The Story Of Rich Kim v/s Poor Kim

Nikki has been doing some practical math exercises in school that prompted her to ask to go grocery shopping with me so she could practice calculating things like: “Which is cheaper per ounce, big box or little box?”

Now – before you grumble about how irritating it is to hear your friends subtly reference their smart kids…know this: She really just wanted a free cookie. Also? She got bored after the first calculation.


That first calculation prompted a conversation about how often you can save by buying in bulk. And that’s when I jumped at an opportunity to give a lesson about poverty. I honestly jump at these opportunities a lot, which is why I thought I’d share my basic story with you.

The Story of Rich Kim & Poor Kim

When it was just me and your brother back in my college days, sometimes I would go to the store with $20 to buy all of the groceries I needed for the week. That’s when I was Poor Kim. I almost ALWAYS noticed that it would be cheaper to buy the bigger size of something: Milk, Cereal, toilet paper…the necessities…but I never could. I only had $20, so I bought the 4-pack of toilet paper, the half gallon of milk, and the small box of cereal.

[Edited to add: Poor Kim always bought generic. Big K brand was Poor Kim’s jam.]

Now…think about that over, let’s say, a whole year. I could have saved 45 cents in about 2 weeks if I could have bought the bigger box. What about the bigger milk? And the bigger cereal? How much could that have saved me in two weeks to buy a bigger size? Or in a whole YEAR? So take Kim from 1998 (Poor Kim) and Kim from 2017 (Rich Kim) and look at how much money they each spent per ounce of cereal, per gallon of milk, and per roll of toilet paper and what will you find? (Not accounting for inflation, of course.)

You would find that Poor Kim spent A WHOLE LOT MORE on cereal and toilet paper and milk over the course of a year than Rich Kim did. Rich Kim spent LESS than Poor Kim. Think about that.

THIS is what I mean when I say, “It’s a lot more expensive to be poor.”

Poor Kim never could fill up her gas tank when the prices were low. Hell, I never filled up my gas tank at all. At most I would have a half of a tank unless my Dad had come in town and filled it up for me. [Edited to add: Poor Kim had it good because she did not suffer from generational poverty. Many people never had parents who could fill up their tanks.] I also didn’t have the time or the energy to shop around for sales. I also didn’t have the time to cut coupons. And if I did have time? I was too tired and too depressed from being poor all of the time.

Also – things like tylenol for fevers? That’s something everyone has to buy for their kid at some point. Even if I bought the generic version, it was $4 out of my $400 paycheck. That’s 1% of my paycheck for Tylenol. That’s A LOT. The average person in Huntsville brings home $1100 on a 2-week paycheck. For that person 1% would mean the same Tylenol cost $11. But it doesn’t, it still only costs $4 for that person too. The person making the average won’t have to stress so much about buying the Tylenol, but when your brother was little? It was a tough thing to need.

So compared to percentage of your income, being poor is A LOT more expensive than even being average, or middle class. Not only can you not take advantage of bulk pricing or sales at certain times, but everything is a bigger percentage of your income so you’re probably going to have to make tough decisions about whether to pay bills on time.

Remember how we went to Shoe Carnival when they were having the Buy One Pair Get The Second Half Off sale? So you got TWO pairs of shoes for $60 instead of $80? Well…Poor Kim couldn’t ever afford to do that so instead I would buy one $40 pair and just wait until they fell apart and buy another $40 pair. So, same amount of time passes, same amount of shoes worn out, but Rich Kim spent less than Poor Kim because Rich Kim has enough buffer in her budget and income to take advantage of sales.

Just think of the few ways I’ve explained right now that Rich Kim can spend less money in a year than Poor Kim. And these are just a few of the ways. There are many more. And how is that fair? Poor Kim is the one that needs to spend less, but she spends more.

And this is why Rich Kim pays her taxes and smiles. Rich Kim doesn’t mind being in a higher tax bracket than poor Kim because Rich Kim remembers how much it sucked being Poor Kim. Rich Kim knows “Fair Tax” isn’t actually fair, so she supports a tiered tax system so that she shoulders more of the burden of paying our police and for our road repair than Poor Kim has to.

It’s the least that Rich Kim can do.

To Sleep…

I spent my entire life without any problems falling asleep. I always chalked this up to my vivid imagination. Anything that was stressing me out in my life, I’d erase in a pre-sleep world that I’d craft after I closed my eyes. The crafting of that perfect world would give me a solution to my problems, albeit a highly improbable solution, so that I could peacefully fall asleep.

When I was a kid being bullied in the summer for wearing the same outfit twice in one week at daycare, I would fall asleep building a world where I found a $100 bill on the ground and could buy new clothes. When I was in high school and in love with a boy I would fall asleep dreaming of him asking me to Homecoming. When I was post-divorce I would dream of that guy with the great biceps in my Remote Sensing class and imagine him actually being interested in a single Mom. (He was. He married me.) When I was that same poor, single Mom I would dream of a windfall of cash – maybe in the form of the lottery. Or even several years ago after a layoff I dreamt of finally getting that book deal.

Falling asleep was never a problem because I could re-write my life, almost realistically, without the anxieties of my days.

I noticed, however, that right after my Dad died…this was impossible. There was no dream world that I could craft where he would return. I couldn’t fool myself so I would just toss and turn unable to find a happy world to escape to. I wrote about that 4 months after he died here. I re-read that and I remember that turmoil so vividly, the tossing and the turning, unable to find a world in my mind where he would still be there.

That was my first introduction to the sleep problems normal people had, and it sucked.

I’ve noticed these last few months that I’m having a very similar problem. It peaked first in the weeks following the election when I just was in shock over the Trump win. I would be able to convince myself that he couldn’t do too much too fast, so I could maybe sleep for a few days, and then I’d hear about his Sessions nomination, or his DeVos pick. And then it would be sleepless all over again.

But since the inauguration when the Breaking News alerts startle me like I’ve stumbled upon a man with a knife in my home, sleep has been almost impossible. I still swear by the Insight Timer App and it’s various bedtime/anxiety guided meditations that I’ve found I like. BUT, it’s not perfect. Some nights I doze off, then I wake back up again in a POTUS-induced panic, so I list to another guided meditation to help me fall back to sleep. A few nights ago I listened to the same one FOUR TIMES between 9pm and midnight. That’s how often I kept waking up.

I think the hardest thing about this new trend is some days I feel like maybe I’m going crazy. I try to follow the guidelines and relegate my politics to certain times so I’m not hunting it down all day, but I still walk around my life looking everyone in the eye and thinking, “Is this person up at night too? Is this person joining the resistance? Is this person getting text alerts to remind me when organizations need me to call my representatives? Or…is this person 100% apathetic about politics right now. HOW CAN THAT BE?”

I’m looking for kindred spirits everywhere I got. I’ve been given a few phone numbers lately and I’ve thought about texting you guys and saying, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME WITH THE EPA?” I mean, SURELY that’s not going to move any further, right? RIGHT? I mean, part of me wants to disconnect a little bit to calm my political anxieties but the other part of me is all: “EASY FOR YOU TO DO, WHITE LADY IN HETEROSEXUAL MARRIAGE LIVING SO FAR ABOVE THE POVERTY LINE YOU CAN NOT EVEN SEE IT.”

I guess the point of this entry is to just say: I’m not sleeping well, will someone come sing me a lullaby?

Let’s Talk About Religion.

*This was originally a Facebook post but it got too longwinded so I’m posting it to the blog instead. I AM FULL OF MANY WORDS TODAY.*

Those of us who fought for gay marriage often used various passages in the bible against the opposition, pointing out that if you’ve selected to ignore some of bible, you can ignore parts of the bible. The responses were often variations of this —

“Since interpretation is a human process, it has always been pluralistic, prone to error and dependent on human understanding, no matter the religion in question. Interpretation is also subject to conditions and times specific to a particular community of believers.Interpretations may vary significantly from country to country and community to community.”

— especially considering there are so many facets of Christianity that interpret different parts of the bible in different ways. There’s a huge difference in application of principles from denomination to denomination.

Now. I need you to step back and re-read that quote again and know this: THAT QUOTE IS ABOUT SHARIA. As in “Sharia Law” that so many on my Facebook feed like to throw around when they are trying to justify actions against Muslims. The Southern Poverty Law Center put together this page ( and that is a quote on that page taken from an answer to the question: “Is Sharia open to interpretation?”

I have a hard time understanding why SOME (not all, I’m blessed to have many accepting Christian friends who support the Muslim community) of my Christian friends will allow that different facets of Christianity exist and interpret the bible differently than they do – but ALL MUSLIMS ARE THE SAME. They are not.

And to those who blanketly assume all women wearing a hijab are oppressed, please watch this video – it demonstrates that there are women who CHOOSE to wear it as a counterstatement to the Western world’s sexualization of women.

Islam is complex and Sharia is interpreted differently in different parts of the world. Hijabi women – especially in the US – can still support principles of our constitution. Also, if you think Islam is the only religion with facets who try to control legal contracts – look at the way some in the Catholic church respond to divorces, requiring other actions (annulments in the Church) before someone can get married in the church even if legally they are permitted. Or listen this episode (I think it’s the third act) of This American Life and hear about one Orthodox Jewish community and one particular “agunah” which is “woman whose husband refuses to give her a divorce” and it’s supported by the community.

Religion is complex, and the bigger it is the more variations you will find. I’m frustrated that people allow for nuances and complexities and differing belief systems in their own religion but not in others.

Truths in Dreams

This apartment we are in – this 900 square foot apartment – has taught me quite a lot about my sleeping children. I wake up in the mornings and sit on the couch in the living room with my laptop. My daughter is 10 feet away sleeping in the “Dining Room” and my son is not much further – but behind a door – in one of the two bedrooms. I sit here and go over the news from the night and check social media and I hear their sleepy noises. My daughter tends to be anxious even in her sleep, and my son evidently thinks he’s just as hilarious in the dream world as he thinks he is while awake. I sit on the couch and hear the stress sounds as Nikki panics in her slumber and the laughter as Wes entertains whatever dreamworld he’s in. It’s a strange dichotomy, one I always feel when I think about the differing personalities of my two children. Wes wants to be the entertainer, although he hasn’t quite figured out how to do it sans jokes about bodily functions. Nikki wants to plan every moment of every day down to the second and her inability to do that creates extreme tension in her spirit.

Two very different souls, even in their subconscious.

I see myself in both my of children’s mental health struggles. And many days I’m grateful for my own struggles in that it helps me, help them, but I also find that by helping them…I am helping myself. I’ve learned more about coping with my own anxieties in the last few years by helping them with theirs, than I ever learned in the decades before. Nikki’s anxieties manifest in many of the same ways mine do, so we really often help each other. But Wesley’s manifest in entirely different ways which give me an incredible insight into how anxieties can shape our behavior. His make him want to make people laugh, but if that goes the wrong direction, he hides in a ball of uncontrollable anger.

I think having the language helps. I just assumed I was broken when I was a child. That I was strange and different. That I would never fit in with the world so my only choice was to put on some sort of facade to survive in the crowd. I knew the “popular” type of kids would never accept me so I aimed for the outer circles. I tried to do this in a very practical sense once I left the confines of a high school uniform and just tried to dress like the people around me. I found myself torn because I liked the hippies and I liked the grunge kids. So I alternated between flowing skirts and Birkenstocks and baggy jeans and doc martens. And I made very real very true friends, but I was also so deeply insecure with my “real” self that I shat on those friends as the years went on, as I was just always trying to find validation somewhere. Anywhere. Everywhere but inside myself.

I had to learn the very VERY hard way that looking for validation outside yourself is a never ending journey. No one can give that to you, so you just keep moving on and leaving friends who loved you behind in your destructive wake.

I hope my ability to define some of the things now, that made me feel like such an outsider then, will help my children avoid the same mistakes I made. That maybe now they can know themselves and not hate themselves because they can see the beauty in understanding their mental health. I am often trying to explain to my daughter about how I truly believe the anxieties also give me some amazing characteristics that I would never choose to be without. I hope both of them will see the beauty in their true selves, instead of running from it and trying to hide it like I did for so many years.

But for now, I’ll just listen to them sleep and hope that they find truths in their dreams that I can’t show them.

Black History

I was recently listening to Jill Lepore (Who wrote The Life And Opinions of Jane Franklin) discuss the absence of Ben Franklin’s sister in his autobiography. Jane evidently had a rough life even though she was no less smart or full of potential when they were children. She lacked the self-made, bootstraps narrative of her life that Ben had, and her role in caring for their parents who were ill was evidently unimportant in his life story. Lepore said something about how we know the histories of these successful men but what we need to look for is: Who is missing? Who helped along the way by caring for family or children or managing households or property. What was their story? Our knowledge of history is shaped by the hands of people wealthy and successful enough to tell their story. We don’t hear the stories of the Jane Franklins and we most definitely don’t see them get credit in the stories of the spotlight-holding family members who may have had their lives made a little easier because of the presence of others.

We are now in Black History month and this year I enter February with more knowledge of Black History in this country than I have had in the previous 40 years combined. I think about American History a lot lately. About how crappy my history education was growing up. And then, how little I knew about Black History. Frederick Douglass once said in a speech: “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn,” which is a great summary of Black History and how we hide it into our own whitewashed narrative. I looked up Frederick Douglass again yesterday, to give myself a better understand of him after the President stumbled of his own references yesterday. And did you know was a staunch supporter of Women’s Rights as well as a abolitionist? I found that out yesterday. I’m 41.

Recently I also learned about the Black Panthers which I knew ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about previously. I mean, the iconic image of afro and black jackets? That’s about it. I felt like there was a lot of violence with the movement but I wasn’t sure. Then I watched Black Power Mixtape and Vanguard of the Revolution and I learned about the Free Breakfast programs and the social/community support that the Black Panthers provided in the midst of their protesting and revolting. I also learned about how the FBI sent memos and letters inside the organization asking for methods and plans to dismantle any of the Black Resistance movement. I learned about the murder of one of the leaders (Fred Hampton) by the Chicago police and the terrible botched investigation that followed.

I learned about Fannie Lou Hamer who was giving live testimony of her experience after an arrest and President Johnson was SO SCARED of how damning her testimony would be that he interrupted it with a press conference knowing that the stations would all stop her footage and film him. Obviously it backfired and the testimony probably got more eyeballs on it in the aftermath than it would have that first day.

I guess my point is just to say: I’m 41 and now I’m finally starting to fill in the blanks of my own knowledge of Black History and I thought I’d share that with you. There’s so much more to learn, but I guess it’s better now than never, right? My local library has a lot of programs this month I’m hoping to attend. Maybe your library is doing the same?