Things I don’t understand: #planneraddicts

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I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around “planner” obsession for a while now. I’m not sure I quite have it.

Now, before you snap your fingers early-90s sassy sitcom style and tell me it’s a planner thing, I wouldn’t understand, let me explain. I mean, I have a windowsill full of pens. Full. Of pens. I have a mug and a jar devoted just to refills for said pens. I have notebooks. Two full boxes full of them, just waiting to be used. I not only have this many pens and notebooks, but I have preferences. That’s generally one of the signs of someone with a stationery store problem, an office supply addict, this preference for particular items. And piles of former favorites that he or she can’t quite part with in case that one becomes a favorite again. It could happen — at any moment.

At the moment, I have a Moleskine I use primarily for practicing lettering (poorly), sketching out things (poorly), doodles, watercolor play, and ideas that need a dot grid. It’s thin, flexible, and has a loop to keep it closed. I have a Paperblanks journal and one I drag around in my purse as a “brain dump” to catch snippets of dialog, plot ideas, deranged poetry, lists, scribbles, doodles, and nonsense. I have another one I use as a journal. I have too many Miquerlrius notebooks because I love the paper quality and I can reuse the poly covers for discbound notebooks (“arc” if you’re a Staples addict).

And, I have a planner. I love my planner. I am protective of my planner. It is beautiful. Because I didn’t want to buy leather, I put off investing in a nice cover until Levenger finally came out with the LevTex alternative to leather that looks like leather instead of looking like cheap plastic. (Until then, I used the cheap plastic.) Since I can’t quite afford Levenger, I haunted their eBay outlet until the right size (junior) LevTex cover came around and then lost three to stupidly-high bidders (like, bidding more money that it would cost to buy the thing on the Levenger site), and finally got a dark purplish blue one. Let’s be clear that I wasn’t sure that was the color I wanted, but I’m glad that’s the color I got. It’s like an indigo. Pretty. I started out with my 1″ Twilight discs, but they were too small, so I moved up to the 1.5″ Twilight discs I’d had on my old planner. For months, I used a daily calender I got on clearance because the year was ending and waited for Levenger to put the SmartPlanner refills on sale. Finally, enough of 2014 passed that I started having things to write in the SmartPlanner pages, put the first few months in the planner and enjoyed how much the little to-do lists, weekly goals, and week-on-one-page format worked for me. I added a section at the back with top tabs for the dojo, my writing, my candles, and “other.” I added a section for contacts. I kept some blank paper in the back. I added a pen to the loop.

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Ahh… Done. Really. Done. That’s it. I mean, for those who aren’t paper and pencil obsessed, they already slipped into a coma and wondered what the hell is wrong with me (probably not in that order). For the planner addicts, they’re probably wondering when I bought the washi tape; if the pen coordinates; if I use a rubber band or a headband to keep it closed; if I decorated the front with stickers or rhinestones; how often I change my dashboard; if I have a section for Project Life cards; where I keep the inspirational verses; how many specialty paperclips I have (the answer here is 9 but none of them stick up and all but three are little silver ones from Midori). A few of are probably also waiting for me to mention the other planners: the one for quotes or budgets or housecleaning schedules or… that’s the thing. I don’t know what else I’d need more planners for. That’s the thing I don’t get.

I’m pretty pragmatic. I mean, I have other “arc” notebooks — most of them actually have Levenger components because when the husband discovered Circa at the beginning of grad school, he went a little overboard — but I don’t call them “planners.” I call them notebooks. One has all the backstory notes for the main character in it. One has all the accounting paperwork for the GIS business in it. One has a couple of PDFs on small business and craft business success in it. One is mostly blank paper. One is, actually, a planner of sorts (it’s the old travel planner from our last road trip), but I just don’t see it as a “planner” so much as an archived itinerary.

So, maybe it’s partly vocabulary. What I call a “notebook,” other people are calling “planners.” Except, that doesn’t seem to fully explain the phenomena that confuses me so. I mean, I somewhat don’t understand the decorating aspect, but I think that’s because people keep calling it “planning” when what they seem to mean is “scrapbooking” or “decorating” or “crafting.” Then again, we are a society obsessed with The Future and Plans and Busy, so maybe in the context of that cultural need to feel like we’re always moving forward or drafting a map to get there, we’ve rebranded the fun of crafting and the nostalgia-drenched “waste of time” scrapbooking of old as “planning.” Seems a little like the swoops boomerangs and rocketships in Googie-era space age design. The obsession with future and progress turned boring old motels into concrete conch shells wearing sombreros.

The need for more than one, though, I’m having a harder time with. And, yeah, I get that I drag around the little Paperblanks brain dump and the indigo planner with me almost everywhere, but that’s it. If I’m actually using it for something, I might bring the Moleskine, but I’ll probably leave the Paperblanks behind. If I’m going to dinner or a party, I toss the Paperblanks or the tiny Circa jotlet in my bag (you never know when you’ll have an idea) and leave the planner behind. I don’t, though, have five Filofaxes in different colors or sizes. I don’t have a Filofax, a Midori, a Foxydori, a Kikki-K, an Erin Condron, an Arc, a Hobonichi, a Plum Planner, SugarPlum, and five other various things I got from eBay, Etsy, or Kickstarter. I don’t understand the constant switching contents and pages and refills and brands. I bought the thing I liked. Done.

I don’t get it because A) just the clutter of the windowsill full of pens is making me a little nuts at the moment and I’m probably about a week from sending most of them to live elsewhere; B) I don’t have the money to constantly buy new planners — especially since some of them run a hundred bucks for more; C) I use the planner to keep my shit straight so I don’t forget the things I’m supposed to do or the places I’m supposed to be. If I’m constantly changing the format, the container, the layout… How am I supposed to remember where things are? It utterly defeats the purpose for me.

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What I’m supposed to wear.

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I started pontificating about what I’ve been told I should and shouldn’t wear over the years in my newsletter this past week and I keep finding, utterly by accident, other blogs about taking back our own sense of style, in various forms.

As I mentioned in the newsletter, I used to like super-girly clothes as a kid, but much to my mother’s displeasure I wanted to climb trees, jump ditches and play in the mud while dressed like a princess. As I got older, I thought I had to dress more like a boy to be taken seriously, to be thought capable of science and math, and to show that I didn’t care if no one thought I was pretty enough to befriend or date. (And even then guidance counselors still pushed me toward business instead of anything we now call STEM despite my having taken five science classes in high school and four maths, including calculus. Did they not have access to my records in guidance?)

In advertising, I was supposed to dress in cutting-edge designer fashion, but made poverty wages, so that never worked out. As a teacher in a correctional facility, I wore dark colors (because the place was filthy), cheap things I could wash a lot (because the place smelled terribly), and baggy pants with boxy jackets (because I was aiming for androgynous and needed pockets).

And I’ve spent a lot of years not wanting the “girly” thing because I wanted to be equal. But you know, bedazzled cases don’t make phones work less well; purple ink doesn’t make a message less powerful unless the reader let’s prejudice in the way; pretty notebooks work just as well as ugly ones; a pink skirt doesn’t make a mind any less sharp; lipstick doesn’t decrease competence but too often we think it does.

And we think it does because that’s what we’re told. In movies where the “tomboy” knows how to fix trucks but not how to pick out a lipgloss and her friend has a closet full of frocks but can’t work a screwdriver. By our peers, professors, and bosses, who tell us to grow up, to put our hair up, to use blue or black ink, to dress in staid colors, to be “professional’ when they mean “masculine.”

But we’re also told the “girly” gets the boy and we’re told that’s supposed to be our primary directive. Because the girly girl will find a boy to fix her truck and besides, lipgloss is easier than fuel injectors. *hair flip* *eye roll* *more eye roll* *even more eye roll*

We have a hard time accepting women as dimensional people. But we’re getting better, slowly. This review points out, specifically, a scene in which the women of the family (on Jane the Virgin) put together a piece of furniture with tools they own and call by name without any of the silly nonsense so often put forth in TV as comedy. Mindy Kaling’s character on The Mindy Project dresses in bright colors, florals, and patterns when having meals or meetings or engaging in comedy shenanigans, but she’s never “othered” in ridiculous scrubs in hospital scenes. When it’s time to actually act like a doctor, she does and she’s portrayed as competent, even successful. (Granted, she can’t seem to work a screwdriver but New Yorkers (and to some degree, Bostonians and Chicagoans) can be a bit odd in the stuff they never had to learn to do because public transportation, landlords, and a densely-packed environment never made it necessary. (It’s why the “city slicker” stereotype exists and it’s often played for laughs against the “rugged woman” trope — ha ha, that blonde can shop wood and you can’t, don’t you feel less of a man? *rolls eyes* *rolls eyes again* *hurts self rolling eyes so hard*)

Yet, that trope relies heavily on the idea that “pretty” and “competent” are opposing ideas. Part of the reason it’s played for laughs is because the audience is supposed to assume that the hot blonde can’t do anything menfolk can do, so when she shows up the “city slickers,” it’s supposed to be a bigger insult to their manhood. Yet, as women, we’re never allowed to forget that our primary duty — aside from birthing lots of babies and raising them in a dark hole somewhere so no one can see us breastfeed or messy or fat or without makeup — is to look good. To smile for strangers to make them happy — don’t worry those strangers will tell you if you’re not smiling and get angry if you don’t want to. Even our TV “ugly ducklings” are prettier than most of us see ourselves as being.

But, for me, it’s time to stop trying to be what makes everyone else happy. I want to wear lipgloss while camping in the desert? I don’t need your approval. I don’t need the snide remarks about how dumb that is. Lipgloss does two things: it makes you feel prettier and it moistens the lips (that second one is key in the desert). It also often has SPF in it. Bonus. I want to run around town with my hair looking a hot mess because I don’t have windows in my Jeep? Hey, I like my truck. It’s fun. Way more fun than an Audi or a Toyota. I want to wear pretty dresses or leggings with loose tank tops or flip flops or heels or yoga pants to everywhere but yoga? Done. And I like playing with makeup — love Halloween — but I don’t like messing with much of it daily. I’m a mascara and lipgloss kind of woman and I’m never going to figure out “contouring concealer.” I’m more likely to learn Ruby. Or Chinese.

And I’m going to try to stop feeling bad that I can’t fix my own damn truck, but I’m going to find that damn Chilton manual I misplaced just in case magic happens.

Oh, and if you want to bust out of your routine and find some “happy” with a silly, super-girly thing you can pair with cowboy boots and tell the world “fuck it” in, Sarah Sapora of the SarahPlusLife blog is running a tutu giveaway.

Stationery Experiment

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I’ve been playing around with making some stationery because:

  • I’ve been trying to write more letters and postcards, to get back to communicating with people in ways other than Tweets and FB posts that get lost in the shuffle, text messages I have to delete to clear my phone memory, IMs and DMs and because I think it makes people happy to find things in their mail box besides bills and junk.

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  • I looked around for some and since Etsy’s changed so much, I found it way too hard (too much of a time suck) to find cute, affordable stationery that wasn’t “print your own in a letter size — in my head, there is nothing cute about an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper — or imported/Target sale bin stuff I could have bought at store with cashiers if I’d been inclined.
  • Why the heck not?

So, if you want to play with my experiments, downloads below. If you like them, leave a comment. The one with the stripes and the one with two pineapples are early versions, so the envelopes aren’t as clean and orange gets cut off. They’re free. Feel free to play around with printer settings.


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Recipe FAQ

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Why aren’t there any pictures of the food? The ingredients? The process? Haven’t you ever seen a food blog before?

Oddly enough, I’ve even trained as a photographer. I’ve sold photographs. I even shot an event once to help someone out. But, photographing food isn’t really a passion of mine. And making food that’s prettier than it is tasty isn’t really a goal of mine.

Besides, this isn’t really a “food blog.” This is just the ramblings and eatings of a writer/candlemaker/etc. I don’t want to cook dinner at 10 am so I can shoot it in the best light. I don’t want to shellac ingredients for shine or use Crisco as ice cream to get the perfect shot.

I also don’t feel like setting unrealistic expectations about what food needs to look like to taste good. Or how messy a kitchen should or shouldn’t get when three friends are drinking wine and assembling a meal. I don’t want to constantly put down spoons and pick up cameras or clean grease off a lens.

If you want to try a recipe and you want to shoot pictures of it, enjoy.

Why don’t you post regularly? I’m expecting a meal a week out of you, lady.

I post whenever I feel like I made something interesting enough to post. Lately, I’ve been told some of the things I don’t think of as “recipes” are good and should be shared. Maybe I will. At any rate. It’s not a food blog.

Why do you use so many processed foods? Don’t you know that’s bad for you? Don’t you shop indie farmer’s markets? Don’t you know that stuff’ll kill you?

I use what’s handy or what I know the husband will eat. Sometimes I use what’s on sale. I shop the local farmer’s market for fruits and veggies often, but like most people, the end of the day arrives and the locally-grown organic green thing has turned rotten or grown fuzzy because I bought it two days before thinking I’d eat it and then I forgot. Or, the end of the day shows up and I just want to make something easy. Or I’m craving some variation of a thing I used to eat when I ate meat and the most convincing substitutes are generally made by Gardein or Lightlife or Tofurkey or Field Roast. Which means if you have a meat-lover in the family and want to try Meatless Mondays, one of those brands is probably a good way to go.

I use more spices and herbs than my mother knows exist. I make things I like or that the husband enjoys. There are plenty of actual food blogs for from-scratch cooking.

What gives you the right to tell me how to eat?

Simmer down. Eat whatever you want. I just throw recipes out there for people who want to try them. It’s also basically a recipe book for me that I don’t have to store and can let Google index for me. Don’t ask me how many times I’ve propped the laptop up on the counter for the Rosemary Biscuit recipe.

I also like “camp cooking” and I know too many people who think eating at camp means hot dogs and hamburgers or that eating on the road means fast food, diners, or PB&J. I also like traveling to places where the only “vegan option” is a glass of water. Neither hungry nor intestinal distress are good road buddies. Better to make it myself.

Money

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I have a hate/hate relationship with money. It hates me. I hate it. We get stuck together in society, each needing the other to move forward and neither of us is happy about it.

Rather, money depresses me. Thinking about money makes me want to keep walking into the ocean until I wash up in Maine. Trying to figure out how to get enough of it, balance it when everything breaks or falls apart or runs out or stops working or gets eaten, trying to justify my existence without having a lot of it… It’s all just the kind of overwhelming that makes living under a bridge look like a pretty good plan.

I mean, I apparently don’t have the kind of skills people want to pay money for. Oh, people want me to help them. Jobs I’ve had, people usually wanted me to do my job and then some — or they wanted me to shut up and stop asking questions because from what I can tell questions in any organization larger than six people are a form of Evil that must be combated with seventeenth century methods of shunning or fire.

If you work in a place where questions are an ancient unholy thing, there’s a chance they’ll expect you to dress in clean, newish clothes so that you look like you escaped the pages of a fashion blog or at the very least a JC Penney circular. Unless shopping bargains and all the “good” thrift stores is your sole hobby outside working your allotted seventy hours a week and commuting another 10-15, chances are most of your paycheck will end up in your closet to impress people who hate you. Or, maybe that’s just me.

In order to do just about anything these days, you need devices — phones, laptops, tablets, chargers, fancy watches, bracelets that monitor your biorhythms, USB drives, clouds, and whatever else has been invented in the past half hour. None of these things are what I call “cheap.” Cheap to me is still less than $20 because my last job thought a salary that declined $12,000 over the course of eight years was motivational. Cheap to me is still based on the salaries offered for the jobs on my resume. Problem is, goods and services are priced for people with venture capital, IT salaries, law degrees from top tier schools, etc. When I drop multiple hundreds on a phone, I still want it to last for more than a season. Spending $50 on a dress caused crying.

In other words, I’m not “worth” anything to society. We’re continuously judged by what we “do,” what we earn, and what we spend. No matter how much we say otherwise in interviews about “finding our balance” or blogs about doing things that “matter.”

A podcast I was listening to recently had the same theme of value. One woman said, “That’s one of the first things we ask of people. It’s like ‘Hi, what’s your name? How are you? What do you do?’ When people are so much more than that.”

But are we?

We yell at the poor to work harder when they work harder than any of us. We want to deny them the tools to get ahead — education, technology — out of spite for not being more already. We talk bad about our friends who made choices we wouldn’t have. We laugh at artists for having that audacity, for being that “dumb.” We’re all hustling harder and harder just to stay on the same step or the one below.

And I don’t know anyone who isn’t tired. Who hasn’t thought about giving up. Who doesn’t fantasize about giving up the whole hustle to do those things that matter or to chase dreams or to feel balance.

Is that the new American Dream?

Most of us can agree the old one is dead. It’s only the hardcore delusional who thing anyone but the furthest outliers can turn rags to riches. Yet, we all still keep thinking we can find balance like our parents thought they could find wealth and success.

Clean reading, dirty minds, & other people

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There’s been a shitstorm all week surrounding the Clean Reader app and what it does or doesn’t do to books readers try to read with it.  There are better places to find out what actual authors with real books out in the known world think of all that. The whole thing reminded me that I needed to call my mother because A) it’s been awhile and B) she’s totally the kind of person who will read books in which people behead each other for no other reason that “serial killer = bad man” yet get her panties in a twitch because the detective character, after finding the fourth headless body in the book, mutters, “Shit!” while sipping his cheap coffee as a blizzard threatens to blanket the crime scene. 

Which means, I told her all about the app and the controversy and received her expected reply, “Well, some people just don’t like all that foul language.” 

My reply was something along the lines of, “Fuck that. If it’s a poorly written book with profanity for no reason, don’t finish reading it because it’s a bad book. If it’s a well-written book, the fucking “fucks” are there for a reason. Dammit.” (Yes, I use words she doesn’t like for the same reason I discuss topics she doesn’t like because she does the same thing and because maybe I was too busy being the “good girl” I was supposed to be as a teenager and I’m rebelling twenty-plus years later so I can check it off a bucket list.) 

To which she sighed. One of those long, mom sighs. The one that generally suspects I am having a late-blooming rebellious phase and that she’d rather I skipped it all together. “Well, it’s not just bad words. Books and movies and TV shows all have so many other things we just didn’t have as kids.”

“You do realize that families were never as perfect as they looked on Donna Reed and Leave it to Beaver, right? I mean, domestic violence was considered normal, women found themselves essentially prisoners in marriages because it was so hard to leave –” 

“I was never a prisoner. I just didn’t have a job so I didn’t have any money.” 

“You do realize that not having any money, not having social support because the problem isn’t recognized or because of social stigma, not being able to find a job because of social norms… all that kept people in situations whether they were happy or not. You don’t have to have cages to create a prison.” And just because I’d managed to get a few words in edgewise (rare thing, that), I added something about the costs of WWII on the mental health of the returning men and the toll that took on families. I may have also mentioned that we haven’t really gotten much better with all that, we just call it a different name, tell everyone to “man up” or take some pills. Then we act shocked when people have trouble with that. 

“Whatever. At least there weren’t gays all over the TV back then. Stuff was wholesome. No one even knew what that was back then.” 

My turn to sigh. “Do I need to Google and email you ever painting, vase, or other piece of art from antiquity forward depicting gay sex?”

“You have time to do that and you can’t call me more often?”

“Middle of the night procrastination is a powerful drug. My point is that just because people didn’t talk about it openly for fear of being ostracized or arrested or murdered doesn’t mean no one was attracted to the same sex or both sexes or felt like they’d been born the wrong sex or anything else. If eating ham were so vilified in society that you thought you might go to jail or get killed or have to live in some subculture you had no access to… you’d probably stop eating ham.” 

“I don’t eat it that often anyway. Ham’s gotten expensive. Do you eat ham now?”

“I’ve been vegetarian for years, mom. No. And it’s probably all the hipsters with the goddamn bacon lotion. My point is, if something you liked were legislated against, you’d probably stop doing it because you like rules.” 

“What’s wrong with rules?”

*sings old punk songs full of profanity terribly because I can’t carry a tune.*

“Why can’t you listen to Enya. She has such a pretty voice.” (This part may have been from another conversation.) 

“Can I convince you none of the gods want you to eat Wilbur because he’s cute?”

“There’s only one god.”

“Don’t make me break out the Google. You have yours. Other people have theirs.” 

More sighing. <insert ten minute monologue about cat fur on the carpet or something>

Camp Cooking Part 4: Everglades Edition

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This past weekend we we camping with friends who had never been camping before and who had never been down to Everglades National Park before. I wanted to make sure they ate well on the trip because A) I like to eat well when camping, B) I like showing people it doesn’t always have to be a pack of hot dogs cooked on a stick, and C) I wanted to convince them camping was fun and they should do it again.

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As you might remember from the Crockpot Edition, or the Butane Cook Stove edition, I’m a big fan of instant or minute rice while camping. At home, not so much, but when camping nothing is more of a pain to get working right than simmering rice with a propane or butane stove, and after a full day of adventuring, no one wants to wait around for regular rice to cook either.

So, into the Everglades, I brought:

  • Instant brown rice
  • Tofurkey beer brats
  • Two Tofurkey Italtian sausages
  • An eggplant
  • A couple of zucchini
  • A couple of yellow squash
  • Two tomatoes (from Robert Is Here — awesome fruit and veggie stand!)
  • Two avocados
  • A tube of Gimmie Lean sausage
  • A pack of Tofurkey maple tempeh “bacon”
  • A bag of red potatoes
  • Red and Green bell peppers
  • A couple of white onions
  • Coconut oil
  • Rice vinegar
  • “Veggie” Pepper (blend of various ground peppers)
  • Garlic and Herb seasoning
  • Creole seasoning
  • Cayenne
  • A bag of hot dog buns
  • Six eggs
  • (and way too many snacks)

For dinner, I cooked the rice in an aluminum foil cake pan by boiling water, adding the rice and garlic-herb seasoning and covering with foil sitting on the picnic table. In another cake pan, I sauteed some chopped onion in coconut oil, added some sliced Tofurkey Italian sausages and set that aside to stir into the rice when cooked. While I did this, I sliced the eggplant and grilled it around the edges of the cake pan. I put the slices on a plate with some creole seasoning and a splash of rice vinegar. In the pan I used for the onion and sausage, I added a tad more oil and the cut up veggies with some more onion and a bit of the creole seasoning. While that cooked, I grilled the brats around the edges and while we set the picnic table, I tossed the buns on to lightly toast them.

For breakfast, I sliced onion and the potatoes, and cooked them in the coconut oil in another cake pan and some creole seasoning and cayenne to be spicy diner-style potatoes. Then, I cut up the Gimmie lean and cooked it with coconut oil until brown, and did the same with the tempeh. The eggs, I cooked in the same pan (I only brought three) by stirring them all together with onion scrambled style.  Breakfast was served with fresh avocado and tomato slices.

 

I may have overfed them, but… they’re already looking to book the next adventure. (And, I converted the carnivores for the weekend!)

Busy Busy Busy

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I think it’s time we admitted, as a nation, that we have a problem. I mean, if I can find all of the following in a matter of minutes, we are clearly overworking ourselves and then, because we know we’re working ourselves into early graves and we still have a healthcare/insurance system that rewards us for being wealthy and healthy and never using either, we elevate the notion of “working hard” while denigrating those who actually do.

Exhaustion is not a status symbol

Stop apologizing for work/life balance

Email etiquette for the super busy

If it doesn’t get scheduled, it doesn’t get done

The busy trap

Escape from the busy trap

Why the busy trap doesn’t apply to young people

The ‘busy trap’s class problem

Busy is a sickness

You’ll never be busy enough, but you’re probably too busy already and if you aren’t working toward your dreams,  you’re working toward death, but if you’re working yourself to death, who has time for dreams… We’ve created a neverending, vicious, un-win-able cycle of meaningless effort to appease strangers so that few have time to stop and ask What the Everyloving Fuck are we Doing to Ourselves?

Busy is a luxury to people sick, on disability, or unwillingly unemployed. The ability to stop the Busy Treadmill and take a moment to breath or hang out with family or rekindle creativity is a luxury to those who work long hours or multiple jobs to cobble together enough money to get the ends to see each other from across the street.

I don’t have anymore answers than anyone else, but it does seem in a country we taut as great, in a land of such beauty and bounty, in a time with as much technological prowess as we have, it seems silly — nay, terrible — that we still have such a large proportion of our citizens ending their days as exhausted, overworked, scared, anxious, worried, sick, and precarious, as our 18th and 19th century ancestors.

Handheld Meatless Pie

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I have no idea what this actually was I made, but it was tasty, so feel free to submit better name ideas below. It started out as one of those, “I’m hungry but I don’t know what I want, what do we have?” meals.

Ingredients:

  • Phyllo (filo) dough (I had half a box leftover from vegan spinach pie)
  • Olive oil
  • Soy crumbles or TVP
  • Spinach (frozen is fine)
  • Bell Peppers (I used frozen “tri-color peppers” from Whole Foods)
  • Greek seasoning (or similar)
  • Extra garlic or garlic powder
  • Extra oregano
  • Dollop of tomato sauce
  • Onion

I threw half a bag of spinach, a quarter bag of peppers, and a half a bag of Gardein soy crumbles in the food processor with a clove of garlic, the seasoning/herbs, some onion (couple of slices), and about a TB of olive oil. I chopped/mixed all that up, added the dollop of tomato sauce and whirled it around a bit more.

The dough, I laid out on a clean counter, drizzled a bit of olive oil on, and scooped some mixture from the food processor on it. I rolled the sheet into a burrito shape and put it on a baking sheet. (Repeat until you run out of dough or mixture.)

Cook on 375F for about a half hour.

Eat.

Fostering Hope or Adopting a Demon

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On the road to hell’s good intentions, issues with more sides than D&D die, and weighty sacks of emotional crap.

I am terrible at titling things. Let’s just put that out there now.

I’m also tagging this with a Trigger Warning, not because it’s a collection of short stories by a man who should know better than to call a book that, but because it brings up topics that can cause a number of emotional responses ranging from rage to reliving a personal hell. Tread carefully.

Moving on:

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about this asshat, who, though he claims he had no idea he was handing his adopted daughter over to a pedophile, still gave away a child in a manner similar to how I got rid of my last car. Rehoming an old Civic for $600 is one thing. Rehoming a six-year-old in exchange for a job — which may not be the exact way this went down, but it’s close enough on the surface for argument’s sake (from the report, it seems he was hired by the school the month following receiving the two girls) is a whole other despicable matter.

Except, in many states, it’s no more illegal to rehome a child than to rehome a Civic. (And you have to fill out more paperwork on the car.) It becomes a loophole through which children who already fell through cracks find themselves pushed, sometimes by well meaning people and sometimes by malicious criminals.

How does a well-meaning person come to give a way a child? And how do we know if this particular family falls into well-meaning or malicious camp (or the adjacent Camp Bad By Proxy)? Stay with me a moment. See, many states don’t have a requirement that parents wishing to adopt should foster the child or children for at least a year first. Some states require this only in cases involving interstate compacts (transferring foster children across state lines for purposes of foster and adoption). Many potential parents, especially those whose only experience with children comes from their own or well-mannered and well-adjusted children of strangers, don’t want to foster first. They want to jump right in and prove to the potentially-adopted child that they mean well and they want to give the child or children a forever home. Except, unlike the unruly German Shepard mix you didn’t realize might need special training to not eat your couch, you can’t drop your “forever home” child off at the local pound to be euthanized. In some states, however, you can (legally, anyway) drop them off at the house of a pedophile and plead ignorance.

(Before we move on, don’t drop your dog off at the pound to get killed. Don’t adopt what you’re not prepared to take care of whether it’s furry or not.)

Now, yes, this particular family claims ignorance (lack of knowledge, not stupidity) of this pedophile’s tendencies. While this may be true on the surface, let’s be real. In almost every instance of someone wanting “off-the-books” children — who have very likely suffered abuse or trauma (and a high percentage of foster/adopted-after-infancy children have) and also are likely to have emotional or mental health complications — without additional financial or emotional support, that person’s up to no good. For every oddball saint, plan on at least a hundred sinners.

Look, we even offered support for the rehomed Civic. It had a few minor mechanical issues and the husband helped the new owner troubleshoot and fix them. Not to mention that I probably could’ve gotten at least another two hundred if I’d taken it to a used dealer instead. Even rehomed cars sometimes require a little support.

Which brings me back to the idea of fostering first. In most, if not all, states, foster parents are required to go through a basic certification process. Sometimes this involves classes, but at the very least it typically involves a background check, fingerprinting, and a home visit. After child placement, there should be regular home visits, re-certification classes periodically, and support at least by phone should issues arise. This isn’t always the case as we’ve all seen in news reports over the years and it doesn’t solve all the problems, catch all the people with bad intentions or bad coping skills, and it doesn’t provide all the necessary support, but it’s a baseline. It’s a starting point. And it’s often more than what’s provided in cases of outright adoption.

When I worked in correctional education, I saw more than a few horror stories of the foster care system. Again, all the supposed safeguards don’t always ensure children are safe. And sometimes children need more support than foster parents and the system can provide — and too often that leads them into the justice system and a lifelong cycle of catch and release or worse. There were children saved by the foster system and those abused by it. There were children who would leave a group home they even admitted was safe and “pretty cool” with “nice people who treat you right” only to go back to a pimp, a parent who abused them, a relative who sold them, a drug habit they couldn’t or wouldn’t kick, etc.

When we fostered my niece, a child who used to beat her grandmother when she was nine, we had to take classes, fill out a mountain of paperwork and worksheets, and pass fingerprinting and background checks. The social worker in charge did home visits once a month and was generally available by phone if we had problems, but she didn’t usually have a solution. The state-provided mental health care was meeting with a doctor once a month who asked “How are you? How’s school? Are you listening to people?” and wrote scripts for more pills. For a hundred dollars, out of pocket, every other week, we could pay interns at the local university psychology program to talk to her for an hour, but the interns never seemed capable of discerning the manipulative behavior from the actual behavior. Then, the overnight guy at the local mental hospital the cops took her to (after she threatened them with a knife), also thought she just needed more pills. She’s a good lesson in why fostering first is a good idea. Children come with baggage they don’t always unpack immediately and when they do, sometimes it’s terrifying — especially if you have the time, energy and money to deal with it.

A family I know through work adopted a child to join the two they already had. When the child was diagnosed with a pair of mental health disorders, they did research to find the best treatment. And the state said, “we can offer you this to help,” which was roughly 2% of the total cost of treatment. Without support from the community, the family would have had to choose between going broke or getting substandard care. (Incidentally, their daughter is doing well.)

I met one child through my last job who had been arrested for molesting his foster brother. He was young and seemed out of place even in a room full of young boys. One of the other kids asked him what he was in for, as the kids often did. Even though he’d been advised repeatedly not to talk about his case, he shrugged back at the other boy, “I was just showing my new brother how to play.” Which is to say, everyone from the social worker to the detectives to the correctional staff and state psychologists could guess what that meant, but it didn’t stop the cycle until after it had rolled over another victim.

Which is to say, I understand what it’s like to go into a situation with the best intentions and find yourself drowning in a system that’s been underwater so long, it’s grown half-assed gills. I understand the systems, patchworked and overworked, have flaws.

What I don’t understand is why, if you are a state representative, someone with the power and influence to suggest changes, to push for better laws or just speak out about the need for more support or training or funding or SOMETHING, why you would choose to just hand a kid off to strangers like a back-alley dope deal instead. Unless, of course, you were more concerned with your image than the children you legally agreed to guardian. And, you know, image is all that matters these days. Right?

(Please tell me I’m not right.)

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