Archives for November 2018

Thanksgiving in Hot Water

Today our water heater died.

The day before Thanksgiving. The day before you’re supposed to scrub up and cook. Wash potatoes for mashing and celery for stuffing.

Wringer1

I do know what I’m doing, I promise!

The day family you haven’t seen in a year comes to visit, and maybe you want a shower first.

Today was an excellent example of why, sometimes, I don’t get anything done.

This house has many issues, most of which don’t impede the average day’s living. Old linoleum is still good for walking on. The broken lid of the washing machine still latches. The toilet only leaks sometimes. But lacking hot water crosses into the realm of real poverty.

I was tweaking my resume to apply for a really cool position when Hubs turned off the power (and thus, the WiFi. The kids freaked out!) to examine the heating elements.

After some research, the only scenario that fit our situation was described as the death phase. The inner tank had rusted through and repair was not an option.

I have $1.57 in the bank, and that’s after canceling some things and getting overdrafts refunded. Your average water heater is about $400.

So I went to the cell network and applied for an emergency grant. We are struggling but it’s not because we don’t know how to work. We are trying to give our kids some kind of normal life while we dig ourselves out from under a decade of poor choices that seemed like good ideas at the time.

We are exactly the kind of people charity is meant for. Right?

Riffing on my idea, Hubs texted the pastor of our church asking if he knew of any charities we might talk to.

“Yes. I can give you what you need from the parish discretionary fund.”

Chocolates

How did you know?

We were blown away. We have only been attending this church since May. This man whose conviction I respect but whose faith I don’t share was willing to step up and give us our sense of normalcy back.

I guess I’ll definitely be going on Sunday.

Our friend Caleb and Hubs emptied and detached the broken unit. The church financial officer met them at Lowe’s and paid for a 50 gallon tank to replace our 40 gallon one.

While at the store, they ran into an old coworker of mine who now heads a department there. He said I should call, and I did. We talked about me getting in an application (again) and he would put in a good word for me. Even if it comes to nothing, it’s really nice to be remembered. To be considered someone worth sparing a thought for.

I was making dinner, the only adult left not fighting with plumbing. Two men and the homeowner, I was just extra hands. While the chicken and potatoes baked I started a new Lowe’s application.

The guys had to go back to the store once for a different size connector. From two and a half years working at Lowe’s’ only major competitor, I know they actually did pretty well. I was interrupted again when they got back. Then I served dinner. Then I tried to get the toddler to eat. I tangled with the 7th grader over helping finish clean up before relatives arrived. She didn’t want to do it.

“Yeah, well I don’t really want to cook but people gotta eat.”

She was not impressed.

High Puppy

You are so weird, but adorable!

Around 8:00 when my sister in law arrived with her two kids, the men were still in the cellar. I was tasked with watching the bathroom faucet until the water ran normally. This I did while using the toilet and keeping the toddler out of the trash can.

By this time he was very cranky. He got to stay up an hour past his bedtime.

Sis in law Misty is a hardworking nurse and took her mother and me to the store for holiday goodies. Somehow we were out until just after 10, and Caleb had gone home by the time we got back.

We unpacked the popcorn and paper plates, beer and wine. Hubs asked if “anyone would mind” if he took a shower.

You sweet thing. “You spent all day in the basement. I’d be surprised if you didn’t.”

“Yeah,” Misty agreed. “I’d be upset too!”

That man spent all day working on the hot water problem. I would say he earned the first hot shower.

It’s funny how they seem to feel entitled to so much – leisure time, women’s bodies – but sometimes don’t see the sensible reward of their work. My man is a fascinating amalgam of contradictions that I will probably spend the rest of my life marveling at and shaking my head.

We poured some drinks and sat down to watch a movie, like this was just another day. Hubs was obviously exhausted but insisted he wanted to stay up after the movie to listen to the conversation. 

Now he’s snoring in our bed. Mother in law is sleeping on the couch while Misty and her twins use her bed. Just one more example of generosity that goes above and beyond. The kind that I long assumed existed only in stories. My mother is hard-pressed to share her orange juice.

Ironing

Will you love me if I iron out all these kinks?

I awoke this morning after Hubs got up to use the bathroom. Waking up to an empty bed always makes me sad. It taps some deep sense of loneliness that is buried when I am fully awake.

And lately I just feel like such a fuck-up. This Summer I came face to face with the gritty reality that neither of my parents cares much about me. No one in my family has made an effort to get to know my life as it is now. To keep up with where I’m at.

I feel like an emotional orphan, and sometimes I can’t fight off the sense that no one cares. I remember how many times I have seen people rationalize themselves out of perfectly good relationships because they aren’t getting what they want at the moment. If a situation isn’t fulfilling you, move on. Follow your bliss.

But real life isn’t always blissful. It can’t be. The most we can realistically hope for is a life where we sometimes get to relax. Where those close to us assume we are doing our best instead of nitpicking our mistakes.

Monday Hubs went to get toilet paper and came home with $40 of groceries and no toilet paper. I guess the rational response would have been frustration but my first thought was, That’s my man! “We really are soulmates, huh?”

Yesterday I called the temp agency again. The girl told me they are looking for clerical workers with recent experience, and my last office job was in 2005. Or they have 12-hour industrial shifts available.

I have resorted to applying for fast food crews. I need something for a few months until I actually make some money substitute teaching. Even if I can get all the available hours in December, I won’t see that money till January 20th.

I started out the day sad, dragged back to the feeling that everyone is temporary. No one really cares. The bitter frustration fell in uncontrollable tears and Hubs wrapped his arms around me.

“I have been where you are. I understand. It’s gonna be okay.”Lovers

It’s embarrassing that I still struggle sometimes to believe him when he says nice things. Not because I think he’s lying or doesn’t have the best intentions.

Because I watched my mother promise to stand by someone forever and then abandon them when things got hard. Three times. Because my father chews through people like gnawing on a turkey leg. Because I have had two long relationships of my own that began with someone telling me they loved me and ended with me crying alone in the dark.

And yet I still put myself out there. What choice is there? The only alternative is to give up and accept that a real sense of connection, of loyalty, is a fairy tale. But I flatter myself that I feel love in my heart, a sense of connection that doesn’t taper off because someone isn’t exactly what they seemed. That’s like putting a dog down because it barks after you take it home.

I can’t be the only one who cares.

000telephone

Hello, faith in Humanity?

Today I was shown generosity by four people who had no obligation to do so. Today I saw generosity that had nothing to do with me but that I have to admire.

Sometimes I don’t feel like I have a lot to be grateful for. The curse of emotional abuse is it wires your brain for a sad world. You simply don’t see the love you need so desperately. It just doesn’t compute.

But I am grateful to have been adopted by these people who drive 9 hours to spend 3 days together. Who give their child their bed. Who can listen to the paranoid ravings of a sad fuck-up and accept it when she admits he did nothing wrong but she can’t quite shake the fear. The fear that takes little things and condenses them into damnation like a rookie prosecutor.

Xmas music has been playing in the stores since Halloween. Thanksgiving has essentially become Xmas: The Dress Rehearsal. But tomorrow, when we are gathered around the feast we have cobbled together, I will push the pain of the last eight months out of my mind.

I am happy that at least I am celebrating with different people. Hopeful that maybe I have found some others who really care.

And when the time comes to clean up, I will be grateful for the hot water and the friends without whom it would not be.

Trump is Baby Boom’s Death Rattle

Tonight I attended the monthly meeting of my local Democrat Executive Committee. I represent my ward with my male counterpart Dave.

Donald Points UpWe didn’t do very well in this recent election. There was disappointment but still a light mood in the room. Until 2016, the Democrats had no organization in East Tennessee at all.

Two of the women there had worked the polls. “Up came this lady, had to be 80, with a walker!”

“‘What brings you out today?’ And she said, ‘The President called me personally.'”

There were a couple groans.

“There were wheelchairs and walkers and oxygen tanks…. It was unreal. They really came out for him.”

Of course, Donald Trump did not call those people personally. They’re doing amazingly weird things with interactive recordings lately. But these people don’t even go to the grocery and she said many of them were voting for the first time in their lives.

Drunk Red Dress

All this ease of travel and communication really helps you find the best stuff, you know?

So this is the final destination of the ‘Tune in, turn on, drop out’ generation; Hanging onto influence by their brittle fingernails to support a guy who’s been ripping them off for 40 years. I guess that’s what turning off gets you.

They were young during the longest sustained period of prosperity in modern history and failed to use much of it to maintain the legacy the first half of the century left them: Infrastructure.

Bridges are crumbling and the electrical grid is frighteningly out of date. The economy continues to lurch in a bubble of market-driven inflation that doesn’t extend to the nitty-gritty daily lives of millions of people. Prices go up and wages don’t. Somehow in the midst of grabbing up property on the cheap, the biggest generation in history forgot to ensure the stability of those who came behind them.

As a 90s kid, I grew up in the first big wave of Boomer nostalgia. They were in their 30s and 40s and gave us the Beatles Anthology and Austin Powers. TV stations like VH1 broadcast documentaries about idols of the 60s and 70s until it seemed like there was no one left unmemorialized.

The Boomers were activists who stared down the National Guard and ended Vietnam. Hippie chic meshed flawlessly with the remnants of Grunge and psychedelia made a comeback.

The buildup to the Iraq War happened the Spring of my first year in college. At 19 it slowly dawned on me how little progress had actually been made in a lot of areas. The Military Industrial Complex was alive and kicking, and the Baby Boomers were leading the charge.

Fur Pas

The heart wants what it wants, and mine wants creature comforts!

The Me Generation took over as the largest voting bloc in the early 80s. How is it that the Hippies gave us Reaganomics?

It’s actually quite simple. I found a fascinating New York Times article dated November 5, 1984. A woman from New Hampshire is quoted as saying, ”I guess I have more to lose now.” Mary Beater admitted, “I’ve gotten attached to my creature comforts. I’ve started having a vested interest in the status quo, because I am the status quo.”

Such candid, clueless irony is typical of privileged people. At 36, Mrs. Beater was too young to have attended Woodstock but she concisely condensed the spirit of the age – Self-fulfillment.

They danced, they did drugs and then they bought houses and had key parties. The kids raised on TV dinners gave us cable TV, latchkey kids and skyrocketing divorce. They commodified everything they touched. (Pet rocks?)

The New York Times of 1984 said, “The tax issue is critical to many born in the baby boom.” Mrs. Beater “was a Democrat while in college.” She tells the paper, “I’m tired of being the middle class that pays for all of those giveaways.”

I’ve got mine, fuck you.

Why give back to the society that allowed you to be comfortable? Gratitude isn’t cool.

In one paragraph, this woman says she’s for the status quo then argues for dismantling the national safety net.

Slide

It’s your turn when I say it’s your turn!

She’s for the parts of the establishment that benefit her. And she’s not embarrassed to tell you all about it.

Those of us who came after have always lived in their shadow. We Millennials are actually even bigger than they are. We are also more diverse. We have been waiting nearly 40 years for them to step aside but, as the oldest of them approach 75, they are losing their pretense.

Donald Trump is their favorite because he is a perfect embodiment of everything they really want – Whatever they want. Money, fame and power. But not for anything as high-minded as controlling an empire. The whole thing is an elaborate smokescreen for getting away with whatever they’re into at the moment.

Millennials became the largest bloc of voters in 2016. But the Boomers are staying true to form. They are using their accumulated influence to extend their reign over culture.

The Democrat meeting ended early. Putting in the effort to make a difference and getting nowhere knocks the wind out of you for a minute. Hopeful words from 50 years ago rang in my ears, about the passage of time. How the next generation will inevitably win.

What will we do with it? How are we going to rebuild the infrastructure while climate change accelerates all around us? How are we going to beat back the forces of racism and totalitarianism that metastasized while the Boomers feathered their economic bubble?Boomer Steve

It finally popped in 2007. It pulled the rug from under the Xers and made our brand-new degrees worthless. Those coming behind us know what’s up. The other day I was talking with a 20-year-old who said her teen dream was to be a dental hygienist.

The Democrats still managed to take the House of Representatives. The next few years are going to be riveting as the Digital Natives try to pull the reins from the group whose parents curated an entire culture for them to grow up in. Expect the passing generation to grab everything they can on their way out.

Whither the Boys?

When women run the world, what will we do with those pesky males?

I have encountered several different angles on the question of being a Feminist while still pursuing less radical womanly things. Especially parenting.

Mother And Her Children By Alfred Stevens 1883

I could be attending a lecture right now!

I read an entire essay about how one woman dislikes males so much she can’t understand why any woman would have a son.

She said it’s misguided to tell women we can counteract the patriarchal culture that tells boys they are entitled. That a mother’s love goes unappreciated and just lays the foundation of their entitlement.

She and some commenters shared anecdotes of little boys being awful to illustrate how boys are allowed to be bad.

Okay, so teach them better.

But we wouldn’t want to give women an illusion of power to influence their own children.

Has this woman never heard of archetypes? Sigh

I read one by a self-proclaimed ex-Radfem who found herself spiraling into fear and hatred to the point she states, point-blank, that Radical Feminism is driven by hate.

She raised several good questions but didn’t answer any of them, one being whether a group is responsible for the behavior of the extremists in their ranks. I would argue that we are, but I’m not sure what to say to someone who has completely written off half the human race.

1950s Usa Johnson And Johnson Magazine Advert

When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail!

Hating someone because they remind you of someone who hurt you is not fair. Or healthy. Or productive.

If you hate males, fine. Avoiding them is probably best. If you don’t want to have children, we’re all better off if you stick to that.

But it’s weird to me that those of us who have taken the opportunity to do what thousands of generations have done, without which there would be no future generations, are made to feel like the outliers. Like we owe others an explanation.

Yeah, I fell in love and had a child with the man I love. That’s right, he’s a man. Our child will be one day, too. I still think women should be liberated from the oppressive system that reduces us, one way or another, to our breeding status.

And none of this cancels out the horrific stories and statistics about male violence. Whenever a specific example of a man who isn’t an asshole is brought up, it is immediately shot down with variations of the adage “anecdotal evidence is evidence of nothing.”

I wrote an entire post about how we need to examine our motives and influences in our decision-making, especially along sexual lines. But if we do and come to a conclusion that doesn’t involve somehow removing men from our lives, no explanation seems good enough for some

Fit To Kill

I can wear whatever I want! Watch out, you wild animals!

hardliners.

I believe strongly in the major tenets of Radical Feminism. Female oppression is alive and well and must be opposed. Gender roles keep people in boxes that support patriarchy. When I read in black and white that we are what we are and not conforming to expectations was normal, I realized I had always known this. But finding it written out crystallized it in my mind.

I see Patriarchy in my life every day. I have two teenage daughters and they seem to have it worse than we did 20 years ago. I want to work toward a world where boys are taught to focus on their work rather than girls being punished for showing their knees. (Through ripped jeans! In the 90s we would have been lost without our ripped jeans! These girls were WEARING PANTS.)

And I understand that my personal positive experience doesn’t change the fact that many women are relegated to half-lives because they might have a baby.

But I’m also practical at heart. Eradicating males or turning them into some kind of slave class is (aside from being cruel and hypocritical) completely impractical!

This, beyond anything, is my frustration with Feminism of every stripe (except those who are supposedly Feminist but don’t believe patriarchy exists. So what is Feminism to you, some kind of sparkly ruffle book club? What do you think we’re doing here??) We are great at pointing out the flaws in the system and articulating and scrutinizing them.

But no one has any real solutions.

And teaching our sons better is apparently a waste of time.

A Knockout

Whatever, I’m ready to rumble!

This is so frustrating because how are we to fix anything?? Slowly elect a few more women to Congress and hope they aren’t as corrupt as their male peers? I have never seen any evidence that women are less corruptible than men. And it occurs to me that the image of Woman as Stalwart Defender of Morality has a very Puritanical feel to it if you sit with it for a minute or two.

We are all still digging out from under entrenched ideas about what women are and are not, what we should and should not do. If political lesbians want to opt out of this struggle entirely I can’t blame them. It’s difficult and confusing and why can’t we just be human and leave it at that??

Because we came in on the middle of the story. We have to play the hand we’ve been dealt. I have two sons who I am going to hold to higher standards than their peers will. No one ever said doing that with academics or manners was a waste of time.

And I’m damn sure not going to do nothing.

As a kid I was part of the Great Bussing Experiment, where inner city kids were bused out to the suburbs in an attempt to, among other things, accustom us kids to people who were different from us.

And it seems to have worked, at least for me. I score low on racial bias and, because of where I grew up, breathe a sigh of relief when I see some darker faces in a crowd. Being an urban Yankee in the South is weird sometimes.

I’m not immune to the other conditioning I receive but I’m conscious of it as an issue. My mother is a closeted racist and I think quite a bit of progress was made between her generation and mine.

Paintings Of Mothers Mother And Daughter Oil Paintings Victorian Mother Amp Daughter At

Then the female humans got to be people too, and they all lived happily ever after!

And our only alternative is to not try. We have to do something more than nothing. Sorry, straight women, you’re never going to figure out why sex is unsatisfying or how to identify men who aren’t total assholes, because we’re just going to send them all to an island and never speak of them again.

Our only alternative is to excuse ourselves from the fight which, to me, is disrespectful to the women who fought and died so we could read well enough to decide it’s not worth doing.

I also read something a while back that I keep turning over in my mind because it’s so weird. About how semen is a hypnotic agent and women who are exposed to it regularly are docile and controllable. How the Y chromosome is defective and those who carry it are barely better than beasts. How every man is a powder keg of testosterone waiting for his opportunity to rape.

And it read almost exactly like what MRAs write about women. It’s easier to write those off because I am one. I can simply ask myself if X is true or not. It’s harder to wave away screeds about the evils of men because I have seen them do things I couldn’t understand. I have known many who felt no qualms about their right to view as many naked women as possible. I have known a few who did awful things.

A few who did awful things. This is key: most of the terrible crimes are committed by a few repeat offenders. Most men are not rapists, which seems to contradict the idea that they are all just waiting for the right opportunity.

At 15 I was embarrassingly swayed by male attention. This is how I found myself alone one afternoon with an 18-year-old acquaintance. We were in his attic bedroom and no one else was home. He was persistent about touching me and it didn’t occur to me until much later how badly this could have gone.

Jack The Ripper

The famous ones are not a good representative sample!

But when he reached the edge of my experience he stopped without my saying a word. He sent my confused teen self home, and never pressured me for anything more.

A very long story and 17 years later, I married that boy. He’s a sexual abuse survivor too and we discuss this kind of thing quite a bit.

Men’s vanity and insecurity have crippled humanity by crushing the spirit of half our population. As women and leaders we must do better. Men should be held accountable so that one rapist doesn’t have the opportunity to spoil the well for everyone. As a counterpoint to teaching girls to speak up, we must teach boys to listen.

And hey, if entire subcultures in this country can insulate their children from all of science, I feel like I have some hope of teaching my son that women are people.

This Could Be Your Lucky Day in Hell

Fire Pole

I’m not sure I’m doing this right!

“You can’t miss another day, okay sweetie? You only have four hours left.”

The sweet Southern lilt came from my case manager at the temp agency. I missed part or all of 3 out of 5 days last week, and I expected her to be annoyed. Instead she was sympathetic, telling me how her family had been sick over the weekend and that she wanted to check my time with me.

It’s nice to have a boss who doesn’t treat me like I’m trying to get away with something.

Because I really was up at 4am leaned over the toilet bowl. No alcohol was involved. My period hit me like a train and I just really feel awful.

And last week I had two important appointments that existed before I started there. I’ve missed quite a bit and it might look pretty bad.

It’s weird to have someone from a temp agency treat me with respect where actual bosses tend to fail so badly. But I still have to put my money where my mouth is.

….So of course the next morning I was late. I really tried to be on time but halfway there I realized I had forgotten my safety glasses. I had to turn around and was 10 minutes late, but no one seemed to notice.

It’s difficult to get anywhere in boots that weigh 10 pounds apiece. And it doesn’t help that I hate the place and hate leaving the little life I brought into the world what feels like yesterday. I know it was 16 months ago but it feels like a betrayal to disappear on him. Tuesday night he lay in my arms at bedtime breathing fast and furiously suckling his pacifier. I had only been home about an hour and a half and he seemed nervous that I

Giant Machines

Welcome to Capitalist Hell! Please keep safety glasses on at all times, no open containers.

would leave again while he slept.

Which, of course, I did.

The factory itself is like something from a dystopian science fiction movie. They don’t allow pictures inside but I found a few that give you the idea. It’s a well-known company that makes many things, you almost certainly have a few in your house.

This place fabricates and manufactures electrical boxes.

As a non-religious person, I’m using Hell as a literary device. But I don’t know of a reason why Hell wouldn’t be completely covered in concrete and full of loud, toxic machinery. Hot and dry and monotonous, simple repetition becomes torment when your joints protest and your boots turn on you.

I asked our teenage girls the other day if Hell would have water fountains.

At first they both said no.

Giant Machines Too“But if it did, you could be there longer.”

I think I blew their minds a little. The younger one asked everyone she met that day and she said her results were 50-50.

It is probably a square mile of concrete floors. Cinder block walls hold posters about safety. One half of the place is dedicated to making the pieces and the other to putting them together. It’s been there for 40 years and the dayglo logos shining through layers of grime on the massive machines are witness to this.

But the first thing you notice is the noise. Whishing of machinery, voices shouting, forklifts beeping at every corner. Massive, distant thudding like the approaching footsteps of a giant.

Standing in the assembly cell is okay. Most of the big machines are half a factory away and you might have a little conversation with someone. But it’s still noisy, and we went from rushing to finish everything to having absolutely nothing to do and back to rushing again. Paint HangRinse, repeat. I was told an assigned place but only actually worked there two and a half days.

One person puts a couple pieces and a couple screws into a plastic frame and hands it to you. You screw in a couple more pieces and place it in a press that melts plastic lugs around your pieces. Warm chemical exhaust blows in your face as you are onto the next unit. Earplugs deaden the hiss of the hydraulics but the thump hits you in the chest every time.

Wednesday I was on time and was rewarded by being sent to the fabrication side of the facility (AKA the loud side) to Paint Hang for the entire day.

This ritual involves dangling metal pieces from little hooks on racks as they parade by on a conveyor chain. The holes in the pieces are equally tiny and the conveyor keeps getting higher off the floor before disappearing into the ceiling to find a paint sprayer somewhere.

Womens Assembly Line

Sure is a good thing automation is taking longer than expected!

It doesn’t seem like a hard job until you miss a couple and you’re running after the rack holding 10 pounds of sheet metal over your head hoping your aim is better this time. Then you get behind and the next half hour is spent this way. Scrambling to hang metal high on little

hooks before they march past and up into the ductwork.

My supervisor told me to report back over there Thursday morning. Thursday I had a doctors appointment and the way my back was feeling, I was heading straight toward throwing it out for the third time. Hating the place is one thing, I can do a job I hate. But being laid up for days because I’m out of shape is not worth it.

I feel like shit about it. I really want to give my husband the support he deserves. Conversations with other women remind me how lucky I am to have someone who is loving and hardworking. I want to live up to that standard and contribute everything I can to building stability for us.

See Saw

Gotta find some balance!

As soon as my background check comes through I will be a substitute teacher. I will proactively sign up for spots and I have been told it can be a decent supplemental income. I want to get a Child Development Associate credential and maybe work in a daycare.

All I really want to do is spend the day with my baby. For that I would happily do housework and cooking and I don’t care if that’s not progressive.

But wages are shit and everything is expensive. And hubs and I are both victims of the 90s – he went to school for aviation and I for audio. Not exactly in-demand in the modern economy. They said we could be anything, so we became working class.

He’s in school and I’m trying to find a direction. Teaching and writing seem to work together, most writers have to do something to pay bills. The older I get the more I like kids, for whatever reason. And it’s something that matters, to one person at a time. That’s exactly what I do best. A class might be full of students but they are each an individual. A few words with them can be powerful.

Encouraging kids to grow is a positive thing. Not that building electrical boxes is negative; it’s meaningless. Putting my energy into encouraging growth lines up with my personal values and goals.

Meanwhile I have to budget and kick some ass.