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Archive for the month “January, 2014”

I graduated college…..and guess what?!?!?!?

I graduated college…..and guess what?!?!?!?.

I graduated college…..and guess what?!?!?!?

……I am on public assistance.

I get a bit sick and tired about hearing how people who receive any type of public assistance are lazy or druggies or are a huge burden to hard working Americans who have to pay all this money to support them. When did this self centered “me, me, me” attitude become so prevalent?

Ever since I was 16 years old I always had a job. Never once did I have to file for unemployment. For about 15 years I spent a lot of it in the banking world. For the past 10 years I have been working for one of the biggest banks in the country as a loan underwriter. I have always been loyal. I specialized in home equity loans for most of my time there. When I first started, it was at the height of the lending frenzy. I could underwrite a loan in under ten minutes. Sometimes a loan I underwrote in the morning was in closing by the late afternoon the same day. It was a crazy time. There were basic credit worthiness things we had to look out for, however for the most part, anyone and everyone was getting approved for a secured loan in those days. On top of it, we were encouraged to upsell to the maximum amount. The little 85 year old lady who has owned her home for 60 years free and clear, and was only looking to borrower 10K to pay for a new roof and water heater, we were told we should be upselling them to a line of credit for 100K. If you didn’t get the upsell you were pretty much shit.

I had horrible guilt about doing this. Needless to say sales was not my thing. I tried a few other positions in the bank throughout my time there. When shit hit the fan, I was lucky to dodge a bullet and my job was saved while well over 100 of my co-workers lost their job. Several very close friends. I was 4 months pregnant with my daughter at that time. My husband was not so lucky with his banking job and he lost his.

As mortgage rates lowered, underwriting for home equity loans became really tough. Not many were being approved cause of strict guidelines. On the mortgage side of things, it was the complete opposite. This is common in this line of business. Things on the mortgage side were getting so intense, it was decided that they were going to open a mortgage underwriting department at the location I worked at.  I just so happened was on the team chosen as the pilot group to see how it all worked out. So I spent a lot of time in training. I spent a lot of time stressed but still committed to my employer. After more than ten years of service, rolling with the punches, pushing myself to do better, learn more and be a great mortgage underwriter, I was laid off.

My husband was still not working. His layoff happened just prior to our daughter being born so it wasn’t so bad. He got to stay at home all while I was on maternity leave. We navigated being new parents together. After I went back, he stayed home with her. He looked for jobs but there was nothing coming in. No call backs or interviews. We looked at the situation that maybe it was for the best. If he did get a job, he would essentially be working to just pay for the day care. Just as his unemployment was running out, our daughter was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We decided that it was now even better for him to stay home so he could take her to appointments and school and work with her one on one.

We were able to have a decent perspective on my layoff as well. When our daughter was just a year I decided to go back to college. I was making decent money, enough to support the family with the exception of medical expenses. My insurance did not cover any ASD therapy other than going to a shrink. This was great, but what good is going to a shrink when you have non verbal 2 1/2 year old? My decision to go back to college was because I truly felt my soul was being tainted and sold to the devil. I was told that I had too much compassion. Once I knew that my employer did not truly want their employees looking out for the best interest of their customers, that it was all a smoke screen,  I knew that me and my compassion needed to find something more rewarding.

I am proud to say that on December 21st, 2013 I graduated with honors from Alverno College with my BA in Community Leadership and Development. At the age of 35 I finally became the last of my parents three daughters to graduate. A middle child, but the last one to walk across the stage. A few days before I graduated, my father had said that being someone who never graduated high school, (he did get his GED in the military) it was very special to him to know that his last daughter was graduating. He said it hit him in a very special place in his heart. Being laid off on November 10, 2013 did not seem so bad since I knew I was graduating. I would have liked to been able to leave on my own terms but, in a way, I saw this was the stars aligning too tell me its time to move on.

I worked 40 hours a week all while taking 12-17 credits a semester for three and a half years. I was the sole income provider for my family. My husband, who to this day, has still not found work, decided to get into a carpenters apprenticeship. He has been going to tutoring for math so he can take the test and pass for the past six months. I have been looking for jobs since I first got my layoff notice. I have sought help from my school’s career services to help with my resume and to come up with strategies to help me find and land the job of my dreams. I paid my rent 8 months in advance with my severance but yet we still struggle.  That is when I decided to apply for some assistance.

We have gone without health insurance for 6 weeks. By the grace of  god, none of us got ill or in an accident or anything that would have screwed us financially for the rest of our lives. Today, I found out as a family, we will be getting insurance coverage through our state and SNAP funds to help put food on the table. This has taken so much stress and worry off my shoulders and has started to improve my mental health – s0mething I have suffered from for many years.

I dare anyone to call me lazy. I challenge anyone to say to my face that I am not doing enough or I need to piss into a cup to prove I am “clean” and deserve this assistance. I encourage anyone to tell me that their hard earned taxes are paying for my lazy ass, when in fact, they contribute six to seven times more to helping pay for all the tax breaks for multi-million dollar companies and millionaires than to social welfare programs. I challenge anyone to walk in my shoes. To have three agencies say my daughter is ASD but to have some ancient,t old state doctor tell me no, after she got help for 6 months and progressed at lightening fast speeds, from non verbal to a talkative 3 year old and be denied her disability.

Totally a topic for another blog post some day, but I dropped by catholic upbringing well over 15 years ago because of the hypocrisy I saw being taught. Now, to see the same book, the bible, being used to defend a government, one founded on separation of church and state mind you, to restrict a women’s right to choose, to decide who can and can not legally be married, to mandate prayer in public schools or erect religious monuments in government buildings but not be used to defend the funding of social programs to help those less fortunate is hypocrisy at its finest. Its racism at its finest. It is demoralizing and dehumanizing.

Now I do not claim to be an expert on the bible but 9 years in a catholic school does stick with you. When Christians claim they are being religiously persecuted because people oppose such laws as mentioned above, or they claim that we are a Christian country and we need to “get over it”, I ask them, where is their Christian faith to help defend the poor and less fortunate?  Bible versus are regurgitated to defend homophobia, racism, slavery, etc. yet there are passages ignored that specifically state to help those who are down on their luck.  So the next time you want to tell me why we shouldn’t be helping to fund social safety net programs because of what ever excuse you want to give, I ask you to take a look at these bible versus and truly ask yourself why it is OK to use the Bible to defend certain laws but not defend funding for certain programs.  Is that really what god or Jesus would have wanted?  If you can’t answer this or spew off excuses you feel are justified, then at the very least, look in the mirror and call yourself out as the hypocrite that you are and quickly find your way to the nearest confessional.

Matthew 5:42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Matthew 10:5 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.

Matthew 25:35-40 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Luke 3:10-11 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”

Luke 12:33-34 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…”

James 2:14-17 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

1 John 3:17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

1 John 4:19-20 We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Romans 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Ephesians 4:28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others

The holidays and what it does for my mental health

So we enter the time of year I just hate. I mean dread is better. I think I would hate December if it weren’t for all the exciting happenings of the holidays that happen. The distractions of the music, the bright colored lights, the planning, the shopping, the cooking, the baking and the excitement in my daughters eyes as she, in all her innocence, anticipates experiencing every day with awe. It is exciting for me too. To hear her talk so much this year about Santa. She didn’t really get the concept last year and she has come so far verbally that the inflections of excitement in her voice are just so contagious. I get brought back to my own childhood and the memories I had of this special time.

However, I also get reminded about how conscience I was, even at a young age, that this all signified a passing of another year. It meant that some of my most favorite times with my friends and family were only memories now. It meant I was another year older, another year closer to having to become a responsible adult and another year of innocence lost. Yup I was a gloomy kid, at 6 and 7 years old thinking about this. It never left me either. Here I am almost 30 years later doing the exact same thing. It makes this time of year so hard for me.

I do not know if I am finding it harder or easier with each passing year. My heart says it is harder. Last year it was kind of a transitional period. You see my mom and her sisters always hosted Christmas. Each year it alternated between their homes Last year both my aunts had become snowbirds and moved down south. Last year Christmas was by my Aunts house and things were so bear as she moved things out. So this year I volunteered to have Christmas at my place. I loved having it but it also signified a change. My aunts and mom have said for many years now how us kids would need to take over the holiday hosting since they were getting old. This time finally came I suppose.

As I stepped into the role of hosting the holiday family gathering I remembered when it changed over from my grandparents to their kids. I remember my grandparents house on Lancaster. I remember the dining room where we would all gather for the holiday meal. We would all sit around the table (I have that same table now in my house) and eat as a family. I remember siting in the living room playing with the wooden b locks or the tinker toys or Lincoln logs my grandfather kept for us. They were so nice made out of real wood. They lasted forever and we made some interesting things from it all. It kept us entertained and out of the adults hair so they served their purpose.

When they moved from that house out to the suburbs I remember the celebrations there too. It seemed to alternate from there and my uncles house since it was bigger. I remember seeing my older cousins and sister hanging out and wishing I could be grown like them. There were no cousins really my age so I went back and forth between the older ones and the younger ones that were my younger sisters age. I did more observing than anything else.

I also did a lot of reflecting. I remember the rides home where I just sat there and thought about how sad it was for all excitement of the time to end. Once home I would stay up in my bed or in the living room, siting with just the Christmas tree lights on looking out at the dark night. A lot of times I would cry about the passing of another holiday. A time when the world and the family seemed at peace. There was no real arguing going on. I didn’t seem parents worry about bills or anything. My dad being laid off didn’t seem to matter. Everyone just seemed happy. It was like we entered a different realm from Thanksgiving to Christmas. At a young age I realized it was only temporary but I sure wised like hell it wasn’t.

The holiday celebrations at my grandparents house stopped when my grandmother died. That is really when it switched over to alternating between my parents house and my one aunts house. I guess that is why this year, right now, as I do my usual reflecting afterwards I am having such a hard time. It switched. It is now in the hands of us kids. I am ok with the added responsibility but it seems like the ending of something. The ending of traditions and the way we celebrated the holidays. It means my parents and my aunts are getting older and that scares me.

It doesn’t help that both my mother’s birthday is 8 days before Christmas and my fathers 9 days afterwards. So not only does Christmas represent the passing of time for me but it literally means my parents are a year older. I have the hardest time dealing with them getting older. I mean my mind can not help but think how much longer before one of them passes and things change again? I know we do not know how much time we have with one another and to value each moment together like it is our last but I find that as a rather gloom and doom way to live life as well.

I think about how much they have been there for me and my family. I think about how much support they have given me. I think about how much they frustrate me (as I am sure I have done for them as well) and how much I value them. They make me who I am today. They have stood by me through every health issue, surgery, broken bone, mistake, happy and sad time and major milestones in my life. I think I just want to freeze time. I love right now. I love living in the right now. I think I fear the tomorrows.

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