Need help? Read this. (please)

Yup, that’s all me.

Like I said the other day in Jenn’s “thank you”, my inbox on a regular basis is a place where people go to share their personal struggles and such. Most of the time, they just need a safe and supportive place to talk. Actually,no…not most of the time. All of the time. Sometimes, people are also looking for help. I can usually find what they need or guide them in the right direction.  It’s kinda my thing. Thanks, Malcolm Gladwell for helping me to recognize myself as a lot  Maven and little bit  Connector.

There are a lot of people who need more help than I can give. The funny thing that happened to me after the great response to  Jenn’s Words, although I certainly was happy for Jenn that people were willingly so generous and were able to help her out of a deep hole , I found myself really, really pissed off. So many people in this exact same type of situation and even worse.  And you know how I had to work really,really hard to clean up the language here? Forgive this lapse:  Shit is fucked up. Man.

It goes without saying, money is a big deal for a lot of people right now. I have a few projects in the works that will help fill the needs for some people. Not just money because as much as I know a ton of people think money is king, I think there are a lot of ways we can affect change and help people that don’t involve money.
At this blog, the point has never been to solicit donations because that’s a bit unfeasible and well…. yes, it’s annoying. I personally have unsubscribed from social media accounts that are constantly asking for money. So, while I feel I have an incredible outreach tool here to reach out to people who can help those in need, I want to be careful of not bombarding people will appeals to donate to individuals. I also don’t want the overall intention of this blog to be diluted.

The solution I came up with for right now while I work on getting other things going is to have one post here on the blog, once a week. In that post, I will share brief profiles of what people are needing with a link to where you can help them out at.

So, if you need something right now, here’s what I need you to do: Fill out this contact form below.You do not need to use your full name…just a first name is ok. This goes directly to my inbox and I will not publish any of your contact permission without your permission.

I can’t promise everyone will get what they need but we’ll give it a shot.

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Library Loot: Feb 26th to March 4th

On a fairly regular basis on my personal blog, I used to participate in a  blog hop called Library Loot a weekly event co-hosted by Claire fromThe Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.  I think I’ll start doing it here from time to time because I do think libraries are very relevant to poor folks. We’ve already talked here about how the library is a valuable resource for Internet services but obviously, it’s great for other stuff ,too.

I used this  How Much Money Does Your Library Save You? calculator  . Now, “save” isn’t exactly correct because I don’t usually have money to spend on books,movies, classes,and any other things the library offers. But according to the calculator, if I were purchasing or paying for these items or services, it works out to be about $20,000 a year. Not just for me by myself,of course. That accounts for our whole family of 7.

Yeah, we use the library a lot.
We pay it forward a little by donating our used books to the bi-annual book sales and in the past, I’ve helped out with some of the children’s programming. I literally visit my library 5 days a week. As a treat, my son goes there after school sometimes to play the wii (we don’t have game systems at home) or just to hang out with his friend and play Pokemon or do lego builds at one of the tables.  Plus, they have a magazine exchange shelf that I frequently check and contribute copies to. I really love magazines but don’t have money to subscribe to my favorites. It’s like winning the lottery when I find copies of Brain, Child , PasteMother Earth News (and all sorts of other gardening/homesteading mags), Mother Jones, and on and on. I end up reading a lot of magazines I would have never even thought of reading before just because they’re there.

I just love my library,ok?

So, this is a sampling of what we have out right now from the library:
LL

I intended to do reviews for all of these that we read on Goodreads (if you’re there, you can follow me here ) but considering I started the draft for this post on Monday evening… yeah, I haven’t gotten to it yet.
There’s a few not in the picture because they were in different rooms of the house and I forgot about them. Poor excluded books.

I will probably do a review separately of the Sweet Potato Lovers Cookbook with gratuitous food & recipe pics.

The one huge disappointment here was Sherlock. It’s Season 3, which I haven’t seen yet. But silly me wasn’t paying attention and grabbed the Bluray copy. We don’t have a Blu-ray player, so that didn’t do me much good.
Well, we do have a Blu-ray player but it’s way old and doesn’t play blu-ray discs anymore, only dvds.

My little guy’s favorite book this week was Nino Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales.   

 

 

 

 

Here’s a video of the author reading it. She reads it MUCH better than I do. My Spanish is quite awful, even though I took 4 years of it in high school and Spanish is my step-children’s native language, so it’s used often around me. Something tells me my 3 year old will speak better Spanish than I do before too long.

So, that’s just a quickie look at some of our Library Loot this week. Yay, libraries!

 

parting shot from my little "helper"

parting shot from my little “helper”

 

 

ICYMI: A few yummy recipes and a lot of DIY gardening stuff

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All the things you might have missed this past week from the Facebook page.

Food & Recipes

45+ Frugal Meals to Help You Eat Well, Spend Less | Life As Mom -I didn’t look at every single recipe but most of them do seem to be truly “budget friendly”. I mean, there is a recipe that uses EIGHT EGGS , so not all of them are low budgety…..
Some perspective on “budget-friendly” recipes…
The average SNAP budget is about $1.25 per meal, sometimes less. There are also MANY people in the U.S. right now who are ineligible for food stamps who need to keep their budget within that same range.
So, if one meal costs even “just” $2/ serving, it is not frugal enough for poor folks.

Easy Homemade Bread | Artisan - I have made this a few times and it turned out well, but I *like* to knead, so it’s not my preferred method. I think of kneading as a bit of therapy, so much that I have a whole music-oriented routine  …but in a time crunch, the no-knead method is good. If you have a good library system, see if they have My Bread by Jim Lahey. It’s pretty good.Another good one is Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day

Vegan: Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Panini With Sun-Dried Tomato Mayonnaise | Serious Eats - I made this for dinner one night and was going to do a whole blog post of it’s own. I just wanted to demonstrate how something that sounds really wonderfully fancy-schmancy can be cheap & easy to make. BUT I lost my grocery receipt, so I couldn’t do an exact cost breakdown, which would have been the whole point of the post. It was a hit, so I’ll probably make it again and do a better job at keeping track of the receipt.

This is my kind of breakfast…
“Good morning, rice bowl. (Brown rice, sweet potato, kale, scrambled eggs)”

via Mary Makes Dinner

Gardening

the peony and the bee -peonyandbee.tumblr.com Garden by Jeroenc71 on Flickr. - a beautiful small backyard garden. There are many possibilities, even in compact places like this.

Mark your calendar, guys and gals. The ONLINE Food Growing Summit is coming up, March 3-7 — and it’s
F-R-E-E. Just the inspiration you need!http://www.attainable-sustainable.net/want-advice-experts-especially-joel-salatin/You’ll hear conversations with Will Allen, Ocean Robbins, Joel Salatin, Erika Allen, Vandana Shiva, John Valenzuela, Stacey Murphy and many other farmers, backyard food growers, and urban food activists.

I’ve used this method in gardening since I was a teenager, just learning to garden. I had a great gardening mentor (Hi, Susun!)
Later, my daughters used the method to create their own tradition..a real “Three Sisters” garden. Each chose which seed/plant they were to be in charge of and took responsibility for the care from seed to harvest.

Another great advantage is space saving for small space gardens.

You can also combine raised beds like these with lasagna gardening technique if you can’t fill outright with composted soil mix.
I like to be creative and thrifty with what I build my raised beds with… old bookshelves or dressers with the drawers removed make great frames. Last summer, I tore apart an old couch… the wooden frame looks like it’ll make a nice raised bed with a handy built in trellis (the back of the couch). You can also use upcycled pieces at the end of a raised bed to act as a trellis, like my crib springs cucumber trellis.

I grew all my beans this way one year.I used bottles,mostly plastic,that I fished from recycling bins in my neighborhood.

Recycled Wine Bottle Herb Gardens Self Watering
These are Pretty Easy to make and can be made with any Glass or plastic Bottle , Good idea to start herbs now to get ready for spring

Recycled Wine Bottle Garden Tutorial 1
http://www.designsponge.com/2010/05/we-like-it-wild-bottle-gardens.html

Reycled Wine Bottle Garden Tutorial #2
http://homemade-modern.com/ep01-diy-herb-garden/

If you need a Video tutorial here you go
http://vimeo.com/44260011

Jenn’s Thanks (with some of my thoughts as preface)

I need to start off here with my gratitude to all of you who read Jenn’s Words and were motivated to share your own struggles, past and present. People who know me & this blogging endeavor of mine know that I have a lot of faith in people’s personal stories. I believe that every single time someone shares their own individual experiences in their own words, it helps to create a valuable narrative for what poverty & hunger truly look like. We do not need rich men taking food stamp challenges to explain how hard it is to be poor. We need to listen to the words of actual poor people and respect that those experiences are real. The true experiences are always more powerful  than those that were created in a fabricated bubble without unstable variables.
 
I invite everyone to go back to the Jenn’s Words post. Scroll down, past her words. Read the comments.This is what my inbox looks like pretty much every single day. No matter how many times people pour out their poverty problems, I am always emotional, a mix of anger & sadness. I connect with some of these people for more than the length of an email.When they disappear off my radar ,I worry. It’s been months since I’ve heard from the young disabled woman with a newborn who just became homeless. The man who got out of prison who contacted me after I posted an article about prison gardens to tell me that he was an inmate in one of those prisons and now that he’s out, he can’t afford to feed himself or his family…it’s been about 4 months since he’s let me know he’s ok. I don’t know these people personally but they matter to me. They all matter.
 
The other day, someone thanked me for being a “catalyst for change” . I’m not a catalyst. Catalysts are unaffected by the action they cause. There is no way I could be unaffected .
 
I’ve known Jenn for years. She has a blog of her own. Not only do I consider her to be a friend, I know that she’s an incredibly talented writer. She has a great gift for articulating a point so that her readers really get it and are right there with her in the emotion of it all. So, I knew that whatever she wrote about what she’s going through right now, it would be meaningful. There is no one single story that represents every single person in poverty but I think her words articulated the general sense of what poverty can be like for everyone.To those who felt motivated to help Jenn’s family out with donations of money,gift cards,food,clothing…. I am just so amazed. Taken by surprise  and amazed. I cannot say thank you enough. I was wholly unprepared for that. I’m probably closing the gofundme account soon but for those who were interested in donating actual physical items, contact Nancy Frederick on Facebook (this is an account she set up specifically for this…thank you so much ,Nancy! ) She will be collecting donations and then delivering them to Jenn personally.
 
If it’s impractical to send food outside of your area (it often is, since the shipping can get expensive), please donate to your local food bank. Food banks nationwide are struggling. Your donation will be GREATLY appreciated. To find a food bank near you, check out the Food Bank Directory.

Also, if you have clothing and don’t know where to donate them locally, you could check out Matching Outfit’s needed list: HERE

Some other ideas of places to donate to are local teen pregnancy/parenting groups or domestic violence shelters. I moderate my local Freecycle board and I know that a lot of social worker’s use both Freecycle and Craigslist to help their clients find clothing and goods. Those would be good places to check,too.
 
Ok, now I’ll stop talking and pass along Jenn’s “thank you”. When you check out the comments in Jenn’s Words, you’ll see that Jenn has taken the time to respond to many people there,too.
image via deargodproject

image via deargodproject

I have been overwhelmed with gratitude at the response to my story. The reaction to my story, the shared generosity toward my family, and the compassion have rendered me speechless. Now, ask anyone who knows me – a speechless Jenn is incredibly rare and it takes a lot to get me to that point. I could never have imagined that my story would go so far and that the response to it would be so beautiful. 

I have an incredibly difficult time admitting that I need help. I’ve always been the one to fix things, to help people, and it’s hard for me to be in the position of the one in need. This entire experience in my life has been humbling. I’ve learned to accept help. I’ve learned to allow myself to be vulnerable. I’ve learned to keep speaking up, even when I am exposing a part of me that some view as shameful. 

My family has received such a tremendous blessing from all of you. Everything – the words of support and encouragement, prayers, solidarity, love, advice to donations of time, helpful resources, and money – means more to my family than I can adequately express with words. For quite a while now, I have felt like I’ve been near drowning, getting pushed down whenever I come up for air. You all have allowed me to breathe. Today, I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders. I have hope. I have joy. There is peace in me and in my family. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

You have all shown me that I am not alone and that I’m not worthless. The kindness and compassion directed at my family has brightened my life and given me so much reason to keeping hoping and moving forward. This is something I want everyone to feel – that people ARE good. This world IS good. We’re not as lost and crappy as the media wants us to believe. When people work together and strive to understand one another, good things will happen. Even when things seem so bleak, we aren’t alone. 

Again, from the bottom of my heart, I thank all of you. You have all made a gigantic positive impact in my life, the lives of my children and my husband. From friends of mine to complete strangers – you are all in my heart and surrounded by my endless gratitude. I wish I was better able to convey it….there just aren’t enough words to explain how thankful I am. You have my word that I will pay this forward. I am so inspired by all of your words, love, and generosity. 
I want to extend thanks to my dear friend, Jupiter, who created the Poor As Folk blog. I have known her for a while and she has been an unwavering advocate for the poor and has encouraged me so much. Thank you, Jupiter, for encouraging me to share my story and for giving me a platform to share it. You have always been a source of inspiration for me and I love you dearly.
Thank you. Much love to you all.
Jenn

ICYMI: Snap Cuts round-up, living on minimum wage, the “bootstrap myth” and a lot more.

Lots of things in this “In Case you Missed It” post. I think there’s a couple week’s worth of  stuff to put here.  I have had computer issues but even now that I have all that resolved, I’m sharing my laptop with 3 teenage daughters who need to do projects for school and such. We’re using our Taxmas money (aka tax refund) to get them their own laptops. My twins are juniors in high school and they definitely need to have better access to computers , so hopefully that will happen soon.
(Please don’t even remind me of all the things they’ll need the year after when they BOTH go to college. I have panic attacks just thinking about it. )

So,soon….fingers crossed….  I’ll be back into the regular  blogging swing of things! Real things besides wrap ups of Facebook posts. Every day ,my list of Things I Need To Blog About gets longer and longer.  When it gets shorter and shorter, I guess that will be a sign that the world is changing.

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SNAP and Food Banks

thought I’d put these articles in their own grouping,since there’s so many things

Farm Bill Passes House With $8 Billion in Food-Stamp Cuts - $8B over the next 10 years.

Food Stamp Cuts, Cold Weather Put Extra Strain On Food Pantries - This was written BEFORE  the latest SNAP cut.
Hey, this means we’ll never run out of things to talk about here,right?

Antihunger Groups Reject SNAP Cuts in the New Farm Bill -”Additional tweaks to SNAP prevent college students, undocumented immigrants, and lottery winners from receiving food assistance, while new job-training pilot programs are being touted as a way to encourage the nearly 48 million recipients to look for work—never mind that more than half of recipients are already working during any given month they receive benefits.”

Food Bank For New York City -  Margarette Purvis’ statement on the President signing the Farm Bill into law.
“This Farm Bill reauthorization could have – and should have – been an opportunity to strengthen and protect our nation’s safety net against hunger, especially at a time when one in seven households across our country struggles to afford food. It is a profound failure of leadership that instead produced today’s outcome: a Farm Bill that takes more than half its “savings” off the plates of struggling families.”

America’s Food Stamp Student Body- “Apart from of the obvious social consequences, food insecurity has been associated with depression, stress, poor academic performance and poor physical health, which only compounds the effort needed to advance oneself in this intensely competitive economy. Poor students may also be too scared to seek help, for fear of public reproach.”

Today’s #EndHungerNow speech from Congressman Jim McGovern …speaking about #SNAPcuts, growing food insecurity, childhood hunger, and the importance of addressing inequality that creates poverty, which causes hunger.
AGAIN, “We CAN end hunger in America, we just don’t have the political will to do it.”
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this man say those words and I still appreciate it every time. Now some other members of Congress need to start listening & acting.

all for egg cartons from High Plains Food Bank in Amarillo…but no matter where you are, might be a good idea to contact your local food bank & find out if they have similar needs.
WE NEED YOUR HELP: on average it costs us $4,500 to purchase egg cartons. Your donations saves us this amount. This photo is the last of our egg cartons inventory. Please donate your empty cartons at the food bank. #gogreen
1/3: Hunger Relief Specialty License Plate Now Available - In Arizona, you can get a special hunger relief license plate. Of the $25 it costs, $17 of it goes to Arizona food banks.
Of course, if you’re really interested in helping food banks, contactAssociation of Arizona Food Banks nd see what you can do to help locally .

Articles and Thoughts

I didn’t even know I had bootstraps *looks down at heavily worn,secondhand bought combat boots*
This is from this article : http://bit.ly/Louh8C
It’s from 2012 but can’t say much has changed. These are still myths a lot of people believe about poor people.

Houston-area mentor pays delinquent lunch accounts of more than 60 kids - with the number of schools denying children meals at school, this guy is a hero

On The Blog: I’m A Member Of The American ‘Used-To-Haves’ -How the USA is eliminating the Middle Class and making more “Poor as Folk”

Voices of 2015 - These are the voices of girls around the world who live in poverty. They also have dreams and hopes.
Check out The Girl Effect

Angry Residents Protest Mayor’s Decision To Crackdown On Homelessness With Torches, Pitchforks - Stay fierce, Portland.

How Poverty Burdens the Brain [Infogfraphic] -    Another thing that made me say, “I coulda told you that.” It’s true. I feel like i used to be smart and better at keeping my shit together. I don’t think I can blame it all on that rumor that you lose brain cells when you have babies.

Jailed, for Being Poor – COLORLINES- ” A new Human Rights Watch report estimates that private probation companies in the state of Georgia, for example, collect a minimum of $40 million in fines, annually. Clients are typically charged with misdemeanors, like Thomas Barrett, who pled guilty to shoplifting a $2 can of beer. After failing to pay the $200 criminal fine, Barrett racked up more than $1,000 in extra fees to his probation company. So he was jailed.”

As if Citigroup has not not had more than its slice of the economy already, one in three bank tellers in the United States need public assistance of some kind. If you are in New York City tomorrow, Tuesday, February 18th, join the Committee for Better Banks at 10:30 am at Citigroup Headquarters, 388 Greenwich, Manhattan.

Read More: http://occupywallst.org/forum/1-3-bank-tellers-need-public-assistance/ —

Not making ends meet on a minimum wage job? Get a second minimum wage job!
Nope. Not that easy.

Catholics urged to aid needy with heating bills - From my local news : the Catholic Charities here are a valuable asset to helping poor community members. They’ve had to turn away over 300 families this winter who need help paying heating bills.

Can You Live on the Minimum Wage? - Well, this is fun. An interactive calculator to figure out if you can live on minimum wage where you live.
According to this, we/I need to work another job at least 16 hrs/week (which in our case would likely mean having to pay for daycare during those hours, which would negate any wage earned).

8 Ways Being Poor Is Wildly Expensive in America- always good to reiterate these points

Jenn’s Words: “Living in poverty is like being punched in the face over and over and over on a daily basis. “

words

Thank you to Jenn for sharing her personal story of living in poverty right now….

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Today, I did something I never thought I’d do. I yelled at my son for being hungry. Oh sure, there are many parents nodding in agreement because they’ve done the same thing. Many have yelled at their kids for asking for one more snack right before dinner was served or for wanting to eat junk food out of boredom. That’s not why I yelled. I yelled because I didn’t have extra food to give him and I was taking my frustration out on him. He wasn’t doing anything wrong. He’s just a kid, a 7 year old who is full of energy and constantly growing. Of course he’s hungry often. That’s what kids do. However, I didn’t have enough food for anyone to have extras. Everything has to be rationed out over a week or more. Food stuff needs to be stretched. Already angry and frustrated with our situation, I lost my cool when my child asked a simple question – because I knew there was nothing I could do to change it in that moment. My anger turned to worry, another constant feeling in my daily life, as I wondered if this would create food issues in my child. Will he be afraid to eat, knowing that we might not have enough the next day?
I’m 35 years old. I am a mother and a wife. I am college educated, degreed, and I have held a professional license. I have been working since the age of 18. Until now. I live in poverty. I am poor. My family is poor.

When I say I am poor, I don’t mean that it’s going to take me two weeks to save for a new iPad or the next iWhatever. I don’t mean that I’ll need a coupon to shop at J.Crew. I mean that I have saved my kids Halloween candy for times when my blood sugar gets too low after a day of not eating because I can’t afford enough food for 3 square meals for the entire family. It means that having my heat set above 60 degrees is a luxury. It means that the needle on my gas gauge is constantly hovering at E. It means that we wear our clothes several times before laundering because we can’t afford the fees to use the washing machines. It means the thrift shop is damn expensive. It means so many more things that we don’t often think about unless we’re living in poverty. As a culture, we are disconnected to the idea of not having access to the most basic needs. Consumerism and materialism are supposedly signs of a healthy economy and successful nation, environment be damned, and a blind eye towards those less advantaged is a requirement.

Our story of poverty doesn’t come with credit card bills, expensive cable packages, luxury toys. It’s not that anyone should be judged for why they are poor, but people naturally ask, mostly out of curiosity and sometimes to find information to justify their lack of care for your position, for a way to blame you for your own situation. It makes it easier to detach. We have both been hard workers for over a decade. We have played by the rules. It still got us. I am currently unemployed – and that’s not for a lack of effort. My husband lost a fairly good job over a year ago and we’ve been pulled down a spiral ever since. His period of unemployment meant we burned through our savings and our emergency fund. While I am still unemployed (to be fair, I do walk dogs or babysit on occasion for some cash, but those times are few and far between), my husband is currently working three jobs. Three jobs. My husband is not college educated. He has worked on the warehouse/shipping/receiving side of retail for a very long time and is good at what he does. He’s very strong, enjoys physical labor, and is a hard worker. His three jobs are retail-based. Two of them pay exactly minimum wage. The third pays just above that. He is constantly applying for jobs on a weekly basis, as am I. With three jobs, you can imagine he works many hours. There have been weeks were he worked all three jobs back to back with maybe an hour or two in between. Thanksgiving to the New Year were brutal. He would often work nearly 30 hours in a row, come home to sleep for a few hours, then go back for another cycle of 30 hours. It’s been brutal on his health and our family.

Will someone stop for a moment and tell me in what world is it considered moral for a person to work three jobs and still be unable to support their family. It just isn’t right.
Living in poverty is like being punched in the face over and over and over on a daily basis. It’s pulling yourself out of a hole, only to fall over a cliff. Every step in the right direction is rewarded with a hearty push several steps back. The changes to one’s mental health when living in poverty can be astonishing. I suffered a miscarriage years ago and I knew anger and sadness then. I made my way through it and survived. I didn’t think I would feel such strong emotions again. I was wrong. The anger is back. Anger is for everything. I’m angry I am in this situation. I am angry I’m not good enough for proper employment. I’m angry my children are living through this. I am angry at my husband. I’m angry at Christians who preach against me, ignoring the words of Christ. I’m angry at politicians who vote against people like me. I’m angry at a society that views me as a leech, as a welfare queen, as someone who deserves the be on the bottom of humanity’s shoe.

There is jealousy. I’ve never been a materialistic person and neither has my husband. We have never felt the need to keep up with the joneses – no desire for brand name clothing, big screen TVs, or the latest electronic gadget. We’ve never had cable. I liked to shop when I genuinely needed things, but I wouldn’t overspend or buy things I couldn’t afford. I never owned a credit card. Fashion magazines were fun and I’d laugh at the implication that a woman should spend $200.00 on a pair of jeans. Now, I’m jealous at anyone who can afford to buy $15.00 jeans on sale at Old Navy. Friends post their “OMG! Kohl’s haul!” on Facebook, posting pictures of their new boots, sweaters, jeans, yoga pants, etc. Where I would once say, “oh, those boots are cute,” I am now filled with plain old bitter envy. I wish I could just look at my boots, the ones with the rip in them, decide it was time to buy new ones, and walk out the door to buy a new pair. I wish I could say, “Gee, I sure am sick of wearing the same two shirts day in and day out,” and go to a store a buy a few new shirts that actually fit. I can’t. I have clothes that are finally showing their age and their wear. Threads are falling lose, seams opening, little holes throughout fabric, buttons are disappearing. An acquaintance said to me recently, “You actually look like a poor person.” Gee, thanks. I didn’t know there is a certain look for poor people… My husband spent a few months with holes in his work pants. I sewed them up as best I could, but eventually the fabric would be worn down so much that there wasn’t much to sew. He took to wearing black shorts under his pants (also black) so the holes wouldn’t be a noticeable. Thankfully, he received a couple of new pairs for Christmas. He also spent months walking with holes in his shoes. His sneakers literally fell off his feet one day and he was left with boots that were no longer waterproof and had a hole or two. He’d walk to and from work in rain and snow in those boots. Forget socks. He doesn’t own a pair without holes. We were blessed by a couple of friends who chipped in to buy him and new pair of sturdy, waterproof work boots.

Jealousy isn’t limited to clothing. I’ve been jealous that friends can do wild and crazy things like buy a full tank of gas, get new brakes for their cars, buy a pack of toilet paper, eat. Food is a big one. In this age of social media, one can guarantee that at least 3 ultra-filtered Instagram photos of a friend’s lunch will scroll on by on their computer screen each day. Back in the day, I would just note that so-and-so had a bagel for lunch and I’d go on with my day. Now, I just sit there and wish it was me. I wish I had a plate full of good food to obnoxiously photograph, but I don’t. It’s the food that really drove the issue home for me not too long ago. I had taken my children to Ikea. We weren’t there to buy anything. It was damn cold, we were tired of being cooped up in the house, and there weren’t many options for a free place to play. Ikea has a play zone for my older child. My daughter is more than happy to walk around the store, sitting on sofas and chairs. I love Ikea because it’s fun to imagine having different furniture and organization. While there, I bought my kids lunch. They had one of their specials going and kiddie meals were free! My kids each had a meal, which included drinks. I didn’t get anything for me. As they ate, I would pick at their plates, stealing a bite here and there. I looked at everyone eating around me and that’s when the tears, which I fought very hard to hold back, started to flow. I wanted so badly to be able to order something for myself. I was starving and the little bites of steamed veggies and mac ‘n’ cheese weren’t very filling. I hadn’t eaten yet that day and found myself just staring at the plates of strangers, wishing I was free to get myself something to eat. I found myself glaring at people through my tears as they took plates and bowls half full of food to the trash center – what a waste of food! Never before had I been tempted to say, “hey, I’ll take that,” than I was on that day. My son noticed me wiping tears and asked what was wrong. I lied and told him I took a bite of his sister’s squash and it must have had some sort of spice on it and I was reacting to that. He believed me for a moment, taking a last bite of his mashed potatoes before pushing the plate over to me and telling me he was full. More tears to fight off.

That brings me to the hunger. The hunger is extraordinary. There is a constant gnawing in your stomach, an empty feeling that has taken up permanent residence. Even as you’re eating a meal, you feel the hunger. It never goes away because you don’t know when you’re going to eat again. You don’t know if your next meal will be something proper or if it’ll be half a fun-sized bag of M&M’s that you hoarded from your kids’ Halloween haul or nothing at all. It’s an ever-present gastric uncertainty. As food stamp benefits continue to be cut and food pantries struggle to feed communities, that uncertainty will just continue. I hate to think of my children feeling the same way. They get first dibs on all food that comes through this house. There are many days when my kids get their three meals and I get half of one and my husband….well, I never see him because he is working all the time, but he barely eats, too. This is obviously unhealthy. Our health has tanked over the last year. I’ve been told I constantly look tired. My eyes are more sunken, devoid of light. My skin is dry, blemished, and overall just blah. My hair is brittle and I lose a lot of it on a daily basis. I’m constantly weak. My husband is a very strong man, but he has lost an alarming amount of muscle and strength in the past year. The two of us are constantly exhausted. Part of that is the hunger, part of it is emotional.

The emotions certainly take their toll. Hopelessness is unbearable. I was once someone that my friends would always look to for a positive thought and encouraging words. I always managed to see the good in every situation. I try my best to hold onto that, but it’s been slipping away quickly. Fear is constant. You’re always afraid of what’s next. I’m afraid of opening my bills to find new late fees. I’m afraid of losing utilities. I’m afraid of being evicted because we can’t afford our rent. You want to think positive, but the idea of “what’s next” is always looming. Things that might seem minor to one person can spell disaster for a family in poverty. Last week, my husband told me my tail light was out. This is typically not a big deal for many people. To us, it’s terrifying. We don’t have the money for a new tail light. But, it’s illegal here to have one out. Our cops here are very good at pulling you over for broken lights, outdated stickers, etc. Obviously, it’s the law to keep your car in check. We know this. I’ve always been great at keeping my car well-maintained. My inspections were always done on time, lights would be replaced immediately, oil is always changed, I never drove on gas fumes at the needle hovered on E. It’s all different now. Small things are big things. Monumental things. The idea of needing a tail light, an inspection, or a new tire due to the 100′s of pot holes created by tons of snow this Winter is enough to send me into a panic. Weather is terrorizing these days. Two of my husbands jobs can be called off due to snow or ice because the trucks can’t get to them, so they tell staff to stay home. We’ve had storm after storm after storm this season. My husband has missed so much work, not by choice, due to snow and ice. We added it up and discovered that he missed enough to pay for nearly two months of rent. Same for me – no doggies to walk in this weather because people are staying home.

Poverty is isolating. Friends eventually fade away because they think you’re ignoring them when you constantly turn down their invites to dinner or events. They take it personal no matter how many times you insist it’s not. Your children’s social lives suffer for the same reason – you can’t afford to send them to many birthday parties or playdates. Trips to zoos, museums, and other fun places with admission fees are extremely limited. People eventually tire of you being unavailable to come out for fun and they stop calling and texting. And maybe I should say those people aren’t friends in the first place, but it doesn’t take the pain away. It doesn’t make me hurt less for my children. Conversely, you have friends who know you’re in poverty and they try to brainstorm, try to help you through it. You say thank you a million times, but it’s not enough. After a while, trying to save you is boring and when they realize they didn’t fix you, they get annoyed. I’ve been called everything by people who were supposed to be my friends. Because I can’t snap my fingers and make things work perfectly and because that fact depresses the fuck out of me, I’ve been called useless, manipulative, worthless, unmotivated. No one wants to hear that you have tried all the options that they suggested and they didn’t work out. No one wants to hear that you know exactly why a suggestion won’t work. They don’t understand why you can’t “just move” or “just declare bankruptcy” or just swing around a pole (note: no one ever suggests that my husband sell his body for cash…but quite a few people have presented it as an option for me). This isn’t to say they are not well-meaning – and they certainly are not under appreciated by me – but they eventually get exasperated when you explain time and time again why certain suggestions don’t work. They want to fix you, fix you now, get you to shut the fuck up about being poor. It’s hard for others to deal with the overwhelming depression and hopelessness that accompanies poverty. It’s hard for them to hear that you don’t want to get up in the morning anymore, that you just want to end it all. So, it’s sometimes easier to be angry at the poor person, to convince yourself that they just don’t want to work for it, and keep your distance from them. Many friendships have been strained by poverty.

However, no one can be as hard on you as you are on yourself. I spend hours per day telling myself how much I suck. If only I had done this or done that. I know our circumstances were beyond our control. I know how hard we try every single say. But, it doesn’t stop me from doubting myself, from putting myself down. It doesn’t stop the shame. I feel like a leech. I’m told by my friendly clergymen, my wonderful politicians, and by people I know and once called friends that I am a burden on society. I’m a taker. If only I worked harder. If only I wanted to stop being poor and getting handouts, then everything would turn around and I would be rich. If only I would pray harder, attend the correct church, and read an ancient book that I have read cover to cover many times in the past. Then God would just bestow His blessings upon me. Or, I should really just consider putting some positive energy out into the Universe. If I meditate and tell the Universe that I want money, money will come and everything will be fixed. The constant shouts from society’s peanut gallery telling me how the poor or worthless and damned help shape my inner dialogue and I begin to agree with them. I am worthless. I deserve the shame I feel.

It’s hard to accept help when your inner dialogue tells you that you are useless. People tell me to be willing to accept help, I’ll be able to pay it forward someday. Without friends and the kindness of strangers, we wouldn’t have had a Christmas for our kids. My car payment would not have been paid for a couple of months, my husband would still have holes in his boots, and my car would still be uninspected and I’d be in deep shit. And we’re still here, still in need.

I sit here now, writing this at my desk that is piled with overdue utility bills and a statement from my landlord telling us they are pursuing legal action against us because our rent is currently 17 days late. I have multiple windows open on my computer – several for job applications for me, several job applications for my husband to look at once he’s home from work, a few for charity searches, another for prayer requests, and another for a site that offers emotional support and solidarity for people like me. The future is more than uncertain and it feels that the ground under me can open at any moment and swallow me whole.

And so I do pray. I do hope. I work hard to get our family out of this hell hole and so does my husband. I am grateful in ways that I cannot fully express for all the help that has come to my family in recent months from both friends and strangers. It reminds us that even though life is pure shit right now, there are bright spots. The good exists. So, we continue to focus on that. I hope to eventually write about how we struggled, survived, and came out on top. Until then, be nice to the poor folk. You can have all the assumptions in the world about how they got there, how the feel, how much they “take,” but you can never really know their true story – humans deserve compassion.

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Jupiter here. The outpouring of support and people wanting to help has been incredible. I started a gofundme page to handle donations for those interested:
Donate to Jenn and her family here
 
For those who have asked about physical donations such as clothing,food,etc…. I am not comfortable  publishing Jenn’s address here publicly.  Bear with me…working on a solution.
I have a PO Box people can send small items and gift cards to, I guess? I couldn’t afford to ship heavy items to her,though. PO Box 905, Trumansburg NY 14886
I’ve talked to Jenn many time throughout the day and 1st of all, she’s immensely grateful. I’ve known Jenn for quite awhile and know that her gratitude is sincere and the generosity will be paid forward to others.
Secondly, her husband applied at Costco (in Pennsylvania). Jenn was wondering if anyone has connection w/ Costco in the northeast and could maybe help a little with this?
You can email me at jupitersinclair[at]gmail[dot]comJenn passed along a “Thank you”. You can read it here.

 

******

Update…February 23rd
Hello,again. I just wanted to take a minute to address a couple things here that a very small number of people have concerns about. I’ve already mentioned a bit of this in Jenn’s Thanks and my pre-ramble before it (and please do go read that f you haven’t already!), but traffic seems to still be heavier for this post with not so many visit for the latter.

Ok,first… there wasn’t ever any point where anyone said that cash only donations would be accepted. As stated above, I was trying to figure out the logistics of that ,for one thing. I do have quite a bit of experience collecting and distributing goods that need to get to places they’re needed and I just know that many times it’s impractical. Not only is it pricey to ship a box of canned food but when you have a lot of people reaching in to their closets for things to donate to ONE family, what happens is a major overflow of goods that one family couldn’t possibly use but still has to figure out what to do with.
So, I suppose I would most definitely discourage physical items…but I can’t refuse enthusiastic help. I also know that Jenn would be able to pass along overflow to connections she has in her community, such as Catholic Charities.  As it stands right now, there IS a place to mail items if you really want to do that. (You can find that info in the thank you post).

There was tremendously weird discussion about the issue of PO Box. I have a PO Box. It’s up there. Like I said, people can send me small things I can forward them. As the theme of this blog implies, I’m kinda poor. I can’t afford to forward large boxes of things. I do not suggest anyone put their home  address on the Internet. I’ve learned to be cautious from experience. Why doesn’t Jenn get a PO Box “with all that money raised in gofundme” ? In case you’re unaware of how gofundme works, it takes 2-5 business days for the transfer to a bank account to begin. Not all the money is available at once. It’s transferred in increments. Meaning: the gofundme money is not even in Jenn’s bank account yet. When the first of it does arrive there, there are pressing needs such a dealing with eviction,court fees,broken taillight…
But the really cool thing about money is that you can buy food with it,too.

I know that some people who have never experienced poverty will still not understand a lot of narratives about poverty. Even if you grew up in poverty, you still only have the experience of being a child in poverty, not as an adult trying to keep their head above water for themselves and their kids. So, while that experience is your own, it is not the experience of a parent dealing with poverty, or even of other children who grew up poor. My point is, each person has their individual story to tell. You can learn from them and grow a better understanding & compassion , or you can sit in judgement and condemnation because the narrative doesn’t match the one you made up in your head. S’up to you.

 

ICYMI:Real Food for the Broke, Wool Dryer Balls, more food waste tips,and more

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The Food Stuff

25 Baked Alternatives To Potato Chips And French Fries -The only one here that has been a complete fail for me has been zucchini chips. Prolly just me and not the zucchini’s fault.
We make tortilla chips often… especially good to do with stale tortillas (dumpster divers,freegans,and food bankers might see that more often)

Saving Money on Real Food at Costco – Real Food Real Deals -Not something I have firsthand knowledge of…no Costco in my area (nor the competitors they mention) but …sounds good.

Real Food Meal Plan for the Broke – We Got Real -This is decent. Good for a #SNAPfood budget.
I saw another Real Food on A Budget thing the other day . Almost $3/ serving. I laughed and laughed.
Anyway, these aren’t like that. It’s for a real low budget.

Dinner Tonight: Senegalese Rice and Peas | Serious Eats : Recipes-So cheap and quick.
I personally leave the fish sauce out because I can’t even get past the smell when I’m cooking and I’m sure that breaks every rule with this recipe… so probably you should use it,right? But Hikers for the Homeless suggested: “Maybe use veggie stock or chicken broth??” Good idea.

Food Waste Tip – Freeze Vegetable Scraps and Use Them to Make Vegetable Stock- I always have a pile of scraps that don’t end up in the compost that can be recycled into broth.

Easy Pantry Dinners: 5 Recipes with A Can of Black Beans -For dry bean users: 1 can is equal to 1/2 cup of dry beans before cooking.

Little known info: If you lose your food due to a natural disaster, long term power outage,or sudden evacuation or relocation and receive SNAP, you can receive Disaster SNAP or Replacement SNAP.

The DIY & Frugal Living Stuff

8 Ideas for Repurposed Seed-Starting Pots | The Prairie Homestead -The amount of toilet paper tubes & little yogurt-type cups I’ve stockpiled is making me look like a hoarder.

5 WAYS WE DEAL WITH POOR PEOPLE STRESS from Beyond Mom -tips for coping with the stresses of being poor.

How to Make Felted Wool Dryer Balls – Petals to Picots- I started using wool dryer balls a few years ago and can’t imagine not using them. They save money by reducing drying time in the drier, as well as cutting out the need/want for store bought fabric softeners. They’re also really easy to make (I used an old wool sweater that was being tossed out by a thrift shop because someone had shrunk it).

Can a Major City Grow All Its Own Food?- I like what he says about looking more to repairing the “parasitic” relationship between cities and the rural surroundings …. having city dwellers spend some time on farms to get a better understanding of the work that goes into producing their food.

10 Things You Should Know Before Making Homemade Dishwasher Detergent- “Washing Soda is KING!”
I definitely agree with that.

14 Food Waste Facts That Will Make You Want to Change the World -www.foodbeast.comFOODBEAST is the premiere food news resource. A one-stop location for food news, culture and entertainment.

Cat Litter Compost, Installment #3 - Links to the 1st & 2nd are in this post. Someone asked me one day here about composting cat litter. I found this stashed in my bookmarks. I think I will try it myself in the Spring when I can build a proper compost just for it. We have to pay for garbage and have indoor cats. We compost all food scraps and recycle everything that can be, so without the litter box waste, we have very little garbage.
Anyone else try to compost their little box waste?

21 Ways To Reduce Food Waste & Save Money! -I like the “Eat First” tray idea.

Five Things You Should Never Throw Away & How to Reuse Them -Uses for food scraps and other things. All good stuff.

Twitter / SeedKeeperCo: Grew green beans indoors in .. - You can grow green beans on your windowsill.

Ok, so I have my lines when it comes to stealing but if we’re talking about food in a dumpster or something that literally was thought of by someone else as trash, go for it.
(And you know….all the other stuff is relative to if you CAN, as always…)

Monday Motivations: You are not a waste of space

Happy Monday. Here’s some things to help you get thru the week.

 

Not a dollar amount, an age,a weight,the number of kids you have or don’t have,a zipcode, an inmate number…

Nope,you aren’t.

The THINGS aren’t what’s important.

I’m crossing my fingers and everything else I have hoping it works out just fine for all of you going thru stuff.

Who doesn’t need help now and then? It’s ok to ask for it.
via Modest Needs Foundation

via Survive Thrive Sustain

 

Review: The Garden

The Garden

In the aftermath of The La Riots , the city of Los Angeles  gave the citizens of South Central LA a piece of property as a healing gesture. The land was to be used for a community garden, in the heart of the inner city. For 12 years, about 350 families farmed the 14 acres of land, making it a jewel in urban America – the largest urban garden anywhere in the US.Then quite suddenly, The Garden residents  were ordered to vacate the property. The original owner, through what can only be describes as suspicious political dealings, had bought the land back and wanted the farmers ..and the farm…off the land. He intended to use the land “as it was intended” – to develop the property & build warehouses.

The Garden documents the community’s struggle to keep the land that they had devoted so much time & energy into for 12 years.  The land fed their families, taught their children the value of community ,nature & self-sufficiency. In a community of all low income families, primarily Latino, the garden is what kept them from slipping farther into poverty, maintaining themselves on food they proudly grew themselves.  Not only it is a struggle for the land, it’s a struggle against greed,racism, dishonest politics & classism. The citizens also must deal with conflicts among themselves, as they try to sort out the anger that’s bound to result from one man & a city telling them that a piece of property is worth more than they are.

Intensely emotional to watch (or maybe only if your a rabid dirt-loving, real- food loving hormonal pregnant woman), The Garden is inspiring & infuriating all at once. The cause of The Garden was supported by some celebrity faces, who appear briefly in the film – most notably to me (since he’s one of my many Pretend Boyfriends) -  Zach de la Rocha  ,at a benefit concert organized to raise funds for the farmers to buy the land outright themselves.

A must-watch film for anyone concerned with sustainable food supply & urban farming, especially for low income families .

This post originally appeared on crazy dumbsaint of the mind on February 1,2010.