My Food Stamp Story

A lot of people I know have a very negative view of the Food Stamp Program.  That it is misused and abused by deadbeats.  That people should just pull themselves up and not rely on the government.  I admit that I have often had this view myself.

While I still whole-heartedly agree that there is widespread misuse and abuse, I can also see how it COULD be a useful program.  It mostly is NOT though because of how it is set up.  Let me explain my experience.

Being in school full-time and trying to support myself has been hard.  I tried to set up in advance so I’d be able to make it the almost 8 months without too much trouble.  Life being what it is, my very small safety net wasn’t enough.  While my rent and car were paid for a year in advance, my cell phone for two and while I cut my expenses in every way I possibly could…it wasn’t enough.  I got very sick.  My 7 1/2 months were extended because I had to take a five week leave of absence.  The medical bills piled up.  And the check from my ex to settle the last of our divorce wasn’t arriving in the time frame it had been promised.  Add to that a dog that had seizures, ate rat poison and in general has a suicidal bent…I was broke. My minimum wage job wasn’t enough.

So, I broke down and asked for help.  I applied for food stamps.  I figured making a choice between eating or taking medications to sustain my health wasn’t really a choice I should have to make.  I just needed to make it to graduation and licensing and I’d be able to support myself just fine.  That is why I chose to go back to school after all.  So I wouldn’t have to depend on anyone.  Especially not the government.

I figured I’d get approved, use them for the few months of school I had remaining and then remove myself from the program.  I just needed help, not a free ride.

But I was rejected.  Why?  Because I didn’t work enough hours.  Apparently, if you are in school full time you have to work 20 hours a week on average.  Ironically, if I got 20 hours a week of work, I wouldn’t have needed help.

In my opinion a situation like mine is the perfect reason to give someone food stamps.  I’m actively working to become self supporting.  I am putting myself through school to obtain a job that will not only pay my bills but provide me with health insurance.  I researched and found a way that I can rely on my own abilities and not anyone else.

But I don’t qualify.

The conversation with the benefits adviser was almost comical in it’s showcasing of the flaws within our welfare system.  I had a few choices I could make in order to actually qualify.

 

Choice 1: Quit school.  If I was no longer a student then I more than qualified for food stamps.  I’d have no future, would most likely remain reliant on them for a long term benefit but that was an option presented to me.  I kid you not.

Choice 2: Have a child.  If I was responsible for a minor child or was pregnant, then, again I’d qualify for food stamps along with a boat load of other government programs.

Choice 3: Get another job.  Which, again would mean I wouldn’t need the help…but I’d qualify none the less.

 

I’m baffled as to how any of this makes sense.  As a person who wants to make it on my own I cannot have even a very short term assistance in any way shape or form.  If I make a choice that jeopardizes my entire future and possibly that of a child, then sure…here’s some free money for you.
And THAT my friends is my problem with food stamps and other government programs.  They don’t help people to improve their lives, they help the people that choose to never go anywhere.  It’s not completely cut and dry, I know.  But it is certainly frustrating.

Thankfully for me, the ex gave me the check and I no longer have to make decisions between eating and some other necessity, but if it hadn’t…I’m glad I have family that was able to step in and help me.

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Bruises on her heart

(originally written Monday, 21 June 2010)

Mind swirling, thoughts racing
she finds it hard to breathe.
Tossing, turning-twisting sheets
she finds it hard to sleep.

What was said?
What was meant?
Could it even be?

Heart pounding.
Pulse racing.
She
can’t sleep.

Slowly,
slowly,
in and out.
Slowing her body down.
Thoughts ebb, pulse calms.
In to sleep she gives.

Pictures dance behind her lids,
fanciful and free.
Loving looks, warm embrace
so real upon her skin.
Real he stands before her
in slumber but not awake.
This is where he meets her,
loves her.
Needs her.
Only until she wakes.

Every night it’s all the same;
she dreams in vivid 3D and
wakes with bruises
on her heart.

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Date Me?

I have only been dating again for about 9 months. I feel very rusty.  Still.  The last time I dated, we didn’t have the internet, not in any practical sense anyway, next to no one had a cell phone and there certainly wasn’t text messaging.  So, all this is far from anything I know as ‘dating’.

All my recent dates have been the result of internet dating sites.  There, I said it.  I internet date.  I find it odd that with it being so prevalent that there is any stigma left…but I get the distinct sense there is.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe it’s still too foreign to me and therefor feels wrong.  I don’t know.

Anyway, back to the real topic.  I miss the dating I knew.  Meet a guy somewhere.  Get to know each other.  One asks the other out.  Since we know each other he picks me up and actually takes me out.  He brings me back home and walks me to the door.  And the moment when you decide to kiss or not kiss at the front door.

I don’t even know if that ever happens.  Seems like everyone sort of just jumps ahead and jumps in bed.  And I’m not knocking that entirely.  I just miss a bit of the build up to that as well.

Anyway, with meeting a person from an online site, you don’t give out your address. You meet somewhere.  And while you might spend some amount of time texting and talking and Facebooking or whatever…you don’t know much of anything of each other but have instant and constant access to each other.  I’m not sure that’s good.  Not sure it’s bad either.

With guys I meet in person, I seem to never like guys who are interested in me.  Or maybe they are interested but are a day or a week or whatever from leaving the state or the country.  Do I shoot too high?  My mom would say no.  But what is it that keeps me from liking the guys that seem to hit on me.  And what is it that keeps the guys I want to date from wanting to date me.  My last rejection involved a thirty minute explanation on how absolutely amazing I am.  But it was still a rejection.

I know this has been rambling and without a point.  But these are things I think about these days.  As the official legal end of my marriage is days not months away, I think about them even more.  And as I work day after day with someone that won’t date me but that I really would love to date…I think so much more about it.

So, where is the guy I know, that I find attractive, that is willing to pick me up, take me out on a date and walk me to my door?

Anyone?

Yeah, I guess I’ll just have to remember patience and my staunch determination to never settle again.

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Blink

(originally written January 25, 2011 the day I moved out and left my ex)

All I want is to blink and have this be over.  Be tomorrow.  Not tomorrow exactly but some time after now when it doesn’t hurt quite so bad.  When the act of breathing is no longer a test of my own emotional strength.  When every turn has promise for more than another reason to cry.

Blink to a week from now when the wounds may start to heal?  Far from healed but they’ll have to start, won’t they?  Take me there to where I have hope.  Or maybe to when hope is realized and skip all the waiting in between.

Or maybe I should blink and go back.  Back to before.  Before this mess ever began.  Before love died.  Before hate crept in.  Before.

But when?

When ‘we’ were happy being ‘we’.  Could we forge a new destiny a second time around?  Could we miss the potholes and find more mountain highs?  Or is this present fate sealed in the chemistry of our intertwined souls?

So, if not back to an earlier us, to me as a young adult?  When life seemed so easy and simple and happiness was free?  Is that far enough back?  Enough space to avoid this present torment?

Likely not.

Not my teens, nor my adolescence.  I think I was happy as a child of five, but I can’t say for certain.  And at five I had no control over my fate and so the rest would likely repeat.  And where would that leave me?  Here, I suppose.

In the end, I can’t go back nor forward and really, I guess I don’t want to.   So, I’ll have to blink and greet the now again and again until it is then.  Until I don’t notice each blink and ignore each ticking of the clock, as if clocks still tick.

Blink.  Another moment closer or further away, it’s really hard to say.

Blink.

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Saying Goodbye

How do you say goodbye when it’s been over for so long already?

“I love you.”

He said it as if that would explain everything.  Take us back in time to when he really meant it.  When he lived it out and not just said it begrudgingly in reply to my statement of love.  It hung between us for quite some time.

“I know,”  I finally admitted, well, because I do know.  If love really could fix anything we wouldn’t be here.  It doesn’t though.  Some things just aren’t that easy to fix.  They need love and time and commitment that we ran short on.  I know in this moment he’s finally leaving.  I’m a little surprised at how calm I am about it.  To be honest with myself, I’d have to realize that he left quite some time ago.  He just never realized it.

He said he forgave and I know he wanted to.  He just couldn’t though.  And there were so many things we never talked through that grew between us like weeds.  I’ve know for awhile that we weren’t meant to last.  I’d finished my grieving quite some time ago.  I wonder again if I should have forced him to see his choice sooner but decide again that he had to see it for himself or he’d keep coming back.

“So…”

I wait for him to finish.  Wait for him to finally admit he can’t be with me anymore.  I can’t figure out why he’s still not saying it.  Perhaps he’s worried I’ll fall apart.  He has often seen me as weaker then I really am.  I could make it easier for him, I think.  I don’t want to.  Not out of spite, but because he needs to once and for all take responsibility for his own emotions.  I can’t feel them for him anymore.

“I’m sorry.”

I don’t ask him for what recognizing it’s a blanket apology for everything that has happened between us and for this one moment in time.

Stop being a jerk, I tell myself.

“It’s ok,” I finally allow.  “It’ll be ok. I don’t hate you, you don’t hate me and as break-ups go that’s not so bad.”

It’s not so bad.  And I mean it.  I thought we’d last, but we didn’t.  We’re both to blame and that cancels out the need to point fingers and hold onto the pain any longer.  I’m relieved more then anything that we can move on.

He leans in and kisses my forehead, the first kiss he’s initiated in what feels like an eternity.  I almost laugh at the irony in it.  Instead, I just watch him walk away.

“I love you, too.”

I’m not sure he hears me.  Was that a slight hesitation?  It’s too hard to tell.  I wish I’d said it louder.

“I know.” he says and then he’s gone.

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Untitled

She looked up at the sky, this little girl I love.

“Why is the sky blue,” she looks over at you.

“It would be so nice if instead it were pink,

or maybe a color we have yet to see.”

You smile at her and then at me,

“What if it is pink and we just call it blue?”

This makes her laugh and so do you.

“Perhaps the sky is too big

to be boxed in to one thing.

That is why it changes as it does.

One moment pink, another blue,

tomorrow it could be orange or grey.”

At this they turn to me wanting to see;

just what it is I mean.

“Are we not like that ourselves;

not wanting one label to box us in?

We change our clothes, our hair, ourselves

and we bristle when others tell us

what our color should be called.”

They look at each other and then back up.

After a moment was gone or was it two?

She looks again at me and at you.

“I think the sky is a mirror of who we

desire to be. Free to change and grow;

be as brilliant as we wish to be.

Yet deep down we are just ourselves;

and that is more then we need.”

This is what I meant and could not say;

I’m proud of this child not yet grown.

I hope to be all she sees inside me.

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The Dance

He can hear the laughter in her throat before she even cracks a smile. There are couples all around them dancing, kissing and talking. She slips her arms from around his neck, as the laughter escapes her lips and she leans back into his arms. His arms are at her waist and hold her firm as she does that intoxicating sway from one side to the other, her long hair falling down her back and brushing his arms. He’s forgotten what he said to make her laugh, all he can think about is that when she finishes her signature move, her arms will wrap back around him, her hands will grab hold of his hair and pull his lips to hers. She’ll kiss him with the smile still on her lips. When he has forgotten where they are and what his own name is, she’ll pull away, but not a moment sooner.

He supposes that she is fully aware of her power over him and he has never been so willing to be led. Her head rests on his shoulder; he is drunk on the smell of her hair. There is no room between them, but he pulls her tighter anyway. She sighs into him and whispers so softly her love for him. This is what happiness is. This is what it means to be alive and well. He never wants to leave this dance floor but he knows he’ll follow her to the ends of the earth.

If he could stop the clock he would. He can’t imagine life has anything more perfect than this to offer. No amount of money, success or worldly gain could compare to her here in his arms. If he were allow the doubt or fears to enter, he would steal away the pure pleasure of this moment.

So, he does not see the future, the pain and betrayal that lays ahead. He is blind to the warning signs, deaf to the cautions of his friends. He can not fathom that one day his heart will break and he’ll wonder if he’ll ever know happiness again. His mind doesn’t understand that there will be a day that she will no longer be in his arms and in his every thought.

Right now, all he knows is that she is here. She has chosen him. He can only believe that this will last forever, that her lips will always call to him and he will always respond. As she whispers her thoughts and dreams to him, he closes his eyes and allows himself to believe that he will be there to see them come true.

_________________________________________________

She can’t really hear what he has said, but she knows she is supposed to laugh. Knowing what is expected is enough to let the sound start within her. She can see the pleasure in his eyes as she leans back at the waist out of his arms. She does this to prove that he’ll hold on to her, because she is never completely sure. His arms hold her tight and she rests back into him. Her hands weave into his hair and she pulls him in to kiss. She is afraid he’ll refuse, that this will be the time he realizes he doesn’t want her anymore. They are surrounded by other couples and she can’t help but think that he could have any other girl there. He has chosen her but she doesn’t know why. She rests her head on his shoulder willing him to stay close and somehow finds a space to fill where none would have been seen. She whispers how much she loves him, reminding him that he made a good choice. Desperate to prove that she’s good enough for him.

She would love to race ahead and see what happens to them. She can’t be content with right now, for it seems too good to be true. She isn’t worthy of this kind of love, she’s not capable of believing it will last. She wants to enjoy this moment, but she can’t.

She tries to think of the words of love he’s spoken; of the things he’s done for her. She remembers her friend’s encouragement. They have been together for what passes as a long time around here. She clings to promises he’s made, looks he gives her in a moment of passion and treasures them in her heart. She pushes away the past that has taught her she’s no good and wills herself to remember he is here with her now, speaking of the future.

She hopes that he will always want her kisses; always want her by his side. She blinks back the tears of mingled pain and pleasure. Her fingers grip tighter on his hair. If she can hold on tight enough, maybe they won’t be pulled apart. Maybe she can stop what seems inevitable.

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