Ninety Nine Percent Occupied

Hi there.

This isn’t the post where I promise that I will write more frequently.  It’s not, necessarily, my lame excuse for why I haven’t been posting anything new lately.  It’s just me, aching to get a few sentences written down before I fall asleep, or the pager goes off, or somebody wakes up from a nightmare.

Before I had kids, I knew that I didn’t want kids.  I knew that they sucked the life out of you.  I knew that their survival and their happiness necessarily came before yours.  But then I had kids anyway, and it turns out I was right.  What I didn’t know then was that I’d get sucked in so completely.  Or maybe I did know that and my rational self just got overwhelmed by some weird biological mandate.  But there it is.  Before I had two kids, I had a co-worker who insisted that having “one is none”.  Offended by her assertion, having worked so hard on having just one, I ignored this piece of wisdom.  But it’s true.  Having one child is nothing compared to having two.  The co-worker in question had three, so I really should have listened.

So many things have occurred in the 4 months since I’ve had the peace of mind to enter anything coherent into this sphere that I’m not going to bore you with them.  I’m not sure I can even recount them all.  I can’t even remember to tell my husband the funny anecdote that I remembered on my way home in the car this evening that I can’t remember now.  I might remember it three days from now, and, if I’m lucky, also be in a position to tell him, who, if the stars are aligned right, will not be also otherwise pre-occupied and will also think it’s funny.

Bundle I and Bundle II and I went to a birthday pool party today.  Bundle I had already been to a pool party previous to this one for another school friend, and Bundle II, who has begun to speak in two or three word sentences, understood enough to get exceptionally excited that she was going too, three days before hand, so that she would frequently exclaim “poo pahtty!” which sounds suspiciously like “Poop! Potty!” and had us jumping up and running for the bathroom for a few days before we figured out what she was saying.  When we actually got there, Bundle II had a perfectly good time, but Bundle I was clearly treating the event as a sacred occurence, and as I observed the children tightly circling the Birthday Girl as she opened her presents, I was struck by their seriousness.  Bundle I has a birthday in April.  She’ll be five, and it is a very serious event.  As such, she has changed her mind about what kind of party she is going to have about thirty times.  Bundle II, on the other hand, has very specific ideas about her existence but they change depending on what is in front of her that very minute.  It’s hard to keep up.  By the end of the day, my mind is in no shape to both take on complex thoughts and then render them into entertaining English sentences, preferrably with some kind of underlaying theme.  So I post one or two clevery aligned words in Facebook accompanied by a pasted link, then I close the laptop and fall into an exhausted sleep until the morning, when I wake up to the sound of either an alarm clock or the sound of someone getting upset because they are tangled in blankets….and well, that’s really all there is.

You’d think I could separate these moments from my political beliefs or my ongoing love affair with sugaring season, but I can’t.  We tapped out two weeks ago and then had a cold snap, and I could have waxed psychotically about February, but I didn’t.   I should be able to give you an entire treatise on the Republican mysogonist attack on women’s basic health care by trying to deny access to contraception, but here’s the kicker– its been said already.  It’s not that I have a hard time caring.  It’s that I care too much, and the words to describe what I believe don’t even exist.  About climate change.  About income in-equality.  About the food stream.  About my daughters.  About my life.  About anything.

And that’s where I am.  I’m not gone.  I’m just not here, necessarily.  Actually, I’m in way too many places all at once.  And I’m definitely not promising anything.

Except to keep trying.  Eventually, I’m sure, it’ll all come back together as brilliantly as it has schizophrenically scattered apart. 

Wait and see, wait and see.

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Too Big to Fail

As some of my fellow humans are Occupying various streets around the nation, I’ve begun to wonder what would happen if we all simply  chose not to play anymore.

Although I understand the media appeal of protesting and marching, I’ve always been more of an active and self-centered activist at heart.  My oil bill got too expensive?  I switched to all wood.  My food got adulterated with HFCS, corn-fed meat, pesticides and genetically modified crops?  I built a farm.  Television became a form of sedentary control by corporate America?  I cancelled my satellite service.  Big Brother can watch my every move through my cell phone?  Sorry, don’t have one.  My bank wants to charge me even more money to use their services?  I’ll move my money elsewhere.   Still, there are parts of the system I haven’t been able to break away from yet.  In order to have adequate and equitable healthcare, either the government that I keep trying to elect has to buy into it, or We the People have to take it over.  In order for some people to break away from the downward spiral, they’d have to get out from under their mortgages.  Employers will have to realize they have to pay their employees equitable wages.  Our economy will have to stop being based on what we “consumers” buy.  We have to educate our people.  We have to feed them good food and give them good lives. 

Or else, Corporate America, the people will rise up against you.  And whether you like it or not, Corporate America, we outnumber you.  You may control fifty percent of the wealth.  But we control the other fifty percent.  And if we don’t play anymore, you won’t control us, either. 

Can’t afford to pay your bills and still put food on the table?  What if everyone stopped paying their mortgages?  What if everyone stopped paying their hospital bills?  What if everyone stopped paying back their student loans?    If every one of us did it the system would be hard pressed to collect it all.  This is self-centered active activism at its heart.

Come on America.  Vote with your feet.  Come join us.  Boycott the Corporations.  Let’s  pool our resources.  We’re too big to fail.  We’re the 99%.

Ignore Ignore Ignore

Famously, my three year old brother used this on me after a particularly annoying interaction with my five year old self caused my mother to instruct him to ignore me.  He didn’t know what it meant.  “Ignore! Ignore! Ignore!” he shouted in my face.  To this day I find it hard to ignore things.

But something’s gotta give, here.  I had an anxious dream the other night about climate change eating our blueberries and the government taking what’s left of our investments.  Since it’s not far from the truth, and I’m not ready to join a revolution, I’ve decided I’m going to ignore things for a little while.  Here’s my list of things I’m going to Ignore:

Washington

I end up paying way more attention than I should to the goings on in Washington, but the latest excuse for a “compromise” bill followed by a vacationing Congess which left vital pieces of our infrastructure in the form of the FAA dangling in limbo, forcing whoever remained on the job to cobble together an agreement to get the agency back up and running while each side licked their lips and claimed “victory” was utterly despicable to me.  Anyway, Washington doesn’t pay any attention to me.  Why should I pay any attention to them?  They don’t appear to accomplish anything except havoc in the stock market.

S&P

While a part of me took ironic joy in this sharp rebuke from a crediting agency on the state of our dysfunctional government, I also took exception to a privately run agency having any say in the affairs of our government at all.  And besides which…did they only just wake up?  …Or did someone’s bribe not get paid?  Personally I wouldn’t believe any of their ratings anymore, but then again, I’m not an…

Investor(s)

Now that we’ve all been duped into putting our hard earned actual dollars into these virtual whirl-a-wheel 401k blackholes, all the normal, well adjusted person can do is look on with disbelief as a bunch of ADHD monkeys play havoc with our money.  “OH LOOK!  A LOLLIPOP!!”   BUY BUY BUY!!  “OH NO!!! NO ONE’S BUYING HOUSES!!!”  SELL SELL SELL.  “WAIT!  A LOLLIPOP!”  BUY! “WHAT DO YOU MEAN NO ONE’S BOUGHT A HOUSE YET?  IT’S BEEN A WHOLE HOUR!” SELL!  “OH, CUTE DOGGY!” BUY! “GREECE!” SELL. “OOH, SHINY!” ….If I lived such a frenetic existence I’d drop dead on the trading floor.  Even watching it from afar is exhausting.

The Media

What passes for journalism these days is either a tepid pass on from corporate sponsors and fringe groups or it is a slanted propaganda machine designed to coral us all into boxes, and most of it is badly written drivel with typos and out right spelling errors in published copy.  It’s a good thing most of it is free cuz I ain’t buying it.

And finally…

NOAA

I give up on you, NOAA.  I really do. 

 

Ahh..  You know, I feel better already.

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.

Entering the Mommy Wars from the Tomboy door

Today, ABCNews once again proved they are stuck in the 1950’s by posting this obviously unvetted story.

The premise of the article is a study which supposedly links working mothers to fatter children.  Since there is no actual link in the article to the actual study, it is hard to tell if that is the actual conclusion of the study, but from where I sit the study, or the article at least, is sexist, one sided and fatally flawed because it forgets the fundamental truth of parenthood and that is that it takes two to tango.

In other words, if working mothers are to blame for fatter children, than working fathers are too. 

The study would have been more accurate and also easier to swallow if it had focused on the two parent (or single parent) working household without bringing gender into the mix.  The inability of a working mother to both work and make suitable healthy meals for her children is also by the same token an inability of the working father, and does not have anything to do with their respective genders.  It has to do with how many hours there are in one day.

As it stands, though, this article implies that it is working mothers that are the problem.  It doesn’t matter if, like in our instance, the husband is not working.  I am a working mother and therefore my children are statistically more likely to be fatter.  Q.E.D.

What bugs me about this study is not that it re-ignites the apparent guilt trip that some women feel about having their cake and eating it too in the form of home, hearth, family and career, or the constant debate between the Stay-At-Homes and the Go-To-Works, but that it completely relegates the father to the background role and once again places all blame for any abnormality in a child’s development solely on the mother. 

Children can be raised by single parents, don’t get me wrong.  I was.  But for those couples who do choose to marry and start a family together, they have an obligation to see the family through the end point and not to delegate the majority of the responsibility and all of the blame on one party for any part of a normal functioning household.  That means not blaming your husband for not mowing the lawn and not blaming your wife for not doing the laundry.  Or in our case, vice versa.

If such a study does exist and it–for once– does not cloud the issue with Man versus Woman and Wife/Mother versus Career Woman, maybe the outcome could be better and easier food choices for all, more healthy work environments which encourage life/work balances, universal healthcare, mandated maternal/paternal leave, etc.  That would be useful.  Pitting society against working women, not so much.  Calling stay at home dads Mr. Mom, definitely not.  Try again, ABC.  You haven’t got it right yet.

Update:  we finally did find the study sparking the headlines: it is here.

Trying to wade through research studies isn’t my favorite pass-time, but I did try to get through it, although I immediately became concerned when one of the conclusions of the study was that in general mothers are African American, single, hold down a job with a high income and that they have a lot of children, a statistical anomaly in and of itself.  But Lionel kindly waded through it last night and sent this back to me:

Kay, so I read the full article and the main author’s resume.  She’s a real researcher, not a plant, although she has worked as a child care expert/lobbyist for Senator Tom Harkin (a democrat).  Her creds are good, as good as could be expected from a research/policy wonk (she has NEVER taught or professionally cared for kids herself, she has only studied them!)

The study relied on a mass of data from a long-term voluntary program that measured a variety of things on kids, including extensive questions about their home lives.  The study started out with more than 2,000 kids, but attrition over the years winnowed it down to 900 by the time the kids were in 6th grade.  So, the data set is suspect, as it only includes kids and parents that were willing to provided copious information about themselves over an 8 year period (not us, I reckon!)

So, the racial and other statistics the study cites are from this sample population, which comes from only urban families, I think just from PUBLIC SCHOOLS, from 10 cities across the US. It’s not a representative sample, but they don’t really care about it!

The researchers did not deal with fathers at all.  In fact, only the mothers were interviewed – fathers were completely left out of the study.  There were only 2 questions asked of the mothers that may have captured the fathers – 1) do you live alone, or is there a co-habitant in your home environment?  and 2), if there is a father, does he work more or less than 35 hours a week?  Obviously, these questions would completely fail to describe our particular arrangement, but even if it could, the researchers did not use the data from these 2 questions in their analysis – they deliberately ignored the fathers in the study, as if they did not exist, and did not matter.

So to one of the 900 African American single mothers  with eight kids out there, I’m sorry but one of your kids might be a little heavy due to all that work you’re doing.  But since you’re making a high income maybe you’ve saved up enough so that you can take some time off and be a good mother.  Go ahead, screw up the study.  It can’t get much worse.

The February Rant

Usually I rant about February because it is long and dreary and a pretty much useless month nestled in between January, a month of new hope and dreams for the new year, and March, sugaring season.  But this year it appears it may not be long enough to get us to where we want to be–mainly with two new lines, a collection tank and a new, set up, evaporator.  It’s the setup part that’s getting us.  Then there are the things that keep getting in the way of setting it up, like trying to clear the house out of all the myriad and sundry books we have been holding onto for years for reasons we can’t fathom now.  Trust me, one does not need three German to English dictionaries left over from high school language courses, nor am I ever going to read cover to cover Robert Frost Unabridged Collection.  Also there is this snow issue which, much as I hate to complain about snow, appears to have taken a liking to our ell roof and won’t fall off by itself, which means we’ll have to spend some hours to help it fall off and then clean up the resulting mess.

Bother.

But all in all, I have to say, this year’s February hasn’t been too bad so far.  I’ve even gotten another snow day.  In contrast my former place of employment went through the motions of pretending to care about its employees the day before the storm, asking them to call in to make sure they were open, and then, after doing a little financial calculation, decided not to close after all.  I think they were possibly the only business in Keene still open, so maybe they figured no one else would be on the roads.  So crazy, it might just work!

Anyway, Happy February everyone.   I hope that confounded groundhog is right and we get an early spring…but not too early.  We’ve got enough to do as it is.

Swamp Yankee in the New Year

Most years we sort of float on in to the next year with nothing to show for it and nothing entirely remarkable to say about the year that has past, but this year of 2010 seemed to be full of itself.  It was the first year we truly felt like farmers, for instance, with all the back-breaking, unromantic, dirty crap that implies as well as the first swelling of a bank account and the fact that we are still eating fresh carrots this late in January.  It was the last year we’d be using our little 2 by 4 evaporator pan-and-oil-barrel setup, although that is actually yet to be fully seen through.  It was the first year we tried our hand at selling chickens and produce, and it was the last year we’d be pulling the buds off the blueberries.  It saw the arrival of another Swamp Yankee, turning us from LARC and LARCS to LLARCS.  It saw the death of a dear friend and a loyal dog.  And finally it saw the end of one job, although it won’t officially be able to claim the start of another.

All in all, a topsy turvy year, 2010 was.

Normally the even years are my better years, or maybe it’s just my bias towards even numbers which has always made it seem so.  But I’m hoping that 2011 will be one of those years that just slips by and doesn’t comment much upon my life.  I like memorable moments but I don’t need them all at once. 

“May your life be interesting” as the old curse goes.  May our lives here at LLARCS be unremarkable–possibly downright boring– this year.

Basket Case

The more you know…the less sure you become of anything.

As we learn more about our current food chain, the more nervous and suspicious we’ve become of any established, branded food source and subsequently the places we might buy them from.  Still, we live in the North East where we simply don’t grow some basic staples such as wheat, rice or corn in any usable, sustainable quantities, and the winters force us to buy food from elsewhere.  Add to that our addiction to comforts such as coffee, chocolate and french wine, and the result is that one day a week, I bundle the Bundles into the car for a convoluted shopping excursion for sustenance which can take the entire day.

It takes the entire day because we are picky about our food but we also do not have an unlimited amount of money.  Organic food cooperatives often are the only place to find good, local and/or organic produce and grass fed meats, but their dry goods and other brand name items are often over-priced and can be found in your friendly neighborhood agribusiness supermarket chain store for much much less.  Around these parts, the cheapest supermarket chain for such items is Market Basket.

A typical Saturday will therefore find us in Concord, NH, or Peterborough followed by Rindge, or Brattleboro, VT, or to Springfield, VT followed by a trip to Claremont.

Market Baskets are, in general, dingy, run down stores with little infrastructure, sad employees and broken carts.  There are no cup holders on the carts or car-carts for children or little cafes.  The public bathrooms are hidden in the back in the warehouse section.  The clientele are elderly, obese, or poor.  So the selections are basic and often change based on whether the chain can purchase them from their distributors for a reasonable price. 

Recently a concerted effort has been in the works to start a Co-op in Keene, NH.  This has excited us, since I work in Keene, and would save us a considerable amount of time.  We also recently learned of a Market Basket in Swanzey, one town over.  Although still trips to 2 different stores, it would be novel to have all of our needs in the same town. 

We checked it out; the Market Basket in Swanzey is gorgeous.  But here’s the quandary: this modern, gorgeous Market Basket, with its smooth riding carts and heated dairy aisles, so close to where I work which will make our lives easier, was built on the remains of a beautiful field and its old, dilapidated chicken barn.

They could have grown wheat or corn or grass fed cows there and kept the land fertile.  But they paved it over and ruined it forever instead.  And we’ll shop there.  Because we’re in the system.  We’ll always be in the system.

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