Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Quote Review

Well, it's that time of the year again..... time for your annual quote review. I'll list the silly stuff first, then on to the serious. Here we go!

The Silly Stuff:

*Nothing screams ‘redneck’ like a misspelled racist tattoo. ~ Cuthbert

*I finished the dead puppy book. Final puppy casualty count totaled 6. ~ Me, after reading Of Mice and Men

*Is that the screen door nipple? ~ Mia

*Raisin Bran kinda does make you wanna sing. ~ Cuthbert

*Just a tip – if you’re ever in a dream where you feel like you gotta pee, don’t pee. Believe me. ~ Jonathon

*It’s nothing special…. but it does make me look like a lesbian. ~ Velma

*It’s not a dictatorship, it’s a cookout. ~ Me

*Don’t you wish you had a good ‘drug your friend’ story? ~ Cuthbert

*Control-Alt-Repress ~ Not sure where this one originated, but it sure came in handy with all those 10-cent abominable words!

*Well, I don’t necessarily decorate in rainbows. ~ J

*I’m sure giraffe dicks aren’t, like, negligible. ~ Cuthbert

*Do you want me to eat pussy for Jesus? ~ Kenny, on the top ten reasons it’s stupid for Christians to be mad that he’s gay.

*The flush toilet, more than any single invention, has ‘civilized’ us in a way that religion and law could never accomplish. ~ Thomas Lynch; The Undertaking

*It’s like a little bunny rabbit munching on some lettuce, only it’s a little Jonathon munching on some Sudafed. ~ Me

*He usually does that when I throw things at him that are on fire ~ Cuthbert

*Silly man, penguins don’t have legs – they have feet! ~ Annette

*A man approached us – slightly older than me, with a complexion that said, ‘I like vodka’. ~ Douglas Coupland; Eleanor Rigby

*Do I wanna, like, fuck them with razors? Yeah. Not motivated in love, by the way ~ Cuthbert

*I didn’t know whooping cough was an STD. ~ Me

The Serious Stuff

*I had no idea what to say. So I listened, which is often the best idea. ~ Douglas Coupland; Microserfs

*Now I am virtually possessionless. Having nothing feels liberating. ~ Douglas Coupland; Microserfs

*It’s a cure he doesn’t understand, so he refuses to admit it’s a cure ~ Kurt Vonnegut; God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

*And there are others who call it virtue when their vices grow lazy~ Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

*Talent renders the whole idea of rehearsal meaningless; when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. ~ Stephen King; On Writing

*The meaning of life is connected, inextricably, to the meaning of death; mourning is romance in reverse, and if you love, you grieve, and there are no exceptions – only those who do it well and those who don’t. ~ Thomas Lynch; The Undertaking

*Perhaps the tendency, manifest in many of today’s mega-churches, to entertain rather than inspire, to wow rather than worship, proceeds from the intelligence, gained generations back, that the big top needed for the tent revival and the three-ring circus was one and the same. ~ Thomas Lynch; The Undertaking

*I don’t mind feeling sad. It’s a feeling – J

*You don’t have to sit outside in the dark.
If, however, you want to look at the stars,
You will find darkness is required.
The stars neither require it nor demand it.
~ Annie Dillard

From Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution:

*… we vote every day by how we live, what we buy, and who we pledge allegiance to…

*The church is a place where we can stand up and say we are wretched, and everyone will nod and agree and remind us that we are also beautiful. One thing I’ve learned from believers and from activists alike is that community can be built around a common self-righteousness or around a common brokenness. Both are magnetic. People are drawn toward folks who have it all together, or look like they do. People are also drawn toward folks who know they don’t have it all together and are not willing to fake it.

*Fall in love with a group of people who are marginalized and suffering, and then you won’t have to worry about which cause you need to protest. Then the issues will choose you.

*What’s crazy is a matter of perspective. After all, what is crazier: one person owning the same amount of money as the combined economies of 23 countries, or suggesting that if we shared there would be enough for everyone?

It's been a pretty good year for us, wouldn't you say? I look forward to discovering more with you in 2009!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

All About the Odds

So, for those of you who don’t know, I live in the marvelous city of Fort Wayne, Indiana. You may or may not know that said marvelous city has been the victim of a pretty horrific ice storm recently, and that something like 110,000 people were out of power for awhile.

Now only 17,000 are out of power. This seems pretty damn good – unless you are one of the extremely unlucky 17,000.

I am.

Somehow, even though I live only 2 miles from downtown in a densely populated residential neighborhood, I have been overlooked and have not had power at my house since Friday morning. For the record, it is now mid-day on Tuesday.

Most people have been fairly sympathetic, but a few act like I am over-reacting to the problem of not having power at my house. If you think I am over-reacting, feel free to repeat the following day after day after day and see how much fun you think it is:

*Look across the street and realize that neighbors across the street never lost power at all. Not for even an hour. Curse them and call them show-offs because they have the nerve to turn on their Christmas lights.

*Hang out at house until it gets too dark to see and too cold to function. Pack up whatever you can find to wear, knowing you will have to wash it once you get somewhere because your washer hasn’t worked all day and you were planning to do laundry that day. Water your half-dead Christmas Tree before you leave, only to find that it has finally begun drinking water and now that you’re not going to be there, it’s going to need watered more.

*Sit around parents’ house with crazy dad whose very presence stresses you out. Remember, you don’t have anything to do because all your stuff is at your house. Your options are to watch TV, bake something, or sit curled up facing the corner, rocking and murmuring meaningless phrases incessantly to yourself.

*Travel to your very cold house to check on the water pipes. Do this at least twice a day to make sure that nothing has burst and that nothing has frozen and backed up, leaving a large lake in the middle of your newly renovated home. Each time you arrive home and do not find a large lake, unclench your fists and realize how tense you were just waiting for disaster. As you leave the house, resume being stressed about the pipe situation in order to get a nice stress build up for your next house-checking trip.

*Ponder the irony that it can simultaneously be cold enough for your water pipes to freeze but warm enough that you have lost all of your perishable food items. Mourn the girl scout cookie ice cream you just bought as you dump the melted, frothy contents into a garbage can while wearing gloves and a scarf.

*Travel to your house to let the dog out three times a day. When the house sits at 35 degrees, convince your parents you have to bring every one of your pets over as you have no desire to learn the freezing point for small animals. Tend to the scratch on your face left by the cat who didn’t want to get in the cat carrier. Then haul them all over to your parents’ house in one vehicle, cats meowing the whole way there and dog stepping in the litter box and tracking cat litter all over the back seat. Once you have arrived at your parents’ house, realize that they have no fence and you will now have to put a leash on your dog and walk her every time she has to go potty. Also, realize that it sucks to repeatedly walk a dog in -1 degree weather.

*Listen to stupid people (read: people who have had power all this time) tell you how it’s not really that bad and it could be worse as they open their refrigerators, pull perishable food items out, microwave them, and sit down at the kitchen table to read the paper by their very electric kitchen lights in their nice clean clothes that they dried in their electric dryers. Comment to yourself out loud that it is not possible for god to exist – if he did, he would not have made people so freakin’ stupid.

Then, as an added bonus, do all this stuff 9 months pregnant when you can barely fit into the car to make your trips, and walking the dog on the ice makes you wonder if you will fall and go into labor or not.

It sucks. If you think I’m being a wuss, you live with it and see how you like it.

Probably most frustrating to me are the repeated newspaper articles and news stories praising the wonderful power company for getting so much service restored. Seems pretty amazing, doesn’t it? As long as you’re one of the 85% who have been restored, I’m sure it is. It sucks pretty bad for the rest of us right now.

Obviously, I’m irritated by this whole thing. I mean, come on, it’s ICE, people. ICE. It is not nuclear holocaust. It is not the Armageddon. It is not WWIII. It’s ICE. Seriously, oh sad little power company of Fort Wayne, if you can’t handle a little ice, what the hell are you doing in the power business, anyways?

As an added bonus, D’s car started randomly spewing oil yesterday and had to be taken into the shop. On the little form you fill out at the key drop, I wrote “sudden, severe oil leak”. Hopefully that gives them enough to go on. My parents were kind enough to loan D their truck.,.,., only to find out this morning that one of the tires is flat. Apparently, it is just not our week.

I was feeling hopeful that things would start getting turned around, but at this point I have adjusted my expectations and fully believe I will probably have power at some point mid-2009. It would be nearly impossible not to meet that expectation, so hopefully this will keep me from getting more and more irritated. I am trying to just get by although I think another couple of days without any time away from people is going to wear on me. If I seem cranky, it’s because I am – I am not a people person. My poor kitties are also having a bit of trouble adjusting as my parents don’t want them all over the house and have closed a good deal of their doors. Curious kitties + closed doors = whiney kitties. This is all fine and dandy, unless my dad gets up at 3 am, leaves his bedroom door wide open, and goes downstairs just as I happen to leave the bathroom and witness this all. As you may have guessed, wide open door to a previously forbidden room = kitties running in at the speed of light. Just last night I learned a fun new game called chase 2 kitties around your sleeping mother’s bed while attempting not to wake her up.

It’s actually a fairly fun game, compared to most of my other options.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Tree Hunting ~ New Year, New Drama

So, I’m sure you all remember last year’s Christmas Tree Hunting Expedition, which began with my father donning an orange prison jumpsuit and ended with D making up total bullshit about how one should pick out a Christmas tree.

As Christmas drew closer this year, we went back out to hunt down a new Christmas tree last weekend. Somehow, this always turns out to be an ordeal. This year was no different.

For starters, after last year’s serious lack of trees at the tree farm we had been accustomed to using, D, Velma, myself, and my mother all thought it would be a good idea if we found somewhere else to buy our trees. However, since my dad is seemingly incapable of buying anything except the very cheapest he can find of whatever he is seeking out, this wasn’t going to be an option. No way were we going to be able to get him to give up his $7 Bargain Christmas Tree. And so we headed back out to the same Christmas tree farm.

Luckily, this year there was no orange prison jumpsuit involved. Dad appeared fairly normal in his snowsuit, and I donned 3 layers of clothing to keep out the cold. Typical Christmas tree hunting things, as I’m sure you can reason. However, when we arrived at the Christmas tree farm, we were confronted with a very large sign which read:


This sign was hung up beyond the locked gates which were clearly meant to keep us out of the Christmas tree farm. Behind the locked gates and covering every inch of ground near the “BUSINESS CLOSED” sign and out through the remaining trees were giant dead plants and overgrown grass, making it clear that no one had mowed the property or bothered to take care of the plants for some time – possibly since last year’s expedition.

So, as you probably guessed if you know my father, we went around the gate, drove over all the dead plants, and promptly got out of our vehicles to inspect what trees were left.

Like I said, this is my dad we’re talking about.

D, Velma, myself, and my mother attempted to protest. First of all, I really didn’t want to get booked on a charge of tree theft. I can see it now – the officers shouting through the bullhorn, ‘Drop that tree, lady, before someone gets hurt!’ and my huge pregnant self waddling up the hill anyways, tree in tow, daring them to a standoff. D also thought it likely that the land had been sold and we weren’t even stealing from who we thought we were stealing from. Tree theft is just not our thing, apparently.

However, as usual, wonder dad had a solution. Apparently he knows the people who own the tree farm (if they still own it, anyways) and he said he would go drop off money to their house for the trees. I still wasn’t feeling spectacular about this (I mean, really, how well does he know the people if he didn't know the tree farm was closed?), but at this point felt fairy trapped and coerced. Always a good feeling concerning one’s Christmas tree, don’t you think?

So we all stood there and looked at the Christmas trees, trying to decide if there was one worth stealing- er, I mean, buying. Here’s where the second problem comes in: all the trees looked half dead to me. Every tree there had random spots of brown needles hanging off of them, leading me to believe that perhaps the trees weren’t overly healthy. This concerns me a great deal as I’m really not down with placing a giant fire hazard inside of my home for the sake of saving money on Christmas decorating.

I voiced this concern.

My dad started picking the brown needles off the nearby trees in an attempt to make them look completely green.

I was not fooled by this tactic, but apparently D was. While my back was turned, he and my dad somehow managed to not only pick out a tree for my house, but to cut it down and start dragging it away as well. I’m not really sure how I managed to miss this, but I somehow became the proud owner of a half-dead, possibly stolen Christmas tree before I even knew what was happening.

At this point Velma had located a tree that actually looked like it might not be dead. Possibly. I mean, it was hard to tell at this point. I figured, what the hell, and walked over to it with her to inspect it. I mean, at this point I figured I’d done too much damage already to turn around and walk away. Cleverly, Velma claimed she didn’t need a Christmas tree this year, but this one would be great for mom and dad.

Why didn’t I think of that?

They cut down the new tree and hauled it off, and that was pretty much the end of the story. We didn’t get arrested for theft or tree smuggling, and as far as I know my dad is paying the people he knows $14 for our two sad little trees. I suspect they may give him a discount if they have any idea what state the trees were in.

We put our tree up the next day, cutting off the very bottom of the stump so that the tree could drink, just like I have been taught to do. That was on Sunday. It is now Tuesday. I have only watered the tree twice. Twice. Now, anybody who has ever cut down their own tree knows this is not normal. Normally, you have to water the tree right away, and then it runs out of water within a few hours and you have to water it again. Then you have to water it each morning and each evening to make sure it has enough. I have watered this tree twice – and neither time was it anywhere close to being out of water. It simply isn’t drinking much. To me, this is an indication that the tree is probably either half dead or, possibly, 3/4 dead. Hey, maybe it’s more like 9/10 dead. Who knows? We still haven’t put lights on it yet, so there’s a chance we may try to redeem ourselves with another choice. I guess we’ll see how things look by this weekend.

On the upside, none of the needles look brown to me. But then again, D could just be picking them off.

Friday, December 5, 2008

There’s a Big Difference Between ‘Lucky’ and ‘Worked My Ass Off and Went Without’

As you may well know from my previous blog posts, I will be having a baby sometime in the near future, preferably in January. If this kid comes in December it’s going to seriously screw up my insurance plans and if it decides to come in February, there is a good chance that by that point I will have grown into the largest woman you have ever seen. January seems like a good goal, in my opinion. Besides, that’s when the midwife said I was due.

Anyway, unless you know me in real life, you probably have no idea about my plans for work once this whole ‘having a baby’ thing goes down. Here’s my brilliant plan:

*I will take the measley 12 weeks of FMLA guaranteed to me by our sad little government. (seriously, we’re like the only developed country in the world with that little time off for our kids – what does that say about what we really value?) I will take this time unpaid as said sad little government doesn’t require our employers to pay anything during maternity leave and virtually no companies have stepped up to the plate to demonstrate that they really do care about the state of families in the U.S. (interestingly enough, my employer claims to be a “Christian” “family centered” agency. Explain that, please.)

*I will return to work part time at the end of March. I will do this work mostly from home, hopefully only going into the office about 4 hours a week.

*If I decide that really sucks, I’ll quit.

How can I do this? you ask. It’s quite simple, actually. Luckily, my chosen profession is writing. My immediate supervisor sees no reason why I have to come into the office each and every day to do what I can do from bed with a laptop in hand. My immediate supervisor also sees no good reason to start all over with someone new who doesn’t know the ins and outs of the agency, the local philanthropy circuit, or, quite possibly, basic English grammar. You’d be amazed how difficult it seems to be for most people to write in readable English. Therefore, she has deemed that I can job share provided that I will remain the lead writer and deal with most of the big stuff.

Not a bad gig if you ask me.

Now, aside from being asked how I got so lucky as to be working part time from home (and believe me, I do realize how lucky this is in our current economy), I’ve also been asked how it is that I can just up and quit if it really sucks. That is also quite simple. You see, my dear husband and I have worked our butts off to make sure we don’t have excess debt or living expenses that can’t be controlled with his salary. My salary, should I remain on the ‘part-time from home’ schedule, will be used entirely to make principle payments on my husband’s school loans and our mortgage. D assures me that if I work 20 hours a week all of this can be paid off in 5 years. This is sheer bribery on his part, as I can’t even fathom how completely thrilled I would be to be relieved of the burden of a mortgage yet still have somewhere to live.

It was still a bit of a difficult decision to make as I really don’t want to work with little children to take care of. However, being relieved of the mortgage makes it seem worth it to me. Now, paying for cable or new sweaters or just being able to buy a bunch of crap would definitely NOT be worth it, so if this weren’t the arrangement, you can bet my happy butt would have already quit (I am getting quite tired, to be fair, and my hips don’t seem to work properly anymore) and wouldn’t be going back to the workforce until my youngest was in school. D has been forewarned of this already and knows that if I don’t see my entire check going into principle payments I will quit before he can even say, “Can I keep cable?” Sorry, I refuse to work so we can have a bunch of stupid crap. There is a little baby depending on me who is worth way more than stupid crap.

Most of the people I know have been quite supportive of this and have said nice things to me like, “Oh, that’s wonderful, you’ll be so glad to have that time with the baby,” and so on and so forth. However, there have been a few who have simply looked at me and said, “Lucky! I could never work just part time/quit if I wanted to/etc! Do you know how lucky you are?” while they glare at me as though I’m the most spoiled princess they’ve ever run across who just insists on primping herself in front of them for the sake of vanity.

The next person to do this is going to get punched in the face.

Was it ‘lucky’ that I went to school for 7 years while working full time so as to avoid student loans while still having somewhere to live and being able to get a diploma that would get me a decent job? Was it ‘lucky’ that I drove that stupid purple car even after it was totaled, bought back from the insurance company, patched up, and totaled yet again? Was it ‘lucky’ that I lived in an apartment that didn’t even have a bedroom so that I could still afford to put money in savings, even though I was technically living at the poverty line and qualified for the housing assistance program that I worked for? Was it ‘lucky’ that when I really, really, really wanted that hoodie (or those shoes, or those earrings, etc), I waited until I got some money for Christmas before I went out and bought it? Was it ‘lucky’ that I never put anything on a credit card that I couldn’t pay off at the end of the month? Is it ‘luck’ that I have never made a large purchase (aside from my house) that I couldn’t pay off within a year? It is ‘luck’ that I just now bought the furniture I have been saving for since I was 20? It is ‘luck’ that we bought a house for 1/3 of the loan amount we actually qualified for?

That is not luck. That is me making good financial decisions. Did they suck? Yep, they sure did. Especially the part about working full time and going to school at the same time. That sucked. It sucked for a very long time, actually. And the part about qualifying for federal housing assistance based on my sad little salary, yet limiting my spending enough to be able to save money - yep, that sucked. There were a lot of Dollar Store toiletries and Good Will sweaters at my house for awhile there.

But guess what. I did it anyways. Why? you ask. Because I knew that if I ever did get married and decide to have children I did not want debt to be in the way of me staying home with them. When D and I got engaged and decided to buy our house, not only was I debt free, but I had enough sitting in savings to be able to pay a nice chunk of our closing costs, inspector fees, etc. While D wasn’t quite so frugal, he soon stepped up to the plate and got a second job to pay off the debt he had accumulated. Did that suck? Yep, it sure did. He didn’t like working 2 jobs and I didn’t like having him gone that much. But he did it anyways. Now we’re down to his school loan and the mortgage.

I am sick of people talking to me like I somehow just ‘got lucky’ in the lottery of life and will now be able to either pay off my mortgage or stay home with my baby if I so choose. First of all, to call that lucky is a huge joke – let’s face it, real luck would involve never having to deal with a mortgage in the first place. I don’t think I’m ever going to be that well off in this lifetime. But secondly, what D and I have accomplished has not been luck – it has been us working our asses off to make sure we would be financially secure when the time came to raise a family. No, we don’t have as big of a house as we would like in as nice of a neighborhood as we would like. No, we don’t have as nice of cars as we would like. D has only gotten to have cable for about a year, and that’s getting cut off next month (you may have already figured that I couldn’t care less about having cable, so that’s no sacrifice to me, but poor D…). Our home repairs have been largely self-done and we don’t get a lot of new, fancy clothes or expensive gadgets. But you know what – that’s okay. We have what we really need and we spend our money on things that are really important to us.

Financial security is attainable…. but quite honestly, it sucks getting there – unless, of course, you really are ‘lucky’ and someone has left you an enormous inheritance or your parents paid for you to go to that fancy school and you just so happened to be skilled in a field that pays high dollars, or…. you get the picture. I’m never going to be good at the jobs that pay a lot of money. If I ever do make a lot from my writing, well, that will probably be luck. For most of us, we’re just not that lucky. It sucks. I bitch about it a lot, but you know what? I actually do something about it too. I adjust my standards. I delay gratification. I work that second job for awhile (yep, I had a second job too, now that we’re on the topic). I clip coupons and wear slippers instead of turning up the thermostat.

So if you’re one of those girls who looks at me with a sneer while thinking, ‘that lucky bitch!’ just stop for a minute and think about the choices you have made. Then think about what luck really is. I’m betting neither one of us has it.