Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I remember this

There are a lot of things going on in my head (and my life!) right now.  Most of them have to do with disappointment at my current lack of permanent work; I'm working per diem at the homeless shelter, with no benefits and no guaranteed hours at a significantly lower hourly rate than I had before.  There is just very little work available at the kind of job I have had for the past five years, which forces me to apply for jobs that I am dreadfully overqualified for or in a completely different field.  The salaries at these jobs are similar to the salaries I had ten years ago, before I had any degrees (or the debt I incurred getting them).  Hence the disappointment.

And I was reminded this week of how much work is involved in being poor.  An example:

I reluctantly went back on this state's version of Medicaid, because I can't be without medical coverage or I will have pre-existing conditions that will keep me from *ever* getting covered treatment for the moderately serious health issue I've been dealing with for the past few years.

This state insurance became effective December 1.  Let me first say that I am incredibly grateful to have this option, as I have already racked up almost $8k in medical bills over the last six months, and that was *with* the insanely expensive insurance coverage from my last job.

I saw my doctor yesterday, and she gave me a refill on a couple of prescriptions, which I dropped off at my local chain pharmacy.  When I returned to pick it up several hours later, they told me that they couldn't fill my prescription because the state insurance system thinks that I have another form of insurance that needs to be billed first.  This insurance ended 11/30, which I did tell my caseworker at DHHS, but no matter, accidents happen, and this information was not entered in the state system.  What I needed to do, they told me, was call the Medicaid system and have them correct the problem.  I paid cash for one urgently needed prescription and went home.

I called Medicaid today during a 15 minute break at my per diem job.  I spent a long time on hold and eventually spoke with someone who said that they could correct the error, but some computer irregularity means that it can take several days for their system to update with the information.  If I gave the pharmacist another 1-800 number to call they could verify my coverage and I could get my prescription filled.  I was only five minutes late back to work.

After work, I returned to the pharmacy and spent a solid 5 minutes trying to explain the situation to the very harried pharmacist.  She called the number and spent a long time on hold with the system. I went and picked up a couple of other items at the store while she was waiting on hold.  Back at the counter, Harried Pharmacist told me that she was eventually able to verify my coverage, but that now they had to actually fill my prescription, and I would have to return later in the day to pick it up.

I went and did some errands (picked out the cutest tiny Xmas tree for our apartment, actually--super deal at $12) and went back to the pharmacy and picked up my prescription, which she'd had to break into *two* prescriptions due to the slightly odd dosage the doc had given me.  Total cost was $6, which was much more reasonable than the $45 I'd had to pay under my old insurance plan, and the for-now-insurmountable hundred-odd I would have had to pay if I'd been without insurance.

But add onto that the time I spent on four trips to the pharmacy and calls during my only work break, and it gets frustrating.  If I'd been working full time all of those trips and calls would have taken days to accomplish, or would have required time off from work.  That's not even counting the initial 3 hour trip to DHHS to have my eligibility evaluated or the small mountain of paperwork I had to mail in after the eligibility assessment.

None of this is anyone's fault.  The caseworker, the pharmacist, the state computer system are all functioning to the best of their ability I'm sure.  They are working, like me, with few resources and many many needs.

And let me reiterate: I am grateful that this option exists. Without it I would have to give up this medication entirely, which would leave me in a terrible situation for sure.  Because of where I work, I can't help but imagine what it feels like for someone with little education (which makes it very difficult to speak with bureaucrats & professionals, all of whom have their own language) or no access to a car or phone, or just a low tolerance for frustration.  And even I, with all of my education and experience and my car and my phone and my job, am expending great effort to do something that is easier for people with more resources.

This is what it means to be poor.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Poor people eat

A Picture Says It All:

With the new cuts in food stamps scheduled, this is what someone is supposed to survive on in a week:






How is that in anyway healthy? If unseasoned potatoes, rice, and oatmeal is all I ever could eat, I’d probably sell my food stamps and buy liquor and cigarettes, too.

Rising Tide Neurosis

I have this recurring dream about the ocean rising up to the level of my home and basically washing everything away. Feeling overwhelmed?  Me?  What?

Anyway, I had this dream again last night, and it was the first time it had been set here in this apartment even though I've been living here for two and a half years.  And my family (which apparently now includes my 13 year old daughter's boyfriend of six months) spent a lot of time trying to decide what to carry out of the house and save, and then we all went to an emergency shelter and survived to return to our muddy, soaked house when the tide receded.

Which I'm trying to see as a positive sign, right?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Oh, Christopher

I'm spending my time unemployed by doing some responsible things, like applying for jobs and volunteering and knitting holiday presents and working per diem at the homeless shelter. But that still leaves a fuck of a lot of time doing not much. Really. Who knew there were so many hours in a day? So the Princess and I are re-watching the Sopranos. This is my third full time through the series, and I still love it.

Some Sopranos wisdom via Slaughterhouse 90210:


“He loved her because it was his nature to do so, but there were times when he could not endure her love for him. There were times when it became nothing but pure idiot mystery…”

— Flannery O’Connor, Everything That Rises Must Converge

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Body

I've been having some health problems.  In deference to those who get squicked out by medical things--and because the problems have to do with my lady parts, which some might not be inclined to learn about--I will be vague, but I'm happy to provide more details if you contact me directly.

One of the worst things about having trouble with the lady parts is that it's hard to talk about.  I will sometimes mention to an acquaintance (to one of the teen's friend's parents, for example, to explain why I can't come pick her up) that I had surgery, and they will inevitably ask what kind.  And I have to hesitate, especially if it's a man.  I don't think they really want to know.  But then again, they asked...  I generally defer, as I will below, to a vague description and squirming discomfort.

Let's just say that it was fairly major surgery, and that I should not be having any more of the trouble that I've been having for the past four years.  I finally found a doctor that I like, and he was able to perform the surgery in the least invasive way possible--for which I am extremely grateful.  I hope I'm on the last pages of that particular story.

It's been 11 days since my surgery, and while I am making definite progress, I'm not as recovered as I would like. When the cat showed up the other day with a nasty abcess on her back I was able to bring her to the vet; going across town felt like an adventure into deep space.  I still have pain when I'm moving around, but sitting is OK.  I've been reading a lot (although not consistently updating my Twitter book list, sorry), bingeing on TV shows, knitting, and doing crossword puzzles.  I get tired very easily and I can't walk far without the help of painkillers.  It's hard to remember what normal life and wellness are like, though I know I've passed the lowest part of this and am on the upswing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Observation

Week #3 of unemployment brings news of impending surgery next week, and some free time to observe the urban wildlife.

Just a few minutes ago, the Princess and I were sitting on the front steps, watching the ferries go back and forth in the harbor.  Our front yard is a common space between two rows of townhouses, and a pair of birds squeaked like rusty springs in the the almost-bare oak trees in the courtyard.

But I couldn't see any birds, and on closer examination we saw that the squeaks were coming from two squirrels, each perched in its own tree.  They shouted back and forth to each other, creaking and clicking from their separate branches.  They reminded me of my neighbors here in this low-income housing project, whose personal lives often spill out into the courtyard and prompt police intervention.

These squirrels are used to people, and will take peanuts and almonds from the fingers of a person who holds very still, and then shallowly bury the nut, pat pat patting down a thin dirt cover with their hand-like paws.  I watched one today place a peanut under a decaying plastic grocery bag and smooth the material over it like the squirrel was putting it to bed.  They will go through an open apartment door if its resident isn't nearby.

But the squirrels are not tame.  They are fidgety and darting in their travels across the courtyard, and always mindful of the human residents.

I don't like feeding wild animals: I think it's a bad precedent to set.  And yet, I have succumbed to the temptation to hold out a raw almond, keep very still, until the squirrel approaches and grabs it from my fingers.  It's hard not to anthropomorphize them.  They are so like us, with their trusting/terrified approach, their wary eyes, their courtyard squabbles.  Last week I was in my small, fenced backyard when a squirrel darted under the gate with a treasure to bury clasped between its teeth.  Our joint surprise at finding each other there was so familiar--"Oh, excuse me! I didn't know this one was occupied!" "Not at all, excuse me, I didn't realized you'd be coming in!"  But the yard is mine and the squirrel left to find another shallow hole for its meal.

Like a household pet, I am soon to be neutered, my ovaries and uterus removed and my shaved and de-sexed body sent home the same day.  Unlike a household pet, I will be given hormones to replace the ones that are missing, so I will not likely become overweight and complacent.  At least, not from the surgery.

This surgery is for no one's convenience (except possibly mine--who has been tormented for years by problems with those lady parts); it's not so that my wild behavior will stop or so that I will not come home full of unwanted babies.

But I can't help likening myself to the squirrels.  I am certainly human, with a thinking mind and thumbs to turn my thoughts into actions.  I am also an animal with a body that must be obeyed.

Pat pat pat.  Cover over the treasure.  I can find it here later.

Monday, October 18, 2010

D.A.R.E.

Back in kindergarten (this would have been the early 80's--pre-DARE), my teacher's husband was a police officer in our small town. The teacher herself was a carefully coiffed and very uptight woman who terrified us all--not least because the angrier she got the wider her smile became. Woe on the 5 year old who sees her smile-bared teeth turn in his direction. She was nice in that fakey fake way that kids see through in a second, but that fools grownups who don't remember what it's like to be a kid.

I was almost a year older than most of the kids in my class due to the luck of my birth date, and I'd been reading since I was three. So Kindergarten was mostly about socializing me to the school environment. This was quite a change from the one-room house without running water I'd been raised in. My parents were hippies--quasi back-to-the-landers--and my early childhood was a luscious green dream of woods and leaves and fairies and pine needles and bugs and unicorns. No, really.

But, I had a hard time adjusting to school life, and my family didn't exactly fit in with the kindergarten teacher's ideals (although ironically she and my mom ended up being friends years later when my mom headed up the PTO. Another story.).

A favorite family tale of those years is when I went to school and informed my teacher (wife to a cop, remember) that my parents smoked "buzz-butts." The teacher was puzzled by this phrase, so she asked her husband, who I'm sure snickered at her and reminded her of my parents' counterculture leanings. But it was the early 80's, and to my knowledge nothing ever happened to them or to me. In fact, my parents ended up being very involved with the school governance and fundraising right up until I hit middle school.

Which is all a very long way of getting to this piece in The Agitator that points out the uselessness of the DARE program--and not just because turning your parents in for pot can now literally destroy your family, but because its methods just aren't good. I remember as a teenager looking eagerly at the DARE officer's drug "sample board," ticking off the few substances I'd tried or seen, and salivating at the new possibilities. Which, I think, was not the officer's intention in showing it to us.

Anyway:

D.A.R.E.: Ripping Families Apart Since 1983

When it comes to its stated mission—keeping school-age children from trying illicit drugs—the D.A.R.E. program has been a failure. But D.A.R.E. does have a fun history of teaching kids to turn their pot-smoking parents in to the police.

It happened again last week

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Busy week

That title, "busy week," refers to not the calendar week, but the past seven days.  Which featured, in no particular order:

  • A Teen ear infection
  • A scheduled and canceled Liza Minelli concert for the Princess
  • The loss of primary jobs by two adult members of the household
  • The discovery of six cavities between two people
  • The filling of three of those cavities
Sweet.  Let's have another one just like that. (Just kidding, universe.  That was sarcasm.  SARCASM.)

Seriously, though, if you hear of a job that pays, like $35,000 a year and has to do with office stuff, let me know.  I can probably make my resume fit it.  

Also, any amateur dentists want to take a run at my teeth? Haha.  :(

Friday, October 01, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Whew

Well, *that* happened.  Now that summer's over I can take a look back at it and think, "holy shit, I hope that never ever happens again."

In one way it was good: I have always associated fall as the season of death and loss, and this year has proven to me that summer can be just as horrific.  I'm going to take winter and spring and hide them in a sad-proof safe, so that I have something to look forward to.

I've also been taking steps to care for myself during this time: I went back on antidepressants for the time being, I got a lovely new tattoo, and I've been consciously trying to spend time every day doing at least one thing that I like (usually it's reading, but sometimes cooking, watching movies, walking, going out to eat, listening to podcasts).  Now that it's getting cooler, I'll probably add yarncraft to that list as well.

I also submitted a poem to a magazine--the first thing I've sent out in more than a year--and it was accepted, which was a wonderful confidence boost.  You can look for my poem in the inaugural issue of Salacious magazine in January.

While I wait for all of this to take effect, I'm just pushing along.  What else do you do?

EDIT: Updated to include the link to Salacious.  SALACIOUS!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Mayhem and Crime Against Nature

I had the opportunity to visit the Crimes section of the State of Maine Revised Statutes today for work.

If you haven't done so, I urge you to check it out.  It's quite entertaining... and I must say that I'm a little disappointed that the crime of "Mayhem" has been repealed (although equally relieved that "Crime Against Nature" has been removed--I suspect I know what that one was).

Marxist Until Graduation

When I was at Sarah Lawrence I'm pretty there were as many MUGs as BUGs and LUGs (Bisexual Until Graduation and Lesbian Until Graduation).  

And all apparently interested in Katy Perry, these days:

via mental floss

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tackle

I decided last week that I'm going to make another run at Infinite Jest. I tried last year, and made it about 100 pages in before I lost momentum. 

The books that have defeated me are a short list: Ulysses, Gravity's Rainbow, and Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead. I've abandoned many books because they were bad or boring, but these are the three (four including IJ) that I abandoned because I wasn't capable of finishing them.  And, maybe no surprise that all three are experimental in their way, simultaneously messing with expectations of narrative, form, and language.  Which is a challenge for my logical, (cough, rigid, cough) concrete brain.

I justified my abandonment by scoffingly dismissing the white-boy-blogger-love of IJ and DFW... but that's not really honest, or accurate.  I was just defeated.  But I will persevere, and will also refrain from making footnoted commentary for the next several weeks (months?) while I'm in process.

I keep a twitter list of other books that I've read/am reading here.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Potatoes in Aroostook County, October 1940

These color photos of the Great Depression are captivating. Look at the whole series if you can.

Captured: America in Color from 1939-1943 – Plog Photo Blog: "
Color America
4: Children gathering potatoes on a large farm. Vicinity of Caribou, Aroostook County, Maine, October 1940. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress




Color America
5: Trucks outside of a starch factory. Caribou, Aroostook County, Maine, October 1940. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress


(via boingboing)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Administrative Note

Just a quick process note: I've disabled anonymous commenting.  Your opinions are welcome here, but please be prepared to stand behind them.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shame shame

How do you shame a bully?

Last week I came across a new Portland blog, and I've been trying to figure out how to address it ever since.  Monument Square Has Eyes the new-ish (since February of this year) blog of a person whose office overlooks Monument Square.  "Brusox" snaps photos of people and happenings in the square and, for the most part, snarks about them.

The thing that bothers me isn't that s/he posts pictures of unsuspecting people online: they're in a public place, and it's therefore legal to take photos of them.  Unethical maybe, but legal.  Although I suppose if you see a photo of yourself and/or libelous remarks on the blog and want Brusox to remove it, you would be within your rights to ask.

Now y'all know I'm not opposed to a little snark.  I appreciate clever, cynical commentary, especially when it's directed at people who have social power and have chosen to live their lives in the public eye.  Ahem.

But:
1. Brusox's commentary isn't especially clever, so it comes off as mean rather than funny.
2. The focus of the blog tends to be mocking the severely mentally ill people in and around the Square.  They clearly can't help themselves, which makes the commentary about them not humor, but just bullying.

I suspect there isn't any good way to address this.  The writer of the blog is totally within his/her rights to post on whatever they see fit, and if they think this stuff is funny I'm sure there isn't anything I can say that will change their mind. In fact, the bullying behavior demonstrated on the blog makes me a little afraid to post my thoughts, because I don't especially want that focus on me.

But more importantly, I know that there are folks being targeted on that site who can't defend themselves, and that really pisses me off.  What do you think?  What's the best way to address this behavior?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Killah

She preys on innocent victims, waiting for them in the shadow of an alley, crouching under the stairs, lying flat beneath a car with a handful of knives.  Unaware, they walk about their silly nighttime business until she decides they've had enough; with the stone hand of an angel she reaches out and snuffs their small dreams.  But death is not enough for this yellow-eyed beauty.  She desires their screams, thrills in their delusions of escape.  She'll toy with them until they are exhausted and wild-eyed, and snap their necks with a casual smack. Then, with the wind tickling her ears, she'll drag her victim to the backyard, to display the gruesome work to her tall gods.

But they are indifferent to her bloody gifts. Each new body is disappeared into a silent grave, with no acknowledgement of her effort.  She decides to go for larger prey.  Perhaps the tall ones require more flesh.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Unspeakable

As noted, I never write here about the hard things until well after they're over.  In part, I am intensely private about strong emotions (the Tween claims that she has only seen me cry twice before these past weeks), but I also am hesitant to put down in writing anything that is unconsidered. 

So here's the short, but considered, update:

At the end of May, I had some surgery on my lady parts, hoping that they would be less excruciating for me in the long run.  The surgery itself was successful and my recovery fairly fast; I am now mostly back to normal, and the pain is much improved even over my pre-surgery state.  It will be some time before I know whether it was a total success, and I still get tired fairly quickly, but I am now almost completely healed.

Three weeks ago the Princess and I decided to postpone the wedding for a year.  This was a difficult and emotional process for me, since I am rigid in my thinking have a very hard time changing gears.  But truly, with a little time and perspective I am seeing that this is actually a smart decision; we may even be able to plan the wedding for the Princess' homeland, which is her true wish.  And I do like to grant princess wishes.

Then, almost two weeks ago, my dear aunt Becky passed away suddenly. In the absence of my mother, my father's sisters Becky and Cathy have been surrogates for me, together making up the most important adult female influence in my life so far.  I was, and still am, devastated by this loss.  Last week is a blur; there are big chunks of it that I don't even remember.  This week my weeping has decreased to about once a day, and I am able to be alone, but I still can't read the condolence cards my lovely friends have sent, and I still am stunned that I must wake up and go to work and eat and sleep.  

The result of all this is that I feel a little tilted; my little universe has undergone a fundamental shift.  I don't think that this is objectively bad, though it is subjectively excruciating.  Sometimes a change to the foundations of my life helps me focus on what is important, and often it helps me shed old, bad habits, belongings and ideas.  It opens up space I didn't know existed; sometimes I didn't want to know--didn't think I needed to know--that space existed, but there it is just the same.  The princess and the tween have been solid for me throughout this whole thing, and that has been an incredible gift.  It still sucks, though.  A lot. I would much prefer some low-level angsting about messy bedrooms instead of needing some hands to hold on to so that I can remember to breathe.

Just the same. We are here, you and I, moving forward. Still.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Testy

Test... Testier... Testiest.

Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

As always, when there are really big things going on in my life I am reluctant to write about them.  So here is a list of small things that are happening in my life that are totally unrelated to the big things, which also perpetuate the idea of blogger as chronicler of minutiae.  Which I totally am.


  1. My body continues to age EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Evidence: I had to switch to half-decaf coffee, I bought callous cushions for my feet, and I am ready for bed (I actually literally just typed "dead" instead of "bed," which, well, there you go) at 9pm.  Also, I might need a hearing aid, which proves that I should have listened to my mother when she told me to wear earplugs to all those heavy metal concerts.
  2. The Tween has been home sick for a couple of days with a sore throat and a fever.  Because of this she missed dissecting a freeze-dried frog in science class.  Since I had to buy the frog anyway, I wonder if we could dissect it at home? Now THERE'S some family fun time.
  3. I quit Facebook.  I don't even miss it, except as a thing I used to do to kill time inbetween doing other things. Sort of like smoking. Here is my reasoning, only tangentially related to Mark Zuckerberg's desire to help us all unintentionally spill our grossest secrets:  I just got tired of it.  I started to feel weird about the passive sort of friendship that FB encourages.  The people who are my actual friends are pretty much up to date on what's going on in my life, and constant status updates were ruining any conversational opportunities I might have with acquaintances... plus sucking my creative energy away from other, more literary, pursuits.  Case in point, here I am writing here.*
  4. I bought a coffeemaker.  It has a timer that lets me set it to make me coffee BEFORE I WAKE UP in the morning.  So exciting! Next I'm thinking about one of these newfangled "Refrigerators" to replace my old icebox.
  5. The Princess brought me up to visit her family upcoast.  I had met Mom and Sister over the winter, but Dad and Grandparents remained a mystery.  I wanted to check out the childhood haunts and see the settings for all the stories.  I did.  It was lovely; I got got sunburned and fly-bitten and disappointed by the changes to Perry's Nut House, and also got fed barbecue chicken and strawberries, and I think we're going to go back next month.
Ok, and we're done.  Safe areas of conversation fully explored.  

*Yes, the blog is literary because I said so, and just for the record your passive consumption of my thoughts is totally fine.

"Bad Romance" As Performed By Newsies [Seize The Day]


Click here to read &quot;Bad Romance&quot; As Performed By <em>Newsies</em>

Friday, May 07, 2010

That Time of the Year

My head is about to explode with all of the things that are going on.  This kind of tension and stress is cyclical: I guess I would probably not appreciate quiet times without it, right?  As in, I would probably give my left boob for a good night's sleep and some job security right now.  Alas, it is not to be.


(This is not my head exploding.  It's the view of the Jordan's Meat Fire from my backyard.
But this is 1) one of the many things I cried about yesterday, and 
2) exactly what the inside of my brain feels like)

Most of the stuff that keeps threatening to shoot out of my forehead in a giant smelly black cloud has to do with regular life kind of stuff: a tween who is tweening, funding changes for my workplace and thus job insecurity, car repair, wedding planning, mother's day.  The vaguely stressful stuff that is annoying but not life-ending.  

Which would all be fine except that my baseline stress level is increased by a hundred degrees to start with because I'm having another surgery on my lady parts in a few weeks.  It's going to be expensive (thanks for the ultra-expensive health insurance that doesn't, it turns out, cover much at all!), and of course I'm not looking forward to the pain and time off from work and helplessness of recovery.  But more than all that, I'm afraid that it won't work, and I will have exercised my very last treatment option.

So, I keep having breakdowns about stuff like whether I eat lunch alone, and who takes a shower first in the morning, and whether the cat is in for the night.  The princess has been remarkably patient, and in appreciation of her kindness I am not completely withdrawing into myself and becoming mute.  This is my usual tactic for stress, and she aptly calls it "turtling."  I resist turtling and she pats my leg and brings me a sandwich, which is, I think, a fair tradeoff.  And helps.  A lot.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Under the Gaga Covers

I really love Lady Gaga parodies. They are my YouTube gateway drug.



People (well, Salon) keep saying that she's saturated us; we can't possibly love her more, and yet... new singles are slurped up whole with demands for more. I'm not tired of Gaga. And I love her fans.



The choice of subject isn't irrelevant; she's walking id for American teens, singing about heartbreak and cell phones and destructive relationships and dressing like your weirdest dreams.



People seem compelled to perform through her; her words in their mouths, her hips moving theirs. Clever and curious, funny, sexy, embarrassing.  All sincere.



Want more? Fifty more YouTube Gaga covers here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Lateness

I don't know how it's possible, but I'm only just now reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.I'm only about 10 pages in; I'll let you know how it goes.
Ethel Waters, Carson McCullers, and Julie Harris, 1950

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mainers mark Earth Day; Portland selling 'green' items | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

I did this last year: it was a great investment. I should have bought the compost turner, though. I'll be looking into that for this year.
Mainers mark Earth Day; Portland selling 'green' items | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram: "Portland is promoting the sale of compost bins, kitchen waste pails and rain barrels at discounted prices."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Marriage

I'm sure it comes as no surprise to anyone but me, but it turns out that I'm a traditionalist. Yesterday the princess and I went and bought engagement rings, and while she (very sensibly, considering her job) wanted gems that were recessed into the ring, I wanted a diamond solitaire.


I got it.




But trying to rationalize a whole bunch of conflicting feelings-- diamonds-are-blood-stained-meaningless-symbols, diamonds-are-beautiful, everybody-will-know-what-this-ring-means, why-does-it-matter-to-me-what-people-think, it's-money-we-don't-have, i-really-want-it-- is sort of a representation of how the marriage situation is developing in my mind.

I've been ambivalent about the gay marriage campaign, and marriage in general. I still don't think that it should be the Big Queer Cause sucking up all of the funding and attention--I would prefer that queer and lgbt organizers take up things like national healthcare, preventing/prosecuting hate crimes, and equal pay regardless of gender. Honestly, I think that most homophobia can be traced to a root of sexism, and working on THAT issue instead would improve the lives of so many people.

I also think that marriage is a fucked-up institution that is often the cause of much unhappiness.

Still.

I love the princess. I want our families and our community and our neighbors to recognize the nature of our relationship at a glance. I want to share my health insurance with her without having to prove to some city official that we've lived together for 12 months, which is what's required for domestic partnership. If I ever own anything valuable, I want her to have it after I die.

But more important than any of that, and the real reason I'm marrying her, is that I want to. I just plain old selfishly want to. I want to make a promise to her that I will always put our relationship first, and that I will stick around to work out whatever comes up in our lives together. We're not promising to be together until we die; I don't believe in making promises I can't keep, and I don't know what the future will bring either of us. But I do know that no matter what happens, we'll be in it together, and if there are challenges we will always try to fix things instead of walking away.

Nonetheless, I have a hard time with marriage as I've seen it practiced and talked about. I'm going to get married just the same.

More on this later, I'm sure.



Friday, March 26, 2010

Upcoming travel

I'm trying to get to NY next month. Princess has never been, and I haven't for more than five years. I can feel forces coming together to make it possible. I BELIEVE.

Brooklyn Bridge New York circa 1905

Friday, March 19, 2010

woo.

The Maine Boatbuliders Show is produced by Portland Yacht Services and will take place at the Portland Company building at 58 Fore Street. via

I'm so glad that the Portland Company has a diverse series of events. It's so exciting for them and for boat-and-flower-show-attending people. It's kind of a pain in the ass for people who live in the neighborhood, though.

To be fair, event planners do seem to make an attempt to minimize the impact... by putting NO PARKING signs on all of the streets around the Portland Company (including my own). But what that means is that hill dwellers are banned from parking on their street, and people unfamiliar to the neighborhood get creative with their parking and create dangerous situations, obstructing lanes and sightlines... and, judging by the number of cars parked illegally on Fore Street during the flower show last weekend, the City seems unwilling to tow or ticket.

On the plus side, maybe I'll get the chance to have some presumptuous boat-show-goer towed when they park in my parking spot. We have to look for the little joys, no?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

RE: Love of Brett Michaels

There aren't words to describe my love of Slaughterhouse 90210:


“Like a whorehouse on wheels, she thought. Like a whorehouse on wheels.”
—Robert Goolrick, A Reliable Wife"


...siiiiiiiigh.....

Monday, March 08, 2010

Why A Salad Costs More Than A Big Mac

RE: my earlier post and buying for value. Thx, bec.


How to Be Poor

I will write about the wedding, I promise... but something else is more on my mind for now.

Some background: while I was a student I applied for MaineCare for my daughter. I've been working full time for just over a year now, and at the end of December our transitional year of MaineCare health insurance ended. This meant that I would add the tween to my work health insurance.

Unfortunately this happened at the same time as a huge increase in insurance rates, so I am feeling the pinch. The increase in the cost of my own coverage plus the adding the tween's is costing me an additional $350 a month--and the insurance doesn't cover as much as I wish it did, leaving me with a growing number of medical bills.

This is a big hit for our family, and it comes in a year when we have a couple of major expenses coming up: the tween's trip to Japan in July, and the wedding in September. Forget tightening the belt--this is a heavy-duty corset situation.

So I polished up some of my college-era poverty survival skills, and after a few months of (painful!) transition I think I'm finally getting used to this much smaller budget.

I thought I'd share some of the tips I'm re-learning, in case the economic recovery isn't happening for you yet either.

1. Make everything do double-duty
Being thrifty means also being thrifty with my time.
  • When I cook I make extra so that it can also be work lunches for the week.

  • While shopping, I try to buy food in containers (glass jars, closable plastic containers) that I can reuse instead of buying disposable tupperware. I also keep a ceramic bowl and cup at my work desk because I don't like to reheat food in plastic.

  • Food waste becomes nutrients for my garden in my backyard composting bin, so I don't have to buy expensive fertilizer and trash bags.

  • The slow-cooker works at cooking food while I'm working at my job. This is the only way I've been able to use inexpensive and nutritious food like dried beans.

2. Buy for value
I don't always buy things that are cheap. Sometimes the cost of cheap things can actually be higher.

  • Nutrition: Twinkies and snack foods can be inexpensive, but they're not very nourishing--causing poorer health. Less processed=better, and I buy snack foods only at discount stores like Marden's and Big Lots.

  • Longevity: will it break right away (i.e., is it cheaply made)? Will it cause long-term consequences (as poorly fitting shoes or dollar-store medicines might)?

  • Landfills: It's hard to think about sometimes, but I try to minimize the amount of waste that I create, because cleaning up the environment is going to be HELLA expensive in the long run. This just means simple things like using waxed paper or reusable containers instead of plastic bags.

3. Wants vs Needs
I'd gotten pretty comfortable over the past year being able to have all of my needs met--and some of my wants too. In fact, some of the wants started to feel like needs. I had to reconsider my casual spending habits (movie rentals, eating at restaurants, drinking at bars, convenience foods, spending to enjoy entertainment).

Instead I've been considering ways to get some of my wants met for free or cheap, so that I'm only spending money on things that I need (like food, shelter, etc.). I do this by:
borrowing movies and books from the library
  • buying used whenever possible
  • borrowing things like tools and machines instead of buying my own
  • going on cheap dates, like the First Friday Artwalk (if you time it right you can get free wine AND snacks too!) and cheap night/matinees at the movies
  • volunteering as entertainment
  • avoiding restaurants
Some things tread the line between want and need, like my car, work clothes, and social time. I try to minimize spending on these.

4. Carry it with you
Convenience spending is one of my biggest budgetary downfalls. So I try to carry snacks and water with me--so that I'm not caught spending money on things that I could get for free or cheap at home.



The hardest part about all of this is having to think about everything all the time. Everything takes planning, and it's exhausting at first. For someone like me, whose brain runs a lot like an obsessed hamster in an exercise wheel, this is especially hard. I have to be careful not to be to rough on myself and to forgive small expenditures. Sometimes a cup of coffee with a friend means the difference between feeling sane and not, and that's value--and worth it.

And once this stuff becomes habit, it's a lot easier. I just need to keep reminding myself of that.

UPDATE 4/9: After I read the great comments below, I feel like I forgot to say a couple of things... like, that the tips above ONLY help me deal with what used to be my discretionary spending.

To deal with other expenses, I eliminated everything even remotely optional. I canceled cable and netflix, lowered my credit card payment to $20 over the minimum, and cut the amount I put into savings in half. I'm trying to get my student loan payment lowered, and April looks like the month I'm going to start being carless. I might cancel my cell phone (the cancellation fee is heinous, but it's equal to about three months' payment, and I still have over a year left in the contract). Once you get poor, it's amazing how possible certain lifestyle changes look.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Vonnegut on the barbarous technocracy of writing

Kurt Vonnegut is a nut. And I love him.

VONNEGUT
...So much of what happens in storytelling is mechanical, has to do with the technical problems of how to make a story work. Cowboy stories and policeman stories end in shoot-outs, for example, because shoot-outs are the most reliable mechanisms for making such stories end. There is nothing like death to say what is always such an artificial thing to say: The end. I try to keep deep love out of my stories because, once that particular subject comes up, it is almost impossible to talk about anything else. Readers don't want to hear about anything else. They go gaga about love. If a lover in a story wins his true love, that's the end of the tale, even if World War III is about to begin, and the sky is black with flying saucers.

INTERVIEWER
So you keep love out.

VONNEGUT
I have other things I want to talk about. Ralph Ellison did the same thing in Invisible Man. If the hero in that magnificent book had found somebody worth loving, somebody who was crazy about him, that would have been the end of the story. CĂ©line did the same thing inJourney to the End of Night: he excluded the possibility of true and final love—so that the story could go on and on and on.

INTERVIEWER
Not many writers talk about the mechanics of stories.

VONNEGUT
I am such a barbarous technocrat that I believe they can be tinkered with like Model T Fords.

INTERVIEWER
To what end?

VONNEGUT
To give the reader pleasure.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Not-So-Gentle Reminder

When the body needs a break, it just goes right ahead and takes one. As it did today, when I woke up and it was all, "Fuck you, Jen, get back in that bed. No? Ok, how about searing pain? How do you feel about the bed now, huh?"

To which I replied, "Yes, MA'AM. Uh, hello, heating pad. Haven't seen you in DAYS!" (Chronic pain, exhausting, frustrating, no cure, whine whine, blah blah.)

In other news, I'm getting married. More on that later.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Legalities

The Tween's father and I never married. For that I am sometimes grateful and often annoyed. It would have been much harder to get out of that situation if we had been legally bound, but since we were never married the Tween has existed in a custody netherland for a dozen years.

Legally, he still has 50% custody of her, even though she wouldn't know him if she looked directly at him. Since he has no interest at all in claiming that 50% we've been fine until this winter, when there became an emergent need for a Tweeny passport.

The irony is that if we had gotten married, all of this would have been settled when we divorced. When kids are involved, the legal shortcuts of marriage are pretty handy.

So I've tried to file for custody before (these days they call it primary residence), but was unsuccessful because the father is SO uninterested in custody that he wouldn't sign and return the paperwork I sent him.

Today is our initial court appearance for this process, and I am nervous. I don't like it when I can see how the government intrudes into my personal life; I like to pretend I am an autonomous free citizen--though I am clearly not.


It's also difficult to stir up the ashes of this decades-old relationship. Like it or not, at one time I loved her father enough to have a baby with him. Despite all of the years of aggravation since, I did once want to get married to him. We were parents together of a tiny beautiful infant girl. My 19 year old self wanted to erase the trauma of my teen years by settling down with him and being "normal" together. Of course, we never were and never would be. I'm pretty gay, and we were really young, and he had issues and I had issues.

My feelings for him now are mostly ambivalent, tending towards irritation when something I want can't happen. I don't even know the man any more. Our parenting-together-selves were almost half my life ago now.

My resistance to this legal process has been manifesting, though, in my body (which is sore and tired and stressed) and in a wild disorganization of thought and paperwork which is entirely unlike my normal manner of operations. I keep hiding paperwork on myself, sticking it into folders where it doesn't belong, forgetting to bring it to appointments, losing it, procrastinating filling it out. I'm taking out my feelings on the paper. Luckily the paper doesn't mind.

With a little bit of serendipity this situation will be settled--for all intents and purposes, although there is more court later in the year--today. Please think good thoughts for us.



UPDATE: I got the temporary order. It'll be permanent after another hearing, to take place in a month or so. She's mine!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Housekeeping

Doin some redecoratin around here, ayuh.

Also, the lady friend will furthermore be known as tomboy princess, or TBP. By her own request.

That is all.


UPDATE: I was too early on the nickname front, and another one has developed all on its own. Princess she is and shall be.

Broke Back Butch

My friend Anna is broken in several places. She blogs about it.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Mooooovies

During Oscar season, I like to try to see all of the best picture-nominated films, mostly because the Nickelodeon** runs them all in February, and they have cheap movie night on Tuesdays. But there are SO MANY this year! TEN! There's no way I can see all of those.

Luckily I saw a few over the course of the year, so my list is down to 5--at least possible. Unfortunately for me, it looks like I better make sure I'm in a happy place before I start out on my Oscar Adventure, because these movies all look a little... uh... suicide-inducing upsetting. Except maybe Up in the Air?

Best Picture
  • Avatar I saw this with the kiddo and my girl. The movie was SO funny. I don't know why the tween was so upset with us for laughing so much.
    The Blind Side Refuse to see.
    District 9 I saw this one and kind of enjoyed it... but too much thinking is required to appreciate this film for it to win. And I thought it was a little dumb, but better than most movies.
    An Education
    The Hurt Locker
    Inglourious Basterds
    Precious
    A Serious ManLOVED this movie, but again with the too much thinking. The folks I watched it with did NOT love it, and I felt like a nerd for liking it.
    Up OK, yes.
    Up in the Air A girl from Portland is in this movie. On that basis alone it should win, right?

  • UPDATE: Today's Press Herald has an article about the Portland girl.


    **Hey. Remember when the Nickelodeon was $2 per sticky seat? God, I miss that.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010

    Who hasn't?

    &#8220;She had burned through a fair sampling of manhood trying to find someone, not to make her &#8216;happy&#8217; - that wasn&#8217;t the point - but to cauterize her relentlessly dripping wounds.&#8221;  — Arthur Phillips, The Song Is You

    “She had burned through a fair sampling of manhood trying to find someone, not to make her ‘happy’ - that wasn’t the point - but to cauterize her relentlessly dripping wounds.”
    — Arthur Phillips, The Song Is You

    Slaughterhouse 90210 - “She had burned through a fair sampling of manhood...

    Sunday, January 24, 2010

    Earworms

    Sometimes I get poems stuck in my head... like when a song starts bouncing around in there, but it'll be a phrase from a poem that I heard one time. It happens with novels too. It doesn't necessarily have to do with the quality of the whole work, but with the certain phrase or image. Ayn Rand's "our days are numbered" calendar in Atlas Shrugged is one of them, as are China Mieville's black windows, Carolyn Chute's soft whitebellied heroines, Annie Dillard's dead like sheaves of falling wheat, Dorothy Allison's scrambled eggs and tomatoes, Muriel Rukeyser's useful shit, Yeats' cloths of heaven, the anonymous "westron wynde"...

    Sometimes what my brain coughs up is a message for me, and sometimes not. I have been lately pondering domesticity, and this is one of today's--those last two lines stuffing up my thoughts. I highly recommend the collection that this came from. May the copyright gods forgive me.

    Affections Must Not
    by Denise Riley

    This is an old fiction of reliability

    is a weather presence, is a righteousness
    is arms in cotton

    this is what stands up in kitchens
    is a true storm shelter
    & is taken straight out of colonial history, master and slave

    arms that I will not love folded nor admire for their 'strength'
    linens that I will not love folded but will see flop open
    tables that will rise heavily in the new wind & lift away, bearing their precious burdens

    of mothers who never were, not white nor black
    mothers who were always a set of equipment and a fragile balance
    mothers who looked over a gulf through the cloud of an act & at times speechlessly saw it

    inside a designation there are people permanently started to bear it, the not-me against sociology
    inside the kitchens there is a realizing of tightropes
    Milk, if I do not continue to love you as deeply and truly as you want and need
    that is us in the mythical streets again

    support, support

    the houses are murmuring with many small pockets of emotion
    on which spongy grounds adults' lives are being erected and paid for daily
    while their feet and their childrens' feet are tangled around like those of fen larks
    in the fine steely wires which run to and fro between love and economics


    affections must not support the rent


    I. neglect. the house

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    Symbology

    Speaking of symbols... If you follow me on twitter, you know two important things about the past month.

    1. I broke my chest on a pretty girl's shoulder.
    2. Then I fell in love with the girl.

    Are these things unrelated? If I was writing my own story I would throw out that plot faster than last month's baked beans. However, while I have some input on the plot of my own story I am not the ultimate editor. I did not intentionally break my chest nor fall in love... and yet there it is.

    Both of these developments have required some adjustments. Breathing, for example, has insisted on being reconsidered. As has cuddling. Those also seem related.

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