Seriously, if we could stop electing narrow-minded, bigoted, racist, anti-science, homophobic misogynists to office, that’d be great.
— Phil Plait (@BadAstronomer) March 27, 2015
We found a “steal” of a deal on Craigslist. All the rocks you can carry if you’ll just come get them. They are perfect for our landscaping ideas for our tiny space of yard. The project already looks amazing and we have at least 3 more trips of rocks to go get. We weren’t planning on doing this one right now, but when the free rocks popped up, we just couldn’t pass it up. It’s been a lot of work, has burned a lot of calories, and has caused a few scrapes and bruises, but it’s going to be so worth it in the end.
I’m terrible and never do before pics, but here is some of the progress during and the after pics.
These “beds” are just inside our gate between the fence and the slab foundation. The rocks that were there were stepping stones seated into the concrete sludgey stuff left at the end of a concrete pour. They worked fine for ~20 years, but they were starting to break and become a trip hazard. They came up very easily. I wasn’t even planning on taking them up with this project, but it was so easy, I just couldn’t stop. I have also “outlined” two beds out back (past the fence, not in these pictures). Those have a tree and a birdbath. There are also groups of rocks. A large planter will hold hyacinth. And, we plan to get a wisteria to climb the chimney. Those two should bring in the butterflies and hummingbirds.
So, then, after all our hard work, of course, Murphy has to come visit. There is a plumbing problem. For the second time since we’ve owned this house, it “rained” from the upstairs to the down. (And created a big puddle in the kitchen for the third time, we had a big puddle in the kitchen.) We have a toilet that hasn’t been flushing well, but draining the tub after a bath seems to be more than it could handle; the toilet “belched”. So, tonight, we will seek out a snake and see if we can learn to snake a drain. It’s a very busy week: we need to wrap up the rocks project so we can stop bothering the nice man who lets us come get them for free. We need to go home and deal with my mom and her stuff. We need to do our usual end-of-month stuff.
So, we decided last night to skip the Luza trip to Dime Box again. Hopefully (still pending Emil’s co-worker’s dad’s condition/status), we’ll be coming back from Paris on that day and would have to get up super early (5:30am?) to leave my grandmother’s in time to make Dime Box by lunch. That’s not fair to us or her.
Here. We. Go!
We’ve missed the last couple of Luza Easter gatherings. Two years ago, we were just exhausted. Last year, it fell on our anniversary and we wanted to do something “better” than eat cheap frozen hamburgers and hot dogs in Dime Box. (We went downtown, had burgers, and bar hopped a little.)
This year, though, Emil and I had a plan that would get us there with minimal hassle and kill at least two birds with one stone.
Since my mom is in her, um, situation, I need to make sure she does some paperwork. She’s been promising to get an attorney and write a Will, but she hasn’t done it in large part because she can’t work on that stuff with him around…and he’s always around. Well, a DIY Will from the Internet is better than nothing, so I’ve written one listing me (her preference) and my grandmother (my preference) as her beneficiaries.
Texas has funny laws about unmarried women. We are her two relatives; it should go to us, in my opinion. My grandmother disagrees and thinks it should go to me, solely. Since neither of them have a computer (because mom’s abuser destroyed hers), I get to say what we do.
Mom keeps saying she doesn’t really need a will because I’m her only beneficiary. I keep telling her that if she’s dead, she won’t be able to tell anyone that. I swear she thinks she’ll never die. She’s stubborn enough to cheat death, so maybe she’s right.
So our plan was to go to Paris April 1-2, get mom to sign the Will with a Notary, take lots of pictures for digital records of the Will, get it tucked into my grandmother’s safe deposit box (since no place my mom has access to is safe from him), and then head back to this part of the state. We could swing through Bryan to see Emil’s mom and hit Dime Box on our way by for Luza Easter (on Holy Saturday). It would be a long 3 days, but we’d have Easter Sunday to recover and we’d hit all the necessary stuff. This plan was Emil’s suggestion even though it would mean he’d miss his Thursday D&D group.
Dear plan, meet the monkey wrench
Emil’s coworker has some family stuff going on. He was out a couple of days 2 weeks ago. He’ll need to be out Thur/Fri this and/or next week, but doesn’t yet know. They are part of each other’s backup so they can’t plan to be out at the same time.
- We can’t plan Easter until we get this paperwork thing planned with my family….even if they aren’t the same weekend. We’ve been putting this off for too long and I need to a) see my family and b) get this taken care of. 
- We can’t plan this paperwork thing until Emil takes the time off.
- He can’t take the time off until the coworker decides if he will/won’t take the time off.
- Coworker can’t take the time off because his thing is family and he can’t risk taking time off he doesn’t need since he might need it worse, later.
So when the email came in this week asking everyone, again, if we’ll be at Luza Easter, all we could say is “we’re trying” and “well let you know when we know”.
And, of course, now it’s spring and pretty weather and I’d rather be in Austin than Paris for any of it. I wish we had done this paperwork in the dead of winter. We just couldn’t find a date that worked.
 As you might imagine, there is a lot more going on with my mom and that relationship than I’ve talked about on our blog. This is what you might call the tip of the iceberg. …and I’ve probably already said more than I should. Although, it’s not slander or libel if it’s true, so I have that on my side.
I guess maybe there is pretend truth to the statement that time heals all wounds.
This was the first year since that awful day in 2002 when “God” took Daddy from this world that I didn’t hone in on the date.
Of course, I don’t believe that “God” took him. I believe that we aren’t yet skilled enough in science to have saved him. The DOG knew weeks before. My MOM knew weeks before, too, but she can’t remember any of her behavior that then seemed erratic. My grandmother & I knew, but to a far lesser degree. If Randi Cae the Schnauzer could have talked, she would have told us he was dying.
It wasn’t until I saw Sandra Tweet to Emil, “Did you call Mom for her birthday?” that I realized the date. It a terrible thing to have an immediate family birthday and a immediate family death on the same day. Every reminder is a curse.
It’s not easier with time. In fact, the distractions I had today made it worse. I feel worse for not remembering (either of) the events.
Dear Daddy, I still miss you every damn day. I still wish you were among us. It’s not fair to this world that you are not. Neither I nor any god can satisfactorily explain your sudden departure from our world.
- Did you leave me so I’d not have the kids I didn’t really want? For sure, your part of their life would have been a big pro on that list. But, I don’t think it would have out-weighed all the cons. There are so very many.
- Did you leave so Mom could end up with Larry3? Seeing as how he beat her, broke her house, and repeatedly continues to emotionally abuse her, I don’t think that is sound or logical.
- Did you leave Mom so she could be there for Larry3? If so, why is he mean to her?
- Did you leave your golf buddies for being the bigots they are? If so, you could have just moved to place with less bigots. It’s clear that Paris, Texas is a shit hole, but you don’t have to live in that shit hole.
….See? It’s not easier with time. The best you can hope for is to remember early in the day so you don’t feel guilty for forgetting until late in the day.
Fuck you, “god” and “universe”. You don’t deserve my love or adoration or attention. You took Daddy at half his life.
Happy Birthday, Mom L. (She can’t see/read this, but I wish it to her all the same.)
 It’s possible that recent bigotry (from Chad) had me distracted.
[This post was originally penned in February, long before Fat Tuesday or Ash Wednesday.]
I don’t normally get all political about my choice to avoid most meat/dairy. I’m just avoiding the cholesterol, not staging a coup against animal industries. I don’t judge people who eat meat if they aren’t going against their own rules/values to do so. There is a often a roast in the crock pot for Emil for dinner.
However. There are some things I don’t get.
- Americans know that meat is prevalent here and not as obtainable in other parts of the world. American Catholics don’t eat meat on the Fridays during Lent. Why? Because they are supposed to be atoning, and going without the luxury of meat one day a week is supposed to make them think about people in the world who don’t have meat. If American Catholics know this, then why is it limited to the Lenten season? Why isn’t one of the most politically-involved religions talking about all of God’s creatures one day a week instead of 7 days a year?
- Jews know that meat has its issues. Kosher meats are healthier and more humane. Why can’t the rest of the religious folk follow this same standard? Is it just because it “isn’t Christian”? … because that’s sure what it seems like. I guess those who think that forget that Xitananity formed out of the Jewish faith. [After all, even Avenue Q knows that “Jesus was Jewish!”] So, wouldn’t Christian values on this topic (and others) be similar to Jewish ones? Aren’t Jewish-God’s creatures and Xtian-God’s creatures the same creatures? Why isn’t Kosher processing the standard for a mostly Christian country? (hint: it’s the money, honey!)
- Veggies are cheaper. Hands down. They are cheaper to produce & preserve. They are more caloric bang-for-the-buck than any other layer in the food pyramid. Yet, McDonald’s is having to consider whether or not they should have a McVeggie option. Veggie nuggets already exist in places with large vegetarian populations. I had them in Greece and they were yummy; they’re kind of like Indian samosas. How is this such a “big” decision? Put them on the menu where you think they might work and see how they do. I bet they’ll do better than expected. And if so, Mickie D’s will make more money off the veggies than the weird chicken or pink slime. No one ever got in trouble with a doctor for eating too many veggies. Red meat, cheese, sugar, carbs, alcohol, etc. sure! Veggies, never.
- Speaking of doctors, I had some blood work done a few years ago. I was diagnosed by an intern (with horrific bedside manner) as “pre-diabetic” and given a meeter, some copies of a food list, and a prescription for a diabetic medicine just like the one Emil’s mom was taking at the same time. (Yes, someone 40+ years my senior and I were on the same “sugar” drug. No, it doesn’t make any sense.) I questioned the food list with, “but I’m vegan” and was chastised for my dietary choice, with NO regard for the reason, which could have been religious or otherwise very personal. Besides the disregard for my reasons, was a wannabe doctor really telling me that vegetables are bad? AYFKM??? I haven’t been back to that “famous” doctor. Not if she can’t be bothered to see her own patients.
Also, I took the drug for a long while and avoided carbs while I did (something I was already doing anyway). I didn’t lose even a pound. If “pre-diabetic” was the cause of my weight, then the drug would have had an impact, no? I call bullshit and kick-backs.
- Every grandmother ever has said “eat your veggies” with an annoying redundancy. So why is it that vegetable-based dishes are so hard to come by? Why do my favorite jalapeno chips have (unnecessary) milk in them? Why do we find dairy (or soy or gluten or peanut or other allergy triggers) in the most random of places? Again, money, honey!
It’s exhausting to do the right thing over and over again in the face of hate. Yes, I went there and used the word hate. Because hate is the only thing someone (or some company) could be feeling when they go out of their way to take a vegetable and make it something else entirely. Hate is the only word for the kind of greed that would cause a “Christian” to fail to recognize the Kosher standard just because it’s Jewish instead of Christian. Hate is the only word for the greed that is McDonald’s and their not-yet human-hormone-free nuggets. Hate is the only word for a doctor who considers her bottom line above her Hippocratic oath (and that intern was harmful! for sure!).
I am so tired of hate in all its various forms. Dear people of Earth and especially those who lead corporations, STOP HATING THINGS YOU (don’t agree with or) DON’T UNDERSTAND. FIND KINDNESS IN YOUR HEART. If you can’t find kindness, please just remove yourself from this society and get on that mission to Mars.
Mostly, I’ll eat/think/feel what I do. And, as long as you respect me, I’ll respect you for the same. After all, if I can cook meat for Emil, I’m pretty sure I won’t judge you for eating it. #gah
About a year ago, we got an AmEx card only because we got a Costco membership. At least one of these is getting out of our life this week. In a hasty moment of anger, I Tweeted we’d be quitting Costco too, over this AmEx fubar. And we might. It’s their fault we even had the card(s).
- In October, AmEx “gave” us a “blue” card to go with the Costco one. Except we never got the card. Or a statement. Or a letter or anything. (And since we have a PO Box, we know it didn’t get stolen from our mail box or any other excuse.)
- Also in October, AmEx moved money owed (or allowed a charge) to the blue card that we do not have possession of.
- In January, we got a letter saying our AmEx was overdue. huh? How? We pay it every month.
- When Emil called to get it resolved, he paid the bill. He also asked why they moved us to blue; they couldn’t identify a reason.
- A week later, we got a letter saying our blue card–again, one we don’t have physical possession of–was being cancelled. Yay, cancel the thing we aren’t using.
- I call to make sure they haven’t dinged our credit. She says they did because the bill was 90 days past due. Cue fire shooting from my eyeballs.
- I hear from Seth via Twitter; he says AmEx and Costco are parting ways. Oh! So this is the reason it’s all messed up! AmEx is trying to “encourage” us to stay with them eventhough the only reason we had them at all was for Costco. And, so that we wouldn’t bail immediately, they hid it?
- I finally get to talk to someone from AmEx who can do something. He’s nice, but creepy (over Americanized foreign dude I could barely understand). He updates the credit report, gives me his name/number, and is sending us an additional set of statement so we can see what the hell happened.
- To be clear that it’s all fine, I also call Costco. Of course, I get re-routed back to AmEx. I guess they are going to break up but haven’t yet.
- Costco guy tells me that the AmEx partnership runs out April 1, 2016. Until then, you can use AmEx (or cash/debit/check) at Costco for shopping. After that, they may or may not have a Costco card that can be used. I explain to him that we might quit Costco over this. Their only saving grace is that if AmEx did this to us, we can only imagine what they did to Costco and maybe they are victims, too.
Ain’t nobody got time for dis.
GTFO, AmEx. Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.
Update: We got the statements. Every charge is legitimate and paid for. There are no fees (Emil took care of that when he called them). I’ve since checked my credit and there is no report on it from Costco or Amex. We just need to check Emil’s credit for the same.
— Cat 5 (@theUcane) February 12, 2015
That’s me on Twitter. Here are just some of the many ways in which being a #childfree couple is selfLESS—and not selfish as the childless Pope claims:
- We are not adding to the 7-billion and growing number of humans on this planet. Earth is dying and humans are the cause. Those who have children/grands need to realize that their legacies might very well witness the end of this planet.
- Smaller house.
- Smaller/fewer cars.
- We are never too busy to recycle, even if we have to schlep over to the hazardous waste center once in a while.
- Less food consumed.
- Less trash produced. However many diapers a kid goes through….they aren’t in the landfills because of us.
We aren’t using gallons-upon-gallons of water to wash cloth reusables.
- Speaking of water, it is a very precious resource, so we are conservative (and working on being even better). That’s easy to do with just two.
- We are sick less often, so we are less of a burden on any workforce for missed days of work.
- Since we are sick less often, the buck stops with us for the spreading of germs; we stay home. We have the sick time to do so because we didn’t use it up when our kids were sick.
- We never burden our friends with stories of pregnancy/labor/delivery or the horrifically gross and boring stories of potty training.
- We live smaller (not just the house/car but wholly) than parents. Less plastic (reusable snack and juice boxes, toys). Less consumables, in general. We use less batteries (and then we recycle the ones we do use at that hazardous waste center instead of being too busy and letting them go into the landfill).
- While we will take part in “parenting” our own parents, we will never put that burden on to someone else.
- We live within our means. Kids are expensive. If we had kids, we’d take on (lots of) debt. That is not responsible.
- We are not passing on any genetic traits/conditions to humanity’s future. Humanity doesn’t need my family lines of heart disease, diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, and even suicide.
- Because we aren’t burdened by the time commitment of children, we are better citizens of our world. We give time where our skills can be of use.
We don’t assume we are the be-all-and-end-all to humanity and “the future”. No, we aren’t spawning the next Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, or Rosa Parks; no one in their right mind thinks we would. Our kid would not find the cure for cancer; our kid would like gaming, movies, and some music and spectator sports. In short, our kids would be couch potatoes. We also aren’t “giving” the world the next Jeffrey Dahmer, Adolf Hitler, George Zimmerman, or Casey Anthony. In fact, we aren’t even giving the universe more Emils and Loris. You’re welcome, Earth, Milky Way, and beyond.
And here is the one that drives the point home, every time: Please describe why you think having kids is a good thing without using “I” or “want”. Not easy, is it?
The decision to have kids or not is purely personal. The Pope and other leaders need to stop chastising those who don’t have/want kids.
No wonder I stopped being religious/christian, nevermind Catholic. Hey Pope, the giant hat makes you look like an ass, but your condescending attitude makes you sound like one, too.
A few years ago, Living Wage (here’s Austin’s) was all the rage; at least it was in my sociopolitical circles. I considered it worthy to hope for, but quite unlikely to ever materialize.
Today, I was smacked in the face with why it’s so damn important.
Real Life Example #1
I’ve been job hunting. Ideally, I want a part-time job in our neighborhood–or near Emil’s work, or easily accessible via CapMetro. Ideally, the hours would match up pretty closely to Emil’s. I don’t much care what I’d be doing, and I’ll work for peanuts. We live near a bunch of retail, so the schedule is the usual hitch in the giddy up.
Yesterday, I applied for a call center job–terrible, I know. Today, I tested, interviewed, and got the job. It’s a pretty crappy salary for call center work, but it’s mostly resetting users passwords. It’s $10 an hour, but I’d end up making $3.90. Yes, three dollars and ninety cents. I declined the job, eventhough I had–with hope driving me–done all the paperwork.
- Income tax: [$2.50 per hour] right off the bat.
- A good CapMetro pass: $96.25/mo. [$0.60/hr]
- Spend an extra 3 hours each day getting to/from the job. [a $3 per hour hit to the salary]
- Leave the house at 5:15am to be sitting, logged in, headphones on, and read to work by 6:45. Sit for 15 minutes unpaid until I can clock in. It seems they are sticklers for this 15 minutes they don’t pay employees for.
- On a good day, get home at 6:45pm or get to our closest train station at 6:09 and have Emil pick me up.
- Stay past 5pm anytime it gets busy because they take calls until 7pm. Miss the good bus on a regular basis and spend 1.5 hours getting home. That’s just riding time. That doesn’t count the times I’d miss the bus by 5 minutes and wait 35 for the next one.
- It’s not even very far from Emil’s work, but 7am starts and open-ended evenings means we can never carpool.
So, before I even get there and do any training or work, I figure I’ll make $3.90 an hour. But wait! There’s more!
- If you can believe what you read on the Internet, I could routinely get 3-hour blocks off during my work day. That’s just enough time to go home and back if the buses sync up perfectly. No, of course I wouldn’t be working during those 3 hours, but what am I going to do? Even if I could leave, every option costs money. So, a 9-hour workday that would normally have an hour for lunch is suddenly an 11-hour one. It’s not like I can take another job during those random mid-day breaks.
- Also, employees pay for their headsets, their paperwork, IDs. It all comes out of the first paycheck.
- I’d probably need some new clothes and/or a new bag or two; there are always a few little things. Also, the center reportedly has two temps: scalding and “do you want to build a snowman?”.
Before doing the math, this sounds like a pretty good job for someone in need. All that is really needed is a GED; the training is part of the gig. $10 an hour is a bit higher than minimum wage. It’s not fast food or hard labor or working in bad weather. The employees that were coming and going really did come in all shapes/sizes/colors and from all walks of life. (In fact, there might be a little too much leniency in the dress code: Hooker Barbie with her custom Meth Mouth was a bit much.)
It is imperative that companies pay enough for the employee to cover the expenses of going to the job. After all, how many bills can I pay if my net is $3.90? Granted, I don’t need to factor for 2 adults since Emil has a job, but shouldn’t every job be good enough to do that in case one partner gets laid off? Worse, what is a single mom supposed to do?
Real Life Example #2
Another one that gets me is the $8/hr part time gigs where you’ll be running errands, so “reliable transportation” is a requirement of the job. Let’s do that math.
- Car – $200/mo (really cheap)
- Insurance – $150/mo (assuming older than 25 since no one younger would have this rate)
- Rent – $800 (Austin not-great apartment) [or, share a $1200 apartment for $600
- Food – $300
- Other stuff “everyone” has that isn’t even included: student loans, pets, annual fees like car registration/inspection, cable/Netflix, water/electricity.
- Total – $1250-1450 / Gross Income – $640 (*if* you get all 20 hours every week).
Even if you have two part-time jobs at more than minimum wage, you can’t even cover the very basics.
Real Life Example #3
I see this all the time. The job description will include some/all of the following.
- Must be available to work 7am-11pm, seven days a week.
- You will get two days off a week, but they will never be the same two days and they will never be together. Oh, and we say you’ll get some Saturdays off, but we’re lying; you’ll work every Saturday.
- You will get your schedule for each 1-2 week pay period a few days before that pay period begins.
(Find a pattern here: you can have NO life of any kind…because you have to be ready/able to work like a doctor who is on call to the ER.)
- You will have 7+ bosses.
- You must perform miracles.
- “enthusiastic” “fast-paced environment” – those are all code for “we’re going to run you ragged, not just when things are hella busy but all the damn time”
- “customer pleaser” “self-starter” and even “trainer/training” “admissions” – code for sales
- “start up” “to turn full-time very soon”- you’ll make no money, the company won’t ever be able to take you full time, and then they’ll lay you off right before they go out of business
In sum, searching for a simple part-time job is a giant headache. Next time you hear someone use one of those “get a job” lines, please remember and remind them, it’s not easy. Maybe it is for them, but they are incredibly lucky and as rare as unicorn.
From mid-January through, well, still now, I had The Crud. The version going around Austin is a 10-day or longer virus. All you can do is manage symptoms and rest.
Any time I have a respiratory ailment, I want Pho soup. It’s warm, brothy, and as spicy as I can stand. It opens up my airways and helps me clear my head (literally). I lost track of how many times Emil went to get me Pho. It was so many that by the 2nd Sunday of my stint, he knew which shop was closed on Sundays. I’ve been doing all this freezer cooking, lately, so I took a vegan Pho recipe, and modified it for the freezer.
I’ll try it soon. Once I have it tested/tweaked, I’ll keep a couple of “kits” in the freezer. Then, when I’m allergy ridden, or worse, it’s just a quick “dump” of ingredients into boiling water. So much better than an errand. And definitely better than all the containers it takes to transport already-cooked Pho.
Oh, and if you want Pho in NW Austin, Pho What and Phonatic are both good. I don’t think either shop has any that is vegan, though. (I don’t necessarily eat vegan when I’m not well.)
January always brings allergies to Austin in the form of Cedar Fever (the pollen from up in Hill Country). Even people who have never suffered from allergies are bothered by this stuff.
This year, though, I had to take it up a notch. I spent 10 days with a bronchial virus that had me sneezing some, coughing a lot, and to tired from that to do anything else. I missed #CroKnit for two weeks in a row. And I missed both D&D sessions for the week in the “middle” of the virus running its course.
Mid way through all my stuff, Emil’s mom had a TIA (mini-stroke) and had to make another ER/hospital run. The designated siblings had another medical meeting, changed her doctor to one who is more geriatric specialized, and did some research about services. She’s back in the memory care unit. We saw her today and she’s doing better; she was getting her hair done and had had an afternoon full of visitors.
Part way through my virus, my mom also had an almost break up with the abuser. It didn’t come to fruition and he’s still there, but I feel we are yet another step closer. I’ve made it very clear to her that he will either straighten up or he’ll have to deal with me. Since she /really/ doesn’t want that, I’m able to keep some of the ridiculous out of my head. I’ve also written her will, so we’ll be driving it up there one weekend soon to make her sign it and store it in my grandmothers’ safe deposit box. With all this threatening to break up, I want her real wishes in writing. The most likely scenario is that they will die in a car crash at the same time (since they do so much driving from her place to his and since car wrecks are such a common cause of death). I need to make sure her wishes are protected from anyone who might try to wiggle in. She refuses to acknowledge that she will die some day, so she keeps insisting that a will is not needed. Raising parents is not fun, y’all.
On the upside, while I was fighting the virus, I started and caught up on Orange Is the New Black. And, I started and nearly finished The L Word.
Now that I’m back among the semi living, I’m up against:
- feeling behind on tasks that had not due date
- prepping to shoot several peoples’ headshots in conjunction with a workshop for a local professional/nonprofit group
- figuring out what my next steps in life are
- working on our current projects while prepping for what will come next, especially with little home renovations
- trying not to feel guilty for losing nearly a month of the year, already
Moral of the story. Open doors with your body weight. Wash your hands a lot. Use hand sanitizer several times a day. Use jojoba oil to moisturize after all those skin-drying activities. (Huge thanks to Melody for this tip: the molecules of it are smaller than any other oil so your skin/cuticles can soak it up better than other oils.)
Happy winter, y’all.