Thursday, October 23, 2014

#Review and #Giveaway of Orpheus and Eurydice

I am absolutely thrilled to be able to share the book Orpheus and Eurydice from Barefoot Books with you. This book was written by Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden and illustrated by Carole Henaff. I am a big fan of this book, and I think you will be too.

The first thing I did when I received this book was look at the end. It had a happy ending. I said to my husband "WTF, this story doesn't have a happy ending! They messed with it!" he laughed at me. Then I read it from the beginning and wow! They totally made the happy ending work. I LOVE this book. I think I love it more than Demeter and Persephone.

As a Pagan Parent and specifically one of Hellenic leaning, I have always been a big fan of the ancient Greek myths and I share them with my kids at every opportunity. Mostly I tell the stories verbally (a road trip tradition) because there simply aren't a lot of story books suitable for children that stick close enough to the stories to suit my taste. That is why I was so giddy with excitement when I discovered this Greek Mythology series. These are great stories for elementary school aged kids and they maintain the flavor of the original.

It is true that the authors make the stories their own, and who can blame them, I always did. But they do so that is respectful not only of the story but of the story's own personality. (Does this make any sense). While modernizing the language, it is still epic. And the images, while they don't look anything like ancient Greek pottery art, they somehow have the flavor of ancient Greek pottery art. This book is beautiful to the ear when read aloud and also beautiful to the eye.

Parents who are sensitive to scenes of violence should know that there is a little bit in this one. Remember the Eurydice gets bit by a snake and dies (that's how it starts) and Orpheus gets dismembered by Maenads. I hope that wasn't a spoiler for anyone. And there are pictures of all this violence. But it's much less than what your average kid sees on TV.

So, there's my review. Now on to the giveaway!

You should know that this book was provided to me for free.

The giveaway is open to people in the US because I can't afford to ship outside the US (sorry). It will run from tonight to next Wednesday, October 29 at midnight. There is no cost to enter, just a few painless hoops. Observe below:

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Demeter and Persephone #review #giveaway

I was super-excited get my review copy of Demeter and Persephone from Barefoot Books, just in time for Samhain. (I also got a copy of Orpheus and Eurydice, but that will be another post and another giveaway!) Now it is here and I am excited to share it with you!

First, you should know that I am somewhat of a purist when it comes to the myths. I despise most of the modern feminist retellings of this story because so many of them miss the point. And I am irritated with the versions that make Hades into some kind of evil monster randomly kidnapping a maiden for no apparent reason. It drives me crazy that a perfectly good story should be messed with. But, I also understand that when you are adapting a traditional Greek myth for modern children, it will have to be messed with, at least a little bit. After all, I mess with it when I retell it, but I have a very high opinion of my ability to do it properly. As excited as I was to get my hands on this book, I was also really worried that it would be so altered that I would hate it.

Well, it's altered. But I don't hate it.

Hades is grim, but not evil, as it should be. The fact that Persephone is to be Queen of the Underworld and not just some captive, and that Zeus agreed to the match is made clear. Demeter's travels are included; many retellings, including my own, skip that bit. However, the family of Demophon and Metaneira (whose names are not mentioned) is structured completely differently, but I suppose this simplifies things. Also, many important characters are missing: There is no Gaia, Hecate, Helios or Iambe in this story.

What the authors have done is take an ancient story, modernized it a bit and made it accessible to young readers. It is a good story. It is exciting and emotional and it moves along at a good clip (another departure from Homer who does like to dwell on things, like food and flowers). I very much enjoyed this book; even though I am a purist, and the book was written for 8 year olds. It's a short book, 33 pages, not including the end notes.

My 3 year old son did not have the patience to listen to the whole story, but he was fascinated with the pictures. He kept pointing to the pictures of Demeter and Persephone gathering flowers and saying that it looked like our yard. I wish! When I turned to pages without pictures, he wanted to go back to the pictures, narrative be damned. There are pictures on about every third page and they are evocative of ancient Greek art in a way I can't really explain. It doesn't look like ancient Greek pottery painting in the least, but something about it reminds me of it. I don't know a thing about art, I just know that this book is very pretty.

In the back of the book is a map of ancient Greece, some portraits of the Greek Gods and a cute family tree with oh so many Zeuses!

And so, I highly recommend that you get this book for your young Pagan this season. It is an excellent introduction to Greek myth and the story of Persephone in particular. And to help you out, I am giving away my copy. You should know that I got this copy free from Barefoot Books.

Also, if you're interested, Barefoot Books has this book as part of a set along with Theseus and the Minotaur and Orpheus and Eurydice called The Greek Myths Set and another set including the stories of Achilles and Odysseus called the Greek Epic Paperbacks .

All images were scavenged from the Barefoot Books website with permission. (Alas, my camera is no more or I would show you how cute my Sunshine is when he's pointing at pictures.)

And Now, On to the Giveaway!
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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Working for a Living

This week I begin a new, temporary, chapter in my life. Working full time outside the home. I was a single mother for over 10 years, I am not in unfamiliar territory. I hated it then and I hate it now. But, my mother needed surgery and wouldn't get it unless she felt things were handled and her boss trusts me, so I have agreed to do her job for six weeks.

We need money, it's true and this is a good opportunity to keep my skills fresh. (I am learning Windows 8. Yay) The most important thing is that I'm helping out my mom though. I wouldn't do it otherwise. It is simply not worth it to (as my husband dramatically puts it) let "the institution" raise my child. After I pay daycare, I have very little money left and that's going to gas, clothing and easy to prepare meals. What little is left has debts waiting for it.

Mothers who work outside the home like to sneer at mothers who stay home with their children and say "I do everything you do, plus I work full time." But the truth is they don't, I didn't before and I can't now. They make enough money to pay someone else to do what stay at home moms do all day.

Right now I am paying $41 a day for someone else to supervise, entertain and teach my child. And no, I don't think they can do it better than me. Yesterday was story time at the Library and we missed it because I had to be at the office. Tonight, I paid someone else to make Chinese food which I dropped off at home, along with my toddler to my teenager who babysat (that is, played Super Smash Bros on his DS in the same room while the toddler watched Toy Story) while I ran out to train a dog(because I still have to do my job too). I got home in time to catch the tail end of bath time with daddy and give little man a kiss goodnight, run through the week's schedule with teen man, make sure I still have three ducks, do the dishes and finally settle into the desk chair to check email and throw my angst at a hasty blog post.

Tomorrow is parent teacher conferences at the High School, the next day is Parent night at the Technical Center, so those evenings will run similarly to this evening. Unless I decide to skip Parent Teacher Conferences. I could do that... He's only in two classes at the High School and they are both variations on Gym...

You see. I've been a working mom 2 days and I already don't do the things I did as a stay at home mom.

Usually, I clean out the duck's crate daily and take the poo-soaked newspaper out to the garden and turn it into mulch. This whole process takes about a half hour. Today I didn't even collect the eggs until I was ready to put the ducks back in for the night and I just tossed clean newspaper on top of the old stuff. Wow, I am going to have to start giving away eggs because I don't have time to bake or make breakfast from scratch anymore!

Bread. Crackers. Cookies. Muffins. You can buy them if you don't have time to bake. Who knows what's in them? Is it even food? They sure cost a lot more. Yes, paying other people to do what  you don't.

I have not seen my garden in daylight since Sunday. I do not expect to do so again till Saturday. If there is anything ripe out there, something else is going to eat it. I hope it's the ducks. I hope the ducks eat my weeds. I hope nobody eats my ducks while they're all unsupervised out there all day every day.

I wish I could afford a housekeeper.

Transitions always suck for me.

But this will be a grand experiment. You see, in my memory, being a working mom was easier than being a stay-at-home mom. My house was as clean as I left it when I got home (of course I didn't have teenagers at home, just kids in school and daycare all day) and I didn't have to think of ways to entertain and mentally stimulate my kids. They got all that stuff at school and daycare and all the time I spent with them (about 3 hours a day) could be just us time. I cooked dinner, we ate dinner, we cleaned up dinner, we got ready for bed. At home I decompressed from work. At work I decompressed from home. I had work friends. My kids had school friends. I didn't have to arrange play groups or get along with their friends moms. I just had to occasionally nod and look appropriately concerned as the school or daycare people told me what terrible thing my kid had been up to that day. Nobody expected me to volunteer for anything or make snacks, because the stay at home moms had that covered and they all knew I wasn't one of them.

But what was I talking about? Oh yes! This is an experiment to explore the question: Which is easier, staying at home or working outside the home? I'll do it for science.

What I'm worried about though is how this will affect my son. For six weeks he will be in daycare from 8am to 6pm every day. And then it'll stop and he'll go back to once a week. How weird is that going to be? I am thinking it might be better to just keep working full time and keep him in daycare/pre-school, but the jobs advertised in my area are $8-10 per day. Since daycare is $40 per day, I'm not sure it's worth it. Something to chew on/research over the next six weeks.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Monday House Blessing

So the Flylady has us (Flybabies) do this thing every Monday she calls the Weekly Home Blessing Hour. This appeals to my Kitchen Witchiness so I embrace it even though  she's using the word "blessing" in a figurative sense, and I am using it magically.

Of course, the first time I did it I raced through it and read it wrong and thought that I was supposed to do a 10 minute de-clutter of every room and then go back and vacuum and dust and after about the third room I was tired and cranky and done with it. I finished with the de-cluttering, but no vacuuming or dusting got done and I was irritated with the whole process. But then I re-read and realized that I was a silly monkey and tried again next week. In truth, many of those rooms were so cluttered that vacuuming and dusting wouldn't have been possible without some pre-work anyway, so it's just as well I did it the way I did it.

The following week I got it right, except that a lot of the things she says to do simply don't apply to me; Like throwing away newspapers and magazines since we don't do magazines (though I did toss a few gardening catalogs) and the newspapers we collect from folks who actually read them get put to practical use (First they line the duck's crate or the lizard's cage, then they get used as mulch in the garden.) Anyway, my house looked and felt great but it still took longer than I liked.

By the third week I was a pro and it was done quickly and I had time to add my own little Kitchen Witchery touch with a ritual broom and some incense and my spray bottle full of salted water and basil oil (for family harmony) for a proper home blessing. The energy in my home is amazing. I invite you to visit my own online Book of Shadows to see the House Blessing spell I have now incorporated into this method at

Now I'm about to begin a six week temporary office job. It's 9 to 5 with a killer commute. I don't know how next Monday's house blessing will go! I may have to move home blessing hour to Sunday.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Flying at Night, Falling Flat, and we're up again

As you may know, I made the Hearth Day Resolution to follow the Flylady's program to get my house in order and I am proud to say that my house is looking pretty decent. Each month, she gives you a habit to work on with the goal that you will develop all these wonderful positive habits that will keep your house clean and organized and you'll just do them, because they're habits, and won't even notice. After that, I think there is some more advanced work, but I'm not there yet.

The habit for September was the before bed routine and I had a really hard time with it. I do a lot of running around all day. After dinner, I want to rest, watch Hulu or Netflix and eventually wander off to bed. I am tired. When my husband comes home and hauls my Sunshine off for his bedtime story, I am done. No routine. I'm tired. Bite me. 

But I tried. I struggled all friggin' month with this. I read and re-read her article on the subject and the testimonials from other flybabies and I was right on board with the before-bed routine being a good idea. I just couldn't get myself to do anything before bed. 

It wasn't until the last week of the month that a light bulb went off. I was stuck on the "before bed" part. Why does it have to be right before bed? It doesn't. Flylady says so herself! It doesn't even really have to be in the evening! All I needed was to give myself a list of things to complete throughout the day that needed to be finished before I went to bed (not started just before bedtime). I can get the coffee pot ready for tomorrow right after I'm finished with it in the morning. I don't have to wait 'till bedtime. I can lay out clothing for tomorrow while I'm doing laundry in the morning. I can pack tomorrow's lunches while I'm making tonight's dinner! Now all I really have to do before bed is take a peek in the kitchen to make sure it's clean, take a bath and put on my pajamas.

Yea. I got this.

And now on to October when we tackle Paper Clutter. I am a ready!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Review: Curses and Bindings

Today I am reviewing another book from Witchipedia's Read A Long Book ClubCurses & Bindings: How To Do Them, How To Defend Against Them, How To Heal From Them, by Tannita. I would like to say that this isn't normally the type of book that I'd read, but that's not entirely true. Reading about the darker aspects of magick is something of a guilty pleasure of mine so I was pleased when the author requested I add this book to the Book Club roster. However, this book took me much farther outside my comfort zone than I was at all interested in going, in more ways than one.

My very first impression was one of absolute awe that a book so poorly formatted and with such abysmal grammar ever made it to publishing. I suppose it was self-published. But even so, you'd think the author would have had at least one friend read it over before presenting it to the world. It's not just a few typos- I'm talking about major issues. Lots of , , , <-- Yes that. That doesn't belong in any publish work. It's annoying enough in a forum but seeing , , , in nearly every line of a book you paid money for is more than distracting. It makes my eyes bleed. The author also does not seem to have a firm grasp on the difference between they're, their and there, weak and week and loose and lose. (I once broke up with a guy because he wrote me a letter in which he declared that he didn't want to "loose" me. Seriously, that's why. I couldn't get past the "loose".) I know not everyone is as grammar extreme as myself, but for crying out loud; this is a published book that I paid for! There is also quite a lot of weird sentence structure that leads me to believe that English is not the author's first language, but that doesn't excuse the rest of the mess.

That all being said, there is some good information in the book if you can find it within the author's rambling writing style. She does stick to the topics within the headers, but there really are no sub-topics and she seems to bounce around between some here and there. This can be confusing.

It is also important to note that the author makes quite a strong assumption that the reader already has basic magical skills. The spells are not step-by-step, but very general and the reader is obliged to fill in the gaps with previous magical knowledge. I think this is a good approach to a book on such a heavy subject. I frankly find all the repeated basic review so common in books that are supposed to be 102 and above to be annoying and boring.

What else is there to say? The subject matter was uncomfortable. I found myself growing red in the face at the suggestion that I might want to magickally encourage someone to step in front of a moving vehicle or similar. But I do believe it's subject matter that the advanced practitioner should take a look at eventually, if only for informational purposes.

I did not hate this book completely, it had good information, it was interesting, but it was not a pleasure to read.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Adventures in Laundry

As the month of August closes, I am reviewing my laundry adventures, which were substantial, before we move on to the next habit in the Flylady's plan: The Bedtime Routine. The Universe must've taken note of my intention to perfect my laundry routine because she cooperated beautifully by rendering me without fully functioning laundry facilities for several days.

I had just put up my shiny new clothesline (referred to around here as the "redneck clothesline"). I had a clothesline setup in mind that wasn't practical at the moment for several reasons. The first being that we couldn't afford it, but also because in order for maximum sun exposure a certain tree would have had to move and the deck, upon which the plan depended, is in serious need of repairs (that is, a complete rebuild) which would have meant that the clothesline would have to be dismantled sometime in the future. So I gave myself a stern talking to, convinced myself that any clothesline is better than no clothesline, and ran a line between two trees. It works beautifully, of course, and gets just the right amount of sun, but I will wax poetic about my clothesline in a minute.

Shortly after we installed this clothesline, I put in a load of laundry and went to bed, looking forward to hanging the clothes on the line in the early morning sun. My husband arrived home around 3am. When he gets home this late, he generally sleeps on the couch in the mancave, so as not to disturb my beauty sleep. When he visited the bathroom off the mancave, he discovered the whole bathroom flooded. He quickly realized the washing machine was running in the laundry room (which shares a wall with the bathroom) and spewing water everywhere. My darling husband did not wake me up to assist him with squeegeeing, mopping and setting up fans and dehumidifiers, even though the mess was entirely my fault (never leave your washing machine or dryer unattended) and he, not I, had to be at work at 8am the following morning. Best. Husband. Ever. Of course he didn't have time to actually figure out what was wrong with the washing machine and fix it. That would have to wait for the weekend. In the meantime, I had an adventure and learned some stuff.

Things I Learned from My Broken Washing Machine

So I woke up to a rather damp, but not flooded laundry room and squishy carpet in the downstairs hall and a washing machine I could not use. At least not the way I was used to using it. I could fill it, if I watched it carefully and it would spin out if I manually turned the knob to spin. It would not agitate. So, I did small loads, filled up the washer, agitated it with two rubber scrub brushes (From Flylady's line of Rubba cleaning products), set it to spin when I was ready to drain it and then refilled it to rinse and repeat. Then I gathered up my clothes and took them out to the clothesline. The result was an unexpected growing intimacy with my laundry.

  • By observing the water go in and out of my machine, I became more aware of the amount of water I am using with each wash. I began collecting the final rinse water and adding that to the first wash water of the next load, as well as dumping the water from the dehumidifier in there. 

  • By observing the draining of my rinse water, I came to realize that I am using too much soap, or perhaps not rinsing enough. Following the washing machine's usual process and watching the final drain (and often collecting it) I came to realize that this "final rinse" water was full of soap! So I'm using less soap now. In fact, I am using soap nuts in most cases. 

Things I Learned from Line Drying My Clothes

I thought that line-drying my clothes was going to be a pain in the butt, but it's really not. I take my first load out when I take the ducks out in the morning and the cat comes out too and it's all very festive. The air smells wonderful, the sun is coming up and the birds are singing and it's still quite cool. I shake the dew off the line and pin up my clothes, it is a moment of silence. I am thinking of nothing, except pinning up my clothes. It's really a wonderful way to start the day. But more than just a morning meditation, line drying my clothes has taught me to be more mindful of my clothes themselves.

  • Hanging up my teenage son's clothes in particular, I have noticed several items that need repair that I had never noticed before. When you just take them from the washer to the dryer, you don't notice these things until someone points them out to you. My son just doesn't. But when you're shaking out a pair of pants and turning out the pockets so they will dry properly and hanging them up by their ankles, you notice if there's a tear in the hem or a hole in the pocket. 
  • Also, and this mostly with regard to my toddler's clothing, I am more aware of stains. When you are just going from washer to dryer, you don't tend to notice the stains until they've been through the dryer and then they're set. When you're hanging them on the line, you can notice if the spaghetti sauce didn't come out of a shirt and you can take it back in and give it some attention. 
  • Line dried clothes smell freaking amazing. And the smell sticks. There's no comparison.
  • If there's any soap left in your clothes, line dried clothes can be really stiff. So an extra rinse or use of Using soap nuts instead of laundry soap helps.

What Does This Have to do With Witchcraft?

Okay someone recently told me that if I am going to claim that this is a Kitchen Witchery blog, then I need to focus more of my articles on "Witchy" topics. I need to say why this relates to Witchcraft. I feel like it should be self-explanatory, but maybe it's not. As a Witch, I try to live as close to Nature as possible. Not just because of the usual fairy dumpling "I love nature" business, but also because I believe that when you are in tune with nature, your magick is in tune with nature and is automatically more effective. Magick operates by natural laws, and we can talk about natural laws all the time, but until you live with the rhythms of nature, you only kind of get it. 

Doing your laundry mindfully, as using manual methods of washing and drying forces us to do, puts us in tune with nature in a way that simply tossing your clothes into the washer and then into the dryer simply does not allow and it helps us to walk softly on the Earth, which should be the goal of every Witch.

  • Line-drying uses less electricity, which saves money, a goal any homemaker can appreciate, and is gentler on the Earth, which is the goal of most Earth-based Witches.
  • Manual washing makes us aware of how much water we are using, again, this can save money (if you pay for city water) and it's gentler on the Earth.
  • In both cases, your clothes last longer and you use less soap and other products (like fabric softener sheets) which saves money and is gentler on the Earth.
  • Line drying makes us pay closer attention to what's going on outside; not just while we're out there hanging clothing, but also while we're planning our laundry adventures. Does it look like rain? Is this going to pass quickly? As time goes by and this observation and thinking becomes habit, you start to recognize the signs of a quick short rain, a bit of overcast that'll move on soon or the illusion of a sunny day that'll downpour soon. Maybe you don't have time to dry jeans and hoodies, but maybe a load of sheets or dress shirts will make it before the wet weather hits. Predicting the weather is a cool witchy skill.
  • You also need to be aware of Sunset, at least around here, because the second the sun goes down, the dew descends and all your clothes are wet again. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: Practical Prosperity Magick #witchesread

Practical Prosperity Magick; Crafting Success and Abundance by Ellen Dugan was the Read-A-Long book for the Witchipedia for the month of July and I just finished it a few days ago and have been chewing on it since. There is some good information in this book, but I really really do not like the delivery. First I should say that I came to the book a bit prejudiced because I do not like this author. I have read other books by her and been absolutely turned off by her overly dramatic personality, negative attitude and a gossipy, condescending tone. I will explain.
Throughout the whole book she writes like she probably talks and she makes a lot of assumptions about the reader, like that we don't know anything at all about magic. She says things like "believe it or not, that's right, I said it, it's true!" (okay, maybe not all those words in one sentence, that would be ridiculous) She also puts in a lot of cutesy words that are entirely unnecessary, particularly adjectives. Saying things like "your witchy fingers". Honestly, there are so many unnecessary words of cuteness and fun that the book could be half its size if you took them out. This sort of cute, conversational writing might make some people smile and feel more at ease, but it just made my brain hurt and my jaw clench and is probably why it took me over a month to read this book. I had to take frequent breaks.

She begins the book with a story of how she cast a prosperity spell, was soon offered a job that she hated, was forced to work with people she did not like and ultimately, through this job, met someone she got along with well who offered her yet another job that matched her skills, which she did not accept. This story is replete with personal details about the people she doesn't like, so that anyone who lives in her town could easily know exactly who the pregnant woman with no sense of humor is talking about. I feel like this is unprofessional and perhaps unethical. She goes on and on about the reason why her prosperity spell didn't work out was because she wasn't in the proper mind-set when she cast the spell. But it did work. It put her into the situation she needed to be in to cross paths with the person she needed to meet to get the job she wanted. But she didn't take it. That's her fault. The universe did the best it could and she gave it the middle finger. And then wrote a book about it.

She goes on to explain some various concepts of higher magic than she usually rights about, Hermetic principals, planetary seals, etc. and she clearly doesn't understand them fully but instead tries to squeeze them into her Goddess-centered Wiccan-esque (I mean by this that her path seems to be Wiccan-like, but not strictly) worldview. This may not be as big an issue for some people as it for me, but it is one of my pet peeves. Of course, it probably all works out fine in the end, so I shouldn't stress it.

Another pet peeve of mine is the random calling of any old God and Goddess to "work with" in magic based solely on sphere of influence, regardless of pantheon or personal relationship. She does this a lot. There are a bunch of completely unrelated Gods and Goddesses in there, some she clearly has no real experience with. (But I did notice a distinct lack of Mercury or Hermes, which  I thought was strange since Hermes is my go-to guy for all things related to money, luck and employment.) I know that these things don't bother everyone. I am probably actually in the minority so, take that for what it's worth.

The spells are okay. They're sound and would probably work out just fine, assuming you actually know the Gods she works with. They aren't Gods I'm overly familiar with either, so I can't tell. I don't like her rhymes. They lack rhythm. And precision. But this isn't a book of poetry. You should come up with your own rhymes anyway, so it doesn't matter too much. She leaves room for customization, which I feel is very important. I don't agree with a lot of her definitions, but there's nothing damaging there, so it's probably not that big a deal.

In short, I did not like the book but I was able to get some good information out of it. If your world view is Wiccan, you'll probably like it better than I did, assuming the author's personality doesn't turn you off. I got a lot more out of Financial Sorcery by Jason Miller.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

On Sharing the Bathroom with Trans-Gender Folks

Since it seems to be a hot topic of late, I thought I'd chime in. You know, just for fun. It looks like fun.

If you look like a girl, dress like a girl, talk like a girl, walk like a girl, I am not even going to notice you walking into the lady's room. If you look like a man, talk like a man, walk like a man, I am and I'm going to wonder what the hell you're doing in girly land. I will probably try to help you out by kindly pointing out that you're in the wrong place, or I might wonder out loud if I'm in the wrong place. I am certainly not going to check if you have a penis. If you don't have a penis and proceed to explain that to me, we're just going to both be embarrassed. Your penis or lack thereof is not my business. It makes much more sense for someone who lives as a man to go where he won't draw attention and for someone who lives as a woman to do likewise. After all, going to the bathroom in a public restroom is awkward enough without having to explain yourself.

That all being said, we need more gender neutral bathrooms. It is awkward when you have a passel of kids to get all of their excretory needs handled when you can't go in the bathroom with all of them. This is especially troublesome for the dad who must parade his little girl past a bunch of guys using urinals.  And then you have a six year old of the opposite gender insisting that he or she is too old to go in the "wrong" bathroom and you have the choice of risking sending him or her into the "right" bathroom unsupervised, standing awkwardly at the door imagining all sorts of nightmarish scenarios until they get done playing with every automatic faucet and electric dryer they can find and wander out, or having a giant meltdown in the movie theater lobby.

All of this can be prevented with gender neutral bathrooms. Kids of all ages, mothers, fathers, transgender, boys, girls, etc. All welcome. Pee here for free.  And then, if a transgender person walks into the gender neutral bathroom, all the paranoid mothers who think that people just decide to be transgender to make it easier to rape women and molest children can stand there and watch while the transgender people go in the stall, do their thing, come out, wash their hands and leave and ensure that they don't touch their precious darlings and infect them with their proclivities.

What we need to do is ban germ freaks from public bathrooms because they're annoying. I am so tired of having to clean up some other woman's pee because she can't sit on the seat for fear of germs. If you have to hover, why can't you clean up after yourself? Because you might touch where someone else's butt touched? Doesn't it make more sense to touch your butt to that spot? No? You don't want to touch it at all. So I have to clean up your pee so that I can sit!! That's freaking gross. And the coverers are just as bad leaving their paper all over the place so I have to clean it up and flush it before I can go. WTF people. Let's focus on the real problems in the public rest rooms. Hoverers and coverers! Damn you all!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Unboxing Citrus Lane #favoritethings

So one little indulgence I decided to sign up for when my husband got his job back and I was feeling flush for the first time in months is a membership to Citrus Lane for my Sunshine who is two and a half. We get a box every week of fruits and vegetables from Door to Door Organics and he is always super-excited to open it up. So I thought he'd love a box that was just or him full of age-appropriate mystery stuff.

The box arrived with the mail. It didn't fit in the box so our mail carrier had to come up our drive and ring our bell. This was very exciting. Nobody ever rings our bell. The package was smaller than I expected but the perfect size for a two year old to carry into the living room all by himself. I had to cut a piece of packing tape that was holding it shut, and then he was able to open the box by himself as well. This was very exciting.

Please excuse the stains on my carpet. Kids live here.

Inside we found a little tea set, some flash cards, a cute little ice pack and a coupon for a free language video download and a note from Citrus Lane explaining what everything was.

This is the Tea for Two set from Green Toys. The little tag says that it is 100% recycled plastic, made in the USA and free of BPA, phthalates and PVC. Good thing because the first thing he wanted to do was make tea and drink it. I made him special blueberry "tea" by tossing a few blueberries in the blender with some water and putting it in his new tea pot. His day was made. Especially when I put some graham crackers on a plate. It's just the two cups, two saucers and a tea pot with a lid. I love that it's gender neutral. It's also nice and sturdy, it has a wide lid that fits snugly (doesn't fall off while pouring) but is easy to remove and it says it's dishwasher safe. Not that I own a dishwasher. Anyway, he played with this thing all day, then took it in the tub, and then insisted on used it to serve his daddy some milk before bed (don't worry, I washed it. Super easy to clean.). I'd say this one is definitely a win.

I know most people associate flash cards with unpleasant things like cramming for finals and math drills but Sunshine loves flashcards. He loves anything with a picture and a word to go with it. So the Alphabet Art animals A-Z flashcards from PetitCollage were a good, age-appropriate call (even though the package says ages 3 and up because kiddos who chew on them could bite off bits). I love these flashcards. I admit, I love them more than he does. They are gorgeous. They are also nice and simple. I hate flashcards with a lot of busy imagery. They lose the point. We're not learning Tarot here. But look at those beautiful pictures! I think I am going to use these to decorate his room when I finally get around to doing it. In fact, they are inspiring me to get around to doing it. The cards are about the size of a standard greeting card and they are good, thick card stock. I think Sunshine thought they were greeting cards, he kept asking me to "Ope it" for him. Sturdy, gorgeous and packaged in a nice, sturdy box you can put them back into when they're not in use. What more is there to want? Oh yes, they're made from recycled materials and vegetable based inks. My one complaint: V is for Viper. Really? My kid knows that's a snake. There is no convincing him otherwise!

The little ice pack is Cool it Buddy by Me4Kidz. It is cute, flexible and soft so that you don't have to wrap it up in something else and dilute the cold before you apply it. It's also just the right size for a bump. Sunshine wasn't impressed at first and didn't want to model it, but once it was frozen it became very interesting and he enjoyed putting it on his head, and my head and the head of anyone else who would hold still for him. I have no idea where it is right now. The search continues. I'm going to be annoyed if I can't find it when he has a bump.

The fourth and final surprise was a free language video download from I could choose from 11 languages and I chose Spanish because I figure it's the one he's most likely to run into in life and MrRabbit and I both took Spanish so we know a little. Latin wasn't an option. The video was cute and he liked it okay. He kept laughing at them saying names of food in Spanish and "correcting" them with the English word. I'm not sure that's how it's supposed to go. But I was a little irritated that I had to download it onto my computer. I don't want him using my computer. I feel like there are videos that are just as good available for free on Youtube (which he can watch on all sorts of devices that aren't my computer). I went ahead and downloaded the app for Kindle and it was just okay.

Finally, the box. It's a good box. It's a nice, sturdy reusable box. So I stuffed it with shoes and a coat that no longer fit my Sunshine to send off to my husband's friend, who I am told has a 1 year old. I am excited to use future boxes for craft projects. We shall see.

The final verdict on the Citrus Lane Box? I signed up for the 6 month subscription which is $21 a box and I had a coupon so it was a little less. Did I get $21 worth of merchandise that I liked in this box? Yes, I believe I did. The tea set and flash cards are probably worth somewhere around $20 each on their own. So, I'd say I got my money's worth and then some. Plus the fun we had just opening the box! This box seriously gave me an entire day when I didn't have to figure out what to do next to entertain my two year old. And I love that they give you information about the manufacturers so I can discover lots of cool new stuff to drool over on their websites. I think we'll do this again next month.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Doing the Laundry

If you haven't been following along, I am following the system at to get my house organized and beautiful as my annual Hearth Day Resolution. This month's habit is laundry and I am pleased to say I am starting strong here.

I had to get into the habit of doing laundry daily when I started using cloth diapers. Otherwise, the whole house stank of pee and poo. But Flylady says we must do this in order to avoid CHAOS (can't have anyone over) which is also nice. She has a specific system for doing laundry which works well for her, but I do it my own way.

My Laundry Routine

Every night after dinner, I gather up laundry. This is triggered by the wash cloths and towels I have at the end of the day from keeping the kitchen area clean. I have a  two year old and don't use paper towels, so it can be a lot. It's not a full load of laundry though; even last Tuesday when he was sick and vomiting all over everything, (carrot juice on my carpet!) it wasn't a full load. So I toss those in the wash machine and grab what's in the dryer and take it upstairs, toss it on my bed and fold it and put it away. Then I peek in the bathroom, around the various bedroom floors, etc. and gather up enough laundry to make a full load, toss it into my recently empty laundry basket and take it downstairs to the laundry room. No, I don't generally sort (I know, this is a crime). At this point we're mostly looking at towels anyway. I start that load and proceed with my evening. Just before bed I transfer that load into the dryer.

In the morning I am usually looking for towels and washcloths to do what needs to be done. Granted, there's often some in the kitchen drawer or on the bathroom shelf, but it's easier just to go downstairs and grab what's out of the dryer. I take those clothes, toss them in a basket and put them at the bottom of the stairs, take the washcloth and dishtowel I need off the top and return to my day. The reason I don't fold them and put them away immediately is because my husband sleeps about two hours longer than me in the morning and I like to fold my laundry on my bed.

When my husband gets up, he wanders in the kitchen and begins puttering around doing I don't know what and generally being in the way. In order to preserve our domestic tranquility, I go back upstairs. I make the bed, bring in the laundry basket and fold and put away my load of towels. Then I gather up the clothes my various family members discarded the night before (often but not always found in their laundry baskets, in their rooms, which I did not previously invade because they were sleeping) and take them downstairs to be washed. Assuming I have a full load, I'll wash them. If not, I just toss them in the washing machine and turn it on later when it's full. By this time, my husband has finished whatever he was doing and wandered back upstairs, so I go back downstairs to finish putting breakfast on. He will return shortly with the little one. Then we can enjoy a nice sit down at the table. This is important, since my husband is rarely home for dinner.

Breakfast is another morning routine that I feel I've got down nicely, but I will share that another day.

Sometimes there is a third load. If I'm washing bedding that day or if there was some extra messy situation or someone just got back from a trip and dumped their suitcase on the laundry room floor. But usually, two loads a day is plenty and sometimes I don't even need to do two.

Clothesline Dreams

I am also considering putting in a clothesline. But you see, my dream clothesline is a big circular rotating thing that I can easily reach off my back deck. My back deck is in desperate need of replacing and it's not in our budget. The clothesline of my fantasy would have to be sunk into a big hole and fixed with cement. I'm not sure if its a good idea to do that sort of permanent installation right next to a structure right next to a future major construction project. Not to mention the fact that there's a certain tree that will need to go away in order to create the perfect sunshine/ventilation situation for the drying of laundry. It's size and nearness to the house means we will have to hire professionals; also not in the budget. The result of all of this thinking: Not only do I not have my perfect outdoor clothesline solution, I have NO outdoor clothes drying solution.

As soon as he wakes up, I am going to give my elder son (who will hereafter be referred to by his super hero name: The Iron Panda) one end of a string and I am going to take the other and we are going to string a clothesline between some trees.

One thing I'm learning from the Flylady is that perfectionism is the enemy of actually getting things done.
Seriously, check her website out if you haven't, she's so cool. And no, I'm not getting paid to say that. I should look into that though.

Magic in the Laundry Room

As a kitchen witch, I take great pleasure in finding little ways to insert more magic into my everyday activities, especially my housekeeping. So of course I'm going to whip up some laundry magic.

One thing I like to do (and I'm not sure you'd call it magic exactly) is to take old nylon socks and pantyhose and fill them with dried herbs, tie a knot in the open end and toss it into the dryer. Lavender is a favorite for this, especially for bedding. It scents the clothes beautifully and naturally and the ugly little sachet can be used about a dozen times before I ultimately toss it. It's a good way to reuse old pantyhose. Other nice options might include cinnamon chips, orange peel, lemon peel, or southern wood. Go with what moves you.

Another kitchen witch I know prefers to put a few drops of essential oil onto a washcloth and toss that into the dryer. This also works well and gives you more choices of fragrances to choose from as many herbs lose their fragrance when dried. It's just a matter of preference and budget. Essential oil costs a bit more, but it is also easier to manage and stores more neatly and compactly. But if you grow herbs, you may want to use what you can pick out of your garden at no extra costs. You can also use leftover citrus peels after you eat the fruit.

Here are a few ideas of herbs or oils to use for their magical properties:
Lavender - Soothing, relaxing, pleasant dreams and good sleep. Try it on your bedding. Ahhh.
Cinnamon - Gently increase the libido, draw love and friendship and money and for protection against general negativity. Try it when you go to a new place and are looking to meet new people.
Cloves- Draws money and luck, protects against gossip and jealousy. Your lucky gambling shirt. Or whatever.
Rosemary - When you have to stay sharp and want to be memorable. A job interview, taking a test at school, etc.
Allspice- Maximum manly sexiness. Also for self-confidence.
Citrus- Including orange, lemon, lime or grapefruit peel for energy and clarity
Southernwood- To stay alert and to repel insects. Your ritual garb perhaps?

PS I am in the market for a new laundry soap recipe. I will be experimenting with them over the next few months and will get back to you when I find one I love. If you've got a recommendation, please feel free to share it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Letting the Genie Out of the Bottle

When my husband came home from work Monday night he told me Robin Williams was dead. I didn't believe it. He told me he commit suicide. I felt a profound sense of not surprise and then I knew it was true. Robin Williams suffered from mental illness. He fought it bravely. He eventually lost the battle.

I cried. I cried a lot. I am not sure why. Obviously I loved his work. Obviously I grew up watching his movies. Ferngully was my daughter's favorite at one point and we watched it all day everyday for a two month stretch. But this man was not my kin. I have lost others who were kin and did not cry as much. But they were old and visibly ill. But they died of natural causes. I don't know...

A light has truly gone out of the world.

When I hear Robin Williams called "selfish" and "cowardly" for his final act, I am angered. I am angered because he was neither. Robin Williams spoke openly about his mental illness and his addictions. He discussed his struggles with anyone who would listen and he helped others. Most people hide these conditions, pretend they do not exist, try to go on as normal. Robin Williams functioned. He went to work and his work was pretending he was someone he wasn't, but he didn't pretend he wasn't suffering. He never pretended that. He was very brave.

Mental illness will never be conquered until we can recognize it for what it is- a disease- and call it out without shame of social stigma, of being considered "weak" or "cowardly" because owning your disease takes strength and bravery and it is the only way to conquer it. And if it still wins after that, then at least you went down fighting.

Today in the car I heard a story on NPR about a picture going around of Aladdin and the Genie and the caption "Genie, you're free" and they had an interview with a psychologist who was saying how much she hated this image and this idea and how it promoted the idea that suicide is a good answer, a way to freedom and it made her job so much harder.

But here is what she was forgetting.

Mental illness is illness. It is disease. It is chemical as research is beginning to show. It makes you suffer; unspeakable suffering, mostly in silence. Even if the disease doesn't cause you to become isolated you are still isolated because of the nature of the disease - you can't talk about it. You shouldn't. It's a faux pas. If you have Cancer, you can talk about it. If you have Diabetes, you can talk about it. AIDS, okay, maybe not to just anyone, but you can talk about it. We can talk about heart disease. In my family, the hot topic is Parkinson's disease, which conquered my paternal grandfather 3 years ago and is currently working on my maternal grandmother. And when someone dies from complications from these diseases we say "At least he is free from his pain." "Well, he is at peace now." And it is okay to say that.

But when someone dies of complications from mental illness - suicide or maybe even an accidental death related to the illness - we can't say that. It's wrong. It's bad. It "glorifies" suicide and drug use. Even the mental health professionals who want mental illness to be recognized as a real and true disease and not a social defect, consider it a faux pas to acknowledge that now this person who has suffered is now free from his suffering.

People can't understand how someone so loved could feel so alone, so worthless, so done as to want to take his own life and that is the point. It does not matter how well you are loved. It does not matter what you have or what you accomplished. At a certain point you are simply done. It is simply over. There is simply no more to do and the rest of that does not matter. And then you attempt suicide. And you die or you don't. Or there is an intervention and it doesn't happen. But that person who is mentally ill is no more capable of preventing the suicide attempt on his own than a person having a heart attack is capable of saving his own life. Either he has to call out for help before it reaches a tipping point or someone close to him has to recognize the symptoms and intervene.

We don't know if Robin Williams called out for help that night. We don't know if anyone heard him or knew what he was saying. Unfortunately, if there were symptoms they were too subtle or the people around them didn't recognize them. I am sure his family and staff are asking themselves what they missed, how they could have missed it. But we can't blame him or anybody for what this disease did. We can only mourn him and never forget and work harder to understand mental illness so that it can stop killing people.

Suicide is not the only death by mental illness out there. Do not assume that because some deaths are "accidental" that they are not also suicide. Mentally ill people play with their lives all the time. Do you think people don't know that if they drive drunk they might die? Or that if they take a lot of heroine or whatever or engage in other risky behavior that there's a chance it will kill them? Of course they do. When I was in the deepest depths of my own depression and self medication I remember saying "I do it because I don't have the balls to kill myself outright." I am pretty sure that wasn't an original statement. I am no that creative.

There are people in my life that I pray for every day. Some day my phone will ring and I will get the news that mental illness has killed another person so young and so full of promise. Mental illness loves a genius. It is greedy for the greatest among us and it will take many many more before it is conquered.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Enough with the Fat Shaming

As a fat person with a rather healthy lifestyle, I am tired of the assumptions made about fat people. People look at a fat person and assume that that person is fat because he or she lives a lazy, gluttonous lifestyle and therefore has earned her fat and thus has no right to be respected. That he or she should just take it when they are ridiculed for dressing comfortably at the beach, or going to the beach at all. Or openly laughed at when her butt or stomach jiggles when she's jogging down the street. This is okay. Because obviously it is within everyone's reach to be thin. Obviously fat people are just slovenly and so deserve our disrespect. Right?

Making assumptions about fat girls (and boys) is just as wrong as making assumptions about skinny girls (and boys). You know, like that they're anorexic or bulimic. Or that they've had "work done". The fact is, most skinny people I know are very fond of cake and beer and all of those other things that fat people are assumed to indulge in. And most skinny people I know have sedentary lifestyles, or get a good portion of their exercise at the nightclub rather than the gym.

Personally, I believe that I live a pretty healthy lifestyle. I cook from scratch, garden, take regular walks in the woods and downtown (pushing a stroller) and I am a huge fan of Yoga. I also meditate daily. I drink green tea. I do not drink soda, diet or otherwise, except for medicinal purposes (it's great for nausea and that scratchy allergy season throat) and then, I wouldn't be able to finish a can if I wanted to. Gross. I despise most junk food and the texture of white bread, white rice and cake makes me gag.

Why am I fat? I don't know exactly. I've been to the doctor and had some tests, but the migraines and the fibromyalgia kept distracting her and finally everything got too expensive and I had to stop. I know have a wonky thyroid that is sometimes high and sometimes low. You'd think it would balance itself out. But it doesn't. The cure? To KILL my thyroid with RADIATION and take synthetic thyroid hormones orally for the rest of my life. That is something I'm going to have to think long and hard about and discuss with another doctor after my shiny new Obamacare kicks in. (Yea, I signed up since my husband got called back to work. Starts in September. Costs about the same with a lower deductible and more things are covered.)

But my mother is fat, my grandmother, grandfather and great-grandmother, all fat. I do have one skinny uncle. And a skinny sister. (She isn't even fat when she's pregnant!!!) I also have a chubby sister and a couple of chubby uncles. My husband who works 10 hours a day in a cubical farm is skinny. He usually takes leftovers from home for lunch, but he eats out or orders in with his coworkers very often. He also spends most of his weekends at the bar, eating bar food and drinking beer. (He's a professional musician.) Yet he weighs 50 pounds less than I do. His parents and siblings are also skinny.

Judging from these completely unscientific observations, diet and activity don't have shit to do with weight. (<- That's sarcasm, by the way. I know it's hard to tell in print.)

When Dear Abby tells a woman who asks her how to deal with her mom's fat shaming to stop being so comfortable in her own fat and lose it, I'm a little pissed at Dear Abbey. How does Dear Abby know why this girl is fat or at what stage of fat she's in? Is she on her way up, is she on her way down? Has she struggled with it for years before finally being able to accept that this is just the way her body falls? She obviously enjoys swimming so she's more physically active than the majority of America. I'm sorry, some people are just naturally bigger than others. Some have bigger boobs ( Boobs are made of fat, you know), some have bigger hips, some have bigger thighs. Me, I have a big belly.

Those healthy weight charts the doctors have in their offices also make no sense. They don't take into account how much muscle someone has and I'm convinced some people have heavier bones than others too. Once upon a time got really sick for awhile and my weight dropped to 130 pounds. I was well within my "ideal" weight and my doctor would have probably been thrilled had I been able to see her (I was uninsured and lacking an advocate at the time). But I looked like hell. Everyone commented on it. People thought I was on drugs. You could count my ribs at a distance and my shoulder bones looked really weird. I looked like a walking corpse. But I was well within my healthy weight zone. I think my "ideal" weight is probably closer to 150-160, but my doctor would call that obese. (it's still about 30 pounds out for me though)

I am going to end this ramble now because it's late and I should be asleep and I am having trouble organizing my thoughts at this point. I leave you with a picture of a fat girl pole dancing. I don't know if you've ever tried pole dancing, but that is something that needs some serious core strength and muscle control. This woman works out and she works hard and she is my hero of the day.

Friday, August 1, 2014

My Hearth Day Resolution - Learning to Fly

Last year's Hearth Day Resolution was something of a wash. It was "be prepared" and I was not. I was not prepared for my husband to lose his job three months after buying the house we moved to so that he could be near his job. Seriously. You'd think someone could have put a bug in his ear. And so instead of preparing, we spent most of the year in emergency mode and living hand to mouth. I did okay stocking up on foodstuffs and keeping the batteries in the flashlights charged but as for the rest, no. We do not have the emergency stuff in place we'd hoped for. I would like to revisit this resolution in the future, but right now I am tired of it and ready for a new, more immediate resolution that won't cost me any money. Something I can do, even in emergency mode.

I don't know if any of you have ever heard of It's a homemaker's community aimed at teaching people how to be homemakers while retaining their sanity and dignity. The Flylady has a program of creating new habits to help homemakers get their act together without getting overwhelmed and she makes it kind of fun. So, my Hearth Day resolution for 2014 will be to follow her program and finally get my house organized.

Next year, I will revisit the be prepared resolution. Once I've gotten organized.

My monthly check-ins will be particularly challenging because I will be working on someone else's program. I need to be careful not to cross the plagiarism line while I do so. So... yea, I'm not sure how that's going to go but I will do my best. My goal is not to take her program, but to follow it and make it work for me and encourage you all to follow along if you can benefit from it.

That being said, Happy Hearth Day! I would love to hear about your resolutions too!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Taking Care of Business. And Myself.

I haven't been as retired as I may seem. I've been working a lot on the websites. I'm sort of auditing everything at the moment. It's got to be done. I am feeling better.

My husband's job is back. His real job. The one we moved all the way out here away from all my people for that laid him off three months later. He has now had two proper paychecks and it's such a relief to just pay the damn bills instead of sorting out which ones would cause the least damage to the household by not paying them. And it's blissful to be able to drive him 15 minutes to work and keep the car and actually do stuff instead of being cooped up in a sweltering house all day. But there's still alot of work to do to get back on an even keel. Our credit cards are maxed. Our five year plan has become a six year plan and I've recently come to the conclusion that our deck is really unsafe and replacing it isn't as low priority as I had hoped. It seems whoever built it used 2 inch nails. Yes, in the 2x4s. 2 inch nails. So not only are they lacking in any kind of tread to keep them in the wood, they're only biting in about 1/4 inch and we've got boards falling off and nails popping out and it's just a terrible accident waiting to happen. Why the inspector didn't notice this, I don't know. He said the deck was in great shape and solid, just needed a clean and seal. Hah.

My husband insisted that I put the baby in preschool two days a week for the sake of my sanity and insisted that we could afford it now, so I did. It's really not something I can continue doing because it's really expensive and I am not getting that many clients these days. Living in the middle of nowhere with only one car kind of hinders one's flexibility for other peoples' schedules. But having two days a week to just focus on me and doing what I felt needed doing was did me good. It gave me a chance to regroup and pamper myself a little. I even started shaving my legs again (gasp). And each day after I picked him up I felt energetic enough to take him to the park for an hour or two before it was time to pick up my husband from work. So I got some exercise.

We're going to down  to one day a week of preschool next week and I have signed us up for a Yoga in the park class and a mommy and me swimming class and the cost of both of these combined in less than half the cost of one day of preschool. I won't be able to get anything done, but I will be entertaining my little man and getting much needed gentle exercise in the process. And wearing him out. And I still get one day a week to myself to work on the websites or me or whatever.

I have also been doing a 20 minute guided meditation each day. I am not allowing myself to nap. I find the meditation is actually more helpful than the nap. The nap just eats up the day and I wake up all groggy. After the meditation I feel refreshed. I use meditations at they are awesome.
Oh and my little man and I have been doing these Yoga videos together several mornings a week:

So that's what I've been up to. Just in case you were worried about me after the last dramatic post that took place TWO MONTHS AGO.

And now back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Women/mothers/ladies do not complain. Ladies have responsibilities to others. Ladies do not eat/bathe/dress/rest until everyone else is fed/clean/clothed/resting. Ladies do not let a little thing like pain slow them down. Women who came before us suffered long and hard to overcome a reputation as the "weaker" sex. Any sign of weakness discredits their efforts. Everyone suffers. Everyone deals. Complaining is rude. This is how I was raised.

But today, for now, after a long, tough weekend of smiling through pain; working on household projects, visiting, entertaining (cleaning and cooking in preparation for entertaining) I am going to take a moment and I am going to complain. About pain.

Everyone has it. People just deal. If other people can do it, you can. Quit sniveling. Or maybe your threshold is just way lower than the average person? Or maybe you're weak. Or maybe you just like to whine. For attention maybe?

I have two chronic pain conditions. Chronic migraine and Fibromyalgia. I cannot always afford treatment. Right now my pre-Obamacare medical bills are so crippling that I can't afford the co-pay to visit a doctor with my current insurance, so this is one of those times. This weekend I did not suffer migraine. I did suffer Fibromyalgia pain. All weekend. And I tried, I really tried, not to be a crabby bitch and I hope for my family's sake that I succeeded.

Let me tell you about Fibromyalgia pain: It is like no other pain. It is kind of like the pain you feel in all your joints when you are wracked with fever and chills. Or that ache in your joints as you thaw out after you've been benumbed with cold. (This is perhaps why I sometimes feel cold when it is in me, even though I'm not cold at all.) But it's not in the joints. It's near the joints. But not in them, really. And unlike these pains, it doesn't feel better when you apply heat or cold or massage. It feels worse.

It is something like the pain of a bruise, but not entirely. It's more like what you think a bruise would feel like if you didn't actually have one to compare it too. I dropped a 2x4 on my food the other day and have a nice black bruise with which to perform this experiment. Both spots hurt. They hurt more when you poke them, but not quite the same.

For one, the bruise is just one spot. Fibromyalgia is in a bunch of spots. Like an ugly invisible pain rash. 

Fibromyalgia pain is something like a sunburn. Sometimes there is even a bit of skin sting, the sort that makes even putting on a shirt excruciating, but mostly it's like that under the skin sting you have when you have a bad sunburn. It's usually in a sunburn spot too. My back and and my shoulders and even my scalp (My hair hurts! It feels so heavy on my aching scalp. I want to shave it off. I wish I could go to the barber and get it cut properly but I can't afford it. Maybe I will just take the clippers the boys use and shave it right off.)

And also in my neck, but in a very different way. Like the tendons there are straining. Like my head is too heavy to hold up and move around. Like it's too much of a burden for my neck. (When I have a migraine too this is especially fun and I think how nice it would be if I could figure out how to remove the damn thing.)

But also my legs. They feel so tired. I can't carry my kicking/screaming/doesn't-want-to-go-to-bed child all the way from the firepit to the bedroom without stopping to rest three times and finally asking my husband to take over. My legs were screaming. Like the muscles were overworked, fatigued, abused. 

It's not that I'm out of shape. Well, maybe a little. But I carry this kid around all the time. Just a few weeks ago, on a good day, I spent a whole day turning sod with a shovel and barely broke a sweat. Last weekend, when it wasn't a holiday and nobody expected anything from me, we spent the weekend exploring our nearest town. Window shopping, chatting up locals. And just last Thursday my 2 year old and I went on a 2 mile hike at Kensington Metropark (and saw the herons nesting, very cool). 

It's not that I'm weak. I regularly help a 200+ pound stroke victim in and out of bed/chair/shower/etc. I regularly move furniture around, lift boxes and lumber, etc.

It's not that I'm impatient. My clients remark upon my patience. I garden. I bake bread. I parent. I train animals. You can't do those things without patience.

But this weekend, today even. All those lovely fibro days, I am impatient. Apathetic. Weak. Out of shape. Grumpy. Irritable. Depressed. Short fused. Whiney. All those things.

Those things that ladies are not.

The house is not clean. I feel as if it never will be again. The baby gets to eat cereal for breakfast and run around in nothing but a diaper (it's hot. why not). The husband eats peanut butter and jelly of his own making for lunch. The cat is out of the fence and pestering the neighbor's dog and I don't care. When my son comes home and gripes at me for letting his cat out, I will probably snap at him and say something rude doubting the necessity of the cat in our household anyway. We're out of bread. I guess I'll just tell the husband to pick some up because it's not baking itself. I don't even think I want to shower or get dressed. I'd have to corral the baby first. 

Sometimes I give him the Kindle and let him watch Youtube videos in my bed while I snuggle next to him and doze. 

For hours.

So much guilt.

Sometimes I have this fantasy, and it's martyrish so it's relatively guilt-free. In it, I don't have migraine or fibromyalgia but some sort of brain cancer and I die. And this is a GOOD THING because I have life insurance. Enough to pay off all of my medical bills and other debts (except for the mortgage and student loans, the latter would go away and the former isn't such a big deal) and with the money my husband doesn't have to pay for my medical bills, he could pay for a nanny AND put money away for retirement. I can afford to die. I just can't afford to be sick.

I have learned to prevent migraines. I wear these huge obnoxious full spectrum sunglasses that cost me almost $30 every time I leave the house during the day. They are terribly scratched up so that I can barely see out of them but I can't afford to replace them and I can't afford to let the sun hit my retinas and put me down for two days, so I still wear them. I never eat more than 5 almonds at a sitting or half a grapefruit and no kiwi at all because I know these things will trigger a migraine. Sometimes I still get them, even when I did everything right, but I still feel like I have some measure of control there.

Fibromyalgia though is a mystery to me. I can't figure out how to prevent attacks. I can't correlate them with anything else except an overwhelming sense of misery and dread. It controls my life. I squeeze what I can into good days and lay around miserable on bad days, promising myself I'll get to whatever it is on a better day. 

It has come to mirror a sort of bipolar disorder.

On a good day I go manic, with the desperation of someone who knows her time is short. I will scrub the house from top to bottom. It will reek of lavender oil and vinegar mingled with the scent of baking. The garden will be weeded. The websites will be full of new posts, updates, etc. I will even write posts that will go out in the future. Because I know that soon there will be no time for posts. No time for anything but self-pity. And I will be happy they are there. I will make huge meals and freeze them, for the same reason. I am delighted with emails, posts on forums, whatever they are. I answer them cheerfully. Even if they're critical because I know that all feedback is good feedback and I am striving to improve. Yes, I can do that for you. Is there anything else you need? I am available to you. I want to help you. I like to help you. My time is yours. If I had money, you could have that too.

On a bad day, I just lay here. Everyone eats cereal. I don't care. I am pain. I can't understand you, you're talking too fast. You want something from me, don't you? Well forget it. Just go away. You're too loud.

I hate those websites. I dread checking my emails because they will make me feel shitty. I know some ungrateful idiot is going to be asking me questions he could have answered himself just by doing a quick search of the site I worked so hard on. Or they want to complain that I got something wrong at the Witchipedia or put too much personal information on PaganMichigan. Screw them. They can edit those pages their damn selves. It's open friggin source. It was never supposed to be just me. I ask for help monthly and nobody wants to help. They just want to complain. Screw them. Screw the whole damn community. Someone wants me to give them a Pagan name, but can't be bothered to fill out the whole questionnaire: well screw them then. Nobody. not one person. Not once has ever Paypal-ed me a tip, and only one has ever emailed me back to say "thank you" so why should I bother. Obviously, nobody likes the names I send them. I suck. They suck. The whole damn Pagan world wants everyone to give them everything for free. I hurt. I am pain. I can't afford a doctor and I don't have the right medicine. I hate everyone who doesn't hurt. I hate everyone who can go to the doctor. I hate everyone and their ridiculous first world problems. I hate everyone who can think clearly enough to ask a stupid question.  Whey are they bothering me after all I give them. For free. Without ever asking anything in return. Not that they'd give anything. 

Ugh. Who is this! This isn't me!!!

This is Pain. It has made me less of a Lady. It has made me less of a person. I don't like who I am when I am Pain.

My life is rain and making hay while the sun shines. The worse the rainstorm, the more desperate the haymaking...

I am two different people. So vastly vastly different. I am pain and I am joy. I am apathy and I am generosity. I am graciousness and I am resentment. I am friendly and I am suspicious. I am the one who gets things done and the one who doesn't do shit. I am a giver. I am a hater. Sometimes I do not know me. Sometimes I do not like me. Sometimes I wonder how other people could stand to be around me, how anyone could love me. Sometimes I am sure no one does because they don't care enough when I am hurting. They don't offer to help.  (But I am not supposed to think this last bit. That is not how I was raised. And now I have guilt.)

Monday, April 21, 2014

My Earth Day Resolution

It's Earth Day again and time for me to commit myself to another year of softening my footprint. Last year, I committed myself to reducing waste in my household and I've done an okay job.

Here's what I've accomplished this past year:
  • I have eliminated almost completely the use of disposable sponges, paper towels, napkins and tissues through the use of washcloths, handkerchiefs and cloth napkins. The cloth napkins were the most expensive. You can get a giant bundle of washcloths at Meijer or Walmart for under $5. We do keep a roll of paper towels for cleaning up cat puke. We just bought a new roll. We bought the last one in September, that's about 6 months. Not bad.
  • We use cloth diapers most days. I used cloth diapers exclusively for a long time, but when we moved and our washing machine was damaged in the process, we used disposable diapers because it wasn't practical to take cloth diapers to the once a week laundromat trip. After our washing machine was repaired and hooked up properly, we returned to using cloth diapers most of the time. We use disposables on the go, but we don't go out much. Potty training is upon us. I will be selling my cloth diaper stash the end of this summer.
  • I really wanted to make an awesome compost bin and show you how I did it, but we didn't have enough time between when we moved in and the snow started. We did, however, make a compost heap at the back corner of the property. It has HUGELY reduced the amount of garbage we throw away. I also started raising composting worms. Yep, they're right next to my desk in a red plastic bin. There aren't enough of them yet to make much of a difference, but they'll reproduce. I have some pretty exciting composting ideas for this spring, so we'll see what happens.
  • I signed up for biweekly recycling pickup. Though there was a period when recycling had to be dropped off and I am afraid we didn't do to well with that.
  • I greatly reduced my use of plastic bags, plastic wrap & etc. I do still use aluminum foil once in awhile but the foil can be recycled. I invested in some freezer-safe containers (since I don't own a microwave they didn't need to be microwave safe) and I use those to store food and even in lunch boxes. I also re-use containers that food came in at the store. For example, I have an old coffee can with the word "FLOUR" written on it in sharpie which stores... flour... and my son has some old oatmeal containers that store various small toys. I also buy beans, rice & etc. in bulk and then store them at home in old pickle jars.
  • I pack lunch boxes, and eat out less, and my husband eats out less. But I still eat more fast food than I should.
  • I have shopping bags, so the cashier doesn't have to use plastic or paper. However, I don't remember to take them as often as I should.
  • I am cooking from scratch much more. So we are reducing the amount of packaging we throw away from things like bread, cookies & etc. 
  • I got a Kindle Fire on which I make my obsessive lists, including my shopping list, keep my obsessive notes and read endlessly. Before I got that thing I was constantly picking up a new notebook at the store because I couldn't find my old one (which inevitably turned up the next day) just so I could journal my dreams, write to do and shopping lists, jot down blog & wiki ideas, & etc. Now I do all that on the Kindle - no paper! I use the Springpad App, by the way. Also, before the Kindle my husband and I each had our own pocket calendar and the big calendar on the wall and got new ones every year. Now we use the Cozi app which keeps everyone's calandars on our Kindles or on our computers - though we do still have a big one on the wall because Grandma gives us one every year with all the family birthdays on it.

There is still more I need to do.
And so, I recommit myself to the SAME Earth Day resolution as last year. I am very proud that we're using less paper and plastic products and that we're re-using, but there are so many more things we can be doing, especially now that we're in the new house. That is - I resolve to greatly reduce waste in my household and life. This I do in honor of the sacred Earth, our Mother!

Here are just a few things:
  • We need to improve the insulation of the basement and attic and caulk the windows before next winter to reduce the amount of fuel oil required to keep the house warm. I can't believe how much fuel oil was wasted this year! Out the windows!
  • We need to produce more of our own food to reduce the packaging, not to mention the fuel, we use to bring food into the house. We can eliminate such things as egg cartons and plastic produce bags quite easily. I can also cook more things from scratch, especially using home grown products, to further reduce packaging. Some things we use regularly that I could make myself in the next year: pasta, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, marinara sauce, mayonnaise, salad dressings, tortillas, perogies.
  • We need to get the workshop set up in the garage and the sewing machine set up... wherever I can find space... and we need to learn to repair things and make things.
  • We should get an energy audit.
One thing I has given me a great deal of trouble over the past few months is the issue of waste at work. Now I don't really have a full time job per se, (unless you count homemaker, mom and webmistress) but I do work outside the home periodically. Over the past few months I have been a home health aide, an office manager and nanny. I am also a dog trainer but I haven't had a client since November, so whatever. As a home health aid I start to feel really guilty about the 10th time I put on a fresh pair of rubber gloves. The endless use of paper towels at work as a home health aide and as a nanny is also squirmworthy. Working in the office I can't believe the boss really needs two copies of everything and that I have to print out every email he receives. WTH? So much paper! So glad I don't have to do that all the time.

Granted, I spend a lot of paper drawing. But I do use recycled paper.

Some more challenges I have experienced and anticipate experiencing:

  • Money- We're chronically short on cash so things like insulating the basement and attic are challenging. #1 priority before next winter is putting a door on the stupid basement so the cold can stop creeping up the stairs!
  • Time- The truth is, I have plenty of time. But my husband does not. He's got his full time day job (so grateful he does!) and he's almost a full time musician. He likes it that way. I am not overly thrilled. This means that I am almost always primarily responsible for supervising the toddler. Not easy to do when power tools are involved. It also means I rarely have that extra hand for things like, you know, holding a door in place while it gets attached to hinges. True I have a teenage boy, but he also works and goes to school full time and is somewhat cantankerous. 
  • Organization - I have found that the biggest cause of waste around here is poor organization. When you get behind on laundry, paper towels and disposable diapers get used. When you get behind on dishes, take out becomes a big temptation and baking becomes a chore instead of a pleasure. When you haven't cleaned the fridge in awhile, you never know what's rotting & wasting in there. When you don't plan the menu ahead of time, you don't get the shopping list right and you buy stuff you don't need and have to take extra trips out for stuff you do need. And of course, when you're not organized, you don't have time, and your money just disappears without being noticed.

So there you go. Revisiting, continuing. Reducing waste! Reduce, reuse, recycle. Etc.

And I'll ask again, though I've never gotten an answer before - What's your Earth Day Resolution?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Views on Minimum Wage

My daughter is a big advocate of raising the minimum wage to $11 from its current rate of $7.40 here in Michigan. I believe she is such a big advocate because she and her boyfriend make minimum wage. She only has one job. He has 3. They do okay. They could do better.

Because she feels so passionately about the subject, I am forced to think about it often and the subject is starting to grow on me. I may have felt more passionate about it when she was little when I did work minimum wage and never had less than 2 jobs as the primary caretaker for two children who might have wanted to hang out with me once in awhile. But then I didn't have time to think about things like that. And now it is to me more a matter of logic than one of emotion. Allow me to demonstrate.

If you make minimum wage, and you work 40 hours a week (in my experience this does not happen often because employers who can't be bothered to pay their employees a living wage also don't want to call them "full time" with any sort of benefits to go along with that status), you will earn about $250 a week, after taxes. Possibly less if you have no dependents, but we're going to work with that number because it's nice and round. If you're working in a month with 4 weeks, that's $1000 per month ($1,184 gross). Another nice round number. Let's take that number and play with it a bit.
(I admit I suck at math, but I'm going to do this anyway)

On a side note, I would like to point out that the poverty threshold in Michigan government for a single person household with no dependents is $11,344 and benefits are available to those earning up to 150% of poverty or $17,016 which pretty much qualifies all minimum wage workers to government benefits. Someone would have to earn $8.87 per hour and work full time to exceed this limit. So logic dictates that the minimum wage should be at least $8.87 per hour.

I truly believe that employers who rely on the government to feed their full-time employees is the greatest drain we have on our society today and it's really a pity that legislation has to be considered to put an end to it. But I digress. As usual.

Let's begin.

Here in Michigan you can get a decent 1 bedroom apartment for about $450, a two bedroom for $700 and lot rent in a trailer park is about $400. The income to housing payment guidelines used by most landlords in reviewing rental applications is 30%. That's $355 for someone making minimum wage. That means that a full-time minimum wage earner cannot even qualify for a one bedroom apartment. And let's say that the landlord lets it slide and rents them a $450 one-bedroom apartment anyway.

After rent, said minimum-wage earner will have $550 left. I'm going to be generous and assume that the landlord pays for heat, water and garbage pickup. Chances are electricity will not be included. Now I pay about $200 per month for electricity, despite my many energy saving schemes, but I have a big house with lots of people in it and lots of electronics that I don't think my single minimum wage earner can afford, so let's figure he pays about $75 per month in electricity. He'll need a phone, whether it's a cellphone or a house phone, for safety reasons at the very least, so let's say he's frugal and that'll be about $50 per month. We're at $425. And I believe I'm being very conservative with my estimates.

Let's say our guy is a pretty good cook and buys real food, spending about $50 per week. I can't believe he has a garden because of the nature of his apartment so he'll have to buy all of his food. I hope he doesn't live in Detroit, because I hear food is really expensive there. So now we're at $225 per month. Of course I am assuming he isn't getting his food from the government or a food pantry.

Not bad. But I'm going to assume he has a car so he can get to his job. That's what? $50 per month in gas, assuming he was lucky enough to get an apartment close to work and about $100 per month for insurance. We'll assume the car was a gift and he doesn't have to pay a monthly payment on it. We're at $75 now.

So, what can you buy for $75?

  • An internet connection OR cable (not both). - But not a TV or computer.
  • An outfit OR a pair of shoes (not both) I hope he doesn't have to pay for his own uniforms. I hope he's really a he and doesn't have to buy bras too.
  • Oh wait, I didn't count things like toilet paper, razers, soap, dish soap, laundry soap, toothpaste...
  • Maybe a chair or a mattress from the Salvation Army
  • Some car maintenance, as long as nothing actually needs fixing.
  • Oh man, I didn't count his health insurance either. Well, maybe he won't get sick. He probably doesn't get paid time off anyway. Oh wait, he probably qualifies for state assistance. No worries then.
  • I hope he's got good teeth and doesn't need glasses
  • About 12 hours of daycare. It's a good thing this guy doesn't have any kids. But no worries, if he did, the government would pay for his daycare at a substandard rate.

Now let's assume the same guy makes the new proposed minimum wage of $11 per hour and has the exact same expenses. (I actually find $11 per hour a little high, but I'm going with it anyway.) I'll even put him in a higher tax bracket and leave him with $1500 per month.
That leaves him with $725. Oh wait, he doesn't qualify for state health insurance anymore so let's get him a nice health plan and knock it down to $525

So, what can you buy for $525?

  • Both internet and cable
  • An outfit, complete with bra and shoes and a haircut and a mani-pedi
  • A trip to the Dentist
  • A new pair of glasses
  • A date
  • A night out with the boys
  • A complete bedroom set from the Salvation Army or a few nice pieces from your neighborhood furniture store
  • A car payment on a new, safe car
  • Or some repairs on your old car
  • A class or two at a local college
  • About two weeks of pre-school, if he had a kid, which he doesn't, of course.

More importantly, what does this give the community?

  • He's no longer getting government funds and he's paying more taxes, potentially lower taxes for the rest of us or maybe those taxes would be spent on other things, like education, potholes, parks and mental health services.
  • More income from more customer activity for his local internet and cable company, clothing store, doctor, dentist, eye doctor, restaurant, bar, theater, furniture store, auto mechanic and college and potentially many more.
  • A more well-educated neighbor and potential employee.
  • A neighbor who is less likely to resort to illegal activity to get by- people who are well educated are less likely to commit violent crimes as are people who are well-fed. 
  • A neighbor who is driving a car that is safer and less likely to malfunction and cause an accident you might be the victim of.
  • A healthier neighbor, less likely to spread disease when you visit his workplace or he visits yours.

But wait! I know there are so many arguments against raising the minimum wage. Arguments that look like these:

1. Minimum wage jobs are mainly for teenagers anyway.
If this were true, MacDonald's wouldn't be open during school hours.

Besides, any employer would rather hire an adult over a teenager. Teenagers are notoriously unreliable and have a reputation for not taking their jobs seriously.

Also, many places have policies against hiring anyone under 18 for liability reasons. If you work with animals, chemicals, alcohol, certain machinery (slicers), you don't get the job if you're under 18 because employers don't want your mommy suing them when you lose a finger. (And of course the law requires that you be over 18 to sell alcohol).

2. Well college kids then.
Really? In the above example, our minimum-wage-earner has no dream of going to college on that income unless he takes out a butt load of loans and spends the rest of his life in debt. No, grant is ever going to cover everything unless you're some sort of sports star.

When I was in college full time and getting financial aid in the form of grants, loans and the workstudy program I still had to work an additional minimum wage job AND I got foodstamps and medicaid. And guess who is paying $200 a month for the rest of her life for the privilege of doing so. (I will NEVER recommend anyone take out student loans. Ever.)

Any employer who expects his employees to rely on the government for their livelihood is screwing the entire country. Not just his employees.

3. These are all "stepping stone" jobs. Nobody expects them to be a career.
Why does this have to be true? It doesn't. These jobs require specialized skills and special personalities to do them well. Some people are really good at retail and food service jobs and find that they really enjoy doing them. These are the people you want to keep. You keep them by paying them a living wage.

Unfortunately, if you're really good at a job and you can't make ends meet doing it, you are forced to seek employment elsewhere. There are TONS of mediocre cubical dwellers who would make excellent grill masters, cashiers, kennel workers, and retail associates if only they could make enough money to eat doing what they love. Instead they're stuck doing something they can only put half effort into while the jobs they'd love to do are filled with people who would do anything to get out.

Wouldn't it be better for everyone if people worked at the drive through because they love working at the drive through and worked in the office because they love working in the office?

Imagine a world where the guy you buy your pizza from LOVES making pizza and spends his free time perfecting his kneading technique. And the lady who sells you shoes LOVES shoes and spends her free time researching the latest fashions and fitting methods. And the person who takes care of your dog at the kennel loves working at the kennel, has been there for years and knows you and your dog by name. And you can always depend on them to be there because they're earning a living wage.

Instead we have a world where these people must sadly turn away from jobs they love to work at jobs they hate just so they can make ends meet and they are replaced by people who only took their beloved job because they "couldn't find anything better".

I hated working in an office at $18 per hour and loved picking up poop for minimum wage. If I could pick up poop for say $12 per hour, I'd do it forever. I really would. But I can't afford to pay daycare so that I can pick up poop for minimum wage, so I don't do it. Wouldn't  you rather I took care of your dog, (which I'm good at) rather than handling your sensitive documents (which I suck at and hate)? Instead you've got someone who doesn't know the first thing about dogs working at the kennel "until something better comes along".

4. If we raise minimum wage, employers will have to fire people
This may be true in the short term, but I am sure it'll all balance out. Remember that guy in our example who couldn't even afford an outfit and a pair of shoes at the current minimum wage who also hit the salon at the proposed new minimum wage?

It's true that some employers won't be able to pay all of their employees if the minimum wage goes up. But very soon some employers will find that demand for their products have increased dramatically due to a larger percentage of people who can afford them in the community and they will have to hire more employees to meet the demand.

5. These minimum wage jobs are unimportant and do not require any special skills
Seriously? Minimum wage workers prepare your food, care for your children and pets and make and sell the products you use every day. Do you really want unskilled workers caring for your infant child while you're at work? I think not. How safe do you feel about the prospect of eating hamburgers prepared by people who haven't learned about food safety?

When you go to work at MacDonald's, you have to learn food safety. You have to learn how to work the cash register and their myriad food-like substance creating machines. These are all skills you are learning. And while you're learning these skills, you are slowing down the productivity of the entire operation. And in a few months when someone offers you $8.50 to go work at Wendy's, you're going to take your skills and go. And when someone offers you $9.00 to work at 5 Guys, you're going to take your skills and go again until finally someone says "Hey, you can work in my office for $15 an hour and actually eat real food occasionally" all those skills just went to hell. All the effort someone put into teaching you those skills were wasted. Even if you HATE working in an office and LOVE working fast food, you will leave and your former employer is going to have to teach someone else that skill set and it's going to have a negative impact on his productivity.

What if instead you learned all those skills and stayed. What if your employer valued your skills and paid you a living wage and when you were offered a job from another store he was willing to pay you more to keep you? Then when your friend came along and said "Hey you can make $15 per hour working in my office" you might say "You know what, I think I can continue making $12 an hour doing something I love and I am good at." And your friend would have a better office worker in the end, because he'd hire someone who didn't hate the job and already had the skillset.

I know, I sound a little Communist here, but I really believe everyone should do what they are good at and what they love. I believe that if everyone could survive doing what they are good at, that everyone would receive better service, better care and better products. This can not happen when the wage disparity is so great.

What confuses me is that people make lots of money sitting in offices typing numbers into spreadsheets while other people are sweating over hot grills, dealing with angry customers and cleaning up other peoples' crap and making barely enough to survive. That's unnatural. Or at least it should be. My husband says the people who work the hardest make the least, and in many cases I think this is true, but it's stupid. The people we as a society depend on deserve more. We need to remember that we depend on them and treat them accordingly.