But for the grace of God go I…

I went to Kroger tonight.  My night-based contract job had ended, giving me a weekday evening free for the first time in nearly three months.  Thankfully, I had a daytime contract position scheduled to start next week.  I say thankfully because I am a single mom with $150,000 in student loans who lives paycheck to paycheck.  In short, I am like millions of Americans today.

With a cart of fresh fruits and vegetables, I headed for the front of the store by way of the clearance aisle, which I still check on my way out.

I immediately saw a woman that I recognized.  She had on worn but clean clothes: jeans with a plain long-sleeved t-shirt under a nondescript blue zipper hoodie.  She didn’t notice me because she was digging into the back of a segmented section filled with a hodgepodge of loose, small non-food items.  From personal experience, I know that it’s important to take your time in those sections because you never know what you will find under all the items you don’t want to buy.

I glanced at her cart and saw a large package of pork chops with today’s expiration date and a dozen day-old round rolls, both items marked down for quick sale.  I knew that there was nothing extra in her cart because she probably did not have any money for anything extra.  There was a clean Spartan-ness about her cart and her appearance that I recognized.  I’m sure you could say I am making assumptions, and yes, I am, but something in my very bones told me I knew her.  I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s a feeling of like recognizing like.

You see, I knew her because I have been her.

I quickly moved past her and turned the corner where I stopped and stood still, waves of emotions washing over me.  I so badly wanted to offer to buy her items but knew that such an offer could be offensive or embarrassing (or both).  I remember when a Target employee offered to buy some school clothes I couldn’t purchase because my debit card was declined.  I was touched by that woman’s offer, but I rushed out of the store with my sons because I was so embarrassed.   I also remember feeling immensely grateful that my sons (6 and 9) were too distracted with each other to pay attention to our adult conversation at the register.

So although I was able to resist the urge to go back to this woman, I was unable to stop the memories of my life when I was her.

Six years ago, after my divorce, I had to apply for food stamps after seven months of not being able to find a job.  Despite my law degree, I could not find work.  There was too much of a gap on my resume (I had taken seven years off for a marriage that ended when my ex-husband left me for his mistress) and my law license was not active.

Desperate to work, I had applied for jobs at Walmart and a gas station.  Neither potential employer could give me a set schedule because it was against company policy.  I was told that all new hires had to be available for all shifts and all hours.  I could not accept those positions because I did not have any family or friends who could watch my young sons during the evenings and weekends and minimum wage would not cover the cost of childcare for the two after school hours.

I remember when I enrolled my sons at the local elementary school and was required to bring a utility bill to prove residency.  At this time, I was alternating the bills I paid; e.g., if I paid the internet bill, I had to skip the electric bill and vice versa.  I had no cable and water was included in the apartment’s rent.  The internet service was not considered a “utility” bill, so I had to bring the electric bill.  I will never forget the feeling of shame when I gave the office lady my electric bill, which happened to also be a red shut off notice for non-payment.  She was very kind, but I was mortified nonetheless.

I remember when the elementary school had a food drive and my sons pillaged the cupboards.  I could not tell them that we needed the canned peas and tuna, so I let them take those items to school even though I later had to count out coins to repurchase them because I didn’t have cash or credit to use.

I remember crying in the car because I did not have ten dollars to purchase medicine for my son and my ex-husband berating me, telling me I was lazy and just needed to find a job already, before transferring ten dollars (and nothing more) to my account.

Then I look up and see this plush green triceratops (pictured above) looking back at me.  My oldest son loved dinosaurs and would have loved this stuffed dinosaur when I was too broke to purchase something like that for him.  The dinosaur was $14.99.  I put the dinosaur in my cart because I am going to keep it until it is time to give to a toy drive, when I am hoping a child like my son will get it.

I checked out of Kroger and fought back the tears in the parking lot—tears I can’t hold back as I type this now.  Our country has elected Trump and put Republicans in both houses of Congress.  These are not people who want to preserve the safety net for women and children; instead, they want to dispose of it.  After all, feminism destroyed marriages and families.  Laziness keeps people from earning a living wage.  Hardship is really self-imposed.  Head of household?  Who needs that as a tax bracket?  (Besides single parents with children.)

But I digress…

It’s crazy because even though I recognize that I still lack financial security, I realize that I am miles ahead of where I was then and I am so incredibly grateful for that.    And if I have enough money to buy fresh grapes and mixed baby greens, I have enough money to buy this dinosaur.

I share this with you tonight for two reasons.  First, to urge you to not make assumptions about people who need assistance.  And second, to urge you to consider, when shopping, to buy something for someone in need.

But for the grace of God go I.

But for the grace of God go any of us.

My Pre-Election Thoughts About Hillary Clinton

This was shared on Medium…

“I was more than a little aggravated in 2008 when Hillary Clinton was “encouraged” to step aside for Barack Obama to accept the Democratic nomination for president. Not because I disliked Obama, but because I was so tired of women having to take a backseat to men. I also worried that Hillary’s chances for success would be diminished after 8 years. I’m thrilled to see how wrong I was.

I admire Hillary Clinton tremendously. Hillary Clinton has exhibited an unparalleled level of intellectual, political and emotional stamina. She has been attacked and vilified for 20 plus years, and yet she keeps marching forward. She is indomitable and in that, she is inspiring.

I am deeply offended when my support for Hillary is dismissed or diminished as being based primarily or solely on her gender when it is actually based on so much more. My support is based on Hillary’s spirit and strength, her policies and passion, her intellect and confidence.

Hillary is endlessly attacked and then deeply mistrusted for prevailing in the face of those attacks. Hillary is demonized and marginalized because she is an apologetically ambitious and interminably tough.

Hillary is attacked and mistrusted in ways that I have personally experienced from both genders in my own life and in the lives of other women I know. And although her detractors’ dislike of her strength can be based on her gender, my admiration of her strength cannot.

But I do not support Hillary Clinton because she is a female presidential candidate. I support Hillary because she is a talented, intelligent, articulate, and competent presidential candidate.

I see in Hillary the resilience that keeps women alive around the world. In fact, I believe Hillary is offensive and threatening because she is the display and embodiment of the strength that quietly resides in every woman.

Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is evidence of the intelligence and independence that many fear exists in the women around them. Hillary exhibits on a public stage the same sheer will that enables women every day to survive sexual assault, sexual harassment, sex-based discrimination, domestic violence, social trivialization and professional marginalization. The facts may vary, but in many ways, the story is the same.

Hillary remains standing despite attacks on her character, her gender, her appearance, her motives, and her marriage. Hillary remains steady despite the attacks on her performance not only as a politician, but as a wife and mother as well.

Although my background and life path differs from Hillary Clinton’s, I nonetheless identify with her when she is assailed by people who want her to suffer and be shamed for having the audacity to not only survive, but to fight for that survival.

Hillary Clinton is not perfect, but neither is anyone else.

Hillary is flawed but Hillary is a fighter. The fighter in me recognizes and respects the fighter in her. And make no mistake, the first female president of our country will have to be a fighter.

I want Hillary Clinton to be President because she is pragmatic, experienced and indefatigable. I want my sons to see Hillary Clinton as an example of what women can accomplish but I am simultaneously saddened because my sons will also be witness to the persistent, pervasive misogyny that still permeates our society and its institutions.

I realize that Hillary’s election is just the beginning and not the end. But we’ve been waiting a long time for this time to begin. I’m ready and as painful as it might be, I think America is ready too.”

How wrong I was (with regards to be last sentence).

Buckle Up Buttercup.

Fifty million Americans voted for a belligerent, draft-dodging, sexual assaulting, race-baiting, tax-evading, fear monger.

The depth of my sorrow has no words.

How can anyone say their vote for Trump was not an affirmation of his hateful antics and politics of fear? Or that his election did not legitimize the racist, sexist, xenophobic and violent tendencies that represent the basest of human emotions and seem to proliferate among his staunchest supporters?

Asra Nomani says that left has to come to center and the right has to come to the center… And yet Trump is elected on a platform of hate and exclusion and extremism. Yeah. Way to encourage centrism.

(Psst. Right extremism inspires/invokes left extremism.)

You haven’t seen extremism from me.

Buckle up buttercup because shit’s about to get real.

Origins

I saw a clip from Frontline that seemed to suggest that the impetus for Trump’s run was being humiliated by Obama at the Press Corps Dinner several years ago. Basically, Trump was fuming and probably thinking, “You’re all laughing now, but I’m going to have the last laugh.”

When he was elected, and I was so enraged and stayed up all night working on the Pantsuits’ regional chapter group, I thought to myself, “laugh now, idiot, but WE ARE GOING to have the last laugh.” I have not felt this angry and inspired in years. And I see that I am not alone in that. Just as he was compelled to act from that night, so too are we compelled to act from election night.

We lost this battle but we will win this war. And ten or twenty years from now they will document the beginning of our social change movement and they will trace it back to the presidential election of 2016.

Why Hillary Lost

Hillary lost because she assumed that she would have Democratic support in traditionally Democratic states because she was the Democratic nominee. But Hillary was more than the Democratic nominee, she was a female nominee. And the impact of her gender was vastly under-estimated.

I am heart-broken but my eyes have been opened. The fear of female power is alive and well in America.

A few weeks ago, in a Medium post, I wrote:

I see in Hillary the resilience that keeps women alive around the world. In fact, I believe Hillary is offensive and threatening because she is the display and embodiment of the strength that quietly resides in every woman.

Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is evidence of the intelligence and independence that many fear exists in the women around them. Hillary exhibits on a public stage the same sheer will that enables women every day to survive sexual assault, sexual harassment, sex-based discrimination, domestic violence, social trivialization and professional marginalization. The facts may vary, but in many ways, the story is the same.”

I did not realize how right I was when I wrote those two paragraphs.

Even in victory, CNN (oh Anderson Cooper, I kind of hate you right now, you silver-haired fox you) and its pundits, led of course by Corey Lewandoski, chose to continue to attack Hillary Clinton. In this case for not exhibiting the graciousness that we have never, ever seen from Trump or anyone in his camp. Mr. Lewandoski demanded Hillary give a concession speech to unify the country while Trump supporters chanted “lock her up” at Trump’s Headquarters.

Sometimes I’m sick of taking the high road. And I particularly sick of people who couldn’t find the high road with GPS and a map criticizing others for not taking it.

What have I learned? That we need more female candidates in all levels of public office. We need more female CEOs. We need more female leaders. Perhaps we were putting the cart before the horse with the presidency. We have a lot of barriers to break, and stereotypes to overcome, in all aspects of American life.

We have come so far, but clearly, not far enough.

I look to Hillary Clinton’s lifelong political and personal stamina for inspiration. We can’t give up now.