INTRODUCTION: This section is dedicated to my personal ramblings – it can be about anything, from a favorite product or service, to an opinion I feel strongly about, to a personal essay, to an attempt at adding humor to my otherwise boring day. Whatever posted here will be highly personal and is my feeble attempt at exposing myself to the world as a writer, something that doesn't come easy for me. I welcome any comments from anyone who takes the time to read my ramblings and will respond back to you (unless you are being overly offensive, in which case, I’ll just ignore you.) I don’t know if you’d consider this a blog – blogs are written by people who have a particular expertise in some subject – I have no expertise in anything. Thus, my ramblings…
Any products or services mentioned here are my own personal opinion. I am not currently being reimbursed or endorsed by any company for mention of their product or service (however, it’s not out of the question for this starving artist writer. Any personal essays or opinions on this site are my own and I am fortunate to live in a country where I have the right to write about anything I so choose. You have a right to read it, or not. Thanks for visiting and I hope you come back often!
Posted: January 31, 2015
Favorite Quote: “We worry about tomorrow like it is promised.”
Quote from www.hplyrikz.com
January 2015 became a month of death. Two of my close friends lost their mothers this month without much warning. A former friend I had some romantic involvement with passed away unexpectedly. An old friend I hadn’t seen for a few years, but who has always meant the world to me suddenly died of a brain aneurism – there were no headaches or clues that this could happen.
Reading and meditating on the quote above and thinking about the precious lives that ended recently, I so realize that there may not be a tomorrow. In that realization, I hope that I can change my mindset to enjoying every second of this day in the here and now. Sure, the reality is, that soon I have to get up from this computer and start the laundry and clean the house. I could put it off until tomorrow, but then I may not be here. I could be grumpy about the fact that I have to do these mundane chores, or I can crank up the music and get into it. I can focus on the fact that I like a clean house, so when visitors come, they can enjoy our home.
So in honor of my friend, Angie, who left this world too soon, I will work on the following each and every day:
- I will get back into my meditation routine. Meditation for me helps put the attention on my God, pray for others, be thankful for all I’ve been blessed with and get a clearer picture of what my purpose is. There are many ways to meditate – you just have to research and find a way that works for you.
- We all have a passion – for me, it is writing. So I will work harder at writing at least one hour a day and making this one of my top priorities.
- I will not fight the elements anymore, but embrace them. If it’s cloudy and raining outside, I will find a way to appreciate it and not be gloomy. If it’s cold out, I will bundle up and enjoy the brisk fresh air. If it’s warm out, I will bask in the sun and build up my Vitamin D. If it’s hot, I’ll find some shade or go inside and be thankful I have air conditioning. I will no longer wait for a “better” day.
- I will make myself more available to family and friends. I tend to be a bit of a hermit and like to hole up, but I need to work on a better balance in my relationships.
- I will read more and watch TV less, not because I think TV is all that bad, I just get more satisfaction and entertainment value from a good book.
- I will spend more time learning. I need to take a writing class or learn a new skill – I need to do this to keep my mind more alert. Letting the brain become stagnant is unhealthy and can cause a person to age quicker.
- I will not let change upset me anymore. Change is going to happen – I have no control over it. Things are never going to be the same as they were yesterday. Life is spiraling – I need to get on the merry-go-round and just hang on and smile. As long as I keep grounded in my faith, I can handle whatever change comes my way.
- I will take the time to cherish my memories. Many people come and go, but the good memories don’t have to. I’m not going to long for yesterday, but I’m going to be grateful that I had whatever experiences made me the person I am today.
- I’m going to one day soon go through my photos and not cry, especially the ones of my daughters. They grew up so fast and I want to sort and organize all their photos, but in the past, this has always made me sad. I am going to be grateful that I had such beautiful and healthy children and grandchildren, such close friendships in my past and just be glad they were all a part of my life.
- I am going to prepare for the inevitable. I’m going to make sure my family knows where my living will is, I’m going to divide up my belongings and write down my wishes for the end of my life. I am going to do this so that it’s not a burden to my family when my time comes. I remember my brother and sister and I struggling so hard to write my father’s obituary. While I want my daughters to write one for me in their own words, I can give them the basics.
I am thankful that I was able to get out of bed this morning and treasure this day. There is no guarantee that tomorrow I will have this gift of life. I have faith that my Lord has already chosen my time to pass, so I won’t spend time worrying about it. I will just know that for now I have breath and I have this moment in time. I release my worries, I release any unresolved anger and I forgive all who I perceive to have hurt me. I will do it today.
Posted: January 11, 2015
EBT and Judging Others
There was a posting on Facebook today about a family who took five of their little kids grocery shopping at Walmart and had two carts loaded down. (Two teenaged kids weren’t with them.) Another customer looked at their two carts of goods and glared at them as they were getting in the check-out line and muttered, “EBT” in disgust. I can’t presume to know why the woman judged this family like that. In fact, the family had adopted four of the children, but they do not receive EBT benefits. Both parents work, and yes, the children receive medical assistance for their special needs. These are children who might not otherwise have been adopted, because they were listed in the “hard to place” category. Some were siblings and all had been through horrible abuse. Maybe if that judgmental lady knew the whole truth, she would have thanked the parents for their commitment of giving these beautiful kids a family and home of their own. How sad of a life this woman must have that she has nothing better to do than make snap judgments about strangers like that.
The person who wrote the Facebook post stated further that at first the check-out clerk was being rude to her, until she saw that the items were being paid for with a debit card and not an EBT card. Then the worker became pleasant and smiled at them all.
Managers of grocery stores need to remind their employees that a good share of the stores profits come from EBT and WIC programs. Frankly, the local economy (at least in South Dakota) would suffer greatly without these government aided programs, which brings $13.7 million dollars to the state’s economy, where the total population of the state is a little over 807,000. (It’s a fact that 18% of these SNAP program dollars nationally are spent at Walmart stores, so Walmart employees should be trained and understand that they shouldn’t disrespect those getting assistance.)
It might be a fact that there are some who receive these government benefits fraudulently or who take advantage of the system more than they should, but the majority of the people who receive benefits need them and are grateful for the assistance. Many of them do have jobs, but in South Dakota where I live, minimum wage is $8.50 an hour and 14.1% of households fall below the poverty level. EBT and WIC are lifesavers for individuals and families. 46.7 million Americans receive SNAP benefits – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. (see below for explanation of program)
In any case, when we see someone using their government issued cards, we should not presume to know their circumstances and judge them. For one never knows when the tides will change – a layoff may happen to us, an unexpected chronic illness or injury that leaves us unable to work, a spouse leaves us cold, holding the sole responsibility for feeding the children or an unplanned pregnancy. The economy of this country changes all the time. We might find ourselves in dire circumstances.
Below is something to think about. The following was quoted from the SDgov website:
“Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps low income South Dakotans buy the food they need to stay healthy while they work to regain financial independence. SNAP benefits are provided to supplement the recipients food budget. The amount of benefits a household receives is based on its size and income.
In South Dakota during August 2013, 104,099 people (45,123 households) received $13.7 million in SNAP benefits. The average monthly benefit was $132 per person or $304 per household.
SNAP recipients are given a plastic debit card (South Dakota EBT Card) instead of paper coupons. The store cashier runs the debit card through a point-of-sale device to subtract the recipient's purchase amount from their allotted benefits. Using the card is much faster and easier than using paper coupons and eliminates loss or theft of SNAP benefits.
General Program Requirements
In order to qualify for this benefit program, you must be a resident of the state of South Dakota and fall into one of two groups: (1) those with a current bank balance (savings and checking combined) under $2,001, or (2) those with a current bank balance (savings and checking combined) under $3,251 who share their household with a person or persons age 60 and over, or with a person with a disability (a child, your spouse, a parent, or yourself).
South Dakota SNAP operates under the requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
I personally am happy to work and pay taxes for programs that offer this kind of assistance to people in need, because in the back of my mind, I always know it’s there in case I should ever need it. Yes, I believe all able-bodied people should work, but there are times when people just can’t find work or no one will hire them for whatever reason or their wages just don’t cover their needs. I believe in helping single parents until they can do it all on their own. I believe in helping people who are disabled for whatever reason. I believe in helping people who suddenly become unemployed and need temporary assistance to get them through. I believe in helping people who just can’t earn enough to support themselves at the moment, but are at least out there in the workforce.
On a personal note, back in the 70’s I was a single parent working for the State of South Dakota and trying to support my daughter on my own, not receiving any child support at the time to help. Because of the constant financial struggle to pay rent and the bills and provide food, I went and applied for Food Stamps as it was called back then and I made $13 a year too much to qualify. So I was left to do it on my own. I had assistance from family and friends here and there, but for the most part, I just struggled and muddled through it until several years later, when I remarried. I would have been able to provide much better nutrition for my daughter had I qualified for assistance. Just because I didn’t qualify doesn’t mean I think no one else should ever receive the governmental help they need.
Let’s remember, it’s the government’s job to monitor and find the fraud in these programs. It’s not up to us as individuals to point the finger at someone we think shouldn’t be receiving the benefits. We are not the judge and we just may find ourselves having to rely on the program one day, should circumstances change. Life happens to all of us. Thank God we live in a country where there is help to be found if we need it. It is not a perfect system or a perfect country, but it’s better than anywhere else I can imagine.
FYI – I deliberately left the demographics of race out of this post – it doesn’t matter what race of people receive the most government benefits – what matters is that they are all people in need. Economic crisis can fall on anyone at any time. It doesn’t discriminate.
Posted: January 8, 2015
Answered Prayer – “Oh Crap, Where’s My Cell Phone?”
Last week, I am convinced that God answered a desperate prayer I spoke out loud for my daughter, Arin. By desperate, I don’t mean anything so drastic as anyone’s health was on the line or that my prayer would change the world or anything. That’s the beauty of having a personal relationship with God. He will answer prayer in any situation no matter how big or small if you just have faith.
Arin and her family and I were coming back from having a Christmas weekend with my daughters in Brookings. We were headed home to Pierre. We were sharing a ride in my car. Being winter, it was dark when we left around 6:00pm and the temperature hovered around 15 degrees. We had a three and a half hour ride ahead of us and with baby Brinlee, and little man, Gunner, 3 years old, with us, it was going to be a long ride. We hoped that the drive would go smooth. The best case scenario was that the kids would sleep and the roads wouldn’t be icy as they had been on the way over the previous day.
We got as far as Huron and decided to eat supper at McDonald’s, for a quick and easy stop. We devoured our burgers and loaded everyone back into the car. About an hour later, for we were making good time as the roads were decent, Arin got very uncomfortable and complained of her stomach hurting. She begged her husband, Brent, to pull over so she could get out and go to the bathroom. She felt like she was going to explode, not sure if it was food poisoning or what, just knowing she needed out immediately. Brent tried to get her to wait as we were only about five miles from Highmore where she could use the gas station facilities. Arin said, “I’m gonna crap my pants if you don’t pull over now!” Brent complied and pulled onto a county road. She dashed out of the car and ran about ten feet into the ditch and did her business, just in the nick of time. The temps outside were frigid, but when you are hit with diarrhea, you have no choice.
She got back in the car and we headed west toward home. We got a few miles down the road and she started digging all over the back seat for her cell phone. She quizzed Brent about it, because she was sure she handed him the phone when she jumped out of the car. He stated she didn’t. I said, “Don’t worry, that phone has to be in the car somewhere – we will find it when we get home.”
She became more agitated in the back digging in the kids’ car seats and under the back seats and everywhere. “Brent, I gave you my phone. Check your pockets.”
His response, “I don’t have your phone! You didn’t give it to me.”
There was some brief arguing back and forth as she reminded him that one time she had given him her I-pod and he had put it in his pockets, but didn’t think he had and later discovered it was there. The tension was building. While no one raised their voices, there were some terse words spoken. I love my son-in-law, but I also know that when he’s upset he gets quite vocal. He did remind Arin that she shouldn’t have taken her phone out of its case, for she had done so, so her son could play with the phone – anything to keep a three year old quiet on a long car ride. He also reminded Arin about what an expensive phone it was and how they wouldn’t be able to replace it, because it was a leased phone. He stated that it was $600 down the drain. I could see that Brent was grinning at times, so I thought he was teasing my daughter about not having the phone. I even asked him if he had it. He was getting annoyed with our accusations. I could see the stress building on his face. In the past, I have witnessed a few of his angry outbursts, but I was proud of him for how well he was holding back during this stressful situation. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if he was his temper in check because I was there or if he really was staying calm and collected. Arin keep frantically digging around for her phone.
We passed the town of Highmore and drove on another thirty-five miles to the town of Blunt. I suggested that we pull over and empty out the car of all its contents, including the children and make sure the phone wasn’t in the car. By this time, Arin was asking us to take her home and stating that she would come back by herself in the middle of the night and search for the phone where she’d gotten out to relieve herself. I didn’t want her to do that, but I didn’t want her and Brent to get into an argument after I dropped them off either. The tension was at its peak. We pulled over and pulled kids out of the car and went through the whole back seat, the trunk and under the car seats. Nothing. No phone. By this time it was around 11:00 at night. All I knew was I didn’t want Arin going back to the country road in the middle of the night by herself. We all piled back into the car. The kids looked bewildered and cold. “Brent, let’s just drive back to where she got out, please. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you when you said it wasn’t in your pocket.” I really didn’t think he wanted to, but he turned the car back around and we began our backtrack of thirty-five miles. He mentioned again how expensive the phone was and Arin stated that all she cared about were all the pictures she’d taken of the kids on it and she was crushed at the idea of losing them.
I did what I often do…I said a prayer out loud. “Father in Heaven, Please help us find Arin’s cell phone. We can’t do it without your help. It’s lost in the snow somewhere. Please help us.” Then I continued to pray silently all the way back to the road where we turned off.
Arin got out of the car and walked down the ditch, kicking up snow everywhere in front of her hoping to kick up her phone. Brent searched the road near where we had parked. Then he went into the ditch and kicked up more snow all around where her pile of waste lay on top of fresh, white snow, about three to four inches deep. No luck. Arin suggested we drive down the road to where we turned around thinking maybe she sat the phone on the car and it flew off when we circled the car back around. No luck. It seemed impossible and lost forever.
As we turned around, I had a feeling I needed to get out and look. I asked Brent to pull the car over so that the head lights would shine better into the ditch. I got out and went into the ditch, kicking up snow where they had missed. I got to her poo pile, looked down closely at it and didn’t see anything sticking up out of it. We had made jokes on the way over that that’s where we’d find it, right in the middle of her “shit”. I kicked up the snow around it, then decided to just kick under the pile of gunk. It was frozen hard as a rock and went flying about two feet to my right. I bent down for a closer look and was certain the phone wasn’t trapped in it. Just about to turn around and give up, I had one more “inkling” to kick directly under where the poop pile had been.
Instantly, up popped the corner of a shiny object and I bent down to look closer. I was ecstatic to realize it was Arin’s phone. I grabbed it and turned and held it in the air and began doing a happy dance all around with my arms lifted to the sky praising God for helping us find the phone. I was laughing from relief and awe that, thanks to Him, we found it. I was blinded by the headlights, so I couldn’t see Brent and Arin’s reaction, but when I got to the car we all were giggling so hard that all the tension of the night just washed away, thanks be to God! Brent instructed Arin not to turn the phone on for twenty four hours, as it was dead. We had no idea if it was going to work the next day…at this point we were just so happy to have it back in possession. I said another silent prayer that it would work. Sure enough, it did. God is good…all the time and yes, He has a sense of humor, of that I am convinced.
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