Monday, April 11, 2016

Types of Sleep, Ranked

19. Drank-too-much dizzy sleep
18. New-house-noise sleep
17. I-have-to-be-up-in-four-hours sleep
16. Short parking lot nap (night or day)
15. Blanket-too-small sleep
14. Twisty-sheets sleep
13. Leg-cramps sleep
12. The-couch-is-too-short sleep
11. Sweaty noontime nap
10. Vivid-dreams sleep
9. In-front-of-a-movie sleep (unplanned)
8. In-front-of-a-movie sleep (planned)
7. Waking-up-before-the-alarm-and-going-back-to-sleep
6. Spooning sleep
5. Meds-kicking-in sleep
4. Chilly-room-and-warm-blankets sleep
3. Post-physical-labor sleep
2. Fell-asleep-reading sleep

1. Didn’t-know-I-was-asleep-until-I-woke-up sleep

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Longish Discussion About Poverty, Personal Choice, and Circumstance

I've been poor for a long time, and I one would think I would be used to it. I never get used to it.

I grew up in a one-room house in the woods of Central Maine; it was built by my parents, with help from my grandfather, out of reclaimed lumber from someone's old barn. My parents had a vision for the land, and with several others built a land trust. Our property was at the end of a very long dirt driveway, so long that if we arrived home before the plow guy came to poke a hole we'd have to park our car at the end and hike in 1/3 of a mile.

I read a lot of books, because books are free entertainment. I read about Laura Ingalls Wilder and Anne of Green Gables. Their lives seemed a lot like mine: I lived closely with my family, spent a lot of time outside, and knew what it meant to haul water, and how to poop in an outhouse (pro tip: don't look too closely at the spiders in the corners. They eat the endless flies). My mom made all our food. Scratch bread, yogurt, and tofu. She grew sprouts in a mason jar and bought bulk from the co-op. My dad worked for the State and gardened for us in his off time. I played in the woods in all weather. I named the special areas around my home: the Clubhouse (a large boulder sheltered by drooping pine branches), King of the Mountain (a grassy hill), Big Stream and Little Stream (Big Stream had better bugs, Little Stream was seasonal).

I didn't know we were poor until I was a pre-teen, attending that great American leveling experience of middle school, when things like new clothes and store bought food became suddenly important.

Even as a single-parent college student I was better off than I am at this moment in time. Before I returned to school in 2001, I worked as a secretary at a mental health clinic in mid-coast Maine. That year I earned $19,000. I just filed my 2015 taxes this week, and between five jobs and one month of unemployment I earned a little over $18,000. I don't have to tell you that today's dollar doesn't go as far as a 2001 dollar. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that $19k of 2001 buying power would equal $25,428 in today's dollars.

The folks who would like to blame poor people for their problems would point to personal weaknesses for my lack of advancement. It's true that I chose to have a child out of wedlock, and also (sort of) true that I chose not to have a long term partnership that would have provided another stable source of income for our family. I often make decisions about finances based on short-term needs rather than long-term goals.  I smoke cigarettes. I studied humanities.

I have done a lot of things right, though, as well. I graduated from high school 11th in my class, and filled up my schedule with academic extracurriculars. I learned a trade (typing), which led to my earliest jobs. I started working when I was 14, and I worked the whole time I was in school. I've never had subsidized rent, though I've used food stamps to supplement my income. I was the first person in my family to get a 4 year college degree. I went on to grad school. I followed my dream of becoming a writer, because I naively thought that if I went with my dreams the money would follow.

Then I graduated, in 2008, into a market gouged by the financial collapse. I got really (unrelatedly?) sick, and it took about four more years to find a diagnosis. My ability didn't return to pre-sickness levels after my diagnosis. I'm half disabled, and working more than 40 hours in a week has become a failing endeavor, causing more illness and making me fall further behind.

Unfortunately nobody recognizes partial disability. I've subsisted with the help of my generous father and stepmom, food stamps, a gofundme campaign, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Because of my childhood my DIY skills are amazing, and I am willing to go without a lot. But it's exhausting, and it's never enough.

This is what my parents hid so well from me, through their hippie idealism and careful world-building: the unending grind of poverty.  The unanticipated expense that knocks the whole precarious system spinning out of reach. The cost of having too little in your bank account. Rationing your prescriptions because you won't be able to afford the $5 copay until next week.  The raw knuckles of hand washing your clothes with dish soap. Brain constantly calculating the bank account balance, deciding which bills to pay and which to put off. The panic when your only pair of work shoes breaks or the aging car needs more service. The weight gain from eating cheap, filling food. The constant fantasizing about the day the squeeze will end and I will be able to wear clothes that fit, eat food that is fresh and healthy, pay for my prescriptions when they're due, and have some money in savings. I'll let you know when that happens.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Re Boot

Hello! It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here. In those three or four years the internet has largely moved away from blogs. I can’t keep up; I’m now an Old instead of a Young. That’s ok. I feel pretty good about making it this far.

I now have nearly 40 years in this bright beautiful world, and I’ve learned a few things. One is that if I’m not regularly engaging my intellect, I become a monster-napping lazybones. Another is that facebook sucks my creative juices dry. Contrary to what I was assured, student loans aren’t “good debt.” I don’t have a natural talent for networking. I have natural limitations, and I pay attention to them.

Things have changed pretty drastically since my last post in 2012, and also have stayed very much the same. I’m still poor--even poorer than before, although I didn’t think that was possible. I’m still sick, with health issues that won’t quite go into remission, but less sick than I was then. I put on some weight. The teen has grown up and become a legal adult, living at home with me while she finishes school. I’ve fallen in and out of love a few times. I got a dog, he died, and I got another dog. As Kurt Vonnegut says, so it goes. Still have the same cat, though.

My intention is to now use this blog as an exploratory writing space to talk about my own intersectionality, particularly in terms of class, race, gender, ability, and sexual orientation. I’ll also complain about these things a fair amount, I’m guessing, because that’s also how it goes. I also want to talk about books, TV, movies, articles, social justice, farming, and other randomness.

Hope you’re down for the reboot. Hope I am too.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Still life from this weekend:

the chair capital of New England, singing, Olivia Newton Longjohns, squeaking creatures in the night, truth, greek yogurt, dog parkour, 8 hours in the car, snoring.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Gone Mental

I've been debating about writing this post for... oh... 6 months or so. I'm still debating, even as I write this.

What follows is a sort of personal musing on a recent health issue. If you aren't interested in that kind of thing, maybe you would like to go look at this. Or this.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Jolly Green Man

Anybody else look at The Green Giant and see the Green Man?

One of these ecological myths is the story of the Green Man. He has been part of our Western heritage for centuries. Depth psychologist Carl Jung says that archetypes are embedded in our collective unconscious and these archetypes are shared by all. That is why we find very early images of the Green Man in Iraq and all over Europe. His face, which has leaves sprouting from his lips, eyes, nose and ears, can be seen on buildings and signs throughout Europe that date back to the Middle Ages. He is a combination of man and nature; he shows us that we can never be separate from the natural world, that we are part of the earth. He signifies irrepressible life and represents the human longing for the natural world. He is an image from the depths of prehistory and his origins are much older than our Christian era and he is still honored today in England and Europe in May Day festivals where he is evoked to bring in a bountiful growing season.

Jolly Green Giant in a dickie:

Monday, January 23, 2012


I like reading survivalist blogs of various sorts, have a wide collection of how-to books, and dream of having my own small farm someday for this very reason, but it's nice to see some analysis of where it comes from. This, surprisingly from a Reuters report about preppers:
"With our current dependence on things from the electric grid to the Internet, things that people have absolutely no control over, there is a feeling that a collapse scenario can easily emerge, with a belief that the end is coming, and it is all out of the individual's control," [Patty Tegeler] told Reuters. She compared the major technological developments of the past decade to the Industrial Revolution of the 1830s and 1840s, which led to the growth of the Millerites, the 19th-Century equivalent of the preppers. Followers of charismatic preacher Joseph Miller, many sold everything and gathered in 1844 for what they believed would be the second coming of Jesus Christ.
"Most people have a gut feeling that something has gone terribly wrong, but that doesn't mean that they understand what is happening," [Michael T. Snider, who writes The Economic Collapse blog] said. "A lot of Americans sense that a massive economic storm is coming and they want to be prepared for it."

Sometimes I think people always feel like something has gone terribly wrong, or is about to. It's a totally normative response to the fact that we never know what's coming because we can't know the future. Annnd...this is a scary time to live in; in general, Americans are only experiencing the smallest waves of the truly horrific shit that is happening in this world right now. 

And then again... this appeals to my practical nature:

Tegeler, who recalls being hit by tornadoes and floods in her southwestern Virginia home, said that none of her "survival center" products will go to waste."I think it's silly not to be prepared," she said. "After all, anything can happen."

I seriously know how to skin a squirrel.  When the zombies* come, who are you going to take with you?

No, I seriously have this edition of The Joy of Cooking.

*it occurs to me that zombies make a great fill-in for the big, scary unknown that is coming. My handy and reliable research source tells me that zombies were big in the 20's and 30's, in the 50's, and of course intermittently since the '80's. Maybe zombies stand for that thing that is unspeakable, too big and too frightening for us to name: an approaching world war, an economic depression, nuclear bombs. Zombies are the thing that are human and not-human, alive and not-alive. They live in the uncanny valley with that Polar Express movie. But they are inexplicable and thus scary. Hm.