The Welfare Queen Fallacy

This week the State of Arizona announced a one year, lifetime cap for welfare benefits. I’ve been listening to conservative talk radio commentators explain how this is necessary for our budget deficit. If you look at the program as a whole the cuts and the rationale make little sense. Welfare is comprised of four programs: housing assistance (section eight housing), health insurance (AHCCCS), Food Stamps (Snap), and cash assistance (because as Eminem pointed out, “food stamps don’t buy diapers”).

Let’s look at the numbers. The average cost of rent for section eight housing is 30% of a person’s income and the property owner is subsidized. AHCCCS is free and many people were referred to it by Healthcare.gov under the Obama-care law. The Food Stamp allowance is approximately $100 per person per month. The cash assistance varies and is paid based on number of dependents for things like child care and things Food Stamps don’t pay for (source Google.)

Let’s do the math; if the minimum wage worker makes $7.25 an hour working 40 hours a week they would gross $15,080 a year. More than the poverty line minimum and they wouldn’t even qualify for benefits if they didn’t have children. Let’s just say they are a single mom, like the majority of welfare recipients. That is roughly $1,250.00 per month before taxes, about $1,060.00 after.

Let’s look at a budget:

Wages $1060
 Rent  318
 Electric  150
 Water  60
 Car Insurance  160
 Internet  50
 Cell Phone  100
 Additional Grocery  100
Total Spent $938

That leaves $122 to pay doctor and prescription copays, buy school supplies, clothes, and put gas in your car. The people on welfare are not getting rich, they aren’t even surviving. The majority of these people are not wayward drug addicts, they are single moms and the millions of people that were laid off during the economic crisis of 2008. The people hit the hardest were 40 somethings who had been with companies for years making around $60K. Some of them were halfway or more to retirement. I know, because my first job out of college was to replace people that this happened to. These displaced people are now working for much less than they are worth because a lot of times they are lacking degrees, which are now needed to work in related industries.

The scary thing is that this was decided on by a republican governor in a republican state (not all too surprising) but the sad thing is he’s hurting his own party. It’s baffling that any welfare recipient would vote republican and essentially vote against their own interest. We’ll see the ramifications of this decision in the next election.

Salvation Is

Salvation is a lot like falling in love. I first understood the love of Christ through my marriage. My husband is a great man. He loves me for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, and has proven it time after time, from one crisis to the next. Having a relationship with Jesus is a lot like that. He will never leave you or forsake you. If you are far from him, just like a good husband, you were the one to walk out first and call it quits.

Christians believe in one God with three manifestations (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). There are a lot of religions out there and I honestly believe you can know of God without having a relationship with him through his son. I’ve met very god Muslims, Jews, and people who seek self-actualization (my mother being one of them) and it is not for me to say who is saved and who is damned. I only profess to believe in a way to experience God through relationship rather, than ritual or works based salvation.

Knowing God the father is the typical parent/child relationship. There are some rules to follow, but just like a good parent, God the father loves you in spite of your flaws and simply wants you to grow through natural maturity. Like parents do, God has pictures of all of us in his living room.

To understand the trinity, understand the typical epithet of a man, “Devoted husband, father, and son.” God became flesh to walk among us and when he resurrected he left part of his soul behind to be with us always. God is all of these things to us at exactly the same time. Like the bible says “Let the weak and the weary find rest in me.” There are no problems too big for God. I urge you to pray, the answer will either be yes, no, wait, or bear it. The truth is people facing struggles are blessed because it is through the struggle that character and strength are built.

Does Marriage Work For Millennial’s?

I read an interesting article written by a sex columnist about why our generation can’t make marriage work. He had some good points, listing the hookup tech focused culture of the current era. Also taking blame: a mention of the poor economy, mounting student debts, and the quest to be internet famous, tops the list. Divorce has been put at the forefront of psychology research and  fear-mongering columnists since the 70’s. The latchkey kids have now grown up and they have the same marital problems as their parentshad before them. So is it the fault of GEN X, the pervasiveness of technology, or good ol’ poor relationship skills that have caused us to make the same mistakes.

I don’t know that there is a definitive answer to this plight. I’ve known people who divorced, people who have stayed together, and people that should divorce. I wouldn’t call it a pervasive generational curse, like some would like to believe. A certain percent of the population will always divorce sighting irreconcilable differences (whatever that means in English). As the Portuguese would say, “Je de tu gente” this is the way of people.

But I do believe some people in my generation do fall into the self-centered-entitled-poor-work-habit-wayward-unrealistic category. I think people have problems when they don’t vet their spouses. If you’ve never met his parents, and after six weeks you’re thinking about marriage I would caution you that I’ve had a longer relationship with the carton of milk in my fridge. I’m not against marriage but I do tend to believe in lust at first sight, rather than love.

I’ve been with my husband for nine years and married four years in June. I don’t have all of the answers but I can tell you I love him unconditionally during good jobs and bad, during health and sickness, during good moods and bad. I’ll tell you what our secret is. We went through trials together, I saw his character and it made me love him even more. I’m not going to lie and say our marriage hasn’t seen ups and downs but that is what marriage is. It’s about having a partner in life and loving them more each day. If you are considering marriage I would caution you to wait until you experience some of life’s curve balls together, before saying “I Do”. Vet your spouse, meet their friends and family, and look at how they treat the waiter in a restaurant,  it says a lot about people.

I know some great couples. These are people that balance each other so well you ‘d think they were made for each other. It doesn’t come easy. These are people who have faced cancer, disabilities, and lost children. Most people pray they never have challenges like this, but the people I know who have waded the storm have the happiest marriages. Don’t fear the unknown and the unfortunate circumstances you may find yourselves in, it just makes you grow together, stronger than you were.

 

 

Another Year Older

Every year on my birthday I sit back and reflect on the past year. 26 sucked. I was hospitalized for the better part of 3 months over last summer. It was hard on my family especially, my husband. I completed all the certifications I needed to become a high school English teacher I only need to clock hours somewhere student teaching to be granted a provisional certificate. It’s a noble job that I’m just not cut out for. You have ten hour work days then you come home to paper grading and lesson planning my health just wasn’t up for it I guess. So I took some time for myself and at 27 I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I have options but I’m caught at a crossroads. Do I go back to school? Buy a house and have a kid? Decisions. Decisions.

I’d love to work in ministry but I worry that’s just another old boy’s club. My husband is in his last year at ASU and he has a great job with the ADOA, so peace corp and missions in foreign countries are out. Not to mention it’d be a nightmare to search for new doctors in somewhere like China. It’s like my dad always said,  “If our homeland was so great why did we leave? And don’t get me started on those Buddhist beggars.” I can see his sour expression just thinking about him saying it now.

 

So let’s just say I hope 27 will be better. I see people buying houses and having babies and I get swept away in the nostalgia of it all. I want nothing more than to have someone to bake and finger paint with. Someone I can teach about God and watch play basketball. But then I think about committing the next 18 years or so, of my life to one little helpless person and I feel overwhelmed. I don’t see how my friends can do it all. Life’s funny like that. Envy is a strange thing. Two people could be jealous of each other for opposite things: the one who wants children and family and the one who wants to be free to pursue education and a career. One hates getting up in the middle of the night, while the other dreads getting up in the morning. Each wanting what the other has; unhappy in their circumstance.

I hope to accomplish all my goals in order to make the most of my time here on earth. I know it will be hard but I’m so thankful to have the love and support of my family, friends and most of all my amazing husband. I don’t know what the res of 2015 will bring, but I’m ready for it.

Faith

Faith is a very personal topic for people. Most people believe in some higher power; be it God, Allah, Krishna, what have you. But faith doesn’t come easy. It’s through the struggle that it’s built. If you look around, sometimes the people with the strongest faith are the oldest ones among us. The ones who have personally lived through war, depressions, and tragedy. I like to think I have a pretty solid faith and walk with God. I know it did not come easily for me. It hurts as you get older and realize how fleeting life is. You want to shake some people and ask them why they don’t consider their eternity. I was raised to believe in religious freedom for all. I’m the last person around who wants to shove my religion down your throat. Yet, their are some people I don’t want to go to heaven without. It’s a tough subject to approach with people. It’s even tougher when they are your family.

If you have never read the bible I can try to sum it up for you in one short paragraph. God created Adam and Eve so he could have friends. Man is ultimately flawed so he was forced to destroy the world and start over. God, spoke to Moses and gave him the law. He had people atone for their sins by sacrificing grain, meats and drinks so the priests could feed the poor. People started giving God offerings from their flock that were damaged and of no use to them. God worried that the people he chosen had missed the point. He sent his son to reach them and the son was rejected. So he tried to reach everyone and with a story of redemption.

Salvation is more than repeating the sinners prayer while the band plays that Old Rugged Cross. It’s about choosing to live your life to serve others. People shouldn’t feel pressure to confirm to a list of do’s and don’ts; rather they mature and grow as they understand more about God. No one wants to be beat up by religion or religious people. I’m not here to condemn anyone; rather I hope to inspire others to live a life with greater purpose.

21 Things I wish I knew at 21

blogpic211.) Pick a real major- I majored in communication. My degree and a class C drivers license and I am certified to drive a cab.

2.) Don’t rush into marriage- Don’t get me wrong I will never regret marrying the love of my life. But, I wish I didn’t rush into things.

3.) Take grad school entrance exams- I wish I would’ve completed the GRE while I still remembered how to do math.

4.) Don’t feel rushed to start your life- I went to more baby showers and weddings in college than I do now 3 years later. I felt left behind in the whole mess and was too eager  to grow up.

5.) Do internships even if they aren’t paid- I was so focused on finding a career I missed out on exposure to the jobs I wanted the most.

6.) Join a club- I wish I would’ve been more involved in campus life. When it’s over you miss it!

7.) Make time for good friends- It’s a lot harder to maintain friendships once you graduate and start your life.

8.) Think about what matters most to you- If I could do it all over again I’d major in teaching. You’ll miss having summers off in corporate America.

9.) Take advantage of travel opportunities- It’s much cheaper to travel as a student

10.) Don’t take out loans for housing- Average cost of living can add 25K to an already high student loan balance. Stick to federal loans to cover tuition if you can’t get scholarships.

11.) Think about the type of job you want and do internships in that area- most jobs are not what you think they’ll be. Spend time in the industry before you commit.

12.) Take Summers off- I was so focused on graduating I let my class load over whelm me at times.

13.) Say Yes- I missed out on a lot of socializing and networking because I was a commuting student and a 45 min drive didn’t seem worth it at the time.

14.) Go to Football Games- I can say that I’ve never been to a single sporting event at either college I attended. I missed out on the excitement and comradery .

15.)  Go for a teaching assistant or research assistant position- I wish I would have worked part time in my discipline when I had the opportunity.

16.) Keep Working out- I stopped working out my last semester. I was balancing school, work, and planning my wedding. Big mistake missing the gym. I almost didn’t fit into my dress on the big day.

17.) Avoid Junk Food- I use to diet like a lunatic. I’d run 4 miles, smoke a cigarette, grab a burger and hit the books. Then I wondered why I fell asleep reading. I didn’t know how to take care of my body and function at optimal performance.

18.) Maintain relationships out side of academics- I can tell you from experience that college is not easy. You can get swept away searching for peer reviewed articles at all hours of the night. Don’t forget to call your mom or your bestie from high school.

19.) Savor the time- You’ll do more reading in college than any other time in your life, enjoy sitting at star bucks and exposing your horizons.

20.) Don’t lose your soul- Lot’s of people criticize colleges for having a liberal agenda. If you are a person of faith don’t forget to take care of your spiritual side. Even though it’s hard if you are away from your usual church.

21.) Take pictures- You’ll want to remember your favorite peers and 20 years from now; you’ll have great material for #ThrowBackThursday

 

One for the Girls

jenniferlawrenceDecent role models are hard to come by; thankfully, this generation of girls have three great ones to look up to: Jennifer Lawrence, Lena Dunham and Emma Watson. I’m glad that this generation’s role models have actually accomplished something. Something my generation of role models was certainly lacking.

Jennifer Lawrence is 2,4 with two golden globes under her belt. Emma Watson, also 24, is an avid feminist who has never been photographed in a mini skirt. At 28 Lena Dunham  has accomplished more than most people. Dunham has written and directed 2 independent films, and is currently the writer, producer, and director of the HBO show Girls. I look at her list of accolades and can’t help but be inspired. She is 2 years older than I am and I think I have a role model to look up too. I hate that my generation looked up to people like Brittany Spears: a failed marriage, a bald head, and two kids latter people I know still admire her. These 3 women are the future in entertainment. I can’t wait to see what the accomplish

 

Addiction and mental illness

What is crazy ? What does it look like? I saw Christopher Kennedy Lawford on the Today show back in a candid interview explaining addiction as a mental illness. A lot of people don’t want to hear that. People want to think that the crackhead on the corner is nothing more than a bum too lazy to work. In the 70’s it was LSD.  In the 80’s it was Coke Orgies. In the 90’s it was crack, heroin, and Nirvana. This country has been plagued with rampant drug abuse as far back as the 1920’s, when prohibition first became law. It seems that people ignore the law for their addictions and create a larger problem. The system can’t find permanent housing to combat the addicted, convicted, committed people so a large part of the demographic remain homeless, unable to work, and wayward.

I don’t want, in any way, to glorify or justify, drug use. It’s a tragedy that hit my family and changed my life forever. The problem is most ex-addicts have no choice but to turn to pharmaceuticals to overcome their addictions. From what I know, suboxone is considered the holy grail in opiate addiction. Alcoholics are often given antidepressants. They have pills to treat anxiety that are very addictive and dangerous but their regulation is lax.

I am not a doctor and have no recognized background in medicine. Everything I write here comes from things I’ve experienced and stories people have shared with me. I believe the link between mental illness and addiction is simple: people try to escape their circumstances. Happy, well adjusted people, have no reason to seek alternatives to alleviate stress.  There is a reason there’s just as much coke use at a high stakes questionably ethical stock firm, as there is in the strip club they eat lunch at. People use the skills they have to make the most money possible; unfortunately some people end up in the latter professions and, needless to say, they can’t look in the mirror without some help to take the edge off. It’s sad and education is the only way out of a life like that.

Suicide

Yesterday, would have been my friend’s 22nd birthday. He committed suicide 2 years ago. He led a hard life that most of us were blind to. If you looked at him he appeared to have it all: a good looking kid, from a great family, with lots of friends. It scares me to think you could see someone post everyday on facebook but be blind to their inner struggles. It’s hard for me and the group of friends we share to think about him and remember his life. He never made it to 21 and still 2 years later we don’t know why he left. He struggled with bipolar disorder; he was diagnosed in junior high. It’s a hard time for anyone to go through: you’re growing taller, your hormones are raging, and you don’t quit know where you fit in. I can only imagine what it’s like to start junior high and a life long battle with a psychiatric disorder.

He was a great guy and it’s still hard to talk about him in the past tense. I spoke at my grandfather’s funeral when I was in junior high, and it’s never ever felt quite right to me. I think it’s hard to know people that were taken from us too soon. I wish I could say I’ve never known anyone who died too soon, in this manner, but as a young adult I’ve known 2 people who committed suicide and one person who was murdered. It’s a scary thing to go through and it makes you stop and look around at your own life. I hold my husband a little tighter at night and make a point to ask my friends how they are. Deaths like these bring people together in a way that nothing else can; but for the families, it’s devastation I pray I will never know.

Medicine

I am one of the unlucky ones who is faced with chronic health problems. The more I experience, the less faith I have in the health care system. I just got off the phone with my doctor who informed me she’s changing my meds again. The story goes like this: I take one med to control a disorder and one to counteract the side effects of said med. She is changing the med that controls my side effects to a drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease. When I asked why, and explained everything is currently working, she explained she is being proactive in case the main med used to treat my condition needs to be increased. The only problem is that new side effect med has it’s own side effects and it is more dangerous than the one I’m currently taking.
I’d give anything to be a normal healthy person. I hate that if I want to get pregnant I have to clear it with at least two doctors; because I can’t just get drunk like a normal person. Even if I were just another stupid girl, I feel like that would be better than periodic trips to the hospital. I hate that my legacy is to experience the stupidity of the medical community, and then chronicle it here on this blog (along with other observations and commentary). I’ve never come out of the hospital unscathed. It seems like they can’t fix one problem, without creating another. Why is it that all doctors simply practice medicine? You’d think they’d have to prove some degree of skill to continue being employed.