Fat and Not Afraid

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The Militant Baker

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This is a Story All About How

April 4, 2017

My life got twist, turned upside down. Let me take a minute, just sit right there! And I'll tell you how I came to have over $55,000 in defaulted student loans.

Once upon a time, back in 2003, I graduated highschool with honours. I received a small entrance grant to attend my local university where I began a 4 year BA in English in order to eventually go to teacher's college. This grant, plus money I had saved up myself and a bit from my parents, paid for my first year of school. The following year I moved out of their home, got an apartment with Ryan, and started receiving from the Ontario Student Assistance Program aka OSAP. Part of the loans are federal money, part of it is provincial but generally it's just known as OSAP. I ended up taking a year off mid-program, then another year as Gabe came along where I didn't receive any government funds as I wasn't in school. I graduated with my BA in the spring of 2009, the first person in my family to graduate from university. Yay!

Off I went to teacher's college in Thunder Bay where I crashed and burned hard at the end of my first semester, but that's a story for another day. That one semester added nearly $10,000 to my loans thanks to living away from home, travel costs, tuition and books. I ended up back at the local university doing a certificate program, from which I graduated in 2011. We moved to British Columbia for 2 years, then back to the Soo for 3 and were homeless and broke for 2 of those years, and now we're in Sudbury, always chasing better jobs for something resembling financial security. Following me around has been $55,000 in slowly growing (they're not interest free) student debt.

This past fall the federal Liberal government announced changes to the OSAP program that would allow students wanting to go to post-secondary education a break; more grants instead of loans, and maybe even free tuition if you were low enough income. That's fantastic and much needed for sure. Unfortunately, a part of those changes of who is low income enough or not affected my repayment assistance plan, making me ineligible, after nearly 6 years of paying $0.00 a month (because POOR) for that $0.00 payment. Suddenly I was 9 months behind and owing $1100 and change. How did THAT happen? Here's where it gets really fun:

We moved to Sudbury in April of last year. I applied, as I usually do every 6 months, for my repayment assistance, in May. I knew I was getting close to the end of my available months but wasn't sure *how* close. I sent off my online application and waited for the letter that would say I was approved for my $0.00 monthly payment. It never came. Canada Student Loans, the folks who run OSAP, started calling and let me know they still hadn't received anything so I submitted again online. They didn't get it. Now I'm 2 months behind. So I ask them to mail me a paper application, which I also didn't receive. Three months behind. Finally get the paper copy, fill it all out, mail it in with pay stubs for me and Ryan. Now I'm four months behind and starting to panic a little but Canada Student Loans reassures me that when my repayment is approved it will be back dated 6 months and I can immediately reapply for my final 6 months of assistance at which point, if I'm still poor (which I can practically guarantee them I will be) I'll be able to start Phase 2. Yay! Phase 2 is a little known thing about student loans; if after 5 years (60 months) you're still unable to repay your student loans, the government starts helping you out. You pay whatever you can of the asked amount, and the government kicks in the rest. Eventually your loan is paid off and you can become a functional member of adult society. WIN.

By this time it's mid-September, and one of the pay stubs that Ryan has submitted with my paperwork is his final one from EasyHome. He was no-fault fired and given severance pay. We included a letter explaining that his September pay is NOT a normal one and does not in any way indicate what was his normal income, and oh yeah, HE WAS FIRED and going forward had $0 coming in for gods knew how long. Also, did you know Canada Student Loans only cares about your GROSS income, not your net? And they don't ask about household expenses? They don't care how much daycare is, or your rent or hydro bill, or groceries or anything. They just want a percentage of your gross monthly income each month and apparently think that you can get blood from a stone.

LONG story short, my repayment assistance of $0.00 was not approved. They wanted over $400 a month, back dated to the spring, up front, ASAP, thanks to Ryan's severance pay and the federal changes in November. I don't have that kind of money, and no-one I know does either. If I could get them the money they'd continue working with me and maybe I could start Phase 2 of repayment assistance. My only other option was to appeal, which I did. I sent in a year's worth of pay stubs for each of us, and another letter explaining his firing and our life expenses. In mid-March my appeal was rejected, after which they sent my loans back to the government. Now the Ontario Ministry of Finance wants $11,000 up front before they'll even talk to me about making minimum monthly payments of $1000.00, and the federal folks want $545 a month, starting May 30th. It was supposed to be $900 but I talked them down somewhat. If I couldn't make $400 a month way back when, what on earth makes them think I can do $1500 now? And forget about Phase 2. That's completely gone.

Expenses  
Rent  $   1,500.00
Groceries  $       600.00
Utilities  $       350.00
Internet  $       130.00
Childcare  $       224.00
Phones  $       300.00
OSAP  $       104.00
CIBC  $       100.00
Car  $       418.40
Insurance  $       285.00
Gas  $       120.00
Repayment  $       520.00
Total  $   4,651.40

So right now I'm trying to think of ways to raise $11,000 before the Ontario Ministry of Finance starts garnishing my wages; Stripping? Prostitution? Sell a kidney? I can't become a surrogate because my uterus is broken. Egg donation is legal in Canada but complicated and time consuming with no guarantee of solid financial return (unlike in the States where I could get good money for all these eggs I'm not using.) I suppose I could go to the competition, like MoneyMart, and get a large loan (since the banks wont touch me w my bad credit), use that to pay off some of what I owe, then just pay MoneyMart back at a much higher interest rate for the rest of my life, plus pay the rest of my student debt. Somehow. Ha. Ha.

At this rate I will never have any savings for emergencies, buy a house, send my kids to post-secondary education, save for retirement, or do all of those other Adult Things that help our economy. My university degree isn't worth the paper it's printed on, and going to school is one of the biggest regrets of my life.

Some nice people have suggested I start a crowdfunding thing like Patreon or GoFundMe. It's a thought.

 

Anyone have $13,000 I can borrow?

March 30, 2017

I just can't even.

#studentloans

LoZ: Breath of the Wild First Impressions

March 4, 2017

Yesterday was Nintendo Switch launch day and with it came the latest installment in the Legend of Zelda series for both the Switch AND the Wii U. I picked up my U copy, had dinner and put it on. Then waited 15 minutes while it updated. I couldn't believe it! Having to wait for an update on Launch Day kinda ruined the flow and excitement of starting a new game. 

Finally it was ready and I got to play through the intro scenes I've seen online: Link waking up in a tank of water, listening to Zelda's voice. I went outside into the HUGE new world and explored. It really is a gorgeous game and the controls are pretty smooth. I picked up various weapons right away, some food items, fought a few bokoblins and even died a couple of times. Falling HURTS. Being cold HURTS. Auto-saving is great.

I have to work later today so I'm turning the game over to Gabe and Ryan and discovered you can only have one save file at a time. What kind of bullshit is this?! I paid around $100 for a game that only one person can play at a time? Every other Zelda game since the SNES has been able to have multiple files. Hell, even Hyrule Warriors has multiple save files. I don't want to share my file with the family; we'll all miss out on exploring on our own and discovering the game, Ryan especially. DISAPPOINTED.

Graphics: 5/5

Story so far: 4/5

Controls: 4/5

Technical difficulties: 1/5

 

Life Update part eleventy two

February 21, 2017

Hello friends! Not dead, just busy. Lots of fun things have been happening around here lately so let me get you up to speed:

  • Gabe has been working hard all month on a YUGE elections campaign project for school. He hands it in today and I'm SO NERVOUS. He's put a good effort into it, with a lot of guidance and prodding from Ryan and I, so if he gets a bad mark we're all going to be devastated. But, if nothing else, it's given us an important insight into how Gabe's brain works, and doesn't. He has such a hard time with getting his ideas out of his head onto paper in full sentences and paragraphs. He does much better with lists. Technically he's met all the requirements of the project so he wont fail, but I just have no idea how well or how bad he'll do.
  • We spent the long Family Day weekend in the Soo visiting family and we had a BLAST. Saturday was spent with my side of the family at my mom's. We went sledding, had a massive snowball fight, built forts in the backyard for another snowball fight and topped off the day with a delicious spaghetti dinner. The next day we went for a swim in the afternoon with my mom, inlaws, sister in law, her kids and mine, and I was able to enjoy an outdoor hot tub for the first time. Dinner was at Casey's then home to relax. Monday was the Bushplane Museum and despite a half hour wait to get in the door because Family Day, we had a good time. We drove home Sunday night and sang along to our family road trip song, We Will Rock you/We Are the Champions.
  • Earlier this month I cemented a friendship with a lady I know a couple of different ways; during a snow day Erin came by to pick up the kids and I and bring us to the indoor play place. Unfortunately I hadn't shoveled the driveway and her mini-van got stuck. No amount of pushing was helping and even after we shoveled out a bunch of snow we needed rescue from a couple of Eastlink guys who happened to come by. Despite her almost running me over (putting the car in park before you get out is important!) I think our friendship was cemented with all the laughs.
  • Still waiting to get things resolved with National Student Loans. Still waiting for Ryan's paperwork to be finished with the Ministry of Transportation so he can get his special license for work.

Electoral Reform: Graphs and Percentages

February 6, 2017

Late last week our Prime Minister broke one of his biggest election promises; that the Liberals would not be moving forward with electoral reform. I'm not surprised, but I am disappointed. The first past the post system we currently have isn't any good when we have more than 2 parties running for election. Some might argue that, seeing as how the Conservatives and the Liberals have been the only parties to ever form government, we DO only have 2 real parties, but they'd be missing the point.

One of the reasons the Liberals decided against election reform was most of the Canadians who answered their survey at MyDemocracy.ca said they were 'somewhat or mostly satisfied' with how our government currently works. They cited at 67% rating, which was a combination of the somewhats at 50% and the verys at 17%. Using that logic, I say that we should definitely move forward on electoral reform, and here's why:

70% of Canadians polled said they wanted several parties to govern and be responsible for decision making. Figure 3.1.3

That right there? Shows how much and how differently Canadians want this country run. We want our parties to work together to create a better Canada. We're tired of one party, who only won maybe 35-40% of the vote, to have 100% of the power and make 100% of the decisions.

This answer was reflected again, somewhat differently, a little later in the survey, when 62% of those surveyed said they wanted several parties to work together, even if it takes longer for things to get done. Figure 3.4.1

The next question discovered that 68% of Canadians said a party with a majority should have to compromise with other parties, even if it means changing some of it's priorities. The follwing question again gave a 70/30 split in favour of having multiple governing parties that agree. Fig 3.4.3

The Liberal Party was handed a clear mandate and they threw it away. Justin Trudeau had a chance to cement his legacy and stand up as one of Canada's greatest Prime Ministers but he and his party balked, probably hoping to get reelected in 2019 with a comfy majority. I doubt it. People will remember this enormous broken promise and vote accordingly.

Meanwhile, the NDP have jumped on this opportunity and are promoting electoral reform strongly in their ridings and with their candidates. I can only hope that with with Trump in power in the states, and the ass-backwards way that he came to power, Canadians wake up and make positive changes to that these kinds of absurd power-grabs stop happening.

A Woman's Place is in the Resistance

January 25, 2017

How much things can change in just a week! Since Trump's inauguration on Friday, America has been going downhill far more rapidly than I ever thought possible. How is it that one man can undo so much of what was achieved in the last 8 years?

To comfort myself I repeat an old teaching: The world only spins forward. The long arc of history shows our progression and looking back we'll see what's to come, the next four years, as a blot of ink on another-wise bright page of progress. We've accomplished so much in the last 100 years it's stunning, and one Cheeto-Skinned fascist can't undo it all. Millions of people came together on Saturday for the Women's March to say NO to what's come before and YES to a better world for themselves and their children's children's children.

I say yes to compassion, love and empathy for all people, but I embrace Punch a Nazi Day because punching a Nazi is always in self-defense-just make sure they're an actual Nazi, not just someone you don't disagree with.

I say yes to slowing, stopping and if possible, reversing climate change. It's not an alternative fact that the world is getting hotter, the oceans more acidic, the seas rising. We must stop it or another mass extinction is on the horizon.

I say yes to healthcare for all, clean water and air for all, housing and food for all. We could do this already but some of us are greedy. We need to mobilize and fix the systems, build our own gardens, plant our own trees. It's clear that the governments, in the pocket of the corporations, wont be helping.

Act locally and think globally.

Resist.

Thankful Thursday (early!)

January 18, 2017

It's good to stop and smell the roses; have you ever done that? Literally stopped on your way to or from someplace to smell a rose? I have and it's a lovely thing to do. Around here we have wild roses in the summer and sometimes you can smell them from a block away, their perfume wafting towards you on a warm breeze. They're not large or showy like some garden varieties, but there isn't anything like their smell. I wish I could bottle it and keep some for a winter's day like today.

In that vein I want to take a second to count my blessings, for they are many! Sometimes I forget that, like when the grater goes by three times and my first thought is "Ugh! I have to shovel that?!" Or when I come home to dishes to do and a messy kitchen because the kids came home from school and threw their stuff everywhere.

So thanks, public employee, for scraping the snow pack off the road and making it easier to get to my appointment later! And for the extra cardio I'll get from shoveling the mess in the driveway.

Mmm breakfast.

These monkeys make me want to be a better person every day. They motivate me to change the world for the better, not just for them, but for their hypothetical kids and everyone else. We're all on this rock together.

This handsome guy. He's just the sweetest, kindest man. He listens when I'm ranting, hugs me when I'm sad, celebrates with me and encourages me and also isn't afraid to call me on my bull. He pulls his weight around here despite working weird hours and traveling more often now. He's an amazing father and husband and I'm thankful for him every day. I wouldn't be alive today if it weren't for him.

A forever shout out to my best friend, Erin, who is a new auntie again as of yesterday and has known me for the longest of anyone in my life who isn't blood related. Erin has a beautiful soul, generous and loving, and I'm in awe of her strength and the life she's built for herself.

Much love to my parents, inlaws, sister and aunts for all their love and support over the years. You are, and will remain, in our hearts.

Thankful for good tunes, celebrity 'likes' on Twitter (Sir Patrick Stewart, Bif Naked and Vincent D'Onofrio!) and free healthcare. Adieu!

 

 

New Year, New Squirrels

January 10, 2017

Well it was a lovely Christmas break; Kat was off for 3 weeks instead of two thanks to a nasty virus or something and Ryan and I ended up loaded with head colds for Xmas eve, day and Boxing Day but at least we were all together and we were able to relax. We went sledding and drank hot chocolate and ate chocolates, slept in, stayed up late, caught up on some Star Trek Next Generations and Deep Space Nine and generally loafed about when we weren't at work.

It IS good to get back to the regular routine, however. Yesterday and today we were up and the kids were out the door promptly at 745. Gabe helped without complaint to get the recycling to the curb before the truck came and now I have the morning to myself to putter about and put things in place before Ryan gets home tonight. He's been in the Soo a day or so for work at his new job and we're both hoping the expected snow storm holds off and lets him travel safely.

Work is work-not much to say there. I enjoy working at the new location far more than downtown; the clientele is more what I'm used too (ie, fewer drunks/stoners) and no-one is sleeping in the flower beds outside. The ladies I work with are all wonderful people with their own quirks and stories, though I do miss Jerry and Shannon quite a bit. My new manager is thrilled with my performance but I'm still learning to not stick my oar in where it's not needed. Just working on getting my squirrels at a rave to ducks in a row!

How is the new year treating you? How were your holidays?

Winter Is

December 13, 2016

Today's post is brought to you by sore arms!

Winter Is...

Walking your kid to school and not being able to see because your glasses have fogged up thanks to the scarf over your nose.

Shoveling.

Your neighbour waving and saying "It's cool out this morning, eh?" when it's -30C.  You reply "Just a bit!" and keep moving. You share a conspiratorial smile that neither can see because of all the material covering your faces but feel it instead.

Peeling off the layers as soon as you get in the house or you'll roast

Shoveling.

Hot chocolate after sledding.

Hot chocolate after skating.

Hot chocolate after shoveling.

Hot chocolate because Winter.

Shoveling.

Scraping the ice off your windshield while the car warms up.

Shoving the snow off the roof of your car while it warms up.

Going back inside to brush your teeth while the car warms up.

Shoveling.

Long nights full of stars with air so cold you can barely breathe.

Short days were sun on snow dazzles your eyes with diamonds.

Grey periods where you're uncertain if the sun came up and went down.

Shoveling.

Blood Red Thread

December 7, 2016

In the past few months I've had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with an entirely new group of women because of my transfer at work. It began with moving from the Soo to Sudbury and transferring from downtown to the north end cemented it. It has been a pleasure and an honour to hear their stories, to be trusted in this way, an effortless connection through being a woman. 

What does that mean, exactly? It means growing up and living in the patriarchy, navigating that narrow line of acceptable behaviour, dress and manner in order to try and stay safe, and managing the hurt, anger and disappointment when inevitably we are injured in some way. It does appear to me now that it IS inevitable; every new woman I meet I can connect with instantly through the sharing of our mutual stories of assault, harassment or shame. It's not exaggeration to say it's every woman. So far, it is. And if I haven't heard their story yet in full, I've picked up on enough to get a general idea from the way they talk about themselves or their past relationships .

When you grow up in a world that sees you as less intelligent, strong, able, and therefore valuable than the other half of it, it leads to all kinds of problems that we see around us every day but are so ingrained in our society that to name them all and then try to fix them all feels like too much. It's so much, so big that I don't even want to put the effort in to write it here. The statistics are out there if you want them, on rape and abuse and pay inequality and representation and everything else. It's out there literally at your fingertips on the keyboard. Those stats aren't my point today, the day after Canada's day of Remembrance of the Montreal Massacre. Anyone reading this who wants to keep thinking we don't have a problem as a species is delusional and ignorant in the extreme, and I'm not going to change their mind.

My point is that you are not alone; male or female or somewhere in between, I hear you and I know that you have been hurt in some way by this world we live in, and it's arbitrary rules about who is valued and who is not. If you're a man who dares to have some feminine qualities, like having emotions, you know what I mean. It's that lack of respect for the feminine, the experiences of that disrespect I share with so many people, that tie me so effortlessly and quickly to them. The ties that bind us are red with blood; blood from split lips or broken hymens, spattered on walls or staining the carpet. Those ties are purple and blue from bruises hidden by turtlenecks and long sleeve shirts, sunglasses, and pants in the summer. It's scratchy along the edges like wool, but instead of warmth all we hear are the nagging voices internalized telling us we aren't good enough, pretty enough or smart enough to really matter.

And yet women rise, over and over again, through millennia of neglect and abuse, and continue to do the work of living. We choose to trust, over and over again, despite all the weight of history, personal and global, that says we shouldn't. After all, not all men are abusers. Not all men are Nice Guys. Not all men. But all women, all women without exception have lived in this and experienced life this way. The unfairness of it, the horror and brutality of it, is compounded the less valuable you are; fat? Black? Native? Disabled? Queer? Welcome to starting off the race five steps behind instead of just one.

But still we rise, over and over again, to live and do the work of living. To start over, to begin each new generation with the same sweet hope as the one before; this time it will be different. And each time it is, a little. Each rising is a wave against an unforgiving, uncaring shoreline. Someday, not in my lifetime and not in Katherine's or my theoretical grandchildren's and probably not even in their children's lifetime, but someday, the dream of true equality will come true.

Until then keep rising. If you're tired, I'll help you. After all, we're tied together.

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