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$2M and food stamps? Here’s my opinion.

19 May

So, you may have seen the story about the Michigan man who won $2 million and continues to use food stamps. I was going to write a whole long soapboxy rant about it but then decided to just write a carefully edited abbreviated soapboxy rant instead.

Yes, per Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamp) income requirements, he is still eligible. Yes, this is due to a flaw in the SNAP program. Yes, he followed proper procedure in notifying the state of his winnings. Yes, the state said he could keep his assistance. However, just because there is a flaw in a system doesn’t mean it should be exploited. Especially by someone with $1 million in the bank. It is wrong and it is completely immoral.

Someone like this only fuels the fire for the opponents of SNAP and reaffirms many of the stereotypes that exist about SNAP users. Especially someone who has the good fortune of winning that kind of money and then turns around and says, and I’m paraphrasing, that there’s no way anyone is going to make him feel guilty about continuing to use food stamps. I think that’s the part that gets to me. The lack of remorse at needlessly taking advantage of an already overextended system.

Having spent the majority of my career working with at-risk populations, I have seen my share of system abuse. It infuriates me every time I read or hear of another instance of someone abusing any assistance program because the abusers detract from those who legitimately need the help. What this man is doing is clearly a very egregious instance of abuse and the self-serving, condescending and overt nature with which he is abusing the system makes me want to scream. Please don’t even get me started on his lawyer.

The intent behind SNAP is a noble one—helping those who cannot afford enough food to acquire that food. It is also an amazingly flawed system that is criticized, picked apart, and the source of a great deal of contention. And none of that is without good reason. Open dialogue about these types of programs is necessary. But whatever your opinion of the program requirements and oversight may be, I think we can all agree that this case is a vile display of abuse. And it needs to be stopped.


Exiled Care Bears

9 May

My 4-year-old daughter has recently discovered the Care Bears. I couldn’t be happier. I love the Care Bears! They’re cute, come in multiple colors, and one of them has a cupcake as his tummy symbol!

Not as sweet as they seem

Unfortunately, my brain has gone where it shouldn’t go. While reading the books and watching the DVDs, I could not help but start to think of all the poor, rejected Care Bears  that so very badly want to live in Care-a-Lot but the Care Bears, wanting to keep the seedy element in another part of town and having  a lengthy list of rules for acceptable Care Bear behavior, have exiled these wannabes to neighboring island of the Land of Misfit Toys:

Convict Bear–the local criminal element. The original exiled Care Bear. Known for assaulting others with unwanted Care Bear stares and stealing clouds. He is black and white striped and his tummy sign is jail bars.

Porn Star Bear and her cousin, Stripper Bear–exiled for corrupting the minds and bodies of the male (and some female) Care Bears and violating the morality clause in the home owners association of Care-a-Lot. Porn Star bear is off-white and her tummy symbol is a bed; Stripper Bear is gold and her tummy symbol is (obviously) a pole.

Glam Bear–a true 80s throwback, Glam Bear loves hair band music, especially Poison and Motley Crüe. Known for driving an unnecessarily flashy car, he was exiled for dress code violations, specifically wearing spandex and way too much eyeliner. Glam Bear is blue with black zebra strips and his tummy symbol is star-shaped sunglasses.

Mullet Bear–Glam Bear’s sworn enemy. He was also exiled for dress code violations, except he prefers sleeveless flannel shirts and rocking a really awful Dee Snider mullet. Mullet Bear is mud brown and his tummy symbol is a Trans Am.

Spinster Bear–lives alone in a dark, creepy house surrounded by 1400 cats. She was exiled for never marrying or having Care Bear offspring, an essential tenet of the Care Bear Code. She is gray and her tummy symbol is a cat.

Jersey Bear–idolizes Snooki (an exileable offense in its own right). In fact, she looks like Snooki. She was exiled, like Glam Bear and Mullet Bear, for dress code violations. Instead of a regulation tuft of hair, Jersey Bear has coiffed her hair into a poof. She was originally beige but after applying way too much tanner, she is now more of an orange. Her tummy symbol is the state of New Jersey.

Smart Ass Bear–exiled for violating the cheery and sweet manner in which Care Bears are required to speak. Loves the Michael Scott phrase “That’s what she said”.  Smart Ass Bear is red and his tummy symbol is a set of rolling eyes.

Midlife Crisis Bear–this poor guy was living the perfect Care Bear life until one day, he realized that he wanted a younger Care Bear wife, a sports car and his hair was falling out. He started frequenting Stripper Bear’s workplace and was exiled for violating the Care Bear morality clause, as well as the penguin clause stating that each Care Bear will mate with only one other Care Bear. Midlife Crisis Bear is light gray, has a comb-over, and his tummy symbol is a Porsche.

Thrifty Bear–the only bear to be exiled for his financial status. Thrifty Bear loves a good bargain, manages his money and is completely debt free. This made the other Care Bears jealous and they threw him out. He has appealed the sentence and is currently awaiting his reinstatement hearing. Thrifty Bear is green and his tummy symbol is a dollar sign intertwined with a coupon.

Those the names of the exiled Care Bears that the President of Care-a-Lot will make public. I have submitted a FOIA request for the others.

The one thing that struck me was how often they were exiled for dress code violations. Kind of strange for a bunch of bears that walk around naked…

Books, part 2

19 Apr

Several weeks ago, I posted about my problem finding good books to read. I got some great recommendations and assembled quite a queue. I’m pleased to report that since that post, the number of good books I’ve read has grown exponentially (thankfully). I am also extremely excited for the next few books I have in waiting. I will be sharing those with you, but first, I’ll discuss the books I did finish.

In my previous post, I said that I was in the middle of Brady Udall’s The Lonely Polygamist. I couldn’t finish it. I found it boring and way too difficult to get through. I have made the decision that the time I do have to read is too precious to waste on books I don’t like, so that one went right back to the library. Next came Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. Awesome, amazing, wonderful, easy to read, great story. I can not say enough good things about this book. In fact, I think everyone should read it.

After that, I read Susan Wilson’s One Good Dog. I picked this book because, ever since I read The Art of Racing in the Rain, I love books with dogs as main characters. I had never heard of this book, saw it on sale in Target, bought it, took it home and read it in a weekend. It’s a terrific, modern and relevant story paralleling the lives of a man and a stray pit bull–I’m beyond glad I read this book. Then was Jodi Picoult’s new book, Sing You Home. It was a book in true Jodi Picoult fashion and while the story was interesting, I felt that it was told at a rather frenetic pace.  It was not her best but certainly not her worst (that honor is reserved for The Tenth Circle). I am now in the middle of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. I’ll get back to you about it when I’m done.

So what’s next? Yesterday I went on a book buying/book reserving spree. A quick note about when I buy versus reserve. Whenever possible, I try to get books from the library. However, there are times when books I want to read are not in any library in my entire state (to be fair, I live in a small state). It is in those instances, and I want to really, really read a book, that I will buy a book. OK, having cleared that up, here’s what I reserved/bought yesterday:

  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • Room by Emma Donoghue
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova
  • Gazelles, Baby Steps and 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me About Debt by Jon Acuff
  • The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness by Brianna Karp (you can also follow her blog)
  • Stray Dogs, Saints and Saviors: Fighting for the Soul of America’s Toughest High School by Alexander Russo

I like to read a combination of fiction and nonfiction books. While this list is a little nonfiction heavy, it’s a nice balance to the fiction books that I’ve just finished.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

KTT: The little things

11 Apr

You know that song by Good Charlotte “The Little Things”? Last Friday, I had one of those days.

It was one of those days that leaves you thinking “what the hell just happened? Did I really just hear that? Did he really just say that? What is wrong with these people? Why did I leave the house?” It was so easy to just wallow in how miserable my day had been (to be fair, it was the last day in a week where I had spent three days in training learning about child abuse and neglect. Pictures were included). But then I remembered a post I had read on Money Saving Mom.

The author of that post is absolutely right. Sometimes you need to change your outlook to appreciate what you truly do have. So I started to think about what I do have. But since it’s easy to think about the big things, I tried to focus on the little things that were good in my day. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Frosting shots. These are perhaps, next to cannolis, the greatest dessert invention. Ever. Basically, it’s a small little cup (like what you put a Jell-O shot in) filled with cupcake frosting. As someone who has difficulty picking a cupcake flavor, this is a nice way to not have to choose. And they only cost $.75!

Small serving. Gigantic taste.

  • Payday. Yes, the awful day happened to be payday. Usually, I get upset that all my money is basically spent before payday is over (thank you, bills) but then I decided to think about how satisfying it is to replenish our envelopes and how glad I am that we’re able to budget enough to go out eat each week.
  • Prices that end in “0”. On this particular day, we went out to eat at a local, nonchain restaurant that makes 90% of its menu vegetarian-friendly, which means that I have almost an entire menu to choose from. As if that isn’t awesome enough, all of the prices end in 0. I love being able to put the cash on the table and not have to worry about coins. It makes things nice and neat and even.
  • Good TV. I know there are better activities than watching TV. I could read a book, go to the gym, play a board game…but sometimes, I just like to watch a good TV show. And fortunately, there are lots of good TV shows available lately. I DVR most of them so my husband and I can watch them together. On this particular Friday, we watched The Big Bang Theory and Breakout Kings (if you haven’t seen this show yet, watch it as soon as you can. I usually don’t recommend cop shows but I will recommend this one, and The Chicago Code, to pretty much anyone who will listen).

I’m fairly certain there were other small things in my day that made me forget about the horrible things that happen (like finding that I can play Pandora radio through our brand-new Blu-Ray player), but these are the ones that really cheered me up.

When you’re having a bad day, what are the little things that make you happy?

Kitchen Table Talk: Why I love YouTube

22 Mar

I think YouTube rocks. Because amidst all the Lady Gaga, cute kitten videos, celebrity interviews, and people doing some of the oddest things imaginable, you can find gems like these. If you only have time to watch one, go for the third one. The song is worth enduring the witty banter (this makes me wish there was a sarcasm font):

It was hard to pick among all the videos that I’ve loved and lost. But these 5 highlight my eclectic taste and my longing for the days MTV actually played music.

What your favorite hidden gem on YouTube?

Kitchen Table Talk: A few things I’m sick of besides Charlie Sheen

9 Mar

Are you sick of Charlie Sheen? I am.

I used to like the guy. Major League is one of my all time favorite movies. But now…well, now I just think he’s an overexposed loon. I wish that every news outlet would stop putting him on the front page. Every. Single. Day. The coverage is what is stoking his lunatic fire. If we stop caring, then maybe he’ll go away and actually focusing on recovering. I’m not sure how soon that’ll happen because crazy sells. And right now, he is Captain Crazy.

Fortunately for me, I’m good at spreading my hatred annoyance around. And there are also plenty of other topics/people/items I’m tired of  besides Charlie Sheen:

  • Remaking/revamping everything good. Not to be limited to movies (yes Footloose, I’m talking to you), the abundance of bringing back toys, cartoons, TV shows, etc from the past has my panties in a bunch.  It’s as if all of the good ideas were exhausted circa 1990 and ever since, we’ve just been served the same recycled stuff. Recycling is good for the environment but it’s not so good in entertainment. If Hotdoggers and Skidz make a comeback, I’m retreating to a cave.

Nothing says elegance and class like a pair of Skidz. Except maybe Hammer Pants.

  • Turning every great book into a movie. This is a subset of #1. Ultimately, the movies is going to ruin the book. That’s just a given. There are a host of great books I’ve read that are movies. I refuse to see those movies. I learned my lesson after The General’s Daughter, Sleepers and The Virgin Suicides (just to name a few disappointments). Using the law of opposites, shouldn’t the bad books be made into good movies? Having said that, I will be seeing The Art of Racing in the Rain when it comes out. I don’t care that Patrick Dempsey is the main character (this is most likely due to the fact that I don’t view him as some good-looking doctor. I view him as the guy performing the African Anteater Ritual in Can’t Buy Me Love). See for yourself:
  • Nirvana. Not the religious tenet, the band. Don’t misunderstand me. I get it. I was a teenager when grunge was popular. Nirvana was influential and changed music, blah blah blah. But radio stations fail to realize that Nirvana recorded more than 4 songs (really! It’s true! Lithium, Rape Me, Smells Like Teen Spirit and their cover of Man Who Sold the World are not the only songs they recorded. I promise!) . And I really don’t want to hear those songs any more. Ever. This is not just limited to Nirvana. You can also substitute Guns N’ Roses (before Axl went batty), U2, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones.
  • New Jersey. I’m not necessarily sick of the whole state.The state itself is actually quite useful as it links the state I currently live in to my home state.  I am, however, opposed to the obnoxious, overexposed reality stars that are coming out of New Jersey at an alarming rate. If I were from New Jersey, I would be pissed that when people think of my home state, they now think of Snooki, JWoww or one of the girls from Jerseylicious rather than Samuel Alito, Bruce Springsteen, Kevin Smith or the scores of others who are from New Jersey. Also, what’s the deal with the jughandles? Those things are a pain.
  • Sarah Palin. Why is this woman still relevant? How can we get her to stop speaking? Is it even possible?

That’s just a few of the things that I’m tired of. There’s a whole list more (just ask anyone who knows me. I can seriously go on for hours about this stuff, especially when I get going on a topic I’m really passionate about like the Mommy Wars). But mainly, I just have one question–why does Lady Gaga call her fans “Little Monsters”?

Kitchen Table Talk: Movie quiz and a giveaway!

27 Feb

Since today is the Oscars, I thought I’d pay tribute with a little quiz. It’s simple really–I’ve posted 15 quotes about food from different movies. Post your response in the comments section and the person who gets the most right will receive a $10 gift card to Target! The giveaway closes at midnight on Wednesday, 3/2/11.

Here goes:

  1. “If you could have one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? That’s easy. Pez. Cherry flavored pez.”
  2. “It’s got gray icing. I can’t even begin to imagine how you make gray icing.”
  3. “I bet the Chinese food here is terrible.”
  4. “If I don’t get a pancakewich, I will have you both arrested for kidnapping and conspiracy.”
  5. “Tigers love pepper. They hate cinnamon.”
  6. “It has raisins in it. You like raisins.”
  7. “A jelly donut?!”
  8. “Food fight!!!”
  9. “Yogurt? I hate yogurt! Even with strawberries.”
  10. “This is definitely the food prison riots are made of.”
  11. “What do you mean, you don’t eat no meat? That’s ok. I’ll make lamb.”
  12. “Do you like apples? Well, I got her number. How do you like them apples?”
  13. “Hey honey, go back and tell the chef this is low-grade dog food.”
  14. “…pb&j with the crusts cut off. Well, Brian, this is a very nutritious lunch. All the food groups are represented. Did your mom marry Mr. Rogers? Uh, no…Mr. Johnson.”
  15. “The tension in the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Which is more than I can say for the liver.”

That’s it. Good luck!

Administrative note: I’ll post the answers on Thursday, after the giveaway closes.  In the event of a tie, all names will be thrown into a hat and  the winner will be chosen at random. There will only be one winner for this particular giveaway.

Books, part 1

20 Feb

One of my favorite hobbies is reading. I am always in the middle of at least two books, with about 25 more on my “to read list”. However, I’ve been struggling lately with finding books to read. I’ve started a whole bunch of books only to abandon them before I even get to the halfway point. This is unusual for me. I typically don’t have a problem pushing my way through a book I don’t like, and, prior to recently, I’d only quit 2 books before I finished. I don’t know if I’m becoming pickier about my choices or if I’m just doing a poor job of picking books but it’s been a disappointing few months, bookwise.

This is not to say that all books I’ve read have been bad. I’ve read the complete Millenium Trilogy (Steig Larsson’s books), some of Dan Miller’s books (he’s a job coach), Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich (an example of a book I did not like but completed), and I’m currently plugging my way through Brady Udall’s The Lonely Polygamist, which is finally starting to get better. I’m also working my way through Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing from the Inside Out. I’m only on page 10 or so, but it’s pretty useful. But I’ve read more bad books than good. And I’m starting to get frustrated.

I do have some books in waiting: The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Jodi Picoult’s new book (which comes out next month–yay!), Sing You Home.  To say I am apprehensive about these books is an understatement. I’m terrified that these, like so many others in previous months, are going to absolutely suck. I’ve heard good things about The Help and Corrections, and Jodi Picoult has never let me down but I’m still nervous. I don’t have a lot of time to waste on books that are bad.

So I turn to you, dear readers. Any suggestions for books that do not suck?

Kitchen Table Talk: This song changed my life

26 Jan

Today I’m starting a new feature at The Empty Kitchen. As one of my readers pointed out a few weeks ago, the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s not only where we share meals but it’s where we can sit around and talk about anything. This new feature, Kitchen Table Talk, is where I will talk about anything that’s on my mind, whether it’s food related, family related, current events related or just plain random.

Everyone has something different that motivates her or speaks to her or gets her through a hard or sad or difficult time. For some, it’s the Bible  or another type of  book. For others, it’s inspirational sayings or quotes. For me, it’s song lyrics.

There is nothing that speaks to my emotions and feelings more than song lyrics. I relate so many moments in my life to different songs, and I associate almost every phase of my life to music. It’s as if my life has a soundtrack that no one else knows about; it’s my little personal secret. But I’m going to share one of those secrets with you.

This Friday is my  last day at my current job. This is very welcomed and long overdue (more overdue than I care to admit). It took me quite awhile to get to the point where I even considered looking for a new job. I would talk to friends and family about making a change but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. Then, about 3 months ago, while driving to pick up my daughter from daycare, I heard the song “Maybe” by Sick Puppies on the radio. More than any other song I’d heard in a long, long time, this song spoke to me on levels that I cannot even begin to describe. It was as if everything I had been thinking and feeling was all rolled into one amazing song. And, as cheesy as it may sound, it inspired me to finally make the decision to move on from the toxic environment where I was spending 40 hours a week.

What’s even more incredible is that, when you listen to the lyrics the first few times, it sounds like a song about a breakup. But when I watched the video, I knew that this song was sent to me to change my life:

What inspires you?

Kitchen Table Talk: A little something that makes me laugh

10 Jan

I have disclosed several secrets about myself on this blog. First, I confessed how I cheat in the kitchen. Then I confessed that I don’t drink coffee.   I have yet another confession to make. Here it is:  I still watch Saturday Night Live. I usually can’t make it past Weekend Update, and what I do watch makes me long for the days of Wayne’s World. But, occasionally, there actually is a funny skit. This is one of them:

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