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'Bout Sums it Up

Do you remember your Sweet 16 birthday? The party. The friends. The laughter. Were you one of the lucky ones who got a car? I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget my sixteenth year, let alone my actual birthday. Not with all of the newspaper articles, Arkansas Supreme Court transcripts, and the memories. I thought I had pushed that horrible time of my life out of my mind, even grown past it. But with Mr. Huckabee’s second presidential candidacy I have realized, in full force, I have not. Somehow, I am still that scared, invisible, ashamed, lonely child who already felt like an adult at 15. And Mike Huckabee owns the majority of that watermelon.

http://thecabin.net/stories/061298/loc_dhs.html#.VUrZWyFViko – Ruling Where DHS Worker Has to Go to Jail, Mike Huckabee Has No Comment but Then Picks Her Up On Release

In 1996 I was living in Greenbrier, Arkansas with my mom; I’m an only child and I have never met my dad. Right when we moved to town, four years earlier, my mom was diagnosed with type II diabetes and it progressed quickly. It wasn’t as manageable back then as it is now (and I had no idea what gluten was). She aged so quickly, slowed down, and ended up spending the majority of her time (when she wasn’t working and commuting 60 + hours/wk) in her room. Eventually, she couldn’t keep up and was terminated from her job, her physical problems compounded by mental illness.

http://thecabin.net/stories/080598/ope_window.html#.VUrYzSFViko – DHS Still in Trouble, Now for E-mails, Mike Huckabee Has History With Them

My sweet grandmother living in Texas had been our only source of family support, but she passed away on May 30, 1996. This was a tragic blow and things went from tough to catastrophic rapidly. It’s amazing how quickly life becomes a living nightmare from which it takes so long to wake.

As I reached my Sweet 16 birthday just a few months later, July 17, 1996, it brought gifts of misery. Our water was shut off exactly the week before, the week after our electricity. Happy Birthday to me. Somehow, my mom was still able to give me a cheery card. Looking back, living without electricity is extremely inconvenient but you can make it work; living without running water, however, is disgusting and unsanitary, especially in 90+ degree weather with 70% humidity. Probably the reason I don’t like to go camping….

http://thecabin.net/stories/072198/ope_window.html#.VUrYJyFViko – DHS Accused of Bullying for Not Complying

A friend suggested looking into government assistance (before this I’d never heard of food stamps) and my mom had already applied for disability. Before turning 16 I had gotten a job at a local restaurant washing dishes and was paid under the table. It wasn’t much but it did get us a little food and supplies. We bought an ice chest to keep some cold food in, and found some oil-burning lanterns at Wal-Mart pretty cheap. Luckily, the days were longer because it was summer so the oil and wicks lasted awhile. We would set out empty milk jugs and buckets to collect water to flush toilets; the pastor to the First Baptist Church we attended brought us some candles. We were finally approved for food stamps (they were actually paper then!) and a monthly stipend of $162 in August. But we were so behind on the mortgage and utilities at that point, it was just a tiny drop in the bucket.

Have you ever been in the South in the middle of summer? The humidity is so thick it wraps around your sticky skin the moment you step into the air, surrounded by mosquitoes the size of Texas. We’d keep all the windows and doors open but the house was still a sauna. It was during this time I learned how the breeze is gentler at night. I typically slept on a sheet on the floor because it was cooler than my bed. I had a few friends in the neighborhood who were kind enough to invite me over for dinner or to use the bathroom or, on special days, do some laundry. But summer dragged on and when it was time for school to start I was so happy and relieved. Until after the first week when struggling to be on time, lacking a properly working alarm and getting in trouble. The real problem was EVERYONE knew I was living in a house that stayed dark and the toilets didn’t flush regularly.

My vice principal called me into his office after the first week and told me if I missed any more school he would report me for truancy. I told him why I was missing so much and he said, “I know, but that’s still no excuse.” I ended up missing a day the next week and before the end of the next week  a letter from the Faulkner County Court with an order to appear sat in the mailbox. I was so terrified because what if they put me in jail or took me away from my mom? We may not have had much but we had each other. You take that away and we had nothing.

I’d never been in the courthouse before that day. Cold fear washed over me sitting there, waiting for my name to be called. Or maybe it was just sitting in air conditioning. My name was finally called and my mom and I went up to the defense table. After a few questions from the judge and prosecutor it was clear my case was very different. I don’t really remember much about what was said or everything that happened. I just remember sitting behind the defense attorney and my mom standing against the defense table while everyone was speaking about me. But it sounded hopeful. The prosecutor actually wanted to HELP me and the judge ordered DHS (Department of Human Services) to pay the utilities. I was shocked. And relieved. Most of all, I was so grateful.

Only it didn’t happen. Because DHS didn’t WANT (not couldn’t) to pay for anything. They thought it was too much. And it got really ugly, really fast. My mom and I went back and forth to court for MONTHS with no change in our dismal living situation. We had sold our car to pay the mortgage, so trips to the courthouse were an ordeal!

The days started getting shorter and it was (finally!) cooler with pleasant breezes wafting through the windows. Reading back over court documents, seeing what was actually being said in court, learning the reasons WHY DHS didn’t want to pay, I realize so much. My memory of this time is VERY clear when I’m at home with my mom, with my friends, walking/playing around my neighborhood, but my memories inside those icy courtrooms are vague and scary. I do remember the prosecutor and judge, Karen Baker, vehemently and persistently, fighting for me. There’s so much not in those documents of what I really went through, and all of those people involved may never know. So many facts are wrong. I wish I had known then. I wish I could go back and fight for myself.  Speak up. Help myself. But it’s done. We can’t go back.

DHS finally paid the utilities on November 25, 1996, the week of Thanksgiving. The court documents say we lived 53 days without electricity and water. It was 138. I counted each day. I remember them because I lived them, their memories still clutched around my heart. The shame with my story, my home flashed on every news channel, across every front page and still no help came; humiliation from whispers shouted as I walked down the school corridors. I guess when DHS’s area manager, Sandi Doherty, said on Sept 26, “…that there was no reason to pay this bill. So I’m not sure it is a matter of amount to her” in an email everyone else agreed with her. Everyone including Mike Huckabee.

What very few among the many voices in this convoluted conversation realize is my mom, and especially me, couldn’t have cared less about anyone GIVING us anything, even money. We needed support. We needed to know we had value, were of worth, regardless of our living circumstances. Keep in mind, we had already been living in a dry, dark home for months before countless strangers started breaking down our door because it was they’re job to ‘help’. And no help came. The $660 DHS paid two months later may have started the washing machine again and ran the dishwasher, but it cost my sick, single mother who started working at 14 her dignity, her self-worth, and shoved her so far into her major-depressive swamp she only saw glimpses of sunshine again. Until one day, on December 3, 2012, her swamp swallowed her completely.

http://thecabin.net/stories/071998/loc_dhs.html#.VUrXBSFViko – Cover Story Regarding DHS Thinking They’re King of Arkansas

It cost a bright, beautiful, highly intelligent, fun-loving, and tenacious girl the rest of her childhood, her confidence and self-esteem, and set her up to always doubt her true self-worth. Because if she were good enough, worthy enough, all of these people talking, especially those who were in positions of power and influence, standing on platforms built on Christian agendas and values, they would have helped her. Right? My mom and I were Christian, we went to church, before and after all the tragedy. In fact, when two LDS missionaries knocked on our door in the middle of the chaos on a cold, wet Halloween afternoon, I let them in to hear their message of Christ. My mom read their Book of Mormon in less than a month, even if she didn’t believe the missionaries when they promised to be back because no one came back. But they did come back, every week, even bringing other missionaries. We still prayed. We still read our scriptures. We still believed people in power, with resources, professing desires to help others would come. And they never came.

http://thecabin.net/stories/072898/ope_window.html#.VUrXoyFViko – Front Story Opinion DHS Didn’t Learn Because of Mike Huckabee

When a reporter called me on my 18th birthday to get my reaction to Sandi Doherty going to the Faulkner County Jail to serve two days instead of the 53 days (one day for each day she wouldn’t pay) she was originally sentenced for contempt I was confused. I didn’t know what to say. It was two years later, and I had pushed all of the court stuff far, far away. I had no idea who this woman was, why she was important in my life, or that she was going to jail. I felt horrible I sent someone to jail, but felt somewhat vindicated. I was valued and had worth. People of influence were helping others, standing tall on those platforms. What a great birthday. Until two days later, when my best friend came over after his shift at Cracker Barrel to tell me how he had waited on the governor, Mike Huckabee; my friend was so excited because of all the press there for some story they were covering about the DHS worker Mr. Huckabee picked up from jail. He had no idea what was going on. He didn’t know about what I went through because I never talked about it — and still don’t, until now.

http://thecabin.net/stories/071998/loc_juvenile.html#.VUl8JCFViko – Article on My 18th Birthday

This week, when I heard Mike Huckabee was seeking the presidential nomination for 2016 an invisible dam burst inside me with such force I didn’t understand it. A consuming burn began to flow throughout my chest as I went through my timeline reading “ Huckabee-for-President- this” and “Huckabee-for-President- that.” People were trusting him, believing he was an honest, God-fearing, philanthropic man – but I have learned first-hand his true priority is his personal bottom line, his own agenda – not serving others. I’ve learned what a REAL Christian is over the years. Christ’s final commandments were to love others as ourselves and love Him. As a previous Baptist pastor he should know that. So please tell me, Mr. Huckabee, how you showed my mom and I love believing it’s acceptable for ANYONE to live for MONTHS without basic living needs. You speak of how anyone can work hard, go to school, and earn they’re way out of poverty. How did you help me, as my Governor, believing I didn’t need lights or running water to go to school or do my homework to follow your ideology. How did you help, uplift, and guide a struggling mom who needed SUPPORT, not money, with your experience as a pastor?

1996 killed my childhood, my confidence, and belief I was worthy of anything good or of value; not because I spent four months pouring water into a toilet tank to flush it or lighting candles on cool fall evenings. It is because a group of government officials put policy over people, especially a child, used vulnerable, helpless human beings to fuel their own agendas, and used God to cover a multitude of their own sins instead of genuinely trying to serve others. Almost 20 years later, those wounds are fresh and deep, so watching you, Mr. Huckabee, still wearing your sheep costume ignites a fire within me I can not contain. I didn’t have a voice in Arkansas, but I have one now and I know what truth looks like. I know loving someone may not pay their bills but it will heal the pain preventing them from functioning and succeeding. I would’ve hoped Pastor Huckabee would already know the ‘sin’ you so much like to rant over is just pain. Eradicate the pain, you’ll eradicate sin. Love, kindness, and compassion instead of judging, condemnation, and shaming will cultivate and grow a more productive and peaceful nation. Now that I have found my voice, regardless of the immense fear and vulnerability that tries to take over when I think of sharing such personal experiences and feelings, I will stand up and have my say. I will help others see your fangs through your wool so you can’t hurt them.

Seek Truth

I want to hate you, Mike Huckabee, for all the hurt and pain you’ve caused, but I really AM a Christian, trying to walk in His ways, and I know hating you will only hurt me and spread more pain. Instead, I will choose to love you. I will forgive you. Not because you’re worth it but because I am, and I really do want a more loving, productive nation.

http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ar-supreme-court/1131023.html – Arkansas Supreme Court Case, Entire