Life & History, Part the First

There’s this website called Making Light (often abbreviated to ML). I’ve been reading it so long I don’t even know when I found it, or even how, although it was probably by way of either Neil Gaiman or John Scalzi (both of whom are terrific writers and both of whom you should check out). At any rate, a few years back on or near the autumnal equinox, one of the moderators there, abi, started what she called the Dysfunctional Families Day thread, based on the idea that not everyone’s family of origin (birth, foster or adoptive family, whatever structure it was that raised them) was the basis for a Norman Rockwell painting or a gooey-sweet greeting card. That some people, in fact, had had it rough, and some had had it horrifically, terrifyingly bad, and many of them were still dealing with the fallout. So she started that thread as a safe haven, where people could talk without judgment about what they’d experienced, share coping mechanisms, ask for advice, or just…talk. Get it out of their systems, because sometimes just being able to do that, to talk to people who weren’t going to immediately say, “Oh, but you have to forgive [parental unit/sibling/other relative] despite the fact they did [horrific thing] — they’re your family!”

Well, no, being family doesn’t actually give you the right to fuck up someone else’s life, even if you didn’t mean to do it.

And every year around the first day of autumn, a new Dysfunctional Families Day thread would go up, and a couple of months later, it would essentially peter to a halt and abi would close it until the next year. Until 2011, when the thread filled up (reached nearly 1,000 comments) in just over two months and abi started another. And then another. And it stopped being an annual thing and is now ongoing because people don’t, it seems, only deal with family fallout during the holidays, although this is a particularly fraught time of year for a lot of people.

What I’m leading up to is that I posted on those threads quite often, those and the various Open Threads, when I was losing the fight to keep my house two years ago. I posted there because it was safe, because if I wanted advice I could ask for it, if I just wanted to vent, I could do that too, and it helped. My life was falling apart in ways I’d never imagined, and it helped to go to ML and write about it.

Things are so much better now. I just passed the one-year mark at my job, had my first annual review (of many, I hope), and they still like me, they appreciate me, they consider me an asset. Oh, I have room for improvement, I always do — and hell, if I ever did get a perfect review, where would I go from there? 😉 — but it’s good.

What follows began life as a post on Making Light, bad poetry and all. It’s been edited to add font differences in an attempt to make it easier to read, and proofed for the most obvious punctuation mistakes, but otherwise, what you see is what I wrote one dark night in 2011.

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You’ve seen a little about where I’m From. Now let’s look a different direction: the opposite of “from”…

Except it doesn’t work quite that way when I write it; I can say “I’m from,” but I can’t say “I’m to.” It has to be something else, like “I’m going to” or “I’m heading to,” and neither of those has quite the same quality as the simple “I’m from.”

But I have come from, and there is now a to.

There’s going to my second week at a new job. A reality I kept quiet for a long time, afraid something would come along and pull the rug out from under me: “Oh, that job offer we said you’d get? PSYCH! Not happening, sorry to get your hopes up!” That didn’t happen.

The job did.

And after my first week I can say I’m really happy to have it to go to, not just from the supporting-myself standpoint, although that’s huge. But I feel as if they’re telling the truth when they told the group of new employees that we were chosen because we were exceptional candidates and the company felt we had a lot to offer. I am fascinated by the company from a business standpoint, and extremely pleased by everyone I’ve met so far, newbie and otherwise. I feel as if I fit somewhere again. It’s a good feeling.

And slowly but surely, if I succeed at my job — and trust me, I plan to! — I’ll have a place of my own to go to as well. At the moment, I’m renting a bedroom, but there was a miscommunication about my cats. So I either have to foster some of them (and pay toward their care, of course) with the understanding that I’ll get the little fuzzballs back when I can afford to rent an apartment…or I have to find a cat-friendly but affordable apartment. Pool house. Room. Whatever. I just got them back — they all slept with me the last two nights, and are finally seeming less shell-shocked by no longer being in little pens at the vet’s — and the thought of having to farm some of them again so soon hurts like hell.

Of course, so would losing this room without an alternative lodging. So if I could ask y’all for some good mojo of the affordable-housing or foster-kitties kind, I’d really appreciate it.

Because I want to keep moving forward.

I want to

keep moving



Yesterday, I met with the social services case manager in charge of my participation in the job search program.  And she congratulated me for completing it, and asked what I though about it.

I said it was much better than I’d expected.  The facilitators of County Job Search Program 2.0 (so to speak) actually paid attention to the people in the “class” and did their best to find targeted job leads or hiring fairs that would do the most good, as well as giving us more general leads.  And I appreciated it, because that was NOT the way it worked in County Job Search Program 1.0 back in March.  Case Manager was pleased to know I’d gotten some use out it.  When I told her about the interview of last Friday, she was very pleased, and very sincere in her hopes that I’d get an offer.

Then we hit a couple of home truths, and they hit like a bucket of ice water.

Home Truth 1: since I had now completed the county’s job search program, Case Manager could no longer authorize the additional funds that had paid my transit costs.  She did say that if I called her to let her know I’d gotten a job — any job — she could then authorize a full month’s worth of transit benefits immediately.

Which is nice, but I wonder if she’ll be able to do anything if I just call her to say I’ve got another interview.  Not that I do, at the moment, but it’s an interesting question.

Home Truth 2: Today starts my last month on county assistance.  According to the county’s website, the particular type of assistance I’ve been on is, and I’m paraphrasing, available to indigent adults who don’t qualify for state or federal assistance.  Separate from food stamps (a federal benefit called SNAP in my category), this assistance covers the cases of people who are able to work; those who are temporarily or permanently unable to work, due to various causes such as physical or mental illness; and people who can work but need special accommodations.

For those of us who are able to work — for me, here and now — that benefit, all $221 a month of it, is available for nine months out of twelve, assuming the recipient is meeting all the requirements of the job search program.  Which I have.

Can anyone explain to me exactly WHY it’s a good idea to take someone who’s been diligently looking for work and penalize them for not finding it by taking away the only “income” they’re getting?  For three months?  I mean, sure, $221 a month is chicken feed in a lot of ways; without additional assistance from some kind of housing program (Section 8, for example), you can’t pay rent on that, and if you can, you don’t have anything left for anything else.  As far as I know, I won’t be losing my food stamps, but there are things to buy that are not food, expenses to cover that are necessary to living: gasoline and insurance and clothing and shampoo and cell phone (gotta have a way to be contacted for all those job offers, right?) and toothpaste all come to mind right away, and I’m sure you can think of others.

What, exactly, does the county think we’re supposed to do without those funds?

I’m relatively lucky, I guess, because at the moment I’m living in a shelter and don’t have to worry about rent.  Except that the program I’m on — everyone has a program, it seems — requires me to save 70 percent of my income in order to remain a resident in good standing.  But my expenses have always exceeded my “income” since I became homeless.  I have stuff in storage because I can’t see the sense of selling off every single thing I own when, if I’m lucky and can just find work, I’ll be able to get into an apartment were I can have some, if not all, of my possessions, and sell only what I don’t need or what won’t fit.  Why should I have to replace it all, which would cost a pretty penny in and of itself, especially in the context of a starting pay scale?

Why should anyone expect that in order to get help, you — I — have to be all the way down at the bottom of the pit?  I guess it hasn’t occurred to the Powers That Be that it’s easier to get someone out of a hole if the hole isn’t very deep.

So…next month, I start my three-month “hiatus” from public assistance, general relief category.  But the bills will still be there, and if I don’t find work, I don’t know what I’m going to do.

When you add in the fact that I’m heading into my fifth month of the shelter’s six-month program, maybe you can understand why I’ve come down sick for the sixth or so time since December.

If anyone’s looking for a freelance copy editor or proofreader, let me know.  I happen to know a talented one with very reasonable rates.  😉


Friday was a big day: I had a job interview!  At eight o’clock in the morning!  Thirty-one miles away!  And I don’t have a car!

So I asked one of my friends at the shelter if I could impose for a ride.  The answer was yes — until about three o’clock Thursday afternoon, when said friend had to bow out because of a doctor’s appointment that hadn’t made it onto the calendar.  (Boo from my admittedly selfish viewpoint, but hurrah for reminder calls!)  And no one who had the means and the desire to provide me a ride was able to do so, due to prior commitments.

Here follows An Adventure in Public Transportation, and How I Did in My Interview.

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