Tuesday, December 27, 2005

What exactly IS the "working poor"?...

Well, I'll tell you, thanks so much for asking. ;)

The working poor is a class by themselves. They're a hodgepodge of different backgrounds all stuck in the same shitty financial situation. Sure, some of them are there because they're uneducated, possibly because their parents were uneducated as well. However, lack of proper education is only one reason, and there are many. Some of them have fallen into a string of hard luck; one horrible incident after another (such is the case with us). Some of them did something stupid and illegal when they were younger, and now find it difficult to get a decent job because of their legal background. Some of them had an unexpected child (or maybe even a planned child) that threw them into financial hell before they were even able to get their feet on firm ground.

The working poor aren't on welfare. Most of them are determined to work as hard as they have to in order to not require federal aid. Most of them find themselves barely keeping food on the table for their family of five while the state department tells them they make too much money to qualify for aid (yep, that's us again). Sadly, many people who are on welfare used to be part of the working poor, and finally gave up their attempt to make it on their own. I've heard many many stories of single mothers who, when faced with working and still being unable to feed their children, chose to quit their job and collect food stamps and federal housing. In a case like that, I don't blame them at all. You do what you gotta do to feed your kids.

The working poor are often overlooked, since they're not counted among the federal percentage of poverty-level families. As far as social standards, it's easy to judge them. It's easy to say their poverty would be eliminated if they didn't buy this, or subscribe to that. It's easy to say the unemployed spouse could get a job and solve all their problems. (Weekly daycare total in my area for my 3 kids based on state averages= $287.38. Average weekly income for a woman with no college education= $350. Wonder if I could cover my gas and lunches on 60 bucks a week?) I've had several nosy bitches tell me I would be a thousand times better off if I cancelled my internet access. Tell me something though: Would you be a thousand times better off with an extra $25 a month? What could you buy with it? Two days worth of groceries? A tank of gas? And what do you expect of these "wasteful" people? To sit at home staring at bare walls they shouldn't be spending money to paint? Twidling their thumbs because they shouldn't spend money on games or television? Most of us (well US anyway) never go to a movie. We never even eat at Denny's.

Think about what you would give up if you weren't making the bills each month. Cable television? Friday night dinner at a nice restaurant? The bar/nightclub? Aerobics class? Now imagine if you didn't have those things to give up. Imagine you never had them in the first place. Could you give up your cell phone? (I don't have one.) You car? (Hubby and I share a vehicle.) Imagine giving up your dental appointments for lack of insurance and inability to pay for the fillings you need - and imagine that tooth breaking and just dealing with the excrutiating pain. Imagine weighing your options, is it cheaper to buy tylenol or have that tooth pulled?

The working poor are everywhere you look. Maybe the mom in the grocery store told her kid to put back the cookies because they can't afford them. Maybe "those people" down the street are doing everything they can to keep their heads above water and that crappy POS they're driving is the best they can do. And sure, they could give up their internet (or beer, cell phone, salon nails, fill-in-the-non-necessity-here), but maybe, like us, it's one last thing they have keeping them from feeling like a complete loser. Maybe it's the one little thing that helps them remember people are supposed to be equal in this country. Maybe its the one thing that keeps them from saying, "Fuck it, I'm going on welfare." And in that case, its the thing that makes the difference between their working poverty and your tax dollars.

'Cause trust me, they don't want you to pay for them any more than you do.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Obsession Train: Crochetting...

My mother tried to teach me to crochet when I was a kid. I never had the patience for it. The very idea of making something ONE. STITCH. AT. A. TIME. was just ridiculous to me. So my mother crocheted a thousand afghans, doll dresses, and coin purses for me. And sometimes I watched.

When I was 19, a friend of mine showed me again how to crochet. I guess I was finally ready to learn it at that point. For a few months, I crocheted afghans. Baby afghans for friends, a big afghan for my bed, and of course a few for my mom because... well you just can't ever have enough afghans, right? All of them were single-crochet stitches, back and forth, sometimes in stripes. That's all I had learned how to do. By the time I got around to learning double-crochet stitches, I was bored with the whole mess.

Well now I'm crochetting again. I bought about 50 pounds of yarn and several packages of different sized hooks. I printed off patterns from here, here, and here. I now have four crochet projects started at once: a cradle/purse for my youngest daughter, a tote bag for myself, an afghan for my friend's baby, and a tank top for my oldest daughter. I know damn well I will run out of steam on this roll well before I get through all the yarn I've bought, but I couldn't help myself.

I guess all that extra yarn will find a home in the back of my closet, with the rest of the yarn I've been hanging on to for years. ;)