Tuesday, December 09, 2014

I wrote all of this in response to a Facebook post.

The subject was the $15 minimum wage "debate".

And someone said:
At one point I ... but instead of whining to the government I ... bigger pay checks... better solution than complaining to the government.

Get a marketable skill and the economy will reward you appropriately.


So I got mad, because yes, ok, complaining doesn't solve much. But a staged series of protests in favor of a higher, livable minimum wage is not complaining, it's constructive criticism and a public awareness campaign. It's Doing Something About It. And the government is the entity that controls the minimum wage laws, so yes we do need to tell them if we want something to change. But regardless of one's stance on the protests... here is my rebuttal, which got too long and ranty to post on facebook.

A) if everyone got "marketable" skills and were magically rewarded by The Economy there would be no one to wash our dishes, serve our burgers and staff our stores. Therefore your "solution" is at best short-sighted and at worst sheer ignorance of the way the world actually works. Either you pay someone to serve, or you do it all yourself (and good luck holding down a full-time job, paying the bills, feeding and clothing yourself entirely from your expansive farm and workshops, and still managing to find time to read facebook). And if you're paying someone to serve, you're The Economy, and you're rewarding them... with poor wages, poor working conditions and a holier-than-thou attitude.

B) "marketable" changes by region, age, gender, time of year, date (what was marketable in 2004 may not be now), economic state (recession, anybody?) etc. It's not as simple as picking a degree in a STEM field and going for it, and even if it were, some people aren't cut out for STEM degrees (or [insert applicable skill here]). Some people might even enjoy flipping burgers for a living, if they could make a living at it. See point A.

C) You NEED service workers, therefore their skills ARE marketable to somebody, but you're not willing to pay them what they can live on because you don't want to have to recognize that you're abusing them in the first place when you demand cheap goods and services and continue to use and pay for those things that we provide to you. Everyone is guilty of this, some more than others, and honestly those filthy rich people that we love to hate because they're making more in a week than we'll see in our lifetimes are probably the LEAST guilty because they at least are generally aware that quality comes with cost (although the inverse is not always true) and they are willing to pay more for their goods and services, although half of them are doing so while running corporate empires that pay their workers shit and beans.

Also, people recognizing skill with larger pay checks is utter BullShit(tm). But keep lying to yourself because it's way more comforting than facing the cold hard reality that America is full of spoiled middle-class brats spouting platitudes about hard work and rewards while people go without health care because The Economy doesn't see fit to reward them for their work.

Sure, there are better solutions than "complaining to the government". Learn to garden and grow some of your own food, if you can find the land and the time. Save a few dollars a month until you have enough to buy some foods in bulk so that you can save another few dollars a month. Find rich friends and hang out with them and hope they can network you into a better standard of living. Figure out a better mousetrap and make a million dollars. Get a degree and then spend 50 hours a week spamming your resume to every place that's hiring, get lucky and get hired at the job of your dreams. Win the lottery. Pay off your student loans by selling porn on a cam site. Go to your boss and demand a raise, rinse and repeat until he either fires you or you're making enough to live on. Work your ass off at three part-time jobs, give up on all of your dreams, wear every lucky charm you can find to ward off any undue accidents, and keep your head down for ten or fifteen or fifty years until you've saved enough money in your 0.5%-interest savings account that you can afford health care and start thinking about a car, maybe. There are loads of options for bettering one's life! You just have to do it! Oh, and maybe not be mentally ill or physically disabled or transgendered or gay or old or female or a person of color or....

I'm all for good-old-fashioned work ethic and think that everybody should take pride in what they do, work hard, and better themselves. I don't presume to set the bar for what "better" means to other people, because there is a fine line between recognizing concrete improvements in essential life skills and telling someone they should have the same end-goal (and thus the same improvements in life) as you. A well-rounded education is a great thing and aids public discourse but is it necessary for everyone to attend college to get it? And to assume that "bettering" oneself must include getting more marketable skills just so that one can afford to eat is inhumane. I think we can all agree on that, yes? 
 Or maybe if people are worth so little that they don't deserve to be paid enough to eat, can we agree that they need to be culled? Because I could get behind culling all of the people that society deems "worthless", as long as I get to decide who has value. That's fair, right? 

That's basically what we're already doing: deciding arbitrarily who has value based on who has what job. Your job is your stated value to society - not your degree, your hobbies, the amount of fun you are at parties... but the thing you do to earn money because capitalist society has decided that you need to pay for the degree, the hobbies, and the parties with an imaginary currency that demands your time, attention and resources for the best years of your life and in return gives you little green pieces of paper (or these days, little electronic bits in a computer somewhere) which tell everyone how much society should value you. Except the system is broken, and while raising the minimum wage won't fix it by far, it will at least stop people from trying to better themselves with degrees only to graduate into jobs that don't let them pay their bills. It's not just fast-food workers who struggle with poor wages; they're just the loudest right now and the least likely to get a promotion or raise that will take them above the poverty line.

I also do not for one second think that people who take pride in what they do, work hard, and better themselves are somehow going to have the universe or the economy turn upside down and shit rainbows and winning lotto tickets over their heads, nor do I presume to understand the reasons other people have for not giving 110% at their jobs or in the rest of their lives (although often money is one of those reasons). I wish the world worked this way but it doesn't. It's cutthroat and competitive and horrible and it doesn't get along well with others, and it doesn't always play fair. So no, your anecdotal story doesn't matter to people who are still fighting to earn enough to live on. And it provides no evidence at all of a fair and just economy which rewards people for simply improving themselves.

The universe is not kind nor friendly and it doesn't give a fig how hard you work and it will not always reward you for that work. When it does, it may not even reward you in ways society considers a success. But if money is required for life then the least that we as a society can do is pay people enough that they can live, so that they have the chance to better themselves in the first place.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Nothing.

Today (Sunday) I did nothing.

I got to bed late and overslept our alarm. Shot our of bed still groggy at 9:45 to let the chickens out because it was cold enough on Saturday night that I worried they would not be comfortable in their doorless coop. I had shut them in with plywood over the door instead... They were warm but  displeased with their late access to breakfast.

Then I had cookies and cocoa for breakfast. I sat on the couch with my laptop and read articles my friends linked on Facebook and thought how dreary and gray the weather was and how cold the wind and decided I'd rather not go work on winterizing the coop right then.

Except it stayed dreary and cold all day and I had a headache and my eyes hurt. I went to lay down and slept all afternoon, did not feel any better and went right back to the couch and an interesting travel blog from China.

Today was pretty worthless. So I'm going back to sleep, hoping to sleep through the night so I can get up, go to work and waste all of tomorrow too.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Long Slow Decline

The weather is getting colder again. The sun has been quietly slipping away from long evenings and is later to rise in the mornings; a sleepy thing still full of summer's yellow heat but none of the summer's vitality. The leaves won't be green for much longer. The nights are cool, bordering on cold, and the mornings are dewy and crisp. Two weeks ago some of the stores got out their Christmas stock and pumpkin spice creamer and put them out to sell.

Many people love this time of year. I try, but as someone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (and hates being cold so intensely) there is something final and terrible about fall. It's hard to enjoy crisp autumn mornings when you're focusing on the next 4-6 months of frozen toes, sinus infections and cabin fever. And when one works retail (as I do) the spectacle of Christmas merchandise in September is bone-chilling indeed. I used to at least attempt to enjoy the holiday season and I think last year I put the tree up more out of a sense of obligation than any desire to be festive and jolly. I felt like I had to have at least one facebook photo of myself or the cats near the tree, so I could prove to everybody else (and maybe convince myself) that I wasn't suffocating under the weight of winter cold and early darkness and mindless holiday consumerism.

Look at me. Moping inside on a 78* fall day - and a Saturday off, to boot! - , prophesying doom and gloom for the months to come.

Something needs to change.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Reunion

I can't believe this, but my 10 year high school reunion is coming up on Saturday. Yeah. I graduated that long ago. I am apparently An Adult. So this weekend the best and brightest of my tiny class of 100 are getting together to size each other up over beer and buffet food, and I won't be there, and I'm (kinda) (okay, a lot) glad.




High school wasn't easy for me. College was only marginally better, socially, but at least there wasn't much bullying in college and I had a goal and some supportive friends, and more importantly a clean slate. I like clean slates. After the hurdles of a toxic elementary school environment, going into seventh grade with a clean slate was amazing. I was in a new district with new classmates who didn't know my old nicknames or that I had been at the bottom of the social pecking order. And then I realized I was still the same awkward thrift-store-jeans-wearing misfit I had been in sixth grade, and my classmates also noticed it, and it was elementary school all over again except by senior year we had actually matured enough that the kids who did band and musicals didn't have to tolerate being slushee'd every morning and some were in fact the cool kids (playing the leading roles, of course). But I still didn't have a lot of friends, didn't get the cool toys or wear cool clothes, and after graduation I didn't really feel all that sad to be leaving high school behind. So why would I want to go back? The nostalgia factor just isn't there. I don't know the people I graduated with any more. I haven't spoken to 9/10ths of them since 2004 and any curiosity about their lives could be satisfied by judicious use of Facebook.

But the real reason I don't want to go is this: My social anxiety hasn't gotten much better since high school and entering a room full of people who knew me back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth is infinitely worse than, say, interviewing for a job or going into a restaurant/store/office for the first time (both things I avoid if at all possible). Logically I know that most of them barely remember me, just as I barely remember them, and that any vague notions they might have about me are probably relatively positive (I was smart, a decent runner, and - so everyone else tells me anyway - pretty, although at the time I felt stupid, clumsy and ugly, still do, and it's taken me years to even accept that other people might not see me that way). I just can't convince the illogical fear-stricken lizard brain part that a reunion would involve anything but blood and tears. In my mind I see it looking something like the prom scene from Carrie except a million times more mortifying because now we have facebook with which to memorialize forever the horrible things that happen at class reunions. And probably without all the death. I don't have psychic powers as much as I wished for them when I was little.

But anyway, I got the facebook invite for the reunion some time last fall and then the class president and vice president (high school popularity contests apparently confer the winners with responsibilities long past graduation) started posting dates and times and people started responding that they were coming and I thought "I'll tackle that anxiety-inducing beast and RSVP later". But I never did because every time I considered it, the spectre of vicious high-school teasing reared its ugly head. And even though we are adults and the teenage boy who was my worst bully is dead (long story short; he was drinking with a friend on the night before graduation and there was a vehicle accident), I just didn't think I would want to be in the same room as all the people who if they did not bully me also never stood up for me. I knew I would stress out every day until the day of the reunion and then break out in sixteen kinds of pimples and a rash two hours before getting in the car and walk into the reunion looking much like I did back then, wearing last decade's fashionable hand-me-downs, glasses with the paint chipping off them, and a face full of adolescent pimples. And they'd judge me like they always did and find me lacking and not want to talk to me, and I'd end up in the corner with the three friends who came, like always, and it just wouldn't be an enjoyable night.

And since we really can't afford a rental car and I can't drive the vehicle that I use as my daily driver (it's just not reliable for long trips), my husband would have to drive me, which means he would either have to amuse himself alone while I was at the reunion or he would have to accompany me while I wished him away (for both our sakes; he hates crowds, especially crowds of strangers, and I'm marginally less uncomfortable in crowds of "friends" when he's not slouching awkwardly in a corner, staring at his phone while I try to make small talk). We are an awkward couple in public because we are both introverts and have different ways of dealing with people; hardly a unified front or a fun one. That's fine by me, but I don't want to try to explain it to a dozen silently judging classmates.

And if that's not bad enough, half of my classmates are probably happily married to people who either have or are on their way to having Important Letters after their names, like "J.D." or "M.D" or something. In other words, Successful People. I married... a guy who is excited about the games coming out for XBox one this fall. (He also cooks, cleans, takes care of the pets, chauffeurs me around, fixes the cars, and occasionally sews and builds simple furniture, but people in my age bracket seem to define each other and themselves first and foremost by their jobs, and he works bare part-time hours, in a field that isn't exactly prestigious, and I don't have anything better to offer, so our job-selves are effectively poor white trash, of which I am painfully aware any time anyone asks me what I do for a living and then tries to spin-doctor my response by imagining that I am some kind of in-home glamour consultant). They're working in their desired career areas. I'm working as a "Sales Specialist", although at least I'm not a cashier any more. They're having kids. I get to explain to everybody I meet why we never want kids without throwing my hands up and impolitely telling them I think everyone should stop reproducing for the good of humanity, or at the very least question their infernal desire to procreate. They went on yearly vacations/honeymoon/road trip to Aruba/Machu Picchu/Portland. I... didn't. This year was my first summer vacation since high school.

I know this isn't true of all of my classmates. I know there are probably some like me who are struggling, or unhappy, or socially anxious. But all of the ones who replied to the invite seem so happy and well-rounded and comfortably middle class in their facebook profile pictures: shots of well-made-up young ladies standing on beaches or mountainsides with the wind in their hair, and a tall, handsome, outdoorsy man by their sides, or equally well-made-up young mothers or aunts with their kids/nieces/nephews, reading books or laughing, or handsome young men doing athletic/political/cultural things with lovely fiancees in tow. They look very normal and I am uncomfortably aware of how not-normal I am. Half of my profile pictures are taken with my webcam with an ugly wall behind me because we don't go anywhere interesting enough to provide a good photo backdrop. Before my jaunt to Colorado two weeks ago my photo was a memorial to the chicken that our dog killed: a shot of her looking quizzically at the camera. Happy family photo > memorial chicken photo. I even lose the facebook comparison game.

Does that sound like a good time to you? Me either. And don't try to tell me your reunion was so much better. Are any reunions not awkward even without social anxiety issues?

So because I'm too socially anxious to deal with awkward reunions I'm going to be working my retail job like I do every Saturday. I almost prefer customer service to taking two precious vacation days, driving 4 hours north and paying to see people I haven't spoken to in a decade who will almost certainly make me feel bad about what I haven't accomplished so far. I can feel like that on my own. I don't need their help.

Sorry to my few friends who will be going - I'll have to catch up with you guys privately, when I can devote my vacation time to you. I like it better that way.

Friday, August 08, 2014

A food post

Rick and I had a really funny back-and-forth while brushing our teeth the other night and I can't remember what it was, but you probably wouldn't think it was that funny anyway. So.

Tonight I made myself dinner for the first time in... a while. With Rick at home more often than I, he usually cooks for both of us and I stuff my face and make appreciative noises in his direction. A few nights ago it was Southwest Quinoa Stuffed Peppers. Then homemade pizza, then burgers. I'm spoiled.

Tonight he didn't want to cook, though, and I had a cheeseburger (on a homemade bun!) for dinner last night and a hamburger (ditto) for lunch today and didn't feel like another burger (Rick cooks in large quantities) so I whipped out a chunk of salmon, salted it, pan-seared it and then used the pan to heat up some previously-blanched garden fresh green beans. Yet the plate didn't look good enough for instagram so I cast about for something else and realized I had three very sad beets in the bottom of the crisper drawer.

So I peeled and diced and saut├ęd them in a nice bit of olive oil and rosemary and THEN I thought about it a little bit and decided hell, I'm a grown-up (yeah, right!) and I can cook with wine and the last of the wine that's been languishing in the fridge for a week would be perfect reduced over the beets, too.

It turned out ok. The fish was perfectly crisp outside and moist and flaky inside and had some great chunks of salt-crust (oops). The beets could have done with less oil. I am not, in fact, a master chef. But I felt pretty good about it. Maybe it was the wine?

I didn't instagram it by the way, because I ate half the fish before the beets were done.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Update!

Ok. So.

I think every time I have the urge to tell Stalkerbook what I'm doing, I'm going to think about it some more and decide if it's really important enough to share. If it is, it can be a blog entry instead.

If it's not, well. You who follow me there won't miss any boring updates, and I won't waste as much time getting distracted by what everyone else is posting.

First update is totally worth a blog, though. I'm making kale chips! (And while they bake I'm eating peanut butter cups and a York peppermint patty. Gotta have a balanced diet.)

My sister has been trying to get us to make/buy/eat kale chips since at least Thanksgiving when she came to visit, and I still haven't. But there was kale ready at The Farm tonight, and one of the guys refreshed my memory on baking time/temperature, so I figured "why not?".

I hope they turn out ok. I'll feel like a real housekeeping failure if I can't even bake a kale chip properly.

....and I think I ruined them.

They smell burnt.

Sigh.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Today's Topic is Anxiety

Click. Read.

I don't so much worry about the car blowing up, but I do worry about people judging the car I drive, or the way I dress, or how I write, or any number of other things. Or being mean to me because of those things. Or confronting me about things. I hate confrontation, especially the kind where I can't do anything to solve the other person's problem. Feeling helpless makes my anxiety (and related behaviors like picking at my skin) spike and it takes a long time to come down off that spike. I would gladly hide under a desk  to avoid confrontation and feeling helpless, except hiding under a desk makes you a weird crybaby, so I probably wouldn't hide under the desk if anyone else were around to see me do it. Also it's a pretty helpless action, isn't it? I'm trying to find ways to vent my anxieties that make me feel better, like accomplishing small household tasks, but a lot of the time I just give up and hide.

Yeah.

Anyway, anxiety. It sucks. Be kind to people. It helps the anxiety.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Fragrance Review: Zeppelin to the Moon

And since I planned to review all of these in December and am currently planning an order... here's a very late fragrance review.


An extra thrown into my 'squee party' set from ZOMG Smells, Zeppelin to the Moon is the sort of scent one puts on when one wants an 80s power scent and can't find the Drakkar Noir. It's pushy, it's daring, it's kind of like Captain Jack Harkness invading your personal space.

"A dashing, old-school captain's-cabin scent. A scent wearing a greatcoat with gold bits on, if you will. Teak wood, redcurrant, oak moss, geranium leaf, and brown musk with a spot of treacle."

In the bottle: Tangy geranium leaf, sweet redcurrant, inviting musk and a hint of wood.

On skin: Ever had your face pushed into a freshly polished teak conference table?

I want to like this scent, because I want to like all of ZOMG Smells' scents (and also because I do tend to like oakmoss and geranium and musk in other scents). But when I put it on my wrist (admittedly heavily, hoping to counteract my skin's absurd scent-eating abilities), the first half-hour was just sickening amounts of teak and musk, and the geranium went from pert to pushy. I could smell it when I moved my hands even slightly, and I felt like I was breathing Murphy's Oil Soap. I get the greatcoat the description alludes to - heavy and smelling of oil-polished buttons and rich wood, and a little too much for a warm spring day.

It's settled down now, and the oakmoss and wood are coming through a little more subtly with the sweetness of treacle in the background. I say "more subtly", but no one will ever mistake this for a gentle lady's perfume. Even as it fades the scent still has presence. I'm going shopping, and I'll sniff my wrists again when I get back but the opening has me solidly convinced that this is not a keeper for me unless I can layer it.

If you have an affinity for greatcoats, though, you should quite enjoy this one.

Update: The scent has lasted a good solid six hours, which is lovely, and still projects a little. The drydown on me smells reminiscent of incense smoke - sandalwood? Huh. While I do like it, it's not uh-may-zing.

Perspective

I have work at 6am tomorrow, so my husband did me the favor of waking me at 6 today... and while I'm normally not a great morning person, today I'm glad I got up. I have the day off so there was no stress about getting things done before work, or packing a lunch (I need to start packing lunches the night before). I took the dogs for a nice leisurely walk before I even had breakfast. We explored a neighborhood we hadn't been through before and we found all kinds of interesting things, like an abandoned house at the far end of our street, a tiny front yard planted entirely in strawberries, and some lovely city views.

Looking South toward downtown.
And then we came home and the dogs crashed and I made tea and let the chickens out and sat on the porch sipping mint tea and watching my three little hens scratch in the compost pile.


  I'm glad I took a walk.



Belladonna.


















 Oh, by the way. We adopted another dog, because one was not enough for husband dearest. Sigh.

Anyway, we're walking along, just me and the two dogs, and I started noticing that Mystra, our older dog, looked like a downright saint walking calmly next to the new dog as he bounced from one edge of the sidewalk to the other, trying to yank my arm off, tangling the leashes and marking telephone poles. And I thought, isn't that funny, because if you asked me last week I would have said she's the most horrible walker ever. But Zepar (the new dog) has the power of making our poorly-behaved five-year-old look like an obedience school graduate. Perspective is everything.

And it hit me that she's been making incremental improvements all along, but it's been slow progress and sometimes unsteady, and I had stopped looking for improvements because I was thinking this was as good as it got and I was feeling like Sisyphus rolling that damn boulder, at least as far as trying to get the dog to walk nicely was concerned.


Abandoned garden.


We get stuck in ruts sometimes, where a situation has gone on so long - like drowning in student loan debt, or being "bad" at math, or trying to get the kids to pick up their toys, that we stop seeing change. We stop looking for change. We expect things to go on forever just the way they are because we are tired and used to them this way, and sometimes we think: I'll stop fighting, because what difference does it make?.

Sometimes all it takes to get us out of the rut is a little bit of perspective.


Looking south-west at the river valley.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Rain, Rain, Go Away...

The coop isn't done. My back still hurts. My little sister graduated today and I wasn't there to see it (but I watched it online, thanks to the university live-streaming the ceremony). So proud of her. :)

I didn't get out to the urban farm this week due to my back injury before the first work day, and my sister's commencement ceremony during the second. I wouldn't mind so much but it started raining shortly after noon and hasn't stopped so I've been putting off doing any work outside at all, which means my garden still isn't planted either, and since the weather has suddenly gone from 40s and rain to 70s and rain, I'm really worried about missing the best part of the planting season.

The chickens are out in their run for the day. They need to get used to being out there full-time now that the weather has warmed up, although I still can't leave them outside overnight until I can finish the coop. We saw a racoon up the hill on the way home the other night; I'm now twice as worried about leaving my little featherbutts unsupervised. They seem to be ok so far, other than mad about the rain. The run roof isn't fully finished and the wind blew rain into the covered part as well as soaking through everywhere else. They're huddled in the back corner under the coop where it's still dry, and they scolded me when I go out to check on them. Poor girls!

The girls yesterday, enjoying the cool evening breeze.

If the rain stops at some point today I can get the fourth wall of the coop set up and ready to put on, as well as getting the roof cuts made and maybe even start on the nest boxes. Once all that's done the final touches should be easy! Here's hoping, anyway.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Struggling

It's been a struggle this year. I've been having mood swings that might properly be termed bouts of depression. I haven't finished my sister's handmade Christmas present or the gift for my friend's baby daughter that I started in December. I haven't exercised since some time last year, unless occasionally hanging from the pull-up bar in the kitchen doorway counts.

And I've been working 40 hours a week, and the spring has been cold and wet and miserable when I've been off, and sunny when I'm stuck at work till 10pm, and I haven't gotten the chicken coop done or written any blog entries or kept the sink clear of dishes or anything.
By the way, we got chickens.


And then tonight, in an utterly embarrassing move, I strained my back... picking up a cat.

yeah.

Basically the cat got into the basement and I don't like closing him down there sans litterbox, so I went to grab him and must have reached too far out from my crouching stance. It felt something like having a knife through my back just above my left hip, and every pain receptor in the area lit up light a christmas tree. It was not dignified and it made me feel very old and weak and tired all of a sudden. I really did not need to feel any older or tireder or weaker, but the universe has a sick sense of humor.

The ibuprofen, ice pack, menthol rub and wine are helping. And now I have the time to blog, because I can't exactly go out and do any more work on the chicken coop (although I did insist on finishing and mounting the gate to the run, despite the pain). Moving hurts, damnit. I just hope that by tomorrow I can manage at work. I do not want to have to explain that I, captain of the safety team and worker who routinely picks up and sets down 50lb boxes of tile, picked up a 5lb cat the wrong way.

The cat is fine, in case you were wondering.