. Go here to order a registration kit.
  • Become a cord blood donor. Are you pregnant? Donating your baby’s cord blood after birth does not put you or your child at risk and could save someone’s life. Talk to your doctor and find out if your hospital participates in this program before your child is born. For more information, go here.
  • Donate your used clothing and furniture. It breaks my heart to see useable items on the curb on trash day when there are so many organizations who would be happy to take them off your hands. Many will even come and pick it up from you.
  • Donate your used car. There are a lot of organizations that will take your used car. Here’s a site that can connect you to various charitable organizations, but personally, I plan to donate my car to National Public Radio when the time comes.
  • Volunteer. Many organizations in your community could use your help. Here’s a website that can help you find those opportunities.
  • Give someone a micro-loan. I can’t say enough about Kiva.org. In a nutshell, loan 25 dollars, change someone’s life, get paid back, and hopefully do it again. What have you got to lose? Not one single penny, that’s what.
  • Help a neighbor. If you have a neighbor who is sick or elderly or disabled or a single parent, they could no doubt use your help. Whether it’s shoveling snow, running an errand, doing home repair or mowing the lawn, there are any number of things you could do to make their lives easier.
  • Donate blood. Another free opportunity to save a life! Imagine that. Go here to find the blood bank nearest you.
  • Freecycle. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Rather than filling the landfill with your perfectly usable but no longer wanted items, advertise them here on your local freecycle network. This is a great way to pick up things that other people are giving away as well!
  • Spread the word. Do you know of a way for people to save money or live healthier or safer lives? Don’t keep this information to yourself. Share it. Facebook it. Tweet it. Whatever it takes to share this with others. Knowledge is power.
  • Donate your hair. Planning to cut more than 10 inches of your hair off? Don’t let it go to waste! There are organizations that will make wigs for people who have cancer or alopecia. I don’t want to give any one organization special treatment, so simply google “hair donation” and choose the one you like best.
  • Listen. Sometimes all someone needs to turn their day around is someone willing to listen to them. Really hear them. That’s a skill. Please practice it.
  • Participate in Neighborhood Watch. Help keep your neighborhood safe the RIGHT way, with an organization that does not advocate vigilante behavior. Google Neighborhood Watch to learn more.
  • Be a mentor. Share your knowledge and expertise with someone who would benefit from it. Learn more about this here.
  • Recycle. Think of this as volunteering for the planet.
  • Report abuse and other crimes when you see them. If you witness domestic violence or any other crime, speak up. That’s the only way you’ll prevent its recurrence. This is a way of doing a good turn for a future victim. Simply dial 911, or if you are outside of the United States, find out your emergency number and keep it handy.
  • Be an organ donor. Sign up to become an organ donor in your state’s organ donor registry and you will not have died in vain. For more information, go here. Also, be sure to share your wishes with your loved ones so that there’s no conflict or confusion when the time comes.

There are so many ways to make a difference in this world, and you don’t have to spend any money doing so. If you can think of any other ways that I may have overlooked, please add them to the comments section. I do 13 of the things mentioned above, but doing even one will make the world a better place. Join me, won’t you?

volunteer

Remember when you were young and willing? It’s never too late.

[Image Credit: astdtn.org]