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This is my first diary entry here on Daily Kos.  I thought I would use it to introduce myself and discuss why I am a liberal.

First, let me introduce myself.  I am a 25 year old history teacher.  I have been married for just about 6 years and have a 6 year old daughter.  I hope to use this diary to blog about education and the effects politics and public policy has on it and on our students.

Okay, now to the point of this diary, why I am a liberal...

As you can see I had a child and was married at a young age.  During my first semester of college, at age 19, I found out my girlfriend was pregnant.  Taking responsibility for our actions we moved in together the next semester, living in my old bedroom at parents house.  We both finished up our first years of college working as much as we could in order to save a little money.  That spring we moved into an apartment.  We had our daughter that summer and the trials and tribulations began.  We both decided it would be better for us in the long run if we stayed in college.  This of course meant lots of juggling to make everything work.  I switched colleges, from a larger university to a community college, so we could save money on gas and on tuition.  I would drop to part time at school going to class two days a week all day so I could work the other five days a week.  My wife did the same.  

Despite working full time we still had trouble making ends meet.  Go figure that $5.15 an hour can't pay the bills.  Minimum wage is indeed the minimum.  We received government aid through Medicaid, food stamps, rent assistance for a while, subsidized student loans and some money for daycare.  We had help from our families, to whom we owe a great deal, when it came to watching our daughter so we could still go to school and some financial assistance here and there.  Rent assistance went away when we started making a little more money to be living just under paycheck to paycheck, food stamps went away when I started working commission at JC Penney and made too much money on the one pay period they looked at to see if we still qualified.  Medicare started costing money, but still was far cheaper for a while for both my wife and I then it stopped automatically and we just didn't go to the doctor anymore.  Our daughter was luckily still covered in the state we lived in.  

Through all of this we worked opposite shifts, went to school part time, ate way too much canned ravioli from the Save-a-Lot, and did all we could to stay in college and make ends meet.  My wife finished with her associates degrees first and got a good paying job so I could go back to school full time and be a stay at home dad at all other times.  This in no way means we were rolling in the dough, but rather, that it was cheaper for me to stay home than for me to work and give almost all of my paycheck to pay for daycare.  My wife continued to work full time and get her bachelors degree taking online classes and I finished up my education degree.  We are now finally at the place we hoped to be at 6 years ago.  We finished college and have jobs that pay well (well not too well, I am a teacher), we have a nice place to live, we have real health insurance, and we are finally paying back what we owe to our families and the government.

Now, why would all of this make me a liberal and a Democrat?  Well, if it were not for government assistance, my family would not be where we are today.  There is no way we could have paid for college without loans from the government, the interest alone from an unsubsidized loan would have been enough to scare us away from borrowing the kind of money you need to pay for a college education these days.  Assistance with rent helped us get on our feet in our own place.  Medicaid was a godsend, without it we would never have been able to afford all of the medical bills that come along with having a child.  Food stamps helped us feed our family.  

Without this assistance we would never have been able to make it through college and be in the position we are today.  Without them we would most likely both be working minimum wage jobs (probably more than one), with no healthcare, and living hand to mouth trying to make things work like so many families in the U.S.  These programs gave us a chance and I am grateful for them.  Its true that we made a choice to have a child young and that it is our fault we were in the position we were in.  But the choices we made did not make us bad people, just people who needed a little help to get to a better place.  I am glad the government was there for me and I want it to be there for others.  

Conservatives have called these programs "handouts."  To them I took without giving.  They must not realize the sales tax I paid anytime I bought anything, the gas tax I paid in order to get back and forth to the job that didn't pay me enough to make ends meet, and the rent I paid that went to the owner of the property who used it to pay property taxes.  The also must have forgot that now that I am off of those programs I am still paying taxes to the government.  I am paying back and paying to help those in the same position.

I am a liberal because liberals understand that people sometimes need help, that those people who need assistance are not bad people, that they are not looking for a handout, but that they are just people like anyone else who are trying to get by.  It is not always easy to get by in America, despite all of the picking yourself up by the bootstraps some one does.  Imagine what life would be like for thousands of families if they did not have to worry about stretching every penny to the limit.  If gas prices did not dictate whether they could make it to work that day, if the minimum wage was a living wage, if healthcare were a right and not an expensive luxury.  Imagine if daycare were not so expensive that parents make the choice to leave young children at home alone unattended or work two jobs to pay for it.  For some reason conservatives talk about family values but do nothing that values the families who are struggling every day in this country.  The child is important to them when it is in the womb but when it comes out, it can go without healthcare, never see its parents who need to work more than one job to put food on the table, it can go to a school that is under funded and dangerous, and it can live in communities where the factory that employed half the city moved its jobs overseas and closed.

I am a liberal because I care about people.  Liberal programs helped me better myself, my family, and hopefully my community.  The government was able to help me when I needed it and I want it to be there when it can help someone else.

Originally posted to jrbuckley on Tue Sep 04, 2007 at 10:34 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good Job (18+ / 0-)

    Tonight, for some reason, I am really happy I read your Diary. This is what family values is all about. It's not about sticking your nose in other people's lives and condemning them.

    Fascism ought to more properly be called Corporatism since it is the merger of state and corporate power. - Mussolini

    by Pluto on Tue Sep 04, 2007 at 10:40:02 PM PDT

  •  Nice to meet you & a tip of the hat to you... (10+ / 0-)

    It's quite a journey you have made and I'm glad to see that your marriage survived it.

    As your diary demonstrates, liberals have humility.  Conservatives don't seem to have humility.  Instead they run around pretending that everything they have accomplished they have done completely by themselves with no help from anyone, ever.

    I might add, you're fortunate that your folks let you live with them when you first got married.  The fact that your family was able to help you out is an enormous advantage.  Imagine how much more difficult it would have been if your own parents were very poor or had suffered from a catastrophic illness, etc.

    My folks were able to pay for my college 18 years ago.  I didn't appreciate it much at the time, but reading diaries here about people who have, say, $100,000 of student debt is humbling.  I have no idea how much different my life would be if I left college with a huge amount of debt already.

    FWIW, I also support the programs you list above and think we should divert money from the Iraq money hole to make college an option for anyone who wants to go.

    American overseas? Register to vote at www.VoteFromAbroad.org

    by YoyogiBear on Tue Sep 04, 2007 at 11:12:32 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for sharing (8+ / 0-)

    There are those who would have been too proud to have gone to the Government to receive the aid and finished school.  While many might consider that pride something to be... well.. proud of - How much better is your daughter going to be now that you are able to earn a decent living and actually provide?

    I wish you luck and look forward to hearing more about your adventures in this crazy world.

    Bush - Clinton - Bush - Clinton: Out of 295,734,134 (July 2005 est.) Americans, this is the best we can do?

    by Yoshi En Son on Tue Sep 04, 2007 at 11:16:51 PM PDT

    •  pride (13+ / 0-)

      I was once too proud.

      Too poor to paint, too proud to whitewash.

      That quote explains me then.
      Papa took me aside and said "Baby, I've paid so much taxes in my life, you deserve those food stamps. Go get 'em!"
      I did. It was the helping hand we needed, trying to start a small business w/2 small children during  tinkle-down raygunomics.
      Sadly, now my daughter is in college, the system doesn't work so well. She is in college after several yrs off (to help during her g-parents last yrs). She lives in a shed out back rent-free, (it does have lights/h2o) she drives a third-hand-me-down car, she is a very smart girl & makes good grades(bio/chem), she has a part time job. she applies for grants & scholorships and still will be 50,000+ in debt when she graduates in May. She has applied for foodstamps & was turned down because she has no children & only an electric bill (no car payment/rent);she applied for medicaid(medicare?) & was turned down because she has no children

      I'm being punished for being responsible & trying to get ahead.- my daughter

      Welcome! Great Diary! Thanks very much for posting. Please post a 'tip-jar' so people can leave you 'well-done' mojo. (post a comment immediately after hitting publish diary, it doesn't have to say tip-jar but that makes it easier for folks to find;-)

      The hippies had it right all along and it's about time the media, the politicians, the culture as a whole sent out a big, wet, hemp-covered apology.

      by RiaD on Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 05:59:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You should (10+ / 0-)

    post a tip jar.  You might be like the tips you receive.  Great diary!

    America needs a living wage, not a minimum wage...

    "Come, come, my conservative friend, wipe the dew off your spectacles, and see the world is moving." Elizabeth Cady Stanton

    by txlosthorn on Tue Sep 04, 2007 at 11:16:59 PM PDT

  •  I was on food stamps for six months (16+ / 0-)

    while in college. It was a life-saver until I could got a job that was able to sustain me while I got my degree.

    I'm sure that I've paid way more that that small grant in taxes while I was still in school.

    Food stamps and AFDC payments are the most cost-effective investments our country can make.

  •  Welcome! (7+ / 0-)

    I enjoyed reading this. Hope to see you around.

  •  Post a tip jar (6+ / 0-)

    I enjoyed reading your diary. Doing the right thing can sometimes be a difficult path. Glad to see you've made it to the other side of your long journey relatively unscathed.

    Welcome to DailyKos, and thanks for all your work in helping make this country a better place.

    Please post a tip jar. I'd be happy to pass a little mojo your way.

  •  You've achieved a lot (8+ / 0-)

    At 25, you're wise beyond your years, yet you've still got so much youth ahead. Wow. Congratulations on working so hard so steadily. It was good that the government was there to help, but also that you dedicated yourself to making the best of what its helping hand could offer. Your family sounds like a great team. Mazel tov!

    If you're rich you can afford to be stupid, but you won't be rich for long.

    by Flywheel on Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 05:38:51 AM PDT

  •  Nicely done jr! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sj, RiaD, Sagittarius, YoyogiBear

    I look forward to your next diary.  Best of luck to you an your young family.

  •  I am happy that thiongs worked out (8+ / 0-)

    for you. But I do take exception to the implication is "taking responsibility for our actions" that someone who made a different choice other than getting married or carrying the pregnancy to term is somehow irresponsible. It is equally as responsible to give a child up for adoption or to abort if  you know you are not emotionally or financially ready to be a parent. Not everyone has a mother like yours. And not everyone is capable of parenting at age 19.

    In fact, you are the exception to the rule.  The two factors that actually seem to reduce divorce are (a) the  woman's age at first marriage (it goes down for every year older she is from 18 to 25, and then ceases to be an advantage) and (b) the amount of education the woman has (probably because it delays marriage so (a) kicks in and because the woman knows herself and her needs better).  Most early marriages like yours don't mak eit, and end in messy divorces witha child caught in the middle.

    I would strongly hesitate to urge most people to make the decision you did, for that reason. Bluntly, the person we date at 18 is seldom the person we'd wish to marry at 25 or 27.  As we gain experience we often realize that what attracted us in our late teens now seems very superficial--that intelligence and a sense of humor and mutual respect matter more than looks and status.

    So, please, remember that those who chose abortion or adoption also took responsibility--they just did so in a different manner.

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 08:25:17 PM PDT

    •  In response... (12+ / 0-)

      It was not my intention to talk about either abortion or adoption, but rather my own experience in making ends meet and how government programs helped my family do just that.  

      What I meant by my "taking responsibility" was that I became a father, not simply someone who fathered a child.  To be more specific, I did not leave my girlfriend when I found out.  I did not choose to take off and join the ranks of "deadbeat dads" but worked hard to raise my daughter.  Not everyone would or could take the route we did and I understand the difficulty in making that decision.  I am just glad and thankful that we were able to use government programs to help us become what we are today.  Without them I do not know where we would be at right now but I know, that for us, we are in a better place.

      •  I am glad it worked out. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Liberal Thinking, churchylafemme

        But I think the point needed to be made that there are other equally responsible ways of handling it. I get very tired of a tiny group of males here claiming abortion is irresponsible, so I made the point for their benefit.  ANd I DO think it is improtant for us and for yout wo tor elaize you guys have beaten the odds and to pat yourself (and your Mom) on the back.

        AT 50, myhsuband has gone back to college--can't get a job because over-qual'ed and unable to do work that requries long hours of standing (back and knee issues at 57), and his Mom has helepd us out a LOT=. We're living on his pension fromt he Navy and a aprt-tiem job.

        The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

        by irishwitch on Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 09:28:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for Making That Point (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joannegmurphy, RiaD, irishwitch

      Jrbuckley may not have been dismissing those who have abortions, but it needs to be clear that the choice isn't just to have children simply because you are pregnant. People unfortunately have forgotten how much of a load the human population is putting on the world.

      While I wouldn't want to reduce some of these programs, I do worry that they tend, over all, to support increases in population. Unless we also take some measures (like good sex education) to reduce that burden, giving money to people who have children has that effect.

      That's why I tend to favor radically increasing the minimum wage and reducing the availability of some of these other programs. A higher minimum wage makes it possible for people to have a child without providing a kind of monetary incentive to have them. The minimum wage should be enough for a person to have a child and still pay for all of the necessities of life, including whatever insurance they need and enough to save for retirement. By those standards it ought to be about $20/hour in most of the country.

      •  Really not much of a monetary incentive to have (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jrbuckley

        a second child--the increase is low.

        The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

        by irishwitch on Thu Sep 06, 2007 at 09:08:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It All Adds Up (0+ / 0-)

          For a specific individual, it might not seem like much, but when we poor billions into it across the whole population, it does make a difference.

          Besides, if you are earning minimum wage, just the head of household deduction and the additional deduction for a child are a very significant break on taxes.

          •  We ae living on 1200 month. If we had to pay rent (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Liberal Thinking, Schwede

            we'd be living in an apt. with hot and cold running drug dealwers and weekly murders.  Minimum wage isn't enough. And the tax breaks don't come close to making it a living wage.

            The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

            by irishwitch on Tue Sep 11, 2007 at 09:06:42 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Fabulous diary. Glad it was rescued. nt (3+ / 0-)

    / Makes me wanna holler and throw up both my hands. -- Marvin Gaye /

    by Sagittarius on Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 08:37:54 PM PDT

  •  If every American who received help from the (8+ / 0-)

    government during the course of their life was marked with luminous paint, this nation would glow in the dark.

    The trouble is that many Americans take so much for granted that they don't remember it, or so narcissistic that they won't admit it.

    Congratulations on what you've managed to acheive, and health and happiness to you and your family in the future.

    Bill Prendergast also posts his stupid satire at the Stillwater Tribune

    by Bill Prendergast on Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 09:02:29 PM PDT

    •  You don't know how true that is (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ClickerMel, RiaD, dragoneyes, jrbuckley

      Plenty of right wingers (like my Dad, for example) sneer at people who take "handouts" from the government.  Yet they consistently understate their income on their tax returns, thereby taking THEIR "handouts" in the form of illicitly-reduced taxes.  Yet they don't see what they're doing as "taking a handout."  

      So many corporations cheat on their taxes, it is breathtaking.  Our own former Treasury Secretary John Snow, for example, headed up a corporation called CPX that had not paid any federal income taxes in FIVE YEARS!

      The IRS itself estimates the cheating rate at about 60 percent.  In my view, that's a lot of "handouts."

  •  Excellent! Good to read about your experience (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    churchylafemme, SSMir, RiaD

    and discussion about how these programs supported by Democrats were what made your success possible.

    Along with your hard work, and your wife's of course. It's very hard to do that on minimum wage for so long.

    I was on Medicaid for a while so I know how much that can help.

    "...we overemphasize what technology can do. The most important fusion takes place inside people's brains." -Amy Zegart

    by Gorette on Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 09:03:17 PM PDT

  •  Great diary! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    churchylafemme, RiaD, jrbuckley

    It was wonderful to hear your success story. Not only did I recommend, I also subscribed. I look forward to your future writings.

    The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge." D. Boorstin

    by khloemi on Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 09:38:53 PM PDT

  •  Isn't the title a bit defensive? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xysea

    Just a minor quibble, but I wouldn't think being on board with basic decency requires an explanation.  "Why I Am a Liberal" makes it sound like some kind of controversial alternative lifestyle.  You're a decent person and a decent American, and that's to be expected implicitly of everyone in this country.  Those who aren't liberals need to explain why they're not, and justify being opposed to human rights, science, liberty, and democracy.  And if their explanations aren't satisfactory, well then, those just aren't the sort of people to socialize or do business with.

     

    Humanity is a story that will never end. There Is a Way.

    by Troubadour on Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 09:43:21 PM PDT

    •  It is very helpful to state the obvious (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Liberal Thinking, RiaD, xysea

      Not snark — if we let what we presume to be obvious go unsaid, then someone else is going to define it for us.  Hence, the current unpopularity of the term "liberal."  How many politicians can you point to who self-identify as liberal?  Even the likes of George Lakoff heavily favor "progressive" as a substitute (although plenty of people self-identify as progressive first and liberal second or not at all).

      If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."

          - John F. Kennedy, 1960

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 09:50:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Profound strategic mistake. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SSMir, poichick

        if we let what we presume to be obvious go unsaid, then someone else is going to define it for us.

        Only if you internalize the definition and react to it.  People pick up on defensiveness, and it gives subconscious weight to the accusation.  They also pick up on nonchalant presumption, and it makes them uncertain if it contradicts a weakly held belief.  You can win individual tolerance for yourself being defensive, but you're simply reinforcing the Orwellian stigma placed on the term.  

        See if you can identify what's wrong with this conversation:

        A: How do you feel on the subject of grinding up poor children for use as pet food?
        B: Well, if I had to characterize myself on that subject, I'd say I'm against it.
        A: You openly admit being against that?
        B: Yes, and I just want to go on the record as saying that I'm proud of that fact.
        A: Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion.  Would you generally say you're against grinding up human beings for pet food?
        B: Well, I suppose you could say that, and I also want to say that I'm proud of that too, whatever anyone else says about it.

        The response is every bit as Orwellian as the attitude that provoked it.  If someone thinks there's something untoward about being a liberal, treat them like they're crazy and incoherent, not like you're some freakish outcast who has to gently introduce yourself to them and prove your worth.  This is the proper conversation:

        A: How do you feel on the subject of grinding up poor children for use as pet food?
        B: (chuckling).  Good one.
        A: ...
        B: What, you were serious?
        A: Yes, of course.
        B: How do I feel about...grinding up poor children...for pet food?  (laughs out loud).  Are you high on something?
        A: So are you saying you're against it?
        B: Am I saying I'm...what, are you FOR it???
        A: Well, let's just...
        B: No, wait a second.  You're saying you're in FAVOR of grinding up children for dog food, you sick fuck?

        Do you see the difference between the two versions of this conversation?  A liberal is a liberal in the same way that someone who doesn't try to run over puppies, poison Halloween candy, or molest farm animals is being a liberal by virtue of their adhering to decency--it's to be assumed.  Anyone who would assume that you're not a liberal is insulting you--they're calling you a puppy-murdering, candy-poisoning, animal-molester.  Respond accordingly.

        Humanity is a story that will never end. There Is a Way.

        by Troubadour on Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 10:51:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I never thought bout this (0+ / 0-)

          quite the way you've explained it. I understood about leading/no win questions, but not how the answers reflect. Thanks.

          The hippies had it right all along...it's about time the media, the politicians, the culture as a whole sent out a big, wet, hemp-covered apology.MMorford

          by RiaD on Thu Sep 06, 2007 at 05:17:20 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  was not trying to be defensive but... (0+ / 0-)

      I think more people need to stand up and say "I am Liberal."  The word has been dragged through the mud by conservatives and I think it needs to be reclaimed.  When Hillary Clinton, the front runner for the Democratic nomination, shys away from calling herself liberal when asked, I think thats a problem.  I think more people need to know what being a liberal really means and that may require telling our own stories.

  •  JR, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joannegmurphy, Simplify, RiaD, xysea

    Superb first diary. That first leap into the Kos water can be treacherous, but you brought some well-presented points to the discussion.

    I never would have dreamed I'd need WIC (Women, Infants, & Children food supplement program) to help nourish my daughter, but that's how it shook out. Every trip to the grocery store was embarrassing because I grew up with the silly notion that if I came out in the top 10% of my class, contributed to the community, was a good citizen, worked hard, all that stuff, I'd be just fine.

    Ha.

    The flip side of that was I learned to make baby food from scratch, without additives (and without such high costs) using fresh vegetables, a blender and some ice trays.

    Glad you made it through circumstances that would have destroyed optimism and determination in too many others. Godspeed.

  •  Good Work (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joannegmurphy, Simplify, RiaD, xysea

    I just wanted to compliment you on your obvious hard work to get this far. It shows a lot of commitment that probably would have worked for you in any system.

    It's always rewarding to see people talking positively about being liberal. We need to redeem this term from the conservatives, and standing up to be counted is a great service.

  •  Good diary n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiaD

    Breadth of view is one of the essentials of our profession. The interplay of ideas and the oblique uses of knowledge are often of extraordinary interest. S.H.

    by Carnacki on Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 10:38:44 PM PDT

  •  Sorry to be late (0+ / 0-)

    I applaud your first effort here!

    Our family has gone through hard times too. We used food stamps and government loans when my husband was working his way through college to get his teaching degree. Later, when I finished my degree, it was with the help of government grants and loans.

    Once we were going to apply for Welfare, but instead I took a night job. My husband would watch the kids at night while I worked, and I'd watch the kids during the day while he searched for a job.

    Now we don't need government assistance, but we wouldn't have made it without help during the hard times.

    "Blessed are the Peacemakers" - Jesus

    by SisTwo on Thu Sep 06, 2007 at 06:15:00 AM PDT

  •  Well done! Got here too late to recommend (0+ / 0-)

    So I am doing it here.

    -6.75,-6.67
    Karl Rove, Republican Agnostic

    by splashy on Thu Sep 06, 2007 at 01:23:44 PM PDT

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