A Living Wage

“And woe to you, King Jehoiakim, for you are building your great palace with forced labor. By not paying wages you are building injustice into its walls and oppression into its doorframes and ceilings.” (Jeremiah 22:13)

As much as possible, I try to steer away from politics on my blog but, if my tagline is truly, well, true, then sometimes getting political is a must. If we are to heal as a people. And, if I’m being totally, brutally honest, Ivanka Trump just hit a nerve with me. A big nerve.

Ivanka stated: “I don’t think most Americans, in their heart, want to be given something. People want to work for what they get” (Reints; politicalobserver.com).

Yes, there is a lot of truth in that statement. We are a strong, courageous and proud motley of people who would rather work for what we get/what we have than to receive hand-outs. There is a certain pride in being able to pay for your cost of living. It is a pride that allows you to lift your head up and look people squarely in the eye. It is a pride that allows you to open the doors wide–to your home, and to your heart–because this is the home and life you have created (or, rather, that He has provided you the means to create). When that pride is missing because of a job loss, an illness or injury, or simply inadequate wages, suddenly the signs of neglect are everywhere. Homes start to show signs of neglect, disrepair, unkempt, over-grown. Clothing is much mended and threadbare because the means to purchase “new,” even in a thrift store, isn’t there. Faces take on a tired, drawn look. Dark circles and/or bags form under the eyes. Tempers flare. And people withdraw. Invites to dinner/outings with family or friends are declined because they don’t feel they have anything to contribute, or can’t afford to pay their way to an event. People start to feel like a mooch (uh-oh, here they come again, Martha, pretend we’re not home). And, in the case of illness or injury, if there aren’t any outward signs of it (i.e. brace, cast, etc), people even start to sneer that maybe this person does not want to work. Or hint that they brought it on themselves.

The end result?

Total.

Isolation.

Addictions.

Disorders.

Loneliness.

Depression.

Even suicide (No, I’m not, but I can certainly understand at this point why people feel so hopeless in the face of such conditions and, PS, I have a therapist; a lot of people are too ashamed to even seek help when they need it. Keep that one in mind the next time the temptation to judge another’s situation arises)

So, while I can agree with Ms. Trump for her acknowledgement of human pride in wanting to work for what you get, she’s missing the biggest piece of the equation. What if you’re working–and working hard, not a slacker in the least–and yet, your wages are too low to pay for even your most basic necessities?

Let’s crunch some numbers here:

Minimum wage sits at $7.25 per hour. It has been $7.25 per hour since 2009 (Reint; politcalobserver; Miller; Amadeo; Numbeo). If you can find a full-time job (because, despite Trump Sr.’s avowal, they aren’t as prolific as he’d like us to think; voice of experience) at $7.25 an hour, your gross pay after 40 hours of work is $290.00. Multiply that times 4 weeks in a month and you get a gross income of $1160.00 per month. Working overtime, say 50, or even 60 hours per week, would drive that up exponentially. But most employers don’t want to pay overtime. It may be because they cannot afford to pay the time-and-a-half required for overtime but, either way, most workers are not getting it. So they take a second, or a third job, working a total of 50 ($362.50 wk/$1450.00 mo) or 60 ($435.00 wk/$1740.00 mo) hours each week, traveling back and forth between those 2-3 minimum wage jobs, become over-tired, get sick–or injure–easily because they’re rundown, and cost their respective employers more money in sick/PTO (paid time off, if provided).

Granted, the above numbers are a single income household like my own. So, if you have a partner, maybe we can double this. And, if it’s just you and your partner, maybe you don’t have to work that second or third job. What if you have children? The average cost of daycare in 2018 was $211.00 WEEKLY(!!??!) (Care.com). That’s almost a full week’s wages for one partner at that minimum wage, 40-hour gig. Some will willingly pay it because that extra $79 left over in that check might be a week’s grocery shopping. But that’s the cost for ONE child; multiply for 2, 3, or 4. If you’re a single parent, and you only have that minimum wage, 40-hour-gig, do you see the problem? How is anyone supposed to hold their head up high under those odds? How can you expect to work for what you have when you can barely provide the most basic of necessities?

Now let’s look at housing costs in America (I would love to see a freeze on housing costs…):

The average median price (2018) for a one bedroom apartment in America is between $991.62 and $1266.40 (Miller). The prices vary depending upon location with the higher prices reflecting those homes closer to the heart of the city and all the amenities that affords. If you’re living in the suburbs, or the country, the lower rental price is balanced against the higher cost of transportation, usually an automobile, because bus services can be quite sketchy, especially in rural areas (again, voice of experience). A 3-bedroom apartment can range from $1601.58 to $2058.96, same variance reflected. The single parent does not even make enough to cover a month’s rent in the city, and less than $200 more living outside of the city’s heart. Again, these are gross wages; this is not what these people are taking home. And this single person may not qualify for government assistance at these wages, even if they can swallow that pride to apply for them. The U.S. Poverty Line used as a guideline by Social Services, etc. is as follows (Miller):

Family size: 1 person $12,140 annually gross income (AGI) Family size: 2 people $16,910 AGI
Family size: 4 people $25,750 AGI

$1160 per month at the minimum wage of $7.25 times 12 months is $13,920. If this is a couple, both earning $13,920 a year, even if there are children involved, they do not qualify at all because their combined wages are $27,840 annually. Without children, it may not be an issue. But, with children, they’re also likely to be forced into that bigger, more expensive apartment, as well as have daycare expenses to pay. Unless they opt to nix any quality family time to work separate shifts, or take on extra side gigs.

With mortgages, it is even more varied. Most people scraping by on a minimum wage position, even a full-time position, can never get approval to own a home of their own. However, if, like yours truly, they had a better paying job before the economic crash of, roughly, a decade ago, and still own a home, they may be paying for a mortgage instead of rent. The average cost of a mortgage is “$1030 a month, according to the latest American Housing Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau” (Pritchard). This is reflective of a fixed rate amortizing in taxes and insurance costs; principal and interest alone averages $853 per month.

The Green New Deal, which may become a topic here for a while, wants to provide “a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security” (Reints). It isn’t proposing that we simply hand people a new job; it is proposing that the job market overall should provide wages that a body can live on. We’re not talking about that random deadbeat who doesn’t want to work; we’re talking about millions of Americans right now who are working–and trying to “secure a job” that really will provide that “upward mobility” Ivanka talks about–and yet they cannot move upwards because they can’t afford to feed their children. Or even themselves. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is correct in stating that “a living wage isn’t a gift, it’s a right” (or it should be) and workers often are not paid for “the value they create” in their company (Reints; Sullivan).

And, sadly, far too many employers are aware of all of these numbers. If you don’t like it, you can always leave. I encountered that attitude a decade ago when I was still working a corporate position that barely provided for my needs and they refused to give wage increases the last three years’ running.

You expect some struggle. Hardships happen. Hopefully, grace will pull you through. And some careful budgeting, robbing Peter to pay Paul, and a local food pantry who doesn’t care about guidelines. You pray for miracles. And a community that cares. You endure the sneers that maybe you don’t know how to balance a budget, or that you’ve brought your hardships on yourself. You have statistics thrown at you that, even with an increase in minimum wage, people will spend that extra money instead of saving, investing and/or getting out of debt. Yes, maybe there’s some truth to that one, too. Oftentimes, people pay off a mountain of debt and go right back out, get another credit card…and run it back up again. More likely, increasing the minimum wage to a level that affords most families the ability to move upwards, will amount to them buying their own groceries, paying their utilities and paying off at least a portion of their debt. In short, it’ll place the 12.3% of Americans living below poverty guidelines (Miller) above those poverty levels and take them out of the welfare system. Heck, it might even stimulate the economy as they move out of poverty and, possibly, into home ownership. At the very least, they might be able to take in a movie, or go to a doctor when they’re sick. Because now they can afford the co-payment.

Ivanka hit a hot spot. I don’t begrudge her the advantages she’s had in life. It’s simply the way things are that some are born into privilege, while others struggle indefinitely. However, while she has the right on our American pride of wanting to work for what we need/have, and to grow wherever we are placed, she needs a lesson in reality for the other 99% in this country who don’t earn enough–no matter how hard they work for it–even to keep a roof overhead. If she, and others in that top 1%, were to switch places with even the so-called middle class, they’d crumple into a fetal position. And, knowing that, is a reason for us 99% to raise our heads high after all.

Now, if only our wages reflected that pride we take in ourselves, in our work, and in our lives. Yup…I know about the sin of pride. I suspect, with my reason fall, injury, and impending foreclosure, He’s working on that sin in me. But that’s another post for another day…

May God bless you & keep you!

https://www.gofundme.com/9fymzf-medical-leave?utm_source=internal&utm_medium=email&utm_content=campaign_link_t&utm_campaign=welcome

Works Cited

Amadeo, Kimberly. “Living Wage and How It Compares to the Minimum Wage: How Much Do You Need to Live in America.” The Balance. Web. https://www.thebalance.com/living-wage-3305771

Miller, G. E. “What is the U.S. Poverty Level Line and Could You Live Below It?” 20 Something Finance. Web. https://20somethingfinance.com/what-is-the-united-states-poverty-line

Numbeo. “Cost of Living – U.S.” Web. https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?country=United+States

politicsobserver. “Ivanka Trump, Peasant-Whisperer, Does Not Believe Americans Want a Living Wage.” US Politics. Web. https://uspolitics.10ztalk.com/2019/02/27/ivanka-trump-peasant-whisperer-does-not-believe-americans-want-a-living-wage

Pritchard, Justin. “What is the Average Monthly Mortgage Payment?” The Balance. Web. https://www.thebalance.com/average-monthly-mortgage-payment-4154282

Reints, Renae. “Ivanka Trump: Most Americans Want Upwards Mobility, Not Guaranteed Minimum Wage.” Fortune. Web. afortune.comp/2019/02/26/ivanka-trump-minimum-wage

Advertisements

How Did It Come To This So Fast?

“I waited patiently for God to help me; then He listened and heard my cry. he lifted me out of the pit of despair, out from the bog and the mire, and set my feet on a hard, firm path and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, of praises to our God.” (Psalms 40:1-3)

I face foreclosure soon if I cannot come up with the back mortgage money by the end of March. I’ve been working with the mortgage company to try to modify it. And I’m still knocking on every door that looks like it might remotely be able to help. Life is pretty scary-looking right now so, as with yesterday’s post, I will be eternally grateful if you could share/forward this blog post on to as many of your online friends as you can.

I thank you for reading…and for the loving support that I continue to receive from this community.

May God bless you & keep you!

https://www.gofundme.com/9fymzf-medical-leave&rcid=r01-155121056357-7c399618cb174c25&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

YouTube Junkie

“We toss the coin, but it is the Lord who controls its decision.” (Proverbs 16:33)

Who would have thought that life could change so much in the blink of an eye. I know that sounds like a cliche; it is. I’m not sure what I would have–could have–done differently. I fell while going out to shovel the driveway in anticipation of work the next day. Sure, I could see the ice coating the driveway but, in order to shovel myself out, I had to navigate over it.

Now I’m laid up.

Yesterday I was wallowing in self-pity. The mortgage is behind. I’ve been knocking on every housing assistance door in Connecticut. Mom & I have visited a couple of local food pantries to get by until I’m back to work. I put up a Go Fund Me campaign to see if I can generate help with the bills/mortgage that way. And I am grateful to the friends who have been generous in their support; it is appreciated far more than you can ever imagine. I’m still looking at a hefty mortgage payment in three days that I don’t have adequate funds to pay.

But I’m taking it on faith. Either He will provide the means in time. Or He won’t…because maybe He’s forcing me into a decision I haven’t quite been able to make. I’ve spent the better part of 9 years’ oscillating between selling out and relocating (which might just mean closer to my work in Massachusetts) or finding another part-time income to help supplement…provided I can get back to work next month. My medical leave has been extended another month until the third week of March. Of course, part of that oscillation has been the very honest two years of unemployment, followed by 6 years of underemployment. It’s only been a little over a year that I finally found a full-time position. So, in short, the financial means to relocate hasn’t been here…anymore than the means of providing the most basic cost of living. I was still playing “catch-up” when my accident happened.

Okay…so some of that wallowing factor is still happening here…

And yet, it’s not crippling me completely. I’ve spent the better part of the afternoon knocking on those doors I mentioned earlier, filling out applications, etc. to see if there’s something to help preserve this would-be homestead…either here, or in a new location. We have to allow for processing time though. So…

…in the meantime…

When I’m not writing, working on my novel, I’ve become a bit of a YouTube junkie. Having my left arm in a brace means my activity levels are pretty low. Where my days’ off, especially in winter when farm activities are pretty minimal anyway (outside of feeding), used to be spent watching gardening shows on YouTube (Jon Kohler’s Growing Your Greens: BBC2 Gardener’s World with Monty Don; Charles Dowding’s No-Dig Gardening), now I’m expanding. Roots and Refuge Homestead. Off Grid with Doug and Stacy. The Urban Farmer with Curtis Stone. Living Big in a Tiny House. Tiny House Living. I’ve watched videos on raising angora rabbits, angora goats, silkworms, and training border collies to herd the sheep I don’t have land enough to raise.

Yet…

In addition, Mom & I have had a lot of laughs watching Late Night with Stephen Colbert and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. And ooh-ing and aah-ing over agility competitions where, most of the time, the border collies rock! I’ve watched interviews with old “idols”: Kevin Von Erich (pro-wrestler); Rik Emmett (frontman, Triumph); Jane Seymour. The latter happened to be a walk-through with her researching what became of two of her aunts during The Holocaust; it was actually quite interesting. And she gave a bit of advice in one interview about how her mother always taught her that when you’re down and have nothing to give, you give more. I’m paraphrasing but, in essence, her mother was big on giving back, of giving help to someone else in need. By doing so, you open the door to resolving your own problems. That one’s been taken to heart quite a bit. I’m looking for ways that I can do just that.

Lastly, I’m feeling like a kid watching MTV again. Music videos. This weekend it was some 80’s, early-90’s music that I haven’t heard in a long time: Powerstation; Platinum Blonde; Andy Taylor; Triumph; April Wine; Concrete Blonde, etc.

Of course, the nostalgia conjured up by this music does sort of feed the wallowing factor a bit. I remember my dreams back then and how I gave up on them. I have no desire to give up on the current ones. Ironically, in remembering, it also feeds my determination to hold on to the current dreams; I’m not getting any younger.

Maybe in a month’s time that first draft…well…let’s not jinx it by giving voice to it.

May God bless you & keep you!

PS I would be so grateful if you would share my Go Fund Me link with your friends, family, acquaintances and readers. https://www.gofundme.com/9fymzf-medical-leave?utm_source=internal&utm_medium=email&utm_content=campaign_link_t&utm_campaign=welcome

One Day At A Time

“He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in Him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord! Trust in the Lord God always, for in the Lord Jehovah is your everlasting strength.” (Isaiah 26:3,4)

I’m holding onto these words of encouragement. As I navigate through this forced convalesce, and watch the bills pile up, and receive letters from the new mortgage company threatening foreclosure, and the bank account getting smaller, the above passage from Scripture reminds me that He really is in control…and my faith tells me He has a plan.

Even if I can’t see it.

I’ve been on the fence about whether to sell and find land/farm in another location, somewhere a little more manageable from a financial standpoint, but also more acreage, less house. The logical, human side of my brain says, if I do default, what are my chances of being able to purchase again? I need to keep up on everything to build my credit score up. Yes, I can see that dream farm somewhere in upper-state New York, or Maine. But my “day” job is in Massachusetts. Logic is saying it’s all beyond my reach. That I need to really push back, commit to staying. And trust that He’ll get me over this rapidly-growing bump in the road.

My faith says to trust in Him…regardless of the outcome. Though it all looks impossible, nothing is impossible with God. He is not bound by human rules of equity and credit scores. And, if the opposite is His will for me, then He’ll provide whatever I need to make the next mortgage payment, car payment, etc.

He’s teaching me patience…I say this while I rail and chafe against both my limited mobility–and my limited cash flow.

More importantly, He’s teaching me to truly put my trust in Him. I have too much of a grasping nature, holding on too tightly to what I have. In short, He’s teaching me to let go.

Can I do it? This one’s a tough one. I don’t like not being in control (as if!)…or at least feeling as if I’m in control.

So, I take a deep breath…

And wait…

And fret…as only I know how to do.

And keep reminding myself that, even if I can’t see the outcome at all, He’s got this. And His ways are always perfect.

May God bless you & keep you!
https://www.gofundme.com/9fymzf-medical-leave&rcid=r01-15506107597-500376eb83394fe0&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

Deep Freeze

“‘Behold! I have given you the seed-bearing plants throughout the earth, and all the fruit trees for your food. And I’ve given all the grass and plants to the animals and birds for their food.’ Then God looked over all that He had made, and it was excellent in every way. This ended the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:29)

The United States is in the midst of record cold temperatures and I’m quoting Scripture pertaining to green things growing in the garden. At first glance, it might appear I’m longing for springtime. But, the truth is, I’m really looking for the snowstorms of my youth, the kind that dumped X number of feet of snow on us routinely throughout the winter…and lasted for weeks, not days.

Have I lost my mind? Did I break my skull last week at the same time I broke my shoulder? I mean, who longs for such conditions, right?

But, the truth is, the now-routine and milder temperatures throughout November, December, and, usually, January, followed by these arctic blasts and/or record-breaking snowstorms that melt within a few short days are proof that Gaia is crying out in pain. No more do we have what used to be a “normal” winter of such conditions. For the last several years, weather in New England has swung in these extremes. In sooth, I can’t remember the last time we had a real winter with healthy temps and snowfall, and a spring where our climate gradually warmed. Instead, our seasons are changing. And it’s pretty scary. The winter pattern mentioned above is now typically followed by raw, rainy weeks in late-April, May and June, preventing early crops, racing quickly into the opposite extreme of high heat and humidity and heat indexes over 100 degrees.

This.

Is.

NOT.

Normal.

I’m not dreaming of spring and the garden; I’m fearing we may not get one again…and what will this do to our growing season?

Yeah, it’s definitely channeling my not-so-inner environmentalist. These record colds are a direct result of climate change…and global warming. This polar vortex and the extreme snowfalls of the last few winter seasons are caused by our polar icecaps melting…and dumping that ice further south. Scientists say we can expect more of this sort of thing before those icecaps finally melt…and then we may experience desertification, even as our coastlines shrink from all that extra water having melted. These record colds and erratic snowstorms are simply weather patterns; it is the climate that’s changing. They are not the same thing (take a “walk” over to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for more information…).

As a Christian, I am well-aware of, and have faith in, God’s promise that He will never again destroy the earth with flood. However, with so many warnings, doesn’t it make sense to use the intelligence that same God has given us to try to mitigate these changes? To make and be the change that will make all the difference in this world? We are beyond the point where we should be debating the cause of climate change. Regardless of why, change is happening. And, denier or believer, we’re all in this together. It’s only truly scary if we continue to deny it…and allow our fears to incapacitate us.

As a Christian, I have faith that we can be that change. We simply have to take that first step that He is calling us to make.

May God bless you & keep you!

Broken Wing

“God blesses those who obey Him; happy the man who puts his trust in the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:20)

I am reminded today of a fortune cookie I opened almost 30 years’ ago. It read: “Beware of what you wish for – you might get it.”

Exhausted.

Frazzled.

Overwhelmed.

I’ve been expecting to hit that proverbial brick wall for months. Instead I hit the ice – literally – last Tuesday, traipsing outside to shovel the driveway. My left arm hit the hood of my car on the way down; I now have a fractured shoulder. Per the orthopedic doctor I visited on Friday, I am now in the midst of a forced convalesce.

No, I wasn’t wishing for an injury. But I do remember praying that if I had just one month where I wasn’t running, running, running in 20 different directions, I could a.) get the rest my body has been craving and b.) make a big dent towards getting my life better organized and maybe even taking a few decisive steps towards some of my goals this year. Well, I’ll definitely be getting the rest. As for the dent? That’s on me. Not exactly what I had in mind…

Grrr…

I am the worst patient. I know I’ve said that before in other blog posts but it bears repeating. I strain at the bit, angry and impatient, when I’m down for just a few days with some sort of bug. A whole month of seriously restricted activity? I shudder…

And not just at the prospect of so much “free” time. I’m out of work for this month. Having just gone back to full-time employment after several years of severe under-employment (part-time and/or seasonal gigs), I’m not quite back on my feet yet financially. I’ve definitely made some strides to get there, but these things take time. All I keep thinking is how I don’t need a setback like this. What am I going to do? How do I make ends meet?

Worry and fret…my two constant companions these days.

But, you know what? Worry and fret are what got me to exhausted, frazzled, and overwhelmed. Worry and fret are both like rocking chairs. They give you something to “do” but they don’t get you anywhere. Worry and fret are also some of the “tools” in the adversary’s arsenal to put a wedge between us and God. And I’ve been neglecting Him a lot these days, too busy and too distracted by worldly cares.

Trust in Him. Cast my cares upon Him. Wait for the Lord; His timing is perfect. I hear these messages over and again in church, read them time and again in Scripture. Maybe before this month is over, I’ll have finally taken them to heart.

May God bless you & keep you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

“A cheerful heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit makes one sick.” (Proverbs 17:22)

They say to cure one’s self from the complaining habit, and the depression it usually spawns, is to re-focus your energy by counting your blessings each day. I keep a grateful journal on the nightstand by my bed and endeavor to write at least 5 things every night that I am grateful for. Sometimes I neglect it; there are certainly some minor gaps throughout…and even a couple of major ones. But, you know what? Almost everywhere there is one of those major gaps, my confidence and self-esteem have taken a nosedive…and returning to this habit brings me back up again.

I read about a family years’ ago that kept a grateful jar. A small notepad and a pen was kept near it and every time something good happened, someone in the family would write it down and place the paper in the jar. On Thanksgiving Day, they would open the jar and take turns reading all of the many blessings aloud to each other and give thanks to the One who made these blessings possible before they dug into their meal. I like that idea. You focus on the positive twice: once when you write it, the second when you read back the reminder. I’m thinking it might be a nice tradition to start with Mom & I as it is easy to let worry and stress, hurt and anxiety derail you. Counting your blessings is a great way to remember how blessed we truly are.

Even if you’re not keeping a grateful journal, or a jar, isn’t it wonderful that we have at least one day out of the year to remind us of our blessings? You don’t have to be a believer to appreciate your gifts. Just focus on them…and let the healing begin.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

May God bless you & keep you!