Poverty in America. It’s bigger than you realize.

Yesterday, I was reading an article in the Huffington Post on extreme poverty in the US.

The statistics are staggering.

Last fall, the Census Bureau revealed a troubling statistic: A full 6.7 percent of Americans, or roughly 20.5 million people, were earning less than half the official poverty rate — a category generally known as “extreme poverty.” For a family of four, including two dependent children, that would amount to an annual income of about $11,000 or less.

Nearly half of all Americans who are considered poor at all fall into this category.

20.5 (TWENTY. POINT FIVE. MILLION.)

That is mind-boggling to me.

I’m not going to go over the entire article; you can read it, and I hope you will.

But the article brought several things to an overflowing boiling point in my mind. Things that I’ve had swirling around in my head and have tried to capture and put to words over the last several months. Yet I’ve continually felt both incapable and inadequate of attempting.

I still feel both incapable and inadequate of attempting, but I’ve come to realize that that is part of the problem.

Why bother?
My voice won’t matter.
How can one person make a difference.
I don’t know enough to back up my thoughts in a heated discussion.

And that attitude does nothing to offset the alternative drumbeat of those screaming for the poor to “just stay in school” and “get a job”.

I’ve been poor. As a college-educated adult, with children.

But I’ve never gone hungry for days.

Millions of children and adults do daily.

When you are hungry, not much else matters.

One of my student teaching practicums in college was at a school that butted up to a trailer park in rural WV.

I came in doe-eyed, with big ideas of what I wanted to teach the children and what I wanted them to learn.

One day, early on, as I was sharing my ideas and lesson plans with the classroom teacher, she looked me straight in the eye and said: “You have a lot of great lessons there. But you need to know this: these kids don’t care one bit about the environment or recycling.

They are worried their mama won’t be home when they get out of school. That dad’s kicked her out. Or whether they’ll have any more food in their stomachs between now and tomorrow.”

Stunned, I gathered my emotions and resolved to rethink my plans.

Fast foward 18 years, 4 kids, and a million life experiences later.

I get what that teacher told me. I’ve lived some of it.

I hear her words ringing in my mind.

Yet those children are still forgotten and overlooked.

They are in your child’s class.
You sit next to them at traffic lights.
Their mother’s wait on you at the grocery store.

They are in a cycle they can’t easily escape. Yet we sit on the sidelines judging and condemning them as lazy, ignorant or less-than.

That does nothing.

In fact, it’s that very attitude that has made me, a once upon a time, (very) conservative Christian, reconsider so much of what I think in terms of policies and politics, moving me further and further away from the “here’s a $50 bill” party I’ve long belonged.

It no longer seems adequate or appropriate to look away and wait for others to take care of it, while chipping away at their help and assistance.

I’m looking to be part of the solution. To show love to someone who desperately needs it.

20.5 million people in America are waiting for that.

And the change starts with me.

“He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker” (Proverbs 17:5)

New on LTLF

20110519-063749.jpg

Today we celebrated our first year of being a family. (If you are new here, I know that sounds weird, but just trust me…)

You can read more about it over on Living The Life Fantastic.

Pray for Alabama

I was born in Alabama, and although I didn’t grown up here, I spent every Christmas and summer in Decatur and Florence with family. It’s a place I’ve always been connected to and have always felt a connection with.

When Mamaw passed away in December 2009, I was saddened to realize that I would no longer have a reason to be in Alabama. I didn’t know at the time that I’d be living there within 5 months. As I like to say, I’ve made it full circle. Not only am I back where I started, but I’ve made friends and once again, have family here.

It’s home.

And so, that is why yesterday, April 27th was a day that left me exhausted and heart-broken.

We knew it was coming and we knew it was going to be bad. Even before Wednesday, forecasters were speculating that it could be “historic” or “epic”, but there was no doubt it would be damaging.

It was such an odd day. Randy was out of town on business, and so I had several backup alarms set for getting the kids ready for school. Instead, I woke up to sirens and within minutes, I heard that initial crash of thunder – that moment that I visualize the warm and cold air finally collide. There was no rain or wind at that point.

Within minutes of that collision, the initial storm hit with rain and strong winds. I watched as my Twitter stream filled with reports of power outages and down trees and damage.

Schools were closed due to fallen trees and widespread power outages. Only 20 out of 55 schools in our system had power.

The rest of the afternoon was amazingly nice. Sunny and windy. But it was coming:

(screenshot of @Spann warning of the tornado on the ground headed toward Tuscaloosa)

Watching it, I felt helpless. I felt awe at the force of nature. I wanted to cry. Cullman had already been beaten up severely, as had many other towns and areas across the state. Seeing this, and knowing what it was doing to the city below it, shook me to my core.

(screenshot of the tornado passing thru Tuscaloosa)

We got into our safe spot as it headed towards Birmingham. Reports were that it could tag the airport, which is about 10 minutes from our home.

(watching the tornado on the ipad from our safe spot)

As it was bearing towards us, news of the destruction in Tuscaloosa and beyond was pouring in.

In the end, we were untouched, physically. But emotionally, we are hurting for so many. It’s almost unbearable to think about what others woke up to this morning. To imagine what they are facing and coping with. The losses that they have been blown. So much loss of life. The starting over.

(screen captures of Cullman destruction)

I’m fighting with that all-too-common survivors guilt. Vacillating between elation of being ok and anger that others can think about anything else. Worried that the hurts will be forgotten. Like any tragedy, we rally around it and all want to reach out. But within hours, we change the channel and speculate about what the Queen-To-Be will be wearing tomorrow.

(tornado debris: a divorce decree from Tuscaloosa County, nearly 80 miles away from us)

And yet, I’m thankful that so many can do that. That they are ok and momentarily carefree. I think we’d all lose our minds if we couldn’t relax our brains from the images.

But let’s not forget Alabama yet. It needs help. It needs prayer.

It’s going to be a long journey back for too many. They shouldn’t have to do it alone.

Governor Bentley pushed back against questions from reporters on Thursday about whether Alabama residents had failed to heed tornado warnings, thus pushing up the casualty toll. “We were very prepared … but it was just the force of the storms,” Bentley said. “When a [large tornado] hits a largely populated area like Tuscaloosa, you cannot move thousands of people in five minutes. When an F4 or F5 tornado hits, there’s not much you can do to change the outcome of that.”  – Christian Science Monitor (emphasis mine)

Additional Links:

137 Tornadoes Reported in the Deep South on Wednesday *(AL.com)
Alabama Tornadoes: How You Can Help Victims of the April 27, 2011 Deadly Storms (AL.com)
‘We’re Alive’: Survivors Recount Deadly Tornadoes (MSNBC)
April 27, 2011 Alabama Tornado Photo Stream (from ABC 33/40)
Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes (Facebook page set up to help people recover debris found in others yards)
Pray for the Tornado Victims of April 27, 2011 (Facebook page filled with thoughts and resources for helping)
Tornado Season Reaches Peak in “Dixie Alley” (Washington Post)

Videos:

http://youtu.be/kxWRS-aFBW8
http://youtu.be/5ohIVzIZLuQ
http://youtu.be/J9Oszy_dGJY*
Storm Aftermath Video Shows Nothing Left (CNN)

*Updated: links no longer available/online

How To Stream Pandora to Your Apple TV

When Randy and I met, we created a Pandora station*. It’s an interesting blend of my Eurotrash and his AltMetal (with the occasional soundtrack thrown in, thanks to the fact that I like Danny Elfman’s first solo album). We are a big music family; there is almost always something playing or a dance party taking place.

In the past we’ve streamed it through our stereo, but since we got the Apple TV, we’ve been trying to figure out how to stream it via that, so that we don’t have the extra cords.

I googled it, and there are several complicated sounding ways to do it that included purchasing some other piece of software or box, but I knew there had to be an easier way (and if there wasn’t, there should be).

This past Saturday, I went onto Pandora via my iPhone and noticed this:

That little rectangle in the corner is what appears anytime I can choose which speakers I want to use: iPhone or Apple TV.

My pulse quickened (not kidding!!) as I clicked and it VOILA!!!

This appeared:

I clicked Apple TV and it immediately started playing the song through our tv.

So simple, yet I have yet to see this written about anywhere else.

CAVEAT: The only way this works is if you have the Pandora app on your phone and your Apple TV must be set up on your home WI-FI network.

*Be sure to check out the name of the account. There is a funny/sweet story behind it, waiting to be blogged about…
Also – our dual station is the “Archer” station. The rest are mine – Randy will never claim them ;)

Let the Internet Help Make Your Thanksgiving Dinner

Ok – so the internet won’t bake your pumpkin pie or fix your over-dry turkey, but there are plenty of resources out there that can help you do it yourself and make it through the day without downing the entire bottle of rum you purchased for your dessert cake.

Some of my favorites are:

Smithfield


This site has lots of recipes, including several by Paula Deen. Most are twists on old classics. Be sure to also check out the articles – many are non-food related.

What’s Cooking America


Don’t judge this site by it’s ‘cover’ – it’s not the prettiest site, but it has a lot of really useful information. Answers some of the most common questions: How to roast a turkey, but also how to smoke and BBQ/grill a turkey and defines Turkey Terminology. Looking for variations on common T’day dishes? They’ve got ‘em.

BusyCook.About.com


The very first page has links for Stuffing 101Turkey 101Gravy 101Rolls 101 etc. If that isn’t enough information for you, check out this page for articles on The Top 10 Thanksgiving Problems – Solved! (including what to do about dry turkey!!!) and the always useful list of Holiday Helplines.

Reynolds


I love that their products help make clean-up easier. You’ll find lots of tips on their site including ways to avoid over-browning, cooking with limited oven space and how to cook two turkeys at once.

Ocean Spray


I think this may be my favorite site of all, for Thanksgiving usefulness. I can’t even begin to list all of the information this site has packed into it. Some of the highlights: help for the Top Thanksgiving Terrors, a holiday planning book you can prepare and print out (based on the recipes you want to prepare), crafts (using cranberries, of course), and family fun (including a kids table menu).

Remember: many companies are on Twitter as well, and most will be available on Thanksgiving to help with any cooking issues that arise.
Some  companies on Twitter
Butterball
Kraft Foods
Land o Lakes
Ocean Spray

What resources will you be using this Thanksgiving? Share them with us: