Friday, January 20, 2017

Dread

This is not a good day. Plus, I plan to boycott tomorrow. That's when we lose one of our best presidents and get saddled with a narcissistic pathological liar. For 4 years. And he will have the assistance of a reactionary bunch of sycophants who have been chomping at the bit to dismantle what is best about this country.

If you've been paying attention, and aren't one of those "I don't follow politics but..." smug multitudes, I shouldn't have to list all the impending losses. It promises to start with the free press, the ones who are too ratings oriented or cowardly to speak truth not only to power but to the people. Cynical me says that's no great loss, given their track record for the last several years, but there's nothing big or powerful enough to replace them.

That's totally chilling.

Trump is not a side show, a circus act, an entertainer. He is not how he's been presented to us by "the media". He is a threat to our economic system, our peace and safety, our rights, our environment including possibly the whole planet's environment. Soon we will know, if there are still truth tellers with loud enough voices out there, if he can add "traitor" to his list of "accomplishments". You know, up there with con man, denigrator and assaulter of women and raper of underage women, failed businessman who can manage to go bankrupt owning a casino (seriously, how does anybody manage that? The house always wins!), and on and on. I don't even give a shit how goldenly kinky he is. That's not going to damage our country.

Maybe one of the most positive signs is that he thinks Presidents get to take weekends off. It might minimize the harm. Of course, that leaves the country to the tender mercies of a selection of rich white men who almost uniformly believe in exactly the opposite of the tasks of the jobs they have been nominated for.

How did we get  here? Part of it was outside manipulation, sure. Tell yourself that when you need to find a scapegoat. But the real culprit was us. WE grew complacent. WE got too "busy" to pay attention. WE found celebrities of more substance than our laws and rights. WE didn't bother to do the real work needed to find out the actual causes of our economic downturns because it was so much easier to blame whichever group of "THEM" was put before us. WE let "taxes" become such a dirty word in our collective greed that WE never stopped to think who really could/should/had been paying them and what they were actually properly used for: buying civilization.

TANSTAAFL! There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch!

We want to drive on perfect roads, promptly cleared of snow and ice, passing over bridges that never need to be upgraded, and get wherever ASAP. No inconvenience. No safety issues. And no taxes. We want clean pure water but again, never want to pay taxes to get it and keep it. We put down teachers who try their best given yearly shrinking salaries, higher class sizes, and fewer class options - how are the arts programs in your local public schools these days? -  because, hey, no increase in taxes!

Or should we just say No Brains?

Remember, an ignorant populace is a malleable one, one that is kept too busy trying to stay alive to pay attention to what's really going on. And never ever doubt that ignorant and stupid people are very confident of how highly smart they are.

We don't want the very rich to have to pay estate taxes because they've been renamed "death taxes" and we're too stupid or lazy to find out that they don't even apply to us,  just to the very very rich who want to keep on being very very rich because the poor just aren't worthy. Of anything, apparently.

We don't want to inconvenience the business gods with regulations like the ones that try to ensure food safety, clean air and water, equal opportunities  and living wages for their workers, because the business gods whine about the horrible burdens they have to put up with in order to comply, and their profits might drop a bit from the billions they are used to hoarding.

We coddle Big Agriculture who wants a perfect yield with no pests stealing a single grain or crowding out a single leaf for sun, so we allow then to use chemicals that may well soon destroy the bee populations that actually produce the edible parts of the crops they grow. Then what will we eat? Or is this a sneaky way of getting population control in a way the Churches haven't thought to deem immoral yet, before it's too late?

 We let Big Pharma charge outrageous prices to produce medicines that were actually developed using funds provided by the federal government, even passing laws that forbid us to bargain those prices down. Just like this country has passed laws that forbid us to study gun violence statistics so we can know how many people get shot every day/week/year. They want us all afraid. And armed. The NRA is in bed with the gun manufacturers way past the point of sense, and every new boogyman who is pointed at stirs us up again.

So how did we get here? I think Pogo said it best, many years ago. "We have met the enemy, and they is us."

Don't ever doubt it, when things get bad. WE did it.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Angel, First

If you haven't read the last posting, this won't make as much sense to you. So for what it's worth, you have been warned.

The remodel is proceeding, slowly. I've done my bit, not just clearing and cleaning. (I mean, would you want to work on somebody's bathroom that hasn't been properly cleaned due to inability to run water, for one thing?) The last three days have involved my sitting out on the patio table, painting.

Both bathrooms had ugly shelf units mounted on the walls, one for mine, two for Steve's. By ugly I refer to color, style, and years of dirt. Start with Steve's bathroom. One was a two-shelf slick plastic monstrosity in intense Pepto-Bismol pink. After washing, it was the only one to become actually clean. But the reason for that is that the surface is so slick that not just dirt, but paint too, wouldn't stick to it.

It was a relief when Steve agreed with me that painting it wasn't an option, and it could find a new home somewhere. Say, in a landfill. He hadn't really used it anyway. There were no ridges on the edges, so a little bump would knock any contents off, no mean consideration when you realize that it had been placed right over the toilet.

That left us each with a two-shelf unit, maybe 18" long, with a rail or raised edge that would actually hold things in place. And surfaces of sufficient roughness that paint would actually adhere. Steve's was some thin kind of metal, perhaps tin, solid shelves and vertical supports, filigree back and rim, scrollwork supporting the bottom. Very not masculine. It had already once been painted, a color formerly prized by institutions, that my ex used to call peach-barf-pink. Yes, ugly. But usable.

His bathroom walls were getting changed to a medium blue, a deeper shade than the living room, kitchen, and hallway for those of you who have seen our house, but same general color tone. We had some leftover deep blue paint, one you perhaps could call copen, perhaps navy. I dug around in the workroom and found the leftover half can of that, along with a small brush, stirred it until both the black on top and the white on the bottom were uniformly mixed in (hey, what's with that, anyway?), and began to paint.

It was kind of a mess. I started with the filigree in the back. It took a lot of brushing from multiple angles to get all that peachy crap covered, and while I was doing that, I wasn't paying any attention to where the thick drippings off the brush were landing. Hey, I'd covered the table with cardboard, so who cared? But most of them landed on the surface of the bottom shelf, and the dry wind made it impossible to properly smooth them out by the time I'd finished the back. Lucky for me, Steve's not fussy. But shhh! Don't tell him! Anyway, I kept painting what I thought was the rest of it, noting that brush marks were appearing due to the stark contrast in colors, and my attempts to correct them were just causing other ones to appear. So, second coat next day.

It was a good thing too, because with all the scrollwork, in addition to the filigree, there were lots of spots I missed the first time. But two coats, and two overnight dryings, and it was good to go. Looks great in there, and I was right about how the colors would mate. As a bonus, the more stuff he packs on the bottom shelf, the less lumpy it'll look.

My shelf unit was both simpler and harder. Simpler because the nasty old dirty white shelves were both just flat arcs with a straight, open back. Harder because the metal connectors, rails, and finials on the top did not disconnect from the unit. I'd have to do my best to avoid painting them, and keep a wet rag handy. Since my paint was left over from the current repaint of my bathroom, making the paint thinner, any drip was much more easily dealt with. My unit required only one painting and a single night drying, and I brought it in to sit on top of the new sink until the handyman could get it installed.

Steve and I were both using my facilities at this point, and I got a kick out of him commenting how well the new shelf color matched my bathroom!

Ya think?

The shelves are up now, and it is time to begin moving back into my bathroom. There is still some tub work to do, but I can use the rest of it. I like knowing where to find things, just where they used to be kept, rather than trip over and sort through boxes of stuff on the floor next to my bed. The first thing to go back was a little ceramic angel.

Now mind you, I don't consider this "my" angel. I didn't buy it, do not collect them, and don't actually believe in the religious tenets that espouse them, not in any superstitious ability of them to bring me luck. But this one comes with a story, and that's why she went back first.

My ex brother-in-law, John, has been married three times. Pam was #2, the mother of their children. Pam was the collector of angel figurines, and had a generous soul to match. So far as I know, she'd be married to him still except for one little thing: liver cancer. Several years ago, after the funeral when the close relatives and friends gathered at the house for food and remembrances, we were all invited, in a giving way that was impossible to decline regardless of one's personal thoughts about angels, to pick out our favorite one to take home as a final gift from Pam. I found a cute one I could live with, and she's been on display somewhere ever since.

So when the newly painted shelf went back up, she was the first thing to be placed there. I don't think of her as an angel or a religious symbol. She's a reminder of Pam, and all the love she was capable of.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Money Pit

Yes, I confess: we bought a money pit.

It's not that we weren't warned. The pictures were gawd-awful ugly, from dirt to decorating. The landscaping wanted regular drowning. The inspector had a two-page list for us, the kind you can only call a honey-do list if you're getting a little something-something on the side. And for the record, NO!

A full dumpster of crap left the driveway roughly the same time the moving van emptied out and left too. Paint and cleaners came in by the gallons, holes got spackled, shelves were built and painted, plants  got replaced (mostly either with rocks or as bunny delights). There were plumbing emergencies, with a long list of replacements following. Electrical wiring and fixtures got replaced, again with a to-do list to follow up on. Some new things keep getting added to the list, some get noted and ignored. An example of the last is the roof leak over the patio. As long as we remember to move chair cushions before a rain, the only thing that gets wet is concrete. It's way down on the give-a-shit list.

Last year Home Depot introduced us to their list of reputable handymen. This simplifies things greatly for us. We can put more money into buying their stuff and having somebody who knows how and doesn't charge three arms and a leg do the work for us. Last year we got the showers fixed. This year a ceiling hole with wires just got converted to a light/fan fixture, a malfunctioning motion sensor light got replaced with an attractive switch light, and that's just today, the start of the current list. Both bathroom vanities and sinks are getting replaced along with bad plumbing, making both sinks usable again, bathroom walls will be spackled and painted and the laminate floors will join the new additions where they need to, and once we see where that comes in on the budget, we're working on the next part of the list.

More insulation? Another repair? Debt reduction? Vacation? We'll see.

Two years ago the extent of the to-do list scared us. We'd gotten a quote from the plumbing company that our HOA recommended. They wanted $18 grand. And no, that was not going to include any repairs to walls or floors after they were done. We were also told that the pine tree out front not only had to go, but that we'd need them to treat its roots every year or two to prevent it from regrowing.

Really? A pine tree? Not a weeping willow, not an aspen,  but a pine tree? The same kind of tree that gets killed when you top it, that kind of pine tree? I have since noticed that this same plumbing company has lots of funding to support regular TV commercials. Coincidence, ya think?

So, we're getting stuff done in bits, and for bits. And despite the extra needed for tires, laser vs. scalpel eye surgery, a tooth extraction that's looking like it's gonna become two real soon, paying off the AC/furnace loan...

You know: life.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

That "Safe" Spot

If you're anything like me, you tuck important things away in, well, what you think of at the time are "safe" spots. It might be an important document, one you know you are going to need later, but don't have, say, the correctly labeled file folder for at the moment. It might be that newly updated  password, or combination for a new lock you haven't customized yet.

And, if you are anything like me, that safe spot is the safest place in the world to keep things from... me. The "Where did I put that?" can plague you for months, years, or as long as  you are willing to keep hunting and never finding it.

What doesn't count is that thing you never thought you'd need again in your lifetime. I got married back in '67, divorced in '81. Best forgotten, as much as possible. Papers "lost" on purpose. I know who I am, so does the government when it's time to collect taxes, or keep track of my eligibility for Social Security. I have an original birth certificate, issued way back when it was thought important to know whether I was legitimate or not. For you younger generations, that translated to whether my parents were married before I was born. But I hear lately that if I ever want to fly again, I need documentation to prove not only that I am who I say I am, but I am who I was. My name changed. It'll be a major document hunt, involving two states I no longer live in, but I have to trust that those proofs are in a couple of government files someplace, that is, in truly safe spots, and only a migraine full of work will be involved in securing copies. So that doesn't count.

The real heartbreaker for me was when I noticed a prong was missing from my Mother's ring, and rather than chance losing a very nice sapphire, I chose to remove the ring and put it in a "safe spot." No, that safe spot was nowhere within my jewelry chest, logical as that may have been. Face it, if you throw in a touch of paranoia, that would be the first place a thief would look, and that ring is one of the two only truly valuable pieces of jewelry I have ever owned. Why would I think it was safe in a jewelry box? It also had a lot of sentimental value. My youngest had given me the three birthstones, and they are richly colored and sizeable. It was custom designed, nickle-free gold since I had just found out about that allergy, and just-for-fun I had taken a bunch of small diamonds from another, old piece of jewelry and had them channel-set around the birthstones. I turned in several pieces of old gold, including a tooth crown, so my out-of-pocket at the time was affordable. Replacement now? Forget it!

The other valuable one was a dinner ring that I had made using my engagement diamond plus a few other smaller stones. Both rings had been appraised and insured, and for years, both worn every day. The half carat diamond got to seem a bit showy, and having managed to lose the other one, I decided to pass that along to the child I had picked to inherit it before something happened to it too.

I never put an insurance claim in on the other ring, as I "knew" I was responsible for putting it somewhere, and claiming anything else had happened to it, despite encouragement from others, didn't sit well. Some day I would find it again. But where?

I could picture myself sitting on the side of my bed in Arizona when I noticed the missing prong. My memories come that way. Important moments come with pictures. But then what? I will confess to looking through that entire jewelry chest at least five times over several years, unwilling to admit I'd done the job well enough the previous times. I checked out my suitcase pockets and my purses, because I had it stuck in my head that I would be returning to Minnesota and would be taking it to get repaired at a reputable jeweler I knew there. I emptied and refilled all of my camera cases, thinking I might have stuck it there. I looked through the laptop bag. I checked my files boxes because at the time I was still working and tax documents traveled back and forth. I even started looking through jacket pockets, nic-nacs, pottery pieces... everything I could think of, multiple times.

Steve and I had even discussed finding a hypnotherapist to locate that memory, but it seemed a lot of work to find one every once in a while when we thought about it, when I have no idea if I'm hypnotizable. Not to mention possible cost. Still, I wouldn't let it go.  Even tonight, with nothing much on TV and a bit of cleaning and sorting begging to be done, I decided to start with that old jewelry chest "just one more time". Until the next time. It wasn't there, of course.

There were a few storage bins on my shelves that needed some  sorting and tossing as well. I found a couple pairs of nail clippers that I knew had to be somewhere. Chapsticks too. Glasses cleaner. Old safety pins, padlocks, vitamins well past date, and a tube of athlete's foot cream that I haven't needed since I retired and go barefoot much more than shod. That tube was in a plastic bottle and looked like it had been oozing out the bottom and turning dark.

Luckily I took another quick look at it before I threw it out. That dark spot moved. It rattled. It turned into my missing Mother's ring, tucked away in a Safe Spot where nobody would ever be stupid enough to look for it. Especially not me.

Yeee Haaaaa!

Now, let's see: what else am I missing?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

I'd Love To Say....

...That my extracted tooth isn't bothering me any more. I'll have to settle for gratitude that I kept several Oxy around after knee surgery. And that I don't seem to get hooked on the stuff. I suppose I should also be grateful that it only takes a little over an hour for it to kick in after the big near-screaming jolt when the previous pill wears off at 2:15 AM.

...That I'm not depressed and scared silly with each new announcement of The Donald's latest cabinet appointee. But I just am. That's when I look over at Steve and am thankful for the thirty years of great friendship and each additional day of loving and being loved. I hope whatever new species follow us on this planet deserve it more than we did, and can figure out how to take better care of it.

...That I've figured out how to leave a meaningful legacy behind that we as a species haven't already demonstrated how to obliterate, that I believed beauty and love would outlast ugliness and evil,  or that there were a way to avoid permanent heartbreak that didn't involve total amnesia.

I'd love to say....

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

They Just Keep Coming

There's nothing quite exactly like being so high on your painkiller of choice that you think the reason you couldn't drive was that you were going to be lucky enough to find a dentist who would put you under in order to pull that abcessed tooth out, and now that the only one who could take you today would only use novocaine, you figured you'd be able to drive yourself home afterwards.

Good thing that the logic in that thought hit you while your driver was the one backing the car out of the drive, and not you.

I had a few Percoset left after the knee replacements, saved for just-in-case, and getting a broken and abcessed tooth over the X-mas holiday defined itself in my brain as the proper in-case moment. Days, actually. It has been so long that I'm not used to them any more, and the result was that 5 mg. was enough to kill pain, mostly, ensure sleep through half the night until time for the next pill, and once awake, leave me high enough to be silly. Downright dangerous as a driver as well,  had I chosen to be that stupid.

Still am, for that matter. Give me about 5 more hours before I get behind the wheel again.

On the plus side, the tooth is gone, the pain isn't likely to return except in a minor form which will serve to remind me I can't eat anything interesting for about three days and ceretainly not on that side, and I've discovered that the closest dentist is one I actualy like.

Yes, like!

 Amazing!

On the not-so-plus side, extractions don't come free. Medicare doesn't pay for them. Maybe they figure that by my age the teeth are all fake anyway. Maybe they're just cheap buggers. So I hope not to be going back anytime soon. There have been enough minor emergencies hitting the budget to hold me for a while. And I still haven't replaced those other three tires, hired getting the pine straw up off the back yard, fixed the bathrooms' plumbing, or gotten the roof properly insulated. Not to mention ...
oh shucks, I forgot whatever it was.

Time for a nap, anyway.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Makin' A List, Checkin' It Twice

Sending out holiday cards (aka X-mas cards if you insist, but not everyone in the family is religious) is a chore. Yes, it's one I usually enjoy. But it takes time, and work, and a lot of frustration when people move. That's the list I have to check twice. Maybe five times.

Some of you get lost. And it's not all my fault.

Let's start at the beginning. I have a tradition of sending out photo cards. No, not pictures of us, the kids, the pets, with the sole exception of 2012 when we sent out a wedding photo, all credit given to my son-in-law, Ben Zvan. Otherwise, the picture(s) sent out are whatever lodged itself in my brain during the year when I took it. They have a knack of saying,"I'm the one,"

Then it's a trip to Target, Walgreens, or Walmart. Somebody who'll take my photo and my idea of a message and print out cards for me. Many years ago that meant I had the option of creating my own message. Now I have to chose the message from a limited list, so no more clever "Have a Whale of a Good Holiday Season" combined with my favorite Alaska shot of a pod of humpback whales surfacing from bubble-net feeding.

Resigned to settling for their choices of message, I sit before their machine-of-the-year and try to figure out how this one works this year. Every one is programmed differently from the previous year. You may or may not be able to crop, or move within the frame differently than how the machine decided you wanted to do it. Most have switched to touchscreens now, but some years it was click-and-drag, some years a choice of buttons to push, other years a different set that only pretend to do the same things.

I still have never sat in front of one of their machines without taking up about half an hour of whatever employee  could spare seconds here and there. I will say, most of them have been polite about it, forgoing the chance to dish out heaps of humiliation to somebody less tech savvy than they are.

One change for the better is the wait for the cards. You used to get a receipt with a date on it to come back and pick them up. Now they're printed right in front of you from the machine you just used. They make sure you pay because that's how you get your envelopes to match the cards. Another improvement is the quality of the color. It used to be terrible if the chemicals wore out because of the workload and nobody bothering to refresh them.

This year had an extra glitch before even getting to the  store. That new computer has no disc drive. I didn't feel like fighting holiday shopping traffic to go out and find a thumb drive, or whatever the current version of media transfer technology is. I didn't even care to have to answer that question, thank you. Luckily, the new computer doesn't wipe the SD card when you upload picture files, so I still had them on the card. And about the only thing wrong with the old computer, once I charged it up again for a few hours, is no Wi-Fi. So I uploaded the files into the old one, selected out the ones I wanted, and burned a disc.

As a side note, I had extra motivation to use cheap on-hand media rather than buy a thumb drive. Some of those pictures were shot at Crex Meadows. Crex has an annual summer photo contest, and one of the requirements is a digital file of submissions for their future use. If I still like those pictures next summer, I can just send that disc in with the pics, no extra fuss or expense.

Now we come to that address list. My new computer does not recognize my old HP1200 printer. It still works perfectly, but I have to hook it up via the old laptop. Last year's X-mas card list with last year's addresses is one of the stored documents on it. Of course I printed it out along with the x-mas letter, also written (yesterday) on the old laptop.

 BUT... that list was a year old. And the rest of my problems are your fault. Some of you died, but I recognize that scolding you is pointless. Some of you married, some moved, some even moved again. Some of you have never figured out that if you give your new information to Steve, thinking it'll get onto my address list, it's likely not going to happen. That's especially true if you're on his cell directory, in his email list, or he can connect with you on Facebook. I'm still trying to let him know it's necessary to save your holiday card envelopes if you sent one.

I can at least connect with my family and friends. Well, until abut 3:00 PM this afternoon. That's when my address book on my new computer crashed.

Twice.

I'd go old school, since I still carry an analogue address book with me. But again, some of you have moved so many times that many pages filled up years ago. I really just need another one of those. The original is about 40 years old. A new one should last just fine. Especially if I invest in some White Out while it's still available.