Family, Fidelia Hall, Libraries, Life, Titusville, PA

Food Stamps, the Feeling of Failure, Student Loans, and Life as a Library

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Last week, Haley and I applied for food stamps. Our family, which has been going on strong for 11 years and now includes 2 awesome kids, Haley’s mom, our dog Sonic, 3 chickens, and 2 rabbits, have hit a period in our journey where we couldn’t do it without help anymore.

I know that there’s a reason I pay taxes. They are there to help….my family and I, others in need, and more. This is one of those situations where we needed help. I understand this very well. I am all for taxes that help out others in my community. We are all in this together and together we can do amazing things. At the same time there’s a stigma that comes from applying for and using food stamps: that somehow you’ve failed, you’re lazy, or you’re just downright an average human being. I try to have a healthy mind and outlook on everything, but I’ve gotta admit that I’ve fallen into this pit recently. I’m a 36 year old human being, I’ve got a wonderful job which I’m pretty good at, an amazing and happy family, and I’ve done some other things that I’m also really proud of. But here I am at this point where I feel like a failure just because I need some help. It shouldn’t be this way.

We’ve used the support of food stamps before. When Haley and I first got married, we were finishing up college. We both had part time jobs in addition to our full time school workload. The food stamps helped out a lot. Back then, the feeling of being a complete failure because you’re on food stamps wasn’t as big as it is now. Having a family and needing food stamps feels like you’ve hit the bottom. I think about this feeling that I’m having and then I think about all of the others out there who are on food stamps, especially those with families just like mine. What happens when you have all of those people out there in the same situation? You have millions of people out there feeling that they’ve lost all hope, that they’re somehow pathetic, and that they’ve failed. You have millions of people who feel like shit just for wanting to make sure their family doesn’t go hungry. When you have that many people feeling bad in the country, those bad vibes add up. It can’t be proved, but I really think the general malaise surrounding things in our country is somehow related to feelings like this.

On our end, I know that student loan debt is crippling. We’re both on programs that give us flexibility with our payments (income based repayment). While these do help, it’s still tough to have around $100K of debt total hanging over your head just because you went to college, got an education, and pursued a career in something you felt could make a difference in the world. I also understand the argument “well, you went into college knowing full well what would happen.” I’ve heard this many times before. I can see it from two sides: of course I knew (something) about how I’d be in debt once I left college. When I went, they told us about it. Did they tell us the specifics? Sort of kind of maybe not. I started college in 1998 and at that time it was just “oh yeah, you’ll have some debt but it’ll be OK because you’ll be a college graduate.” Most of us became the first great generation of student loan debt holders. And we’re still here! * Can America Afford This Approach to Solving Student Loan Debt? (it’s behind a paywall, but it is a great read) by Haley Sweetland Edwards is a great read that sums up the collective “wow, so much student loan debt”weight of a generation.

The amount of money we spend on student loan debt per month could help us in a lot of ways (FYI: it is around $337/month). First up: it could help with the grocery bills, thus giving us enough money to not go down the food stamp route. Second: it could help with the startup of Fidelia Hall. Have you ever tried starting up a business or a non-profit? Maybe I’m really stupid, but it’s really difficult and confusing…and it costs a lot. Just this week, our Fictitious Name Registration cost us $70 to file an application, $41 to advertise the application in our local newspaper, and $75 to advertise the application in a legal journey. That’s $186, and we’d still have $151 to spend this month on something else (groceries! Fidelia Hall repairs and infrastructure!) What am I trying to get towards? The debt we’re saddling people with for school, health care, and more are crippling us. They’re crippling us mentally. They make us not want to get out of bed. They make us want to sit around and do nothing when what we really want to do is something, because I believe that all human beings (no matter which political side they are on) just want to get things done for their communities. They’re also crippling our ability to move forward and do better things for our communities. You can’t start up a business/non-profit when you don’t have time or money.**

I better wrap this up. We just hit 1,000 words.

I’m not asking for a raise. I’m not asking for donations. I’m not even asking for an “oh man I feel you.” I just wanted to get this out there so that if you’re in a situation similar to this that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We’re here. We’re successful. We’re pretty happy. We’re in debt and we’re also on food stamps.

*On a side note, I remember credit card companies and banks lining up at the dining halls doing everything they can (“here! have a free beach ball for taking our credit card!”) to get students signed up for their first horrible credit card. They succeeded with me and so many other of my friends.

**Go ahead and leave a comment telling me to suck it up and “pull myself up by the bootstraps just like an American would. I’ve been trying to do this for years. This is just what my Dad said and continues to say. But there’s more to it than “sucking it up” or “taking it like a man” or “pulling up your bootstraps”. There has to be some give and take.

 

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Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Three Things, Titusville, PA

THREE THINGS 2016.7

THE THINGS WE PUT INTO OUR MOUTH

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Think about all of the stuff you put into your mouth and then chew and digest throughout the day. That’s a lot of stuff. Here in America, we also have a tendency to produce a lot of crappy food that’s easily accessible. Donuts? Candy? Hamburgers? Come and get it at the cheapest prices around! But vegetables and other healthy things? We don’t love to have those easily available at the tips of our fingers. I have been doing this for quite a few years now, but recently I am really starting to pay attention to what I put into my mouth.

Haley and I have started seeing an herbalist in an attempt to not only get healthier but to also get off all of our medications. Long story short? The cons outweigh the pros and we want to see if this new route works. So far the journey has been interesting and I look forward to seeing everything in action over a long period of time. If you were ever curious about the food (both healthy and junky) that I put into my body, you can check that out here. I am enjoying documenting this part of my life. It keeps me very aware of what I’ve been doing during the day.

CHICKENS

Chickens in Chattanooga changed my life and to be completely honest with you life here in Titusville, PA hasn’t been the same without them. I enjoy going out into my backyard and hearing their clucks, discovering the eggs they laid, and just walking around the yard with them. Well, last week that all changed and we got our 3 baby Buff Orpington chickens. They don’t have names yet (we’ll see how their personalities turn out) and they just squeak a lot right now but it’s so good to have chickens back in our lives. Next up comes their coop and their run. We will enjoy building that.

DISCO

Just hit play and sit back for the next hour and enjoy this great set from DJ Robbie Leslie from Easter 1986 at THE SAINT.

Libraries, Presentations

A SCHEDULE OF EVENTS FOR A LIBRARY CONFERENCE I’D LIKE TO ATTEND

7:00-9:00AM: Sleep in because you deserve it.

10:00AM: Eat Breakfast and Talk About Things

11:00AM: Stand up, talk to someone new, and ask someone to go for a walk with you.

11:30PM: FIRST SESSIONS. Choose from one of the following:

  • Let’s sit around a table and talk about books we love
  • Let’s play some video games/board games together
  • Let’s go outside and be nice/do nice things to/for random strangers

1:00PM: Lunch and Talk About Things. There will be a stand up comedian who will put on a really funny performance while we eat because laughing is great.

2:15PM: SECOND SESSIONS. Choose from one of the following:

  • Let’s sit around a circle and talk about what we can do every day to make our libraries better for people. Think about the small things!
  • If you like to make music, join us in a room where we all can play instruments and make music.
  • Meditate: We’re just going to sit in this room and meditate.

3:45 PM: Afternoon Tea/Coffee and some exercise

4:15 PM: We’ll invite a guest speaker to talk to us for a bit. 30 minutes tops. They will be awesome and funny and inspire.

5:00 PM: Everybody needs a little time away. Go get some dinner by yourself or with a group. We don’t have to babysit you the whole conference. Do what you want.

9:00 PM: We’ve organized a get together at a bar. Beer and liquor make people feel relaxed and then we all can talk more and take our crazy ideas even further.

12:00 AM: Dance Party. Let’s find a really great gay dance club and dance for awhile.

2:00 AM: The dance party may close up at this time and we are probably worn out from dancing a lot. Let’s go to a greasy spoon and get some breakfast food.

4:00 AM: Goodnight everyone. Go to bed. You deserve it.

THE NEXT DAY: No sessions, no meetings, nothing. You get to take the day off and sleep in. You deserve it.

Portland, ME

The All Local Thanksgiving: 2010 in Portland, ME with Haley, Justin, and Finn

Since moving to Portland, ME earlier in the year,  my family has become quite invested in the local community.  Why?  Well, we love it here for one.  At the same time we have always felt strongly about supporting our local community first and foremost above anything else.  We’ve had a chance to do that on a small scale in other communities that we’ve lived in, but Portland has allowed us to take things to a whole new level.

We couldn’t make it back to Pittsburgh, PA to be with family for Thanksgiving this year so we decided on doing the next best thing: having an all local Thanksgiving.  Was it hard to pull off?  Not at all. Many thanks go out to my wife Haley and her sister Nadine for getting everything together.  They did all the behind the scenes work and the actual cooking.  They also blog about their food adventures at this site so you should check that out.  We ordered a lot of our goods through the Portland Food Co-op and picked up our orders the week before Thanksgiving.

So how was the food?  AMAZING. We still got the “ohmylordIatetoomuch” feeling afterwards, but it wasn’t a disgusted processed turkey and frozen vegetables sort of thing.  It was more like a “yesthatwasalotbutitwasgoodandspirituallyfulfilling” type of meal.

Thanksgiving 2010

Here’s the list of ingredients we used/foods we ate:

Carrots and Kale: Fishbowl Farm, Bowdoinham ME
Garlic: Summit Springs Farm, Poland ME
Onions: Freedom Farm, Freedom ME
Turkey: Snafu Farms, Monmouth ME
Cranberries and Apple Cider: Ricker Hill Farms, Turner ME
Brussel Sprouts: Dandelion Springs Farm, Washington ME
Eggs: Esch Dairy, Smyrna ME
Sea Salt: Maine Sea Salt Company, Marshfield ME
Organic Milk: MooMilk, Augusta ME
Parsley: Goranson Farm, Dresden ME
Organic Bread Flour: Aurora Mills, Linneus ME
Organic Yukon Gold Potatoes: Nature’s Circle Farm, Houlton ME
Butternut Squash: Levesque’s Organic Farm, Leeds ME

*all of the breads and rolls were made and cooked by Nadine Byers using local ingredients*

NON LOCAL, BUT STILL NEEDED/PRETTY DANG COOL SHIT:
Cleaning supplies: Graciously donated by Sun and Earth, King of Prussia PA.  In a way, they sponsored our Thanksgiving, as they donated cleaning supplies to us.  Instead of spending money on cleaning supplies, we used that to buy more local food.  I’m not gonna hit you over the head pitching their product now, but I will say this: their stuff is GOOD.  All of their products have an amazing citrus smell that made the house smell wonderful.  It was nice to add that to the mix of all of the food being cooked.  Thanks Sun and Earth!

Lima Beans: We couldn’t find anything local so we opted for store bought frozen Lima Beans.
(Yes, lame, I know, but…they’re a tradition for me and I couldn’t miss out on them)

Brownies: For dessert,  we used a simple Trader Joe’s baking mix for brownies.


All in all, Happy Holidays from all of us to you.
Here’s a video of Finn playing with his new kitchen (which was also made in Maine!)