Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Lies grownups tell children

There are two general types of lies grownups tell children.  There are the type that are supposed to be for fun,* and others are supposed to be helpful.**  The fun ones are easy: the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, Santa Clause...things like that.  

Others...

Yeah.   

"Good job!" when there was patently nothing good about it.  Kids believe grown ups.  And if their fuck-up is a "good job," then obviously being a fuck-up is okay, right?  

Wrong.  Fucking up and being a fuck up is not okay.  It'll ruin their life if they fuck up in the wrong way or at the wrong time.  Could even kill them.  

"You tried, and that's all that matters."  This one implies that actually persisting, and finally succeeding, doesn't matter at all.   

It also implies that the kid actually tried.  Kids know better.  I knew better.  And that taught me that snowing others about my level of effort was easy.  And got the same amount of praise as the kid that busted their ass and still failed because they had no ability.  I can't speak for other kids who were capable of success, but I decided to not bother, since nobody else could tell the difference.  And that...grew into a habit. 

"You're special and fine the way you are."  

Oh, dear God, what I could say about that one.  Yeah, let's take that in pieces.  

"You're special."  Special doesn't necessarily mean good at anything.  Or capable.  Or useful, even to one's own self.  Among kids, "special" has become an insult, meaning "stupid" or "useless."  

Believing that you're "special" in ways that others aren't leads to bad things, too: finding out that you're not and totally shattering because your belief system depends on the fact that you are (at best), all the way to toxic narcissism at worst.

"You're fine the way you are."  

Uh.  No.  Really, not.  Not a single one of us is fine just the way we are.  That lie is what gets kids to not strive to improve.  To not try to get better at whatever it is they want to do.  That is the lie that leads to someone in their 40s screeching for $15/hour minimum wage, because that's the only jobs they're qualified to do.  And those jobs were never meant for adults.  

"Follow your heart."  

Don't.  Your heart is stupid.  Learn to think, and to think clearly.  If your heart screams for music, but you can't sing, can't play anything with anything other than technical competence, can't write music, you can't make a living at it.  You can keep it as a hobby.  You can enjoy others' gifts.  But you cannot do music for a living.  

If you have to do something involved with music...learn how to do staging.  Learn how to build equipment.  Learn the technical side.  No, you won't ever be famous, but you can make a damn good living doing the stuff musicians either can't do, or can't do well.  Or that takes time away from honing their craft.  

I love music.  I can (sort of) sing.  I can't read music, can't play.  I don't do the technical stuff.  Never learned more than the minimum necessary to write and/or teach writing on computers.   But I do love music, and I enjoy the hell out of other people's gifts.  I won't starve because I made the stupid choice of pursuing music despite a near-total lack of talent. 

"Follow your dreams/your passion, and the money will come to you."

Again, bullshit.  This is the same stupid lie as "follow your heart."

My son, for example, loves his Hot Wheels.  He wants to make Hot Wheels.  He doesn't understand why he can't own a Hot Wheels factory and make Hot Wheels in the United States, but the cold fact of the matter is that he can't.   Not because I don't think he can figure out how to own such a factory, but because of the screaming assholes demanding a stupidly high minimum wage because they have no skills.  

Because grownups lied to them when they were small.  

Or sometimes, not so small.  

Kids trust their teachers.  College kids trust their professors.  College professors don't realize how much harm they do when they tell kids "of course the jobs are there--all you need is a degree!"  Maybe the college professors believe it.  Often, though, they know better, and are simply protecting their cushy jobs.  

"Do the degree you love!  The money will follow!" is a flat-out lie, in most cases.  I did the degree I loved, but I had no intention of making a living, much less of becoming rich.  My intention was to be a secondary income.  My intention was to have something where my hours were flexible and I could raise my own kids.  

Most people going for an English degree believe that they'll be able to find a job with that degree...and I know why.  My professors took a lot of pains to point out that an English degree confers skills like critical thinking (nope--never saw that), the ability to understand and use persuasive techniques (did see that, but it wasn't nearly as universally applicable as they implied), and a whole host of other useful things that every employer wants.  

A very close friend of mine got her primary degree in psychology.  She had a plan: she wanted to do counseling, partially because she'd been extensively helped by psychologists.  She didn't know which path to take--a masters' degree in psychology, or one in social work.  The program pushing social work lied to her, outright, with statistics.  The stats checked out; however, the lie was in what they left out.  The social work program told her that she'd get a larger percentage of what her going rates were reimbursed by medicare/medicaid if she went with a master's in social work.  That was true; however, what they left out was that her bottom line would be far lower...because a counselor with a master's in social work wasn't allowed to charge as much as one with a master's in psychology.  

And either one would have qualified her for the student loan forgiveness plan she'd enrolled in, where serving in underserved areas for five years got her student loan debt--all of it, not just her master's degree--written off.  Over the past twelve years, she could have had all of her debt--including her medical debts and her husband's student loan debt--paid off with the difference in income that the master's in psychology would have made.  That's how much believing the wrong person cost her.

Life is hard.  It's even harder if you never learn to spot the lies. 

*Even "fun" lies backfire.  I've been careful to point out exactly where a lot of the myths come from, and that, at one point, Santa Clause was a real person, without telling my kids any lies...or spoiling their fun.  But I've seen kids that find out that their parents lied about one thing (or more) decide that their parents have lied about everything...including things like how addictive drugs, tobacco, and/or alcohol can be (depending on the family lines).  

**No greater harm has been perpetrated upon multiple generations in an attempt to help than the self-esteem movement. 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Collard greens...my way

When I make collard greens, I do tend to make a lot of them at once.  And then freeze them in individual portions for my picky imp that won't eat other veggies.  I made them on New Years, and took them to my mom-in-law's for the traditional New Year's Day lunch of ham steak, black eyed peas, etc.  She'd never had greens before (her mom had hated greens of any type).  And she thought they were pretty good, and has requested them again, once or twice.  

I start with the 2lb bag of chopped greens I can find at some of my local Walmart stores.  I could start with fresh bunches, but I'd probably need at least three bunches to make sure I had enough once I'd picked through, washed it, and chopped it up.  Yeah the chopped costs more than two bunches, but doesn't cost more than three, so it...evens out.  And yeah, they may say "washed and chopped" on the bag, but I wash them again. 

First thing I do is drop about a tablespoon of bacon grease in the bottom of a large stock pot, and start that melting while I roughly chop a large onion.  And when I say a large onion, I mean damn near softball sized large onion.  You can do more or less, depending on tastes and what your digestion will tolerate.  Drop your chopped onion into your melted bacon grease, and saute it a bit.  

Next, dump the greens in the pot.  All of them.  It's gonna take some cramming to get them all in.  And then I add 2-3 quarts of chicken broth.  You can use plain chicken broth, bone broth, or water and bouillon--I've done all three, depending on what I had on hand, and they all work.  I usually don't have pulled pork on hand, but I always have bacon bits.  I add about half a cup of those.  And a touch of Cajun seasoning--just a touch, because you can add more later, if it's needed, but can't correct the other way. 

Bring everything to a boil and let it go for about 40 minutes.  Collards are tough.  Check it around 40 minutes, and keep in mind it may need longer.  It probably will, but not a whole lot.  Again, collards are tough.  You want them tender, but not limp.  

I'll usually serve them with whatever else we're having, then package them in 1/2 c servings for my imp, plus one more larger, family portion.  

 Damn it, now I want greens...

Collard greens

2 lbs bag of chopped/washed, or equivalent of fresh (some places may have them chopped, blanched, and frozen, but our local area doesn't).  

1 tbsp bacon grease (you can use olive oil...but why?)

1 large onion (more or less), chopped 

2-3 quarts chicken broth

1/2 c bacon bits

Cajun seasoning--to taste, but be careful when you add it

1. Saute the onion in the bacon grease in the bottom of a large stock pot.  2. Cram collard greens in stock pot, then add chicken broth to not quite cover (they cook down fairly quickly).  3. Add bacon bits.  4. Bring to a rapid boil, cook for 40 minutes or longer.  5. Serve hot with barbecue, ham, or whatever. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

What's next? Grits?

My son is...decidedly odd.  He swears up, down, and sideways that he loves almost everything "apple" except apples themselves: juice, cider, apple sauce, etc.  Just...not apples.  He loves oranges and orange juice.  Hell, the kid's liked salsa since he was a baby!  

About a year ago, I was at a Southern cookin' restaurant that had collard greens on the menu.*  Theirs were lightly spiced, and included pulled pork in with the greens.  And yes, it was definitely pulled pork, not bacon--it's a specific texture.  And I had some, and the imp decided he wanted a taste...and promptly ate about half my greens.  

Since then, I've been making a mess of collard greens** and freezing individual portions for him for when we're doing green beans...which he hates.  

But I'd been making them up fresh every time we ran out, which takes forever.  However, it's worth it, because between that and the salsa, the kid actually eats at least some veggies without fussing.  Nay, eagerly.  

Well.  Anyhow.  

I was really tired tonight.  We had smoked pork chops (taste like ham steak, really), the ones who can eat wheat had biscuits, and I opened up a can of black-eyed peas and peppers. I puttered around, trying to figure out what else sounded good, and I realized I wanted some greens. I didn't have any fresh or frozen on hand.  I do, however, have some in the pantry, in cans.  Mustard greens, as it so happens, which are some of my favorite (and which are hard to find without soy protein/soy broth, in this area, which I can't have).  So I took a skillet and heated it up, drained the greens, put about half a teaspoon of bacon grease in the bottom of the skillet, dumped the greens in, tasted them...

And damn, that was nasty.  They didn't salt the damn mustard greens at all when they canned them.  I salted the hell out of them, tasted them again, then added a healthy dash of smoked paprika (don't ask how much, because I have no idea), some onion powder, more salt, and a little bit of ranch dressing mix.  

The imp had a little bit of everything.  The pixie refused the greens, but had peas (despite them being a little spicy), pork chop, and three biscuits.  

And then, the imp went back for seconds on the canned greens.  "Momma, those were good."  

One of these days, I'm gonna try him on cheesy grits, I swear it.  He may actually like them. 


*Restaurant is Red, Hot, & Blue.  They serve pretty decent barbecue, awesome cornbread, and damn good collard greens.  

**My collard greens are easy, just time consuming, because collards are tough if you don't cook 'em long enough.  I'll share the recipe soon.  

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Envy.

Envy is...something I've written about before.  It's nasty, destructive.  It's one of the seven deadly sins for a reason.  

I'd seen it before, but not close up.  Something I realized, last night, is that it's self-destructive.  Not just destructive of everything around it, but destructive of everyone who's involved, including the person feeling it.  

Last night, I talked to my younger sister.  Younger sister is...not in a good place, mentally, emotionally, physically, financially.  She's not ever been in a good place, not since we were both very small.  And I've noted, watching her, a growing problem with her thyroid gland: she's showing every symptom of it being non-functional.  And she, being convinced that she won't get treated by a doctor because she's a medicaid patient, won't go.  At.  All.  

And then...

Then...

She started complaining about it.  Because it's Not Fair.  "Doctor's offices are supposed to want to help people!  They shouldn't be in that business if all they want is money.  It's gone to 'survival of the fittest' and that's just wrong."  

I could not get across to her that it's not the office's fault.  I could not get her to understand that, if they did all the tests on all the people, regardless of what type of insurance they had (real or Medicaid), pretty soon they'd not be able to help anybody.  

She only just stopped short of suggesting that since she felt she couldn't get treatment, then nobody should be treated.  

I mean, my God.  I...kind of made excuses and hung up.  There's nothing more I can say.  I think she's made her mind up, and envy has destroyed what reasoning power she used to have.  

It has definitely destroyed her peace of mind.  What little she'd built.  She's not just depressed (a life-long issue for her, and now exacerbated hard by the non-functioning thyroid that she won't even attempt to get looked at and treated), but angry, resentful, and bordering on hateful.  

I'm honestly not sure I trust her anymore.  I do know there are now a whole lot of conversational topics that are completely off the table.  I just...can't think how this won't extend further, reach further, and have her attempting to sabotage me, my kids, my family.  

And that...that is the worst thing of all that envy can/will do.  It doesn't just attempt to destroy those that are envied, but those that harbor envy.  

Monday, May 17, 2021

Necessities

I've been thinking about some of the advice I gave in my previous post, about needed purchases, and taking care of yourself.  I'd like to give some small, practical "everybody needs these things" type of advice, here.  

You need a way to turn ingredients into food.  Which means kitchen implements.  And, for those of y'all who are just starting out (probably not that many) likely have little idea of which kitchen things are necessities, and which are niceties.  

I'm going to list, here, what I'll be sending my kids off with, when they move out: 

  • a set of small, sharp kitchen knives
  • two larger knives (one serrated)
  • 1 knife sharpener
  • two spatulas 
  • two cooking spoons
  • 1 set of wooden spoons
  • 1 set of rubber spatulas
  • 1 set stainless steel mixing bowls
  • 1 set stainless steel measuring spoons
  • 1 set stainless steel dry measuring cups
  • 1 set of liquid measuring cups in 1, 2 and 4 cup sizes, either clear plastic or Pyrex
  • 1 cast iron griddle 
  • 1 cast iron biscuit/muffin pan
  • 1 10" cast iron skillet, with a glass lid
  • 1 10" stainless steel skillet, which the glass lid also fits 
  • 2 stainless steel pots, in 1, and 3 quart, with pour spouts and strainer lids
  • 1 stainless steel pot with lid, in at least 7 quart
  • 1 9x13 casserole dish (likely stainless steel--my oldest is absent minded and a bit clumsy) 
  • 2 sheet pans--one big, one small.  Also known as a cookie sheet.
  • 1 pressure cooker, at least 5 quart, with a pressure gauge (or an Instant Pot)

I'd like y'all to note that nowhere on this list do I have anything labeled non-stick.  If treated right, cast iron is non-stick.  And non-stick skillets take very specialized care, and can and do become toxic if used over high temperatures.  

I'd also like y'all to note the knife sharpener.  I've seen people throw away perfectly good knives because they were dull, and the individuals didn't know what to do with them.  Even cheap stainless steel knives are perfectly adequate if you use a sharpener on them every so often.  

As for the pots...the 1 quart pot is great for single-servings of hot cereals.  Or for warming up a can of soup over a stove burner.  The 2 quart is...adequate for most other things, but not all; a three quart often is, if you're not feeding all of your friends.  If you're making pasta, you need the big pot for the pasta to not stick to itself when you're starting out.  The casserole is because I've taught both kids their favorite pasta dish: pasta bake.  You can find the recipe in the tabs up top.  You can also use it to turn flour into cake.  Or brownies. 

Many people are afraid of pressure cookers; I, on the other hand, am afraid of morons, since pressure cookers are perfectly safe, assuming that the person using it releases the pressure before opening the lid.  People may ask why I have one added as a necessity, rather than a nicety--well, it's simple.  A pressure cooker can take beans from dry to done in a bit more than an hour, without having to soak them first.  A pressure cooker can take inedibly tough cuts of meat and make them tender (maybe not to the point that bad dentures can handle them, but definitely to the point that a kid with baby teeth can manage).  A pressure cooker may actually, in fact, be a nicety, but it's one bordering on necessity.  A pressure cooker also goes by another name: a pressure canner.  You can use it to preserve food...which may well come under the label of "necessity" if things don't turn around.   

Now.  Nothing on the above list needs to be top of the line...or even new.  A lot of it is easily findable in yard sales, flea markets, or Goodwill.  Currently.  

As with everything else, it could change in a blink. 

Friday, May 14, 2021

Get ready...

We have been completely out of debt for the past year.  The mortgage is gone, we have one credit card that we use for gas and larger expenses than the debit card will cover (and which is paid off in full every month), and we'd owed nothing else.  

That brings...a lot of security.  I don't have to worry about keeping creditors off my family's back while I stretch what we have to make sure to keep a roof over my head, lights and water on, and food on the table (damn good food, too, even with a minimal grocery budget).  We are not to that point, but so many are...and the hell of it is that it's entirely because nobody taught them how to manage...well, life.  

And we are in for one hell of a ride, coming up.  I'm seeing prices climbing--not in obvious ways, but because I'm paying attention.  Even when prices aren't going up, package sizes are shrinking.  

I have been actively avoiding the news, because I don't need the stress when there's not a damn thing I can do to fix things.  All I can do is worry, and keep doing what I've been doing anyway.  

I have some bits of advice for people who are only just now starting to wake up.  

First: learn the differences between need and want.  That, for some reason, seems to be damn hard for a lot of people.  It's something I've been working on teaching my kids, and it's...not easy for them to pick up.  Then again, they're 12 and 10, and have never gone without because of their parents' stupid choices.  I'd be willing to bet that a lot of kids out there who get most of their nutrition through free school meals are going to grow up to keep a lot of food in the house...and will learn to cook.  I did, after all (and I only had one year in that situation, early on in my childhood memories).  Everybody needs a basic phone; nobody needs the latest, greatest, biggest smart-phone on the market.  

If you want it, and can afford it after all needs (shelter, food, water) are met, more power to you, but it's not a need.  

Not every home needs a gaming computer, the newest laptop, the biggest cable package (or even a cable package).  Not every home needs a gaming system.  

Thing is...it's gotten to the point where a basic something (desktop, laptop, netbook and internet connection) is kind of necessary.  It's getting harder all the time for people who haven't learned the difference between need and want in the past to figure it out now (and harder for those of us who have).  

And the hell of the matter is that it's getting harder and harder to meet basic needs, between prices going up, and availability of some things going down.  

Second: break the habit of pulling that credit card out to pay for everything.  Interest rates are going to have to go up.  Government "help" is going to force the issue, no matter what Wall Street wants.  If you have any debt, look up Dave Ramsey, and start working on his program.  Hell, if you have an adjustable rate mortgage (and some do, because it looked like the wiser option at the time) refinance to a fixed rate mortgage.  Do it now, before rates start climbing in an effort to combat the coming stagflation that'll make the 1970s look tame.  If you don't own a home, don't start looking now--everybody else already is, and the prices in real estate are already jacked up from government "help."  Because they didn't learn the first time.  

Third.  If you own a home, do any needed repairs that you've been putting off now.  Remember inflation?  It's already hit things like building materials.  It's one of the reasons (but only one of them) why we got the roof replaced now, rather than saving a little longer.  

If you've been putting off any necessary purchase and have the cash to do them, do them now.  Otherwise, there's no telling how long you'll have to stretch things.  Just...do not go into debt over a computer for the household...or a cookstove...or anything.  Remember the interest rates.  Yeah, you may have to settle for something different from what you'd planned because the Covidiocy shut down the wrong factory at the wrong time and what you want isn't available (see: last summer's dishwasher debacle).  But now is the time do do any purchases for durable goods.  

Oh.  Yeah.  And build up a stockpile of food, if you can.  Go for basics: legumes, base ingredients, etc, rather than packaged food.  God alone knows how bad it's going to get before people get pissed off enough to make it better. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

I've been productive (finally)!

I've finished the first draft of Liquid Diet Chronicles: Having a Pint, and finished the first edit; it's currently in the hands of three beta readers.  I finished the first edit of a short story, the first second draft of another one,* and am nearly finished with the first draft of a third.  I've got two more started, but I'm not sure yet where they're going.  I'm not too worried.  I figure I'll finish the first draft I'm working on, then do an edit of the second story while the other two percolate.  After that, I've got a finished novel that needs to be edited before I send it off to beta readers (my word do I!  It's The Schrodinger Paradox, and the first two parts have already seen some heavy handed editing and expanding--not to the point of different entirely, but they've shifted some).  

We've been productive in taking care of the house, too.  And that makes me happy. 

The roof is replaced; the ceiling's repaired.  I have thoughts on how to rearrange the entry hall for better utility (and for replacing the coat tree, which tips when it's heavily loaded).  It'll take some materials bought, though, but shouldn't be hard.   

That's it on the major upgrades.  We have some semi-major repairs/upgrades to do, and a few minor ones that we can do at least part of.

One semi-major project that needs to be done is repairing the carport.  It wasn't built right to start with.  

Another project that's going to require outside assistance is repairs to the garage doors: the tracks on one are broken, and the other works, but only sort of, and if I open it, half the time I can't get it closed because if it goes too far up on its tracks, I can't jump high enough to reach it to pull it shut.   So the one can't open, and the other stays locked.  I'm not sure the garage is usable as a garage--I'm not sure Odysseus's truck would fit with the door shut on either side--and needs some rearranging before it's truly usable as a workshop. 

As for the minor upgrades...both will require a plumber, at least for part of the work.  We need to fix the hall bathroom so that the bathtub has a shower fixture--I'm a little tired of having to send the kids to the master bathroom for their showers.  We can re-do the walls above the tiles around the tub (vinyl sheeting would do a lot), but we might need to get a plumber in to do the rest, and the faucet needs replaced, anyway.  I want a new faucet on my kitchen sink, with a sprayer nozzle that works.  I have the faucet--it just needs to be put on properly.   I don't think I can do that, and I'm pretty sure Odysseus can't fit under the sink to do that--not with as tall as he is, and as cramped as it is between the back of the sink and the wall.  

All of those are in the future, however.  I want a break to enjoy what we have done.  And so I can get the house back in some semblance of order before we tackle another messy project.  

*I wrote the first draft first person, re-read it, then rewrote it from third person.  First draft was just a little over 2K words...the rewrite almost tripled the word count, and I'm much happier.  It still needs work, and may well get longer still.