Just thought it was about time to post this, as our first two weeks have flown by. This month's posts, as well as next month's newsletter/blog, may be a bit delayed. Some serious and demanding issues have arisen, causing us to postpone many things longer than we'd like.
At the beginning of the month, we were still struggling to pay our bills. It's not that we didn't earn the money, but rather the result of some glitches in the system causing delays. The people responsible for resolving these issues were either busy or unavailable due to weekends or holidays. This occurred with two different avenues of our main funds. Consequently, we had to borrow money to avoid late fees, and we are still in debt because of it.
Additionally, our SNAP (food stamps) benefits are facing issues, yet again. We received recertification paperwork two months before our benefits were due to expire. We completed and submitted it about a month in advance, as requested, to prevent any lapse in benefits.
However, we are now two months past when we should have received our benefits. Since this is not a new problem, we have set aside an extra hundred or two dollars for a few months this year to cover situations like this. However, by now, our benefits should have been reinstated, and we had only prepared for a one-month lapse. This month, we have been living off $22 and whatever emergency food we had in storage.
We have made numerous attempts to contact PEAK, the government website responsible for SNAP, through phone calls, the online portal, and in-person visits, and even received a callback once. But nothing has been resolved. We have also reached out to the individuals overseeing the desks in DHS, as well as two others connected to upper management. Regrettably, we have received no communication or resolution from them, and they are also struggling to communicate with their own colleagues.
To address this issue, we have started attending Colorado Blueprint meetings, which aim to improve food access for SNAP recipients and end hunger in Colorado. This has provided an opportunity to share our experiences, particularly the recurring issues we've faced for about four years during the recertification process specifically. This process is unreasonably burdensome and often results in people not receiving their promised benefits due to staffing shortages or other related problems. We understand that employment challenges exist, but those reliant on food stamps should not go hungry for a month after fulfilling all the requirements, especially individuals with disabilities who are asked to do tasks they cannot do due to their conditions.
Our attendance at these meetings is to advocate for those who have experienced the negative aspects of the SNAP process. We've raised the question: What's the point of Blueprint meetings promoting hot foods at restaurants for SNAP recipients if people can't even receive their basic necessities, like rice, beans, and chicken?
If you know someone who has experience dealing with SNAP (and WIC) and would like to share their story about how the process has affected them (not just venting, but explaining the issues they've faced and the hardships it has caused), this is the platform for it. Participants may also receive compensation for their time, so we highly recommend anyone struggling with finances to get involved. Prior experience or knowledge is not required; dedicating your time and attention to the meeting and participating to the best of your ability is what's needed. The input from people who have experienced the process is vital, and there needs to be more representation from those who have been in this position.
So far, this SNAP issue has occupied about three to four weeks of our time, as we've been striving to bring this issue to the forefront. We've managed to elevate it to higher levels of authority within the organization, and recently, representatives from large companies, organizations, and government departments, such as the CDHPE, have joined our meetings. These gatherings are crucial, and we hope that through our experiences (of which we have many), we can contribute to effecting change.
We're genuinely excited about what the Blueprint could achieve, but it will primarily depend on the community working together and communicating effectively. The best outcomes will result from minimal government interference but that requires community members to be active and aware. We're proud of the attendees who are in similar situations and believe that more people with experience will lead to more significant and potentially better changes for all. The challenge is finding the right people to speak up at the right times.
Now, moving on to the next topic~
John has successfully sold his significant commission project with the church, and we are now in the final steps. We are awaiting the items to arrive so we can package them properly and make the deliveries. Although we didn't make a substantial profit from this sale given the time and effort invested, we are planning to sell these items to other churches with the hope that they will appreciate the value of what John has created. We aim to develop part two of this project to further enhance it, but that will take a few more months to put together. We do have a means of selling and generating more funds, but it will require additional advertising efforts. If you know of a church in search of a Bible Sticker Chart to encourage and motivate kids and families to study the Bible together, please reach out to us for more information. This project is significant, and all three of us (John, I, and our Children's Director) are incredibly excited about it. As kids, each of us would have loved to use such a tool for learning. The chart also includes a dated timeline at the bottom, offering a visual of when and where specific people or events occurred according to the Bible. To clarify, John put in about 400 hours of work over the course of four months to create this project, with me providing only occasional assistance. He gets all the credit.
With the change in seasons, we've noticed the cold weather affecting us. Often, we don't realize how severe it is until an entire day has passed during freezing temperatures. This weather leads to shutdowns, where we cease moving, processing, and disconnecting from reality. We sit in place, staring at nothing in particular. This means we're preparing to stay indoors as much as possible during the cold months, as we tend to hibernate when temperatures drop. Our depression intensifies, and we become apathetic, making us feel immobilized. To combat this, we've found that we need to stay home, seal our living space, and maintain a temperature of at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit. We tested this approach last year and found that it helped us stay active and productive throughout the day, although our overall productivity still dropped by about 30% due to the cold seeping in through our poorly sealed windows and doors. This situation will likely continue until June when we can resume our regular activities.
Our situation has been further complicated by our car, which is overdue for necessary maintenance. Due to the many financial challenges we've faced, we haven't been able to save for essential repairs, such as new brakes and tires. One of our tires is already showing wires. Typically, we try to replace two tires each year (rotating them) due to budget constraints. However, given our ongoing struggles, we haven't had any funds to spare for these necessary expenses. So around the time to use the car as minimally as possible.
Another issue we've encountered is related to trauma. Cold weather often triggers traumatic memories, especially since many of our past traumas occurred during winter months. Dealing with these sudden flashbacks drains our energy and emotional resources. John and I recently discussed some painful childhood experiences, and it brought back a memory for me. I initially tried to distract myself by working on a project, but after about 30 minutes, I was overwhelmed. I couldn't see or read, and I was left with growing headaches and extreme exhaustion. I eventually made my way to bed, crying myself to sleep as these trapped memories resurfaced. I've noticed that, particularly at night before falling asleep and upon waking, I'm often on the verge of tears with memories forcing me to be re-live. This happens frequently, usually on a monthly basis, and we typically don't have the time to address and fully process these emotions due to our obligations. So I stuff it away until I have some set time to collapse.
To deal with this, we need to dedicate time to process and recover, which can take days, weeks, or even months. Since we can't take the time we need, we continue to push forward, feeling as though we're slogging through thick, knee-deep mud.
To better understand our situation and address our past trauma, we've decided to delve into our own psychological history. We believe it's essential to explore and heal from the damage caused by these unresolved traumas. Kind of a Detective Game of "Who am I and What Happened?" But with a lot of very real and unpleasant surprises. This process can be freeing and open new doors if done and handled correctly. I think we are at that point where we need more to work with (keep in mind we are also working in tandem with therapists. doctors, and psychiatrists and not just on our own).
As we navigate these winter months, we may need to take some time to focus on our own well-being. If we seem disconnected or less responsive, please understand that we're dedicating time to our healing process. We had hoped to have a home where we could control our environment and set aside space for socializing without leaving our apartment. However, given our current circumstances, this may not be possible. Nevertheless, we still hope to hear from you!
We appreciate your understanding and support during this challenging period. We look forward to returning with more positive and engaging selves come June. Thank you for being a part of our journey! =D
(We got this. This year we are prepared and winter will go better!)