Tag Archives: Stress

Dear rich people: Have just an OUNCE of respect for us

3 May

I had the right-of-way because I made it to the stop sign first. You, sir, didn’t have the right-of-way because you drive an Acura, and I drive a lowly Ford.


The near-miss that nearly sent my car to the shop AGAIN last Saturday isn’t an isolated incident. Here’s one reality of being flat broke that I’m sure the newly flat broke are now facing: The lords tend to treat the serfs like shit. It’s like the medieval times all over again. Where’s my jousting pole? But here’s the deal: Those sipping their Dom Perignon beside their indoor pools owe more than an ounce of respect to the minimum-wage earners who poured it. Those people probably ensured those aristocrats had good food to eat and a clean place to shit, too, before going home to their studio apartment in a gunshot-riddled neighborhood.

Do you want evidence? Go to your local restaurant — whether it be a fast-food joint or a trendy bistro. Spend about an hour there, and you’ll see wait staff or hosts/hostesses being treated like dirt. The same goes for grocery store cashiers, sales clerks at the mall and school janitors. Even though they make considerably more money than the aforementioned occupations, we certainly can’t forget our often-underpaid teachers and police officers.

I can personally attest to just about all of this. My first job was waiting tables, and that experience really showed me how, as my manager put it, “It takes all kinds of people to make a world.” It’s not a world where everyone is singing “We Are the World.” During that time, I dealt with a guy I believe was in his 40s hitting on me and trying to pick me up. Sure, everyone deals with such people. I just didn’t expect it out of a man that age when I was 17. I heard a guy complain about my service to get out of the mandatory gratuity for waiting on his family that seemed to be bigger than the Partridges and the Bradys combined. I was on the floor scrubbing his kid’s puke out the carpet right at that time. I’ll spare you from the details, but let’s just say I also had to deal with two human-made restroom disasters from hell, too. I had to clean the toilets just about every night.

We also can’t forget the Wall Street fat cats who helped drag us into this mess during this discussion. Right when we believe we’ve heard the last of how they pissed on average Americans and led us toward economic meltdown, we find out more that makes us want to vomit. A U.S. Senate hearing last week sounded more like something on HBO or Showtime. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., cited a “fundamental conflict” in Goldman Sachs’ selling clients home-loan securities that its own employees called “junk”, “crap” and one other *cough* choice word. The company bet against the securities and didn’t tell buyers. Levin cited an e-mail between Goldman execs that described one product as “one shitty deal”. Yes, a United States senator said the dreaded “s-word!” Ooooh!

“Your top priority is to sell that shitty deal,” Levin said. “Should Goldman Sachs be trying to sell a shitty deal?”

I don’t believe any other Senate hearing has ever received as many search results on You Tube. Check it out this little excerpt. It’s not exactly an episode of “The Wire”, but…

* * *

Here’s something else a lot of people miss: Low-wage earners help support our economy, too. Taxes are taken from their paychecks just like taxes are taken from the paychecks of Wall Street investment bankers’. We need people do the jobs we consider lowly or aren’t brave enough to do. Otherwise, who is going to prepare our food? Who is going to ring up our groceries? Who will educate our children? Who will literally put their lives on the line while trying to keep our communities safe?

And of course, we can’t forget those who want to dismiss the poor as lazy, lacking motivation and ambition or siphoning wage-earning taxpayers’ money. Sure, there are people who try to cheat the system, believe me. During my brief tenure as a grocery store clerk, I repeatedly rang up people who were buying grocery items you would buy for parties with food stamps — and pay cash for their hard liquor. Meanwhile, I would go home in my 130,000+ mile car I had bought with my old waitress pay, drive to my apartment beside a junk lot, eat macaroni and cheese and pass out on my college textbooks. Other than student grants/loans, I wasn’t getting an ounce of help from the government. One of my middle school teachers told me of numerous students who told him they didn’t need to learn what he was teaching them because, “I’m just going to get on welfare like Mommy and Daddy.”

But those seem to be the only poor people we see — or want to see. How about the high school student who is juggling school and keeping a 4.0 GPA with a job waiting tables, being in the marching band, dealing with stressful family situations and being in the marching band all at the same time. Yes, that was me. I did it all to have a better life and escape from the single-wide trailer I called home for many, many years. Others going home at night covered in grease were doing the same.

I spent some time trying to find the percentage of welfare recipients who also work, but it was nearly impossible to find something halfway current. Many of these articles were written in the early 2000s or late 1990s — long before anyone even knew what we would experience now. But I have been able to find examples of successful people who are now struggling to survive. On one of my inaugural posts, I mentioned the story of Ken Karpman, a trader who went from a $750,000 per year salary to making $7.29 an hour delivering pizza. Then, we have John Jarrell, an unemployed truck driver from Maryland who is pumping port-a-potties to support his two daughters. He is a single father, by the way.

The U.S. Census is attracting a lot of temporary workers who would normally snub such work. For example, this CNN story has an interview with a woman with a Ph.D. who is taking on this job that ends June 1. Nonetheless, all people interviewed for this story is just happy as hell to have a job.

Note that this dosen’t apply to all of the upper class. One of my college roommates, one I met when I moved into that apartment, grew up in a family that had much more than mine. But I found out she had been picked on, too, for the fact that she was MORE fortunate. We were able to swap stories about being on one side or the other, while being teenagers, to boot. People on both sides often have to dodge bullets. There are so many other wealthy benefactors who use their earnings and status for good. Take Bono’s activism, the Elton John AIDS Foundation or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

* * *

When you pull into the mall parking lot to buy a new wardrobe for the season at Macy’s, watch for employees’ cars and not just ones like your Acura — or Porsche, Corvette, etc. That Chevette you may hit is possibly all a person has. Sure, that car is probably insured, but insurance only pays so much. If that other person is in debt for his/her car, part of the settlement goes to paying off the debt.

So, say you still want to point your finger at the poor and not bat an eye while treating them like scum? Well, you’re adding to your own tax burden. That car may be the only way a single mother gets to the job she uses to support her children or a college student goes to both work and class during his/her search for a better life. Maybe it’s the work truck that gets a West Virginia man to his job at a coal mine, so he can risk his life just to feed his family. It doesn’t just apply to cars. If you and your rich friends get drunk as hell and slam into a family’s trailer, they’re going to be hurting while trying to get their home inhabitable again. That’s less money they can use to stimulate the economy — and survive.

When you get inside the store, be that person — possibly the only one of the day — who is sweet and polite to your cashier or sales clerk. On some days, you may be the only person who is. You never know if that cashier or clerk is pulling himself or herself up by the bootstraps and will perform surgery on you one day. You want to be nice to someone like that 🙂

That 19-year-old college student who rode a bicycle to his McDonald’s job — the one you cussed out over French fries last week? You could be standing beside him flipping burgers next week. That’s providing you can even get a job at Mickey D’s.

Just remember: It can happen to you!


An open letter to Alice in Chains: Thank you

21 Apr

OK. So I know a snowball has a chance of lasting in Hell before there’s a chance any member of Alice in Chains reads this. But there are just some things you have to get off your chest. Oh yeah, all lyrics used are property of Alice in Chains and properly cited. So don’t sue me.

Dear Jerry, William, Mike and Sean,

More than 10 years ago, there was a girl just days away from turning 15 and wannabe guitar virtuoso watching Alice in Chains on “MTV Unplugged”. She was thinking, “Wow. This guy is beyond amazing. I’m going to be Jerry Cantrell when I grow up! I’m going to play like him!”

That girl is just a few days shy of turning 29, and she saw you guys in-person in Huntington, W.Va., Monday night. It’s just that the pre-thirty-something was not just in awe of how you all handled instruments like surgeons or how your harmonies were airtight. Your words and your music made me confront every emotion and every experience from the past and present and just throw them all into the wind.

I wish I could give you more detail, so you’d really, really know how your music has struck me like a sledgehammer. It’s just that so much of it is so deeply personal that I still don’t have the strength to be 100 percent open about it all. Publicly, anyway. But so many songs, particularly “Check My Brain”, “Grind”, “Man in the Box” and so many more that I’d be here all night mentioning are basically my autobiography. It’s like every emotion, every personal experience — everything — was spelled out for me. This applies to words AND music. The bends in “Check My Brain” quite frankly remind me of the constant rollercoaster I’m on. It’s like my personal rollercoaster is operated by someone on a serious crack high and running at 100 mph. It’s this dizzying, up-and-down feeling that leaves you trying to kick and punch your way out of the car, so you can jump off the tracks in desperation!

For me, it’s like someone is saying, “Yeah, I get it.” When you’re at some of the lowest points, you need someone who TRULY gets it — not someone who only provides lip service. It also seems like Alice in Chains’ form of “therapy” hits harder and is easier to swallow simultaneously because it’s set to music. I’m sure just about everyone has seen these “experts” on talk shows and the like try to tell everyone their one-size-fits-all methods of getting shit together. I usually spout off just a little bit of profanity and change the channel. But amazing music is magnetic. It’s almost like it’s hypnotizing, making you forget everything around you but that music. Once you’re drawn in, you can really process a song and see how it tells your “story” — whether it be your past, present or future. Keep in mind that emotions, not just events, are part of people’s stories. That’s how I see it, anyway.

These songs give you the chance to just cast off whatever horrible experiences, negative emotions or worries about the future and just throw them into the wind. See, just the thought of telling someone those things is traumatic for a lot of people. But sometimes, singing along — mentally or out loud — is like you can let it out without the entire world knowing. You get the release you often desperately need, and it’s emotionally safer. It’s a win-win situation at it’s best. Sometimes, it’s safer in other aspects. I’ve often been forced to be around a lot of people I truly despise. I’ve listened to some sort of angry, slamming song and whisper the tune if I’m feeling a little more daring. It was like I stuck a middle finger in their faces and without fear of retribution. Now that was beyond awesome 🙂

Music doesn’t only deal with problems. It presents solutions. I know lots of people, myself included, often roll their eyes in digust when someone tries to give a damn lecture. But once again, that music draws you in. So many of those songs get you pumped up and moving in the right direction. Maybe they’ll show you the error of your ways and make you realize you have to get off your ass and change things. For me, “Grind” became my personal anthem when I basically had to deal with multiple people trying to end a career and life I had worked so hard to build. They should have been “well advised not to plan my funeral for the body dies”.

I have to devote extra space to “Your Decision”. To me, the song is about how fear can consume you and how you can give in to the ones who are trying to take advantage of it. Maybe these opportunistic people are the ones causing the fear in the first place. People often watch their “fears become their Gods” and become “overwhelmed” and “choose to run”. And “Yes, it hurts to know you’re bought.” But here’s the deal: It’s YOUR DECISION as to whether or not YOU let that fear eat you alive. Yes, sometimes circumstances out of your control drag you into horrible situations. But it’s YOUR DECISION as to whether or not you fight to get out of it. The words, “No one plans to take the path that brings you lower. And here you stand before us all and say it’s over,” perfectly illustrate how so many people just choose to wallow after life’s shit hits the fan.

By the way, to say a lot of Alice in Chains’ songs have been inspired by serious heartbreak is beyond understatement. Putting those songs out there and performing them in front of thousands of people takes some serious guts. Just know that what you’ve done has been a serious lifesaver for me and so many others. Given how the economy has gone to hell, I’m sure there were many, many, many people in that arena who are also on sickening rollercoaster rides from Hell. Some are probably scared to death, too. I do believe you gave them the escape they needed, like you did for me. I’m sure you all do that at any place you visit.

I walked out of the concert practically walking on air. It wasn’t just the fact that I saw Alice in Chains. It wasn’t just the fact that I was in the room with the guitarist I’ve wanted to be for the past 14 years (Geez. I AM getting old!). I left there with all of my fear, hang-ups, bad memories — whatever — gone. I left there with a much stronger belief that I’m the mistress of my own fate. Even if roads I may have to take are miles beyond the beaten path, no situation is escape-proof!

By the way, I just thought I’d let you know that my friends and I are fully and totally supportive of William DuVall. He has stepped into a position most people would be too scared to take and worked like a hellcat — one hell of a singer. He’s also one serious showman, really working crowds into a frenzy and moving all over the stage to make sure no fan is left behind! Oh yeah, and we all really felt the love from you guys. You all really seemed to love us all as much as we loved you! When you all said you loved us in West Virginia, we truly believed you weren’t just saying that to be nice. I know Jerry, and I believe Mike and William, were saying you all had to get back to Huntington soon. We’re going to hold you to that 🙂

I did leave with one negative feeling, though. My guitar playing fell by the wayside years ago. It was just life in general and all the time it seemed to demand got in the way as I got older. I’ve tried picking it up again so many, many times, but I have found myself really discouraged because I now suck or being once again consumed by “life in general”. Jerry was on my side of the stage most of the time. I’d watch him and be in awe 99 percent of that time. The other one percent? It was my feeling like I let him down by not living up to my promise to be just like him. I know. It was my “decision”. But I do have two guitars I could get out of the closet. 😉

I also had my cell phone in my face the one moment when Jerry was looking in my direction!! I really hope I didn’t piss him off! I was fighting with my cell phone camera to take a decent picture because my digital camera’s batteries died in the middle of the show. The one time I forgot spare batteries… For that matter, I always hope I get the chance to possibly make eye contact with someone in the band. That way, I can wave, blow kisses, or do something cute and crazy just to show my love!

I’ll be awake with the chickens and mow grass if that’s what I have to do to get tickets to your next show! Thank you so much for giving me one of the greatest nights of my entire life!

With the utmost respect and all the love in the world,

The Flat Broke Diva

More bad news

8 Mar

I know that in my mission statement, I said I wasn’t going to use this blog as just a place to bitch. But I really have to bitch right now, and I believe I have good reason.

Sorry that once again, I’ve been absent. Saying I’ve been dealing with a lot is one serious understatement.

I have received some good news: My car is out of the shop, and I’m told my baby girl looks like a brand new car. Bad news: I can’t get to it until someone takes me to my parents’ house that’s 2 1/2 hours away and down some of the deadliest roads in West Virginia. If you consider West Virginia’s roads are generally the biggest death traps in the nation, that’s pretty bad. I don’t have any other takers besides my dad. I’m waiting for my dad and I to have a mutual day off so I can finally be reunited with my baby.

Until then, I’m depending on my “beater” vehicle that broke down right before work Saturday. I nearly missed a story, and because so many people had cleared out before I could make it down there, I didn’t have as good of one. I could have done a SO much better story. I had to take my rental car back earlier last week because insurance would no longer pay for a rental once the repairs were done. And so many people wonder why I own two vehicles.

And when I finally got a jump-start thanks to some wonderful friends in law enforcement here…

I came to the office to find THE FORM in my chair. While I was out on furlough, guess what? Furloughs for the next quarter were announced. The form was for our unpaid off-day requests. That means I will have lost 10 days’ pay for the year, just by the end of June. I just had to bum money from my parents — which really burns like hell when you’re nearly 30 — so I could make rent. Now, I once again have to make the phone call to my parents like I’m a freshman siphoning money for Natural Light beer or Popov vodka. We all had the feeling it was going to happen again, but getting the news always stings.

By the way, thanks to not finding the shithead who nearly destroyed my car, there was an insurance deductible. My dad had to pay it for me because I had to liquidate my savings — about half of it, rolled change — to pay personal property taxes on my car right after I discovered the wreck. I wanted to ask for a 50 percent discount, considering half of my car’s exterior was destroyed. West Virginia’s tax system can bite my ass, too. In Florida, all we had to pay was a sales tax when the car was purchased, then $30 for tag renewals every year from then on out.

Now, let’s rewind just a little bit to Friday:

I went to get my taxes done. Despite losing 11 days’ pay last year, I still owe the feds $634! What the hell?! I had more than $5,000 in medical expenses alone, not counting ones for work transportation/resulting vehicle depreciation. I was told that with the medical expenses, I’d have to have around $7,000 to get a break. I guess I should hope to be hit over the head with a falling tree so I can at least break even with the government.

I feel like I’m having some sort of horrible dream. When it’s all over, I’ll wake up more than 100 pounds thinner, and my smoking hot husband and I will walk onto the balcony of our beachfront house and make the most agonizing decision of the day — yachting or taking our Shelby Cobra out for a spin. I’ve worked so hard to pull myself out of poverty. I started on it when I was in the sixth grade. I realized that there were ways out, and I was going to fight like hell to do it. I devoted my life to school. I researched colleges, careers, etc., for years on end. I finally got to college, and I fought even harder. I started working in my field before I graduated and kept on — even with a little career change in between.

Bottom line: I did what I had to do to get the hell out. Now, I’m just clawing at the walls, trying to survive. I didn’t do all I’ve done to be in this situation. I didn’t study for my first mid-term until 6 a.m. and stagger across campus to take it, to coast my vehicles downhill to save gas. I haven’t run through muck, mud, rain, storms, and even by pools of blood to sit and figure out how I’m going to live on four days’ pay.

I’m sure there’s got to be a way to survive. I’ve had shit thrown in my face before, and I’ve managed to clean up, push onward and (I hope) royally piss off the people who tried to knock me down. I’m just grasping at straws trying to figure out how the hell I’m going to do it THIS time. If I don’t, the ones who tried to stomp on me before will win.

I can’t let that happen. No way in hell.

P.S. I hate to be a downer, but the next few blogs that are coming are going to not be as upbeat as my others. Things just haven’t been all that great…

The money-saver breaking point: Has this happened to you?

24 Feb

OK. This weekend, I totally screwed up and went against half the stuff I preach here. I had scrimped, saved, sacrificed and dragged myself into voluntary misery for a LONG time.

I went totally ballistic and off the deep end. I spent. A fair amount. Most of it: Stuff I don’t absolutely need. At all. I’m just wondering, right now, if I’m alone. Is there anyone else who has gone THIS CRAZY? I’m beating the hell out of myself here.

This snow and the fact that I’ve had two back-to-back furlough paychecks were freakin’ killing me. This weekend was going to be one of the first without a major snowstorm hitting in months. My spending cutbacks have meant that my weekend nights mainly consist of “Saturday Night Live”, cleaning and watching my $5 DVDs I’ve splurged to buy. So, I made plans to get out of town and visit friends of mine who live about two hours away. I don’t get to travel very often because of my schedule and the fact that getting out of this town/region means paying $8 in tolls, much less the gas, food, etc. Did I mention we pay tolls to drive on one of the SHITTIEST roads, ever?


Now, let’s do some more figurative math, folks. The night before I was supposed to leave, I found myself in the office for about three hours longer than I normally would be. I had this sinking feeling some breaking news from hell was going to hit that night, and my instincts were more than right. OK, Twilighters, remember when Jacob’s buddies would get so stressed out and angry that they phased into werewolves? Yeah, I’m surprised I didn’t grow fur and howl at the moon, myself.

I came home, staggered around as I showered and packed my stuff and forced myself up about three hours later. I situated the cat, loaded up on caffiene and hit the road. So, on top of being the general ball of stress from hell that I normally am, I was an EVEN BIGGER ball of stress from hell who was living on less than half the sleep the Surgeon General, AMA, HHS, DHS, FBI and the Dalai Lama recommend and driving for more than two hours. The road getting out of where I live is really nauseating, too!

Remember that old TV commercial — I believe it was for a headache medicine — when you saw the egg crack every time something further stressed out this suburban housewife? Yeah, my “egg” was getting ready to shatter.

I normally do a little more shopping when I get out of here. I don’t live in a place where cattle graze on Main Street, but we don’t have much of anything besides Wal-Mart. I tend to stock up at all the stores we don’t have here (that includes TARGET) — especially good consignment stores or general bargain joints — because I don’t know when I’ll get to come back again. I also tend to eat out more because it’s usually the first time I’ve seen some of my best friends in months.

It’s just that I believe I took it a bit too far this time.

I went to a Michael’s looking for some beads and a cord for them. That was on the agenda. But I also wound up buying a record album picture frame. It was on sale for 50 percent off, and I had been wanting to buy one for my dad for a long, long time. So, why pass up on such a deal? But the “deals” continued. I went to a Big Lots because nothing makes the Flat Broke Diva happier than seeing a “clearance” sign and a Big Lots simultaneously.

Picking up shampoo and conditioner I use all the time at half price wasn’t a bad call, but guess what else I bought? A generic version of “Bumpits”. That’s right. I bought the things that make your hair beauty-pageant-tiara-ready. I like making my hair poofier these days, and I thought these — which were half the price of the name brand — would do the job. I’m also planning to reprise my 2008 Sarah Palin costume for this Halloween (Which is HOW many months away?), and these would be handy. The reason why my first go-round with being a heavier version of Sarah didn’t work out as well as I planned was that my hair fell. But now, I guess I’m ready for the end of October, right?

The madness continued.

So, my friend and I ate at my favorite local “can’t get this anywhere else” restaurant. Next, we hit the Best Buy — also not in my town or anywhere close, for that matter. The plan was to buy — yes, I know I’m a metalhead/grunger — Lady Gaga’s “The Fame Monster”. I can’t help it. I like her music. It’s like crack. Sue me. It’s just that when I was there, I ALSO found a killer Alice in Chains two-disc set. I resolved to buy Alice and wait until later for Lady Gaga. But on another stop, I couldn’t help it. I went gaga for Gaga.

Do I believe I went on an all-out crazy spree? Not really. I stuck to original plans but just had a few things in between. I also restrained myself from many, many, many other things I wanted to sink my teeth into Edward Cullen-style. There were some gorgeous clothes at a Marshall’s, but I avoided them. I’m very, very close to fitting into old stuff! It’s just that I wouldn’t have even touched the “in-between” things if I hadn’t been so frustrated and nutty. And some of those originally planned items, like beads and CDs? Please!

I know it’s not necessarily a bad thing to treat yourself. I also know that it IS bad when you treat yourself too much. I may have crossed the line here. It’s just that I absolutely cracked!

This story from ABC News pretty well spells out the obvious: Poverty and a bad economy stresses people the hell out. I just wonder how crazy it’s going to make all of us.

Getting thinner leads to a thinner wallet

8 Feb

It’s easier to point a finger at people who are overweight or obese.

But before you even raise a hand, ask yourself this: How the hell are they going to AFFORD losing weight?

I’ve been working on a second, second project besides writing about being in the poorhouse — trying to drop about 140 pounds. So far, I’ve managed to drop about 20. This has been awesome for me because each pound gone means I’m closer to having the figure, health and — most of all — life I’ve never had. It’s also been a major bright point in a majorly dark time. I need all the bright I can get, believe me!

There’s a yang to every yin, though. Trying to drop this weight has not been cheap, whatsoever. Trying to handle this whole weight loss deal financially has been almost as hard as trying actually lose the weight!

You don’t need a spreadsheet to link states’ obesity rates and per capita incomes. Mississippi has the highest percentage of obese adults, 32.5 percent. Its percentage of obese children is the highest, too — 44 percent. Mississippi also has the nation’s lowest per-capita income of $28,845.

Want more evidence? Then take yourself home on country roads. My state, West Virginia, is just behind Mississippi in both categories. Here, 31.2 percent of adults are considered obese. West Virginia — surprise, surprise — has the SECOND-LOWEST per-capita income of $29,537.

OK. Not every poor person is overweight, and not every rich person is thin. If you want evidence of the latter, pull up pictures online of various members of Congress. But there are ways the economically disadvantaged are more susceptible.

Economic hardship is a source of chronic stress. That stress could hinder people’s abilities to change weight-related behaviors, even when informed and motivated. I’ve tried to get this weight off for years, and I’ve been on track to do it many, many times. I’ve also failed many, many times. It just never failed that I would hit a stress roadblock from hell — college, personal/relationship drama, starting out as a reporter, beginning a new career, re-starting as a reporter, multiple unemployment spells, illness, injury and quitting smoking.

Not all of these are economic, of course, but they were all enough to make Mother Teresa run into the woods screaming and while opening fire with a semiautomatic. Guess what I did? When I was at home biting my nails about something, I’d find something to bite that would give me a better fix. During times I’ve been on-the-go or practically living in my car, I crammed whatever crap I could down my throat and did it quickly. And quitting smoking? Well, I had to increase one fix to make up for losing another.

If you’re feeling like hell, you’re going to eventually look like hell.

Then, there are, overall, lower education levels in impoverished areas. Lower educational levels could lead to an increased obesity risk because of limited economic opportunities (and any other links between obesity and economics I spout off here will likely result, if that’s the case). Less education also means that those affected may not have as much health information as others. How are they supposed to act on what they don’t know?

It’s not that people in impoverished areas don’t want an education. I’d venture to guess they have more motivation. That was certainly the case while I was growing up, anyway. That’s what made me study until I literally fell asleep on top of my books many, many times. But so many of them can’t afford education past high school.

Nineteen percent of Mississippians have a bachelor’s degree or higher. That number in West Virginia is lower with 17 percent. Compare that with Colorado. It has the nation’s lowest adult obesity percentage (18.9), and 35 percent of its residents have bachelor’s degrees or higher. It has the 10th highest per-capita income.

Then, your poorest areas tend have extremely limited recreational opportunities — or safe ones, anyway. People whose incomes force them to live in crime-infested areas aren’t going to go to the local park or basketball court. Sure, they may want to lead healthier lifestyles, but you’re probably better off obese than shot. We have a walking trail where I live now, but I’ve stayed away from it after such incidents like a shooting and a robbery.

In rural areas, a pile of dirt can only provide so much of a workout. There were no sidewalks where I grew up. If you were brave enough to walk to a neighbor’s house on the side of the road, there was a good chance you’d have to jump into a creek or ditch to avoid being slammed by Bobby Lee and his friend Jimmy Dale in their jacked-up 1976 pickup. There was also a good chance you’d wind up being bitten by a snake while walking in the more grassy areas, too. Kids often find themselves spread farther apart, so there are less playmates readily available.

Poorer areas, both urban and rural, have a lower tax base, and their governments barely keep police on the streets or the outdated fire engine running. So are they going to have enough money for parks and playgrounds? With unemployment on the rise and businesses shuttering — leaving local governments with less business and occupation taxes — more governments will probably have even less to spend. So, even if there is a playground or park, poorer areas may only be able to offer a patch of grass with a swing set — with only two intact swings and one’s rusty chains screaming “tetanus shot”.

You could always go a gym, providing you actually have one in your neighborhood or even your town. But have you seen some of these gym membership fees? Yikes! Also, if you’re working odd hours and days, like I do, some gym’s hours are tough to fit into your schedule.

Oh yeah, go to any fast-food restaurant or grocery store to see how much more healthier eating will cost you.

One of my favorite light items is grilled chicken sandwiches. I loved grilled chicken (can’t really stand it fried), and there’s also not much at restaurants that are waistline-friendly, anyway. At a McDonald’s around here, it’s a little more than $3. Double cheeseburgers are on the Dollar Menu. I’m grateful to the fast food chains for offering more healthy menu items (or something more than no choices at all) to their customers. I’m also grateful to my fellow West Virginian, Morgan Spurlock, for pushing them in that direction with “Super Size Me”.

Then, there’s your local grocer. As more consumers have become health conscious, more companies see that demand as profitable. So, thankfully, there are healthier versions of just about everything now. There’s even lighter versions of cheese, pizza and junk food. But a lot of these lighter versions have no generic. There’s often a BIG price difference between generic and brand name products. Generics are catching up. You can find store brand soy milk just about anywhere. But you’re still going to have a hard time finding generics for EVERYTHING.

But I’m managing to soldier on. I have managed to come up with economic fixes to get through this.

So, yes, we have a problem. Tomorrow, I’ll be throwing out some of the ways I’ve managed to dodge some financial bullets during what is going to be a long, long journey.