Keep your chin up

via positive affirmations.

 

Also important to remember: lack of financial & career success and economic hardships don’t mean you’re a failure.  People use that amount in a bank account to determine wealth but don’t fall into that trap of aligning your value with a dollar. When you’re struggling financially, the whole world around you seems to be telling you that you’re a failure. It helps to remember the stuff you’re good at and the successes you’ve had in life . It also helps to keep hold of ideas and plans of where you want to go in life.

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We’re having a Seed Party

The first thing my little one does when he wakes up in the morning is go to our “Seed Shelf”, a plastic yellow shelf my husband rescued from the garbage at a supermarket. It was an end-of-aisle display shelf for bug repellant. It’s been sitting  in a corner of the boys’ room, displaying lego creations and holding stacks of Pokemon cards. Now it’s been cleared off to store the random small containers and toilet paper tube pots we’ve gathered together from raiding recycle bins to start seeds in. The lack of a backing makes it a perfect seed starting shelf, placed in front of of one the few windows that actually lets light in our house.seed cups

This morning, my littlest peeked over the edge of a shelf , looking at the containers he helped me fill with soil and pushed seeds into with his tiny fingers . I could tell by the look on his face he was expecting to see more than just dirt. Disappointed,he said, “There’s nothing growing there. I think we need to have a seed party to make them pop up!”

Seed Parties, as it turns out, involve lots of water, spraying of water, and staring at DSC_0613the seed pots impatiently waiting for the magic to happen.

Time is hard for a three year old. Eventually, he gets tired of staring at dirt and goes off to play but he’ll come back later to check and make sure something exciting didn’t happen while he wasn’t standing watch. He doesn’t remember much of last year’s gardening experiences – it’s all new again this year. To me, that’s just so cool to see him experiencing things all over again, just like it’s new. There’s some things retained from last Spring. He remembers eating so many cucumbers and tomatoes off the vine ,straight from the garden but the seed starting business is fairly fuzzy in his memory.

This year he’ll be old enough to pick up new curse words if he hears me ranting at the woodchuck, the deer ,and the slugs who think my garden is an outdoor diner, so I’ll have to learn some new curse-worthy sentence enhancers to yell. Like maybe, “BY ST. BOOGAR AND ALL THE SAINTS AT THE BACKSIDE DOOR OF PURGATORY!”

The Seed Shelf. I was standing straight. It looks crooked because the floors in our house are sloped. No kidding.
The Seed Shelf. I was standing straight. It looks crooked because the floors in our house are sloped. No kidding.

3.29.14 Link Love: More support for Shanesha Taylor

News and thoughts from around the web….

 

If there were negative feelings about Shanesha Taylor’s situation the other day, the majority chose to keep it to themselves and spare me their vitriol on my own social media. The support and love for Shanesha was plentiful. There was only one woman who commented that, ” No job is worth endangering your children.” It’s that simple,right? When I asked if it was better to not try to get a job and live in a car with children, she just restated that opinion.  Some people just have judgement and no really constructive solutions. She went on after that to say she would have taken the kids with her ( good luck getting hired that way) or CHURCH.

Somewhere in the Middle of Everything addresses the church idea….

“What about a church?”

They charge tuition. Some ask for an “in kind” donation, meaning that they expect you to work for them…for however  long they see fit…in exchange for their generosity. I’ve explained before how insidiously churches can treat people who they know are vulnerable. Yes, there are some good churches out there, but unfortunately, most of them who offer services do so at the cost of your (or your children’s) souls.

Aside from that, you get job interview calls at the last minute, you don’t always have time between the call and the interview to fill out all the paperwork or jump through all the hoops needed for child care.

Again, and above all, you have no idea what this woman did and did not consider ahead of time before she made this decision.

 

My thought on the church suggestion was, “churches offer free babysitting now?” . I can’t think of a single church in my area that has a drop in childcare,anyway and there’s a helluva lot of churches around me.

djline

“I Love Being A Mommy!!!” On Shanesha Taylor & Black Motherhood in the Age of Mass Incarceration – On the stigmatization & bigotry against black women and who Shanesha is as a mother.

The mugshot photo included in every single article,petition,fundraiser for Shanesha just made me cringe every time. That’s not who Shanesha is. As I said the other day when I shared Jill’s story, many women sent me private messages and emails telling me about the hard choices they’ve had to make like Shanesha. One comment on Shanesha’s photo: “I know that look. It’s suicide. It’s thinking about how your life means nothing.  It’s failure.”

As Prison Culture says: I look forward to Shanesha’s release from jail and her reunification with her children. I’ve been told that she is expected to be released on Monday and that her family has already posted bail. I look forward to replacing the mug shot photo that surely doesn’t capture who Shanesha is with a new one; maybe one like this…

Shanesha Taylor

 

djline

Teen Mom NYC ( @GloriaMalone ) storified her tweets from the other day on Shanesha, her own experiences as a single mother, and the appalling daycare situation out there (I’m quoted about “shitty daycare” )

Read all the tweets ~HERE ~

 

 

djline

 

On a related note:

AZ House budget has $900,000 for private-prison costs, but no child-care subsidies  

 

Jill’s Words: “I died that day as my family was ripped apart”

This picture showed up on my tumblr dashboard right after I’d finished reading all the new things in my inbox this morning. It feels like it belongs here. Today, I woke up to a few stories from women who have been in similar situations as Shanesha Taylor. In every story, if someone had offered help and a real solution the outcome would probably be vastly different.

This is Jill’s story:

 

  Several years ago when I lived in NC with my 3 kids, ages 6, 8, 11, I was working 11p-7a. My live- in boyfriend worked 3p-11p.(at the same place)We had one car. The kids were in school through the day and I would drop the bf off at work at 3 and come home to do supper homework and after school activities. Kids went to bed around 9 or 10. I then left the kids alone while I went to work and boyfriend drove home. They were alone less than an hour. My neighbor knew this and would watch the house.

But one night when I was working my boyfriend called me to say that police and CPS were already at my house when he got there and were taking the kids. I was devastated and my life hasn’t or will ever be the same. I died that day as my family was ripped apart. I left work and lost my job. I fought with the boyfriend and he moved out, taking the car. There I sat in my 1 br house ,brokenhearted and broke. Kids went to foster care but eventually went to my mothers because the judge said I was unable to care for them with no job and no transportation.

I started using drugs and attempted suicide multiple times. I fell down a huge black hole and only recently pulled myself out. Today I realize that I should have taken the kids with me to work, or begged the neighbor (who was the one who actually called CPS) to stay at my house until the boyfriend got there. But I didn’t. At the time it seemed like the only choice I had and it had been working for over a year. But it wasn’t enough. If only I could have afforded another car or a babysitter, or could have worked another shift. But I couldn’t and that’s what happened. I did the best I could with what I had and CPS ruined my life instead of attempting to help find a solution.

This story doesn’t have a happy ending. I never got my kids back and they don’t even speak to me to this day. And our lives will never be the same. We used to be a close loving family. Now we are broken souls living miles and miles apart because of a decision to go to work. So, fuck CPS and fuck poverty.

 

I was an Early Childhood Educator for years and therefore, a mandated child abuse & neglect reporter. I was required by law to document and report when neglect and abuse was suspected. Clear cases of abuse went unfounded while struggling poor families, often headed by single mothers, faced scrutiny from CPS on a regular basis. Sometimes, the report was made by someone whose goal was to be vindictive. Always, there was something that could have been done to help the family. Many times, poverty is mistaken for neglect. The system of poverty…that IS most definitely child abuse, but not at the hands of parents who are just trying to do the best with what they have and making hard choices.  Blame is always put on the parents making the hard choices. People will always have a solution that starts with,”She should have done…” or “If it were me, I would have….” , which are never real solutions, just judgements. I can’t be outraged at the choices poor parents feel forced to make while living in poverty. I’m more outraged at a system that ruins families and people’s lives.

bitches gotta have teeth

One of my favorite blogger/writers Samantha Irby has been talking about her dental issues lately and because the Internet is awesome, there’s now a gofundme because yeah…bitches gotta have teeth  .

Reading Sam’s post today [ bitches gotta eat. – this is what’s up with my teeth.] …oh, I am so hoping the beautiful people of the Internet raise the money she needs. Sincerely crossing fingers.

Her post about what’s up with her teeth? That’s pretty much where I am right now.Except that I don’t have the extra complication of Crohn’s. I also didn’t grow up poor. I was raised in a trailer park, surrounded by a lot of poor people but my own family wasn’t poor. People assume I was poor because of where I lived but that’s another story…
I literally was never made to brush my teeth. I went to the dentist ONCE before I turned 18. The dentist told my mom I needed braces and that was that. We’re never going back to THAT place again. I mean, I figured a lot  out myself…thanks to Dental Health Month and everything but I think it’s probably common sense that someone who brushes their teeth but can’t go to a dentist is probably going to still end up with issues. As an adult, I had some pretty crappy dentists who did more harm than good. And then I had 2 separate accidents that caused me to break my front teeth. I’m a major klutz. It’s also been pointed out that my periods of food scarcity & poor nutrition haven’t exactly helped.

I also have not gotten an official quote from the dentist. I don’t even have a dentist right now. I just got dental coverage through my new married-lady insurance . I’m also pretty scared. I know they’re going to demand my last born child as payment. I know – usually they demand first born but he just turned 24. I don’t know what they’d want with him.

Well, I don’t know what they’d want with my 3 year old,either.

Ok, forget them demanding children as payment because I’m sure this is sounding way weirder than I intended.

Money. They’re going to want a lot of money. That’s what I meant.

The only perk I can find right now in this teeth situation is that I’ve lost weight on my new soup & banana diet. I really did need to lose weight. I’m glad I spent years studying herbal medicine because that’s coming in super handy right now for fighting infection and keeping pain to a minimum.

Everyone remember that one woman who wrote a thing about being poor on the Huffington Post that went viral? Linda Something. (I’m not linking to it. Feel free to use the Google).

I was not a huge gushing fan of that article. I was actually a little furious. In the essay-thing , she mentioned that her bad teeth were the reason she couldn’t get a decent job.  I can completely attest to this being a legit reason someone could not get a decent job. THAT’S ME. I’m educated, great resume, I have all sorts of crazy skills that people used to pay me for but really,the teeth keep people from hiring me now. It’s that bad. So, I wasn’t mad that this Linda chick said that about her teeth. I was mad that she went on Huff Post live to talk about her viral article and guess what?

Her teeth were fine.

Refresher for anyone who might remember that whole article: The Internet came together and raised at least $60,000 for this woman who they thought had a mouth full of rotten teeth and was  living in poverty deeper than anyone could imagine.

I don’t know why I’m rehashing all this because really…. let it go . I just think about that from time to time, especially when someone requests an interview with me and I feel that I have to decline. I am beyond self-conscious of my mouth and every time I talk, I’m pretty sure none of my words matter at all .It’s all undone by the dental nightmare that my mouth is. Well, interviews and job opportunities.  I’ve lost out on some good opportunities because of this. This isn’t just me being insecure. It’s a totally honest truth. It’s been a forthright comment about why I wasn’t hired. People judge people by their teeth . A lot. It sucks because the state of my teeth have nothing to do with how much I care about myself . It’s a pure reflection of poverty.

I am also uber sensitive to jokes about stupid people without teeth now. That shit is not ok.

Someday soon, I will get a quote from a dentist and find out how much money it’s going to take to make me a person again, a career employable woman people take seriously because the words coming out of her mouth are just words and there’s no crappy teeth getting in the way. A friend who doesn’t live in the U.S. says I made a HUGE mistake marrying my husband. I shoulda married someone from a country with excellent dental health care.  I have never understood why dental insurance is seen as an entirely separate thing than Health Care and I’m pretty sure that my insurance will cover like 0.000012% of that I need done.
Um, yeah…. heart disease, sepsis, diabetes,respiratory infections (I have one now) ,and …crap…Alzheimer’s,even. Nah, dental health isn’t important at all!

Excellent. The last sentence has now made me have a panic attack. Tomorrow morning, I think I need to make that appointment. Anyone want to hold my hand when I go? In spirit, even. That’d be cool.

Food is a human right, not a privilege

The first time I experienced true hunger, I just went with it and hoped the answer to having no food would fall in my lap. Something would change. I was not about to go beg for help. I was raised knowing what kind of people got free money from the government. Lazy,good for nothing,waste of space kind of people. I was harder on myself also because I heard all the voices back from when I had a baby when I was just a girl myself…the ones that said, ‘You’ll never make it. You’re going to ruin your own life and that baby’s.’.

Realistically, I should have been proud of the fact that I raised that baby until he was 5 without help from anyone, family or the government. A 35 year old single mother had just as much chance of being the one who found herself suddenly without a job and no new prospects, struggling to avoid eviction and keep the lights on and food in bellies. I just didn’t see it that way then. I saw myself as the conservative naysayer’s prophecy come true. I honestly believed asking for help made me less of a “strong woman”.

ec988e2f4c5c479b9c47ed254621ada9I fed my kid what there was to eat and if there was leftovers, I’d eat that. I was naturally petite, weighing only about 110 pounds at my heaviest winter weight. Before long, I started to lose my curves and people noticed. At first, it was, “Wow, you look great!” , until I didn’t look great anymore and I just looked sick. I weighed 85 pounds before someone I barely knew started leaving food on my doorstep and then made me call DSS to apply for food stamps & cash assistance.I was ashamed and embarrassed, which was only made worse by the way people treat you when you’re getting assistance but the world didn’t end and we ate.

That was the first time.

The second time I was really hungry, I had taken myself, my son, and newborn twins out of a horrible situation and moved into an apartment. It didn’t take long to feel like I had just gone from a dangerous place to another dangerous place. I was working full time, paying more than half my paycheck to daycare, not receiving any child support or assistance from anywhere. As soon as I caught myself rationing food and making sure the kid ate before I did, I recognized that it was time to apply for help. I did and I was denied. I made $110 too much, according to the income eligibility guidelines. $110 too much yet not enough to actually make it.  I applied for a daycare subsidy, trying to free up that money to pay the bills & eat but there was a 6 month waiting list. That’s a long time to wait when you’re hungry. I went to food pantries and bought cheap, gross food. The apartment I lived in had no place for me to grow food.  Then, the daycare center I worked at as a teacher went bankrupt and closed. That saved my ass. No longer making anything, I was approved for food stamps and we could eat again. I don’t know what would have happened if the place I worked for hadn’t closed and I had stayed employed. I had already started not eating at home and looking forward to the free meals served at the daycare.Afterward, living on unemployment & some food stamps, I found myself in the odd predicament of being afraid to find another job and getting stuck in the same situation.

That was the second time.

There wasn’t really a third time. Even though we receive food stamps right now, I didn’t let it get to that point where I was truly hungry. I think you’ve probably figured out that when I’m using the word hungry here,I’m not talking about the little pang you feel between meals. I’m talking about a consistently empty and unfulfilled feeling in your stomach. The kind that makes you tired and slow, physically,mentally,spiritually. I never let it get that far again. There are millions of people in the US who are eligible for food stamps and don’t even apply. There are a lot more who have applied and were denied because they made “too much” . Making too much to receive help is sometimes just as bad as being in that place where you won’t go apply for whatever reason. The system has a lot of illogical rules and  doesn’t serve everyone who needs fed. In most states, the amount someone is suppose to receive as court ordered child support is counted as income….even if  child support is rarely received. Single parents living on one income, not making ends meet at all yet can’t qualify for help because on paper, their income is some figure based on what some slacker is supposed to pay but doesn’t.

People have told me their reasons for not applying. The shame & fear of being judged is an overwhelmingly huge factor. Sometimes the way you’re treated at the social services office by caseworkers varies greatly. Some are compassionate & helpful. Others are cruel & judgmental.The people who have had experiences in the past with government employed social workers who can’t dish out anything but contempt for the people they’re required to help won’t ever go back to apply again.

Humiliation is powerful enough to keep people from getting help to eat. That’s a damned shame. Food is a right, not a privilege. I wish I had understood that 20 years ago. I wish I had understood that it didn’t matter why I had no money to feed myself and my child, I still deserved to eat just as much as any other human being with money in their bank account.

I don’t care how unpopular that opinion is. I don’t express the opinions I have to please those people. I have them to show I care about people who need someone to give a shit about them and because I’ve been there myself. The people who gripe about there being too many people on food stamps  “living high on the hog” as it is and all that bullshit about welfare fraud need to get a dose of reality. More than half the people on food stamps work, they’re just underemployed and half the people also receive them for less than 1 year. Being anti-food stamps because of rampant welfare fraud or other misconceptions is like saying that  a lot of women lie about being raped. It happens so rarely that it makes the issue irrelevant.Of course it’s wrong but the percentages do not warrant an entire argument and raging stigma to be born from it.

I’m not here to talk about how bad welfare fraud is. I’m just here to speak for the larger numbers of people who need help.  Living on food stamps is no picnic but it beats the hell out of not having them at all. 0ed4efd8b7cad7558f3d3947237b7436The welfare stigmas and stereotypes need to die. I don’t know how to make this happen except to keep speaking up for the majority of people who do not fit the stereotype and myth. I encourage anyone who really needs help to go get it and refuse to give a shit about the people who will judge you.No one should ever get to that point where they weigh 85 pounds and are still too embarrassed to ask for help. If you’re treated unkindly, point out that decent humans don’t act like that.

Compassion is a sign of great intellect. If they’re not showing compassion, it proves their stupidity. If you happen to be one of the unsympathetic beings reading this, don’t get all bent out of shape because I just stated that you’re stupid. Just try to open your mind a bit and let your perceptions change a little. Remember this: Shit happens and it happens to the best of us. Someday you could be the one who needs help. Do you really want to be treated like a parasite because of it?

“Its hard being poor in America. When your kid is sick enough that you can’t work but disability doesn’t pay the bills, it is crushing. “

Today a reader shares their personal story of being judged for using food stamps while buying food for their severely ill child. Much gratitude to this contributor for sharing their perspective and putting this out there.

Its hard being poor in America. When your kid is sick enough that you can’t work but disability doesn’t pay the bills, it is crushing.Robbing from Peter to pay Paul is difficult but begging for extensions and requesting medical extensions is harder and more dehumanizing.

For me, life of late consists of medications, PICC line care and antibiotic delivery. It is doctors visits and home nurses and other care for her. We also have two other kids that also have special needs and doctors visits, home therapists etc.

When any kid is hospitalized, it sucks. When you are her only means of communication and can’t leave the hospital but “live too close” for the hospital to help, the only choice you have is to not eat. Last month, I did that for 11 days. Almost half of last month, I had one meal or less each day.

This month, my kid is neutropenic. This means she has very low white blood counts and can’t fight off illness. She has to wear masks and eat special food. She can’t have anything that is not prepackaged in an individual serving. She can’t have anything raw or undercooked including fruits and vegetables.

With those restrictions, I went to the store. I picked up a handful of items including peanut butter, fruit, vegetables, smoothies, applesauce, cookies and cereal. She lost 12 pounds last month. We need to get these higher calorie foods in her.

Items in the cart: 2 boxes of cookies, juice boxes, individual peanut butter (that was one of the things the woman screamed at me about while thrusting her jar in my face), applesauce and smoothie pouches, fruit and vegetable cups, and the only individual boxes of cereal the store carries.
Items in the cart: 2 boxes of cookies, juice boxes, individual peanut butter (that was one of the things the woman screamed at me about while thrusting her jar in my face), applesauce and smoothie pouches, fruit and vegetable cups, and the only individual boxes of cereal the store carries.

I already hate using food stamps. We even separated items into food and nonfood and paid for the nonfood separately, taking it to the car so that no one would notice that we bought dog food and socks and other “niceties.”

The lady behind me saw my wife hand me our direction card before she went to bring the van around. At first, I wasn’t sure I heard her comment.

“Glad I work so you can buy junk food” was quickly

followed with “greedy food stamp recipients buying individual peanut butters while I can only afford a jar.” The last one was accompanied by a jar of generic peanut butter being thrust in my face.

I tried to explain and she didn’t believe me. I tried to ignore her but things kept getting more heated. I put myself between her and my daughter and kept my head down. As I left, she was still yelling at me to spend her money more wisely.

All of my trip cost 38.41. I will skip meals to make that work. I will hope that my wife and kids don’t notice. I will claim I am not feeling well. My kids have to eat.

This is what they can’t see. Medications, IV antibiotics, PICC line supplies, respritory equipment, hand sanitizer hospital bracelets, sharps container, stethascope, PICC lines and masks.

 

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December 4,2013 update here