Saturday, September 11, 2021
It's the 20th anniversary of the nastiest sneak attack we've ever had on US soil.
Rage has distilled into bitterness. Because, thanks to the chattering political nitwits, the post turtles, and the FICUS, nothing has really changed.
Not because we didn't wake up. But because most of the country rolled over and went back to sleep. Were sung back to sleep by the twats
selected by our political betters to run the country pushing the idea that of course it couldn't happen again...see all of the security theater we put together? It keeps us all safe. Never mind that it's been proven to not work...or that the agents and agencies put in place have been proven, over and over again, to be morons and thieves...
The FICUS who uses the imperial first person plural pronouns to indicate itself has not just demonstrated its own uselessness, but has given the enemy the understanding that the nation is as weak as it is. As stupid and as inept.
Because we elected* it right?
The FICUS has not just set us up for more attacks, but also imported our attackers without vetting that they were actually in danger if left in place (and, in fact, it's been pointed out that several Afghanis brought over were likely terrorists, even as we drone-bombed our own allies by "accident").
So, no. I'm not angry anymore. I'm bitter, and filled with cold rage, but not angry.
I'm way past angry.
Tuesday, August 31, 2021
I'm having trouble keeping all my balls in the air. I keep focusing on the stuff that I can't manage because the tools aren't there. And with that--with being focused on the stuff I can't manage--I'm starting to drop other balls. Ones that, were I paying attention to the right thing, I wouldn't be having trouble with. All the balls I've dropped are rolling around underfoot, and I'm not just dropping the rest, but losing my balance.
I need to stop, breathe, refocus, and pick up one task. One ball.
Imp is having trouble with school. I keep reminding him to hang on, he's got a doctor's appointment tomorrow, and we'll have an updated 'scrip in another week or two, but he really is having trouble.
I think we've got things adjusted so that he's not overwhelmed by all the crap in his locker--the system with the one, big binder with all his stuff for all his classes seems to work better than the one with a binder for each class. Each class has its own section in the binder: there's a folder for the class, then divider tabs, and paper for each class's work and notes.
Right now, his problem is a negativity spiral. He can't pull out of it. He's stuck on "I can't remember/I can't do it/I'm going to fail"--stuck on the problem, and can't re-focus to fixing the problem. He doesn't even know where to start to fix the problem (remember that problem with under-developed executive function?).
He's stuck. His focus is stuck. He's feeling like he's starting to drop the balls that are being thrown at him.
I know exactly what that feels like: I cope with that, too. I'll be managing things on my limits and then boom--something goes wrong. And then everything goes wrong when I change focus to deal with the one thing. The routine gets broken, because my checklist to help me remember things can't cover the extra. And neither does my energy or focus levels.
As an adult, I know that the only thing to be done is to slow down, take a breath, focus on what I've dropped, and pick up one ball. Not immediately try to get them all back in the air, just one.
For example, with the line to the kitchen outlets being broken or having a short somewhere, I have no dishwasher. I don't have the energy to deal with dishes on top of taking care of the kids' back-to-school needs and rebuilding routines,* and without the dishes, it's a lot harder to keep up with cooking. The summer heat making me not want to cook isn't helping. Feeding my family is one of the big things in my routines. And not having my dishwasher or cooking every night is making me drop all the balls. And having one of the two kids in desperate need of extra support and help isn't helping me pick the balls up.
I need to focus on one ball.
I'm focused, right now, on getting the imp on his feet in school. He's got a system that will work when his meds dose gets adjusted...and I've got his doctor's appointment made for tomorrow afternoon. It was the soonest I could get him in.
He's missed a few assignments. I took him back in to get the book one of the assignments was from, and I got him to do one of them last night. I contacted the other teacher, and got the low-down on what happened in her class, and got the imp to admit he needed help, but didn't know what to do. I got that managed (son, you need to ask for help when something isn't working).
One ball managed. Next ball: getting my kitchen back.
Working on that one. Got an appointment set up with a different set of electricians because the first set is dropping balls. I sympathize, but I need my kitchen.
It's a step-by-step process. But it's taken me decades to figure out how to manage when all the balls go everywhere.
The imp is dealing with all the balls going everywhere, and he doesn't even have the tools to know where to start picking them up. So he gives up and curls up and does nothing. Which...is entirely typical and understandable for someone with his challenges.
First ball: get the dropped homework done and turned in. I think we've got that managed, now. And got a system so he doesn't lose it instead of turning it in. He just has to build it into an automatic habit.
Where my challenge is ME/CFS draining my energy and triggering brain fog (and sometimes triggering my body into attacking itself), his challenge is that he's growing. He's needing constant monitoring of his weight, size, and dosage, and he's almost 13--his hormones are starting to step in and interfere. Eventually, that will settle, but right now, it's making him crazy, and he doesn't have the perspective or the tools to pull himself out.
So, right now, it's my job, as his mom, to pull him out of his spiral. It's...not easy, with all the things that push his focus to keep him in it. Especially when both he and I are still trying to figure out what's working, what isn't, and what's not just not working but backfiring. And when I'm trying to keep his spiral from making him withdraw, curl into a ball, and stop listening and trying.
One ball. Once he's got a handle on that--once I have a handle on that--we'll add another.
Tomorrow, I get to work getting the kitchen back, which will let me get that ball at least picked up so I don't stumble on it when it rolls underfoot. And tomorrow, I get the imp to his doctor and get that ball picked up.
One ball at a time. Pick them up. Stop letting them take my feet out from under me. Then work on getting them back in the air.
*I'm not talking about building routines for the kids. I'm talking about building routines for me. Because my limits keep changing. I think I'm doing something right, because sometimes, I can add things, rather than drop them. I just wish I knew what I was doing right, so that I could keep doing it, and maybe someday get closer to my old normal than I currently am.
Friday, August 27, 2021
I've still not got my kitchen back. I think we may have to go with a different electrician. I really, really need my dishwasher. This is not on. It's been a month.
I found out the hard way that I can't tolerate quinine. I made myself a cocktail with tonic water, and reacted badly to it. Bad, bad side effects that lasted for more than 24 hours (although the worst was only about 12 hours. I am...disappointed...by this. Because a glass mostly full of ice and tonic with a shot of Kracken and a little bit of lime is damn tasty. And refreshing when it's so stupidly hot and heavily humid as it's been recently.
My imp's school specified a 1" binder for each class. We...tried that. It didn't work. So didn't work. Five binders, plus books for classes equals overwhelming for any kid, but neurotypical kids adapt and organize fairly quickly and with varying degrees of well. Not so much with a neurodivergent kid (like mine, with ADHD). What we are doing instead is simple: everything goes into a 3" binder with a shoulder-strap. The classes are divided out by a folder that matches the color we used on his class schedule. I need to simplify his schedule, too--it's cluttered and confusing for him. He still doesn't have it memorized, after two full weeks.
The housework is...in need of attention. I am trying to keep things picked up off the floor so that I can justify getting a self-emptying robot vacuum. I can't keep up with the picking up and the sweeping/vacuuming. Especially not with having to do dishes by hand (even the few that can't be disposables).
Stress. Stress sucks. Especially when you can't stop worrying about things you can't do anything about. Not because it's national, but because the things you are worrying about aren't things, but the people in your life that you can't do anything to help, either because they fight you on it, ignore you on it, or you've flat given up on trying because they sabotage it. Stress brings on extra inflammation, and eats energy, and one bad thing about a multitasking brain is that, even when I'm doing something else, I'm still worrying. Because one track of my brain is still able to focus on that (and does) even when I've got all the others working on something else.
I have two more weeks before I can get back into my fucking hotmail account. Two weeks ago, it told me I had to update my security or else. And then booted me out. And when I signed in, it told me to input a code from a text. Sent to my home phone number which doesn't receive texts. I gave the fucker an alternate email address to send the code to, and it let me in just long enough to input the code from that, then booted me out again, and said I couldn't sign back in until 9/11. Everything goes to that email addy. Everything. Because it's the one I've used for everything since I got married in 2004.
Dusty Hill died. So did Charlie Watts. Yes, I know they were on the older side, especially for rock stars, but damn. Two of the greats. I am dreading who's going next. C'mon, Death, take one of the pop tarts that can't sing or play instead of the greats, this time. It's been a hell of a month, and I need a fucking break.
Tuesday, August 17, 2021
Changing classrooms and classes and teachers every hour.
Trying to keep up with the supplies, organizational demands, and the work load that God has not gifted you the tools to deal with that everyone else has.
ADHD kids don't even know where to start. They've got no idea how to deal with any of it. And worse, the shift toward a high-school-type schedule has thrown off whatever routine and equilibrium they'd had built up.
Why is it so hard?
Executive function. It's a fancy name for how your brain organizes and prioritizes projects and tasks. It's the framework most people take for granted in dealing with their day. The alarm goes off, and your average neurotypical rolls over and smacks the snooze, stretches and dozes and works on waking up, then gets up when the alarm goes off again. They wander thoughtlessly through getting dressed, eating, grooming, and getting ready to go. They don't have to think about every single step.
ADHD includes something called executive function disorder. It's what turns a routine into a disorganized mess. Someone with ADHD cannot run on autopilot through their morning--they have no autopilot. Some work around it; others are the disorganized mess running out the door with an armload of papers drooling out of their grip, having lost or forgotten anything and everything from keys to writing utensils to phones to...well, everything.
Part of the problem is that the brain lacks several key capabilities--someone with ADHD does not make sufficient dopamine.* There's less insulation between their emotions and their impulses and their actions than normal people have, because their brains do not reward them for correct actions by producing dopamine. And that "reward" is what helps build executive function in neurotypicals. From toddlerhood.
A lot of people with ADHD lean on waiting until the last possible second to do things, and depend on the adrenaline rush from panic to snap them into focus so that they can do thing things neurotypicals expect to be easy for everyone: things like planning out a draft, planning the steps, estimating the time each step takes, and working slowly, steadily, methodically, and without stress to finish the project.
Without executive function, people with ADHD lack that sense of how long something is going to take. They think it'll take forever, when it might be half an hour or so, at most. So they start out not knowing where to start (and feeling overwhelmed), or how long it's going to take (making it worse), and can't push themselves to get started at all. Literally cannot. They want to. And can't. And if they try, nothing works--their brain goes off in a million directions, with none of them useful.
Parents can provide some framework; parents can teach their kids how to build scaffolding so that they have something external that takes the place of internal executive function. It's hard, though--neurotypical parents don't have any idea how to break down and teach what comes so automatically to them; parents with ADHD may still be suffering from the same problems, and can't help without figuring it out for themselves, first.
Building that framework is essential. Start with the very basic step: what is it you need to do first? Write that down. Then write down what goes next. Build a checklist. People with ADHD can't simply build a routine and get it into autopilot. They have to keep double-checking that list, or they'll get out the door and find they've forgotten deodorant. Or that they didn't get their hair or teeth brushed. Because they got distracted by something else their brain flung at them instead.
Build a checklist for once you get where you're going--work or school. Color code it. Match whatever supplies you need to the color blocks on your schedule.
Build a framework: make sure reminders are visible and attention-catching. Set alarms, use timers. Use bright markers and bright colored sticky notes. If it's out of sight, it's out of mind.
And then forgotten. And not done.
Medication does help, but it isn't a miracle or a cure, and won't build the scaffold. It only lets people focus long enough that they can.
ADHD sucks. It's awful. People with ADHD have to find work-arounds to mimic what neurotypicals do as a matter of course, and they have to work four times as hard to have half of the success.
*Dopamine and serotonin production can be supported, but it's hard to do, and people with ADHD have to be careful. One of the best ways is through diet; one of the most common ways to trigger dopamine production ends up...backfiring. Finding foods that stimulate the production of serotonin can also help with stimulating the production of dopamine, but the issue is that dopamine is also produced by empty, simple carbohydrates--junk food and sugar--because it tastes good, all of which exacerbate the inability to focus, and further damage any executive function abilities.
Thursday, August 5, 2021
Missouri has, for the past several years, set the first weekend in August (from 12am on Friday morning to 11:59pm Sunday night) as a state sales tax holiday on everything needed for back to school, including clothes and electronics. Tomorrow, I do back-to-school shopping. Without paying state sales taxes. Or city, since I'll be shopping in a township that participates in the sales tax holiday. I hate the shopping part, so we go as early as I can get everyone around and out the door (before 8:00 am). And we go through and methodically check off things as we acquire them.
Yesterday, my enterprising pixie asked me to find and print their school's supply list, and went through, gathering everything on the list she could get her hands on. It was a surprisingly large amount. I think I can give her a small list and have her find her things she's missing (I think there's a total of five things).
My son, on the other hand...he's going into middle school. His school is wanting an inch and a half binder for each major core class. He needs zipper binders. As in really needs zipper binders. He's the world's most awful klutz where dropping his binders is concerned, and the most likely for said binder to explode papers everywhere. Because the rings either pop open (it's happened), or because he hasn't managed to put the things in the rings, yet.
My wallet mourns. As does my determination to buy as little "made in China" as humanly possible.
Thankfully, the reduction of what the pixie needs should make it much easier to afford what the imp needs.
Both kids will need clothes, but not a lot just yet--they've got sufficient summer-weight stuff, and winter stuff isn't even out yet. Some I'll have to order online, since the girls' polo shirts are limited in local stores where the city's participating in the tax-free holiday to two colors: navy blue and white. The imp is starting to need different sizes than what I can find in the kids' section (bigger sizes assume "hefty" and he's...the opposite). Shoes, on the other hand...yeah, the imp needs shoes. Badly. His are worn out.
So, there's a big shopping push this week, then next week...Tuesday is back to school night, where they take stuff and load their desks and locker. We'll be signing paperwork, picking up information packets on drop off and pick up while they get set up for classes starting back up. Then Thursday, they start back to school (yes, I'm very excited about this, if you can't tell). No masks will be required, no "hybrid of online and in person for middle school and high school" like last year...the only thing they're still doing is staggering when you can get in and out of the building by last name, and trying to keep kids isolated by "color groups" (however well that works...).
I know they've been busy all summer, but I am ready for them to go back. Partially because I need to know--sooner, rather than later--if the imp needs his meds adjusted for school, or if his current dose is still good for him, and I won't know until school actually starts.
Thursday, July 29, 2021
The electrician came out and fixed the tripping (biting) breaker. I have the most important of the important things back up and running...however.
I still do not have a dishwasher. Or anything going to any of the kitchen outlets. The ones just outside the kitchen work fine, though.
And the electrician has no idea why the breaker's got power but the outlets don't. His best guess was a short somewhere. Or something. But there's no way he'd be able to fix it for us today. Or tomorrow. Or this week. Or next week. Because their company's running all the electricians' legs off, trying to keep people's AC units from killing their house.
The fix is going to be unhooking the current wire from everything, and running new wire. He said it won't be nearly as expensive as it could be, because the kitchen is very close to the panel.
So, right now, we're looking at mid-August, at best, before I can get that done. And will be hand-washing dishes until then (and using disposables for absolutely everything I can get away with using them for).
But this time, I have a stainless steel sink, and actual pressure in the pressure sprayer setting on my pull-down faucet for handwashing the dishes! Joy!
Okay, sarcasm done. That said, having a working sprayer does make things a little easier. The old one...barely dribbled.
Tuesday, July 27, 2021
So. I now have a new kitchen sink. Stainless, not composite. New faucet (pull down sprayer head--which I like, and which works, unlike the sprayer in the old sink). I no longer have a garbage disposal (which makes me very happy). And, as I'd suspected, the drains were done wrong. So, that has all been corrected.
It came in over the bid by about a hundred bucks, but I'd already mentally accounted for that.
Sink has four holes. One is used by the faucet.
Heh. I now have pump nozzles that have a hose that runs down into the big bottles of soap under the sink. One goes in the dish soap, and a second goes into hand soap.
Leaves me with one open hole...which Odysseus suggested putting another soap pump into. For Gojo.
I admit it, I cackled when I got that email suggestion while the plumber was here. He got...concerned. Because I'm not sure I sounded sane. I passed along the message to reassure him that I wasn't crazy, and the plumber thought that was a great idea, and he'd do it if it was his sink, and..."You're gonna let him, right? Right?"
I have a third pump system ordered.
That's one thing dealt with.
And another...went wrong, yesterday. Morning. Just as it was starting to get really hot outside
I went into the kitchen to get some ice, and the dispenser coughed, went kerchunk, and then didn't do anything. Neither did the water dispenser. So I open the door, and...the light's out. I figured the breaker tripped (but had no idea why, and still don't. Not really). Went to reset it. And it tripped the breaker for the heat pump. I reset that. It...snapped (I got a small shock like static on a doorknob, because I was already pulling my hand back), and the whole house went dark.
Um. Yeah. Called my other half* because I was freaking out (but trying not to let kids see, because they were already freaking out over lights and music going off). I was expecting either a call back with "electrician's on the way" or a call back with "call this number" or something, so I was mildly startled when he pulled in about twenty minutes after I'd called.
The house breaker got turned back on, and the heat pump breaker tripped. Odysseus flipped it, and it kicked the house off. And he flipped the house back on, the heat pump breaker tripped. He...yeah, he left it that way, and flipped the breaker for the fridge off, then back on.
Um...didn't work. The fridge is still lights-out, and so was everything on the power strip to the same outlet. O...kay.
Checked the dishwasher. It's out, too--the power won't come on. So, it's the whole circuit. Does not matter what position the breaker's in, nothing in that corner of the kitchen works.
We have an "oh, shit, the AC's out and the heat index is going closer to the hundred-teens than hundreds" portable AC unit with wheels and a hose that goes out the window, now. We didn't before yesterday.
And I'm waiting for the electricians to show up. Yesterday, they said it might be today.
The fridge is currently plugged into a heavy-duty extension cord which
is plugged in behind the washer. Which was a brilliant idea Odysseus had...after we'd crammed all of our food into the overflow fridge and deep freeze. So, the fridge is working, but not the dishwasher.
But I have a new sink. And the plumber that came out and put it in was freakin' awesome.
*I called his cell phone at work. I try to not do that. But...the whole house going dark after I'd been shocked flipping a breaker warranted it, in my opinion.
Saturday, July 17, 2021
We've been working on the house this year. Now that I've recovered from whatever hit me a year ago February, I got stuck back into the FlyLady system, and started figuring out what needed done, and in what order for taking care of the house. First up was the roof (obviously). That led us to another problem we didn't know about--the chimney for the fireplace had some bricks missing. Missing, as in, missing entirely, no idea where they were, because they weren't anywhere around the house or on the roof. And that could lead to future leaks. I'd have moved on that, but I didn't have any idea who to call about that.
And then I remembered that my mother-in-law had had an issue with the flashing around her chimney causing leaks, and got the name and number of the guy she'd used. And I called him last week. He came out Thursday morning, and got up on the roof to look about it. There are 22 bricks either missing or crumbling and in need of replacement. The quote on that isn't complete, yet--the guy said he needs to look through the materials he has before he can tell us if he needs to buy bricks for it or not. He gave me a ballpark quote that is well within range of what we can do, so I'll make sure and get that on the docket as soon as possible.
Another call I made last week was to the plumbing company we've been using recently.* They got one out to me the next day, to do a job and a couple of quotes. The bathtub faucet (and the nipple it was attached to) has now been replaced with one that attaches to a shower head wand on a hose. The bathroom walls are tiled to about half-height, including in the bathtub, so we'll be putting up vinyl panels between the tiles and ceiling.** We may do a vinyl panel on the ceiling, too. It depends on how things go.
Had the guy do up quotes for us on putting a new kitchen sink and faucet in, and running new lines from the propane tank to the house with ways to hook up a propane cook stove and eventually a furnace. No, I don't plan on fully replacing the heat pump, but the heat pump is not adequate for heating during winter temperatures. Even if it does well enough for spring and fall, and does an excellent job cooling.
That...well. The sink will be done when they can get to us. I've already accepted the bid, and acquired the materials (sink, supply lines, faucet, etc). The rest...is significantly higher than--as in, about double--what I thought it would be.
Unfortunately, the cost has pushed the propane line down the priorities list. Because the carport needs dealt with, first. I'd really rather not have it fall in on the vehicles.
The last things that need done...we need four GFCI outlets put in. One on either side of the kitchen sink, and one in each bathroom. We might be able to do those...were it not for the badly done tile. I mean, it looks good, but whoever did those jobs did not do a good job around the outlets. And we need someone who knows what they're doing to work around the tile, or fix the botched job of cutting around the outlets.
I think that's mostly it for the renovations that we need to have done by someone else.
The floors are (rather miraculously, given my health issues) remaining uncluttered. If we can keep the floors cleared for a full month, I do plan to get a self-emptying robot vacuum. Because while I can keep stuff picked up and put up even when the CFS is kicking my ass, I can't necessarily keep up with floors as well. And I hate that, but that's life.
I can say that the FlyLady system does work, even for the disabled.*** My house isn't perfect, and likely won't ever be, but we're not tripping over clutter or displaced clutter, or slipping on avalanches of papers and other crap from every flat surface where we work or read. I've still got areas of "oh, look at that--I forgot we had that" clutter, but I'm working on it a little bit at a time.
*The plumber we used for a long time starting from buying our first house died just before we bought this house. I cried over that. The plumber we got in contact with and mainly worked with with following that...was arrested a year after we bought the place and convicted on child pornography charges. And worse. This company seems to be owned and run by a husband and wife team, and they have several younger plumbers working with them. I'd honestly call it a mid-sized company, not a one-man operation (like the first) or a main guy and a couple of helpers (like the minor disaster).
**I'm pretty sure we can do this ourselves. So long as we can get the panels cut to spec at the store.
***I hate being disabled, but I have had to admit that I am. There are things that I can't do anymore. Not "can do, just slower," or "can do, but carefully," but can't do. Or, if I do, it'll be the only thing I do for several days to a week.
Sunday, July 11, 2021
I have a gorgeous* house. It's a ranch style house, built in 1970. We are the third owners.
I loved it on sight, in spite of the awful floors, the even-worse light fixtures, and the awkwardly-sized rooms (too big? too small?). I love that it's not really an open floor plan.** I love that there are two living spaces. I love that the kitchen is big enough for one or two people to work in, but no bigger than that, and has a lot of storage space. I love having a dedicated, built in pantry.
Before we moved in, we got rid of the carpet in the long, narrow, undefined extra living space--it's 24.5' x 11.5', and runs from the kitchen to the walls of the bathroom. It was, quite frankly, awful carpet: the berber style, and snagged and running. Coarse. And glued down. We put in hardwood look vinyl laminate, in there, and turned that one, humongously-long room into three with two braided-rag throw rugs that used to belong to Odysseus's grandma (if I recall correctly, and the colors are right to have done so) for the TV area on one end, and what is now a second, very informal seating area/kids' books library in the middle. Odysseus's grandmother's dining room table lives in the last third of the space. It's big enough to seat eight, if they really like each other, and four fit very comfortably. Even six fit fairly comfortably.
It's my library that I need to re-figure the arrangements on.
Because I really need more bookcases. A lot more. And I can only fit something like four more in the room. Unless I reconfigure some things...which may be possible.
Part of the issue is with some of the vents, and where they're laid out. Part of the issue is with one of the walls being only half-height, with the other half taken up with open shelving which Odysseus likes (and without which it really would be a lot darker in the library, since it's north facing--as well as colder in the winter, since the central heat is a freakin' air source heat pump that is ineffective when the temperature drops below a certain point, and the emergency heating elements are damn expensive).
Yesterday, Odysseus and I found the last key piece of furniture I'd been searching for, for my library: a love seat. It was waiting for us at this little flea market/antique store that happened to have been the second place we went after dropping off the kids at Grandma's for our anniversary (yes, yes--a bookstore was the first place). It's exactly what I'd been wanting for this space for the last four years: a high-backed, old-fashioned piece. It looks like somebody took a wing back chair and stretched it sideways to seat two. And it even coordinates with all of the other colors I'd chosen for the room.
But with it in place, it just points up that the rest of the room is...unfinished. I really want to fix that. Now.
I think I'm going to have to re-measure some things, and pull out some graph paper to play with bookcases along the walls. And play with a walk space for getting to the books, too.
*I think it's a gorgeous house. But then again, I really like the warm, light paneling in the secondary living area, and I like not having so many windows in the outer walls that I can't do anything but put up curtains on those walls.
**I hate open floor plans. I hate having nowhere to hide mess when people come over, that there's no separation between kitchen and work area, and where guests congregate. I am easily distracted, and do not do well trying to visit and fix the food, and do not like having the mess showing when I'm done cooking and want to visit.
Thursday, July 8, 2021
I woke up Tuesday morning with a mild, nagging headache. And then, after Odysseus took the kids with him when he left for work (to drop them off at his mom's), it started getting worse. Despite having taken a generic Claritin, and a dose of Tylenol.
And then...I walked into a dark room. And it eased.
Migraine. Damn it.
So, I spent most of Tuesday hiding in a dark room (after I'd gotten my gotta-do-it-every-day chores done). Couldn't even stand to look at the computer monitor, in the later afternoon, and could barely follow a sentence. Same with yesterday. So I went back to bed yesterday morning, and slept for a lot of extra hours, and that...helped. Enough that I could follow a sentence (sort of), and stand to look at the laptop monitor with the brightness turned way down.
I'm tracking a little better today, and can creep around without any lights on and do the gotta-do-it-every-day chores that I missed doing yesterday. And I'll be climbing back into straightening up, but not...somewhere bright. Not wiping down the fridge shelves today. Not messing about in the pantry, where I need the light on to see what I'm doing. Not doing much heavy. Just...little bits. In the dark.
And waiting for the headache to fade the rest of the way. It is following the normal pattern, so I'm predicting it'll be gone Saturday morning, at the latest. I'll probably still be a bit light sensitive, but God's having mercy on me, there--Saturday's forecast to be overcast.
Which is a good thing: I want to get out and do stuff. It'll be the 17th anniversary of the day I married my best friend.
Monday, June 28, 2021
We are...at the end of June. Not quite to the beginning of July. And, since Saturday, we've been having April rain. And late April/early May temperatures.
We've had the wrong geographic location's weather at multiple points, so far this year: we've had one week of weather normal to this area (i.e., hot as hell and muggy) at this point of the year, so far. Only one. Usually, we'll have had June come in starting at the upper 80s, and shooting upwards fast. At this point in June, we should be topping 90 every day by midday, and getting hotter until about 4:00. This year? Not so much. We've had low to middle 80's for the most part, with a couple days flirting with 100, but most days no hotter than the mid 90's.
Granted, that's still too hot to cook indoors with the size and capability of our current AC unit (it's an air exchange heat pump. Not the best for our area). But we now have that fully managed: we've got a propane grill that gets used for making pizza for the other half and kids (it's basically an outside oven), and it has a stove-top type burner off to the side for if we need to use it. And recently, we found a nice, big toaster oven/convection oven/rotisserie/air fryer, built a decent counter, and have been able to do other stuff that the grill's not precise enough for. The next plans are to get a small, table-top charcoal grill. We've had the propane grill for two years, and...while it does a decent job, there's nothing that beats a charcoal grilled burger.
The other mess we've had this year...and last year...and the year before...is things have been wet. Really wet. Like double (or more) the normal amount of rainfall one year, and half again the normal amount for the other two. We've had at the very least minor flooding issues for the past three years in a row. And yeah, it's kind of done bad things to the crops in the area. Some fields have damn near drowned.
And when you combine that with it getting colder than normal over the winter, and warming up later than normal, and starting to cool down earlier than normal...you see where I'm going, here. The growing seasons have been something like a month, month and a half shorter for the past couple of years.
This isn't a new trend, by any means. It's been cycling cooler for years. Instead of having a month or more at or near 100 degree highs, we've had a few days to a week or so in a row. Maybe twice or three times per summer.
Global warming this ain't.
The plants are not doing as well as they have in years past (with a few exceptions). The crop yields in truck gardens have improved, yes; however, some of the major food crops in the local fields have had some...rather skinny years. The winter wheat, for example, this past year, has been kinda wimpy. The heads are skinny, and the crop is about a month, month and a half late. The corn's tall, but hasn't put on ears yet, that I'd seen in the trip out to visit my family last weekend. It's about two weeks late on that. Soybeans are usually a second or even third crop (following winter wheat, and sometimes corn...which gets harvested in July...most years). It's...really not looking that wonderful, around here.
Something tells me that the "global warming" alarmists...never learned that plants love carbon dioxide, and thrive in an atmosphere rich in it...and a warm one, at that. Plants don't do well when things cool down. The only things that do are the really hairy mammals. And even those don't do well when things cool down too much, and food sources die back.
"Follow the science," indeed.
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
I keep forgetting that.
One of the big things I've tried to teach my kids is to fix a problem, rather than just whining about it. It's...a work in progress, but they're 10 and 12. They start whining, I thank them for articulating the problem, and ask them how they want to fix it.
It works, for now. For their age. For their maturity levels.
I'm hopeful it'll keep working.
I've heard people whining that they can't afford this, that, or the other...while they fiddle with their iThing (phone, pad, whatever). Or that their car payments are eating their life.
Well. I wonder.
I've pointed out Dave Ramsey. I've offered to loan books. I've laid out, step by step what they need to do to get their ass out of the crack.
"It's too hard!"
No, it actually isn't. It just takes some self-discipline, a little bit of the ability to delay gratification, and a willingness to have it happen slowly over time--they didn't get in massive debt overnight (I hope), and they won't get out of debt overnight. And they won't stay out of debt without building new habits and dropping old ones.
I've applied the same ideas to keeping my house in reasonable shape. The FlyLady is to house cleaning and clutter control what Dave Ramsey is to financial housecleaning and debt control. It doesn't happen overnight, but it does happen.
Assuming, y'know, someone's actually willing to start. All it takes is 15 minutes. A willingness to do something however imperfectly. And a willingness to let go of crap you've kept because "it might come in useful someday."
Here's a hint: it doesn't.
"But I don't know where to start!"
Anywhere. Just fifteen minutes. FlyLady starts with "take the dishes out of your sink--wash them, put them in the dishwasher, stack them on the counter--and shine your sink. Clean it and shine it." If your sink's empty and clean, that stack of dirty dishes looks pretty awful. Take fifteen minutes and wash a sink full. Then go do something else. Come back and do fifteen minutes more.
"It's not my kitchen. All I have is my attic that I live in."
Okay. Cool. That makes it even easier. Make your bed. Look around your bed--tackle the pile to the left of your bed. Fifteen minutes. Three piles: keep/give away/throw away. Put "keep" in a box, for the moment, since you claim to have no idea where any of it is supposed to go, and bag up the "give away" and the "throw away." Throw away goes into the dumpster--do not stop at the kitchen trash, do not let anyone look in. Give away goes in the car trunk. Do not stop to let elderly relatives look through it. It goes. Or it's going to wind up back in your possession.
"I don't know where to get started."
Fifteen minutes. Set a timer. Work steadily. Don't rush--focus on one thing. Then when the timer goes off, look at the dent in whatever task you'd set for yourself.
It may not be a huge dent, but it's there.
Thing is, people don't want to change. "The Good Lord will save me." But they don't want to work to save themselves with the tools God has already given them.
I'm done. No more trying to help.
Wednesday, June 9, 2021
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.
"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
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...
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
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.
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 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.
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
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
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 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.
Monday, May 10, 2021
My house was built in 1970. It has acoustic texturing on the ceiling (also known as popcorn ceilings), with glitter. Yes, glitter. And the texturing is heavy--which hasn't been made at all, by anyone, in over a decade. The glitter hasn't been made in longer. And the applicators have had their seals rot from disuse and age.
Which...has made it very difficult for the drywall guy to match, so that the patch on my ceiling doesn't stick out like a sore thumb.
He's decided he's going to have to scrape and redo the ceiling with a coarse medium texture. No word on glitter, yet, but he said he'd have to flick it up with his fingers, if he was able to find any at all.*
He said, when he called on Friday, that the material had just gotten to him, and that he'd be out on Monday to finish the job to my satisfaction.
I'm thankful for that. All of the things in the entry hall have been in the family room for a bloody month already.
I'm ready to put my house back the way it's supposed to be, rather than having stuff cluttering rooms it doesn't belong in (and I need to clear stuff off the old study table for moving it into the garage for kid art). I have so much to do...and not a lot of energy to do it with, so it won't get done quickly.
Hit a lick at a snake when I can, and things get done. Eventually. But they do get done.
*I promised if he had to do that, I'd write a note for his wife, explaining what he was doing and swearing he wasn't at a strip club. He got the giggles, and said he wasn't married anymore, but would have taken me up on that if he had been.
Saturday, April 24, 2021
1. The drywall should be fixed Monday. Turns out that it was a good thing the drywaller wasn't able to come out on Friday, since I had to run to Sam's Club. That's the last thing that needs to be put right before the new roof project is completely put to bed. Well, that, and the roofing company cashing the second check...
2. The imp's meds have been adjusted. Rather than raising the dose on the extended release, the doctor has given us a second, immediate release version that he's supposed to take early in the afternoon. I'm watching to see if I can give it to him immediately upon picking him up, or if he needs me to leave it at the office: the deciding factor will be whether it interferes with bedtime.
3. My meds have also been adjusted. I have lost something like 20 lbs since Thanksgiving (when I started monitoring my weight to prevent holiday weight gain), and that means I needed a lower dose of thyroid meds. Eventually, I may need to drop the celery seed extract, if it starts messing with my blood pressure the wrong way...which will leave me with Tylenol as a go-to for pain.
4. Doc still has me on a massive, mega-dose of D2 once per month. Today was the day scheduled for that. And she told me to keep taking the fish oil caplets with 2000 IU per day on top of the 50,000 IU per month. She wants another screening for that with my next blood test in July. She says my vitamin D levels are "getting there."
5. Still writing...as my brain is capable. I'm an idiot, and keep trying to push myself to do more than I'm actually capable of, and setting myself way, way back in trying to keep to anything resembling a schedule. Damn it.
5a. I am within spitting distance of finishing the first revision on Having a Pint. I'll be contacting people for beta reading as soon as I'm done. There's been a lot of fleshing out. It went from a hair over 51,000 words to a hair under 58,000 words, and I've got something like a chapter and a half to go.
5b. I've got a short story that I was working on. Got it finished. Realized I hated it, and that I'd done it from the wrong POV. I'm redoing it, am less than a third of the way done, and already have a hundred words more than the first draft. It'll likely get chucked in another collection of my short stories, along with a couple with other odd creatures and pets. So far, there are five stories that will likely go into the collection. All semi-centered on critters showing up and making room for themselves in the human characters' lives.
6. And that reminds me...I need to get off the blog, finish a story, then do planning for the next week or so of meals and chores.
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
My endocrinologist is...different. She listens to me, yes; however...she's really uncomfortable with the natural thyroid that I've been doing well on. I'm not sure she believes me when I say that I take it at the same time every day: about 5:40 am, and 4:00 pm. I take it at those times because it disrupts the rest of my day the least at those times.
Thyroid replacement requires an empty stomach. You need to take it an hour before eating/drinking coffee, and at least two hours after anything you've eaten. So, I take my first dose at 5:40, when other half's "go swim" alarm goes off. He wakes up, I wake up, I go take my pills, he turns on light and gets dressed, then hits the snooze to give me another forty minutes of sleep. On days he doesn't swim, the only change is that the light doesn't go on, and he doesn't get dressed.
Basically, by the time I get to coffee, the hour I need between pills and coffee has passed: I get up, dressed, get the kids up, fed, and dressed, get their lunches fixed, and then I get to sit down with my first cup of coffee. Yes, there's a check-list on the fridge for "brain no work sans coffee." Yes, I sometimes still get lost.
This morning sucked. My doctor wanted me to get my blood draw done before I took my pill. I dropped the kids off, and realized...the imp was missing his trumpet. So, I took an extra ten minutes and went to go get it and get it dropped off...which put me at the lab at 8:15...and waiting for a half an hour. Yep. I got back to my car, and got my pills taken at 8:55. More than three hours later than usual. With only a cup of coffee on board beforehand, and having to wait until a) I got home, and b) a full hour had passed before I could have cup #2.
Oh, and I take celery seed extract to deal with some of my joint inflammation...and that has to be taken no closer to either dose than 4 hours before or after. And that made my "take your meds, stupid" alarm at 10:00 useless. And the timing on this morning's thyroid dose has made my "take your meds, stupid" alarm for the second dose useless, as well.
I have felt out-of-step all day, today. And I have repeatedly checked my to-do list because I keep feeling like I've forgotten something. And I can't tell if I have, or if having my meds timing FUBARed just threw me off that much.
Yeah, I think I'll have a Scotch. An hour after I take my second dose of thyroid meds. Around 7:30-ish.
I have definitely earned it, and I am in the mood for it.
Sunday, April 18, 2021
I'd been thinking for a while about getting a good desktop computer, and a better desk. My desk is adequate as a writing desk, but would not be a terribly good computer desk. I'd peg it at probably forty years old, maybe older. It's got drawers on both sides of a knee-cubby, and they're too narrow for much. I mean, they're full, but they're freaking narrow.
And the desk itself doesn't have a whole lot of space.
So, yesterday, when this posted, it crystalized a lot of my reasons. I've only been getting a year--if I'm lucky--out of each laptop. Next year, it may be difficult to replace it. Between shipping chains being iffy and the whole damn world slipping away from capability as America loses its mind, they're going to be either priced out of reach, or totally unavailable.
And so, yesterday, we went shopping. Grandma'd taken the kids to give us a break after a stressful week, and gave us a lovely opportunity.
We started at Sam's Club. All they had in stock was one of the two brands I wanted nothing to do with: HP. And it was a total zoo. So, we moved on--left the cart with the book the kids wanted sitting somewhere out of the way, and just walked out.
Then we went to Office Depot. They had a couple of Dells, an HP or two, and several Lenovo systems--the other brand I wanted absolutely nothing to do with. We wandered back, and looked at desks, and found a couple we sort of liked (one of which I really liked--the desk surface was a gorgeous, almost parquet type design). And then we headed out.
We...went to our favorite bookstore in town. It's a small, used book store, and it used to be a house. It shares a parking lot with a plant nursery, so the parking lot was full, but we were one of two couples in the entire store. And yes, we came home with several books for each of us.
By that time, it was time for me to take my thyroid replacement (since it's a natural thyroid, I have to take it twice a day). And we fixed supper, and ate. And I realized that I needed a visit to Hobby Lobby, because I needed some supplies I didn't have to learn a new threadcraft. So, off we went again.
Hobby Lobby was quick. It took two minutes to get a ball of black tatting thread, and a ball of bright blue. Everyone says that learning's easier when you've got different colors on the shuttle and the ball. And...that has proved true. My first two attempts failed miserably, but last night, after we got back home...dang, that's easy. It takes some focus, and attention (which will make it a good meditation and quiet prayer aid), but it's pretty easy.
The one thing we looked for that they didn't have was woodworking supplies: carving tools. I think I may visit the local hardware store to see if they might have something.
Then, we went to see what Walmart might have in the way of what we'd looked for at Sam's Club and Office Depot. Oh, not the desks--Walmart furniture is shit--but the towers and peripherals.
Yeah. HP, Lenovo, flashy gaming Acers and Dells. Don't want a flashy gaming machine. Do one something semi-capable of some limited gaming, but nothing flashy and showy. This is going to be used for writing (sometimes), and kid homework and research (sometimes), as well as limited gaming (my other half enjoys some). Flashy and showy is distracting.
We did find a monitor we wanted to ask about a price on, since there wasn't one anywhere on the shelf or the box. We gave up after spending five minutes waiting at the electronics department desk for anyone to freakin' show up.
So, we put the monitor back and wandered off. Grabbed a movie that the imp was wanting to see that did not hit Disney+ like we'd assumed it would, and grabbed a folding umbrella chair for me. Just a cheap one--the more expensive ones are heavier than I can manage on my bad days, when I actually need to go out and sit in the sun. And we headed for the self-check aisles.
Holy God. I know there's a reason I go to Walmart when I need to be reminded that, in spite of slips and small failings, I'm not a shit parent, but damn.
As we made our way toward the self check, I noted two little girls, no adult in sight, fighting over a clamshell of raspberries. They abruptly quit fighting--the thing had come open, and there were several that hit the floor--and tried to jam it back closed, all while ignoring the raspberries they'd dropped, and cramming a few in their mouths. They looked up, then hurried around the corner into the check-out area, and I noticed that both of them were in socks. No shoes. Oy.
Mom and Dad (surprisingly) were around the corner, with a teenager, and a small boy in the shopping basket; the teen was whining at Mom, the little girls dancing (in socks stained with smashed raspberries) demanding that the raspberries be "paid for already--we're starving," the boy in the cart was standing, yanking at the cell phone in Dad's hands, trying to get it to play with, and Mom and Dad were ignoring the kids and each other.
Yeah, we got the hell out of there. We scanned both our items, and paid for them, and were gone before the "family" behind us had four items scanned, starting before us.
I'd been feeling a bit like a failure as a parent, the past week. I'd been down sick--kidney stones, likely, and a bad reaction to a med prescribed to help me pass the stones--and dealing with the new roof going on, so...yeah, I was focused on getting through that, and not so much on the kids' needs last week.
Not feeling like such a shit parent after that Walmart trip. My kids aren't feral. Even with a week of Mom not focused on helping them deal with school, they're not feral. Even without Mom pointing out this, that, and the other that they needed for school, they didn't forget shoes in public. And their socks mostly were matched (same type, same length, even if not same colors on toes and heels). And their dress was presentable in public, not stained, too tight (one of the little girls couldn't fasten her pants, and they didn't go down past mid calf), and hole-y.
No, by comparison, I'm a fucking paragon of motherhood.
And we've decided to order mostly from Amazon. Because I do not think I could stand more in-person shopping.
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
I've posted my egg muffin recipe here, before--the base one that's easy to modify. I've found one my husband likes, in playing with the basic recipe.
French Toast Egg Frittata*
1 dozen eggs
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 lb bulk maple sausage
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 c (or so) cinnamon-sugar (ours uses about a tbsp of cinnamon for about 2 cups of sugar)
1 to 1.5 c shredded cheese (milder blend works well here)
1. Grease a 9" or 10" cast iron skillet (a very solid spray of cooking spray, or grease it with lard or Crisco, all the way up the sides. Butter might work, but I haven't tried it), and put it in the oven. 2. Preheat oven to 350 with the skillet. Yes, I mean that. It's why I said use cast iron. Trust me. 3. Brown and break up maple sausage. 4. Beat heavy cream into eggs, and mix in vanilla and cinnamon-sugar. 5. Fold in cheese, and browned sausage. 6. AFTER skillet is preheated with the oven, take it out carefully, and pour the mixture in quickly. You'll hear it sizzle when it hits the puddle of melted grease in the bottom--this is a good thing. 7. Bake 45 minutes, or until golden brown and set. I know ovens vary, so it may not be as long, or it may be longer. 8. When your frittata is done, take it out of the oven and flip the skillet upside down over a plate. The fritatta should fall right out.**
I will warn you now: it's absolute torture, smelling this cook. It's utterly delicious with a little bit of syrup. My other half likes butter-flavored syrup best.
*I use a skillet to make this, rather than muffin pans. I should probably pull out my cast iron muffin pans, instead.
**THIS is why I recommended the cast iron. With anything else, these things stick. Even to non-stick.
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
The last, major, expensive repair and upgrade on the house is done. We have a new roof. It needed a lot more work than was initially estimated (we figured it would). We needed:
- 12 new rafters put in. The 2' centers were just...too much.
- 35 sheets of OSB put in. The ones they were removing were crumbling as they removed them.
- Something like 3200 square feet of shingles--Owens Corning Duration, Slatestone, if you're curious.
- 12 new metal box vents. We had a mix of box vents and turbines, and the turbines (one of which didn't work) were removed and replaced.
- Soffit venting. Sometime in 2011, the previous owners had a new roof put on, and whoever did it built in the soffit venting. Covered it over entirely. But still put the vented vinyl back up over the soffits. Pisses me off that whoever did that to little old people. Anyway, that's now fixed.
The dog has been inside, much against her will. First, because they were working on the back of the house yesterday, and needed access to the back; second, because I didn't want anything dropped on her by accident (or not); and third, because she's capable of being the most irritating creature in creation, when she wants to be.*
The cats have...not been happy. Cricket hid inside my recliner for part of yesterday, then managed to squeeze her 11 lb self under a cabinet set four inches or less up off the floor. I have no idea where she hid while they were working today. Shadow was jumpy and clingy--and that cat is never jumpy and clingy--but settled down faster than Cricket after everything was done.
We had one minor disaster that the roofing company needs to fix: one of their guys stepped on a board that was just laid across a couple of rafters across the ceiling, not nailed down, and the board slipped. His foot came through the drywall in the entry hall ceiling. He caught himself, but there was a good deal of profanity (from him, and I doubt he realized I heard him). There's a large-ish hole in the drywall, even now, and about a cubic foot or so of insulation came down. I'm honestly not sure who was more startled, him or me.
*This is the dog that pissed off a box turtle to the point it was hissing at her and trying to bite her. And when I rescued it, it hissed at me before it turtled up. And tried to get back in the yard at the dog who was snuffling under the gate, looking for it. Turtle was that pissed off.
Monday, April 5, 2021
We've had several quotes, now, about a new roof. We've done research. It's down to whoever will give us the best deal for what we want: metal shingles. Not the barn-roof type metal roof--I don't think that would look very good with our roof-line. If we didn't have a hipped roof (and built-on garage, which complicates the hipped roof roof line just a bit) it might be different.
I'd also rather not have the fasteners exposed to the elements.
I do, however, want the benefits from having a metal roof. I want to only do this once. I want something that, if the neighbors who sell fireworks (and store them on their property) have a nasty disaster, will protect us from any fire jumping to our roof.
We've had quotes from hair curling to "OH MY GOD! I COULD ALMOST BUY A HOUSE FOR THAT!!"
The lowest quote was the guy that quoted for asphalt shingles. And his quote said that any lumber repair would drive the cost up. We...we're going to need at least some. So yeah. Not only is his product not what we're looking for, I don't think his quote was particularly accurate.
Thing is...my aunt needed her roof repaired. She needed repairs for almost twenty years. It kept degrading, to the point that she started needing a new roof something like ten years ago. She left it for longer. With all the leaks, and stuff. And now, after the ice storm just after Christmas shattering trees and dropping them on her house...well. You can imagine. She needs the roof replaced. All the way down to the ceilings and beyond, in some places. Just to the ceilings in others. Her roof is going to cost something like twice what mine would. Because she didn't get it done before it got really bad (and doesn't have insurance on the place to pay for ice storm damage...which is another level of stupid I won't go into).
I do not want to end up having to pay more than what I already will have to, by not doing the repairs/replacement as soon as it's needed.
And that's ignoring the fact that we're already seeing some inflation on the money pumped into the economy by the igornatti in Washington, D.C.
I want this done now, before the dollars we have won't stretch to pay for what we need.
Monday, March 29, 2021
I started teaching back in '03. I'd applied, and been accepted to, grad school, and applied for several types of financial aid (but not loans, because I'm not stupid). I was offered a teaching assistantship, on the recommendation of my advisor for my bachelors' degree. She said, when I thanked her for that recommendation the following spring when I visited my alma mater, that she watched me teach, when I was in her composition classes, and thought I'd do well in front of a classroom.
Well. I like to think I didn't do badly, in any case. And I did manage to teach my first classes that writing wasn't something to fear.
Those first classes...well, it was a Big 10 school. Town population of 30K permanent residents; school population of 25K. I had 22 students in my class.
Three of them didn't know that there was such a concept as a complete sentence. Three of them wrote on a higher level than I taught. I arranged with the bottom three to come to my office hours and work with me as well as enroll in the tutoring program. The top three I worked with to keep them from getting bored.
My class--Freshman Composition 1--was the lowest level English class that the university offered. There was no bone-head English for students who weren't at Freshman Composition 1-level of competence. There was an advanced class, but it had extremely limited slots, and they were already full. To bursting. Because there was only one or two sections, capped at 22 students, for a university that had 25K students overall.
I taught for that university for the two years I was in graduate school.
Then, I came home. Back to where I started. With the same professors who taught me, and the same department head. I started teaching in fall of '05 for that school.
It was...well. Different. First of all, I wasn't told that I would teach these papers in that order. (I used a few of the assignments I'd used for the big school, but wound up designing my own types of papers.) I wasn't told that I'd use this textbook, that workbook, and the other supplemental reader. Since I took the sections of someone who'd abruptly quit after she'd gotten her sections assigned and gotten her book ordered, I just...kept her book. It wasn't any more utter shit than the textbooks I'd been working from, after all.
The biggest differences...well, my alma mater had something like 4-5,000 students. It varied by semester. All the classes were small. The university (which had been a college when I'd graduated, three years earlier) had not-for-credit below-level classes for people deficient in math and English. I didn't get students who were wildly unprepared. The university also had six sections of the advanced class that doubled for both sections of freshman composition, for a far smaller student population. I also didn't get those who were so far beyond the work level that they were bored into cutting up.
I taught there for several years--both in person, and online. During that time, I saw...changes.
Not one of them were good changes.
First, the university president was fired. It was found that he'd actually lied about finishing his doctorate...fifteen or twenty years earlier. They only found it out because they'd gone looking for something to put him in breach of contract, because he was running the university into the ground, financially. The guy they brought in to replace him was never going to be popular, because he was brought in for the sole purpose of bringing the spending back under control.
Most of the things he did were incredibly good ideas, and excellent policy. Some weren't, but overall, he was an excellent university president...
...who was chased out by his support staff refusing to support him, and his faculty actively campaigning against him, making his life utter hell.
There was a succession of utter morons for a short time, as "temporary presidents"--none of which made an impression. And then, they hired someone who was utterly unfit for the position.
One of the first things he did was undo about half of the cost-saving measures the hatchet man had put in: the roses and perennials were torn out, and the budget for groundskeeping staff was expected to put in seasonal annuals and change them every month or so. And the groundskeeping staff was expanded for that purpose. That was the stupidest thing.
This guy also started "the Great Game of Education." He...didn't realize, despite having been English faculty while he was still teaching, that Kipling was not at all flattering about the Great Game of Nations. And that most of the faculty on campus mocked the fuck out of his idiocy. Until he realized it, and decided to get petty.
He decided to step on his classroom professors. Who were too busy teaching to play his "Game." He decided to set stupid, campus-wide policies that dumped more busy-work onto all of the teachers, and set financial rewards for playing along...and punishments for not...without keeping in mind all his stupidity took time out of the teachers' schedules...time away from teaching, grading, planning, and their families.
And the department heads were, one by one, forced out of their positions because they stood up for their teachers.
Next, he decided the placement testing wasn't worth the cost (minimal), and that the bonehead and advanced courses weren't worth the cost, and that...well, bigger universities put everyone in the same classes...
And then, he decided that the classes had to be more uniform, and he'd start with teplate courses for the distance learning classes. And hired utter morons to design them.
It was at that point I quit teaching online--I'd had kids, and rather than quit teaching when I went into labor, I'd switched my last on-campus class to an online course, and kept going for five years while raising babies. My youngest was three, at that point, and was at the age for pre-school. So, I arranged things to put both kids in a good private school, and went back to campus.
The second department head was a good one, the third one less good but competent. And then, we got to the current twat.
During the time in question--twelve years--I'd seen most of the department turn over. Most of the good professors, the ones that did a damn good job, and were student-focused, had retired. Instead of staying for forty years (like a couple had), they jumped at twenty because they wanted out of the increasingly-toxic environment. The ones that were still there, still student-focused...well, none of them wanted the department head position. Not even the newer hires wanted it. So, they went out and looked for somebody they could jack into the slot.
He...wasn't prepared for it. Nor was he competent. But the upper administration loved him because he also had no spine.
And then, I noted that the adjuncts were turning over, too. I noted that when I had to go to the actual department for something--I forget what--there was maybe one or two names on the adjunct roster that I recognized.
They were dumping the longer-time adjuncts that they had to pay more (policy stated that after five years' teaching, adjuncts got an extra thousand per semester).
By that time, I'd gotten hit with something. Something that it took a year to get diagnosed. I was less and less able to teach and care for my family. By the time it was my turn on the chopping block, I was ready to go.
I do not hold a grudge for the puff that fired me. He was only doing as directed by higher up.
I do hold one hell of a grudge for the absolute fucktard that ran my university into the ground, trying to pretend that we could do the same things in the same way as a Big 10 school...when we had always turned out better educated students than that big 10 school, because we didn't do the same things in the same way.
The sad and scary thing is, I'm seeing the same trend playing out on the national level, at this point. And I worry for my children.