Saturday, October 26, 2013

The wisdom of not doing it.

Rogue Valley Roasting Company
Soy Vanilla Butterscotch Steamer

I missed the blog last week because I was shopping for accessories for my Steampunk Poet costume.  (Which reminds me - did I give someone my quill?  Damn it, I think I did.  Oh, well).  Yes, I will post piccies post Halloween.  I think next week will just be a Fall Photo-spread.  You're welcome.

So, last night I went to get tattooed.  Today, I have a partially shaved wrist and no new ink.  I had been anticipating this for so long.  Nine years, in fact, since I got my first moon tattoo.  Now, when I finally had the doodle for my suns in hand (there's a whole other story I will relate later on), and words to live by ready to be permanently inked onto my hands and wrist, I had to stop.  I hadn't been feeling great all day (serious lack of sleep, among other things) and at that moment in the chair, literally as the tattooist was about to apply the stencil, a wave of nausea hit me.  Fortunately, I know my body well enough to know the risks of continuing and potentially puking and/or passing out on the nice young man about to inflict intense pain upon me.  As much as I wanted to push through the discomfort, I am wise enough to know that you don't mess around with the physiology. 

It was the wise thing - courageous, even - to speak up for my body and reschedule when the queasiness did not subside.  And trust me, I can tell you from experience, your tattooist is much happier when you don't pass out and pee on their chair. (Let no one mistake me for a bad ass...)

But your body is a much more tangible thing than your mind.  So it's easier to defend your choice to back out of your previously stated plans when it's your body that is impairing your efforts.  It seems much less forgivable when you tell people something is just "too much" for you - your psyche - to handle right now.

As I proclaimed a few weeks ago, I started school at the beginning of this month.  I knew it would be difficult to manage with two small boys and my high levels of stress and disorder.  But I was going to "Do it anyway!"  By my first day of my physics class I knew I was in trouble and that it would take a considerable effort to catch up and stay caught up.  I shared my fear with some of my new classmates that I might not be back for our second class.  I was met with a challenge from a woman who pushes through obstacles...  Why wouldn't I make it?  Little ones?  So?  She has kids, too.  And works full time, of course.  You just do it anyway.  You find a way.  You push through...

Rather than joyfully inspiring me to achieve more than I believed I could, she just pissed me off.  She might be a lovely person.  I truly do not know.  She struck me, however, as someone who lacks empathy and understanding of people not like her.  She had also irritated me earlier in our lab by jumping into our lab experiment without reading all the instructions.  I might legitimately be slower than I ought to be (especially sans coffee), but there is value in not setting yourself up to fail by plunging headlong into a situation before you're ready.  Just sayin'...

Needless to say, I did not make it to my second class.  If the drop date hadn't been just days after the first class, I might have stuck it out a little longer to see if I could get on track fast enough.  I think I stood a chance of pulling it off.  But I risked academic probation if I couldn't make it work, and another "W" would suspend my financial aid, so I made the the best call I could at that moment.

But why couldn't I do it?  What was my excuse? If she could do it, why was I failing? 

Because, unlike her, for reasons known only to ourselves, my mind was deeply nauseated.  And I did not want to risk the consequences of inflicting more pain and stress on it when my children were in fallout range of emotional projectile vomit.  That's not an excuse.  That is the wisdom of not doing it.  I might have been able to do it, but it was better that I didn't.

When someone says something like, "I didn't have time to do (whatever)," a truer phrase might be, "I didn't have much time to do it, and I elected to not put myself through the difficulty of making it happen."  And maybe that's a weak stance for them and maybe that's a wise choice.  Only they can say.  It's not for other people to decide for them which it is.

When I say, "I have kids," by way of explaining the state of things, that's only a piece of the explanation.  It's a useful shorthand because most people understand the intense stress of caring for a couple of miniature crazy people.  And if someone gives you crap because you don't have as many kids as them and you deign to be more exhausted and stressed out - screw them.  One kid is plenty.  One kid is more than some people can handle.  No one has exactly the same circumstances, psychology, or physiology, and the same results should never be expected for everyone.

It is entirely acceptable to challenge people to do their best, but it is never okay to tell someone what their best is.  It was incredibly difficult for me to let school go again.  But I realized that that was the "it" in "Do it anyway."  I was afraid of being stuck in this cycle forever and never going back, but the best thing I can do for my children is to put off the extra stress until I feel a little more stable, got a few more duckies in a row.  There's no shame in that.  It does not make me inferior, it just makes me different.

And one final story to drive it home...

A few weeks before giving birth to my second child, I heard a story about a woman who ran a marathon at 39 weeks and then went and gave birth.  That's great.  It's always inspiring to hear about someone pushing the bounds of human excellence.  My birth story a few weeks later, however, may be more inspiring. 

Though I have fibromyalgia, though I was in so much pain during my first delivery (even with an epidural) that I couldn't push my son out and almost had to have an emergency C-section, my second son was delivered by a water birth - no painkillers.  I had taken what I had learned about myself and my body and used that knowledge to prepare myself for the second go-round.  And that effort was rewarded with a completely natural childbirth experience.  Boo-yah.

Marathon lady was a runner to begin with, I was damaged at the start.  We both achieved something, and the fact that I didn't run a marathon before giving birth doesn't mean that I was a failure.  She excelled.  I overcame.  We both achieved something. 

But I do think my story is more relatable.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Feel our pain - FEEL IT!

Bloomsbury Coffee House
12oz Coffee

Let's talk compensation for our elected representatives.

Needless to say, I think our reps should not be getting paid during the shutdown.  I think I can accept them getting back-pay, but definitely no checks for them while they are withholding paychecks from other people.  But while we're on the subject of their paychecks, let's just settle what that amount ought to be.

How do we determine what is fair compensation?  There is no real private sector equivalent to a congressman (and we will just not go into all the other things we can equate a congressman to).  Some have said they should make minimum wage, or some derivative of that (no more than double the minimum, for example).  But I think it's pretty fair to say that a minimum wage job isn't equivalent in responsibility and consequence to that of an elected official's.  It's worth adding that that does not make either worker superior or inferior to the other (just sayin').

Some people put forth a specific amount for compensation (as it is now), extrapolated from current values within the economy.  But that criteria is pretty subjective, and that amount would naturally need to be adjusted as costs adjust.  And, as I am against minimum wage being tied to votes, I would be against rep pay being tied to votes, and for the same reasons.  Whatever the criteria by which we set their pay, their pay should move as the economy moves and be self-adjusting, as minimum wage should be.

So what's fair?  I say, if they are representing us, they should make what we make.  Any representative should receive whatever is the median income of their constituents.  All the way up to the White House.
Yes, I think the "Leader of the Free World" should make about 40 grand a year. 

Naturally, there would be other forms of their compensation - company healthcare, company car (or company "Air Force One"), pensions, etc.  And representatives do have to maintain more than one residence - in their home districts and in their governing cities.  There would be expected traveling expenses going back and forth.  It would be reasonable to cover some of those costs to allow our representatives to fulfill the obligations of their jobs.  Within limits.

But when it comes to the actual paycheck, why should our public servants receive such vastly higher pay than their employers - us?  Shouldn't they have some skin in the game?  The truth is that most of these people are already rich.  You nearly have to be in order to run for office nowadays.  Which begs two conclusions.  First: if they're already rich, then why do they need more money?  Second: we need to implement some other reforms while we're at it, so that people who are actually more representative of us are able to be elected to represent us.

A couple thoughts...

First, term limits.  You can be re-elected once to the same job.  Maybe you can sit out a term (or two) and come back.  But to serve 30, 40, 50 years, in a job with a two-year term?  That's just not a healthy relationship for either of us, and we both need to move on.

Next - money.  Everybody seems to talk about how horrible is the influence of money in our elections.  How many people actually put forth any real reforms to fix that?  Public matching funds are one fix that might make a little difference, but they don't fix the main driver of increasing election costs.  It's the advertising, people.  Buying television ads are incredibly costly to campaigns and they are the worst source of information for voters.  But they sure are effective for the well-funded campaigns, and who wants to give up that advantage?

If we were to restrict or eliminate political television ads, the costs needed to wage political warfare would be reduced, and that would make the playing field just that much more level.  Much of the political messaging gets out through other, less costly, means anyway (internet ads, news proxies).  But we could still make efforts to give equal quality exposure to more candidates.  Perhaps a series of 30-minute prime-time informative spots donated via public television.  Or something.  But in the age of the internet and hyper-social media, we can better serve both candidates and voters by moving away from the TV.

Oh, and I think most of us can agree that money is not speech.  Can we just pass that language so the judiciary is no longer confused on this point?

I could go on (and on) but I'm getting distracted and running out of coffee.  I think that will do for today.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sanctimonious Fucktards

Mix Sweet Shop
12oz Soy Chai
Lemon Whiskey Macaroon
Cranberry Scone

I'm guessing you guys can guess where this one's going.

Imagine for a moment the very smart couple.  They got their education.  They got married.  They had their careers, they bought a house.  At thirty, they decided to start their family.  They had three beautiful, amazing children, who are a testament to their parents' awesomeness.  They did everything right.  And in 2008, they got knocked on their asses when they both lost their jobs to the Great Recession.

Over the last few years they have been knocked around badly, not knowing where the next job, the next meal, the next temporary housing situation was going to come along.  They and their children have been amazingly resilient, though not without their bruises from these ordeals.  But finally - finally! - they are getting back on their feet.  Back into regular employment, back into regular housing, and regular meals.

Or, they were getting back on their feet, until October 1st when they got the dreaded news: furloughed.

I don't think the sanctimonious fucktards who caused this shutdown can appreciate the word "dreaded."  They have no idea, not the faintest wisp of empathetical understanding, of what it is to live in terror of having no paycheck.  No net, no back-up plans, no hope of escape, and now, no help from the government they have been helping with every precious paycheck for so many years.

Let's imagine someone else now.

There are millions of pregnant women out there this very moment.  A significant number of them are still in their first trimester, or early in their second.  Early enough to get an abortion in most places.  Almost none of these women (as a percentage of the overall population) is rich enough to not be worried about their own finances, let alone the overall economy.  Many, many, many of these women are very, very worried about their own finances. 

So think about one of these more anxious, more desperate women.  Maybe she was smart and did everything right.  Maybe she wasn't that smart.  Maybe she was foolish enough to trust, in people, in situations.  Maybe she didn't tread carefully enough.  Maybe she was just human.  Whatever path brought here, here she is - due, and dreading what kind of life her child might have.  What do you think that pregnant woman is thinking now when all safety nets have been removed?  How much trust does she have that those nets will be restored? that they will be enough?  How much does she trust that they won't be ripped away again before she's more stable?  And how long will that take?

Does she dare keep the baby?  When she has been robbed of the means to care for herself and the child, and robbed of all confidence that there will be a safety net if she were to need it again - how can she bring herself to invest in a human life under those circumstances?

These are not hyperbolic or abstract examples.  These are real fucking people and there are thousands - millions - of them.  Their pain - their daily, living, breathing dread - is very fucking real.  And not only are they suffering directly by the hands of these self-righteous, self-deluded bigots, but everyone else is going to begin suffering by proxy.  Even the rich are eligible for fallout, whether or not they are willing to acknowledge it.

I confess I'm feeling a bit hostile writing this.  And I was in such a good mood today...  But this is a Miller's Facepalm of epic proportion.  And if somebody says the words "Obama's shutdown" in front of me, I will have a very difficult time not punching them in the face.  And I'm such a nice person...  But no matter how much some people want to engage in rebranding and double-think, this is in no way a bi-partisan impasse.  This was a directly Republican engineered disaster. 

This was in no way unavoidable.  Conflicting budgets were passed by each house six damn months ago, and all they had to do then was follow normal procedures and appoint the people from each house to sit down together and hash it out.  But that didn't happen, did it?  Nope!  And, yes, it was because of the Republican leadership.  Even now, all the Speaker has to do is bring a bill to the floor to be voted on that would fund the government - at sequester levels! - for a few weeks while they finally sit down and try to agree on a budget.  He will not bring the bill to the floor.  One guy.  One asshole.  One great big sanctimonious fucktard is choosing to continue this.

And compromise?  That's like saying you'll stop punching someone in the head if some other guy will start kicking him in the nuts.  Either way, if you get what you're demanding or you keep doing what you're doing, someone's going to the hospital.  And, oh yeah, he doesn't have health insurance.

There are plenty of reasonable Republicans out there who don't want this.  But they are complicit in this theft and abuse of these citizens who are being robbed of their pay, of their life-saving assistance.  And they are just as guilty of the reckless endangerment of public safety.  And, oh yeah, the economic safety of the fucking world if they continue this through the debt ceiling, too.  Even if you do believe that the Affordable Care Act has serious problems, and even if you believe this could actually rectify any of those problems, the consequences of this tactic are, right now, doing more real harm to far more people.  If you want to get rid of Obamacare, vote it out with something better.  This is just not worth it.