Thursday, September 25, 2008


I have found myself a full-time job, and I start for real tomorrow. I haven't worked full-time in a couple of years, and this job is more hours than the last half-dozen full-time jobs I've had, so I'm a little anxious about what my energy level is going to be like... but it's also exciting.

Remember that consumer urge I was talking about? All of a sudden it's going crazy. I've been living on less than $1,000 per month for several months now, and that leaves no room for extras. And I mean zero. And then suddenly there's the prospect of steady income--and, honestly, more income than I've ever made in my life--and I'm feeling a little shop-happy. I saved my cell phone contract from cancellation by three days, and am considering buying some internet for my house! And maybe even "antenna service" cable! A winter jacket! A long black belted sweater! New tires for the car! A soy milk maker! Some CD's! Plant pots and soil! Composted manure! A small freezer! Christmas presents!

I'm having ridiculous fun mentally spending my new salary, although in truth I probably will talk myself out of all but the most essential. But still, I'll be able to afford the essentials, and that is completely thrilling. As soon as I get paid, that is. Sometime within the next month. Or so.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 08:11 last day off before the big job! i think i'm going to sit on my ass all day. #
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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 11:48 this weekend, in order: chauffeuring, errands, wedding, nephew, hippie fair. future plans: apples in madison, myths via puppet, harvest day #
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A couple of days ago over at kottke, there was a discussion about which movies you've watched the most. I find this conversation interesting and disturbing. Of course part of what determines the list is the time and place one grew up, but it also must say something about a person's needs. At the Onion AV Club, where the discussion started, one poster says

But in an uncomfortably psychologically revealing way, my immersion in [Ghostbuster's] many quotable lines crossed the borderline separating casual reference and obsessive incantation long ago: It's probably no coincidence that the peak of my Ghostbusters viewing (at least once a week) came just after my parents' divorce, when I was consoled during rocky nights by my friends Venkman, Ray, and Egon.

As a child, I rented Annie every time we went to the movie store for about six months. It must have driven my parents crazy. On my adult list The Princess Bride and As Good As It Gets are far and away the leaders, followed closely by Dirty Dancing. I can literally quote The Princess Bride from beginning to end; I can't even begin to estimate the number of times I've seen it. The beginning of the obsessive viewing also coincided with my parents' divorce, and I suspect that the true love theme was appealing to my adolescent self. Same story with Dirty Dancing, except add sex.

I can't yet explain As Good As It Gets. There is love, but it's a dysfunctional, confusing, difficult love, and ditto characters. Maybe it appeals to a definitely more cynical view of the world, but retaining the happy ending that I really do want to believe in.

After those, the list would include the PBS mini-series Anne of Green Gables, The Breakfast Club, and Terminator 2. I don't really like repeated movie viewings these days, but maybe it counts that I'm watching The Sopranos series for a second time.

What are yours?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Saturday, September 06, 2008


I don't usually post about political things, because other bloggers are faster and better, but I have to mention this. I already disliked Palin for the obvious reasons (anti-feminist, anti-gay, pro-war), but this cements it:

Among other titles, Sarah Palin wanted the Harry Potter series banned from the Wasilla library. It’s a pretty lengthy list including Twelfth Night, Silas Marner, To Kill A Mockingbird, A Wrinkle in Time, Bridge to Terabithia, Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the ones you can probably guess.

(via Tomorrow Museum, my new favorite thing on the internet)

CORRECTION: OK, so that's what I get for lazy not-vetting. As Carlita and Joanne helpfully pointed out--and I would have seen if I'd read the original post carefully--Palin didn't actually try to ban these books, but instead asked about how she could go about banning books. And then apparently that thought got injected with some internet craziness and now there are lists of Palin-banned books flying around. It seems that she had the intention or interest, but not the follow-through. I still don't like her, though.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Notes From Below the Threshold

I've been really poor before. And I mean really poor, beyond the general working-class single-parent lifestyle that I've been living for the last five years.

My parents brought us up in what could probably be considered extreme poverty; we lived in a one-room house without running water until I was 12. But I never felt deprived: we had plenty to eat and a happy family, and what we didn't have was never mentioned. I didn't even know that we were poor until I hit middle school and started to compare our house with others'.

When I was a teenager my parents' divorce and mom's severe mental illness led us into the deepest poverty I've ever known--not because I haven't had less money, but because of the hopelessness of that time. The emblem of it in my mind is this big banana box of cans we got from the local church's food pantry. We were offered the whole box because all of these dented cans had lost their labels, and no one could determine what was inside them. The box sat on our dirty kitchen floor for about six months. At the end of the month, before the next month's check and food stamps came in, we'd dig into the box for supper, never knowing what it was going to be. Canned potatoes or pineapple? Baked beans or asparagus? And whatever it was, that's what we'd eat. I tried to pretend it was a game, but I never quite convinced myself, and I still have shame when I think about that box and pineapple for supper.

Then after Daughter's dad and I split up, I moved back in with my dad and step-mom, and then when I finally got my own place after that I had to have three jobs to make my bills. That particular experience is what made me so determined to get a college degree.

What I learned from that time is that not being able to buy stuff isn't so bad. There's not really that much that people need to survive, after all: couple of meals a day, warm place to sleep, an absence of violence. Pretty much everything else is gravy.

But getting to that point was painful, because it's not the not-having that's hard, it's the wanting. I tried very hard in those years to scrub out any desires for unnecessary things, and I mostly succeeded. I forgot some of these lessons in the years since, and I am relearning them painfully this summer.

I am lately fascinated with the urge to buy that wells up in me--I just want to go and get something, to treat myself or Daughter to something nice. My conclusion is that sometimes spending money is a shortcut for caring or caregiving. It's usually not really the new shoes that are the issue, but the fact that I want Daughter to feel good about herself at school, or that I feel bad that we argued all weekend, or something.

Sometimes I want to buy myself a coffee because I feel like I "deserve it" somehow--that a difficult day entitles me to steamed milk. Which is, of course, bullshit--but useful bullshit. What I really need is some self-care, and buying a fancy coffee is one half-assed way to get it, but there are other, free ways, like taking a walk or a shower or painting my toe nails or baking some brownies.

I watch advertisements with the eyes of an outsider these days, since everything is beyond my financial reach, and I can't help but wonder if all this consumerism--the tumble of convenience items, housewares, personal care products, exercise equipment, gourmet food, plastic crap--isn't a manifestation of national psychic malaise. How would people cope with their insecurities about their bodies without personal hygiene products and expensive clothes? How would we demonstrate to people that we loved them if we could never buy them gifts? Can society exist without instant communication?

I know it's more complicated than all of that, but I think that those issues are all wrapped up in there as well. It's a good thing to to think about, on this side of the poverty threshold.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 09:35 lately using the internet is like going to the music store: i know there were things i wanted, but once i get there i can't remember what. #
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Monday, September 01, 2008


In celebration of work, I am spending Labor Day working around the house. OK, it's not really that different from any other day lately, and I have, in fact, been confused several times today by the presence of people being leisurely in my neighborhood. Because most Mondays people are working. Unlike me. Actually, sex and work are now in the same category for me: Things That I've Heard Other People Do.

Today's scheduled labors: bake bread, blanch the green/wax beans I picked at the farm yesterday, wash the kitchen floors, take care of yesterday's hoeing blisters.

Today's unscheduled tasks: complete all of the puzzles in the Sunday paper, watch an episode of the Sopranos, take the kids to the playground where a fortuitous internet connection is found, eat a popsicle, discover that you have the beginnings of a double chin in the reflection of your computer screen.



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