Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Don't Think the Rich Benefit from Public Assistance? Think Again.

I see this topic pop up all the time on various forums, in my Facebook newsfeed, in discussions with family. Those darned poor people, leeching off the gubment. Why can't they just get a job? I don't want to pay for their poor decisions.

Oh yes, you really do. And here's why.

Depression Era Poverty, Resurrected

You've probably seen some pictures of what was going on in this country during The Great Depression. You probably have some idea of what it was like to be poor before welfare was a thing. If not, it isn't hard to imagine. You're a person who, for whatever reason, cannot pay for food or shelter. That's it. There's no help for you, you just can't buy food or shelter. Sometimes churches will take you in, sometimes you get lucky and land a shit job that will pay you next to nothing for hard, often dangerous, physical labor, but mostly you just languish, panhandling for your dinner, until your luck changes or you die of exposure, preventable illness or starvation. That happened in this country. Even scarier, it could happen again.

If you're a parent in that situation, you're likely to be separated from your children, your family torn apart, because people take pity on innocent children. There are places for them to get a full belly and a roof over their heads, and you want that for them more than anything. But they don't take in whole families. That's too much of a burden, and would just be encouraging you to be lazy.

Bad things happened all over the world in a time before welfare. In Shadows of the Workhouse, Jennifer Worth chronicles the struggles regaled to her by her elderly patients during her time as a ward nurse in London's East End. Horrific is the only word I can use to describe them. As in America, orphanages were available for the children of the destitute, but it meant a life of neglect, abuse and the destruction of families.

Mrs. Worth tells the story of a young couple, beginning their lives. They and their two children lived in a tiny apartment, barely scraping by on his salary as a dockworker. When tragedy strikes, and he is killed at work, there was nothing for it, but for his wife to leave their two young children unattended at home while she earned a living cleaning offices.

When the mother in this story fell ill, she couldn't seek medical care. Nor could she afford to miss work. She slipped and fell while carrying a bucket of mop water down a flight of stairs, and froze to death in the puddle at the bottom, unable to move in her weakened state.

The fate her children suffered was, in some ways, more tragic and awful. They were resigned to the protection of the workhouse, wherein they were separated, neglected, abused (including being flogged nigh unto death), and used for cheap labor.

And if you are cold hearted enough not to care too much about the very real tragedies of families living without a safety net, think about what it meant for the wealthy.

Laundry, Laundry Everywhere (and Shit and Pandhandlers and Barnyard Animals)

The price of living in a civilized, clean, relatively happy society is paying to uplift the destitute.

Even for those who could afford their necessities, exposure to abject poverty was a daily occurrence. On your way to buy food, on your way through the countryside for a Sunday drive, on your way to work, on your way to buy medicine for your sick child, you'd have seen people living in conditions that we would not tolerate today. Filthy children, running naked and barefoot through the streets. Women and older children hanging laundry on any line they could rig up, chickens and ducks and goats, even larger livestock like cows were commonplace in the poor sections of town.

And it reeked. Raw sewage, body odor, the stink of chicken manure and the products of slaughter, poor waste management and the inability to pay for electricity, running water or indoor plumbing meant a serious lack of sanitation available to the poorest of the nation. I'm certain that when the wind blew right the Governor could smell the poorest of his constituents.

The clever poor folks, or those able to obtain transportation, made their way into the wealthy sections of town in order to panhandle. You know that uncomfortable moment, when the panhandler on the corner makes eye contact, and you know you're going to have to tell them you don't have change? Every day. You'd have to do that every day without welfare. At every street corner.

Poverty is uncomfortable. Not just for the poor, for society as a whole. Even if you resent the poor, even if you believe that their own bad decisions have led them to this crossroads and it is not your responsibility to bail them out, you still want to pay for their necessities. If you don't, you can look forward to a lot more of this.

The ghost of destitution past haunts us, still. We can go back to that. We can cut away the safety net, you can keep your welfare tax money, but are you willing to pay the price?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

It's ALIVE! The Resurrection of the Irreverent Mother

Hello, all! I've been inspired lately to begin writing more. It's really something I enjoy, and something at which I excell, and if no one wants to read my blog, well, their loss. Like Frankenstein's Monster, I am bringing it back to life.

I've got a couple of other things in the works as well. I'll keep any interested parties updated. Here's to new beginnings!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Relationship Advice: Not Just for Girls Any More!

I've been seeing a lot of posts, mostly from religious-based bloggers about how to be a good wife.  While I think these suggestions are excellent and you can never go wrong being a supportive spouse, I find the lack of "How to be a Good Husband" posts disturbing.  It smacks of sexism to me.  Admittedly, I'm a pretty radical feminist, and my opinions are colored by my own religious experiences, which were most definitely sexist and marginalizing toward women.  So this kind of stuff tends to stick in my craw a little.  Still, I think a little balance is required here.  So the following is a list of ways to be a supportive PARTNER (not all committed relationships are marriages).  These are aimed at both genders.

1.  Be honest.  If something is bothering you, speak up.  Don't assign blame, but approach the problem with solving it in mind.  "I'm having trouble understanding why you have been less affectionate lately.  I have some suggestions for ways to help us both get what we need."

2.  Don't expect more of your partner than you expect of yourself.  It's not his job to provide ALL the romance.  It's not her job to give ALL the back rubs.  Give as much as you get.  If you want more, give more and then ask for what you need.

3.  Don't expect LESS of your partner than you expect of yourself.  If they're abusive, mean, hurtful or irresponsible that is not your fault and it is not your job to pick up their slack or absorb their abuse.  Seek professional help for these problems or leave, because it's not healthy for anyone to be in an abusive relationship.

4.  Offer praise regularly.  Everyone needs a shot in the arm sometimes.  Some people need to be complimented on their looks, some need to be told they're awesome parents, some need appreciation showed for their hard work.  Find out what makes your partner glow inside and try to keep them glowing.

5.  Offer only constructive criticism.  "This tastes terrible!" is not constructive.  It's not even nice.  "Next time it could use a little more salt," is much better.  If you don't know what could make the problem better, see #1... go in with finding a solution in mind.  "I don't know what made it taste badly to me, show me the recipe and maybe I can critique it for you."

6.  Find common ground.  Everybody is different.  You won't share all the same interests, you won't like all the same music, you won't enjoy all the same shows.  But find something that you both enjoy and do it together regularly.  If you can't think of anything you both like, try something new!

7.  Put your focus forward.  Its nice to reflect on all the fun you had when you were first in love, but that time is past.  Now is the time to create new memories, not try to live in the old ones.  There is so much to be gained from living in the present.  The truth is you may never feel like teenagers in love again, and that's okay.  Because now you get to feel like 20,30,40,50,60 somethings in love.  Create happiness for today instead of trying to REcreate happiness from yesterday.

Bottom line, just try to be a decent person to live with.  Male or female, in a relationship with a man or a woman, married or otherwise. 

What makes me qualified to offer this advice?  A decade-long relationship with a single person with nary a breakup.  And that relationship began when I was 15.  And I've read a bunch of relationship books.  And I've had some tough times and huge disagreements in my marriage.  And I've changed a lot since we got together.  So yeah.  Not a relationship counselor, but I've got some experience under my belt.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Just be Honest, Yo.

I tell my kids the truth.  Pretty much universally.  If they ask me a question, I answer it to the best of my ability and their understanding.  I don't shelter them from the hard discussions.  I've been asked where babies come from, what makes boys and girls different, what does dead mean, and after the answer to that question, when will you die, mommy?  What is gravity?  What does douchecanoe mean?  Yeah, I have a potty mouth.  How do birds fly?  And about a million other questions, to some of which I had to respond "I don't even know how to go about Googling that, honey."

The questions are hard, and honesty is hard too.  Sometimes I have to fight with myself.  I want to shelter them from the truth sometimes, but when I have forced an honest answer between my lips I have been met with a surprising amount of acceptance.  "Where is your dad, mom?"  "He died when I was 15."  "Oh, do you miss him?"  "Yes, sometimes I do miss him."  "Oh.  What's for dinner?"

This question-asking time in a child's life is a prime opportunity to avoid stigma and build trust.  Instead of making things too scary or grown up to talk about you can make them normal.  Instead of being afraid or ashamed my kids remain curious and they trust me to always be honest with them.  If their mother, who they know would protect them from anything, is willing to tell them the truth about this, it must not be bad or scary.  If she will answer me when I ask what sex is, she will answer me when I ask if she thinks my significant other is a good pick.

I guess the point of this ramble is that I don't understand the need to lie to children.  The Stork, "Goldie the Goldfish is going to a fish amusement park in the potty" etc.  I think we do a disservice to our kids by making these topics taboo.  I'm glad my parents worked hard to answer my questions truthfully.  Just be honest, yo. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

I Play the Garbage Can: My Musings About One Member of Slipknot

This subject has been eating at me.  I've heard Slipknot's music.  In case you haven't, it's basically aggressive, atonic noise with so much going on you can't really tell up from down.  Some people dig it.  I don't.

Recently my husband was watching a YouTube video of them playing live.  First of all, the stage is completely full of dudes.  There are, like, 15 band members and most of them are just screaming and jumping around in their jumpsuits and creepy leather masks.  Then I catch a glimpse of this one dude wailing on a trash can.  He's totally going to town on it.  There's no mic anywhere nearby, he's just wailing on a trash can because he's in Slipknot and it doesn't matter anyway, since basically it is a cacophony with a guy screaming laid over the top.

That split second image got me thinking.  How did this artist's career begin?  What was it like being him, trying to pick up chicks and be relevant in a band with 15 members?

Trashcan guy (TCG):  "I'm totally in a band, you know."
Chick: "Oh yeah?  Cool, what do you play?"

At this point, TCG can go one of two ways.  He can either own his position in the band and pretend like it's an off-the-wall artistic expression, like he's *really* a drummer, but chooses to play the trash can because it's raw and uncivilized and it totally makes the sound of the band.  Or he can lie until his pants catch fire.  I suspect that the latter option would get him more girls.

TCG: "I'm the drummer."

Which leads to another problem for our young man.  Er... groupies don't like drummers.  They're all after the singer, the lead guitarist is a backup and if neither of them are available they will shag the bassist.  Sometimes.  But drummers are chopped liver.

Chick:  "Oh yeah, that's cool.  Hey, I have to run and meet my friend, nice talking to you!"

I suspect that TCG has had a very hard life.  And I suspect that no one actually records him playing the trashcan, they just tell him he has an important job and sit him in the corner of the recording studio without a mic.  "Nah, man, the sound carries, we don't want it to overwhelm the vocals."  And then their drummer just wails on his set without listening to how everyone else is playing.  But now he's associated with one of the foremost bands in terrormetal or whatever they call their genre and I think his battle is pretty much over.

Sometimes I think perhaps I'm missing some crucial element of the music here that makes it all make sense instead of seeming like a crazed side show full of nonsense.  But then I see this picture and I feel certain of my judgements.

Photo from Tumblr.  Also... WTF?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ostara Recipe Confusion

Some of you will know this already, but modern earth-centered paganism is just that.  Earth centered.  Many pagans are very eco-conscious, very friendly to the causes of combating climate change, organic food and reducing carbon footprints. 

Ostara falls each year on the spring equinox (which is March 20-22 in the northern hemisphere).  It is a celebration of the return of longer days, greener fields and the fertility of animals (thus the egg and rabbit motifs). 

With the eco-conscious nature of paganism and the season in mind I was really disappointed by the results of my Google search for Ostara recipes.  This time of year here in the northern hemisphere the foods in season are pretty slim pickin'.  Veggies are limited to sprouts and leafy varieties.  Early lettuces, asparagus, spinach.  Fruits are even more limited.  Strawberries may barely be turning red if you started them early and rhubarb, which is not really a fruit but can be used as one, may be available.  Well-kept apples, onions, garlic and winter squash may still be available (though anything you buy in the store is probably not well kept from last fall but flown in from warmer climes), but for the most part, that's it.  The foods that ARE plentiful are ones that are available year round to agricultural people.  Meat, eggs (if chickens have resumed laying enough to keep you in eggs, or if you have cold-hardy varieties of chickens which lay through the winter) and milk. 

So then why, if pagans are trying to be tuned into the earth and watch their footprint's size, are all the recipes I'm finding calling for berries, green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, and all manner of other high-summer plant foods?

I posit that we have lost our way a little bit here.  Even we who wish with all our hearts to steward for our Mother Earth have lost sight of what She offers us in the way of food this time of year.  We have been blinded by the ever-bounty of the grocery store and have forgotten where our food is coming from.  If you're eating green beans in March they have traveled a long way to make it to your plate, leaving a trail of fossil-fuel exhaust the whole way.

I'm not saying at all that having a bountiful choice of food year-round is a bad thing, but at least on our holy days, should we not keep our region's seasonal choices in mind?  Even if you can't get locally grown food this time of year, shouldn't we try to at least eat as in-season as possible?

In the spirit of honoring Earth's stately pace through the cosmos, I offer these in-season Ostara recipes.

Simple Green Salad

1 head early lettuce variety (butter lettuce, baby lettuces of all kinds)
1 bunch spinach/baby spinach
1/2 onion, sliced, rings separated

Chop or tear lettuce and spinach to bite-sized pieces and toss with onion rings.  Top with a simple vinegrette dressing of 2 parts your favorite vinegar to 1 part extra virgin olive oil plus minced garlic, salt and cracked pepper to taste.

Apple and Dried Cranberry Chicken Salad

1lb chicken parts (I usually use breasts), cooked and chopped into small pieces
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 small apple, chopped (leave the skin on, it's super good for you!)
1/3 cup mayo
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 c. dried cranberries

Combine all ingredients and serve on freshly baked bread

Deviled Eggs

6 eggs, boiled
2-3 T. mayo
1 t. mustard (yellow gives a nice zip but you can use any variety.  Whole grain is especially nice)
salt and pepper to taste
Paprika, for sprinkling

Slice eggs in half lengthwise and remove the yolk (which, by the way, is a single cell.  There, you learned something).  Combine yolks with mayo, mustard, salt and pepper.  Place into a plastic baggie with a hole cut in the corner and pipe back into the egg whites.  Sprinkle with paprika.

Garlic and Sage Rubbed Pork Chops with Onion and Apple Slaw

3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 tsp rubbed sage
2 cooking apples, sliced (since you're cooking them it is okay to peel these apples)
2 onions, halved and sliced
4 pork chops (whatever kind strikes your fancy)
Splash of apple cider or white vinegar

Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl.  Add 1/3 of this mixture to the apples and onions, rub the rest on the pork chops.  Brown pork chops in large, heavy skillet, add onions and apples, cover and cook until onions and apples are tender and the chops are just a tiny bit pink in the middle.  Splash a little vinegar on to liven up the flavors.

Vanilla Custard

here for the recipe, I didn't concoct this myself at all and will not take credit for this recipe.  I don't even suggest any variations (because it is freaking amazing) except to top it with fresh strawberries, which are closer to being in season than blueberries.

This is our menu for today.  Enjoy the season, everyone, and happy Ostara!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I'm not Ashamed to be a Grammar Nazi

Lately a lot of my friends on Facebook have been sharing cool little e-cards.  They're sometimes hilarious, sometimes hilariously true, and sometimes, once in a while, obviously not proof-read.  Anyone can make one and sometimes they go viral. "I can't share this, but it's so awesome!" I think to myself.  The obvious grammar, spelling or logic error makes it completely useless to me.  I've forever been correcting friends' and family's grammar, ever since I was little.  It has alienated a few people, made me unlikeable to some, and irritated just about everyone.  Its part of who I am, though.  Like the friend who has to wash her hands 20 times a day or the cousin with a really irritating laugh with a hair trigger, you pretty much learn to live with it or stop hanging out with me. 

Aside from the term "grammar Nazi" (because, ya know, correcting someones grammar is EXACTLY THE SAME as participating in genocide), I'm cool with being one.  I'm not perfect.  I make mistakes when I'm tired or distracted.  I use the word "like" too much, I sometimes type in all-caps for emphasis.  Sometimes I even put periods after sentence fragments (Also. For. Emphasis.).  I am actually capable of letting similar mistakes go when I find them.  Obvious typos, sentences ending in prepositions, I can handle not correcting these things, they've worked their way into common use with the Information Age (also, you're welcome for not using the word "vernacular" in this sentence).  Improper use of "your/you're" and "their/there/they're" drive me batty, though.  Similarly, correcting these things drives others batty, which leaves us at an impasse.  Either I correct the grammar mistakes I see/hear and feel better or I don't and let others continue to feel alright.

To all those I correct,  I'm really not trying to be a bitch.  When I say something like, "Actually, this sentence requires the use of the word 'their' instead of 'there'," or, "Its spelled a-l-g-o-r-i-t-h-m," I'm not calling you out.  I'm not trying to make you look or feel stupid.  Even though these things come easily to me I understand that everyone has talents in different areas.  Maybe you're a terrible speller, but algebra is a breeze for you.  Maybe you can't tell where an comma goes, but you can run a marathon.  Perhaps you are one of those people who capitalize random letters, but you're a fantastic cook. 

My whole point here is that it's okay for you to embrace your strengths and it's okay for me to embrace mine.  If you're a fantastic musician, mechanic or carpenter that's really awesome!  I'm a good reader, a good speller and halfway decent with English grammar.  That's my thing.  And I'm okay with being good at it, and I'm okay with having a compulsion to correct mistakes.

I will leave you with two thoughts.  The first is that I am always ready to learn something new.  Feel free to correct me when I'm wrong.  Really.  <--- Including that sentence fragment right there.  And the second thought is just a little bit of snark because, well, I wouldn't be me if I didn't include some.