Category Archives: children issues

"Grippers" (how to get homeless without even trying #18)

Episode #18 “Christmas” (click on the “Grippers tab for previous episodes)

A year earlier Bob and Tracey Slider both had full-time jobs, health insurance, two vehicles, a nice house, and were bringing home over $4300.00 a month. Their success as an average American family was obvious as the twinkling lights from the Christmas tree sent out tiny flashes of color that bounced off the wrapped gifts below. There was peace and contentment in the hearts of the Slider family. Two days later, Tracey was laid off.

In February, Bob’s hours were cut and on the Friday prior to Memorial Day his company, Bildot Building Supply, closed its doors and went out of business. In September, Bob hurt his back and was unable to work at all. Ignoring the warnings about the dangers of prescription pain pills and constantly seeking pain relief he began taking more meds than were prescribed and became a “prescription junkie” using the last bit of the family’s monies to buy pills on the street. Then he was arrested for DUI. He wound up on probation, had to pay heavy fines and was required to do community service. Tracey, who had been hired as a part-time cashier at the local super-market, was fighting the good fight to make ends meet but the pressure to pay bills and Bob’s addiction problem were pushing her to the edges of despair and resentment.The only time that Bob seemed like the “old” Bob was when he had a few pills in him and had a supply stashed somewhere. However, being an addict it never mattered how many pills he had because it would never be enough. An addict is always scheming about how to get more drugs even if their pockets are filled with them.

 Christmas morning arrived and the usual joyful atmosphere that accompanied the day was absent. Jake was inside a vacuum he did not really understand. His dad had changed and his mom seemed so unhappy. Tracey did her best to make sure her boy received some gifts but it was impossible to live up to the standard of past years. Jake, whose grades had slipped and who had become somewhat withdrawn and distant, had reached inside of himself and had planned to do something special for his mom for Christmas. In addition, he had asked his folks for nothing for himself. The 12 year-old had been greatly underestimated. He pulled her aside Christmas morning and gave her a card. In it was $100.00 in cash. Jake had quietly been working after school hustling lawn jobs and cleanup jobs around the neighborhood. Tracey did not have a clue. “Mom,” he said, “I’m not a baby anymore. I can see what’s going on around here. This is between you and me. I don’t think you should tell dad. Merry Christmas, love you.”

Tracey looked at her son and just began to cry. It was the greatest Christmas gift she had ever received. She hugged her son so tight he thought he might break. It was the best feeling he had ever had.

Next Time: “Here We Go Again”

"Food: Give Us the Info—We Can Decide"

It seems that the war on childhood obesity has some new commandos entering the fray. Their purpose—to protect us and our kids and grandkids from sugar, fat and sodium, those little monsters that seem to get into most everything we eat and drink. Then these little demons trick us into thinking that what we are eating and drinking is good because it tastes good but they know it really isn’t good and they happily go about their business of making us fat. Since we are not nearly as smart as the government, a new bureaucracy called “The Inter-Agency Working Group In Food Marketed To Children” has been put in place.Their job— to protect us from these evil monsters because they know that we are not smart enough or diligent enough to do it for ourselves, no less our children. Whew!

This new arm of the “food police” is suggesting that the food industry “retool” recipes in order to attain new levels  of sugar, fat and sodium in the vast majority of food and drinks we consume. Restaurants are included. The consequences of non-compliance with new guidelines will be no more marketing and advertising allowed. Joining the ranks of the unemployed will be “Tony the Tiger”, “Count Chocula”, M&Ms, Girl Scout cookies, popcorn, pretzels, bagels, milk, sherbet, even water. I’m getting a headache—

It is very nice that this new age government loves us so much that they will even consider throwing themselves on a bowl of instant oatmeal to protect us but, golly gee, did they ever stop to consider that maybe, just maybe, we can decide for ourselves what is good and not good or healthy and not healthy. Hey guys, just give us the info–we can decide. The fact is if I want to give my kid a cupcake—it’s none of your business. If I want to give my kid raw carrots with fat free dressing—it’s none of your business. Give me the info—I can decide. You bureaucrats might find this preposterous but, we the people, are actually smart enough to disseminate the information which you provide us  (we really appreciate this info) and then feed ourselves and our little ones accordingly. Even the president, the top guy over all of these organizations, likes his cheeseburgers, drinks beer and smokes cigarettes. So what–he is an adult, has disseminated the information, and made his choices. Well, good for him. It’s called freedom.

Look, if my grandkids come over and I want to give them a plate full of home-made, sugar filled, butter soaked, chocolate chip cookies that’s my business. If I want to give them celery sticks with tofu dip, that’s my business. Give us the info–we can decide for ourselves. The vast majority of American parents know what’s best for their children, not the government. Just give us the info and let us decide.

"Grippers" (how to get homeless without even trying #15)

Episode #15: “Here come the Holidays” (click on the “Grippers” tab for previous 14 episodes)

Tracey Slider was frazzled and had reached stress levels she had never before encountered. She was not smiling, she was abrupt with Jake, she could not sit still for more than ten minutes at a time, she was not sleeping well and a sense of impending disaster monopolized her thoughts. She was doing her best to manage every penny she was earning but there are no finish lines  when you are riding on a merry-go-round.

It was November 12, less than two weeks until Thanksgiving. Tracey  had worked her six hour shift and, upon clocking out, started to do shopping for the family. She knew to the penny how much was in their checking account, $143.00. She filled the cart with about $60.00 worth of grocery items including two cans of cranberry sauce, two cans of corn and two cans of sweet potatoes which would be used for Thanksgiving. There would be $83.00 left and $75.00 would go to the electric company as per her arrangement with them. There was enough gas in the truck to get them through payday which was four days away. She was proud of herself and deserved to be. She was like  a car running on fumes and now the gas station was in sight.

Tracey unloaded her items onto the checkout counter and watched as her friend, Helen, scanned the items. They were chatting about nothing important when Helen said, “Okay, Trace, that comes to $60.28.”

Tracey smiled, “I can’t believe it. I wanted to spend $60.00 and I went  28 cents over. Not bad.” She swiped her debit card and keyed in her pin number. A message popped up, Insufficient Funds. Tracey was startled and smiled at Helen. She swiped her card again. Insufficient Funds. She looked at Helen, “I don’t understand.” She tried again. Insufficient Funds.


Customers were lined up in back of her. She was wearing the store’s company uniform. It is a fact that humiliation can embrace a person in a nano-second. Tracey instantly wanted to be somewhere else. She fought the panic rising within her and garnered some composure. She took a deep breath through her nose, exhaled and said, “Okay Helen, I’ll just leave the stuff over here. I’ll be back in 15 minutes.”

She left the store, got into Bob’s truck and began to tremble. Taking a few more deep breaths she wiped her teary eyes and headed home. All she could think was, It has to be a mistake, it has to be a mistake. How could they do this. She hurried into the house and right past Bob who was sleeping on the sofa. Sitting down at the computer she logged into her on-line banking site. The screen opened, she keyed in her password and stared at the screen. Balance–negative $89.00. Transactions–there had been two. Friday afternoon a $100.00 cash withdrawal had been made and another one for $60.00. Then there were two bank charges of $36.00 each, one for “insufficient funds” and one for an “over limit” fee. She stared and stared. She thought —-I don’t understand–I didn’t—Oh my God—-She jumped up from the chair and rushed into the living room yelling, “Bob, Bob, wake up! Wake up!”

He remained still and quiet on the sofa. She started yelling at him and pushing his shoulder, “Bob, wake up right now. C’mon, wake up!”

Her groggy husband opened his eyes. “Huh—what? I’m sleeping. Leave me alone. What’s your problem anyway?”

“Did you take money from the ATM yesterday?”

“Huh—the ATM. No–I don’t think so. What’s the difference anyway?”

“”Oh my God, Bob, you did–didn’t you.”

“Fine Tracey, I did. So what. I needed some medicine and I can’t get any until next week. So yeah, I took some money. I suppose I should just lie around here in pain. Now leave me alone.”

“Oh my God, Bob. You’re buying drugs. You’re buying drugs.You took our food money and our money for the power bill and bought drugs from someone. Your stupid two withdrawals overlapped and you caused us to be minus $89.00 in our account. How in God’s name could you do this to me and Jake. How could you?”

Bob was pretty well stoned so he shrugged, rolled over on his side and went back to sleep. Tracey looked down at him and at the moment all she could feel for her husband was contempt.

Next time: “Thanksgiving”