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By request: Unemployment Chronicles


(Photo source, Darth Dragon on Flickr)

When I wrote that I was laid off for the second time in 3 months here, Laurie recommended the following:

Laurie, on January 24th, 2009 at 4:30 am Said:

SM plz keep us posted. If you can, do an unemployed diary. You know, where you have to go, what forms you have to fill in, how long you have to wait to get food stamps. What food stamps look like, what kind of food you get for them-can you get organic? How long the line is etc etc

I can’t tell you how hard it is for me to write about this.  Being unemployed and having to ask for help to feed your family because you can’t find a job is demoralizing and embarrassing.  I’ve worked my ass off all my life, from working as a cafeteria clerk serving food at a hospital, cleaning offices, to paying my dues in the marketing advertising world, then becoming the first female and Latina COO of a small marketing firm, to then quitting because I was overworked (12-14 hour days, 6, sometimes 7 days a week) and not get overtime (and figured I could make the same amount of money and try to at least participate more in my daughter’s life) to then enjoying the luxury of freelancing – and then as of two years ago… SPLAT…  living off the nest egg, working whatever project came ever other month, to then working minimum wage PT jobs while the next big project comes, to being laid off completely with no new project in sight.  And no nest egg.  It royally sucks.

I know I could’ve done it better.  I coulda would shoulda… but I believed in that American dream of entrepenurialship and ultimately got f__cked while getting there.  I’m not a homeowner.  I’m a single mom and  I don’t live excessively out of my means.  I learned to live modestly according to my income to cover the bills & make sure no matter what the fridge has food, rent was paid on time, utilities were paid for the month.  All I wanted was a chance to spend more time with PUMA cub while working – and found that opportunity by freelancing.  I did it successfully for almost 6 yrs.

The only reason why I’m doing it is because this experience is now a nationwide crisis.

Some Conflucians are going through the same thing I am.  Others are lucky enough to miss a layoff wave at their jobs- at least this week.  Some are lucky enough to have that nest egg still there.  What we can’t ignore is that we are living in very precarious times – and I can bet that employer abuse will continue and will rise.  This is why I wasn’t celebrating the Ledbetter Act, because without the PayCheck Fairness Act, women are still vulnerable.

But I digress…as usual.  Let’s get to topic.

To answer Laurie’s first query, the state of Florida cut funding for the Dept of Children and Families (which is where Floridians apply for Medicaid, Food Stamps, Cash assistance for Rent & expenses, etc.)  Everything is done online here.  If you go to an office to apply, what you’ll find are computers and phones where you can call someone on the other side of a wall.  You do not speak to anyone face to face.  Only in rare cases, such as child and elderly abuse investigations, you’ll see a social worker’s face.

If you are a person with zero computer skills, you’re SOL.   They have to find someone to help them fill out the application online.  There is a phone number that you call, but this is the ONLY phone number that is available for the entire state of Florida which is the 4th most populous state in the nation.  It’s a 1-866 number, and it’s always busy.

If you get through the application, you’ll either get a phone call or a notification in the mail requesting proof of loss of income, any financial help you may have received from friends, proof of child support payments, etc.  Sometimes they won’t ask for anything at all, it just depends on what category the computer classifies you as.  Yes, a computer determines whether you are eligible or not.

I just got my letter today asking me to provide loss of income and proof of child support to receive Medicaid.  The income limit in Florida to receive assistance is roughly $1,500 per month.  I laughed when I read this, because this past year, I’ve made much less than $1,500 per month & didn’t think I would be able to qualify.   So far in Florida, you may qualify for MedicAid and Food Stamps even if you have up to $5000 in the bank, own your own home and own your own car.   Your actual present income is the determining factor, then minus your living expenses.  I think this all changed because of the foreclosure crisis and out of control inflation costs, rising cost of oil & bubbled property values.  Before, it wasn’t like that.  The income index levels for qualification were much lower than this.  So some of you out there reading this, you may qualify right now in your state and not even know it.

Food stamps aren’t actually “stamps.”  They are now in Debit Card form which every month, your approved amount is electronically transferred.  You can only use this for “food”, and thanks to supermarket UPC scanning, you can’t sneak a pack of cigarettes, wine or Bounty paper towel roll and charge it against your Food Stamp EBT card.  And you can’t exchange it for cash either.   Back when I was in college in the late 80s-early 90s (aka Bush 1.0 years), I used to PT as a clerk at my cousin’s bodega.  Food Stamps were actually coupons you tore off of a book.  The policy was to accept them for any item that was the equal value – no exception.  So the EBT card does work to prevent misuse of Food Stamp Funds, which is great.

I don’t qualify for unemployment insurance because I filled out W-9 forms – which means that taxes are the employee’s responsibility.  When I was making bucks, I had to submit my earnings every quarter to the IRS, pay my taxes -and then wait to get all my 1099s for the year to file for the year.  This year, I made enough money to exempt me from filing taxes.  Can you believe that shit?  For the first time in my adult life – I am actually exempt because I was under the tax index level.  I know owe the IRS about $1800 from 2 years ago and I haven’t been able to pay that (hello, survival mode here!) and they told me, just pay 25 dollars a month if you can.  So I have.  But the IRS knows what I’m making (or not making).  They know I can’t afford to pay them now – so they leave me alone until I can.

Here’s the Unemployment Insurance qualifications depending on the state you live/work from a link at the US Dept of Labor which explains more:


1. You must meet the State requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established period of time referred to as a “base period”. (In most States, this is usually the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the time that your claim is filed.)

2. You must be determined to be unemployed through no fault of your own (determined under State law), and meet other eligibility requirements of State law.

I don’t qualify under these perimeters because I am considered a “contract” employee.  But let’s say that I was pre-eligible.  I would have to file an unemployment claim, then based on the reason why I no longer am working, Unemployment will determine whether or not I could receive unemployment benefits.

Here’s more from the US Dept of Labor:


  • In general, benefits are based on a percentage of an individual’s earnings over a recent 52-week period – up to a State maximum amount.
  • Benefits can be paid for a maximum of 26 weeks in most States.
  • Additional weeks of benefits may be available during times of high unemployment (see Extended Benefits). Some States provide additional benefits for specific purposes.
  • Benefits are subject to Federal income taxes and must be reported on your Federal income tax return. You may elect to have the tax withheld by the State Unemployment Insurance agency.

With regards to this, some of the work I did part time was helping seniors and disabled people on Medicare – and people on Unemployment Insurance –  apply for Food Stamps and Medicaid.    All the people I helped were mostly working class people who couldn’t afford to pay the 20% that Medicare doesn’t cover, or were people who were referred to the office because they didn’t have computer skills to apply online.

Some of them were earning 800-1000 a month from their Social Security pension and had to pay 200-300 dollars a month for medicines, doctor co-pays, lab exams, etc.

But there were many people that were the in-betweeners, the 45-60 something yr old laid off workers from blue collar jobs.  The only income they had was unemployment insurance.

I remember a Cuban gentleman who was 61, got laid off from his job in a food processing plant and has diabetes.  He spent 300 dollars a month buying insulin and other diabetic supplies, but unemployment only paid him 160 dollars a week.  His wife (57 yrs old) came down with MS shortly after he got laid off.  She stopped working and is in the process of getting disability from Social Security.  They spent all their savings (about 10,000) on medical expenses after COBRA ran out.

When I asked him to show me all his documentation to fill out the application for Medicaid/Food Stamps, he started to cry.  This is a macho Cubano man  crying.  In front of a much younger woman.  This is a sin in my culture.  But he couldn’t take it anymore.  He told me the story of how he immigrated to FL after Fidel took over, he came first, then years later was able to bring his wife & young daughter over to the US.  He lived in Miami, then moved to Tampa after Hurricane Andrew.  He found a job at a food processing plant outside of Tampa and then – the entire company closed down last year.  He said that he never imagined that he had to live this way.  His daughter works at a day care center and moved in with them to help pay bills.  But everyone’s strapped.  His daughter makes 10.00 an hr.  Thank God, he says, his mortgage was paid off 5 yrs. ago, but how can he pay property taxes, house insurance, food & utility expenses, help his wife who was diagnosed with MS with her health needs, plus get his diabetes under control.  He told me he can’t die now, but if he didn’t get help from somewhere, he very well could be.  He sold his car to pay for the bills, so they rely on public transportation (which royally sucks in FL, how about waiting 2 hrs for a bus?)  He put his house on sale with hopes that someone will buy it, but there are no buyers.

About  week before I got laid off, the same man comes back with a box of candies for me.  He and his wife were approved for Medicaid and Food Stamps and he wanted to thank me for helping him (food stamps covers chocolates!)

I think about him & his wife, and the people I can no longer help because I’m laid off.  I think about the people who do not have a friend with a computer that can help them.  I think about the overwhelming and increasing cases of unemployment that have to depend on a now fragile and overextended system.  This is not the 70s-80s.  We have over 300 million people in this country – and shit ain’t getting better.

This is a song for the Cuban gentleman I mentioned and his wife, for all of us trying to survive.  This is the Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz’ version of Gloria Gaynor’s I will survive.  The melody’s the same, but the translation in Spanish refers to a survival of spirit, of outliving bad times and facing the future with strength.

Para Don Avelino y Doña Carmen, and for everyone:

137 Responses

  1. beautiful SM

  2. if i were you i would NOT delete comment #1

  3. please dont delete it SM– let everyone see what kind of people elected obama.

  4. Your posts make me want to cry SM, not because I feel BAD for you — I mean I do feel terrible about what’s happened to you — but because of how you represent what we ALL face, esp the more vulnerable people like mothers, old people, sick people, etc. The Cuban man and his wife, ay yai yai.

  5. My husband lost his job on December 31st. It has been an entire month and we still haven’t gotten a single unemployment check. “The office is backlogged” is the only response we get. Lucky for us we have some savings, but there were times in the past when we didn’t- and many people don’t. A whole month with no checks, and still none in sight….

  6. Murphy!!!!!!!!!

    Thank you for visiting – this is a nationwide problem. It’s not just me – it’s everyone.

    And I won’t erase the Obama NeoCon asshole who posted that. Good call.

  7. Lisa – it’ll come through. The system takes time. I’m in the same boat.

    Please apply for benefits in your state. If your husband’s income was all you had, then GO FOR IT. ALL they can do is say no.

    And I bet that you won’t be denied something – but you can’t get them if you don’t ask. This is what we pay taxes for.

  8. they’re still arguing about feminism I guess — either that or they hate me! (sniff.)

    there are 2.5 million single fathers in the USA and
    10.5 million single mothers

    64 million fathers in the USA
    85 million mothers

    motherhood makes women poor. YES it also makes us happy and fulfilled and all that lovely happy stuff. But it most certainly makes us either poor or at great risk of becoming poor.

    dare i ask whether puma cub’s father will now take on full-time puma-cub care while you rebuild your career?

  9. sm77 . thanks. good luck to you as well. Yes, the four of us depend on his income. I am a stay at home artist mom, and my work costs us more than I make.

    The scariest part to me is no insurance. We will be fine. But it really makes me feel for all of those that don’t have the safety net that we have.

  10. just the first comment though.


  11. “butters” –get a grip!!! There was nothing in this post that would give someone the idea that the writer was a “hater.” Read it again. It was about concern for others and the situations people are facing today. Are you projecting? or do you think to be a PUMA is to hate? If so, you are wrong, dead wrong.
    As for whining, etc, again not true. The poster was telling her story–fact after fact, but not withholding the emotions she felt. In doing so she educates us as to the process and difficulties.

    sm77 Thanks for the post–it was helpful, and I wish you well. Sorry about answering the first comment–I’ve never done that before, but his/her whines were so ridiculous that I had to say something. Loved the “I will Survive”. That was my theme song at one period of my life.

  12. Murphy – 300 a month. That’s it. That’s what you get when you marry for love.

    And NO. I cannot give up custody. He lives outside the continental US. PUMA cub will suffer tremendously if I move her from her school.

  13. sm77
    My best wishes to you and little Puma. You seem like a very well-grounded individual and I’m sure you will survive this and be gainfully employed again in the near future.
    I grew up in the Great Depression and know what it means to be hungry and cold and to have to accept the charity of those times. (Welfare, WPA, etc)
    I know, however, that things may seem more difficult now . especially for younger people, because they have grown up in relatively good times. It’s quite a comedown. an assault to the psyche and even to the physical well being of the person. Stay well.
    For me it would be easier to understand, if I could be sure that hardtimes haven’t been planned by some billionaire group trying to implement the New World Order, setting our country up to be leveled to the ground economically in their own interests.
    Here is a small present for you:

    If a kiss was a raindrop…
    I would send you showers.
    If hugs were a second…
    I’d send you hours.
    If smiles were water…
    I’d send you the Sea.
    If friendship was a person…
    I’d send you me.

  14. Spirit of 76 – THANK YOU.

    Celia Cruz is a great source of inspiration for me, and many people who dug her music.

    Do you know that she was about 7- yrs old in that video I posted? She’s the Queen for a reason. Alas, she died from breast cancer a couple of years ago. A big chunk of her estate was left to fund cancer research.

  15. That was so perfectly written, sm. All of it.

    I am so moved and saddened and angry that I
    can’t think of anything to write just now, but just
    wanted to let you know that it was great.
    Anything I can say now would be superfluous.

  16. plainjane31 – WOW! That was very sweet! Thank you!

    Yes, you are right. This shit is HARD to deal with. But I think more about what others are suffering. Those that don’t have my education. It sucks to not be able to help when I need help myself.

    I wrote this post as a request from Laurie, who wanted to know what it’s like. I hope she’ll read it soon.

  17. Thank you for being so open SM77. And yes Murphy, I saw the evil obot’s post. Just so if he/she/it is lurking I want them to know someone besides you saw it. Didn’t some famous person say once that evil is the absence of empathy?

  18. SM, most of us probably don’t know how to say what we feel without it coming out wrong so we hang back and let others speak to you for us. Many, like me, have nothing but words of encouragement to offer you, and that makes us feel a little awkward knowing that though good wishes are nice, they don’t put food on the table. Just know that all the support we have to give is yours for the taking.

  19. sm77, not surprised. I would have bet a million dollars that your answer would be one of the following:

    1. NO, havent heard from him in years
    2. NO, he’s too busy with his own job/family/worries/problems/life to take over full-time care of our child
    3. NO, he might be willing but it would be bad for the cub

    What would have shocked me beyond belief is if you had replied, YES! He’s just getting the curtains hung and the walls painted in her new room. He’s moved into a nice apartment not too far from here so she wont have to switch schools and he’s going to do almost ALL of the childcare so I can spend 10-12 hours a day getting us out of this jam.

    that would be shocking.

  20. Back Bay, I like your style. Another stylish, brilliant woman from Boston. How DO we do it?

    and what Cinie said.

  21. This is a very detailed, helpful, caring and beautiful post, SM. Good luck to you and all of us. Most of us are on the precipice and have little buffer in such times. I heard an economics prof from MIT finally admit at a hearing the other day that our country’s capacity to absorb the kind of financial tragedies many of us are or will face is the worst of the western civilized nations, it is concomitant to that seen in emerging nation states. I was recycling today and the line was the longest I have ever seen. People are not going to let a can go by without redeeming it, that’s for sure. It was a pretty day to take a truck drive with garbage, though! And I am listening to salsa on the radio for some coincidental reason.

  22. Murphy, thank you. Sm77, my heart aches for what you are experiencing. There is nothing that can truly help you now except to find more work, so I will think positive thoughts for you.

    When I saw this morning’s paper with reports of the hundred thousand jobs lost this week, I thought, well, this is what the oligarchy has been waiting for. Any excuse to cut every job they can and make people desparate enough to accept any horrible treatment and dirt poor pay. After they’ve totally leveled the economy and the middle class I wonder what they think they’ll have left.

  23. Murphy – you are correct – OF COURSE he has money to do more – but then come the lawyers. I spent more than 20K divorcing this asshole.

    And I can’t/won’t move PUMA cub – it would kill her and me in the process. She wants to be a scientist, and she’s a very smart girl. 6 As & 2 Bs. She’s flourishing and is borderline Asperger’s. Kids like her need super structure & routine. So I’m bound, either way.

  24. Back Bay, Cinie, Lilliam, thanks.

    This is reality & actuality. This shit is real. And it sucks but there are people 10 times worse than me & you.

  25. (((((SM77))))) beautiful post. I am so sorry for all the difficulties. It is a complete utter shame our country is in the position it is in. it makes me want to puke.

  26. Murphy: And BTW – my avatar is that PUMA cub. How can I fail on that face?

  27. SM: Have you appled for the John McKay scholarship? It pays for non-public school for children, based on siding scale family income. My ADHD grandson gets some (fortunately my daughter is a nurse with IT creds and my son-in-law works for bthe Seminole tribe), but he has classmates who have almost all of their tuition paid.

  28. ((((((((( taggles ))))))))))))

    WE both are going through this.

    Can’t Hillary and Obama trade places – like for a year or something?

  29. SM, my nephew has Asperger’s and his behavioral problems are the reason I don’t work so someone is always available to address them while my sister does the 9-5. The condition is indefinite and manifests itself differently in each case, but I totally understand the added commitment required to properly care for your cub. Email me if you ever need to talk, ‘kay?

  30. chatblu: Thanks but PUMA cub’s only in the 5th grade.

    I applied for her to go to an Earth Sciences Magnet school – hope she gets in. Since 4 yrs old, she’s been fascinated with Space, Weather, Rocks, Archeology, and this magnet school specializes in all that. I’m hoping she gets through the lottery process.

  31. SM: So’s my grandson. This is through the Fl Dept of Ed. They have a website with applicaion (John McKay Scholarship). Cody has received this since he was in the second grade. Don’t be silly – check it out. This is one of the very very few things that Florida does well. I also know that he has had classmates with Aspergers.

  32. Cinie: THANK YOU!!! She’s much under control now – this is part of the reason why I needed to quit the corporate world & spend more time with her.

    Anything from a fire drill at school or a change in hairstyles (ponytails or a loose barrette in her hair) would set her OFF incontrolably.

    She’s borderline – she’s very social and loves to play with friends and is much more adaptable than other kids with Asperger’s – but still there are tendencies that her teachers & school psychologists keep her under the autistic spectrum.

  33. Chatblu: Yes – Florida does do this well. Thanks to FLDRS program, they were the ones that explained to me that she may have Asperger’s. I was able to get my daughter in special ed classes at the age of 3. Early intervention and education helped her wonderfully.

  34. sm77, very sorry to hear of your troubles. It is tough out there these days. Even though you said your income was below the point needed to file a tax return you should file anyway as you almost certainly qualify for the earned income credit and would get money back even if you haven’t paid any in. And part of it would go to pay off the back taxes so you’d be out from under that too.

  35. SM: We removed Cody from public school and placed him in a private school, The McKay scholarship paid part pf his tuition. The change has been remarkable. Once you have the scholarship, it remains with the child through high school. Please check it out.

  36. And, by the way, the stimulus package that you guys have been knocking would expand eligibility for medicaid and food stamps and increase unemployment benefits. 🙂

  37. i would feel much better about the countries prognosis if hillary were the one in charge.

  38. SM,

    Did you let “butters” out of spam. He/she is banned for insulting RD really horribly on another post.

  39. hey cpa, we want jobs! not perpetual handouts.

  40. SM, good for you finding out early. It took us a while to realize his behavior wasn’t willful and he wasn’t just “acting out.” And change of any sort is very, very hard for kids with Asperger’s to deal with. He’s in high school now, just started this year, and still adjusting, but he’s getting over the hump, as they say.

  41. SM, you are ABSOLUTELY right about your daughter. I made the opposite “choice” in a similarly horrible situation (lost my job, was offered a job in another state, and the “choice” was either to stay in California and not be able to support him and my two other kids, or take the job and leave my oldest son with his asshole, and I probably don’t even need to say it but yes OBOT, “father,” whose only apparent interest in him was the child support). But now that I have moved “voluntarily,” I will never get my son back now except for school holidays and summer — and undoubtedly I will be hearing 10 years from now how much he hates me for leaving him.

  42. Wonderful post, SM. The story about the Cuban man is so heartbreaking and it is happening all over. When will our POTUS wake up and actually do something to help ordinary people?

  43. Jadzia – DAMN. That is some hardcore stuff. I hope that you and your son keep in touch – please let me know. Phone calls every day help the relationship – at least a little. You literally lived a Sophie’s Choice moment. Don’t give up. I’m sure that your son knows you love him.

    BB: Thanks as always dear friend. Don Avelino puts everything into perspective for me. Here’s a guy who should be a-ok, but then illness hits, economy hits, everything hits. I’m so sad that I didn’t get his number to check up on them.

  44. SM: just about to head out to gig, going to have to do a lot of that to prepare for a long jobless summer thx to Bobby Brady Jihndal … anyway

    just wanted to send you hugs and best wishes … and let you know, there’s always a place in New Orleans for you if you need it!!!!

  45. Chatblu: I’ll look it up – thank you! I must say that PUMA cub is really doing good, her grades are always wonderful, she’s in Girl Scouts, she plays on City of Tampa league sports too.

    I’m definitely going to look into that in case middle school doesn’t work out. Thank you so much for the heads up!

  46. Sorry guys. I understand the reasoning behind making an example of “butters.” But I don’t want to reward the kind of behavior that I have deleted from other threads by this “person.”

  47. DK: thank you!!! I love NOLA. I hope I can pull through this one where I don’t need to leave based on need.

    Go tell the Gay Men’s Choir at the church I said HEY!!!

  48. SM: Yeah, it sucks sucks sucks. I know that moms aren’t supposed to care about their own feelings at all, but it really did break my heart in a way that won’t ever be set right. We bought the Skype, and doofus sets it up for my son 1x/week — he also comes for the summer and most of the school vacations. It is tough, ESPECIALLY because I am the stricter parent about things like homework! So Cuteness is usually more interested in talking to his little brothers than in talking to me and being grilled about school. : )

    It’s so awful to hear about the elder who broke down in your office. Remember what Bill Clinton said about people who work hard and play by the rules? Apparently not anymore. What kind of a world will we live in during our old age? It’s a scary thought.

  49. bb: i agree with deleting butters and I’m not into deleting and blocking folks: that was a nasty personal attack and added not one point to ANY conversation

  50. In March of 08, the ad agency I worked for lost the account with the state for a magazine I did the design and production for. As a result, I lost my jog. Over the spring and summer I applied for jobs in my field – and didn’t even get a nibble – I am 52 and have 25 – 30 years in my field – they are looking for people with 1 to 3 years of experience. In the fall I got listed with a temporary help agency for clerical work – but while I can do the work and know the programs – my experience in the field is from years ago. Last week I applied to a fabrics and crafts store and I am investigating selling plasma. We are also in the process of refinancing our mortage and home equity loan (combining them at a lower rate) which should get us a low enough payment that with scrimping we should be able to live on just my husband’s income.But I feel so guilty and useless because he is working so hard (he is a diesel mechanic) and I am doing nothing.

  51. sm77: this gig is a show, but this time I’m trying to skip the poetry slam *heaven help us all jadzia* because I’m not into hearing any more rise like Obama stuff … so I’m not going at 7, that’s fer sure … but if you need a vacation, come this way, I’ll make the 19 year old come home from LSU to entertain your puma cub and we’ll hit the town … mardi gras is THIS month, ya know?

    Jadzia: I took a job like that to with the agreement my daughters would stay temporarily with their dad, and I didn’t get it in writing …. stupid me trusted him … and then got a court notice that I now owed child support and was being sued by him for full custody … so much for his ‘feminist’ side

  52. {{{ lahana }}}

    Hang in there! This is so awful. I can’t stand it that my parents might have to live through another Great Depression and probably WWIII to end it.

  53. DakiniKat: OMG – my cousin recently graduated from LSU on a Tennis scholarship – she did great and is now married living in Baton Rouge.

    Lahana: It’s not just an age differential, it’s the economy. I know many marketing & advertising professionals who are bartending & doing all sorts of jobs now. I just wish I picked another career at this point. HANG IN THERE.

  54. Dakinkat: Wow, I think we were married to the same dude! Only mine also had a heaping serving of classism on the side — he’s a trust fund baby (which is why I pay child support — the court only looks at his WAGES and not the copious amount of $$ he gets from his mommy and wife) who has basically told me that I am W.T. Which is probably true, but hearing it from him is like a badge of honor.

    And on a happier note: Oooh, Mardi Gras! Is it true that you guys get to walk down the street with your drinks?

  55. bb: my dad is aghast … he thought he’d never see anything like this again … i’m just listening to all of his stories and taking notes …

    I’m about to add a living through the next Great Depression page on my website so we can share tips …

  56. BB & DK:

    Do what you think is right – butters, be gone!

  57. Dakini – PLEASE DO add that – post it here too!

  58. Jadzia, how old is your son???

  59. Jadzia: you can walk through the streets with your drinks ANY day of the week here in new orleans as long as it’s not in a glass container, I already have my sippy cup of red wine ready to walk to the theatre now…

    and you can join us all down here … we can rent my friends big b&b down here (right next door with secret garden entrance to my back yard) with its wonderful salt water pool and hot tub and have a PUMA party … between two houses we should be able to house a lot of us … and i have another friend with another b&b around the corner that’s even bigger!

  60. got some boytoys yall can borrow too

  61. SM: He’s 9 1/2. I feel really bad for him — he is SO attached to his little brothers, I can’t imagine what it was like for him suddenly to have them no longer in his life on a day-to-day basis. The 3 of them shared a room! (Because in LA, 900 square feet for a family of 5 = the only reasonably affordable housing between the Pacific Ocean and Riverside.)

    Dakinkat: Wow. That sounds like my kind of town. Allegedly we have our yearly convention down there next year (but I am taking that with a grain of salt, as the information comes from my boss, who I absolutely adore, but brains? not so much — I have to verify independently pretty much everything he tells me) and I am EXCITED. Of course, back o/t, that is assuming I still have a job this time next year — our university just raised more than 3/4 of a BILLION in a big fundraising campaign, yet the “budget is so tight” that we have a hiring freeze, and you know what the next step after that is.

  62. SM: You’re very welcome. Private school has made the world of difference in my grandson. For some reason, you have to find all of this out on your own, The school system never told us about this, and even one of my friends who teaches 3rd grade had never heard of it, My daughter was investigating private schools when we discovered that he has an auditory processing disorder and was not learning to read, She was beginning to think that she needed a second mortgage to afford this, when the school counselor told her about the McKay scholarship. The percentage that they pay is income-diven so there would never be a better time for you to apply.

  63. jadzia: unfortunately, I do … first it’s larger class sizes, then it’s almost no summer school, and then hope you’re in a program they don’t eliminate …

    but if you get down here … lemme know … this is ONE wonderful and fun place to live still … we all get by with a little help from our friends, great music, great food and a lot of drinkin!

  64. okay, i’m going to start getting dressed … hopefully, the poet is taking his last bows before i hit the keys

  65. SM – you, my dear, are released from your pennance. Thank you SO much for coming back to write here. Your personal stories are amazing and inspirational. This one is also quite informative.


  66. Jadzia – WOW. Hang in there sister – he needs his siblings too – just let him know that you love him & give him the time to call his siblings while you’re with him. He’s NEVER going to hate you, so stop that.

    Chatblu: I’m going to look into it – thank you for letting me know! PUMA cub is really well adjusted & doing great. When I see that public school is slipping & she needs more, I’ll definitely use the resource you gave me. THANK YOU! Good to know your grandson is doing well after he switched schools. NO, there are no open resources here in FL, you have to go out of your mind researching them. There’s no office, no nothing here to look for external help.

  67. Scrubs57: THANK YOU!!! But you helped me come back to write more. Ain’t that funny how things work out? You worked my lapsed Catholic guilt!

    In all seriousness, I feel better that these experiences are helping people catch the bigger fucked up picture – and also let those going through it know that there’s someone out there going through the same.

  68. SM – I sent you a few pennies via paypal, just to keep you writing, you see.

  69. AWWWWW!!!!!!!!!

    Thank you Scrubs!!!!!!!!!!!

    Everything will go to paying bills & keeping my head over water. THANK YOU!

  70. {{{{SM}}}} Thank you for sharing – know that if I could I would help. Are there any online jobs that can keep you afloat?

  71. SM77 — I can only lurk for a few minutes as I am running out to a house party — which are way less expensive form of entertainment.

    I send a big hug (((((((((((((((((((((((((sm77)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))) wish you could come over to PumaSF’s tomorrow to watch the game and take your mind off things.

  72. When my sons were growing up, I used to tell them about the hard times in the 1930’s, how my brother (18 mo. younger) and I used to have to walk to school over a mile and a half in the snow. without really appropriate gear. I had a muff (which someone had given me) and my bro and I shared the muff as we had no gloves. My kids thought that was hilarious and mockingly would say, Hey Mom, tell us the muff story again.

  73. sm77 — check e-mail.

    I tell you — if it wasn’t for The Confluence and Puma — I don’t know how I would have gotten through the summer and fall !!

  74. sm77
    I prepare taxes for small businesses and self-employed individuals.
    no charge.
    Please email me if you’d like some help wtih your taxes-no charge.

  75. {{{{SIMO!!}}}}

  76. plainjane,

    LOL! I probably did that to my parents when they talked about those days. My dad used to tell me about 5 cent loaves of bread and my mom told me how they got an orange and a penny in their Christmas stocking and that’s all the money they saw for the next year. And on and on. I’m much more interested as an adult than I was as a kid. We were pretty poor when I was growing up anyway. My parents didn’t start to get more comfortable until I had already left home. It was better for my siblings. Still I was better off as a child than my dad who practically had to support his family selling newspapers and magazines on the street for awhile.

  77. hey there Catarina !!! when you coming out to SF ??

  78. Plus my parents grew up in North Dakota, so I heard all the stories about how they had to dig their way out of the house through the snow with a tunnel from the front door….

  79. sm
    i have drain bamage long day 😉

  80. LOL, Catarina! You poor thing.

  81. SIMO!
    as soon as f-ing sucky tax season is over 😛

    i heard you met up with Afrocity, I was sooo jealous, hehe!

  82. Let me tell you — Afrocity is one cool chick AND — she has the cutest – most adorable husband – he is HOT — and this is coming from a lesbian!!! What a perfect couple.

  83. BTW — the state of CA owes me money back on my taxes — I am sure everyone has heard I get an IOU — I may get paid in 30 days — I may not. One thing is for sure if I don’t see my $$$$ by end of April I am stopping all $$$$ from coming out of my check.

  84. simofish> Have they said if they’re going to start paying people with interest? They make a person pay interest if you’re not paying your taxes right away; so it would only be fair if they started sending out reimbursements with interest. But I suspect I already know the answer…

  85. DYB — no they have not mentioned interest — at this point I am wondering if I am going to get any money. The state legislators are a bunch of f’ing cry babies. They really need to get it together. They sit in Sacramento and bicker all day long. I really hate the gov’t these days.

  86. fahk you ahnold
    give Simo her money 😉

  87. OK, I gotta scoot — need to get dressed and head over to my friends — will be back to lurk later.

  88. Remember how the Governator got the job because the last guy was doing such a bad job? Why isn’t anyone challenging him like he challenged Gray Davis? Clearly he’s just as incompetent.

  89. But isn’t it that the entire state govt is dysfunctional? CA – got to make some hard choices. Glad we moved away, much as I loved it.

  90. Why isn’t anyone challenging him like he challenged Gray Davis?

    Cuz Darrell Issa ain’t gonna waste a few more millions financing another recall just to see someone else get the prize.

    p.s. I voted for Gary Coleman

  91. You’d think that with all those celebrities who make $20 million a picture taxes would be rolling in…oh, wait, silly me, rich people don’t have to pay taxes!

  92. {{{{{SM}}}}} Thanks for writing this — I hate that this happened to you. The story with the older Cuban man was so touching. Thanks for sharing.

    As for butters et al — they’re a bunch of f*ckwads.

  93. catarina, on January 31st, 2009 at 9:09 pm Said:

    fahk you ahnold
    give Simo her money 😉

    OMG — just saw this — LMAO!!

    Simo that really s*cks! I’ve heard things are worse in CA then anywhere else but not being able to pay people their own money back? Disgusting.
    I just did my takes — almost perfect — the Feds owe me $224 & I owe the state $124 — so the government only had $100 of my money interest free. I keep trying to make it come out to zero, but $100 is pretty good.

  94. SM77 sending love hugs and ” getting a great job ” energy 🙂 You wuold be valuable to any employer !!

  95. OT Did anyone else see this b.s.?

    Nebraska abortion clinics could be required to show an image of the fetus to women having an abortion, if a new bill sponsored by Sen. Tony Fulton becomes law.

    “If we can provide information to a mother who is in a desperate situation – information about what she’s about to choose; information about the reality inside her womb – then this is going to reduce the number of abortions,” Fulton said.

    Because women are too damn stupid to know what is going on inside their wombs, thank God this a–hole is going to help us understand. And I wonder who is going to pay for these ultrasounds — because that would usually be the woman’s responsibility – if she doesn’t have insurance, tough for her.

    If this Massively Wrong A–hole Fulton is so concerned with reducing abortions why not help increase funding for birth control and medical care? Oh, yeah: if that happened it would still be in the hands of the stupid women –much better to let the decision be in his hands. Oh, and this is were the so-called Democrats are allowing Roe v. Wade to be eroded — I hope if there is anyone here from Nebraskay you will mobilize to tell your reps. to stop this f*ck head’s bill from becoming reality.

    Full story here:


  96. SM77,
    This is one of the bravest pieces of writing I have read anywhere. I know you write you “coulda, woulda, shoulda” but really the heart of your story is how vulnerable even the hardest working of us is to circumstances so far beyond our control. By sharing the detalls of your own experience, you are teaching many people that lesson.

    The story of you and the Cuban gentleman is key. Many of us more or less regular folks (not high powered politicians, not Wall Street titans) have always known that we have to weave the fabric of humanity that makes it possible to get through each day, even when times are not as hard as they are now. Your ability and willingness to help that gentlemen and his gift of chocolates to you are the sort of gestures toward one another that are going to pull a lot of us through what is going to be a very difficult time.

    I want to close by reiterating my admiration for the sheer guts you show you in writing this post.

  97. bostonboomer, on January 31st, 2009 at 8:48 pm Said:

    LOL! I probably did that to my parents when they talked about those days. My dad used to tell me about 5 cent loaves of bread and my mom told me how they got an orange and a penny in their Christmas stocking and that’s all the money they saw for the next year. And on and on. I’m much more interested as an adult than I was as a kid. We were pretty poor when I was growing up anyway. My parents didn’t start to get more comfortable until I had already left home. It was better for my siblings. Still I was better off as a child than my dad who practically had to support his family selling newspapers and magazines on the street for awhile
    i bet we could trade some good stories.
    My grandmother used to make us a stocking each Christmas and in it we got a grapefruit, an orange, some nuts, and a candy cane. On the outside she sewed a little pocket which held a dime, For presents we received socks and underwear ( I received
    “snuggies” which were girls’ midthigh length, orange, soft, waffled material underpants)(Did I mention ORANGE?).
    Many times we didn’t have socks without holes in the heel or shoes without holes in the soles, (We used cardboard to block the holes, but then sometimes the soles would just become loose all the way around and we would have to walk flopping the soles ahead of us on each step).
    I remember one year having only one dress to wear. It was a dark blue corduroy one my grandmother made. Because it was corduroy, it couldn’t be washed often-no dryers then , no washer either. I can remember being embarrassed about my clothes or lack of them, that is.
    We were often without coal for our furnace, which had to be fed manually. Even when we did have coal, it went out often. Our whole family was gassed once and my mother and two brothers had to be hospitalized.
    Food was cheap then,but I remember my father once earning $1.50 for a week’s work. Where he worked, they divided up the work so that each person got something, however small. I also remember seeing him outside shoveling snow by hand on the WPA crew.
    Lots more, but I’m sure that’s enough talk about the bad old days- when we have the bad new days upon us.

  98. Book I’d like to send you, SM – Maya Angelou’s newest “Letter to My Daughter”

    If you send me an email with a snail mail address I’ll put my copy in the mail to you, SM. I recommend it to all.

  99. {{SM}} I’m just speechless. Your experience — the story your telling has really shaken me.

  100. Just finished that long thread on what is a feminist. There were so many comments about tests for being a feminist, thought I’d pose a rhetorical question (meaning, does not need to be discussed further here).

    I know a woman executive in the business world. Over her career, she’s probably hired over a hundred women into her field. Two women for every man that she’s hired, easily. And the reason has always been merit, not necessarily in the name of diversity. She has been equally aggressive in fighting for the promotion of women and securing compensation for them that was equal to or higher than that of their male peers. Once in her career, she was pushed out of one male dominated corporate bureaucracy (at least implicitly) for having a tendency to favor women.

    Now, based on some of the comments on that feminism thread – the need for true feminists to have read the right texts or theories, to have checked off enough behavioral boxes to have qualified or be annointed as a feminist by the right women’s organizations – I’m not sure the woman I describe above would pass the test. And I’m also not sure if the result would be different if it were a man instead of a woman that is described above. Feminism, like any movement, needs to recruit. Yet if the academic debate ends up alienating more than attracting like minded thinkers in the world of work, how is that progress. Just turning things over in my own head is all, or as you guys like to say, just sayin’…

  101. Three Wickets — your analysis is why I said on that thread that we need to dispatch that “feminist” label. It is more divisive than uniting.

  102. sm77
    You are a very strong and loving person and will survive. I can not do paypal but e-mail me your address and snail mail will bring you a surprise.

    the comments closed on the other thread but from me to you. You said your were a single father that raised 3 children. In my book that makes you special.
    To answer your critics just remember
    being perfect is overrated, the last one that walked on water got nailed.



  103. Helen:
    Thank you for this:
    “To answer your critics just remember
    being perfect is overrated, the last one that walked on water got nailed.”

    Perfectionism is the oppressor. Aspiration to the good, while accepting that we are humans, not machines – that’s the ticket. For more on this see Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird – try this link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/sitbv3/reader?asin=0385480016&pageID=S01P&checkSum=kzJmSOLPN521CrZmxHrDoz4uNH9svfm739gVl6rGAyo=

  104. It is more divisive than uniting.

    It seems to be a pretty small tent.

  105. {{{sm77}}}

    Thanks for writing this post…it couldn’t have been easy, but a lot of people will find it helpful. Hope it’s also somewhat cathartic for you as well.

    It’s good to have you back at TC. You were much missed.

  106. I’m not so fond of the label “feminist” but only because it seems to invite so much debate about what we philosophers call a “fuzzy” concept. You cannot give a list of necessary and sufficient conditions for what makes somebody a feminist.

    The questions are: do you have a grasp on what personhood and individual dignity are? If so, do act toward women so that they have the same opportunities as men to achieve these goods?

    If we must have a label, I would pick “humanist” and then ask, do you apply humanism to woman and to men?

  107. To bring my comments about perfectionism and humanism back to what SM has posted: here’s the point – we exist in dehumanizing culture, one that is especially dehumanizing for women and for underdogs in particular. What is so amazing about SM’s post is that right in the maw of this dehumanizing culture she has shared here thoughts in totally human terms.

    How can we not treasure that?

  108. angienc2, on January 31st, 2009 at 10:02 pm Said:

    Hi Angie – I did see that. How reprehensible. The tactics of street thugs are now being imported right into the clinics.

  109. plainjane,

    Thanks for sharing those stories. My mom was somewhat better off than many during the Depression. Her father was a dentist. But my grandparents made a point of helping others as much as they possibly could. My dad’s family was a lot poorer than my mom’s.

    My parents really struggled when I was a kid, because my dad was in grad school. Once my dad started teaching, he wouldn’t have work in the summer, so my mom would have to stretch one paycheck for three months. We ate lots of dishes based on hamburger, dried beans, etc. I didn’t feel deprived, except for not having nice clothes.

  110. You’re absolutely right Heidi Li. Anytime one group sought to oppress another it denied them their equality by labeling them as lesser beings — the native americans were savages, the slaves were chattel, women were property.

  111. Wouldn’t it be better to be working towards promoting the best qualified and highlighting that concept, rather than stating that we are “feminists”. If it often turns out that women are more qualified than the men they compete against, so be it. In some cases, the opposite might be true and we should not deny that possibility either.
    Pardon me for stating what someone called the Obnosis (analyzing the Obvious). I guess I’m just trying to sort this out for myself

  112. SM: this is an excellent post. I’m sending positive energy and love your way (already sent some PayPal). Any employer would be damn lucky to have you.

  113. SOD: That’s the history of the human race…survival comes by domination, not seeking mutuality. It seems that all of the collegial societies and religions throughout history got pummeled to death. Only the aggressors are still around to tell their stories. Not a hopeful scenario…

  114. I think we need to gain some ground in the political process. The fact that we have, what,.. only 17 Female Senators when (as Heidi Li reminds us) WE ARE 51% is a vivid reminder of where we are.

    We need to find our common ground; stop talking in “This or That” collaborate, compromise and coalesce around what we share – instead of worrying about who is or isn’t a feminist or who does or doesn’t agree with me, women will always take the scraps.

    We may have to concede some ideological areas, but if we don’t join together as women, we’ll remain divided — just where they want us.

    It’s our choice. I’m tired of stomping my feet on the ground for ideologicially pure positions. I’m ready to sit down with those women that disagree with me and find a collaborative solution we can both live with. WE have more in common than we disagree on; I guarantee it.

  115. Stateofdisbelief, on January 31st, 2009 at 11:22 pm Said:

    Right on!

  116. …hmmmm….{{{{ sniffing underarms }}}}

    where’d everybody go?

  117. sm, thank you so much for the post and the video is sublime. It’s the perfect blend of song, musician and language.

    There’s beauty everywhere, even in sorrow.

  118. I don’t see our gaining much ground in the present climate. We have the “I won” guy in there with his assortment of patriarchal types by his side. How can we count on Pelosi types to help? We need to elect more women into Congress, a given, but that will take years. Only when we can elect a woman President, like Hillary, will we make any major strides, and even if that happens there will be those forces working against her all of the way.
    I know I sound pessimistic here, but I probably won’t live long enough to see significant progress for women. You know that whether the knife falls on the melon or the melon on the knife, the melon always gets cut.
    One more blast from the past: My 3rd g-grandmother was lucky enough that her husband willed her half of the house, her own stock of firewood, her dowry and associated linens, her bed and some furniture, some cash, and ” the ass that is hers”. (I love the part about the ass!)

  119. Plain Jane– I enjoyed your comments. I have long thought I must be the oldest lurker here, but we may be twins. Your “31” makes me think of a vintage year… (October–between Barbara Walters and Dan Rather.) Fun to have you here.

  120. Backbay Style

    They will have what they’ve wanted: indentured servitude.

  121. Spiritof76, on January 31st, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    Hi Spirit.
    I’m not so sure that Walters is vintage, given her attitude displayed most recently on The View, but I always liked Rather. I was sorry he bit the dust over bad info feed.
    I’m February 1931.
    Do you ever un-lurk to give us a glimpse into your memory bank?

  122. Hi Jane– I un-lurk and then I run, as I did this time. However I received a ph. call from my daughter (go to bed now, tpfka nycblue) who told me that 31 had responded….so I quit the Spider game and came back. I’m no good with keeping up with these comments and answering fast….

    Haven’t done much from memory bank , but comment occasionally. I love to see what the young’uns are thinking.

    I’ve always protected Baba Wawa by not saying that she’s 2 wks. older than me, (And me with no surgical help) .but perhaps I should quit that. I no longer watch The View, nor Oprah.

  123. Popping in. I am lost. I can’t get into my Firefox application so I am using Safari. It feels strange.

  124. I’ve never warmed up to Firefox.

    Does anyone know what Oprah’s ratings are like these days? I’m sure she still rules daytime, but has there been a drop since her decision to get involved in politics?

  125. sm

    It kills me that you are just across the big bridge from me, and still I can do nothing to help. A year ago, yes, I could have, and would have. Now, I am caught in the spiral also, and trying to stay afloat. However, if I win the powerball, consider yourself off the hook!

    There isn’t a lot more work down here right now, either, and the I-4 corridor usually has a leg up on us for commercial enterprise, but if I hear of anything opening up just to your south, I will send a note up, I don’t know what you can do, and I don’t know if you have a reliable car, but you never know what will pop up between Palmetto and Sarasota.

  126. Has everyone else but me seen Hillary’s new web site? NoLimits.org
    I haven’t been there yet, but am about to to see what it’s all about.

  127. There was a definite drop in Oprah right after she talked about The One. They said it wasn’t for that reason–but for me it was. I have not watched her since she did that–not even for 5 minutes. I’m a vindictive old b**** (that’s “broad” in case anyone wondered.) G’nite.

  128. Spiritof76

    I really enjoy reading your comments. There is a perseverance and wisdom that usually comes through in them.

    I am getting older myself and am now in my md-40s. It has occurred to me lately, where will I hear stories about the old days when I am in my mid-70s to 80s? Well, I suppose I’ll be able to find some folks in their 90s…and 100s? So, maybe I won’t have to give up that joy someday! 😉

  129. There was a definite drop in Oprah right after she talked about The One. They said it wasn’t for that reason–but for me it was. I have not watched her since she did that–not even for 5 minutes. I’m a vindictive old b**** (that’s “broad” in case anyone wondered.) I’m getting giddy. G’nite.

  130. New Post…

  131. Spiritof76, on February 1st, 2009 at 12:25 am Said:
    I hope you haven’t gone back to the Spidergame. It’s nice you have a daughter who lurks??? and gives you another set of eyes here.
    I’m pleased to know that someone reads what I write, and that at we are from the same era (before the Flood). Likewise, I’ve had no surgical help, but I am missing a few parts that malfunctioned!
    I have never been much of a TV watcher, except for the news and an occasional show (If it’s one I liked, it didn’t last long). Now, I have to get my news on the blogs. I do like to try to keep up with the “younguns” too
    Goodnight now, Spirit and all.

  132. While they play Political Games in Washington this is real life for the rest of us who worked hard and played by the rules. I pray everynight that somehow we can break through the insanity of Party Hardy Washington and they start listening to what us powerless people in the hinterlands have to say.

    There is something wrong when 10% of this country is unemployed and the new President’s inauguration costs 180 Million. When we need a New Deal we get a Raw Deal.

  133. Thank you sm for this post-I love informative posts.

    Looks like they’ve really been cutting back on social workers -yet another female and underpaid profession bites the dust.
    (neo-cons must be the most backward and greedy people in the world).

    If you go to an office to apply, what you’ll find are computers and phones where you can call someone on the other side of a wall. You do not speak to anyone face to face. Only in rare cases, such as child and elderly abuse investigations, you’ll see a social worker’s face.

    I found it really depressing seeing a social worker-but grey walls must really be the pits.

  134. I can so easily relate to this story. I’m in Florida too and I receive referrals from medical professionals for people in hospitals that have attempted suicide. I can’t tell you how many of these people have resorted to this path because of financial difficulties. When I say financial, many times these difficulties have resulted from health problems and there are many people who have no idea where to begin when seeking help. Most do not know that they qualify for anything. They do not know that they are eligible to see a doctor so they have just gotten worse, sicker and sicker until they resort to the most desparate or end up in an emergency room. Many have been turned down initially and never follow up. You take a look at the computer generated paperwork they have received from the state or federal government and its difficult to understand what the paperwork says. Mostly it says that they need more info or weren’t provided with everything requested but all these people see are the words “denied”. The gov’t lingo is very intimidating. What we need are resources to help people who’ve never had to deal with a gov’t agency or healthcare emergency. Where do you begin? So thanks for helping to steer folks in any direction. More practical info like this please…….

  135. Glen – that is so sad to hear!

    Yes, it’s meant to be intimidating to dissuade people from applying or going through the whole process.

    And unfortunately, where I was doing this work was in a family owned medical insurance office. And now since medicare advantage plans reduced agent commissions by 2/3, they can no longer can afford to pay staff.

  136. reduced agent commissions-wonder if they reduced ACORN commissions….

  137. the graphic is just a humorous take on unemployment, but let’s face it–people now no matter how pissed off they are at their job, they’re just thankful for being employed still.

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