It looks like voting might matter

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I texted my adult offspring on Tuesday morning not to make sure they were eating a great breakfast or anything stereotypically motherly but to remind them to go vote in the primary. “Make sure you remind your housemates/boyfriend/girlfriend/co-workers/friends/baristas. Love you!”.

I think a lot of us, especially “millennials”, are disillusioned with Presidential elections, in part because of The Electoral College. It can feel like voting doesn’t matter in the presidential election. It seems like this also discourages some eligible voters to skip state and local elections. Or they just don’t think they’re important. I will always stress that these elections are even more important. These local & state elections decide the people we put in seats to fight for us, for your civil rights, for our infrastructure, our safety net programs, our schools, our environment.
They’ll be the ones who confirm Supreme Court appointees and keep the president from being authoritarian hopefully. Kind of important stuff right now.

When I ask people on social media to call their representatives about certain issues that are pressing, “What’s the point?” is a common response. I live in a district represented by Tom Reed, a Trump cohort. I get this frustration because I know firsthand how exhausting and defeated it feels to repeatedly “express my concerns” to my congressman knowing fully well he’s going to do whatever serves his own and the President’s best interests and not his constituent’s.  And that’s exactly why primaries and mid-terms matter. We need to get the best candidates on the ballot to unseat these (mostly) dudes seeking to put this country back a century and impede social & economic progress for all.

I know anarchists who voted in the primaries so that should tell you how bad it is.

This was the result for my district as of Tuesday night when I went to bed. 26 votes separate Della Pia & Mitrano. This will come down to absentee ballots being counted.  Every vote actually matters. Less than 20% of registered Dems in this district showed up though. We all really need to motivate eligible voters to get to the polls this fall.

 

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The House Farm Bill passed. Now let’s look at the Senate bill.

The 2018 Farm Bill passes the House last Thursday by a very narrow margin. 213 yeas to 211 nays. If you’re interested in seeing if your rep was on the yea or nay side of this, go here: Final Vote on HR2, June 21,2018

This bill cut $19 billion from SNAP which equates to serving around 2 million low income, food insecure people. It imposes stricter work requirements that can’t be opted out by states.  Instead of giving working families a little relief when they finally get their heads above water, it imposes a strict benefits cliff that cuts off benefits to those who’s income rises even slightly above the income eligibility limit. People formerly incarcerated for certain crimes are banned for life from receiving SNAP.  It also adds a ton of paperwork and reporting that will not only be expensive for states to implement but just complicates the application process. There are already under served low income folks not applying for SNAP because of the process and a lot of caseworkers are less able to act like social workers because of the amount of clerical business involved.

The Senate has introduced it’s own version of the Farm Bill  that avoids all the mean stuff and instead expands the programs they know help and introducing pilot programs to improve healthy food access. It makes things easier for disabled and elderly people allowing them to certify for 3 year periods and tweaks the EBT system so it’s more reliable.

In short, this is a bill that recognizes that SNAP works and strengthens it instead of hurting low income families. This bill will probably be voted on this week so call your Senators and tell them to vote YES on the Farm Bill.  There is a form letter here you can submit or call direct using 888-398-8702 or their office number.

As always, if you’re someone who hates making calls & deals with some anxiety over it, it’s helpful to write yourself a little script of what your going to say. This is a great tip sheet for phone calling with anxiety: How to Call Your Reps When You Have Social Anxieties

[today’s post brought to you by my delicious dinner of chicken stir fry that SNAP helped to purchase the ingredients for]

#HandsOffSnap

 


The House votes Friday on the current Farm Bill. This version cut or reduce food assistance for an estimated 2 million recipients. This bill imposes stricter work requirements and will highly impact single parents, older folks, and people with disabilities.
Take a few minutes to call your congressperson and ask them to vote NO on HR2 and cuts to SNAP. The Capital switchboard is 202-224-3121 or you can call your reps local office.

I’m including some helpful articles here if you need to familiarize yourself with the issues and talking points. As always, if you’re someone who hates making calls & deals with some anxiety over it, it’s helpful to write yourself a little script of what your going to say. This is a great tip sheet for phone calling with anxiety: How to Call Your Reps When You Have Social Anxieties

What the hell is the Farm Bill anyway?

For Farmers on SNAP, the Farm Bill Will Hurt in More Ways Than One

Congress should leave the food stamps program alone

“It’s weird growing food and being hungry at the same time”

2018 Farm Bill imposes a lifetime ban from SNAP for people convicted of certain offenses w/ no option for states to opt out

Farm Bill seeks to restrict food stamp benefits while allowing subsidies for billionaires

 

UPDATE: This bill passed. To learn about the Senate bill, go here

kid lit: The Owl Diaries by Rebecca Elliot

 

My little reluctant reader has discovered The Owl Diaries series and we’ve been reading nothing but lately. They’re cute little chapter books featuring a little owl named Eva and her daily life in the treetops. In book 7 , one of Eva’s classmates has a little sister who can’t fly like the other owlets and needs a “wingchair”. The whole class decides to raise money to buy the wingchair for the little owlet.

I read a lot of diverse kids books with and

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pg 16, Owl Diaries #7: The Wildwood Bakery by Rebecca Elliot

to my kidlets but I honestly can’t think of another time I’ve seen this in a children’s book.   Books for young readers that have any representation of characters with disabilities are rare so to find that AND have the major plot point be that the family doesn’t have enough money to buy a wheelchair was pretty refreshing.
Because I know people think that kids shouldn’t have to think or worry about these sorts of socio-economic things but I think it can only help grow empathy and besides, there are kids who have to experience this sort of issue firsthand. Representation matters a lot and so does real life. I appreciate that in this sweet little animal land not everything is so perfect and even owls have to have gofundme to have healthcare and accessibility needs met.

Possible spoiler alert here but the main conflict in the story is that Eva’s classmates make the fundraising a competition and get so wrapped up in who is winning that they forget why and who they’re raising money for. This is something I’ve seen and complained about many times. When one of my older daughters was in elementary school they would have a canned food drive for low income folks every single year and every year it was a competition between the upper grade classrooms. The winner got a pizza party. I hated everything about this fundraising challenge. The recipients of the fundraising bounty weren’t even thought of or talked about and how weird that you get to have pizza (something that a lot of low income people won’t usually get to order out for themselves) as a reward for feeding hungry people. Anyway, I was annoyed. Probably the author has seen this happen before as well and was also annoyed.
(Or I’m overthinking as usual. That wouldn’t be unheard of)

podcast: ” LOLOLoligarchy” , Lovett or Leave It

lovett

Listen on your favorite ipod app or at the Crooked Media website: https://crooked.com/podcast/lolololigarchy/

I think Lovett or Leave It is generally relevant to “us folks’ ” interests here but this latest episode focuses particularly on economic inequality. I’m also going to forever side with Franchesca Ramsey on those Paul Ryan workout pics.

There wasn’t  a single mention of universal basic income. That was disappointing. I know some people feel there isn’t much point in discussing it as a serious way to help bridge inequality because “it’ll never happen” but at this point let’s just throw all the ideas out there because UBI has just as much chance right now of being a thing in our country as truly universal health care but we’re still talking about that a lot.

Meeting that deductible feels like unlocking an achievement.

Long story short:
Husbeast’s employer has employees every single November go through a form online to choose their insurance plan.  There’s no easy box to check that says, “JUST KEEP EVERYTHING THE WAY IT IS”.  Of course the form can’t be straightforward and simple. Even people who are literate on how to read insurance lingo might have to re-read certain bits. Last November when they pinned down husbeast to do his thing, it was at work, in the middle of a busy day and there was a lot going on.

As a result, our deductible this year is $4,000. Once the plan is chosen in November,it has to stay that way until next enrollment period. No takesie backsies.

 

I can’t be mad at him. Shit happens. If anything, I think HR should make sure employees understand everything.

The deductible was very low before. I could schedule two well child visits and meet that deductible.

I’m currently having a ton of health issues going on and my 1st thought? “Oh. Maybe we’ll finally meet that deductible.”
How backwards is that?
I don’t have $4,000 to pay out of pocket but I’m totally willing to go have lots of lab work, an ultrasound,consultations,etc basically just so I can meet the damn deductible and have insurance cover our health care costs.
Backwards, I tell ya.
We have a flex spending account that we’ve already used up trying to keep on top of basic bills and prescriptions. My son’s very necessary meds are $240 each refill and daughter’s extremely necessary therapy put us on a sliding scale fee as soon as they noticed the change in insurance. It’s still $50/week out of pocket but it would normally be $120/week . Our co-pay before was $20. There have been times I wasn’t able to pay even that so the flex spending has saved our ass this year so far.

So,anyway…hooray. We’ve almost met the deductible because I’ve had to go to the doctor more in the last month than I have in the past ten years! Thrilling.
(But really, I am thrilled because it looks like I’ll have to have a wee surgery and overnight hospital stay. That sounds expensive. )

By the way,we’re amazingly fortunate to have access to quality mental health care in a practice that’s compassionate and does what it can to make sure patients get the help they need even when they can’t pay. This needs to be widely occurring. I was so afraid of losing my daughter to her debilitating depression. Mental health care saves lives and heals families. Why isn’t this a priority?

And speaking of medical doctors? I have gone to my regular doctor twice for some of the issues I was having . Both times she told me it was  because I was getting fat and old. She told me that my body would adjust to the …changes? And this would all work itself out and normalize. Sure.
My symptoms have gotten worse. Guess what? It wasn’t just because I was fat and older (and I never thought it was).  I have a largish uterine fibroid. Not only is it responsible for the atrocious periods and cramps (tmi,probbaly but I actually don’t have a period anymore…I’m just constantly bleeding), allll of the other symptoms I’ve had from my frequent urination to leg & back pain can be related to this one fibroid. Neat,huh? Also, the constant bleeding means my iron is incredibly low causing me a slew of symptoms, like shortness of breath and being constantly tired. Not old & fat related,ok?
Moral of the story here: Don’t let doctors brush off your symptoms and chalk them up to just age or weight.
Also: Planned Parenthood knows more than my general practitioner does and is amazing.

[this post was made possible by iron supplements and Planned Parenthood]

Sick,bullying, and weekend links

I’m in the middle of that fun cycle where one kid brings home a vile sickness and then another kid brings home another thing two days later. One kid gets over a vile thing only to get the other vile thing and the second kid gets the other vile thing he didn’t have already and then everyone else in the house get both vile things simultaneously and everyone recovers in time to get new vile things.

I think we’re finally seeing our way out of all of this. Let’s hope.

We also had a scary and traumatic event in our family a few weeks ago that has taken a lot out of us. My 13 year old was attacked by another boy in the locker room after gym class. He had a huge contusion on his head, a concussion, a badly bruised but not broken nose with accompanying black eyes, and numerous bruises and sore body parts. He’s healed physically now but he’s still feeling vulnerable, understandably so. At least he isn’t feeling that it’s unsafe to go to school. The days afterward were hard but that anxiety has faded.
The school has dealt with this remarkably and satisfactorily, although this bully has been an issue for my son and others for years. There were also blindspots in supervision. It was noted that this bully in particular looks for opportunities that are unsupervised. Plans were put in place to account for that.
The school really does have excellent anti-bullying strategies in place.  It’s a despairing and sickening feeling to know that sometimes all the right things aren’t going to reach every kid, especially if that bully’s home life countermands everything positive given to them elsewhere.

One thing that left me feeling shook was that other students watched this attack happen and did nothing. I’m not saying one of them should have physically jumped in and helped my son but at least go get a teacher. If you have kiddos, please talk to them about  being active bystanders. This is also something to touch base with your school about. Kids and teens may be inactive bystanders because they’re afraid of retaliation from the bully. Find out what the school does to protect those who intervene after the incident. They should never be afraid of doing the right thing.

And with that, I will leave you with some links. Sorry these aren’t more uplifting than talk of bullying and illnesses.


 

◊ Paul Ryan fired the House Chaplain for no real good reason except that maybe he was standing up for the poor too much for Paul’s liking

◊ Poor people didn’t vote for Trump. Racist xenophobic nationalists did. (Ok, the article refers to them as people having “status anxiety” but it’s pretty clear that the anxiety they felt was induced by their own prejudices)

◊ Sen Kirsten Gillibrand introduced legislation that would provide a public option for banking and low cost loans available through the post office.

Under Gillibrand’s proposal, Americans could cash paychecks and deposit money in accounts free of charge at each post office location. Deposits would be capped at the larger of two amounts ― $20,000, or the median balance in all American bank accounts.

The postal banks would be able to distribute loans to borrowers of up to $1,000 at an interest rate slightly higher than the yield on one-month Treasury bonds, currently about 2 percent.

A postal banking system would be an alternative to the for-profit payday lending system, in which people routinely pay triple-digit fees to borrow money for bills that come due before their next paycheck. The average payday loan of $375 typically costs a borrower an additional $520 in interest and fees, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.

These costs are disproportionately shouldered by the most vulnerable people in the economy: Lower-earning workers who can’t afford fees that commercial banks levy if an account balance falls too low, or simply live in an area that lacks a traditional banking option. The lack of resources typically precludes these Americans from qualifying for a credit card with a reasonable interest rate.

◊ The east side of Washington, DC now has a “maternity care desert” that will hurt low income women the most

◊ I’m so angry that  pregnant women are still uninsured .

◊ Also: Abortion is part of women’s health care and restricting access to abortion is class warfare

◊I think I was a bit out of it and not online for the few days everyone on Twitter yelled at Moby for giving opinions about what people on SNAP should eat. I miss all the fun stuff. I’m glad Twitter filled in for me. It was a predictably myopic and privileged take.

◊ The latest episodes on Earth Eats podcast are about SNAP & the Farm Bill.  I haven’t listened to the latest one but the previous one discussed the beginnings of SNAP. Not surprisingly (to me) , the stigmas surrounding the recipients were there right from the very beginning.

Baltimore is thinking about selling homes for $1 to help revive neighborhoods. The issue is how to help lower income people who would benefit most to do the renovations on the homes. There’s an estimated 16,000 and 46,000 empty homes in Baltimore. That’s a lot of work to be done.

◊ Rochester’s one prestigious Hotel Cadillac has been used in recent years as an emergency homeless shelter but now a development company has bought it, displacing it’s residents.

The eviction rate in Richmond is 11 per 100 renters.
Poor people who can’t pay rent are charged money they don’t have in court fees and the eviction goes on their credit report. It’s expensive to be poor.

Annnnnd of course….

Ben Carson wants to raise the minimum public housing rent from $50 to $150.  That’s tripling the rent for the poorest people in public housing. Carson’s favorite myth is that if you make poor people struggle, it builds character and helps them succeed. Worst person to be the head of HUD ever.
Yes, I will of course mention the $31,000 dining room table.
If the department and the Carson family sees that as a justifiable expense, I’d like to show them how to shop on a budget. I just got a decent table and seating on Overstock.com for a reasonable price. They have coupons and free shopping all the time,too.

oh,hai

This post is brought to you by running water,central heating, and clean laundry done in my own washing machine! And that smells like clean laundry and not wood smoke.

dishes

A screenshot of a vid I posted on IG since wordpress says I’m not endowed with those privileges. Hmmph.

The past month has been devoted to moving, being sick, and unpacking.
Home is now a 1978 14 x 70 mobile home in a trailer park. I’m learning to embrace minimalism as we squeeze our 1600 sq ft living situation into a 880 sq ft space.

That’s a lie. I’m not really embracing it. I’m tolerating it. This may be the title of my eventual book that will probably mostly be devoted to my love-hate feelings about kondomari and hygge and all the funny words for organizing: Tolerating Minimalism.

The trailer park is actually pretty nice with most of our neighbors being retirees or international grad students and their families. There’s a “lake” (it’s a big pond) stocked with fish.
The buses are better. It’s closer to husbeast’s work. The kids were able to stay in the same schools. Rent is $350 less. Electricity is less. We’re feeling a weird sense of stability, something we haven’t felt in quite awhile. I wouldn’t say we’re doing well but we’re certainly doing better.

I’m breathing easier at least.

AND WE HAVE RUNNING WATER. Heat is nice,too. This morning it was 8 degrees but nice and toasty inside. I’m thrilled.

 

 

 

Love grows best in little houses

Inspirational Quote on Picture Frame.

[image via Google… from Etsy probably. I don’t know the person who made it but they didn’t attribute the quote to being from a song so I don’t feel that bad about not crediting them)

Flashback to 90’s country when Doug Stone sang about tiny houses being good for you.

For the record, I think that’s bullshit but I went and looked at a tiny ass mobile home that’s for rent and I’m bound and determined to squeeze my whole damn family into that thing. And they’ll like it, dammit.

BLOOM WHERE YOU’RE PLANTED.

Yes, we still have no running water in the kitchen or for laundry. You know how when you live in a dorm at college and there’s not really a communal kitchen that close to your room so you walk down the hall to get water to make your ramen and coffee? It’s a little like that for us now except more and  I’m also hauling water from the bathroom to the kitchen so I can wash dishes instead of washing them in the bathtub which was murdering my back and kinda gross besides that.

So, I’m looking at a narrow options for housing in one of the most expensive counties outside of the NYC area to live. I’m trying not to disrupt my kids school because my 12 year old just cannot deal with transitions and the school district we’re in is fantastic for kids like him. My littlest one loves his little friends and his sweet little rural school (that still is in the city school district so gets those perks) and my teenager is trying to graduate a year early from high school. It’s hard. The market is saturated with student housing for Cornell and IC students ($800 per ROOM?! How even? I can’t imagine…)

Pretty much everything even close to the price range we pay now (and still can’t afford) is tiny anyway. I found a mobile home in a small park for $750/month. That’s $400 less than what we pay now. It has better bus routes so I could work elsewhere easier. It’s closer to husbeast’s work. It has pros. It’s still tiny as hell and I’ll have to sell/gift away a ton of our shit AND get a storage unit.

I guess my thinking is that this can be uncomfortable living but temporarily. The extra money in our budget could help clear bills and boost our credit rating. Maybe we could even *gasp* SAVE SOME.  We qualify for low income homebuyer’s programs but still have to better our credit rating and have a certain amount for a low down payment and closing costs.

Cross all your fingers and things this plan goes off without hitches, please? Please and thank you.