Thursday, October 17, 2013

Another happy week with happy news. What a happy thing. Happy happy happy.

     So the kids are depressed, and right on cue, the weather's turned dark and cold. There's been no slow, gorgeous slide into Fall. It was really hot one day, and the next day it rained, and the next day it was forty degrees (which it's been ever since). Good job, Kansas. Right on track to being untrackable.
     I've gotten some bad news regarding my ex's (on whom I am financially dependent) job; he doesn't think it is secure (he never, ever thinks his job is secure, but history has shown that he's been somewhat right), and he thinks he'll be laid off before the end of the year.  Because in the sparkling clean wasteland that is the executive brain, Christmas = layoff time.  He might be right about this. All signs point to nope, nossir, not looking good at all.
     I have been really stressed lately (stupid, stupid sentence, we're all stressed, it's the nature of being alive to be challenged, and it's overused so much that the word is meaningless, like 'awesome' or 'cool' or 'nightmare.' Nevertheless, I'm stressed like DAMMIT). I've been gobbling Valerian root herbal pills and going on loooooong walks (so long that even my dog loses his world famous how-many-times-can-i-trip-the-walker ability about halfway through, i,e. long enough to break a dog's will) and reading Terry Pratchett and watching stupid stuff online and on tv and knitting and knitting and making bread and scrubbing sinks (possibly my oldest coping method; I had beeyootiful sinks the year I realized my marriage was RIP) and gardening (even though there's not a lot to do at this time of year) and all these usually tried and true methods aren't helping. I've never had panic attacks, but lately I feel like I could split in half like a bad pastry from sheer anxiety.
     There have never been good enough periods of health and enough money to go back to college, which means even if I can find a job I'll only pull in minimum wage.  And there's always that ugly seed in my mind of: remember how sick you get when you get overly tired (lupus makes me feel like a pitiful version of The Princess and the Pea, who, let's fact it, was pretty pitiful to start with).  Remember how sick, how fast? Remember how bad the dark days were, how hard on the kids? How they're still kind of insecure and fragile? Marvelous thoughts, all of them. I keep thinking there's got to be a non-exhausting job that pays enough that isn't back breaking labor that lets you get home early enough to see your kids. I suspect every human alive is looking for that job description.
     I cannot stand the thought of moving again.  Moving is difficult for me. There is something about uprooting and sorting everything and scrubbing every inch and researching and looking for new homes that makes me want to pull up a cardboard box on a street corner and take to begging. I've heard (and seen firsthand) that some people can just kind of move, boom, done, but I most emphatically do not move that way. I'm tired for about a year, no exaggeration for effect or otherwise, after a move.  
     Plus, I really like Lawrence. We moved here in the winter, and it was bleak, golly was it bleak, and there weren't the usual spoiled for choice of entertainments and family activities and we hated it. The house was marvelous, but the flatness was so creepy and the wide barren expanse between towns was beyond creepy and there were old farms with old barns everywhere and everything looked like a horror movie about to happen. I learned almost-the-hard-and-dangerous-way that there are NO GAS STATIONS between the towns. NOTHING between towns means NOTHING. I went out with a quarter tank of gas, confident in my eastern-ness that there'd be gas stations every little where. It was winter (no dammit I will NOT make a GoT reference here, it's been done to death, let it be done) and dark and the gas tank light went on as we passed a dark farm that had an outbuilding that could have passed for the one in Jeepers Creepers and my goodness it was an exciting twenty minutes until we found our way to an open gas station. The key word here is OPEN. Even if you find a station, you better hope it's open, because some of the smaller towns roll up the sidewalks at seven pm, which means not being able to pump gas even with a credit card.  I've tried to bribe a gas station attendant to re-open a pump after he'd locked the door for the night, and even for twenty bucks in his pocket, I couldn't get gas. The small, Kansas towns are so dark at night. Everything looks menacing. The fact is, most of the people would probably give you food and gas and shelter, even, they are so nice here, but there are, I'm sorry to say, armed and paranoid and occasionally inbred nutterbutters as well, and they SHOULD advertise, with a nice, decorative, Pinterest-y sign next to their doors ('Welcome, we're going to make chili out of you, wipe your feet and ring the bell') but they don't, so it's a crapshoot, really, if one runs out of gas in a small, dark, mostly friendly town.
     So the transition was rough, a bad age for the kids to be uprooted, especially eastern kids with eastern ideas about anything west of Pennsylvania,  but when Spring came and Kansas bloomed it, it really BLOOMED, green heaven everywhere, and people came out of their houses and most of them turned out to be fifty million trillion zillion times nicer than anyone we'd ever met, and we found a few family activities hither and yon, and learned that we'd landed in the one liberal oasis in all of Kansas. We fell in love. Even my firstborn, who misses the city something fierce (we all do, but they really, really do; the city has a bigger LGTB community, for one) loves the people here. The schools are not strictly speaking, GOOD, but they are nice, super nice; they are on top of bullying stuff and surprisingly mostly liberal and accepting to lgtb kids and students of color and have tons of girls sport teams and funny, specialized after school clubs like The Ugly Sweater Club and The Bad Anime Movies Club, etc...they're the opposite of what I expected, high school wise, in the Midwest. I like this place. I don't want to leave it, not yet, maybe not ever.  When we circled in for a landing at KCMO airport after a trip, I remember feeling like I was home, and I hadn't felt that for a long, long time.
     The house has an amazing floorplan and seems twice as big as the Jersey house, even though it's twice as small. I love the family/kitchen combined great room were the kids hang out and study and watch tv while I do kitchen stuff. It's the total opposite of the rabbit warren we lived in before,  all blocked off from each other through galley kitchens and halls and the generally weird layout. The house definitely needs help, the insulation is almost lawsuit worthy crap, the paint job was obviously slapped on without primer because it comes off the cupboard doors every time I wipe them down, on top of which, the cupboard doors themselves keep falling off. The carpet is cheap and laid badly and coming up everywhere....there's lots of endless stuff like this that needs work, the house is an amazing design but not, as they say on Project Runway, executed well....but even so, we love it. Like the state, it feels like home for the first time in a while and the thought of losing it, and losing the equity we've built up in it is a shattering thought. We lost almost all of our savings on the Jersey house when the market crashed. We'd made money on the Florida house, and I can't tell you what an amazing feeling it was to have money squirreled away for the kid's college, but all of that is gone. I had made my peace with that, had accepted that I'd be shopping again at WalMart and TJ Max and Aldies (I like Aldies, it's not a hardship to get good, affordable food but oh my GOD do I hate WalMart) for the rest of my life, and I was actually fine with that, the living paycheck to paycheck and barely making it to Friday with a dollar in my pocket and having to go hugely in debt for the kid's college tuition....and it turns out I was grateful too soon.
     I've been through the "I've lost my job" phone call three times now already, and can I just say? It's one hell of a call. The thing you've been fearing is finally in front of you and it turns out all the pre-game fear in the world isn't enough preparation for the actual show when the curtain goes up. I think it might be worse each time, because, like childbirth or other painful events,  you know exactly what you're in for and this bad thing is very bad indeed. I feel like my stomach has been twisted in knots for twenty plus years now. I've been nauseatingly, chokingly, endlessly worried about my ex and his expensive and sometimes dangerous extracurricular hobbies and money and the lack thereof for so long.  I have a lot of ex-Mormon anger, but I especially have a lot of fuel to burn re: the "loving wife drops out of college and puts any ambitions on hold in order to put the Priesthood holder through his studies that will in turn led to a righteous path heading the family" that was still the prevailing philosophy at the time of my new marriage. Things seemed to change quite soon after that, with couples walking through graduation ceremonies together, or guys supporting their wives education even though the guy had graduated....all good changes....all moot for me. Dropping out was almost as dumb as majoring in English....dum dum dum (agonizingly bad English major joke).
     I feel like a character in an Austen novel, the old maid who is dependent on children or other relatives for her room and board, the one who contributes nothing to society, who just sort of exists as a possible service project and cautionary tale for others until she dies. I'm working on a book, a YA novel, but getting published will take a miracle, and living on any monies from same would be a miracle twice over. I'm not marketable. I'm a drain; I use up grocery money and gas money and insurance money but I don't put anything back in, it all goes one way.


     And now that I've confessed my utter lack of self worth, can I just take a moment to address a certain group of people who shouldn't have healthy egos (bad, bad segue way, I'm a grumpy Austen spinster and I don't care, find your own good segues):
     T those of you who are hysterical, ignorant, willfully uninformed idiots about Obamacare...I hope you rot in hell. (Yeah, another bad transition, I should lead gently into this, or I should be understanding or peaceable....sorry, can't do it, not with this subject).  I don't hope you see a ray of light and have a spiritual and intellectual about face (unless of course you really do have one, then congratulations on your intellectual dexterity). No. The rest of you should rot in hell. I hope you get a terrible disease and can't pay for it. I hope you lose your jobs, your homes, and your families trying to tread the black, treacherous waters of the American healthcare system. Don't talk to me about economics; any peanut with half a shell can figure out that we spend millions and millions on the sinking Titanic that is the American emergency room. All the uninsured people who wait and wait because they can't afford a normal doctor, many of whom are in fact in the ER right now,  with amplified symptoms and expensive treatment procedures because they weren't helped in time; that bill gets paid by taxpayers. Doesn't it make sense to help them with the flu, before it becomes hospitalized pneumonia?  Because here's the thing: we have to help them somehow. This issue won't go away with draconian measures. I know some politicians and citizens wish we could just export or squash those pesky poor people like an irritating bug, but they aren't going away. They can't. It takes money to leave. And don't start with the whole 'modifying bloated and corrupt insurance companies is unconstitutional and interfering and the opposite of open market freedom. Do. Not. Go. There. Because if you do go there, I have to assume you haven't been poor and hardworking AND sick, or you haven't taken ten minutes to read non-partisan expert, fact based opinion about lobbying and money based legislation and top heavy companies, let alone taken your own personal fall into the rabbit hole that is American insurance policy coverage.      Don't get me wrong; I'm not an Obama worshiper. He's done some wonderful things but he's also done some outrageously troubling things as well (Monsanto bills of protection, NSA enforcement, drone strikes, signing anti protest laws, etc), but he's smart enough to make health care his legacy and he's totally correct in doing so. The health care system isn't just broken, it's a monstrous deviant that feeds on the sickest and the poorest and has the gall to hand them a bill for the very blood it lives on. Maybe I'd be less emotional about this subject if I hadn't been poor and sick for the last fifteen years, but I have and I am. I've stood outside an ER at three in the morning and watched as parents with full time jobs called relatives to beg money for the sick, crying baby in their arms because they were turned away for lack of insurance. That's what we do, in the name of whatever God politicians believe in: we turn away those who need it most and say, well, that's the system. It's not the system. It's us. We made the system, we set the system loose, we watched as the system pulled down buildings and smashed cars, and instead of calling out the National Guard we shrugged and said well, whadleyado? It is what it is, more shrugging. God forbid someone tries to take on the monster. God forbid we make corrupt companies accountable. God forbid we aim higher, we try to pedal forward into civilization instead of backwards.  I'd say we deserve this, but those most deserving of their comeuppance will never get it and those of us who get it don't deserve it.  Those that do are too busy depositing profits in offshore banks and lighting cigars with hundred dollar bills. They're as healthy as a well fed tick. They'll be fine. Which is part of the problem. We're asking people with no context or concept of helplessness and no empathy to outline a workable program dealing with both qualities.

     So. That's my little opinion. You're welcome.

Movies I watched this week:

Grave of the Fireflies: ( )   This was maybe, in hindsight, not the best movie to watch this particular week of my life. My kiddo rented it and said they really wanted to watch it with me, and I thought, well, I've always wanted to see it, and mother/kid time is always good, and that was a mistake. I'd seen the cover before, and read brief comments about it, but somehow I had the mistaken idea that it was a dystopian child run society scifi movie.  It is not. That type of movie is a FUNGOODTIME compared to this film.  It's about two orphans, a brother and his baby sister, trying to survive on their own in Japan during World War Two. The brother is a terrific character. He is original and brilliant and brave and the most loyal, loving brother in the world, and he WILL break your heart about seventeen times before the end. The baby sister is equally marvelous, equally devoted to her brother, funny, sweet, and a tough little soldier. Her story line will have you weeping on the floor, not gentle, life is beautiful yet bittersweet type weeping, no no. This will be ugly, hand over mouth so your desperate wounded animal noises can't escape type crying. How depressing was it? I'd rather watch that bleak as hell documentary about Chinese factory immigrant workers every day for a year rather than sit through the Fireflies again. The day after we watched it, my child said "You know, I'm so glad you watched it with me, I was afraid to watch it alone because I'd heard such sad things about it." So. Mother/child bonding - one. Mindless entertainment that makes you giggle fondly for weeks- zero.

Youtube stuff I watched this week:

HELL NO: The sensible horror film: 

Trailer for every Oscar winning movie ever:


David Mitchell's Soapbox:

Would I lie to you:
(Do you think there's a really stressed, middle aged woman in England who gets great good joy from watching American shows on youtube? Yeah, probably.)

Castle Ghosts of Scotland:

     This one is good solid fun, no downside, no warnings. Usually these ghost hunting shows are so bad they're almost good, in a brainless at least I don't have to think any thoughts at all for the next hour - type way. Or at least up to the point where you start yelling at the tv and shouting to the ghost hunting heroes what dumb schmucks they are and to shuddup, not every settling, creaking house is haunted you morons...I mean, some people watch these shows and some people, not me, you understand, might get frustrated with the sheer magnitude of stupidity and angled shots and editing that is supposed to equate a superscary haunted house. Some people might even WANT to believe, are WILLING to believe, but somehow just haven't been convinced yet, in spite of fearless hunters that treat "ghosts" like naughty three year olds {"I'm going to count to three, if you don't blow the candle out by that time, we're leaving the toy store, I mean haunted house"....I can't tell you how gratifying it is to see frustrated hunters go into angry mommy mode with stubborn ghosts. It might be the entire reason I theoretically sometimes, at least someone who looks a lot like me,  watch ghost hunting shows. That, and the fact that I really want to be convinced. I want to believe, I accept that some [some!] of the people who believe aren't totally stupid, but I just don't believe myself. FYI, if you think you're living in a haunted house? Get your electrical stuff (your house system, not your brain) checked out: wonky wiring (again, house, not brain, or least not your brain, I'm sure your brain is juuuuust fiiiine) can cause you to feel exactly like you're being watched by a menacing presence, that there's someone unseen in the room with you, and can even make shadows flicker and move around and possibly even shift actual objects. True story. You're not haunted, you've just got electrical work needs doing. Unless. You really do live an an even mildly haunted house, in which case, that knocking you hear? it's not the ghost, it's the ghost hunting team at your front door. They'd like a word}.
     The Castle Ghosts of Scotland is narrated by Robert Hardy, that posh, esteemed British actor guy who's been in stuff you're sure you've seen and you're positive he's been just great in that one thing...ya, that guy, he's the narrator. He's got the right voice, and a perfect sense of storytelling with cadence and timing, and, AND, he's a believer. Perfect. Most of these "The scariest ever number one in the world documentary proving ghostie type stuff is totally, totally true and we're just not kidding, we mean it, for reals" videos are just, well, underwhelming is the kindest thing I can say about them.  The series with Robert Hardy are the happy exception. The production values are pretty good, and the stories are really fun. The Scottish one is my favorite one: there's a famous story about a bagpiper that is worth the viewing alone. And there's actual proof (!) (for reals) (!) at the end of the piper tale. It's the first story at the beginning of the vid, if you don't want to fuss with the whole thing. All the stories and locations are top notch, and Hardy himself talks about his own resident ghost, a monk who stirs the fire when it gets low. Good Halloween stuff. I haven't seen a scary movie in a long time, but I have to assume this is better, story wise, than most of what has been released in the theaters lately, and bonus, there's no 'your house isn't haunted actually it's, boo! YOU! who's haunted,' eek eeek type stuff, and bonus bonus, no slashing, over the top violence or gore. How sick are we that we had to invent the term 'torture porn'? I'll tell you. I've got opinions, I'm willing to share them: it's pretty damn sick. 

Stuff I've read this week:

Debt Ceiling Delusions :  (interesting read, posted on a financial group site but still worth reading, not sure how I wandered onto this one)

Interview with Robert Reich (ok, I didn't actually READ this in the sense of specifically READING it, more like watched it,  but it's about the same subject and very good. I like RR, he makes me feel like things are do-able, he's so smart and positive...not quite as cheery lately, though, I've noticed: Also good: talking about why Republicans and Democrats are so angry with each other: I didn't watch the news this week, not even Rachel Maddow or Chris Hines, and have stayed off of news sites online, but I'll listen to RR when I'm not willing to hear. another. word. about. this. nonsense.

     I don't know how to review this without spoilers. I'd really like to discuss this with someone who, like me, read it because of the glowing recommendations of a ton of other people and, then, like me, haaaated it. Oh my word I hated this book. And apparently, people love this book, like really, really loooove this book. I can't say why I hated it without spoiling, you know, everything, but I haven't been this irritated about a book in a long time. There are thousands of reviews on Amazon with people going on and on and ooooonnn about how This Is The Book and wella, good for them, I guess.
     I didn't have a problem with the writing style, or the drawn out descriptions, or the strange episode in the killer's house that is better suited to a different genre, or the way Odd Thomas, a young, dumb, fry cook (who just so happens to be psychic) talked; apparently those things bugged the few people that were bothered by the book. I just have such issues with the plot, and with an author who goes out of his way to do weird critic-baiting every few pages, literal critic-baiting, who then goes on to do a pull-the-rug flat out manipulative ending and oh yeah, bad guys? The ones Thomas was so worried about throughout the entire book? Fuggeditaboutit. Don't worry about them meanies. I mean, what? He (Koontz) went out of his way to describe for pages and pages and pages how awful the bad guys were by showing what was in their fridge (you don't want to know, I wish I didn't) and by their hobbies (ditto), and then....yeah, sorry, that wasn't really the point, or in fact any point at all.
     I understand it if I walk into a book thinking I'm going to get a hug and instead I walk away with a black eye, I do. I maybe don't love those books, but I get them, if they're written well. This? I liked the writing but the plot was a mess, and worse, it was a manipulative mess, with the added and unnecessary burden of an avuncular writer type character who sort of advises Thomas while telling him (frequently) what big dumb jerks critics are (really jerky jerks, I mean, how dare they critique things, they just don't get meeee). Don't read this if you're like me and require either A: a happily ever after, or B: plotting and characterizations that matter. For example, this review? About this book? That I've chatted about for quite a little word count now? And I've said things, wordy type words about thingy type things, all of them relating to the aforementioned book?  So you'll assume I'll wrap up with more of the same? Nope. Instead...drum roll : I'd like to talk about my laptop now. It's silver colored and pretty heavy and it gets amazing sound and I like listening to gloomy folk music when I write. And there's a dent on the cover which means the kids dropped it or dropped something heavy on it and boy, that scared me when I saw that little dent because I need this laptop and cannot afford even the crappiest used one, plus mom and dad bought it so it's sentimental, but that sure was a frightening ten seconds when I saw the dent that one time a few weeks ago.  The. End.
That's how this book is. I've got feelings. I understand Koontz has some genuinely good reads out there. I'm going to need some time before I think about reading them. )

Pictures I liked this week:
4d509516733e08fedd4bd0ad154ab100 97494e3b4a2008fa0b6c14b7d5aa5bcf 407fd91011052a11cd75d09367dda539 adQRab1oypr0h7cenwGeWvHJo1_r1_500 august 11 2010 043 bbbbb bbbcat bbbbbb bbbcattwo bbbcowballon bbbmammoth bbbpuppy bbcateyebbbbbbbb bbmeth candy calvin seibert calvin seibert s bbrollercoaster bbgingerbreadman bbbmiley good private moon project by leonid tishkov leonid tishkov sandcastles by calvin seibert p
end; have a good week, everyone