Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.


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Down to the Wire

I went to the passport office today. It was a bit difficult. At least they have planned for walk-ins.

The website said, parking would cost about $6. Not so. Parking was $10 for the first hour up to $22 for the day. I didn’t know how long it would take, and I didn’t have $22 if I needed it. I ended up parking for free at Mockingbird DART station and paying $6 to take the train. I guess I got my steps in but frankly it was deucedly hot for walking 4 blocks.

It’s a federal building so you get scanned going in. At least I didn’t have to take my shoes off. And there was a water fountain, a bubbluh as we say in Yankeeland, which I was so happy to see.

After I got into the passport office itself, I had to sit in a special section of chairs and get instructions. Turns out they want to documents stacked in a certain order. Then I had to fill out the application form again. Already I was glad I brought my birth certificate since I had been told, “All you have to do is bring the passport card.” Then you attach proof of travel itinerary, passport photos, and drivers license.

There were 2 lines, one for appointments and one for walk-ins. Of course appointments get preference, but that’s reasonable. When I got through the line, the lady told me I had filled out the wrong paperwork so I had to do that and go to the end of the line again.

I was number 141. When I sat down, they were on number 118. It ended up being a 3 hour wait. I dozed off several times since I was on short sleep. But I didn’t miss being called, and it went pretty fast. I was surprised at how speedy it was, until the lady told me I would have to come back on Wednesday to pick up the passport.

I have to come back between 1:30 and 3:00 to pick up my passport, and I am leaving on Thursday. Talk about cutting it close!

Done with the passport office, I went to support group then helped my daughter move. Then I came home to vacuum, take out trash, eat dinner and clean up. I wasn’t on my own time schedule for any of that. I wanted to vacuum while my one roommate was out of the house.

“Are you watching this on TV?” I asked the other roommate, “so I can vacuum.”

“It’s just TV,” he said, “We can pause a show if you need to vacuum.”

I didn’t say anything but I thought, “Oh you’re so cute, need to vacuum. There is no known universe where I have a driving need to vacuum. I do it because you ask me to.” And honestly I have never looked at the living room and thought it needed vacuumed. Not that I’m the best judge, but still.

I dumped out the bagless vacuum into the living room trash and it was full and the lint was fluffy so I closed the bag. I was going to wait a few minutes for my back to stop aching but the one roommate brought me the bathroom trash and the cat waste. Clearly I wasn’t going to sit down, I was going to take out the trash.

I did sit down to eat, but afterwards I had to wash my breakfast dishes as well as my dinner dishes. Finally I sat down and I had to call my travelling companion. I am just now settling in for the night. I’ve been on the go for 16 hours. Longer if you consider that I didn’t sleep last night.

Tonight I should sleep well indeed.


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Haters Gonna Hate

A large number of people feel the need to motivate me.  Okay, maybe not a large number, maybe just a few people who are really persistent about it.  “You just need a kick in the ass to get you started,” they say.  You think so?  Let’s talk about that.

I live in an uncomfortable situation.  The people I am staying with do not want me there.  They have not wanted me there for a long time now.  However, I have no place to go.  So now, they are working at making my situation increasingly unpleasant, clearly so I will leave.  Leave and go where?

But besides that, what is being accomplished here, by acting like this?

Based on rental guidelines around here, I need to be making about 50% more income per month than I am right now.  Has kicking my ass caused my company to give me a raise or increase my hours?  No.  Has it changed rental guidelines?  No.  Has it lowered rents so that I could afford something?  No.

I should get a full time job.  Hmmmm.  I have been, and continue to be, looking for a full time job but lets be clear about this.  The jobs I have heard from want to pay me about 2/3 of my current hourly rate, maybe a bit more.  When I multiply that amount times 40 hours and subtract taxes and health insurance, guess what?  It’s the same dollar amount I make now.  Why would I work more hours for the same pay?  That doesn’t make sense.  I need a full time job at the same rate of pay, give or take 10%.  That would increase my income.

When did working 40 hours become the standard for judging suitable employment? I get that it’s considered full time and in theory we all want to work full time. However, it isn’t the only criterion for a good job. I mean, you can take home $400.00 a week. Would you rather work 40 hours for it, or 25? Having less time to pursue my interests without gaining income doesn’t seem like a reasonable trade. What happened to “work smarter, not harder”? Oh, that only applies to folks working 40 hours, the rest of us are slackers. (Please recognize sarcasm, it doesn’t come across in print sometimes.)

Has kicking my ass changed the available jobs?  No.  Does it change the pay on those jobs?  No.  Does it make me complete more applications?  Well, I have already applied for everything I can find that I might be remotely qualified to do, and a few things I know I’m not at all qualified for. I am limited by actual hours and location, because I am on public transportation. I can’t take a job that starts at 7:00 am or ends at midnight simply because there is no bus in my neighborhood at that time to make sure I arrive on time or get home safely.

Oh, transportation is a problem? Then buy a car! Uh-huh. So right now I have barely enough dollars to pay bills and support myself and my daughter, but I should take on greater debt? Mobility and freedom? Better jobs because I am not tied to buses and trains? Maybe. If someone wanted to sell me a working car for say $500, I’d do it in a heartbeat. “Working” for me, in Texas, would mean engine runs, it has air conditioning so I don’t arrive at work all sweaty, and hopefully a working radio. But people want $2000 even for cars they know needs a major repair (major = $400 and up) which would totally wipe out my savings which I need for the downpayment to get into an apartment.

I could maybe get a loan and buy a newer, more expensive vehicle, maybe. There’s no repair coming up but instead there’s a recurring bill for a couple of years. Plus there would be the ongoing costs of insurance and gas. I figure I’m looking at close to $400 / month for a used car, maybe more depending on payments and gas prices. Any increase in pay is going to be eaten up by increased transportation expense. Not sure that gets me ahead at all. By which I mean, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. Makes it easier to buy groceries. $400.00 a month so I don’t have to tote cat food or laundry on the bus? Seems, well, almost frivolous.

Surely there is low income housing in my area. I’m not the only person with low income after all. Well, there is, and I don’t really qualify. I have talked to both city and county housing. City has a 2 year wait list, county is 5 years. I could move up the list if I was elderly or disabled, but I’m not. Or I could get up there if I was in a homeless shelter. Okay, let’s see:

Most local homeless shelters want you to check in by 5 in the afternoon and be out by 8 in the morning. I suppose that makes sense because it’s around regular working hours which are 8 am to 5 pm here. I work 4 pm to 8 pm, so I can’t check in at 5. Can I check in early? Some places say yes, but then you can’t leave. If you leave, you lose your place in line and there is a limited number of beds. By the time I get out of work and make it downtown, it’s close to 9:00 pm or maybe later. The shelters I’ve talked to so far are either full or locked down by then.

Besides, I have pets. And I love my pets, I don’t want to put them in a shelter or on the street. And I have this computer. I haven’t always been poor; I bought the computer when I had a job that paid more (more dollars per hour, full time hours, and I had a car back then). I already own it, I’m not gonna get rid of it just because it doesn’t fit people’s idea of what poor folks own. I also can’t leave it or my phone unattended in a shelter when I use the bathroom or take a shower. Most of us are honorable, but there’s always someone who isn’t. I hate saying that however my experience suggests it’s true.

So why didn’t I try to get help from this place sooner? I’m sorry, I’ve been struggling with this issue for 2 years now and you think I’m just now looking for help? You think this is my first round of calls to social service agencies who have nothing for me? You think I’ve been sitting on my butt for the last 2 years doing nothing because clearly the fault has to be with me personally and not with the way the system is set up or people’s perceptions of who needs help compared to who actually needs help? Not saying other people don’t need help, just saying there are more categories of people out there than fit the criteria for many agencies.

All of which is to say, I don’t need you to kick my ass. Life is already kicking my ass. I am close to the point of learned hopelessness, you know, where you stop trying because whatever you do is wrong. I could use a hug. I could use a lead to job that will actually support me. I could use a little hope and encouragement.

But by all means, feel free to continue telling me I lack motivation and I’m not trying hard enough.

Just don’t be surprised if I have no sympathy for you when the tables are turned.


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What a week! Part 2

Yep, life is eventful so I am late getting back to this.  What else is new?  I really do want to work on posting something every day or two, though.  Discipline is important, in writing as well as in regular life, and I could use a bit more focus.

Update:  3 weeks later and the bathroom is still dry, yay!  The apartment complex has stated they will get an actual certified plumber out here to fix the pipe itself but that hasn’t happened yet.  I asked them about it late last week and they are much more focused on a visit from the owners than on fixing this, which is frustrating, yet I do understand that if they’re going to pay a plumber that they’re going to wait until they have several jobs for him to do.  So far so good!

The other thing that was so frustrating about the lack of communication regarding maintenance coming by, was that I needed to go to Parkland Hospital to get my prescriptions refilled.  I don’t own a car, so that meant taking DART.

A word about DART:  I have lived in cities with good public transportation, eg. Boston.  Trains come frequently, they go most places you want to go and buses go pretty much everywhere else, it’s reliable and convenient.  Now I live in Dallas and I use DART, and I find the are not even close to as useful as Boston.  There are reasons for this, but it routinely takes me 2 hours to get where I need to go.

If I had a car, it would have been about half an hour, maybe less, to get to Parkland.  On DART, I had to take a bus to Addison Transit Center, take another bus to the Downtown Carrollton station.  I took the light rail to Southwest Medical Center / Parkland Station, then a shuttle to the hospital itself.  I left about 1:45, it was after 3 when I arrived.

I am poor enough that I have health care through Parkland directly.  It took them until December to even see me, but they did make it retroactive to cover some past bills and it’s good through March 31.  I rather naively assumed that I could take the bottles from my previous doctor – from spring of 2013 when I had a job and insurance and a GP of my very own – and simply get my prescriptions renewed.  Silly me!  In order to get the meds, I had to have a ‘script from an in-network doctor which meant a trip to Urgent Care.

Urgent Care is like Emergency except of course it’s for people who aren’t actually having emergencies.  So, nasty headcolds and swollen ankles, not so much heart attacks or gunshot wounds.  That means waiting.  It took about 40 minutes for me to get into triage, but at that point it got speedy for me.  The medicine I take is for high blood pressure and I had been without it since before Christmas so at that point my blood pressure was actually quite high, high enough to make the staff uncomfortable, high enough that they considered admitting me.  Well, I had been running for the shuttle in order to avoid waiting in the cold and I do have a slight murmur that acts up when I exert myself too much, but it always surprises me how long it takes my body to recover.  I was surprised that over an hour later, my numbers were still that high.

So I got to see the doctor fairly quickly and he looked at my old meds and he said a fairly surprising thing.  He said that he should probably send me to Emergency and have me admitted but it would take several hours for that to happen and then I’d be over night or longer.  Or, he could certainly renew my meds and I could leave AMA (Against Medical Advice) and come back if symptoms didn’t improve.  I realized that what he was telling me without actually saying it was that probably my “problem” was due to not having my meds and that admitting me was simply going to take extra time to provide the same result.  So I chose to leave with prescriptions.

I went back to the pharmacy at about 5:30, and was told it would take a good 90 minutes to fill my ‘scripts.  Since the pharmacy officially closes at 7:00, I did verify that they stopped taking new customers at 7 but they would finish all existing orders before closing completely.  I hadn’t eaten since 11:00 am and I had an hour and a half, so I went to the cafeteria.

The cafeteria has about 5 different food stations for various types of food ranging from salads to burgers to Mexican to a hot meal.  I imagine at lunch time the place is fully stocked but at dinner there is only the hot meal section open and they have a very limited menu.  I chose chicken fingers and mashed potatoes.  I thought about a salad, but a one cup prepackaged salad cost as much as the rest of it so I didn’t get it.  Remember that I am poor now so dollars are a big deal, and I still had to pay for my meds.  I got a cup of water and sat down to eat.  About two bites into my meal, I felt something hard in my mouth.  At first I thought it was a piece of chicken bone but as I shifted it around to get it where I could spit it out, I realized it was ceramic.

I have one piece of ceramic-y stuff in my mouth.  One of my eyeteeth is a baby tooth that never came out, and once upon a time my Uncle Jack who was a dentist before he retired had put a cap on it so that it wouldn’t look so out of place in my mouth.  Apparently the mashed potato was too much for the tooth and it finally broke, cap and all.

So back to Urgent Care for me.

The nurse was not happy to see me.  One of my concerns when I was there earlier was timing for getting home.  Working backwards, it looked like this:  The last 361 bus through my neighborhood from Addison Transit Center was at 11:00 pm.  In order the get there, I had to catch the 400 bus from Downtown Carrollton station at 10:34 at the latest.  Buses are every hour at that time of day, so I really wanted to catch the 9:34 if possible to be sure the connection worked.  If the 400 was even 5 minutes late, then I would miss the 361 and it would be a bitch of a walk home late at night in the cold.  Train takes about 30 minutes to make that trip, and although it comes only every half hour at that time of night, there are 2 lines on that section of track so it’s a little more frequent.  Plus I had to allow time for the shuttle.  So pretty much I needed to be on my way by about 8:15 to be really comfortable with the schedule for getting home and that means waiting to be seen made me edgy.  The admitting nurse wasn’t happy about that earlier, and she was a bit sarcastic to see me back.

Fortunately it was shift change and the late nurse was very understanding.  He fast-tracked me and got me seen in less than an hour with a referral for a dental visit.  I haven’t done anything about that at this time, because pretty much the option is leave the broken tooth or pull it, Parkland doesn’t cover orthodontic repair.  It has always been a debate whether to cap that baby tooth or pull it and brace me to rearrange the remaining teeth, so this isn’t a huge loss to me although now I have a hole in the front of my mouth.  I figure I just need to do the pulling and braces at this point, but since Parkland doesn’t cover the braces, I’m loathe to remove the remaining root and have my teeth shift on their own.  I’m not in pain and I’ll have health insurance again in April, so it feels like I can wait.

And I did make it home in time, so that was good.

But with 3 inches of gray hair and a missing tooth, that makes it pretty hard to make a good impression when looking for a job.

(There is so much more to this story, but my daughter needs me and this is getting long, so . . . )


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Becoming poor

Wow, has it really been over 2 months since I last posted?  I apologize.

I’ve been unemployed since May, which means I am now out of unemployment benefits.  Oh, dear, now that IS a problem.  Because I haven’t had in interview since October and I need to pay rent and eat.

How does this happen?  I can only tell my story, such as it is.

About 5 years ago, I was laid off.  I was unemployed for almost 2 years, then I got a job at a bank.  I did the job for about 20 months as a temp, then was changed to a direct hire and did the job for another 15 months.  Over time, the job changed from the opportunity to really help customers to an outbound call center.  I do not have the right temperament to work in a call center, but I kept going in while trying to find something else.

In the meantime, my daughter came to live with me.  She had been living with her dad before then.  Although he is happy to have her here, he refuses to sign her over to me unless I agree not to file against him for child support.  I won’t agree so he retains custody, but I now have all the expense and other costs of being a parent.  My daughter has had some trauma in her life and is diagnosed with PTSD.  How is that relevant?  Well, between my boss’s dislike of my unsuitability to the job and the impact that caring for a PTSD person had on things like sleeping and my morning routine, I got fired.

The official reason for being fired was consistent lateness.  Well, the biggest single factor for that is that I don’t own a car.  This is not a choice so much as an economic necessity.  That means I rely on DART to get to work, and DART is not reliable.  On good days, it took about 45 minutes to get to work.  If connections didn’t work, which was at least once a week, I could be 15 or 20 minutes late.  If the bus was early or I was late, well, rush hour buses in Dallas are half an hour apart so I would be something like 45 minutes late, or an hour if the connections didn’t work.  Since DART’s poor scheduling is out of my control, and since the company knew when they hired me that I was a DART rider, the unemployment office honored my request for payment.

I didn’t expect to be unemployed this long.  I got my first job when I was 16, so I’ve been working for close to 35 years now.  Except for those times when I was a full time student and when I was an at-home mom of a preschooler, I have had a job.  It’s weird to me that I don’t even get called for interviews any more.  I haven’t had an interview since October.

About 5 years ago I got laid off from a government job.  At that time, when unemployment ran out, you got an extension.  Sometimes there were issues with the timing, that is, I’d run out just after the extension period ended so I’d keep requesting payments but no money was sent to me.  Then another extension would be approved and I’d be caught up for missed payments.  Once money was awarded to you, it was sent to you util the money ran out, even if the extension qualification period ended.

This time, I have come to the end of unemployment and there is no extension.  Don’t get me wrong.  I went to the web site and at that time it still said Tier 1 and Tier 2 extensions were available.  My benefits ran out 12/17, but last day to request payment was 12/22, almost a week later.  That meant that instead of getting paid for 2 weeks, I’d only get paid for 1.  Well, really, right ahead of Christmas, right ahead of rent due on the first, and for me right ahead of my lease renewing which included a 10% increase plus pet rent.  (We have a new management company so the pet rent is a new policy on pets that have lived here with me for 2 years already.)  Very bad timing to have a delay in getting paid.

So I called the unemployment office to see if there was any way to expedite the process.  I went round and round with the lady, who kept telling me that there were no extensions after the 28th.  I told her that my benefits would run out well in advance of the 28th and she kept insisting that I wouldn’t get an extension.  Finally I explained to her that I had been unemployed before for an extended period of time and that in the past, as long as I was qualified before the cut off date, I would get the extension.  The lady put me on hold for several minutes.  When she came back, she told me that she consulted her supervisor who told her that per the Federal government, even if I qualified for the extension, no funds could be disbursed after 12/28.

Let me say that again.  I would probably qualify for the extension based on the available guidelines however the Federal government would not allow states to issue payment to claimants after December 28 even if they had already qualified and been awarded funds.

So I have applied to the government for welfare now, since I have to feed and house my child.  I had the interview for that this morning.  I need to gather further information for some of the programs, but it looks like food stamps could be awarded to me as soon as tomorrow. It will take another couple of days to get the card, but that’s okay, I can live with that.

The irony for my ex husband?  TANF is considered a child support program.  They require me to file with the attorney general for the collection of child support in order to qualify.  Also, since I don’t have health insurance at this time, if I qualify for Medicaid, that cost too can be passed on the my ex.  (Actually, I think that’s unreasonable.  He’s responsible for his child, sure; but 10 years after the divorce is final, I hardly think he should be responsible for my health insurance.)  So he could have agreed to child support, or he could have signed her over to me without even mentioning child support, but he had to stand on his principles.  And I simply won’t give away any of my daughter’s rights to child support, which worked in my favor because it means I’m not going against court orders to qualify for assistance.

So that’s how is happens.  That’s how people become poor.  I’m not whining, I’m not looking for pity, I’m just telling my story.