Friday, September 20, 2013

An Angry Letter about Food Stamps

Dear House Republicans,

I am writing this letter to let you know that I am unhappy with you. We both know this a normal thing, I generally disagree with a lot of things you do, but this time you have gone too far. Your recent decision to cut $40 billion from the food stamp budget shows just how ignorant you are about the needs of anyone who is not in the upper middle class.

When I was growing up my mother would not have been able to afford any food at all if we had not had food stamps. She didn't have a job, and no, she wasn't interested in finding one (a decision which I don't agree with, trust me). The only way she could afford food was to use food stamps. Without food stamps me and my three brothers would have starved, which honestly, since we already got such little money we almost nearly did, wouldn't have taken much. I know from experience how invaluable resources like food stamps are to people who don't have any money to buy food with.

And what irritates me the most is imagining the 16 million children who live in households that are below the poverty line that are going to go hungry if the Senate passes this bill. How are we, the supposed richest nation able to justify allowing that? Furthermore, 210,000 students will lose free lunch, which parents who can't afford school lunch rely on to make sure their students can get three meals a day. For me, lunch was the only guaranteed meal for many years.

And why is this cut happening? "Too many people are abusing the system" says House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. But why not push for a reform? Why not work to create a system that can't be abused versus taking away an invaluable system altogether? And then they rush in and cry "it's the hard working middle class that has to pay for your abuse!" but here's the thing. 2.1 MILLION people, a number which consists mainly of low income seniors will end up not being able to buy food. Seniors who probably contributed to the working class for most of their lives.

And furthermore, cutting money from SNAP (food stamps) doesn't even make freaking sense because the program basically pays for itself, jerk faces. The Center on Budget Priorities has been quoted as saying "Economists consider SNAP one of the most effective forms of economic a weak economy every dollar increase in SNAP benefits generates about $1.70 economic activity." AND!!! Get this. Only 1 out of every 100 dollars is actually trafficked (abused) so the argument that the program needs cuts because of abuse is a giant lie.

House Republicans, why you gotta play a low class like that? And the fact that you think that everyone on food stamps is sitting on their couches expecting a middle class citizen to fund their food expenses is complete crap, considering for every three unemployed adults there is one job opening. Want to help out the economy? Work on creating more jobs, not punishing those who can't find one.

If you don't want SNAP around anymore, why not raise minimum wage? Oh wait. You had the chance to do that back in March, but unanimously voted it down, even suggesting the idea of eliminating minimum wage altogether! This is what happens when there is such a large disconnect in socio-economic classes between the people and those who are chosen to represent them. House Republicans, you need to learn what it is like to live in a low class neighborhood from paycheck to paycheck PRAYING you can afford more than a package of top ramen after bills are paid.

Here's some other facts: The new bill would limit the amount of time one could receive food stamps to three months. So good luck, you can work a minimum wage job for three months and feed your family but then you have to miraculously become qualified enough to work a better job. And again, this bill will hurt children, more than anyone.

Yes our economy is unstable. Yes, we have budget problems, but my 11 year old sister, my 9 year old brother, my 7 year old self, we didn't cause those problems and we don't deserve to be punished for them. And when children are not getting proper nutrition, they aren't able to grow mentally or physically like they should. If the bill is passed, the four million kept above the poverty line because of assistance from food stamps, and the millions kept from falling deeper into poverty would be screwed.

Here's the thing, I don't know how to fix our economy, and I don't know how to balance things out so that we don't have to punish CHILDREN for our country's budget problems. But what I do know is that starving the roughly 14 million people that would be cut from food stamps in order to provide a solution is wrong. And you should all be ashamed of yourselves for even thinking that this would be okay.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

To My Little Sister

Shan -

I know this world is a big scary place and as you get older, it will get bigger, and scarier. I'm not joking. You think Tacoma to Omak is a long drive? Try getting to Michigan. And while the world keeps on growing, and bad things keep on happening, you shouldn't worry about it, because you can't control that. What you can control is your life. And while I may only be 20, and have yet to experience much of life outside of Washington, there are some things that I want you to know and and always remember.

First - you are not a puppet for someone else to control. You are a little girl with a lot of sass and spirit and I hope that stays with you as you get older. You do not have to let anyone control you because you're afraid they won't love you if you don't listen. The people who really love you are the ones who let you do and be whatever you want.

And don't be afraid to be yourself. Because you are wonderful. There is no one like you on this entire planet and that is great! You don't have to be afraid that you won't make friends because you're in the fifth grade and still play with La La Loopsy dolls, or that no one will like you if wear a Monster High dress. The right friends are the ones who don't care whether or not you play with dolls and wear dresses with Monster High on them. The right friends will think that you're cool because you're not afraid to be yourself. And I know that it is going to be hard to remember sometimes, but take it from the girl who held her grandma's hand at the grocery store until she was 14, being different is not bad. It is what makes us who we are. Different is what makes this world beautiful, because a world full of the same kind of person would be crazy boring.

Second - Learn this phrase and repeat it often: "he's just a boy". Because chances are you're going to like a boy, and he is going to not like you back. And that is going to happen, a lot. Especially when you reach middle school. But you just have to move on. Because no matter what you think, you can live without him. And no matter what he says, he probably doesn't love you anyways. Changing your opinion of yourself and changing the way you act, look, or do things because it'll make some silly kid like you more is just dumb. Because if you have to change to be with someone, then you shouldn't be with them. Why date a person who doesn't even like you for who you really are?

And there is one thing you are not, and that is arm candy. You are gorgeous, and I am sorry for what you're father is going to have to deal with later in life when you get into high school and boys come around asking you on dates. But don't you ever let them treat you like you are just an object. You are not an object, you are the girl who makes coffee and oatmeal for herself in the morning before school and eats while watching the news with Grandma Wanda. You are the girl who wants to be a rock star, a model, a doctor, a photographer. You are a girl who is never afraid to say what she thinks, and who loves without reservation. You are one of the biggest hearted people I know, and you are only 11. Do not let anyone treat you like less than what you are. You are a princess, and you deserve a man who treats you like one. You deserve to be poetry to a man, not a slogan, and even though someday you're going to turn 20 and you're going to look around and see how all your friends are getting married, don't settle so you can catch up to them. Never, ever, ever settle. Reach for the stars, find someone who completes you and makes you feel happier than you have ever been. Find someone who loves you with all of their heart, and doesn't make you feel like you "owe" them for anything. And more than that, find someone who allows you to love yourself as well.

Third - Never back down from what you believe. I know this coming from me and I believe a whole lot of things and will fight to the death for them. But sometimes, that is what you have to do. And I never want you to be afraid to take a stand for what is right. But be careful that you don't become so ignorant or blinded to the other side that you forget that people have differences of opinions, and they are not bad to think differently. Remember that without the people who say you're on the wrong side, you would have nothing to stand up for. So even if you're just taking a stand against single ply toilet paper in public restrooms, don't dehumanize the people who disagree with you.

And when speaking, remember that words can hurt. Never set out to exact revenge with your words, because they can do a damage that may never be undone. Sticks and stones may break bones, but words cause emotional trauma that can last forever, and that's just the truth. Never make fun of someone because of the way they look or what they come from. It's not fair. A person's appearance and point of origin is not an accurate indicator of their character. To find out who a person REALLY is, become their friend. Never judge without knowing, and never speak before thinking about what you're going to say.

Fourth - And this part is for when you're way, way older, saying no to sex is okay, even if you have already said yes. Even if you are saying no to someone you have said yes to in the past. You are allowed to decide when and what you do with your sex life and if someone ever pressures you, you are allowed to stop talking to them altogether. You never owe anyone sex ever no matter what they say, especially if it is someone who deems themselves as having been friendzoned by you. Sex is serious and should be something that you do with someone who cares about you. Not someone who is looking for an easy lay.

Fifth - there is more than one route to your destination. If you make a plan for your life, naturally you're going to want to take the easy way. But life isn't going to let you do that. And when the original route to reaching your goal doesn't work, remember that that as long as you keep on trying, you'll get there someday. And yeah, the road less traveled may be filled with weeds and thorns waiting to trip you up, but there is a reason it is still a road.

Sixth - Admit you're wrong. Do it quick, and do it often. I pretend to know a lot, but sometimes I say something and it is just way off base. And in that event, I have to admit that I was wrong. And it sucks. I mean, really. But you know what? People respect me for having the ability to know that I was wrong, and to apologize for my mistakes. Being wrong doesn't make you stupid, or less of a person, it humanizes you. Being wrong lets people know you are not perfect, and apologizing for your mistakes in life allows people to recognize that you don't think you're better than them.

And last but not least, never forget where you come from. Never forget that you have a father who fought with everything he had to be able to take care of you, grandparents on both sides that will never stop loving you or caring for you, a brother and a sister who smile down on you from heaven, and me and Wanda, who are blessed to have you in our lives. Never forget your family. Family is forever, and when you mess up or need help getting back up after you're knocked down, or when you feel like everyone else has walked out on you, remember that we are here, and we are ready to do whatever it takes to get you on your feet again, because we love you.

The world is your oyster, baby cakes.

Love,  "Sissy".

Sunday, September 8, 2013

FYI (If you're Mrs. Hall)

Dear Mrs. Hall,

I have a few things to say to you in reply to your extremely self-righteous and offensive post from a few days ago. First I would like to start off with a loud, resounding, HOW DARE YOU?

How dare you try to make me and other girls feel shameful about the level of comfort we have with our bodies? Is it really a bad thing to feel comfortable enough in my own skin to post a picture of myself online? And who cares if you can see my nipples through my shirt? Maybe its cold in my room? If your boys don't know that girls have nipples then there is a lot more to worry about than my nipples being visible through my pajama top. Like, oh...biology. And why are you enforcing the already negative stigma that surrounds females and their bodies? I mean, Mrs. Hall, if I assume correctly because you go by "Mrs." and not "Mr." you too, are a female. And I'm sure that you dislike being told what to cover up as much as I do. And also, do you not watch any television shows from the 90's in your house, because there be nipples everywhere in those.

Is it not okay for me to post a selfie before bed? And why am I supposed to hold myself to YOUR standards of propriety when I was raised by completely different people and have completely different morals than you? And also, how is it fair that you assume just because a girl likes to pose with an arched back in her photos she's not a woman of character? I can guarantee that there are some photos of you doing something mildly seductive that were taken in your teenage years, Mrs. Hall, because everyone goes through that phase.

I agree with you on the fact that it is never okay to view someone only as a sexual object, because people are people who deserve care and respect, even if/when they post things like (your definition of) sexy pout selfies online. However, it is not within my power to control how your sons view me. I could be wearing a parka and snow pants with everything but my eyes covered and someone, somewhere would still find me sexually attractive. is it my responsibility to make sure your sons are having honourable thoughts about me? It isn't. At all. It is my job to make sure that I am portraying the me to the world that I want to be known as. If I want to be the girl who makes the cute little pout in her pictures, I will. I get to choose what sexual encounters I do or don't have, I portray myself sexually to the world, and whether or not the world hears about my sexual exploits. Not you, Mrs. Hall. My sexuality, my online presence, and my life is in my control. Not your self-righteous, slut shaming, hands.

And what is all this bullcrap about us being the reason men have such a hard time keeping their thoughts pure? I mean seriously? Did you really say that? Did you really try to make that point? That is the same mentality that brought rape culture into the world. "Well, because he is a boy and can only think with his genitalia, it must be the girls fault for the wildly inappropriate thoughts he has about her, because one time five years ago he saw her nipples through her shirt in a picture on Facebook and now all he sees her as is a sexual object. That's why he raped her". That type of thinking is why women are afraid to seek justice after they are raped, because men and women like you tell them that they, the victim, are somehow to blame because of what they are wearing. As if my basketball shorts and tank top are inviting men to rape me. As if I'm causing men to have impure thoughts and making their lives "an uphill battle to remain pure" because I want to wear a skirt occasionally.

And also - looking at someone's facebook as a family is freaking creepy. Yes, Jimmy, you can have a facebook but every time you check it we're all going to sit around the table and look at all the posts with you, so we can block any girl who isn't up to our standards. We don't want any ratchet whores on your profile, if you're associated with them we might not be viewed as Christian enough for me to write my post about skanky teenagers.

Also, Mrs. Hall, you directed your letter towards teenage girls. These girls are just now learning to express themselves through make-up, hair, internet, and they are fighting a daily battle to become who they want to be, and then you come along and tear them down because some girl's nipples were showing in her picture and instead of being gracious and loving (like a Christian is supposed to) you block her. And then you tell her it's not too late for you to forgive her from you throne made up of crushed egos and self-righteousness as long as she deletes any inappropriate links she may have shared as well as the offending selfies.

Who is this girls parent, Mrs. Hall? Not you. Let her parents worry about her. Let her parents express concern, privately, for whatever girl you are addressing in your post. You do not need to go onto a blog (on the internet) and shame her in front of your peers. Do you feel better after you do that? After you humiliate the girls your sons know do you feel a little bit of a high? Is it lonely at the top of your perfect little tower? And if you think the girl posting the selfie is loving and also smart, you should look for those things in her photos. And I like how you said "we think you are usually smart" like once a girl posts a photo you deem "too sexy" for your teenage boys' eyes she loses on IQ point.

You seem like a wonderful mother who only wants the best for her boys, but we, the targets of your letter, know or are finding out who we are and what is best for us. Let us do that on our own without all of your negativity.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013


              It has been two days since I found out. And in those two days I have learned a lot, cried a lot, and slept. A lot. I have felt heartbreak I don't think I have ever felt and never want to feel again. I have broken down over literal spilled milk, missing socks, and bad puns. I have felt a connection with a group of people I hardly know because we feel the same pain, and I have been angry. Very, very angry. I have written in my journal multiple times a day. The first day I asked God, "how DARE you take away someone who had so much left to live? How DARE you take away someone who I wasn't ready to say goodbye to? How could you let someone come into my life and make me feel so happy and be the sister I wanted and the friend I needed and then just take them away? How DARE you?" I've gone through the it should have been me's and the breakdowns in the shower and every time I see someone mention her on facebook or I read about it on a news website or I hear someone talking about her it all begins again. Because I am not ready to let go of Carissa. No one is. She was a bright light in our lives. She was headstrong, argumentative, and sometimes downright annoying but that girl knew how to put a smile on your face, and exactly what to say to make anyone feel better. She had this beautiful smile. She hated her smile, but it was gorgeous. She had dreams. She had plans for the future. She was full of life, and love, and she was such a wonderful human being. And that is how I'll always remember her.
      And that is one of the things that is helping me through all this. Is that I have all these wonderful memories with Carissa. Like, the first night we met. Adam introduced me to her. She came over and we just - started talking. We walked up to Motel Nicholas where she used to live with her mother, and made smoothies, then we went back down to my house and just sat in my room doing random stuff and playing games on her little pink laptop. Carissa loved that little pink laptop. It hardly worked and always had some virus or another but it was her baby. At the end of the night, which was about two or three in the morning she looked up at me and said "dude, you're awesome" and we were friends after that. And we continued to hang out, going running, which was actually us walking very slowly from her house to mine and talking about cute boys, going to the spot and watching the sun rise and set, driving to Spokane and going shopping, doing cheer together, playing wii together, and so much more, for five years. And sure, we fought. Over some pretty stupid stuff, too. But we were always friends at the end of it. And one day Carissa declared us sisters. And I never even tried to think of anything different to define our relationship because it was true. I loved her like a sister and I would have done anything for her.
Mariah T. And Stefanie Z-M got these tattoos. 
        I have been racking my brains trying to think of some way to pay tribute to my sister. And I can't think of  anything. Nothing will ever be as great as the memories I have with her. And I know that all she would ever care about is that I get up off the ground and stop crying. Because when she used to see me cry, she would get this super worried expression on her face. I didn't cry, I was supposed to dry her tears. She hated to see me cry because then it meant that something was very, very wrong. And I feel like she is up in Heaven giving me that same worried expression and tapping me on the shoulder with her manicured nails saying "it's all right, Lex". She was so easy to talk to about everything that was going on. We could go back and forth for hours, just talking about all our troubles in life and never ever feel bored. We could even sit in silence and it was still the best time, because we were just comfortable around each other. Carissa was the girl you weren't afraid to cry in front of or talk to because she probably would tell you something equally as bad or cry with you. She gave amazing hugs.
     Carissa was loved by almost everyone she came in contact with. And the ones that she loved hardest and the most are feeling the loss down to their very soul. I know because I'm one of them. I am just a girl who lost her friend. I cannot imagine what it is like to be Rebecca, or Adam, parents who have not lost one child, but two, or Shandara, who has lost both of her older siblings now, or any of the other members of Carissa's family. But just now that I am hurting for all of you as well. I am sorry that this had to happen to Carissa, I am sorry she was taken away from her family. I am so very sorry that such a beautiful being was taken from this Earth. 

Rest in Peace, Carissa. We all miss you. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Without You

Carissa Lynn Amundson is my sister. And today I found out that she is dead. I refuse to talk about her as if just because she's no longer with me my connection to her is broken, because that's not true. Carissa will always be my sister. She will always be my best friend, and no matter what she will always be in my heart.

You don't just go through things with someone and then stop saying they're your sister or best friend because they leave. You just have to learn that some people can't be with you all the time, you know?

I have so many great memories with Carissa. She was my friend since the day we met. Within hours of meeting, we had our first sleepover and our first summer as friends was nothing short of magical. We spent most of our nights playing fugitive, or out at "the spot" watching the sunset and waking up when it rose. We screamed the lyrics to Cashinova's Spaceship in the car on the way to cheer practice and made up goofy dances while walking around town. The first time I took an overnight trip without my grandmother, it was Carissa. We went school shopping.

Carissa used to make fun of me because I was so smart. She called me a "certified nerd" but was the first one to stick up for me when people insulted my intelligence. We ran in different circles, but that didn't mean we stopped talking. She spent a lot of time at my house, she lived there for a long time, in fact. She always made me feel better when I was down, and I tried to do the same for her.

And she always called me on my birthday. Always.

Carissa came into my life and became my sister. She left this huge imprint on my heart.

I remember when her brother died and the way that she cried. It was the most heart breaking thing I have ever heard or seen. I didn't know how she felt until this morning when I got the call. But this time, I feel that I have no one to cling to.

When you go through as much as Carissa and I did together with someone and then they die, it is like losing a piece of your soul. I feel like my heart has a giant hole in it and I don't know how to fix that. I can only hope that this pain will get better with time.

I hope you can hear me, I remember it clearly
The day you slipped away
Was the day I found it wouldn't be the same.