I stood in my closet today and looked at my clothes hanging up, separated between shirts, pants, jackets/sweaters, and dresses; my shoes nice in rows on shoe shelf, and my purses on the top shelf and a thought occurred to me. I bought all this. Not all at once of course, and none of it is expensive name brand by any means, but I provided all of this for myself.

Flashback 20 years: I am 11 years old, the youngest of a family of five. Homeless. Ashamed. Embarrassed. Living out of a pop-up camper with a leak above the kitchen sink that didn’t work anyways. One pair of pants and two shirts that I would wash in a bucket with water I pumped from a well and hang to dry on the line. No electricity. No indoor plumbing. Heck no real bed. My bed was a makeshift board laid across the bench table with pillows on top. We chopped wood to make campfire for cooking and boiling water. We lived like this for a year. It was a hot summer, and a cold winter. I read a lot, getting lost in other worlds. I kept my head down at school, never missing a day except the weak that I got strep throat and my parents couldn’t afford the medicine to end my suffering sooner. Food…was well not the greatest and not always enough. I would like to say I had parents that would sacrifice their portions to ensure their kids were well fed, but well.. I would like to say that. I didn’t starve, but I wasn’t always fed. School breakfast and lunch sustained me many days. No tv, I listened to the radio and sing along to local Texas country. Needless to say I was not popular at school, I didn’t even shower everyday because the process to shower was arduous. Pumping water, boiling it. Adding it to the container at the top of the outhouse/shower. Turn water on. Get wet. Turn water off. Soap up. Turn water on. 30 seconds to rinse. The only place I had privacy was in that 5×5 two room shack. No privacy anywhere else. Not easy for any of us.

Now I am sitting here on my pillow top lush queen size bed in my third floor 3 bedroom 2 bath luxury apartment. I have my own bathroom. I have air conditioning. I have cable and electricity. I eat great food that I cook myself or eat out on occasion. I never go without due to lack of money. I take hot showers every morning to wake up. I have privacy. A lot of privacy. My daughter is taken care of. She needs for nothing. She wants for things, but needs for nothing. I am providing this. Wow I have come so far. I don’t always stop to give myself credit for my accomplishments. I don’t always tell myself I am doing a good job. I stress over little things that I can’t control. I get anxiety over money because I know what life is like without it. I still don’t go camping in a pop-up camper.

But I can still see the stars from that wide open dark sky when I close my eyes. I can still hear the crickets playing the thermometric tunes as a lull to sleep. I envision fireflies dancing in the trees. I can still hear the sound of my dad and brother snoring. My parents never fully made it out of poverty. They did make it into rental homes with shady landlords. And finally into a rental duplex with a wonderful landlord (after all of us kids had moved out.) They were not able to help my sister or I through college. I was not able to move back home when money got tight. I moved out at 18 and never went back. There was no where to go back to.

When I became a single mother, I was alone. My sister, my life line, had moved away. My parents were unable to help even babysit, and my brother was even less suited for the job. I was on my own. I took many jobs. Working up to 3 jobs at a time while going to school. I didn’t sleep some nights. When I crossed the stage in 2014 with my sister, I knew that we had mad it. My daughter in the audience she had arrived with me. And now we are here. What a journey it has been.

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