Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Five

1. I am utterly, totally sleep-deprived. Between the Olympics and the DNC, I have spent entirely too much time glued to the TV lately.

But - I loved the convention. I am heartbroken I couldn't be there (Denver is only 2.5 hours away. So close! Yet, so far away.). I loved that "women's issues" were presented (rightly so) as more than just the conversation around abortion, but the right to better and equal pay, safety from violence, reliable access to effective health care and better schools. A tad more encompassing, seeing as how women are a bit more complicated than simply having uteruses. Nice.

And though I really wish someone would make a more concrete stand for gay rights, I like that, at the very least, equal access to "heteronormative" rights for gays and lesbians was brought up and brought up often. Smacks a bit too much of "separate but equal" but at least the battle is moving forward and is in the public, and out of the closet. 
Oh, and check this out! Biden not only uses public transportation every day, he loves and fights for it! *crush*

I am going to watch a bit of the RNC, but will have to meditate beforehand and remind myself over and over to listen and to try and control my legendary disbelief and anger whenever I hear something from the Official Repbulican Machine. NPR did a story yesterday about what RNC delegates adopted as the official RNC platform and holy shit - I was frothing at the mouth. Really?! I doubt McCain will campaign on some of the issues because as much as I dislike him, I don't think he is actually that crazy. He is not actually Cheney. I know and love many Republicans and can respect
some of the party's positions, but The Machine just about kills me. I mean, really????!!!!

(I love to follow politics, so be warned, there will be rants and exclamations popping up here for the next couple of months. I will be respectful -- and feel free to respectfully point out to me if I forget that promise -- but I won't kowtow to anyone. Feel free to comment if you like, but I'll delete any comments that are cruel, rude, or attack me or anyone else commenting on this site. Just saying.)

2. A. and I now have seven healthy, happy nieces and nephews! A.'s little sister, B., delivered C. a week ago Wednesday. As B., puts it, it "was a very comfortable labor," Wha...? She is a better woman than I, clearly. And - Little C. is the second of only two nieces and I am rather antsy to start spoiling her rotten.

3. A snippet of an exchange between A. and I one morning lst week:

[A., was watching this awesome, awesome show on the History channel called Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed while I puttered around the kitchen, getting ready for work.]

A.: Man, these commentors on the show are really getting into a lot of philosophical conversations about Star Wars. This is so cool.

Me: This is the kind of thing you do in American Studies. I swear, you should go into American Studies. You'd be so good at it.

A.: Oh, you missed it. The folks on the show were talking about how weird it was to [interview? do a panel with, I don't remember because I am old] with Stephen Colbert becasue it is weird to see him as him self, not as Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report.

Me: Oh! I bet it would be strange. In a weird way, I expect him to be in character all the time. I think of it as a character, and that he would be in character but I, oddly, think he would be in it all the time.

A.: Yeah, I know. Right after they talked about this I flipped to the Comedy Channel during a commercial and the Colbert Report was on. It was weird.

Me: Who says postmodernism is dead?

A.: Exactly.

I am with the perfect man. A casual chit chat about Colbert and postmodernism and Star Wars, all before breakfast? AWESOME.

4. I've had the same coffee travel mug for 14 years. It may be time for a new one. The adorable local kitchen store has a cute stainless steel one with a yogi in the Tree Pose on it. It has occupied my mind for, oh, the last three months. I think I really want it.

5. A. and I are meeting another couple in the mountains tonight. We are going to go fly-fishing (woo hoo!!!) for the first day, and then will spend the second day harvesting wood, mostly dead aspens. It should be a great weekend! The dogs are going to have a blast.

Happy Friday to you!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Feeling Squirmy

Three times in the past two weeks, my belly button ring has gotten SERIOUSLY snagged on my belt buckle.


Each time, the ring snagged when I was bent over doing something. Once, while gathering firewood, it got so snagged I COULDN'T STAND UPRIGHT. The latest incident was this morning.

Oh, god. The pulling. The pulling!!!



So, I am taking the damn thing out. I've had it for 12 years and the only time I even remember it is there is when I snag it. It was a silly college thing and I've been over it for about 11 years. I've just been too lazy to deal with it. It was a small miracle I went through with getting it in the first place.  The idea of or actual sensation of pulling skin freaks me out to no end and I've been know to pass out at the mere sight of needles.

This morning, while I practiced meditative, calming breathing A. tried to unscrew the ball so he could take it out, but to no avail. I think I am going to have to go to a parlor and have it removed. (It is still the original captive bead ring.) Every web site I've seen recommends going to a parlor or having your own pair of ring opening pliers.

Dear, God.

My belly button feels weird.

Oh, God. I can't get the sensation of pulling skin to go away. I am feeling a little sick.

Do you have any youthful piercings or tatoos you wish you could remove?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Awwww . . .

If you are having a bummer of a day, I nearly guarantee this will cheer you up.

Keep Going

Holy cow, Hillary was amazing.

One of many favorite snippets from her speech last night:

My mother was born before women could vote. But in this election my daughter got to vote for her mother for President.

This is the story of America. Of women and men who defy the odds and never give up.

How do we give this country back to them?

By following the example of a brave New Yorker , a woman who risked her life to shepherd slaves along the Underground Railroad.

And on that path to freedom, Harriett Tubman had one piece of advice.

If you hear the dogs, keep going.

If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.

If they're shouting after you, keep going.

Don't ever stop. Keep going.

If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.

Even in the darkest of moments, ordinary Americans have found the faith to keep going.

Indeed, keep going.

Have you watched any of the DNC? What do you think?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Warm, Passionate Hearts

Last Thursday A. and I had this wood-burning stove installed. It looks soooo lovely. Cozy! Cute! Brand-spankin'-new! It sits at the joining of our kitchen and living room, just teasing us. I find that I am almost -- ALMOST -- looking forward to winter. (Oh, who am I kidding? I am looking forward to a long, mild fall and short, short, short winter.)

It seems like it has been an absurdly long process to get this stove. Neither A. nor I can agree on who's idea it was to get the stove in the first place. He insists I brought it up, but two weeks ago I found a wood stove catalog (stamped with the same company's info that we did buy our stove from) that was more than a few years old in the bookcase in the office. As in, this little publication has been in A.'s life longer than I have. So, perhaps this was one of those decisions that manifested itself in simultaneous little whispers to both mine and A.'s subconscious brains. Who knows?

I suppose I am most to blame for how many days this decision took from our lives. I really wanted to know I was doing the best possible thing for our family's finances, you know? I developed spreadsheets that estimated the total cost of the purchase, taking care to think of all those other costs that come with it such as installation, accompanying materials for the stove (chainsaw, trailer for the truck, trailer permit, fireplace accessories, fuel for trips to the mountains, firewood permits, etc. A. thought of the cost of a spare tire for the trailer. Go, A.!). Then, I created three other rows to compare costs. One row if propane prices stayed exactly the same as they did last fall and winter (which I am certain they won't); one row estimating costs increasing by 30% from last year's prices; and a final row estimating if costs go up by 70% from last year. (The state energy adviser estimates winter energy costs to go up 30-70% in our state. Holy hell, OUCH.) At worst, the entire cost of the stove will be pay for itself in just over two years, at best, by next fall. 

Well, these scenarios are best and worst for us. It will definitely be worse for our neighbors, our friends, and low-income members of our community if prices increase so dramatically that our not-so-little purchase pays for itself quickly. While I'd love the satisfaction of knowing I made a wise financial decision my stomach would be sick for all the people truly struggling through the winter.  I hope it takes years for the stove to start earning us savings.

The stove, no doubt, will increase the quality of our days and nights throughout the long, long winter ahead. With A. in grad school and what he calls my insistence to work in the oh-so-high paying fields working for society's unfortunate, money is tight in our household. (He likes to joke (or say with pride?) that even if I do ever decide to go to law school, I'll probably still choose a practice that represents poor people, and hence still won't make any money. His observations is not unfounded.)

During the winter, we keep our thermostat at 60°F. Sometimes, to take the chill off a particularly harrowing walk from the car to the house in 40-mile-an-hour winds with razor sharp snow freezing any area of exposed skin, we might turn it up to 65°F for 15 minutes or so. I would be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to being much, much warmer this winter. I would be lying if I said I can't wait to see what this season's colors will be in the long underwear line. I'd be lying if I said I love pulling my "inside scarf" -- a Burberry knock-off that looks EXACTLY like this one -- around my neck and pairing it with my neon lime-green fleece vest, that nothing makes me feel cozier than bundling up to deal with the temperature inside my house.

A. immediately started to daydream about romantic nights when the electricity goes out, cuddling in front of the fire, candles burning and an open bottle of wine breathing on the table.

I am a pragmatist, he is a romantic. Apparently.

I would be lying if I said I don't get anxious every time I hear the heater kick on in February, wondering if there is any way I can make the propane last through March. Propane costs are less in late summer than  in the middle of winter, when demand -- and desperation -- are at their highest. We always fill up our tank in August, and then try to carefully ration our usage throughout the winter. It is a truly apprehensive thought, knowing you are utterly and completely at the mercy of a company out to make a profit. This idea is what dwells in my mind throughout February and March, darkening everything else with its sad, sad implications.

So, this wood stove makes me feel like I can fight back a bit. That I am not quite as powerless as I was last winter. That A. and I stand a fighting chance.  That I can finally say, "Fuck you, Amerigas!" and be able to back it up.

I like knowing that A. and I are responsible -- or have reclaimed some of the power, if you will -- in how we feel this winter. It makes going to the mountains to get firewood feel like a revolutionary act, in a way. With each blow of the splitting maul, we get to deliver a blow to unregulated industry. It feels that way, when the cost of a barrel of oil is directly related to the cost of heating your home. Plus, it is pretty nice to have an excuse to run around the mountains.

Our firewood adventures aren't all rainbows and unicorns and bunnies, of course. There is often much swearing going on, and a constant battle with the f'ing chainsaw. (Our latest theory is that it has a hard time with the low oxygen at high-altitude. We will stay below 9,000 ft from now on and see if that eliminates some of the battles.) Plus, moving and loading and chopping all that wood is HARD FUCKING WORK.

But, the work feels . . . honest.

This may all sound very melodramatic and such, and hey -- it's me writing so it may well be just a tad over the top. You might rightfully accuse me of over-romanticizing the experience in the mountains, the work at the house splitting wood. But I am acknowledging that it is still work, and that it requires different kinds of resources to make it happen. We are fortunate enough to be able to afford to make this happen. We could buy the stove outright with some of our savings. We could buy the trailer, doubling the efficiency of our trips to the mountains. We can afford -- painfully -- the gas required to take the truck. It would be an entirely different situation if we didn't have these resources, or have friends and family that could afford to share these kinds of resources. The line between our circumstances and the worse circumstances is thin. We could very well find ourselves navigating beauracratic labyrinths, trying to secure other resources. It would be lonely and frightening, and it would be so very hard to claw a way out.

We are fortunate. We will be warm.


If anyone reading this anticipates trouble with heating costs this winter or if you know someone who might, please, please don't hesitate to inquire about the energy assistance programsin your state. Most programs offer assistance from October through March, (but you can sign up now, I believe) and will even retroactively help pay for months that you weren't registered. In my state, officials expect there to be plenty of aid, so don't let the fear that their won't be enough aid to go around stop you from applying. Please don't be too proud to ask for help. Programs like these are tools to help you get through difficult times that are out of your control. It is a resource. Just as are federally-backed mortgages, financial aid for college...  Please consider assistance if you need it.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Egg Timers and Espionage

I knew Julia Child was involved with the Office of Strategic Services as a research assistant during World War II, but I had always read that her being an actual spy during WWII was just a rumor.

Turns out, Julia KICKED ASS.

You have no idea how much more this endears her to my heart. Fois gras AND a spy! Wow. Truly, here is a woman who did what she wanted. If she was ever afraid -- whether it was to learn to cook, to be on live television, or that she'd be caught by her enemy -- she never gave in to her fears. She pushed on and made the life she wanted.

What a wonderful role model. (I think so, anyway.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Great Decluttering: Weeks Two, Three and Four

  • I have a pile of 20 books between A. and I that need to be sold/donated/freecycled.

I want it noted, for all prosperity on The Internet, that 17 of these books are mine. Those of you who know me in "real" life understand what a big deal this is for me. Also? Two of the three books A. contributed are western romances or some shit that he *claims* he has no idea how they got on his bookshelf. Yeah, right.

  • Terra Cotta Bird House - Artemisia
  • One flower vase - Artemisia
  • One computer keyboard - A.
  • Extra 32-ounce empty yogurt tubs - Artemisia
  • All miscellaneous paperwork/junk mail from living room, front entrance table, and kitchen - Artemisia

  • A friend of ours is moving to the Midwest and A. took a mini-fridge off his hands. DAMMIT.


Man, Oh man, how I love Freecycle. I have given away so much stuff, totally usable, presentable stuff as well as  used (and cleaned) 32-ounce yogurt tubs.  I love that it is less hassle to get rid of stuff through Freecycle than trying to deal with our overwhelmed Salvation Army. The SA ends up throwing a lot of donations into the landfill. With Freecycle, I can at least hope that my items find a second use and avoid the landfill.

The only problem with Freecycle, for me, is coordinating the pick-up of my items up for grabs. The standard procedure for our local Freecycle group is for whomever is collecting the items up for grabs is responsible for picking them up (the donator does not deliver).  Since A. and I live seven miles out of town, leaving stuff on our front deck for folks to pick up on their own time doesn't really work. (Not to mention, our place is notoriously hard to find and I'd spend my evening on the phone, reiterating directions.) I am trying to figure out a good place to either meet people or drop my stuff off so as to avoid driving around town. It is not so free if I use up all the gas in my tank. I don't want people showing up at Workplace, that seems both tacky and inappropriate. I've suggested meeting in the parking lot of a restaurant that is in town and that I drive by on my way in to work or on my way home. That seems to work for most people. 

Do you have any other suggestions?

Since I am still dedicated to The Great Decluttering, I just ignore the posts listing free stuff. If A. and I decide there is something specific we are in need of, I'll just keep my eyes open.

I have no intention, whatsover, to show A. how to get these notices himself. No, no, no.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday Five

1. Daily ins and outs around here lately have been -- busy.

2. Projects that have been completed, are underway, or are being planned that have made life busy for A. and I:
  • budgeted, in excruciating detail, the cost of buying and installing a wood-burning stove rather than remaining solely at the mercy of The Propane Motherfuckers all winter;
  • moved money around accounts to pay for said stove; 
  • researched, then bought a CHAINSAW;
  • researched, then bought a trailer;
  • bought fencing materials;
  • put up 3/4 of the fence;
  • bought more fencing materials;
  • finished fence;
  • Choosing stain for new fence;
  • Finding a good evening to stain the fence;
  • Scheduled insurance adjuster to see if we had hail damage to the roof and found out that we do, indeed, have major hail damage and need a new roof;
  • Pursue estimates from SEVEN different contractors to fix the roof and some siding;
  • dealing with copious amounts of INFURIATING paperwork form homeowner's insurance company;
  • Buy and install new storm door on front porch; and
  • collect estimates to rent machinery and buy gravel to redo lane out to the house.
3. Surprises that have made the list above even more stressful than average:
  • Final estimate for the stove came in $800 over the original estimate. Throws off my entire "it will pay for itself in two years easily" argument and I am now doing something known as "fuzzy math" to make it all work. and here I thought I'd never have anything in common with President Dodo!
  • The insurance company will only cover cost of replacing roof less the cost of our deductible (ok, I get that) as well as less its depreciation. Huh? Since it is being replaced for hail damage -- as clearly stated on the claim -- how old the roof is should be irrelevant, yes? Has anyone else heard of this?
  • So, it appears as though I will be reading and then re-reading our policy and anything else I can get my hands on to prepare for a fight with Foremost Insurance. (Yep - I am naming them. Fuckers.)
4. I've had a headache for about two weeks now and it won't go away. I think this hideous Friday Fave Otherwise Known as The Mundane and Ridiculous List that Won't End is causing it. I hope I don't have to amend Section 3:1-4 with anything else.
5. Needless to say, I've been a huge Stressball and yelled at A. for no good reason. He definitely didn't deserve that. So, I feel like an asshole on top of everything else.
Bonus: This weekend, A. and I are going up to the mountains to get wood for our More Expensive Than Previously Thought Wood Stove. I've never done this. Should be a shitload of work. I hope A. doesn't down a tree in my direction, but I wouldn't blame him if he did.
Happy Friday to you!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Perfect Timing

So, over the weekend I received a lovely, beautiful card in the mail from BlackSheeped. It was such a joy to open the mail!
The past couple of weeks have been busy -- BUSY -- and I've had a lot on my mind. Needless to say, BlackSheeped's heartfelt words -- as well as the included pictures of my beloved mutts -- were perfectly timed.

BlackSheeped also included some wonderful evidence that I need to get myself a kitty. Truly, her examples of why life with a cat is awesome were simply PROFOUND. Her overall message was in line with this:

I almost fell for it. Then I remembered stories like these:

My resolve to remain kittyless, however, is weakening. Good work, BlackSheeped.