Potty Calling Kettle

Since our strawberry bed is so old and we didn’t get around to planting new ones until this year, we set off to Plainfield NH to Edgewater’s PYO strawberry orchard.  Typically, we’d barely begun picking berries when Bundle I started doing a telltale dance which only ever means one thing.  “Do you need to use the potty?” I asked her.  “No,” she said, her typical response, “I’m just doing a dance.”   A few seconds later she thought better of that answer and said, “Mommy…?” 

We made a trek to the Porta-Potty, and it dawned on me that any 4 year olds coming to our PYO would also likely be doing the same dance, and therefore we would need to supply a similar service.

 So I went in search of Porta-Potty rentals.  And was struck, once again, by just how much information I’d missed on that fateful day, that day somewhere in fifth grade when they separated all the girls and the boys, and somehow imparted to them the esoteric knowledge needed to function in their respective genders, a day called “How to Be a Girl/Boy Day.”  I can only assume that such a day exists because while I am clearly a highly functioning, heterosexual person of the female persuasion, there’s so many things my fellow gendered individuals take as read or as obvious about their or the other gender that I just don’t get.    In many cases, I don’t even think about them.  Take for instance the other day when a colleague expressed concern that my various cards had fallen out of my “purse.”  I was genuinely puzzled about what he was talking about, until I realized he was pointing at the vague pile of cards I had made next to my black backpack, as I was missing the most important one and was frantically searching all pockets, drawers, nooks and crannies for it.  I don’t consider my backpack a “purse,” but I guess since I’m female it could be construed as one.

 Anyway, I innocently entered the Porta-Potty foray simply looking for a place for people to do their business, and was surprised to find that there’s a whole industry around making a Porta-Potty palatable for my fellow females, who obviously know something I don’t, because I always thought one Porta-Potty was much like another.

 But then, I often pee in the woods, so what do I know?  Wait, is that Too Much Information?

 For a while I worried about whether we actually needed two units, one for men (urinal, toilet, hand sanitizer… otherwise known as a “standard unit”) and one for women (no urinal, “hover handle”—so you don’t have to sit down!, hand sanitizer, a mirror,  Koala baby changer—because only women have babies!, pinkness—apparently serves as a “man-repellent” which is necessary for some reason, courtesy lighting and in some cases a pretty picture), but then I decided that any woman who came out to a PYO expecting a luxury bathroom unit was likely to trip over her high heels on the way to the berries anyway and therefore we probably wanted to discourage that kind of thing.  Then I decided that was pretty stereotypical and sexist of me, or maybe it was, but I wasn’t sure, because I personally trip over high heels just trying to put them on, so again, what do I know?  Maybe it’s necessary to have a mirror in the bathroom of a PYO so you can apply your SPF 15 lipstick evenly before you venture out to get the knees of your high fashion designer jeans dirty.  Maybe all the men who come to a PYO deliberately pee on the seat and fart loudly in the chamber of the bathroom because they’re in the outdoors and suddenly can’t help reverting to their primitive, unclean, territory-marking selves, making the bathroom unfit for consumption by (discerning) female parties.    Or maybe it’s a marketing gimmick.   Who can tell anymore?

 Can’t anything be simple?  And why does everything I do always go back to that fateful day in school that I missed?  Why do I always get embroiled in these weird gender things?  Why can’t we all just use a Standard Porta-Potty (with urinal) without falling back on time-honored stereotypes of women versus men…. and do I have to cater to y’all who have this problem or can we all just forget about it and just pick blueberries?

Sheesh.

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A man walks up to the main door of the Keene N.H. County Courthouse….

A man slaps his four year old daughter for being playful so hard he draws blood, gets arrested for domestic violence, gets divorced for “not lifting a finger to save his marriage”, has numerous run-ins with the court system over child support, domestic violence, refusal to go to counseling and who knows what else, gets frustrated with the entire system, writes a manifesto blaming the government and feminists and advocating domestic terrorism and anarchy, and sends it to the local newspaper, then walks up to the local court house and sets himself on fire, and everyone still wants to know why.

Admittedly I have limited experience with the deadbeat dad scene, having only had one of them in my lifetime, but the trend seems clear:  there is something chemical going on here with an otherwise intelligent and well adjusted individual who, in the throes of a divorce that he himself initiated in which there were children involved, slowly manages to rationalize his selfish and destructive behavior after the divorce by blaming a secret agenda perpetrated by the ex-wife,  feminists, Jews, liberals, college educated rational people and the entire US government and then after various run ins with the law or normal society finally does himself in at the age of 58.  In my father’s case, it was cigarettes.  In Tom Ball’s case, it was gasoline and a match at the front door of the Cheshire County Courthouse.  The end result is the same: the children of that individual have to clean up the mess and move on.

In my father’s case, he was somehow able to rationalize to himself that he was being taken for a ride by his ex-wife and the entire court system by making a case for the airplane that he owned (to which all the money went) being my brother’s and my inheritance, and therefore much more worthy of being cleaned, housed and fed than we were in the moment.  He would do drive bys of our housing circumstance and get upset when my mother managed, for instance, to scrape up enough money to shore up the deck of the house (to prevent it from falling down) or to rebuild the front steps (so we could get into the house), and immediately reduce the amount of compensation he would send to her each month since she was clearly using all of that abundant cash to do something “for herself.”  He was so desperate to keep this aircraft and at the same time becoming increasingly suspicious of the courts and the whole government system which was apparently against this grand scheme of his that he stopped paying income tax, Ed and Elaine Brown style, convincing himself that it was legal to do so because the 16th amendment hadn’t been “properly ratified”.  Because he was now in hiding from the government, he could no longer fill out necessary financial forms that I or my brother needed at various times to acquire financial aid for high school or college. 

 He went from being a fairly rational Reagan voting Republican to a paranoid schizophrenic radicalized libertarian anti-tax crusader in only a few years.  His whole rhetorical style changed.  He began to believe in Roswell.  He was convinced that there was a mathematical error in the theory of relativity that only he had discovered.  He believed global climate change was a hoax.  He actually believed that the societal effort to curb smoking was some kind of liberal conspiracy, and instead of quitting joined an organization called Smoker’s Rights.  How’s that for dying by your own sword?

 He and Tom Ball clearly had the same chemical imbalance.  But what causes it?  The very Liberals, Feminists, Jews, or Government that they rail and struggle against so mightily?  Is it something in the water?  Should we blame their childhood?  Or should we blame Talk Radio and the incessant grating of Rush Limbaugh’s voice? 

 To be sure, my father had a higher functioning form of the disease and managed at various times to get himself out of the sticky situations he’d created for himself, sometimes by pure artifice (successfully convincing the Manchester Transit Authority, for instance, that a hateful and threatening letter he had sent them was actually not written in his handwriting), sometimes by legal stalling (somehow getting DWI charges dropped after a year and a half of wrangling) and sometimes by acting contrite (I’m sorry IRS.  I know I owe a million dollars, but I don’t have it.  Will ten thousand do?), and by the end of his life seemed actually to be recovering from it, holding a real live job with benefits and trying to quit smoking.  Maybe it loses its ground after a few years.  Or maybe you can recover from it if you stop listening to Talk Radio.  Or maybe it’s a secret government experiment.

 That airplane?  Well we did inherit it, in the end. And then we sold it, at less than half of its value, to pay for all the student loans we’d been forced to take out due to our father’s self-radicalization.  So I guess everyone got what they wanted in the end, but it seems to me it was a more convoluted road than it should have been.  But then, that was my father, at the height of his mysterious disease.  Always coming up with a convoluted, badly written and hard to follow rationale, full of half-scientific logic, faulty reasoning, legitimate looking but half-researched and garbled historical context,  for the problem of the moment.

 So to the wannabe self-immolators, the tax-evading radicals, the would-be domestic terrorists, the plain ol’ dead-beat dads out there:  we rational people are not out to get you, Feminists or Liberals that we might be.  Being compassionate people, though we may laugh at your faulty logic and poorly drawn conclusions in private, we are concerned for you.  Please get help.  Your children want to lead normal lives.  They don’t want to have to remember you for being a completely selfish and deluded idiot who finally imploded at the age of 58.  Trust me.   I know.

Eating what you are

For a social media genius, you’d think Mark Zuckerberg would have better P.R. skills but unfortunately his latest message got lost in the sensationalist media world as being eccentric, weird, and maybe cruel.   Indeed, there was an uproar from vegetarians, city dwellers, soccer moms, and  suburbanites, none of whom have ever seen meat in any other form other than chopped and shrink wrapped.  It ran the gamut from cruelty to being grossed out by the very thought of actually seeing your meat become meat.  Here at LLARCS, of course, the reaction was different:

Sure, you killed it.  But did you butcher it afterwards?  If not, you can’t yet join the Killed My Own Meat Animal Club.  Sorry, Mark.

To be sure we don’t eat only the meat of animals that we ourselves killed (and butchered).  We simply don’t have the time.  But we do try to only eat animals that we know have been raised on good food and water.  To us it isn’t necessarily about the act of killing/butchering which is so important, but how the animal was raised– and I don’t mean whether or not the farmer petted it everyday. But on the flip side, if you don’t grow it, kill it and butcher it yourself, you end up paying a premium for that kind of meat because it costs that much to grow it, kill it, and butcher it. 

Recently the USDA came out with a new food icon designed to be more informative and accurate than the original food pyramid.  It’s a food plate.  Kudos to the USDA for recognizing that a sizable portion of what Americans should be eating is fruit and vegetables.  Yet, the USDA’s giant subsidies to corn and industrial meat complexes doesn’t match its own plate.  What gives?

Increasingly the US government is a schizophrenic organization constantly flipping sides between good and evil in the name of democracy.  People know what they should do.  They either end up not doing it because they can’t afford it, or because they already have theirs and want to make more money.  This dichotomy between the haves and have nots is what made communism look so appealing in the early part of the 20th century.  To combat the inevitable slide towards socialism, our government has become especially good at giving lip service to good things whilst working behind the scenes to unravel them for profit, power or maybe just for fun.

I still maintain that food should not be cheap.   Food keeps us all fundamentally alive and healthy, and it takes a great amount of energy, time, sweat and tears to produce.  I say this having spent half the weekend outside in the pouring rain trying to get our corn, cucumbers and cabbages planted.  I am not growing acres and acres of corn destined to become cattle feed or high fructose corn syrup, so my little organic and sustainable farm receives no subsidies at all from the government and routinely loses money even though we sell our chicken for $4.00 a pound.  But that cost is 2 to 3 times the amount you’d find a whole chicken for at the supermarket, and we all only make so much money.  Something has to give.  If you can feed your whole family for less than a 100 dollars a week and still have something left over to pay the electric bill, well, that’s what you’re apt to focus on.  To create a truly sustainable, local food system, the local food has to be affordable.  To make it affordable, the government will have to step in.  Enter socialism. 

So Mark Zuckerberg, congratulations on killing what you eat.  We should all be so lucky to sow what we reap, eat what we grow, and be what we eat.  But until we finally see food — real, sustainable, nutritious food — for its true intrinsic value and as essential to us as the very air we breath, until it is recognized by our very government that GMO, Round-Up Ready, heavily fertilized corn doesn’t count as a “vegetable” on its own food plate, most of us will either stick with the stuff we buy on Styrofoam in Price Chopper or be forced to spend half our salaries or most of our days on the real thing.  Maybe, instead of killing your own meat, you should start using your sizable income to help others purchase meat that has been killed by a human being.   Then again, we all have to start somewhere.  Hopefully, the majority will come around soon.

A Little Me Time

Yesterday evening as I and the Bundles were waiting for our take-out Chinese to be ready, we wandered down to the river behind the restaurant to observe a man fly fishing.   There were fish rising behind him, but I didn’t let him know.  There are browns in that part of the river, and it’s a perfect place to throw a blue-winged olive.  But I had two kids in tow.  I don’t think I’ve broken out the fly rod in at least two years.  Last year I fished for bluegill with a spin rod, bobber, worms and Bundle I… but it just isn’t the same.  One can barely call it fishing.

That night I told Lionel that I needed some alone time.  He agreed and took himself and the kids away for the day.

But I didn’t go fishing.

I watered the apples.

I planted sugar pumpkins.

I mowed the orchard, the side field and the backyard.

I moved the chicken coop.

I watered and fed the chickens.

I did a load of dishes.

The fish… they’ll keep rising.  Someday I’ll get back to them.  The river’s not going anywhere.

An Open Letter to NH State Senator Bob Odell

Dear Mr. Odell,

 
Early this year I wrote to you in the hopes that you would advocate for New Hampshire’s public university system.  I spoke to you of my first hand experiences dealing with uneducated co-workers who lacked critical thinking and reading comprehension skills, at a company which still struggles to this day (just recently laying off all of its backend management staff).  In contrast, at my new position at KSC, an extremely successful and efficiently well run business in addition to being an excellent public liberal arts college, my college-educated colleagues excel in critical thinking, time-management, and reading comprehension, in addition to many other intangibles which make them well rounded employees any company would be glad to hire.  I wrote to you in the hopes that you would see the folly in slashing almost 50% of the USNH budget at a critical time in NH’s economic recovery, especially after colleges have already sent out tuition packages for the year.
 
Perhaps I was wrong to put my faith in you, Mr. Odell.  Even though I am a Democrat, I voted to re-elect you to the Senate last November.  I had thought I had seen in you a reasonable legislator not affected by partisanship or by Tea Party silliness, but someone truly interested in his constituents’ needs, someone who could look past his party line to make sound investment choices with my hard earned tax money.
 
It appears, given the recommendation by the Finance Committee of which you are not only a member but the Vice Chair, to not only uphold the House’s politically motivated slashing of the USNH budget by 45 percent but to remove an additional 3 million, that I was badly mistaken.
 
Mr. Odell, the students have gone home for the summer.  We said goodbye to many of them hoping we would see them again in the fall.  If this budget is passed, many of them will not be able to afford to.  Some who may be able to afford to may take their tuition dollars elsewhere rather than pay more for less.   They may go to some other State which values education more.  And then they’ll stay there.  Companies looking for an educated workforce will follow them.  That’s bad for NH’s future economic viability.
 
Mr. Odell, NH’s economy depends on people. More importantly, it  needs an educated workforce willing to stay in the state.  What incentive does a 45% cut in the public education system give me and my family to stay in NH?  Especially if I end up losing my job because of it?  Oddly, Mr. Odell, I am more interested in being able to educate my children and being employed than keeping my tax bill down.  If I have to, I will do both of those things somewhere else.
 
Put simply, Mr. Odell, an uneducated workforce is an unemployed workforce.  And a State which does not value and fund its public education as a crucial part of its investment in future economic viability is a State I am ashamed to live in.
 
It truly baffles me, Mr. Odell, that the NH Republican Party bears such ill-will towards the public education system  to the point of not only refusing to fund it equitably by introducing a more fair tax structure such as an income or sales tax, but actually working actively to defund it entirely.
 
Perhaps I should have known better, back in November.   Rest assured I will not vote for you, or any other Republican, who cannot make the wise choice to invest in NH’s future.   Unlike the NH House and the NH Senate, I never make the same mistake twice.
 
Yours respectfully,
 
The LLARCS

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