The Lineage of Opportunity

I was thinking about a holiday party I attended just a couple of years ago. The guests were gathered around the kitchen island, snacking and catching up. I was new to the group and didn’t really know anyone so I mostly stood there and listened. The house is what I refer to as a mini McMansion. It was a large home in a very nice community. It’s the kind of home that I could only ever wish for. The owners of the home were older and their children had left the nest and were in college. The conversation then turned to questions about their son in college. At this time the party goers all began to reminisce about their experiences in college and all the opportunities they had. They talked about sororities, ball games, studying abroad, internships, etc. The McMansion owners were able to provide the full college experience to their children in large part because they had the full college experience as did their parents and their parents’ parents and so on. My college experience was not the same. I had to pay my own way through school. I didn’t join sororities or study groups because I had keep my full time job. My classes began at 7am and then I headed to work for the rest of the day. Some nights I returned to school in the evening. I couldn’t study abroad because that would leave me without money to pay for school or help my parents. I didn’t have the full college experience because my parents didn’t have a full college experience. They both dropped out of school to help their parents. I wasn’t able to inherit the college experience because there was nothing available to pass down. Tragically, the only thing I inherited is a make-ends-meet life. I don’t want this to be what my children inherit.

According to a US News report, a 2014 survey conducted by Country Financial suggests that “most people (59%) believe it isn’t possible or no longer certain that it’s possible to live a middle class existence and be considered financially secure.” This study is a few years old and regrettably it is still remains in a downward trend. The fact of the matter is that if you are at the lower end of the middle class bracket financial security is an existence you may never achieve. Everyday life is like trying to pull yourself out of quick sand. The more you fight, the harder you struggle, the deeper you sink. Financial security isn’t just about a savings account, retirement plan, college savings and the equity you build. Financial security blankets everything in your daily life from paying bills, buying groceries, affording health care and unexpected car repairs or emergencies.

Financial security is not just about saving for the future but meeting your needs daily. Providing a good home is essential for a family. What happens when you are unable to provide this. The National Low Income Housing Coalition released a report stating “affordable rent is becoming harder to find for many households across the country.” It also stated that “30% of income is considered the most one should pay for housing if you want to manage your money responsibly.”  For us, the percentage of income that goes toward rent is closer to 45% for an old, very modest home in a neighborhood where crime happens just down the road. Along this street I see two or three families sharing a home. Affordable rent is not affordable if more than one family had too share a home to be able to make rent.

In America, 35% of the country’s total wealth is owned by the richest 1%. The wealthiest 20% of Americans own about 84% of wealth. The rest of us fall at the bottom of the totem pole with no chance of changing that fact. Inequality.org stated, “over the past quarter of a century, only America’s most affluent families have added to their worth.”  There is a huge disconnect from the wealthy. They have no idea what the average person struggles with on a day to day basis. They don’t realize the physical, mental and social strain and pain we face. Not long ago the NYC Food Bank posed a challenge to live on a food stamp budget of $29 a week. Gwyneth Paltrow proudly took on the challenge and was unable to complete even one week. Lucky for her she had the option to revert back to her lavish meals and lifestyle. What about the rest of us who don’t have that option. Gwyneth like many other celebrities and millionaires were born into fortune and don’t know any differently. If only they would trade places with a real middle class parent for a year. Maybe then we would truly see change for the middle class.

I see so many families that work so hard to try and provide a good life and a future for their children.  We hold down several jobs, cut corners on costs, live modestly, limit our worldly experiences and still fall in the red. It grows ever so much more difficult to remain optimistic and hope for change. I don’t begrudge families who have been able to become successful I just wonder why it is that my family isn’t entitled to the same opportunities for a successful future.

Uncharted territory

It’s been a while since I posted. I must admit that I have been very focused on the current events of my country. I have been very concerned about its direction and by its leaders. And because we are so globally connected what happens now deeply affects the world around us. I don’t want to promote any particular party because I feel that once we associate ourselves to a party, many people stop listening. I don’t want to build walls. I want us to find solutions.

I see news reports of the violence that has risen as a result of the election. On the one hand I understand the anger, frustration and desperation felt by so many. I think that this election has opened our eyes to the fact that poverty, stagnation and depreciation doesn’t discriminate. So many of us live our days feeling helpless because we are no value to others except for how much money we can make to help the rich get richer. So many people have lived a faceless, hopeless and demeaning existence with no light at the end of the tunnel. This leads to desperation and desperate times call for desperate measures. On the other hand, I could never harm another person because of my feelings of frustration or anger. It just isn’t right. Who should I direct my anger toward? Who is the enemy? What is the enemy?

Another lesson we have learned during this election is that we have recognized many problems but we diverge on these issues and the proposed solutions. We must remain cognizant of the fact that we are all human beings. There we so many instances where people were generalized or stereotyped into a certain category. That isn’t right and we cannot continue to do this. I am not a judgemental person. I live by the church of goodness. As long as you are a good neighbor, friend, mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter,… I don’t care about your race, gender, nationality, religion. I want the world filled with goodness and good people. I confess that even I had to check myself on this. I saw two people talking and the first thing I thought was, “Look at them, those — supporters.” What was I doing? That’s not me. I don’t’ know them. I don’t know their story. I can’t engage in the behaviors that lead to hatred. We need to move forward conscientiously with caution, compassion, care, and courage. Courage because we are now navigating in uncharted territory and are unsure of what results we will see. Half the country has hope while the other half has lost hope. How do we fix that? How do we support one group without alienating another? That’s a very challenging undertaking I hope will occur. I use the word hope but remain very concerned for our future.

As a mom, I think I have mastered the art of diplomacy. When there are disagreements, misunderstandings or sibling rivalry I sit with each of my children and listen to what they have to say. I offer a different perspective that will help them understand their sibling better. I encourage the start of dialogue and guide them through resolutions. I’d like to see this take place at the national level…. even a global level.

Post Traumatic Stress Life

I was watching video footage and documentaries marking the 15 year anniversary of 9/11. Those images and stories pain me still today as they did that day and the days that followed. We all remember where we were when the news broke out. We all remember our reaction. We all remember what we felt. Fearful. Helpless. Vulnerable. Confused. 

As the horrific event took place I was at work. I was locking down the campus as I did every morning as the students headed to their classrooms. I headed to the lounge to watch the news coverage and saw the second plane hit the second tower. My heart dropped and I froze in disbelief. I worked just outside downtown of a major city. The phone lines lit up. Parents headed back to pick up their children. They feared that one of the sky scrapers near the school was a target. I was there until the last student was picked up.

There were many people who were able to escape the Twin Towers that day. Their trauma is deep. There were many who witnessed it first hand. Their trauma is deep. What about the rest of the world that witnessed the events on their screens?  Can we say that we have been affected? Traumatized? If I see an airplane too low or on a different flight path than usual I notice. I’m concerned. 

I have been greatly hurt because of the ongoing conflicts with the black comminuty and the police force. I don’t see resolution. I don’t see improvement. It’s getting worse. There is fear from every angle. Fear from black community. Fear from the police officers. Fear from all citizens. I don’t want to see one more innocent life taken because of FEAR. We are all affected. Traumatized. Fearful.

Every morning I see my children off to school. I pack their lunches, sign their notes and have them ready for another great day of learning and playing with their peers. I fear another Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virgina Tech. Those events can’t be erased. Those atrocities can’t be forgotten.  Sandy Hook hit hard. The images of the children affected have been seared into me. Their innocence and livelihood were stolen from them. I don’t want that for my family or yours.

What about the not so traumatic but still traumatic everyday issues. As of right now, it looks like I might not pay rent on time. I haven’t spent frivolously. I’ve been careful at budgeting. Unfortunately the system is against us. I think about the labor laws that were put into effect some time ago. An employer can’t exploit you for profit or gain. That still may hold true, but the fact is that many of us have multiple employers just to make ends meet. We are still being exploited. That’s just not right. And on top of this we have to live in fear, feel helpless and be vulnerable to a system that doesn’t care about human beings but profit. It’s all so confusing. Aren’t we a species of higher intelligence? How can we let this keep happening?

Thank you for reading. Thank you to those who have followed my site. Please spread the word. Change and improvement starts with talking about these issues. I’d love to hear what you think. 

It’s a hard knock life

How has the current system of living affected your life? Not sure what I mean. Let me explain.

As I pay my bills and seal and stamp the envelopes I notice what is printed on the stamps. Liberty. Freedom. Equality. Justice. I think to myself, “Not anymore.” These words may have meant something at one point but not now. Not anymore. These words are illusions that we strive for. They give us hope. These words fill us with optimism to help us get through our day. Even when something goes wrong we tell ourselves, “Today was not my day but tomorrow will be better.” What happens when tomorrow doesn’t get better? What are we to do then?

I look up and down the block of my neighborhood. We live in a very modest area. I see the cars line the street and driveways. I see two or even three families living in each house. Why is that? The cost of living is why. No matter how hard we work, how many jobs we take or how frugally we live, we don’t get ahead. This isn’t because we are lazy, or uneducated or lack dreams and aspirations. It’s due to an unjust system that has a hold of our lives.

I want to pay for groceries without having to check which credit card I can use because my bank account is in the red. I would like to be able to pay a decent amount for rent and not feel gouged. I would someday love to own a home for my growing family. I would love for my children to flourish and be involved in the activities and experiences that will help them be better, smarter and stronger human beings. I would love to see some upward changes in our current systems that provide hard working people with the ability to fulfill their dreams.

How has the current system affected you and your life? I know I’m not the only one doing good and still being crushed. I’d love to hear from you.

On a final note. I was playing with my children one afternoon. I was trying my best to keep a smile on my face and optimism in my voice as the weight of the world crushed me. We were listening to music and a remake of “It’s a hard knock life” from the musical “Annie” played. I had listened to this song many times throughout my life but that day heard it from a different perspective. Please find the song and listen to it again.

I felt like Annie. Abandoned by the very system that promised life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and justice for all. “Empty belly life. Rotten smelly life. Full of sorrow life. No tomorrow life.” This isn’t right.

Perpetual cycle

I recently read the an article in theatlantic.com entitled Why So Many Minority Millennials Can’t Get Ahead. This is one of the contributing factors of why I find myself in my current situation. I was born to wonderful parents who truly love their family. Unfortunately, neither had a high school education and therefor no career path they were on. Both my parents dropped out of high school to help support their parents. My parents worked very hard. They weren’t lazy. They had strong work ethic and instilled a sense of pride in us for a good honest day’s work. It didn’t matter how hard they worked. We never got ahead. There was no chance of that.

From a young age I vowed that I would not spend the rest of my life in the barrio. I studied hard. I worked hard but in my first year at university and soon I realized that my education was coming to an end. I qualified for financial aid but had to take on student loans to pay for the balance due. I realized this was not a route I wanted to take. I took a full time job. I put my education on the back burner and worked at getting my parents and siblings out of the barrio. With the combined income of my parent and me, we were able to purchase a modest home in a better neighborhood. I worked and put myself through school. I earned my associate degree but struggled to complete my bachelor’s degree while holding a full time job. At this point a full time job became three jobs. I started work at 7:30 am and ended at 7:30 pm Monday through Friday. I also worked all Saturday. We were making ends meet but we still were unable to make enough to save for our future. It’s just not right.

I’m not saying that this is the only reason my family is struggling with finances right now. There are many other societal factors that contribute that. My current situation might have been a little different if I could have focused on my education because my parents didn’t need my income to keep them afloat. How are we to stop this perpetual cycle? I don’t want to pass this to my children… And their children…and their children…

Us. We are fragile. Daily Prompt: Fragile

via Daily Prompt: Fragile

We are all fragile. We are all fragile in so many ways. We like to think otherwise but the reality is that we are fragile and deep down we know that. Our bodies are frail and susceptible but yet we are strong because we are able to heal. Our minds are strong but we are still bombarded by everyday challenges. Our souls are tested and we may overcome. What happens when all is tested; Mind, body and soul. We truly see how fragile we are and how susceptible to life and its everyday injustices we have become. I am a good person and do good for all but have recently been tested in so many ways. Read about my story on how  providing a good way of life for my family has been a constant battle on marriedlives.com. Fragile is what i feel. Fragile is when the structure of who or what you are is able to be broken.

Blurred lines

The daily grind continues. As we move forward our financial situation continues to decline. As each day passes the cost of living, eating, breathing, growing and loving continues to increase and the income we are able to make diminishes thus causing a financial gap that grows ever larger.

Today is payday. Also the day I pay bills. As I am writing checks I grow increasingly angry because I think of how much of our hard earned money is taken out of my husband’s paycheck for health insurance. One would hope this is enough but it’s not. We also have to meet an outrageous deductible that is impossible to meet. Is this right? The line in the sand is continually moved further away and we are powerless to change that.

I think of the Epipen and the demonstrative cost increase. Why? Has there been some new advancement in the medication or is it to increase the profits and pay checks of a certain few. The question is not just Why but Why do we accept this?

These circumstances and others are what cause my husband to continue to think we should marry in groups of three or four. He feels that this is the best way to fight back against the injustices that are forced upon us. I am still don’t agree with him. Not only do I not agree but I am very hurt by his logic. I don’t feel secure in my marriage anymore. I don’t understand him. I don’t like that he continues to reach out to his ex girlfriend with hope. The lines of marriage, family, finances, future, prosperity, etc… are all blurred. Is this right? How can I care and protect my beautiful family when all the odds are stacked against me?