1999 in technology and poor people struggles

In 1999, the Internet was still new and rudimentary. Email was a novelty. And computers started to become more mainstream. I had never owned a computer, and that was not unusual, but I had used computers at home and school. My parents bought their first computer – an IBM – around 1990; it had a big boxy monitor and used floppy disks. Mostly, we played games on it like Tetris, Paratrooper, Space Strike, and Snack Attack. At school, we used Macintosh computers, which were produced by Apple. I took a computer science class in the early 1990s, in which I learned about basic animation and links. In those early days of public technology dissemination, I was a budding techie and bonafide computer nerd.

With my paltry wages, I couldn’t afford a computer and really had no need for one. All of my business communications were hand-written and mailed via the U.S. Post Office. One day, in my mail, I received information about working from home. This was very appealing to me, as I was working long days and was away from my baby more than I was with her. It didn’t take much to be swayed to take a chance and sign up for a payment plan to enroll in a medical billing program. Perhaps many poor people fall for these offers. All of the curriculum would be mailed to my apartment and could be completed on my own time. But there was one problem: I needed a computer to do the training and eventually work from home.

Since there was no way I could afford it, I decided that I would ‘creatively’ finance a computer to use for my new entrepreneurial venture by writing a check for it that I would pay back, expecting that I would be in a position to pay it back in no time with my promising career. Whenever my bank account had gone in the red, as it often did, I paid the overdraft fee and repaid it as I could. Logically, I assumed that I could do the same thing to purchase a computer – just that it would take longer to replenish my account. Being 20 years old and desperate, I had no knowledge of any additional repercussions, like criminal charges. Vanessa came with me to Best Buy, where I wrote a bad check for a Sony VAIO desktop computer, which came with promotional AOL CD-ROMs with trial subscriptions to the Internet – a bonus to my questionable investment. I thought I was in business.

Rabbit Tails from the Meadow

Rabbit Tails from the Meadow

Meet the Rabbits from the Meadow

Once upon a time, there were five rabbit friends who all lived happily in a beautiful meadow with flowers, butterflies, and other creatures. They grew up together since they were born and played together each day. Their names were Clover, Midnight, Winter, Kota, and Sergio.

Clover had long, fluffy white fur, floppy ears, and hopped with a limp. She sometimes needed help climbing over big rocks and got tired faster than the other rabbits. The others never minded, and she helped them with other things. She especially loved to eat radishes. When she found a nice one to munch on, she enjoyed it one nibble at a time. She had a sister who looked like her who also liked radishes. So if one of them found a radish, they would share it.

Midnight had black, silky fur that glistened in the moonlight. He liked being up late at night under the stars. The daylight was too bright for his eyes and he felt more relaxed when the sun started to go down. He liked eating soft mushrooms best and liked to spend a lot of his time alone in his special spot. He didn’t like many changes and was happiest when everything stayed the same. He had a brother who was similar to him, but had brown fur. They liked to push small rocks into shapes by working side by side. Midnight was smart about astronomy and liked to show the others the patterns in the sky at night.

Winter had gray, flowing fur, and was missing one ear. She couldn’t hear out of the one ear that she had, so she showed what she wanted to say with her body. And she watched the others to understand what they were saying. They moved more expressively because she couldn’t hear their sounds. That way, she was included in the group when there was any communication. Winter was more outgoing than the others and a natural leader. When she had an idea, they usually listened to her.

Kota had black and white short fur and big, black eyes. She was the sensitive one and was the first one to take care of the others if they were sad or hurt. She was kind and gentle, and looked after the group. She sometimes went into her secret place when she was overwhelmed. There were times when she was gone a long time and hardly ate. She stayed quietly in her secret place until she was ready to come back out. The others knew when she needed space and put flowers nearby to show her they cared. She took them back to her secret place to remind herself that they were with her, and it helped her to come back out sooner.

Sergio had brown, fluffy fur that bounced when he hopped. He was smart like the others, but didn’t learn some things as fast as they did. So when they were trying something new, the others explained it to Sergio in different ways, so he would understand. He had a lot of enthusiasm and loved learning, and tried very hard to keep up. But nobody was sorry that he couldn’t learn some things and that he went about life his own way. He could teach the others about what he saw, like how the birds made a nest in the spring and where they found the materials. He was very observant and noticed things that others missed.

The Birthday Party

It was Kota’s birthday the next day, and her friends wanted to make sure that it was a good day. She is the youngest of all the friends, so they loved taking care of her. Clover called Midnight, Winter, and Sergio over to where she was sitting under an apple tree.

“It’s only one day until Kota’s birthday,” Clover said. “I think we should plan a party.”

Winter started hopping around the group of friends, demonstrating making a birthday cake. And with a dramatic conclusion and a smile, she added five imaginary birthday candles to the top.

Sergio jumped up and down, excitedly, his brown, fluffy fur dancing with him. “We all should add our own decorations to the cake! I want to put an apple from this tree right in the middle. And we should invite the birds, too; they can sing a song for Kota.”

Midnight listened to his rabbit friends, and had an idea. “We could dress up with necklaces of our favorite flowers, and give a bouquet of flowers to Kota.”

Clover thanked the rabbits, “You all are wonderful friends to Kota, and this party will make her very happy at a time when she needs to feel better. So let’s start making the cake this afternoon.”

So all the rabbits started making the cake. Midnight had the best idea for how to construct the cake. So they wove a basket together to hold the cake, then added layers of delicious nuts and fruits that they found across the meadow. Clover found fruits and nuts close to the basket because it’s hard for her to hop very far. And the others found fruits and nuts that were farther away. Sergio put a bright red apple on the top and Winter added five cattails in a circle around it. Clover added a plum and Midnight added a peach.

Clover sat down to rest after the cake was made and the other rabbits hopped over to her and sat down next to her.

“Kota is going to love it!” Winter said with movements. The others nodded their heads in agreement. Midnight didn’t usually say anything with sounds either, even though he could. He had his own way of communicating his thoughts to the others. And they learned how to understand him.

Then they all went to their dens to sleep well for their big surprise the next day. And on their way, they dropped flowers near Kota’s secret place.

Kota had not noticed that the others had been busy all day because she was in her secret place. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, she needed to be in her secret place. Sometimes she was sad and wanted to be alone. Late in the night, because she couldn’t sleep, she went out to look at the stars. She was not far from her secret place when she smelled flowers. In the starlight, she saw purple, blue, and red flowers strewn across the grass, as if smiling at her. The love of her friends made her feel warm in her heart. She decided that she would come out in the morning and have breakfast with Sergio, Winter, Midnight, and Clover.

In the morning, very early, Sergio, Winter, Midnight, and Clover gathered flowers to wear as necklaces to the party. And they made a beautiful flower necklace and bouquet for Kota. Midnight showed everyone how to make it, and Sergio found the best flowers to use. Winter did a dance for the birds to show them that there was a party for Kota that afternoon and to ask them to sing for her. The birds all started chirping and flitting about at once. They were so excited that it was Kota’s birthday and loved to celebrate.

At breakfast time, everyone acted like it was a normal day. Clover made everything pretty. Midnight put out the bowls. Sergio brought water. And Winter carried a basket of hay. They all wondered if Kota would come to breakfast. Quietly, they had their hay and water. If Kota felt peaceful, she may join them. If it was too loud or busy, she would want to stay in her secret place longer.

Soon, Kota came slowly toward the others and sat down for breakfast. She had the flowers they had left near her secret place and put them in the middle of the circle. Then she went to each rabbit and gave a hug – except Midnight, who doesn’t like hugs, so she held up a flower and thanked him.

After breakfast, they played in the meadow with the butterflies. There were white, orange, and pink ones – big and small, with different patterns. They danced and ran until they were tired and needed to rest. Clover stretched out under a raspberry bush. Midnight nestled into long, soft grass. Sergio curled up between long, red tulips. Winter lay in the curve of the base of the trunk of an oak tree. And Kota curled around the stem of a tall sunflower.

They awoke when they heard birds singing. The blue birds sang their song, then the swallows, finches, robins, warblers, and lastly, the chickadees. The rabbit friends began to stir and stretch. The birds flew down as if to greet them and came together as one flock that started to move toward the gathering place of the meadow. So the rabbit friends followed them.

When they arrived, there were the cake, flower necklaces, and bouquet for Kota. Before Kota could say anything, her friends sang Happy Birthday to her, “Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday, dear Kota, Happy Birthday to you. You are now five years old, you are now five years old, you are now five years old, Happy Birthday to you!”

Kota’s eyes filled with happy tears that rolled down her black and white fur, and splashed onto the ground. This was one of the best moments of her life. She could not imagine feeling more loved than this. She had the best friends she could imagine and they remembered her birthday. She blew at the cattails and they burst open with white fluff that floated through the air like magic.

The rabbit friends feasted on the cake together and told stories about their friendships with each other into the evening, forgetting about dinner or chores. And when the sun set, they went to the middle of the meadow and watched it cast radiant colors across the sky. There were never happier rabbits in all the meadows of the land.

She Pulled the String

She pulled the string
And dropped the drapes
Clicked all the locks on the door
Swished the curtains together
Made sure the phone was completely hung up
Smoothed the Afghan on the straight-back sofa
Closed all the cupboard doors
Rearranged the salt-and-pepper shakers on the table
Swept a few crumbs into a dustpan, leaning the broom in a corner
Took a bite of an apple
Sat crosslegged on the blue carpeted floor
Finished the apple