Being Poor

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“We have learned not to try too hard to be middle class. It never works out well and always makes you feel worse for having tried and failed yet again. Better not to try. It makes more sense to get food that you know will be palatable and cheap and that keeps well. Junk food is a pleasure that we are allowed to have; why would we give that up?”

“We know that the very act of being poor guarantees that we will never not be poor. It doesn’t give us much reason to improve ourselves. We don’t apply for jobs because we know we can’t afford to look nice enough to hold them. I would make a super legal secretary but I’ve been turned down more than once because I “don’t fit the image of the firm”, which is a nice way of saying “gtfo, pov”. I am good enough to cook the food, hidden away in the kitchen, but my boss won’t make me a server because I don’t “fit the corporate image”. I am not beautiful. I have missing teeth and skin that looks like it will when you live on B12 and coffee and nicotine and no sleep. Beauty is a thing you get when you can afford it, and that’s how you get the job that you need in order to be beautiful. There isn’t much point trying.”

““Free” only exists for rich people. It’s great that there’s a bowl of condoms at my school, but most poor people will never set foot on a college campus. We don’t belong there. There’s a clinic? Great! There’s still a copay [cost levied by health insurance companies]. We’re not going. Besides, all they’ll tell you at the clinic is you need to see a specialist, which, seriously? Might as well be located on Mars for how accessible it is. “Low cost” and “sliding scale” sound like “money you have to spend” to me, and they can’t help you anyway.”

“So let’s break this down: you’re poor, so you desperately need whatever crappy job you can find, and the nature of that crappy job is that you can be fired at any time. Meanwhile, your hours can be cut with no notice, and there’s no obligation on the part of your employer to provide severance regardless of why, how or when they let you go. And we wonder why the poor get poorer.”

‘Poor people don’t plan long-term. We’ll just get our hearts broken’, The Observer, Linda Tirado

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Cowgirl Friendship

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National Day of the Cowboy is July 23!

Alice reckoned there was room for more than one cowgirl in Pennsylvania. So she and Lexis hopped up onto their ponies and trotted off down the trail.

Alice From Dallas by Marilyn Sadler and illustrated by Ard Hoyt

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If being a vampire were easy…

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The plain fact is, I can’t do anything much. That’s part of the problem. Vampires are meant to be so glamorous and powerful, but I’m here to inform you that being a vampire is nothing like that. Not one bit. On the contrary, it’s like being stuck indoors with the flu watching daytime television, forever and ever. If being a vampire were easy, there wouldn’t have to be a Reformed Vampire Support Group.

The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks

Crucial Storytelling

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We had been taught not to look back. We had been trained to disconnect from family and our homelands. We had swapped our stories for a dream. To survive we need to find, and then share, our interlinking stories.

White Birch, Red Hawthorn: A Memoir by Nora Murphy

 

Scottish Monster Family

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In faraway Scotland, here was a famous lake called Loch Ness. And legend had it that deep in this lake lived a monster. No one had ever seen it. But guess what? The legend was false. In truth, way way down at the bottom of Loch Ness there lived not one but three monsters!

The Lock Mess Monster, written by Helen Lester and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

God’s Spam Filter

Do you ever think back over all of the problems you’ve faced, the prayers you’ve prayed, and the final outcomes? Do you ever compare all of the time spent asking for God’s help to the times when help was received, and then look up to the sky and think “Are my messages going into your spam filter?”

Yeah. Me too.

-Just some random thoughts floating through the head of Adora Myers

Those Who Believe Shall Fly

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“Don’t look back! Don’t look back, Soren! Believe!” But this time it was not Grimble calling. It was Gylfie. Just as they reached the stone rim, they felt a curl of warm air. And it was as if vast and gentle wings had reached out of the night, and swept them up into the sky. They did not look back. They did not see the torn owl on the library floor. They did not hear Grimble, as he lay dying, chant in the true voice of the Boreal Owl, in tones like chimes in the night, an ancient owl prayer: “I have redeemed myself by giving belief to the wings of the young. Blessed are those who believe, for indeed they shall fly.”

The Guardians of Ga’Hoole, Book One: The Capture, by Kathryn N Lasky

Poverty Premium: Rent to Own

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In some ways, the business harkens back to the subprime boom of the early 2000s, when lenders handed out loans to low-income borrowers with little credit history. But while people in those days were charged perhaps an interest rate of 5 to 10 percent, at rental centers the poor find themselves paying effective annual interest rates of more than 100 percent. With business models such as “rent-to-own,” in which transactions are categorized as leases, stores like Buddy’s can avoid state usury laws and other regulations.

And yet low-income Americans increasingly have few other places to turn. “Congratulations, You are Pre-Approved,” Buddy’s says on its Web site, and the message plays to America’s bottom 40 percent. This is a group that makes less money than it did 20 years ago, a group increasingly likely to string together paychecks by holding multiple part-time jobs with variable hours.

“We’ve always talked about the benefits and costs,” she said on the drive home. “Because with a family you can’t just say, ‘I want this, I’m going to get it.’ But growing up having the chair, the recliner, the love seat, the couch and everything, you just get used to the normal stuff. Sometimes it’s hard to break from the normal stuff and get to reality.”

Rental America: Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa, Washington Post, Chico Harlan, 10/2014.

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Then in the fall of 2001, Motta discovered Rent-A-Center. Situated in mostly poor neighborhoods, this chain’s 2,600 stores offer big-ticket items like furniture and electronics to millions of people with no credit. Hiking up prices and charging exorbitant interest, using a scheme critics have called “pay now, pay later,” the company racks up sales in the billions and is a key player in what one market research firm calls “the poverty market.”

But the story didn’t end there. Monthly bills continued to arrive, late fees stacked up, and “incomplete” payments were rejected. Rent-A-Center employees routinely called her at home, says Motta, and even came by in person to pressure her to pay. After two years, Motta had paid Rent-A-Center almost $2,000. “I was giving and giving and it was never done,” she recalled. “I told them to take their sofa.” The company would not comment on her case.

Darnley Stewart, an attorney who is leading a New York class-action suit against the company, finds this outrageous. “Rent-A-Center explicitly targets poor, largely minority neighborhoods and has no qualms about selling a cheap television for $700 to people who can’t afford it,” she says. Stewart’s suit, which is awaiting a ruling from the state Supreme Court, alleges that Rent-A-Center engaged in deceptive and fraudulent business practices by misrepresenting the actual costs of its merchandise and coercing customers with a “high-pressure sales scheme.”

In the face of steady complaints, Rent-A-Center argues that it is offering a service to an otherwise excluded demographic, and that its mission is simply to “improve the lives of our customers.” But others, like attorney Darnley Stewart, are not even mildly persuaded: “I don’t think you are doing the poor a favor by gouging them.”

Pay Now, Pay Later, Mother Jones, Anya Schiffrin, May/June 2005

Camping and Night Sounds

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Eddie listened to the owls hooting, and to the little creatures scuffling in the grass outside. He pretended he was a boy living in the stone age, a bold and fearless boy, safe in his cave.

-Eddie’s Tent and How to go Camping by Sarah Garland

Bragging Rights: My Tiny Garden

When I moved into this duplex, the landlord gave me permission to do a little gardening. It was one of the many questions I had before moving in and the representative from the company that manages this building assured me it was ok. Of course, this is a place I rent, not a place I own, so I have been both cautious and careful about what I plant and how much money I spend.

We’ve had an unusually large amount of rain this year, and most of the plants in my little garden plots are doing extremely well – therefore, I have decided to brag about my garden.

Herbs In The Front Yard

I removed the weeds, put down mulch, and planted (from left to right) Swiss Chard, Cilantro, purple Sage and Chives (purple flowering). The Hosta (in the center) was already there.

All of these plants are doing really well except the chives. For some reason, the chives are struggling.

Pretty Flowers Beside The Door

I’d taken the time to give this bush a much-needed trim before putting down mulch and planting some pretty purple and pink flowers for mother’s day (a family tradition). I’m glad we chose the flowers we did because, soon after, the bush burst into bloom with pretty pink (bright pink!) flowers in the spring. Sadly, I did not take a picture before the flowers were all gone – they are rather short-lived.

For some reason, this house has two doors, and two sets of cement steps leading up to those doors, on the same side of the house. The bush in this picture is the same bush in the previous picture. Since this second door is never used (it even has a ‘do not use’ sign), I played around with using this stoop as a home for plants in pots.

This flower is the only thing that really took to this location (and survived the squirrels). It’s such a pretty flower! I wish I’d thought to take a picture when the whole thing was in bloom. I’ll have to try to remember to snap a photo with my phone the next chance I get.

Strawberry Patch

I pulled all the weeds out of this area along the side of the house, put down mulch and planted strawberry plants. They have not started to produce strawberries, but they have been growing strong. A few are starting to send out little vines, so they should spread out nicely.

The large leafy flowering plants behind the strawberries were already there. They produce pretty orange flowers when they are in bloom. The low leafy flowering plants (tiny purple flowers when in bloom) around the edges are all over the yard. There isn’t much grass on this property because these plants cover everything, so the grass grows up around them. It’s actually kind of nice because they are just as soft as grass, so it doesn’t get in the way of lounging/playing in the backyard.

I allowed some of the purple flowers to remain around the strawberries because they were pretty when they were in bloom but they spread aggressively, so I have to weed them away from the strawberries from time to time.

Old Laundry Line Pole

When I did the walk-through on this place, this old metal pole in the backyard stood out like a sore thumb. It’s left over from a time when people did laundry outside. There’s nowhere to attach a laundry line/rope, so it has no purpose except to just stand there looking like…well, like this.

I was trying to find a way to make it less ugly when I noticed that it was both extremely solid/sturdy and it had holes drilled into the arms. So, I went out and bought some hanging baskets, planted some flowers and decorated with a wind chime. Much better! (Not perfect, but BETTER!)

If I owned this place…or if I had the tools, time and skills…I would seriously look at turning this thing into some kind of hanging garden with several tiers of wide (the width of the arms) garden boxes. Another option is to plant a flowering vine (of some sort) at the base and let it consume the entire pole.

Hmmm…

This is an excellent example of one of the primary reasons why I find renting so frustrating – I just want to get out into the yard and fix it!

Former Wood Pile Is Now A Garden

When I moved in, I noticed a wood pile in the back of the yard. Throughout the Midwest, burning wood in your yard is extremely common. Even in the middle of the city, on rented property, people will have city-approved fire pits. So, the wood pile wasn’t unusual.

When spring arrived (I moved in during the winter) I realised it was a wood and trash pile, filled with all sorts of rotting things that needed to be dealt with (somehow). There were also lots of broken glass, beer bottle tops and cigarette butts all over the yard – I guess the former tenants had many gatherings (or something). When you rent, this sort of problem is common. People just don’t take care of places they don’t own.

So, I sorted out the wood pile, got the trash hauled away (including the glass and cigarettes, when I found them), put everything into the yard-waste garbage can that was allowed and used the former wood-and-trash-pile space to create a tiny vegetable garden.

I had several pots full of dirt that I’d attempted to use for gardening-from-seed, but the squirrels kept digging in the dirt. Every single time little shoots of plants would appear, I would come home to find the entire pot dug up – it was as if the squirrels had decided to stir it up (like a soup).

I finally decided to just dump all of the dirt into the former-wood-pile location, use some of the large wood pieces (not allowed in the yard waste bin) to create a garden border, and planted some already-grown plants purchased at local garden centers.

The end result is two tomato plants (in the back) and (from left to right in the front) zucchini, cucumbers and pumpkins.

There’s also a section of those flowering plants that are growing in other parts of the yard. This fence is really ugly, and a portion of the flowers was over-grown (potentially root bound), so I moved a small section out of the overgrown area and replanted it in this tiny garden plot. The thought was, long-term, these flowers would spread and cover up the fence line.

Wish It Were My Own

I really enjoy doing yard work on the weekends and playing around with little gardening projects. Obviously, I’m not a master gardener, but it’s fun.

Sadly, this is an apartment and, sooner or later, we will have to move. I’m going to miss this place when we leave.