Wednesday, June 29, 2005

It's raining in New York...

..and all the roads pointing home are flooded. Whenever it rains even semi-heavy, there’s just nowhere for the water to go in the Bronx and lower Westchester. (And from what I hear, in Long Island, but that’s not home for me.)

So, literally a half million people, and me, are all on the road, trying to get out of the Bronx. Looking for a way to get home. Some alternate route that won’t end up in a river of rain at some point. So we’re all sitting in our cars, in traffic, waiting for the car in front of us to move. Slowly inching our way forward, our bumper nearly on top of the one in front of us.

I almost never get caught in traffic jams. Funny when you think about it. It’s New York, after all, capital of traffic jams. But I am extremely lucky in my current job. My commute is only about 25 minutes one way. Hell, I used to have a job that required that I drive up to Albany twice a week. Five hour round trip, twice a week. I will never complain about a 25 minute commute. Or the lack of traffic jams on my route.

But really, I don’t mind waiting in traffic. I have air conditioning in the car (first car I ever owned that had air). I have a cd player with mucho cd’s (ditto). I just kick back, turn on something good, and either mellow out, or rock out, depending on my mood. But here’s the problem. Not everyone can wait so patiently. They think they are more important than the rest of us waiting. They think their time is more valuable. So they sneak around the lines, and cut in as far up the line as they can. Not just one, but dozens. Making the wait even longer for those of us waiting patiently.

That’s normally when I lose it. That’s usually when Dr. Mood becomes Mistress Jekyll. Do not fucking cut in front of me when I’ve been waiting patiently for an hour. My car becomes a massive weapon, and damn it, I’ll use it if I have to. I don't give damn how big your fucking car is. But you will not cut in front of me. You like that nice car of yours? Well, then, back off jack, ‘cause I’ll bump it. I will.

Not surprisingly, that’s also when I cease to like myself. I am not a good person when I lose it. Doesn’t matter if I only lose it in a traffic jam. I’m not a nice person when it’s gone. It just exhausts me. By the time I get home, you could wring me out. You know, it takes about a thousand times more effort and energy to be angry than it does to be cool. But it takes even more energy to try to keep that anger under control.

I tried to stay cool, but, as my 25 minute commute stretched into an hour, an hour and a half, nearly two hours…I was so close. But really, really tried to keep cool. And I mostly did. I did ‘flip off’ a couple of people. Yelled at one. But I was mostly cool. When I was finally close to home, I did what any normal person would do. Treated myself.

My idea of a treat? Tonight it was KFC and Carvels. No cooking for me. No leftovers for me. Only really, really bad for me stuff. And I’m not even going to work out tonight. I don't care how loudly that elliptical calls my name. It can just sit over there in the corner all lonely-like. Instead, I’m going to go get my Carvels chocolate peanut butter sundae, put my feet up, watch the boob tube, and relax. Relax, while it rains in New York.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

and the poor just keep getting poorer

Another piece of the puzzle, again from California (no, they are definitely not the only state proposing cuts, just one of the ones with a very vocal grassroots advocacy organization). If the gov of CA is successful, monthly grants in CA will be reduced to pre-1989 levels. And before anyone suggests that people on welfare are living a life of luxury and leisure, note that the average welfare payment is only 55% of the federal poverty line, and 1996 polices generally require full-time work from the time the youngest child is 1 month old. If the recipient can't find a job, they are forced to do 'volunteer' work for the city/state, not for a salary, but for their welfare grant. They get no benefits, they are exempt from things like harassment policies (i.e. they can be sexually harassed and have no legal recourse), they are not eligible for earned income tax credit, and they don't pay into social security.



Religious Leaders across California urge Arnold to Make Better, Moral Choices (San Francisco and Los Angeles)

Nearly 100 poor, disabled and elderly Californians marched on Governor Arnold Scwarzenegger's offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco this morning, to protest the Governor's proposed budget that targets low-income women and children rather than wealthy Californians to balance the budget deficit. The protestors delivered a statement, titled “A Call to Conscience,” signed by religious leaders from across California that urges the governor to make better, moral choices and reject further cuts to poor families.

In the statement, religious leaders declare, “A budget that asks the poorest among us to sacrifice, without seeking a fair share from those with abundance, is not a moral response to the challenges facing our state.” They go on to urge the “Governor and legislative leaders to reject further cuts to poor families. Instead, we call on our government for leadership in making better, moral choices on behalf of all Californians, through budget and tax policies that give expression to an ethic of justice and compassion.”

Governor Schwarzenegger is proposing harsh cuts in programs that support working women and men enrolled in CalWORKs, their children, and to services for the elderly, sick, and disabled. Under Schwarzenegger’s proposal, the average welfare cash benefits for a family of three in California will be reduced by $47/month from $723/month to $676/month – $18/month less than families received in 1989. The Governor also proposes to eliminate the annual state CalWORKs grant Cost of Living Adjustment forever, resulting in an average loss of $33/month starting in July 2005. Adjusted for inflation, $1 in benefits in 1989 is now only worth .62 cents.

To illustrate what the proposed welfare cuts will mean to their children, parents delivered bags of empty household items – toilet paper, deodorant, soap, shampoo, feminine products, light bulbs – that their families will be unable to afford if the governor cuts their grants by 6.5% and eliminates the annual Cost of Living Adjustment due next month.

According to Leilani Luia, LIFETIME member and mother of three, “Right now, after I pay my rent, I am only left with $14/month. If my CalWORKs grant is reduced by 6.5%, it will push my family and other California families like mine deeper into poverty and possibly into homelessness.” She continued, “I will find myself having to make tough decisions like keeping the lights on or taking my daughter to her much need counseling appointments. My family should not be the target of the governor’s balanced budget.”

Today, the average welfare cash grant is less than 55% of the poverty line. “The Governor wants to slash welfare benefits and eliminate Cost of Living Adjustments,” says LIFETIME Program Director Anita Rees, “even though welfare benefits are $18 lower than they were in 1989, when a gallon of milk only cost a dollar.”

The demonstrations today are part of a series of planned protests at the governor’s district offices across the state; LIFETIME’s next action is scheduled for Wednesday, June 29th in Fresno.


(**not all states have a welfare COLA, in fact very few do. In many states, grants haven't been increased for 10+ years).

welfare reform policies endanger battered women and children

I received this press release via a policy listserv that I'm on. It basically says that as many as 60-85% of women on welfare are battered women seeking aid. Even though welfare policies allow battered women to be exempt from work requirements and lifetime limits while they get the help they need, states (in this study, California) do not provide these women with the necessary waivers for exemption. I can't put the agency's contact info here, but feel free to email me if you would like it. While most people agreed that welfare as a program failed most citizens, the approach taken by Congress in passing the reform Act of 1996 was the wrong direction if we want to keep our poverty level families safe. The '96 policy extensions end on Thursday, June 30 and must be extended or reauthorized by Congress for welfare programs to continue. Pres Bush is promoting, as a part of that reauthorization, to "funnel $1.5 billion into unproven "marriage promotion" schemes" (basically, pressuring single female recipients to marry). Below is the text of the press release.


For Immediate Release: Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Dramatic New Report Uncovers Abuse of Battered Women in California's Welfare System (Washington, DC)

Today, Dr. Wade Horn, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, received messages from battered women with children across the country - on more than 150 "wife beater" tshirts - about the government's failure to protect their families under welfare reform. More than 30 domestic violence survivors and their supporters were there to display the shirts, strung on 200 feet long of laundry lines in front of Dr. Horn's office, to publicize the release of a dramatic new report that details the utter failure of California's welfare system to protect battered women and their in our welfare system.

The report, entitled Family Violence is NOT an Option, was produced by LIFETIME, a California-based community organization of low-income parents pursuing education and training as the means to get their families out of poverty. Among the report's findings was the alarmingly low numbers of mothers who are receiving domestic violence services in the CalWORKs program, California's state welfare program created under welfare reform. While studies show that as high as 83% of CalWORKs mothers are domestic violence victims, in 2004 less than 680 mothers statewide -less than one-fifth of one percent of the state's welfare caseload - received domestic violence waivers in 2004."

These shirts are our way of airing the government's dirty laundry," explained LIFETIME Executive Director Diana Spatz. "Top welfare administrators in the Administration for Children and Families know what's happening to battered women and their children under welfare reform, and they haven't done anything to protect them."The mothers tried to deliver the report directly to Dr. Horn, along with tshirts from battered women and children around the country, after he declined to meet with them to discuss needed protections for battered women with children under TANF reauthorization.

The release of the report is timely, given that TANF is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2005, and House Republicans' plan to funnel $1.5 billion into unproven "marriage promotion" schemes under TANF reauthorization. Domestic violence survivors and welfare advocates fear that this plan will encourage low-income mothers to stay with their abusers. "Marriage is not an option for many parents on welfare, especially survivors of domestic violence. They need counseling, child care, and education, not husbands," said Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, Poverty and Welfare Study Director of the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

By contrast, Congress has never dedicated funding to support battered women with children in the welfare system, despite studies that show that 65% of welfare mothers nationwide are domestic violence victims. As a result, battered women are unable to get the services they need to overcome abuse - and get their families off welfare. "I left my abusive husband and had to get on welfare; I had to ask for help for domestic violence from three different caseworkers. I was outright denied each time," said Leilani Luia, mother of three and LIFETIME member. "First my husband abused me. Now I'm being abused by the welfare department with no way out."

The mothers made several requests to deliver the report to Dr. Horn in person, before police were called in to break up the peaceful - albeit loud -protest. However, the officers with the Department of Homeland Security who responded ended up sympathizing with the protesters, and allowed the mothers to keep their shirts on display. When Dr. Horn refused to meet with the protesters, the officers delivered the report - and shirts - to the Assistant Secretary's office on their behalf.

As Luia explained, "this report shows that welfare reform has failed to protect mothers like me. Family violence is not an option for me and my children - so why can't mothers like me get the services, counseling and protections we need?"

Friday, June 24, 2005

how far is heaven?

Wednesday night on my way to meet a friend for dinner (one I haven't seen for 3 or 4 months), I was listening to my los lonely boys cd (I love a cd player that lets me replay a particular song over and over if I want). I've been very moody lately, up and down, and that's not like me, not at all.

I hit 45 on my last birthday, and that seems to be a time when people question where they are in life and where they want to go.

Well, anyway, although I'm not a spiritual person, this song really said what I was feeling.

Save me from this prison
Lord help me get away
Cause only you can save me now
From this misery
Cause I’ve been lost in my own place
And I’m getting’ weary
How far is heaven
And I know I need to change
My ways of livin’
How far is heaven, Lord can you tell me

Cause I’ve been locked up way too long
In this crazy world, how far is heaven
I just keep on prayin’ Lord
Just keep on livin’, how far is heaven
Lord can you tell me, how far is heaven
I just got to know how far, how far is heaven
Lord can you tell me Y

ou that's in a higher place
Send me down a blessing
Cause I know there’s a better place
Than this place I’m livin’, how far is heaven
And I just got to have some faith A
nd just keep on giving, how far is heaven
I just wanna know how far


I really have been 'lost in my own place,' and weary is a good word for what I feel sometimes. I think I'm just very overly tired, and need a break. But, vacations become time to do dissertation work, or spring clean the house, etcetera-etcetera-etcetera- (as Yul Brynner says in the King and I!) so I never really get any time to rest. In my adult life, I've had exactly 15 days all by myself, without kids, work, school, housework, or anything else intruding. Five when I was 28 and friends watched my son; five when I finished grad school when I was 35 and a good friend watched the kids; and five more when we scraped up the $ for my daughter to go to volleyball camp last summer. So in a way, I have been 'locked up way too long in this crazy world.' Sometimes I just feel so bone-weary, I think I could sleep for a couple of weeks without waking. But instead, 99% of the time, I put a smile on my face and go on with life. Man, I gotta snap out of this funk I'm in.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Something drew me to your side

Just finished watching the king and I. Gotta love that dance scene. Nothing's hotter than Yul, arm stretched out in front of him, intense look on his face, grabbing her around the waist and whirling her around the floor (well, I have to admit, all the scenes of him pulling back his tunic and putting his hands on his hips are pretty hot--torso shots, mmmmmm). I've never really listened to the lyrics to Shall We Dance before, so I looked them up. I could read a hundred other meanings into these lyrics. Couldn't you?

We've just been introduced,
I do not know you well,
But when the music started S
omething drew me to your side.
So many men and girls,
Are in each others arms-
It made me think we might be Similarly occupied.
Shall we dance?
On a bright cloud of music shall we fly?
Shall we dance?
Shall we then say "goodnight" and mean "goodbye"?
Or perchance,
When the last little star has left the sky,
Shall we still be together
With are arms around each other
And shall you be my new romance?
On the clear understanding
That this kind of thing can happen,
Shall we dance?
Shall we dance?
Shall we dance?

Mentioned to my daughter that this dance scene is second only to the dance scene from the labyrinth, and she said "oh, we haven't seen labyrinth for a long time, let's watch it after this!" So, we are now into another fav. Sarah has just escaped from the oubliette. The goblin king confronts Sarah in the hallway, and there's a camera shot of Hogwart next to Bowie, but since Hogwart's head hits Bowie's waist, we get to see a shot of Bowie from waist to knees in skin tight pants.

damn, I think I bit off a bit more than I can chew

Hee hee. You all thought I meant something else, didn't you!

I just typed up my reference page--all the articles, reports, and books that I'll be reading and referencing in my dissertation. Then I counted them. 73. At this point, I've only read about a dozen of those 73. By the end of the day, I'm supposed to have my study aims, hypotheses, the introduction to my literature review, the outline of my lit review, and the reference page, all done and emailed out to my committee chair and second. It's already 7 pm. This is going to be a veeeery long night...