Tag Archives: thoughts

Swimming cats, babies in bread, and devilish tornadoes

1 Feb

Vivid dreams, especially of this sort, are noteworthy with me.  I just don’t have them that often.  This one was vivid and ranked fairly high on the Freaky Weird Scale.

It started off with three cats swimming in our bathtub, and me calling to Greg for him to come watch.  We were quite amazed, and the bathtub was certainly far larger than anything we could fit in our home.  I’ve seen smaller wading pools than this bathtub was–it must have been about eight foot long and six feet wide, as well as about a foot and a half deep.

Now cats can swim fairly well, but its well known that most don’t like it much.  These cats were enjoying it, and had gotten in for their swim of their own volition, which was curious.

Somehow, at that point, I ended up outdoors with Greg.  The sky was ominous, and there was an open field between our house and a cluster of other buildings, which included some houses.  There was also a lake or broad river behind us, and a couple of hundred yards along the bank from our house, there was a large underground structure which opened up on the water side.

All of this is important, as from the other side of this village or town, a massive tornado was approaching.  People were running towards us in a panic, and we were yelling and directing them all to the underground structure.  We ran along with the stragglers, and barely made it before the tornado arrived, completely destroying our house, swimming cats and all.

While I was obviously unhappy about losing my house, I was concerned about a woman who leaned back against a wall, somewhat exhausted and pale.  I was inquiring about how she was and whether she was all right when an older woman explained that she had just had a baby.  At that point, the woman laid a big loaf of bread wrapped in brown paper in her lap, opened the loaf, and was relieved to find her baby was sleeping contentedly.  I was quite impressed with the idea of using bread to protect the baby.

At that point, I woke up.  What was just as strange as the initial dream is that when I went back to sleep…I went back to that place, which is completely unlike any place I’ve ever known.  Our house was still destroyed, without a trace of the swimming cats or anything else–everything had been carried away by the tornado.  The town was just as destroyed, but I’m not sure where the people were.  I was walking around our former home, in the debris filled garden, when the woman with the baby in the loaf of bread walked past with the older woman again, still carrying her baby in the bread, although with its tiny face exposed and the brown paper wrapped around the loaf.

Pretty curious, that baby in the loaf of bread.  I have no idea where that could come from,  nor what it would possibly mean in terms of symbology either at this point.  It’s just…weird.  The whole impression was not anything like a hot dog or that the baby or bread were intended for anyone to eat, but rather that the bread provided some kind of special protection for the baby, while the brown paper simply protected and disguised the bread.

Protected from what?  Disguised from who?

Curiouser and curiouser, don’t you think?

Obamacare?

10 Nov

Everybody seems to be up in arms about it, either defending it or trying to destroy it.

Ideally, it would have provided something called universal health care. A basic level of health care for everyone, regardless of income. It doesn’t do that. But, that’s what conservatives were afraid it was going to deliver, since that smacks of “socialism” and they drag up old Cold War phobias to make us fear the concept.

So, what we really got was federally mandated health insurance.

Sort of.

From what I can find out, it isn’t universal. If you are low income, you are likely to still not have any health care coverage, so you are still regarded as one of the “leeches” on the system and the reason that health care costs keep rising.

From where I’m sitting, in Mississippi, it looks like business as usual, but great for insurance companies.

Okay, I went through the enrollment process.  The website everyone makes fun of worked just fine for me, and this was a couple of weeks ago when it was all new.  We were offered very limited choices to start off.  One company, that’s it, folks.  Reminds me of the electric company, we’ve got another monopoly going on.  Maybe we’d have had more options if we lived on the coast or in Jackson, but even so, we’re only 30 minutes from Hattiesburg now, and that’s one of the larger cities in Mississippi.  So it’s one company with two plans, and they don’t include the highest coverage, the platinum level.  (Not that it mattered, we couldn’t afford either one we were offered anyhow.)

The two lowest plans did not offer very good coverage, and it included a large deductible.  To add to the injury, the crappy plans cost roughly $850-950 per month for a couple.

The state of Mississippi, like a number of other states that have vocalized their dislike of the “Obamacare” Affordable Health Care Act, has refused to consider expanding their Medicaid program.  Likely it’s due to the impoverished state of the Mississippi economy to begin with.  After all, where would the money come from?

They are being generous.  They will not fine those below the income threshold, which I assume is the poverty line.  Whatever that line is, we’re below it.  So, it is status quo.  No fine, no health care, and nothing has changed at all for us.

But let’s do some math.  Let’s assume that a couple who is working 40 hours a week at minimum wage ($7.25 per hour).  That would mean that they got an annual gross income of $30,160.  They are paying an average of 26% of their income to taxes, Social Security, etc.  That’s $7841.60 leaving them with $22,318.40.   Let’s say that they select the lowest cost plan at $850 per month.  Their annual costs will be $10,200.  That leaves them with $12,118.40.

That sounds reasonable, right?  Surely they can live on that, right?

Well, let’s experiment.  The average rent is about $600 per month, totaling $7200.  Their annual income is now down to just $4918.40.

But, they have to get to work, and most of Mississippi doesn’t have mass transportation of any kind.  They don’t live close to work, but they are careful with managing their lone vehicle so they are both able to get to and from work.  Even so, they average 25 miles round trip each day, their vehicle is older so the annual cost of license and tags, combined with the inspection, totals to just $45 per year.  They carry the minimum insurance, but it still costs $90 per month.  Being an older  vehicle, it also does not get good gas mileage, coming in at only 20 mpg, at an average cost of $3.15 per gallon.  It also requires two annual oil changes, which cost $35 each, for another $70 per year.  On average, they have to buy tires every fourth year, which cost $400, adding another $100 to their annual expenses.  They pray it does not break down, as they are already spending a lot on their transportation, a grand total of $2732.19.  That leaves them with $2186.21.

But, remember, they are still left with bills to pay for utilities, clothing expenses, and their grocery bill.  The real problem is that after getting their affordable insurance, paying their rent, and getting to and from work, they are left to figure out how to survive on $182.18 per month.

That won’t even cover their utilities, let alone let them cover their deductible, pay a co-pay, or buy a prescription.  They won’t be able to eat either.

But, a couple earning minimum wage, in the eyes of many, is not below poverty level.

I’m not seeing anything affordable in this.  I’m not seeing anything resembling universal health care either.  I damn sure don’t see anything resembling socialism in it. The only ones who are actually going to have health insurance are the same ones that have it now, barring the ones who can afford it but are too cheap to pay their portion of the premium for their families through the plan offered by their employer.

I can remember those people well.  Back in the “good old days” when I had an employer that offered health insurance and treated their employees as though they were a company asset (like good companies do), we had a giant hike in our health insurance premiums.  They had a meeting with all of us, explained what was happening and why, as well as what their options were in terms of offering us health insurance plans.  They listened to us, then came back with an option.  The costs of extending insurance coverage to our families was going to have to be deducted from our paychecks, and we could elect to have coverage if we so desired.  I desired–I had a kid with a chronic health problem (she was a type 1 diabetic who was often in the hospital).  My co-workers, knowing that I paid about half of my paycheck to health insurance, asked me how I could afford it.  For me it was simple.  I could not afford to NOT have it.  There is a vast difference in the kind of health care one receives with health insurance versus without it, and I had witnessed it first hand.

I also had pretty good insurance.  I didn’t have a lot of out-of-pocket expenses.  Sure, I had a co-pay at the doctor’s office, as well as for prescriptions, but it was reasonable and affordable.  I didn’t have big bills for the hospital stays, and I had both dental and vision coverage as well.

Even if I could afford the insurance plans offered via the so-called Obamacare plan, neither of them included dental or vision insurance.  The co-pays were reasonable, but the deductible was a serious issue.  So was the percentage of coverage on procedures and hospitalization.  With only 60% coverage on these things, how is someone with $182.18 per month to pay utilities and groceries out of, going to pay even a $1000 procedure (far less than a single emergency room visit) which is going to cost $400 out-of-pocket.

The Affordable Health Care Act may have had some great intentions, but some how, along the way, it got left with loopholes and giant black holes that once again put insurance corporations into the drivers’ seat leaving the rest of us clinging to the bumper and terrified.  The worst part is, it hasn’t even gone into effect yet.  We have sticker shock, as well as discovering that we’re ordered to choose from models X, Y and maybe model Z for health insurance, but we’re standing here realizing that the other shoe hasn’t dropped yet.  What kind of problems are waiting to appear?

We, as a population, has little faith in the government in general and even less in the federal government.  It’s notorious for favoring those with mega-money and tromping on the little guy without regard for the welfare of the masses.  It’s all about special interest groups, with an ample seasoning of mismanagement and bureaucratic red tape.

It seems that there is only one escape from the tyranny of the Affordable Health Care Act.

Get elected to Congress.

Yep, they were smart.  They made sure none of them would ever have to deal with this monstrosity that is neither affordable nor healthy.

Social media & politics

12 Oct

I have been seeing a lot of political commentary posted to Facebook, as well as receiving a fair amount of political based commentary on things I post to my timeline. It’s made me realize something.

A lot of people are pretty clueless about how our political system works, not that I’m an expert on it.

Many people truly do not understand that the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) was not passed by the President. Presidents cannot legislate, so unless it was an executive order, he cannot be the one responsible. The ones responsible are the senators and representatives in Congress who passed it. The only direct action on that health care bill that was an option for the president was to veto it when it landed on his desk afterwards.

The government shut down was not orchestrated by the president either. That was the direct result of Congress’ inability to compromise on a budget. They knew it would happen when a budget was not agreed upon. They knew the deadline too.  In private industry, we call that “incompetent” and “irresponsible”.

I understand that there is a lot of conflicting ideology around the budget.  There is the rising debt and the continual stream of tax credits and government hand outs to a wide assortment of corporations and industries, let alone foreign countries’ aid packages.  There is the Affordable Health Care Act, with its confusing assortment of rules and regulations, as well as rampant rumors that affordable is the last thing it will be in practice.  If half of it is true, I will be destitute and homeless within two years of it going into effect.  Average citizens, such as myself, are left without answers about what is actually true and what is just one more piece of fear-mongering propaganda being tossed about by the anti-healthcare faction.

Most of all, I’m seeing an increase in dissatisfaction with the federal government.  I’m also seeing an increase in fear of the government and a perception of it as a totalitarian force.  I hear more  about secession than I would have ever dreamed of hearing too.  I look back to history, to the antebellum era, and I’m seeing a frightening parallel.

If you don’t like it, whatever the it is, do something about it. Write your congressmen & women. Call them. Don’t vote for their re-election. Work to get them recalled if necessary. Ignore the continual and useless online petitions.

Whether you like or hate Obama, he can’t be re-elected. That is courtesy of an actual amendment to the constitution, the same thing that a lot of people have been ranting about lately.  It’s the 22nd amendment.    That means that Obama is on his way out with the end of this term. In the meantime, we’ve still got a corrupt & incompetent Congress…being re-elected over and over.

Maybe we need to limit terms as a senator or representative too, and put an end to the career politicians.  Of course, that could be a problem.

We’d have to have the same ones we want to put an end to vote to pass it.

Right now, it’s a great job.  You get to vote on your own benefits and pay.  You can take off time as you please.  You can take bribes and distribute favors.  If people don’t like what you do or don’t do,  you simply point your finger at the POTUS and pass the buck.

So, give up on the useless online petitions–they are not going to do a darned thing.  Give up the chain emails and shares and likes–they don’t do anything either.  Neither do blog posts like this one, other than to urge others to take some sort of useful action.

DO write and call Congress. Be loud.  Be persistent.

DO vote!  It does make a difference.  Voter apathy bought this Congress, folks!

If you don’t like what Congress is doing, we have a system in place to do something about it.  Use it.

Shutdown Solutions?

3 Oct

Face it, no matter how hard we try to NOT think about it, we’re all faced with the shut down of the federal government.    Probably the ones feeling it the least are the same people responsible for not agreeing on a compromise for the budget.  While those who are not members of Congress lack the fine detail of why there has been no agreement in our lame duck Congress for a budget, one single fact has become quite obvious to everyone.

Congress failed to do its duty to America and its citizens.

In my eyes, its the equivalent of treason because it goes way past inefficiency and lack of sincere concern.  The shut down isn’t merely a mild inconvenience, it is putting America at genuine risk.

All because they can’t get their own way?

Everybody wants to point their finger at Obama as being the one responsible for everything from the Affordable Health Care Act to the economy.  The reality is that the executive branch does not legislate.  Unless the action was the result of an executive order, it was the result of legislation passed by Congress and then, only then, signed into law by the president.  That means that the so-called Obamacare plan was enacted in a lawful manner by Congress, whether you or I either one actually like it or wanted it.  Our representatives and senators are the responsible parties, not Obama.  If you hate it, hate them.  If you like it, like them.  All Obama did or could do was advise during the legislative stage and sign it into law after Congress had brewed and stewed over it.

So with that understood…understand this.  The government shut down came about because Congress could not reach an agreement on a budget.  It wasn’t the supreme court’s judges or the governor of California or the prime minister of the United Kingdom’s fault, and it’s not Obama’s either.  The responsible parties are the ones that you elected, right in  your home state, and they likely have offices near your home so that they can theoretically keep in touch with their constituents.

You can believe me that I know the name of our two senators and my representative, and I know their email addresses too.  I also know exactly how long it takes for me to receive their form responses to any comments I email them–1-4 months.  Do I think they are particularly responsive to their constituency in this day and age?

Hell no.

Will I vote for any of them ever again.

Double that hell  no.

But you know what?  Incompetent job performance, which is what has resulted in the government shut down, should result in termination.  That creates a bit of a dilemma.  Some of those in Washington probably put sincere effort into trying to do their job, but were hopelessly outgunned by the majority who were refusing to do so.  With so much incompetency though, we are stuck with a blanket solution in order to have a plausible solution at all.

I think a government shut down should have serious repercussions for the ones responsible for causing it.  Things like:

  • No member of Congress should receive pay or any other benefits during a government shutdown, including retirement pay, medical care, per diem, etc.
  • No congressional support staff should receive pay or any other benefits during  a government shut down, and cannot be coerced into performing their duties during the shut down.
  • No member of Congress or congressional support staff shall receive retroactive pay or benefits for the duration of the government shut down.
  • 30 days after the initial day of a government shut down, all senators and representatives will be facing elections in their home states to maintain their seat or be replaced for the duration of their term.  That would at least give us a new Congress that might get something done, as well as reducing the likelihood of any shut down occurring to begin with.  We all know how these career politicians like to protect their cushy jobs.

When the discomfort of shut downs are affecting Congress as much as they are everyone else, perhaps they will work a little harder to try and do their job.  Besides, if they aren’t getting paid or enjoying the many perks of their position, we might save a bit on the budget and make a shut down worthwhile.  And the best part of a shut down? We would have a national opportunity to clean house and get a new crew in that just might do the job the way they are supposed to.

Can we say “congressional job fair” folks?

Weird day and I haven’t had much sleep

12 Sep

Okay, I’m going to qualify this with the statement that I might have slept about two hours last night, and it wasn’t in a row either.

With the inability to sleep aside, it’s a weird day.

First of all, my laptop, or rather the one pressed into service when mine died in July, got hit with the update thing last night.  No big deal other than a laborious restart, right?

Wrong.

It’s having seizures over something it calls “desktop update”.  Never mind that every other computer updated without a problem.  Mine has to have seizures because it’s Murphy’s Law.  Unlike Greg, everything I work on is computer local, not net based or network based.   Sure, I can recover my files, but I am still clinging to hope that we can undo the malfunction somehow.  Mostly because if we can’t, I’m sort of screwed.  I don’t have the money to replace the laptop right now.  That was why I was using that one–mine had died.

So I’m using a desktop computer.  Nothing wrong with that other than I don’t have much workspace.  It’s also not set up specifically for me, which means I cannot work on it very long at a time.  So, while I watch, rather irritated too, the bar on the laptop, it goes through repair routines.  Ones that should take 15 minutes are taking hours to do.

But that’s not all.

I have this really odd sensation in my hand.  Greg and I don’t wear our wedding bands.  Not for some unusual spiritual reason, but rather because of a very practical one.  We’ve both had rings smashed onto our fingers, and he’s seen people lose fingers when a ring hung up on something.  Even without having a finger ripped off, having a ring smashed onto your finger that requires tools to remove is not pleasant.  So…our wedding rings reside in the jewelry box.  We rarely wear them.

But today, I keep actually FEELING a ring on that finger.  I can feel something pressing against the fingers beside it too.  It’s a phantom sensation, but even when I am looking at my fingers, I still have the physical sensation of it being there.  For some reason, it has an ominous feeling for me, but I have no idea why a phantom ring would be ominous.

If someone else told me they were experiencing that, I’d ask them if they were contemplating doing something that would jeopardize their marriage, and it was a nudge to remind them of their commitment.  I’m not, and I know that without a shadow of a doubt.  The next thing to question was whether someone else was potentially threatening their marriage.

I’m not seeing that either.

I am just left with this weird uneasiness, and I’m trying to tell myself that it is just a case of aggravation combined with lack of sleep.  I am surely just making a mountain out of a molehill.

But this sense of foreboding IS pretty creepy.

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People Watching

7 Sep

I am a people watcher.  I notice a lot of things about people, and some of them are very subtle cues about their psyche given away by their body language.  When I worked in fields such as corrections and law enforcement, it was very useful.  When I was younger and lacked knowledge about the frequency of people having less than honorable intentions, it was what saved my silly butt when my brain failed to use what is called “common sense”.  People watching is a lifelong habit.

As time as moved forward, the internet was not only born, but grew up and out, swallowing our world.  It has given us access to the thoughts and comments from people from all over the world.  In many cases, it has removed the economic barriers that had previously isolated certain sectors of society from each other.

So what does that mean?

It means that I have the ability to regularly observe the public behavior and comments of those people born into a life of privilege.  You know the sort–their vacations cost more than my house’s total purchase price.  They have never experienced actual hunger, been homeless, or been worried about whether their utilities were going to be shut off before they could scrape together the money to pay the bill.  They have no idea what robbing Peter to pay Paul even means in terms of daily life.  They can have personal trainers, multiple cars, multiple vacations each year, etc.  They also have the ability to go “find” themselves and put their principles ahead of survival.  

When they were graduating (or their children) from high school, their biggest worry was not trying to find a way to pay for college, but rather whether they would be accepted into their first choice college.

But that’s okay.  It is nice that some people can enjoy a life of privilege, and if they inherited it from their grandparents or great-grandparents, well, lucky for them.  It’s hard to not envy that financial state when you are struggling, but I really don’t bear them animosity.  What does torque my psyche is that these people with  a life of privilege feel that they not only have the right, but the obligation, to pass judgement on the rest of the world.

People usually do not choose to be poor or financially struggling.  No one enjoys being hungry, homeless, sick, etc.  Our natures encourage us to try to avoid those states.  They, which in this case, includes me, may have made some poor choices or been the recipient of an unfortunate series of events that lead them to that state.  From there, circumstances can snowball to other issues, with a wide range of observable results.  These things can happen to people who are intelligent, moral, hard-working, and considerate of others.  They may even have a very good education to go with it.

It’s sad but true, money talks in this country.  Without money, if you are sick, you will die, the same as anyone who is poor and sick in a third world country.  Some areas have better indigent health care than others.  In Mississippi, if you do not have children at home, you are unlikely to receive any assistance with any medical needs, from medication to hospitalizations. The state does not consider keeping their population healthy to be financially feasible or a good investment, apparently. It means lower costs for the elderly too–Mississippians tend to die younger than most Americans, reducing the number of years that the elderly receive Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SSI, SNAP, etc.  Sounds great on paper, if you are one of the privileged category that can afford good housing, good nutrition,  lifelong insurance and private elderly care.  Poor people tend to believe that they are “lucky” to have minimal health care for their children.  The new national health care plan is painted to be the tool of the devil himself, an affront to the very fabric of American society.

Why do these people of privilege believe that they are responsible for passing judgement on every overweight person they see, everyone who is struggling to make a life for themselves, everyone who asks for help, and everyone else that they may observe in the course of a day?  Who gave them that right?

Somewhere along the way, the capitalism that we all treasure became a corporate based economy that has little to do with the concept of “free enterprise” and a whole lot to do with monopoly and control.  It’s not really capitalism anymore, more like corporatism.  Now we are told that corporations even enjoy many of the rights of a person.

Wonderful, right?

Not until a corporation dies on the battlefield or in a hospital bed of a curable disease.

In most cases, those with a life of privilege have acquired it via the corporatism society we live in today, not due to extraordinary efforts or great inventions. The sad thing is that with the rise of corporatism, we’ve lost compassion.  We illustrated it with the reality show industry featuring Donald Trump pointing his finger and stating “You are fired!”

There is no compassion from corporations.  It’s nothing more than the cogs of a wheel that bring the downsizing from the board of directors to the employee being laid off, all pre-planned like a paint by number painting and never seasoned by compassion, to give the dreaded pink slip to someone who is going home to his or her family with the worst news imaginable.

Even the safety net of the extended family is gone, also courtesy of corporatism and its demise rushed by the corporatism that fuels Hollywood’s representation of society in films and television.  We are now like a nation of three year olds grabbing everything they can reach and shouting “MINE!” at the top of their lungs.

Corporatism has convinced us that we need those “toys” and that he who dies with the most toys wins.  Too many people are working too many hours to buy toys so that they look as though they are living the life of privilege, when instead they could be enjoying the luxury of a real life with enough.  It’s made us a nation of people who trample over other people just to grab one more toy too.

Did you think Hunger Games was a depressing book?  It’s not that much different than the corporate career many face.  Most “die” early on, doomed to a life in the mail room, secretarial pool, or being fired.  A few climb to the next level, if they are greedy enough and willing to stomp on enough other people to do so.  At each level, more die and fewer rise to the next level.  Then, finally, there is a handful of “winners” who get the prize.

I think we need a whole lot more compassion, respect, and consideration for others and to stop entertaining those in positions of privilege with our envy and efforts to rise to their positions.  We need to learn what enough really means.  We need to remove the concept of false shortages and monopoly from our economy and create an air of plenty and competence.  We need to reward excellence and despise greed.

I can dream, right?

Sometimes, I wonder how Gene Roddenberry’s world came into being, what kinds of growing pains it experienced before money went away.  What measure did they use to bargain with others then?

Vacation!

1 Jul

There has been a problem, and it’s all Facebook’s fault.

They kept advertising vacations in locations like Israel or at a nice, hot, sunny beach.

Now maybe to someone who is starved for warmth, that’s appealing.  Me, I hear Israel, and I think Middle East, and that isn’t a place that is apt to make me relax one bit.  They have entirely too much going on there right now, from political upheaval to religious issues, and my idea of a good time does not include wearing a burka, trying to decipher where I could or couldn’t go as a woman, or watching soldiers carry machine guns.

I have betrayed the fact that I’m not very worldly.  I’m terrified of tanks and soldiers with guns, and always have been.  It’s bad enough to see them on television.  I don’t want to vacation where I have to navigate check points or be “protected” by soldiers.  It’s bad enough if it’s your own country that is living like that, I sure don’t want to go visit one for “fun”.

No, I’m not anti-gun.  I’m anti-war.  I’m a mother and a grandmother, and I see wars as killing sons and daughters.  I’ve lost one, not due to war, but I know what it feels like.  I can’t imagine sacrificing a child to the war games of politicians.  I’m also not anti-soldier–I have friends and relatives who have or are currently serving in the military.  I don’t have a panic attack if I see them in uniform either.  Not even if they have a gun.  They aren’t on patrol.

I guess I regard the entire Middle East as this huge war zone, with periodic spaces under truces that don’t include me, as I’m not Muslim or Jewish.  I also have no need to make a pilgrimage to an ancient religious site there.

Plus it’s hot.

And sandy.

I spent most of my life in the American Southwest, which is predominantly semi-arid.  I’ve had enough “beach” for a lifetime–a beach is just more hot sand to me.  Never mind that the southwest is short on water–they have ample “beach”.  Even on the Gulf Coast, I prefer to visit the beaches in the winter.  Or at night.  Hot sand has zero thrills for me.  I don’t even want a sun tan.  I’ve spent the last thirty years avoiding that, why start trying to get one now?

So, I started thinking…

IF I could afford a vacation anywhere, where would I really want to visit?

Someplace cool.  Like really cool.   Not rock star cool, but ice and snow cool.  Like Mississippi winter cool, most likely.  Greenland and Iceland come up on the list fairly quickly.

The reality is, I don’t have a vacation budget this year.  I’m like most of America, and have a hand-to-mouth existence that is plagued with gaps between the two.  Our primary vehicle has broken down–our back up vehicle, our old mini-van, has expired tags.  We’re not going anywhere right now.

So how on earth to take a vacation?

Vacations for me are usually a camping trip somewhere.  Sometimes, I’ve gone on camping road trips, camping along the way to visit someone or something.  It’s entertaining and relaxing, and I got pretty good at setting up/tearing down.  Since those days, I’ve become disabled.  Setting up camp with Greg is now an endeavor that takes a lot out of us, even as we’ve simplified things immensely.  We’re also in need of a new tent now, as our old standby one with its easy set up and internal frame, has seen better days and leaks so badly we just use a tarp over the rain fly.  Without a functional and legal vehicle, we’re not going camping either–besides, I no  longer can cope with summer heat without air conditioning.  Our camping, when we can go, is confined to the other three seasons of the year.

But…

I’m a devious so and so sometimes.  I’ve heard of staycations.  Most of them sound like they aren’t all that much fun, or even save that much money.  But I thought about it, and what do I like to do when I go camping?

Obviously fishing is a big deal, but when we go out of Mississippi, I don’t fish, as I don’t buy an out-of-state license.  So what do I do then?

I hang out and do much of nothing, actually.  I do cook, especially if we have a group, but with the loss of the use of my arm, I have to have a fair amount of help to do that too.  So, it looks like I don’t do much except deal with meals, and when it’s just Greg & I, we tend to do very simple meals at that.

I’m going to hang my hammock in the yard on Wednesday, after the radio show is done tomorrow.  I’m going to take one of the books I need to read, a pillow, and go lay in the hammock and do nothing at all except read and watch people go by.  Maybe I’ll swing the hammock a bit.  I might get my little battery personal fan out to create an artificial breeze.  I might even take the laptop out for a bit, and see if the wi-fi reaches that far.

Sound silly?

Maybe it is.  But just a day of being silly can make a lot of difference in how we approach problems and figure out a way to solve them.  We could definitely use some increased brainpower!

Red Dog and fireworks

30 Jun

I have talked about Red Dog a lot over the last dozen years.  She has been an important part of my life.  Right now, as I write this, she’s just outside the kitchen door, protesting being outside.  She prefers her usual activity, also known as “Occupy Floor”.  It’s a movement she believes in devoutly, as long as it is in my vicinity.

Red Dog has a strange personality.  Most people, on observing her for short periods of time, regard her as “very loyal.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not doubting her loyalty at all, at least as long as buttered toast isn’t in the equation.  On the other hand, since I know her very well, I know it’s more than loyalty.  It’s a severe case of separation anxiety.  It is her job to protect me, and that means she has to be with me at all times.  She has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that she is with me.

On one occasion, we were visiting friends.  She was young then, less than two years old, and she was more than a little suspicious of new people and situations still.  She lacked the confidence that more experience would give her.  We were in a crowded living room, and all of a sudden, I realized that she was panicking.  She was on the opposite side of the room, with people and furniture blocking her access to me, even though I wasn’t more than a dozen feet away.  I tried to get people to move to give her a clear path, warning them that she was panicking, but people who are not accustomed to the level of devotion she exhibited weren’t accustomed to dealing with panic either.  She collected herself, then sailed in a single leap over a coffee table and leather sofa to land beside me, managing somehow to avoid crashing into the stairs beside me.  Needless to say, after that, when I moved, she tended to move immediately as well.  The people who saw it also realized that when I said to move, that maybe they should too.

On another occasion, I was at the house of a man I was dating.  He was hosting a seafood boil with his neighbor, his brother.  There was going to be a lot of people and children, and I knew that supervising her was not going to be easy.  The solution was to leave her inside the house.  Unfortunately, she was not in agreement and decided that escape was critically important.  She exited through a window.  It just would have been nice if it had been an open window.

Obviously, she prefers to be at my side.  She has developed more restraint over the years, but she still is very unhappy at being left behind.   Unfortunately, the world is not particularly receptive to her desire to remain at my side, and she’s had to be left behind for everything from jobs to hospital stays, as well as on a few trips.  She has been boarded, and while I’d not claim she was an easy boarder, she is usually manageable, as long as there is no possible escape route.

During our time in New Orleans, we lived very near the Zephyr baseball stadium.  After almost all home games, there was a fireworks display.  It was an impressive one too, far more elaborate than the small town displays I was accustomed to seeing on the 4th of July.  However, among Red Dog’s skill sets, coping with loud noises such as fireworks and gunfire was not among them.  To make it even worse, New Orleans has fireworks for more than baseball and 4th of July–it’s also wildly popular for New Year’s Eve.

It was a New Year’s Eve when Red Dog made a very surprising decision.  I was hosting my then-boyfriend and his younger children at my house for a rather low-key celebration.  At midnight, we assembled on the kitchen steps to watch a rather impressive neighborhood fireworks display.  I tried to keep Red Dog inside, but she was facing a true dilemma: she could remain inside where it was safe, but she was alone OR she could come outside with the dangerous noise where I was at.  She came out, she darted back inside, she wanted out…back and forth she went, probably a dozen times.  Finally, she sat on the step beside me as we ooo’d and ahhh’d over the fireworks.  She began to watch them, as I put my arm around her, absentmindedly scratching and petting her.  Fireworks became a good thing.  Over the coming years we lived there, everything changed about fireworks.  Instead of cringing when it started, she would start barking at the door, demanding to be let out.  She loved to watch the fireworks.  She still does.

Okay, that’s totally weird.  Seriously, how many dogs LIKE fireworks?  She is the only one I’ve ever encountered that does.  Don’t get me wrong, she does not like firecrackers–they sound too much like gun shots and gun shots scare her half to death.  She likes the colorful displays in the night sky, even when accompanied by loud booms and shrieking whistles.  She stands and stares at them fixedly, and I have the peculiar sensation that she is remembering that long-ago New Year’s display when I was petting her as we watched them with our friends.

Our other dogs hate them.  They have no desire to watch, and prefer their crates during thunderstorms and fireworks alike.  Red isn’t thrilled with thunder, but I have seen her standing in downpours, complete with thunder and lightning, if I was anticipated home from work.  She has sat through a storm with me on a memorable camping trip where our sole protection when the clouds opened up was to sit on the tarp and flip it over our heads while we waited for it to stop.  I’ve also seen her jump a few seconds before I heard the clap of thunder–she’s apparently feeling the change in electric field before the sound arrives.

In the USA, the 4th of July is a date with many missing animals, terrified by the sounds, they run and try to escape.  Usually, they end up lost and sometimes it’s worse.  Often, they never make their way home again.  It’s a terrible time of year for dogs and cats, with the frightening noises and sulphurous stench of the gunpowder to make the explosions.  Don’t leave your pets outside unattended, it will save you a lot of heartache and it may save their lives.  Just bring them indoors with you, and provide them with a safe space when you are gone, whether its a crate to prevent them from eating inappropriate things (like your sofa, the carpet, trash, electrical cords, etc.) or so that they have a safe “den” feeling to hide from the noise.  Living in the South, I use wire crates for ventilation, but typically will drape them with a small sheet or towel to increase the feeling of security.  Other pets may prefer to curl up on the sofa or bed, some may prefer UNDER the sofa or bed–you know your pet best.

Be safe and keep your pet safe this 4th of July.  Don’t become another statistic.

Common decency?

29 Jun

When did things like kindness, courtesy, being polite, patience, and virtues in general go out of style?

I’m sort of lost here…in case you hadn’t noticed.  I’m also curious.

When did cruelty, viciousness, rudeness, foul language, selfishness, greed, and avarice become desirable traits?

Seriously.  I still see posts where women brag about being bitches.  Yes, I know a bitch is a female dog, but there is a reason why the word bitch is used to describe a woman.  It’s because she is selfish, rude, vicious, cruel, and/or greedy.  While I own three bitches myself, and I love those dogs to death…it is the attitude of a bitch in heat, if you had sexual promiscuity to the list of characteristics of a bitch.

It’s sure not something you’d want your daughter to grow up to exemplify.

Ok, I’ll admit it…I have, on numerous occasions, responded with “Thank you, that’s the nicest thing anybody has said today” when I was called a bitch by a man.  That’s because I was working as a guard in a men’s prison and it likely WAS the nicest thing I’d been called that day.  You will never get anywhere if you think a prison guard has popularity on their mind–they don’t.  They tend to be oriented on policies, procedures, and getting the job done.  Being called a bitch kind of went with the general lack of popularity thing I had going on then anyhow.

But that was just a job, and that was a very long time ago now.  I don’t like being called a bitch.  I don’t call people bitches either, unless provoked greatly.  When I do, it is NEVER a compliment, in case you were wondering.  I’ve never had respect for someone that chose to act in that manner either.  I certainly don’t envy them.  In general, I feel sorry for them, for surely something terrible has happened to make them so miserable.

I still try to be kind, considerate, and polite with others.  Even bad customer service reps don’t get sworn at by me–the worst I say is to ask to speak to a supervisor.  Bad customer service happens to be something that makes me very irate too.  Rude clerks make an impression on me in stores as well.  I tend to not want to shop there again.  Rudeness is bad for business, it does not attract future customers.  It drives away previously loyal customers too.

So why are all of these companies, from your local hospital to the utility company to the corner coffeeshop, still employing rude and unpleasant people?  Why are we beginning to accept rudeness and worse as our lot in life?  Why aren’t people more considerate of their co-workers, neighbors, customers, employees, friends, and even family?  How did society become so “me, it’s all mine, I deserve this” about everything?

Paula Deen is being crucified for decades old comments, and yet we forgive people like Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen.  We hear the same words in music from a variety of artists, and that’s okay too.  We’re devoting hours and hours of debate to whether or not gay people should marry.  We send money overseas to promote “freedom” and “democracy” while our own freedoms are being eroded away and our democracy becomes a corporate lapdog.  We scream about human rights, and right here in the USA, they are violated continually, without even minimal access to health care for the millions of working poor families.  That’s okay, we’re sending rice and vaccines to Africa.  Never mind that the seeds we export are GMOs and “Terminator” seed…leaving farmers starving and unable to grow anything.

We can’t change the world.  We can’t even force change in our own country in anything resembling a speedy change.  We can’t make people learn to think independently and quit worrying about whether or not Britney Spears was wearing underwear when she went to the club last week.  We can’t make them demand their freedom is protected or that Congress actually works to better the lives of the majority of citizens in this country.

So what can we do?

Start in your own little corner of the world.  Demand that corporations deliver what they promise, from the product they sold you to the customer service that ensures it works right.   Smile at your neighbor and ask how they are doing.  Quit surfing on the surface of life, worrying about paying that too-high mortgage or that new car payment so you can replace your four year old car.  Quit caring about who’s name is on the butt of  your jeans and spend more time paying attention to how those jeans makeyou feel.

For crying out loud, quit being a whining bitch and bragging about it.

Grow up.  Participate in life, contribute something along the way.  Make a friend and keep them as a friend, even when its not convenient.  Friendship is about more than mere networking.

Learn the virtues and think about them.

Common decency…ask someone like your grandmother to tell you about that.  It isn’t weakness to be kind and considerate.  It’s a virtue.

Try a few of them on for size.  It’s not about anti-feminism or religion or wanting to go back in time.  It’s about how  you treat people.  It’s about how you treat yourself too.  How can anyone be happy if everyone cringes when they see you coming?  Fear doesn’t come with respect, in case you hadn’t noticed.  It’s more apt to deliver disgust, repulsion, and rejection.

 

Does social media reflect our society?

16 Jun

I’ve been looking through various social media sites today, having a few laughs at the creative ways people solve problems.

And then, I would read the commentary from people that I don’t know. It was interesting but also concerning. Judging by that commentary, our world is made up of a high percentage of very vocal people who feel an obligation to pass their moral judgement on someone else. They can’t see any further than single snapshot of the story, but because of THEIR opinion, that person should be imprisoned, have their kids & pets taken away, and be restricted from interactions with others…at the least.

I’m not talking about photos of blatant cruelty, deviant behavior, etc. either. Some of it revolved around creative punishments for kids after some rule violation, which was never described. Having been a parent with kids who were creative about rule violation myself, I know that I had to be creative with finding appropriate punishments that reflected the rule violation. I wanted them to understand why the rule existed and why it was important to follow the rule too. It wasn’t about retribution usually (sibling wars sometimes do involve that though.)  I was a mother who actually made her daughter wear a sign that stated “I lie to my mother” much to her chagrin.

Sometimes it was about outdoorsy stuff–fun things to do with kids while camping, having a bonfire, etc. Sometimes, ideas don’t work so well in practice as they do in concept. I’ve done a lot of things, ranging from cooking on hot rocks to cooking stuff on a stick. I’ve eaten food that had more sand in it than the average ocean beach too. I’ve tasted things that were rather unpleasant along the way. It’s part of the fun we share with our kids.

After due consideration, I have concluded the following.

Too many people spend too much time worrying about what other people are doing.
Too many people lack fun in their lives, and therefore must stamp out the element of fun in other people’s lives.
We have too many “holier than thou” people in the population.

We have way too many people who object to hearing laughter or seeing smiles.

Too many of those who are “experts” and free to make decisions about what we can or cannot do have no idea what we are doing or why we are doing it.

Too many people actually feel they have not only the RIGHT but the moral and legal obligation to control what other people do in the privacy of their own homes–and I don’t mean what we consider illegal normally, but how they talk, what they think, how they dress, what they eat, their manners, etc., stuff we consider the small individual choices of life.

It’s no wonder that as the mysterious “They” say, the nation (or world for that matter) is going to hell in a handbasket.  Everybody is too busy worrying about everyone else’s thoughts and actions to take care of their own business!  Surely these trolls (yes, they are trolls…people who habitually do this negative commentary are even called trolls, for crying out loud!) cannot be doing much for their own personal economy or relationships if they are devoting this amount of time to tell everyone else that they are doing it all wrong.  Just like those parenting experts that have never had a child of their own, these trolling experts don’t seem to have a life of their own.

Not that the world or the masses are always right either.  I agree…too many people deface historical or archeological artifacts, whether in vandalism or theft.  Too many people do dumb things like chop down living trees to build a bonfire or break glass bottles at a beach.  Other people destroy the environment with the foolish use of a fire or flare.  There are people who do abuse their children, spouse, parents, or strangers for that matter.  We have laws trying to protect society from acts of stupidity and viciousness.  We have an appropriate process to deal with the people who are believed to have violated these rules of society too.

But just because I let my granddaughter pick a wallflower alongside a country road, that doesn’t mean I’m letting her burn down the forest.  Yes, I know it is a wildflower and it won’t produce seed because she picked it.  I also know that it was one of thousands in that area alone, and that the roadside will be mowed in a week or two.  It’s not endangered, and I think she is smart enough to learn (over time, she is still a toddler) to respect and appreciate our natural world.  Meanwhile, the child of the pompous troll who passes judgement on us as being among those who rape the environment will miss learning what beauty and joy is to be found in the natural world as s/he learns instead to judge others with no tempering by mercy or common sense.

If this is the direction society is headed, my apocalyptic prediction friends are apt to see it become a reality.  These people are so focused on finding fault with others around them that they can never see the real threats to their world aren’t the people who laugh and do silly stuff, but rather those who work in secret, trying very hard to stay out of sight as they figure out how to make a few extra dollars.  My conspiracy theorist friends can undoubtedly figure out how these trolls are actually secret government agents, designed to keep people irritated and aggravated, unable to focus on real issues while they deal with the dumb stuff the trolls come up with.

Like education.  Genuine education that actually teaches kids critical thinking skills…now there is an idea that has been long forgotten as we deal with the “No child left behind” concept that ultimately was translated to “thou shalt only teach kids what they need to know to pass the federal tests” because that is going to determine whether or not you keep your job as a teacher.  Critical thinking isn’t necessary, especially if you are raising the next crop of trolls and troll victims, now is it?

It’s no wonder we have the FDA pursuing small farmers who sell raw milk while we have organized crime moving drugs throughout the  nation, or that towns across the country are more concerned with whether or not someone is growing vegetables in their front yard than they are with the number of people in town that don’t have access to fresh, healthy produce at all.  Yes, I know that raw milk is a potential carrier of horrible disease and that was the original reasons for pasteurizing milk, but if people were educated to understand what the word pathogen meant, then they could make an intelligent decision about whether or not to use raw milk, couldn’t they?  We’re far more likely to hear about a school teacher having inappropriate sexual relations with a student than we are to hear about all of the teachers who managed to help a child learn and maybe even make something of their lives via education.  We’ll hear every small detail about some celebrity’s life, right down to whether or not she had on underwear when she was at location x than we will hear about that local activist who managed to put together a community farm that ensured that everyone in that town had fresh vegetables in season.

It’s time to quit worrying about what everyone else is doing and go do something.  Have a glass of milk and eat a cookie, made with real butter and sugar, while sitting on an unmowed lawn and letting the sun warm your body.  Wear some goofy outfit and go to Walmart, and while you are there, smile at people and ask them how they are doing and really listen for once.  Go eat a hot dog with mustard and kraut while watching a baseball game and cheer for both sides.  Pick a dandelion flower and hold it under your chin to see if you like butter.  Have a lemonade stand and give the stuff away to people, just for the heck of it.  Put a lawn chair in your front yard one evening and wave at everyone who drives by.

Just don’t be a bland piece of milk toast in a milky, bland world!

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