I have a pretty amazing life, a beautiful home, two incredible kids, and a handsome husband who has worked hard to move up in life and provide his family with everything we have.  I don’t have anyone to thank except him, and myself.  We made this happen.  While, in our lives, I’m sure events transpired that were “lucky” or “fortuitous” that helped us get here but we are the result of hard work.  Our lives exist because of that work.

Since there have been a few remarks about how fortunate I am, and how “out of touch” I am with those I am reaching out to help with the Flats and Handwashing Challenge, I thought today was a good day for a back story.

Kim today is pretty different from the Kim of 20+ years ago.  I didn’t live in a house until I moved in with my boyfriend (current husband) during college.  No home I’ve ever inhabited had stairs, and it was never permanently anchored to the ground.  I was a trailer park kid.  I’ve lived in plenty in my lifetime, some pretty sad looking, and some that are the “cadillacs” of mobile home parks, with paved roads (NOT DIRT!), and back again.  I recall using a rusted mattress on our front porch, that was basically only rusted and sharp coils,  as a trampoline when I was 5.  We were poor, and a little white trashy too.  We were never rich, but it was only towards my adolescence that things got worse.

About 5-6 years old
About 5-6 years old

Thanks to a string of bad luck our family was thrust into a period of Hell that I’ve tried to block out.  In fact, most of my life between the years of 10-18 are a blur.  A haze of misery and disappointment, rage, pain, and depression.  My mother re-married a very nice man when I was in sixth grade.  We loved him.  But he had recently started suffering from a severe form of Epilepsy that disabled him to the point of not being able to work, and for years, he could hardly function due to the severity and frequency of his seizures.  The Epilepsy was triggered by a head injury from a fight (over my mother) while they were dating.  To this day he still suffers from it but over the years he has gotten better at recognizing his aura and doesn’t drop like a fish in public places (my chorus concert, Wal-Mart, etc) and injure himself as often, or as severely.  He can reach a safe place in time.

We were poor.  My Mother had a hard time keeping a job because she was also trying to care for my step-father, who was very ill, and would lose each job she had.  We didn’t have insurance or income.  Diseases are expensive and paying for the medications my step-father needed took everything and more that we had.  We relied on food banks a lot to eat, and were often on either Welfare or other public assistance programs.  Sometimes we had medicaid (which is the only reason I had braces- a real life changer), but often we didn’t.  And yes, I’ve eaten welfare cheese.

I won’t go into a lot of detail, but things got way worse.  Both of my parents became addicted to prescription and street drugs.  I was essentially raising myself during these years.  My grandmothers made sure we had food in our cupboards in the worst of times but neither really knew how bad things were.  I would wake up for school and see my mother and step-father and other random people already awake, looking quite cheery.  The smell of burnt metal and acrid smoke would still be in the air, needles and paraphernalia were poorly and hastily hidden when I entered the room.

The only reason I didn’t lack certain things was because my mother and step-father were, how do you say, helping themselves at department stores.  It took a while before I realized how my mother came to posses such nice things.  At that point I began refusing her gifts.

Eventually their lifestyles caught up with them.  My mother overdosed in the middle of the night, my step-father and I followed the ambulance (I didn’t have a license but had learned to drive a stick in case I ever had to take over when my step-father started to seize) and we learned that she was in a coma.  She died, but was brought back.  I went to school the next day because I was a lawyer in a mock trial I had been preparing for for weeks.  It was my time to shine, and I did amazing.  Later that day I was called to the office because my mother woke up, and was picked up by family members and taken to the hospital.

We were eventually kicked out of our home… there was a raid… other illegal activities had happened that resulted in a long investigation and arrests, though no charges stuck and my step-father didn’t do time.  I was “homeless” and shuffled around from family member to family member, trying to stay in my district because I didn’t want to lose my friends.  I settled in with my grandparents and credit that time with them for saving me from a dark place of hatred and resentment.  I was seething and of course, blaming my parents for making my life abnormal.  Every teenager craves to be normal and accepted.  I kept a good front going in school and no one knew except the closest friends, what really went on.  Even then I didn’t like for people to see where I lived, the car my family drove (when we had one), and what my life was really like.  I was poor…

I’ve lived without power, without air conditioning during the blistering heat of North Carolina summers in, what is essentially, a heated tin can.  I’ve slept under many blankets and relied on kerosene heat when we hadn’t paid the power bill and it was winter.  I’ve had to heat water on a kerosene heater and had to flush toilets with a bucket, and pee using a lighter in a dark, windowless bathroom.  I’ve lived with roaches (lots of them).  I’ve gone hungry because of pride… I didn’t want people to know I qualified for free lunches so I didn’t eat lunch.  I would read a book in the hallway or nap in the library.  Eventually, I was able to pay for my own lunch when I got a job at 15 years old, working late nights washing dishes and stocking a salad bar.  I got a loan from my grandmother that enabled me to afford a (really, really shitty) car, I paid my insurance and cell phone bill, started buying my own food, clothes, and music.  I worked illegally, got paid under the table, and therefore “laws” didn’t apply and so I could do late shifts on school nights and work more hours than allowed for my age.  I wouldn’t change it for a thing because it is how I earned my money and survived.  In fact, I was “adopted” by the people I worked with and the patrons.  I lived to work and I have the best memories of my “work family” who came to replace my real one.  It was my home.  Eventually I started working two jobs, and between them I logged a lot of hours and started providing myself with very nice things, because I could.

My second job was at Outback in High School
My second job was at Outback in High School

I graduated high school and counted the days until I would live on campus.  I graduated college, while working full time in retail and had worked up to a supervisor position, married my husband, moved to NY with him, and we started our family.  I was fortunate enough to quit my job there and stay at home with my first son, then my second, and that afforded me the time to start this website.  Now we live in Florida in a home we bought (all credit really goes to my husband) and a home I’ve worked my butt off renovating.

So you see, I have no idea how “the other half lives.”  And that is right, I don’t know how the homeless, truly impoverished, hungry, cold, desperate live.  We were never THAT bad.  We came close, but we had a safety net in the government, disability, and family.  And I’ve never been poor while having children and can’t imagine the stress of trying to provide for my kids when there is no money.  But the majority of Americans are like me, like I was, with enough to scrape by most of the time.  We never had a baby in the family (I’m the youngest of my mother’s, my step-father had 4 other children but none were babies when they married) and I don’t know what we would have done in our hardest times.  I do know that we had the tools, and the time, to have made handwashing work.  Funny thing though, we were poor and had a washer and dryer.  I suspect a lot of other poor families do because poverty is diverse and includes a wide range of families from the poorest, to the almost poor.  We weren’t having such hard times when my mother re-married, but it got that way.  Things happen in life, situations change, and sometimes you do what you have to do.

I’ve come a really long way from my former life.  Sometimes it feels like it never happened and that I started to exist in college.  As much as I distance myself from the past I’ve been shaped by it and want to help others who are having a tough financial time.  I am not forcing anyone to try this but it is an option.  It works, it helps, and I am thankful I don’t have to do it myself and won’t be ashamed of the fact that I don’t have to.


22 Responses

  1. I’m sorry you were forced into writing this post but I hope it helps you a bit to find healing. You are a strong woman Kim. Your husband’s success has also come in part to having you behind him. You two work as a team in your marriage. =)

  2. Sorry that you have to explain to people judging you for not being poor in your current situation. You shouldn’t have to explain or apologize. Hard work is the foundation of any successful person (if by successful you mean independent). You are a great example of someone refusing to accept their situation they were brought up into, and actively working to change their life for the better, with no excuses…unlike so many others that blame the life they were born into for their misfortune much later in life. Congratulations, you are an awesome mama and a great example for your children! 🙂

  3. Kim, I echo the others in saying that I’m sorry comments from unkind people were the catalyst for this post. Thank you for sharing so much of your personal life, your perspective, and part of what drives you to help people live independent lives and with dignity no matter their means. That being said, no one should have to defend their motives in trying to raise awareness and help others. No matter your background, your efforts are helping people, opening minds, changing opinions, and making a difference.

  4. Beautiful story, Kim. Thanks for sharing. I too am sorry that rude people prompted you to write it. I love that you are genuine in whatever you do – your videos, blog posts, FB updates. It’s one of the reasons I “trusted” your views when I started this CD thing. Seems that your life’s journey so far and your insight into how it’s shaped you helped mold that. I love it – and so many others do so as evidenced by your thousands of followers!

  5. Thank you for sharing this. Hopefully, it will settle some of the opinions people have had. If not, then you’ve done what you could. I think this shows your unique perspective. You have been there, so you do know how this could be applied to certain situations. This isn’t just a case of the privileged showing the underprivileged how they could be so much better off by just doing things “our” way.

  6. Gosh. This is so touching. I’ve been reading your blog for a while but I had no idea. I think its great that you shared everything you did. I also lived in a trailer park for the better part of my childhood. Sometimes we couldn’t afford shampoo, soap, or detergent so we had to wash ourselves, and our clothes, with Dawn. My grandparents bought my school clothes every year and other than that everything was handmade or handmedowns. I ate the most awful food. Ugh. I learned how to stretch one tiny can of chicken noodle soup to feed 4 people (lots of oyster crackers). I lived in the South too and definitely remember not having air conditioner or heat. Having to wash my clothes by hand in the bathtub, getting made fun of in school, having to rely on the government or relatives to take care of us… it was a mess…. I wouldn’t go back to that for anything. I am thankful every day that my daughter won’t ever know that life.

  7. Good for you for sharing and caring enough to open up. It is easy for people to say, “You don’t understand” or you are privileged, but the truth is I think people who have overcome obstacles from childhood are more driven to succeed. I can identify with several parts of your story and always tell my husband when we are going through a rough period that I have handled far worse. I too have eaten the cheese. 🙂

    1. It is just interesting to me that people think they can ascertain or presume to know your situation but reading a comment on a shit news network post. I had someone reply to my comment that I was Naive to believe that Poor people would read a blog on the internet or invest any time in researching ways to make their lives or situations easier (her words were surfing blogs implying that women in my bracket are obviously too dumb to go to the library and use the computer or have a handed down computer and use free wifi) In fact I have explained how out family copes with our economic situation and I am usually very offended by people assuming that low income equates some how to low intelligence or low education, I never realized someone could read something I have said and assume I am better

  8. Your blog is the reason I started cloth diapering 2.5 years ago when my daughter was born. Your reviews helped me choose the diapers I later bought and I have never failed to be amazed by how much you seemed to accomplish. You are such a strong person and I really admire that. Truthfully your views on breastfeeding and baby-wearing also strongly influenced my decisions in those areas as well. Thank you for what you have given all of us mothers and mothers-to-be and for always giving us your honest opinion without being pushy. Information is best used when it’s shared.

  9. Thanks for sharing. I have a lot of issues in my past that I wouldn’t think of sharing online. My family was a lil bit rags to riches and then back to rags again. I strive for so much more with MY little family.

    It’s funny, because I have totally found myself annoyed seeing your gorgeous house and feeling like you are just so lucky… It makes me happy for you that you worked so hard and got what you deserve! 🙂

  10. What an amazing story! You’ve come so far and I am so impressed by your bravery in telling this story and organizing the Flats Challenge. I’m a formerly homeless mom and I’m hoping to coordinate cloth diapering education for the homeless and recently homeless in the area. I’m also writing a blog about parenting with chronic health conditions. You are a very busy woman, but I would love to get your thoughts. http://www.rebekkahelliott.com

  11. Good for you Kim!

    I began my life as a poor kid. My mom was a single mom. She left my dad when my sister was two and I was still in the womb. Once she got together with my step-father, he made us live frugally so we would appreciate what we had. We had to wear thrift-store and hand-me-down clothing and at times we had to wash our laundry by hand. We never felt like we fit in either because we weren’t allowed to wear the same brands of clothes as everyone else and we didn’t get to participate in most things. As a teen I worked hard, just like my mom. My sister and I bought our own crappy car together. Reading your story makes me think about how good I had it. My friends and family felt sorry for me but it could have been much worse and my step-dad really did teach me to appreciate what I had. Between he and my mom I learned to work hard and save.

    Apparently I didn’t learn everything I should have though because I got pregnant at 17. Since my husband and I both worked we did okay once we worked up past minimum wage jobs. My family and I have struggled financially off and on over the years since we made the choice to have me stay home with the children. And since the downturn in the economy we’ve had our power turned off, we’ve run low on food, but we always get by. The main reason I started cloth diapering was to save money. My silly husband isn’t a saver like me. He’s a spender. So there are definitely disagreements about money. We’ve been hit by some pretty hard things in life but we should still be more secure financially than we are.

    As for your critics, I think a lot of us tend to forget that other people on the internet are PEOPLE. I’m sure these critics never stopped to think that maybe you’d been through something like the life you lived before adulthood. I’m glad you set your critics straight and I hope they realize that some people (like you) are genuinely out blogging to help other people. Thank you for all you do.

  12. Wow Kim, what an amazing story! I already have a tremendous amount of awe for all you do, this just makes it that much easier to respect you woman : )

  13. Kim, I have been reading your blog for such a long time. I credit you with my out of the gate success at cloth diapering my now 6 month olde son. But in all this time (quite a bit longer than his life!) I’ve always been a shy, quiet reader. I have to say that this amazing, beautiful, honest and worthy story has brought me out of my shell to finally say something. You are such an amazing woman and the story of your trials and tribulations in childhood just make your triumphs in life now with your husband and babies so much sweeter for all of us to know about. Thank you thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the effort you give and for all the amazing info you put out there. Your generosity is such a gift. Know that there is so much love and gratitude for you out there – you do so much for so many and often without even knowing. You are an inspiration and most heartily appreciated!

    1. This is probably the nicest compliment anyone has ever left for me on my blog. Thank you so much! I’m not sure I’m worthy of everything you said but it was sure nice to read.

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