Friday Perspective - Stuff

2:27 PM

{From then to now}

Man, we've come a long way and as much as I complain, I know we are very fortunate to have what we have (and don't have). A comment from yesterday's Currently post brought up some questions on how it is we live the way we live and it presented a very important thought about how we, as a society, tend to perceive things and judge - be it of events, situations, and people. Despite the saying - "don't judge a book by its cover" - most often, we do just that.

We are a family of modest means. Our combined income is sometimes half that of one person's income here in the Bay Area (think Silicon Valley software engineers). Our house is full of used, found and free items. And actually this house found us. We weren't actively looking for places when we were approached about the house, but because we had just found out we were pregnant with baby #2, we knew it was a matter of time to move on from our other (and much loved) more expensive place in Oakland and we are renters. Our downstairs neighbor is the property manager, who happens to be a good friend of my husband, Charlie, and a wonderful uncle to our kids. He is the reason why we have the house and our lovely backyard. He also paid for all our utilities for 6 months as a gift to Raima during my maternity leave. Sometimes, when we fall short, we have our families to ask on for help, and we are very thankful for that. I know, we are very fortunate.

We live in what people would call a neighborhood in transition. Whenever we say we live in West Oakland, people think we're crazy (I'm quite used to this). First, people think of what they hear and see in the news. Yes, Oakland has a high crime rate, and yes even more so in West Oakland. But crime can be found everywhere, and luckily we haven't found it on our street. We know most our neighbors by name. We love our house, and we're glad to call it home.

We try to buy local and organic whenever we can. We shop at Monterey Market in Berkeley, each week (sometimes every other week) and usually spend at most $20. We used to shop at farmer's markets but it got to be too expensive. I love Monterey Market. We usually shop at the discount section, where some of the produce will need to be used that day or that week, which is fine by us. I usually don't do any meal planning until I've seen our loot. And sometimes, what a loot! A bag of no pesticide, CA grown avocados = .98 cents. A bag of organic heirloom tomatoes = $1.98. A bag of organic eggplants, cauliflower, fresh organic herbs, a medley of gourmet mushrooms - all at a discount. Plus regular priced items and a splurge on fresh local coffee beans, if we are able to. We usually make stir frys, quiches, soups and pizzas with our produce.

For pantry and household items (like soaps, shampoos, toothpaste etc), we shop at our local Grocery Outlet. We only found out about it because we used to live a block away and it was the closest grocery store. I hadn't known about it before then. But man, I love that place! It's like a Ross Dress for Less store except for groceries. They have the basic staples, eggs (sometimes they have free range organic brown eggs! for a fraction of the cost at say Whole Foods.) bread (a great selection of local solar powered organic at half the cost of other markets), milk, cheese and a slew of other stuff which can be hit or miss. We usually spend about $75-$150/month (depends on what we already have in our pantry) there and pick up a lot of great stuff, and mostly organic!

I've always been a bargain hunter and have never paid full price for anything. Growing up, we didn't have much until my brother was about 10 years old. When we first came to the States, we lived with 3 other families in a one bedroom apartment until our family moved out and into a two bedroom apartment where my dad was the manager and handyman of the building. I thought we were living the life back then because I finally had my own room, a bed and my own TV. My parents held two jobs each at that time and slowly moved up the social/financial ladder. My dad was an engineer and my mom was a dietitian back in their home country (oh, I guess it's my country too, but I've been here since I was 4.5 years old - and really all I know is America).

I know what it looks like to struggle. My mom would bring home "expired" food home from her work so that we would have something to eat. I hardly saw my parents because they worked so much to make ends meet and provide for us bratty kids (I remember asking specifically for a cabbage patch doll to only get a generic version and I wasn't too happy about it. but I changed my tune eventually and even finally got a real one, that I quickly drew all over. Sorry dad.). But all in all, I wouldn't call it struggling. We were surviving and we were fine. I didn't know any better anyway. We shopped at thrift stores, warehouse sales, swapmeets and garage sales. Today, bargain shopping is totally in, but when I was a kid - I used to get made fun of for shopping at thrift stores and having shoes from payless.

Anyway, this is becoming a (too) long of a post. My point is, try and reserve judgement. Despite what or how people present themselves, you might not have the whole picture/story. Sometimes in the blogging world, we see these lovely families and people and paint a picture in our heads of how their lives truly are but remember we are only getting a glimpse into their world and we should be kind and  thankful for that little insight. I hope to raise my kids with the attitude that it isn't about all of the stuff in our life, but about the stuff we do. Life is about the people, the journey, the love, the memories we have and build together and if you see that my family is successful because of this - then, I'm doing something right..

What about you? What's your perspective on the stuff we can accumulate and the judgement we can at times tend to make on people and situations? Has there been a time when you perceived something one way to only change your mind later on?

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you all enjoy your weekend and thank you for stopping by and following our journey. If you ever have any questions, please do drop me a line, here in the comments or send me an email.

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  1. This is a great post! I think we can all be pretty quick to make judgments of other bloggers, especially if there is something we may not be totally satisfied with in our own life, you know? Like say someone thinks they live in a crappy house, they're automatically going to assume every other blogger with a picture with a nice room in the background has a gorgeous mansion. You know?

    I think we all do this with clothes, shoes, whatever. Whatever it is we're insecure about I think.

    It's hard not to care about material things sometimes, but it's always a good goal to have (to not care so much about such trivial things!)

    Hope you're having a great weekend!

  2. Don't worry about trolls who post anonymously just to make you feel like shit. You don't have to validate your life or explain your situation to jerks like that. Also, there's always someone more poor than you, so you never really win with people like that. Struggle is relative, but just because someone else struggles more, that doesn't mean you can't complain about your life. Jesus Christ, if you can't vent here what the hell is the point of the internet?

  3. I'm with sweet rock.

  4. This was a great post - and refreshing. There are lots of posts out there that warn you not to make assumptions based on what you see on blogs, but rarely do people back that up by sharing their reality.

  5. Such great pictures! And you are so should never judge a book by its cover!
    We don't live far from you ~ we are in Sacramento. My husband is a die hard Raiders fan and is about to break into tears at the football game today!

    Loved the post!
    Thank you for linking up to Raising Imperfection!
    Come back Friday to see if you were featured.


  6. What a great post and a wonderful reminder.

    Thanks so much for linking up to Raising Imperfection!

  7. Have you read the book Blink by Malcom Gladwell. It is all about making split second judgments. Fact is we have to make them. In order to function we need to make a quick judgment on "What do I do now." Anyway...

    I agree, things are not always as they seem, and often these flash judgements are wrong. I am judged harshly on my desire to have a large family. It is my family though, yours it yours. We all make decisions based on what is best for our own situation.

    Love the pics of your husband and baby. Thanks for sharing at Raising Reagan!


Oooooh, I love me some comments. Thank you.

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