Hello and welcome from Jones County Iowa – Grant Wood Country! Things are still going pretty well but it’s been a rougher week than most. I used to joke about how in the good old days, a person could live “paycheck to paycheck” on minimum wage. It’s all but impossible to do that any more… even if one is living in a van!
July has been a difficult month. With commuting expenses, food, etc. the paycheck barely pays the bills… It does, but then there’s little left! If I can make one recommendation to other aspiring vandwellers, it would be to at least have $1000 / a month coming in. It’s tough doing it with $650 / month.
Earlier this week I hit rock bottom. There simply wasn’t enough money to buy groceries, gas for the car, cat food, and litter. The stubborn midwest-German upbringing had me not wanting to ask for help. Talk about stressful! The van had 1/4 tank of gas – not enough to go trout fishing (the usual way to deal with stress). With two days off from work, it seemed like it would be a boring, miserable weekend.
I had just picked up this George Foreman grill (thank the “Bill Me Later” option on PayPal) but could not afford anything to cook!
At least there was enough gas in the van to go into Cedar Rapids and meet up with some friends who are also struggling. We dined at two different free meal sites. One is the Mission of Hope, a church offering free lunches catered by different organizations (churches, halfway houses, etc.) each day. The other site is the “Green Square” meals group. They offer amazing food (often donated by restaurants and catering companies). The fellowship was therapeutic – no Prozac side-affects and more effective than counseling.
With a full belly, Serena and I camped in front of a friend’s home in Cedar Rapids on Thursday. The house is along a fairly busy street but nobody seems to know or care about what goes on with the van. After feeling frantic, there’s nothing like a snooze in a van to calm a person down. A gentle rain drumming on the shed metal roof put us to sleep, Serena with her paws on my arm. A change of scenery really does make a difference.
On Thursday, a kind person in town had helped me out with a couple of pounds of hamburger (the good stuff from a locker plant) and some minute steaks. She even assisted with some grocery money, too. (I insisted on paying her back though.)
With a few salad bar ingredients from the local grocery store (bacon bits, blue cheese crumbles, onions, green and red peppers). the resulting burgers were awesome!
One of the patties was topped with a slice of baby Swiss and McDonald’s habanero sauce. The other was smothered in cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce (I love those packets!). To be able to cook something really tasty (despite those crumbly, stale buns which were free), it really brightened the day. There was a lot of love in that food – love from the cousin who donated the meat, love from the mission members who handed out the bread, and love for cooking tasty food with no short cuts! As my Honduran friend used to say, “Estomago lleno – corazon contento!” (full stomach, contented heart)
I’m not out of the woods yet but things are going to improve this next week. We all go through tough times for a reason. I’m convinced it’s not the struggles that define a person but how he/she gets through them… It is possible! There are so many good people in the world who do care about others and helping them. It’s time for me to join the ranks. After having gotten burned out from volunteering at a food pantry – I am thinking of doing it again after getting settled!
Serena and I are back at the farm now after the short little trip. God willing and the trout streams don’t rise, we will be doing some fishing one of these days… but in the meantime, life is pretty quiet on the farm.
Take care and thanks for visiting!
Brad and Serena, Vandwelling in Iowa