Second Hand Kids? April 26, 2011 17 Comments

Dear Michigan Senator Bruce Caswell,

Second-hand clothes? Is that the best you can offer? If you’re going to insult kids who’ve been removed from their family of origin, insult us! Call us names. Tell us our hair looks like a rat nest and we look like something the cat dragged in. Threaten to beat us to a pulp. Leave us alone for days at a time. Scare us with your driving. Tell us we have to be perfect or no one will love us. But just making us wear second-hand clothes is a really lame attempt at abuse. We can handle it. Make us wear a giant F on our chest for “FOSTER”. Or maybe a U for “UNWANTED”.

How much do you spend on your own clothes in a year? Do the other senators laugh at you because you’re wearing your teenage brother’s ugly gym socks? They laughed at me when I was in 4th grade for just that reason. Do you ever have to wear the same shirt three days in a row because there’s no laundry detergent at home? Did you sign up for 6th grade orchestra but decide to quit because you don’t have a solid black skirt, a solid white blouse and a solid black shoes? I know two kids who did.

Here’s a hint, Sir. If the state is only giving families $79 a year to spend on clothing for a foster child, you probably don’t need to worry that the parents are being too extravagant. In fact, if they can afford it, they’re probably supplementing the clothing allowance, especially if the child is still growing.

Senator, what we need in our lives is a champion.  We need someone who thinks we’re the best, who tells us we’re pretty, who helps us find that solid black skirt so we can stay in orchestra and attend performances. We need adults who treat us better than our parents did. We don’t need you and we don’t need second-hand bras.

Go to the thrift store, Senator. Buy a second hand set of clothes, including underwear and shoes. And let us all watch as the other senators laugh at how nothing fits right, the tie is too wide or too narrow or too stained, and your socks don’t match.  We are not even going to talk about the prospect of a 12-year-old buying a used training bra at Salvation Army.


Cassie and Many Other First Class Kids

Princeton Baby! February 7, 2011 1 Comment

We’re going SOLAR!

But maybe that’s only because they haven’t invented slush-power yet.

Princeton University will become a leader in American higher education in solar energy when it installs a 5.3-megawatt solar collector field on 27 acres it owns in West Windsor Township. The system, comprising 16,500 photovoltaic panels, is expected to be one of the largest single installations at a U.S. college or university.

About 80 percent of the new solar power system being installed on Princeton University property will be composed of SunPower T0 Trackers, which use a global positioning system to track the sun each day to maximize energy capture. (Photo by Tom Grimes Photography for SunPower)

From the Princeton Website

Asking the Right Questions January 13, 2011 9 Comments

We need gun control in the U.S.
We need better mental health care in the U.S.
We need better health care in the U.S.
We need to start preventing mass shootings instead of just crying when they occur.
But first we have to ask the right questions.
  1. Would you rather live next to a mentally ill person with a gun, or a mentally ill person with an appointment at the community mental health clinic?
  2. Think about the “craziest” person in your family.  Do you want them in your house overnight with a gun in their hands?
  3. Think about the “stupidest” person in your family.  Do you want them in your house overnight with a gun in their hands? What about the most violent person in your family?
  4. Is there anyone in your family who has ever gone senile? Do you want them in your house overnight with a gun in their hands?
  5. How much money could we save by paying for mental health care instead of building more and more prisons?
  6. When is the right time to ask these questions?

TSA Policies and their Effects on Children November 19, 2010 2 Comments

I think the new TSA procedures are dangerous to us as a culture, and particularly dangerous to children.  Read this, but it doesn’t go far enough.

When I was in elementary school, we had counselors and visiting speakers from Safeplace who talked to us about molestation, keeping our private parts private, and what to do if a stranger or someone we knew wanted to touch the areas hidden by a bathing suit.  They told us that there were times when a doctor might need to touch us for a medical exam, and that we could always have a parent in the room.  They also told us who to call and when to request help if anyone else touched our privates without our permission.  Inappropriate touching.  They never told us what to do if an adult asked us to touch their privates, but that’s a topic for a different post.

The TSA is not asking permission from travelers, and they’re groping people in full view of their families.  They’re saying that they’re not groping children, and we’ll see how long that lasts.  We’ll also see if it’s true. Presumably, if a person is willing to blow up a plane, they’re also willing to hide the explosives inside a little girl’s dress or a little boy’s pocket.

But what if it’s only adults?  Is that any better? Is that still OK  to pat down parents when children are present?

What message do these invasive pat-downs send to children?  If a little boy or a little girl sees the TSA agent touch their parents’ private parts and sees the parents blush and grimace, but don’t see their parents yell out, ask for help, or call the police, what is the message to the children?  If the child is victim of molestation in the future, won’t this make them less likely to object or seek help?

This policy is going to harm our country and I hope tons of the Thanksgiving travelers participate in Opt Out Day.

My Generation and the Retirement Debate November 16, 2010 3 Comments

There’s a debate happening on the airwaves and the intertoobz of this great nation about the future of social security.  I think it can be summed up as taking place between those with private savings, who can retire at whatever age they wish, against those people for whom the only ticket to retirement has the name of the state’s lottery commission adorning the back.

Our grandparents’ media tells us that 75 year olds should raise themselves by their own bootstraps and the commercials on those very same shows promise us they can get free mobility scooters just in case they can’t reach those bootstraps.  And this exists where the debate really is taking place.

Who’s left out of the debate?

  1. People working three jobs who have no time for debate.
  2. People who are counting on the rapture to hit before their first social security check.
  3. My generation.  The under-30′s.

For the moment, let’s assume that this isn’t the post that addresses those first two groups and let’s concentrate on the third.

Where are we?  Where are the young people in this debate?  Contrary to what you may have been told, we’re not just reading TMZ and sending facebook messages.

A lot of us are still in school, and working part time jobs if at all.  We’re not contributing much to the social security fund yet and our teachers have never fully explained to us why there’s a crisis, when that crisis may occur, and what the options are.  At 19, 20, 21 years old, 60 is two lifetimes away.  The difference between retiring at 65 and retiring at 69 is as abstract as debating whether we should send a manned mission to Mars in 2100 or 2150.   We’ve never held full-time jobs except maybe for the summer, and the concept even of a career scares us as much as it intrigues us.

This is our debate because this is our future, but no one has yet put it into terms that we can consider relating to.  When I am three times my current age, I’ll be 57 and still 8-12 years away from any of the numbers being discussed.  8-12 years!  We’re talking about the difference between elementary school and college here, and that’s after tripling my current age.

Then there’s the concept of retirement.  With as much as a third of employed adults under 35 living with their parents even though they have jobs, we don’t even understand what self-support is, and retirement might as well be a concept from a sci-fi movie.  Even once we finish school, we can’t find work, or we do find work but it doesn’t pay anything like a living wage, and we have no idea how to save for the future.  Commercials show us that only rich white guys with Fidelity can even imagine a retirement.  Nothing we see anywhere in media or our own experience would lead us to imagine that we might ever experience financial security, with or without employment, with or without social security.  We can’t even imagine paying off our college debt before our 25th reunion.

If we can’t imagine enough security to own a home, start a family, and pay the bills, how can we possibly imagine security lasting until we’re old?  Too far out of our reach.  We’d rather imagine a large screen TV in our old bedroom so we don’t have to see mom and dad in the living room.

Finding My Voice November 15, 2010 3 Comments

It’s been really hard to find my voice since I arrived at college.  School is so difficult and the culture shock has been so insane that I haven’t felt like I can really write about it.  The leaves were gorgeous, but they’re all gone and the trees just look naked and cold.  Classes are interesting, but the work load is outrageous.  Etc.  Etc. Etc.

Blah.  Gurg. Someone send me a breakfast taco and I’ll be OK.

So I think that instead I’ll write from my own voice and write about what I know best.  My take on politics and current events.  I need to just be Cassie for a while, even though the title of my blog is “Cassie at College”.  Oh well.  I’ll be here four years, so maybe I’ll find that voice too.  But in the meanwhile, look to this space for same kind of writing and observing that I’ve always done.

Starting this afternoon.  I promise.  Tonight at the latest.

New York City!!!!! September 6, 2010 4 Comments

I got here on Saturday and I’m having a blast this weekend with Ava. She is a smart, liberal, feminist activist teenager and we get a long great.  Ava’s a year older than I am and she’s studing film at NYU.   We’ve been going to street fairs and watching unicycle riders and walking and walking and walking.  Today we went to an outdoor performance of a Shakespeare play, right in Central Park.

Ava and I will hang out for the next few days.  She’s taking me to a film screening tomorrow, and to eat cheap but healthy NY food.

Ava and I are laughing in strong southern accent every time someone complains that it’s hot.

It’s Here! It’s Real! I need a Tissue! September 3, 2010 3 Comments

I fly to NJ tomorrow morning.

I said goodbye to the rest of my friends tonight — most are already off to college themselves. I have a few days with a good friend in NYC before I actually go to school myself, and I’m so sad about leaving Texas. Excited. Scared. Clinging to a teddy bear. Ready to be on my own. Missing my old friends already. Wanting to meet new friends.

Oh and classes. That too. And activities and the east coast and going to documentary film openings with Ava.

Transition Update August 9, 2010 8 Comments

Here I am trying to come up with material for a post about transitioning toward college, but I haven’t done much yet.

I know who my suite-mates are, but I don’t know them well enough to write about them here without worrying that someone will spray-paint my walls on my first day.

I have a plane ticket, so I know when I will get to NJ, but going up by plane also means that I can’t buy stuff yet. Should I take a picture of my gift cards since I don’t know what color my sheets will be?

Then there’s the whole getting to college thing. I was originally scheduled to spend my first few days with one family who would be driving me to college like a normal student. But that isn’t happening either. The family is dealing with medical issues and will be doing their July vacation in September instead so they won’t even be there.

The current plan has me spending my first two nights in NJ with a family I’ve never met. And then having all of my stuff delivered to my dorm. Somehow. Can’t you see me carrying a dorm room full of stuff in a giant shopping cart on the train? Cause that’s totally normal and doesn’t suck. I am hoping to change this part of the plan but I am not old enough to rent a car.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Next year I’ll know a zillion people and won’t have to go through all this.

p.s. Yes, I know that Target is now evil, but they weren’t when people bought me gift cards.

What if there is no kitchen June 18, 2010 17 Comments

On Thursday, the most evil man on radio said that any children who would be hungry (due to the fact that they can’t get free lunch at school) should learn to check the fridge, get a Happy Meal, or try the neighborhood dumpster.

I am so mad about this that I can not sleep.

I was hungry once. Often. For about two years. when my mom started using serious drugs. In the middle of that time, my brother, who was then sixteen, enrolled me in the free lunch program, probably using a forged signature. And the breakfast and lunch I ate at school helped a lot. They probably helped me get better test scores (or else why would the school do that?) and they definitely helped me to be less angry. No doubt the food helped me grow.

We always had a kitchen and it always had a refrigerator, but often there was little or no food in the kitchen. At times there was food I didn’t know how to cook or was not allowed to touch, and at times my mom wanted to convince herself she was a loving mother and would go to the store for real groceries.

But the important part here is that my food supply was not within my control when I was 7 or 8. I didn’t have any money, couldn’t walk to the store or McDonalds even if I did, and didn’t have anyone packing my lunch. Children are not to blame for their circumstances.

My brother was older and got food when he could, but he didn’t know any more about cooking it than I did. Many children have parents who work two jobs and don’t pay attention to providing meals for their kids.

In our case, my mother is to blame for our hunger, but many children are poor because of their parents’ poverty and not because of neglect. Many children live in cars or don’t have the electricity to run a refrigerator in a run-down apartment or house.

Children should have food, and safe housing, and love. Rush wants them to figure out how to find healthy meals in dumpsters. Dumpsters! Little five-year-old kids finding dinner in dumpsters!

If Rush Limbaugh can’t see that children deserve real food, then maybe there is no hope at all for him.

There’s a transcript of Rush’s show here: Limbaugh’s “dumpster dive” suggestion only latest salvo in his war on the poor