photo by Sheri Dixon

Friday, April 27, 2012

Everything Old Becomes New Again

So apparently there's a "movement" going on to encourage people to only use cold water to wash their clothes in and to forego the dryer and use a laundry line.

For realsies- lookit-


I can do them two better- I use Ecos laundry soap (detergent-free, all natural) and I don't even own an iron.

I've hung clothes out to dry for over 30 years. I hung cloth diapers (Yes- I used those, too) out to dry in the winter in Wisconsin and took them off the line stacked like so many pieces of cardboard.

I do have a dryer. It sits on the porch and it's a little reject apartment-sized one (no 220 power needed) that I use if it's raining and cold and I need something like underwear quicker than hanging it in the house would make it available. Because thanks to the cozy permeability of propane heat, things hung in the shower dry overnight...even when it's cold and damp outside.

Like everything else, Spin is important.

Not "spin" as in part of the laundry cycle, but "spin" as in how you word what you are doing if you give a rat's ass about being socially acceptable (which I don't) or if you need to word something to be approved by some sort of authority (like a neighborhood appearances committee).

Wrong- "I'd like to put up a clothesline and will be literally airing my unmentionables for the neighbors to see".

Right- "I'm investing in a solar clothes dryer".

And about those unmentionables.

I know many people who are dyed in the wool clothes-hanger-outers who fret about where and how to position their underwear so as not to let everyone know they wear boxers, briefs, cartoon characters or super heroes under their solemn work clothes.

Here's the thing.

No one cares.

No one's looking and no one cares.

Hang 'em out, hang 'em high, and know that it's not disturbing to anyone to see your underwear.

What IS disturbing is to see a line full of clothes...and NO underwear.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Minor Oversight in Technology

Once upon a time there was a family photo album.

It was huge and heavy and velvet-bound with gold edged cardboard pages. There was a brass clasp that kept it closed.

This treasure was in my grandmother's basement. She had no idea who any of the people were in it- somber folks looking out at us beyond my grandmother's memory, but I knew they were my kin, and they became special to me. I'd look through it, carefully remove the photos from their paper cornered confines and peer at the backs of them trying to decipher spidery translucent webs of writing...or were they just cracks in the ancient paper? Most were on heavy textured paper stock but a few were etched onto tin.

The photos were all posed- persons young and old, all dressed in their best and all somberly unblinkingly gazing at the birdie and I can hear the pop, see the flash and smell the acrid smoke- capturing in the literal flash of time a wedding, birth of a child, family reunion, baptism.

I lost the album in one of my moves and still grieve for it, my mind's eye can see the exact fading green of the velvet and feel the faded spot where it'd been opened a million times.

My dad is a professional photographer. For years he was a professional newspaper photographer.

I grew up in a house with a dark room in the basement and a police radio in the car.

Cameras were very important to us, and by default, the photographs they created.

Like a lot of kids, my first camera was a little Brownie box camera and I took carefully chosen photos of my parakeet, and flowers in the yard, and my family.

When my dad retired one of his work cameras- too many close calls at football games, too much banging around in the car or off his shoulder or getting dropped on, off or into any number of places cameras were never made to go, Nikkormat retirement merely meant *I* got to haul it around- on camping trips and for school newspaper assignments and later on to record my own children's milestones.

These photos were not posed, generally- at least not in the stiff formality of the photos of the album- photographs had become less time-intensive to process and film was reasonably inexpensive. I was careful to "lay out" the photo in my head and waste as little film as possible- except for some leeway with exposure and speed, what you saw through the viewfinder was what you'd get from the negative.

And I have a huge boxful of photos- kids, family, pets, vacations...I can sift through them and hold them in my hands- surrounding myself with the bits and pieces of my life, my loves, my history.

It took years, absolute years before I jumped on the digital wagon. I clung to my old SLR film camera way past the time most people did and I survived the ridicule the sight of my old trusty camera elicited.

*Didn't I know digital could take about a gabazillion photos without wasting one piece of paper?

*Didn't I want the ability to fix, adjust, crop or otherwise make more appealing any photo I took through the magic of computer software easy enough for even ME to comprehend??

*Wasn't I aware that I could store THOUSANDS of photos on a single disc or thumb drive instead of worrying about negatives and several hundred pounds of prints???

So I fell, and I've been assimilated. I've been using and enjoying the Kodak Easyshare cameras (I'm on my 3rd one) but will be upgrading to a Panasonic (with a Leica lens) in the near future. My old Kodak is on its last legs and the company no longer makes cameras of any stripe.

And it's all true. I have thousands of photos stored on thumb drive, disc and computer. I can alter them as I please, as many times as I wish.

But there's always been a tiny twinge of unease...and today I realized what it was.

Years from now- say 75 or 100 years from now, when Alec's grandchildren are going through stuff and they find a disc, or a thumb drive in a drawer or a closet

how will they see the magic there?

There won't be a computer alive that will be able to read and decipher the precious memories held there,

no way to touch them, look into eyes long gone, feel a connection even if ever so faint.

We have millions of digital photographs recording a history that is bound to be lost.

Methinks I need to have some printing done...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Missed It By...A Freakin' Mile

We had the most depressing thing happen to us yesterday.

Oh, I guess in a global, Big Picture, personal way it was nothing but it was just the sort of thing that makes you go, "Ewww" and leaves a bad taste in your mouth for the rest of the day.

We were very excited to see a solar and alternative energy place go up right outside Tyler. Very. Excited. We thought FINALLY we're getting somewhere, FINALLY we won't have to go to Austin to find people who want to live sustainably and ecologically.

We visited them when they first opened up in a tiny little building and saw the array of different solar rigs and whatnot.

We watched as they built their NEW building next to the old one because business was so good for them (YAY! to alternative energy) and they told us the new building would be built out of SIP's (Structurally Insulated panels- sort of a styrofoam-y thing, not our choice of "natural" materials but better for the planet than traditional stick-built homes), and be big enough to have a CLASSROOM.

Yay! to Education!

My spirits drooped when I saw them use standard brickwork on the outside and standard shingles on the roof and the place was a huge square. The awning across the front being all solar panels was a bonus but otherwise it looked like any other stupid big square building.

When they planted a gabazillion pansies around the huge solar array in front of the building I thought, "Well, it's deep in the fall, and they didn't have time to do anything else." Personally, I could think of many things that sunny highway-side spot could have planted in it- an edible garden? All natural plants/wildflowers? Drought-resistant natives? Stuff to show people, "Look- there's an alternative to geraniums and petunias and it's every bit as pretty and takes less resources to care for AND feeds either you and your family or wildlife (or both)".


About sustainability and renewability. Because that's what this is all about, right?

So when they planted instead 100 little annuals straight from Walmart, I was personally miffed.

We went inside the big new building for the first time yesterday. We had specific questions for them- even though I thought I thought of everything when I built this house, I forgot to think of the possibility of having a fan in each of the upper gable windows to facilitate air flow of the hot air out of the house on the days that it's over 100 AND still as death. And we haven't gotten to a hand pump dropped down the well shaft, but our good friends Bruce and Cheryl in Minnesota have a solar water pump for their remote garden, which would be a handy thing to have if/when the electric goes out.

It's big. It's new. It has an acid etched, scored, stained and poly-sealed cement floor (that has a huge crack running from one end to the other).

The ceiling shows the "Great Stuff" kind of blown on insulation and there are multiple skylights- some of which open with a remote control and have rain sensors for when you're gone and it starts sprinkling (kind of cool but I was afraid to ask how much they were).

There is a classroom, but it's empty and devoid of any sort of displays or learning materials.

There is some stuff out but it's not arranged to be informative, and the only information about it is the manufacturers' brochures.

It's a big, sterile looking, dark (even with the skylights) uninviting warehouse.

The girl at the desk couldn't fathom what we were after so she got her boss.

He said, "I've got just the thing". And opened up a smallish attic fan with a little solar panel attached. Well, that WAS what we were thinking about, save for 2 drawbacks-

-There's no battery, so it only runs when the sun is shining- technically the hottest days and parts of days, but it would be nice to also have them running at night when the air is cooler to draw the cool air INTO the house from the open windows and

-They're freaking crazy expensive. $650. EACH. Uninstalled.

As far as the well pump, his short answer was, "No" justified by telling us if we hooked up our WHOLE house to solar, that would run the well pump, too.


On our way to our next errand at Home Depot, Ward and I discussed how disappointing that whole get-up is. There's nothing to show a different, possibly better way to build or live in ways that are gracious and sustainable, earth-and-human-friendly and renewable- the whole emphasis seems to be, "See? This looks JUST LIKE A REGULAR HOUSE- and for a shitload of money, we can make YOUR schmancy subdivision house behave this way, giving you a buttload of tax breaks".

Ward said "Well, if you're building a $450,000 house and looking for "green" tax refunds- $650 tacked onto it for a fan is nothing". And went on to wonder who, exactly, is getting the money from (at most) a Ben Franklin of parts and materials. We guess NOT the guys on the line building them.

The canned icing on the box-mix cake?

Home Depot has the same damn solar attic fans...for $200.

A. So for $400 instead of $1300, we could have the solar attic fans.

B. Or for WAY less than $1300, we could have an electrician put in stupid plugs up near the windows for regular fans...probably even with remote controls.

C. Or for about $75, we can buy 2 box fans and an outdoor extension cord for each window, run 'em outside the house, tacked inconspicuously to the logs and into the plugs on the porch- because the inside plugs under those windows are behind dressers and the only way to turn off a $15 box fan is from the switch on the back...or to unplug it.

We're choosing Option C.

I understand the need to make a living, but seriously?

No wonder a lot of people think the whole Alternative Energy thing is a scam.

Be Right Back...

Gotta run and get Edna over for her standing 10am hair appointment, so I'll be back later with my regularly scheduled ranting.

In the meanwhile, if you need something to read, and have a Kindle device and $3 to ya go.

You're welcome. And please pass it along to everyone you know. Thank you.

Later, gators...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Of Guns and Granola

One thing I know about Survivalists...they HATE Damn Hippies and Liberals- none of which have EVER had a good idea, EVER. They believe the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and they are busy little bees FIERCE ANGRY WARRIORS making preparations for it.

To look at Survivalist websites and blogs, you can clearly see that they are the authors and inventors of all sorts of innovations that will come in very handy once TSHTF (the shit hits the fan) and/or TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it).

Stocking up on food. That's really important. You can buy all sorts of pre-packaged MRE's (meals ready to eat) that are hermetically sealed and dated to infinity. OR, if you're really into it, you can buy SURVIVAL SEEDS- ziplocked and shrink-wrapped gardens ready to plant (sorry- no substitutions- if you don't like beets or brussel sprouts, or your climate doesn't GROW beets or brussel sprouts, get over it PansyAss).
There are dehydrators and canners and all sorts of ways to preserve your bounty in order to fill up your underground bunker with enough food for from here to eternity.

Funny. The back-to-the-landers have always advocated food independence and sustainability through keeping a well-stocked pantry (not MRE's- things like flour and beans and sugar and rice and spices- COOKING ingredients) and a garden- both for peace of mind and the health benefits inherent in cooking from scratch. Heritage seed banks have been around for years, preserving old time varieties and making sure they get into the proper dirt as far as climate and rainfall to further preserve them so the next generation can also save them and use them and pass them on.

Being able to run shit. If all your food isn't preserved, and you depend on freezers for food storage, being able to run shit is very important. Also things like electricity and water pumps and whatnot. There are a gabazillion generators to buy- everything from little ones to run power tools where there's not a socket to behemoths that will run the average 3,000 square foot, air conditioned, well-lit fortress once the Lights Go Out.

Weird. We're just a coupla old hippies, and even though we don't have any of the alternative energy sources like solar or wind or hydro, our house was built with redundant systems- we have both propane and wood heaters, enough lanterns to light well enough if the electric goes out, propane stove AND a wood cook stove and sawdust toilets/a Berkey water filter in case we can't use the well pump (our next big purchase- a hand pump to drop into the well casing...that we had them make big enough to do that when they dug the well). We're planning on getting some small alternative energy set up for running the freezers, but haven't decided yet what it will be- we dislike the idea of a battery bank.
And the house was built to take advantage of window placement and number and with big porches and high ceilings- no central a/c here, so no worries if it goes out.

Building Community. This is extremely important- mankind is a social species and we need communities for protection and general well-being. Even the survivalists are aware that those single-family (or single-person) enclaves up in the mountains or deep in the swamps are not really healthy, and even kinda disturbing. There are all sorts of Intentional Communities springing up- finding one whose members share your spiritual, political or societal beliefs is pretty easy- the infighting involved once inside can be brutal, but that's always the way no matter the group or ideology.

Most ALL of these survivalist groups LOVE their guns. Guns are more than tools to them, they are the very symbol of the American Way. They are currency, security, prestige, power. They even named their intentional communities after them-

"I belong to a *****MAG*****. (Mutual Assistance Group) We live together and help each other- everyone has strengths and weaknesses and being in a group we can better protect each other".

Very manly. Very dominant. But where have I heard of that sort of set-up before???

Oh yeah.

You're talking about a COMMUNE (smiley face inside a rainbow peace sign).

I'm really not disparaging the whole survivalist thing.

I do question the seemingly pervasive attitude of "keeping MY people safe in hard times and SCREW THE REST OF 'EM/Shoot first and let god sort 'em out". Quite the little (WARRIOR SURVIVOR) ants they are, aren't they?

Here's the thing.

What if a whole bunch of perceived grasshoppers are really sitting around playing music and sharing food because all their shit's already taken care of and they already know how to live- really live in ways that are sustainable and renewable and that don't fuck over the environment or other people to get there? That don't require huge expenditures and furtive hoarding but that rely on openness and sharing and education instead of secretive glaring at everyone who's not in their little clique.

Here's what I'M afraid of. Mortally and literally.

It ain't the starving zombie hordes that will stream out of the cities after a terrorist attack leaves the entire world in a crazed lawless shambles.

It ain't an EMP knocking out all power and communication causing mass panic and mayhem.

It's our country being slowly but surely turned into a theocracy where MY family could and would be tagged, detained and persecuted because we don't have a Church Home.

It's what would happen if the country DOES fall into bad worse times and those Survivalist MAG's run out of canned goods and sneak out of their compounds under cover of night to use their guns to take what they need for THEIR people...from MY people.

Somewhere between Survivalist armed to the teeth "There's more to the Constitution than the 2nd Amendment???" and mall crawler consumer "I don't DO politics- it's boring" is where we all need to be.

Somewhere outside of isolation, inside of real community where people are cared for because they're the same species as we are- not the same religion or race or economic level or have attained some bullshit plateau where they "earn the right" to basic human care.

Welcome to the party, Survivalists- now settle the hell down and have some homemade granola.

We've got this. We've had it for oh...about 50 years. Where the hell have YOU been?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Why the Flat Tax Falls Flat

I thought we'd be done having to deal with this once Herman 9-9-9 Cain dropped out of the race after it was found out that he was really referring to how many women he was messing around with, how many times, and what level of Dante's Hell he was aspiring to.

"The flat tax is the most fair of all- if you make $100 you pay 10%. If you make $1,000,000,000 you pay 10%. Across the board- fair. AND it would eliminate the IRS completely- think how much money THAT would save!"

*Cheers from the crowd*

Not so fast.

If all anyone had to worry about was income and being taxed, yes. A flat tax is fair. But it totally ignores the messy, chaotic stuff of what it takes to exist in this human world.

Things and food and wheels and utilities and clothing and whatnot.

The flat tax does not take into consideration that even if a poor person lives very frugally and a rich person very extravagantly, you will be hard-pressed to prove that the percentage of a person's income that they spend on living is the same for a poor person than a rich person. Very. Hard. Pressed.

Hey! It's first thing in the morning and I've got like 10 minutes to do this and I haven't had coffee- LETS DO MATH!!!

Lets use for fun a person making minimum wage- $15,600 per year at 40 hours a week if they don't take any time off. Gross. (by both definitions of the word), and a person making $500,000 per year. Both are taxed at 10% to be fair, and that leaves person MW (minimum wage) with $14,040 to live on and person HM (half a mil) with $450,000.

We'll use imaginary numbers here, assuming MW will live frugally and HM will be a little more extravagant.

monthly expense/ Minimum Wage/ Half a Mil

rent/ $500/ $5,000
food/ $400/ $4,000
wheels/ $200/ $2,000
entertainment/ $100/ $1,000
clothing/ $100/ $1,000
vacation/ $LOL/ $5,000
utilities/ $500/ $5,000
insurances/ $500/ $5,000

TOTALS PER MONTH/ $2,300/ $28,000

TOTALS PER YEAR/ $27,600/ $336,000

FOR RETIREMENT/ -$13,560/ $114,000

See? Fair as the day is long.

And the above numbers don't even reflect the much higher interest rates MW will be paying IF he/she can even get financed at all.

If your core beliefs are that ANYONE ANYWHERE can work hard and get good grades and (get a big damn loan and) go to college and end up being HM instead of MW you are being very very simple-minded and unrealistic, probably one reason you love the Flat Tax and think it's fair in the first place.

Because life isn't fair.

But it's our duty as humans to make it at least less awful for those who ARE working hard and ARE doing their best and still end up in the financial crapper.

One thing us bleeding heart liberals are always being accused of is forging ahead without thinking about the real monetary cost of the "touchy feely soft-hearted things" we wanna provide for people- those pie in the sky luxuries like health care, and living wages, and food.

We're accused of not looking at the numbers and thinking clearly and rationally.

Well, look at the above numbers and tell me the Flat Tax is still fair.

*PS- adding in tax credits and exemptions for Minimum Wage sort of takes the wind out of both the "Flat" and the "Simple" sails, so don't even go there. That would mean you're actually NOT for a Flat Tax, after all.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Labels are for Clothing, Not People

OK. Labels are sometimes handy on food.

Also Christmas gifts, unless you're marginally clever like me and just use a different paper for each person's gifts. I say "marginally" because then I forgot who got what paper.

But I digress.

Yanno what pisses me off?

Fine. The list is fucking endless.

How about "Yanno what pisses me off TODAY?"

*Shorter list*

The word games. The political word games and labels- especially when it comes to describing how much money someone has.

I guess first we need to define "wealthy" or "rich" or "upper class" or to shape it to the current discussions where the labeling in question is rampant..."the 1%".

Because just like "average weight", we all believe with our whole hearts that we are in that category no matter how hysterically reality howls at that notion.

If you're reading this, you're not the 1%.

If you ever have to check your bank balance before making a purchase, you're not the 1%.

If you make $100,000 a year, sorry.

If you make $250,000 a year, no dice.

If you make $1,000,000 a year please step to the back of the line and let the rich people go first.

If the question, "I wonder if I'm in the 1%?" ever crosses your mind, you're not.

See? They're a tiny little sparkly star at the top of the Tree of America, and though you may sparkle and glitter and even be NEAR the tippy top, IT'S NOT YOU. IT'LL NEVER BE YOU UNLESS YOU END UP HOLDING A GIANT CHECK FROM THE LOTTO THAT READS MORE THAN A BILLION DOLLARS (and that's never gonna happen, either. Sorry.)

Now that we've got that out of the way, perhaps this labeling thing will become more obvious and nefarious.

Because here's how it goes, over and over again, ad nauseum-

"Why should the people who've worked hard for their money* have to pay more in taxes to support the lazy assholes** who just don't want to work and sit around eating steaks, drinking beer and watching their big screen tv's. I wish *I* had a big screen TV..."

*aka the maligned, overworked and innocent 1%
**aka the worthless, spoiled unwashed mob of the 99%

Seems right, seems fair and seems pretty cut and dried, don't it?

Except it's complete and utter bullshit.

This sentence, nay Clarion Call of the Conservative Right is wrong in so many directions it's like trying to figure out where the end of a ball of rubber bands is.

It presumes that ALL insanely rich people work for their money. Not inherited it, not sit in on board meetings to yawn while brokers report on gains, losses, loopholes and write-offs. It presumes that the very rich even WANT what Walmart sells as a "big screen TV".

I'm not saying that there aren't very nice people in the 1%- people who give huge sums of money to charities and good works. I'm not saying that the result is less wonderful because it's not a sacrifice for them to donate like it is for most of us.

But it's not a sacrifice. Because the money is just there...always there for them...and they are NOT getting up with the alarm to put in a 9-2-5 to collect a paycheck. They are not working 2 full time jobs because one barely covers the house payment and the car payment and the insurances and utilities and the other one pays for luxuries and medicine.

It presumes that ALL people who are on some sort of government assistance are lazy and just need to "take a shower and get a job" (I think Newt said that- what's his job again? Being a rich bastard and failing to become President?)

So, what? I've got 5 people in my family and 4 receive government checks every month-
Edna gets social security because she's 92.
Joe gets social security and a VA check because he's 69 and a veteran.
Ward gets a disability check because cancer and heart disease have both eaten away at him viciously.
Alec gets a social security check because he's under 18 and Ward's son.

Which of the above are lazy unshowered assholes?

OH NO NO NO- we're not talking about THOSE people- the old, truly infirm, veterans, children...those people are A-OK and we're HAPPY to help them.

We're talking about, yanno- those welfare mamas and crackheads.

The evil word ***WELFARE***

Just as scary as that evil word ***OBAMACARE***

But there is no such thing as Obamacare. The big unwieldly law that was passed is the ACA. Affordable Care Act. How many people know that? How many people know that it's working, or that it not only isn't on a collision course to bankrupt the nation but will come in costing LESS than anticipated?

That's what I thought.

Well, guess what, Kids?

There's no such thing as Welfare.

There are multiple programs- from unemployment to aid for single parents to housing programs, to food stamps, to medicaid and included in with all of that is social security, medicare, disability, Veteran's Benefits.

But you can't saunter into a government office flashing yer gold teeth and trailing a dozen illegitimate kids and drawl, "I wanna sign me up for some of that sweet easy WELFARE and live off of the rich folks".

So here's the deal.

When you hear

"Why should the people who've worked hard for their money* have to pay more in taxes to support the lazy assholes** who just don't want to work and sit around eating steaks, drinking beer and watching their big screen tv's. I wish *I* had a big screen TV..."

now you know that it's not saying what you thought it does.

What it's really saying is

The 1% truly obscenely rich people who can afford to buy a herd of lawyers and accountants to cook their books till no taxes come out want more. They want more. And they only have 2 places to get it-

from the shrinking, worried, frustrated dregs of what used to be America's middle class (inserting that THAT is where most of us fall- THAT'S YOU AND ME AND ALMOST EVERYONE WE KNOW)by taxing them more and themselves even less.

They can do this by whimpering about how HIGH their tax rate is (while neglecting to mention that they don't ever PAY anything near their tax rate) and by promising that if we lower their rates even more, they can create more jobs.

This is bullshit. It's always been bullshit and it always will be. Trickle down has never, ever, ever, EVER worked.

The other place to squeeze money out of the system is to take it from the poor people- the women, children, sick people, veterans and old people. Set the middle class against those people and demand that they get LESS...that way there's more for THEM in the form of subsidies and stimuli and grants and stuff.

The main benefit, of course, is making the middle class (us, remember) think

a) someday we may be rich (because this is America) and we wouldn't want everyone else to be mean to us, either and

b) the poor people are after our shit.

Neither is, of course, true.

Synopsis of the rant-

Rich used in this context does not = anyone we know, anyone we've met or anyone we'll ever see in real life

We will never = rich by the above definition

But more importantly-

Rich does not automatically = HARD WORKING

Poor does not automatically = LAZY

Moral of the story is WE need to stop falling for the propaganda and the cliches and the catchy scary crap pounded into our heads till our knees jerk.

Do we as the middle class have a moral obligation to lend aid to those of a different class?

Of course we do.

We need to help the poor without judging, feed the hungry without hesitation, house the homeless without stipulation, offer good quality birth-death medical care for all citizens regardless of ability to pay- all that socialist commie tree-hugging crap a guy named Jesus recommended and that got him nailed to a cross by the 1% of his time.

Then we can band together, kick ass on the money changers, demand they actually render unto Caesar to keep this nation running smoothly FOR THE PEOPLE and carry on the way the forefathers intended it to go.

Happy Easter, ya'll.

*We Now Pause For a Brief Station Break*


See those books over there?

To the left of this post- there are 4 books written by me that you can click on to buy.

Maybe you haven't done it because you don't "do" books.

Maybe you haven't done it because you can't afford books.

Maybe you haven't done it because you don't have any room for books.

What I DO know is that you DO do computers.

On accounta you're reading this on a computer.

And if you're one of those up-to-date techie kinda people, you have in your possession- possibly in your hand right now- some sort of e-reader.

If you are holding an iPad or souped-up iPhone, you're in luck.

Both "Almost Invisible...a Different Kind of Survival Story" and "Easterchicks Gone Bad" are now available through the Blurb website for downloading to any Apple product.

Within a few weeks they should also be available for purchase straight from the iBookstore app.

I'm currently reconfiguring "Almost Invisible...a Different Kind of Survival Story" to offer as an e-book on Amazon. Stay tuned for that.

Anyhoo- check 'em out. Pass it on. Share the love.

Peace out.

We now return to your regularly scheduled foaming-at-the-mouth-liberal-hippiechick-madness...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sign # 784 Of Imminent Human Extinction

Today's "Creepy as Hell" item- Reborn baby dolls.

Yesterday morning Ward called me from the bedroom- said, "You've gotta see this".

(Inserting that we don't have a TV in the living room- the boys are the ones who watch it, so they each have one in their own space. I'd be happy to be completely TV-free)

(Also, that Ward never uses the, "Honey, c'mere- you've gotta see this" line as foreplay. One of the many reasons I love Ward.)


He said, "They're called Reborn Babies- they're dolls".

All I could think of were those hideous Cabbage Patch Kids that were the craze when my daughter was little. My mother-in-law literally physically fought off a mob of other grandmothers to score one for Christmas. My daughter (aged about 4) opened it up and asked, "Why is it so ugly?"

The Cabbage Patch Kids came with some sort of adoption papers and other stuff supposedly telling their individual brief make-believe history, but I couldn't quite get my head around what a "Reborn Baby" would look like or come with to make it special.

All I could think of was "reborn" in a religious sense and I asked Ward if they come with a list of sins they'd committed and now been absolved of as I walked into the bedroom to the tv.

Oh no. It was FAR creepier than that.

I mean, have you SEEN these things?


And there was not a little girl in sight- every one of these things was being not held, but lovingly cradled by women about my age.

Women are not collecting them like other dolls- they're treating them like the uber-disturbing level up of a Pound Puppy (remember those?). Clothing, toys, cribs, CAR SEATS, taking them out in public for realsies. Like babies.

I'm trying to think of one healthy reason a grown woman would do this.




Nope. Can't think of a one.

Even if a woman has suffered the terrible loss of a baby (and I've never had to suffer that) and holding some sort of surrogate at home, in private might aid the mourning process...taking the doll out in public as if it were a real baby?

Not healthy.

Dressing up a poodle or chihuahua and carrying it around with you in your purse?

Semi-creepy, but still caring for and about a living thing.

Ward said, "Well, this is appealing to women with kids who are grown and who miss having a baby to hold".

I understand that. I love babies. Given the opportunity, I'd have another baby in a heartbeat. There is nothing as powerful as that tangible connecting heartstring thread between your eyes and the eyes of a baby, nothing as soothing as holding a tiny breathing person close to you and realizing that your breathing and theirs has synchronized magically.

And there's the thing.

The Reborn Baby dolls and the women who shower them with affection and attention are canaries in the coal mine- our society is so fractured, so broken, so "stuff" oriented and "humanity" deprived that a grown woman can actually take comfort in and normalize cradling an inanimate object

When what her soul craves is to nurture a life.

Monday, April 2, 2012

All Quality Time Should End With Food

Alec has started a new class on Sundays.

Part chemistry, part adventure, part danger and part math, there is excitement in every moment, anxiety at every turn but ultimately gratification at the end.

*I'm teaching him to cook*

Not stuff like deli ham + sliced cheese + bread = sammich

or "Remove tray from box, cut 3 small slits in plastic and microwave on high for 1 minute 30 seconds"

Like this-

Getting out a cookbook + gathering ingredients + following directions = FOOD

We already stress simple, real food over pre-packaged food both for health and economy, and he already knows the REAL food is found on the perimeter of the grocery store- produce, dairy, meat except for things like plain rice, pasta, dried beans and items in the bakery aisle.

I don't expect my son to be a world-class chef. I do want him to be able to feed himself more than Raman Noodles when he moves out, and be able to step up and help me now.

And because once he actually does the cooking, he actually knows what it takes.

Case in point- the Sunday he made us pizza.

Pizza crust one of the simplest things to make- flour, water, salt, yeast. There is some temperature and timing involved, along with needing (or kneading) a feel for the dough and how to fit it to the pizza pan without over-working it, which makes it tough instead of tender. But it's still pretty basic.

Nevertheless, once he got it properly tamed and in place, he looked at me and said "You do this every time we have pizza?" Why yes, son. I do.

Yesterday he made us breakfast for supper- cheesy scrambled eggs (from our chickens), biscuits from scratch, sausage patties he formed from a package of bulk sausage and gravy made from the drippings (another simple thing- water, flour and butter in addition to the drippings-no envelope of "gravy mix").

The eggs were scrambled to cheesy perfection, the biscuits flaky and golden, the gravy and sausage just right.

Watching my boy use my grandmother's rolling pin and my mother-in-law's mixing bowl was a joyful thing- there's no such thing as "just throwing a meal together"- cooking should be a social, meaningful, historical experience.

Of course the tender moments were punctuated by the main character being a 12 year old boy- "beat batter for 2 minutes" elicited some impressive tae kwon do moves before I got him to take the hand mixer, and "Here- put these 6 eggs in this bowl had him stacking the eggs in the bowl...with shells still attached.

Even though we had breakfast for supper, we still needed dessert and Alec requested chocolate cake.

He did an excellent job of it- so far everyone who's tasted it says it's indistinguishable from mine.

Alec says "Of course it tastes the same- it's her recipe and she supervised me", but I told him there still needs to be a "feel" for cooking- some people can be micro-manage-supervised and still not be able to cook their way out of a paper sack.

He's a natural. And I'm not just saying that because I'm his mom.

This time.

Chocolate Coffee Cake

1 3/4 c baking mix (we use Pioneer)
2 c sugar
3/4 c cocoa
2 eggs
1 c milk
1/2 c olive oil (I know- weird, right? Don't worry- it works)
1 c strong black coffee
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 13 X 9 pan.
Mix all ingredients and beat for 2 minutes- batter will be thin.
Pour into pan and bake for 35 minutes or till a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool on a rack and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Very rich and moist.