Friday, March 27, 2015

No Food For You

Hello all! I hope your weeks have been more fantastic than the thought of 'Swan Lake' performed by baby pigs.

While this is mostly a humor blog, I do sometimes feel the need to address ridiculousness that I see out in the world. Today is one of those days.

For months I have seen posts on Twitter, Facebook and even in the news about how those who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding (more commonly referred to as food stamps) should have to pass a drug test to qualify.

At first blush to many I'm sure that that sounds like a fantastic idea. Sadly, that first blush would only last about .05 seconds before the negative effects of that kind of legislation would bring would begin to show themselves. So today your friendly neighborhood social worker is going to explain to you why drug testing for food stamps is not a grand idea!

Just to give you all a little background, I have worked with impoverished populations for my entire adult career, have helped the government perform studies on homelessness (I even wrote some of the parameters for state and federal programs) and am considered enough of an expert in my field that I have been asked to teach students (yes, your children) about poverty in the United States by both public and Christian schools. I've taught classrooms full of first graders and given lectures to university students.

I say all that so that I can say this; drug testing for benefits will cost the government an insane amount of money and won't actually punish the people who some (wrongly) feel need punishment. Here is why:

1. It's already been proven not to be effective at saving money. In fact Florida tried it. No really check it out. Out of the 4,068 people tested, only 2.6% tested positive for drugs (most of the positive results were for marijuana, not hard illicit drugs). The state spent over $118,000 dollars on the drug testing alone only to waste a majority of that money on people who, surprise, were not using their SNAP funding to buy drugs.

2. The government systems to run SNAP are already overloaded. In Washington state alone there is such a backlog on six-month checkups for food stamp recipients that now an automated system has been put in place with a lottery system to audit whether the check-ups have even been performed. This means that about one in twenty participants will be audited a year. Why? Because Washington State lacks the money to hire enough people to review each and every single case. 

DSHS is the largest government organization in Washington. So tell me, how much manpower are they going to have to hire to cover their current deficit plus this new drug testing program? In Spokane we don't have enough money to fix our pot holes in the road, you want money to check for every pot head? Good luck with that.

3. Drug addiction is a complicated matter. You don't cure someone from drug addiction by saying "No food for you!" You only make already desperate people more desperate. Want a higher crime rate? Deprive drug addicts of basic necessities and see what happens. You want fewer people to use drugs, how about we stop closing down treatment facilities that supposedly 'cost too much.'

4. A mass majority of food stamps and welfare recipients are not drug addicted fiends. You want to know the biggest demographics of SNAP users? It just so happens that the highest percentages are Caucasian, working families with children or with an elderly relative in the home. 

So implementing a system for a tiny minority that is using some form of drug that is going to cost extreme amounts of money is short sighted and ridiculous. Not to mention the amazing inconvenience we would, as a nation, be putting people through just to get one of their basic necessities met. It already can take six hours to do a six-month recertification, and we want to add a pee test to that?

5. Taking away food stamps, even from people who test positive for drugs, has the potential to take away food from a child. That's right, sometimes people who use drugs have kids, and those kids' only source of food is welfare. Yes, it sucks. Yes it's not right, but there it is. The majority of those who benefit from programs like SNAP and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) are children. 

So before we blindly hurrah behind the "I don't want my money going to addicts" rhetoric, let's think about the consequences and who we would actually be hurting. Answer: Mostly working families with kids and ourselves for wasting our own tax dollars.

As always I can be found on Facebook and Twitter and check out my books on Amazon

Friday, March 20, 2015

Living Dangerously

Hello everyone! I hope your weeks have been better than the thought of 1920's jazz performed on kazoo's!

So it has become apparent to me that not even the hallowed 'Halls of Justice' are immune from my abilities to attract the bizarre in the world.

This past week I had to go to court to file something for work, which happens on occasion when you're the head of security for a homeless shelter.

All I needed was a judge's signature on one document, and I would have been home free. Knowing that life rarely allows for the simplicity involved with "all you have to do is just..." I had brought my trusty book.

It was a good thing I did so, because getting that one little dash of ink took nearly three hours. For my part, I was just dandy. I had my copy of "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" and this was the closest thing to a break I'd had from my crazy life in days.

There was this adorable little, very flamboyantly gay, court assistant who whisked back documents to the judge with flair. He greeted everyone with, "Why, hello there! Isn't today just a peachy day to be in court!?" 

With my book and no clients to tell to stop licking the walls, I thought so.

I was only two pages into my book when I heard a small disruption. By 'small disruption' I mean I watched someone run into a bench, apologize to it, then plunk down on the same bench with all the grace of a pregnant hippo.

There was a cloud of rum that wafted in my direction as the court assistant approached the person, who was suffering from the depressing side effects of living like a Jimmy Buffet song. The attendant almost choked on the smell coming from this man as he asked, "What can we... urp... help you with sir?"

The man blearily looked at him and said, "I's supposed ta come ta this here court room today..."

"What for?"

"I got dis bull DUI charge... I wanna give the jug a piece of my mind..."

Everyone in the room blinked at the inebriated gentleman as the court assistant blinked rapidly, "Well... umm... sir, you're in the wrong place, sweetie. You need to go next door to traffic court, okay?"

The drunk guy narrowed his eyes trying to decipher the words that had been offered to him. Finally something clicked and he shoved himself to his feet and staggered out the door.

The assistant fanned the air that the man had just vacated and went about his business saying, "Good luck with that case."

I returned to reading my book and made it a whole three more pages when the courtroom doors opened again and someone plopped in the chair next to me.

He was sixteen, with a round face and all the acne that an awkward teenage experience could provide. How do I know he was sixteen? Because he had his license out and in his hand and I could read his birth date. 

Now keep in mind I was wearing my security uniform that read, "SECURITY" in giant letters.

I kept reading my book, only acknowledging his sitting right next to me, in a room with thirty other empty chairs, with a slight nod of my head.

"So what are you here for?"

I kept my book open as I replied, "Work."

"What do you do?"

I pointed at the giant lettering on my shirt and said, "I'm the head of security for a homeless shelter."

Now, I'd like to think this would have made most people pause for a second and contemplate their future word choice. Nope, he was obviously too young to have learned that lesson yet. The tyke next to me said, "You're cute. Do you like dangerous men?"

I didn't respond, turning a page in my book and continuing on my Sherman Alexie adventure. Unfazed he blundered on, "Because I'm here for a ticket. I drove 50 in a 35 mile zone."

I blew out a sigh, "Yesterday I had someone at work try to jump over a bench to punch someone in the face. Driving slightly above the speed limit doesn't make you dangerous, that makes you mildly annoying. Also I'm twenty-five."

The court assistant, who had been helping a woman a few chairs down from mine, heard the entire exchange. The kid sitting next to me told the assistant, "I thought she was like, eighteen."

The adorable court assistant smiled and said, "Awwww... Kid, work on your lines. Also, you need to go one courtroom over for traffic court."

So what lessons can be pulled from the docket of experience?

1. Arriving drunk to contest a DUI charge is perhaps not the best plan of action.

 2. If your idea of 'danger' is driving fifteen miles above the speed limit, I might suggest not trying your hand at becoming an international spy.

3. Apparently the guards at the front doors of the court building do not check or care if someone walks in drunk or stupid to their court date, but heaven help you if you're wearing boots with metal lacing holes.

In other news, "Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor" received another 5 star review! Reader BookNoseRose writes, "This book is SO FUNNY! I loved Ms. Hawn's first book and this one is just as good! Definitely pick it up if you need a laugh!"

Remember, reviews save authors! 

Don't forget to follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and check out my books on Amazon.

Friday, March 13, 2015

And the Winner Is...

Hello all! I hope your weeks have been more fantastic than the thought of a hundred-thousand gerbils running through Central Park to the tune of Queen's Don't Stop Me Now.

Well, for those of you waiting with bated (or non-bated) breath, the results of the contest are in! Thank you everyone who voted on Facebook, it was pretty close between a couple there right at the end.

The title of my third book, if I can ever get it off the ground, will be "Life is a Roller Derby Run by a Sphinx!"

Out of the 50 or so people who voted, I also drew a random name for a signed copy of "Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor" and that person is Kendra Wisenbaker!

So congratulations to Kendra Wisenbaker! Thank you all again for participating in my 'moment of indecision' contest! 

For future rad contests don't forget to come check me out on Facebook and Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and check out my books on Amazon.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Struggle Is Real... A Little Help?

Hello all, I hope you have all had more fantastic weeks than the thought of Emma Stone smacking Glenn Beck in the face with a fish.

Full confession: One of the biggest struggles I have as an author is coming up with titles. How difficult is it for me to title something?

Well, I have written an entire book (which is in editing phases right now) and have yet to title it. It is currently sitting on my computer literally labeled, "Book 3, You Should Probably Rename This At Some Point."

Keeping in the theme of the first two books, "Life is a Circus Run by a Platypus" and "Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor," I want the title to mesh with those. To that end I have come up with, "Life is a ______ Run by a Sphinx."

Now, here is where you all come in. I have come up with three options with which to fill that blank; Library, Speakeasy and Roller Derby.

I have decided to let the public decide which of the three they would like to see on the cover of my next book! To have your Democratic say, all you have to do is vote here!

What's in it for you? Aside from knowing that you're helping to take the pressure off of my shoulders, I will be giving away one signed copy of "Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor" to one of the voters. Now to be entered in this contest you not only need to vote, but you need to like the contest post pinned to the top my Facebook page, so that I know that you voted.

That's all there is to it, vote and then like and you're entered!

Speaking of "Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor," it got another 5 star review this week from reader Anna Burke who writes, "... A well-written, entertaining book that you should have on hand after one of those days at the office, on the road, in a line at the grocery store, trying to talk sense into a teenager or your boss..."

Read the full review here.

Don't forget to take part in the contest on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and Amazon.