Monday, December 14, 2015

A Better Way To Spend Your Time


“But no one will think I’m pretty!” she said, her 7 year old face starting to well up with tears.

Dressed as if she were going to be in an elementary school fashion show, she was wearing the dress that she begged me to stay up late last night and wash, enough plastic bracelets to accessorize the entire 2nd grade, my cherry Chapstick (because “maybe my friends will think it’s lipstick!”), and yet she still wouldn’t get out of the car.

Looking at the 7 year old face wearing the cherry red Chapstick that I would never normally allow her to wear to school, my mothering instincts wanted nothing more than to lock the car doors, and take her back home where I could protect her.

But I couldn’t do that and she knew it, because it was a conversation that had kept her and I up late many nights over the past few weeks; a conversation revolving around the fact that she didn’t want to wear her new leg braces to school.

My daughter has worn braces on her legs since she was two years old, but a year ago at the suggestion of her physical therapist, we decided to see how she would do without them, and for about nine months she did great!

But then she stopped doing so great.

After a trip to the doctor and a check-in with her old therapist, it was decided that she needed to go back in the braces overnight and for periods of time during the day. To say that my daughter was crushed would be the understatement of the century. Although braces for her won’t be a forever thing, she doesn’t care, because for her they are a “right now” thing and right now she is in 2nd grade where the kids are learning to judge each other on anything and everything.

She doesn’t want to be judged.

To her, she feels the way that every little girl wants to feel. She feels like a princess, a model, a singer, a dancer, a comedian, and a valedictorian. She is goofy, spunky, crazy, funny, smart, caring, precious, and loved. But when she looks in the mirror, she sees plastic that makes her feel “different, less than, and broken.” And when that reflection shines back at her it overpowers the princess wearing the cherry red Chapstick and 37 plastic bracelets, because she knows that when other people look at her, they aren’t going to be looking at her bracelets. She knows that the other kids (and even some adults) are going to be looking at her legs and that everything else that makes her who she is will become secondary to the one attribute that people will naturally focus on.


And it kills me.

Because she is so much more than plastic and Velcro, but people don’t see that because they are too busy focusing on the one thing that they just don’t understand; the one thing that is so very different from who they are.

When I started writing for Yahoo about what it was like to be a mother raising my children on public assistance, I had mixed feelings. On one hand I was excited to raise awareness to a situation that all too many families are in, but on the other hand I was scared.

Did you know that something like 700 million people read Yahoo every month? Don’t quote me on that exactly, but according to Google that is what I found when I wanted to see exactly how many people might read my article… and judge me.

Let’s be honest here, welfare is a hot topic these days and declaring “hi, I’m on public benefits” is not exactly the most flattering thing to disclose about yourself to 700 million people. I knew that there would be some backlash, and I expected it because I know how my financial situation is often perceived by other people.

It becomes my one and only attribute.

I’ve talked on this blog before about how badly I’ve been treated when people find out that I am a public assistance beneficiary, and I’ve also talked about how I’m no longer choosing to let that define who I am. I know who I am and for many of you who read this blog, you also know who I am, but for people who don’t know me and learn that I’m on public assistance, they don’t care to learn anything else because they “already know everything they need to know.” And from what little they actually know, they have decided that they don’t like me.

To them I’m not a former missionary, a dance instructor for abuse victims, or a nonprofit founder. I’m not the woman working two and three jobs a week or the mother taking care of two special needs children. In fact I’m not even anyone’s mother or friend; to them I’m barely even human.

I’m just the girl standing there wearing figurative leg braces that people just can’t seem to look away from; maybe not disabled by my body but rather in the choices that they assume have led me to the financial position that I am in today.

Poverty becomes the entirety of who I am.

Reading over some of the comments that came pouring in on my article about using the food pantry was hard. More than half of the people declared quite firmly that “clearly my children have different fathers,” and that if I knew who he was than I was should stop being lazy and go after him for child support (my kids do not have different fathers, they were born out of an 8 year marriage to a man that is now making it extremely difficult to collect child support). 

And it didn’t stop there, people went on to say things such as:

“That girl should have kept her legs together if she couldn’t pick a man that would want to stick around and raise her half-breed children.”

“She should have learned to swallow if she planned to pop out kids she couldn’t take care of. Someone needs to sterilize her.”

“The only thing this woman has left, is to market the only thing she has left; what’s between her legs. Or if she is a looker, she may be able to find a rich guy that would put up with her kids.”

“Does anyone know where this mother lives? Clearly her kids are being neglected and DCFS needs to be involved. If you can't pay your bills, you shouldn't have your kids.”

“I hope this woman gets run over by a bus so that her kids have the chance to grow up in the home they deserve. If she ran her husband off, who knows what the hell she is doing to those kids.”

But all of those hundreds of hateful comments were topped by the one that said “I feel so incredibly bad for her children. I can’t even imagine how horribly fucked up they must already be having a mother like that.”

A mother like that.

A mother who to them, is nothing but poor, lazy, a drain on society, and a dent in their paychecks.

So yea, reading those was super fun but to be honest they didn’t really hurt me. I’ve been in this business long enough to know that there are some people in this world who have the unfortunate character flaw of being incredibly self-righteous and I’ve come to the sad realization that people will judge even when they don’t know the whole story.

But what did hurt me were not the comments themselves, but the reality check that those are the exact people that I’m sending my daughter out into the world to be judged by; people who decide to hate other people based on the one single thing that they know about them and decide that they don't like.


And sure, I guarantee you that most of the nasty commenters would be shaking their heads “no” and saying “but that’s different, her daughter is a child and she can’t do anything about her issues, it’s not the same as her mother’s problems," but the thing is, it IS the same because the judgments that have been thrown down upon me are the same as the judgments that are thrown down upon my daughter when the kids tease her; they come from a place of not understanding the situation, not wanting to understand the situation, and feeling as if they are superior enough to designate hatred to an attribute that they don't like.

They are the words of someone who lacks compassion, and often the words of someone who believes that others do not always deserve compassion.

I’m sad because these people are the adult versions of the bullies that tease my daughter.

Personally, I would like to think that our purpose on this planet is to create a greater good. That we — each being only one measly human being — were born to create an impact that is bigger than who we are, and that our legacy will continue on long after we are gone.

I would like to think that in this day and age of racism, terrorism, bullies, school shootings, and just pure utter hatred, that this would be the time for us to pull together in an effort to build people up rather than tear people down.

But that is not where our world is heading.

When I think of people whose impact was based upon nothing more than judgment of a single attribute, I think of Hitler. Everyone knows him, knows of his mission, and because of it he is remembered in vile disgust. His goal was simple; rid the world of anything that he deemed less than perfect.

As I said in the post “She Didn’t Even See Me,”  Just like Hitler, you can't simply write off people that you don't think matter, just because you don't think they matter.

We all matter. 

Regardless of the skin we are in, the shape that we are, the number in our bank account, or the degree hanging on our wall; we all matter, we all have worth.

Success and value are not one in the same; they are two separate and unique entities, each worthy in their own right.

At the end of the day, at the end of your life, nothing matters but what you did with that life. The value of your actions do not lie within a degree, a title, or a bank account, they lie only in what you did with what you had.

A man is not made worthy by what he has, but rather by what he is willing to do with it, because worth does not come from what you have, value comes from who you are.”

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So when I read the comments of such hateful people who apparently, like Hitler, are living lives blinded by the delusions of their own perfections, I think what a waste. What a waste of someone who could have been so amazing, and yet chooses to be nothing but hateful and hurtful.

What a waste of someone who could have spent their time repairing humanity, but instead has chosen to add to it's destruction.

If value comes from who you are, and your impact on this world is to devalue others, logic states that your worthwhile value goes down when you become a person who is not needed.

Unfortunately the world just simply doesn’t need people like you, because it does not need anymore hatred.

Every day we encounter people doing things that we judge; people who wear things, eat things, buy things etc. that we don’t personally approve of, and we judge them for it because we have elevated our own personal worth to a standard that makes us feel superior to another person. Whether it’s a mental snark that never leaves our lips or a gossipy comment that we make to a co-worker about someone else, we are judging people, and the whole time that we are placing our judgments, we are failing to realize that the person whose actions we should be most concerned about, are our own.

Your actions are not a reflection on the actions of another, they are a reflection of you and how you choose to handle yourself.

Our world is falling apart.

We are not just a nation under crisis, but rather an entire world in a state of survival, and the saddest part is that for as much as we band together to save humanity from global warming and a lack of clean water, the very thing that is most likely to kill us off is each other.

When we look back on Hitler, we see a man who was a mesmerizing speaker. He was obviously smart and driven, and he had the ability to captivate audiences and get people to listen to him. He had everything that would have been needed to really change the world, except that he let his self righteousness and hatred get the better of him; which is ironic since he judged others on a standard that even he himself didn’t posses.

He had the ability to bring the entire world together, but instead he tore it apart. Divided between the people in his camp who were cheering him on (all his little trolls and bully friends), in the end it was the world who decided that they didn’t need him and took him down.

So when we judge a kid wearing braces or hurl nasty comments at an Internet writer, classify people as nothing more than a skin color or a religion, snark on a co-workers ill fitting dress or her second slice of pizza, all we are doing is lowering the value that we ourselves hold in society, because when we spend our time tearing people down, we are wasting time in building people up.

Our world is falling apart, not because we have different skin colors, religions, kids who wear braces, and people on welfare, but because we have people killing each in a hatred that is quickly spreading across the world — simply because we refuse to accept people who are different from ourselves.

When we spend our time adding to that hatred, we are becoming part of the problem. So while we would like to think that our judgements are coming from a place of superiority, all we are really doing is exposing just how flawed we really are.

Value comes from what you add to the world, not from what you take away from it. Don't be fooled into thinking that as long as you aren't taking a life that you aren't destroying one. 

Words are powerful things and only when we use those words to really make a positive impact on society, are we really a valued member of society.

If you want to be heard, you need to give people a reason to listen to you in the first place, because people just don’t line up to get judged.

And if you really want to be as important as you seem to think you are, maybe you first need to see how important other people are.

This world doesn't need anymore hate, it's got enough of that already, so if that's all you bring to the table, then the world doesn't need you because that position is filled.

If you want to see a change, then be a change, but be the change that people need.

People don't need to be whittled down to the one thing that you don't like about them, they need to be built up because of everything that they are. 


If you want to be important, give people a reason to see your value.

You have the opportunity to change the world, so please don't spend your time trying to destroy the people in it.



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54 comments:

  1. I've binge read your entire blog over the last few days. :-) sounds creepy now that I've typed that out. I was wondering if you had ever thought about applying for SSI since your kiddos could be labeled "special needs." I've seen plenty of people get it for their kids who have ADHD and kids who are on the autism spectrum. Just a thought that may help ease the financial burden. I appreciate your message for MA y reasons I won't put on blast on a public blog and wish I could have seen your message 16 years ago. Keep up the great work.

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    1. Many*** typing on my phone is not conducive to making sense apparently

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    2. Haha, not creepy, I have done it with other blogs myself!!

      I actually started the process last year to apply them but it just takes FOREVER. Chugging away at it though...

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    3. Try legal aid for an SSI attorney. They should be able to help. My mom had to apply 3 times for SSI with her MS. Good luck. If my husband hadn't passed away I would be in the same boat and I understand how crazy hard it can be. Prayers and love sent your way!

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    4. Try calling legal aid about a lawyer to help you through the process. They may or may not have one. Good luck. My thoughts and prayers are with yyou. My mom had ms and had to apply at least 2 times. If my husband has not passed away I'd be in the same boat as you, and for anyone who judges you without knowing you, all I can say is God knows justice all too well. I believe in it and I've seen it. People on a high horse fall down quite easily and hate only creates more hate and misery. I gladly pay my taxes to help those on welfare bc I was THERE. It sucks. Also, I work at a call center. Jobs like secretaries, hospital and dr receptionists, call centers, answering services, att techs...all these are great options for women without degrees. Att even has a work from home option! And factory jobs. Long hours but good pay

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  2. I have been reading you're blog for the past year and a half, and this is the first time I have commented on anything, but I just have to say this: You have so much courage to talk about you're past online and people have the audacity to be rude to you?! It's really sad people like that exist in the world. You and you're family deserve nothing but the best.

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    1. That means so much to me, thank you so much :)

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  3. You are a very powerful and positive person. I love that you refuse to allow the high and mighty judgemental people to bring you down.

    I actually just posted a few days ago on Facebook that the thing I dislike about the Internet is that people use the anonymity to be so cruel and heartless to say things to people they would never in a million years have the guts to say to a person's face simply because the Internet takes away the humanity if the peron they are tearing down because they no longer SEE them as a person.

    Those comments just reinforced that. And I love that you are doing your part to rise above.

    And tell that beautiful princess you have I thing her braces are elegant and are better than glass princess slippers.

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    1. So true. Did you know that when a large study was done, they found that the majority of people who troll have personalities types that would make them an actual sadist?

      They just like to hurt people to hurt them.

      So disgusting.

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    2. Its enough to make one lose their faith in humanity.
      But to be honest, what I read from you helps restore that a bit.

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  4. May I ask what the leg braces do?

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    1. Well, I think it is extremely odd her daughter is/was in ballet lessons and *all of a sudden* needs leg braces...

      But to your original question- The leg braces make more gullible people push the 'donate' button...

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    2. What a fucking troll. Eden's daughter has always worn leg braces on and off. Why don't you shut your damn mouth since you don't even know what you are fucking talking about? Picking on a little kid!? Grow the hell up. Or better yet get your head out of your ass and look at her past posts. She had another one with pics of her daughter over the years and wow, SHOCKER, there were braces. Do you really think she conned some doctor into making her kid custom braces for years upon years, long before she started this blog, just so she could one day write a blog and get a sympathy vote?

      And can you even read? Her post clearly says "for periods of time during the day." That's not ALL the time. Maybe that's not during ballet class. You don't know why she wears them so fuck off. Some kids wear them because they are chronic toe walkers, some wear them to stretch the back of their calves, you have no idea and none of that would prevent her from dancing.

      Go to hell.

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  5. You really are an amazing person. I spent 8 hours at work reading your blog yesterday, and I just want to let you know that you really are a beautiful, amazing person, and a wonderful mother. It's awe inspiring how someone can still be so positive and uplifting after all that you've been through...Keep it up!

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    1. Haha, I'm sorry I took up your whole word day, but that is pretty awesome!!!

      Thank you!

      *hugs*

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  6. VERY well said Eden! I started to read some of those heartless comments on Yahoo, and I couldn't do it. I don't know you, but I prayed that you wouldn't have to read what the judgmental pricks were typing. I say typing, because, as someone else stated, I'm sure none of them would have the guts to actually say those nasty things to you/your children, and receive the proper ass-whoopin' they so need! **HUGS** always remember, it's no one else's business in this world what you do...it's between you and God, and He will always love you and yours. To Him, you are perfect, Boy Child and Girl Child are absolutely perfect, made in his image. Remind her of that, often. Keep up the good work!!

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    1. Yea I started reading them and then was like "nope, I'm not even going there!" People are so cruel!

      Thank you for your sweet words of encouragement :)

      *hugs*

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  7. Thank you for this reminder. That it not only matters when we judge people with our words (spoken and typed) but in our own minds as well. I'm sorry that your beautiful daughter is having to learn this lesson at a time when all she should have to worry about is picking the silver or the pink tiara. I am thankful that she has you to back her up and help her stand up. We all have those things that make us feel like ugly ducklings from time to time and waiting for our swan moments feels so daunting.

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  8. Your daughter is beautiful inside and out!

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  9. Love to you and your beautiful family!

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  10. You can't fix stupidDecember 15, 2015 at 10:09 AM

    Listen , I just want you to know that the negative comments may make you feel like it's not worth writing ... But it is. I have read your blog for some time and it has inspired me to not only be grateful for what I have but it also inspired me to start volunteering at a domestic violence shelter... So you keep writing sister! Your words not only inspire now but , someday, when the kids are older they will have a pen to paper account of the struggle and ultimate victory you achieved for them! There is really no greater gift we can give our kids then gratitude and grit! ( by the way I am the one that left the naked pop tart comment ;)...)

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    1. I'm so happy you are volunteering!! That makes me SO happy!

      Thank you so much for sharing that with me :)

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  11. One of your best posts yet!! Awesome message. And tell that beautiful girl child she IS beautiful inside and out...just like her mommy ♡

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  12. Not everyone judges. I think your daughter is very brave for wearing her braces to school.

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    1. That's what I try to remind her.

      Thank you :)

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  13. I'm sure you thought of it yourself, but on the off chance that you have not, maybe she has leg warmers or boots that fit over the braces? It's only a temporary fix, but might make her feel better and keep people from staring and judging when you are somewhere outside just passing through.

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    1. That is actually a really good idea and I can't believe I hadn't thought of that. Between here and Facebook you guys have given me a lot to work with!

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  14. Your daughter is beautiful braces or no braces!

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  15. I'm not sure if this is doable, but is there a way that you could make the braces "signable", like some casts are? I would bet the other kids would be totally into that. They might even fight for who gets to sign first. Or maybe even give the other kids stickers and let them stick them on? Something like that could change the entire outlook.

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    1. I bet that would work with permanent marker! It's not a bad idea!

      Thank you!

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    2. I was 35 and had my cast signed and decorated. We used diff colored sharpies. Probably gross- I still have it.

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    3. I think a lot of people kept their signed casts!

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  16. are you in illinois? how can i help you? i am mid 50's (gramma type) and willing to help you with your kids or donations or both. Let me know

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    1. not sure how to get my email or fb to you without publishing it?

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    2. Eden's email is on her contact page. notmyshametobear@gmail.com you could try to email her, she is good about replying back.

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  17. Your light is shining bright, Eden. A friend posted one of your Yahoo articles which spoke to my heart and I found my way here. Thank you for your strength to be a voice that allows people the opportunity to connect, be inspired, and think about what we all can do uplift each other on our journey through life. I'm a mom of two (the oldest named Eden, btw :) and I have absolute respect for you and what you are doing in circumstances that any one of us would need to dig deep within ourselves to face with your kind of courage and grace and resilence. Thank you for sharing your day to day on this blog and I look forward to coming back often. I pray your daughter's experience was better than dreaded but if not all we can do as moms is try to find the silver lining of hardship - by doing what you clearly do so well already - being that voice that can help them grow their (and our own) capacity for courage, empathy, and you know - general kicking ass by just being amazing from the inside out. As they say, the struggle is real. And it's super real in primary school. I'm dreading it! Alas. by the way, what is the non profit you started? Sending you love, hugs, fist pumps, and a bucket of awesome because you deserve it, sister.

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    1. Aw, thank you SO much!

      I have the best readers EVER!

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  18. I don't understand why people seem to think you can work for a company like Yahoo and just write whatever you want. All the comments saying that you are lying don't make sense because I know for a fact that Yahoo vets it's writers.

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    1. Thank you!! People are insane. I was checked out by Yahoo, my attorney even sent court documents to them. Just because I choose not to put my entire identity online does not mean that I'm lying. And speaking of lying, I would be an idiot to lie about that and post it on here where my editors at Yahoo can see it.

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  19. Holy crap, why must people twist things and bring people down?

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    1. Honestly I think they have sad little lives and the only way they feel better is if they feel like they are on some kind of mission to rid the world of people they don't like.

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  20. Comments like those, and even a couple on this blog post, are why I frequently say I hate people. Not necessarily anyone in particular but so many people are just assholes. I think it's clear that you are the best person to raise your children. Sure, growing up poor can suck but they will know that everything you do is to make their lives better, frequently to the detriment of your own. Keep up the good work. ��

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  21. People can be such a-holes. You are one of the most inspiring people I've ever...well, not met, but you know what I mean. Anyone who doesn't have the moral/emotional fortitude to hold off on making crappy Internet comments probably wouldn't have the fortitude to get through all the crap you went through and still be the great mother you are.

    I have depression and for me personally, significantly less difficult life events have crushed me. I read your blog and I honestly can't understand how you do what you do, but it inspires me :)

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    1. That means a lot to me, thank you Jaclyn.

      *hugs*

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  22. Hello Eden, I was just curious how you realized that your daughter needed a leg brace. I am thinking my daughter may need one as well.

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    1. Her physical therapist talked to her doctor and they both agreed. Have you taken your daughter to the doctor? That would be the best person to ask :)

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