Happy middle

A hard story, a look back, and "6 years, 9 months." Also, 7 other things worth your time.

We’re going to my personal Wayback Machine today, to see how a story I wrote about a good decision a few years ago turned out.

Meet Christina Knaack, a single mom in South Carolina. She’d struggled with addiction in her past but had been clean for several years. And like a lot of people, she had a hard time making ends meet financially.

A few years back, in 2017, she got her tax refund—$5,600—and decided to spend it all in one place—by pre-paying her entire year’s rent. Then, she posted about the decision on Facebook.

I wrote a quick story about her too. Honestly, if I recall correctly, I was walking from my office to Penn Station and a headline simply popped into my mind: Single Mom Acts Responsibly, Internet Explodes.

Even looking at that screenshot above, a quarter of a million people shared Christina’s post. And people had opinions. By and large, they did one of three things:

  1. They cheered her for making a responsible decision.

  2. They chastised her for seeking attention, or thought she must be engaged in fraud if she had a $5,600 refund despite working minimum wage jobs.

  3. They took a tone of, “If you’re stupid enough to prepay your rent and overpay your taxes instead of investing, blah blab blah blah.”

I forgot about the whole thing until recently—but then I wondered what had happened afterward.

Because I like to revisit these kinds of stories (example), but I was a bit afraid of what I’d find.

So I tracked her down, asked over Messenger how things were going, and got this reply:

“That was nice article❤️ … I now have 6 years and 9 months clean🎉 still rocking my recovery. … I am happy and all the kids are healthy. Still rocking this mom thing.”

OK, big sigh of relief. I felt good. I got Christina on the phone, and asked for more of her story.

Growing up in Florida, she told me, “drugs was just like an everyday thing in my life,” and she was an addict by age 15. She got clean in her 20s, she said, and when she was just weeks away from giving birth to her daughter, she made a break and headed to South Carolina, where her grandmother lived.

All she had with her at the time, was “just a bag of used closed for my baby.”

From there, she got a job, took care of her kids (she’s now a mom to four), bought a car, and eventually moved out of her grandmother’s house. She was 29 in 2017 when she wrote the post about paying her rent for a year ahead of time, and working at McDonald’s for $7.50 an hour.

If you’re curious how someone can get a $5,600 tax refund while working a job at that kind of wage, Christina explained it’s in part because of the Earned Income Tax Credit and child tax credits. I used to practice tax law; it makes sense.

More recently, she was working at an international shipping company for $9 an hour —loading trucks, doing paperwork, “basically whatever they needed me to do”—but got laid off due to the pandemic.

I’m not going to tell you the story has a happy ending — but that’s only because it hasn’t ended yet.

I mean, can I even tell you for sure that my own life story will have a happy ending? Things are going great, but you know—I have Irish genes; we seem to be hard-wired to think disaster could always be right around the corner. (Ha ha ha, 2020.)

Anyway, I digress. As for Christina, let’s say, her story has a happy middle. Life’s not always easy, I’m sure, but I believe her when she says she’s rocking it. And I’m rooting for her.

“It's a lot to deal with, but I'm OK with that,” she told me. “It keeps me from thinking about my past. It keeps me from, you know, ever even thinking about rolling down the road I used to go on.”

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7 other things worth your time

  • About 40,000 Americans were diagnosed with Covid-19 on Tuesday. Among them: one of the the guys who carries the nuclear football, the deputy head of the U.S. Coast Guard, and presidential advisor/speechwriter Stephen Miller. (The Week, Forbes, The Washington Post)

  • Facebook cracked down on QAnon, banning all associated pages and groups from the platform. Separately, both Facebook and Twitter either removed or slapped warnings on President Trump’s posts suggesting that Covid-19 is no worse than the flu, Trump advocated for changing the law to take away a key protection Internet companies rely on, and a House committee advised breaking up Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google. Good Lord, this was just one day. (NBC News, BBC, Deadline, The Observer)

  • Eddie Van Halen, the Dutch-born, American lead guitarist and cofounder of the rock group Van Halen, passed away at age 64 after battling cancer. “We came here with approximately $50 and a piano,” he once said, “and we didn't speak the language. Now look where we are. If that's not the American Dream, what is?” (Twitter, 2x)

  • Not to say I told you so, but I wrote a while back about the potential constitutional problem with the line of succession, and how, if Nancy Pelosi ever were to become acting president, Mike Pompeo would 100% argue in court that the secretary of state should take over, not the speaker of the house. It turns out groundwork for that argument is already being laid right now. (Understandably, WSJ, $)

  • President Trump on Tuesday ordered his aides not to negotiate with Democrats on a stimulus bill until after the election. A few hours later, he reversed course and said he’d sign a bill if it adhered to certain conditions. This was in one of his 45 tweets and retweets during a 3-hour period last night. (CNBC, NBC News, President Trump on Twitter)

  • Apple announced that it’s holding an event October 13, and unless I and every other writer has completely misjudged, this is when they’ll unveil the new iPhone 12. (Fortune)

  • This is from a few days ago, but my colleague Jeff Haden wrote about Mark Cuban’s search for Delonte West, a former Dallas Maverick player who has battled mental health issues and was reportedly homeless. “Leadership,” as Jeff put it, “genuine leadership -- extends beyond business goals and business results. Great bosses focus on providing the tools, training, and support to help their employees better do their jobs -- and achieve their own goals.” (Inc.)

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