Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Adventures in Activism

I had another first yesterday! My first participation in a hearing being disrupted by a protest!!

Day 1 of the Special Session kicked off in Olympia yesterday, and I was there, ready and willing to participate in a House Ways and Means committee hearing on the budget. After driving around for nearly a 1/2 hour looking for parking, I made my way to the Cherberg buiding. Crossing the campus, I was amazed by the amount of people there, buses, 3 different rally points, and about 1,000 people on the steps of the Capitol listening to John Lennon.  I had an amazing testimony written to present, and found myself standing next to a fellow colleague, among many other familiar faces. The room became filled, which is quite normal for a Ways and Means hearing. Frank and I (my colleague) made mention that the turnout was smaller than expected though. We spoke a little too soon. Shortly after they announced that a second room was opened up for overflow, the halls started to sing with "Let Us In, Let Us In".... Then, came pounding on the doors.

In this video you can hear over the chattering of the people in the room, the rhythm to the pounding on the door. I will say, some of my videos are quite shaky. Not just from the overdose of caffeine, but I will admit I was a little nervous. Being inside that room, hearing the noise outside, I really did think that at any moment a crowd was going to burst through the door and trample all of us calm people like a heard of elephants. So yes, they are a little shaky!

Let Us IN! (Click on the blue links for Videos)

Shortly after that, from the back of the room, came a crowd of people, chanting, and yelling. One demonstrator who was leading the way, was shouting "Mic Check", to which the crowd repeated everything he said.

"These Cuts will hurt kids,  These Cuts will hurt families, These Cuts will hurt Educators". He went on for probably about 5 mins. Here's a 2 min video of the protest.  This video ends in the leader of the demonstration calling for a Citizens' Arrest of the Legislature, complete with handcuffs.

Citizen's Arrest

Tax the Rich and Save the Poor!

The hearing ended up being shut down because of the State Fire Marshal coming in and declaring the building over occupancy. So....

The crowd headed outside, where they stood outside the window, chanting, complete with a drum circle, "Save Higher Ed", and "You say CUT BACK, we say FIGHT BACK!".

This is them walking away momentarily. This is hard to hear, but they are saying Save Higher Ed. You can bet your next child, when I go back to the Capitol later this week, I will have my GOOD camera with me!

Save Higher Ed

 It was an absolute amazing demonstration of the power of a united voice. I was happy to be standing there, watching this demonstration unfold before my eyes, and was very proud of what they were doing. However, they could have done without some of the expletives, and threats to legislators. Some of the legislators, you could tell were intrigued, some of them were just straight up irritated. I wasn't irritated at this display, until it postponed the hearing, it didn't start for 40 minutes after the regularly scheduled time. There were 183 people signed up to testify on behalf of Public Safety, Healthcare and Education. What a turnout! I can't wait to see what the rest of this session holds!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Throwing out the Safety Net

Sunday morning cup of coffee, check. Laughter of children, check. Thankful for positive things in my life, check. Safety net, ummmm working on that.

It's weird. With the transformation to my new job, a lot has changed in my life in the last 3 weeks. I went from being someone struggling to pay the bills, to someone who is actually going to have money to put in a savings account. Not only did I get a new job, Josh has recently been promoted at work, and is making more money as well. I'm realizing though that if I did not have the ability to find and seek out resources, I would not be making that step from someone who relied on social services to someone doing it all on their own. Of course, I still have some things to figure out, and that will come in time; like Health Care. Baby steps I keep telling myself.

I no longer qualify for a child care subsidy, I no longer receive food stamps, I haven't qualified for medical for a long time. I'm now having to figure out things like where my kids are going to go after school on the days I do have to work away from home. The safety net of knowing they could always go to daycare was just that, SAFE. I work from home mostly now and my schedule is different every week. With the limited childcare available in our area, I can't quite afford a full time spot to have for them to only be a drop in basis, and the child care can't hold a spot for my kids when there are so many others that do need that full time care. It's a balancing act.

I struggled when I thought about taking this job. It was an extreme opportunity. One I never thought I would be possible of. It is only a 6 month position because it's grant funded, so the option to not continue the grant is there. However, it's an offer I couldn't refuse. 6 months of the experience and 6 months of 3 times the pay I was making before. How could I say no? I struggled with it, because I've had that safety net of ALWAYS knowing that my child care wasn't an issue. I had my co payments, that I knew that I could afford, but the subsidy took a weight off of my shoulder. I KNEW there was a certain amount of money coming in for food stamps that could ONLY be used for food. So I didn't have to worry about feeding my family, I knew that support was there. Of course, I still had to budget that money to make sure we made it through the whole month. I seriously was living on less than $1,200 a month to pay all of my bills. $600 of that went directly to rent. I paid water, garbage, electricity and phone every month. We couldn't afford cable, so we went with the $8 Netflix luxury. And that was splurging., Throw in everything that the kids need, and GAS. That doesn't leave much for anything else, let alone food. I never realized how much of a feeling of security that gave me.

So when taking this job I realized I would be tripling my income but also my expenses would be doubled. I had to really think about whether it was worth it. It TOTALLY is. The sense of accomplishment that I have for myself is amazing. I've come a long ways. I never thought that I would have been a divorced single mom trying to support 3 kids on such low wages. That was NOT the dream I had for myself. But I made it through. I'm now a married self sufficient woman who is productively giving back to society.

The day I got the job I was talking to one of my favorite people Lori. I was elated that I was being given this opportunity but I was scared. I immediately went in to fight or flight mode, "oh no, I'm going to finally lose my childcare, I'm going to lose my food stamps, this is a big step Lori!" I will never forget her response to me that day. "April", she said "You can buy food with green money." I totally can.
For the last two weeks I've sat down and budgeted out my meals, I've grocery shopped around at the stores for the best deals. I did that anyway before, but there's something different about it now. Something I can't explain.

I just can't help but think about all the people who might get a .25 cent raise and get kicked off of the services they are receiving. If we had only been going off of Josh getting a raise, we would STILL be struggling to pay all of the bills, and we would have lost our subsidy for child care, which is what made it so I could work. My goal is to get ourselves to the point that if my job isn't extended in 6 months, we won't struggle, and we will be in a place that we can still maintain our lifestyle on one income.

My goal is to NEVER have to rely on a social service program again. My goal is to continue to advocate for those less fortunate: for the poor and the homeless, for the sick and the elderly because I KNOW just how important those services are to the people that need them. I know that there are people that abuse the system, I can name 5 off the top of my head. But I also know many more people like myself, who have used the resources available to them, as a stepping stone to a better life. I am breaking that cycle of poverty, I will be the change that I need to see in the world. I AM THE CHANGE.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Today is the day. Day 1. November 1st, 2012. The day I no longer am eligible for receiving any assistance from any sort of social service program. A day I have waited and worked hard for, for 10 years. 10 years is a long time. And it's not that I have been on any service for that long, but 10 years ago, is when I became a mother, and things got hard. Harder than I ever imagined. Harder than I had ever planned for. I never imagined that at the age of 21, I would be a young, divorced, single mother, attending college and working 2 jobs. I never imagined that the life I thought I had CHOSEN for myself, would end up the way it did. Along the way, I've had to rely on social programs such as Food Stamps, Working Connections Child Care, and Medicaid for Health care for my children. But I am, I believe, what those programs are set in place for. To use as a stepping stone to be where I am today.

Today, I am a mother of 3, married, working full time with a degree in Child Development.