Thursday, May 5, 2011

WIC, Again

Life occasionally throws us curve balls.  Most recently, it hasn't been too terrible but  I have had to reschedule my WIC appointment three times.  I was finally able to go on Monday at 11:30.  But as government aide seems to be a joke or I am getting dumber--things didn't exactly work as planned.

The first time at the WIC clinic is a full day event.  But since they give you free food after you go through the process it is kind of like getting paid to sit in a waiting room for three hours with your kids.  When they are finally ready for you they take you, your kids, and your mountain of paperwork to a room and begin the process of verifying income...or I should say--lack of income.  I remember hoping we looked nice and pitiful when we first went in so they'd want to help us out.  Whatever.   

Anyway-after verifying the lack of money they weighed myself and the kids, tested my 3 year olds iron and then sent us back to the waiting room for another hour and a half.   Luckily, they do have toys all over the place but it got a little old sitting there with my infant that I desperately wanted to take home for a nap and a 3 year old who I wanted to bathe after touching all the toys the smelly kid had touched.

Lastly, we were called back to a nutritionists' office who was very nice but spoke to me like I was an idiot mom who knew nothing about nutrition or health.  I suppose I don't blame her.  She probably works with a lot of sad people who aren't even willing to get off drugs when they are pregnant, let alone be worried about the importance of nursing and proper nutrition for themselves and their children.  Still, I was a little annoyed.  I hate being spoken to like I'm stupid.  

Then we were sent back to the waiting room where the smelly kid and my 3 year old had a good time.  I also laughed as I watch a sweet, young, Mexican woman open her baby bag and pull out a sealed bag of Oreos and offer one to my daughter.  Hmmmm.  Maybe she is one of the people they are trying to teach about nutrition? ... Whatever...I totally let my daughter have one.  After sitting in an office playing with Smelly for over 3 hours, she deserved a cookie.

Finally, we got called to the front desk where they gave me my WIC card that is to be used at the grocery store to buy milk, eggs, cereal, produce, cheese, bread etc.  Not too shabby.  I was shocked at how much they gave us...especially cheese.  Poor people must be really constipated.

After the initial appointment you are required to go in every three months.  I thought this was for recertification each time and would include waiting for us all to be weighed and income verification.  Not so.   

Each visit has been a little different.  I have since developed a habit of carrying a folder to each appointment that contains all the information I could think of them possibly needing since I never know if they'll need to see birth certificates,  social security cards, Medicaid identification, income verification or nothing at all.

I had all this information ready on Monday as usual as I headed off for my appointment.  I felt bad I had to cancel my two previous appointments so I wanted to make sure I was on time to this one.  When I called to make this appointment they asked which office I had been going too and I told them.  They said I needed to transfer offices and gave me the name of it.  Being dutiful, I triple checked the website to make sure I had the proper address of the new office.  I then mapped the address--which didn't come up on any map as they had it written.  Then I saw they had a map on their website for this "new" office so I decided that would be the safest bet and should follow their map.  I was wrong.

Just as it was approaching appointment time I was passing what should have been the office location.   I couldn't see it anywhere so I called them and asked for directions.  Their map had led me 30 minutes in the opposite direction of where I was supposed to go.  "We're just inside the beltway," they said.  "On the right side of the road next to a BBQ restaurant?"  I asked.  "Yes," they said.  Odd...that's the same office I've been going to for my four previous visits.

I don't know who the crazy lady was who told me I had to switch offices but I curse her.  It takes a lot of courage and effort to get the kids into the car and drive to a location I don't know and have my kids around people that aren't exactly high class.  Most are nice...but you never know who the schizo with the gun is gonna be...and a federal aide office is likely to house one or two occasionally.  I was bugged.  Your are kind of taking your pride and safety and putting it out there to be crushed every time you go to one of these appointments.

I turned around and drove to the location I'd originally  been to.  I went to the front desk and they asked for my proof of nutrition education.  This is basically a paper you print after completing a 10 minute online nutrition lecture on their website.  I gave it to her and kind of smiled. 

It's required you only complete one nutrition "course" every quarter...and I turned in 5 the last visit.  Apparently that doesn't count for anything and being an over achiever doesn't pay off since it was too much to ask them to look in my file and see that I had already completed nearly every nutrition module they offer.  Instead, I had to waste my time driving to the wrong location for an office I didn't need to transfer too and then turn around and go to the original office I 'd always been too in order to turn in an unnecessary paper.

I realize I'm getting free food for myself and my kids from WIC.   I'm grateful.  Our life would not be as cushie without it.  But I get irritated that I wasted time I could been doing something I dunno...working maybe!?   Heaven forbid I spend time earning money instead of driving around on fruitless errands.  Seriously.  I am lucky that I work from home but if I was trying to work outside of the home it would be ridiculous to call my boss and try to explain how I'd been sent to the wrong office and would need to take another two hours off in order to get my WIC benefits.  Anyone else see a problem with this?  YOU'RE FIRED!

Friday, April 1, 2011

All By Myself

Text messages, emails, letters and even phone conversations can be misleading.  Communication is mostly body language...therefore when I complain, rant, share my embarrassment, tell honest tales and otherwise vent my frustrations on this blog it might lead you to believe I am a negative/unhappy person.  But I am proud to announce that I am actually the opposite.

Remember the Critter books from the 80's?  I had them and read them over and over.  They were educational and moral stories of a young creature (I still don't know what kind of animal he is) and the new experiences every child goes through.  They are republishing these books as $4 paperbacks and sell them at Wal Mart, so I have stocked up on these nostalgic books and read them to my daughters.

One of my daughters favorites is when the creature learns to do things by himself.  He can tie his shoes, pour a glass of milk and a variety of other "big boy" tasks.  It is that feeling of independence, accomplishment, and self sufficiency that gives him an unending amount of confidence.  He is now a "big boy"!  What could be more exciting than that?

I really am grateful for the help we get.  I am grateful for the WIC card, the Lone Star card and any other financial help we are getting.  I still justify is by saying that I work hard and try to be responsible with what we are given and I know my husband works extremely hard since I get to watch him in a constant battle with the excruciating stress that is law school.  

I think this could all be very depressing.  I could think of myself as worthless, as a bottom feeder, as a parasite...which I frequently joke about cuz that is what I thought of anyone on food stamps.  I think it is important for me to remember that I am not "owed" this financial help.  Just because I am an American does not mean I deserve to have food stamps.  We chose this.  We chose for my husband to quit his job and go to law school.  I'm hopeful this is the best choice we could have made...but only time will tell.  And if you look in from the outside and see the food stamps and WIC in my wallet you might think we've chosen "poorly".

But being in our situation just solidifies my priorities and makes me proud to be learning to be a "big girl".  

There are SO many things I am learning in my young adulthood to do myself and do them well.  To be resourceful in "tight" times.  To create wonderful things and appreciate them.  

Some of my favorite things I create are our budget, and our 2 week menu.  

There  is nothing more beautiful than having a monthly budget that you commit yourself to stick to.  You know where your money is going...whether you have a few dollars or a lot.  You know your bills are paid on time and you can relax.  I don't have a lot to budget for and few dollars to do it with.  

We don't have cable and have not even bought a digital box for our TV so all we watch are DVD's we already owned, or ones we check out at the library.  We do pay for internet and phone, electricity and other utilities.  And even though we have the food stamps card, I still write down how much we are spending on groceries.  Because of this and my two-week menu, I am able to cook "semi-gourmet" healthy meals for our family and have a surplus of over $200 on our food stamps card that is increasing every month.

We don't go out to eat.  We don't go see movies.  We don't do any unplanned shopping.  There are no sporadic trips to the mall.  No casual shopping.  Everything is planned.  Pennies accounted for and yet, we still have lots of fun!  Money really doesn't buy happiness.

It takes a lot of work to put these things together.  But it is worth it.  I used to try to plan one weeks dinners at a time and when I changed to two weeks I suddenly began saving over $100 a month on groceries.  I'm not sure why this is...but it works!  We were even buying more meat than before and still paid less.  Go figure!  

My next plan is to install my own shelves in our closets and use the surplus on the food stamps card to buy us some food storage.  You never know when you might need it.  And if we don't need it in the next few years--I'll have it in case it takes a while for my hubby to get a job- we'll be prepared!  Yea! 

Stuff like this gives me pride.  I am definitely patting myself on the back right now--but I've spent hours combing through cook books, financial planning books, nutrition education, food storage and all other sorts of library items to become "semi-self sufficient"  or at least I'm on the path to being somewhat responsible. 

Right now we aren't paying for our groceries ourselves.  We are not paying for our kids medical insurance ourselves.  But I am making the best of it "All By Myself."  And I am proud of that.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Date...For Real!

When I met my husband we were both getting ready to enjoy hard working college summers out of state.  I, in Washington DC, and he, in Florida. We were having fun dating and didn't know where it was going to lead...."It all started with a kiss.  How did it end up like this?!"

Our "dating" adventures weren't traditional dating.  I had been wined and dined by other fun boyfriends.  I'd loved going on planned adventures--whether to dinner and a movie, kayaking, dances, boating, four-wheeling, caving, hiking, skiing, and all other sorts of activities.  My husband and I had some of those experiences...but we mostly just hung out with one another or some friends.  We still do.

My husband was so quickly my best friend---being in his presence was excitement enough and I didn't feel any need to go out on fancy dates.  We were casual and comfortable was great!

We still have the same relationship...but with a twist....KIDS!  Once you enter parenthood you have to cling to your spouse.  Its hard.  Over time you change.  Your spouse changes.  Your kids change your entire existence you had together.  I guess this is why everyone always emphasizes the importance of date night...good advice we haven't taken.

I complain to my husband...a lot.  I'd like to think I am not any worse than other wives who share their daily trials, too many details, and definitely too much drama.  But I have a larger fault in complaining when I feel he messes with my efficiency.  

I don't like change.  In my head I already have most of my day planned out and usually most of my week as well.  This includes a time schedule for myself and the kids, a cleaning regiment, exercise, meal prep, appointments, activities, work, and especially our budget and upcoming expenditures.  This is why I get extraordinarily frustrated when he suggests on a Saturday morning that we go out on a date that night.  Doesn't he know I already have a schedule for us in my head?  Can't he read my mind and realize we don't have the money?  

I've always been given that wise advice that we should go on dates and that we don't need to spend money to do it.  I get that.  I understand that a cheap date could be a walk to the park, or a McDonald's ice cream cone...but his would mess with my efficiency.  I have a hard time justifying finding a babysitter to go get ice cream from McDonalds.  

Trust me, I understand that its not about how fancy of a place you go---its just important that you get time with your spouse.  But still...I don't like it.  Maybe I'm spoiled.  I've been to fancy restaurants before.  I grew up having holiday dinners at a country club.  I don't expect that now...I just have this flush of anxiety with the idea of paying for a sitter, paying for an ice cream cone to go and talk about the kids.  

Am I the only one who has this issue?  I'm certrain I'm not the only one who cannot afford to go out...and will not be able to afford it for several years to come.  I am hoping I am not the only one with anxiety over inefficiency.  Maybe I'm crazy.  But I'm working on it.

Crazy or not -- we were blessed with some of the greatest neighbors in the world who allowed my husband and I the perfect setup.  They had tickets to an event they weren't using so they gave them to us...and they offered to watch our kids...for free!  Seriously.  Amazing.

Sometimes you have the greatest imported gourmet chocolate sitting in your kitchen.  You look at it and you just can't get enough.  It smells good, it looks good, it is a comfort, it is decadent and sweet, an adventure in pure culinary pleasure.  You now have two choices.  You can snatch up the chocolate, throw it in your mouth, enjoy one quick bite, and swallow it down nearly whole.  Or, you can take the time to appreciate it for what it is...a gift to you sent from heaven!

My husband is one of those gourmet chocolates.  He's wonderful and fun...but I need to take more time to enjoy him.  On Saturday night I got to enjoy my husband.  I got to savor every moment with him.  Since we were at an event we were able to talk about it and not just our kids.  It looked like a date.  It felt like a date...and I think it really was an date.  

Our date was thanks to the generosity of wonderful neighbors, great people.  We've only had a few "real" dates in our 6 year marriage...and Saturday was one of the best!

Here's to the A family---THANK YOU!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hope and Belief

I am a lucky gal.  I don't know how I got so lucky...but I am.  I am lucky because I have a few things that some people don't have and may never have.  They are things that I will cherish forever-- because I didn't always have them.  I have hope.  And I have beliefs.  Both of which are free... so feel free to partake!

I have hope in my children.  That though it may appear that the world disintegrating into chaos, they have the opportunity to be a beacon of hope for me, and for others.  I believe that even though my daughter can be feisty -- it may make her into a leader some day.  

I believe that having my two daughters sleep through the night is a miracle, and I hope for miracles every night.  

I believe that though the women's lib movement was well intended, it was misguided, and I am much more important being the CEO of my household than being the CEO in the workplace.  I believe that being a good mom, and raising good children changes the world.  I hope I am a good mom.

I believe that books, and the ability to read them, are the greatest gifts in the world.  I hope I never take the library for granted.  

I believe that behind every good man stands a great woman.  I know my husband is a great man, and I am hopeful that I may be, and will become a great woman.

I believe that good nutrition and exercise can save money and heartache.  I also believe that on the worst of days nothing is better than a good cry and a pint of ice cream.  I hope the ice cream isn't ever needed so much I become obese.

I believe that being a poor law school family on food stamps is easier than being a police family.  I am hopeful that someday police officers will be treated better--the way they deserve.  I believe that many officers we left behind don't believe in themselves enough to get out...but I believe they are amazing and am hopeful they will someday realize their amazing-ness.

I believe that though our situation is currently difficult, we have the opportunity of hope...of creating a better future for our family.  

Everyone keeps telling me its ok to get food stamps because we will be paying it all back in taxes when my husband get a job.  I know that's true...but even if it weren't--part of me thinks if I contribute to society enough, my efforts might be worth that much anyway.
So take a little hope.  Find a few of your own beliefs... and deduct it from my tab I owe to the taxpayers.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Don't Kick Me While I'm Down...Again!

I"m a girl.  Not an entirely girly girl--but I do enjoy a nice pair of shoes with a cute new outfit and accenting bag.  This is not something that fits easily into the food stamps budget but I think there are ways around that so long as I can stand the mortification.

I previously mentioned that I go through a stage after having a baby that makes me want to get rid of nearly all my clothes and start over.  With my first child this started the day I found out I could fit into my regular pants again and I decided to try on all my other clothes too.  After putting on a few shirts I realized that though I had lost my baby weight there is something about carrying a bowling ball around in your abdomen that makes your body shape a bad way.  At the time, I still had shirts from high school in my closet and realized it was no longer cute for me to dress in teenage clothes.  Though I was and am still young, there comes a time when you have to begin to embrace the "women's department".  I am still struggling with this revelation.

I am entering this ferocious stage of postpartum where I have lost most of the baby weight but still don't feel pretty, don't feel myself, but definitely want to feel fantastic. 

 I started last week with pulling out my handy Making Faces makeup book...a must for every girls library.  I'm trying new looks each day and trying to figure out what looks best.  Its odd, but my face shape has changed after having kids and aging--I miss my chubbier cheeks now--never thought I'd say that!  

After playing with makeup each day I venture into my closet determined to find an outfit I want to wear more than my sweats.  I glance at all the juvenile/out of date clothing hanging in my closet and contemplate.  I have a conundrum.

I am wanting to find some clothes that fit me properly.  Something to make me feel nice, respectable, pretty.  Something that doesn't have baby spit up on it.  Something that I feel confident in and escape my frumpiness for a few moments.  I need to find items that are functional, cute, durable and affordable.  And I really don't want to go shopping with kids in tow.  Being the wife of a law student doesn't give me a lot of hope for this I'm going to make my own solutions...consignment here I come.

I decided to start the selling of my clothes at Plato's Closet.  They have a simple system in which you take your stuff in and they give you cash for the stuff they want.   It seemed like a good idea until I found out this would lead to my total embarrassment and yet another realization and resentment of our self induced broke financial situation.

After lugging my large bin of items to the counter they told me it would take a few minutes so I could browse around the store.  I found a few items that I thought might be flattering and entered the dressing room.  After the first two dresses made me look totally awful I was in a foul and self loathing mood.  This mood was further degenerated when the teenage girl employee came back to the dressing room to speak to her manager.  

Apparently the front counter was very cluttered and the employee seemed worried that the manager should know why.  She explained to the manager that several people, including a first time seller, had brought their items in at once and that was why they were crowded up front.  "I'm going through the new sellers bin," she said.  "And its taking forever because I pull things out and its like...this is crap, crap, crap, crap, Oh-this one is ok...and then just more crap.  Its taking a long time."

As soon as I overheard her say she was going through a first time sellers bin I knew she was talking about my stuff.  My husband told me I shouldn't care about what some stupid teenage girl said and it was totally unprofessional for her to speak that way in the dressing room.  He's right...but I still had to fight back the tears.

It wasn't that she was wrong.  A lot of my stuff is kind of crappy.  I've been a stickler about price for years-out of necessity.  This means that all my stuff has come from a clearance rack and is not always the cutest.  Saving for a rainy day, or law school, or retirement is more important to me than having nice clothes.  I thought I looked decent...but I realize now that I just looked "not naked." 

I wish I could just say,"Hey honey, I need some new clothes.  How about we get a babysitter and go to the mall this weekend and get a few things?"     I can't.  We don't have the time nor the money.  I am ok with us being broke and busy most of the time.  But when a complete stranger, especially a silly teenage stranger, calls your stuff crap it doesn't make you feel good.  

So do me a favor.  Don't judge the girl who doesn't have it all together.  Don't judge the girl who is lugging her screaming 3 year old through the grocery store and then pays with a food stamps card.  I'm not trash...I'm a mom.  I think I  might even be a good mom.  Don't judge the girl who brings in crappy clothes for consignment...or at least keep your mouth shut.  I don't like presenting my outdated clothes to you any more than you like going through them.  

Someday my kids will be teenagers.  I pray by then we will be standing on solid financial feet and I will teach them to not judge the poor young mom who is making an attempt at being fashionable...and if I can't teach them that--I will at least teach them to keep their mouths shut! 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

To Be Responsible or Not to Be Responsible...That is the Question

I have been severely lacking in my blog posts.  I like to think this is because I am too busy taking care of my perfectly behaved children, and my immaculate home so my hard-working, law student husband can come home to a gourmet meal.  I like to think that....I also like to think I am 6 feet tall, 120 pounds, have long-thick hair and a 36 inch inseam.  We all deserve to daydream.

I've been living the life of a frazzled mom.  I try my best to keep the kids clean, occupied, and happy while my husband is away at school, or shut in a room at home with his nose in a book.  I think it goes without saying that law school "finals" week wasn't just difficult for my husband, it was an entire month filled with challenges for the whole family.  Oh, and everyone except me got the flu...I got to clean up the vomit.  Yea, for me.  

In situations like this I am truly grateful for the government aide we receive.  My wallet is much thicker now.  Not because of an overflow of cash- (that would be ridiculous) wallet is thick because of the plethora of cards I have to carry with me all the time.

 I have a "debit" style card for food stamps, another with a special chip on the top for the WIC program, a CHIP identification card for my kids health insurance and monthly letters to verify my youngest's Medicaid coverage.   Its oddly comforting to peek in my wallet and know that I have money for food and healthcare for my children if its needed.  It is going to be hard to have to use my own money to pay for food in the future!

In January it was our first time to be evaluated for renewal of our food stamps and Medicaid.  I was nervous.  Originally, I had been told that someone in the house must be working at least 20 hours in order to keep the help and this did not include any of my husbands hours he spent on the 20 hours would have to come from me.  I tried for several weeks to consistently get 20 hours of work in, but it was hard with the kids.  I work from home as a paralegal and it seemed that nap-time was never long enough.  Then law schools finals were approaching, and there was no way I was getting in 20 hours since my husband couldn't help with the kids.  I was worried.  If we didn't get food stamps we wouldn't have enough money to get food, and keep up with all our other bills.  I've never been late on any payment and I don't plan on starting now.  

Gratefully, the government likes to reward the irresponsible.  If you have kids at home the 20 hours of required work does not apply.  I don't need to be working at all.  Its a difficult issue for me.  I value my time at home with my kids before they are school age but is the government just rewarding those who refuse to use birth control?

After teaching criminals, I have seen what it does to kids to not have a stable mother at home.   In a sense, am I actually costing society less money by using government aide and staying home with my kids than I would be if I got a job, stuck them in daycare and raised misbehaved kids? 

 I like to think I'm doing the best thing by staying home.  Or is it better to embrace the long lost American work ethic and take several jobs to keep our family financially afloat until my husband is out of school?  This is an especially difficult inner turmoil for me since I do have a college degree and could possibly make enough money to support our family if I took a full time job.  In the end, I choose to fear God and not to fear man.  I may have people mad at me for using food stamps but all the food came from God and my children are from Him too.  I'd much rather answer for the sins of taking free food than for doing wrong by my children.

Being reevaluated for aide also made me ponder the consequences of financial irresponsibility. Or, the lack of responsibility.  If you have more that $5,000 combined cash and/or asset you cannot qualify.  This makes sense to me.  Someone with no job and huge stashes of money should not be able to get help...that is what the stash is for.  We have no stash.  But I'll tell you who does....liars, drug dealers, and illegals.  

My husband always wondered how all the drug dealers and illegals he used to arrest had big screens and speaker systems with their food stamps card sitting on top.  I'll tell you.  They have cash and they lie about it.  No evidence, no problem. You have to learn to play the system.

Luckily for us our student loan money was down to nothing when we were re qualified.  We definitely didn't have $5,000 anywhere.  But I knew we'd have a large student loan check coming in and was hoping it would show up late so it didn't show in our balances.  

Now my concern is for our upcoming tax refund which is sure to be the largest refund we have ever received.  I should set this money aside and use it to pay for our food so we aren't on food stamps for a few months.  Or, I can spend the money so it isn't in our accounts when we re qualify again in a few months.  

 I decided on what I deem to be a compromise.  I will try to be spend it wisely but still deplete it enough to keep qualifying for aide.  We've got needed repairs on both of our cars, and upcoming medical costs to pay for.---That's me being responsible while still not keeping the money visible.  

On the irresponsible side, I'd like to set aside cash for Christmas next year, (I can easily get Christmas for everyone for $300) and very selfishly--I want a new bed.  We've had the same bed since we got married and my husband and I are both waking up with neck, head and back aches.  Do we "deserve" a bed.  No.  Can we afford a bed?....not exactly.  We can if we use the tax return and keep the food stamps...or we save the tax return, don't get a bed and stop getting food stamps until our student loan money runs out a few months later and then reapply.

To be responsible, or not to be responsible?  That is the question.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Diamond? What Diamond?

I am a believer in dressing yourself properly.  As a mostly stay-at-home-mom this means I am often in sweats with a tiny ponytail jutting out the back of my head.  But no matter what your weight I think it is nice to have clothing that fits and looks nice...until now.  

When my first child was a newborn I became a huge fan of the show "What Not to Wear."  I would sit and watch it so often my tiny baby began to turn her head toward the TV whenever she heard the theme song.  I loved watching the powerful transformations of these previously ill dressed, insecure women blossoming in to their best selves.  Motivated by this TV show I walked into my closet one day and decided that rather than try on each and every item of clothing to see if it was too tight on my postpartum body, I chose to deposit everything in a trash bag and take it to my local consignment store.

For a while, I had no clothes.  Eventually, I earned some decent money from my clothings' sale and used it to buy new clothes.  So, gleaning from the television show, I forced myself to try on each item and only buy things that were flattering making my clothing options fewer but of higher quality.

Since the birth of my second child I've occasionally been inspired to step out of the sweats and into some of my more flattering clothing I purchased to remind myself of the previously sexy woman I used to be.  I know I was sexy enough at some point to get pregnant twice right? ;)

Sometimes I try to consciously put on make up, find a neglected accessory and some heels just to go the grocery store.  It makes me feel feminine, I carry myself with more confidence and I think my high heels get lonely if I don't wear them every once in a while.  

The day of my first appointment at the WIC office I thought about what I was going to wear.  I couldn't fit into my jeans yet and I had some skirts...but they look better with heels-which is not an option since my back is still sore from being pregnant.  I settled on my favorite cargo style pants.  They aren't gorgeous, and were actually bought from a donations store but the drawstring doesn't cut into my baby belly to give me a "muffin top" and somehow the back pockets seem to be placed in perfect positions to flatter my backside...(who doesn't want the best look possible for their tushie?)  I threw on a nicely tailored white shirt and my red leather sandals.  Not fabulous, but not bad for a woman with a new baby.

WIC stands for Women Infants and Children.  They give assitance to pregnant and nursing mothers along with their children up to age 3.  The process for getting this assistance is different than food stamps or medicaid.  Rather than fill out a form and sending it to an unknown location for a non-English speaking worker to review, you have to physically go to their office.  This is where I decided to go in my cargo pants and red sandals as my first encounter with government aide.

I would like to think of myself as accepting, loving and having a general respect for my fellowman.  But I embarrassingly admit that 5 seconds after opening the door to the WIC clinic I looked down at my left hand and quickly turned my diamond ring around so the stone was not visible.  Part of me turned the ring around because the people in the clinic are "really" poor and I'm "student" poor so I don't want them to feel bad.  Another part of me hid the ring because I really wanted the WIC benefits and I didn't want any of the underpaid workers to see the ring and deny us benefits.  Lastly, and worstly, I saw that I was the only white person in the room, including the employees and didn't want have it stolen.  

Maybe I'm a horrible person for thinking someone would rob me...but after the cop stories my husband brought home I am skeptical of everyone.  If I'm not a horrible person for that reason, I am definitely horrible because while I am sitting behind the two unmarried, teenage, black women and next to the unmarried Mexican woman who does not speak English, I think to myself, "I'm better than they are.  I'm married.  My children have the same father and I was married before I had children.  I'm educated.  I speak English.  I read to my children.  My children are well behaved and clean.  I'm only getting WIC because my husband is in school."  blah, blah, blah, blah.  

In the end, I am in the same office asking for the same help that they are.  No matter how I justify my position, I am at the same level.  I can think of myself as better than them because I know my situation is temporary.  But then I realized what a level of despair they must feel to not have such confidence in a better future. 

 I hate people who abuse the aide system.  Everyone should be required to be a US citizen and have a plan and limit to no longer getting food stamps...but I now have empathy for the people in those offices.  If you had people like me forever saying they are better than just might start to believe it, and with that belief comes the diminished capacity to achieve.  And if you can't achieve--you condemn yourself to a depressing existence waiting in the WIC office until your oldest daughter gets pregnant at age 12 and then you can wait with her.