Setting my mind against the inevitable disillusionment that followed took every ounce of my energy. I was happy at home. “Happy!” I say, “Happy!” What I was unhappy about was finding that, at the very core of my being, I was not the woman whom I had dreamed that I would be.
My mind had deluded me into believing that I was the Pledge commercial lady, but my soul was kind of a leftover hippy. I planted the biggest garden that I could in our little rented mobile home space amongst the debris that trailed out from the lean-to. I breastfed the baby full time, and I used only cloth diapers. My mind and my soul were in a constant battle: My life did not look like I had imagined it would, but I could not change who I really was deep inside just to please my imagination. I could not bear the thought of strapping artificial paper and plastic diapers on my baby and suffocating her sweet little bum. She wanted to be held and nursed constantly. Feeding her a bottle of artificially produced soy formula would have been nothing short of betrayal. I felt the same way about prepackaged food for Dan and me. I cooked fresh from my garden as much as I could and determined to spend as little as possible at the grocery store.
I started reading books on how to live on less. I clipped coupons and signed up for a newsletter that kept me up to date with the latest manufacturers’ rebates. I had seen people on television who used “couponing and refunding” to buy $500 worth of groceries for $4.32. The trick to doing this, however, is to keep every package, bag and wrapper from every product that you buy, to ask all your friends and neighbors to give you theirs and to dumpster dive for the rest. The baby was sleeping with us, so I used her crib to hold my refunding stash.
I really wanted to have a shiny clean house, but my time was consumed with nursing the baby, loading her up in the stroller with the diaper pail balanced on the back, and walking to the Laundromat every day. In my spare time, I went dumpster diving for cereal boxes and green bean labels. I worked in the garden and cooked nutritious soups. I even tried to clean the house. I hustled and hustled, but nothing ever seemed to look right. Sometimes I would still be vacuuming when Dan came home from work at 4:00 p.m. I left pans soaking on the back of the stove and cried myself to sleep every night.