Our Rented Homestead

If someone made me sit down and write a “How I Spent My Summer” essay, it would read more like the lyrics to a woe-is-me country song. Thankfully it would be missing the elements of Loretta Lynn songs involving being pregnant again. There was also no spousal abandonment but otherwise… it was a craptacular summer.

I’m not even going to talk about every little bad thing that happened. I’m thinking of Summer ’15  as that attention-seeking Internet troll. The more you talk about them, the more power they have to ruin your day. Be gone, Summer ’15. I will not miss you.

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Worth talking about is how we struggled to find housing for our family that didn’t cost 80% of our income (no exaggeration. Love ya, Ithaca but the rent is too damn high! ). Beyond the cost of housing, there seemed to be a general lack of places to live for families and man, the discrimination….ugh.And I’m not even the usual minority who gets the bulk of discrimination thrown at them. I can’t tell you how many times I called about a place that was for rent nowhere near student housing to be asked, “Are you Cornell people? I only rent to students or grad students with families.” Other times I filled out really strange questionnaires that asked detailed questions about my relationship status that baffled me. Sometimes I got the impression they were trying to ask if I was a single mother and if the guy who was going to live with me was the father or my children or if I just had random men live with me and be my sugar daddy. Other times, the gist of it seemed to be…are you a “traditional” family. Like, married man and woman who have heterosexual sex and aren’t living in sin. Very confusing.Several wanted copies of paystubs and a verification of employment. I wondered what would have happened if a disabled or elderly person who couldn’t work would have wanted to live there?One landlord said he couldn’t rent to me because I have too many children and his water bill would be too high (I offered to pay extra for water but no deal). And then there were landlords who would rent to us but not without a credit check. We don’t have bad credit…. we just have NO credit. And on and on. Stupid reasons people couldn’t rent to us.

Oh,I know. It’s totally illegal but I just needed to find a place to live. I was in panic mode thinking we would have nowhere to go I didn’t have time to mess around with reporting these jerks and jerkesses. That’s probably why they can get away with it. People are so stressed and focused on finding a place to live NOW .Dealing with unethical landlords in is the last thing you want to deal with.

I was also amazed that so many landlords would not accept Section 8. We don’t have Section 8 because there’s a 3 year waiting list and I’m an eternal optimist who thought  3 years ago there was no point in getting put on the wait list because “there’s no way we’ll still be this poor 3 years from now!” .  Ha.
So, this doesn’t personally affect us but c’mon,people. Get over your outdated stereotypes about the types of people who get housing subsidies.

I was so irritated with people who told me, “Why don’t you just go live in one of the trailer parks?”
Now,let me say this first. I am sure there are some fantastic trailer parks out there but I grew up in one that was not and know that the ones here are even worse now. I will never-ever-ever live in one again, especially not while raising children. Living there  I witnessed and heard domestic violence and child abuse on a daily basis. I was sexually molested by a neighbor when I was 9. In my teen years, I was walking home from a friend’s 3 trailers away and was almost raped. Drugs were everywhere. Sickos mutilated people’s pets. No personal possessions were ever safe. And besides, trailer parks here did not escape the influence of Ithaca’s high cost of living. $950-$1,200 for a 3 bedroom box with no yard and shitty surroundings. I will take that nope train all the way back to Nopeville,thankssomuch.

Then I would mention an address we were looking at an apartment in and people’s reactions would be like, “OHMYGOD, but that’s THE GHETTO!” Funny thing is, I know people who live in that neighborhood and I have worked there. I saw it as a community. A community that doesn’t have very many white people living there.  Where my general concern would be that White families moving into that neighborhood would add to gentrification, other people were horrified and concerned for our well being because surely, I would die immediately just living among all those people of color.Or something. I’m not quite sure.

But sure, tell me to go live in the cesspool that the trailer parks are.

By the way… please be aware of the way you use the word “ghetto”. 

Anyhoo…

This story has a semi- happy ending. We found an affordable place to live and I’m in love with it, even though my beloved kitty was probably eaten by bobcats the first month we lived here. The area is one I have family roots in (the first two white settlers here were my ancestors. The town and school is named after the wife of one of my long dead relatives and there are all sorts of NY state historical signs all around commemorating things my people had a part in). It has a reputation of being rife with hillbillies and poor hicks (I have a lot to say about this and I will on another day) and so we moved here to add to the population,I guess.  We’re in the middle of nowhere yet we have bus service. I love it here. Best of all, the owner doesn’t care what we do with the land here. 5 acres, a barn, and a pond.

Literally:

“I don’t care what you do here.” – our landlord

It’s a great property but it’s been neglected for awhile and it’s going to be a lot of hard work but having the freedom to have chickens and grow food and properly homestead while renting is a serious blessing. Longtime readers here know that I am vocal when it comes to poor people shamed for not growing their own food. I totally stand behind all those reasons but I also want to show the possibilities for people who may not have the same limitations. Get ready for Rented Homestead  posts in the future. They will be honest and frugal because as much as I love living here, I’m still as poor as ya’ll know what.
(That’s why I said “semi-happy ending”. Still poor,dammit.)

Yay, pond! We finally get to use the canoe we got 10 years ago.

Yay, pond! We finally get to use the canoe we got 10 years ago.

Welfare is a Women’s Issue (1972) by Johnnie Tillmon

via OUR TIME

Welfare is a Women’s Issue (1972) by Johnnie Tillmon

I’m a woman. I’m a black woman. I’m a poor woman. I’m a fat woman. I’m a middle-aged woman. And I’m on welfare.

In this country, if you’re any one of those things you count less as a human being. If you’re all those things, you don’t count at all. Except as a statistic.

I am 45 years old. I have raised six children. There are millions of statistics like me. Some on welfare. Some not. And some, really poor, who don’t even know they’re entitled to welfare. Not all of them are black. Not at all. In fact, the majority-about two-thirds-of all the poor families in the country are white.

Welfare’s like a traffic accident. It can happen to anybody, but especially it happens to women.

And that’s why welfare is a women’s issue. For a lot of middle-class women in this country, Women’s Liberation is a matter of concern. For women on welfare it’s a matter of survival.

Survival. That’s why we had to go on welfare. And that’s why we can’t get off welfare now. Not us women. Not until we do something about liberating poor women in this country.

Because up until now we’ve been raised to expect to work, all our lives, for nothing. Because we are the worst educated, the least-skilled, and the lowest-paid people there are. Because we have to be almost totally responsible for our children. Because we are regarded by everybody as dependents. That’s why we are on welfare. And that’s why we stay on it.

Welfare is the most prejudiced institution in this country, even more than marriage, which it tries to imitate. Let me explain that a little.

Ninety-nine percent of welfare families are headed by women. There is no man around. In half the states there can’t be men around because A.F.D.C. (Aid to Families With Dependent Children) says if there is an “able-bodied” man around, then you can’t be on welfare. If the kids are going to eat, and the man can’t get a job, then he’s got to go.

Welfare is like a super-sexist marriage. You trade in a man for the man. But you can’t divorce him if he treats you bad. He can divorce you, of course, cut you off anytime he wants. But in that case, he keeps the kids, not you.The man runs everything. In ordinary marriage, sex is supposed to be for your husband. On A.F.D.C., you’re not supposed to have any sex at all. You give up control of your own body. It’s a condition of aid. You may even have to agree to get your tubes tied so you can never have more children just to avoid being cut off welfare.

The man, the welfare system, controls your money. He tells you what to buy, what not to buy, where to buy it, and how much things cost. If things-rent, for instance-really cost more than he says they do, it’s just too bad for you. He’s always right.

That’s why Governor [Ronald] Reagan can get away with slandering welfare recipients, calling them “lazy parasites,” “pigs at the trough,” and such. We’ve been trained to believe that the only reason people are on welfare is because there’s something wrong with their character. If people have “motivation,” if people only want to work, they can, and they will be able to support themselves and their kids in decency.

The truth is a job doesn’t necessarily mean an adequate income. There are some ten million jobs that now pay less than the minimum wage, and if you’re a woman, you’ve got the best chance of getting one. Why would a 45-year-old woman work all day in a laundry ironing shirts at 90-some cents an hour? Because she knows there’s some place lower she could be. She could be on welfare. Society needs women on welfare as “examples” to let every woman, factory workers and housewife workers alike, know what will happen if she lets up, if she’s laid off, if she tries to go it alone without a man. So these ladies stay on their feet or on their knees all their lives instead of asking why they’re only getting 90-some cents an hour, instead of daring to fight and complain.

Maybe we poor welfare women will really liberate women in this country. We’ve already started on our own welfare plan. Along with other welfare recipients, we have organized so we can have some voice. Our group is called the National Welfare Rights Organization (N.W.R.O.). We put together our own welfare plan, called Guaranteed Adequate Income (G.A.I.), which would eliminate sexism from welfare. There would be no “categories”-men, women, children, single, married, kids, no kids-just poor people who need aid. You’d get paid according to need and family size only and that would be upped as the cost of living goes up.

As far as I’m concerned, the ladies of N.W.R.O. are the front-line troops of women’s freedom. Both because we have so few illusions and because our issues are so important to all women-the right to a living wage for women’s work, the right to life itself.

source

Review: Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm

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Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm by Mardi Jo Link 

 

To set the background: Mardi jo Link lives on a sort-of farm in Northern Michigan with her three sons. I say sort-of farm because she has horses and a veggie garden. (Horses!  Do you know how expensive horses are to have?!) She has 6 acres, which sure… that can qualify  as a small  farm but it’s really more like backyard homesteading.

Mardi has her “dream life” with her horses,kids,and husband and then, the husband isn’t so dreamy and they get divorced. This is the basis of the entire memoir : Divorced,single mother,broke, raising 3 kids on a farm by herself. Not a unique story. It’s one that comes through my inbox a few times a week from readers of this blog. I probably compared way too much to those personal stories because I kept thinking, “This lady doesn’t have it so bad.” I mean, there are people who only contact me through email because they can’t leave any trace of themselves online for fear of their ex-abuser tracking their activity and somehow finding them. Some of them are living in shelters. Even without the domestic violence element, there are a LOT of newly single mamas struggling to get through. So, Mardi jo isn’t alone,no, but I appreciate there being a narrative out there like hers that explains this reality.

But Mardi Jo has some advantages. She has a $300,000 house with property to grow food and keep animals. Her ex husband rents a house across the street, so although it’s not mentioned, I’m assuming he’s available to co-parent and lend that support. Her boys are all in school so she doesn’t need daycare.  She has a vehicle. Her ex actually pays the child support he’s ordered to pay her.

The disadvantage is that since she stubbornly refused to sell the farm, she had to be responsible for the mortgage while her only real source of income is an editing job and the child support. In Internet land, we poor people would be told this is a stupid choice.
(And STILL with the horses! At least in the beginning…)
Just read any thread online where a poor person is telling what it’s like to be poor and house downsizing is always given as one of those “helpful pointers”. One of the readers of this blog was even told once that she should build a shed and rent out her double wide trailer.

And I truly understand Mardi jo’s desire to keep the house. Having the land gives the opportunity to be self-sufficient, which is money in the bank, so to speak.

She was raised like I was: You DO NOT ask for help. That’s a sign of weakness. On this point,I can DSC_0559relate.  She refuses to apply for assistance because that’s not what “her people” do. Yeah, I was like that once and literally could have starved because of it . It was SO frustrating for me to hear that credo repeated over and over again ,while she and her boys were hungry.

But FINALLY, she at least applies for free school lunch, even though she’s mortified at being judged by the school.

Of that experience, Mardi jo said this in an interview:
“Yeah, I was pretty resolute that I would never ask for government assistance. Not that I’m against that; I know that there are people who need it. But I always had this idea that that was for other people. I was educated. I had been raised in an intact family. I’d had advantages that other people probably didn’t, so I certainly didn’t think that I should take advantage of any public assistance. And yet nine months into that year, I had signed my kids up for  reduced lunches at school. That was a line that I thought I would never cross. I think the only reason I did was that it wasn’t for me, it was for them; it was important that they have a nutritional meal every day. It was temporary, only March and April, but it was pretty hard to step over that line. It made me realize things would have to change pretty soon or we would have to sell or just let it go to the bank.”

She mentions her advantages there in that interview but all through the book, I kept waiting for that acknowledgment. There was gratitude and feeling blessed for her sons and when something good happened. I probably would have been less irritated consistently if there had been more of that.

The parts I was least inclined to be irritated: any and all gardening talk, DIY stuff, and chickens (even though…who orders chickens through mail order and expects to get full grown chickens?). She  has one horribly heartbreaking food loss that I could relate to. During a power outage, she lost most of an entire butchered pig because the freezer wasn’t on. ( For me, it was because I couldn’t pay the electric bill nor buy ice to keep the food until it was turned back on). Losing food when you have no grocery money is one of the worst things.

I was thoroughly prepared to hate this memoir based on the title alone. Oh, the myth of the bootstrapper …hard working people who pull themselves out of poverty all on their own because they tried hard enough and wanted it bad enough.  So,maybe I went into this with some presumptions and ready to be overly critical. While I ended up not hating this as much as I thought I would, it wasn’t my favorite “getting through the struggle and ending up ok” memoir.

Also, in the end…she met a man and didn’t have to worry so much anymore, anyway. Yay for happy endings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’LL BE FINE.

Taking some deep breaths and letting Woody be my inner voice this morning.

I have my first dentist appointment this morning. I’m so nervous. I’m also really, really hungry. I can’t even eat noodles right now. NOODLES, fer fecks sake.

I’m not scared of the dentistry part of this. I’m scared of what it’s going to cost. Of course, if it costs too much, I won’t even be able to get more than the basic of the most basic work done. My new married woman insurance has dental but only $1,000/year. I’m pretty sure it’ll be about 10x that.

My husband is taking the youngest with him to his doctor’s appointment while I’m at the dentist. Hubby & I are kinda falling apart. His doctor’s office called last week to let him know that his insurance won’t cover his diabetes meds anymore. The alternative meds sent him to the ER, so this is the only med he can take. Out of pocket cost will be $750 for a 3 month supply. Yay,insurance! I’m so glad we have it.

Anyway, he is more worried about my dentist appointment this morning because he won’t be there. He’s pretty sure I’m going to be a traumatized, emotional mess but mostly, I think he’s afraid that the dentist will say something judgmental and assholish that will make me kick him. Then, not only will we have to come up with money to fix my mouth (and a new dentist who will treat me), we’ll need bail money,too.

I have heard that this dentist is very compassionate. I hope so, for his shins’ sake.

How to DIY When You’re Poor

 

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If you spend any amount of time on social media, you see some really cool ideas for DIY projects. Pinterest seems to be that place we all go for inspiration and then end up just feeling bad that we don’t have time, energy, or creativity to be that awesome. For low income and disabled people, the frustration is compounded by the lack of accessibility and ability. Even the cheap projects or ones that use junk often require tools or equipment,  and sometimes being able bodied,right?

I have possible solutions,though!

Where to Get Free Tools & Supplies

  • freecycle or craigslist – Find your nearest group at the respective websites : Freecycle.org and craigslist.com.
    On Freecyle, once you join, you can post something like this: “WANTED: Thing You Need” , with a description of what you’re looking for. If it’s a tool you think you’ll only need for one project, you can specify that you only need to borrow something. On craigslist, same thing but you usually have to find a category for what you’re looking for. Both Freecycle and Craigslist are great places for finding materials that someone might have leftover from another project (like, for instance, PVC pipe just waiting to be turned into a hanging indoor window garden ).I often peruse the FREE section of craigslist to see what people are cleaning out of their homes. I just scored an old crib with missing parts — perfect for upcycling as a trellis in my garden.

    If you have transportation obstacles, be sure to mention that in your post. Some people will generously drop things off to you or at a location easy for you to meet at. Of course, use your best judgement and common sense when telling strange people you meet on the Internet to come over or meet somewhere. You’re all adults,though. We don’t have to say more than that.

  • Yard Sales & Thrift Shops – I have a lot of crafting supplies and tools. I would say that 90% of them were purchased at thrift shops,yard sales, rummage sales,etc.Again, transportation is the obstacle here. There are also sometimes when even spending $5 on yard sale finds is out of the budget but if you can, these are the best places to find an amazing assortment of tools & supplies to build your DIY crafting arsenal.

    One thing I do to help add a bit of thrifting money is to sell my family’s used clothing at a local consignment shop. The checks I get every other month aren’t huge but it gives me a little extra to set aside specifically for going to sales.

    I also have gotten into the habit of going by houses that have advertised a yard sale after the sale has ended. People typically will put a free pile curbside rather than haul it back into their garage or load it into the car to dump off at the Salvation Army.

  • Local Hardware Stores–  By local, I mostly mean locally owned. From my experience, the people who work at small hardware stores are more than happy to drill holes in something for you or cut a piece of wood to your specifications. It’s iffy in a big box hardware store but it never hurts to ask.
  • Find a Tool Share – There are community groups where people borrow tools from one another and others that have a “library” of tools that they lend to people. These may be tricky to find but I would start with Googling “tool share” and your area. Some communities have had very active tool shares for decades but never brought it to the Internet. If you can’t find anything online, call local carpenters, hardware store,mechanics, bike shops and ask if they know of any tool sharing groups around you.
  • Sewing Machine Shares– They exist! I’m fortunate to have one here. If there’s one in your area, your local fabric store will most likely know about it.Give them a call.

Where To Find Help With Projects

If you aren’t physically able due to disability or the aches and pains that come with aging  to do some parts of a project, here’s some ideas of organizations that might be able to help.

  1. The Girl Scouts – ok, any scouting group but I like the Girl Scouts.
  2. 4-H
  3. Local Office of the Aging /groups that help the elderly – they often have volunteers with a wide range of interests and skills
  4. Local school shop classes or a vocational school
  5. Veterans groups

I am positive there are many more I missed or don’t know about. Please let me know in the comments if you know of any and I’ll add them.

Shanesha Taylor Needs Support ,Not Jail

 

Prison Culture» Action Needed: Shanesha Taylor Needs Support Not Jail –
Shanesha Taylor ,a homeless mother with 2 children, is currently in jail after leaving her children in a car while she was in a job interview. The children were taken by CPS and are now with family. A fundraising drive has been started to raise money ,first for bail and then  hopefully enough to help Shaneesha & her children.

Melissa McEwan  over at Shakesville has perfectly summed up the entire problem with the” bootstrap”mentality and how damaging it is for people like  Shanesha …people who are unsupported and don’t have help.
I’ll just leave this part here. I don’t know that there’s much else I could add.

The bootstrappers will argue that she should have found someone to watch her kids. Everyone has someone they can ask to watch their kids. No. Not everyone does. That’s what really having no help from anyone looks like.

People who don’t have family they can ask usually have neighbors, but Taylor is homeless. Or co-workers, but Taylor is jobless. Or someone they can pay, but Taylor has no money. With whom could she leave her children? There is no free daycare offered by the government—the same government that is trying to force women to have as many children as possible.

She and children need food and shelter. She needs a job to provide food and shelter. She needs to go on an interview to get a job to provide food and shelter. She needs to leave her children somewhere while she goes on an interview to get a job to provide food and shelter.

She doesn’t have anywhere to leave them. She leaves them in the car, because it is her only option. And she is arrested and her children removed from her care.
 

Nothing makes sense about indefinitely separating Taylor from her children, as punishment from her leaving them for 45 minutes. But criminalization is the only solution we have. We offer jail, instead of help.

~~ Full Article ~~

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UPDATE from Prison Culture:

 It always helps in such cases to increase public support and to gather our voices so that we are more powerful collectively. To that end, here are some suggestions for how we might proceed in support of Shanesha.

1. Sign the following petition to Bill Montgomery who is the County Attorney for Maricopa County. Share the petition with everyone you know. Can we gather 10,000 signatures by Saturday? Let’s try.

2. After you have signed the petition, directly EMAIL Bill Montgomery to ask that he DROP THE CHARGES against Ms. Taylor.

3. It’s always great when Prosecutors also receive phone calls. Please call the Maricopa County Attorney’s office to ask them to drop the charges against Shanesha Taylor. Be polite about it but suggest that resources would be better spent providing Ms. Taylor and her children with help over punishment. They have already suffered enough.

Maricopa County Attorney’s Office
Phone: (602) 506-3411
Hours: 8am – 5pm Mon-Fri

4. Are you on Facebook? Post a message on Bill Montgomery’s Facebook Page explaining why he should DROP THE CHARGES against Ms. Taylor.

5. Most importantly, Ms.Taylor and her family need funds. I was able to learn that her bond is $9,000. Donate to her Fundraiser and ask others to join you.


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.