You Know When Life Gets Entirely Out of Control and You Just Laugh Because The Alternative is to Break Down and Cry?

That’s my life right now. Not in a I-hate-my-life way, but in a Well-guess-God’s-got-this-one way.

We got the news about Emerson and co-currently had to make a lot of decisions about moving and school and jobs. Well the medical aspect changed our living situation for the following year. Our lease came up July 31st and we paid half a month’s rent to stay for 15 days. We were supposed to move to a 2 bedroom with someone else on the 15th but then things got too complicated for that to happen. When we found out we weren’t moving on the 15th, we gave our landlord the second rent check so we had more time to make decisions.

Once we found out about Emerson, we were not sure if I should continue school or if we should stay in Chicago. I, probably selfishly, wanted to continue school for the fall semester and take the spring semester off. I emailed my professors to let them know the situation for the fall and see if I could alter my syllabi to finish my semester early. Most of my professors were not too supportive of me staying enrolled in school; they thought it would be a better idea take time off and focus on my family. Since I did not feel like I had the support of my professors and most other Heart Moms I talked with thought taking the year off was easier for me and better for my family, I decided to defer.

At the same time I decided to defer, the 15th of August rolled around. And that morning our building manager showed up and handed a cell phone to Matt. On the other end of that phone was our landlord who told us he wanted us to leave on Wednesday by noon (this was a Monday morning). Apparently, he had rented out our apartment sooner than expected and he needed us gone so he could get the apartment ready for the next tenants. Matt protested, saying that we had already paid the second half the rent, but our landlord said that he didn’t cash the check so he could do this. Luckily for us (and unfortunately for our landlord) my brother is an attorney who specializes in housing and works in a legal aid job making him very familiar with the laws surrounding eviction. So I called him and he helped us get in contact with Chicago legal aid. Unfortunately, we could not talk to anyone until the following day (Tuesday) and I was not about to sit around all day hoping things would work out and leaving myself only one day to pack if I had to move on Wednesday.

So Monday we spent packing and thank God Lindsey Jawish was there to help us. Matt and I are not know for our organization, speed, or efficiency. Lindsey is like a maniac (in the best way possible). So we packed that day, Matt called our landlord to let him know that we knew the law, and we waited to see what would happen. (other things happened too, but that’s not important right now)

Tuesday morning Matt woke up early called the lawyers and they called back at 9:30. We gave them our landlord’s information and they called our landlord. About an hour later we got a call from our landlord who realized we did know the law and were willing to use it and had our move out day moved to Sunday. we had planned to move August 28th, but, since we already decided to move to Minnesota, we felt it was just best to get out of there and agreed to move a week earlier than planned. We also cancelled the second half the rent check so he could not deposit it: we were still technically “evicted” and I was not about our landlord collect on that.

So while all of this craziness was going on with withdrawing from school and moving on the fly, we were also dealing with problems from the bank. The previous Wednesday we were told our account was locked for 24 hours because someone had hacked into it. I do not really understand how they hacked into it, but they did. We got an email from the bank later that day and the email said our account would be locked for 72 hours; meaning we had no access to our money until 12:24 pm on Monday afternoon. Lovely, right? We did not have to deal with contacting credit bureaus (even though I talked to both my Dad and my brother (the attorney) about what to do when someone steals your information) because TCF Bank already took care of it. So I guess that’s something.

12:24 rolls around on Monday and we still did not have access to our account. Matt spent some time on the phone with the bank and they were not helpful. Matt even went in to the bank and they could not help him. The next day, our account was still locked, but there was no time to do anything besides call the bank because I was heading back to Minnesota. The next day Matt called the bank (like corporate) and they told him he needed to go down to the financial district and they could help him. They “helped” him by letting him take out $30 and had the account frozen still. On Thursday TCF told him that they could not access the account and would open a new account for us: we had to wait until the following Monday to learn the new numbers and that was when they would send the new bank cards too. Well by that Monday (today) we would not be living in the apartment our account is under so our cards would be in Chicago and we would be in Minnesota. Not a good plan. Additionally, they wanted to close the account by Friday, but we have two direct deposits set up for that account. Both direct deposits have our information listed as Chicago as our home even though we now live in Minnesota. Not an ideal situation.

On Friday Matt went to cash a check, but, because our bank account is frozen, Matt was only “allowed” to cash half and he had to deposit the other half. Ridiculous. It is pretty safe to say that last Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were the most stressful days of my life.

Now things have calmed down. I only have to request all my medical records from Chicago, find new doctors in Minnesota, find a full-time and part-time job (one for me, one for Matt), find an apartment, and buy a car. Plus settle the bank business, finish deferring my education, and change all of information (loans, IDs, etc.) to a Minnesota address (that I don’t actually have). Love it.

But really, it’s not so bad. I have the most magnificent husband who helps me get through the day, and great support system that blows every other support system out of the water, and a faith that can get me through anything. So I am pretty much set.

Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients

On June 1st, Governor Rick Scott (Tea Party) of Florida signed into legislation a bill requiring all people applying for Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) to take a drug test. It went into effect July 1st On the surface this bill seems fairly reasonable. In fact, I would risk saying most people would agree with this testing…until you look closer.

The bill does not offer treatment options for people who test positive for drugs. It says that people have to wait a year to reapply for TANF. Unless they complete treatment then they may retest after six months. Still there is no clear standard here. Addicts have to pay for treatment on their own and, realistically, cannot afford it. The law also does not say how the record of treatment would be collected after 6 months. So if a person, who could not afford treatment, gets clean on their own will they qualify for re-application after 6 months or have to wait the full year? It is difficult for me to agree with a policy that does takes away from those who need help the most and does not offer a viable option for treatment.

The second problem I have with it: TANF is benefits for families. That means there are children in these situations. While the bill does allow for guardians to appoint someone else to receive benefits on the child’s behalf, I see two glaring problems. 1.) What is stopping the appointed benefactor from turing the cash benefits right back to the drug user? The system vilifies the poor (I will discuss this later) and yet thinks that no one will “cheat the system” if someone else receives the benefits. 2.) Why does the bill not have children removed from homes while parents get treatment? It seems odd to me that we care more about saving tax money (talk about that later too) then we do about saving children.

The third problem I have with this particular policy is the administration of it. The Florida Department of Child and Family Services is responsible for administering the test. From what I have researched, they are doing this without further resources from the state. It seems suspicious to me that we are willing to further stretch a system that is already beyond a breaking point. Again, it is more important to save a few bucks than to protect children. Also, the testing is done through a third party, so while DCFS is responsible for administering the test, a third party will actually process the test.

This leads to my fourth point: when Governor Scott created the bill he was a partner in a clinic that performed drug testing which means this clinic sees an increase in the number of tests they run and an overall increase in profits.. When it was discovered, instead of immediately selling his shares, he transferred his portion to a trust in his wife’s name so he could still make money off this bill. After much more public outrage he sold his share in the business for a tidy profit. I cannot help but be suspicious of a man who creates a bill that will make him money.

Additionally, each party is responsible for paying the upfront cost of the drug test. This can range between $10-70 dollars. This price range alone makes me suspicious of the effectiveness of the testing. It seems that any drug test may be administered and there is no standard drug test people have to take. This probably will lead to some people who are using to receive the TANF benefits anyway. Now the bill does stipulate that if the individual passes the test, they will be back payed for the cost. My struggle with having people pay the upfront cost is that if they are applying for TANF they are probably in a bad position and cannot readily or easily get together $70.

This makes me wonder why we are having the recipients pay for the testing especially when looking at my next argument. Scott says that the state will save a lot of money by not having drug users on welfare. That is true, but not necessarily right (in my opinion). If the state is saving “millions” of dollars, then why can’t some of the “saved” money be invested into the initial screening? I also feel like this argument of saving money is not necessarily a good argument. Welfare should not be about saving a dollar. Welfare is about giving people a hand up (yeah, not a hand out, look at most welfare policy and you will see). This policy is about punish people. There is no compassion.

My next point(s) go really well together as they are about classism. This policy, like much of new welfare policy, vilifies the poor. I am sure a household survey would show that most Americans believe addicts are mostly poor people. The reality of addiction is that it affects every level of wealth. 1 out of 10 drinkers has a problem with alcoholism: that’s a lot of people. This bill just makes it okay that we believe all poor people are addicts. It’s sad. Additionally, it supports our libertarian attitude: as long as you can afford it with your own money, I don’t care what you do. Addiction doesn’t see race, gender, ethnicity, class, religion, or any other category. Yet, if you have money (and if you are a certain race) then no one is going to call you out. No on is going to legislate your disease. Did you know that right now the number one drug of choice of addicts in treatment is marijuana which is considered a rich, white man’s drug? Why aren’t we testing college kids receiving government loans? Loan money also covers living expenses which for some addicts means drugs. I love telling people about marijuana being addictive: Most people don’t even think it is addictive which is why they use it.

Which of course, leads nice into my next point. Addiction is not a choice. It cannot be regulated by policy. Addiction is in the brain. The VTA essentially re-wires so that next hit is more important than other survival needs. Some addicts call their addiction an allergy. Their brains just do not react the same as others when the drug of choice enters the system. So this bill bothers me because it assumes the addict has control over the addiction. That’s never the case. We need to create legislation with a better understanding of addiction and create programs to help the addict learn to live with their disease. (yes there should be drug policy, but people are fools if they believe this will correct the problem.)

I would have much less of a problem with this bill if it took some of the above criticism into consideration. It would certainly make addiction counselors’ jobs easier if at the end of the day they got a sheet of paper with people who need help. It is scary to have to wait for the addict to come to you, especially when you know every day is a gamble. Will this be the day the addict overdoses?

I think part of the positive feelings around this bill stem from a misconception of welfare. For instance, TANF benefits are limited. People can only receive them for 60 months in a lifetime. I am not saying that any aid should go toward supporting an addiction, but I think too many people believe there are addicts “using” the system for life. It is just not possible. This perception also insults me on a personal level. As someone who has dedicate her life to working with welfare recipients (among many others) and who has recently decided to become a drug and alcohol counselor, it pisses me off that so many of my peers, family, and friends think I would be stupid enough to let someone “cheat the system”. Welfare fraud constitutes less than 10% of all welfare benefits being distributed, yet it is the reason we create punishing, punitive policy around welfare. My advice, instead of criticizing people on welfare, go volunteer at a social security office, benefits office, or resource center; learn about what is really happening first hand. Don’t just read an article about it. It’s not right or fair or just to punish more than 90% of welfare recipients because of the people who are making bad decisions. As a Catholic (very liberal Catholic), I really believe in social justice. This punitive attitude toward the poor make me so sad. In my opinion, even if there were less than 10% of the welfare population using it correctly, it would still be worth having it in place. God would have saved Sodom if Lot found only 10 innocent people. Also, just on a side, most of the welfare fraud committed is done by middle class college educated Americans.

Two other states have proposed similar bills. Kentucky proposed a bill that focused on LINK (food stamp benefits) in January of this year, but instead of testing all recipients would only provide random testing. I honestly do not know if it passed or not. I saw on Facebook (I know, super reliable source) that it had. The goal of this bill was to prevent people from selling their LINK cards to drug dealers. Again, not a bad bill overall, but what is it doing to stop the drug dealers? The main motivation for this bill was to save the state money which, as you know, I do not think is a suitable reason for cutting people off from help. I don’t know much else about the bill so I cannot not comment on it in depth. Michigan passed a similar bill in the early 2000s. In 2003 it was struck down as unconstitutional by the Sixth Circuit Supreme Court under the 4th Amendment which protects against unreasonable search and seizure. During the time it was in acted 258 people were tested for drugs. Only 21 people tested positive for an illicit drug. Of these people, all but 3 tested positive for marijuana. I just found that interesting.

This information, of course, reminds me of a point I forgot to bring up. The drug testing only focuses on illicit drug use. I hate to burst the “poor-people-do-crack” bubble, but there are more alcoholics (in all classes) than heroin addicts, meth addicts, or crack addicts. And alcoholics are just as dangerous and “burdens” on our system as other users.

And if you made it all the way through this blog: kudos. please feel free to share any and all opinions. I look through life through a very particular lens and don’t always see all arguments. I just want to reiterate, I am not necessarily opposed to drug testing welfare recipients. I just think it needs to serve a greater purpose than saving the state money and cutting people off or not offering people help.

I’ve Been Crabby for Two Weeks, Here’s a Blog About It

So here is somewhat an eclectic post for y’all:

I have stopped caring if people call my baby by his name before he is born. The reason I was superstitious was based around something terrible happening to Emerson before he got here. Well not saying his name had nothing to do with developing HLHS, so that superstition has just been proved ridiculous. Matt and I call him by his name a lot now. I think he likes it.

I am frustrated right now about gathering information on him and his life. Every time I voice an seemingly negative opinion, people just tell me to think positively. I do think positively, but I have a hard time thinking positively without knowing all the possible scenarios. I am a social worker and we work from a base of strength. We are trained to look at any situation and find the good parts of it and how there is strength in every situation. Thinking positively is my job. Not knowing all the information, not being able to vocalize my feelings, and not working through scenarios actually takes away from my strengths. I know what my strengths are and being prepared and planning for all situations are them. In fact, I have been having nightmares about worst case scenarios since I have not felt like I can vocalize them. Do you know what it feels like to miscarry in a dream and wake up from that? It sucks. So Matt and I are going to work on it more. I just feel terrible dumping on my crazy thoughts on him.

Which leads me to my next rant: I think I need to get more involved with support groups for heart mamas. There are a lot of online resources, but I think some sort of in person group would be really good for me. I love the human connection and physical contact of in person. Even if I don’t find a group, I think I should see a therapist. As an almost therapist, it would be weird for me to advocate for therapy and then not take care of myself.

I haven’t bragged about my husband for awhile, which is TERRIBLE! He is so amazing. I don’t know if people know this, but they should. He is working so hard at everything he does. He found a job at a new restaurant in our neighborhood called the BopNGrill. He will get between 30 and 40 hours a week. He is a cook which I think is fabulous. He has his first shift tomorrow. This first week he will work 4 hour shifts, because he is finishing up his time at Phonathon. I think that’s amazing. He got a full-time job, but instead of bailing on Phonathon he is staying until the end, through his commitment. I know a lot of people who would just quit their first job for their second job (especially if their second job offers more hours). Matt is not like that. If he says he will do something, he will do it. He is committed. I don’t know how I got such a great man.

Not only is he working amazingly well at two crap jobs, but he has continued sports writing in his free time and expanded his roll at Bleacher Report. He is working on a book (setting up some interviews and researching right now), trying to get an article published in a sports magazine with the help of a professor, and starting one or two blogs devoted to baseball. He is so amazing and I love him so much. I just want his dreams to come true.

My nail polish addiction has subsided somewhat. I think I have about 50 different colors, so it was time to cut myself off. I still am changing my nail colors on an every other day basis. It is a problem.

Finally, I am just trying to discern so much around Emerson’s life. I do not know how you know what is best for your child and how you make those decisions. How do you decide what is more important in his life when he isn’t even here and you don’t have enough information? I just need to not pressure myself while I research what is out there and consult with people smarter and more informed and better than myself.

The End

Summer School

Summer school is terrible. I do not like it. It goes too fast for me and it also is too long. I only have three more classes left, but then I have a two and a half week break before fall semester starts. Unbelievable. Plus my classes are 3.5 hours long and my professors have them run the whole time. Who does that during summer?

At least I am learning about interesting things in half my classes (I am only taking two classes). The other half is just miserable. Like cut-your-eyes-out miserable. Thank God I picked up another specialization so I only have to take classes that I enjoy and not Russian Roulette it on my electives…