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Yes, I am Paying with Food Stamps. Yes, That Is an iPhone in my Dooney & Bourke Handbag

Updated on June 5, 2016
Brynn Thorssen profile image

Brynn's early life was magical, but her love of adventure and the unknown soon took her down darker paths. Destination: Enlightenment.

My designer handbag doesn't accurately represent my family's financial situation.
My designer handbag doesn't accurately represent my family's financial situation. | Source

My new book, Plastiline, available NOW on Amazon!

Humble Pie, Paid for in Food Stamps

In October 2014, I was forced to apply for food stamps for the first time in my life. It probably would have been more humiliating if I hadn't been so emotionally distraught and in such desperate need.

Our family had been on assistance once before; when I married my second husband, his military E4 (specialist) pay just wasn't covering all our expenses, so we applied for and received WIC. It was a generous amount of food and greatly helped us for about a year.

The marriage was sometimes good but mostly bad. He wasn't ready for the responsibility or stress of three small children and was already somewhat mentally ill. I was completely surprised by his behavior early in our marriage because we had been best friends for 11 years before we got married. He never told me about the rehab he went through shortly before we started dating.

He came home in November 2013, a couple months earlier than expected, which was tremendously disruptive to our family. We hadn't lived together for 4 years due to deployment and his being stationed at the Dugway Proving Grounds, where they test biological, nuclear and chemical weapons. I refused to allow our children to live there.

So he came back and said he was being recruited by the FBI. My friend said she wasn't sure that could be true because just a couple months earlier, he had a DUI. He almost hit a police car. He received probation for the offense because if my ex-husband was capable of anything, it was controlling people's minds and making them do what he wanted. Some people will laugh at me for believing him about his recruitment claim, but he is a really smart guy and they work with incredibly sensitive matters on Dugway, so I thought it could be true.

But then the lies got bigger. Instead of being recruited for the plain ol' FBI, he was actually being recruited by the FBI to work at the International Space Station in Belgium. He told us he would begin training on July 23 and that the whole family would move to Belgium in January 2015. I was suspicious that he was that sought-after, having worked overseas myself in a American corporate law firm that represented some of the biggest companies in the world.

Of course, July 23 came and went, and he didn't go to Quantico, so I demanded he get a job. He started going to what I thought was work, but he wasn't actually going to work. I think he actually did go down to Fort Carson every day, but I don't know what he did down there; that's what he did for two months.

The week before 9/11, he told me he was going to be deployed to Texas to fight ISIL on the Texas/Mexico border, because of his experience with chemical and biological weapons. Then, he told all of us that he was being sent with an army unit to Africa to build ebola clinics. There was too much, all at once. Plus no pay check.

Never Trust an Addict

I probably forgot to mention his raging drug addiction. I knew something was wrong not long after he came home around Thanksgiving 2013. He would be talking to me and fall asleep in the middle of a sentence. Just be talking and then trail off and fall asleep, his head slumping over to the side. Sometimes he would start snoring.

I thought I could control the addiction. The VA made it tough; every month, they prescribed him 120 10mg oxy tablets and 90 time-release synthetic morphine tablets called Opana. I'd make him give me the pills as soon as he filled the prescription, but he was too smart for me! At first, my plan worked. Sometimes I would give him more than the prescribed 4 per day because he does have a mild neck condition. But then, in April, he took the bottle of pills and switched most of them out with extra-strength Tylenols. I didn't know the difference until he told me he needed some and to check the imprint on the tablets so he would get oxy, not Tylenol.

In June, he was up to 12-14 oxy tablets per day. How he didn't overdose, I don't know. But I was tired of the passing out, I was tired of the strange behavior, and mostly, I was just done with him.

I kicked him out on September 30, and my friend told me to apply for food stamps the next day. It was some of the best advice I've ever received. They also signed me up for Medicaid and TANF (welfare), and said I could take a few months to start looking for work and sort through all these issues, although I would get much less money doing it that way.

His erratic behavior frightened me. I spoke to him a couple times on the phone and he had no remorse whatsoever for what he had done. I tried to get a restraining order; I didn't have enough to get one the first time, but the judge told me to immediately go file for divorce. Of course that made my husband's behavior even scarier, and he ended up doing a lot of things that landed him in jail, convicted on two domestic violence charges. He will have served his entire sentence and will get out on May 11, 2015. But between the divorce and protecting my family, I was appearing in court or filing papers at the court about every other day for several months.

I couldn't possibly afford a lawyer, and he only receives a small pension from the VA. The judge couldn't have ordered him to pay court costs so the financial burden of a lawyer would have fallen entirely on me.

He caused great emotional and financial hardship to our family. Early in the ordeal, we found out he hadn't paid the utilities bill - or any other bills - for about 6 months, the entire time we lived in our new rental house. While he was in jail, our landlord evicted us for non-payment (my husband tricked us into thinking he had paid the rent and our landlord into thinking I was the one stalling on the rent check).

There Should be a Grandfather Clause for Luxury Items

So I own this fantastic handbag. It's a genuine luxury bag, purchased at Nordstrom's with money he said was his severance pay.

I have discovered that many things he said were a lie and some things were true, but I can't get an angle on the money we got when he first retired from the army. All I know is that it's all gone or hidden. I can't even sell this bag on eBay, because of all the fakes that flooded the site for so long. I looked into selling it somewhere else, but I would get about $100 for it. And I'll tell you where to shove it if you think that's a good deal.

And yeah, I have an iPhone. Wanna know how? Because my first ex-husband didn't pay his child support for about a year and a half; I never went after him for it (he was unemployed), so he does actually owe me money. He put me on his cell account, and this iPhone was the best deal on his plan. He could also pay over 2 years. And yes, I suppose he could have purchased the crappy little flip phone, but it wasn't part of any plan so it would have cost $100 out of pocket. My husband hacked into all my electronic devices, so I was forced into getting a new phone regardless. He even managed to get the number for my throwaway phone by hacking into my e-mail.

So if you're mad about me being on food stamps and having an iPhone, why don't ya go talk to my husband about it. Let's just say that at the time of writing, he's a captive audience.

And lastly, about my car. I own two cars: A 1990 BMW we bought for my daughter to drive and a 1989 Cadillac. Together, they are worth about $2000. When my husband was still living at the house, I drove a 2006 Rav4; when I kicked him out, I made him take it because it was reliable and I didn't want him to have the excuse of the car breaking down to come home.

If you're wondering where that car is, he abandoned it on the side of the road, the police came and got it and it was auctioned for $800.

Neither of the two cars I have are reliable. Two motor mounts on the BMW broke about a month ago and I'm waiting for a mechanic friend to fix it. The Cadillac was never meant to be driven every day, especially after the entire exhaust system fell off last October. And because of that, I have to drive my mom's new Subaru. Definitely a nice, expensive car that someone on food stamps couldn't possibly afford. And guess what? I DON'T, BECAUSE IT'S NOT MY CAR!!

Every time I've been to the food stamp office, everyone there looks in desperate need of public assistance. I'm probably the one person someone saw that one time who was flooded with righteous indignation over someone having a - GASP! - Dooney & Bourke bag in the food stamps office. But never, ever forget that you have no idea who these people are or what their stories are. Tell me that there has never been an instance where you found out something about a friend that totally shocked you ... but you know all the dirty secrets of a complete stranger you're interacting with in a public place? Have you ever even been in the food stamp office?

You all need to get a handle on your judgement because honestly, if I can end up on food stamps, ANYONE can wind up on food stamps.

© 2015 Carrie Peterson


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    • JON EWALL profile image

      JON EWALL 

      23 months ago from usa


      nov 2016 WTP voted for change jan 20 2017 a new president will be sworn in to be the 45th POTUS

      CHANGE IS COMING CHANGE IS HERE Ford motor company announced they will add 500 800 jobs in the US instead of Mexico

    • profile image


      23 months ago

      People who do not need them have no idea. I used them once because I was going to college and my wonderful G.I. bill I paid for in the military that was soppose to pay me monthly took 3 months to arrive. To apply you must be a full time student with a minimum of 12 credit hours. These programs exist for a reason and people judging you are just dumb. You need a car, phone and computer to just job search. If you get paid 10 cents more you our not elgible for food stamps. You might pay all your bills and starve but who cares right. Food stamps are not welfare and the food industry often supports the program. Its wholsale and a tax write off or subsidy. We also throw away tons of food and I know how food banks work. I have heard some pretty dumb things. Their are people who think unemployment and even social security is welfare. These things are paid for and if you qualify you earned it. Did we forget what our taxes pay for? If you want to complain about people trying to live every day, you should see what we waste it on. The security at Trump tower alone could cover a lot of people food stamps.

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      2 years ago from Peoria, Arizona

      Food Stamps are meant to be embarrassing I suppose. The program is to encourage people to work really hard for self-sufficiency. I don't know if I would want that to change. Unless a person is disabled, it should not feel comfortable to use.

    • Happymommy2520 profile image


      2 years ago from East Coast

      I too had to file for food stamps for the first time a few weeks ago. It was quite an experience. Some of the people in there looked like average people. Some others were characters to say the least. It was an embarrassing experience but it's only temporary!

    • Nicole Young 07 profile image

      Nicole Young 07 

      2 years ago from Chicago Illinois

      No one ever had the right to judge anyone, so just go on and live your life, as long as you are doing everything for you and your kids, don't let other people's opinion affect you. You were not born to please others, I admire you for your courage being able to go through a difficult stage in your life and still manage to stand up and keep going. Anyway if you are still looking to sell your designer handbag, and you are anywhere near Arizona, you might want to check out Biltmore loan and Jewelry, they buy and loan against designer bags, so you can have that bag of yours appraised. Good luck to you and your kids and keep strong :)

    • JON EWALL profile image

      JON EWALL 

      2 years ago from usa


      nov 2016 we can make a change? Dems have had 2/3s control of our government 2007-2016 R's in senate can't get 60 votes unless D's vote against Obama

      12/17/13 A Plan For Jobs & Economic Growth

      2011 President Barak Obama where are the jobs?

      2/1516 Obama Administration Approves New Factory …In Cuba

      9/8/14 Our Economic Recovery Is Stuck in the Senate

      4/30/15 ‘’Bucket ‘’: President Obama’s Veto Threats Hurts American Families & Workers

      1/24/16 GOP demands debt reduction plan from Obama

      2/14/16 ‘This is necessary to get our country on track; jobs jobs

      7/21/11 Senator Coburn exposes $9 Trillion WASTE in Gov agencies 2010 Pa y Go law

    • 2besure profile image

      Pamela Lipscomb 

      2 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      This is what critic of public assistance do no understand or care to understand. People who need help come from all areas of life. Everyone is not milking the system. Some have worked their whole life and then life happens. You designer bags and iPhone means at one time you were self-sufficient, had a job and maybe savings and now your situation has changed. People judge because they feel it will never happen to them.

    • cperuzzi profile image

      Christopher Peruzzi 

      3 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      @Brynn - There are a few other things that need to accounted for. First of all, unemployment benefits have gone down in places like New York. I'm at their top tier and am netting $378 a week. This is 40% of my weekly paycheck - and they took their time in giving it to me because I got severance pay. The gap from when I lost my job to when I got my first check was a month and a half. My severance ran out three weeks before they started paying out.

      But I digress.

      Phone and other essentials - If you're out of work and would like to be a productive contributor to society, you need to have a cell phone and you need to have REGULAR INTERNET ACCESS. Why? That's how perspective employers are supposed to contact you. It's also how you have to find your next position - through the job boards. And unless you carry a flash drive with you everywhere, you need to upload your resume to them. You can't miss their calls, either. That's what these clueless right wingers don't understand. In order to solve the problem of unemployment and getting people to pull themselves up by their "bootstraps" there are minimum necessary resources you need that require access to a workstation, a cellphone, and email. And if you don't have the extra savings set aside for our somewhat unstable economy, you could be quite screwed.

      So, here's what you need: Food, shelter, a television, a refrigerator, a working PC, a cellphone, and an internet connection. All for $378 a week.

      Incidentally, my benefits for the first time I was unemployed back in 1990 were $325 a week (net) - and those were 1990 dollars. When I lost my job back in 2008 it was $510 in NJ a week. At $378 a week, unless you've got money in the bank or a retirement fund you can cash out, you won't be able to not only afford the necessities you need to get your next job but you won't be able to afford to feed your family.

    • 2besure profile image

      Pamela Lipscomb 

      3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      People who seek government assistance come from all stations in life. This is a great piece. I appreciate you letting us into a very difficult time in your life. Not everyone on public assistance is an unwed mother with four kids. If you see a woman with an iPhone, perhaps her family is helping her pay the bills, or that designer bag, may be the one she worked for when she had a good-paying job. When you are heartless, the only way compassion can be learned is by suffering. Those who judge have only to wait until they have a run of bad luck, lose their job, house burns down, get divorced, and they have nowhere else to turn. Then they will understand, the worse day in a person's life... the day when suddenly, you don't have the means to be self-sufficient! Please check out:

    • Brynn Thorssen profile imageAUTHOR

      Carrie Peterson 

      3 years ago from Colorado Springs, CO

      Actually, cperuzzi, I think men almost have it worse. Both my first husband and my father (and ergo, our family) were deeply affected by the airline cuts that happened after 9/11. My father was senior management after a lifetime in the business (worked his way up from mechanic); he was forced into a paltry retirement a week after 9/11. My ex was laid off the same week, and I can't tell you how terrible and awful and UNSYMPATHETIC the bill collectors were when I would call and try to work something out, because we went from barely scraping by to pretty much nothing in a month.

      I worked for a big corporate law firm for a while, for one of the managing partners, so I know how difficult it is for older people in senior positions to find work when their companies give them the shaft. Even that law firm went belly up and attorneys with decades of experience had no way to find work in other firms (too many chiefs, right!).

      The cell phone thing is what bugs me the most. Those flip phones are sometimes the most expensive ones in the store, unless you want to buy a throwaway phone .... and then? Those minute cards you have to buy will kill you!

    • cperuzzi profile image

      Christopher Peruzzi 

      3 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      A great article that gives voice to the majority of us. I read most of this and, yeah, men get screwed, too. I won't bore you with my story because I'll get little sympathy as well. I'll only say that I have worked at several Fortune 500 companies with decent salaries as either a contractor or employee - and most of the time, I was either laid off or got to the end of my contract. My wife, she got shafted for no particular reason over the phone after working as an office manager for 14 years. My problem was that I lost my contract the exact same time she lost her benefits. We went from a household income of $110K a year to 20K overnight.

      Our savings and investments had been annihilated back in 2008 when the market took its dive. And I was living from paycheck to paycheck to keep a mortgage. My wife went from a regular paying job at 60K a year to doing odd jobs that total maybe $6K.

      I lost my latest job about a month and a half ago and I've been getting dicked around by unemployment since day one. The modest savings that I've put together through my savings is down to about $31 - that's it. Unemployment owes me about 4 weeks of benefits - until then, I've been doing what I can to put food on the table. I almost went to all despair when our last running car lost its muffler two days ago. It's being held together with wire.

      To all those people who think that going for assistance when you have a cell phone or some luxury item that you USE EVERY DAY - "get bent". We are doing everything now to survive and would happily work at any job to make ends meet.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      All of my school aged kidods are involved with some kind of extra-curricular activy. My 16 year old son is on the drumline at his high school, my pre-teen daughter is on the volleyball and softball teams and my 8 year old son is halfway to his black belt in Taekwondo.My little guy who stays home with me and does flash cards during the day has extra-curricular activites of napping and cuddling with Mommy and Daddy! =)

    • Brynn Thorssen profile imageAUTHOR

      Carrie Peterson 

      3 years ago from Colorado Springs, CO

      Thank you all so much!

    • brakel2 profile image

      Audrey Selig 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi Brynn I used to work in food stamps and know all the remarks that people make. Your situation saddens me, and I hope life gets better for you. Pray and try to be brave and think of the good. You might try to get counseling and read about meditation on this site. Do your best to remain calm. I agree about trying to get help for your husband. Thanks for sharing your story. Blessings, Audrey

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      I'm so sorry for all you've been through! It is shameful that the VA is so poorly managed, and the wait for help is so long. It is disgraceful that our government sends young men into harm's way and then discards them when they return home instead of getting them proper help to re-integrate into civilian society. PTSD is just the tip of the iceberg!

      I know what you mean about people judging you. I don't have any designer handbags, but only because I've never been "into" that. I don't like purses. If it doesn't fit in my pockets or belt pouch, it stays home. That said, I have a nice pair of fairly new "New Balance" cross-trainer shoes. I didn't buy them. They are hand-me-downs from my elder daughter, because her orthotic devices did not fit into them, so she wore them only twice.

      We have a decent, reliable truck, but it was bought and paid for before my husband's health and our finances fell apart.

      And so forth. I know whereof you speak. Bright blessings upon you for holding your head high, and keeping up the good fight. Peace.

    • JON EWALL profile image

      JON EWALL 

      3 years ago from usa

      B T

      our government should not allow

      Contact your Senator and/or Congressional Representative request help from them.

      illegal US House Let

      US Senate

      Don't give up he is a vet


    • JON EWALL profile image

      JON EWALL 

      3 years ago from usa

      B T

      The VA needs to be contacted for help for your husband. Be persistent , contact US Senators and US Representators by e-mail. send a link to your hub, e mail all of them.

      illegal US House Let

      US Senate

      Don't give up ,you will succeed.

    • Brynn Thorssen profile imageAUTHOR

      Carrie Peterson 

      3 years ago from Colorado Springs, CO

      Thank you all so much for your kind words!

      I tried so hard to get my husband help, but it was just not to be. I hope that now he has been ordered to get help by the judge, he will find healing and health.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      brynn....Quite honestly, I am not at all into this horrible human habit of "judging people," so no worries from my part of the world. Further, If I didn't know better, I'd accuse you of copying from my book of "life's less-than-wonderful journey." You, me and THOUSANDS of other women who unwittingly made a simple wrong step....& found themselves crashing into the depths of HELL,...courtesy of a man we loved & trusted.

      I could go on....but you know what girlfriend?....This should cover it. Peace, Paula.... UP+++ pinned & tweeted.

    • JON EWALL profile image

      JON EWALL 

      3 years ago from usa


      ''No one knows the pain of needing help, being afraid'' Many have and with the help of prayer ,we have overcome. The journey is hard, take one day at a time and have FAITH that the Lord will not let you down!

      The peace of the Lord be with you and the family.

    • tyreebruce profile image

      Tyree Bruce 

      3 years ago from McHenry Illinois

      Men can really put women in a very bad financial predicament! It is horrible, I feel for you. I would never judge a person unless I knew they were beyond a doubt scamming the system. No one knows the pain of needing help, being afraid, and trying to raise kids alone or worse with a psychotic husband!

    • JLClose profile image


      3 years ago from OreGONE

      I'm sorry to read about your struggles. There's always more than meets the eye, isn't there? Best of luck to you!

    • vickiholder profile image

      Vicki Holder 

      3 years ago from The beautiful Ouachita Mtns. in Arkansas

      Your story is heartbreaking. I certainly hope that you have people close to you for emotional support. I have never been married so I have never been through divorce; however, I have been through unemployment, underemployment, layoffs, and being broke to the point of wandering around the house wondering what I could sell off to keep the lights going. It has all passed and I came out on the other side as will you. Stay strong.

    • JON EWALL profile image

      JON EWALL 

      3 years ago from usa

      B T

      Your husband is a vet with a serious problem that needs help, as hard as it would be Don't give up on him as he truly needs help. the VA has allowed a lot of vets and their families to endure hardships that our government should not allow

      Contact your Senator and/or Congressional Representative request help from them. If you don't get any satisfaction ( last resort )go to the local media. the journey may be difficult ,be persistent

      you and your children needs a dad ,may God bless

    • Brynn Thorssen profile imageAUTHOR

      Carrie Peterson 

      3 years ago from Colorado Springs, CO

      Thanks for the support!

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 

      3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Very compelling Hub, Brynn. Nobody should judge others because no one knows another person's circumstances. I was unemployed for almost 4 years through no fault of my own so I have some idea of your troubles. Hang in there. Things will get better.

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Well said.

      I'm sorry you had to go through so much hard stuff, but you are absolutely right--no one should judge before they know the whole truth. We had to go on food stamps twice in 4 years due to unemployment issues that were completely out of our hands. We were able to pay all of our own bills with my income, and all of our clothes, cars, phones, etc. were either things we already owned or things that were given to us second-hand from other people. Yet, we got the sneery remarks whenever someone saw us swipe a foodstamp card. One woman even muttered behind us that people on foodstamps shouldn't be allowed to buy chicken--just beans and potatoes. That would "teach" us to not be greedy and lazy.

      The good news is that we worked through it, and I bet you can too. Just hold your head up and ignore the jerks!

    • JON EWALL profile image

      JON EWALL 

      3 years ago from usa

      B T

      When you are down and out look for the solution to your up lifting , look to our savior Jesus Christ, He will give you strength, direction and love to survive the hardships on the journey. Have faith and trust in Him.

      Never give up, pray for help and good things will happen! May god bless you and the family

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      3 years ago from Peoria, Arizona

      IF someone saw you in the office with an expensive bag, they either work there or are getting benefits themselves. Let them judge. It will not stop your benefits that you paid towards through your husband and your former employment through taxes.

      The benefits are for all of us who need them. I really wish that you could have worked on your marriage though. I am sorry for your loss.


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