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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The State of the Thing

So, I wrote a thing that got published today by the Washington Post's Post Everything section.

I've had this essay written for months. I pitched it to XOJane, Salon, Slate, Gawker, I can't even count the others. Radio silence.

I never published it here because I just had this feeling that the story was one that needed to be seen (not that people don't read here, they do, but you know.) So I held it. I held it and held it. And my friends would ask me for the link to it whenever there was welfare wank going on via Facebook or Twitter, but I never let it go and they had to rely on their own retelling of the anecdote.

The tale of the time I had to drive my husband's Mercedes to the WIC Office.

When I pitched this to the Washington Post, I went through their Op-Ed department which told me that it was a good story. But not good enough. Still, they might have some room for it, over at PostEverything.

And lucky for me, they did.

The story has gotten so much play that they moved it up to above the fold. I, for a time, was the top story on the Washington Post's homepage.

They want to publish it in the print paper, too.

The story is personal. In fact, it's almost too personal for so much attention. But it's important.

The lesson is: believe in yourself. Do your thing. Eventually, someone will see you. Eventually, the story will be told. Keep walking. Never stop.

You are worth it.




 

60 comments:

  1. I read you essay in the Post today and thought it was excellent! I really liked your observation that "...poverty is a circumstance, not a moral judgement..." - quite exceptional! Thanks for the candor.

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  2. I fully appreciated the difficult challenges you faced that came your way by both a tough economy and by choices you made. Curious now that while you are out of that mess (for now), and are still raising small twins, you are choosing to borrow money to go to grad school.

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    1. That was not answered...good, good point.

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    2. I did a finance evaluation, based on what I would be able to make in my news market in Florida and how long I'd been out of the job market, and decided, based on those low numbers and low probability of being hired, that it would be beneficial to increase and broaden my schooling to achieve a higher paycheck in the future.

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  3. I thought your essay was wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing.

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  5. That's so interesting. I went through a similar experience. But as a single dad (rare at the time) the feelings that I felt were more disappointment than embarrassment. At my HRS experience the stares were because I was not only a male...but white.
    Both attributes were either few or non existent . It wasn't so much the "What are you doing here" judgement, but the what they were doing there reality. These mothers had their children with them and would openly discuss getting pregnant again to get a larger check.
    Anyway I jumped through all the hoops and received my assistance.
    I am glad you had that experience because now maybe you can understand what the "lower" middle class is going through. Your shame was felt because at one time they/we looked up to the "higher" middle class, especially someone in media like yourself, to change things for the better. And you didn't. We see it all the time.No one sees the problems until its upon them.
    I service restaurants Hundreds of them.All of them hurting because for the working poor the economy is not getting better, its getting worse. Its only getting better for the haves.
    Do you remember worrying about your utilities bill before your husbands pink slip? Can you imagine how the working poor will pay theirs . A 200.00 or so light bill is a much larger percentage of their income that it is in your income bracket.
    Many without jobs have no electricity either. And because of this economy,more are losing them. The politicians aren't seeing it either. They could fix it, but it would mean less money for them. Nothing personal but I think you should have spent more time in poverty. Keep the car...your assessment of that was correct...who cares who built it. But had you fallen further to live in a seedy trailer park or a run down old house, you might have had time to listen to the stories of your neighbors ...and how they got there . Or felt the pinch of expenses and how you were going to find the money, because few at that level have savings accounts. It gets much worse...but I have to get ready for work and don't have time for the next dozen paragraphs.
    I hope you remember where you were.
    MC

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    1. ...I love your response. Thank you and kudos for being an awesome dad.

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    2. I completely agree. Although I would mention it's not fair to mention people in media as a cause of this issue. The media itself, sure. But the people working in it are kids who make pennies. Ask me how I know. Answer: I was one.

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  6. This was a beautifully written article and could totally relate. In 2008 I lost my job and spent the next 4 years searching for a new job. I almost lost my house, ruined my credit rating and went through my new husband's savings that took him years to save. I learned a lot about myself and while I have bad days at work, the fear of being in that position has me thank my lucky stars that I'm employed.

    Thank you for sharing this story. It is a great reminder to me to be thankful for what I have now. I'm nowhere close to where I was before I lost my job, but I'm getting back on my feet. I think my 4 years of forced unemployment will take 10 to recover.

    Btw, I do think people judge people harder when you live in an affluent area, drive a nice car, but need help. They don't recognize that hard-working successful people can fall on hard times too. I think the more the fear it can happen to them makes them say harsher things.

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    1. I agree with you. Even as there is a push for those in dire situations to right themselves, there is a reluctance to integrate class systems, as if little money were a disease one could catch.

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  7. I am in tears reading that article right now and I wish I could meet you to give you the hug of your life. You have no idea how much I needed that article, needed to read those words. I am in the worst year of my life right now. My mother paralyzed from the waist down. Then, my mother injured when a 60 pound TV fell on her and injured her back. My father on disability and the family business, the last bit he had of his deceased father, forced out of business due to a competing market in town. We had to move in to their home to help them. My ilness, 14 weeks of illness for my children, then we find that the home has a mold problem that we can't fix and they don't have the money to fix. We are forced to move out, no way of being able to afford a house, and with my husband working party time, no place we can afford to rent but a trailer...a place I swore I would never go back to for exactly the reasons you listed...the looks, the fake pity, the assumptions of status...I hate it. I am stuck in a position I have never been in and I am praying for a resolution soon, but reading this...thank goodness that someone could be out there to let me know there is hope for the end of this nightmare. Thank you SO MUCH for this. It was as if this was posted just in time to let me know that there is going to be an end to all of this. I just have to ride it out.

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    1. I hope that you can and that you receive any assistance you can in your journey. <3

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  8. I thought your essay was great! I'm so glad you didn't give up pitching it.

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  9. I read your article, I am disgusted. Your essay is exactly what is wrong with society today. Your proud because why exactly you did not self sacrifice you would not even sell an asset. What should have been done is the car sold and another car paid for in cash while keeping the rest of the revenue for food. I have been poor, untop of the world and poor again and right now somewhere in-between. I've sold assets during hard times and replaced em during good times, but never ever would I take a government handout without making sure there was no other way to stand on my own two feet myself. It is called pride and self sacrifice it builds moral character and value. My husband died leaving behind myself and our five year old little girl I had to sell his classic car one of the hardest things I had to do, but I did it because instead of having my handout I survived and got through without taking from others. Perhaps it is because I came from a poor single mother household and went off on my own at sixteen and worked full time when I turned 18 went to college full time and worked full time. I ate ramon noodles every night and had no cable dial up net and lived in a hunting shack in which all utilities were included in rent. Perhaps that is how I learned the value of making it on your own and the responsibility and self respect that come from that. You do not take from others unless you have to. Driving around in a valuable car and taking WIC and SNAP is not making it on your own its sad pathetic and opportunistic, and only shows that you do not know the value of sacrifice. No Hunny You have no clue what it is to be truly poor, or you would know what sacrifice is. You have no reason to be proud but rather reason to be ashamed.

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    1. I disagree with you. You can't judge her level of sacrifice! Furthermore, she didn't take from others. I find one of the biggest misunderstandings is that welfare is taking from others. I had to go on welfare for a short period of time and it was my father who straightened me out. When I was working I paid taxes, I gave to charity, I "paid my dues". So when I was in need I was able to receive some of the benefits that I had paid into for years. Having twin premies is not easy and she needed RELIABLE transportation. I'm glad she kept the car. NOWHERE in her article did I read that she was proud! She certainly should NOT FEEL ashamed! You made a choice not to accept help. That does not make you right and everyone else wrong! Maybe if you received help the first time, you would not have fluctuated back and forth with finances. I am very sorry for the loss of your husband. I pray for your continued health and prosperity. Blessings.

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    2. Butterfly,
      The problem is Welfare WIC etc etc is all comming out of the pockets of others period. The government takes from someone else and gives to you. Now as far as judging the level of sacrifice she left herself open to that when she said she didn't want to sell the car. Why should she be proud because she took herself to the WIC Office in an expensive car? Where is the pride here? She let others support her twins instead of trying to do it herself. I have nothing against someone who is trying and needs assistance, I have a problem with people who do not try to stand on their own and take assistance. Society today thinks going without cable is a deprivation of human rights. I don't have a lot of money I have a few assets It was my husband and my decision we were going to send our daughter to private school many people around me feel this is a bad decision because of finances however, I am willing to make sacrifices so my daughter can get a good education. When you don't dig out of a situation yourself and you don't stand on your own two feet yourself I think we loose character and moral values and a sense of responsibility. I guess for someone who does not understand the concept of responsibility and has never truly been poor this is a foreign concept, and what the author did is ok but even the author I think is really struggling with the fact she knows keeping the car was wrong, and wants acceptance for a poor choice, I see she is getting that to make herself feel better. Perseverance, patience, hard work those are the values you learn and lessons you learn when you stand on your own two feet if a car to someone is worth more then that then hey that is your choice but in the end you have to ultimately realize in the big scheme of things if you couldn't bring yourself to sell the car and make it on your own in that situation, what are you going to do when the water gets real deep? All I can say is she is fortunate the government was able to deprive her of growing as a person because if I think if all of us got to choose where are tax money devoted to hand outs goes I doubt anyone would have chosen a woman driving around in an expensive car that most working Americans would not buy.

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    3. P.S Butterfly Thank you for your well wishes. One reason I do believe in standing on ones own two feet is life can be hard each hardship we go through can make us stronger and teach us or we can become dependent I was taught early on being dependent on anyone for anything comes with a cost, weather financial, moral or other it comes with a cost, even if that cost is to yourself.

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  10. well... can't speak for the folks who gave you weird looks or tried to evangelize you in line at the store.... I'll tell you how i'd feel (bias or not)... oh and side note - everyone judges all the time - for the good or the bad.. (please disregard my messed up grammar and the fact that this comment is super ADD)... anyway, here's what I'd think of a young "white" (or black, hispanic, asian, indian, whatever) woman standing in line at the checkout using foodstamps... I'd honestly think, "glad that's not me."

    And... even though I'm not a fan of welfare programs (it is not right for someone to force me to give my money to someone else - that's something only I should have the choice of doing myself), I wouldn't look at you in disdain... the government took my money and gave it to you, and it isn't really your fault. you're just in a difficult place.

    So.. standing in line, I'd feel bad for you and be grateful I'm ok. But... where I might get a little dazed is when I see you loading your groceries into your car. In that case, I'd feel frustration, but not towards you... i'd feel frustration towards the person that said it's ok for you to drive a car that is more expensive than most non-welfar, tax-paying Americans can afford. I'd also feel disappointed... You should have been advised to trade that car in for a more reliable and cheaper Civic (as an example.. could go with a hyundai or something like that)... You could have traded it in and made a few thousand bucks on top of that... plus, the cost to maintain it would be WAY cheaper. Also, cost of insurance on a Mercedes is far more expensive than a Civic for obvious reasons.

    But that's more or less a symptom of a larger issue i think... The reality is, you were really holding onto that car bc you had too much pride to sell it... which i find very interesting since you make it sound as though you were truly humbled by having to stand in line at checkout with food stamps. So it's like you had this internal battle between pride and humility... Part of you wanted to let the world know you're all set (#Mercedes) and the other part wanted the world to feel sorry for you (i.e., you would rather the people in line understand you're in a difficult place and not give you trouble).

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    1. It was the Honda that broke down. The Mercedes, which we still own, gave us not one problem until earlier this year. It is now 11 years old, and cost us not a dime in maintenance. Apparently we were really lucky, I guess.

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  11. I read your article this evening. I had mixed feelings reading this tonight.

    I have worked for the WIC program since 1991. I am the person, in our 2 person office. who answers the phone, makes appointments, and greet participants who come in for their appointments. Those are but a few of my job duties.
    Yes sometimes WIC offices are not in the most desirable buildings. We are fortunate that our office is located in a converted home on a local hospital property in central Massachusetts. Our rent is reasonable because this hospital views WIC as a community service.

    WIC is an income eligible program. It is a nutrition education and supplemental food program. WIC offers a lot of things for the families who participate in our program. The gross income amount families can make goes up every year. It may not go up a lot, but it does go up. I can not say the same thing for the paychecks for those of us who work at WIC. When you work for WIC you know you will never get rich. That is not why I work there.

    Our family can say we know what it is like to apply for and use cash assistance, and food stamps, which new name is SNAP benefits. We also never thought we would need any kind of assistance. My husband had two back surgery's and was out of work. I went to work full time making minimum way at the time. Needless to say, I did not make enough money working full time to provide for our family of 5. Back then we used paper checks for food stamps. Yes I know what it was like to have people in line behind me loudly comment what I was buying for our family. Not a great experience, but, to keep our family healthy we did what we needed to do. It was not forever.

    It is not for us to speculate on what someone drives to the WIC office. You may have borrowed a car or truck in order to keep your appointment. I agree with you, since your vehicle was paid for, I would not have sold it either.

    Coming in October 2014, WIC is going to an EBT type electronic card to deliver services. We have families, who have two adults working whose family are still for the program. If a family member is embarrassed to apply for WIC, I ask them if they got a tax refund recently. Most people have received tax returns. If they said they did, I ask if they would give it back to the government because they need it more. to balance the budget. I tell them their tax dollars help fund the program. If they are eligible for it, why not participate?

    I guess there are pros and cons to every helping program. I am glad you and your family are now doing well. I fear a lot of families who are eligible for WIC do not apply because of the po
    tential embarrassment or fear articles like yours puts them in. Not everyone experiences some people's small mindedness when using WIC benefits.

    There are a lot of things I would like to say but, am not gifted with words. If you ever want to discuss this further, please contact me - Debbie Cote in Central Massachusetts.

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    1. I applaud your reply and have always felt the same about paying into the system and then needing the benefits. Thanks.

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    2. I am glad to hear of the up-coming changes to WIC. As a checker in a grocery store I witness the value of the program daily.

      I also witness the insensitivity of some patrons who are annoyed by the tedious nature of the process. I couldn't care less about their annoyances. I am more concerned about the way it affects the mothers (and I know a dad as well) who have to be subjected to others' impatience. I have witnessed participants in the program openly express apologies to the other customers because of their type of tender. For that reason alone - the parents feeling humiliated by a drawn out process - I am anxious to see a more stream-lined approach.

      For those who have an issue, I gladly direct them to another lane...assertively, but with a smile.

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    3. I really appreciate your comment. I meant only to describe the WIC building I went to, to further illustrate my own story, not to imply that it was some fault of the service to be in a repurposed building.

      Thank you for doing what you do. It is so important.

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  12. Thank you for what you wrote. Endlessly.

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  13. Can you please update your article and credit President Bush (instead of Obama) for signing into law the tax-free allowance for short-selling your home? Even the Washington Post has written multiple articles about this subject. Bush signed it into law in 2007 for 3 years and then extended it in 2008 for another 3 years covering through the end of 2012. It was extended again once Bush was out of office to cover 2013/2014.

    http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/The-Mortgage-Forgiveness-Debt-Relief-Act-and-Debt-Cancellation- and there are plenty of other sources on the subject.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mortgage_Forgiveness_Debt_Relief_Act_of_2007


    Thank you and I appreciate it,
    Brad

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  14. Thank you for writing this brave article. I'm sorry that negative comments have been made on it, both here and in the WP, where I first read it. My husband and I both work very hard, long hours and we have 2 small children. We've recently had to ask for family help to prevent us from losing our house. It hasn't been the fact that we've had to ask them to help us feed the kids, or that we can't afford new clothes so we wear old torn things, what has nearly broken us is the judgement and unkindness of people- family and friends- who have assumed that we have got into this situation because we're lazy or greedy or stupid. Broken morale is what pushes you over the edge. Thank you again for writing this but I fear people will never really understand the situation until they've been in it. There but for the grace of god, are we all.

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  15. What I find concerning about the negative comments is that people seem to expect you to hit absolute rock bottom before seeking help. For most it is already too late to climb out again at that point!

    It wasn't enough that you had an unplanned twin pregnancy, your not-yet husband became suddenly unemployed and you had no time to really plant any savings yourself, your home lost nearly half it's value and probably couldn't have been sold quickly anyway with no one really able or willing to take on devalued real estate at that time. It wasn't enough that you had very hard times making ends meet. No--people want you to be destitute before getting aid. And honestly, a true conservative should realize you guys did this exactly right. You used the system BEFORE you could never crawl out and before you'd be destined to become leeches in their eyes (I totally don't see it that way, but I know people do). The point being, your time using the safety net was exactly how they are set up to be used! They're not there to sustain people years on end in a state of poverty they cannot get out of. Doesn't the term "safety net" imply to people that it's there to catch you when you fall, so you can get up and try again?

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  16. I made a comment earlier, but came and removed it when I read so many more and realized you weren't responding to any of them and many are heart felt. Bugged me a little, but to each his own.
    I wanted to say I understand your reason for the essay 1) to express how people look negatively on those in need. Very cathartic. and 2); for the writing experience. Good job on both.
    I have been through many of your experiences- preemie birth, sudden loss of job, people judging because you use stamps to buy your children a treat, having to get rid of things to survive. Living with Sam as a provider is not fun, something you want to do and should be a last resort.. The horrors made me write my novel Yes, Sam Takes Care of Me (The Women of the Hill http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003MZ0PUK) the main reason I wrote the book is because of things my friends and I had to do in order to get aid from Sam. I even had a friend who was doing her best, small job - going to college to be a nurse and put off because she was in school too long. Rules have changed since then.
    Sure it would have been nice to keep things and hope to get aid, but the reality was, if you wanted help your assets could only be worth so much. Years ago, if you had a car, the requirement was you HAD to sell it. Then it became you can have ONE car but it couldn't be worth over a certain amount. Same with life insurance, the cash value can only be a certain amount. Sam's rules vary all over. I remember losing a job with three daughters, having 50 cents to my name, calling the Food Stamp office and being denied because I DIDN'T HAVE A JOB, ridiculous.
    I just gave up my income to come stay with my mom as she heals from yet another stroke, though she gets Medicare she can't have an income of more than $2000 to qualify for a provider and that includes her life insurance.
    How we feel about the stresses in life is a personal situation and what seems easy to some will devastate another, but we survive and hopefully our story will help someone else. Getting angry is ridiculous.

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    1. I am reading everything, and I am so thankful for everyone's comments, emails, FBs, tweets, DMs and more. I have not replied because I'm getting a lot of attention right now, and it's a bit nerve-wracking. I'm a writer, and the reason this piece is doing well is not because of me, but because of the shared experience it represents. I don't want people to herald me as either a hero or villain and I don't yet know how to express that adequately, so I've been quiet. Thank you for understanding, and thank you for your words.

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    2. Believe me, as a writer I understand. It's hard to pop from one place to another. As is getting rid of something which may be the item that held your sanity together. No one can ever live in your skin.

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    3. Ey Wade,
      I do not think people should be completely destitute before seeking help but I also do not feel they should be holding on to a luxury and receiving help. Yes a performance vehicle is a luxury not a necessity and I think in today's world many luxuries in the minds of people have become necessities in their mind. As far as a hole one can never dig out of that in America is impossible. We do not have a cast society. Some people have it easier some have it harder then others but with hard work motivation and drive one can dig themselves out of poverty. I am often asked why coming from a single mother who was a drug addict am I republican, then I have to explain that because I am proof that no matter where you start in life you can make it better without the government intrusion.

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    4. I totally understand where you're coming from and have given up a lot for my children including beautiful antique furnishings. Could I have made it without some governmental aid, no. It's everywhere. From clean water to garbage control. We can not live totally off the grid. Is life better without food or health supplements, it can be. I'm not sure where the author's state is or their rules, but I know in Texas she more than likely would have had to sale that car, get a cheaper and live off the rest. My mom was single rearing seven after my parents divorce. She worked very hard, but crap happens. If I could have held on to some of my treasures, I would have, just because it would have kept me from feeling like a total failure. But life goes on and eventually you lift up or stay down

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    5. Ey Wade,
      I understand how one can feel like a total failure when one looses everything they have of value but that is only because our socitey has become material based. Don't get me wrong there are sentimental items I love and would find hard to part with but in the end is it the "thing" or the memories that we have of using it with a loved one or seeing it as a child. Ey I have disagreed with your view on the author and continue to do so, but know this and I do mean this, when you give up something for your kids that does not make you a failure! The goal of every single parent should be you try very hard to give your kids more of a chance then what your parents could give you. How you measure doing that is based on your own values. If your a poor parent then it can be measured in time not assets. I balance between several and it is not easy. I do not own any piece of clothing bought from a department store I go to second hand shops and for all of you who think thats a bad thing I find many nice clothes and most with tags still on them, I also shop at discount grocers the one near me does not sell expired food it all about two months away from being expired if not more and I buy generic. Generic and name brand 95% of the time come from the same place just diff. label. Be thrifty no matter your economic status that way when the upcoming yuppies loose their jobs maybe you can actually learn how to be thrifty and not take advantage of a system so you can keep your luxuries, but rather able to keep them not abuse the system and learn how to be thrifty and when your back on your feet you can save that much more for the next time. Oh EY the fact is your right on eithere you go up or you stay down life is full of cycles bad ones, good ones and the in-between ones.

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    6. I don't see how you can agree or disagree with my view of the author because I have none of her on a personal level. I do my best not to judge people because I can't live her consciousness. What she finds a hard life, I see as glorious. She couldn't survive in my world. I have lost my home and home based business because of a hurricane. I have no car because the little Toyota gave up the ghost. I had to move in with my sister and get by on babysitting because I can barely walk from the Sciatica shooting from my butt to my toes , can't get SSI because the court decided I haven't gone to the doctor enough. A hard thing to do without money. Now, I don't have the income I had, because I'm taking care of my sick mom.
      Do I judge the author, no, but I see where she is coming from same as I see you. Goodwill and bargain shopping is how I reared my daughters.
      My comments are geared toward the author's article. Do I deem her a hero? No. Her story is no different than millions have lived through, hers just happen to be in a newspaper garnering attention. Mine is in a book sitting on the virtual shelf of all online bookstores. Wishing it was getting the same attention so I could make some money.
      Do I think she's a bad person because she thinks people judged her because of her car? No. More than likely she's right, she was judged.
      Personally, I would've dumped the car for a smaller and lived off the remaining. The main reason being, in Texas she wouldn’t have had a choice as I mentioned earlier.
      How she , we feel about our situation is our own personal hell. Who am I to set fire to her pyre. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003MZ0PUK)

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    7. Ey,
      Everyone is judged, but when you write an article and it gets put in a newspaper then you are going to even get judged more if the author can't handle it perhaps she should not write. Of course everyone is judged, I am now a single mother not something I thought would happen, I made the right choices so I would not have a child out of wed lock I worked hard I went to college I got a good job met a good man. Do I feel judged yes I do many times and most of it is my own psyche playing that on me because I still wear my wedding ring my husband passed on he didn't leave us, I am not divorced but strangers and people have no idea on any of it and they wouldn't like I said I still wear my rings. EY I do not wish to continue to "talk" to you in this manner. If you would like you can e-mail me at Thomas.Melissa23@yahoo.com

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  17. I am a health department director, and therefore manage the WIC program for our county. I passed out copies of your piece this morning to my clinic staff as a cautionary tale to those who may be far too quick to make value judgments about our clientele. Thanks for sharing.

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  18. It is a powerful story. Thank you for sharing.

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  19. I absolutely loved your piece. So powerful. I did a piece back in October where I asked friends and followers on Facebook to share their stories of food stamps and assistance with me. http://themomisodes.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-truth-about-food-stamps.html

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  20. How naive can you really be?

    Your upbringing and education guaranteed you nothing. Your sense of entitlement is unjustified. Your idea that people judged you was most likely false, and at the very least greatly exaggerated.

    There are many people who have suffered much worse through the recession, after overcoming significantly greater odds and achieving more, to less result. These people aren't weeping on the internet over their "spat with poverty."

    The amount of self-pity and self-importance I saw in this article was disgusting. How do you think people coming from nothing going through school to advance themselves feel about using social services?

    "Up and coming yuppie sucks up pride and takes advantage of welfare" is NOT a headline.

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    1. I have to admit, it seems that there are a lot of white collar people who are pretty soft in this country. When a recession hits, maybe it means you take a night job loading boxes at UPS? It's honest work and it doesn't allow you to buy a new car, but it keeps the bills paid.
      We live in a time where categories of jobs are evolving (and disappearing) much faster than 30 years ago. Technology and global manufacturing are contributing to that reality. I have read many jobs boards where people have held out for years for the job they once had... and in some cases, that job isn't coming back. Why it took that person years to get their brain around it is odd to me.

      What I like about the woman who wrote this piece is she has started her own side business with this blog. I like that spirit and I hope that goes somewhere for her.

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    2. jcj,
      Well Put, and so very very true! At one point I went from being a senior business administrator for a local company to having to be a debt collector for awhile. Because guess what I unexpectedly lost my job and I took what I could get, I did not hold out for a position similar to my previous position I did not quit looking for a job that was smiler to my prior position either. Through the experience I learned a lot I had a lot of fun and in the end after two years I found the position more suitable to my chosen career path, funny thing was my boss at the collection agency I worked for is the one who gave me the job connect. I also learned how to do debt collections and became rather good at it, and enjoyed it. People would be amazed at what they may learn, discover and find if they take positions they feel are beneath them. Of course going from my own office to a cube did feel (Saracatic tone) somewhat degrading and humiliating like people were judging me!

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  21. I commend the author for sharing her experience. I was also on WIC at one point in my life, and faced scrutiny for it. I remember leaving the grocery store one day very upset because the cashier that was very nice as I was in her line had a serious attitude change as soon as she saw me with my WIC coupons. Upon my arrival home I called the store manager and ask him to kindly educate said cashier on the WIC program and customer service.

    Years later, I was laid off from work after being employed long term in Human Resources. At that point I was unable to qualify for WIC or anything else. The author is right on when she describes all one thinks of at that point is "I MUST FIND A JOB". You do anything possible and are willing to work any job at that point to keep everything you own. Stability becomes necessity and sometimes even the little stable things in life, such as a telephone or even a sandwich become luxury because you appreciate them so much more.

    If anyone deserves criticism is it our government for designing a program that makes it very hard for people who need it to get assistance and it allows those that abuse it to continue to get it. It seems that there is a small window to get out of the system before you get sucked into it. I commend anyone who has used it as a motivation and learning experience to do better with their lives. And of course those like her that bring attention to to shame and stigma society puts on those that are in need.

    Please keep writing what you write! The world needs more people like you to put on a brave face! My guess is those being critical are either lost in the system or "above" it in the sense they have an attitude it will never happen to them, and if that is so, God Bless them should they ever need to feel even one iota of what people like you and me and others have.

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    1. Thank you, and thank you for sharing your story, too.

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  22. This article hit the nail on the head. I feel that there are many people who do not understand how vulnerable they actually are to the state of the economy,economic transitions, and political winds. I totally empathize with this woman's plight because I have seen it up close.
    When the company I worked for shut its doors a few years ago, there were hundreds of people that, all of a sudden, found themselves at the mercy of the effects of an economy that had already circled the bowl and was halfway down the drain. Keep in mind that, as a unit, these people had paid millions in federal, state, and local taxes over the years.
    Some were lucky and had the years in required to qualify for retirement benefits and took that path. A minority, those that had marketable skill sets such as engineers and maintenance personnel had options. The ones that wanted jobs, found them fairly quickly. Others within that group took advantage of job training programs that helped them to expand and/or modify their skill sets which in turn gave them a broader range of options. Either way, they had options.
    The majority, those with a limited skill sets, were not so lucky. The jobs they were qualified for had either been shipped overseas or were used in industries that had downsized or no longer existed (the buggy whip effect). They found themselves going from being fairly well off to living off of unemployment or other public assistance in an extremely poor job market; i.e. from making ends meet to going broke. What savings they had after they were laid off went toward outstanding auto loans, mortgage payments, and other obligations such as health insurance and their children’s college expenses. As a result, many of them were slowly pushing their way toward bankruptcy. Their only options were retraining under the government programs available, taking jobs that paid substantially less than they were making before, or both. The option killer in most of these cases involved the lack of health insurance. Regardless of the path they took, government help was needed. Unfortunately, the ignorant folks among us found that it was their duty to inform them that, usually in a nasty way, their situation was self-inflicted, that they were now a burden to society, and the taxpayers should not have to bail them out.
    What people that do not have to deal with this type of situation need to FULLY understand is that it can happen to anyone. Almost everyone in today’s society is an illness, job loss, or political change away from bankruptcy. Those that are not can consider themselves lucky. If a person has inherited wealth, has had the time to create a large savings portfolio, or qualify for a pension, social security, and government health insurance (Medicare), they are certainly less vulnerable than most but never totally secure. We all need to be vigilant and make certain that the legislation and programs currently in place work, are constantly improved, and are there (just like insurance) when any of us need them.
    Company and business unit closures have devastating effects. To date the layoff I was part of resulted in several suicides, broken families, dislocations, and a load of other issues too broad to list. So the next time anyone sees a person using the programs we all as taxpayers fund, they should keep their opinions and sneers to themselves. Instead, do the right thing and help eliminate the stigma. And above all, all of us that are doing well should take a moment every day to thank the lord that we are not in the same situation.

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    1. I've been reading up on the suicide rate in relation to the crash. Very scary stuff. The other side of 'personal responsibility.'

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  23. My mother worked as a welfare case worker for about twenty years and I feel it was bad for her outlook on life, even if if helped pay for me to go to Princeton. Your essay shows why "needs based" welfare is a bad idea because needs-based government payments are generally demeaning, require a big invasive moralistic bureaucracy to administer, and also invites fraud. There is a growing global movement for an unconditional "basic income" for all as a human right (essentially, monthly Social Security payments to all citizens from birth). Such payments would replace welfare, unemployment insurance, disability payments, food stamps and so on. With a basic income there is no disincentive to work because of some income threshold where you loose public assistance. A basic income is also an acknowledgement of the unpaid labor so many people have to put into our society to make it work well, whether in being a stay-at-home parent, being an informed voter, or volunteering at local non-profits. A basic income also acknowledges that so much of the basis of our economy including the original allocation of land has been arbitrary or unfair. A basic income acknowledges that everyone has a human right to some of the fruits of our collective inheritance that makes so much abundance possible with so little effort due to cultural and technological advances, like C. H. Douglas wrote about regarding "Social Credit". There can be no political democracy without some element of shared prosperity as economic democracy; see also President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech which included "Freedom From Want".

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  24. I wrote "your story sucked"

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