Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Times, They are a'changin'....

As I was standing in line at the pharmacy the other day, waiting for my prescription to get filled, I overheard one of the pharmacist's assistants say to a customer as she rang up their purchase, "Man! Your insurance sure doesn't cover much of the cost of these suckers, does it?!" I cringed to even try to imagine how much that poor person must've been paying out-of-pocket. Luckily, when my turn came along, I had to pay a $20 co-pay for estrogen patches that I would've paid $63 out-of-pocket for if my Dear Hubby didn't have the decent medical insurance he has. And we are doubly blessed that, as a part of management at work, our medical insurance coverage is provided by his employer. I think the union workers in the shop pay anywhere from about $250 on up per month for their coverage. I shudder to think how we'd ever pay that from basically one income. My husband makes a decent wage, too, but we don't charge our son and daughter-in-law much for the child care I provide so we kind of squeak along. We've always kind of squeaked along, if truth be told. We both know the value of a dollar and we don't squander our money foolishly. Every penny Dear Hubby's made thru the years has been hard-earned. We have everything we need and even a little extra here and there, but we budget and we keep a close eye on our finances.

Even so. Gas prices. Food prices. I heard on the news the other evening that our utilities are going to skyrocket this winter. I got away with buying groceries for $102 this week and I know next week it'll probably be more like $202 to make up for what I didn't need to buy today. The Fred Meyer brand of French Roast coffee we like went up 50 cents in one week. Bagels have gone up close to $1.25 more than what I paid for them a year ago. Lucky for me I've had to cut back to one! I looked at the sign at the Chevron station nearby where I buy my gas and it was $4.23 per gallon for Regular this morning. It's around 5 cents more over in Vancouver. It's insane.

We're really hoping I'll be able to keep baby sitting and not have to go get a job outside the home. I talked to our daughter today and told her with the way prices are heading ever-upward we may have to call upon her to help out with some of the utility bills this winter. Her reaction? "Well, of course I will. I live here too, you know." We're getting rid of our Dish satellite. There's $70 saved right there. We'll get a converter box and just watch the basic "free" stations. I mean, 100 or 200 or 300 or how EVER many stations there are on satellite and we mainly focus on the local news and PBS. Why pay $70 for that? Of course, Dear Hubby won't get his beloved Fox News network...he can watch Jim Lehrer instead, ha! Or listen to talk radio.

My parents grew up in New England and they were both children when the Great Depression descended on America. My dad was 11 in 1932, my mom was 5. Times were very hard for both their families. To the day he died, once Dad reached adulthood he would never, ever eat baked beans again because he ate so many as a child. My mom used to make a meal for us - looking back now, it was probably to stretch a few pennies feeding 4 kids - that she called "Depression Stew" and it was made up of all the leftovers in the refrigerator...meat and potatoes and vegetables all thrown in a pot on the back of the stove to simmer all day. We also grew up eating corned beef and cabbage, even tho that's not a dish that's very familiar out here on the West Coast. We kids often had baked beans and dark brown bread that came in a can, of all things....I know the beans were B & M brand and I think the canned bread was, too. That was something she ate a lot of as a child. That, and a macaroni concoction with nothing but stewed tomatoes cooked in with it. Yuck. If I ever see that again, it'll be too soon. We'd also have crackers and milk... saltine crackers crumbled in to big bowls with milk poured over them. My mom definitely knew how to stretch a penny. These were lessons taken in by me. These are lessons I've carried on with me thru life. These are lessons that will come in to play again, if they're needed some day. I pray they won't. But only God knows what tomorrow brings.

The "Land of Plenty". America still has a lot going for it. If times are changing here, they're changing even more so in other countries. The trouble with us is we've become so soft, so spoiled, these past couple of generations. I heard not long ago that the generation of young people now is the first generation in America's history that won't do better than the generation before it. They'll also die younger, have more serious health problems, because their lifestyles have become so sedentary. Their diets so unhealthy. We're not very well prepared if hard times descend on us like they did in 1932. We'll be sitting back and waiting for a handout, the silver platter that so much has been handed to us on. I guess we'll find out what kind of mettle we're all made out of, if it comes down to that. We're still a pretty decent bunch of people, we Americans. At least, I think we are. I hope we are.

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