Still Fighting   5 comments

Things are looking very bad right now, but I’m not giving up. I can’t give up because of the dogs. If it weren’t for them, truthfully, I don’t know. I’ve had a tough life and I don’t see it getting any easier. And I’m tired of fighting. So damn tired.

To be honest, when I got so sick last month that I thought I might die, once I got over being scared, it was almost a relief. Not because I want to die. I don’t. But because dying would put an end to all the pain and misery and worry and stress and fear and the constant struggle just to survive another month.

Obviously I’m still here, but that doesn’t mean I’m all better. I try to ignore the pain as best I can. I can’t afford to be sick and I certainly can’t afford time off to take care of myself.

While I have no freelance work at this time, I have been able to find a job. Not a good job, mind you. No, it’s another contract job. No benefits. Part-time. I’ll be lucky to pick up twenty hours a week and I’ll make less than $10 per hour. Before taxes. Speaking of which, we were able to get an extension on filing our tax returns. We don’t have a penny to spare right now, let alone the hundreds of dollars we owe the IRS in self-employment tax.
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Speeding Toward Disaster   Leave a comment

I was planning to write a few blog posts this week but I’m too weak, too tired, and too sad to focus on anything complex. Maybe in a few days.

I’m also scared. I keep thinking of my partner, our dogs, and myself in a car speeding toward a cliff. Unless something changes, we’re going to go over that cliff. And I don’t know what I can do to slow down the damn car, let alone put it in reverse.

Things were bad before I got sick and now they appear utterly hopeless. My partner continues to look for work but the job situation around here is pretty bleak. Either he isn’t qualified, or the job is only part-time and/or the pay is so low it would barely cover our rent, leaving nothing for our bills and food. On top of that, most of these jobs aren’t local. They’ll require spending two hours a day commuting, and he would be working over an hour a day just to cover the transportation costs. That’s a lot of commuting for a job that’s only part-time. But he keeps applying, hoping that something will work out.

My partner has a college degree but he can’t find a job that pays a living wage. Unfortunately that’s not unusual these days. I wasn’t surprised to learn that in 2010, over 43% of low-wage workers had attended or graduated college. Oh, and that other myth conservatives never tire of flogging, the one where most minimum wage workers are unskilled teenagers just trying to make a few “extra” bucks and gain much-needed work experience? Not surprisingly, that’s more BS. In 2010, just 12% of low-wage workers were under age 20 (down from 26% in 1979). And I’m sure a substantial number of those teenagers aren’t middle class kids living at home or attending college on their parents’ dime but young people working real hard to support themselves (like I was at that age).
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Sick and Desperate in the USA   1 comment

One of the things you worry about when you have neither money nor health insurance is what will happen to you in the event you become seriously ill. How are you going to pay for treatment? If you have an acute condition such as appendicitis, you can go to the ER and they have to take care of you. But what if it’s something like cancer or kidney disease? Something that requires prolonged, expensive treatment? All the hospital needs to do is stabilize you. Then you’re on your own.

Accessing medical care isn’t the only concern, though. How are you going to survive while you’re too sick to work? This is especially terrifying for the ever-increasing number of people keeping their heads above the water with freelance and contract work. If we can’t work, we don’t eat.

If you’re among the working poor who don’t qualify for Medicaid and you become seriously ill, you’re pretty much screwed. There is not much you can do. Which is why you tend to push these thoughts out of your head as fast as you can. Not much point in worrying about something you can’t change. Especially when just making enough money to scrape by consumes all your time and energy.

So, when I started experiencing some disturbing symptoms a couple of years ago, I did what most people without access to health care do: Hope it’s nothing serious. After all, it wasn’t like I was sick all the time. The symptoms came and went. And anyway, I had more immediate concerns. Like trying to keep a roof over our heads.
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Homelessness Averted   1 comment

A huge, giant, colossal THANK YOU to everyone who donated in the past week! You guys are truly lifesavers! Many thanks also to everyone who helped get the word out on Twitter and Facebook and especially to the awesome bloggers who asked their readers to lend us a helping hand.

As a result of your help, we will be able to pay our rent and utilities in February! I have also been able to buy more of my meds, which is a good thing because I’ve been battling severe depression (probably not entirely the result of my messed up brain chemistry). And, very importantly, we’ll be able to take care of our beloved Balou.

We’re treating him with nutrition, herbs, and other supplements rather than “conventional” cancer therapy. Even if we could afford surgery and chemo, which we can’t, I’d have difficulty subjecting him to painful, debilitating treatments at his age. We can’t be sure exactly how old our wonderful boy is given that he was a fully-grown adult when we adopted him, but he has to be at least 13 and could be 14 or 15. In other words, he’s already quite old for a dog of his size and breed. Our goal is to keep him happy and comfortable as long as we can. He was fading badly in December but has regained some of his strength thanks to the treatment your donations help make possible.

We now have almost a month to get back on our feet financially, and I’ll be spending every waking moment not occupied with the canine pack trying to do just that. Which unfortunately means this blog will likely be neglected a while longer. I will, however, keep you all posted on our situation. We’re currently still without work, but hopefully that will change soon!

Help! Facing Homelessness with 4 Dogs!   23 comments

This is the hardest thing I’ve ever written. And if I saw any other way out, there’s no way I’d be sitting here and writing this. Asking for help has always been very difficult for me, and if it was just about me, I probably wouldn’t be doing this. However, I have my dogs to think about. They depend on me and I’m trying real hard not to let them down. So here goes…

After barely making ends meet for a number of years, my partner and I are now in a position where we are facing homelessness. We usually manage to eke out a living selling our skills as freelancers, but during the last few months, work has completely evaporated. We spend all our time searching for jobs, but nothing has panned out.

We have also looked for work outside our field, but since we’re stuck in the boonies without a car, our employment opportunities are severely limited. Nonetheless, in an effort to leave no stone unturned, my partner did put in applications for two local just-above-minimum-wage jobs. Given that he has no experience in these lines of work and competition for any kind of job is beyond fierce around here, this is a long shot. Moreover, even if they do hire him, he wouldn’t get paid enough money fast enough to avoid eviction.
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Posted January 18, 2012 by Sasha in Poverty, Story of My Life

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Sex, Class, and Occupy Wall Street   19 comments

I’ve been following the Occupy movement with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s the first thing in a very long time that’s given me any hope for this country. It’s high time that we start focusing on economic injustice and the damage done by the greed of the mega rich and the corruption of those who do their bidding. The system is badly broken, as evidenced by the fact that politicians of both major parties are talking austerity and cuts to safety net programs at a time of record unemployment, growing poverty, and economic inequality comparable to the developing world. Clearly there’s a desperate need for a movement that raises awareness of the class war the wealthy have been waging on the rest of us.

Which brings me to my first issue with Occupy Wall Street. Who exactly are “the rest of us”? From a branding perspective, the 99% versus the 1% is very appealing. But is it accurate? Clearly not. If your household income is half a million a year, I’d say the system has been working very well for you. You may even be part of the problem if you outsource jobs or pay workers less than a living wage. But you’re still part of the 99%.

At the same time, “the 99%” has become synonymous with the downtrodden, debt-ridden, and dispossessed. I remember a Tumblr entry written from the perspective of a small child who’d witnessed her mom cry because she was unable to buy her kid a birthday present. It ended with the words, “My mom doesn’t know that I know we’re part of the 99%.” Huh? The mom doesn’t realize her kid knows she makes less than $590,000 a year? No wonder people are confused. I’ve seen numerous blog posts and comments by individuals with low six-figure incomes stating that they “stand with the 99%.” No, actually, if you have a low six-figure income, you are the 99%. In fact, if your household income totals $190,000, it could triple and you would still be part of the 99%.

So. Not very useful, is it? The bottom 90%, on the other hand, have an average household income of $31,244, which is probably more like what people have in mind when discussing the economic difficulties experienced by “the 99%.”
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Poor Woman Gets Three Year Prison Sentence for Lying to Feed Children   Leave a comment

File this one under the “war on poor women” AND the “war on (certain people who use certain) drugs.”

Anita McLemore has been trying to beat her drug addiction for over fifteen years. It’s been a struggle, not made any easier by the four felony convictions she has amassed during that time. After all, finding a job that pays a living wage and escaping poverty is an enormous challenge even if you’re not a convicted felon.

Hungry and desperate, the Mississippi mother of two turned to the food stamp program for help. There was just one problem. The application included a question about prior felony drug convictions and a statement indicating that convicted drug felons are not eligible for food assistance and deserve to starve to death (okay, it didn’t really say that last part but it might as well have). So McLemore did what just about any mom with hungry kids and no other options would do in this situation. She lied.

For this lie, she has now been sentenced to three years in federal prison (via TGW), followed by three years of supervised release and a $250 fine. Desperate to stay out of prison and remain with her children, McLemore had managed to pay back every penny of the government benefits she received. It made no difference. In fact, U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate went out of his way to impose a sentence much harsher than the 2-8 months of incarceration followed by probation called for by federal guidelines.

The reason? Judge Wingate was disgusted by McLemore’s multiple drug convictions and outraged that the state courts had mostly allowed her to remain out of prison to take care of her children and seek treatment instead of locking her up like the hardened criminal she clearly is.
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