Insurance: Consider rechecking your insurance rates as well. Get rid of the things that are not really necessary in the policy documents rental car coverage, windshield repair — they toss a ton of useless stuff into the policies. By the way — no point in switching to a 15 year. But watch out for your mortgage lender — you better call them to ensure they apply the payment properly.
Any more is excessive life insurance coverage. This will reduce your rates — because its just a what if. I have coverage through employer paid — but see if your employer has such a plan — might be cheaper? The food costs are quite high — my family of 4 annual budget is less than your 1 month, we buy lots of veggies and fruits. We only buy what is in season tastes better, and lower cost and we are creative in the kitchen.
We only buy the loss-leaders at the grocery stores and we shop around. Thank you for all these excellent ideas! Yes our taxes are rolled into our mortgage. I can look into changing that. Also will look at the other things you recommended. Just be careful! Robbing peter to pay Paul only makes sense if you have the discipline to pay Peter when the time comes! Focus on setting up new habits around spending rather than gaming the system in this way. I equate this with recommending credit card points hacking to someone deeply in debt.
Good for other people, not for these folks. Sue, I saw your comment up above and it sounds like you are up for the challenge. I wanted to give you this set of numbers for a little perspective if you have trouble getting anyone on board or for when you feel yourself losing momentum: your proposed monthly budget before Mrs. FW slashed it is within a few hundred dollars of ours. But our household income is 10x yours.
And frankly, we need to be more frugal. Which is why I read this site. My parents will end up depending on my brother and I for support. They do now. I send my mom money every month. When I first graduated college at 22, she expected me to send her money because she needed it. So, if you can do anything, please secure your financial future. Also, you talk about maybe your kids wanting to go to a different college. If it were me, I would take the free tuition any day of the month.
Maybe try and talk to your kids about the benefit this will bring to them? No student loans upon graduation, less stress after graduation, etc. College — yeah, my kids are young -not even kindergarten. I set the expectation now that they are going to go to community college then transfer in to a 4 year institution after 2 years at comm.
College is a business. They will take virtually any and all transfers because their initial test scores will not be published by any listing. Definitely talk to your kids about money. Sorry to hear you have that burden. Such an eye opener and reality check. But yes my kids will go to Dans college or affiliate schools unless they have scholarships to another college. No one will give you a loan for your retirement. Your child will not thank you for being a decades-long burden, they will resent you in many cases not always, but often.
The best gift you can give your child is to not burden them at a time when they themselves will be trying to build their financial futures. He was absolutely correct and we will apply this to our own kids; give them all we can, opportunities, privileges and so on, as far as we can actually afford to pay cash for, but never to mortgage our own later years against that kind of thing. Late reply, but I want to echo these responses.
Secret Life of a Stripper Who's Also a Social Worker
My husband and I will have to support my parents in their retirement—have already provided quite a bit of support for them over the years. I love them dearly and want to ensure their basic needs are taken care of; after all, they took care of my basic needs when I was a child. I do not, however, want my own three children living under the stress of having to support both their own families and their parents. Especially when our children were very young, I worried daily about how we would care for multiple generations—monetarily and emotionally.
We sock away as much as we can for our retirement, knowing that our kids may well have to foot their entire college bill and have missed out on some experiences they might have otherwise had. But they will be free to focus on raising their own families, knowing that their parents are in a secure place.
I know it will be challenging to so dramatically change gears for your entire family, but this is also a wonderful gift for your children, in more ways than one. Congratulations on this first step and good luck on the rest of the journey! Hi Sue, kudos to you on sharing your financial struggles, that is always the first step! I just recently started my journey to getting my financial life together and cutting out the family gifts was the very first thing I did! I am the youngest of 4 children and not married, while my 3 older siblings are all in very successful careers with spouses. This was for birthdays, anniversaries, first communions, graduations, etc.
Each and every time the amount was given, I would cringe because I honestly could not afford it, which made me embarrassed because I want to be like them and be comfortable giving any amount. My excuse for this was that they all give me gifts and do A LOT for me when we are all together, so of course I had to spend money on them no matter what the cost was. Boy, was that way of thinking wrong! I was still embarrassed to even have that conversation and apologized profusely, but I was firm in my decision of not doing gifts going forward.
To my surprise, they were completely understanding and applauded me on trying to change my financial ways! It was totally not a big deal to them and we moved on to a different topic almost immediately! Overall, is that a hard decision to make? My mother instilled in me at a young age that you can always look back at the cards you receive and read all of the nice messages that were written to you.
Also, DIY is real and you can always do fun inexpensive gifts that you make yourself. I for one do not like to cook or bake, but that is always an option as well. You can send some home made cookies or make something for a party that you are going to. It took me 34 years to come to that conclusion haha, but better late than never! I hope that helps and best of luck to you and your husband on your financial journey! Good for you for doing this. I really find gifts annoying. We only give to the little kids and I gave money this year.
Maybe have to decease the amount for the future. Most of the gifts are for our own kids. It sounded above like quite a bit of money goes to those types every month. Once we accepted that, we were able to dial it back. I think having that conversation with your kids teaches them empathy as well as curbing an expectation that all gifts need to be high dollar or expensive. I also wanted to suggest that if you need to give a lot of wedding gifts, you might see if you can go in on gifts with other friends or family.
The Mystery of Social Work
Sue, I too am impressed with your desire to improve your future by fixing your present. We must turn this barge around, and drastic changes are in order! Abstinence is freedom, freedom from debt and fear!!! God Bless!! You can check in with me when I check in at a later when I do an update of this case study.
Good luck to you too! Please encourage folks to submit Case Studies who are in that age range! I can only feature people who contact me, so if you know someone who would be a good candidate, please send them my way :!! That would be great!! I would especially like to see a case study where there are teenagers in the family. Response: that would never happen, sigh…. I am seven years younger than my spouse and plan to work until I am I have no issue if he wants to travel without me — he and the kids have already taken trips together.
Retirement for someone who likes to work, who loves their career and finds meaning in their labour is not actually fun. Sure, extra vacation is nice, but that wears thin. He is as happy as can be and is excellent at his job, AND is ensuring he need not touch his pension quite yet, which is no small thing. Thanks Caroline — I do work from home which is a blessing. The less hours per week is a good idea. Sue, you are courageous and strong to take it on. I have a suggestion for gifts. You mentioned your hobby of photography. Would that lower your gift giving outlay if you used the hobby as gifts either offer photo sessions for children or high school seniors- great for extra income too!
Another idea about family get togethers- make them pot luck, that way the whole expense is not on your budget. I thought of that too. Could your photography be a sideline business to bring in extra money? Or gifting photo sessions to relatives? You can do this Sue! I echo everything stated above with the added comment on sports activities. If your kids are that passionate about sports, they will find ways to get money for it. Sue, I thought of a couple more things. Is there a lower-priced supermarket near you?
In Eastern Mass. Switching supermarkets could save quite a bit of money. Also, it sounds like your kids are old enough to take on certain responsibilities like putting dinner in the Crock-Pot once or twice a week. A couple of cans of beans and some seasonings makes decent chili and is a no-brainer dinner. For example, could they mow lawns, shovel snow, deliver the newspaper, walk dogs?? Perhaps they could give lessons in their respective sports to younger kids, for a small fee. Brainstorm ideas with them, you will probably be surprised at how willing they are to help!
Finally, I recommend the book. Amy is a real frugal black-belt, so some of her ideas may not work for you, but she will inspire you on your journey. Thanks again! I will take all suggestions! You could consider having a rule that a certain percentage of all monies he receives work, birthdays, etc goes into a savings account for school or life after school. I completely understood how to save and its value which boded well for me as my friends racked up credit card debt post university and I paid off my substantial student loans in under 5 years.
Trust me, your children will get it. Also, keep us updated here when you can, especially if you need some moral support and encouragement!! Plus, I think frugal black belt is good and what is needed. Amy speaks a lot to raising kids on frugality. The income coming in is pretty good so I agree with everyone else about finding ways to cut the spending. Talk to your kids about your financial situation and try to come to an understanding without sacrificing your happiness.
I am so excited to see a case study feature a gluten free family! A low-carb, GF diet is pricey!!! It is crazy expensive! She has WAY more than recipes! Check out budgetbytes. Legumes, fresh greens, seasonal veggies, plant-based protein and reserving meat entrees for special occasions are your friend! First of all I love how detailed Mrs. FW is in answering all of these. Second of all- we are very similiar to you all Sue! We are a bit younger 35 and 37 but have three kids and are trying to navigate college savings, retirement, my student loans, travel etc.
A few notes on food prep- dried beans are great options. You can make it of course on the stove top as well. Omit the seasoning packet for it to be vegetarian and gluten free. Same with a frozen pizza- Mrs. FW recommended a long time ago to keep a frozen pizza- or whatever- in your freezer all the time for evenings you come in and just do not feel like cooking. Super simple but it has helped keep my family on track as far as not eating out. Will your children get a tuition discount at the college your husband works at?
Maybe that will help with some college expenses. I make a cake or the cupcakes, we have one gift they have been asking for and a few people over.
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Actually, my oldest daughter forgoes a party and prefers to spend her birthday on a special date with her daddy- so my husband dresses up and they go eat at Olive Garden her favorite and then walk around the art museum. We have cake when she gets home with just us and she loves it. Here are my thoughts: On the van — my car buying philosophy is to buy the lease amount of vehicle as will meet your practical needs, and buy it in the best condition as you can easily afford.
A sedan should work for you. Look for a Toyota Camry, and you should be able to find an older, higher mileage one still in very good shape. My husband traded in his Camry a few months ago at k miles, and it was still running fine. I purposely cook lots of extras so we can have leftovers from both of those throughout the week. When the leftovers are gone, I do something very easy. Grilled cheese, sandwiches, etc. Going out only happens on rare occasions, when we plan for it.
If you only buy organic produce, then only buy what is on sale. Do the rest of the family need organic, or just you due to your health issues? If they can eat standard produce, then keep your more expensive stuff separate from theirs. Make your staple foods the cheaper ones. Buy bags of dried beans and cook them yourself. FrugalWoods has given it to you straight. The bad news is that you are indeed in a state of financial emergency.
But the good news is that your household income is nearly double the U. The other encouraging aspect is that there are plenty of areas ripe for savings nearly across the board, from groceries to gift-giving, utilities, and debt repayment. The plan Mrs. FW has laid out is a good one, which I agree with. Plan weekly meals in advance. Use a cash envelope system to avoid overspending. Try to shop at Aldi if possible. Consider buying foods in bulk to take advantage of bulk pricing.
Your debt situation is pretty dire, but by now you already know that. Think of each of your loans as a gold mine. The required monthly payment for each loan represents the potential monthly income you can re-claim by working that particular mine until the loan is paid off.
Extra payments constitute the pick-axe and shovel which you need to extract these riches. You can find additional info on this thought process at the link below:. Stop the bleeding by using the Debt Avalanche to pay off these debts as soon as possible in order of highest interest rate to lowest. Not only will you begin saving money on avoided loan interest and opportunity cost immediately, but your cash flow situation will improve quickly as well. Using it for extra payments will obtain a guaranteed 5.
As I was crunching some numbers on your debt situation, I ran into a question on your mortgage. Do I have this right? Making significant lifestyle changes like these can be really challenging. The key is to visualize your ideal future lifestyle, then reverse-engineer a plan you need to get you there. Best of luck! And yes the rest of our payment is escrow for taxes and mortgage insurance home owners insurance.
This is an absolutely brilliant way of thinking about debt that I am adoptng immediately. Hi Sue. My husband is a big sports fan and we love to watch Jeopardy, so we have the most basic tv package available. Best of luck to you as you try to slash some expenses! Just kept going up. Every little bit counts! Thanks for sharing your story Sue! I eat a gluten free diet as well, and have found that the biggest savings is meal planing and DIY meal prep, just as Mrs. FW suggested. I purchased a bread maker with a gluten free cycle option and now make my own bread.
I also found that by eliminating GF products, like cookies or crackers, that replace their traditional counterparts really helps keep the grocery bill down and my waistline has thanked me too. Instead, I treat myself to a cup of fresh fruit for dessert, or I eat an apple instead of crackers with cheese. I joined a CSA, which supplies me with local veggies 9 months out of the year. Youtube is a great source for documentaries and educational programs. We get Sling TV every 2 years to watch the Olympics, and promptly cancel our subscription after the closing ceremony.
I listen to TuneIn radio on my computer for the news. Start with small reductions if it all feels daunting, and after a while the extra cash you have will give you a greater sense of accomplishment than whatever it was you gave up. Best of luck!!! I think Mrs. That said- I think the idea of getting rid of ANY eating out is essential, especially why the credit card debt remains.
ANY extra spending grab a coffee while out, just a little candy bar at Target, little amazon purchase to make you smile, etc should STOP until such a catastrophic interest rate has been dispensed with. That should be a low hanging fruit to get rid of that one. I have never done well with crock pot meals, but we batch cook and eat the same thing throughout the week. Another change we really liked was to go to prepaid cell phones. Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share you situation.
You are not alone in this struggle and I was so happy to read the recommendations given. I know from personal experience that sometimes things seem insurmountable without guidance from someone outside of the situation. It CAN be done!!! All the best to you and your family! Tancy, your story is amazing! Thank you for sharing!! I learn the most from them, because I see myself in these stories! Thanks, and thanks for your guidance! And BTW—I loved your book and also bought it for both of our adult children, who are mostly debt free and flourishing! What an amazing accomplishment!
Knowing real people actually do this helps so much. I would wholeheartedly recommend that you discuss the family finances with your children. If you involve them with all of these aspects of finance, they will be much better equipped to enter the real world. Rather than view it as a negative and a burden, think of it as a real learning experience. I like that idea! The money pot. My husband was just speaking to my son in those terms. When my daughters were in college, we made it clear that IF they had money for a spring break trip, they had money to put towards their education.
We also did NOT pay for any overseas college studies — both kids earned and save their money. Both kids graduated college debt free and yes, we started saving when the kids were young. Neither kids worked during the school year when they were in high school — concentrate on grades and life experience.
Both graduated with money in the bank. We charged nominal rent when they lived at home after college but both kids had their own cars and paid their own cell phone bill, insurance etc. Your kids will survive, your kids will thrive. This is excellent parenting. May seem harsh, but really what a gift for kids to grow up with a sense of responsibility and not that gawdawful sense of entitlement!
This is practically a carbon copy of how we taught our girls about money. They graduated debt free with paid-for cars, study abroad experiences, and money in the bank. Thank you, Longtime Frugal. I no longer feel so weird now that I know there is another parent who held the line. Come the day he supports himself and is not living in your house, rent-free or at reduced rent , he can spend all he wants on a baseball bat. The bat is not an investment. With regards to this bat, your son has fallen victim to advertising IMHO.
Sue, thanks for being brave and sharing your story. My husband and I are another couple that were in a very similar place at similar ages. We took measures that seemed drastic to many in our circle my husband also worked at a college : we sold our home and downsized into a duplex, we went down to one car, and focused on truly living on a detailed budget.
One benefit of going through this process while your children are teens: they see how hard it is to dig out of debt and it can act as a deterrent for them. Our 4 children, all adults now, are proud of us for making the hard choices to get ourselves straightened out. Even if your child does make the actual payments, it still puts you at risk, as you are ultimately responsible to pay those loans back. You and your husband can do this! If we are more on top of how much we are paying the Federal govt — then alot of people could actually address their own debt problems. Maybe the best plan is to just write a check each quarter instead of withholding per pay check.
But just be careful — you need to be on top of it otherwise — tax man will come a calling. Yeah so lots of people are going to be getting a refund. But because you have kids — you are probably going to be in the same tax liability for Federal anyway. As long as you do not incur a penalty for underpayment to the state — just keep your withholding to the state as it is. If you have any spare cash lying around — pay it down now. In fact — i would skip a payment on the student loan 5. But all in all -when it comes to taxes -figure out what your tax liability will be.
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Look up the tax bracket for married filing jointly this is the tax that you need to pay. This will result in your tax bill by the end of the year. If you already paid that — congrats — stop paying the govt — pay the debts. I should note…your tax is your tax. Then destroy the student loans and build that emergency fund. I hear you on the refund but these days, I opt to get a refund not huge by any means instead of making estimates. I did that for years and got pretty good at doing the math I must say. As someone already commented above in r. The penalty for miscalculating estimated taxes or being unable to make payments on time is significant, so that would be a really risky strategy for folks like Sue and Dan or me!
Thank you for sharing! If I wanted to explore a new activity, I had to decide which current activity I would give up. This ensured that I was truly committed to, for example, violin lessons prior to investing family time and resources. Particularly in my younger years, my parents helped me brainstorm earning opportunities. I also made greeting cards for sale. Both these services offset the cost of my violin lessons.
If a hobby needed new equipment, this typically became my birthday or Christmas gift. See below for my note on birthday parties. Ideally, your children will be able to find a free, long term service opportunity in their community which utilizes their talents and provides opportunities for them to learn new skills. It was free, beyond the cost of transit negligible since my dad was going into work there anyway ; it was so much fun; it allowed me to learn new skills public speaking, blacksmithing, gardening, weaving… ; and it looked great on college and scholarship applications. Look into nearby cultural institutions, parks, sports centers, etc.
Explore whether your children are eligible for any activity scholarships in your community, or whether the cost of their activities could be waived or reduced if they helped out, for example, teaching classes for younger age groups. I believe that this approach has the added benefit of teaching your children valuable life skills beyond what they would otherwise derive from the activities. I had a fall birthday, which is particularly suited to a menu of soups and quick breads, but by planning in advance to make large batches of delicious, cost-effective food, crowd-sourcing expensive items like beverages and utensils, and looking at seasonal low-cost seasonal activities pumpkin carving, water fights, snow forts, baking cookies, hikes, scavenger hunts it is possible to create an event that is truly memorable and inexpensive.
All of these strategies can build better family ties and help your children learn useful skills. I wish you the best! Thank you so much! I see how I need to include my kids so they learn some of these skills and to be conscious of spending money. My family all chips in for food but I like this idea of large soups and stews. I like that idea for birthday parties! Instead of additional gifts which inevitably lead to clutter — having a giant potluck of friends is pretty neat.
Its meant to honor the birthday kid — so everyone could come together for that to happen! I too was not raised by frugal people and did not have the frugal gene. But when we were at the very bottom with debt and living paycheck to paycheck, I decided enough was enough.
I was not going to live this way. I was not going to have my options limited by my financial indiscretions. I immersed myself in every bit of financial advice and frugal living philosophy I could get my hands on, took what worked for me and discarded the rest. I changed my mindset and behaviors. It can be done but it takes discipline and determination. Great to hear a success story! What a wonderful, giving couple you are! Now, find out how much people love you for your enthusiasm and care and for who you are, not for the gifts you bring and the money you spend. Use your own social work training on yourself.
Train yourself to listen to the messages you are hearing about the importance of spending, and ask yourself if they are true. Ask your children which activities are most important to them and include the children in the finances conversation. Teach them to shop and cook and make salads — necessary work they can feel proud of. Starting school is a good time to make changes. Make a chart or giant thermometer and count your savings for a goal in a way that you can all see, so they also learn financial management. Is there any kind of public transportation your husband can use for his commute?
He could work on the train if available. I suspect social workers have a high burn-out rate. Take care of yourselves, and best of luck! You have the desire and can change this, while you work together to strengthen your family. You might find your extended family is open to doing holidays and events in ways that cost less as well. I suspect you could have a great yard sale of stuff from your house? Old toys and such? The kids might take the lead on that. Sell books, dvds, etc. They really like just being with their friends and mostly they entertain each other.
I have to remember that! Thank you so much for sharing your story with us! I just want to mention again about involving the kids with your financial strategies and plans. The more you share your struggles with them, the more they will be willing to try and help, the more understanding they will be, and the better lessons you will teach them in the future about how to overcome challenges. Instead, we made memories other ways- we hosted foreign exchange students to learn about other cultures still one of the most beneficial experiences throughout high school , they worked as foster parents which taught us empathy, we took family camping vacations to national parks to see the natural wonders and beauty in our own country.
There are many, many options for still giving your children worldly cultural experiences without sending them on an overpriced trip or expensive sports camps. And I also respected my parents much more for that. And we still had awesome cheap birthday parties- they just consisted of a few pizzas and sodas in the basement with friends and family, or maybe at the closest neighborhood park.
And the neighborhood kids would always want to come to our parties because they were so fun having a foreign exchange student living with us also bumped up our coolness factor which made our parties cooler. And lastly, all the sacrifices of my parents early in our childhood paid off- they are debt free, entirely. They own their own home, cars, rental property, and are in the position to basically retire whenever they want to. Also, they were able to help my brothers and I go to Europe for a summer after college, for each of us we all paid a majority of the trip, but they gifted us plane tickets.
Other attractions include — the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Art Museum, the St. Rockefeller Park encompasses acres, and is the largest park completely within city limits. The park has two features that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places — its historic stone bridges, and its Cultural Gardens. That Little Bit Extra: There are 31 different gardens, and each one commemorates a different ethnic group that has made contributions to the heritage of the United States. Established in , the acre Druid Hill Park is one of the oldest landscaped public parks in the country.
George Buchanan, one of the founders of Baltimore in At acres, El Dorado Park is both the largest and the most-visited park in the city of Long Beach. The Park has an impressive number of amenities, including a skate park, and outdoor archery range, soccer and softball fields, volleyball and basketball courts that are even lit up at night, and hole golf course, a roller hockey court, a tennis center, designated areas for remote control airplanes and sailboats, and a disc golf course.
In addition, there are three fishing lakes and a fishing pond. Garden of Gods takes up acres, and attracts over 2 million visitors a year. It is a preferred destination for hikers, rock climbers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. It offers more than 15 miles of trails, including a mile-and-a-half trail that is accessible by wheelchair.
The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same man who envisioned Central Park, with a preference for natural landscaping, rather than formal, and an incorporation of the natural land features. The overall effect is one of placidity, relaxation, and restoration. Besides the usual waterfront amenities, two features that stand out are and hole golf course and the North Point Lighthouse.
Established in , Pullen Park is the oldest and the most-visited park in the city of Raleigh. This picturesque Park contains two ballfields, tennis courts, paddle boats, and a plethora of playground equipment. Other amenities include an aquatic center with an Olympic-size swimming pool, an art center that hosts a summer camp for kids, a one-third size miniature train offering rides, and an antique carousel featuring 52 hand-carved animals. That Little Bit Extra: The carousel is over years old, and is one of only 14 still in operation in the world.
Taken as a whole, the Fairmount Park system of Philadelphia is the largest landscaped urban Park in the entire world, covering more than acres. Nearly half of that is taken up by Fairmount Park proper, which contains over acres all by itself. Among its many amenities and properties is Bartram's Garden, which is the country's oldest existent botanical garden.
Alum Park encompasses acres, making it the largest part in San Jose. Originally founded in , it is also the first municipal Park in the state of California. It offers a host of outdoor facilities such as playgrounds, picnic areas, tips for sand volleyball, and a number of trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians.
That Little Bit Extra: In a lucky happenstance, a earthquake caused a stream that was previously dry to begin flowing again. It is also the seventh-most-visited park in the country. It is an extremely popular destination with dozens of amenities and attractions, including an amusement park with a miniature train, a small roller coaster, a century-old carved wooden carousel, and 15 other rides. There is also a children's playground that adheres to a fairytale theme, the New Orleans Botanical Garden, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and a sculpture garden.
That Little Bit Extra: The largest collection of mature live oak trees can be found here, with some of the specimens over years old. Taking up over acres, Swope Park is the largest park in Kansas City, and is currently the 29th-largest park in the United States. It has a number of amenities, including a public golf course, a swimming pool, a course for Frisbee golf, soccer fields, and baseball diamonds.
It is also the site of the Kansas City Zoological Park and the Starlight Theater, and outdoor theater that is capable of seating over patrons. Heinlein, grew up in Kansas City, and Swope Park is mentioned several times in his works. Lincoln Park is the largest park in Chicago, taking up over acres. It has amenities and attractions for nearly every interest — a driving range, a full golf course, and outdoor archery field, volleyball courts, three dozen tennis courts, a half-dozen basketball courts, and baseball, softball, and soccer fields.
Also, Lincoln Park contains a zoo, a conservatory, a history museum, a theater, gardens, and public beaches. That Little Bit Extra: Lincoln Park attracts over 20 million visitors per year, making it the second-most visited park in the United States. This smallish park acres is the most-visited park in Albuquerque, primarily because of the International Balloon Fiesta, a nine-day event that can attract up to , visitors a day. This fiesta is the largest hot air balloon event in the world. On most of the books, Gosse had glued a custom ex libris bookplate stamp bearing his name in Gothic letters, as well as a drawing of a heart.
He confessed to the thefts. He offered to donate them to the library he had so heartily pillaged. He apologized to the director, who gave him absolution. A slap on the wrist, his lawyer says. He was even able to keep teaching. Close to 20 years after the thefts, the investigators still speak about Gosse with awe. He was no ordinary thief, after all. He stole out of passion, and the books were safely returned to the library in 22 boxes it took two volunteers six months to sort them out.
Former colleagues at the engineering school where Gosse still teaches are more guarded. What kind of example had he set for the students? They described an aloof, reclusive man with no appetite for social activities whatsoever. He is now 48, single, and lives with his mother. They exchange a quick salute and walk on. Fifty years ago, a left-wing radical planted bombs across New York, launching a desperate manhunt—and an explosive new strain of political extremism. T hroughout much of , Sam Melville, an unemployed year-old with an estranged wife and 5-year-old son, frequently sat at his desk in a squalid apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, contemplating how he could destroy America.
Two years earlier, Melville had left behind a well-paying job as a draftsman, a spacious apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and his family. His father, a former member of the Communist Labor Party, whom Melville once greatly admired, had recently given up the socialist cause, remarried, and opened a hamburger stand in an upscale section of Long Island.
Fearing that he might follow his father on a similar path led Melville down an existential rabbit hole. In and around his neighborhood that year, he took part in marches and sit-ins, but by , as his anger toward the government grew, he secretly set off a series of bombs across Manhattan. To many in the counterculture underground, he was their equivalent of a masked avenger.
There was no way some doped-up college kid was making them. You can be all those things and still not want to blow up buildings. Yet in the flashpoint of just four months, Sam Melville and a small group of followers took the American radical left on a hard turn into armed struggle. Melville was one of the first to turn to this kind of violence, but the country would soon witness the kidnapping of Patty Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army, the bombings of the Pentagon and NYPD headquarters by the Weather Underground, and more. What else would make a person act that way other than knowing they damaged their family?
The one thing nobody can debate is the haphazard manner in which Sam Melville went about bombing Marine Midland. Though his intention was to destroy property and not people, he did not take into account the presence of an evening staff in the building when he set the device for a 10 p. When more than a dozen employees were taken to the hospital — all with minor injuries — it forced him to rethink his future plans of attack. Army and Selective Services inside. The device went off at 2 a. There were no injuries. Melville and his cell soon learned that damaging federal property could elicit a furious response.
The next day, the FBI went to an apartment Melville had moved out of months earlier, and later they tracked him down at the apartment on East 4th Street where he and Alpert were living. He told them his name was David McCurdy — the pseudonym he had used to rent a nearby apartment where he had set up an explosives workshop — and denied knowing who Sam Melville was. Unfazed by this close call, the collective went to work plotting their most ambitious statement on American tyranny yet: a trio of simultaneous bomb blasts across the city on Veterans Day.
Meanwhile, Melville opted for his version of laying low: skipping town and going on a bombing spree of U. Army facilities across the Midwest. Melville also participated in a guerilla warfare workshop in North Dakota, hosted by the black nationalist H. Rap Brown. From the inside, black people have been fighting a revolution for years.
And finally, white Americans too are striking blows for liberation. Another blast was planned to follow at the Lexington Armory on 26th Street, with Melville delivering the bomb himself with help from George Demmerle, a newer member Melville had befriended on the Lower East Side. Demmerle, an overly rambunctious radical who not only was a member of the Crazies but also held rank as the only Caucasian member of the Black Panthers, greatly impressed Melville.
Had they found his bomb factory? He had to mobilize. The revolution was in full swing. N ot long after the explosive on Centre Street, Demmerle and Melville made their way uptown, to 26th Street. The plan was to chuck the timed bombs onto the large Army trucks parked in front of the 69th Regiment Armory, knowing they would later be brought inside the building. But as Melville approached, he noticed something different than the numerous times they had cased the building. Figuring the action would have to wait for another day, Melville was just about to turn away when he was bombarded from all angles by FBI agents pointing pistols and ordering him to freeze.
Just like Melville, Demmerle was a man who had left his wife and child looking for purpose in life, but instead of becoming a self-appointed revolutionary, he found it as a low-level mole for the government, beginning in But to Melville, Demmerle was just another comrade in the struggle. How the hell am I going to get out of jail, jackass? A month after his outburst in court, Melville pulled another act of desperation. After racing down two flights of stairs, he was apprehended. On May 8, , Melville pled guilty to three charges: conspiring to and destroying federal property, and assaulting the marshal.
He was sentenced to a consecutive run of 31 years. Hughey ended up serving two years, while Alpert absconded. While harbored by members of the Weather Underground, she circulated the feminist manifesto Mother Right to much praise and criticism from the radical left, before surrendering in There, abusive guards were the norm, as were ludicrously sparse rations such as a single bar of soap every other month and one roll of toilet paper given out only once a month. The lone bright spot for Melville was finding prisoners to connect with from the Black Panthers and a likeminded Puerto Rican civil rights group called the Young Lords.
Over the course of the next year, Melville sent out a storm of letters decrying the conditions at Attica to lawyers, outside supporters and the New York Commissioner of Corrections, Russell Oswald, while also publishing a handmade newsletter distributed to prisoners on the sly called The Iced Pig. For many both inside and outside of prison walls, this new awareness of incarceration conditions came from George Jackson, the San Quentin inmate who authored the best-selling book Soledad Brother. When word got out that Jackson had been shot dead during a bungled uprising on August 21, , it set off a brooding fury in Attica.
In an act of solidarity, Melville led a multiracial phalanx of prisoners wearing black armbands into the mess hall for a very solemn hunger strike. One guard was singled out for a beating so bad he died a few days later. Over the next four days, negotiations were volleyed in and out of the prison walls by journalists, senators and the well-known civil rights lawyer William Kunstler.
At the end of the sudden and bloody debacle, nine guards and 29 inmates were dead, with Melville reportedly being one of the first to get picked off. Legend says Melville was in mid-throw of a Molotov cocktail when he was gunned down. As much as that would make for a great dramatic ending to this made-for-TV story, evidence brought up in a civil suit during the s revealed this to be a mistruth, as no such item was found near his body.
For an almost year stretch starting in , a group that initially called themselves the Sam Melville Unit carried out a series of bank robberies and bombings across the Eastern Seaboard and the Midwest. Last year, former New York City Police commissioner Bernard Kerik summoned the name of the Melville-inspired group when arguing that the left-wing protest group Antifa should be considered a domestic terrorist group.
Arching back in his chair to lend further significance to his statement, he puffs on his cigar and continues.
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While other girls my age were sneaking off with boys and getting drunk, I was becoming a zealot—and trying to convert my parents. O n a summer Thursday evening, shortly after my 16th birthday, my face was pressed into the maroon carpet again. Mildew filled my nostrils and I coughed. I was mesmerized by the way God moved through her.
The Secret Place of the Lord was the place we could dwell if we lived holy lives. In the Secret Place, God would whisper divine revelations to us and show us miracles. I dug my face harder into the floor — lying prostrate was how we humbled ourselves before the Lord. I sang, improvising a new melody to the Lord. I felt something release as I sang, something like the warmth of God. I kept singing and the tears started flowing, as they always did when I prayed long enough. They dripped off my face and darkened the carpet underneath. I was a homeschooled girl with only a smattering of friends.
My best friend, Siena, lived just down the road from me, on the pine-speckled canyon seven dusty miles from town. I adored her, but Siena was a public-school jock by then and had way cooler friends than me. I was lonely, and this Pentecostal church had the only youth group in town. Not long after joining, I was all in. I prayed in my room for hours every day. I spoke in tongues and believed I was slaying demons as I prayed in my spiritual language.
I threw out all of my secular music. I went on mission trips to spread the Gospel. I cut out my non-Christian friends. I signed a contract promising that I would protect my virginity for my wedding night.
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My parents were nominal Christians, but not churchgoers. I deserved parents who would guide me into the Things of the Lord. They told me that sin could be passed down for generations and that people born into a spiritual legacy — generations of people who were believers — had a leg up on people like me from heathen families. This came at just the right moment, developmentally speaking: I was leaving behind the childhood fantasy that my parents were perfect and coming to the realization that they were actually just winging this whole parenting thing, and that they sucked at it sometimes.
This is a very normal realization for a child, but at the time, it felt irrevocable and huge. Jessa offered to be my spiritual mentor, and I excitedly agreed. I spent many hours in their living room, talking about my hopes and dreams. Jessa stroked her frizzy hair and told me all about the incredible destiny God had for me if I surrendered everything to Him. I clung to every word she said. I wanted to be just like her.
You are demonic. We ate a meal of corn on the cob, cherries and grilled chicken, on a wooden picnic table a few yards from the water. I pushed the food on my plate around, sulking. I was thinking of ways I could convert them to my faith. Next to us, the river rushed constantly, filling the spaces between words. As the sun set, we played cards by lantern light. I wanted to mention this, but I thought that it would only stir up trouble. My heart hurt thinking about what my Jacob and Jessa were up to that night. I imagined them praying together, or worshipping around a bonfire, or dissecting passages of the Bible around the dinner table.
I longed to be with them. I tried to comfort myself with reassurances that God was both all-powerful and all good and that human suffering was all part of His Plan. But for the first time since I joined the church, those answers came up short. Just 10 days after the fire, I left my hometown to go to a nearby Christian university. I spent that first semester in a fog, trying to make sense of my life. I remember lying on the top bunk in my new dorm room a few weeks into my college career, wondering if my faith made sense anymore, while my roommate used our dorm phone to talk to one of the boys who wanted to date her.
I held still and listened. I watched Snow White on the inch TV screen that somebody had donated to me, under a fort of blankets and pillows on the floor. I allowed myself to be whisked away to a time before. A time before the altar calls, before the revivals, before the fire, before the fog. I hid for days in the fantasy of enchanted forests and fairy dust and singing fish, while my peers went to prayer meetings. I stopped trying to read the Bible. None of it made sense anymore. I called Jessa, hoping for a lifeline. I confided in her that God felt so far away.
She asked me if I had been praying and reading the Bible enough. I told her that I often tried, but that it all felt so forced. She wore a scowl on her face, and my stomach filled with dread. The whites of his eyes swelled, and dark blotches of sweat stained his shirt. They told me I had the Spirit of Rebellion. They told me my heart was evil. I tried to push back, but they yelled and told me that God would abandon me if I continued to live in sin. I wish I could say I stood up for myself that night, that I ran out of the room and never came back, but the truth is I stayed.
I stayed for what felt like hours, crying and letting them pray for my sins. I finally drove home in a blur, my body spent. I knew in that moment I had lost my faith. I moved on with my life without much talk about those fiery Jesus years, as if pretending they never happened made it so. It was years before I began to talk about my experiences in the church and process them for what they were: abuse.
The more distance I had from the church, the more I could see how brainwashed I had been by fundamentalism. During my teenage years, I lived exactly how Jessa told me to — down to how I dressed and what music I listened to and what friends I was allowed to spend time with and how I spoke and how I approached the world. I believed that by following Jessa and Jacob, I was following God. They had the final word on salvation, eternal life and objective truth. They leveraged my normal human fear of death, and my desire for connection, as power over me.
While it hurt at the time, I now look back at their cruelty with gratitude because it was the catalyst for me to claim my freedom. I ran into an old friend from youth group while visiting my parents for Christmas, and she asked me if I attended church. No, I said, quietly, shifting my weight from one leg to the other as we stood in the produce section of my childhood grocery store.
I saw sadness in her eyes. I remembered what it was like to be in that world. For years, I believed that people who walked away from their faith would suffer eternally for it. I used to judge the backsliders, and now I was one. The words of my pastors that night so many years ago had been seared into my mind: You have the Spirit of Rebellion.
Most of them come from those spiritual legacy families that I used to long for. Often, they are the first to break away from generations of religiously devout people. Some of them have been disowned by their parents, while some are constantly pressured by their family members to come back to the fold, complete with warnings of impending judgment. Compared to their journeys, I had it easy.
My rebellion was church. But our latest Narratively story isn't available online. Instead, we printed the entire thing on a tote bag, and it's available only to Narratively Patrons. Then a few times a year we'll send fun surprises for you to tote around, from books we love to literary zines and much more. Honestly, the two jobs aren't that different.
As an R. It was the only time I stuck to a permanent work schedule: four hour shifts, noon to 10 p. The clients were all on some kind of tilt I could relate to. My favorites were Danny, the skateboarding junkie punk who always talked me into helping him organize his closet, and Marvin, who stood in the courtyard staring up at a spot in the starless gray Tenderloin sky no matter how many times I called his name for dinner.
Other than cooking meals, my main responsibility was doling out HIV and psych meds from a clear plastic container with days of the week on the little flaps. After a couple of years, I finished my degree, moved to Los Angeles and scored a part-time gig as an HIV counselor, drawing the blood of porn performers so they could remain on the payroll. I volunteered to serve meals for homeless youth in Santa Monica and participated in a literacy program for incarcerated teenage girls, but none of these gigs paid much.
The sex industry, however, kept me in cat food and car payments when teaching jobs and freelance gigs left me with an overdrawn bank account. I always found my financial footing back in scuffed stilettos, utilizing harm-reduction methods and counseling skills on the laps of sorrowful, lonesome, horny men. The general perception of strippers has been constructed by men and the system that caters to their whims. They see the bleach-blonde hair, the Beverly Hills boob job and the tattoos. They most definitely do not see an engineer of her own circumstances with a rich interior life and an MFA.
In reality, being a stripper is exactly like doing social work, only with more glitter and less clothing. People here need an uncanny amount of babysitting. I may be uniquely qualified to provide counseling and a breast to cry on — which happens a lot — because of my vocational and professional background, but this is a skill set also used by every other sex worker I know.
We dance on a spandex tightrope between social worker, stripper, mother, mistress, confidant and human vacation. For instance, Aaron, a freckled construction worker in his late 30s, used to show up every week during my shift. He told me that he had recently caught his wife in bed with another man when he thought she was at work. Then he asked me to hurt him for money. We could discuss it the following week after he made a clearheaded decision. I would have agreed to do it if I thought it could enhance his life and help him process complex feelings.
Fetish and BDSM scenes are cathartic, sacred things to me — something that can help. They can also pay incredibly well. The harm-reduction model I learned to employ as a social worker taught me to meet people where they stand as opposed to solving their problems for them or forcing them to abstain from anything.
Aaron chewed his cuticles and paced on the smoking patio. Then he reached out and hugged me briskly. His jean jacket reeked of weed. His cheeks were wet with tears. Then he left. Eroticizing grief can also be a group sport. I nodded knowingly to the friend and reached for the hand of the widower, Fred. He avoided eye contact but followed me to the VIP area anyway. It took Fred a couple of songs before he told me about his wife. I held him. He turned his head away, but you always know when a man is crying into your bra. You have to move your money away from the flood — tuck it into your purse.
I tell him we should celebrate. He asks if he can pay me in edibles. I shake my head. I smile in delight. He hands Ray some bills and I lead him to the VIP section, where lap dances happen on soft red chairs against a scratchy wall. Ray frowns and exhales.
I change the subject. You should go back to school. The community college here, COD, is cheap and close by. I swivel around so my nipples are in his face. We do this for several songs. He asks if I will go out to the smoking patio with him. He pays me, probably a hundred dollars. I follow him outside, where we sit on metal chairs and sweat in the smoky arid night. Asks for my number again.
I give it to him, knowing I will immediately erase his and block it when I leave Showgirls. He asks what his chances are of seeing me outside. Again I try to talk him into going to classes and again he tries to talk me into laundering his drug money. But it has the opposite effect. He does not pay child support or raise any of them. My brother and Ray share the same angry-baby look of an infantile, explosive bully. He stares at Ray with his eyes bulging and gives him a slight nod. Ray tells me again to consider it, then follows the staring guy back inside. So am I.
In the dressing room, which is a locker room with round mirrors and a long table stained by eye shadow and curling-iron burn marks, I change into white jean shorts and a baseball hat, with my hair tied up in a single side braid. I sneak out of Showgirls incognito, relieved that I have a long drive away from the palpable male violence and creepy hot wind.
The next day, news channels report that at a. Outside in the parking lot, shots were fired. One man was killed and two others critically wounded. He may have been the shooter. The next Tuesday, I go to Showgirls again, ready for the next version of Ray to reveal his despair during a lap dance. Maybe this time, he will allow himself the dignity of a fresh start — whatever that looks like. The High Priest of Heavy Metal. Confessions of a Something Hanson Fanatic. The Curse of the Ship of Gold.