Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Friday, October 31, 2008

You gotta be kidding me

Today I was in my favorite coffee shop, meeting with a new client. Sitting next to us were two young women, high school friends, who had graduated from top colleges last spring. How do I know this? They mentioned their respective schools about a million times. Every sentence began with "After I left Yale.." and "After Princeton..." so I was pretty damn sure. Anyhooooo...

They talked about unemployment, about traveling, about what they were planning next in their lives. Both girls didn't have a job, had spent the summer traveling in foreign countries, returned home to their parents houses to vegetate and contemplate their navels, and then their respective parents laid down the law and told them that they had to get a job and find a place to live. After whining and moaning for a while, the conversation naturally turned to politics.

Both young women were able to vote, were eligible to vote, and yet said that they were not voting. They got into the "what's the point?" frame of mind, where Massachusetts is such a blue state that their votes weren't really necessary, and after all.... they were so busy and all that they didn't want to (gasp) wait in line. I mean, waiting with all the common folk. You never know how that might smear your reputation.

I held my tongue. I didn't say a word. But I was fuming inside. How dumb are these spoiled young women that they couldn't even exercise their fundamental right to vote because it might interfere with their online job searches? So here are my words. For these young women and for all the people that still believe that their vote doesn't matter.

Now get your ass in gear and vote! Bring something to nosh on, a water bottle, and a book. But vote. The country needs your vote. We all need you to participate. So vote!

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Brief Interlude

Things that make me laugh (click to enlarge)

Things that make me wistful

Things that make me hopeful

Things that make me smile

Things I'm looking forward to

Things that make me worry

Things that make me nuts


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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Repercussions continue

Today I heard from the Boy's guidance counselor and his program director that he totally blew English for this term due to skipping classes. They have decided to take him out of the mainstream English class with his fabulous teacher who adored him, and put him back into the program's English class. Not only is this upsetting, it's just ridiculous. I know that this is due to him not taking his meds. I know that since I've been giving them to him, all of two days, he's behaving, he's in control, and he is no longer screaming at me. His impulsivity is much better. He is much better.

However, that doesn't mitigate the fact that he blew his chance to be in a high level English class. It is abject laziness atop a lack of med compliance that enabled him to be such a jerk. I understand that. The school officials understand that. But the point is, the kid has blown a full term of English and he can't go back and make that up. It's going to be on his transcript. It's going to affect his chances for college. He just doesn't get that. He seems to have little to no interest in even discussing college. I know he's not ready to attend college next year, but he has to do something, and so far we have no idea of what that something can be. If he isn't med compliant, he has to be at home. I can't set him upon the world behaving like he does unmedicated. He would be a murder victim in a week.

I feel so confused about all of this. He's huge, he looks grown up, but he behaves like a little kid. He's incapable of making good decisions on his own. He's incapable of behaving like a kid his age should behave. He won't be able to care for himself for a long long time. That time is going to hang on me like a weight. He's an anvil around my neck. I may as well call him ACME.

I didn't sign up for this. I didn't sign up for a kid that might never be able to be on his own. I don't want to take care of him for life. Like all parents, I raised him to be independent, to be a mensch, to be a grownup. I want him to have a job, to get married, to be a parent, to live a good happy life. My dreams for him are continually curtailed. I question everything about him. I don't understand how I'm supposed to encourage him to go forward when he isn't able to care for himself right now.

It's all too much for me right now. I feel alone and sad. I'm confused. I don't know where to turn. I don't know what to do next. All I know is that graduating from high school is not supposed to be the high point of this kid's life.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Feeling lost in a world of support

I'm terribly unhappy today. Sad. Feeling like I just don't know where to turn. Not sure who to talk to, not sure what to do. But I must soldier on because that's what mothers do, regardless of the circumstances. We make things regular despite the difficulties we're experiencing. We gloss over the bad to emphasize the good. We encourage, we trust, we attempt to let our kids grow more independent. Even when it bites us in the butt, we still try.

I've known for a while that something was wrong. The Boy has been horribly cantankerous, very obnoxious, and even more difficult to live with than usual. He's spend a good 90% of his time insulting me, saying hurtful things, and in general making me horribly miserable. Yes, he's a teenager and they are apt to push buttons just for fun, but this was different. This was purposely hurtful nasty stuff.

Along with the continual verbal abuse, he was even more resistant than normally to do chores. Everything was a battle, every battle ended with how much he hated me and what a bitch I was. Simple declarations like "Hey, tonight is garbage night" were treated like I was torturing him. His reactions were off the wall. Something was very wrong.

I gave him some rope, because he's going through some losses. Both his therapist and his psychopharm have left and we're sailing solo right now through this sea of insanity until replacements are assigned. He's just started seeing a temporary therapist, but the reality is, he's not going to share anything with her for a long long time. It's just not his way to let down his guard.

I thought that the losses were affecting his behavior, letting him test out just how horrid he could be to me while I had nobody to report to. Then I thought that his getting sick was part of the problem. And it was, for a few days. But the behavior continued unabated.

Last night he really went too far. Way too far. Like over the hills and through the woods too far. And I sat there and took the abuse and didn't say anything, because anything that I utter is just fodder for more abuse. I know that this is pretty typical bipolar behavior, but I also know that this behavior is exhibited when the meds were off. Ding Ding Ding!

So this morning I went and looked at his medicine bottles. The bottles that I had just given him control over because he begged and begged for it. He hasn't been taking his meds. Any of them. At all. For a long time now. We last refilled the 30 day prescriptions on 9/15 and the bottles are all at least half full.

When he came home from school I talked to him and of course he denied the obvious. But I told him that I'm back to handing out the meds. He did admit that he has skipped one of the meds 'occasionally' but the other ones, he swears he's been taking. He hasn't. He's in denial. He doesn't realize just how the lack of medication affects him.

I'm so sad for him. He can't possibly go to college if he can't be trusted to take his meds. There is no way I can leave him alone if he isn't med compliant. I had hoped that at some point the medication would become second nature to him, but I was wrong. Dead wrong. I'm sorry that I made such an error. It's affected me, it's affected his sister, his schoolwork, his relationships with friends. I wanted to trust him. I wanted to know that he could be med compliant so I didn't have to treat him like an infant. I was wrong, and I feel terrible about it. This is a bad mommy moment.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Why I love living in my little city

This is my congressman. I love him with all my heart. The man is smart as a whip, interesting, and radically funny. How can you not love someone with commercials like this?

and the newest ad

Barney, you are the best!

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Gas Prices

It seems like the price of gas is falling just as fast as it spiked last summer. Yesterday afternoon I saw gas prices that seemed so low I was excited. Excited for $2.48/gallon. What is wrong with me? But compared to $4.25/gallon, paying less than two and a half dollars a gallon seems like a total bargain.

Funny thing is, when I first started driving, the year we replaced dinosaurs with automobiles, I paid a whopping $.29/gallon for gas. Yes, you read that right. I can remember my father, a notorious tightwad, being upset that gas was THIRTY CENTS A GALLON! Because, being a tightwad, he always insisted in including that .99 in the price. This is a man who would go all over town to find the cheapest gas to fill up his Jew Canoe.

Of course, I also remember when stamps for a first class letter cost $.04 and candy bars were a nickle. Because I'm an old fart. But what does that matter when gas prices are again falling into an almost normal price category?

I haven't changed my driving habits at all. I don't drive hither and yon. Mostly I don't drive at all. I use a full tank a month, so I really don't have the right to complain much about how much gas costs. I don't commute anywhere. I only drive the Girl to and from her job, which is right up the road and takes a whole 5 minutes to get there. Otherwise it's doctor appointments, occasional shopping excursions, and an errand or two. However, that doesn't mean that I don't get to appreciate the fall in prices because I know how much those insane prices this summer affected so many of you. The poor folks that moved far from their jobs to be able to afford a nice house at a decent price, those are the people who hurt the most during the huge spike this summer. When people were spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on gas, that affected their ability to buy necessities like food.

What bothers me is that the heating oil companies, at the height of the price hikes, used scare tactics to rope customers into locking in their heating oil prices. With tales of $6.00/gallon heating oil prices, gullible and frightened customers locked in their oil price at over $4/gallon. Now heating oil prices have fallen into the ~$2.50/gallon range, but those customers that locked in are going to be paying almost twice that for the same oil as other customers who didn't fall for the scare tactics. I think that's criminal. I can understand locking in a maximum price, but to charge people way over what the oil is worth due to frightening advertising that the companies themselves made is just morally and ethically wrong. It will be interesting to see if the state legislature takes action to control this greed. I don't have high hopes.

I don't know how low the gas and oil will go, but watching it fall is invigorating after so many weeks of gasping at the high prices, isn't it?

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

The excitement! The Tension! The Rummage Sale

My Girl has been patiently waiting for months for a local synagogue's rummage sale. A friend of mine told her all about the sale, and how she could get a bunch of clothing for pennies on the dollar. Just the kind of shopping the Girl and I both love. Cheap and plentiful!

A friend of the Girls wanted to come, so she showed up way early, and we had extra time so I took the Girl to the consignment shop to pick up a check she had waiting for her. Unfortunately, they did not have the check ready so we have to go back tomorrow. But that didn't stop us from looking at all the merchandise and oooing and aaaahing over several items. There was a pair of riding boots that I fell in love with. Of course, not my size. Nothing is EVERY my gigantic size. That's why I wear crocs every flipping day. Nothing else ever fits. But I digress.

Off to the synagogue to stand in an amazingly long line of hopeful customers. We got there early enough to have prime grabbing rights, and we had a plan. It's always helpful to have a plan. I went right to purses, the Girl and her friend hit the women's clothing piles, and I found a nice private spot way in the back to pile all our stuff for later sorting.

Purses were disappointing. I found one I though the Girl might like, but I got that "are you insane" look so I put it right back! I also found a bunch of clothes for the Girl and piled them high in my secret spot. She and her friend weren't that good at poking through the piles, so I had to show them how to go under and grab to find stuff nobody else had found. And thus illustrated with a pair of 7 For all Mankind corderoys. Heh. I rock the rummage sale. I also found her a cashmere sweater, a bunch of jeans, a down vest, some polo shirts, etc. I was a shopping machine.

Sorting the stuff was funny. She pulled out a pair of flip flops and I almost plotzed. Flip Flops? In winter? At a rummage sale? Is she nuts? But they were J Crew flip flops and that's her favorite brand and it's her money blah blah blah. Some of the stuff I picked out she hated. Shocking! Some of the stuff she loved. There was a long black crepe fancy dress with sequins all over it that I found. It was in perfect shape. Her friend bought it for Halloween! She can be Morticia. It was gorgeous.

Meanwhile, I sauntered over to the Men's pile and found a perfect, brand new pair of Louis of Boston corderoy pants for the Boy. I would bet those pants costs a couple hundred bucks at Louis, but we just smushed them into our bag. There were other things we could have bought, but we went over the limit of what the Girl was willing to spend.

Funny thing about my daughter. When she was living off my money she was little Miss Spendthrift. But with her own money? Little Miss Tightwad. She hates spending her own money. It totally cracks me up, but I'm so glad that she wants to save. She seems to intuitively understand that spending every penny you have the second it hits your pocket isn't the smartest move. Unfortunately, her brother has not yet gotten that message.

We need to find more of these types of sales. She's all psyched about new (old) clothes. I'm loving my little cheapskate this afternoon!

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Great Content, No Readers

We all know of blogs that have the greatest content, but don't have many readers. Blogs that inspire us, make us thing, stimulate us, but don't have a lot of support and certainly aren't ever going to recognized by A-listers. I have a few of my favorite reads, the people I check first in my google reader whenever I see an update. Most of them have a small but faithful following. Some have a couple of hundred readers, some less. But they are good writers, great writers, and focus upon some of the most interesting issues of the day. So how can we help these bloggers to get the audience they deserve? Well, Chuck Westbrook has a good idea. OK, a great idea.

Chuck says:

There is a simple way to discover under-appreciated blogs and help them reach the audience they deserve. In fact, with no special effort and in one fell swoop, you can now find these sites and reward the creator in a powerful way.

Here are the problems:

1. Great Content but No Audience
There are a ton of brilliant blogs that are being read by almost no one. Some authors give up for lack of readers. Others continue to produce clever, insightful pieces that remain hopelessly buried and forever unappreciated.

2. An Audience Hunting for Great Content to Read
If the blogs with the best content always rose to the top, readers wouldn’t have any trouble finding them. But that doesn’t happen, so instead, it takes either luck or a lot of work to discover good new blogs.

Seems like it’d be easy to fix; they want to be connected to one another. Right now, though, there’s not a great way to make that happen. Unless…

**THE BIG IDEA**: Ending the Tragedy of Under-Appreciated Blogs

This is a problem we can do something about without too much trouble. Here’s what I’m thinking.

1. Gather some nice bloggers who believe in helping good content rise. The more the merrier. This becomes our group for the project.

2. A good, lesser-known blog is chosen. Everyone in the group will read that blog for two weeks.

3. At the end of the two weeks, the group moves to another blog to read.

With scores of bloggers focused on a particular blog, the author should see many nice things happen over those two weeks, especially if the blog really is a hidden gem. This includes discussions, traffic, constructive criticism, encouragement, and connecting to some of the bloggers in the group. That author then joins the group and we move along and do it again.

Crazy Big Potential

Picture what success might look like. What if we get hundreds of bloggers playing along? What if bloggers like Seth or Dooce or other iconic bloggers join in?

Imagine how it would feel to have those numbers and those people looking at your blog after it’s been frustratingly quiet for months. It would be tremendous. That blogger would be permanently bolstered, and it would all be because of the strength of their content, and anything that allows bloggers that focus fully on content to succeed is great for the medium.

It Begins Here

How well this takes off will hinge on how well I’ve explained the idea and whether you decide to play along. Participating is so easy and the benefit to bloggers and readers could be tremendous–you really can’t lose.

All you’d have to do is:

1. Comment on Chuck's Blog to express your interest in participating.

2. Be willing to add only one new blog’s worth of reading to your life. This will be a different blog every two weeks.

With so little required and such great possibilities, why not try? Instead of analyzing and getting everything right up front, let’s just take the first few steps and see where that takes us.

Again, there’s no risk here. There’s no angle. It’s just a promising idea.

Let’s Get Started

I’m not going to load this with links. If the idea is good, help me spread it. That’s the spirit of this whole project anyway.

We’ll try to get a bit of momentum gathered while the final details are set up, and then I’ll reach out again.

I've nominated a couple of my favorite blogs. I'll nominate a few more as well. Go and play along. The more blogs nominated, the more readers will find new reads that speak to them. This is how the blogosphere supports the underappreciated and underread. Just make sure that the blogs you are nominating ARE NOT those that get nominated for everything under the sun. Dooce and Pioneer Woman have anough readers on their own. They don't need your help. Really.

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Ah, for the good old years

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Question 1 works against renters too

In MA, we're voting three questions:

State Personal Income Tax
Decriminalization of Marijuana
Banning Greyhound Dog Racing

Not surprising, I have strong opinions on all three. Who would of thunk it? Obviously, as the parent of teenagers, I'm all for the decriminalization of small amounts of pot, 1 ounce or less. Offenders under 18 would have to fork over their pot, pay a $100 penalty, and attend a drug awareness program. Offenders over 18 would not be subject to the drug awareness program. Currently, pot is treated as a felony and if a minor is arrested for possession and convicted s/he would be unable to get any college loans according to the incredibly stupid and invasive Patriot Act. Yes, it's true. Students would also be denied public housing, public financial assistance including unemployment insurance, the right to operate a motor vehicle and the opportunity to serve as a foster or adoptive parent. Tell me how stupid THAT is.

I'm also for the banning of dog racing, a cruel sport that currently confines dogs for 20 hours or more in crates. In addition, more than 800 MA racing greyhounds have been injured since 2002, including hip injuries, broken legs, paralysis and even death from cardiac arrest. Greyhounds in the state have also died from drug abuse and have tested positive for cocaine.

The first question would reduce the state personal income tax rate to 2.6% for all categories of taxable income for the year 2009 and would eliminate in total income tax beginning in 2010. In this economy to take away personal income tax would simply move the tax base to property tax in order to pay for the services provided by the state. In the past week the state has already been subjected to severe and deep cuts across the state budget. We have had continual cuts for the past 9 years, starting with Mitt Romney (may he rot in hell) and now forced to continue by Deval Patrick due to this delightful economy. Our state is hurting, we have no money for simple items like street repair, state aid to city and towns, and would reduce funding for vital local services like police, fire, and school department employees.

So you're wondering, if the personal income tax was removed and the property taxes were raised, how would that affect renters? They don't own property so they would appear to be exempt from any tax raise.

But you would be wrong. Because in MA, it is not only legal, but customary for landlords to pass on any tax increases to their tenants. Yet another example of the rich getting richer while the poor, the people unable to afford their own homes, pay the piper. In MA, rents are very high as it is. Most of the apartments in this state are in 2 and 3 family homes, and are not subject to any tenant rules regarding rental increases. Most of the multi-family homes have been owned for years and years by the same families, where the owner lives in the upstairs unit, and rent out the first floor apartments. With the way rents have increases, tenants not only pay the entire mortgage and living costs for the landlords, they also pay the taxes. Tenants pay upwards of $20,000 a year to live in a 1200 sq ft apartment while landlords live above them for free. Landlords in 2 and 3 family homes don't have to keep up their properties, and are ensured of them always having tenants because we have such a low occupancy availability with all those students in the city.

So renters bear the brunt of this removal of state personal income tax, and this is why I am completely opposed to Question 1 and will vote No.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just about all thawed out

Our furnace broke sometime yesterday and by midnight it was freaking COLD in the house. I called the gas company and they promised to be here to check out the problem by noon today. The repairman appeared before 9 am this morning, went down to the basement and banged around down there for a bit, and then came back up and declared the furnace fixed. He told me to turn up the thermostats and it would warm up in about a half hour.

At 10:30 it was just as cold as it was last night, so I called the gas company again, and they said they would send someone out asap. The same guy appeared about 11, went downstairs, banged around down there for a bit and came back up, declaring it really really fixed.

By noon it was still freezing cold. Wash, rinse and repeat for a third time. This time the same guy went downstairs, banged around for about 2 seconds, and voila, the furnace finally went on.

I had a meeting at 1 in a nearby coffee shop, so off I went with a core temp of about 90 degrees. I mean it, I was a human popsicle. I got to the coffee shop, and I was so cold that my entire body was shaking uncontrollably, even though the coffee shop was warm. Or so I thought. I was so cold that it seemed warm. I got a giant cup of coffee and wrapped my hands around it to thaw them out. But the strange thing was, I was so cold that I just really couldn't warm up, even with two big bowls of hot hot coffee.

Now, I live in New England where it is cold much of the year. I'm used to cold. I don't love cold, but I'd much rather be cold than hot. I hate being hot. Hate it with a passion. But this cold was different than the normal cold. I think I really had lowered my body temp so much that I was probably one step away from hypothermia. It took hours and hours to thaw out, I've still got the heat turned up way higher than normal, and I'm still cold. My hands are no longer like ice cubes, but I'm colder than I can remember being indoors ever. It's more like that cold you feel when you get off the slopes after a long day of skiing, where your body is tired and your muscles feel the deep ache of the cold. So freaking weird.

Of course, now I'm totally paranoid that the furnace will break again when it's REALLY cold this winter. We don't have a fireplace, so the only thing we can do to keep warm is sit around the electric oven. Very romantic!

Tomorrow I'm heading for the JCC where I will sit in the whirlpool and then the sauna until my body overheats and I finally get warm. Followed by a hot shower, and then a ride home with the heat on high.

Doesn't that sound good?

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Too much, too confidential, too funny!

Lots and lots of stuff going on here at Chez Stressful. We're all OK, just some heavy duty outside stuff that I can't share as it's not my story to tell. What I can share is that the furnace seems to have given up the ghost sometime in the last day or two, and we can't get it repaired until around noon on Thursday. It's chilly! My son has decided that it's easier and more convenient for him to keep his clothing in the front hall and has thus taken over the hallway, much to my chagrin. He will be cleaning it up this weekend, much to his chagrin. And finally, the Girl has gotten over her hair crisis and is loving the "do".

Meanwhile, on the political front, I'm totally loving the Sarah Palin clothing fiasco. I don't know why it amuses me so, but the fact that Ms. Six-Pack is wearing $150,000 worth of clothing from Needless Markup just makes me chortle. You have GOT to wonder whose stupid idea THAT was. I mean, if they're trying to sell her as Josephine Average, wouldn't she be shopping at Target or JC Penney's instead of Saks? In fact, what clothing stores are there in Wasilla? Walmart? A quick google of Wasilla AK Shopping shows absolutely NOTHING in the way of clothing stores. Nada. Zip. Certainly not a mall with Saks and Niemans. Looking further I found 2 bridal salons, a Famous Footwear, a lingere store, a children's boutique, and one store called The Source Clothing. It's NOT the urbane shopping district that one could possibly spend $15,000 on clothing, never mind $150,000.

When the Republican party is caught spending this kind of money on outfitting Carabou Barbie, they say they are planning to donate the clothing to charity. Because let's face it, what poor woman doesn't want a $1200 silk jacket, slightly worn, in her closet? A jacket that could feed her family for 6 months. And they think they're not out of touch with reality. These shenanigans are totally cracking me.

As Craig Ferguson says "nothing says hockey mom like dropping $150K on bling." ZING!

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

WFMW: Carpet care hints

When we lived in CA our house was carpeted with beige carpeting. It was almost impossible to keep clean, but during our years there I learned some trick of the trade for dealing with carpeting stains, accidents and kid screw-ups.

Removing candle wax on carpeting.

First, remove as much of the wax as you can by hand after it has dried. Then place a piece of brown paper bag over the wax in the area you want to clean and go over it with a warm iron. Keep the iron moving, and move the paper often. The heat from the iron melts the wax, and the brown paper wicks the wax OUT of the carpet. Repeat until it is gone. I have seen red wax completely removed from very light colored carpet this way..not trace of the wax remained.

Spot cleaning

Spot cleaning a carpet is good. It keeps the carpet looking good until you have time to call a professional to do the job. Remember, carpet manufactures recommend having your carpets professionally steam cleaned at least once a year. Twice if you soil them frequently. Cleaning your carpet too often can hurt your carpet and shorten it’s life-span. One of the problems that professionals come across is when homeowners clean their carpet themselves and leave behind a terrible residue in the carpet. This is especially true when using certain name brand carpet spot removers. These products leave a residue that temporarily leaves the spot looking good and giving you a false sense of satisfaction for a job well done. However, within a few weeks or even days, the spot is replaced with a grayish-blackish spot the continues to collect more dirt as the spot has traffic over it. When these spots are rinsed out, it leaves a residue that is worse than the original spot. One other item to note, keep in mind before you start spilling things on that stain - you may do more damage and end up costing yourself more money than if you just simply called a professional.

Removing Blood Stains

Blot with a white paper towel to remove as much of the blood stain that you can. Next, neutralize by spraying the stain with a solution of 1/2 cup cool water and 1 Tbsp. of clear ammonia. (do not wet backing!) Blot to remove excess moisture. (use a white paper towel for blotting) Then spray on a solution made with 1 qt. cool water and 1/4 tsp. of dish detergent. (not containing bleach or lanolin) Joy or Dawn are good. Blotting to work the solution into the area. Continue if you see the spot being removed. Now, use a spray bottle filled with cool water to rinse. Then apply a 'pad' of paper towels and place a brick or heavy book on top to absorb the moisture. If all of the stain does not come out, moisten the ends of the fabric with 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. Let stand for 1 hour. Blot and repeat until carpet is stain free. Repeat the brick to absorb moisture.

Removing water soluble and grease stains

This tip works for almost all water soluble or grease stains. Spray the area with an ammonia and water mix (50-50) that has a few drops of liquid soap added for increased "wetability". Do not allow the fluid to sit more than a few seconds and then use a shop vacuum that is rated for wet use (very important) and suck up the stain. Repeat until the stain is gone and then vacuum the area that was wet until it is almost dry. This sounds like it takes a long time but if the solution is left in a spray bottle and the vacuum is readily available, it only takes 5 minutes. The use of the vacuum is important as ALL of the normal spray "washes" that appear to remove the stain simply drive the stain deeper into the carpet where it can't be seen for a while. The above process mimics the professional carpet cleaner process and actually removes the stain.

Removing nail polish

Get some non-acetone nail polish remover that has no fragrance or color added. Next, take a white cloth or paper towel and dip in the remover. Now test on a hidden part of the carpet (corner of a closet or a remnant) by blotting on the carpet. If color transfers to the cloth or the fabric 'melts', contact a carpet care professional. If your carpet is color safe, apply the remover to a white cloth and blot (do not rub) the stained area. This may take some time. Just keep blotting until the stain is gone. If the stain remains, make a solution of 1 teaspoon of dish washing liquild and 1 quart of warm water. Apply with enough of the solution to cover the stain and let soak for 5 minutes. Blot the excess moisture and rinse with warm water. Blot thoroughly with a clean cloth. If the stain reappears after drying, repeat.

Removing Gum

Put a spoon of peanut-butter on the gum. Use the spoon to mix it into the gum and then let it sit for just a couple minutes. Then rub with the spoon to loosen it. Take a wet rag and wipe it up in sort of a picking motion. Next take a rag and wash the spot. This really works!

Removing lipstick

I realized that lipstick has petroleum jelly in it, so I rubbed some Vaseline into the lipstick stain on my carpet and it disappeared. Just rub the petroleum jelly into the stain well with your fingers. Then scrape the jelly up with a paint scraper or butter knife. Then use Dawn dish soap and warm water to clean up the rest of what is left behind. You may have to repeat the Vaseline step, depending on how much lipstick is in the carpet.

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You wouldn't believe what a day we had

Today will go down in history as the most bizarre day in a very long time. A lot of it I can't share, because it's not MY story to tell, but suffice it to say that the day started with tears and hair remorse, moved on to huge amount of school drama with someone's parent being tasered at school after slamming his kid against a wall and breaking said kid's arm. Then there was a lot of speculation over what happened and why and how and where and lord knows what else with phone calls back and forth as the rumors went wild.

With all this drama and excitement I almost forgot that tonight was the college fair and we had to get our butts in gear and get over to school. Of course we got there and there were lovely Volvos in the two handicap spots, neither of which had any right to park there. That always makes me SO happy. Assholes. So I had to park illegally while those two jerkoffs were in my space. Of course this made my kids absolutely apoplectic because lord knows, I might actually SAY something or complain or something. How mortifying. So of course I complained at the front office, but they did absolutely nothing. SHOCKING!

The college fair was packed to the gills, and suprisingly the Boy, who is graduating this year, had absolutely no interest in looking at any college but was very interested in picking apart everything I said or did. He's so delightful at times. At one point I turned around to him and said "Can I do ANYTHING right?" He didn't get the hint.

We went up to every college that I thought he might be interested in or could be a likely spot for him. I would say, "Oh, Bard college. It's in upstate NY, a small liberal arts school, kind of selective, but very quirky." He would grunt. I would say "Do you want to talk to them?" He would grunt and say "Why?" I thought of killing him right then and there, but then he saw some friends of his and realized that it wasn't just for preppies, and was a lot less obnoxious. Still rude as hell, but then again, when isn't he?

The Girl, on the other hand, was totally into the whole college fair thing. She walked around with her boyfriend and choose the colleges that looked the prettiest. She wants to study abroad, take art classes, and do something interesting. Maybe furniture making. Or silversmithing. She wants to be a craftsperson, not a fine artist. I think we'll find some good programs for her next year.

We got home and had to go over all the brochures and they had to make fun of each other choices because that's what they do.

Meanwhile, the cats are fighting and running all over the house with hissing and fighting and all I want to do is put a pillow over my head and disappear forever.

The end.

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A tough morning

The girl is suffering from severe haircut remorse. We've ALL been there. She's scared that she'll look different. She's scared that she can't maintain it without expensive products (we can get them wholesale but it's still an investment) and she's scared that it will frizz out in damp weather. She needs LOTS of hugs. Please please leave a comment on the Part Two post. Please. I'll print them out and it will make her feel better. She's in tears now. Delurk... but please comment. My heart is breaking for her.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

A Star is Born Part 2

OMG, what a long and totally fun day this has been. I had NO clue that hair was so interesting. Honestly, I haven't ever had a regular stylist. I'm the kind of person that does my hair myself most of the time. I'm kind of a loser as a girly-girl. I just don't have the time, the money, or the motivation to spend hours in the salon chair while people fawn over me. But this isn't about me, it's about the Girl, the show, and the result. Oh man, the result! I can't even think of the words. Fortunately, a picture (even crappy ones that are too dark and need to be photoshopped but I'm too tired to do it) is worth a thousand words.

So we get to the hotel conference room at 11ish, and the first thing we did was to choose outfits for the show. The Girl had brought an assortment of clothing, and the one thing we both thought was iffy was what the stylists choose. Go figure!

They hid the Girl and Jillian behind big posters before the start of the show, and then they began with a short video introducting the company's vision statement. After the video, Melissa got to deliver a long monologue about what it means to be a stylist (who knew it was so complex) and how they create and what kind of people choose to go into hair, etc. It was interesting, and the crowd was really receptive.

The crowd. Oh, I gotta tell you about the attendees. They were all Boston area stylists and they ranged from the young to fairly well established. They had major hair. Every freaking color of the rainbow, every kind of cut, some really gorgeous, some pretty horrible. But.. every single female stylist had the most expensive purses I've ever seen. Coach, Prada, Fendi, Gucci, Hermes... if it had a designer logo somewhere on it, someone was carrying it. I guessed the collective cost of those purses would be equal to a house. And the shoes. The SHOES. It was like dying and going to heaven. Anyhow...

Jillian was up first. As she came out, Claudia talked about how her color was done, explaining in great detail how she divides up the head into regions, how each region had a different color treatment (v on the bottom, u in the middle, hourglass diamonds on the top) so that when she cut the hair, it would fit the color they way the hair naturally moves. Honestly, there is no way I could describe the whole lecture, but she talked about every single part of the head and how hair moves on each part and what was "trash hair" and what were defining movement, etc.

Then she started cutting Jillian's hair, dividing it into the three regions and starting on the very back bottom. She cut for about 20 minutes and all of a sudden Jillain sort of slumped forward and passed out. We all got her onto the floor where she had a seizure. We called 911, cleared the room of all the stylists, and when she came to, we put her on a stretcher and sent her to the hospital. With her hair half cut. And she has a wedding to attend this weekend. But this was not the last we would see of Jillian.

The medical emergency totally freaked out both Claudia and Melissa, and we had to have a break so that they could chill out. Claudia was in tears and I was afraid that she was too upset to cut the Girl's head, but she recovered.

In the meantime, Melissa did a demo with Megan's hair, which she had curled into the cutest Shirley Temple sausage curls. She was demonstrating this AMAZING product called Dust It. It is a powder that you shake on your head, rub it in, and it provides volume like you can't believe. Plus it feels totally natural and has hold. She pulled out the sausage curls and with nine hair pins put up Megan's hair in a beautiful updo. It totally held even when Megan shook her head really hard.

Now it was time for Claudia to explain how she was going to do the Girl's hair according to the colors she had done yesterday. She first divided the hair up into the three parts, with a top knot that was totally hysterical on the top of the Girl's head.

She talked a lot about how stylists have to stay straight and not move from side to side, and demonstrated various shear techniques. It was so obvious from the demo and the questions that Claudia is a master craftsman. Her talent just exuded in every word and action. It was so impressive.

And then she started cutting. First she worked on the "trash hair" in back and she cut so much off that I actually gasped. I mean, it was short! I thought the Girl would have been furious if she had seen how short it was, but she just sat there quietly as Claudia cut and shaped her hair.

While she was cutting, Melissa did yet another demo on Megan, brushing out her curls and using a product called Marsh Mellow, styled her hair into what I called a "soap opera do". The Marsh Mellow was a cool product called molding clay. Again, who knew? It rubs into the hair, and provides a lot of shine on the finish, while holding the style without spray or gel. (If you still use gel or hairspray, you're behind the times. Toss it and find other styling products that are a lot more natural.)

Megan, who is absolutely adorable and newly pregnant, looked cute in every single iteration of the various styles. If you live in the Portland ME area, she's your go to girl for a great style.

Back to the Girl, who was about half way done. Again Claudia gave more of her demo about how she was cutting each part. The Girl's hair was brushed forward over her head like cousin It and I couldn't even fathom what the final outcome would look like.

Then Melissa brought Sherry up and talked about her color and how they made it pop with more copper tones. We got a long explanation from Claudia on how to figure out the axis of color and what to do to fix mistakes like green hair (add copper).

Claudia was almost done with the Girl, and talked us through the last part of the cut. When the Girl walked down the aisle, everyone was taking photos of her and touching her head and the complements were unreal. I mean they were gushing over her. It was that gorgeous.

Just then, the back door opened and Jillian and her mom walked in. Everyone was thrilled to see her looking great, and Claudia took a few minutes break before getting back to Jillian's cut. But we had to leave so we didn't get to see the final cut. The color was SO gorgeous. It was beyond art, it was a masterpiece. The depth and the different tones were so perfectly blended. We're going to go this weekend to where she works to check out the final cut.

They gave the Girl some sample products, and then we had to leave. But just LOOK at this cut! Isn't it amazing?

I'm totally thrilled with the color and the cut. I think she looks fabulous and so different than all the other girls with their long hair parted on the side. This is so unique.

She's dubious. She loves the cut, but she doesn't like being different. At all. She'll see in a few days that she's got the best hairdo in town, bar none. And then she'll fall in love with it!

So what do you think?

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Star is Born

Today the Girl was working at Panera when two customers came up to her and asked her to be a hair model for a show tomorrow. She asked me, and I checked out the company online, and gave my approval. Off we went to a salon in the middle of freaking nowhere. I mean it, we drove down country roads for miles and miles and I kept saying "this couldn't be right, there isn't a store for miles!" But we finally found the salon and the people working on the show were there to greet us. They brought the Girl into the salon, looked at her hair, discussed what they were going to do, and then got down to coloring her hair. Tomorrow she's going to get the haircut and do the modeling.

Of course I had to document the steps they took because we spent 6 HOURS in the salon. Yes, we did. But every second of it was total entertainment. All of the stylists were great, the other models were totally awesome, we learned so much about color and equipment, and they were so nice to the Girl.

The cast of characters.

Sherry, from Maine is a stylist and a model tomorrow. She had her hair colored the most amazing copper.

Claudia (pink shirt) is a salon owner and top stylist in Virginia. Megan is a stylist in Portland, ME.

Melissa is a stylist from Detroit.

Jillian is a hair model from Hudson, MA. This is her third show and she was getting the color job that one can only dream of. I cannot wait to see it tomorrow when she's getting her cut.

The process

Claudia and Megan conferring on the Girl's color. They decided on a tricolor style, with a very dark color, violet and red overtones. It's gorgeous. You'll see it after the cut tomorrow.

Putting in the first of two color applications. Yes, two.

Working in layers.

The back of the Girl's hair after the first color application.

She's a walking head of tin foil.

Washing out the first application. Doesn't she look relaxed? They put on so many different products I can't even begin to describe what they did. It was amazing. All I can say is that we were told that if we were to pay for this color process, it would cost close to $500.

I'll photograph the rest of the show and the results tomorrow. This was so much fun. If you ever get a chance to do it, don't hesitate. You'll be getting the absolute best possible people doing their finest work.

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Hey! I heard the Red Sox won again last night!

I wouldn't know, of course. The games are only on cable so us non-cable folks are blocked from watching the playoffs. This is the first time the playoffs were blocked. The regular season, sure. A few home games on FOX, but otherwise, no chance to see the home town team for free. The playoffs. I can't watch the playoffs! And I have no clue as to whether the World Series are going to be blocked as well.

Now, I understand that baseball is a business run by people whose job it is to be money-grubbing asshats. I get that. But there are a lot of people out there, people with kids, that want to see these games. People who are huge fans and can't even think about the cost of actually attending a game (what, close to a thousand bucks for a family of 4 with parking and food and a concession stand trinket?) but who want to watch their team in the playoffs. Now we have to pay for that as well.

In this economy, when people are making hard choices about what they can afford, cable is often the first to go. It's ridiculously expensive, and there is no guarantee, as viewers found out last night, that they're even going to see a whole game. Who the hell is Steve Garvey anyhow? If I were paying $60 a month to watch TV and TBS screwed up like that, I'd be LIVID. You can bet Comcast isn't gonna offer viewers money back, either.

Television is one of the few absolutely free entertainments a family can enjoy. And yes, non-cable TV is enjoyable. It might be limited, but I can see Lost, House, Amazing Race, and All My Children for free. That alone makes me happy. I can't afford to go to a sports bar and spend money on alcohol I don't need to watch a game I can't hear in seats that aren't my sofa at home. I want to be able to watch a Red Sox game in my own home.

I can see football out the wazoo. Basketball, too. Hockey as well. But baseball? Nope. Because the asshat team owners voted to limit baseball to the wealthier folks so they could make even more money. I just have to wonder how much of a loss it will be long term once people start dropping their cable connections to save a buck. It's very easy to lose fans that haven't hung in for decades, like we have. The strike certainly showed that. People are fickle. They'll move on to what they can see. My son, for example, was an AVID Red Sox fan until they took the games off free TV. Now, he's more of a Patriots guy.

If the World Series isn't on regular old rabbit ears TV, I'm gonna be really really pissed off. I am sure I'm not alone. It's really unfair to charge people just to watch a game. OK, charge outrageous ticket prices to the games. Pay the players salaries they don't even earn (I'm thinking of you, Mr Shilling). But do not charge the general public for the privilege of watching a game. That's criminal.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

I totally missed the clues!

I do not know what I was thinking. Honestly, sometimes I just totally forget that my kids are still children, what with their sizes and their vocabularies and their behavior. But of course they are kids. And I need to remind myself that when they start acting particularly heinous, there might be something behind it. They're not teething. That's obvious. But... wouldn't you know that both of them came down with a bad cold. They're hawking up gallons of yellow/green phlegm that they describe in great detain. They have sore throats. And headaches. They feel crappy. With low grade fevers.

Well, duh. Totally missed it. What the F is wrong with me? Cranky behavior always equals feeling like crap. I should be hit upside the head, I swear it. This was a bad mommy moment. But I've got it now. After I made them both go to school. They're not sick enough to miss school. But they do feel lousy.

Today the Girl had her appointment to get her flu shot at the pediatrician. Our doctor's office is in a neighboring town and it happens to be a gorgeous town with big old manses and beautifully kept grounds. As we were driving down the country roads to get there, the scenery was breathtaking. We're just about at peak color here, and the entire town was glowing with dappled sunlight poking through red and golden leaves. I kept pointing out trees and commenting on the color. Each tree is different in it's colors, each one blending in with the surrounding trees to bring forth a fall palate that is hard to believe.

This is the time I'm so grateful to be living here. It's so gorgeous and so... autumnal. The stores have pumpkin displays outside them, and big displays of weird gourds inside. Cornstalks adorn doorways, cornucopias of fall flowers decorate front yards. The chrysanthemums are in full bloom now, and the bright colors of yellow, magenta, lavender and maroon join together to make a painting in each yard. People are out walking their dogs looking happy and excited by the colors they pass by.

The Head of the Charles is this weekend. Most people don't really get the point of the regatta other than watching skulls float down the river, but me... I'm into the teamwork of crew. I think it's an amazing sport and with the brand new boathouse built right off the river in our town, I'm hoping that my kids gain an interest in this sport. Although the Boy is way too big and the Girl is more the size of a cox than a rowers.

Right now the river is brimming with rowers practicing. There will be over 8000 rowers participating. It's not just colleges, but anyone that wants to participate. There is even a wheelchair rower.

One little political comment. Every time John McCain says he's "proud of Sarah Palin" I can't believe how condescending he sounds. It's like he's the daddy and she's the little girl. It totally squicks me out.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Red Sox: The Come-Back Kids

OMG. Just OMG. I've been quiet about the ALCS this year. I'm trying not to be too anxious about the Red Sox making it into the World Series...again. I know people hate Boston fans. I know we're a tad bit nutsoid about our sports teams. I get it. But the Red Sox. OMG. They keep doing this to me. Making me think there's no chance and then rallying and going on to win. They're heartbreakers one minute and the greatest thing since sliced bread the next.

Red Sox 8, Rays 7 >Rays lead ALCS, 3-2

Monster comeback

It's the second-largest comeback in postseason history. Down 7-0, the Boston Red Sox came back to win, 8-7, on an RBI, walk-off single by J.D. Drew in the bottom of the 9th. It's now 3-2 Rays with Game 6 Saturday night at Tropicana Field. David Ortiz slams a 3-run homer in the 7th inning.

We're still behind one game. But we're still in it. Nobody thought it was possible only a few hours ago. Down 7-0, it was a lost cause. But the Red Sox did what they're known for around Red Sox nation. They pulled together at the last minute and came back to ensure the Nations love and admiration. They also play the most exciting game of baseball ever. OK, for those of us with heart conditions, they're probably not the most healthy instance of fan love. But love them I do. We do. The Nation does.

On to the Trop. Isn't that the weirdest stadium ever?

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Last night's debate boiled down:

Does the man need new contact lenses? Or maybe he has been taking medication that is causing the excessive blinking?


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Living in fear

Our family is having a difficult time right now. Nothing all that out of the ordinary, but still not pleasant. The Boy is reacting to both his therapist and psychopharm leaving him. The therapist is hugely pregnant but will return in a few months. I don't know what contingency plan she's made and he's not talking. The psychopharm, however, is a disaster in the making. We love him, we count on him, and we're going to have a difficult time making a transition after several years of successful treatment.

Because of the changes he's more beligerant than usual, is doing a boatload of shouting, and is acting in fact like he's slightly deranged much of the time. Oh, that's right. He IS. Ooops, I forgot. Anyhow, it's tough living with someone louder, bigger, and brasher than I am, who has the vocabulary of an entire village of fishwives. He's mean to me. All the time. It tends to wear me down, even though I know that irritablity is part of his illness. It's very hard to live with, especially since I'm his target most of the time. I can't do anything right. I can't say anything without him yelling at me. It makes me sad and scared for him. I worry about his future. How will he get on when he's so angry and negative all the time?

The Girl isn't home much. She's working a lot and enjoying the fruits of her labor. That child has turned instantly cheap. She spent years and years taking from me, but every penny that she has to give to the household, a mere $20 per paycheck, is grumbled over like I'm demanding half her money. She's essentially paying for the gas that I use to cart her back and forth to work. You would think I'm asking her for the damn moon. Meanwhile, she's spent hundreds on clothing she's coveted for years. I am thrilled that she can afford to buy what she wants, as I couldn't provide those items for her. She feels good about herself and about her ability to earn enough to get what she wants. She has a decent savings plan in place, and she understands that she can't keep spending all her money on expensive items. She's pretty damn down to earth.

But when she's home, she has no interest in helping out at all, and she and her brother aren't getting along that well as he's baiting her with all he's got. It makes for a difficult environment when she's home. He misses her and he doesn't quite know how to deal with those feelings so he gets more obnoxious. He's always missed her. She never misses him. It's complicated. But I worry a lot about how they are going to get along once I'm gone. They only have each other and they need to make a better relationship for the future.

My fear of the kids future is only exacerbated by the fear that I feel for the country. I knew that something was amiss. I'm crying a lot, I feel unsteady and unsure. I'm tired and sleep way too much. All signs of depression. I increased my meds, but I still feel terribly shakey. It's the economy, stupid. I'm petrified. Today the Governor of Massachusetts announced huge cuts in our budget. Over a billion dollars cut. Thousands of jobs will disappear. The social services will be negatively affected, which is frightening considering that they have already been cut to the bone by Mitt Romney. The Department of Mental Health will be pared down and services will disappear. I'm probably going to lose my home health aide, and that is going to suck. I don't know what else will disappear, it's too soon to tell yet. But typically the poor will be the first to feel the pain of cut budgets. And that makes me really really scared. We're barely scraping by. Once the kids leave for college I'm going to have to move because I can't afford to live here anymore. If I do lose my home health aide, I'm going to have to find a subsidized assisted living place. Just what I want, to live with a bunch of elderly people and not be allowed to have my kids come home to stay with me.

This is scary stuff. The fear is eating me up inside. I feel as if my life is being determined by everyone else. All the people that made tons on Wall Street, all the people with foreclosed homes. All the people carrying huge amounts of credit card debt. All the people that live beyond their means. All those mistakes made by other folks are affecting me and my family. And it's wicked scary.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 08: Poverty on a local level

Today around the blogosphere you're going to see a lot of posts about poverty. Some will be about global poverty, some will be advice on what you can do to change poverty in third world countries, and some will be about poverty on a more local scale. I'm going to talk about poverty on a very very local scale, hidden poverty in your own community.

We live in rich countries. Whether you're American, Canadian, British, Australian, Israeli, or European, if you're reading this blog, chances are you're from a wealthy community with plenty of resources that you believe are adequate to help with people that might be in trouble. Your belief is wrong. We might live in wealthy communities, but there is a hidden population in every city and town. That population are the poor, the people that aren't making it and rely on outside help to pay their bills, to ensure that their rent is paid, and to feed their children. Now, I'm no internet neophyte. I know that just stating that there are people that need help is going to raise the ire of those Libertarians out there that honestly believe that everyone can work, that everyone can earn enough to care for their families, that people that can't are disgusting leeches on society. Anyone that has ever posted about needing help gets that response in spades. Mostly those that protest against poverty are uneducated about what a safety net is all about, or are so focussed on their own selfish lives that they refuse to acknowledge that there are people living amongst them that do need help. They don't care. If it isn't about them, then fuck 'em. Obviously, this post isn't about or for these folks. This post is for the people who want to learn how they can help their hidden neighbors, those living outwardly a good decent life but inside are hurting and struggling because they are unable to get their needs met.

Poverty has been a nasty little secret in our local communities for a long time. We've been trained to believe that poverty means people of color living in inner city communities that are falling apart. Poverty means people that are deemed "welfare queens" even though it is virtually impossible to cheat on welfare after the welfare reform act during the Clinton administration. I know, you all know "someone" who knows "someone" who drives a Hummer and is on welfare. I say "bullshit" and I say it loudly and clearly. I still hear stories about people shopping with food stamps, even though there hasn't been food stamps for over 10 years. People who shop with food stamps now use an EBT card, which is just like any other credit card. They've created a program in the US that now makes poverty a secret even when grocery shopping.

Welfare in the USA is a helping hand these days. You can only remain on welfare for 2 years, and you MUST WORK to earn your welfare. If you don't find a job on your own, you will be assigned a job. So please, no more of the welfare queen stories. They're dead wrong, and if you spout them, you only look like the bigot you are.

So lets talk about who the poor may be in your community. They are certainly the elderly. Anyone living on a fixed social security income is living in poverty. They are certainly the disabled. Again, anyone living on a fixed social security income is living in poverty. They are single mothers of all colors who are not getting their child support payments. They are people that rent dilapidated apartments on the outskirts of town so their children will get a good education. They are people who have been unemployed after massive layoffs who are unable to find work. They are caretakers of the sick and elderly. They are often hard-working people who do not get paid enough to cover their expenses. They could be your next door neighbors or members of your own family.

So the haters cry "Move" because these people can't afford to live there. Like moving is free. Look at all those trucks lining up to load your belongings and drop them off in Podunk, where the living is easy. But most people who are in poverty in your communities have long roots in your community. They are church goers, synagogue attenders, they are second and third generation families from your towns. They live there because it is their home, and although our country does have a disgusting history of uprooting populations and resettling them in impossible places (think Trail of Tears or the Japanese during WW2), we're not going to do that just to keep the poor out of your eyesight. It doesn't work that way. The poor deserve to live in their own communities amoungst their friends and families just like you do.

So what can communities do to make it an easier life for the poor? What can you do personally?

I challange you to work within your own community to help out in several ways.

The first problem for the poor is food. If your community has a food pantry, it isn't working well. I promise you that wherever you live, your food pantry sucks. People haven't ever been taught how to donate to food pantries, and they don't understand that minimal dietary requirements go beyond canned foods, pasta and rice. The reason we have such a terrible problem with obesity amongst poor children isn't that they're eating twinkies. It is that they are not eating fruits and vegetables because your food pantry does not give out perishibles or only provides a highly inadequate supply.

So how do you help? Join a CSA and provide half of your monthly allotment to the food pantry. Get your neighbors to do the same thing. Grow a garden and plant a row for the food bank. Get your whole community involved in a "grow a row" program. That alone would be enough to help poor families to supplement their diets with good homegrown food. If your community has farms, talk to the farmers about donating produce to the food pantry.

When you donate to a food pantry, do not only buy the cheapest, crappiest products that you can find. The poor don't deserve to be singled out for only the worst products. It's better to donate one can less but of a recognizable brand (store brands are fine) than it is to buy something that doesn't even have a label. Chances are, that food will be tossed. DO NOT clean out your own pantry and donate food that is expired. If you're not going to eat it, why do you think that the poor will want to eat it? Don't donate food with bugs. Oh yes, people do it all the time. Don't donate overly salty foods. Shop the sales and buy pasta in bulk. Assume that people do know how to cook and buy canned tomatoes and sauces instead of jarred. You can buy much more if you stick to the very basics. Cereals are huge items in food pantries. But often people donate cereals that are inedible or so bad for kids that they don't get used. Stick with the tried and true. Cheerios in various forms, raisin bran, corn flakes... nothing fancy but better than Count Chocula. Just because people are poor doesn't mean that they don't understand a decent diet.

Housing is also a huge issue. If you are a landlord, PLEASE make an effort to keep up your property. I know this is a controversial statement, but the truth of the matter is, most landlords collect their money and don't do a damn thing to keep up the property, then blame the poor family for damages they could have avoided if you just kept up with the property. Just because people are poor doesn't mean they need to live with bugs, rodents, peeling paint, leaking roofs, etc. It's your property. If you don't take pride in it, sell it to someone that does.

Your community probably has a housing office that handles any Section 8 or subsidized housing. Most likely that housing office isn't being run efficiently and is probably unfairly giving friends and family housing over people on the list. Don't believe me? Look into it. Ask people who are on the list for years and years how it works. You'll hear an earful and more. In my own community the wait list is 20 years long. I've been on it for close to 8 years now, and I move up to about slot 3, and then move down again to 16 or 18. Again and again. Our housing office is a crooked as can be, and you can bet I've looked into it and found out where the corruption lies. If your housing office allows it, educate yourself on how the office works and become an advocate for the poor so that corruption is curbed.

Another issue that the poor face are the high utility bills that we're all getting these days. Imagine what it's like to be on a totally fixed income and get a bill that is 444% higher than it was a year ago. Where is that money going to come from to pay that increase? Many state agencies have programs to help with heating bills. But that help is wholely inadequate. My northeastern state costs around $4000 to heat a small home per winter, but the subsidized portion of the bill is about $600. It is not enough. How can you help? If you belong to an active church or synagogue, see if you can raise interest in helping out with heating bills for the families of your community. Work with your town social worker (they're in city hall) to see if you can sponsor families. A few dollars goes a long way towards filling an oil tank.

Make sure that your elderly neighbors have heat. Go over and check out their homes. If the house is freezing, chances are that they need an oil delivery and don't have the money. We all have to care for each other in this economy, and heat is an absolute necessity. Imagine how you would feel if you found out that your neighbor froze to death in her own home while you sat back cozy and warm in your own home. Reach out.

Even with these three things in your sight, there are many other things. Those clothes you have piled up in your attic. Donate them to families that are in need. Donate your old winter coats to the coat drives. Get involved with any community holiday projects. Remember that people tend to donate around the holidays and then forget the rest of the year. We can't do that anymore. Mark your calendars and make sure that you give at least monthly to the food pantry, and to donate outgrown clothing. If you're cleaning out your clutter, instead of donating to Goodwill, who sell your items back to the poor at a profit, use freecycle and craigslist and give the stuff away free to families in need. You CAN specify that you want to know where the stuff is going, or to only give to a homeless or battered woman's shelter.

Lastly, don't judge. You might be appalled to see a WII in a poor person's house, but that might have been a gift from a grandparent. Just because people are poor doesn't mean that they aren't allowed to live as comfortable a life as possible. They might have inherited nice rugs or furniture. They might have been in much better financial circumstances years past and have things from that time in their lives. You don't know. It isn't your business to judge. It isn't your business to question. If someone is having a hard time with food, housing, clothings, and heat... don't advise them to sell everything they own first. What you see in their house might be something of huge sentimental or familial value and you don't get to tell anyone to rid their lives of things that mean a lot to them. Take it from one that has gotten rid of most of the stuff I don't care about. What I have left is part of my life and I'm hanging on to some sembelance of a decent life no matter how poor I now am.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An ode to Bloglines

For many years you've been my friend, dear Bloglines.
But this week, you have let me down.
You stopped updating my feeds.
You started to hang.
Some blogs were in my feeds in bold.
Other blogs had that red exclamation mark next to their names.

My stats started going down a bit.
Because this blog wasn't propogating either.
Bloglines, we count on you to work every day.
When you don't, we fall behind.
Once behind it is hard to catch up.
And that means something very harsh.

Google Reader, I don't much like you.
Your interface is strange, your updates erratic.
But you don't hang and you don't leave me hanging.
Wondering who is updating and what that
stupid red exclamation mark really means.
I would rather not commit to you, Google.
But I'm being forced into it by Bloglines.

Hopefully this will only be temporary.
Bloglines will recover from whatever illness
it is suffering and come back full force.
I'll see all the updates in my reader in bright bold
and I'll be able to keep up with everyone's blogs.
Until that day I have to say goodbye
and hold my nose and use Google Readers.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

I must have died and gone to heaven

There are times when you see something right in front of your face, and yet it's so shocking, so surprising, so amazing that you just can't believe it is happening. This is one of those times. Christopher Hitchens. Who would have ever believed it?

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College students need food pantries these days

When I saw this article on the Yahoo home page, it brought back some rather unpleasant memories. Like the kids currently in college, I also was in college during a very bad downturn in the nation's economy. And like these kids, the economy tanked due to an unpopular war that was depleting not only the nation's population, but the war chest as well. I was a student during the Vietnam war. It was a very difficult time for the nation as a whole, but for college kids that were not being supported by their parents, it was a time of poverty as well.

I worked all through college. I had a variety of jobs, from the worst job I've ever had making puzzles at Milton Bradley one summer, to one of the best jobs I've ever had, working in the University Book Store during the school year. I was an office worker, an archaeologist, a cook, and I built kilns. You name it, I did it during college. I was a hard worker because I way paying my own way through college. My parents didn't give me a red cent towards my college education, a real deal breaker as far as our relationship was concerned. They left me in severe debt because they were assholes. Yes, they had the money. But no, they wouldn't even think of sharing it was a daughter.

Anyhow, in college I was so poor I qualified for food stamps. In fact, had I not gotten food stamps, I don't think I would have eaten. It wasn't a lot of money, in fact I think it was something like $40/month, but to me it was the difference between having food and not. Additionally, I did have to hit the food pantry a few times, as did many of my friends and classmates. We were so freaking poor back then, and I can remember thinking that I'd never be in that position again. How little I knew about what the future could bring.

We live in an incredibly rich country. We're spending trillions of dollars on an unpopular war. A war that could be financed by Iraq themselves, as they have a huge surplus of money. But we keep paying for this war, and every dollar spent there is another dollar taken away from the citizens of this country.

Why is it that we can pay so much for war, but we can't pay for universal health care for our citizens? Why is it that we toss away money on a country that wants us to leave, when we could be spending it on education. Why are we building buildings and roads over there when our own buildings and roads are crumbling? I honestly don't understand it.

I have heard that another bailout is in the works, and that bailout would be used to extend unemployment compensation and for the food stamp program. I think it's great that UI will be extended. 28 weeks in this economy is barely enough to find any job, never mind a good job. But the food stamps? That's a total red herring. While it sounds great, in actuality I have to question who it's going to help. Because, as I've ranted here before, the way eligibility for food stamps is calculated is based on the poverty level, and the poverty level hasn't changed since the 60's. People who were laid off aren't going to qualify because they have back wages that will keep them above the poverty level. People with savings won't qualify. Even now that they have changed the laws and you can now own property and automobiles, most people are not going to qualify unless they have been out of work for many many months with no income at all coming in. It's crazy how the food stamp program is run because it's supposed to help people and yet so few people actually qualify that it only helps a small fraction of the people in need.

I'm not buying this bailout until something is done about the poverty level calculations. I'm disgusted that the government is trying to fool the populace by making it sound like this is going to be helpful to a lot of people. It isn't. And you should make sure that your representatives realize this. Because most of them don't have a freaking clue.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

We got some culcha this afternoon

A friend got us free tickets to see Ken Howard starring as Tip O'Neill in According to Tip. For those of you that didn't get political until this election, let's do a recap of the greatest Speaker of the House ever, Congressman Thomas P O'Neill of North Cambridge, MA. Tip was my congressman for many many years, and he was an amazing person who understand that politics is about the people he represented and his job was to make their lives better. He was a real man of the people and he didn't need to throw around Joe SixPack references to prove it.

The play centered around Tip's political career, first in Massachusetts as a state representative that rose to become the first Democratic Speaker of the House before deciding to tackle national politics with a run for Congress in 1952. O'Neill moved to Washington and became a back bench Congressman, taking the seat John F. Kennedy left vacant. O'Neill first became noticed in national politics when he changed his mind about the Vietnam war and broke with Lyndon Johnson to be an outspoken opponent of the war. While other politicians that were against the war were voted out of office, Tip had many colleges in his district and those students helped keep Tip in office to be a vocal opposition of the unpopular war.

In a quick rise up the ranks of the house officers, O'Neill became Majority Whip, then Majority Leader, and finally rose to the top of the house as Speaker in 1977. O'Neill wasn't a big fan of Jimmy Carter, who he liked as a person, but thought didn't understand the least bit about how Washington worked. When Carter lost to Reagan, Tip became a target of Republicans who viewed him as an old liberal pol. O'Neill called Reagan the most ignorant man who had ever occupied the White House. O'Neill also said that Reagan was "Herbert Hoover with a smile" and "a cheerleader for selfishness" and "an amiable dunce." He also said that Reagan's policies meant that his presidency was "one big Christmas party for the rich." Privately, O'Neill and Reagan were always on cordial terms, or as Reagan himself put it in his memoirs, they were friends "after 5PM." Reagan once compared O'Neill to the then-popular arcade game Pac-Man in a speech, saying that he was "a round thing that gobbles up money".

O'Neill retired from Congress in 1987 and died in 1994 of colon cancer.

The play was a one man recitation of Tip's political life through the various Presidents he served under. From JFK, who was a personal friend all the way up to Ronald Reagan, who he couldn't stand, there were excellent comments on the most significant points in each administration. All through the show the obvious things that made Tip so likable and so unusual in Washington shone through. His sense of humor, his love of a bit of Irish Whiskey, his regrets about leaving his family in Cambridge while he lived in DC during the week, his nightly card games with his congressional buddies... all of those were evidence of what a regular guy he was. An extraordinary guy as well, he was a real champion of the poor and downtrodden, he knew his constituents, and he loved his job. The play depicted Tip as he was, not as how he might have been. Because it was so well done, it brought me to tears because I loved Tip. I mean, I really really loved him. And I miss him to this day.

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