The Stigma of Being Poor

We were poor growing up. There I said it. I qualified for reduced lunch because I was being raised by a single parent who was working three jobs to make ends meet. No child support from my dad. Even then it was only reduced lunch at 20 cents. Was I embarrassed? Sure, but the need to eat won out over the embarrassment. You would think after the “No Kid Hungry” Campaign that things have changed in this country, but no it has not. It broke my heart to read this article the other day on The Huffington Post called “That is the Poor Kids’ Line”.

We are a country of haves and havenots and yet we keep applying the stigma of being poor to everyone. Why?  I live in a predominately African American county and the number of children who qualify for free or reduced lunch is 57%. More than half our county children. There are a number of things that can contribute to this number: unemployment, low paying income, number of household residents, etc but does it make it okay to look down at folks? No.

My son doesn’t qualify for free or reduced lunch because his parents make over the threshold to qualify. Do you know how much you have to make? For a family of two you would have to make less than $30,000 a year before taxes. The exact amount is $29, 101 a year for reduced lunch. Guess how much you would have to make in order to qualify for free lunch? A family of two would have to make $11,670 a year. How can you survive on that amount? Is it feasible? Not in this area. The average 2 bedroom apartment in a low income neighborhood is $1,100 a month. That doesn’t include utilities. They charge everything from gas, electric and water nowadays.

Do you have a car to get you back and forth to work and the kids to school? Yep, well deduct your car note and car insurance. No car, public transportation is really expensive in this area. It’s based on distance. What about food? Food prices and gas prices fluctuate, so that can hurt you. What about health insurance? It’s a lot. Here’s a chart to help you get a big view picture.

Expense Monthly Amount Yearly Amount
Rent  $                   1,100.00  $                     13,200.00
Electric  $                      120.00  $                        1,440.00
Gas  $                         20.00  $                           240.00
Water  $                         25.00  $                           300.00
Car Insurance  $                      135.00  $                        1,620.00
Car Note  $                      258.00  $                        3,096.00
Before/After Care  $                      312.00  $                        3,744.00
Food  $                      200.00  $                        2,400.00
Health Insurance  $                      200.00  $                        2,400.00
 $                   2,370.00  $                     28,440.00
Yearly Calculations
Annual Salary  $                29,101.00
25% Federal Tax  $                21,825.75
Maryland Tax  $                   1,743.04 $50+4%over the excess of $2,000
Take Home Before Expenses  $                20,082.71
You need  $                28,440.00
You make  $                20,082.71

You see how you are $8,000 short a year? I didn’t include your PG County taxes or the reduced lunch at .30 a day for breakfast and .40 a day for lunch. There are 180 school days for the children so that is an additional $126.00 a school year to feed your child. Relatively cheaper than packing their lunch and feeding them breakfast at home. You’re already short over $8,000 so what about food and childcare during the summer months?

No wonder so many of our children go hungry in this country. We are making it impossible for parents to be able to work, live and provide the basics for their children. You see why my mom worked three jobs to even be able to give us lunch money? When there is more money that month what do you do? Look down on those that can’t afford it?

It’s hard out here and I pray that people will learn to be more compassionate. I don’t qualify for free and reduced lunch and it is expensive as a working parent. If I didn’t cook him a full breakfast each morning and pack his lunch it would cost me $738.00 a school year. Breakfast is $1.50 a day and lunch is $2.60. You see the expense? Thankfully I only have one child. Imagine having more than one.

That is why I’m a champion of the Maryland Meals for Achievement (MMFA) program. This program provides breakfast in every classroom each morning. No one pays to eat, regardless of family income. The only requirement is that Under state law, any school that participates in the federal School Breakfast Program and has at least 40% of its enrollment approved for free or reduced-price mealsI reached out to his Principal this year to see if this is something we can get for Brennan’s school in the Fall of next year because it gets time consuming and expensive to get breakfast on the table, him dressed and out the door in order to drop him at school and fight rush hour traffic to be at work on time. We need more programs like this. We need programs that aim to feed children.

Let’s have an attitude of gratitude and understand that it is a blessing to be able to feed your children, but we should never look down on those that can’t afford. We have to stop stigmatizing those that are less fortunate and see it is an opportunity to invoke change in our school districts and states. Look to see if your state has this program because no child in America should go hungry.

no-kid-hungry-1024x682

tbt-option-2

The Best is Yet to Come

In trying to decipher my life and take things one day at a time, I had to realize this simple phrase “The Best is Yet to Come”. Not just memorize it, but believe it and use it as one of my guiding principles. To focus on where I’m going and not harping on where I’ve been. I’ve been through hell and back and I’m still here, so yes, the best is yet to come.

I want everyone to see and know that you are capable of getting through your current circumstances, situations or tribulations. What do you need? Faith and forgiveness. Faith to know that trouble don’t last always and forgiveness to know that you will MAKE mistakes and that it is okay. Forgive yourself of them. Keep pushing forward.

Here are my tips on learning to live “The Best is Yet to Come”:

  • Laugh – I’ve laughed more during the last nine months than I think I’ve laughed in over a lifetime. I spend time laughing every day to remind me to not take myself so seriously. I can sometimes get so caught up in my life that I forget that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile and I wanted to change that. So, do something funny. Watch a comedy show on TV. My new favorite show is “The Mindy Project”. I laugh out loud so much that I know that my neighbors think I’m crazy. The main character, Dr. Mindy Lahiry, laughs at herself all the time. She is a beautiful, educated woman who makes many mistakes and just goes with the flow of her comedic life. She appreciates it all. Remember, to laugh.
  • Take Charge – Stop letting life happen to you. You need to control what happens in your life. You have the power. Take Charge. Grab the bull by the horns and stop waiting for life to just happen. Navigate through the mess and steer your ship to less choppy seas. I’ve been there. I’ve been in a storm that had cap-sized my boat, but I grabbed that life jacket and life buoy and kept it moving. I realized that I had to stop playing the victim and become what I know I am…the victor.
  • Feed your soul – This is important because we spend so much time watching and listening to the meaningless things that we forget how important it is to feed your soul. Feeding your soul with positive things keeps you focused and targeted in knowing that the best is yet to come. I read books. All kinds of books: fiction, non-fiction and religious. I listen to music: blues, r&b, jazz and gospel. I journal. Sometimes things get so hectic in life it is easy to get your thoughts on paper. I do “bonding with my girls”, “mommy and me time” and “my time”. These sabbaticals allow me to stay in the moment and realize that no matter how bad things seem, there are too many people that love and want me around to get dragged under.

Well, there you have it. Take these tips and use them as a guide, but I encourage you to develop your own. Know that life happens when you start living it. This temporary bout of “bad things” shall pass and love the life you are living. No drama. No stress. Just acceptance with laughing, taking charge and feeding your soul with moments that will help you stay focused in knowing that “The Best is Yet to Come”.

447c61ad6fce19712d3537a048ba68df

I’m Enough

I am enough. That was one of the hardest things that I had to tell myself. As someone who is extremely self-confident, I seemed to lose it when I got married. He became bigger than me. Not because he wanted too or even asked me to. It was me. My choice. I thought that’s what you do when you get married. You sacrifice yourself for the greater good of the marriage.

But, I was wrong. Marriage is much more than that. How can one be expected to have a healthy and functioning relationship when you’re jacked up mentally? If you lose a piece of yourself in the process of attaching yourself to someone else, how can you be expected to know that you’re enough?  Truth is…you can’t.

I couldn’t. I didn’t. Because I was broken. Broken people can’t seem to realize that their enough. Life and storms knock you out and you feel as though you are drowning. You can’t swim. Why did this have to happen to you? Why not? This was the question that I truly had to answer. Was I above trials and tribulations? I knew from church and prayer that the road wouldn’t be easy, but dang. I couldn’t drive over those spikes without getting a flat.

Until I realized that at least I have the ability and tools in my car to fix and repair that flat. I didn’t have to drive on that flat tire, damaging the rim. I could pull over and keep repairing the tire or use the spare. You see it right? The Aha Moment…I could do it. My attitude towards my situation and life’s circumstances had to change just like that tire or my soul would be damaged.

I realized that I deserve to be forgiven and I deserve to forgive because I’m enough. Knowing and believing that you are enough in the midst of difficult situations can impact your self-esteem in a major way. You doubt the little things. You act out because you feel like you’re not enough.  But, balance is what I’ve learned. Faith renewed. Spiritual growth. They happen when you stop acting out and expecting everyone to fix or understand the messed up you.

Once you start to grow and walk with the confidence you truly have, it shows. People can see the light in your eyes when you genuinely laugh. They notice your change in hair color or clothes. They notice that effervescent smile plastered all over your face. They want to know what it is it about you. You were broken and messed up last time they saw you. What changed? You know what you tell them?

“I realized I’m more than enough”.

20101104092246_jeppe_hein_mirror_1

One and Done

“The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.”

Jessica Lange

 

The pressure that society puts on you to have children can sometimes be stifling. I felt the pressure my first year of marriage. I was 27. Some of the things that I heard:

  • You should think about starting a family.
  • You know each day you age, your eggs die.
  • How long are you going to wait?
  • Are you trying?
  • You do want kids right?

So many questions about my reproductive rights. Dang, I had just gotten married. I would cringe when elderly women would ask me “So, why don’t you pop a couple of children out for your husband?” (Yes, this actually happened.) Really, like a chicken? I thought. Well meaning I’m sure, but to a career woman, this was not what I wanted to hear. My husband in fact wanted children the minute we got married. I made it a condition of our marriage….Not before I’m 30. He accepted.

As time moved forward and three years after my 30th birthday at the beautiful age of 33, I gave birth to Brennan. Perfect. I was elated. I felt complete. Whole even. But, a difficult pregnancy combined with a difficult birth, I thought…maybe we could do it one more time as I gazed into Brennan’s beautiful eyes. Three months later I was sitting in a hospital watching my husband hooked up to machines with words like auto immune diseases and strokes being passed around.

Scared. Overwhelmed. Alone. Those were the emotions that I went through when my life changed. That moment, changed me and my decision. No more children. I was “one and done”. It wasn’t a mutual decision. It was a personal one. Choice. Personal choice. I was supposed to take care of him and I couldn’t add another child on top of all that I had going on. Selfish, possibly, but I decided at that moment…our family was complete. We were a family of three.

Well, what do they say about the best laid plans? Yep. My marriage unraveled and we still only had one child. Now, that Brennan is 6, he constantly asks for a sibling. He has replaced the constant nagging I experienced from well-meaning folks and strangers. He wants a baby brother or sister bad. I smile and tell him, “You have 3 best friends who are all only children”. He replies, “But, mommy they are not my brothers and sisters.” I respond, “You have two god-brothers and a god-sister.” He says, “But, mommy they belong to God not me.” Dead face. I couldn’t think of anything to say. (He’s extremely smart on his toes.)

But, what do you say? Me: “Not going to happen man. You’re it. Deal with it!” However, as I’m approaching my 40th birthday I realized that my fertility is dying more each day. I’m like the elderly women except it is my own fertility that I’m wondering about. Motherhood was the defining moment in my life and I’m overwhelmingly blessed that I was able to conceive one happy and healthy child, but I wonder had I missed an opportunity to have more?

No, was my fervent reply. I’m good. Me and Brennan. Always. The gift that I was given, so let’s make it permanent right? So, I went to my OB/GYN visit for my yearly exam and announced to my doctor that I was thinking of getting my tubes tied as a birthday gift to myself. I said, “I think I’m done”. He responded, “There are a lot less invasive procedures. You’re still young and fertile. Think about something else.” Are you serious? Really? I had decided. I wanted to stomp my feet and yell “Why are you not listening to me?”

Why was this man suggesting or rather deterring me from my “one and done” motto? According to everyone and their mama, I was approaching “no man zone”. You know that zone where you’re absolutely too old to think about conceiving. I don’t think anyone in my family has ever given birth over the age of 40. What brand of crack is he smoking? Why would he even suggest an alternative to permanent sterilization?

Because he cared. Point blank and the end. My doctor wanted me to have all the options and not rush to make a rash decision just because my marriage ended and with it so did my hopes of someday giving Brennan a sibling. I have options. I have choices. My fertility is in my hands. I can be “one and done” forever or I can expand my family one day, but I’m in no rush. I have time to decide what I want to do with my own womb. Whatever my choice, I’m happy that I was able to carry this one six years ago.

download (1)

Truth: Success is Possible

“I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.”

― Abraham Lincoln

I love this quote. I think it sort of captures how I feel. I am afraid of success. Not failure. I think the possibility of disappointing those that love and believe in me sort of keeps me from stretching beyond my comfort zone. I’ve heard for years, how I’m good at this or good at that, but what if my friends are just being overly generous because of their love for me? Would I be a disappointment if I actually was a success? Think about all the one hit wonders and how they thought they would become a multi-million dollar franchise only to flop on their next album.

It’s pressure to be on top and more pressure to stay on top. So, what do you do? If you’re me, you stall, drag your feet and believe that maybe you shouldn’t do what your heart, voice and spirit are telling you to do. You delay yourself in the “what if” stage. Who’s guilty of that? Me! I am so guilty of thinking what if. What if I’m really not as good as my friends think? What if no one likes my stuff? What if I can’t pull off that big presentation? What if I stumble over my words and fumble the entire speech? What if…

What if’s hold you back from understanding your true potential because instead of pushing forward to your destiny and utilizing the best you, YOU get caught up in a trap of your own disbelief. You question whether or not what is happening is real or should it be real. You question whether or not you can actually change your environment or get out of your own way because so many people have tried and failed to do so. You actually hold up and hold hostage your gift out of fear.

Sound familiar? It’s my story. I’m not alone though. Hollywood has made many movies where people actually do the same thing and then have a moment of clarity and want to change. Think “Baby Boy – 2001”. Wasn’t Jody a grown man who was in essence a baby boy? Fear of growing up had stalled his ability to be a man and take care of his responsibilities. How about my all time favorite movie “Purple Rain – 1984”? Wasn’t the Kid’s whole issue was fear of failing because his dad never got his “big break” and his family life was jacked up? Let’s not forget the movie, “Cocktail – 1988” which is where I fell in love with Tom Cruise. The main character, Brian, had high aspirations, but gets sidetracked in foolery and then hesitates to believe that he can actually accomplish his goals. The main underlying theme in all these films is simple: Fear.

Fear of success, failure, standing out, etc. They feared something. We all do. We fear being happy so we sabotage our relationships. We fear abandonment, so we don’t form close bonds with anyone out of fear that they will leave. We fear love, so we block ourselves off from people and become guarded so no one can break down that wall. We fear success because standing out in a crowd and having people shower accolades on you is scary.

My fear is your fear. It’s hard because I have faith and faith and fear can’t coexist right? You have to choose. So, I’m choosing my faith. I’m remembering like it says in Hebrews 11:6 (NRSV) “And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” I believe. Faith of a mustard seed right? I need to remember that. From this day forward I am taking my life back and claiming this…I will not fear my own strength or success because I have faith. Faith that God will have my back.

Still not convinced how God can do it? Well, how about this powerful quote from Marianne Williamson.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

Be blessed and remember this my loves…

1978421_10152112421437585_3441108193370520448_o

I Have My Moments

A couple of weeks ago, I posted this on Facebook:

From the mommy diaries…I’m gonna pat myself on the back because I rock. After taking care of munch with his respiratory infection this week, missing work, missing his homework and not having time to write, I was able to Google translate his French homework packet in 2.5 hours last night, email the teacher with questions I didn’t understand, go to work today, knock out 2 of the 12 items due, pay bills, order his halloween costume, pay for Tae Kwan Do, order Chipotle for dinner, pick him up, eat and help him with 2 hours worth of homework to have him in bed by 9 pm because tomorrow is another busy day with the start of church school. Whew! ‪#‎momsrock‬ ‪#‎mommymoment‬‪#‎brennansmom‬

As many of you may have guessed, I have a supermom attitude when it comes to my son. That week, I was super proud of all the things I was able to accomplish in the limited amount of time with a sick child. I want to make sure that I am not only giving munch my best, but being the best with juggling motherhood and working. But, I have to admit it does get exhausting.

Why do I do it? Part supermom complex. Part insanity. I’m an overachiever when it comes to my son. I want to show the world that you can have it all. I struggle to make sure that my son never feels neglected by me (physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, etc.). So, I am the mom who does custom holiday cards (complete with a fall photo shoot) and all. I send thank you cards, teach church school, attend Bible studies, attend PTSA meetings, update his website, blog, write my own book, order uniforms, buy new outfits for school pictures, take him to swimming, soccer, bake cakes, do play dates and attend every birthday party we’re invited too. Why? Because I’m crazy. That’s probably the simplest and best answer I can provide.

If I don’t do it, I feel like I’m somewhat being an underachiever and cheating munch out of opportunities that I didn’t have as a child being raised by a single parent. I feel guilty. I wanted him so much, but I want a career too so in order to make sure there is balance, I want to do it. I need to do it. But, doing it all exhausts me. It leaves me feeling drained and not having enough time to enjoy myself. It’s that whole supermom complex.

How bad is it? Well, this year I wanted to sign him up for cub scouts and went to the first meeting with him and his dad. He loved it! I learned all the wonderful things that the kids do and then I also learned all the things that the parents are expected to do as well. This was a heavy parent involvement chapter. I was cool with it. So, another 3 hours a week of more stuff to do? Sure, No problem. I can handle it. But, not everyone was up for the challenge.

His father had sent an email and said that he didn’t think he should do cub scouts now because he’s being over scheduled. I responded “Bye, Felicia! He’s not being over scheduled. He’s fine.” I huffed, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Supermom can handle it. Right?

Well, I could handle it or so I thought until munch got sick with a respiratory infection and I was out of work, in and out of the doctor’s office and nursing my six year old. I was tired. No school. Well, when you’re in a French Immersion program, you need to be at school. Missed days equal missed learning opportunities. We had to play catch-up. In my exhausted state, I sent an email back to his dad and said, “I think you may have a point in no cub scouts yet. While I disagree that he’s being over scheduled, he has a lot going on and school has always been our main priority and focus. That being said, I will wait until later in the year.”

Yep, I sucked it up and bit the bullet and realized that sometimes life will throw you a curve ball and you need to adjust. You need to regroup and refocus your priorities. I refocused and realized that the most important thing in the world to me is a happy and healthy child. It’s my number one priority. So, I have my moments of clarity that remind me that I don’t need to do it all or be it all. Munch will be just fine.

This is one of those moments.

Great Marriages and the Reality

My Facebook friend posted this link last month for a piece entitled “It’s time to accept this fact: A really great marriage is rare”.  I read the article and the researcher made some great points. It wasn’t a woman arguing that people shouldn’t get married, but that great marriages were rare and that there has been a shift in our society whereby women don’t need to marry because of the shift in our circumstances and/or cultural norms. Women have more options and don’t need men for financial security, sexual satisfaction, to have children or for social approval. Women have in essence changed the game. We’ve become more powerful.

I pondered that theory and I have to say that the researcher has a point. When you look at the changes in our society over the years, you see that not only in other races, but especially in the black community, there is a shift. More black women are earning more than their black male counterparts. Thus, it makes it harder for college educated women to find their ideal black man “IBM” who has equal or more to her in terms of wealth. Black women are working hard and waiting until later to get married. But, when you’re ready to get married, your IBM doesn’t come in riding on a white horse to sweep you off your feet.

Fairytales are just that. Fairytales. Not meant to provide any form of reality for our young girls. But, could I as a feminist really truly believe that I needed a man for anything? I don’t know if I was ever sold on the whole happily ever after fairytale that other little girls were taught because I knew better. My reality didn’t include a happy queen and a happy king. In my post yesterday, I talked about how my dad is an alcoholic so any chances of a prince charming taking care of me were replaced with the reality that he didn’t exist. People had faults.

Those faults translated into the fact that I grew up in a single parent home and I knew that I never wanted to be like my mother. She wasn’t a bad mother. She just short changed her life to have me and my siblings and to be a wife. Would she have made the same decisions now in today’s society? I don’t know. I would like to think no. I think she would have given birth to me and gone back to college like my grandfather insisted. I think she would have accepted that she could be considered a social pariah in a small town, but she would have been just fine raising a child on her own after getting her degree. She would have been considered a game changer by my standards.

But, she didn’t change the game. She followed her heart and cultural norms. Those norms shaped and impacted my belief in marriage. That fostered with the environmental factors and social shifts helped me realize one thing…I didn’t need to get married. I didn’t need a man for anything. Men were dispensable objects that had no real value other than fixing my car, maintenance on my house or just friends who I could toss ideas about my career path with. Not worthy of having the title of husband or father because I was jaded and I didn’t believe in happily ever after. I would never sacrifice my career to be a wife or mother. It wasn’t an option.

However, that changed when I found someone who wanted to marry me with my flaws and all. With my jaded view of reality in tow, he sought about finding refuge in my heart and spirit so that he could show me or whether prove to me that men weren’t dispensable objects and I could be both a wife and a mother and I would love it. Problem was that I didn’t love it. I loved him. I loved our family. I loved our son. But, I didn’t want to live my life being disappointed and feeling lonely and unloved. Yes, people have problems. I get that, but when the problem is the two people what do you do?

You make a decision on how your life will play out.  Whether it be a comedy, love story or tragedy, you have to know marriage is what you make it. It takes two people who share, not only the same value of marriage, but the desire to keep it healthy and functioning. You will make mistakes, nothing is perfect, but if you want to find someone who at the end of the day you would rather fight with than without then you have hit the jackpot.

“The painful truth is that really great marriages exist, but they are rare. What we as a society should probably be telling married people is, “If you have love, passion, companionship and equality in your marriage, you are wealthy beyond words. If you don’t, you have two choices. You can decide that your marriage is the best you’re going to get and try to be content. Alternatively, you can leave your marriage to play the lottery of finding that perfect partner, accepting that you are unlikely to win and may have to stay single for the rest of your life.” – Danielle Teller

african-american-bride-groom-rgbstock