Thursday, July 21, 2011

If You're Going to B*tch About Taxes

      I grew up in a fairly rural, backwoods area of Michigan.  I lived 5 miles outside of one of the small villages that made up the local school district.  The median household income (according to the 2000 census) was $31,875.  When the economy took a hit even before the rest of the country, things got even worse.

       My point is, it is not a wealthy area.  Growing up, I knew many families who had to utilize public assistance at various times.  Since the economy collapsed, some of my own family members have found themselves living off government funds at different points.  These are not lazy people.  They are not leeches.  And they damn sure aren't living in the lap of luxury on the tax payer's dollar.  They struggle to make ends meet.  They apply for job after job after job.  Some are losing their homes.  I've been heartbroken to find out that things have gotten so bad for some that they've fallen into depression and other mental illnesses.

      I had good friends growing up, good people from good families with hard working parents who still needed a little help to make ends meet because, let's face it, it's difficult to impossible to feed a family of 4 or 5 working minimum wage.  And what if you're a single parent?  And these friends were constantly embarrassed, even outright ashamed that their families ever used assistance.  Even something like reduced lunch was a stigma.

      So forgive me if I have a little bit of a short temper when you gripe about your tax dollars going to "lazy" people on Welfare.

      Now, I'm not ABOUT to day that there aren't people who take advantage of the system.  There so very clearly are.  There are plenty of them.  But, honestly?  I'd rather see 100 people "gaming" the system and collecting the whopping $346/month (for a family of 4 - varies by state) than to see one single person go hungry.  I'd rather let all those people "take advantage" than risk knowing that there are mothers out there who just don't eat because they can't afford food for both their kids and themselves.

      Those who take advantage will get theirs in the end, but no one should have to struggle just to have a home and food when it is so easily preventable.

       If you still want to make blanket statements on the "evils" of Welfare, bitching about the unconscionable "waste" of your tax dollars, fine.  That's your prerogative.

      But if you're going to bitch about where your tax dollars are going, then you damn well better be paying attention to a hell of a lot more than just the easy scapegoats who are unfortunate enough to need welfare.  You better not be taking the easy way out and listening to these idiots.

      You want to be pissed about where your tax dollars go?  Let me tell you, if you're focusing on Welfare, you're not looking nearly hard enough. 

      Do you have any idea how much of your tax money goes to farm subsidies? 

       Farm subsidies?

       Surely farm subsidies are a good thing.  I mean, it's the government providing money to poor farmers to keep them from going out of business or protect them from economic tradgedy in cases of drought, floods, and so, on, right?

       Wrong.  Dead wrong.

      Farm subsidies may have been a good idea once (though I'm still on the fence about even saying that), but today they are a massive, destructive monster that seems to go completely unnoticed by the general public while people bitch and moan about their tax dollars going to welfare.

      Every year billions of dollars ($12 billion in 2008) are handed out, largely to corporate farms - part of a chain of events that has global consequences - and no one seems to bat an eyelash.

      If you think this is where those tax dollars are going:
. . . you are sorely, and sadly, mistaken.

      Small family farms - the ones that use sustainable, beneficial farming methods and produce the most nutritious and ethical variety of vegetables - are NOT the ones who benefit from these subsidies.

      The average household income of farms that received $30,000 or more in government payments was above $210,000 in 2008. Farming operations that received between $10,000 and $29,999 in subsidies earned $110,368 in total household income, and the household income of farms that got between $1,000 and $9,999 in subsidies was $70,117, still above U.S. average household income. [1]

      But people would rather bitch about the government giving welfare money to families whose incomes are around or below $10,000.  [1]

      What makes these farm subsidies even more maddening is the fact that the top recipients of subsidies are corn, soybeans, and wheat – exactly those crops that are already benefiting from high prices due in part to federal mandates to use more corn to produce ethanol (which also has awful global and environmental implications). Rather than providing a safety net to help farmers in a time of need as its portrayed, the government is sending money to people who were already pretty well off.

      And what's wrong with subsidizing corn, soybeans, and wheat?  Oh, so very much.  So much that I should really write an entire separate post for it.  More than 800 million people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition right now, yet the majority of corn and soy grown in the world go to feed cattle, pigs, and chickens.  Two to five times more grain (up to 10x in beef) is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock, with fewer health benefits than direct consumption. [2]

       Not only is all this food going to feed livestock instead of people, and therefore reducing the actual amount (and affordability) of food produced, but the subsidies provided to lower the cost of meat actually drive up the price of grain for those who actually depend on it for food.  While this can be a pain for the average US consumer, it is a potentially devastating tragedy to poorer nations, particularly when combined with production being further diverted away from food by ethanol production.  [2]

      Then there are the environmental implications - another vast impact that I could go on about for pages and pages.  In case I didn't make it clear above, subsidizing grain is basically subsidizing meat.  US Americans eat at least two times more protein per day, on average, than recommended.  The farming methods used to produce all this meat are dependent on chemicals and stripping the land - not on rotating crops and preserving nutrients, the only truly sustainable (and much more nutritious, by the way) method of farming.  The erosion and runoff from these method are already causing catastrophic environmental damage.  It is has been calculated out that if US Americans ate just 20 percent less meat (that's only about 6 totally meat free days a month), it would be as if every single one of us switched to driving an ultra-efficient Prius. [2]  Think about how huge an impact that is.  What does that say for the meat industry and for the farm subsidies the government hands out every year?

      That is all just the very tip of this iceberg of destruction and sludge.  I haven't touched on the pollution, the vast myriad of health issues, the oil tie in, the waste products, and the fact that these subsidies are actually contributing directly to the demise of true small, sustainable family farms.

      You want to bitch about your tax dollars going to the undeserving?  Please do.  But please dig a little deeper and don't just go after the easy marks.

      I, for one, would be thrilled to have all the money dumped into these destructive farm subsidies given to programs to help the poorest among us - EVEN if some of those receiving it abuse it.

      Of course, if we're asking for things, I'd really rather see the Welfare system overhauled and a whole lot more money going to Education.  But no one's asking me . . .
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[1]  The majority, if not all, the figures about farm subsidies I cited came from this compilation of data by the Environmental Working Group.  If you are AT ALL interested in this topic, I strongly, strongly recommend reading the article.  It is straightforward and pretty short.
[2]  Most of the meat industry information came from an awesome article I came across in the book Menu for the Future by the Northwest Earth Institute.  If anything of my ranting about Ethical Eating piques your interest at all, you MUST check out this book.  It's a compilation of articles from many sources and in many formats, from literature to factual to poetry, exploring how what we eat affects the world today.  It's a wonderful resource, set up to be part of a discussion group.  And it's only around 100 pages long.  Please have a look.  The article I reference here is called Rethinking the Meat Guzzler (I know, ew.  It's not as graphic as it sounds) by Mark Bittman, first published in the NY Times in 2008.  Click the link and read away.  It will really open your eyes to the effed up way our diet is structured in these here United States.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wide Open Post

      Is there something that you really want to know about me that I've just never mentioned hear on this blog?  Or something I've mentioned or alluded to that left you curious?

       Have I said something or is there something I do on the blog that just drives you freaking nuts?

       Is there something you'd really like to see or know more about?

       Do you want to know more about Ethical Eating?

       Do you think I'm just completely full of it when I talk about the way my family eats or lives?

       Well, this is your chance to ask me anything.  Tell me anything.  Comment, critisize, inquire, request.  Hell, you want to see a picture of the super ugly phase I went through when I was younger?  Just ask. 

       Please.

       I want to know what you all think of the blog.  I want to know what you are curious about.  It can be personal.  It can be factual.  It can NOT be a request for legal advice.

       So I'm asking you to ask away.  Or even kvetch away, if there's just something that annoys you.  I can take it (though I may wonder WHY you read my blog if I annoy you . . .).

       I'm not even just asking you to ask.  I'm begging.  Pleading.

       Demanding.

      Because, let's face it. 

      That's really more my style.

      Give me something, anything, to work with.  You want to see the boudoir shots from around the time we got married?  Ask away.  There's no chance in hell, but you can ask if you want ;-)

       I want feedback.  I want substance.  I want, damnit.

      And it will benefit you to give me what I want.

     Because, otherwise, you're going to get more posts about children vomiting on the carpet and 638 pictures of the various water parks we visit this summer.

      Also, have you ever clicked on the "Linked Within" widget at the bottom of my posts?  Just curious.

      And if you participate in VLOG post link ups, I may have an upcoming VLOG or two, so let me know . . .
  
      How's that for a random non-post?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Psychosomatic Food Poisoning

      If you've been anywhere in the vacinity of my blog (or me) in the last week and a half, you know that last Friday afternoon could not come fast enough.  The pistol range went great, but the rifle range was just one effing debacle after another.  And you know what?  Come Friday afternoon I found out they didn't even have an EFFING score for me!  WTF?!?  Errrrg.  Though, it's probably for the best.  Trying to qualify on an M4, without BZOing, after spending a week snapping in on the M16 wasn't exactly ideal for my marksmanship.

       But Friday afternoon finally came, and I was off like a shot.  Spent a little time chilling at home, then my amazing husband took me out for a "Range is over" celebration dinner at my favorite local Thai restaurant.  They have the most amazing brown wild organic jasmine rice.  Mmmmm . . .   The Gew├╝rztraminer tasted more like a sweet Chard or a dry Riesling, but it was still pretty darn good.  Overall, an amazing dinner.

      Then it was home for some family movie time, Canadian Bacon style.  MacGyver and Punky indulged in a big bowl of air popped popcorn drenched in butter and covered in mac n' cheese powdered cheese.  Gag.  This is something they used to eat all the time before the food Nazi put the smack down they became a little more health conscious.  These days, it's a once in a great while still utterly disgusting treat.  I suspect that this is to blame for what ensued Saturday night.

      Saturday was shaping up to be a wonderful day.  MacGyver got up with Flintsone, and I got to sleep in until 10:30 (!!!), when I was awoken to a delicious breakfast in bed (egg - from our chickens - and cheese on a croissant with sauteed organic peppers), AND MacGyver put on an episode of Xena for me to watch while I ate.  He even made coffee!  We've been getting fancy with the grind your own coffee at home thing (Fair Trade organic, of course).  Honestly, I think it's a waste of time and I don't think I'm nearly fancy enough to be drinking home ground coffee, but it certainly is yummy. 

      After that, we wondered around the Water Festival downtown for a while, which is always a good time, hit up the local coffee shop, then headed home for a delicious lunch.  We had keilbasas from a local, humane farm (with sourkrut, relish, mustard, ketchup - all the good stuff), home made vegan broccoli and cabbage cole slaw, sweet potatoe fries, and organic vegetarian baked beans.  Far from the healthiest lunch on the planet, but it was a weekend.

      Then we headed out for an evening at the bookstore (squee!).  I was about half way through my giant stack of books when MacGyver said his stomach was starting to bother him.  It continued to get worse.  After a while, Punky came and told me her stomach hurt.  Oh, goody.  I could see where this was going.

      We packed up and headed home, having to stop once on the way.

      It was not a good night.  Poor MacGyver was very, very ill.  So was Punky.  I was fine.  At least, I thought I was fine for the first few hours.  Then Punky threw up in her bed.  Then on the carpet.  And I was running back and forth between the two of them between the two bathrooms trying to help in any way I could and I was so hot.  And then I was frozen.  And my head hurt.  And my stomach hurt.  And I thought, "who the heck is going to take care of Flintstone if I go down with this illness, too?" 

      Any mom will tell you, when the rest of the family is sick, even if you have the same symptoms, you don't get to be sick.  At least, that's the way it works in our house.  And, of course, I wasn't nearly as bad as they were.

       I'm actually starting to wonder if the sickness on my part was mostly in my head.  Granted, the pain in my head and stomach were very real, and I was walking around the house all bundled up - even wearing a scarf, in July, but still.

       By Sunday morning, they were both quite a bit better, though still feeling like heck.  I stocked up on Pedialyte, Vitamin Water, and pepto, and made a big pot of home made vegetable soup - the smell of which made me nauseous. 

      I still can't figure out exactly what it was.  It certainly seemed like food poisoning, but the only thing that MacGyver and Punky ate that I didn't was that popcorn.  And I'm not sure how it could be food poisoning with them both very sick and me just a little sick.  Maybe it was some sort of 24 hour bug that hit them harder because of the differences in our immune systems?  Or perhaps they had food poisoning and I had psychosomatic food poisoning? ha.

       Even that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, though.  As a family, we rarely get sick.  Almost never.  We eat a very healthy diet; we stay fit; and we don't smoke.  In my experience, families of smokers get sick a lot more often.  I get sick once, maybe twice a year, max.  Sure, I gripe about headaches and whatnot here and there, and will occasionally push myself so hard for a while that it will physically wipe me out, but I rarely get truely sick.  Flintstone hasn't had a single serious sickness in his whole ten months (knock on wood).  We haven't had to take him to the Dr or urgent care for anything.  Hell, we've only had to take his temperature on a few occassions.  So I don't know what the heck hit us this weekend, but it wasn't pretty.

      Everyone is better today, though, and I leave you with some pictures.  One or two from this weekend, and a whole bunch from a couple weeks ago:

Off to the Water Festival.
My adorable boys.
Aveeno Plug

This kid LOVES the water.  Serious FishBaby




Punky, water queen.




Friday, July 15, 2011

Photo Apocalypse

      As we all know, I've been on the range for the last week/week and a half.  And it has been Hell.  Hell on me.  Hell on my family.  Hell on my poor blog.  I've managed a couple of posts from my phone.  Over the last couple days, I've sent some pictures with the posts.  From my phone.

      Really, most of the pictures on this blog come from my phone because uploading pictures from our camera is a pain in the rear for reasons that are boring and no one really cares about.  Suffice to say, our desktop computer has issues and uploading pictures is a pain in the rear.

      At least a couple nights a week, I upload a picture of the delicious dinner I've prepared in an effort to compensate for working too much from my phone.  The pictures are always blurry and poorly lit and rarely capture just how delicious my excursions into ethical cooking have become.  Seriously, I am now an AWESOME vegetarian, humane, ethical cook.  Awesome.  You should totally follow Cheap Wine and Cookies on FB if you're interested.  ----->

       So looking over my blog at all my shabby, blurry, unflattering phone pictures, I got to thinking.  The majority of my wonderful blog and Facebook friends post copious amounts of pictures, and I love it.  Some of them are great (I estimate that approximately 6 gajillion of my friends are now aspiring photographers), some are just random blurry phone shots like mine, some are somewhere in between - taken with better phone cameras while not holding a squirmy 10 month old.  (WHAT?  10 months?  WTF?  When did that happen?!?!!!)

      I remember back in the day when you had to buy film to put into your camera if you wanted to take pictures.  I remember when, once you snapped the shot, that was it.  You wouldn't get to see it until you got it developped, and one of your precious limited number of exposures (up to 37 if you were really fancy) was gone.

      I remember the excitement of picking up freshly developped pictures to discover how they had turned out.  Some were awesome.  Some were wastes.

      Back then, you really thought about pictures before you took them.  And sharing them was an entirely different story.  Remember vacation slide shows?  Photo albums?  Mailing baby pictures to everyone you know?

      These days you just toss them up on Facebook.  I know I'm guilty of putting up 6 or 7 pictures of Flintstone that are almost identical because I couldn't decide on just one.  I mean, come on, he IS the cutest baby EVER, after all.

      These days, you can snap a picture of what you're cooking for dinner to share with the world.  Post detailed photos of every step of a craft or project to your blog.  Images of the mudane are pervasive.  Stacks of books, knitting needles, new seedlings, and messy livingrooms abound. 

      And I love it.  Even before digital photography, I was a photographer of the mundane.  I still treasure random pictures from my youth of various rooms of our house, our back yard, our motor home in the parking lot of a local gas station.  They're not artsy shots, but I love them because they captured my every day life.

      These days, I love seeing those types of pictures all over the interwebs.  I have them all over my computer, but I rarely, if ever, print any of them out.  I'm quite guilty of forgetting to print out even the pictures I want to.  We have printed and sent pictures of Flintstone to friends and relatives, and we have a few floating around the house, but I have yet to frame any of the ones I've been meaning to.  The same goes for recent pictures of Punky.

      I love photos.  I treasure them.  But the VAST majority of our photos are digital.  Sure, they're backed up abd whatnot, but what happens when the Mayan Apocalypse wipes everything out? 

      MacGyver and I are big fans of the Mayan Apocalypse business.  We have been planning a huge party in December of 2012 since before we even got married.  I'm not even kidding.  If you want to come, drop a comment or email me - CheapWineandCookies [at] g mail and such.

      Do we actually think the magnetic poles will switch and the world will collapse into utter chaos?  Probably not.  It will be another Y2K letdown ;-).  But the documentaries amuse the heck out of us, and we both happen to have intricacies in our astrological charts that fit in with the "prophesies" to an extremely entertaining degree.

     So, when we're bored, we discuss our post-apocalyptic plans.  MacGyver plans out crazy gyroscopic floating house plots in case we find ourselves in a water world.  I contemplate which plants would be the best to grow for food, whether we should have goats, and just how many babies I'd want to have without any hope of medical care.  You know, that sort of thing ;-)

     We even went to Chichen Itza on our honeymoon.  And we got a painting of our anniversary date done according to the Mayan Calendar.  (Another thing that needs to be framed and hung up).



Yes, we are DORKS!  As if you didn't already know that!

      Really, though, I find myself wondering what comes next.  It feels like it's all building up to something.  Punky and Flintstone are growing up in a world where basically every moment of their existance has been catalogued visually, but in a format that could be gone in an instant. 

      Exactly what is the face of photography today?  Can you even call the random pictures of everyday banality photography, or is that a title reserved for wedding photogs and the paparazzi? 

       When the world turns upside down, or the internets collapse, or even when the house burns down, where will it all go?  And how will we adapt without it?

      As you can see, this week has completely wiped my brain.


Flashback Fridays

I decided to link up with Karen for Flashback Fridays and discovered that it's going to save me a whole post.  At the end of this month, we're going on vacation in MI.  Punky will probably be going to see BioB.  If BioB gets her act together enough to take her.  Looking back at my post from this time last year, oh so very little has changed.  Erg.


Photobucket

Once a year, she reappears.  I know it's coming, but I try to tell myself that maybe this year it will slip through the cracks.  But no, every year our lives have to get thrown all out of whack when she crawls back out of the woodwork, in her standard uniform of too-short shorts and too-dark cake makeup. 

Summer Visitation.

Ugh.  Heaven help us all, esp. Punky.  BioB*&^% is back.

Here is the maddening update:

After last year's visitation, Punky came home sick, constipated, wanting to wear make-up, and concerned that she was fat.  It would be a waste trying to put my anger into words, but I think it's rather obvious, so I'll just leave it at that.  Then, surprise, surprise, BioB stopped calling.  Fell off the face of the Earth, like she always does.

She will routinely go a month or more without calling to talk to Punky.  She actually called us much more last year pursuing the adoption than anything else.  And, as you all know, we were well into the swing of the adoption, all the paperwork was filed, and BioB submitted the first document consenting.  The disappeared again.  Our lawyers sent her the termination paperwork, and we didn't hear back from her.  And then we didn't hear back from her some more.  Then, finally, though it was probably too late, she contacted us a couple months ago to say she had signed the papers but she had made some changes to them (seriously?  Don't even get me started on this, friggin idiot).  But she never sent the papers to either us or our lawyers.  So that adoption proceeding is dead in the water. Suck.  To say the least.

During the last of one of these calls about the adoption, BioB implies that she'd like to see Punky this summer.  We have always been very supportive of her taking her visitation (heaven knows for how many years she tried to avoid it) for Punky's sake.  And as much as I hate it internally, we go out of our way to accommodate visitation.  So we told her we would drop Punky off with her just after the 4th of July, provided she arranged transportation back, and she could have her the rest of the summer.

But then she disappeared AGAIN.  For weeks before MacGyver and Punky left for Wisconsin (the beginning of the trip that was scheduled to end with us dropping Punky off with BioB), she was completely unresponsive.  She did not return calls, texts, or emails.  We had no idea whether she still wanted to take her, or even if she still lived in the same place.  It made planning the trip that much more fun.

Then, as is so often the case with her, she popped back up at the most inconvenient time.  Right after MacGyver and Punky had left for WI, meaning just over a week before we were supposed to drop her off.  It had been her first contact with us in about 2 months (give or take).  And the excuses (this woman is the queen of excuses) start flying.  She quit her job (big shocker after we finally got her wages garnished for the child support she has never paid), and had to start waiting tables (go figure she switched to a line of work that depends on tips – a lot harder to garnish that).  She had no money at all and she lost her phone (granted, she now lives with a boyfriend, but apparently she couldn't call her daughter from his phone, that would've been too inconvenient).  And blah, blah, blah, pity me crap.  Whatever.  We still agreed to drop Punky off, as much as it hurt.

Facebook

At the same time, BioB friends MacGyver on Facebook.  I have no idea why, but, hey, I'm not going to complain.  As a lawyer, I've discovered that people put some pretty friggin stupid stuff on FB, and, at the very least it might be a good way to keep tabs on what's going on with Punky while she's there.

So I, of course, went through her entire FB.  What can I say?  I'm thorough.  There are two conflicting things about it, and they both ticked me off.  I know they're conflicting, and I don't care, I think my annoyance at each is justified.

1) Punky wasn't mentioned anywhere.  Going back more than two years, covering at least two visitation periods, it was as if Punky doesn't exist at all to her.  No, I take that back, she mentioned Punky ONCE, in response to someone else's question, and all she said was that "[her] daughter" was turning 8 this year, and how old that made her feel.  That's it.  Punky is a nonentity in her life.

2.)  While Punky wasn't mentioned per se, there were some pictures of her.  Just a few, but there were some there nonetheless.  Including ones of her, at six years old wearing make – up.  And not fun, dress-up make-up, but just actually made up.  Sick.  Thanks for giving my kid a complex.

My anger at her having pictures of Punky up is complicated.  As a parent (or aunt, sibling, etc), how would you feel if you discovered that someone had posted pictures of your child online without your permission?  What if this was a person you couldn't stand, who you didn't want your child around anyway?  Now layer on top of that the frustration of knowing that that person is completely within their rights to post those pictures, that you can't even SAY anything about it.

I hate that she's out there posing as a caring parent to MY daughter.  Genetics be darned, she abandoned her and hasn't shown the slightest hint of parental responsibility in 7 years, she is NOT Punky's mother.  I am.  (Ha, Punky mistakenly referred to BioB as her stepmom just a few days before we dropped her off, pointing out to me that the mom who takes care of you (according to Ms. Spider) is your real mom, so BioB must be her stepmom; I was soooooo sad to have to correct her).

Well, she can just bite me after we get Punky back and I tag all of her pictures.

Another interesting note from FB:  You know that period of time when she was claiming to be SOOOO poor that she couldn't call?  She went on a very enjoyable bar-crawling vacation in Miami.  Huh . . .

Attitude

So we, regretfully, dropped Punky off, with her phone (I dare anyone to give me flak for giving a 7 year old a phone given the environment into which she was going).  On of the conditions to us agreeing to drop her off with such short notice was that Punky would be allowed to keep her phone on her AT ALL TIMES, and could call us whenever she wanted (this is following the debacle of 2 years ago when Punky wasn't allowed to call at all because it used up BioB's minutes and last year when BioB took away Punky's phone because she "called us too much" – including the time she called us because she was upset since it was AFTER NOON and she hadn't yet had anything to eat because BioB wouldn't get out of bed and Punky wasn't allowed to wake her up).

So far, BioB seems to be holding her end of the deal.  But, wow, the change in Punky has been dramatic and immediate.  The day after we dropped her off, Punky called me dripping with attitude.  Neither she nor BioB (apparently) could find the extra shoes we packed for Punky.  "YOU didn't send me enough shoes," my sweet little girl accuses when I answer the phone. 

"They're in the black bag in your suitcase,"  I tell her.

She insists, angrily, that they're not.  So I search our whole car (we're on the road back home at the time).  Nope, I'm sure the shoes are in Punky's suitcase.  I didn't scold or get angry with her, I knew she was probably getting plenty of that from the other end and was stressed from being left with that woman, but MAN, that attitude.  Two days later, TWO DAYS, they found the bag of shoes in Punky's small suitcase.  Huh. . .

But, she has gotten much better.  There was much less outright attitude the last couple times I talked to her, though she still doesn't sound 100% like herself.

All Manner of Creatures

Two summers ago, BioB "got Punky a kitten."  Punky loved the kitten, and I think it was the only positive thing about her visit.  Immediately after we got Punky back, BioB told us she got rid of the kitty.  Just like that.  I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, given that she abandoned her own infant, but still.

I HATE people who mistreat their pets or don't take the responsibility seriously.  It's a living creature that you have taken upon yourself to care for.  It is YOUR responsibility.  It is not an inanimate object to be just tossed away.  It really sickens me when people just disregard pets.  I was so mad at her.  I mean, we would have taken the kitty to save it from being abandoned to a shelter and to save Punky the pain of hearing that the kitty was inexplicably gone.

So I was duly annoyed when BioB informed Punky during her call that last week that she had gotten her some geckos.  1) No you didn't, we all know those are your current live-in-boyfriend's geckos, and 2.) stop with the ridiculous "I got you an animal" crap.  Pets aren't toys – a fact we have worked hard to instill to Punky through our care for the ying-yang pups and her fish, Mean (he's a beta, she said he looks like a Mean).

Then, I talked to Punky a couple days after she got there, and she informed me that BioB and the boyfriend had bought her some fish, too.  Ugh.  Even fish are living creatures, and, as such, not disposable!

AND THEN she called a couple days ago, very excited to tell us that BioB and boyfriend (you know, the ones too poor to even use their phones, the same BioB who couldn't handle the kitten after Punky left last time) got her a dog.  WTF?  What the heck is BioB going to do with a dog after Punky leaves?  Because I can't take it in.  We already have 2 dogs and were planning to get a cat soon.  This has disaster written all over it.

And a second WTF?:  What's with the buying Punky a zoo thing?  Someone trying to buy some love there?  It ticks me off for obvious reasons.  Punky may be thrilled with all this, and she may be only 7, but you can't buy love, you earn it.

One Bright Spot

Remember how one of the conditions of our dropping Punky off was that BioB had to provide the return transportation (something she has only done ONCE in the last 4 years)?  Guess what?  She can't.  Oh, but she can afford rare albino geckos and a dog out of the blue.  And that trip to Miami.

MacGyver told her last week that he would be in WI for the wedding of a couple of old friends and that she could pick Punky up then, but it would shorten the visitation by 2 weeks.  Otherwise, she said she'd provide the transport and we were not going to just front the money yet again like we have so many times in the past.  We work to live within our means, thanks.

Well, she's taking us up on our offer.  Apparently her money is more important to her than those two weeks.  That's her call. 

Tiny happy dance.

Plus, now we get to have some summer fun with Punky!  Beaches, hiking, and looking for dolphins!  Yay.

So there you have it.  The very long version of where things currently stand with BioB and Punky being gone.  I have more to say about my feelings on the matter, but this post has gone more than long enough!  Props to you if you're still with me here at the end!

Drain Chimp

A night like any other: MacGyver and I are working together in the kitchen. Tonight, Macagyver's making broccoli manicotti with humane local sausage while I clean the kitchen and feed Flintstone.
Then we hear it. The same sound we hear most nights: A sort of squaking croak coming from somewhere near the sink. We're pretty sure it's a frog, but it sounds exactly like a monkey. Even though we've checked under the sink and inside the drains, we can't find the source of the sound. It really sounds like it's coming from the drain. Hence: The Drain Chimp.
My only concern is that it's a poor little frog trapped somewhere in the pipes.
But finally, after a few weeks of almost nightly serenades by the Drain Chimp, MacGyver finds him: a cute little green tree frog tucked away and hiding way in the corner of the window over the sink. He isn't trapped, because the external screen is open. Guess we'll have to stop calling him the Drain Chimp.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Missing from the last post.
The aforementioned chile peppers from the garden.
This week isn't getting better. Suck. Suck. Suck. Details later. Maybe not. Suffice to say Suck. The whole damn thing is turning into a goat rope. In 120 degree heat. I was almost a heat casualty today. It was probably hyponutremia - no idea how to spell that. Its been too hot to eat. I've lost 4, maybe 5 pounds this week (ie, in 3 days). At the end of the day, I was too dizzy to walk to my car on my own.
Suck.
And it was such an amazing weekend! It was sooooo great. That makes this whole week suck more. I made the muffins in the picture this weekend. Vanilla Chai Muffins. Vegan ones, made with real organic Chai tea. AMAZING. And they smelled soooooo good. Home made cream cheese icing (so much for being vegan . . . ).
I hope you're all having a better week than me. I bet you are.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fck - Pt 1

Yesterday was a complete azfck of a day. Got up at 0400 to make it to the Armory by 0500 (and barely made it b/c Flintstone decided to get up at 0400, too). Got my M16 and drove over to the range to enure the hour long does-anyone-know-what-the-hell-is-going-on gaggle. Slated for first relay b/c I'm a dual shooter (rifle in the am, pistol in the pm), I ended up getting bumped to third relay b/c everyone firing w/ an RCO (scope) got slid ahead of iron sights (me).
Got started firing and put two rounds dead in the black, but the position I use in the sitting is unusual and it made the range coaches nuts. They messed and messed and messed w/ it, trying to put me into physically impossible positions - and effing up my shots.
The coaches decided I was "too small" for the M16 (even though I've fired it many times in the past w/ no problems). They sent me to get an M4, meaning I had to start shooting all over again in the afternoon - after sitting there for hours waiting for everyone else to finish. All of this in a 112 or so heat index. Oh, and you have to wear your sleeves down on the range. I was soaked through from the start.
I got a few relays into my M4 relay when I got some txts from MacGyver. He was having and anaphalactic reaction to something and was at the hospital. I was rushed off the range and gunned it to the hospital. About 3 minutes before I got to the gate, I realized I still had the M4 in the back. Fck! Rushed back to the Armory,
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Fck - Pt 2

(Stupid phone shortening my damn posts)
I rushed to the Armory, turned in the M4, and finally made it to the hospital 1/2 hour after I got MacGyver's text. The information person told me I couldn't see him. "They're still working on him," he told me.How awful does that sound?
So Punky and I waited. She did pretty well - I'm sure that's mostly because she had no idea what was going on. I reassured her that Daddy would be fine. I was very, very calm. That's what happens when all hell breaks loose in my life. I get calm. RaTional and detatched. It's a good skill. Of course, minor dramas make me crazy, and I deal with a heck of a lot more of those ;-). And stress makes me tired. It's weird.
When I finally got to see him, I didn't like what I saw. Tubes, pale, still swollen. Terrible. Thankfully, he looked much better w/in a couple hours. That night, while he was telling me what happened, dtails abt breaking out and his tongue swelling, I almost fell asleep listening to him. Stress makes me tired.
So it was a crap day, but everything is ok. Except we don't know what it is that MacGyver's allergic to.
And I'm back on the range. All week. Don't expect any blog comments from me, but I'll be missing you all.
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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Navigators

      So, remember when we went to GA and it was super awesome and there was so much super exciting EVERYTHING to be super excited about?!?!  (If you can't tell, that sentence is meant to be read as if delivered by an excited 5 year old at an amusement park.  On speed.)

      Remember how I tried (and failed) to capture all the awesomeness and tell you about all the amazing groups and activities we discovered there?

      Well, there was one thing that I held back purposefully because it definitely rates it's own post.

       MacGyver and I are planning to start a brand new scout troop!  We're going to start a Navigators Troop!

      Punky has been in Girl Scouts for a couple years now, in a couple states.  And there are plentiful Boy Scout Troops available here, too.  So why would we start an entirely new and seperate scouting orgnaization in the area?  Well, there are a few reasons.  First, because Navigators is super awesome (more on that below).  Second is that - even though I know this is not true of ALL Girl Scout troops - the GS Troops Punky has been involved in have basically been about pointless crafts (glueing glitter to rocks, anyone?) and social snack times - and selling cookies! - more than anything else.  Third is that MacGyver and I strongly disapprove of the Boy Scouts' prejudice and exclusionary practices.  (As a note, the Girl Scouts do not tout the Boy Scouts' backward, pompous rules).

      So we're starting a Navigators Troop!  Navigators are NOT a religiously affiliated organization.  That said, the values of the organization are very UU.

I mean, for starters, let's check out the Navigator Moral Compass:

As a Navigator I promise to do my best
To help create a world free of prejudice and ignorance.
To treat people of every race, creed, lifestyle and ability
With dignity and respect.
To strengthen my body and
Improve my mind to reach my full potential.
To protect our planet and preserve our freedom.


Oh. My. Gosh.  Does it GET better than that?  I want to be a Navigator!

And there's more:

Cardinal Points
A Navigator is:
Truthful
Respectful
Inclusive
Patient
Dependable
Resourceful
and Cooperative

Navigator Motto
Stay On Course
 
Navigator Slogan
The More You Give
The More You Get


And the very last selling point; the final lynch pin that cemented this as something we NEED to do?

Official Game of the Navigators:
Zombie Tag

Yes, Zombie Tag.  It involves pretend brain eating (but only pretend - the rules explicitly state that if you eat anyone's brains for real, the game is over).

      I don't really have a whole lot of extra time to become a Scout leader, but this just feels so worth it.  And it's co-ed, so we won't ever have to worry about dividing the kids between troops (other than by age).  It's going to be hard because of the time factor.  But if we can pull it off, it will be amazing.  I would give up Roller Derby to make this work.  (Of course, I will be back to Derby the MOMENT I have time to devote to it, so don't go thinking that was some blanket statement or anything, but yes.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

WWTK Wednesdays: Grass Week

So, next week I'm on the range, meaning I have to go back to get my annual qualifications on the M16 and the 9mm.  Range week is going to be crazy because it will require me to be out of the office most of the day every day the entire week.  Sweating my ass off and showing some little paper guys who's boss.  This week is what's called "Grass Week."  Basically, refamiliarizing with the feel of the weapon in the various firing positions and a lot of dry firing.  Also in the heat.  Also not in my office.  So another crazy week.



This is from Range Week last year at TBS.

We Want to Know Wednesday Q&A hosted by:



This week's questions are from Janette:

{1}Name five of your favorite new blogs that you're reading.
This is harder than it should be.  I’ve been reading a number of wonderful new blogs lately, but it’s hard to say which are my 5 favorite new ones.
Bonzai Aphrodite does spring immediately to mind as well as Anywhere There’s an Airport, Manager to Mom, and Sunlight After Rain.  That’s only 4.  I’m saving the other spot for someone I’m obviously forgetting.  I’ve gotten 3 or 4 new followers in the last couple weeks, but because of the stupid blocking software on this computer, I don’t know who they are!  The # 5 spot is honorarily theirs in case I haven’t mentioned them yet.  And don’t be shy about dropping a comment to tell me you’re one of my newer followers; I’d appreciate it!

{2} When you were a young child or teenager, did you have an idea of how many children you wanted and what their names would be? Did you follow through on your ideas?
When I was a kid, I figured I’d have one boy and one girl and I went through a whole slew of silly names.  In my later teens, I did not want kids at all but figured it was inevitable.  I decided I would name a girl Sage and a boy Tane.  Currently, I would like  a flock of children and I have a list of about 15 names for each gender that I LOVE.

{3} What is the silliest thing you fight with someone about? Could be your spouse, sibling, parents, co-worker etc.
Somehow – and I’m still not really sure HOW this always ends up happening – but somehow almost every time we visit my mom, my brother, mom, and I get into a playful argument about a few particular words.  When I get annoyed with my brother, I tend to call him a penis.  He calls me a vagina in retort.  My mom HATES that word.  HATES it.  So then she gets all mad and starts insisting that we both use the word twat.  I hate that word.  Ick.

Yes, that is the silly argument that gets repeated with frightening regularity.

{4} What is your favorite scent that other's may not find very nice? ie: gasoline, sweat from your sweetie, etc.
Hot asphalt in the summer.  It makes me sad because it’s really a sign of bad things for the environment, but, nevertheless, I love the smell.

{5} Thoughts on Plastic Surgery? (had it? want it? regrets?)
I’m not a fan.  If it’s purely cosmetic (boob jobs, face lifts, lipo, etc.), I think it contributes to the overall problem of unrealistic expectations in the US of how the human body, especially but not only, the female body, is supposed to look.

That said, I’m not going to malign anyone for getting it.  At least not to their face.  And probably not behind their back either, unless they have some personality traits that I also don’t like.  But really, it’s an individual decision and I recognize that different people have different views.

And I’m technically getting major plastic surgery in a year or so.  Granted, it’s corrective, but still . . .

Q1 is from HomeSickCajun
Q2 is from LindiciousLife
Q3 is from JessicaMcCoy
Q4 is from Amy@991

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Totems


      Driving in to work in the morning, I pass through the salt marsh at sunrise.  The water is glassy and still, reflecting the green Spartina grass.  Pelicans occasionally swoop down, scooping up fish, stirring up ripples on the glassy surface.  It's peaceful and beautiful and a little bit magical.  And every time I see those pelicans, I think of my grandpa.

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      My grandpa was an amazing man who lived an amazing life.  I was always close to him growing up.  He joined the RAF and Royal Canadian Air Force in WWII in order to be involved before the US joined the war.  Once the US was in, he was in the US Air Force.  He was a skilled and talented artist in many mediums.  His marble sculptures are unbelievable.  He was an inventor.  And he painted pelicans.  He painted all kind of nature, all beautifully, but if an animal appeared in his work, it was often a pelican.  My mom has a beautiful pelican painted on an old chunk of wood that he did by her back door.  To me, pelicans represent my grandpa.  Pelicans, to me, are his Totem.

      Many, many people in my life have animal totems, whether they recognize them or not.  My mom loves moose and alligators.  She loves them so much that people have given her tons of moose and alligator things - artwork, tchotchkes, clothes, magnets, household items - all moose or alligator themes.  Why moose and alligator?  They are personifications of large parts of her life.  My mom is Canadian.  Even though she's lived in the US for most of her adult life, she will always be Canadian through and through.  Hockey, french fries and gravy, and, of course, moose.

      When she was 17, my mom moved to Florida with two of her friends (wonder where I got my adventurous spirit from?).  She lived in Florida for years.  She loved Florida.  She still does.  She became and adult in Florida.  She met my dad, got married, had me (well, she had me in Canada, but she went back to Florida when my dad got back from his deployment).  I suspect that her years in Florida were the big adventure of her life.

      Whether she knows it or not, her Totems are Moose and Alligators.
 
My mom has 2 of these in her house.
Every member of my family has stubbed
a toes on it many times.
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      When MacGyver was growing up, his whole family had animal nicknames.  He was Hippo (related to his impressive swimming abilities).  His mom was Duck.  Often, when Punky picks out gifts for her grandma (MacGyver's mom, my mom is her "Nan," just like I called my mom's mom my Nan), she often chooses ducks.  We had to go all over hell to find a duck Christmas ornament in December.

      Now, in his adulthood, MacGyver's totem is clearly the squirrel.  MacGyver loves squirrels, and he relates to their boundless, eccentric energy.  MacGyver is fast friends with the squirrels that live in our back yard.  His favorite is Montey:

This is Montey chilling on the wall next to our driveway.
         Punky hasn't grown into her totem yet, but I've assured her that it is only a matter of time.  I suspect her totem might be some sort of tropical fish.

      NotDonna's Totem is elephants.


      And my Totem?  Well, there have been many.  I've mentioned before that when I was growing up, there was a painting of owls that hung next to the back door (which was the main entrance) of our house.  It was always like those owls were watching over us.  That same painting has watched over the doors to every home MacGyver and I have moved to.  My favorite Winnie the Pooh character was the Owl.  I revere wisdom, which owls are said to represent.  Owls will always be one of my Totems.


The Owls that gaurd our home.

      What sucks is that suddenly owls are super popular in everything, so what was once just a treasured symbol in my life is now a cutesy image that every other person sticks all over everything they own.  And when the owl fad ends, I'll still love owls, but it will look like I'm just clinging to an old trend.  Whatever.  At the very least, I like owls that are a little more natural looking than the pink and green cartoony things that most people seem to like.


      Flintsone also loves owls.  His mobile is owls, and those owls were his very first friends.  He used to coo and gurgle at them all the time.  He would get sad when the mobile wasn't on.  Now, he lights up every time he sees the owl calander hanging in our kitchen.  He waves at it, he giggles at it.  I wouldn't call owls his real Totem,  but they're certainly a good start.

      When I was in 2nd grade, I decided I was going to be a wildlife biologist.  Over the next year or two, this became more specific as I became obsessively interested in Australia.  I decided I wanted to study marsupials, especially Koalas.  Koalas became my Totem as a kid.  I had tons of stuffed koalas, posters, books and books and books, puzzles, etc.  I still sleep with a very sad bedraggled looking stuffed koala (and another that MacGyver gave me to try to "replace" my childhood koala).

      As an adult, I've lost interest in koalas.  They don't carry much depth for me.  But I've had many Totems.  Tropical lizards in keeping with my mom's alligators.  Black widow spiders - we used to have an infestation of them when I was in my late teens and they always interested me far more than they scared me.  And I was more than a little amused by the whole killing their mates thing.  Others have come and gone.  Owls have been constant.

      For well more than 10 years, one of my major, if not my main, Totems has been the Praying Mantis.  I love insects.  I always have.  I specialized in Entomology at Purdue (1 class away from earning a minor).  Praying Mantis appeals not only based on the fact that females are known to eat the male's head during copulation (which has interestingly been shown to happen predominantly in captivity - another appealing metaphor in my life), but also because of the air of spirituality, the sleek grace (not that I have an ounce of grace, personally), the patient pursuit of goals.  And mantids are beautiful.  For years I have toyed with the idea of getting a praying mantis tattoo.


[via]
       The Ant is another insect totem I've looked to.  Not as much as the praying matis, but maybe on a deeper level, or for a more specific purpose.  One of the most touted facts about Ants is that many of them can carry over 100 times their own body weight.  Symbols of the ant have always appeared during times of stress in my life (and there have been many - abusive relationships, homelessness, debilitating illness, muggings - that is all just the beginning).  My friends took me to a Tarot card reader for my birthday early in Law School.  I didn't take it very seriously until she turned over the significator card.  It was an Ant.  She told me I would get married and have two kids by the time I turned 28.  Right . . .  (Ahem, I turned 28 2 months after Flintstone was born).

      Lately, though, a new Totem has appeared in my life.  A new symbol that I find holds deep meaning for me.  From the moment MacGvyer gave me a necklace with this symbol on it, I knew it had a place in my life.  It felt right around my neck, and, honestly I've been drawn to it all along I just didn't really realize it.  As I grow - physically, emotionally, and spiritually - I feel pulled to this image.  As I discover my place in the wheel, I find myself part of the symbol.

      My new Totem is not an animal.

      It is the Tree of Life.
This is very similar to the pandent MacGyver
got me, though mine is bronze.
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      Deep, expansive roots; strong trunk with rough, strong bark and tender, conductive flesh below; branches that continually stretch up and out - reaching without straining, always growing, always cycling.  Sometimes covered in lush, green leaves.  Sometimes dormant and still, a stark figure in a snowy, windswept landscape.  A different kind of wisdom.  An older form of life.  A tree sustains life; it provides shelter, sustainance, and oxygen. 

      I am not letting go of owls or praying mantids or ants.  All of these creatures can be found in the tree.  But I have a new Totem.  The Tree of Life.
[via]
      Now watch it explode in popularity and soon everyone will have these freaking trees adorning their homes, tee-shirts, and blogs.  Just watch.

This is made of recycled Haitian Steel.  We have two of them in our house.
Both came from The Rainforest Site store.

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