Woman dedicated to service amid own struggle

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EDITORS NOTE: Poverty is an equal opportunity offender, touching nearly every demographic group. One group is affected more often: single women who head households.

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Ms. Mickens talks with HPSO clients about services that are offered. She has been a volunteer with the organization since October 2008 and says she is able to serve better because of her own experiences.  Jessica Webb Sibley/Staff
Jessica Webb Sibley/Staff
Ms. Mickens talks with HPSO clients about services that are offered. She has been a volunteer with the organization since October 2008 and says she is able to serve better because of her own experiences.

These households experience the highest poverty rates nationally, in Georgia and South Carolina, and in the three-county Augusta area.

Thursday and today, The Augusta Chronicle profiles some of the women facing poverty and their difficulties, youths who come from these households and what can help decrease the high poverty rate of a city such as Augusta.

Most people would never guess Linda Mickens' financial situation by looking at her.

The 46-year-old Augusta woman is polished, well spoken and volunteers almost full time at Helping People Start Over, a Christian nonprofit organization on Gordon Highway that assists people in need of food, clothing or other services. She has a two-year associate's degree in early childhood care/education and has taken college-level business and psychology classes.

She regularly attends church at New Life Christian Center and is the mother of a teenage daughter, Christian, a high school senior. She also has an adult daughter and two grandchildren.

She's also living at the poverty level. Because of illness and life circumstances, she is unable to work. Her economic problems started six months after her divorce nine years ago, when child-support payments from her ex-husband stopped. She was married for five years, Ms. Mickens said.

"I was robbing Peter to pay Paul. The only thing that stayed current was the rent, to keep from being evicted. The electric was behind one month, gas one month, water -- just kind of keeping things afloat to keep anything from being turned off," Ms. Mickens said.

Things had gotten better for a while, but she's back in the same situation again. She lives in a rented home and uses EBT to provide food for her family. She said that she pays her "bills through blessings," sometimes getting donations from church, people she knows and some she doesn't. God's timing is not our timing, she said, but a day or two before things are due she'll either receive a donation or something works out in her favor.

She receives child-support payments sporadically. Her daughter has a good relationship with her father, but the financial support isn't always there, she said.

"I think he thinks it doesn't matter anymore. I won't say that he has not tried to help out, but to say he's paying child support -- he's not coming close to what they've ordered him to pay," Ms. Mickens said.

Ms. Mickens suffers from migraines that have rendered her unable to work. She is receiving extensive medical testing, and her headaches are so severe that she has the physical symptoms of Bell's palsy, such as paralysis or weakness on one side of her face. Her medicine has added to her difficulties, with side effects such as hallucinations and memory loss. She also has back problems and relies on Medicaid for her medical care.

"I think finding any kind of employment would be difficult because of the medical problems that I'm going through," she said.

She's debating whether to apply for Supplemental Security Income. She said she believes if she did it would be like giving up and accepting that she will never get better. To keep from accepting defeat, she tries to fight through her current situation, she said.

During her marriage, she worked in the public school system as a paraprofessional and later became a substitute teacher. In 2005 she began having migraines that lasted all day, she said.

Two years later she was working as a customer-service rep at a local cable company when she had to go on short-term disability for her migraines. At the same time her daughter became ill and needed surgery to remove a tumor in January 2008. Ms. Mickens needed to stay with her daughter at the hospital, but her employer wanted her to return to work, so she was fired. Since then she has tried unsuccessfully to find a job.

SHE'S VOLUNTEERING to help the same group of people to which she also belongs. Ms. Mickens said she relies on her faith in God for strength. Many days she cries and prays. The situation has both tested and built her faith, she said.

"I had to get to the point of looking at where I was in my walk with the Lord and looking at who my source is. That makes all the difference, even when the times are hard and you don't really see it in the natural, knowing in the spiritual that things will be OK," Ms. Mickens said.

She calls her work at Helping People Start Over her ministry. She has been volunteering with the organization since October 2008. She hopes it might turn into a full-time job, but that's not why she keeps coming back.

"I think I've actually found my calling. I really don't see myself doing anything else. God gave me a vision a long time ago of helping people," she said.

On a typical day, she operates the front desk and prepares boxes of food for those in need. Before they leave, she prays with them. In the future, she wants to have a facility to assist women and children.

"I never knew there was such a need for food and clothing and people needing to be ministered to. The hurt that people carry around makes your problems seem so minute," Ms. Mickens said. "Not to diminish what's going on in your life, but to realize, 'I have to do something. Whatever it takes.' It keeps you coming back. ...

"I tell them, 'It's for me, too. It's not just for you.' It's an amazing thing."

IT HELPS THAT her daughter is understanding, Ms. Mickens said. Despite the typical challenges of the teenage years, the mother and daughter have a close relationship. On a recent Saturday afternoon they were at home cooking chicken wings, talking and listening to contemporary gospel music.

Ms. Mickens said she has always tried to keep her daughter in a decent neighborhood so that she wouldn't grow up with negative influences.

"She's actually made the comment that she's spoiled, that she's never went without anything that she wanted, and she shocked me when she said that," Ms. Mickens said. "I figured that she's gone without lots of things that she's wanted. I felt so bad that I couldn't give her the things she wanted and needed."

She said her daughter doesn't realize, however, what she's had to go through to make ends meet. Christian is a senior this year, so there are extra expenses they can't afford, such as senior pictures.

"It's affecting her more this year than it has before," she said.

Still, her daughter remains on track. She's 11th in her class and wants to attend college and become a neurologist. She's a varsity cheerleader and belongs to numerous academic clubs, including the debate team and academic decathlon. She is also in training for youth leadership positions at her church.

Ms. Mickens fights to remain positive.

"God allows us to experience things," she said. "If I had not gone through the struggles of not knowing how my bills were going to get paid, where my next meal was going to come from or facing eviction, or going through pain or waiting and not knowing, I wouldn't know how to help these people. I wouldn't have this true compassion for them. Since I've walked that walk, I can relate."

Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227 or latina.emerson@augustachronicle.com.

AREA FOOD PANTRIES

True Vine Missionary Baptist Church

1780 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd

"6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday"

(706) 722-4011

Faith Outreach Christian Church

"2664 Willis Foreman Road, Hephzibah"

by appointment only - 9 a.m. to noon Monday and Friday; 8:30-11:30 a.m. Wednesday

(706) 261-5043

Beulah Grove Bapitst Church

1446 Lee Beard Way

"first 10 applicants each day - 10 a.m. to noon Monday, Tuesday, Thursday; 1:30-3:30 p.m. Wednesday"

(706) 722-4999

Catholic Social Services

811 12th St.

9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday; closed noon to 1 p.m. for lunch

(706) 722-3661

DCCM (Downtown Cooperative Church Ministry)

430 Eighth St.

picture ID required - 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; beginning Dec. 1 Monday-Friday

(706) 722-9065

Tremount Temple Baptist Church

1363 11th St.

10 a.m. to noon Thursday except first Thursdays - they go out on community visits

(706) 724-1264

Crawford Avenue Baptist Church

507 Crawford Ave.

"social security card and picture ID required - 10 a.m. to noon fourth Mondays, except Dec. 21 (third Monday)"

(706) 738-2527

Hillcrest Baptist Church

3045 Deans Bridge Road

"for residents of south Augusta and Hephzibah, social security cards, picture ID and proof of residence required - 10 a.m. to noon Mondays"

(706) 793-3104

Victory Assembly of God

2030 Olive Road

picture ID required - 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. second Thursday; other times by appointment

(706) 798-7742

Gracewood United Methodist Church

2117 Tobacco Road

"picutre ID, proof of residence and proof of income required - first 30 families living to the south of Windsor Spring Road or in Blythe, Hephzibah or McBean - 9:30-11_30 a.m. Tuesday"

(706) 798-2200

Broad Street Ministry Center

20 Broad St.

"picture ID and social security cards for recipients and their dependants required; work requirements also - 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday"

(706) 722-5999

Shiloh Comprehesive Community Center

1635 15th St.

"for ages 60 and over one time per month, picture ID required - 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday"

(706) 738-0089

Asbury United Methodist Church

1305 Troupe St.

picture ID required - 9 to 11 a.m. first and third Tuesday

(706) 736-0061

Augusta Deliverance Evangalistic Church

2028 Roosevelt Drive

"one visit per person per month - noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday, except fourth and fifth Tuesdays"

(706) 736-7015

Augusta First Church of the Nazarene

2044 Lumpkin Road

"picture ID required; if on public assistance, bring paperwork - 10 a.m. to noon second and fourth Tuesday"

(706) 793-2251

Living Word Christian Center

3018 Old McDuffie Road

"call in advance - picture ID required - 9:30-11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Wednesday; emergency walk-ins 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday"

(706) 798-0123

First Baptist Church of Augusta

3500 Walton Way

"first 36 residents of Richmond and Columbia counties, call for other requirements - 9:30-11 a.m. Tuesday"

(706) 733-2236

Everfaithful Missionary Baptist

314 Sandbar Ferry Road

"picture ID required - food bank, not pantry - no cooking - 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. third and fourth Wednesdays and third Saturdays"

(706) 722-0553

The Hill Baptist Church

2165 Kings Way

"referral from EOA required - food bank, not pantry - no cooking - 10-11:30 a.m. or until food runs out Dec. 16 "

(706) 736-8446

Christ Episcopal Church

1904 Greene St.

first 60 clients - picture ID required - 10-11 a.m. first and third Thursday; soup kitchen 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays

(706) 736-5165

Vineyard Church Augusta

3126 Parrish Road

picture ID required - noon to 1:30 p.m. Thursday

(706) 863-9766

Bible Deliverance Temple

1857 Fenwick St.

for emergencies only - by appointment only

(706) 736-1600

Williams Memorial CME Church

1636 15th St.

10 a.m. to 1 p.m. first Saturday

(706) 733-9430

Grace Street Church of Christ

120 Grace St.

picture ID required - 9 a.m. to noon fourth Saturday; emergency assistance at other times by appointment

(706) 736-0222

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Comments (78) Add comment
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eachoneteachone
0
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eachoneteachone 11/27/09 - 08:46 am
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Simple: If you cannot feed

Simple: If you cannot feed them don't breed them.

eachoneteachone
0
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eachoneteachone 11/27/09 - 08:48 am
0
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Single women, head of house

Single women, head of house holds = staying knocked up to get the goods ...welfare ...food stamps ...housing....generational welfare.

eachoneteachone
0
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eachoneteachone 11/27/09 - 08:50 am
0
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No sympathy for single

No sympathy for single welfare mothers. Tough.

LBenedict
2
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LBenedict 11/27/09 - 09:09 am
0
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God bless you as you battle

God bless you as you battle illness and the other struggles you are facing.

raptcontemplation
4
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raptcontemplation 11/27/09 - 09:11 am
0
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I have had severe migraines

I have had severe migraines all my life and worked through them.

eachoneteachone
0
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eachoneteachone 11/27/09 - 09:14 am
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The by product of sexual

The by product of sexual intercourse ...AIDS and babies....can be circumvented with a condom.

Casting_Fool
1121
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Casting_Fool 11/27/09 - 09:19 am
0
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It's not always as simple as

It's not always as simple as "Well, she's a welfare mom and abusing the system." From the article, it sounds like she's not the typical welfare recipient. Medical problems suck. I've been there. My wife died from a rare medical disorder, leaving me with a baby to care for. Her medical expenses were overwhelming before she died, and we ended up on disability and welfare in order to keep her medical care. So I was a single (white) DAD in a similar situation as Ms. Mickens, on the welfare rolls for 11 years before I was able to work my way off. I faced the same ignorance and bigotry as folks are showing here. I was told to give my baby to the church ladies to raise so I could work three jobs to get out of debt. (Nice, so I would end up with a complete stranger as a adult child.) A childless pastor and his wife tried to get us to allow them to adopt our child when it was born, telling us that we weren't going to be adequate parents (Gee, thanks Preacher, you're a peach.) It's been hard, but I now own my home (paid for) and car (paid for), and am self-employed in a service industry that pretty much guarantees that I'll have a job for years to come. Give Ms. Mickens' a break.

devontaekelly
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devontaekelly 11/27/09 - 09:34 am
0
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Pity, another welfare

Pity, another welfare diability scam!

revscottep
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revscottep 11/27/09 - 09:35 am
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He has showed you, O man,

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

JohnQPublic
5
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JohnQPublic 11/27/09 - 09:51 am
0
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"There but for the Grace of

"There but for the Grace of God go I..." Be careful when judging so it doesn't fall back on you or yours. Try looking with your heart.

corgimom
31219
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corgimom 11/27/09 - 10:08 am
0
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i have compassion for that

i have compassion for that woman. She is sick. I don't mind helping people like her, she can't help being ill. I wish she and her daughter nothing but blessings. There is no way to fake Bell's Palsy.

Lorraine
140
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Lorraine 11/27/09 - 10:13 am
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God bless you and your

God bless you and your tireless efforts to help others despite your challenges that you must endure on a daily basis. I was deeply touched by this heartfelt story.

devontaekelly
0
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devontaekelly 11/27/09 - 10:21 am
0
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If I misspoke, I apologize!

If I misspoke, I apologize!

Roeschen
1
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Roeschen 11/27/09 - 10:25 am
0
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I applaud her for her

I applaud her for her volunteer work but don't understand if she is too sick to work, how can she volunteer almost full-time? Something sounds a little strange.

devontaekelly
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devontaekelly 11/27/09 - 10:30 am
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That was my initial reaction

That was my initial reaction roechen. If she can do all that, I was thinking she can also work!

InChristLove
22459
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InChristLove 11/27/09 - 10:42 am
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eachoneteachone, your

eachoneteachone, your comments are hateful. This woman WAS married when she had her daughter...what do you expect after the divorce..she stuff the kid back inside or maybe you would prefer she eliminate the baby, is that more to your liking so that you won't be burdened with helping this mother out. I find it amazing that this woman has these medical issues but she's not sitting at home on her butt, at least she's out there volunteering her time to help out. Some of you who are commenting negatively need some Jesus love to rub off on you....such hateful people.

InChristLove
22459
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InChristLove 11/27/09 - 11:17 am
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Roeschen, that was my first

Roeschen, that was my first thought but it's possible that the church works with her disability and almost full time could mean 4 hours a few days a week or some other reduce schedule. Full time does not always mean 40 hours a week. The fact is she's not sitting back doing nothing.

corgimom
31219
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corgimom 11/27/09 - 11:47 am
0
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There are some ignorant

There are some ignorant people out there. Hopefully you will never be disabled, because it is Hell. Nobody- NOBODY- would choose to get the little bit of money that welfare or disability versus the money of a job,especially a college educated person. She volunteers, she obviously wants to work. I've seen people prostrate, writhing on the floor, screaming and vomiting, with migraines. My heart goes out to her, and as for the others- may you never have to live with extreme, chronic pain. Yes, those comments are hateful and serve no purpose.

WAG
287
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WAG 11/27/09 - 12:15 pm
0
0
The point here is if she is

The point here is if she is well enough to volunteer there are part time jobs she can do..I mean does she have migraines everyday. We all have aches and pains but we still have to go to work...I am the first one to want to help some one but gosh you need to try and help yourself. I retired but had to go back to work for the insurance...And I am truly thankful that I am able to work... She needs to get a job. I know there is something out there she can do to get paid...The hardest thing I ever did was to go out and get a job in a field I knew nothing about. But I did it cause I like to eat! And now I take pride in the fact that I learned something new..And I pray everyday to be an asset to the company I work for... Get off welfare and go to work!

soldout
1280
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soldout 11/27/09 - 12:43 pm
0
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I think we can get her fixed

I think we can get her fixed with her headache situation. Some of my friends and I will try to get in touch with her.

corgimom
31219
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corgimom 11/27/09 - 12:46 pm
0
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WAG, you should start a

WAG, you should start a business called "diagnosing people over the Internet", since you're so good at it. When she takes her medicine, she hallucinates. Tell me what job she is qualified for, since you know so much about medicine. Hallucinating pretty much eliminates everything, don't you think?

justus4
99
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justus4 11/27/09 - 12:51 pm
0
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...all negative comments
Unpublished

...all negative comments based on racial associations and here is proof: the non-minority couple with 11 kids living is squalor, bordering on starvation, received comments that reflected an excuse approach, an understanding view, a tragic set of life's mistakes - but NO real personal responsibility was attached to the comments from readers. However, in the recent examples of minority single women, all comments are associated with individual responsibility and personal failures. These minority women, according to the articles, has held their own and are taking care of their families as best they can. Again, a comparison with the pigsty family that violated children school policy and other laws, received an unbelieveable and a unheard of sentence to allow her to keep the kids. Let a African-American female get involved with the "system" and see if her kids are even mentioned in the case, so these profiled minority women are excellent role models for staying away from the legal system and should be given credit for trying. That other family avoided personal responsibility and demonstrates how U know what, affects the opinions of the ignorant masses. That means U...

butler123
1
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butler123 11/27/09 - 12:51 pm
0
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She thinks finding any kind

She thinks finding any kind of employment would be difficult. Not that she hasn't been able to find employment. Hmmm...

kkeutjm0807
0
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kkeutjm0807 11/27/09 - 12:52 pm
0
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I go to work to the theatre

I go to work to the theatre tonight as a volunteer. My concept was I couldn't afford to pay for the show I need to enjoy and knowing that I am able to forget my migraines or some sort of headache while watchig the show, do I have to give up my option? Being a volunteer I work helping people get comfortable in that theatre and I get to see that show in return. My verdict for this lady should be justifiable as well.

kkeutjm0807
0
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kkeutjm0807 11/27/09 - 12:56 pm
0
0
Justifiable act is what I

Justifiable act is what I meant that she's doing her best with what she can do, at least.....

corgimom
31219
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corgimom 11/27/09 - 01:01 pm
0
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Butler, there's the matter of

Butler, there's the matter of drug screens. Do you think she would pass one? Are you aware of any employer that would hire someone that takes a medicine that causes hallucinations? Post them here, I'm sure she would be grateful to you.

butler123
1
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butler123 11/27/09 - 01:13 pm
0
0
Seems like all these people

Seems like all these people she volunteers for could help her find a job. Surely there is a workshop in this city. She could keep her benefits and make a little extra money. The company that fired her while her daughter was in the hospital should be sued.

slmpaquin
0
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slmpaquin 11/27/09 - 01:16 pm
0
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Get over it people, this is

Get over it people, this is one of the few that I would actually help. If you volunteer, you can not be fired for not coming to work. She is at least raising her daughter right, 11th in her class is something to be VERY proud of...

corgimom
31219
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corgimom 11/27/09 - 01:24 pm
0
0
Butler, no, if someone is ill

Butler, no, if someone is ill and cannot perform their job, it is perfectly legal to terminate them. That's the reality of it. Butler, since you are so sure there's a workshop in the city, post it here. She would be grateful, I'm sure. And while you're at it, figure out how she is supposed to get to the workshop and perform her job while she's hallucinating.

kkeutjm0807
0
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kkeutjm0807 11/27/09 - 01:30 pm
0
0
At last, I am sure this lady

At last, I am sure this lady quietly and sensitively reads these comments from somewhere just like you and other commentators do. She will adjust her missons more by putting her thoughts from pros and cons among these comments and makes her strong and weak at the same time. My thoughts for her are giving more encouragement to continue of what she's doing, not giving her more migraines....However, positive or negative thoughts are also neccessary that we all know....Hoping her life gets better everyday.......

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