Wednesday, December 29, 2010

There's A Reason God Invented Wine

As we come to a close on yet another holiday season, I've come to the conclusion that Benjamin Franklin was right when he said "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy" because according to everyone I've talked to, alcohol is the only thing that has gotten them through the holiday season. Once upon a time I thought this was some sort of little joke that you just saw as a cliche in movies where mom sneaks off to the kitchen to take a few hits from her bottle of Schnapps while grandma sits in the other room criticizing the cleanliness of the household. Now that I've grown older, I am beginning to realize that the movies are cliche because they are SO TRUE. Every cliche is rooted in some form of truth somewhere along the line, and the overuse of that truth makes it the cliche. Who knew, right? But after talking to several friends about how they spent their holidays and it has boiled down to mostly one common statement: "With a beer in one hand and my dignity in another".

This brings me to a question I've been rolling around in my head for a long time. What is it about families in general that makes people crazy when they have to spend time with them? I've always thought "Surely it can't be all families who are like this" but I'm starting to think that maybe it is. I love my family, and I like holidays with my family, but I'm starting to realize that maybe it's because holidays for us are super low pressure. We've never tried to fit into some Norman Rockwell painting of what a holiday is supposed to look like. Truth be told, everyone is damn lucky if my mom gets out of her pajamas all day on Thanksgiving or Christmas. For us it's about food and watching tv. And maybe that's how other people should be, if spending holidays together is so excruciating. Of course, I don't write one of those rosy "We were all snuggled in together in our cozy little house enjoying the warmth and joy of togetherness and love" blogs because the last time I checked, I don't live in a Thomas Kinkaid painting and life is a messy ball of crap for the world, so I'm not going to pretend that there are never holiday blow ups in my family. But, for the most part, I don't require a ton of alcohol to get through the day. Not to say my dad wouldn't provide it upon request. Dad was a bartender once upon a time. The man knows his mixed drinks.

This brings me to another question I've had about holidays. Why is it that the people we're related to, the people we love most or the people we should depend on during our darkest times are also the ones we find ourselves, on occasion, thinking about bludgeoning with the nearest table lamp? What is it about family that makes people crazy? Is it that they are possibly the only people who truly know us for all of our flaws and misgivings and therefore they know exactly which buttons to push to send us over the edge? Or is it that because they are family, we find it easy to take them for granted because we assume they will always be there when needed? Maybe it's a combination of both. And while I am not a religious person, I think if there is a higher power out there, they knew what they were doing when they sent us both families and alcohol. Family and alcohol go together like wine and cheese. Sometimes you need one to balance the other out. Just a thought.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Cat Has Super Powers

I know what you're thinking, you're thinking that my cat doesn't have super powers. You are both wrong and incapable of understanding all of the power that can be packed into a cat this size. He's 20 lbs of giant cat cuddle and he is a force to be reckoned with. Most people don't realize it because so few people actually get to see him. He's a bit shy, and he doesn't socialize with visitors often. There are a few exceptions of people he has decided he loves upon first meeting, but it's rare. Most people have to win him over. But none of this really has anything to do with his super powers. It's just an intro to my good pal Errol, aka Chubbs.

No, the super power is evil and stealthy. See, my pal Chubbs there is a big fat kitty. He's practically got his own gravitational pull, and as a result, his primary job seems to be generating body heat. On top of that, he's got super soft cuddly fur which helps hold in all of that body heat. So when he sits on your lap, or cuddles up against you he's so warm and snuggly and suddenly you find yourself getting sleepy. Very very sleepy. That's right, my cat can put you to sleep like it's his friggin' job. I defy anyone to let him lay on their lap and not start to get drowsy. Even Jason, who never naps and rarely just nods off on the sofa, is powerless to resist it. Ten minutes of Errol snuggle and he's out. It can't be helped. The cat lulls you into comfort and a sense of security and then you are asleep and you don't even remember when it happened. I'm convinced this is part of Norbert's doing, as she is probably having him test his powers so that some day she can have him put us to sleep and then kill us in our sleep, or at the very least arrange a sacrifice to her demon gods of evil.

On Sunday I laid on the couch watching Jason play video games and the next thing I know, Errol is laying on my chest and I've been sleeping for 4 hours. WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?! I'm telling you, this cat had better use his powers for good instead of evil.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Women Are So Irresponsible

Today I was sitting at work eating my lunch and trolling my usual set of Hollywood gossip blogs when I clicked over to and saw the headline that Natalie Portman is engaged and *gasp* also pregnant. Scandal! Except that it's really not, because we've evolved into a society where, especially in Hollywood, marriage equals neither happiness or longevity. This is not to say that I am opposed to marriage because well....last time I checked there's a big fatty ring on my finger and all of the commitment, baggage and responsibility that comes with it. But the point is, society as a whole is moving away from this idea that marriage is a necessity when it comes to having children or stability. In fact, situations like the one we're seeing with Natalie Portman where it's like "Oh look, I'm pregnant, better get engaged" so people can appease the expectations of society and family are the ones that most often fail after a very short period of time. And the true irony of it all is that we have the homosexual population fighting so hard to get the right to enter a legal marriage and being denied the right because it violates the sanctity of marriage that the heterosexual portion of the population tossed out the window years ago.

But none of this is my point. I'm getting there, eventually, when I finish rambling. Anyway, after reading the short article on Natalie, I did the ultimate sin of all blog reading. I started reading the comments. Anyone who wants to keep their blood pressure low should avoid reading comments on blogs or news articles because the stupidity of some people is so astounding that you do find yourself wondering how they exist in this world without getting beaten over the head with sticks. And if we ever do decide to beat them, I'll volunteer. So, as I scroll through the comments I see several about how terrible it is that she isn't even married yet and is pregnant. I expected that, I really did. What I didn't expect was the comment that read "There is enough supporting research out there that indicates that children are better off in married families. Developmentally, financially, psychologically, etc... Women should keep this in mind!"

And then my head exploded.

I'm so offended by this comment because it completely pins the blame for unplanned pregnancy on the woman involved. Really? Because I'm pretty sure some jackass's penis was involved at some point. Ok, that's unfair. I'm sure that more often than not, the penis owner is not actually a jackass, but you get my point. I have no idea why people get this impression that it's only women involved in unplanned pregnancy, or that it's only women who are responsible for children born out of wedlock. Yes, women have birth control, but it fails. And if the guy involved is at all concerned about that happening, then he should double bag it as a back up plan. I am concerned that women tend to get labeled as the irresponsible ones in these situations. More than that, I find it so interesting that more often than not, people believe that the women may have done something on purpose to make sure they got pregnant, or that they somehow wanted it because all women want ten thousand babies right? It's genetically wired into us right? I mean I know that 99% of my thoughts throughout the day involve babies and wanting ten thousand of them, so I'm sure everyone else must be the same or something. Or MAYBE, just MAYBE women are typically nurturing and motherly beings but they still have a working brain and often understand that maybe ten thousand babies just isn't the right choice for them. I just love that WOMEN are the only ones who have to remember that chilren are better off in married families. And I'm sure this is a true statement, if the married family is stable and nurturing and creates a positive environment for the children. Of course, there are those abusive marriages and the home lives that come with them to consider. I'm sure the kids are better in those married families right?

So I guess my point is that I'm so sick of women being deamonized for something that is also the part of another person involved in the situation, and that person often gets off completely unscathed. I blame that fucking Adam and Eve. And maybe god since he set Eve up to take the fall for all the bullshit that was about to go down by eating some tasty fruit. Why didn't he pick Adam? I'm just sayin'...As a woman I'm tired of hearing about how irresponsible we are when men are also irresponsible. Sometimes I wonder if it were men having babies if the irresponsibility would finally fall on them, but I doubt it.

And this is not to bash men, really, because most of my friends are men and honestly I prefer their lack of drama and theatrics and their honesty, so I have a lot of respect for men. I'm just saying that I can't stand listening to women take the fall for something where there was also a penis involved as well. I'm just saying being a woman comes with a lot of bullshit sometimes, and we should all remember that.

And congrats to Natalie Portman and stuff...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Adventures With An Elderly Dog

For the past 5 years or so I have asked Jason to get me a puppy for every birthday, Christmas and anniversary and the response has always been "You have two dogs, you don't need a puppy". While this may be true, I am constantly reminding him that Simon is nearly 14 years old and in Lab years that's like....3 paws in the grave. Not that I want Simon to die or anything, because he's a good dog and I love him, but it is an eventual inevitability with a dog as old as he is.

What we are both beginning to realize, however, is that living with an elderly dog is as much of an adventure as living with a puppy. Gone are the days when Simon would never even think of peeing in the house, even if he refused to go outside for 3 days because he doesn't like to go out if it's too windy, or cold, or raining, or snowing, or too hot, or it's a Saturday in June. I'm just saying, the dog is picky. This has never been a problem before. He would resolutely refuse to go outside and he would hold it for days. Now when we sleep in on weekends, we wake up as soon as we hear Simon's snoring stop because if Simon is up, he has to go outside...NOW. If you have never tiptoed past your dog to avoid waking him up so you can get dressed before you have to take him outside, you have never lived. This is the only point where it's sort of lucky that he's gone deaf. We can talk and brush our teeth and he's totally oblivious. You just can't walk past him too closely, or he can smell you and it's all over. And on those nice occasions when we do wake him up and he doesn't go outside NOW, he leaves a trail of pee through our house so we can find him like some screwed up version of Hansel & Gretel. Because yes, he walks while he pees. He can't just go in one spot like a normal dog. The fact is, I'm not entirely sure he realizes he's drizzling through the house, and if he does realize it, I get the impression that he's trying to run away from his own peeing. Thus, pee trail. At least if he stayed in one spot I could get the rug shampooer out and only have to clean one place. When he walks, I have to follow the trail through the whole house. And inevitably that means down the stairs. Have you ever tried to shampoo pee off of your stairs? It's not fun.

And of course there are other things we get to enjoy as owners of an elderly pet. Your dog going senile is an adventure. This often manifests itself in Simon forgetting that we have fed him. Or thinking that every time we come home from ANYWHERE, he is supposed to be fed. We feed him after we get home from work every day, so apparently the leaving and coming back is a trigger for "Food time" to him. He will stand in front of his bowl and shuffle back and forth, grunting at us like we have done him some sort of horrible disservice. I'm 99% sure he isn't even hungry, but he firmly believes he MUST be fed because we left and came back. This often happens even if we've just gone out to get the mail and come back into the house.

He has also decided that now that he's old, he's going to do what he wants. This means walking out the front door whenever he pleases, drinking from the toilet, barking at everything that moves outside the house, sleeping all day, eating Sam's food, and vomiting on the floor whenever he's bored. And forget playing ball with him in the house. Now, when he gets really excited while playing, he spontaneously poops. It goes something like this:

*Jason throws ball*

*Simon chases ball and brings it back*
*Jason throws ball again*
*Simon chases ball and while chasing drops some poo on the floor*
*Simon looks at Jason as if to accuse him of being the one who pooped on the floor*
*Jason puts ball away*
*Simon stares at poop until it is cleaned up, highly offended that Jason would do such a thing*

This has become my life, day in and day out with the joys of an arthritic elderly dog. Where I used to worry that he was getting played with enough, I now worry that he got his daily aspirin. It's all an adventure.

And some days it makes me rethink that puppy idea.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Even The Mona Lisa has flaws

Sometimes I think that people, myself included, notice everyone else's flaws and we're pretty quick to point them out. I'm sort of awful about criticizing people when the truth is, I'm really not all that much better than anyone else. So, today I'm going to share some of my flaws, because it's good for me to remind myself how far from perfect I really am.

I SUCK at taking empty shampoo and conditioner bottles out of the shower and taking them downstairs to the recycle bin. Seriously, I'm the worst ever.

#2 I have a ton of dishes that are hand-wash only and I use them almost every night to make dinner, and I almost never wash them before going to bed. I just leave them sitting in my sink all night, and I almost always have to wash all of the stupid dishes before I can cook dinner the next night. It's less than awesome.

#3 When I'm sick, I typically walk around the house carrying a box of tissues, and I tend to just leave tissues lying on the end tables or the night stand in my bedroom. Yes, this is gross. And I always clean them up and Lysol the tables after, but I do just let them sit around for days when I'm sick.

#4 I am really terrible about actually putting my clothes in a hamper. I have one. I don't use it. I just leave dirty clothes in a pile on the floor and wait until laundry day to wash them. I think the only person who appreciates this habit is my dog, who often makes a nest of the clothes pile at some point during the week. I'm not proud of this.

#5 Speaking of laundry, I almost never fold my laundry. I have no problems washing the clothes, drying the clothes, and putting the clothes into a laundry basket, but the actual folding process is just something I can't be bothered with. If Jason didn't fold the laundry every Sunday, I'd live out of the laundry basket all week. Laundry folding sucks.

I'm sure I have more, but this is a pretty decent starting list. Anyone else want to share?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's All About Knowing What You Want

Back in June, when my 6 month contract with Thomson Reuters ended, I found myself facing the frightening fate that a lot of people around the country are facing right now. I found myself unemployed, and that was pretty nerve wracking. On top of that, Jason's long term subbing ended and he found himself unemployed as well. It was less terrifying for us than for a lot of other people, because we had savings to live off of and I was getting unemployment, but the word "Job" was a the top of the priority list. Jason got a temp job with Domino Farms, and that helped a little, but I knew that I really needed to get a job. And then I did. I took a job in August with a company that offered me more money than I've ever made, and suddenly money wasn't as big a worry, which felt better. And yet, it also felt like a failure. I had several interviews for teaching jobs, and nothing came from any of them. Sure, I had a job, but it wasn't doing what I really want to do.

Now, after working in my new cubicle job, doing the thing that's making me a lot more money than I've ever made, I find myself wanting nothing more than to walk into a classroom and take over teaching a bunch of kids. And, it's becoming more and more painfully obvious that the more time I spend in the cubicle, the more likely it is that I won't ever get into that classroom. It's pretty heart breaking. What's worse is that I may be forced to choose between my family and my job. I've said all along that I don't want to pack up and move somewhere out of state just so that I can have a job, I don't want to leave my family, my friends, my niece and nephew, or my life that I've built here. As hard as it is not to be doing the job I've wanted to do for years, I can't say that I lead a bad life. I lead a really beautiful life. I don't want to leave it. So now I have to decide whether I want to be happy in my job, or happy in my personal life, and I have to wonder if the two are really separate entities. Right now I know that living in Ohio for the majority of my week, sitting alone in a hotel room, living out of a suitcase, that's not the life I want. And the travel is temporary, but the feeling I have about being stuck in that cubicle every day isn't. I can't work with my drama students anymore, and I find myself talking about them constantly while at work. I find myself missing those kids almost as much as I miss my family when I'm out of town. I miss the excitement I see in them every time I'm up there, and I even miss the things they do that drive me insane.

When taking all of this into consideration, I have to say the thing I have the hardest time dealing with is hearing people who are doing what they supposedly want to do, and what they claim is their dream and their passion (and some of those people are doing exactly what I wish I could be doing every day) and complaining about it as if it's the biggest hassle, or the worst thing they're doing. I hate seeing countdowns to the weekend, or to vacations from people who claim they're doing what they love. I am definitely not doing what I love, but I don't find myself waking up on Monday and starting the countdown to Friday. Sure, everyone has a bad week every now and again, but some people do this constantly and I sometimes want to say "Then quit and do something else!" When it's people who are teaching, I want to shake them and tell them there are a lot of people out there like me who want to do what they're doing so if they're so miserable, so give it to someone who really wants it. I think that the one thing I've learned from all of my work experiences since leaving my student teaching is that I know exactly what I want and I know exactly where I want to be. I just wish I knew how to get there. But, it doesn't mean I'll stop trying.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Memories For Sale

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have an obsession with seeing the inside of other people's houses. To be honest, it was the most exciting part of house hunting for me. And this doesn't apply to the houses of people I know, just to the houses of complete strangers. There was an episode of the show "Dead Like Me" where George, the main character, talked about how she always loved Halloween because it meant seeing inside the houses of strange people and I practically jumped off the couch and shouted "THAT'S SO ME!" And, while I know it's a weird thing to enjoy, I just can't help it.

Now that our house hunt is over, I sometimes wander over to real estate websites and go through houses with photo galleries for their listings so that I can enjoy peeking inside of people's houses without feeling like a total creeper. Tonight, as I was sitting in my hotel in the middle of nowhere Ohio feeling a bit bored and lonely as the rain hammered the window of my hotel room and missing home, I decided to go clicking around to see what some other people called home. I was struck when my website search pulled up an address I recognized all too well. It was the second address I could recite from memory at three years old, the first being my own home address. My grandma's house was being sold. This isn't the first time her house has been sold, since she sold it herself years ago when she moved in with my family, but as far as I'm aware this is the first time it's been on the market since she sold it herself. Over the years, I hadn't thought too much about the place. Right after Grandma passed away I was feeling nostalgic and drove past it a few times, but the outside didn't look anything like I remembered and what I saw didn't have any of my grandma in it. The buyers had remodeled it and added on, so the outside looked completely different.

Tonight as I clicked on the photo gallery photos of the inside of the house, I was a little shaken. Where the outside didn't look anything like my childhood memories, aside from the large pine tree they left in the front yard, the inside is more like my memories than I ever expected. Despite the remodel, they kept a lot of the inside the same. They kept the vintage door casings, and the front door into the mud room is original to the house. The kitchen has new cabinets and countertops, but the layout is the same and I could see myself standing next to my grandma at the stove waiting to take pretzels out of the oven early in the morning when I was about 9 years old. I think they turned grandma's bedroom into the family room, and I found myself wondering if they left the wall and doorways between the kitchen and the now dining room where my cousins and siblings and I spent hours running in circles between the rooms chasing each other.

Suddenly, as I was looking at the photos, I felt like I just didn't want anyone living in that house where I had so many memories. I found myself wondering if the laundry chute was still there, and if it still went to the strange cage-like contraption in the basement. I wondered if any other children had locked a sibling in that cage and thrown things down the chute at them like we used to do to my brother. I looked at the back porch, which had been turned into a sun room and remembered how grandma used to hang wind chimes out there. I wondered if the basement was still damp and a little creepy. I wondered if they were as perplexed as everyone else was when it came to figuring out what to do with the nook in the dining room that used to hold the organ that my grandmother owned but didn't really know how to play. I wondered what they had done to the upstairs, which there were not photos of, where my mom used to sleep when she was growing up. I wondered if they kept the built in dressers that used to fascinate me when I was little. And, among all of this wondering, I found it sad that someone else would live there. Someone who was not related to me, who could not look through the pictures and share any memories with me. I never thought about this when grandma sold the place originally, because she was still around and my memories were not tied to her home. Now that she's gone, I am sad. I hope a new family is able to make their own memories there, and that they can look back at their time there and laugh like I do, or share stories with each other like my cousins and sisters and I have done over and over again. I also found myself sort of wanting to call the agent and schedule a viewing, just so I could walk through it one last time.

So with that, and my nostalgia fresh in my mind, I leave you with some photos of my grandma's house as it is now. Not as I remember it, but hopefully as someone else is remembering it, and hopefully their memories are as fond as mine.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

No, I'm Not Offended By a Little Girl With a Foul Mouth

Last week Jason and I got the movie "Kick-Ass" in the mail from Netflix and watched it. I had heard a lot of people mentioning that I was going to be blown away by Hit-Girl in the movie, so I put it into the DVD player and sat on my sofa eagerly anticipating the impending carnage. I wasn't disappointed, since about ten minutes in there was a scene with poor little Mindy, who would become Hit-Girl, being shot in the chest by her dad so she could feel how a kevlar vest works. That was a bit disturbing, but also kind of funny.

As I watched the film, I did something I usually do and started looking up the trivia on IMDB to find out extra tidbits about what I'm watching. Overwhelmingly, I came across info about people throwing a fit that Hit-Girl, with her innocent girl face and cheerful smile, at a mere ten or eleven years old was spouting lines like "So you cunts want to play huh?" or "Show's over mother fuckers!" and how wholly inappropriate this was because a little girl shouldn't be saying such things. As I read this information all I could think was "Why? Why is it so wrong and inappropriate for this sweet little girl to say these things? If she were a boy, no one would be saying crap about this!" and let's face it, I'm totally right. Plus, I found myself sitting there thinking about all of the movies where girls walk around whining about losing their boyfriend, or give up their family and friends to be with some guy who might be "the one". Or the movies where girls have to be rescued by some guy because they don't have the ability to take care of themselves. Is this how girls should be in films? Why do they have to be that way? Why can't they be foul mouthed ass kickers just like their male counterparts? I love that Hit-Girl actually saved the guy's ass in this movie, multiple times. And, on top of that, I love that she did it in a skirt!

The more I think about it, the more I wonder where the balance is between what makes a strong female and what makes a girl who is helpless and depends on a man to provide for her, or take care of her. I actually made a joke the other day when I was telling Jason that I want to learn to bake pies, and I want to get all Martha Stewart-y if we host Thanksgiving this year and then I said "Jesus! When did I turn into Suzie Homemaker? I feel like I should hate myself right now!" Then I started thinking about that attitude and realized that baking and enjoying having a clean house doesn't make me some weak-willed female who needs to be taken care of. It just means that's what I like. Know what else I like? Building things. Renovating houses. Using power tools. Changing the brakes on my car. Those are the things that make me the strong female who takes care of myself. So, I guess my conclusion was that you can make pie and change your brakes and that's ok. I'm sure there are guys who do it. Just like adorable little Hit-Girl can have pigtails and wear a skirt, and do an aerial cartwheel while slitting your throat. Two sides of the same coin.

So, to all of the people who are pissed that the little girl in the purple bob wig is slitting throats and calling people fuckers, I guess I have to say that I want to know where you all were when there were teenage boys doing similar things in other movies? Why do you get mad simply because the person with the foul mouth also has a vagina? I guess you probably can't be a mommy if you swear, or if you are a hard core martial artist. Maybe it just threatens someone's warped 1950's view of what a girl should be.

But, to be honest, Hit-Girl is my freaking hero.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Finding Happiness

Tonight I was working out in our front yard removing some awful limestone that was slowly choking the life out of one of our trees while Jason was mowing the lawn and at one point I looked up at the house and thought "I love it here". That's not some narcissistic pat on the back or anything, it's just that despite all of the turmoil in my life and the uncertainty of life at the moment with no job and no current prospects, I'm still managing to find peace in my life. I know it sounds stupid, because buying a house when you know you're going to have to quit your job and you don't know when you'll be getting a new one is totally insane and generally not a good idea, but buying this house was probably the best thing we ever did. There has been nothing to this point in my life that has brought me such a sense of pride and accomplishment. Sure, my college degree is right up there in rank because I worked so hard for it, but I think the house is at the top of the list. To be honest, this whole house purchase shouldn't have worked out. It was really one of those situations where the stars just aligned in the right way, since we had such a small window of opportunity before I was going to be quitting Borders and the loan wouldn't have worked out, and there were almost no houses on the market that weren't short sales with a 3 to 6 month wait for sale approval and we got rejected for this place once while it was a short sale and it just happened to re-list RIGHT before we were at the end of the timeline we had set up for calling it quits and then the appraisal came back WAY cheaper than the asking price and we got a serious deal on the place. So, as a member of the "everything happens for a reason" club, I really feel like this was supposed to happen.

I'm sure people get tired of seeing updates about our home improvement projects, but without school in my life I sort of need something to make me feel accomplished and this fills the void. Plus, I know that everything I'm doing is going to pay off in the long run. Not just in that whole "sweat equity" way, but in the pride I'm able to take in looking around and loving where I am like I did tonight. It's little things like looking around and loving a paint color, or walking out the front door and being greeted by big pink flowers where a half dead shrub once stood. I find myself smiling unexpectedly, which I never used to do. I get excited over stupid things now, like painting night stands and I get excited every time something I work on ends up being better than it was before. I am making sure to pay attention and remember these moments, because they will probably be fleeting. At some point life will sweep me away and I will have work and the drama department will devour me and at some point I'll have kids and ballet classes to drive to and sleepovers and the time I was able to spend working outside or taking on projects will be much more limited and I'm afraid I'll miss it. So, I'm trying to pay attention and enjoy what I can right now, before stress and life sweeps me away from it. Tomorrow morning I'll probably be worrying about not having a job and possibly losing this place I love so much, and I'll be focusing on other things so I just thought that I should write this down so I can remember how happy I was to be right where I was tonight. I loved just sitting on the curb, looking at the freshly mowed lawn and the flowers blooming and I was just...happy. I want more of this. I want more of the smiling and the happiness at the little stuff, and I hope I find it. It feels nice.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

An Open Letter to Small Dog Owners

Dear Small Dog Owners,
Just because your dog is small does not mean it is not a dog. This means that certain dog courtesies should be observed. So, for example, when you let your little yappy bitch dog take a crap in my front yard without cleaning it up, it is no less annoying to me than someone allowing their large St. Bernard crap in my front yard. Additionally, when you allow your bitch dog to crap on the SIDEWALK in front of my house, I am not only annoyed that you didn't clean something off of the sidewalk, I'm also pissed off that my neighbors are going to think that it's from my dogs. This is not ok, especially since I clean up after my dogs because IT'S WHAT YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO DO! I can guarantee you that if I let my large dog just do his thing in your yard, you'd be pretty mad and I'm sure you'd be the first one filing a complaint with the HOA about it.

Additionally, just because your dog is small does not mean it is not noisy. Leaving your yappy little annoyance out in your yard to bark incessantly at anything that moves does not make me very happy, especially since people filed complaints about my dog barking INSIDE my house. Why no one is complaining to you about your dog standing on your patio yapping away at 11:00 at night is beyond me, but apparently you get special privilege because your dog could be drop kicked across a room, whereas my dog would need to be taken out with a lot of brute force. But, again, common courtesy still applies. When people complained about my dog barking from inside my house, I decided to make sure to close all of my windows when I leave so that the noise doesn't carry well and people are far less likely to hear him barking. That's what responsible pet owners do. Owning a tiny annoyance of a dog does not give you the right to be an irresponsible pet owner.

So, to conclude, stop being an assbag. Your tiny dog is still a dog and the rules still apply. If your mutt craps in my yard again and you don't clean it up, I'm leaving a nice pile of Sam poo on your front porch. Let's see how you like it. And, if that doesn't work, I'll just let my dog eat yours.

Friday, April 30, 2010

It's not Racial Profiling, we're just harrassing Mexicans

The news has been abuzz lately with talk of the new immigration legislation passed in Arizona. Like many civil and human rights advocates, I heard about the law and went "No, that's a joke right?" except that it wasn't a joke at all. As I listened to more and more reporting in the news about this legislation, I found myself turning to Jason and saying "So, when did this become Nazi Germany? Are we going to have to start requiring all legal immigrants to wear American Flags on all of their clothing so we can tell at a glance who is legal and who isn't?" because, let's face it, this law is very much akin to laws passed to discriminate against Jews in Germany. And, for a group of people who want to call the democrats, particularly the current president, Hitler they are again doing such a good job of mimicking his policies all on their own.

But, being the sort of person I am, I listened to both sides of the debate on this issue despite the fact that I wholehartedly disagree with the other side. I was willing to listen and see if anything made sense and made me say "Ok, I see the value in that". Unfortunately, nothing did. And then a conservative told me that the talk of the law being racist was all propaganda due to Obama not explaining the law properly, and that people can only be asked for their papers if they have already committed a crime. So, I went and looked up the exact write-up of the law. Sadly, I did not find that the racism was propaganda, because the law does not state that someone can only be asked for papers if there is a crime committed. It says that they can be asked for their papers during "any lawful contact" with authorities if there is "reasonable suspicion" that the person is an illegal immigrant. So, then you have to consider what is lawful contact, but as far as I can tell "lawful contact" is an officer simply stopping you in the street. And, if the officer has "reasonable suspicion" that someone is an illegal immigrant, that automatically makes any contact with that officer lawful. So, no crime has to be committed at all. Unless you count the crime of looking like an illegal immigrant.

Which brings me to the arguement that this law will not result in racial profiling. I have no idea how that can be the case, since reasonable suspicion is most likely going to be based on how someone looks. And what does an illegal immigrant look like as opposed to a legal one? There is no way to tell based on a visual assessment, which means ANYONE who looks like they might be hispanic can be stopped, which means they are racially profiling all hispanic people. And I say hispanic because that's really who they are after. My friend Jeff is an immigrant from the UK, but I somehow doubt he would be stopped on a street in Arizona and asked for his papers because he's a white guy. I don't think anyone cares about the white guys. Heck, I don't think anyone cares about anyone but the Mexicans. So, really this law is simply racism at its finest.

And, what is really eating at me about all of this is that we're not prosecuting some of the real proponents of this problem. We get angry at illegal immigrants, who are often impoverished in their own country, for coming to this country to get jobs and do better for themselves. Basically, we're angry that they're trying to get a slice of the "American Dream" that our forefathers wanted when they immigrated to this country (because you do know we're all immigrants right? Just checking) and I can't really fault them for wanting that. I can fault corporations who bus immigrants in illegally to work for below minimum wage, being paid under the table, at their farms picking our produce, or in their meat packing plants butchering our steaks that those immigrant workers will never be able to afford to put on their own tables. One of the biggest problems with illegal immigrants is that they wouldn't be coming here if no one was hiring them. But many companies are hiring them, knowing full well they are illegal, so that the corporate fat cats can make an extra buck by underpaying the workers. And it's not like no one knows about it. A lot of companies have agreements with the immigration officers that if they allow raids to be done every few months and let a few people be deported, then the officers turn a blind eye to the company practices. But who do we punish in this situation? The immigrant workers. Not the corporate fat cats who are perpetuating the problems. This makes me very angry.

And yes, I understand that if someone wants to live in this country they should do so through the proper channels, but the fact is that they are still human beings and they still have rights as humans even if they don't have them as citizens. And why can't we just create a guest worker visa like Europe has done so that immigration doesn't matter. Someone can work here and live across the border and have no negative consequences. I think that, at the root of it all, is a deeply racist and prejudiced point of view from upper class white Americans who are afraid of becoming the minority in a country where they have held the majority for so long. So, the "Dey took our jobs" group is pissing and moaning about the immigrant workers and working to get them deported for being dirty illegal aliens, but they're not pounding on the doors of the companies who took the jobs in the first place and replaced them with cheap illegal labor. That makes a ton of sense.

So yes, I hate this law. I think it's horrid, and I think that when you give everyone a "common enemy" it makes it ok for them to be persecuted and slandered and hated by the general public because you can blame them for your problems. Then nothing is your fault, it's the fault of the enemy you have created. In this case it's the Mexicans. And that makes me wonder, what's next? Internment camps? I think that this is a case of those who forget the past being doomed to repeat it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Consumers Report

I'm not sure when it happened. I think it might have been at some point in time when I wasn't really paying attention to what was going on in the world of retail and customer service, but at some point the whole "customer service" thing went straight out the window. I've been noticing the issue kind of snowballing for the past few years. At some point, corporate greed and the desire to make a buck outweighed the necessity to keep customers happy so that they would continue shopping with the company.

I think it really started with the shift away from accepting any returns for store credit. That was a pretty nice slap in the face for consumers who, if they're anything like me, lose receipts. Where once we could go to the store we purchased product from and return product without a receipt in exchange for a store credit, we are now left with no options at all. This has become more of a problem for me with gifts than with anything else. The solution, of course, was the gift receipt. But, if the person who purchased the gift didn't have the forethought to get a gift receipt, lost the gift receipt, or attached the wrong gift receipt to the product, then what option are you left with? You have none, and you find yourself literally suck with useless product that you don't want but can't get rid of. For me, more often than not, this happens with people purchasing DVDs for me as gifts and getting duplicates. I have a whole stack of DVDs that are unopened and useless because I got them as duplicates without gift receipts. That's awesome. I'm thinking about using them as coasters. And what I hate more is that when I tried to exchange one of them at the store it was purchased from, which I knew because the "Best Buy" sticker was still on it with just the price bit scratched off, I was told that not only could I not get an exchange for another title because I had no gift receipt, it was because they couldn't be sure I hadn't stolen the DVD in the first place. Yes, they implied that I had stolen the DVD.

So now, companies that once offered customers the ability to do an even exchange, or an exchange for greater value are allowing nothing at all. They claim it's because they were losing too much money, but I am not sure how since research showed that people who received store credits typically spent 10% over the amount of the credit when they redeemed it. I know I always did.

But it hasn't really stopped there. More and more, the customer is always wrong. This is seen in the attitudes of store employees, who want nothing to do with helping anyone unless it's absolutely necessary, and it's seen in the store policies that are now being imposed on consumers. I actually have a list of stores I don't go to because of their poor customer service and poor company policies. And, some of them have actually listened to their customers and changed the way they do business. Others have not. This past weekend, Jason and I went to Lowes to buy some paint for our upstairs bedroom. We found a color we liked, took it to the counter and said we wanted it mixed in a No VOC paint that they carry in the store. We were promptly told that they could not mix that color in anything but their store brand paint, because they had a contract with that company and could get in trouble for mixing it in another paint brand. So I said "But there are no similar colors in other brands of paint, and if you're not going to offer a no VOC option in your brand then you shouldn't limit people to getting colors mixed only in that brand". The employee looked at me like I was the world's biggest nuisance and acted like I was an idiot for wanting the other paint brand and not understanding that their contract was important. He then told me that they would lose revenue if he mixed my color in another brand of paint. I said "Well, I was going to make $100 worth of purchases today and you've just made my decision to leave the store, so you are losing revenue either way". Plus, I know that they color match anything you bring in, and you can walk into the store with a purchased paint chip deck from any paint manufacturing company and get the color mixed in any paint brand you want, so why the sudden problem with giving the customer what they want?

I think the problem is that no one cares about helping the customer or making them happy. No one says "Sure, I can take care of that for you" because store employees are simply there to stock shelves and ring up purchases, not to actually provide any real "customer service" to anyone. There is distain from most of the people I ask for help in stores. A simple question like "Do you carry cake flour?" in a grocery store where I can't find the cake flour is met with a huge sigh from the employee and a tone of incredulity that I would even consider bothering them. And I know it's not entirely the employee's fault, because sometimes the corporate structure puts too much focus on tasks and not enough on helping people, but is it such a crime to help someone when they need it? It could be said that I don't understand, I'm not doing that job, but the fact is that I have done that job. I worked retail for over 5 years, both as a sales associate and as a manager, so I know that it's possible to be nice to someone when helping them find something. I know it's possible to work a job that pays you crap (because my retail jobs certainly did that) and still be cheerful. Yes, there are people who are over the top ridiculous in their expectations, but they are not the majority.

And when it comes to things like "This is our policy" then maybe someone at the store level needs to say "This policy is unfair to the customers". I did. I still do. As a customer, when a policy in a store changes to be more hostile to the average consumer, I e-mail their corporate office and tell them what I think. More people should. And, if you don't like the policy, try not to shop there. If they're not getting your money, they're going to have to start listening.

Maybe I'm just thinking about a time when my patronage is respected instead of seen as a given, and instead of trying to keep me around using rewards programs or coupon cards, the store actually tried to keep me coming back by offering the service that many of them once did. Maybe if I could find an employee to help me in less than 10 minutes of searching, I'd remember and keep coming back. Treating me like a human being does so much more than mailing me a coupon every week. And having employees who actually know something about the store they work in and the product they sell helps too. If I go into Toys R Us and ask for a good educational toy for a 2 year old, I don't want to be taken to the games section and left standing there to fend for myself. I want someone to say "Here's what I would recommend" and actually show me some of the product. I can't remember the last time I was out shopping and had that experience. Maybe it's a thing of the past.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We The Little People

Tonight as Jason and I were flipping through channels trying to figure out why there is nothing good on tv on Wednesday nights, we saw that PBS was airing the documentary Food Inc. We had both avoided watching this for different reasons. Jason avoided it because the last time he saw anything about how animals were being treated prior to slaughter, he completely gave up eating red meat and switched to free range/barn roaming chicken and he was afraid he'd have to give up half of the food that's left if he saw what it went through. I avoided it because I knew it would make me mad because, let's face it, it doesn't take much to make me mad. But, when faced with the choice of educating ourselves or watching a rerun of House Hunters, we decided to do the responsible thing and raise my blood pressure.

I wish I could say that the documentary was entirely eye opening, but it wasn't. The fact is, I knew some of this stuff was going on before watching the documentary. I knew that animals were grossly mistreated and abused in the factory farming system, and I knew that government regulations on a lot of the food we eat have not been up to snuff. I even knew that there were companies patenting seeds and suing people for harvesting seeds and replanting them. The thing that really got my blood boiling while I watched this documentary was watching how all of these problems and oversights have effected actual people. I'm not really talking about people who eat the food, though they are included, I'm talking about these farmers who now have no control over the one thing they know how to do best: produce food. I heard fear in the voices of the people speaking out against large corporations who basically tell them how to run their farms or raise their livestock. I saw people who work in an industry that has never really been known for its vast profits talk about how they can barely afford to stay afloat while huge corporations are making these massive profits at the expense of both the farmer and the consumer. That's where the anger started. It just continued to build as I watched a mother whose son was killed by e-coli bacteria fight to get legislation passed to allow the government and the FDA to shut down slaughterhouses and factories who repeatedly produce contaminated product, and listened to her talk about how this has been a six year process and still is not getting passed because the consumers might not want to pay more for their food just to ensure its safety. I was appalled, and I was angry.

There was a point in the documentary where they showed how many people who had worked for some of these large corporations are now employed by the FDA, or are in congress with the corporations in their back pockets paying for their reelection campaigns. At this point all of my anger ended up turning into something I did not expect. It became helplessness. I felt completely helpless. Because, as much as the people on the documentary want everyone to believe that they vote every time they make a grocery purchase, I don't think that's enough. Once you count out the people who simply can't afford the healthy foods because they barely make a living wage (another subject for another time), the rest of us are still left with financial choices at the checkout counter. We're also left with limited options in a large portion of the country because not everyone has access to a store that carries a wide variety of produce that is organic, or meat that is humane. So it feels like change has to come from much higher than the grocery store conveyer belt. The problem then becomes an issue of who owns who? If the corporations own the politicians and the politicians want to hold office, then who is doing the right thing for the little people? I am very frustrated by this question. As much as I believe that people should vote, and people should pay attention and make their voices heard, I'm afraid that the corporate involvement in the system has drowned out all of the voices of the constituents and left only the roar of corporate fat cats. I find myself wondering if all of us taking little steps will really matter at all, or if it will just cause someone to say "Make it more expensive to buy the good stuff, then people will buy ours because it's cheaper". It's worked so far for Wal-Mart. And it's cheaper because the government subsidizes things like corn growing, which is a crop we actually have far too much of and it doesn't need to be subsidized. How about this idea, we subsidize all crops? Wow...we could all afford to eat the way we're supposed to if someone decided to do that. But they won't, because I'm sure someone will lose money and then someone else won't get reelected and then I would imagine the world will end from that.

It simply seems wrong that with all of this debate on healthcare, no one has thought to take a good look at what kind of crap we put into our foods, and as a result of that, our bodies every day. We eat crap and then are amazed when we are unhealthy and have to be put onto ten different medications. I'm not saying that I'm about to give up things like drinking soda entirely, because I like soda, and I'm not saying that I'm going to completely stop eating all processed foods, because it's nearly impossible to do that since everything seems to be processed in some way or another. I'm just saying that maybe if we made the stuff that's good for you as affordable as the crap, some people might pick up the good stuff. And I know the simple solution to my problems with factory animal farming is to simply become vegetarian but let's face it, I'm already the pickiest eater alive and I don't want to give up my chicken, especially when it's in fried rice. Plus, it's not a crime to eat meat, but it is a crime to abuse the animal before you turn it into meat. I am not a perfect example of eating the ideal diet, but I do consider myself fortunate enough to be able to afford to take a piece of fruit in my lunch every day. I feel bad that there are so many out there who can't, and I think the system needs to change so that everyone can afford that. I just wish that someone was really fighting for the little people out there instead of the corporate greed. I find myself more and more disgusted with people who allow themselves to be bought by the highest bidder, which means that they have allowed our food production system in this country to be turned into modern day share cropping.

So, while the activist in me says "The system is down. Fight the system!" the realist in me is saying "What now? Is there any hope?" and those two sides of me are arguing about how I feel on this issue. Obviously I'm going to stay angry for a while, because that's what I do best, but I sort of wonder if there comes a point where the fight is just too large and we all feel too small and we are just too tired of pushing against the concrete wall that refuses to move. I will continue to push, but part of me thinks that the little people simply can't do it alone.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Narcissus, your mirror is broken

Yesterday, while spending a lazy Saturday evening sitting around watching movies, Jason and I decided to watch Julie and Julia. We went to see it when it came out in theaters (how I miss free movies from Borders) and upon second viewing I was struck by the same plot event in the movie as I was the first time. There is an entire piece of the film where Julie becomes wholly absorbed in herself and her blog that she forgets there's a world outside of her blog entries and her readers. She defends this by saying that perhaps she is a little narcissistic but that's what a blog is, it's "me me me me me". This got me to thinking about whether that's really the entire point of blogging, to give yourself some sense of self importance. I mean, honestly, when you really think about it, most bloggers probably have about 5 readers. Typically this is a parent or significant other, two friends, and then maybe two people who randomly lurk around reading your site because they stumbled upon it through a friend of a friend, but those people never comment. So, the question becomes, who are we all writing for? I think there's some sort of catharsis that comes from writing up your thoughts and sending them out into the ether, imagining that someone might come across your meager words and find them interesting, witty, or insightful. It seems that simply by writing, we tell the world "Hello, I exist" and then the world gets to choose what it wishes to do with that information. For the vast majority of us bloggers, the world chooses to do nothing more than let us exist. Most of us are not getting picked up for book or film deals simply by sending our thoughts out there for the world. In fact, most of us are so mundane that, if we were to really look back at our own blogging, we would realize how painfully ordinary we all are. But, blogging allows for that. In the world of the blog, there is room for everyone, especially the ordinary.

Years ago I had a blog on the now all-but-defunct, which seemed like a haven for self important whining. I do not exclude myself from this group. When looking back at that blog, I fell to the same trap that the rest of the xanga bloggers fell into, I was utterly and completely narcissistic. For whatever reason, that blog was entirely about "me me me me", and I can't help but think about how utterly pathetic my own whining was. And who the hell was I whining to? The other self important whiners? No one? It's hard to say. But, as I have come to discover, different blogging sites lend themselves to different types of bloggers. For example, I was actually criticized on xanga about how if I wrote shorter posts, people might be more likely to actually finish reading an entry. This is so incredibly amusing, when I think back on it, because it was basically saying that if I wanted the attention of readers, I would have to limit my thoughts to nothing more than a sound byte, and well....I'm an English major folks, if I excel at nothing else in this world, I know that I will always excel at being wordy. I am not exactly well versed in limiting my thoughts to sound bytes. But, then, the question still remains, who was I writing for anyway? So few people were reading that blog that it seems as if there was no real point in cutting down my posts to please the one person who was reading.

However, it seems that blogging becomes completely and truly narcissistic when the blogger starts to get a bit of attention for their thoughts. I have often heard of people falling to this idea that while blogging, if they miss a day or have bad news, they will be disappointing their readers. This gets taken to extreme levels when these anonymous readers start to take precedent over real people who should matter more than the fandom of faceless readers. So, perhaps the motivation to blog is, at its core, narcissistic but I don't think it is fully realized until someone gains that rare phenomenon of attention that the fickle public chooses to bestow on some more readily than others. The rest of us must simply be content to survive our narcissism with cracked mirrors, which do not allow us to reflect too carefully on ourselves and instead let us still maintain some sort of rationality about what our own blogging is really getting us, which is usually carpel tunnel. But, we continue to blog anyway, to feed some need to have our thoughts out in the world uninterrupted by the thoughts and opinions of least until we get to the comments section.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Haters To The Left

Last night, because there was nothing good on tv and possibly because he likes to watch me yell at the screen, Jason decided to turn on Fox News for a little entertainment. Sean Hannity was hosting some sort of discussion panel on his show, and complaining about the Nuclear Arms treaty that was being signed yesterday. It took about 30 seconds before something was said that offended me. He said he would be disappointed in any Republican in Congress who would vote to adopt this new policy. So, to be clear, he wants congress to oppose a treaty that would decrease the number of nuclear weapons in the world, and was scoffing at the Ukrainian government for offering to dispose of any of their nuclear materials. Yes. This is what he was saying. Then he showed a clip of my very favorite idiot, Sarah Palin, talking about what a bad idea this was. This is ironic, considering she claims to be a HUGE fan of Ronald Reagan, who fought to dispose of all nuclear weaponry on a global scale during his presidency. Now she doesn't like it, because it's not Bush or McCain in office working for this cause. Then, when Hannity switched topics, he began talking about how Obama has single handedly destroyed the economy. I'm not entirely sure how things have looked from where Sean is sitting, but the economy has been pretty f*cked for several years now. Obama has been in office for one. I'm just going to go out on a limb here and say it wasn't all him. Call me crazy, but I think I might be right here.

This brings me to my point: Why are Republicans such sore freaking losers? The health care bill passing made way for what appears to me to be a bunch of political temper tantrums. Suddenly there will be "no cooperation from the Right" and they're going to fight to have it repealed etc. Whatever happened to doing what's best for the country? Is absolutely no bi-partisan cooperation really the best thing for your constituents and your country? It doesn't seem like it. It seems as if you lost, and now you're going to stand around and pout until something happens that gives you your way. I find it appalling. And what's more, I find it worrisome to think about what this sort of attitude is doing to the country as a whole. Suddenly we have people claiming to be "patriots" who are calling out to people to smash the windows of Democratic offices, and Democratic leaders in various roles are getting death threats. When did this become ok? Not getting your way in a bill vote gives you free reign to call for open vandalism? For being the party who likes to call everyone else Socialists and compare them to the likes of Hitler, you're sure ordering some very Hitleristic action. At the beginning of his regime, he told the people of Germany to break the windows of Jewish businesses in their towns. How is ordering conservatives to break the windows of Democratic offices any different? And now we have "Oath Keepers" within our own military who are stockpiling weapons in preparation to commit treason by rising up and literally fighting the President should they feel he's "taking over the country". Men who have taken an oath to serve their country, and to honor the President as Commander in Chief of their armed forces are now preparing to attack the very office they swore to honor. This is so upsetting and disturbing that I don't even have words for it. I am appalled at the behavior of some of the supposedly civilized citizens of this country.

In the wake of the Hutaree arrests, many people are beginning to dig up the images of Timothy McVeigh and his rebellion against the government when he bombed Oklahoma City, and I find myself wondering whether that event would still be as tragic in the minds of Americans if it was committed today. The fact is, he was a terrorist. No, he was not Arab, he did not hold a Koran as he committed his crime, and he did not do it in the name of religion. This just goes to show that terrorism is not something done only by Muslim extremists, though so many in our nation would have you believe otherwise, but can be committed by our own citizens in our own back yards. But my concern is that if a group like the Hutaree or some other extremest right wing group were to bomb a government building, I'm afraid that they would be cheered as heroes rebelling against the evil socialists holding political office. I'm afraid that the tragedy would somehow get turned into a cry of patriotism, and somehow those terrorists committing such a crime would be revered as true citizens of America. This is what frightens me the most about our nation as it is today. Extremists come in all forms, not simply Muslim (and for that matter, not all Muslims are extremist terrorists despite what some would have people believe), and extremism is dangerous no matter where its roots are planted, and yet our collective vision as a nation seems to be clouded because we cannot see the road we have begun to pave for ourselves.

And I am sure there are those who would say that I am a liberal, which means that if it were liberals doing these things I would not be sitting here writing this blog entry. I would like to think that if it was liberals committing vandalism and plotting domestic terrorism, I would not remain silent simply because I happen to share some of the beliefs held by that group. But, the fact of the matter is, liberals are not committing these sort of crimes. I would argue that there were liberals who hated George Bush as much as the conservatives currently hate Obama, but they were not calling anyone to arms, and they were not vandalizing buildings or mailing out death threats. That is not the way of the liberal. Perhaps it was in the 60's when it was largely liberals protesting and fighting against Vietnam, but somewhere along the line the liberals got behind gun control and well....that kind tends to quell violence. But if they were, I would not stand behind them either.

This is not to say that anyone, liberal or conservative should blindly accept what they are being fed from a government office without question. On the contrary. This nation was built on the ability to have a disagreement. I think everyone should question and consider and think about what goes on not just in this country, but globally. I'm just saying that there is a distinct difference between civil disobedience and lashing out violently for some sort of revenge.

We now live in a nation divided, not just along political lines but also along religious and socioeconomic lines that are carved so deeply that I'm not sure the scars will ever heal. What worries me most is that this division is not for any real reason, except that there are some who would prefer to gain political power rather than serve those who have elected them, and there are those who would prefer to see their nightly television ratings jump by spoon feeding people lies and propaganda simply to make a buck. I have said it before, and I will say it again. We worship no idol or diety more faithfully than we do the dollar. This may be our downfall.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Happy To Be Here

Now, I'm not normally one to romanticize the commonplace, or get poetic about what I consider to be "the ordinary" but tonight, as I sit here in my living room with the windows open, a breeze blowing through the house, I am struck by how happy to be where I am right now. Every year, I forget how much I enjoy springtime in Michigan. Admittedly, the state doesn't exactly get four seasons a year. Usually we get the world's longest winter, and then a few weeks of "spring" before it immediately jumps to 80+ degrees and summer descends on us, miserable and humid, which lasts until mid-October before we get the worlds shortest autumn and the snows start again. But, for those couple weeks of spring, I am content to be exactly where I am. This year is better than last, because we have a new neighborhood that seems to take landscaping pretty seriously. Our neighbors next door have bulbs planted and they all started blooming last week, and nearly everyone on the street has a flowering tree of some type, which are all in full bloom now. We spent the weekend working in the yard, pulling out some of the old, ugly landscaping stones and mowing the lawn, filling in holes and re-seeding some of the patchy areas of the grass. The progress has made me really want to tackle some of our other landscaping projects, though at this point we have to just do bit by bit as we have time to do it. There is a sense of accomplishment in working on something all day and being able to look at the results and think "That looks better". I've never been one for gardening in the past, but it might be something I find myself enjoying as the summer progresses. All I know is that tonight, as the sun was setting, and the smell of our neighbors cherry blossoms was blowing across my yard, I was really happy to be out in my yard, working on something I knew would end up looking better, and that I did it with my own two hands. I like it here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Blasphemy From Your Lit Teacher

For the sake of the title on this post, we'll ignore the fact that I don't actually have a job teaching. I officially received my teaching certificate in the mail, so I'm a teacher dangit!

So here are some confessions about myself as a Literature scholar. I started college with this great intention of studying all kinds of different literature, but to be honest, I could only take the classes that would fit into my time schedule between working and going to school. That's a bit of a bummer, but what are you going to do right? There were a lot of classes I wanted to take, and maybe some day I will go back and take them just for the sake of taking them, but because of the way my schedule was structured, I ended up with a heavy emphasis on American Literature. This was surprising to me, since I hated American Literature in high school and much preferred the English Lit class I took. This could have something to do with us studying Paradise Lost, Macbeth and Wuthering Heights in the English Lit class. Interesting stuff, though I think I'm the only person I've ever met who lovedWuthering Heights, and it was somewhat foreign so there was something to sink our teeth into. When I took American Lit, we studied Whitman, Thoreau, Edith Wharton and Hawthorne. SNOOZE.

That brings me to my first real confession: I HATE WHITMAN AND THOREAU. Can you say that and still teach literature? I don't know. But I hate them. Like, hate hate hate them. I think I even made a joke about peeing in Walden Pond as we drove past it on our last trip to New England. I can't explain why I hate these guys so much, but I think some of it stems from my dislike of poetry in general, and the poetic lilt that their prose tends to have. Well, Whitman is outright poetry most of the time, but Thoreau is just kind of pretentious. The man wandered off into the woods to live in a cabin by himself and write. He's like ye olde Ted Kaczynski. And he's boring. And he wrote about removing himself from society, but felt it was still approrpriate to make commentary on that which he removed himself from in the first place. Snob.

Second confession: I made it all the way through college and I've never read any Faulkner, Melleville, Emerson, and I've never taken a thorough study in Shakespeare. Yeah. I know, I suck. But, I've read more Mark Twain than most people teaching American Literature have read. And I don't understand why we don't teach more Twain in high school.

And that brings me to another point, why do we teach REALLY boring stuff in high school? I mean, not everything I read was boring, and everyone's idea of boring is different, but Ethan Fromme was BORING. I read The Great Gatsby, which in another teacher's hands might not have been so boring, but that teacher has forever ruined the novel for me. I actually read it again in college for a class and still couldn't get past my ruined experience in high school. I had a hard time finishing the book. But, I will say, the college professor did make it a lot more bearable. In fact, I read a lot of really good American Lit in college, and not all of it was written in 17-something or 18-something. Some of it was written at the turn of the century and is far more relevent to the high school student today than Ethan Frome would be.

It wasn't until college that I discovered J.D. Salinger, and my question is WHY DIDN'T I DISCOVER THIS GUY UNTIL COLLEGE?! Seriously. Holden Caulfield is entirely relateable to teens, so why didn't I read it when I was a teen? In a way, I'm glad I didn't. I don't think I could have appreciated the book the same way as a 16 year old as I did as a 26 year old. Surprisingly, one of my colleagues at Borders was surprised that I could relate to the novel being both adult and female, but I loved it. I couldn't put it down. Many of my female classmates found it unrelateable, but I'm wondering if that's because they don't spend a lot of time with adolescent males, and I was working with a whole bunch of them in the drama department at the time. But, it was still relevent. I mean, if Holden were alive and real today, he'd be surrounded by the Paris Hilton's and Lindsay Lohan's of society, and he'd go stark raving mad, because as much as he postulates in the novel that everyone is a phoney, and we are asked to take pause and wonder if that's true, in today's society it absolutely is. I don't know, the commentary on society as a whole, as seen through the eyes of one very self centered young man, it just kind of made me smile because he wasn't wrong. Flawed in his character and his thinking? Absolutely, but not wrong necessarily.

So there are a couple of confessions. I hate Whitman and Thoreau, I've never read any Faulkner, I love Mark Twain, and I don't understand why Catcher in the Rye isn't taught in more high schools. Sure, there's that sex thing, but get over it. Why do we only pick the boring stuff? There's so much great stuff out there, why the hell aren't we using it?
Also, everyone should read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides because it's fabulous.
Oh, and I've never read any Steinbeck either. Yes, I know that's bad.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Feeling Bloggy

Hope those of you who read my little manifesto on healthcare reform enjoyed it. That would be like....4 people, and none of them follow my blog regularly so....score to me I guess. Gaining followers one controversial topic at a time. Or maybe I'm just gaining one-time readers one controversial topic at a time. I'll take what I can get, I'm not picky. I've been trying to keep my blog relatively politics free, but to be honest, I'm a politically and socially minded person so it would be kind of like keeping part of my blog Becky-Free and well...being that I'm Becky and it's my blog, I sort of have to be here for this to work. So, I'll probably be adding more political and controversial posts here in my own little virtual soap box. Jason picked up some magazines yesterday with some pretty interesting and disturbing articles in them that I'm sure will give me bloggy fodder in the next few days, and since things are currently totally caught up here at work I find myself with time on my hands, and when I have time, you get blogs.

That's kind of a cop out. I have time to blog when I get home from work every night too, I just don't feel like it. I find that after sitting in front of a computer ALL DAY LONG, I don't necessarily want to be on the computer when I get home. Sure, I'll check my Facebook, but as far as writing e-mails and corresponding with people, I don't have the patience for it. I suck at life. It's not that I don't want to keep in touch, I do, I just don't want to type anything out when I could be just sitting on my sofa like a zombie. Incidentally, this job turns me into a zombie. It doesn't require me to think too much, so my brain is a perpetual jello-mold of brain tissue. It just sits there, feeling sluggish and sad. But, I need a paycheck, and I am getting a paycheck for working here so I'm happy to have at least that. But, the point is, I feel zombie-like, and I don't want to send e-mails. I actually think I might be getting a glimpse into what my life looks like when I don't have a million things to do at once. The exodus of my academic life coupled with my lack of ability to work with my drama kids, coupled with the job I'm currently doing seems to turn me into a slug. I think I'm that person who has to have a million things to do to be happy, but now I just have a job and that's it, and I'm a bit bored. And, oddly, I find I'm more tired at the end of the day now than I ever was when I was going to work and school and doing drama stuff. I tie it all back to the lack of brain activity. Must stimulate brain!
Side note: By stimulate brain I mean more than watching Life on Discovery Channel and Jeopardy while eating dinner every night.

So, speaking of jobs, update on the job situation is....there is no update. Nothing. I am actually getting really frustrated because I don't think that they're going to try to keep me on permanently here at my current job after June, which I knew going into this but I figured it wouldn't matter because that would give me 6 months to find a new job. Except that I haven't found a new job. I'm actually struggling to find jobs to post for when I do my daily search of EVERY JOB SITE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. So, that's frustrating and kind of nerve wracking. Jason's got a job subbing in a classroom until mid-April, although rumors are that they may keep him until the end of the school year, so that's some income we weren't expecting to have, but you can't be a sub in the summer when there is no school, so then it's back to the drawing board for him to find a job, and if I lose this job in June and he has no job starting in June well.....bad news bears. Needless to say, I'm worried. I'm hoping for the best though. I just hope I don't have to go be a cashier at Kroger just to pay my bills. People who are grocery shopping are cranky.

Other than giving myself ulcers worrying about job prospects, there isn't much going on in my world at the moment. Trying to find ways to not feel like a slug, but that's about it. Blah. I actually miss having to do grading and lesson planning from when I was student teaching because it made my brain work. Must reactivate brain! Must be productive!

Also, we bathed the pets this weekend. No pictures because I was too busy trying to keep my blood inside my body while bathing the cats, but they were not amused. Not at all. On the bright side, they all smell soooo nice.

The end.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

To Your Health

It’s more important to save money than it is to save people.

$$ So I guess when your God said to worship no false idols, he was excluding the almighty dollar $$

The party of the Right, or should we say righteous? They fight to prevent sick children from being cared for.

I think their Christ would disagree.

Let’s fight reform to save the unborn babies, while the already born babies die of disease from lack of treatment.

Let’s knock out cancer, until it becomes too expensive, and it’s cheaper to let a person die than pay their premiums.

For the nation of progress, we become more regressive every day.

We cheer profit, because it can fit on a bank ledger, but we have no understanding of value or worth.

It is not socialism to take care of those who need it; it is called doing the right thing.

But not the Right thing, because that would mean fighting against progress to keep the dollars flowing in from the insurance companies who pay for your campaigns. You must worship the almighty reelection.

We spend a dollar to treat a disease but forget that we are treating a person, but it seems most would prefer we treat neither.

Pain and suffering are nothing to those who can pay to stem them, but for those who can’t, apparently they deserve that.

Perhaps Dickens wrote the first conservative, asking that people die and decrease the surplus population.

And some say they will move because we are doing the right thing, not the Right thing, because they are too blind to see that the greater good is more important than their money.

Please move, please leave, please pack your bags for the next 1st world industrialized nation that does not have healthcare for its people. Let us know when you find it.

But hey, if they leave, imagine how much money it will save when we don’t pay for their care.

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. Until they get sick. Then they’re a liability.

Some say it is unconstitutional to care for the people of a nation. More would argue that no one foresaw the greed this country would fall to. Our founders fought a war to fight oppression, and we wage a war to keep people oppressed.

So, to those who are out there, sick and suffering and without hope of any help, we can do the Right thing and just drink to your health. It’ll be aged Scotch, served in a crystal glass. You won’t mind.

Friday, March 12, 2010

So, I wrote this

And then I posted it.

I saw you today. Not the physical you, obviously, because that’s gone but I saw you just the same. It happened slowly, and then all at once, in one unexpected moment. You weren’t there, and then you were. You were in a smile I saw while in the checkout line at the grocery store, and then later in the laugh I heard from a baby being tickled, and then again later in the pile of clutter on my kitchen table that was both ordered and disordered at the same time. That’s where you were. You were in this habit I have of leaving pieces of myself all throughout the house, a trail of me to be followed so my path is unmistakable. You were in the way I yelled at the dog to stop barking out the window at the neighbors. And you were that nagging voice in the back of my head saying “If you learn to just leave things alone, you don’t stir up as much trouble”. Yes, I saw you. I didn’t think I would, but that’s how these things happen sometimes. Sometimes they only appear when you need them, or when you don’t even realize you need them. Sometimes they sneak up on you from inside a book, or from a page that slips from a photo album. And sometimes, sometimes they’re not there at all. Sometimes that’s ok. But today I saw you, and I’m glad I did. And, what’s more, today you helped me to see me.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Waxing Poetic

I'm not sure why, but every once in a while I get this intense urge to be creative. Usually it correlates with a change in the seasons, or it comes out of me working a lot and not having much time for other things. Usually I'm working with the plays at the high school, which pretty much curbs the desire for a creative outlet, but since I can't do that anymore I'm going a bit stir crazy lately. I feel like with things being a bit up in the air and chaotic when it comes to my work life, I really want to focus my home life and keep it as organized and un-chaotic as possible. This has, thus far, been an epic fail. Due to working 50+ hour work weeks at the temp job I hate, I haven't felt much like tackling my home life when I'm actually at home. We made some headway this weekend by hanging our cabinets in the laundry room and clearing some clutter out of the kitchen and living room, but life is far from un-chaotic. And once everything is organized and back to normal so that my house doesn't look like it exploded, I want to focus on doing something creative. I'm not sure what. At Christmas I did some DIY art projects around the house which turned out really well. In the spring I have big plans to do some photography stuff with the new niece and nephew as well as some nature photos I want to take to frame in the house (because why would I buy a black and white picture of a flower for $20 when I can take one and have it printed for $0.60?). I have some plans to build some things, because after my dad built me my bookcase and it turned out really well, I've decided I want to try to build something myself, so we'll see how that goes. I might have some talent for it! But, lately what's been sitting in the back of my mind is something that I used to do and haven't done in years. Did you know I can write? I don't mean like "Duh, obviously, you're writing this blog" but actually sit down and craft a story with plot and characters write. I used to be pretty good at it. I used to fill notebooks with little stories I made up, and I wrote my first play when I was 5. I didn't actaully write it down, I just forced my little sister to act out everything I told her and we performed it for my parents. It was a masterpiece. I don't remember what it was about but I remember I stuck clovers into Cindy's ears at some point. Genius.

Honestly though, I've been thinking about this writing thing. I don't want to make money from it, or sell anything, or even let anyone read it necessarily. I just sort of wonder if I still have any skill. It's disturbing to think you might have peaked at 17. *shudder* Sometimes I dig out one of my old notebooks (I didn't keep many, which might have been dumb in retrospect) and I'll be surprised that I actually wrote the stuff I'm reading. So, maybe I'll write something. Or maybe I won't. It's just something I've been thinking about.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Trying not to be discouraged

As all 2 people who follow this blog know, I had to leave my job at my beloved Borders back in September to do my student teaching. This left me in a pretty tense situation, since Jason would be leaving his (much higher paying) job at Borders in January to do his student teaching, which meant that I absolutely HAD to find a job before that happened. I don't think this would have been a problem except that....yeah, we live in Michigan. So, I sent out resumes. TONS of resumes. I got ONE phone call. Seriously, one. I have tons of work experience, I have a degree, I have background in a corporate setting and I can't even get a job as a receptionist. This makes me very sad. The one job that called me back was with a really good company, but it was also for a 6 month contract position that paid a whopping $12 an hour. :-/ That's way less than I made at Borders, and being temporary means no benefits, which is a problem with Jason losing his job and therefore our healthcare. So, of course, I took the job. It was the ONLY one that called me back for goodness sakes! I had to!

But it's in accounting. I hate accounting. I hated accounting when I worked in Accounts Payable at Borders. I hate it more now, because this is Accounts Receivable, so I'm a bill collector. Yeah, that'll make you feel like scum after about 2 minutes. The other problem is that, often, Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable attract pretty low caliber people. Not everyone, obviously, because I knew some great people in AR at Borders, but generally speaking we're talking about what Jason might term "bottom feeders". People who are really never going to be capable of doing anything more than this entry level monkey work. That's depressing. I don't have much in common with my co-workers, though, to be honest, most of them haven't been so interested in talking to me or getting to know me at all. I guess that's fine, I don't plan on being here long.

And that's where being discouraged comes in. I'm still sending out resumes. Lots of them. All I'm getting in return is a lot of rejection letters. That's depressing. I'm averaging about 1 or 2 rejection letters a day at the moment. It's hard to keep sending them out and when you keep getting rejected. I know I shouldn't let it discourage me, but....I don't want to be here, and as the weeks pass (admittedly, I've been here less than a month) and I get more rejection letters, I start to feel like this is going to have to be more permanant than I initially thought. That frustrates me, since everyone in my current department is "looking for something else" and most of them have been looking for like 5 years. I don't want to be that person! And I can't teach, at least not at the moment, and possibly never in Michigan, because all of the schools in the area are laying off tons of teachers.'s this. I don't like it. I'm trying to be optimistic and keep my best foot forward and stay positive about continuing to send out resumes but...I'm not hopeful. And I gave up working with my drama kids for a job that doesn't pay me enough and gives me no benefits. That eats at me a lot. It shouldn't does. It'd probably be an easier pill to swallow if the job provided me with a bit more security. I dunno. It's just starting to get me down.