Now that I have this safe and new and amazing life, my awareness has grown beyond day-to-day basic survival.
I see and read stories that inspire or confuse or bewilder or distress me in a way that has always drawn my attention, but for which I could spare no energy.

It is not that I am disconnected to the world.
One of the ways that I survived is by seeking outside interests and volunteering as much as possible, within the constraints of that old life.

I feel a need to comment on these renewed connections, although they are not essential to my continuing health, recovery and just plain general forward movement in my life.

Or, perhaps they are.

So, anyway, CoolCat suggested a new blog.
He is rarely wrong, so here goes...something.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

More on poverty

I am doing well with my low income, and that income aspect is what separates me from true poverty.  Even so, I know something about living with nothing because I did that for a while last year, and financial insecurity has always been a large struggle for many of my clients.

Today's news, Saturday, October 19th, had some interesting and polar opposite stories.  This happens all the time, the haves and the have-nots, the relatively free society model versus those who live under unbearable circumstances, the smart and the dumb, the greedy and the wanting and needy.  The list is endless.

You know just when you think that all of the hard work that people do in their communities and elevate to the attention of our leaders and despite all the rhetoric and promises that turn out to be empty politicking, it is impossible to avoid realizing that it might not ever be possible to make a difference or trust anyone else to do so.  That is just the remnants of all of my despair and disbelief and hopelessness from that other life.

I know this.  I also know that the only way to pull myself out of this and to break the spiraling I used to do is to think, talk, write, be and do positive stuff.  So, when I read about what must be a truly self-absorbed person thinks, how he is obsessed with the expensive trends he sets in motion, right after reading two perspectives on current policies for those in need, it helped me to make a couple of decisions.  I will write about them in the other blog.

For now I am going to share those two stories about poverty.  I will provide links, but sometimes, sometimes often, articles are moved or deleted and the links fail, so I checked both of these sites for copyright policies that prohibit regular copying and did not find any.  If I missed them, someone will let me know. 

CNBC - U.S. News
As holidays near, food stamp recipients face cut
Published: Saturday, 19 Oct 2013 | 9:00 AM ET
By: Allison Linn    | CNBC Senior Business and Economics Reporter|finance|headline|headline|story&par=yahoo&doc=101118630|As%20holidays%20near,%20food%20st
Millions of food stamp recipients can expect to see their benefits reduced beginning in November—and that could end up being just the beginning of deeper cuts to the food stamp program.

The modern-day food stamp plan, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is scheduled to scale back benefits for all recipients next month because a recession-era boost in benefits is expiring.

The cut comes as lawmakers also are considering billions of dollars of cuts to the overall SNAP program, which has grown substantially in recent years amid the weak economy and high unemployment.

The program is now serving more than 23 million households, or nearly 48 million people, according to the most recent government data through June. The average monthly benefit is about $275 per household, according to the USDA.

The exact reduction that families will see beginning Nov. 1 depends on the recipients' situation, but a family of four with no changes in circumstance will receive $36 less per month, according to the USDA.

Stacy Dean, vice president for food assistance policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said her analysis found that the change will mean that the average benefit will go from about $1.50 per person, per meal each month to about $1.40 per person, per meal.

"For those of us who spend $1.70 a day on a latte this doesn't seem like a big change, but it does kind of really highlight the millions of families living on an extremely modest food budget," she said.

Others are less worried about the immediate cuts. Parke Wilde, associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition at Tufts University, said that in real dollars, the cuts brings the program's aid levels back in line with where they were in the mid-2000s, before benefits were boosted as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

"That's neither great nor terrible," Wilde said.

He said the bigger issue is the debate in Congress over whether, and how much, the SNAP program could be cut in years to come. The House of Representatives passed a bill in mid-September that would eliminate about $39 billion form the SNAP budget over 10 years, while the Senate has approved a bill that makes much smaller cuts to the program.

The final decision could result in some recipients getting dropped from the program completely at a time when many are still recovering from the effects of the deep recession, he said.

"We have a very spare cash-based safety net and we rely a lot on food stamps to give people the resources they need to avoid hunger," Wilde said.

The SNAP program has become a last resort for people like Angela Phillips, 44, who never thought that she would be in a position where she would have to accept food stamps.

Phillips, who is divorced with three kids, worked for years as a paralegal and executive assistant, at one point making about $45,000 a year. Then the economy turned, and she suffered a string of job losses along with some health issues related to a shoulder injury from her time serving in the Army years ago.

Phillips, who lives in Knoxville, Tenn., said she juggled things as best she could for a long time, eating little while her kids were with their dad so she could feed them well when they were staying with her. Still, she said she struggled to explain why she couldn't always give them pricier, healthy foods like fresh fruit.

She ended up applying for SNAP benefits in July of 2012, while working part time.

"It was a huge benefit for me to be able to know that I could feed my family," she said.

Phillips is currently working as a temporary administrative assistant for a national lab, but the employment is erratic and she says she makes about $17,000 a year. She's also a full-time student.

She recently had a long period of steady employment and was able to go off food stamps, but that temporary position ended Friday and she doesn't know when she'll get another stable position. That means she'll be applying for food stamps again on Monday.

Phillips said she collected about $600 a month previously, and she doesn't yet know what her benefit will be this time, with the new reductions.

"I could make it work for a bit smaller benefit," she said. "If it was a lot different, then I would have a difficult time."

State agencies that administer the food stamp benefit say they are trying to get the word out about the benefit reduction.

Alexis Lambert, communications director for the Florida Department of Children and Families, said they have hung flyers, added a notice to the website and put an announcement on their call center hold message.

In Kansas, Theresa Freed, director of communications for the state's Department for Children and Families, said the state agency has provided recipients with an estimate of what kind of reduction they will see. It also is notifying community partners that they could see an increase in demand for their services.

Some food banks also are preparing for the change. Eric Cooper, chief executive of the San Antonio Food Bank in Texas, said he estimates that a typical SNAP benefit is enough for a family to buy food for two and a half to three weeks. With the reduction, he expects SNAP benefits to typically last for two to two and a half weeks.

"It's going to place a lot more demand on us for kind of 'food for today' type strategies," he said. "Our emergency food and the need for more assistance is going to be greater."

—By CNBC's Allison Linn

Yahoo News
Imagine - no extreme poverty. It's possible by 2030, says report.
Eric Pfeiffer, Published Saturday, October 19th

Two recent reports say that extreme poverty could be effectively eliminated by 2030 (AP)

More than a billion people around the world still exist in extreme poverty, which is defined by living on less than $1.25 a day. The good news is that number dropped by half from 1990 through 2010. And a new report says eliminating extreme poverty altogether is “within reach” by 2030.

The report was produced by the Brookings Institution, which says that a combination of increased shared consumption and improving global distribution of resources have dramatically reduced the poverty rate over the past 23 years but that “both factors are needed simultaneously,” to bring the total percentage of those living below the $1.25 rate to 3 percent or less.

The report gained prominence on Friday when Bill Gates tweeted about it in a message to his 13 million plus followers:

“Over the past twenty years global poverty reduction was made possible by a consistently large mass of people lining up behind the poverty line each year, and sufficient consumption growth to carry many of these individuals across the threshold,” the report explains.

According to the report, there are more people living around the $1.25 mark “than at any other consumption level in the world.” Amongst the world’s billion people living in extreme poverty, a report released this month by the World Bank Group says that 400 million of them are children .

However, the World Bank Group report also had good news that aligns with the findings of Brookings, stating that 750 million less people live in extreme poverty today compared to 1981.

“We need to act urgently, and with a sharpened focus, to implement effective policies in places where poverty remains entrenched, particularly rural areas,” Jaime Saavedra, the World Bank Acting Vice President of Poverty Reduction and Economic Management, said in a statement. The Governors of the World Bank Group have also endorsed the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.

Perhaps not surprisingly, China and India have been at the forefront of extreme poverty reduction over the past two decades. The Brookings report says that China has now reduced the number of its citizens living in extreme poverty into the single digits and that going forward “the baton has been passed to India.”

From there, Brookings says sub-Saharan African faces the largest extreme poverty gap.

So, what stands in the way of fully eliminating this most extreme form of poverty?

Brookings says there are two major factors as they look ahead to 2030. First, that as countries like China make progress on poverty, they will become satisfied with the progress already made and will lack incentives to complete the job. And secondly, that in the most greatly affected regions of the world, populations of extreme poverty will begin to condense, making it all the more challenging to see economic improvements.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


I like Mark Bittman.  He writes excellent books and he uses what he knows to help other people to do more than cook intelligently.

I like Mark Bittman because he gives more than a passing thought to what it means to be a responsible citizen of our planet.

This is only one example that has sent me on the one more journey to knowledge, understanding and hope, and not just because I live and work in this aspect of living.

New York Times
Mark Bittman
What We're Reading Now

Holding orange in my heart

Native News Network
Time to bring orange shirt day

I am not ready for this year, because this is the first year.  I will be ready next September 30th.

The article:
WILLIAMS LAKE, BRITISH COLUMBIA – Phyllis Webstad's grandmother took her to buy a new outfit for her first day of school. Even though she was only six years old, her grandmother allowed Phyllis to pick out a shirt to wear to school. Part of the outfit, she selected was an orange shirt. Excited about attending school, she wore the orange shirt with pride.

She was to wear the orange shirt only one day at school – the first day. She never saw her orange shirt again.

    “The color orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn't matter, how no cared and how I felt I was worth nothing,” reflects Webstad decades later about her experiences at the Indian residential school.

    “All of us little children were crying and no one cared.”

Phyllis, along with others First Nations children who attended residential schools, were stripped of their own clothing and made to wear uniforms furnished to them.

The military-like Indian residential schools for were to First Nations Native students were what Indian boarding schools were to American Indian students in the United States.

Removing Native children from their families and putting them in government – and sometime religion – run residential – or boarding schools – in the guise of "killing the Indian, saving the man" was federal policy both in Canada and the United States that continued for close to a century.

Most of the Native children were not allowed to see their parents or families for months – and some even years. The intention was to strip Native children of their "Indianness."
It is a dark chapter among Native people.

So much so, one elder in Canada refers to September as "crying month" because of the history associated with September being the month children were removed from their homes.

    “I finally get it, that the feeling of worthlessness and insignificance, ingrained in me from my first day at the mission, affected the way I lived my life for many years. Even now, when I know nothing could be further than the truth, I still sometimes feel that I don't matter. Even with all the work I've done!”

September 30th has been declared Orange Shirt Day annually in Canada, in recognition of the harm the residential school system did to children's sense of self-esteem and wellbeing, and as an affirmation of our commitment to ensure that everyone around us matters.

Among First Nations the theme on t-shirts this year is "Every Child Matters." Even if time may not allow you to have a printed shirt with this theme on it, it is a great time for all of Indian country to wear an orange shirt as a reminder of the pain it represented our ancestors that lingers even to today.

posted September 26, 2013 1:10 am edt

Saudi cleric says women who drive risk damaging their ovaries

Saudi cleric says women who drive risk damaging their ovaries

RIYADH (Reuters) - A conservative Saudi Arabian cleric has said women who drive risk damaging their ovaries and bearing children with clinical problems, countering activists who are trying to end the Islamic kingdom's male-only driving rules.

A campaign calling for women to defy the ban in a protest drive on October 26 has spread rapidly online over the past week and gained support from some prominent women activists. On Sunday, the campaign's website was blocked inside the kingdom.

In an interview published on Friday on the website, Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan said women aiming to overturn the ban on driving should put "reason ahead of their hearts, emotions and passions".

Reuters earlier wrongly identified him as Sheikh Saleh bin Mohammed al-Lohaidan, a member of the Senior Council of Scholars, one of the top religious bodies in the birthplace of Islam.

By contrast, Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan, the person quoted in the report, is a judicial adviser to an association of Gulf psychologists.

His comments reflect the extent of opposition to women driving among some conservatives in Saudi Arabia.

"If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards," he told Sabq.

"That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees," he said.

He did not cite specific medical studies to support his arguments.

The ban on women driving is not backed by a specific law, but only men are granted driving licenses. Women can be fined for driving without a license but have also been detained and put on trial in the past on charges of political protest.

Sheikh Abdulatif Al al-Sheikh, the head of the morality police, told Reuters a week ago that there was no text in the documents making up sharia, or Islamic law, that barred women from driving.

King Abdullah has pushed some cautious reforms aimed at expanding women's freedoms in Saudi Arabia, including opening more employment opportunities for them, but he has not addressed the issue of driving.

(Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by William Maclean and Kevin Liffey)

Friday, August 9, 2013


In six days there were at least 20 shootings in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  At least 5 of them resulted in deaths.

I heard it on the news.  I never really thought much about gun violence or what kind of statistics there are for the illegal use of firearms, but I am guessing that what happened in Milwaukee must be some kind of record or something.

Someone from the police department (I think) said that they have a good idea who some of the people involved might be, but that no arrests have yet been made.  Or, at least by the time I heard this yesterday morning.

When I was a child I belonged to the National Rifle Association.  We lived in the country and the only social activity was the local veteran's club or whatever they are called.  My parents were dedicated drinkers then, and the misuse of prescription drugs came later.  That was in the olden days, when street drugs were unknown in the country, at least in the country part where we lived.  Maybe the adults knew about such things, but I do not remember even hearing about any drug other than alcohol until I was out of high school.

So, anyway, whilst the parents were drinking, smoking and making out with each others spouses upstairs in the bar (or, maybe that only happened at all the house parties, just not sure), all of us kids were downstairs in the basement, on our bellies, shooting 22 caliber bullets at paper targets.

When I was a young adult, my ex and his friends fancied themselves gang members (think a kinder, gentler version of West Side Story...da-dum-da-da-duuuuuuum...) and decided that one of the times they took one of the guy's pistols out for skeet shooting, that they would take their wives (I was the only wife) and girlfriends along and show all of us how manly and gangsterly they were.  Unfortunately, when it came to be the girls turns, we beat the beans out of them.  Needless to say, we were never again invited to have that kind of fun.  I do not remember ever being invited to do anything with the group again, although that was during my training period, and I think that was near the beginning of when I was never again included in anything.  But, that is another story, best told on that other place.

I now live downtown in a relatively small city, as cities go.  There are always lots of neighborhood fireworks before, during and after the Fourth of July celebrations.  There are also random festivals, mostly church ones, I think, with short firework displays.

But, I often hear, like at least a couple of times each month, single pops that sort of sound like a single firework explosion.  I mean, it could be a family that is setting off a single illegal firework (is that the singular?) for a party or something.  It could be that.  It could also be a gunshot.  The only thing I know for sure is that it is not raccoons trying to feast in the trash cans down the street and a couple of blocks over.

During the transition period to this new life it was suggested by a couple of people that I seriously think about getting a handgun, taking lessons and having it around for protection.

I have to admit that there were plenty of moments when that appealed to me.  The possibility of someone harming me was, well, not an every day, in your face likelihood, but after the personal threats of harm at the final divorce hearing, the weird things that came in the mail and the ambush at work by one of his friends, it certainly was worth thinking about.

I have not done so.  I will not do so, not going to buy a gun.  The chances are more than excellent that I would, in a panic or in a state of fear, shoot myself, shoot the ceiling or a lamp or some damn thing, or even shoot someone who was trying to harm me, which I guess is the point of owning and knowing how to use a weapon, whatever it may be.

If it came down to that kind of necessary protection, I am pretty certain that I would not be able to shoot anyone, except by accident, and that means that having a gun is actually no protection at all.

With the occasional neighborhood pop, and the news and all of the women in abusive relationships that have been shot and killed during the past year, the notion of guns and shooting, injuries, death and accidents is not far from our collective mind.

Just saying.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

churchy stuff

So, anyway, Reverend Desmond Tutu is not willing to go to a heaven if gay people are not allowed to spend eternity there.  He would rather go to hell.  He is...has always been...totally my kind of person.

And, I have been a fan of the new Pope since I first learned about him, whenever that was.  When he was chosen and ordained, in super rapid time, which was amazing and kind of nice.  I left the Catholic Church a long time ago.  I still had faith and a strong belief, but the church system, at least that parish, was not a good match for me.  I tried to stay connected, involved.  The politics and the pettiness of the movers and shakers was difficult to watch.

The turning point  was when my daughter wanted to attend a Catholic high school.  She had tried public school for eighth grade, and soon realized that her learning disabilities made it too difficult for her to function outside of a private school environment.  So, I had to quit the childhood program I created at the parish school.  I needed a job that paid more money.  It was necessary, there was no other choice.  And, it was going to get more complicated because of the situation at home.  I knew that I would be in for more abuse.  Just did not have any other choices.

On the day that I gave notice and shared with the school principal and the pastor that I would not be returning after the summer break, the pastor sent the president of the home and school association to talk to me.  He tried to talk me out of leaving.  I explained my reasons and told him that I would not be changing my mind.  Thinking back, I marvel at how I was unable to stand up for myself or protect myself at home, much less refuse to do anything that someone who is not me wanted me to do.  It really is strange how I could be one person at home and some other kind of person outside of the home.  Yeah, I know that I have learned in therapy that I was doing whatever I needed to survive.  Still pretty darn interesting to think of it now.

So, anyway, he kept trying to convince me to stay and when I kept trying to tell me that I could not, that I really needed the extra money for my daughter to attend that school, he told me that I really should just apply for food stamps and that would make it possible for me to be available to stay where I was.  After all, he added, as I stood there dumbfounded, was that it was my right to get those food stamps because that is the kind of program that my taxes had been supporting all those years.

My daughter attended that church school and I got a job selling sewing machines and giving sewing lessons, and later moved up to a book store.

Whilst I continued to attend mass each week, it was pretty much the end of my involvement with any of the church programs.  And, Pope Francis excites me.  I like his ideas and his practices.  I like the way he is traveling around the world and I most especially like his recent stance on the issues surrounding and affecting same sex relationships.

Then, he had to go and maintain his integrity and share his views on women's roles in the church.  I would not call him sexist, and that is because he is just who he is.  He is a product of the same hierarchical and centuries long religious community and practice.  Male, primarily white, privilege.  Really, just as simple as that.  Yes, I am a simple and simple-minded person.  That does not make how the Catholic church is structured.

I heard what the Pope said about how women need to be more than altar girls or involved with charitable work, but that the door is closed on women every becoming priests, that the ban is an infallible teaching of the church.  So be it.  Women in the church, particularly nuns, have been taking charge and making strides as long as there have been nun and opportunities for taking charge of things.

I think that none of us will live long enough to see any change in that status or belief.  No one involved is willing to risk giving away or allowing any woman to take any authority or power in, well, anything.

Women will have to keep doing what they always have, keeping the faith and doing the work that needs to be done.

And, I am fairly certain that women like me will continue to have the men of the church, and the home and school association, instruct us in exactly what sacrifices we need to make to do most of that work for them.

I am glad that we have people like Reverend Tutu in the world, and I still like Pope Francis.  For me this is simply another exercise in accepting people for who they are, and maybe finding a bit more acceptance for me and who I am.  I have faith that could happen.