Thursday, April 30, 2009

37 million poor hidden in the land of plenty...


Americans have always believed that hard work will bring rewards, but vast numbers now cannot meet their bills even with two or three jobs. More than one in 10 citizens live below the poverty line, and the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening.

Paul Harris in Kentucky
The Observer, Sunday 19 February 2006
Article history

The flickering television in Candy Lumpkins's trailer blared out The Bold and the Beautiful. It was a fantasy daytime soap vision of American life with little relevance to the reality of this impoverished corner of Kentucky.

The Lumpkins live at the definition of the back of beyond, in a hollow at the top of a valley at the end of a long and muddy dirt road. It is strewn with litter. Packs of stray dogs prowl around, barking at strangers. There is no telephone and since their pump broke two weeks ago Candy has collected water from nearby springs. Oblivious to it all, her five-year-old daughter Amy runs barefoot on a wooden porch frozen by a midwinter chill.

It is a vision of deep and abiding poverty. Yet the Lumpkins are not alone in their plight. They are just the negative side of the American equation. America does have vast, wealthy suburbs, huge shopping malls and a busy middle class, but it also has vast numbers of poor, struggling to make it in a low-wage economy with minimal government help.

A shocking 37 million Americans live in poverty. That is 12.7 per cent of the population - the highest percentage in the developed world. They are found from the hills of Kentucky to Detroit's streets, from the Deep South of Louisiana to the heartland of Oklahoma. Each year since 2001 their number has grown.

Under President George W Bush an extra 5.4 million have slipped below the poverty line. Yet they are not a story of the unemployed or the destitute. Most have jobs. Many have two. Amos Lumpkins has work and his children go to school. But the economy, stripped of worker benefits like healthcare, is having trouble providing good wages.

Even families with two working parents are often one slice of bad luck - a medical bill or factory closure - away from disaster. The minimum wage of $5.15 (£2.95) an hour has not risen since 1997 and, adjusted for inflation, is at its lowest since 1956. The gap between the haves and the have-nots looms wider than ever. Faced with rising poverty rates, Bush's trillion-dollar federal budget recently raised massive amounts of defence spending for the war in Iraq and slashed billions from welfare programmes.

For a brief moment last year in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina brought America's poor into the spotlight. Poverty seemed on the government's agenda. That spotlight has now been turned off. 'I had hoped Katrina would have changed things more. It hasn't,' says Cynthia Duncan, a sociology professor at the University of New Hampshire.

Oklahoma is in America's heartland. Tulsa looks like picture-book Middle America. Yet there is hunger here. When it comes to the most malnourished poor in America, Oklahoma is ahead of any other state. It should be impossible to go hungry here. But it is not. Just ask those gathered at a food handout last week. They are a cross section of society: black, white, young couples, pensioners and the middle-aged. A few are out of work or retired, everyone else has jobs.

They are people like Freda Lee, 33, who has two jobs, as a marketer and a cashier. She has come to the nondescript Loaves and Fishes building - flanked ironically by a Burger King and a McDonald's - to collect food for herself and three sons. 'America is meant to be free. What's free?' she laughs. 'All we can do is pay off the basics.'

Or they are people like Tammy Reinbold, 37. She works part-time and her husband works full-time. They have two children yet rely on the food handouts. 'The church is all we have to fall back on,' she says. She is right. When government help is being cut and wages are insufficient, churches often fill the gap. The needy gather to receive food boxes. They listen to a preacher for half an hour on the literal truth of the Bible. Then he asks them if they want to be born again. Three women put up their hands.

But why are some Tulsans hungry?
Many believe it is the changing face of the US economy. Tulsa has been devastated by job losses. Big-name firms like WorldCom, Williams Energy and CitGo have closed or moved, costing the city about 24,000 jobs. Now Wal-Mart embodies the new American job market: low wages, few benefits.

Well-paid work only goes to the university-educated. Many others who just complete high school face a bleak future. In Texas more than a third of students entering public high schools now drop out. These people are entering the fragile world of the working poor, where each day is a mere step away from tragedy. Some of those tragedies in Tulsa end up in the care of Steve Whitaker, a pastor who runs a homeless mission in the shadow of a freeway overpass.

Each day the homeless and the drug addicted gather here, looking for a bed for the night. Some also want a fresh chance. They are men like Mark Schloss whose disaster was being left by his first wife. The former Wal-Mart manager entered a world of drug addiction and alcoholism until he wound up with Whitaker. Now he is back on track, sporting a silver ring that says Faith, Hope, Love. 'Without this place I would be in prison or dead,' he says. But Whitaker equates saving lives with saving souls. Those entering the mission's rehabilitation programme are drilled in Bible studies and Christianity. At 6ft 5in and with a black belt in karate, Whitaker's Christianity is muscular both literally and figuratively. 'People need God in their lives,' he says.
These are mean streets. Tulsa is a city divided like the country. Inside a building run by Whitaker's staff in northern Tulsa a group of 'latch-key kids' are taking Bible classes after school while they wait for parents to pick them up. One of them is Taylor Finley, aged nine. Wearing a T-shirt with an American flag on the front, she dreams of travel. 'I want to have fun in a new place, a new country,' she says. Taylor wants to see the world outside Oklahoma. But at the moment she cannot even see her own neighbourhood. The centre in which she waits for mom was built without windows on its ground floor. It was the only way to keep out bullets from the gangs outside.

During the 2004 election the only politician to address poverty directly was John Edwards, whose campaign theme was 'Two Americas'. He was derided by Republicans for doing down the country and - after John Kerry picked him as his Democratic running mate - the rhetoric softened in the heat of the campaign.

But, in fact, Edwards was right. While 45.8 million Americans lack any health insurance, the top 20 per cent of earners take over half the national income. At the same time the bottom 20 per cent took home just 3.4 per cent. Whitaker put the figures into simple English. 'The poor have got poorer and the rich have got richer,' he said.

Dealing with poverty is not a viable political issue in America. It jars with a cultural sense that the poor bring things upon themselves and that every American is born with the same chances in life. It also runs counter to the strong anti-government current in modern American politics. Yet the problem will not disappear. 'There is a real sense of impending crisis, but political leaders have little motivation to address this growing divide,' Cynthia Duncan says.

There is little doubt which side of America's divide the hills of east Kentucky fall on. Driving through the wooded Appalachian valleys is a lesson in poverty. The mountains have never been rich. Times now are as tough as they have ever been. Trailer homes are the norm. Every so often a lofty mansion looms into view, a sign of prosperity linked to the coal mines or the logging firms that are the only industries in the region. Everyone else lives on the margins, grabbing work where they can. The biggest cash crop is illicitly grown marijuana.

Save The Children works here. Though the charity is usually associated with earthquakes in Pakistan or famine in Africa, it runs an extensive programme in east Kentucky. It includes a novel scheme enlisting teams of 'foster grandparents' to tackle the shocking child illiteracy rates and thus eventually hit poverty itself.

The problem is acute. At Jone's Fork school, a team of indomitable grannies arrive each day to read with the children. The scheme has two benefits: it helps the children struggle out of poverty and pays the pensioners a small wage. 'This has been a lifesaver for me and I feel as if the children would just fall through the cracks without us,' says Erma Owens. It has offered dramatic help to some. One group of children are doing so well in the scheme that their teacher, Loretta Shepherd, has postponed retirement in order to stand by them. 'It renewed me to have these kids,' she said.

Certainly Renae Sturgill sees the changes in her children. She too lives in deep poverty. Though she attends college and her husband has a job, the Sturgill trailer sits amid a clutter of abandoned cars. Money is scarce. But now her kids are in the reading scheme and she has seen how they have changed. Especially eight-year-old Zach. He's hard to control at times, but he has come to love school. 'Zach likes reading now. I know it's going to be real important for him,' Renae says. Zach is shy and won't speak much about his achievements. But Genny Waddell, who co-ordinates family welfare at Jone's Fork, is immensely proud. 'Now Zach reads because he wants to. He really fought to get where he is,' she says.

In America, to be poor is a stigma. In a country which celebrates individuality and the goal of giving everyone an equal opportunity to make it big, those in poverty are often blamed for their own situation. Experience on the ground does little to bear that out. When people are working two jobs at a time and still failing to earn enough to feed their families, it seems impossible to call them lazy or selfish. There seems to be a failure in the system, not the poor themselves.
It is an impression backed up by many of those mired in poverty in Oklahoma and Kentucky. Few asked for handouts. Many asked for decent wages. 'It is unfair. I am working all the time and so what have I done wrong?' says Freda Lee. But the economy does not seem to be allowing people to make a decent living. It condemns the poor to stay put, fighting against seemingly impossible odds or to pull up sticks and try somewhere else.

In Tulsa, Tammy Reinbold and her family are moving to Texas as soon as they save the money for enough petrol. It could take several months. 'I've been in Tulsa 12 years and I just gotta try somewhere else,' she says.
Savethechildren.org

From Tom Joad to Roseanne

In a country that prides itself on a culture of rugged individualism, hard work and self-sufficiency, it is no surprise that poverty and the poor do not have a central place in America's cultural psyche.

But in art, films and books American poverty has sometimes been portrayed with searing honesty. John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath, which was made into a John Ford movie, is the most famous example. It was an unflinching account of the travails of a poor Oklahoma family forced to flee the Dust Bowl during the 1930s Depression. Its portrait of Tom Joad and his family's life on the road as they sought work was a nod to wider issues of social justice in America.

Another ground-breaking work of that time was James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a non-fiction book about time spent among poor white farmers in the Deep South. It practically disappeared upon its first publication in 1940 but in the Sixties was hailed as a masterpiece. In mainstream American culture, poverty often lurks in the background. Or it is portrayed - as in Sergio Leone's crime epic Once Upon A Time In America - as the basis for a tale of rags to riches.
One notable, yet often overlooked, exception was the great success of the sitcom Roseanne. The show depicted the realities of working-class Middle American life with a grit and humour that is a world away from the usual sitcom settings in a sunlit suburbia, most often in New York or California. The biggest sitcoms of the past decade - Friends, Frasier or Will and Grace - all deal with aspirational middle-class foibles that have little relevance to America's millions of working poor.

An America divided

· There are 37 million Americans living below the poverty line. That figure has increased by five million since President George W. Bush came to power.

· The United States has 269 billionaires, the highest number in the world.

· Almost a quarter of all black Americans live below the poverty line; 22 per cent of Hispanics fall below it. But for whites the figure is just 8.6 per cent.

· There are 46 million Americans without health insurance.

· There are 82,000 homeless people in Los Angeles alone.

· In 2004 the poorest community in America was Pine Ridge Indian reservation. Unemployment is over 80 per cent, 69 per cent of people live in poverty and male life expectancy is 57 years. In the Western hemisphere only Haiti has a lower number.

· The richest town in America is Rancho Santa Fe in California. Average incomes are more than $100,000 a year; the average house price is $1.7m.
Now what???

Monday, April 27, 2009

At the lake...

This past Friday, the weather turned out to be a little warmer than forecasted...so after a week of the kids taking turns being sick...I took Amara & Madden to Lake Nebagamon for the afternoon. It is only a few miles down the road which is very nice.

The kids had fun throwing rocks into the lake and playing on the playground. We walked up the hill a little hoping Dairy Queen was open, but I think it opens after Memorial Day. So, we had a little lunch at a local cafe. :-) The area where we were is the public swimming area so I am sure we will be there lots this summer! I used to swim there all the time when I was younger...so it will be fun to see my children enjoy the same places I enjoyed as a young girl! There is a really big red raft that they anchor out a ways that has a diving board and is so much fun to jump off of. I took a few pictures (of course!) while they played. :-)

I can hardly believe how grown up Amara is getting. She is just a little doll! :-)


Two peas in a pod...they really have a lot of fun together. So silly!

Pushing the merry go round pretty hard!

Little ham!

Looking for good rocks to throw!

This just sums it all up...what a sweetie. :-)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Are You Believing Lies About Media?

Are You Believing Lies About Media?
Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Dannah Gresh

Two hundred years ago, what sounds could you have heard?
You could have heard things like human voices ... nature sounds ... musical instruments. You could not have heard sounds that were electronically produced. No radios, no TVs, no DVD players, no laptops, no iPods, no PS3 or X-Box ...

For the first several thousand years of history, humans were not bombarded with artificial stimuli. Further, they had relatively little information coming at them. All that has changed in this high-tech era when we live with an explosion of information and acute sensory overload. Technology today provides an amazing array of options that your parents and grandparents could not have imagined when they were teens. It has dramatically changed the way we communicate and relate to other people and has made it possible for us to be endlessly entertained with games, movies, TV programs, music, etc.

Many teenagers today go to bed with their iPods in their ears and wake up with them still there. After a quick shower, they plug them back in for the commute to school. During that commute, they may check their text messages or make a quick call on their cell phones. During the school day, they likely take every opportunity to check those text messages. At home, they settle in to watch a favorite DVD or spend a few hours of really deep conversation via instant messaging or on MySpace or Facebook:

U Up?
U2?
WUWH. J2L YK I think I passed my bio exam after all.
gratz.
G2GLYS.
FFCya
(If you need some help translating, check out the footnote at the end of this article.)

Resistant to change
No other generation has had so much technology at their disposal. We don’t believe that technology—whether used for social networking or entertainment—is inherently “bad”; it has its benefits. We do believe that using it mindlessly is a huge danger zone. We want to make sure that we’re controlling it and it’s not controlling us.

For our book, Lies Young Women Believe, we interviewed a number of young women, and our conversations with them revealed that this is an area where many are particularly resistant to change. You, too, may be tempted to “tune us out” on this one. We would appeal to you to put all your media on “pause” for a few moments, open your heart, and consider whether you may be believing any lies in relation to your media use. For example, one lie is:

“The benefits of constant media use outweigh the harm”

This was one of the most universally believed lies. Almost every young woman we spoke to (98 percent!) agreed that their media habits negatively affect their relationship with God and others. But they believed the benefits were worth it.

What kind of benefits?

“MySpace connects me to my friends.”
“I usually put on music when I want to quit thinking.”
“I’ll see a pretty girl on TV or on YouTube and she’ll be dressed a certain way and I know that’s what’s in style. So it pretty much keeps me in fashion.”

Need we go on? The girls themselves admitted that some of the benefits were pretty shallow and yet they could not seem to change their media habits.

If you think you are immune to behavior changes influenced by your media choices, think again. Horror novelist Stephen King once said, “Movies are the highest popular art of our time, and art has the ability to change lives.” We are not immune from buying what they want us to buy, dressing how they want us to dress, and valuing what they want us to value.
If you are taking in regular or significant doses of music, television, the internet, and movies, you are being affected by them. The question is: Are you being influenced positively or negatively? The impact is usually not felt immediately—it’s more like an IV in your arm that goes drip … drip … drip … gradually pumping a foreign substance into your system. If the substance dripping through that plastic tubing is toxic or poisonous, you may not feel the results right away, but once it gets into your system, your whole body will definitely be affected!

Here’s another lie about media:

“It’s not a waste of time ... even if it is, it’s okay”

A lot of the girls we spoke to estimated that they spend 25-35 hours per week online, text-messaging, and with their iPod in their ears or their brand new iTouch in their hand. We found it interesting that girls who were homeschooled were likely to have the highest number of hours. Many felt that this was absolutely fine. Here were some of their arguments:

‘‘Parents are just not used to it. I hate it when they get mad and they’re like ‘get off now!’ It is how my generation communicates.”
“It’s how I stay connected to my friends.”
‘‘Research proves that you can learn a lot of hand-eye coordination from computer games. “

As far as we know, no great athletic careers have ever been built on the hand-eye coordination learned from computer games, and great relationships are not built solely by instant messaging. We agree that there are some great uses of the media and young generations are comfortable with them. However, everything should have limits.

More and more research is proving that computers have the deadly potential to be addictive. That is—to put you into bondage. Proverbs 25:16 says, “If you find honey, eat just enough” (NIV). Maybe you’d get it better if it said, “If you find chocolate, eat just enough.” Have you ever over-eaten to the point of making yourself sick? Too much of even a good thing will make you sick!

We need limits for every area of our lives, including our media habits, or we risk being harmed or getting “sick” in our souls and our relationships. Those boundaries need to be established based on the principles of God’s Word and His best for you.

I (Nancy) can easily spend more time with entertainment media than I know is healthy. There are a couple computer games that I really enjoy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with them and sometimes they provide a legitimate break from my work. However, I can get carried away with playing these games and end up wasting valuable time, energy, and effort that could be used much more productively. In the process, they (and other media) can subtly steal my heart and hunger for the Lord and His Word and cause me to isolate myself from relationships with others.

Because I know my tendency to get hooked on these things, I’ve had to establish limits for when and how long I can let myself enjoy things like computer games, television, movies, e-mail, music, and other media. Those limits have proved to be a great blessing—they have helped to guard my heart from spiritual “intruders” and have helped me cultivate greater passion for Christ and sensitivity toward others.

Can you quiet the noise?
Here’s one more thing we want you to think about. We’ve noticed that people who spend most of their waking hours plugged in to media—whether social networking media like MySpace, or entertainment media like iPods and television—have a hard time getting still enough and quiet enough long enough to think or to let God speak to them through His Word.
There is a richness of soul that cannot be cultivated without regular seasons of quiet and solitude. There is a depth in our relationships with God and others that cannot be experienced apart from times of unhurried, face-to-face conversation.

God may not direct you to establish exactly the same boundaries as we have for ourselves. But we want to urge you not to just “go with the flow” when it comes to your media usage. Be intentional about setting limits on what you’ll expose yourself to and how much time you’ll spend on-line, on your computer, or text-messaging each day or week.

Footnote: Here’s the translation for the text message we quoted: “Wish you were here … Just to let you know ... Congratulations … Got to go. Love ya so … Friends forever. See ya.”

Adapted with permission from Lies Young Women Believe, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Dannah Gresh, Moody Publishers, 2008.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter morning...

This Easter morning, we got ourselves together & went to our Easter Sunday service at church. It was a nice service. :-) Before we got in the car to go...I had to get a few pictures of the kids together in their Sunday best! I think they looked pretty cute....but a group shot is usually a challenge with our kids...especially with only 5 minutes to snap a few! :-)

After church, we went to my sister Shannon's house for Easter dinner and an egg hunt for the kids! They had a lot of fun! I'll post a few pictures from the egg hunt later.

It was a great day to remember the awesome sacrifice our God gave for us!


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I was thrilled to see Makenzie & Madden had chosen blue raspberry ring pops to eat from their baskets this morning...love your blue lips, Makenzie! :-)
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I love my girls!!! :-)

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And my little man...my little love!!!!

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It's always fun to play with color a bit...:-)

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Happy Easter!!!

HE IS RISEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What an amazing love God has...to give his son for US. Have a blessed Easter.

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I think this picture is beautiful...
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Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Hannah Montana Movie :: 2009

Last night, I went with my sister and a few other friends with our daughters to The Hannah Montana movie. It was a really, really good movie. Clean, funny & I even enjoyed it! :-) But, then again, I like watching Hannah Montana on Disney...so I was just as excited. haha! Click below to view the trailer for the movie...

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkbK2CFibew

Love the soundtrack, too!!! :-) And Tim took the little ones to the Monsters vs. Aliens movie and thought it was cute. :-) They loved it.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Makenzie

Makenzie loves to draw and write stories. She loves to make cards, too. :-) Here are a few of her latest cards she made for Tim & I. :-) Kind of cute. :-)

For me:
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For Tim:
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I didn't realize I cut off the bottom of the card when I took the picture...it says, "I love you. You ROCK!" Too funny.
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Pre-K Screening...

Today, Madden had an appt. for his Pre-Kindergarten screening. Wisconsin is really great in the fact that there is a statewide Pre-Kindergarten program that runs through the school district to prepare children for Kindergarten. It is a program that is funded by the state at no cost to parents! It is a great program and we appreciate being able to send Madden to a good, quality Pre-Kindergarten program of our choice in the area. We haven't chosen where he will go at this point because we are going to be moving after Makenzie is done with school into our own place. But, I still wanted to get him screened and set up so we just did the screening at Makenzie's current school. He did a great job and is where he should be! The Early Childhood screener said Madden is very bright and appears very eager to learn and has excellent language skills. His speech is still being worked on and is continually improving. He begins his new speech therapy at the end of this month at the Makenzie's elementary school. So, we are excited for him to get back into the swing of things so he can get a little extra help with his speech. Just a few pics outside after a great report! They gave the children a little goody bag with some fun stuff inside...so he was very excited!

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Amara came along with us today, too. She enjoyed herself, too! :-)
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April Snow Showers bring....???

Yes. It's April 1st & we have gotten several inches of snow in the past 2 days. Sleet, snow & rain are taking their turn every couple of hours...so you can imagine...we will have a sloppy mess soon!

Just a few pics today to welcome this lovely month of April in Northern Wisconsin. :-)

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The next few pictures are actually some of my daily morning attire when I bring Makenzie down to the bus. If you follow me on facebook...you will occasionally hear me talk about my "amazing" outfits that I wear to the bus stop. Fortunately, it is down at the end of our driveway and there is no one else at the stop. :-)

This hat is usually the only one in reach as I run out the door. My trendy, fun, brown winter hat seems to never be in plain sight. So, I grab the really nice, beautiful winter hat...
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The ear flaps & brim make me smile...LOL!
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And since I never invested in a pair of boots for myself in recent years...I have the pleasure of wearing these winter hiking boots that belong to Tim. I don't even know why he owns such ugly boots!!! Do you love my pajama bottoms??? I know...complete and utter Wisconsin hottie. :-) You don't even want to see the big winter jacket that I wear...since I only have a wool jacket this year. I should have gotten into our storage to get my other jackets...but I wasn't interested in digging through storage bins in -30 degree weather.
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