Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union Running Commentary

While watching the State of the Union address I decided to write down everything Jason and I said out loud to the TV. For your enjoyment.

-Yay! It's not just superbowl winners, it's science fair winners!
-Yeah, become teachers. But first why don't you make some fucking teaching jobs?!
-Oh Boehner isn't clapping at that. He's just sitting there all orange and cranky.
-Everyone not clapping here must get money from insurance companies for their campaigns.
-Government is going to make sacrifices? I hope it's not a cow. That'll piss PETA off.
-Freeze spending? Shouldn't Boehner be peeing his pants over this?!
-The backs of our most vulnerable citizens? Isn't that like....everyone now?
-That plane analogy was kind of a fail. Without an engine you wouldn't feel impact because you wouldn't get off the ground.
-He wants to cut defense spending? The republicans aren't going to like that!
-Yes, let's make rich people pay more. It's not like they don't have it.
-Nice dig at privatization of social security. We all saw how well our 401Ks did after the market crashed....
-Boehner seemed surprised by that one.
-A competent government? What does that look like?
-Does anyone else think Biden look like he's not entirely sure of what's going on? Did anyone tell him it's the State of the Union tonight?
-Whoa, what was that John Boehner? What was with the shifty-eye shifty-eye?
-It's nice to see John McCain happy. Not really. Someone get Palin in here to be a buzzkill.
-They're talking about Iraq. Quick! Someone cut to a soldier from Afghanistan!
-Wow, lots people not standing on the Muslims being part of our American Family. They are probably sitting there like "Fuck those arabs and their turbans". Racists.
-Carl Levin looks like The Penguin from Batman comics.
-Hillary Clinton looks awful! Oh HD, how unkind you are to so many politicians.
-We've strengthened Asian alliances because we're all scared shitless of China. We saw those opening games at the Olympics.
-Yes, everyone has to stand and clap for the troops or they're unAmerican.
-Very stoic there generals.
-No one wants to be from Scranton.
-There he goes! He's gonna cry!
-Plan B, but don't worry republicans, it's not the birth control pill so get your panties out of a twist.
-Fuck he's a good speaker!
-At least no one booed.

A Moment of Silence for the Death of the Book

I think the question I want to start off with here is this: DOESN'T ANYONE READ ANYMORE? I mean really, doesn't anyone ever just go out to pick up a book for the pure joy and anticipation of a good story? I ask this knowing that yes, people do read, and people out there still love a good story, but as I stand on the precipice of the traditional bookstore taking a nose dive, I find myself wondering if it's because of technology or if it's because people don't read. This question has been nagging at me for weeks, but last night it kind of boiled over in my rage pot (which is located behind my mouth, apparently) when I attended a school board meeting for our local school district. Jason did a big post about their attempt to integrate technology into the classroom, so you should hop over there and read what he had to say, but what struck me was the teacher statement in the presentation about how you can't expect a student to learn without technology. The comment was somewhere along the lines of "The kids are so tied to technology that you can't expect them to learn without it. You can't just hand them a book and expect them to get research out of it." My question here is: WHY THE HELL NOT?! Why can't we use books in addition to technology?

I've had this complaint for years, actually. I can't stand the fact that when I ask a student to research a subject for a report or a paper, I get a collection of Wikipedia pages in the works cited section. Really? That's the best you can do is Wikipedia? But the fact is, that's all they know. And isn't that a failure on us as teachers? I've heard from many teachers that if they tell the students that their research can't include any citations from Wikipedia, the classroom nearly breaks out into a riot. Heaven forbid they require one book source for research. I had that problem in my student teaching. We required the students to research their five paragraph essays and one of their three sources had to be a book. The most frightening thing for me was that they had no idea how to find a book with research information in it. Thank goodness for a really astute librarian. But honestly, even if books go digital, it seems as if people don't understand how to use them anymore. Everything is on the internet, but there is a real lack of understanding that the internet does not have an editor.

Perhaps what is the most difficult for me to understand is why people see technology as a replacement to legitimate written research. I mean, a book is a book, regardless of whether you are opening it from a libary or reading it on your iPad or Kindle. It's still an edited source of literature and information. So why do we think we can just replace that with a Podcast or something? Why do teachers think that the solution to their kids not paying attention in the classroom is to hand them an iPad. Sure, they'll be paying attention but it won't be to you. They'll be playing Angry Birds with the sound turned off. It is not a fix-all to the education system. I am not opposed to technology in the classroom. In fact, I love it. I think that when used properly it can enhance lessons and make them both interactive and interesting. If nothing else, PowerPoint presentations allow for constant visual aids which helps the visual learner. Videos, podcasts, and interactive learning quest programs are all amazing, and they can really enhance a traditional lesson. That's the key word, enhance. They don't replace good lesson writing and they don't automatically make your lesson great. You still have to have the proper source material to provide the information, regardless of how it is delivered. You don't get to just say "Oh, I put this on an iPad, now it's perfect". It still takes working at what you're doing.

And it still requires you to know what the hell you're talking about. I took a class in college where my History professor stood up in front of us on our first day of class and said "How many of you hated history in High School?". Most of the hands in the room went up. He then asked "How many of you had History taught by your football coach?" and nearly as many hands went up. He went on to tell us that history is uninteresting and boring when it comes from people who are just reading off names and dates, but that the subject was usually given to the Football coach because it was easy to read off names and dates. He said history is a living and breathing experience and unless you give it context, none of the names and dates matter. He couldn't have been more right. And I feel that way about this whole book issue. The internet, or any piece of technology, is just a series of binary code with information that may or may not be accurate. Until you breathe some life into the source material and give it some context, it means nothing. Books weave a story. The internet bullet points facts. And now, that's all our students are able to do.

For most of the high school students I know, reading is a huge chore when they have to "like...go through all of those words and figure out which parts are importantan and stuff". Websites are easy. They break everything down in a series of bullets. No thinking required. But I don't think the kids started out that way. I defy anyone to find me a person who can't name at least one story they loved from their childhood. In a failing book industry, Children's Books and Young Adult Books are the only areas consistently growing and outselling themselves year after year. So I don't believe that kids don't want to read. I think that somewhere along the way it just stops being an expectation because "they're so plugged into technology anyway..." and suddenly it becomes less interesting. Maybe the test scores went down not because we took laptops off of everyone's desks, but because we took books out of their hands.

But hey, what do I know. I just teach English. I just sell books. For now.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Zombie Free Zone

When I say I felt like a zombie last week, I'm really not kidding. Only instead of walking around craving brains, I was walking around wishing I could breathe through my nose. I haven't been sick in two years, and apparently all of those cold viruses decided to pay me back for my years of neglect. I even called in sick to work. I never call in sick to work. It was bad. But, at this point I appear to be at the tail end of these germs taking over my immune system. White blood cells are prevailing! I picture it a lot like the battle in Star Wars where the rebels blow up the death star, only inside my body, and hopefully with fewer lasers being shot around because I'd imagine that might hurt me a bit. But still, I'm pretty sure it's exactly like that fight. In my mind.
The good news is, no one has missed much in my blogging absence because nothing has happened. Awesome. Well, nothing happened until this weekend, when Norbert the evil cat got sick and had to be taken to the vet. Stupid cats and their stupid genetic predisposition to bladder stones. Stupid stupidness. Now she's on a canned food only diet, which I'm pretty sure she believes is due to her hitting some sort of lotto jackpot. She's going to be pissed when she gets better and goes back to only getting canned food as a treat. But for now she's on canned food only and she is happy. And hopefully she gets better soon without the need of surgery or anything. I do not love the idea of surgery. That is WAY more expensive than we can afford for the time being. So I hope that the whole Star Wars thing is going on inside the cat too, where her prescription food is like the rebels blowing up the stupid stones in her stupid bladder. I'm going to start calling her food "Luke" from now on.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What Kind of People am I Attracting?!

The other day I was reading Jason's blog, because I'm a good wife and I read all of the things that my husband puts on his blog to show an interest in his life and keep the magic alive. Or I just like to read crap he posts. Either way. ANYWAY, I was reading Jason's blog and he had this post (like that shameless plug to get you to go read his blog?) about information that blogger tracks about your blog. We have this nifty little "Stats" tab where we can see different stats on blog traffic etc. After reading his post, I realized I've never really looked at my own stats tab, so I hopped over to my own page and decided to investigate. First of all, let me say that I'm a bit blown away that my page has had over 1,500 views from the US alone. there are another 300 or so scattered across various countries outside of the US with the UK being my #2 supporter. So hey, thanks Britain. I like you too. But my point here is, who the hell knew I was so freaking popular? I mean, I'm not getting comments and junk, I don't have a bunch of followers, but people have at least been clicking over to my site. Awesome.

And that brings me to ways people have managed to find my site. Not surprisingly, most of the people coming over here are referred by Facebook because I'm a shameless attention whore and post a link on Facebook every time I update my blog. So Facebook people, thanks for doing the clickety click. Most of the other people coming to the site were referred from Google.

This is where my story gets weird. I can see what keywords people have searched that have led them to my page. Most of the keywords were for photos of laundry, which makes sense since I used a bunch of them in this post. Apparently laundry photos are popular. So that's innocent enough. It wasn't until I got to the last set of keywords that I went "WHAT THE WHAT?!" and wondered what kind of people are coming to my blog. That last set of keywords...hit vagina. Seriously?! How the heck did the words "hit vagina" pop up my blog for someone in a google search? I have never done a post about vaginas, let alone hit vaginas, so I'm so confused. I went through the photos I've used in posts, and none of them look like a hit vagina. I don't think I've ever used that phrase in a post, so who is looking for hit vaginas and finding me? So weird.

Of course now, after I post this, I'm going to end up getting hits from TONS of searches for that keyword grouping because I've used it a million times, but at least now I feel like it's justified. And to all of you who made it over here by searching for "hit vagina", welcome. I hope you're not pervs.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

In Loving Memory of AWESOME.

Why is it that all of the best stuff gets discontinued? Jell-o Gelatin Pops, MicroMagic Microwave fries, Apple Cinnamon Eggo Waffles, and the delicious confection you see over here to the left...the Philadelphia Cheesecake Bar. Oh how I miss you.

A few months ago, when I decided to make my first actual from scratch cheesecake, and I realized that it's a lot of work to make one that looks pretty (those bitches crack through the center like it's their job) I suddenly remembered my apartment dwelling days when we would buy these cheesecake snack bars. Then I suddenly wondered if they made those anymore and after a quick Google search discovered that they did not. Saddest face ever. I found recipes to make cheesecake bars, but I don't want that. I don't want to go through the work of making these little bars and then trying to keep them fresh in my fridge until I can manage to consume the entire thing. No. I want to go to the store, spend entirely too much money on a package of 6 little cheesecake snack bars that are individually wrapped for freshness, take them home and put them in my fridge until one night I come home from work and think "I want a sweet and delicious snack" and consume nearly the entire box because they were that good. That is what I want to do. But I can't do that anymore because the evil people at Philadelphia Cream Cheese decided that my delicious cheesecake bars should be discontinued. Bastards.

But, in my search I did find out that they make ready to eat pre-made cheesecake filling so maybe that'll have to do if I'm ever desperate.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dammit! I Don't Eat Salad.

When I first started dating I never went through that awkward phase where you go to dinner with a guy and you want to impress him so you just order a salad so you look like you're health conscious and you don't want him to spend a lot of money for you. This is for several reasons.

1. I started dating when I was 16 and dates typically consisted of going out with a large group of friends.

2. I never let the guy pay. And by "guy" I mean Jason, because I decided to latch on to the first guy who showed me any attention and marry that sucker. But my point is, I never let him pay*. I was raised to take care of myself and pay my own way through life, and that meant that I firmly believed he had no business paying for my meals, and since I was paying I ordered whatever the hell I wanted.

3. I have the pallet of a 5 year old. Even if I did order the most expensive thing I wanted from the menu, it was typically the $9.99 chicken tenders and fries. Picky eaters may be a pain in the ass, but they're cheap.

So now that I've reached adulthood, I'm struck with this weird dilemma. When I was working for the psycho boss in the company from Hell, the team would often go out to lunch and she would put it onto her purchase card. We'll skip the rant on how I don't think taking the team out to lunch 2 or 3 times a week should be expensed to the company. So anyway, we'd go to lunch at one of the two places available to get lunch in Amish-ville Ohio and everyone would order a salad of some type. Well crap, I don't eat salad. I have a lot of reasons, but the most primary is that I just don't like it. Lettuce isn't very intersting, salad dressing grosses me out because there are texture issues there for me that I don't even want to get into but trust me, it makes me want to gag. I don't eat a ton of veggies, so most of those would go to waste anyway. So, bottom line, I don't like salad. But salad is cheap, which is why girls order it on dates. It's $5 for a pretty decent sized restaurant salad. But here I am, looking at the menu and thinking "I really just want chicken tenders..." and realizing that those chicken tenders are almost twice the price of the salads everyone else is ordering. Shit. Now I have the dilemma of being the person who takes advantage of someone else's generocity by ordering the most expensive thing out of everyone at the table. No one wants to be "that guy". I got through this at the company from Hell by telling myself that I was on travel funding from the company and my lunch would be expensed regardless of who paid, so I might as well order what I want.

Then yesterday two of our vendor reps took my co-worker and I out to lunch, which was SUPER generous of them and again, I love these guys, so it was nice to have the opportunity to sit around and have some interesting conversation for an afternoon. Especially for me, who never takes a lunch break at work. But we got there and everyone was ordering salads. Shit. I ended up ordering grilled chicken skewers, which were relatively inexpensive and adequately lunch portioned so that I wasn't left with a ton of food that I couldn't finish, which is also a dilemma because you don't want to order the more expensive thing and then waste 80% of it. And I almost always waste a ton of whatever I order because I don't eat much. So, I went with that, but it was still $3 more than what everyone else ordered. And I still sat there wondering if I was "that guy". I really don't want to be "that guy".

Hell, even at my cousin's wedding when we were told repeatedly to order literally whatever we wanted because in the words of her new husband "We have a minimum tab we're required to hit here people. Order up!" I still was seriously afraid of being "that guy". I ended up ordering the most expensive thing on the menu. And by "I", I mean I mentioned that it sounded like it would be good and my cousin's husband ordered for me and then looked at me and said "Hello! Minimum tab!" But still, I felt bad. Well, I sort of felt bad, since everyone else was ordering the same thing, or ordering pricy entrees and then adding lobster tails to them. So I guess the risk of me being "that guy" was lower. Plus the restaurant had my favorite wine, which I'd already gone through two glasses of, so my judgement might have been altered.

I think my point here is that I either need to learn to like salad, which I don't think is going to happen, or I just need to not let people buy me lunch anymore. I mean, I already have guilt from letting someone spend money on me in the first place, and then I have to worry about ordering anything other than a salad and it just becomes stressful. I am not accustomed to letting people buy me things, even if it is just lunch. Or maybe we just need to pick lunch places that don't serve salad. GENIUS!

*Disclaimer: My refusal to allow Jason to ever pay for my meals in no way reflects upon his chivalry as he constantly tried to pay for me on dates and I constantly refused to let him. In fact, the first time he ever paid for my dinner somewhere, he tricked me into it because I lost a bet. I'm just a stubborn cow. Well...not a cow, because cows eat grass, which is like salad and I don't eat salad. I'm a stubborn something else.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Kindness in Unexpected Places

I've never been a Scarlett O'Hara type, meaning that I don't walk around thinking "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers" because let's face it, I'm stubborn and pretty stinkin' self sufficient. It's the way I was raised, I can't help it. But, that doesn't mean I don't appreciate kindness when people offer it to me and I try to show them kindness in return. That does not, however, make me a kind person. Or at least I don't think it does. I want to think of myself as a kind person because no one really wants to sit around and think of themselves as an asshole. It's a bit of a downer. But, when I take a good hard look at myself I sort of wonder what I do for others that is just genuinely kind and for no other reason than to make them happy. It's not a ton. In fact, I sort of realized that sometimes I can be a bit of a selfish hose beast. I know right?! What a crazy thing to admit! And I always think "You know, if I had more money I would go to a restaurant for dinner and I would pick someone out while I was there and just pay their bill for them, but I don't have that kind of money". Except that kindness doesn't need to be attached to a dollar sign. And I try to do things for people that are nice just for the sake of being nice, but I'm not sure I do it often enough. I have always thought that the work I do with the drama department has been a pretty extravagant act of kindness, since it's all volunteer and I put a lot of work into it for kids who wouldn't necessarily have anyone else to help them out, but I haven't spent much time doing that work these days due to demands at work outweighing the volunteer work I enjoy doing. So maybe I need to find more ways to show kindness.

This all sort of came to my mind after I watched my 60+ year old neighbor shovel our sidewalk in front of our house for us. He's done it several times this winter, and he's never asked for any thanks or anything. In fact, up until this morning, we never even saw him doing it. We would just come home and there would be a freshly shoveled sidewalk in front of our house. How incredibly kind is that? I did see him doing it this morning while walking the dog and thanked him profusely (and as soon as I'm not germy I'm going to make a cookie plate for him and his wife) for being so nice and he responded that he should thank us for giving him the opportunity to get the exercise. Nicest ever!

I've also come to realize that nice acts aren't always actual actions. I had a conversation earlier this week with a co-worker about how sometimes support comes from the most unexpected places. You expect your family to offer up support, and your friends, but there are people out there who are just incredibly kind and supportive despite having no obligation to do so. I have worked with the owner of a publishing distributor for about 5 years now and over that time I've developed a friendship with him that I've come to really enjoy. When I mentioned that no one knows who will be here and who won't next week because we all know there are layoffs coming down the pipeline, he said something about being one of my biggest fans and always willing to offer references or any help he can. I know it doesn't sound like much, but it was kind of a big deal. It made me feel really great to know that someone I've worked with has such a high opinion of me, especially someone who actually doesn't work within my company. It was pretty awesome. And incredibly kind.

So I'm just thinking that maybe I need to figure out more ways to be kind to more people. I know it makes me feel great when others are kind to me, so I think it's time I paid that forward. Especially on days when I'm feeling like a selfish bitch.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Memory, Not Just A Matching Game For Kids

I was thinking about the human memory earlier today, and how strange it is that we remember some things really vividly while other things slip our minds completely. I'm not sure what it is that causes our brains to say "Hey, keep this info for later" but I have discovered throughout my life that I have a wealth of pretty useless knowledge floating around in my head. I mean, think about it, what do you remember now from when you were a kid? What do you remember from a year or two ago? And isn't it weird how the strangest things can cause us to remember something? I know that in the summer, if the humidity and weather are just right there's this smell in the air and it always makes me think of when I worked late nights at the Frosty Boy when I was in high school. Or when my windows fog up on my car really early in the morning during spring and the wipers can't seem to keep up with the fog, I always remember a trip we took to Florida where the salt in the air made the windshield impossible to keep clear even with wiper fluid. I see a beat up old Ford Aerostar and I think about the trip we took to NYC the summer after I graduated high school in my dad's old Aerostar which we dubbed "The Ghetto Van".

I mean, if you think about it for long enough, I'm sure there are things you can remember but have no idea why your brain is holding onto this knowledge. Examples I have from the top (or middle, or whatever that memory part of your brain is located) of my head:
  • My grandma's phone number is 434-0268. She hasn't had that phone number since she moved in with my parents when I was 9. And now, well, she doesn't have a phone because phonecalls from beyond the grave are creepy.
  • The paint colors in my house that I can remember are as follows: Living room is Sauteed Mushroom, Red in the library and kitchen is Brick Dust, Beige in the kitchen is Camel, Laundry room is Golden Fleece, bedroom is Persian Blue, basement hallways are Belgian Waffle, basement family room is Weeping Willow. Why the heck do I remember this crap?!
  • My telephone number in the apartment was 528-2052, dial down the center.
  • My brother was born on a Sunday.
  • The chemical equasion for sulfuric acid is H2SO4.
  • When I was 3, my sister was crying in her crib and my parents were outside. I didn't want to bother them so I climbed into her crib and took her bottle out, then filled it with Coke and my mom came in while I was trying to climb back into the crib to give it to her. When she asked why I was giving my sister Coke I responded with "Well, I like it".
  • My first term paper, written when I was in the 7th grade was about the Phillipines. I got an A on it.

That's just a few things. But seriously, we remember a lot of stuff! And don't even get me started on how I can usually come up with the majority of the lyrics to a song I haven't heard since I was 7 years old, or how I can come up with movie lines like it's my job. I'm sure there are people who have done extensive studies on what we remember and how we remember it and all of that good stuff, so I'm sure people understand how all of this works, but I'm not marveling so much at how it works as I am at how much our brains seem to be able to hold, and how long they are able to hold that stuff. Of course, don't ask me what I was doing last Monday at 6:45, because I have no freaking clue. I don't remember.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I Excel At Being Unproductive

In update to Friday's big "I need a project" blog, would you like to know what I accomplished this weekend? Nothing. Nope. I went to a game night on Friday night and by the time I got home and had walked the dogs, I realized I felt like a zombie and my sinuses suddenly felt like they might explode. This carried over into a super pleasant Saturday morning wake up where I realized I felt like junk. But, being the trooper that I am, I popped some cold pills like an addict and took my dogs out to play in the exercise yards at the dog kennel my friend Scott works for. So we stood out in the cold for a little over an hour watching the dogs chase each other and play fetch and then we packed them back into the car and dropped them at home where they passed out hard core and Sam didn't even have the energy to get into the trash while we were gone. Excellent. Then there was the Cadee Bug's first birthday party where we had cake and ice cream and watched her coat herself in a pretty hefty layer of bubble gum pink frosting, as you can see here.

By the time I got home, I wanted to DIE. STUPID COLD. First world problems, I know, but I had planned on being productive and cleaning up the house that evening. Instead I laid on the couch watching How To Train Your Dragon and the crappy GI Joe movie. First movie, excellent, second movie kinda ridiculous. Then I fell asleep in a cold medicine haze and woke up at 11:00 on Sunday feeling marginally better. But Sunday brings its own chores like laundry, grocery shopping etc. so I got nothing done other than the standard Sunday chores before we had to go to my dad's birthday party where we discovered that grandpa's don't get cake when there are babies around.
Then we went to see "The King's Speech" with Jeff and Chrissy and by the time we got home the night was pretty much all tied up and I reflected on the fact that I got nothing done all weekend. Well, that's not entirely true, I did make a batch of pizza dough so we'd be able to make dinner tonight before the school board meeting, but that was about it. I had at least intended to go pick up some paint chips to tape on the walls in the bedroom and bathroom so that I could get a better idea of what colors I really wanted to do when we eventually paint the place, but I didn't even do that. Plus, I'm not entirely sure Jason is convinced about this painting thing. I may have to work that angle a bit more before I can start busting out some rollers. But first I need to get rid of this stupid cold. STUPID COLD!

So for those of you who were talking about how I'm too motivated and all of that, well.....apparently I'm all talk. Maybe I'll change my mind next weekend. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, January 7, 2011

In Search of a Project

A few years ago Jason and I were living in his mom's house and we started doing some small renovation projects like updating the bathrooms and putting in tile floors etc. because at the time we anticipated purchasing the house from her. Fast forward to several years later when the market took a dump and suddenly we could afford a lot more house for a lot less money. Bonus! So we ended up purchasing our own house, but what we discovered in our renovations and projects at his mom's house was that we really like doing renovations and projects. Well...that's mostly true. We like them for a while and then get burned out by the end of a project and decide not to do any others for a while. But, after enough time passes, I start to get the itch to tackle something new. Luckily our new house gave us a lot of opportunity for that. To begin with, the entire thing needed to be painted which I kind of recapped a bit back after we bought the place. See this post for some photos of that. That was the semi-cheap project, since paint is one of the most inexpensive things you can do to change the way a house looks. And I like to paint, so it was a win all the way around. So after we painted we took to arranging furniture and decorating, which doesn't sound like a project but it really can be. Figuring out what you want to do with a place isn't as easy as they make it seem on HGTV. And our house still isn't exactly catalog style awesome. By that I mean it actually looks lived in. But, the decorating portion was fun. I think one of my favorite decorating projects was beaching up our guest bath.
I walked past that room for days just staring in and thinking about how much I liked it. And it made me want to give our bathroom some personality too, but since I haven't decided what kind of personality I want it to have yet, it remains pretty untouched.

So we finished up that project around the time I discovered http://www.ana-white.com/ where you can download fairly simple furniture plans you can build yourself that look pretty close to pieces you can buy in high end stores like Pottery Barn. Awesome. So, when Jason lamented that he needed a bookcase for his office, we built him one. And it turned out pretty well. In fact, so well that I kind of got bitten by this wood working bug that inspired me to want to build a lot of things. So, I decided that I was going to build toy boxes for my niece and nephew for Christmas. This was one of those best laid plans that oft go awry since I didn't take into account several factors like umm...losing my job, or almost immediately getting a new job after I had already taken a retail job which meant I had two jobs and therefore almost no time to work on the toy boxes and oh yes, it was a week before Christmas. Brilliant. I also didn't take into account that my saw was going to suck balls and freeze up mid-cut on most of the lumber, thus causing me to have choppy and uneven cuts. Thanks a lot saw! But, Jason came to the rescue because he was recently rendered unemployed and he did the bulk of the work on them while I was at work and they turned out pretty awesome despite some flaws and setbacks. We learned that there are few mistakes that can't be covered with enough wood putty and paint, so in the end we had these to take with us on Christmas Morning.

I was pretty happy with them. But that was kind of the last project on my list. So now I'm sitting here thinking that I might want to tackle another project, but I'm not sure what. I mean, there are several on my list but a lot of them are cost prohibitive right now due to the whole job situation, and some are outdoor projects that won't really work in the middle of January. I want to build a deck on the back of our house, for example, but that's both weather AND cost prohibitive right now. I want to do some more landscaping too, which won't work in the winter. I have been mulling over replacing the carpet in the basement with something else, but that could get pretty expensive pretty fast depending on what we replace it with. I keep leaning toward laminate floors, but I don't want really crummy ones that are going to damage easily. So that might be a project for later as well. Jason wants to paint the "water closet", i.e. toilet room in our master bath which is a pretty quick fix since we have the white paint already as well as painting our closets on the first floor because they still smell musty like the house did when we moved in. That "not lived in" smell lingers. And again, that's easy because we have the stuff we need to do it. So why not just "git 'er done"? Mostly because I hate painting white. It's boring. I want something fun. For about 8 months now I've been toying with repainting our bedroom. I find the dark brown and blue color scheme a bit too dark for my liking, and I'm having an impossible time finding curtains that will fit with either color. I saw this photo posted on Young House Love back in May...

...and immediately went "I LOVE THAT" because for some reason blue and green make me happy. And we already have an apple green duvet in our bedroom (I'm not a huge fan of prints) that was out of place with the dark walls. I like this brighter blue, and I love the dark wood furniture in contrast to the brightness of the rest of the room. We don't have dark furniture at the moment, but it's on that goal list of stuff we want to eventually buy. I've had my eye on this bed for years. But I find myself wondering if I could paint the room anyway and just coordinate it with our white furniture for now (because white goes with everything right?) and then later pull in the dark woods for a more stark contrast. And I want to marry those green curtains. I want them. Yesssssss. And, since our bathroom is currently the same color as our bedroom, I would have to paint it as well, which could solve our problem of giving our master bath some personality. I to coordinate with the blue/green in the master bedroom, I thought about painting the bathroom a more subtle green (but not minty green because Jason HATES minty green) like this, again stolen from Young House Love.
I'm not generally a huge fan of their style because it's a bit too safe for my tastes, but I read the blog because I love a good project and this green in their bathroom was pretty nice. Plus, I love the dark wood from the previous inspiration picture so I wanted to carry it into our bathroom. And this pairing they put together worked pretty well. It was kind of what I had been picturing in my head, so this wasn't a bad inspiration picture to explain where my thoughts are going. So, in addition to the pale green paint and dark wood, I have this thing for Cherry Blossoms lately, so I have been trying to think of ways to incorporate that into the batroom for a more spa-like feeling, which you kind of get in our beached up bathroom now that it's actually finished and stuff. So, I have been toying with artwork we could use, or ways to sort of incorporate that into the room. I was thinking something like this, only with a more beige or green background. Or even black on white. So that's where my brain is going at the moment. And I'm thinking that since it would be the cost of two gallons of paint to get a jump start on this, I kind of want to do it. But, who knows, tomorrow I might wake up and completely change my mind and realize I'm still sick of projects. But probably not. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bewilderment from a Non-Parent

I will be the first to admit that I don't know everything about parenting. This is primarily because I am not actually a parent. I don't have children and I probably won't for the forseeable future. This does not mean, however, that I don't understand children and that I do not love some children as much as I would love my own. I am actually trained to understand children, since that's part of the whole "being a teacher" thing. So no, I'm not a parent, but I'm not fully unaware or incapable of understanding what goes into raising a kid. I start with this statement because whenever I talk to parents and say things like "Have you thought about using a sticker sytem for potty training so she can work up to a goal and get a reward for using the potty?" while in conversation I'm immediately met with "You don't understand, you don't have kids". So, apparently not having kids means I'm totally unaware of anything having to do with kids. Or perhaps, because I'm outside of the situation I am able to look at it objectively and offer suggestions based on what my other friends who have kids have seen success with.

This brings me to the subject of this blog which, believe it or not, is not actually about how I don't have kids. I could go on and on about why I don't have kids and all of that, but if I wanted guilt for not having children I'd call my dozens of relatives who are constantly asking when we're going to have kids. No, the subject of this blog is mommies. Not mothers of children. There is a distinct difference. There are moms, mothers etc. and then there are mommies. Normally when I tell this story there is vocal inflection on that word, but alas we are on a printed blog and you'll just have to deal with the italics. I coined this term years ago after attending a birthday party a friend of mine was throwing for her son's first birthday. Nearly every guest there was toting an infant or a toddler and I stood there observing patterns like I was some sort of part time sociologist. There were 3 groups. There were the parents, who mingled between people with children and the people who didn't have children while their kids played nearby on the lawn or in the sandbox. There were the people without kids, who kept to themselves as a group but occasionally mingled with the parents. Then there were the mommies. A group of women who clucked like hens and put their children at the center of their circle where they proceeded to spend all of their time talking about their children and if anyone who did not have children attempted to have a conversation with any of them, they were immediately shut out because apparently these women were incapable of discussing anything outside the realm of diapers. In fact, when I asked one of these women how old her daughter was she replied "14 months. How old is yours?" and I said "Oh, I don't have kids" and she gave me this odd look, then turned away from me and started a conversation with the nearest mommy. It was a bit insulting. And throughout the rest of the day the mommies isolated themselves and their children (children of mommies can only play with other children of mommies apparently) and continued to show no interest in anything beyond the circle of babies. I later learned that these women were part of the play group my friend joined while she wasn't working, in the hopes that she would be able to get out of the house and get some adult conversation that didn't revolve around her kid. She quickly learned that play group was the wrong place to expect that, but felt obligated to invite the women to the party anyway since they had all invited her to theirs.

So began the use of the phrase mommies to describe women whose lives revolve around nothing beyond their children. Now, I'm not saying it's wrong to want to be devoted to your children and give them as much attention as you can, but this idea of your entire world revolving around nothing but your children tends to breed kids who actually believe the world revolves around them and well.....that's not good. And I've noticed a trend among mommies. They don't want their children to grow up. I get that whole parenting thing where it's hard to watch your child, who was just a baby, grow up and need you less. But I've noticed that mommies actually try to prevent their kids from growing away from them. Some of them do it by breastfeeding for 3 years, some of them do it by letting the kid have their pacifier until they're 5, some of them to it in strange ways like refusing to cut their child's hair because it would be admitting that the kid is growing up. This is something I seriously don't understand, and at its heart I think it's selfish. I've heard a lot of mommies say that they're not ready for their kid to make their next milestone and I just think "So what? The kid is ready!" I can't fathom trying to somehow hold a child back in something or not push them forward toward a milestone simply because you aren't ready to see it happen. That seems so unfair to the child. And I have to wonder if the reason so many mommies aren't ready is because they lose their sense of purpose when the kid becomes more independent. Because their world revolves around the child, the child growing up is probably not exactly welcome because it means having to change part of your world view. I can't imagine what these mommies are like when their kids go to school. Of course, most of them probably home school so they don't have to give up the center of the universe for any portion of the day.

I guess at the end of the day, I just don't understand mommies. I want people to love their children and be devoted to them, and I want them to spend time with their children, but for their sake I also want them to have other interests and other things they enjoy outside of the home and outside of the circle of their children so that some day when those children grow up, these women don't have a freakin' meltdown. That's all I'm saying...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

So Grim, I Should Become A Reaper

So, as most people know, it's been kind of a rough year for jobs in the Berry household. There was the 6 month contract job, then the utter lack of job over the summer, then the nearly 90 days of hell at the last job, then coming back to Borders just to have the company realize they're flat broke and face the future reality that I will most likely be out of a job again very soon. And that's just me, that doesn't even go into what Jason's been doing. But, suffice it to say, it's been a rough year. There are some pin pricks of hope out there on the horizon for me, but that's all they are at the moment. No guarantee that anything will become reality. And, at the end of the day, this just leaves me craving a bit of stability. I think about all of the mess Jason and I have had to deal with the past year and the truth is that we've been really lucky. We haven't had to sacrifice as much as a lot of other people have, and we haven't had to worry constantly about being able to pay our bills. It's been stressful, yes, and more than a little frustrating, but it hasn't left us desperate and hopeless. We're very lucky in that. There are people who have lost their homes, there are people who have been out of work for two years and now their children are dropping out of college to work a minimum wage job (or sometimes multiple minimum wage jobs) just to help their parents make ends meet. When I think about how all I want is stability and some medical insurance, I also have to remind myself that there are a lot of people out there right now who are doing a lot worse.

This brings me to the outraged part of this entry, because despite everything that may happen in life, I am still me and therefore still prone to outrage. What has me outraged is that it seems like no matter what happens, the little guy can't seem to catch a break in this world. I keep hearing that a lot of large corporations are now posting higher profits than they have in the past couple of years which, in theory, should be translating into more jobs, but it's not. It's not translating into anything other than more profits and more money in the pockets of large shareholders and corporate executives. Any new jobs being created are being created in China, or India where those corporate fat cats can pay workers less and therefore increase their profits even more. In a country that is still struggling, despite what some analysts will tell us about how we're starting on an "upswing" it is blowing my mind that we're still creating jobs in other places rather than here where people need them. We have the workforce. We have people who are intelligent and skilled and down on their luck, but they don't seem to catch a break. And, for thsoe companies who ARE hiring people, we are seeing lower wages being offered because they know people are desperate and will take whatever they can get right now, so why pay more if you don't have to? And instead of hiring more workforce, they are putting added pressure on employees to work more hours, give up more of their personal lives, spend more time pledging their lives to "the company" because in the end that corporation ends up getting more work for less money. It is unfair, and it's wrong. It's enough to make you sick. And then we have politicians making comments about valuing education and how we ened to get our education system on track, but we are giving no future to the educated person. Why should a student go to college and end up with $30K or more in loan debt just to get out of college and realize there are no jobs for you, and you have to figure out how to make a $400 per month loan payment while making $7.75 an hour working retail somewhere. We want better teachers, but we don't have a system in place to employ all of the teachers who are graduating with this new and improved training.

The republican solution of allowing states to go bankrupt so they can break their union contracts is wrong and unfair. I know a lot of anti-union people out there, but being the little guy who got let go for no real reason except that someone didn't like me, I would have killed to have a union there to represent me and say "You don't get to do that". Cutting contracts simply because they belong to union run companies who have someone to protect the employees from getting screwed over and pain less than they are worth so someone can turn a higher profit kind of sucks. Or not moving the debt cap, so that we will not just screw over our own economy but also the global economy? Brilliant idea republicans. Let's take that one to the bank and cash it.

In short, I am worried about the future, for myself and for the rest of the country. I'm worried about people who need jobs and can't find them. I'm worried about people who have jobs but are constantly afraid of losing them. I'm worried about where we are going as a country. And the most frustrating and infuriating part is that there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. I can vote, which I do, but beyond that there isn't a lot that I have the power to do to change the way things are going, and I really hate the feeling of helplessness I'm left with on a regular basis. The most I can do is keep on keepin' on, and doing the best I can for whatever amount of time I am able to do it, but it's time for a break. It's time for someone to say enough is enough and give the little people some help. We're tired, and we're scared, and we're angry. The banks got a break and a bailout, the auto companies got a break, the corporate fat cats are always getting breaks. Where is ours?