Scotch in One Hand, Checkbook in the Other

(Look out, he’s verbose!)

What’s the use?

It’s nearing 1:30 a.m., and I finally finished balancing the checkbook and paying bills. That I find myself listening to music that could hardly be characterized as uplifting and pounding on a keyboard for a stream-of-consciousness, likely lackluster piece for America’s Right should tell you exactly how it went. That I find myself at the computer not really enjoying two ounces of good scotch only because it arrived as a 30th birthday gift back in October should provide insight enough as to how I feel about it.

But why not put pen to paper, as it were? Certainly, our situation, as unstable and borderline unsustainable as it may be, is an absolute dream to so many people out there across America. Surely, there are thousands upon thousands of American families who cannot remember the last time they paid their mortgage on time, as I did tonight (though, admittedly, I used every second of that darned grace period). My goodness, there are families like mine preparing for another night in a shelter, in a friend’s basement, on the street. And therein lies the rub.

Sleep will not come easily for me tonight. Undoubtedly, I’ll stare at the whirling shadows cast by a ceiling fan lit by a streetlight outside our window. Inevitably, I’ll run through in my head the not-so-short stack of bills that didn’t make the priority cut tonight. As always, I’ll wonder where the next dollar will come from, where we can make changes, what we can cut from our life and our daughter’s life another so-called luxury in order to ensure that ends might possibly meet next month, if not this one.

Paying bills is never easy for me for a number of reasons, over and beyond that, simply, we’re just not rolling in money. It’s a time when I kick myself for making bad decisions in the past, it’s a time where I freak out about finding a job and making the right decisions in the future, and it’s a time when I naturally fall into a “woe is me” funk, only to later once again kick myself, this time for being so gosh-darned selfish.

Yes, I’m thirty years old and have less in the bank than I did when I was twenty-five. Yes, I work my posterior off both for free—here—and not for free—at my day job—only to watch more than two weeks’ pay go directly toward our monthly mortgage payment, a side effect of many of those aforementioned poor decisions, only to see that a whopping $197 of that payment actually went to paying down the principal on our loan. Yes, my student loan statements and the knowledge that, come Christmastime next, year, the deferment on the payments will have passed, is enough to make me think about jumping out the window of my home office – a closed window, no less, just for the extra pain. But I have a pillow to rest my head upon, I have a roof which shelters me from the rain, and come daylight I have a wonderful family to awaken to.

I think that’s why I feel so compelled to spend so much of my limited spare time here at America’s Right. I can’t say that the site is anything too remarkable—just reading the writings of people like Mark Steyn and Victor Davis Hanson and Byron York and even Ann Coulter reinforce how far I still have to go before even coming close to “remarkable”—but I can say that I know what it’s like for so many Americans out there. I know what it’s like to look first for a possible shut-off date on a utility bill before looking at anything else. I know what it’s like to pay for milk in quarters, to put four dollars and fifty cents of gasoline into a gasping and wheezing tank. I know what it’s like to look at that checkbook and rob Peter to pay Paul, to water down 1% milk into a little girl’s sippy cup, shake it up, and hope that neither she nor anyone else catch on. I’ve been there. Hell, I AM there. When I write about the families stretched so gosh-darned thin that any moderately significant increase in energy costs or income taxes could be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back, I understand it because that’s my family. That’s our situation. That’s our daily struggle.

And that struggle is the source of my frustration. Every once in a while, I’ll stare out my window at the South Philadelphia neighborhoods passing by in a blur as I make my way downtown on I-95 and wonder what it would be like to once again be blissfully ignorant, to take each and every bump, hurdle and roadblock at face value. But, just as I’d rather see the muzzle and the eyes of the man behind it when I’m before the metaphorical firing line, I’d rather lose the blindfold here too, and know full well exactly how my government is making an uphill battle even more difficult by lacing up rollerskates onto my aching feet.

In truth, I’d hate to be blind and ignorant to it all. Because I see what’s going on, I appreciate my family even more, I appreciate my job more, I appreciate the opportunity presented to me through my continuing law school education. Because I see what’s going on, I also see an American people that will not let America down. And because I see what’s going on, I can do everything in my power to guide other Americans like myself, people who also lose sleep over that elusive next dollar, people who cannot recall the last time they ate brand-name cereal in the morning, people who find more value in hugging their child or children than from anything with a dollar sign next to it.

I wouldn’t do it, either, if I didn’t think it could be done. I don’t know how much of an impact that America’s Right has on the daily discourse here in this vast nation, but those occasions when a light bulb suddenly illuminates above the cranium of a disillusioned liberal during an everyday conversations makes it all worthwhile. And, at the end of the day, I think my family’s current economic situation is a microcosm of that of our country: Things aren’t good, but they could be worse; working toward sustainability and prosperity will take a focus on restraint, responsibility and sacrifice; core values are paramount, family is irreplaceable.

Because I know we’ll make it, because we always seem to come back from the brink due to sheer determination, hard work, or even a little bit of luck and good fortune, I know this nation, too, will once again be prosperous. Everything is cyclical, and just as we have good months and bad, America will once again move from famine to feast.

That’s the “use.” To ensure that we spend more time in the latter, and less in the former. To ensure that we never lose sight of what matters most – our principles, our values, our family. And to ensure that those people who are not as fortunate know that, together and with hard work and determination, we will all prosper.

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Comments

  1. Chuck B. says:

    Very nicely written article Jeff. When we were younger my wife and I struggled to rub two nickles together. While we're not rich now or anything, it did get easier as time went by. Unfortunately, I don't know if that will be the case because of Obama's policies.

  2. Stephen Agnew says:

    Hey Jeff, throw up a PayPal donation link for us who read your site. I know there has to be at least a few of us who would like to donate to help you out..if anything, to give back for giving us so much on your blog.

    $10 here, $20 there. Whatever we can spare from our own budgets.

    God Bless man and keep fighting the good fight!

    Stephen
    Fort Worth, Texas

  3. JEFF SCHREIBER says:

    I appreciate it, Stephen, and the mechanism is up at the top if people want it — but that's not the point here. Help the folks who are facing the loss of their house; we're doing just fine.

  4. C.M. Hatem says:

    Jeff, I spent Sunday feeling sorry for myself too, a few bad weeks, a surprise dentist visit and facing a Root Canal, then I lay down in bed with a sigh and turned on the TV, as coincidence would have it, "The Pursuit of Happyness" was on, I lay there in my own bed with my 6yo old across the hall snuggled safely in his bed and watched the true story of a man who spent the night with his son in a public restroom.

    Perspective is everything!

  5. Anonymous says:

    you were lacking sleep, that outlook for the USA is WAY too rosey.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Jeff,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and allowing us to be part of your travails. You and your family will be alright as you so aptly put it. As for the country, I feel this will be a long fight with many more hurdles to overcome, but it will be righted. It will take a concerted effort on all our parts to fight the good fight for an America our founding fathers envisioned. There are many who are giving it their all. My sister is working in New York state with others to take back the sovereignty of her state. She and others have put up a website with links to a mass of information. She told me she could not be silent anymore so wherever she goes and whomever she meets when the opportunity presents itself she speaks and she uses her wisdom, information and honesty to make converts or to whet their interest. Also, there is going to be a big march on Washington D.C. in September – a million person march for the constitution. Perhaps someone who knows the date and the website can add the information here. We the People will prevail.

  7. Rix says:

    I also wondered where the donation button has gone. I'm not the most charitable person even for an atheist I am, but I'm used to pay for things I consider luxuries, material or spiritual – and your blog certainly qualifies as such.

    As for working for free, consider is a very long time investment into your future political career. You gain core supporters, get exposed to the world of powers that be, sample public opinions and polish your style – the time well spent, it seems. You also test your wife's resolve and support for the rocky road lying ahead – it may come handy when you do the campaigning.

    By th way, judging by the overall mood of your article, the scotch was good. :)

  8. Anonymous says:

    Jeff, I know you are not whining about your situation but the reality is that we appreciate what you do and we need to support you in any way that we can. I just read an article by Daniel Glover on AIM (Accuracy in Media) entitled, "The Future of Conservative Journalism". He points out the efforts that are being made to get accurate reporting thru various media like The Washington Examiner and Washington Times.."the conservative movement needs donors who are willing to foot the bill for substantive journalistic endeavors." We need to get your insight and the commentaries by other conservative writers on this site out to a wider audience. How can we help you do that?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Jeff, thank you for your article and your site. It really is insightful, informative, and inspiration. Thank you for sharing your life and your efforts with us. You say what so many of us feel, too.

  10. Celia in TX says:

    Thank you, Jeff…I can SO totally relate to your article. We are there, too. My husband lost his job, was out of work for 3 months. That also meant 3 months that we didn't pay our mortgage. He is working now, thank God, and we WILL catch up on our mortgage, but it has been a terrifying year thus far. But we, a microcosm of real American people, WILL prevail, we persevere, and it will be alright.

  11. Anonymous says:

    America's principles, values were built on Democracy, freedom of speech, ponderous and reflection on BOTH sides of any issue—-this is now gone. ABC News has turns their programming over to the White House and Mr. Obama to SELL the Health Care plan. Americans will be led, influenced, propagandized.

  12. Still a Patriot says:

    Hi Jeff -
    I am in a similar situation financially, & have been for most of my life. Perspective is everything. I give thanks to God every day for all that is good in my life, much of which money cannot buy.
    Thank you for sharing your deepest feelings with us. For what it's worth, I think you are quite "remarkable" !

    Susan

  13. Gail B says:

    Jeff, those of us who are on a fixed income, as I am with SS, worry about the inevitable inflation and the (in)ability to meet monthly payments and put food on the table.

    So far, I have been blessed with excellent health and have no handicaps (except for an occasional uncontrollable urge to vent my outrage in words at which you shake your head and kindly delete), but I doubt I could manage a serious breakdown of my physical strength.

    Jeff, you ARE doing good by this site. You are giving us guidance and understanding, and the readers are offering even more.

    I pray for all of us every day, that we will win this battle through spreading the sensible conservative word and shining light on the damning socialism in progress, that we will eventually hit the Achilles heel and restore our Constitution and freedoms.

    If I were a wealthy person, you would not have to worry about making all of your payments each month. You know that to be a fact. Keeping you "up and running" is the best investment money can buy!

    Again, thank you for all you do–for everybody!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Jeff, it is me and my generation, that has put you in a position that needs to right the ship. I'm 68, and when I was your age, I was in a similar state. No money and a desire to live the American dream. So, I worked hard and became financially successful and able to live the dream. Unfortunately, I forgot about the country, and just focused on myself and my family. And while doing so, I didn't pay attention to what was happening to our country. The year by year march toward socialism was not affecting me and I didn't worry about the continued erosion of the constitution. As such my generation has passed a big problem on to you and your generation. I know that your generation will right the ship. Please don't give up. God bless you and your family. Keep the faith.

    I look forward to reading your blog every morning. I don't know you personally, but I am proud of you.

    Regards……….John Broad….

    jwbroad@aol.com

  15. Anonymous says:

    Welcome to life. That's the way it is. Inflation and regulations eat away at your wealth. The equivalent of $1 now was THREE CENTS back in 1932. Hyperinflation is going to wipe all margins of your budget. Here's the answer: Cling to family and friends. Get together more often. Create good times and memories. They don't have to be expensive. Buy a 70-80 dollar digital camera, you already have a pc, purchase a backup hard drive and a scanner and take an obnoxious amount of pictures during all family/friend gatherings, even simple barbecues. Take advantage of every city/state tax supported library/monument/cultural event/building/free museum and go with the family at every chance taking pictures. Stockpile on canned food from a wholesaler and put it into the basement. In the dark days of hyperinflation to come, when all seems darkest, your joy sucked out of you when you can't afford your own budget…THEN take out the pics on your pc and look at them (they will make you laugh), THEN invite friends over and open a few cans of food (they will make you laugh), THEN go to another tax-supported concert with family (they will make you laugh). We get focused on things: money, loans, bills, housing, insurance, gas, electric…they are only things and a means to enjoy family and friends. In the end, only loved ones count.
    andrewp

  16. Linda says:

    Anonymous @ 8:52: Here are a couple of sites re: the Taxpayer/Constitutional March on Washington in September: http://ourcountrypac.wordpress.com/2009/04/27/freedom-works-march-on-washington-september-12-2009/

    and

    http://www.resistnet.com/group/wethepeoplemarchonwashington

  17. Anonymous says:

    Jeff.

    I beleve that you make a great contribution to the cause of conservatism in the U.S. and, as the Scripture says, "a workman is worthy of his wages". Therefore, I would like to sign up as the first, charter member of the "AR 100 Club" by pledging $50./month to the continuation of this blog.

    It's not much, but I can do without 25 cups of coffee in exchange for the encouragement that I get for visiting your blog several times a day.

    Can you create a site, such as you did for the March of Dimes walk that you and Joanna did a month or two ago to make it easy to contribute? Otherwise, I'll go to the PayPal site and figure that out.

    Keep up the good work.

    Old Bob

  18. JEFF SCHREIBER says:

    Bob,

    I certainly appreciate it, but we are doing fine. As I said, the piece was more of a focus on how much we have when compared with so many others. Plus, we're looking at some interesting prospects on the horizon.

    No doubt, I would love to be more comfortable than we are now, but as it were we have everything that we need. Family being the biggest part of that.

  19. Gail B says:

    Uh, I can tell you for a fact:

    MOVING IS NOT CHEAP!

    Jeff, if we want to contribute, if only until you get resettled, please make it easy to do so. You are doing a LOT of work that you are NOT being paid to do, and you DESERVE SOMETHING!

    Besides, you've already told me that you won't take MY money!

  20. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, Jeff. I probably made it sound too much like charity, but that wasn't my intent.

    I have asked myself many, many, times, "how can someone like Jeff "monetize" the contribution that they make to a political view that I fully support." It seems rather presumptuous for all of us who are informed and encouraged by the work that you do to assume that you can spend many of your personal hours husbanding this blog to the benefit of all of us without any form of compensation.

    The operative word that I insist on in my extended family is "fair". I continue to ask all of the members, regardless of whether the issue is marital, financial, or whatever, "Are you sure that you're being fair?" The answer to that questions solves a lot of problems before they grow into a crisis.

    So, that's what we all should ask ourselves in the case of AR; are we being fair?

    Old Bob

  21. Stephen Agnew says:

    aha! i now see the contribute part at the top…so small i missed it prior.

    but yeah, i'm glad to hear ya'll will make it. i know those of us who have never met you still consider you a friend, and when a friend might be struggling, then i definately want to help.

    i just think that we all need to stick together through this rough patch. and supporting you and your site is a good start, because your thoughts and perspectives on the news of the day adds so much to our daily news intake.

    like 'Anonymous' said, i don't mean to make it sound like charity, because you never asked for it. but it's only right to give back to someone that gives to you.

  22. goddessdivine says:

    As painful as these posts may be to write, I appreciate the honesty and heartfelt sentiments you share. I'm sure so many of us can relate to your story in some fashion.

    I don't know if you fully realize it, but you contribute so much to so many lives. I have no doubt that you receive heavy traffic here because of your brilliant mind and ability to grasp political issues. You have touched, moved, and inspired at least me in many ways. I also have no doubt that you have a bright career ahead of you. And I certainly hope it eventually lands you in the political arena. We need people like you!

  23. Anonymous says:

    Jeff:

    I remember back when we had two little kids and lived off 18,000/yr…I used to give myself pep-talks about how if my ancestors could handle and survive the covered wagon trip from Virginia to Kansas, then I could survive, too! Just remember what you are made of, you patriotic American!

    Many times during our hot TX summers, I marvel at the fact that people lived here before A/C!!! I honestly don't know how they did it!

    I think that you are going through the normal pangs that all young, exhausted parents and professionals do…kids will exhaust you!!!

    I know…I have lived through 2 teenagers and have one more to go!

    Hang in there, champ!

    Lisa in TX

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