Old Fashioned Frosting

August 29th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Family | Food | Recipes - (0 Comments)

In which there’s a recipe from my grandma.

I came across the image below from a few years ago, remembered how really delicious that frosting was, and realized that I have no idea how to make old fashioned frosting.

So I googled it. Weird results.

(I mean, I’m off carbs right now, but it’s unlikely that I’ll never eat another cupcake. A girl never knows when she might be called upon to produce, you know, delicious treats for some event or another. Best remedy this lack of knowledge!)

Low tea

So I emailed my G’ma and asked her for the recipe. This is what she said:

Somewhere out there there is probably a recipe for that frosting with accurate measurments but this is my way.

You will need powdered sugar, butter, or if you want white frosting use shortening, and some liquid.

I melt about two tablespoons of butter, add about equal amount of cream, and slowly add powdered sugar. A little liquid absorbs a lot of sugar, so add slowly mix until spreadable.

Then the fun begins, add any flavoring you like or spice, food coloring for fun. Powdered cocoa if you want chocolate. A tiny touch of mint is good in choc. Orange juice or lemon juice can be used instead of cream. Top with whatever.

I have used molasses in place of cream when frosting a spice cake. The more sugar used and liquid the more frosting you get till finally you can frost dozens, so that is why you add sugar slowly. After a few times you will have it perfect for your project.

Basically a procedure for making delicious frosting in any flavor in any quantity! And much better than that crap in a tub from the grocery store, in my opinion, although I have been known to eat that stuff by the spoonful on occasion.

In which there’s some crap I more or less stumbled across online.

Today I came across a site that told me that some stupid product for women to wear under tight clothing — Camel No — IS THE WORST THING EVER AND SHAMES WOMEN AND IS ANTI-WOMAN AND ANTI-VAGINA.

Because obviously the woman who developed the product is a card-carrying misogynist, and not just trying to hide her labia in tight pants. Takeaway: modesty is anti-feminist, and everything that ever happens, ever, even if a woman does it, victimizes women.

The next post I read told me that calling Jenner ‘Bruce’ instead of ‘Kaitlin’ is A METHOD OF SILENCING AND SHAMING, because clearly not giving a fuck about Bruce Jenner is the same as being transphobic which is the same as being Hitler. “Not prioritizing trans experience” is now a heinous a social faux pas, even though taking the recent explosion in the number of so-called trans people they still make up less than a single percent of the population. Because “It’s not that Caitlyn was formerly anything. Judging from everything she’s said about her life, it’s more that she has always been Caitlyn even if she didn’t know it.”

Takeaway: SO IF I’M REALLY SOMETHING ELSE, EVEN THOUGH I DON’T KNOW IT, WHEN I PULL THIS SOMETHING OUT OF THIN AIR, YOU ALL HAVE TO PRIORITIZE IT EVEN IF IT’S RIDICULOUS. Riiiiight. People don’t really believe this shit, do they?

Then I read an article in which a black woman calls a white woman giving her advice — true, stupid and unasked for advice, but still: just advice — RACISM. Instead of just plain ol’ stupidity, which is more likely what it was: one feminist saying stupid feminist “don’t let the man — literally — get you down” dogma to another.

Takeaway: even though we’re all women, any white woman talking to any black woman, ever, unless she’s not saying something stupid, is a racist.

If this site is legit and not just another so-called ‘satire’ site publishing ‘news’ it knows to be untrue, then it set off every YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN cell in my body.

In which I’m very sorry, but you do not get to pick your race, your age, your orientation, or your sex. You barely even get to pick your tax bracket or style of education. We all struggle with things; your struggle is most likely an unfortunate mental disorder. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I mean, I myself periodically live in terror that I’m about. to. die. any. second. now. and it’s just the configuration of my brain and not a literal medical emergency. This is the power of our oversized human brains… and their very convincing disorders.

Don’t Let Your Doctor Do This To Your Newborn is an hysterical, almost violently pro-transgender article about the crushing dangers of so-called “gender assignment.”

The author claims that calling an infant a “boy” or a “girl” collapses its infinite choices into a narrow, limited, single gender, and that while it’s safe for many it’s basically a death sentence to a few.

Peanuts are “safe for many, but basically a death sentence for a few,” too, I can’t help but point out. Fucking peanuts, okay? And you don’t get to have feelings about fatal peanut allergies; either you suffer from one or you don’t. You’re just born that way. And you stay that way until you die, because that allergy is just part of who you are, down to your genetic coding.

You were expressed that way. Just as you are expressed as male or female. (Don’t even start with the intersex topic; it affects fewer than those with fatal peanut allergies.)

Listen. If it’s wrong to acknowledge a person’s sex — which is an actual thing, coded into nearly every cell, and not a feeling — at birth, it’s also wrong to take high school kids on careers field trips, because you’re collapsing their potential by showing them how adults work at the factory or mine or lab or bank or retail store, cruelly exposing them to a future they should be aware of in advance, in order to help them make informed decisions about adulthood.

How terrible it is, to acknowledge your little girl is a girl, and let her observe other girls being girls, so that she will have some prior knowledge of the condition her chromosomes have expressed in her, as her life unfolds!

One of the doctors who pioneered gender reassignment therapies and surgeries now wholly rejects it based on the results: research indicates that most post-ops do not find their dysmorphia is assuaged enough after transitioning to keep them out of psychiatric wards, and many — something like 40% — suicide in spite of “becoming” their preferred sex/gender.

Such numbers are poor support indeed for the concept that transgenderism can be “fixed” with reassignment surgery, and strong support for the theory that it’s a disorder like anorexia or body integrity disorder.

If you think there are male and female brains, you also think there are males and females. Period. Because if there are male brains, those brains are the expressions of the conditions of being male: genetic, hormonal, environmental, and physical. And undergoing hormone and surgical treatments does not change your sex. If you were born male, nearly every cell in your body will attest to this throughout your entire life no matter how many breast implants you’ve had.

Just as dysmorphia is most certainly a disease in the anorexic (and one we treat with the therapy they need, and not the liposuction they want), I’m nearly certain it’s also a disease in the transgendered. I’m sure it’s just as painful as depression or schizophrenia or bipolar disorder or any other illness. And I bet it sucks mightily to suffer from it.

But I don’t think chemical, hormonal, and surgical therapies are appropriate treatment for the condition. Once you have your skull shaved to feminize your face, you can’t go back. Once you have your genitalia permanently mutilated altered, you can’t go back. Once you have your earlobes gauged or your cartilage punched or your skin scarified, you can’t go back. Many of the decisions of youth are permanent and can’t be undone. Which is exactly and precisely why your parents forbade you from doing such things when you were a kid, and possibly even made you beg just to get your ears pierced.

Want to live as a woman for a few years, or the rest of your life? Be my guest! I’ll absolutely support your right to buy bras and do your makeup like a hooker and wear nail polish and learn about the ins and outs of leg shaving and the hand-washing of delicate intimate garments. I’ll talk girltalk with you and include you in girls-only excursions; I’ll tell you anecdotes to inform you during your journey through my female world.

I’ll be your friend. I’ll totally be your friend, just like I would if you had a violent bipolar disorder and pruned all my fruit trees to death in a manic episode. I’ll still think you’re you and I’ll still see you, the exact person you are, warts and all. Crazy and all. Just as I hope you’ll see me through my own crazy.

But, while I’ll be vaguely flattered that you, a man, are so pathologically fascinated by my sex that you’re trying to join it, and I’ll probably be amazed by your inherent femininity and by how much you’re not like men, and I’ll probably even seek out and show you brain scans of men living as women and enthuse with you about how much they look like the brain scans of actual women and be amazed with you about the plasticity of the brain in general, I’ll still know you don’t menstruate. I’ll still know you were never a 12-year old girl growing her very own tits. I’ll still know you were and are a man, although one with issues I don’t really understand, and I’ll love you anyway, just like I love people with chronic pain I don’t have, or mental illnesses different from my own, or who have lost body parts I still have.

Same the other way. If you’re a female who wants to live as a man, I will absolutely treat you like a man. I’ll help you learn to flirt with women. I’ll ask you to carry the heavy things and fetch the drinks and kill the spiders and fix the car and pay the tab. But I’ll also know that you know what it’s like to have boobs, and menstruate, and network horizontally like a woman rather than vertically like a man, and I will not share with you the experience of not wanting to be what you are, because I’ve never once wanted to change sex, not even for an instant. Because sex doesn’t fucking matter. And gender is already plastic.

(more…)

In which many exciting changes — a move, a job change, and not one but two opportunities for travel — are afoot!

The lease is up here, and while this apartment has some incredible amenities — such as southern exposure, a gas range, amazing cross-ventilation, and a wonderful view of a park with a pond in it — it also happens to be located in a rather industrial-sized, non-walkable bedroom suburb, so we’ve recently signed a new lease for an apartment in or very near Uptown.

“Uptown” is the neighborhood directly south of downtown Minneapolis, and it’s eminently walkable as well as featuring access to Eat Street, the Midtown greenway, and lots of groceries and bars and venues.

The new place has off-street parking for Scott and a storage locker for my bike (I’m hoping), wood floors, a larger kitchen, a bathroom practically identical to the one we have here, A GAS RANGE, a residential neighborhood that will probably be quiet, and a killer location for walking and biking to stores and bars and restaurants. (Well, during the nice months of the year, anyway.)

We’re still waiting on a move-in date from the new landlord (the current tenant hasn’t moved out yet), but it should be within the next few weeks.

I gave notice at Home Depot a couple of days ago. It’s been… interesting employment for me, and required a lot of comfort zone-stretching (sharing a desk, never sitting down, limited online access, steady physical exertion, etc). I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed any of it nor that the physical component hasn’t been good for me, but I’m incredibly happy to have a concrete end date in sight (since knowing it was temporary was sometimes the only thing that kept me sane).

The very day after giving notice I got a call back from a credit union two blocks — 600 feet from door to door, as the crow flies — from the new apartment! After signing the lease I’d used Google Maps to reconnoiter the area looking for work, and lo and behold there was a job posting for a part-time teller! In the neighborhood!

How great would that be? A two-block commute to a part-time job in a quiet environment? No nights or weekends or holidays? To work when Scott’s at work? (They’re open 9-6 on weekdays and 9-12 on Saturdays. I’d never have to work two solid months of 8-hour weekend shifts again! Even if I have to work every Saturday morning forever, it would still be a thousand thousand times better than the insanity that is the home improvement warehouse retail schedule.) Had a lovely pre-interview by phone today with the credit union’s HR; I have an in-person interview at the branch next Tuesday. So excited!

If it doesn’t work out — which it might not, of course, because they don’t post the pay range even in the job description and it might be minimum wage, which I’d probably pass on even with the ideal location and nearly-ideal schedule — I think I’ll just take a couple months off and get back into some semblance of a routine.

After a year of being scheduled anywhere from 6 AM to 10 PM, seven days a week, 363 days a year, I now have nothing like regular mealtimes and am usually not hungry when I have to eat or am starving when I can’t. Sleep schedules are utterly blown, and I’ve nearly lost my ability to sleep when I have to because I’m either inappropriately not tired or totally exhausted for whatever my schedule requires of me. I’ve never really considered myself a routine-oriented person, but that might be because I always had much more of one than I’ve had this past year. Random scheduling fucking blows and I feel deep sympathy for all those who are trapped in it.

Anecdotally, the new place is two blocks — normal city blocks, not the monstrosities here in the old apartment’s neighborhood — from a 30-year old breakfast joint called The Egg and I. HOW COOL IS THAT. There is nothing that close to this apartment but grass, trees, other apartments, roads, and weeds. Oh, and a pond.

So, the Employment Of Misery is basically over, a new lease is signed, I’ve started packing, and I already have an interview for a highly desirable position in the new neighborhood. On top of that, we’re going to see Amma in Chicago in a couple of weeks, and we have plans to visit Walla Walla in mid-August for a Morgan family reunion/get-together!

Totally stoked. Now I just need to put more stuff in boxes and find something nice to wear to next week’s interview!

The overpass

May 21st, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Soapbox - (0 Comments)

In which I rode my bike to work, and four-and-a-quarter hours later I rode it home again.

My apartment is technically only six blocks from work; it’s just that they’re such gigantic, industrial blocks that those six blocks actually equal 1.2 miles. (A mile usually contains 17 typical city blocks, that’s how big these blocks are.) The route is more or less a straight line from the edge of the apartment property and down a giant street over an I-394 overpass.

This overpass:

Love locks

When you look at the cars, well over ninety percent of them have only one occupant. And that one occupant is hell-bent on getting on, off, or through, and is on the phone far more often than you’d like.

Even with a constant and rather vigorous wind, the whole area generally reeks of exhaust, unless it’s very early in the day. Where ‘reeks’ is a value of ‘you’re not really sure if you can breathe.’

At about half-past four today, when I came home, it was bumper-to-bumper traffic. So many individual people in their big-ass SUVs going home from work.

What ever happened to the sedan? Why is literally everyone driving a truck? There’s no way these people need to tow shit; maybe they think they’re safer in the winter months? Regardless, everybody’s driving WAY more car than they’ll ever need.

I realize people are primarily just doing what they need to do to get by, but it’s obscene, the sheer bafflingly huge amount of wealth and waste represented by rush hour, as viewed from a single overpass in a metro area of the United States.

The infrastructure alone runs to the millions, and then all those cars. All the gasoline. So much money, so many resources used for this: the afternoon traffic jam, a wasteful ritual that nobody even likes.

. .. … …. ….. …. … .. .

It’s just so stupid that we didn’t earnestly invest in trains and convenient public transportation back the 70’s when we first realized we were having concurrent air pollution and fuel acquisition crises. Sure, most cities have a light rail or three, but we’re still installing lines like it’s a brand new clean-and-green idea instead of old hat, and the lines that do exist are useless unless you live right up on one. We just never prioritized, so what we have today is millions and millions of people all over the country driving themselves to and from their jobs, which are basically never in their actual neighborhoods, because there’s just no convenient alternative.

It’s such a massive, heartbreaking waste.

I bike, but I pretty much hate it. It’s not convenient; it’s dangerous. This area IS FOR CARS, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, and although I ride as defensively and with as much paranoia as possible, I’m still pretty much always on the verge of being hit by a driver who is distracted, in a hurry, on the phone, pissed off, or just not expecting a pedestrian or bicyclist to be fucking around on a freeway overpass, because everybody drives.

When I was a broke college student, I never really understood what they meant when they called America “the richest nation in the world.” Like, I didn’t have any money, and nobody I knew at the time was rich. We were all living hand-to-mouth, growing our debt, struggling. I didn’t really understand that all the infrastructure around me counted toward that national wealth, and that it reflected the decisions we made collectively as a society.

Decisions like choosing to live in an entrenched and wealth-destroying car-centric manner, forever and ever, amen.

. .. … …. ….. …. … .. .

Now, I understand the history of the Interstate Highway Project and how it helped with jobs and transportation of goods; it’s hard to be against it, really, even knowing the consequences. BUT WHY OH WHY COULDN’T IT HAVE BEEN TRAINS.

Had it been trains, we would have designed everything differently. People would just expect to be able to walk or bike or take convenient public transportation to the store, the doctor, the school, and the job. Instead of sprawling, wasteful, ugly suburbs, we’d have communities.

We wouldn’t blindly accept the idea that it’s normal to live and work so far apart, that we should drive to the grocery and the dentist and the bowling alley; we wouldn’t have all these impossible-to-walk mega complexes; we wouldn’t waste so much space.

Around here, an old Minneapolis suburb, there are giant, wide streets that take half a minute to walk across, many without sidewalks. There are giant shopping complexes (like the one I work in, which is two huge big box stores and two multi-business strips containing nail salons, coffee shops, and pet stores) that were never intended to be walked across: the sidewalks go nowhere when they exist at all, and the whole layout is intended to keep motorists from speeding, not to make it possible to walk from business to business. (There’s a pond in the center with some grass, like a nod to a park-like setting, but it’s a bitch to get to without getting HIT BY A CAR so only employees of nearby businesses ever really use the space. Everybody else just drives around it.)

The complex is so car-centric in its design that most of the time, people drive — they literally drive from the Costco parking lot to The Home Depot parking lot, even though they’re right next door to each other: that’s how badly designed the space is for humans.

And this is repeated pretty much everywhere. Nearly every Walmart you’ve ever been to is out in the middle of nowhere and it just sprawls; if other businesses spring up near it, you can’t walk to them. We just don’t design economically because we have so much space to sprawl out in, and people won’t walk if it’s uncomfortable or difficult.

. .. … …. ….. …. … .. .

Our lease is up and we’re apartment-hunting. I want to live as close to downtown as possible; I want regular-sized old-fashioned city blocks and I want sidewalks and I want to be able to walk to a corner store for eggs. I hate the massive, industrial Cub we shop at here. I hate the artificial, wasteful, unwalkable shopping complex it’s in. I hate that my job is SIX HUGE FREAKISH BLOCKS AWAY instead of, like, twenty normal, sidewalked, business-inhabited blocks. Between our apartment and my job there could be tens or hundreds of businesses; instead there’s a fraction and the rest of it is space designed for cars: wasted space.

Cars are dirty and expensive, but the vast majority of Americans cannot survive without one because of the way we’ve designed our communities.

. .. … …. ….. …. … .. .

I was looking at Minneapolis on Google Maps the other day while apartment hunting, and found this little greenway… in the middle of nothing. The website was so excited about turning the area into a greenway for everybody to enjoy, blah blah blah.

In order to enjoy it you’d probably have to drive your bicycle there, park, and then ride around. Because it’s not really convenient to anything, and nobody’s going to use it organically because it’s not on their way from A to B.

Which is a perfect example of how utterly, impossibly car-centric our culture is.

In which I think people are being a bit irrational.

So, a pudgy British comedian calls out this chick trophy hunter on social media and, like anything that ever gets traction these days, for no apparent reason it absolutely explodes all over the place.

gervais

In the last couple of days I’ve seen dozens and dozens of comments on Facebook alone, literally all of them aghast and negative and offended. And written by meat-eaters. Because trophy hunting is the absolute worst, obviously, but eating meat and eggs and wearing leather is totally different.

Well, no. The distinction is imaginary. Some broad with the budget to do so goes abroad and hunts an exotic animal and everybody reviles her. Meanwhile, that same everybody is blithely buying and eating meat. “But we don’t eat that much meat,” they cry, “and it’s usually organic and humanely raised,” or “We actually know our butcher socially, and those animals have wonderful lives!” or {insert any other generic “but my contribution to this atrocity is miniscule!” denial here}.

To which I say: WHATEVER, NERDS. They have wonderful lives up until someone kills them, usually in the first quarter of their natural lifespan. That giraffe was organic and humanely raised too, and, like all organic and humanely raised meat, it’s fucking dead. What real difference does it make that it was killed by a hunter rather than a butcher? Is the giraffe somehow more dead because its killer posed with its corpse and gloated? Would your own death be so much better if someone promised not to waste your meat? To tan your skin for raiment and eat all your organs and render your fat for candles?

You won’t care either way. You’ll be dead. The subtleties of various degrees of wastefulness and respect are for the living. And we, the living, are being big fat irrational babies about this dead giraffe.

Listen, we’re horrifically wasteful. We don’t use all of the animals we kill by a long shot. Leather is made from animals killed just for their skins (their meat is discarded) and the skins of meat animals are thrown away. While the offal market is growing, it’s still very small because most of us refuse to eat liver, heart, brain, or anything “gross.” Some animal parts do go into pet food or are rendered for other uses, but those piles of what looks like dirt in the fields around packing plants are leftover, unused animal parts — parts for which there is no market. We are wasteful, choosy, entitled motherfuckers, and that waste means more animal death than is strictly necessary.

giraffe

habitat

I’d say those differences are irrelevant. Regardless of endangerment of species or habitat, of poaching versus legal killing, the end outcome of both scenarios is identical: some human being killed an animal, because that human being believed that s/he had every right to do so. Hunter or butcher, you kill because you believe it’s your right, that you’re entitled to, and that your desire — to hunt for sport or to kill for meat — in every way outweighs the life of that animal. The rest of the circumstances are just details.

We kill 150 billion animals a year. And yet the death of a giraffe is more important than 150 billion other lives, somehow, because it’s endangered? At least it didn’t starve to death, or spend its entire existence in a cage or on a concrete floor, what what?

Outsourcing the whole killing and butchering thing does not mean you don’t believe that it’s your right to kill animals. Setting rules about what, when, and where an animal can be killed does not mean you don’t believe that it’s your right to kill animals. It just means you’re making (mostly irrational, in my opinion) judgements about the fact that you believe that it’s your right to kill animals. As long as it had a good life first! As long as it doesn’t suffer! As long as it’s a common cow and not an exotic giraffe! As long as nobody enjoys it! As long as we’re all suitably ashamed in respect to our Puritan backgrounds!

(more…)

In which I’m a domestic goddess.

When I got up this morning — and when I say ‘morning’ you should read ‘afternoon,’ because I didn’t get up until twelve-thirty — I already had dinner planned and was resolved to wash the bed linens.

I stretched lightly in bed, then got up and did a few more stretches on the floor. Then I opened the blinds, threw on some sweats, stripped the bed and filled the laundry basket.

In the living room, I opened the blinds and let the sunshine in. Then I booted up my laptop and the cube speaker and put on some contemplative chants. OM, bitches!

In the kitchen, I started up a small sink of dishes, washed the sauce pot, and put the soaking white beans on the stove to simmer.

The sun was shining in such a way that I was also forced to scrub the stove, the refrigerator, the counters, and the sink backsplash. (At night, when I usually do the dishes, the kitchen looks clean, but in broad sunny daylight it revealed itself to be a disaster. Like college kids live here. Ewh.)

So I got out that spray bottle of green stuff that smells kinda good and scrubbed stuff.

I even scrubbed the floor beside the stove, where a strip of greasy dirtiness has been accumulating for awhile. Ewh.

Eyeing the laundry basket in the hall where I’d dropped it on my way into the kitchen, I grabbed quarters out of the junk drawer and hauled the basket of laundry upstairs to the laundry room and got it started.

Then I made myself a latte, because that’s a damn good hour’s work, if you ask me.

I feel fantastic. I’m happy. This is the best. Somehow, the asshole program that schedules my store fucked up and gave me three glorious days off in a row, so I’m actually rested and my feet don’t hurt and I’m not irritated. I popped out of bed happy and ready to clear things off my domestic to-do list, and I’m doing chores because today I can do them with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction rather than fatigue and resentment.

This is how it’s supposed to feel.

No one will ever tell you that scrubbing the handle of the fridge door is profoundly fulfilling in and of itself, because it’s not, and neither is laundry or toilet scrubbing, but it does need to be done and it’s so much nicer to do it happily and easily rather than with that tinge of embarrassment and exhaustion you feel when you’re working full-time and it’s just gotten so bad you have to do it before the plumber comes over even though you’re too tired to care.

~+~+~+~+~
As someone who has spent more time unemployed in the past decade than you’re supposed to, I can tell you unequivocally that no, you never get bored of not having to go to work. You do not feel uninvolved or useless — broke, maybe, but not like your life has lost all meaning.

You never get sick of leisure time, of being organized, of being on top of your shit, of having energy to spend on yourself, on what you want. You don’t find that you miss making money for other people at the expense of having clean cupboards, or that you miss being stressed out about work over the enjoyment of your own home-cooked meals.

Anybody who tells you that you need to work in order to feel fulfilled is simply defending the fact that they have to work themselves. Beyond our bullshit shared cultural myth, there is no evidence that anybody likes working, that anybody likes putting their own needs and happiness on hold, instead spending nearly two-thirds of their life attending to a company’s cancerous needs instead.

When you’re working, that fridge door handle gets and stays dirtier because you just can’t be bothered. You do feel bad about it, because it’s gross and lazy to have food stuck to your fridge, but you just can’t afford to let it get onto your radar. There’s just too much stuff like that: the piles of junk on the floors of your closets, the wall in the living room that somebody sneezed all over during cold season that still needs to be wiped down, the linens that need to be aired out on the line before the fold lines become permanent, the fact that the duvet hasn’t been dry cleaned in years because you just never have both the time and the money to get it done.

The friends you don’t have time to really be there for. The volunteering you’re not doing. The creative urges you’re ignoring. The half-assed way you interact with your one and only family. The ways in which you would give if only you weren’t using that energy to get money to pay for the basics of living.

~+~+~+~+~
When you’ve never been unemployed, you’re aware of the things you’re not getting done and you feel lazy, like a failure, but you’re so tired and your house has never been that clean so it’s normal for you. You assume other people get their duvets dry cleaned more than once a decade and that they probably have tidier closets than you, but you don’t really know.

But then you spend a few stints being gloriously unemployed and eventually you discover a wonderful thing: a mental and physical place in which you finally get rested up enough to tackle all the stuff on your mental domestic to-do list, and you get it done easily and without strain, and you’re organized and rested and happy and you feel useful and fantastic.

And also resentful, because you know this shit is important, but your culture doesn’t value it. It just judges you for not being able to work full-time and be an excellent housekeeper.

You know it’s important to take care of your linens so that they last a long time and you’re not wasting money on replacements. You know it’s important to cook thoughtful, thrifty, delicious meals and eat at home, for health and financial as well as psychological reasons. It’s important to keep your home clean and coherent and organized, for mental and physical health reasons and because knowing where things are and being able to easily get to them could be important in an emergency.

But nobody will pay for all this stuff, so it’s not valuable. Important, yes, but absolutely not valuable. You’re supposed to do these things on the side, for free, around your “real” job of making money for other people in return for just enough to pay your rent. But everybody will understand if you don’t get them all done, because they’re not valuable to anyone. Except you, and even you don’t care enough to handle it, right?

So work that job and let your linen rot; you can buy new. (Actually, it’s better for the economy if you replace everything all the time, right? Isn’t that the model we’ve decided upon: infinite growth and infinite waste?) Eat frozen dinners and bad restaurant food, and to hell with your health. Try to prevent anybody, ever, from looking into your closets or cupboards; you have every intention of organizing them as soon as you have time, but right now they’re just embarrassing.

Spend most of your waking hours feeling vaguely angry, lazy, and behind on things. Your social life, your creative life, your societal service goals. Hell, you haven’t studied something just to know it since you got hired. Realize that, for example, the Japanese have more savings and less expectation of free time than you do, and proceed to feel guilty about deciding to spend your entire day off on the couch, unbathed, with chores left undone. After all, chores can wait. They’re not valuable. Nobody cares if every house in America is dirty.

~+~+~+~+~
If nobody’s willing to pay for something, it doesn’t matter. Period. While organized closets are impressive, they’re not valuable. Society has decided that the accumulation of money under any circumstances is more important than a nation of organized, clean homes with good food and happy people in them. (Some people do pay other people to organize their closets, but that doesn’t do me any good. What I’m talking about is me organizing my closets, which involves no financial transactions.)

I resent that my culture so little values things I think are important. I hate that our laundry isn’t done, that I don’t have a freezer full of homemade food, and that the front closet is a mess. I resent being too tired nearly all of the time to cook and clean to my own standards. I resent working for pay, while the work I feel is important — clean house, good attitude, good food — has no value to my society and therefore nobody pays me for it. So I blow it all off in favor of making money for white men I’ve never even met in return for a non-living wage, a shitty schedule, and a mild but permanent sense of enraged failure.

~+~+~+~+~
Do you know how many times you have to be unemployed before you quit trying to tell yourself you’re unfulfilled? Do you know how long it takes to recover from full-time employment (of any kind, from crappy wage-slave jobs to engineering jobs you’re genuinely interested in) enough to feel good and spontaneously do things just because you want to?

Once I took a road trip with a group of home-schoolers. One of the moms told me it took, on average, six months — nearly an entire school year — for any child pulled out of public school to become authentically interested in learning again. After that, given the resources, they’d teach themselves, she said, “because everyone loves to learn. It’s just part of human nature.”

After about six months of post-layoff sloth and debauchery, you start doing chores. Without resentment. For the sake of having a clean closet alone, and not to please those voices in your head that tell you you’re a lazy fuck with shamefully dirty closets. You volunteer to help others not because you’re rich, because you’re not, but because you can do so joyfully. You read more non-fiction, you pick up your guitar one afternoon (the one you haven’t taken out of its case in three years), you bake fresh bread, you simmer pots of beans on the stove all day long, you spend all the time you want with your friends, you actually do your devotions regularly, your sheets are clean. No, you do not feel useless or unfulfilled. You feel like an actual human being. Just a fairly broke one.

And then your benefits run out. You take the first job you’re offered and you’re back on the treadmill, eating bad restaurant food and in your fatigue cutting all the non-essentials. All you can maintain is the job, about a third of your previous social life, and one hobby. Everything else goes, including the volunteering, the cooking, the knitting, the cheerfulness and the dusted ceilings.

~+~+~+~+~
Working does not give me a sense of accomplishment. It does not give me a sense of meaning, of usefulness, or of value. It just makes me tired, angry, and a poor member of society (unless you define “society” as that mechanism that wants me to eat restaurant food and buy new linens/consume medical services and have no savings). I’ve had some great jobs, too. Engaging, pleasant, with a learning curve and functional HVAC.

But regardless of the job, you’re still putting much your life on hold in order to make someone else rich. (Once in a great while you’re putting much of your life on hold in order to keep a group of people in your community employed, true, which is for the greater good and therefore of greater value. But most of the time? You’re busting balls to grow some dude’s wealth, and he does not give a fuck about the community the business operates in because he lives somewhere else.)

I make much less than I did at my last job, and I work much more. And not in a quiet newsroom sitting at a desk, either: in a concrete warehouse with shitty lighting. I’m always tired. My feet always hurt. When I’m not at work I don’t want to do anything but sit on the couch, drink wine, and read fiction or watch Hulu. I don’t even want to run to the grocery store with Scott to grab tomatoes and ginger; I don’t want to leave the apartment. (Part of that is the weather, of course — it’s been between minus ten and positive ten for awhile now, which is, in my opinion, shitty cold — but the bulk of it is the kind of fatigue the overwhelmed suffer.) I cook — not enough, but some — because it’s the hobby I’ve decided to have energy for.

Most of my internal monologue is about shutting the fuck up and not being such a horrible baby. It’s about how half the women I work with are older than me and closer to clinical obesity, and how their health is poor and how they work more hours than I do without half — I assume — of the rage I feel.

About how I’m an entitled little twat who needs to check her fucking attitude; how their feet must hurt even worse than mine and how their bathrooms are probably cleaner. How the corporate model basically has bullshit built into it, sure, but everyone else seems to be okay with it. How the fault is all with me and how I’m the angriest person I know and how because of all these flaws I don’t deserve anything better.

And about how I should be grateful to have any form of human social interaction at all, because there’s no other way to meet people in the Midwest in the dead of winter. How I’d never get any physical exercise at all if I didn’t work where I do. How working there takes the place of being in a band in terms of the noise, discomfort, heavy lifting, and performance (being in a good, cheerful, helpful mood for customers and co-workers, when in actual fact you just want to tell everyone to fuck the fuck off because only idiot white people with disposable income think that spending money on 85% of the shit in the store isn’t the epitome of stupidity).

But those last are the lies we tell ourselves in order to get by. I’m mad because that kind of work FUCKING SUCKS and the pay is AWFUL. I’m mad because the environment sucks, the lighting sucks, the noise sucks, the model (of using people like my co-workers and myself to make some fucktards somewhere rich) sucks, and because I and my fat co-workers would probably be much less fat if we just had time to cook at home. I’m mad because these are things we should all be mad about that my entire culture tells me not to even notice, or when I do notice it to blame myself.

Because if I were an inherently better person I’d have more self-discipline, more gratitude, and enough energy to get all this shit done. All the working, all the customer service, all the worship, all the writing and singing, all the cleaning, all the laundry, all the cooking, all the toilet scrubbing, and all the Hulu-watching.

~+~+~+~+~
But today? Today was my third day off in a row, and the sun shined, and I have a clean kitchen and clean bedding and dinner’s simmering on the stove and my favorite person in the world will be home soon.

And I want to be grateful for the contrast that makes this gratitude so strong, and I don’t want to borrow trouble from the future — I’m scheduled to work the next six days in a row and I have to be at work at six o’clock in the damn morning tomorrow — but right now, right this moment, life is perfect. I feel good, I’m happy, and the ills of the world — with its shitty weather and corporate greed and toxic American diet — are locked safely outside our cozy little brick building.

We’ll eat homemade food and sleep on clean sheets tonight. We have all the electronic gadgets and entertainment subscriptions we could ever want. We have slippers and fuzzy blankets and a candy jar. We have each other.

Life is good.

Things to be thankful for.

November 27th, 2014 | Posted by Mush in Holiday | Love & Marriage - (2 Comments)

In which there is no irony in this post.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Last night we stayed up late enjoying Christmas movies and adult beverages and this amazing hot spinach-artichoke dip we made somewhere around midnight. It was AMAZEBALLS. (Click the pic for a link to the recipe.)

Then we slept and snuggled until well past noon and had more of the dip, along with a relish tray, for ‘breakfast.’

(The Thanksgiving greeting cards on the table are from our moms. Because family.)

Then we lounged about and enjoyed sportsball (excuse me, that’s SPORTSBALL!!1!, I believe) and classic Christmas cartoons (Donald Duck and Chip ‘n’ Dale in the snow!), then we started on making dinner with some potato scrubbin’. We get along great in the kitchen. Here’s the whole day’s menu:

Our Official 2014 Thanksgiving Menu

Starters:
Stuffed celery, radishes, olives, deviled eggs, crackers, cheeses
Spinach-artichoke dip with baguette

Main:
Tofu ‘steak’ for me
Beef steak for Scott

Sides:
Gravy (meatless)
Dressing
Mashed potatoes and parsnips
Lemon-garlic Brussels sprouts

Dessert:
Apple crisp with oatmeal streusel
Vanilla gelato

Afters:
Cranberry vodka and sodas
Tater skins

And since this holiday is about not just gratitude, but food, here’s more food porn:

Scott’s plate:

Gravy (turned out weird but edible) and the mashed potatoes and parsnips, also weird:

Tater skins! OMG so good!

Cranberry-vanilla vodka and soda (again, click the pic for the recipe):

And now, right now, as I write, the apartment smells like heaven because there’s an apple crisp with oatmeal streusel in the oven!

We’ve had a wonderful day, the two of us, enjoying cooking and eating and companionship and so much to be thankful for today. We’re warm and safe and blessed, and have had a really quiet and comfortable day of abundance and each other. Not to mention the polar vortex and that having had the oven on so much has kept the furnace from even kicking on once.

Now we’re watching an old Danny Kaye Christmas Special (Dinah Shore! Lena Horne! Bing! Bob Hope! Jimmy Stewart! Satchmo!) and waiting for the apple crisp to cool.

And so, with full hearts and from a warm apartment, Happy Thanksgiving from us to you!

In which I complain about things I don’t like. Because I’m spiritual and restrained like that.

Finance

I spend a lot of time on Amazon.com. I just do. I’m a Kindle owner several times over, I like ordering stuff online and not having to deal with stores or people or shopping, and it’s just convenient.

Recently while looking over the contents of my cart (I always keep things in there, but rarely actually buy them) I clicked on the AMAZON STORE CARD banner ad they’d been feeding me for the last year or so and applied.

In less than three minutes I had an account with an $800 limit, and thereby learned that while my credit it still so bad I can only get an $800 limit, it’s healed enough since the divorce that companies are now willing to give me credit again. Neat.

I had absolutely NO intention of using the account, not ever, because I didn’t need it and I’d read in the comments that the interest rates and fees were high.

Shortly after getting this Amazon Store Card account I bought an ebook from my Kindle Paperwhite and, noticing that my phone didn’t ding with a text from my debit card carrier, went into my Amazon settings and set my regular card as the default. (Amazon had automatically set the store card as the default payment method. I didn’t want to use it, so I set my regular card as the default. I know I did this, because my next ebook purchase shows up on my debit card.)

Well, Amazon set the store card as my default payment method again all on its own and weeks went by before I noticed, because I’m often not within hearing distance of my cell phone when I buy an ebook.

Today I closed the card. I ended up paying $120.72, all told, for no service whatsoever — merely for “financing” some ebook purchases.

Fucking usury. This shit should be illegal. I could bitch at the account carrier, but I did charge those ebooks and I didn’t make the payments my acceptance of their terms and conditions said I would. And I could bitch at Amazon, too, about being charged fifty bucks for nothing, but they didn’t charge me the financing fees and they’d just look at their logs and say, “Well, it shows here that your Amazon Store Card was set as your default payment method between those dates, so we’re sorry for your trouble,” even though I know their software set the card as the default. Twice! Both times without my desire or permission!

Adding insult to injury, the previous month I had opened a Paypal debit card at my brother’s recommendation. And I closed that shit, too, as soon as I realized it was going to cost $59.88 a year just to have the thing, whether I used it or not. Basically I had a Paypal debit account for a couple of weeks, never used it, and paid five bucks in fees.

The job market

Have you read any job listings lately?

Holy shit. These people are insane. There are companies who want to pay ten bucks an hour for contract work, even though working from home means the contractor has to buy and maintain her own equipment, pay her own utilities, and file complicated taxes. Who the fuck would contract for ten bucks an hour! It’s absurd.

Then there’s the jobs that say “Part-time receptionist” and start the third paragraph with, “In addition to Sales, the receptionist will be expected to attend local trade shows…” Because on what planet is reception a fucking sales position? Is it the planet where the receptionist also has to be an expert at bookkeeping? Not, like, “Sure I can do basic bookkeeping,” but, like, they want to pay somebody ten bucks an hour to be a receptionist AND literally file the company taxes.

Then there’s the “Make $1500 to $2000 a week being a massage therapist” postings. You merely have to be, and I quote, “easy on the eyes.” Because we don’t hire no ugly whores, yo.

I just went through all of the part-time postings in the Minneapolis area for the past two weeks, and over 80% of them are bogus. Not because they’re not real jobs, but because they want skilled workers to work shitty schedules for $8.25 an hour.

These postings wouldn’t exist if people weren’t desperate enough to actually take these jobs.

I applied to the contracting one, of course, but in the last paragraph of my cover letter told them that their pay rate was a pipe dream and that I was applying anyway in case they wanted to get in contact with me after their other applicants turned out to be disappointing. Because sometimes, people just need to be told.

Shit schedules, shit environments, and shit pay: this is what most part-time job descriptions contain. Is it truly impossible for, say, a grocery store to offer regular schedules? Is it written somewhere that these places have to have random scheduling? Is it further written that people working that hard and in such uncertainty and discomfort should be paid too little to survive on, and also that all such companies must instead spend that money on expensive anti-employee theft training modules? Why does reading multiple job placement ads give one the impression that companies really think people don’t mind utter scheduling insecurity? “Must be available weekends.” “Prefer applicants with open evening and weekend availability.” “The hours for this position are M-F but the successful applicant will also be available weekends.” Because we want to pay you nine dollars an hour to have absolutely no personal autonomy whatsoever.

Jesus Christ, things are fucked UP.

All I want is a part-time office job. I despair of ever finding a part-time office job. I guess I’ll just start looking for full-time work so I can be depressed about that, too, because I fucked up and decided to not be “easy on the eyes” or have an advanced degree in accounting, so I can’t make two grand a week or nine dollars an hour.

In other news, I’ll be working all weekend again. Which means I haven’t had the luxury of sleeping in with the man I moved two thousand miles to live with in over a month. And yeah, I’m pretty mad about it. You try being 45 and finding a job that isn’t either full-time career path bullshit or Walmart greeter. It sucks, lemmie tell ya.

In which standing is apparently much healthier than sitting but it hurts like a bitch.

While I really enjoy my new job as I’m doing it, my feet hurt, the pay’s lame, and the schedule is horrendous. Don’t even get me started on the noise and the horrible lighting and the concrete floors, or the fact that everything is a three-minute walk from the service desk.

I miss my old newsroom gig. Wonderful hours, a pay rate that wasn’t an insult, and a feeling of accomplishment. Not to mention the relative calm and quiet of the office itself.

I honestly can’t figure out why people who are smart enough to do the service desk job in the first place stay in it for so long when the hours, environment, and pay are so comparatively bad. One of my co-workers has been there for fourteen years, I think she said. Maybe she’s making thirty bucks an hour by now; I don’t know, but there’s no other reason to be there. I mean, the people really are great, but I’ve worked a lot of jobs and there are great people everywhere.

So, in a nutshell, my 20-to-29-hours-per-week part-time job is now 35 hours a week (HEY GUESS WHAT! YOU’RE P/T BUT LOL YOU WORK NEARLY F/T AND HAVE NO BENEFITS!) with weird, unstable hours, and my man and I have been eating restaurant crap for lunch rather than homemade food because I don’t have the time or energy to cook.

I ate lunch at a Panera the other day. Naturally I expected it to be a total carb explosion, but there was sugar in the dressing they used on my goddamned sandwich. The next day, I grabbed salad bar from the grocery store and though I avoided their sugar-laden salad dressings and used vinegar and oil instead, there was sugar in the fucking cowboy caviar! Why does a bean salad need fucking sweetener added?

“Not having time to cook” these days is basically identical to WORKING ON MY CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE because everything is fucking toxic with sugar and various other hidden refined carbs. It makes no sense. There’s sugar in the canned tomatoes we bought, and in the canned black beans. There’s sugar in the Paul Newman’s salsa. What the FLYING FUCK is wrong with the food industry? I’m pudgy because I keep eating potato chips and making bechemel sauce; I do NOT need sugar added to everything else I eat.

Anyway, the weather has been milder than I expected. It’s warm and humid, yes, but not as swelteringly hot as I thought it would be by now. I hope it never goes any higher than the 80’s. That’d be perfect.

Home

We’ve had tons of rain, though. Lots of spectacular storms with thunder and lightning and hail! Half the state is under water!

My Kindle Keyboard up and died last week, so I treated myself to a replacement Paperwhite. I love it! Amazon makes such cute devices with such adorable operating systems! (The Paperwhite syncs to Goodreads, though, which offends me. Amazon should have partnered with the far more legit and nerdy LibraryThing. Word.)

Kindle Paperwhite

The person I live with is wonderful and amazing and fantastic. I’ve literally never been happier. He’s the best thing ever. (He’s working too much lately, too. So grateful we’re taking 4 days off next week to go see Amma in Chicago next week.) I love love.

New Crocs

There were random flowers in the living room when I got home from work yesterday, and my man had done the dishes. Best partner ever.

Flowers