Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hooray for Etsy!

One of my cup cozies has been selected for an Etsy treasury (a treasury is a grouping of items from different sellers based on a theme). I'm not quite sure how my "Marbles" cozy fits with the "Fruits of Summer" theme, but it's colorful, and hey - I have no problem with the extra exposure!

The way treasuries work is that once they're created, views, comments and "hearting" (liking) the item bumps the treasury to the top of the list and the winner gets featured on the front page of Etsy, scoring the creator of the treasury and all the shops featured a lot of exposure, which usually leads to sales.

So - I would love if you'd take a look, comment and heart my item or any others included in this treasury! To heart an item you must click on the item, which will take you to the actual listing within the shop. Then over on the right you can "heart" the item - you'll be prompted to sign in.

If you don't have an Etsy account, create one, it's easy! Just maybe freeze your credit cards in a block of ice first because you will spend your entire paycheck there. For real.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I am inching my way through some books on welfare, welfare reform, welfare racism.

The first one was really moving, the author interviewed 30 women on welfare (from different states, different regions, different size/type of town/city/rural area), who have kids. The book goes topic by topic & you see the women’s situations compared to each others . . . there are so many common themes. Hard-work, determination, hopelessness, abuse, abandonment, lack of education. So, so many cases where the women were abandoned by the fathers. Lots of abuse, and a surprisingly high number of women who were married to the father of their children . . . and the father left the family or was abusive or was an addict. Not as many cases of women who were never married.

There were a couple examples of women who were disabled or who were unable to work because there simply was no work in their area. The majority (and I mean like 90%, not 60%) had worked since they were teenagers in factory jobs, waitressing jobs, caregiver jobs. The problem is that the work available in their area, that they could get to with their transportation, that they were qualified for – was so low in pay and benefits (no flexibility on hours, if your kid is sick you lose your job, no health benefits, no vacation) that in order to survive they had to get on welfare. And still they lived a meager existence.

In the welfare reform book I learned that each state is different, but that the 1996 federal reform act required states to make ALL welfare recipients work. Some states (possibly all of them) have exemptions to hand out to special cases (where someone physically can’t work, for example). Some states use all their exemptions, some states barely use theirs. The percentage of exemptions was very small compared to the percentage of cases who had to work.

What I’m seeing over & over is that the requirements put upon those who get welfare benefits, and the training/education opportunities just don’t do enough to actually lift the families out of poverty. So the families aren’t getting welfare any longer but they’re still living in poverty, and now mom isn’t able to be in the home at all to parent her kids.

Did you know that in the beginning, welfare was given out to women whose husbands had died, because women weren’t yet enough a part of the workforce that without a husband/provider, the family would starve? And that only women who were seen as “good” and “worthy” were given benefits? The women who had children out of wedlock or who left abusive husbands (and surely other situations) weren’t allowed benefits because they weren’t seen as promoting the ideal values for society?

The actual purpose of welfare in the beginning was to allow women to stay home and raise their children because this is how you created a healthy society. But today if you want welfare benefits you have to work or prove that you are actively seeking work, or are in some sort of educational program (and often then you still have to work).

Women who receive child-support payments from their children’s father only get a small portion of the payment (something like $50 a month) if they are on welfare. The state takes everything over $50 to offset the benefits they are giving to the woman/children. So even if a woman gets a total of $500 worth of benefits from the state, if her ex pays $700 in child support, she gets $50 while the state gets $650.

This may vary state-to-state or it may be all states, – did you know that there is a 5 year cap for receiving benefits? And many states don’t allow those to be consecutive years? Some states have a system like this: 2 years on benefits, then you must survive for 2 years off. Then you can have 2 more years, then you have 2 more years off. Then you can finish up with your last year of benefits, and then you are done and can never receive benefits again, no matter what.

Did you know that some states give as little as $64 a month for children born to a mother who is on welfare? There may be other states that give more or less but I don’t have that info. That doesn’t seem like a big incentive to have a child to me. AND those benefits are not necessarily cash!

Did you know that some states give ZERO benefits for a child born to a mother who is on welfare? Again – speaks to the motivation of women having babies so they can live off the state via their children.

When the 1996 welfare reforms went into place, a ton of money was put into the welfare system . . . also a ton of regulations, to the point that resources were spent on creating duplicate forms in multiple formats . . . entering data into multiple databases . . . training & re-training & re-training. Red tape grew & grew & grew. Employees who worked for welfare agencies were given raises while benefits to the individuals on welfare were actually cut.

The number of benefit cases from 1997 – 2001 were cut in half! It is harder to get welfare, it is harder stay on welfare, it is harder to transition from welfare to an above-poverty situation, it is harder to manage welfare.

Yet the myths - that most people on welfare are freeloaders who are lazy, don’t work, are milking the system and live on welfare their entire lives - persist.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Ashley realizes she has not yet filled out her FAFSA for school and needs to get that done ASAP. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have her tax return documents for 2009 because she emailed all her W-2s & stuff to George and Weezie and then got a direct deposit refund. They like to save on postage by not mailing your return to you, you have to come pick it up. Also, George has NO BUSINESS having anything to do with Weezie’s tax business, and messes up stuff with technology all the time. For example, he has attempted to send a fax, and when it beeped, he randomly began hitting buttons, which made the fax stop. Thus, the machine must be broken so: Someone call the repairman.

George: Hello?
Ashley: Hi Uncle (George), this is Ashley, how are you?
George: I’m fine, boo, what’s up?
Ashley: Well, I never got my 2009 tax return since we got direct deposit . . . can you send my return to me? I need it to fill out some important financial aid paperwork.
George: So when you gonna come by and get it?
Ashley: Well, we’re really not going to be able to. Can you fax it?
George: No, that’s too many pages to fax. You just need to come by and get it.
Ashley: Unfortunately, I can only get around on the buses and trains and Vincent is way out in the suburbs with our car and can’t get into the city anytime soon. Could you mail it?
George: grumbleneedtocomepickupyourdamnpapersgrumble I’ll just send the one part. Ok, what’s your fax number?
Ashley: 312-123-4567
George: Ok, I’m sending it now.

Ashley (seeing George’s phone number): Hello?
George: Beeeeeeeep beeeeeep beeeeeep fax noiiiiiiise beeeeeeeep
Ashley: Hello? Uncle George?
Ashley: CLICK *sigh*

Ashley (seeing George’s phone number): Hello?
George: Beeeeeeeep beeeeeep beeeeeep fax noiiiiiiise beeeeeeeep
Ashley: Hello? Uncle George?
Ashley: CLICK *$%!@*

George: Hello?
Ashley: Hi Uncle George
George: Hey, Boo, I just sent it
Ashley: Actually, Uncle George, that’s why I was calling, I wonder if you maybe sent it to the number I called from instead of the –
George: No, I sent it to the number you gave me!!
Ashley: It’s just that twice now, I’ve received a phone call from your number and when I answer, I hear fax machine noises. Usually I only hear that when someone is –
George: That was me calling you to tell you I sent it.
Ashley: . . . Ok. Thanks, Uncle George.
George: Ok, bye.

ASHLEY CRIES. Uncle George is the only one answering the phone.


A few minutes later, the fax arrives. Now, to fill out FAFSA stuff and see if he sent me enough info.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

PBS Independent Lens documentary: Crips and Bloods: Made In America is about how/why gangs got started in LA, how they’ve evolved and the conditions that keep the South Central LA community stuck in the cycle of gangs, drugs & violence. It also highlights the work that is being done to try to make changes . . . and the work that has to be done from outsiders in order to make change possible.

On the website, there is a map where you can hover over the different things like liquor stores, crime, home ownership & homelessness, gang violence, schools, prison statistics, employment, grocery stores, health clinics, hospitals – the information about the disparities of what is in South Central compared to more affluent areas of LA is disgusting.

The map also highlights some historical events that happened in South Central.

Definitely worth checking out if you get the chance!! You can check out a preview, look on the movie link above & on the top right of the screen. AND you can also find out when it will play next on your local PBS station – my station is going to show it again this Sunday, so it’s likely that yours will be showing it sometime soon as well.

From the director:
I made CRIPS AND BLOODS: Made in America because I was interested as a filmmaker and as a resident of Los Angeles in investigating why gang violence has been going on uninterrupted in Los Angeles for over four decades. I could not understand why this is going on in America and why no viable solution has ever been put into place. And it did not make sense to me, our country defeated Nazi Germany and Japan simultaneously and in less than a decade but we can’t stop gang violence. It made me wonder if as a society we would find a solution to this problem if instead of poor African American teenagers it were affluent white teenagers who were killing each other.

Kumasi, one of the principle characters in the film says this, “Part of the mechanics of oppressing people is to pervert them to the extent that they become their own oppressors.” I believe these young men involved in gang violence are carrying out their own extinction and the very sad truth is that our society is allowing this to happen. I hope people who view the film see these gang members as human beings caught up in a tragic nightmare and not as the animals and demons the media has made them out to be.

I believe people should see this film because this is a human rights issue that is happening inside of America and it’s happening every day in many of our largest cities—but it happens in silence. These young men are dying in silence and they are being incarcerated in silence. More people have been killed due to gang violence in Los Angeles than the long running sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland, yet very few know this fact. Young children in South Los Angeles are experiencing greater levels of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than children living in Bagdad, Iraq. This is happening inside of our country.
—Stacy Peralta

Meet four of the men featured in CRIPS & BLOODS: Made in America.

“I grew up in a home where my mother worked two jobs, but had three boys. …We were unsupervised, so I found my supervision outside of the home.”

Skipp was born Clifford Townsend in Los Angeles. Forty-four years old at the time of filming, he became a member of the Rollin’ 20s Bloods at the age of 13. Although he became inactive in 1998, he feels as though he has never really left his gang. He has spent almost seven years of his life in the U.S. prison system and is currently working towards his bachelor's degree in child development. Skipp recently created his own organization specializing in community intervention, re-entry, mentoring and gang intervention. He also assists with training Los Angeles Police Department officers on community relations and works within the city’s school system to make an impact on at-risk youths.


“…But the point is this: I'm a walkin' time bomb. I'm gonna go off. Some day, somewhere, on somebody. The question is: 'Upon whom?'"
Kumasi was born in Bronx, New York and moved to South Los Angeles at age three. Sixty-one years old at the time of filming, he joined the Slausons at age 10. He still considers himself a Slauson, although the gang became inactive around 1967. Kumasi has served a total of five terms, or about 18 years, in the U.S. prison system during his life. He currently works as a consultant and activist within his community and as a consultant in the entertainment industry.

“So, a lotta times, man, I know morally I'm a good individual, but sometimes I gotta put that moral state of mind behind me and become an animal.”
Born in Los Angeles as Rodney Moralez, Shaka joined Mad Swan Bloods (currently known as Family Swan Bloods) at the age of 13. Twenty-eight years old at the time of filming, he still considers himself a Swan, although he became less involved with the gang after becoming a father, and has become inactive in recent years. Shaka has spent three terms, totaling six years, in the U.S. prison system. He is currently working as a hip hop and reggae artist in the music industry and is starting up a church and basketball program for at-risk youth.

“I grew up in a house where my grandma and my uncle, everybody was sellin' drugs. You, know what I'm sayin'? I grew up to where when the police raid, they handed me drugs to hide…”
Born Raymond Ford in Los Angeles, Scrap was thirty-two years old at the time of filming. Growing up in Jordan Downs Housing Project in Watts, he feels that he was born into a gang. Scrap became an active member of the Grape Street Watts Crips at 11 years old and became inactive in 2003, after his best friend was murdered. As a juvenile, he spent one year in a youth authority camp. He currently works full time as a football coach, and part time doing gardening work for the city.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Have any of you heard of the Value Tales books? I learned to read on these!

I had a large set of them, they're great! They feature an historical figure and some sort of value and tell a story of how that character learned the meaning & importance of that value, set in a short story of something real they did.

For example in the Value of Believing in Yourself, you learn about how Louis Pasteur (best know for his milk-pasteurization process) developed the Rabies vaccine even though people said it couldn't be done.

In the Value of Helping, we learn about Harriet Tubman and the way she helped slaves find their way to freedom via the Underground Railroad.

There are 24 books in the set, I believe, and you can order them individually or as a set. Great character lessons for kids as well as history lessons.

Kindness, Respect, Creativity, Fairness, Honesty, Humor, Imagination -- just a handful of the topics covered in this series. Historical figures like Madame Curie, Helen Keller, Confucious, Jackie Robinson, The Wright Brothers, Sacajewa, Abraham Lincoln, Beethoven . . .

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Unnatural Causes

There is a series on PBS that I’ve caught portions of from time to time. It’s called “Unnatural Causes: is inequality making us sick?” That link will take you to the show site which has more information including videos, transcripts, other sites, articles.

The series as a whole looks at different groups & from different perspectives: Louisville, KY and people in low, middle & upper class – who gets sicker and who stays healthier . . . Why are infant mortality rates of African Americans twice that of Whites . . . Populations who have the highest rate of Type II Diabetes . . . communities that have lost industries seeing health issues skyrocket . . . Marshall Islanders whose lives were affected when the U.S. began using their outer islands for extensive nuclear testing after WWII (seriously, does this not make you say a huge WTF?!?!) . . .

A while back I saw the episode on Type II Diabetes and one of the industry episodes (there are 2, the 2nd one focuses on a Michigan manufacturing town).

The population with the highest rate of Type II Diabetes in the world are Native American tribes in Arizona, the Pima and Tohono O’odham. Researchers tie the rise in the disease to the water from the Gila River being cut off from them, as it was navigated to new settlements upriver by newcomers (who had new U.S. laws on their side). Basically they were no longer able to grow food (something they were previously able to do even in their dessert, through complex irrigation techniques) and eventually had to depend solely on “commodity food” from the government. Picture warehouses of Sam’s & Costco sized food packages of things like canned meat, chips, white bread, lard . . . little to no veggies or fruits & certainly not fresh – all canned. This went on for 100 years or so, it wasn’t until the last decade that fresh food was sent. On their entire reservation there is only one small grocery store with a tiny produce section.

It also mentioned that populations who have the highest rates of Type II Diabetes (African Americans and Aboriginal people in Australia were also mentioned) tend to be people who have been displaced from their original habitat. Makes sense – suddenly they no longer are able to find/grow/eat their usual foods and have to “make do” with what they can find or that is provided for them. Consider how today’s “soul foods” are tied to the leftover foods that were tossed to slaves, and how these foods have now become a part of African American heritage & culture. When looking at the Native groups, it was mentioned that “fry bread” is actually not a food that native peoples ever ate – it comes from the commodity food staples that were provided by the government after water supply was cut off – flour, lard, refined sugar . . .

The next episode moved to Richmond, California and looked at the Southeast Asian community there and the high rate of heart disease and other health problems that are exacerbated by the level of stress the residents feel from living in poverty. Their story was used to explain how low-income communities not only have to deal with the regular problems that everyone has to deal with, but that they have less RESOURCES to solve the problems, or to manage their health in relation to the problems. It went into a description of the way stress affects the body and what health problems often come from people who are feeling stress all day long.

Richmond was a war boom town (WWII) but when the war was over, industries left Richmond so many people moved from the city and out to the suburbs. The problem is that the only people approved for home loans were middle-income whites, so low-income whites and ALL people of color had to either relocate entirely, or stay within Richmond which was almost deserted and didn’t have an economy to support good schools, health services, public services, etc. If you’ve read The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, the community in that book is very similar to Richmond. The family focused on in this episode attempted to move out of Richmond but couldn't afford it. Their daughter was later murdered by a gang member who thought she was someone else. The father had a major heart attack due to his heart disease and even working will put too much strain on him to heal - they don't know how their family will survive without his income.

Lastly the special focused on High Point which was a neighborhood in Seattle that was also a war-boom area, set up with “temporary housing” back in the 40s, to house industrial workers. The war ended, industries shut down, but the workforce had nowhere to go so they stayed in the sub-par housing which was still standing 60 years later (hardly temporary). High Point was able to turn things around, though – community activists got together and fought for grant money (possibly also state or federal funding but I can’t remember for sure) and were able to tear down the bad housing and build new housing as well as community services like parks, community centers, clinics, gardens . . .

Unfortunately most low-income people are not used to having a voice or power and they are trained to not expect much or that if they try only the exceptional will be successful, so there are more Richmonds than High Points.

This stuff . . . not just specifically health, but all aspects of life which are affected by being poor, disenfranchised, uneducated, dis-counted, ignored, oppressed, etc. . . . this is what I have a passion for. I’m not sure how it will all work out, but this is the stuff I want to spend the rest of my life fighting and helping to change.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Here are some things I'd like to do, certainly not ALL the things I'd like to do. Some big, some small. Some I've done since writing the list a while ago, some I've done in the past but would like to do again.

· See/hike the Grand Canyon

· Go fishing

· Attend a woman’s labor & delivery

· Perform in a musical where I get to sing *and* dance (but I don’t need a lead role, chorus is fine)

· Jet ski

· Sew/knit something like a blanket, afghan, quilt or article of clothing

· Write a song

· Find a church home

· Teach dance

· Be with someone while they’re getting a tattoo (no, I don’t feel the need for one of my own)

· Celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary with a big bash

· Run (and finish) some sort of run (not a marathon! More like a 5 or 10K) that is for a good cause

· Take a cooking class

· Decorate a house (or just a room in someone else’s house)

· Host a holiday dinner

· Go on a trip in an RV and stop at unique restaurants & landmarks along the way

· Go horseback riding, not just around a corral, out on a mountain trail or something more extensive & scenic.

· Vacation in a cabin near a body of water & wooded area. Like a lake cabin or something quiet like that.

· Go to an amusement park and ride the best roller coasters

· Go to museums (art, historical, science, cultural)

· Go on tours of Chicago (cultural, trolley, riverboat)

· Go roller skating

· Go skiing

· Ride a bike

· See a band I love in a small club concert

· Learn to play the guitar

· Own a piano & play it regularly

· Spend time in these cities: Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland (OR), Boulder, Austin, Boston, Philadelphia, D.C. I could say NYC but Chicago is similar enough (at least in the things I’d like to get out of NYC). Boston & Philly probably are too, so they can stay near the end of the list. :) There are historical things in Boston & Philly that I’d like to check out.

· Get a professional massage

Monday, June 21, 2010

Finally - cozies in the house! My etsy shop is fully loaded while I work on a couple new product designs . . . coming soon (I hope)!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

America is an unstoppable oil dependency-breaking machine!!!!
Unfortunately the machine runs on oil.

Shocker: He gives Nixon more eco-friendly props than anyone else!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

R.I.P., McSweeney's link. I just added a bazillion other blogs to my reader and your multiple daily posts are clogging things up. I still love you, I just don't have time for you. That can still be love, right? It's still love even if I only bother with you when I'm bored or need some amusement. I think.

One day I'll update the look of this place . . .

Monday, June 14, 2010

Because her assistant is out for the week, I've been designated a "delegate" for my campus president, so I can now send email on her behalf, set up meetings, etc.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010


~ we're moved. not fully unpacked. but the new place is what i think of, when i think of, "home." ~

~ someone nominated me in the facebook group "from: me to: you" and i came home the other night to these awesome, suprise, handmade gifts:

you should join the group and nominate someone to receive a surprise gift! ~
~ i'm neck-deep in commencement planning, it'll be over friday afternoon. ~

~ i have a friend who moved out to napa, works in the wine industry and has a boyfriend who owns a winery or vineyard or something . . . i sent her a message in facebook to laugh about how i'm finally a grown-up and have learned to enjoy wine. she replied by telling me she's going to send me some of their wine! ~

~ i've begun sewing again and hope to get some new items listed in my etsy shop soon! i'm experimenting with a couple new products as well as using some gorgeous new fabrics for my original cup cozies. what's funny is that i'm looking forward to staying up late, sewing and watching the final season of LOST, catching up on Heroes and getting started with Grey's Anatomy . . . just as much as i'm looking forward to the actual sewing. i've only ever watched 1-2 episodes of Grey's eash season - the whole glorification of infidelity thing always rubbed me the wrong way. but . . . ever since i learned that kevin mckidd joined the cast, i've been itching to watch it. he enters the show in season 5 so that's where i'll be starting. i may just fast-forward through all the scenes without him. and having said that, i think my crush may have just gone off the deep end. ~

he's so not my normal type . . . but . . . yowza.
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