In My Own Words

Counting the Change

There was a show on ABC for nine seasons called “The Middle.” It was about a hardworking, middle class family, the Hecks. Every time I watched that show I felt like somebody had been spying on my family and had taken scenes from my real life to create this fictional twenty-two minutes of television. Whether it was children arguing over silly things, a house in constant need of repairs or going shopping at the discount grocery store, The Frugal Hoosier, it resonated with me. I got it. The Hecks were a loose change kind of family.

PictureYou know what I mean. When we were kids, we’d look for loose change to buy a candy bar at the drugstore. In college we pulled our change together for a pizza. I remember being new parents, I was still in college and my husband was making $23,000 teaching alternative education. We had a mortgage, a car payment and needed diapers. It was right before payday and we were just short of what we needed. We took off the couch cushions looking for rogue quarters and rooted around the floor of the car. Eventually we’d dug around enough that Joe headed to the store for a late night pack of Pampers. 

We still have a change jar. While I have needed to selectively pull quarters out from time to time, it has been a few years now since we have poured it into a CoinStar machine to pay for a tank of gas. Not so many years, though, that I can’t still remember the frustration of needing to, or the gratitude of us having that option.

The reality is, my husband and I made a decision when we had our first child that I would stay home with our kids. Since my daughter was born my last semester of college, this meant I went straight from earning my degree to being a stay-at-home mom. It wasn’t an easy decision, especially with such a low starting salary for him and the enormous responsibilities we faced with parenthood and bills. In reality, what family can truly afford for one parent to stay home. I always worked part-time. Whether it was my freelance writing or weekend and evening shifts at Build-a-Bear Workshop, I found a way to contribute to the household financially when Joe would be home with our growing family.

Unfortunately, we made some mistakes during this time. We used credit cards to help us renovate a house we bought on foreclosure. We used credit cards to fill in the gaps where we couldn’t afford things we needed. We bought a new house before our third child was born, tripling our mortgage and making ourselves “house poor” for a while. These aren’t things I am proud of, but I also don’t think they are unique to our family. I think a lot of families find themselves in similar struggles.

You may be wondering why I would share this. There are a few reasons. One is I want to tell you all that I made these financial mistakes before my opponent does. It happened and my husband and I work hard to rectify that. Also, I want people to know I am real. I have been in the trenches of life’s struggles. I know the value of a dollar and I respect it. I don’t just respect the value of my own dollar. I respect every dollar of the taxpayer, and I intend to work hard to ensure that money is being spent appropriately and transparently in Harrisburg. 

We should never underestimate the value in change. Whether it is $10 in quarters to buy diapers, or a new, passionate candidate who is eager to move this state forward, we should never stop counting the change.