Tag Archives: poverty

What you know is simply a denial of other possibilities, other realities. Katherine Parker notcrazyjustnutZ.com

What We Know

For a long time, I had a thought buried deep in my conscious and subconscious minds. “I am poor. I will always be poor.” This thought was something I grew up with. It was something my parents reinforced subconsciously. We didn’t have enough money to pay the bills or to buy what we needed, much less what we wanted. “We don’t have enough money” was a frequent theme in our house and I took that theme and made it my own.

I remember one year when I was thirteen or so, we were at a particularly low spot financially. Mom handed my brother and me a copy of the Fingerhut book about a month before Christmas and said we could have any one item from that book. That item would be our only Christmas gift that year.

I, being aware that we didn’t have money, chose a practical gift for myself. I chose a winter coat. My brother chose a Nintendo, a completely impractical item. I always thought my brother’s choice was a bit ridiculous. We didn’t have money, why would he choose a game? Why didn’t he choose a practical gift, something useful?

I look back now and have a different perspective on that choice. I wonder why didn’t I choose a gift that would make me happy, too? Something I truly wanted, not something I needed. When did I decide that because I was poor, I couldn’t be happy?

I carried that I’m-poor theme through to my adulthood. I never seemed to be able to make enough to live comfortably. It didn’t have anything to do with wasting money. My mother used to tell me I could squeeze a penny until it screamed. It had to do with my mindset, with my thought process. I looked at other people and saw how they had opportunities that I would never have and the only difference I saw was they had money and I didn’t. Because I believed in my soul I was poor, I let that label limit my potential.

While in college, I took a self defense class for PE credits. I really enjoyed the class and signed up for the next class, not because I needed more credits, but because I just liked the class. The instructors saw some potential in me, potential I didn’t see in myself. I’m a big girl and they had aspirations of putting me in competitions where my size would be an advantage.

They told me they would train me and I asked how much it would cost. “We’ll work that out,” they said. I immediately went back to how much it would cost me. In the end, focusing on the money cost me the opportunity. They let it drop and so did I, because after all, I was poor, I couldn’t afford to take martial arts classes. The idea was as ridiculous as that old Nintendo.

I used to know I was poor, but now . . . well now, I’m not so sure. I have realized that what I know is simply the denial of other realities, other possibilities. I wonder how many other opportunities I missed because I focused on something that didn’t really matter? How many times have I let an opportunity pass because of some restriction in my head?

As of this moment, I vow to be open to those other possibilities. I will see them when they come to me and I will use them as the stepping stones in my life.

The only thing I know now, is that anything is possible if I am open to those possibilities.

Let the light shine through you. Picture of leaves with sun shining through them.

Conflict of Interests

A conflict of interest as defined by Google: a situation in which the concerns or aims of two different parties are incompatible.

I am having a conflict of interest, but it doesn’t involve two parties. It involves two sides of me. I am essentially at war with myself. One party in this conflict is my need to survive and pay my bills. My desire for survival is strong and I don’t want to be hungry, so this side of me has some compelling arguments.

The other side is my free spirit. The one that doesn’t want to be tied down. This is the side that wants the freedom to do what I want, when I want, and where I want. This spirit does not want anything to do with the corporate slave camps again. It has been reminding me of all the dehumanizing and confining issues involved with being a slave.

Another objection is how much life I’ve miss out on because I have to go to work. If I have a time clock to punch, I tend to avoid meeting with my friends until days when I don’t. Punching-in cuts short time I could spend spreading my special brand of nuttiness. Many of my significant encounters happened because I wasn’t confined by a time clock. Instead of rushed visits, I can spend hours getting to know and understand people.

The problem is, unless I’m able to find someone to support my sorry butt or figure out a way to make it on my own, I need money to survive. So I am having to face the impossible issue of which slave owner do I want to commit to so I can make money? At this time, the free spirit is winning, so my answer is none. I don’t want to be someone else’s slave to abuse at will, but if I commit to that choice, I actually commit to another type of confinement.

This other prison doesn’t have cubicles, time clocks, or corporate overlords, but it is just as abhorrent to my free spirit. Poverty is confining in it’s own right. It limits my mobility and adds a different stress to my life. I want the freedom to do a spontaneous lunch date like I did today, but I also want to be able to pay for it. I want to be able to treat others, to give gifts of not only my time, but tokens of affection as well. I also want to take care of the bills that will hound me until the day I die if I don’t.

So right now I have a conflict waging inside me. Do I keep listening to the free spirit, or do I take up the chains of bondage and fasten them to my own neck?

Clearly my free spirit side is winning. The fact that I still see it as bondage tells me what I “should do” is still not something I will do, but let’s look at it from the other side of the equation. For the sacrifice of a few hours a week, I gain the ability to get out from under my debts. Sacrificing my time in exchange for a paycheck would allow me to follow my dream of getting to Washington state. Giving up my ability to do spontaneous lunches would allow me to pay for those lunches.

Did you see what I did there? I didn’t actually see the other side of the equation. “Sacrificing” and “giving up” are not the other side of the argument and the free spirit is still dominating the issue. Persistent little bugger.

The real issue isn’t my need for freedom though. The real issue is what kind of job is worth my sacrificing some of that freedom? I don’t want to sacrifice my time on the alter of corporate greed. I want a job that will allow me to feel like I am accomplishing good in the world. Those jobs are far apart and most of them want a donation of time and don’t pay.

In all my job searches through the years, I’ve only ever seen one job that would give me what I want while at the same time allowing me to do good. That was the job that made me resurrect my Washington dream in the first place.

That job had all my major criteria:
Travel
Adventure
Emergency Management
Helping save lives
Flexibility
Being a positive change
Teaching people

Since I didn’t get that job and I need one that is local, I have been looking into the non-profit realm. I’ve worked with the Salvation Army on several disasters and was impressed with the organization. They are the only organization I would support financially and frankly, the Christmas season is upon us. For the same pay, I can choose to be a security guard working for some corporate overlord protecting someone else’s slave camp, or I can help others while I help myself.

That is something I consider worthy of my sacrifice. I don’t have to compromise my belief system to survive and that does away with my conflict. Both parties are happy.

How many times have you sacrificed your personal beliefs in order to survive? Let me know what your conflict of interests were in the comments below.

The Reality of Food Stamps

I woke up today to a post on Facebook that said Indianapolis was going to provide breakfast and lunch to all students free of charge. One of the comments below that post made my heart hurt.

“We do have food stamps for those going through hard times. You know in our day we worked and provided for our kids. I am so afraid many parents are spending their money on themselves for alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs…”

Having grown up below the poverty level, I know my mom was forced to apply for Food Stamps while I was a kid. I didn’t have much to do with it at that time, but when I was older, I was released from the dreaded box store’s corporate slave camp and needed them.

I was released after five and a half years for too many customer complaints. At least that is what they put on the paperwork. The reality was, it was 2009 and the economy had tanked. The box store was trying to figure out how to save a dime and I had put myself in a bad position by missing too many days of work while my dad was dying. Apparently, the company comes before dying parents.

I ended up unemployed much longer than I expected and used up all of my unemployment benefits without being able to get a job. My friends helped as much as they could, but the economy was bad and I lived in a poor county in rural Missouri. There just weren’t enough jobs.

When I applied for assistance, I was depress, demoralized, humiliated, and afraid. I had been eating pancakes for a week because the mix and syrup were cheap and could be mixed with water.

The Social worker had been dealing with the situation for a while and was ticked off at the abuses she had been seeing as a result of corporate greed. She went about trying to get me what benefits she could.

I had no income at that time, so I qualified for the maximum Food Stamp benefits of $200. I was single, had no children and I wasn’t pregnant, so that was the only assistance I could get.

I took what I could get, but knew it hadn’t improved my situation much.

After all, I had zero income. That meant I couldn’t pay my utilities or buy basic supplies. With EBT, I could get food, but how would I cook without propane or electric? I couldn’t afford toilet paper or soap either and none of that was covered on EBT. The only reason I didn’t worry about being homeless was because I had managed to pay off my parents house.

The house had issues. The roof leaked and the contractor I’d hired to fix it disappeared with the money and never came back. It rained in my upstairs bedroom, so I moved down stairs. After a while it started raining down there, too.

My situation was not a good one. I had few friends, no family help, no resources, and no job or job prospects, and not enough money to move.

What I had was a leaky roof over my head, $200 a month in Food Stamps, severely damaged pride, and a bad case of clinical depression that made it hard to get out of bed and nearly impossible to keep looking for a job.

A friend who ate out a lot suggested I could cook for him and another friend and they would pay me. I bought the groceries and cooked at his place and they gave me money so I could buy necessities like soap and toilet paper.

When I was able to find a part time job, my food stamps dropped to $10 a month. It cost about that in gas to drive to the office, so I let my claim expire and tried to live on part time at a dollar over minimum wage.

The reason the woman feared that Food Stamp recipients were using their money for drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes is because of the brain washing perpetrated by mass media.

The media has villainized people on assistance programs by running stories about a few who abused the system. The American people have accepted those exceptions as a true representation of the whole because they never hear about the true majority. They don’t know people like me exist.

People who have never walked the rocky path cast judgment on those who do and feel superior to those who need the assistance without understanding what that assistance actually means or the reason it is needed.

I don’t smoke. I have had one alcoholic drink in the past six months. I do not and have never taken illegal drugs. I can’t afford medical care or prescriptions, so even the legal ones are off limits to me. But knowing what you know now, if I did take drugs, could you blame me for wanting the release from the pain and depression?

The next time you hear about someone who has abused the system remember me and know that there is another side to that story the media will never report. Learn to offer help and compassion, not judgement and the world will be a different place.

What is eating your soul?

I Call Bullshit

This is an excerpt from a story in the Kansas City Star from 2012 about U.S. Census findings.

“The poverty line is defined as an annual income of $23,492 or less for a family of four. A record 46.5 million Americans fall into that category, though the Census Bureau notes its pre-tax income calculations don’t include accumulated wealth, such as savings and home ownership. Nor does it include non-cash government aid such as food stamps and the earned income tax credit.”

Now let’s break it down and examine the statements in detail. We’ll start with, “The poverty line is defined as an annual income of $23,492 or less for a family of four.” If we round up to $23,500, that works out to one person who makes $1958 a month. $490 a week and $12.24 an hour.

As a single woman with no children or dependents and a strong tendency toward being a tightwad, I can tell you that I can’t live comfortably on that kind of an income. The U.S. Government expects not one, but four people to be able to live on that income.

Let’s run the numbers based on my living expenses. If you divide the $23,500 by four you get $5875.

I live in a studio apartment in Independence, Mo. and pay $400 a month in rent. That adds up to $4,800 of my budget, just to keep a roof over my head.

My water, sewer, and electricity is billed on the same bill and averages to $135 a month. That adds up to $1620 a year which means I just blew my government allotted budget by $545 and I haven’t even bought food yet.

I was going through a period of constructive discontent in 2013. My mom had just passed away and my tolerance for bullshit was at an all time low.

I wasn’t happy with my job because I got written up at the request of the security client for actually doing what I was supposedly being paid to do. I wanted to make a change and sat down to do my budget. This is the result as posted to my Facebook page at that time.

This is what real poverty looks like. This is also the reality of most of the citizens of the United States or the bottom rung employees as I call them.

Too much information to pass here.  The gist of it is, there is way to much money going out compared to what is coming in.

This is what poverty really looks like.

I don’t like looking at my budget because the reality is soul crushing. I actually had to step away from the computer to cry. After all, with that kind of reality, how can I even dream about getting ahead? I’m still crying, but I want to finish this. People need to see past the numbers to the reality they are inflicting on others.

The U.S. Government claims that a family of four is not living in poverty if they make $23,500 a year. I call bullshit. With extra shifts that year, I made about $22,000 and I still didn’t have insurance, retirement or much savings. I drove a car with well over 200,000 miles and prayed it didn’t break down, because if it did, I had no money to get it fixed or replace it. Nor did I have the income or credit history to get a loan for a different one.

One person can not in reality live on $23,500. There is no way a family of four could either.

The problem isn’t in the government though. The problem is in the private sector and promoted by the corporate culture of maximizing the profit margins and making sure the shareholders are happy.

The share holders clearly make more money than I do because they have enough money to invest in a company not their own. I can’t afford insurance, but they get first dibs on the profits made from my labors.

I left my job shortly after I made that budget and went to work as a process server. Unfortunately, my financial standing has suffered a severe down turn because of the robo-signing that occurred in the credit industry. Something, I will point out, done to maximize profits. Now I have to make a choice between working for slave wages under demoralizing, soul crushing conditions in the corporate slave camps or being homeless.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go cry again.