363: Self-sufficiency

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Someone commented to me today that she thought there was nothing I could not do. She was amazed at all the stuff that I do, that she does not know how to do herself. PART of that is that I am too stupid to know I can’t do something, so I try it even if it is not something I have done before. Usually, it works out. Mostly, though, I can do lots of things because of my mom, my dad and my extended family. From my dad, I learned mostly man-type things, of course, like changing a tire, hammering, running fencing, laying brick and block, roofing, hanging suspended ceilings, and laying ceramic tiles, caulking, painting structures, mowing the lawn, chopping wood, running the chain saw, and other pursuits that have proven quite useful, but are still mostly what people consider men’s stuff.

From my mom, I learned lost of other useful stuff that women admire more than they do the stuff that guys mostly do…women tend to just think I am weird that I can do the men stuff, too.  They usually don’t think a whole lot about that stuff – sort of like a fish that is not particularly impressed that a bird can fly. It is so out of the realm of actual possibility for the fish, they just don’t think about it a whole lot. Same with most women and things men usually do.

From my mom, I learned to sew, including embroidery, quilting, applique, crocheting and knitting, macrame and various other fiber arts, including tie-dye and batik. I also learned weaving and spinning, and how to card fibers for that process. I learned rug-making, using various techniques, and bead-work. I learned jewelry-making in a college class. I draw and paint, and love sculpture. I can make stained glass, and can solder and weld metals, as well as cast bronze. I love woodworking, whether building a doghouse, an extra room or a piece of furniture. I can make candles from animal fat or vegetable wax, and I can tan hides – with or without the fur. I garden, and raise livestock. I cook when I have to, make bread, and like baking for therapy. I ride horseback, ride motorcycles, and can drive a tractor. I can run the hay baler, and throw bales on the collecting wagon. I can make and bind a book. I can even write it, but I don’t promise that everyone will like what I’ve written. I can (preserve) and dry foods, including jerky and the herbs I grow. I can milk a goat, and can make both butter and cheese. I know how to cure tobacco, and how to make wine, vinegar and distilled spirits (moonshine). I can throw pottery (that means make it, not breaking it), can mix and test my own glazes, and can fire a kiln. I can wire a BASIC house, and I can run plumbing and pipe for gas. I can install lighting fixtures and ceiling fans, sinks and toilets. I am an excellent shot with pistol, shotgun or rifle. I can field-dress and work up a deer, a pig, a goat, sheep, or cow, a turkey or chicken, squirrel, rabbit, a turtle or alligator, and even a rattlesnake if I have to. I can cook over a fire. I can run a trot line, clean fish and eels, and set a snare for rabbit. I can weave baskets. I can knap flint. I know how to cut and replace glass. I can make picture frames and cut the matts to mount artwork and photos. I prefer ALL of this hands-on stuff to working in research or on the ‘puter, which is what I actually get paid to do. Go figure.

Pretty much, if it needs doing, I will work at it until I figure it out, or read about it until I can figure it out.

I darn sure hope that all these strange skills are not going to become necessary for survival anytime soon, but if they did, I suspect I might do OK.

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362: Getting older beats the alternative.

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There is very little that is attractive about getting older – visually, anyway. Perky breasts, taunt abdominals, smooth skin and slimness have gradually given way to…..well…..let’s just not go there. Some of you may have just eaten.

Plus, my short-term memory is not what it used to be, either. It was never really great, but lately I must actually have a place for everything and everything in its place not for neatness sake…but for self-defense.

And the assorted aches and pains are Indian……gradually creeping up on me. Here’s the very worst part of all…..

No, no, not the sex. My partner is as old as me, so we have aged together, and he’s not a whole lot prettier than I am, so neither of us has had to resort to bagging yet – that part is fine. Really. OK, don’t believe me.

The worst part of all? It is the FOOD. I’m pretty sure you are scratching your head and thinking….food? What on Earth? Yeah, it is the FOOD. Here is the real story about getting old. When you are young, back in the dark ages, for me, you eat whatever tasted good and whatever your parents force you to eat for your own good, plus whatever you were stupid enough to load on your own plate. See, I am a preacher’s daughter. That means, for those of you not so blessed, that I attended LOTS and LOTS of pot-luck dinners. LOTS. What I learned is that some pots are lucky, and some are toxic waste. However, if it looked good and you put it on your plate, you were obligated to eat it, because somebody brought it, and they have relatives. So, I learned to be wary, and to put small tastes of stuff on my plate, and then return for seconds if it was actually good: you could not trust what it looked like. Those chocolate chip cookies actually might be raisins, you just don’t know. It paid to be careful.

The hard part about growing old is that your tastes change a little, but not nearly enough. When you are young, spinach and broccoli and other veggies get better with age (yours, not theirs), but still – what happens to oldsters is just not fair. When you are young, you can eat junk with little worry, because your metabolism and your youth combine to allow you to sin in this area with relative impunity. Not so as you mature. Over time, the sinning you did as a youngster catches up with you. You stop growing up and grow out….and, as my husband said, I don’t fit my clothes anymore.

I had never heard it put that way before. It is a simple switch in emphasis, but a profound paradigm shift to say I don’t fit my clothes, rather than MY CLOTHES DON’T FIT ME. See, before, it was the clothes’ fault, plain and simple. This new way of putting it, put the blame squarely where it belonged, and where I did not want it: on ME. Meh.

Plus, when you mature, there are other health concerns that the doctor points out to you when he tells you to ‘avoid’ certain food items – what he means is you can’t have that anymore. Usually, THAT is whatever tastes good. You are allowed to have anything you don’t like, and the more you don’t like it, the better it is for you. THAT is what is monstrously unfair.

If we were gonna have to eat like this, why not just never let us ever eat anything that tastes good, so we won’t mind it so much when we have to give it up? Sheesh.

Still – you have to admit, getting old beats the alternative………………………….

361: Sewing It Up

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I broke down and bought a sewing machine. I was trying to get by with hand sewing what I needed done, but then my next door neighbor asked if I could make her daughter’s new school uniform. In Panama, NOW is the school summer vacation – in FEBRUARY. I’m not sure I get this, since we are not in the southern hemisphere, but there it is. I can only surmise that it is because it is Panama’s brief dry season…when it does not rain EVERY single day. Whatever.

When she asked if I could help make it, I knew I was in trouble. I can sew – crafts, garments, home accessories…whatever. With a machine. Doing it by hand is pretty much limited to repairs, because it takes so much time to stitch seams by hand. Time I ain’t got lots of right now, because the school where I work is not on the Panama schedule. We are an American format school (even though the school is a Panamanian Judaic one), so we have been in classes since returning from our “dry season break” which just happened to include Christmas – even though Christmas is not mentioned in a Judaic school. Go figure.

So, I screwed up my courage and asked to borrow my friend’s machine to get this school uniform made. BIG MISTAKE. I had the uniform done in the spare time I could scrounge over the next two days, and then I started on the stuff I had been postponing until I had the extra money to get my own machine. I was whipping out decorator pillows, cushion covers, new dresses, skirts, a new blouse and a vest…….and then my friend, whose machine I had borrowed, asked me why I had not already bought my own. Oops.

Well…I did price one at the local Panama version of Sam’s Club, called PriceSmart. But the last few times we had been there in her car, so I could put it in the cargo bay instead of lugging the thing home on the public bus, they did not have any of them on display. I know this because I looked for it again, so I could at least admire it. But she claimed that every time we had been at PriceSmart, she had seen the machine.  Now, I really did call myself looking for it (that’s a southern expression meaning that I really did try). I do have a credit card, and I would have, maybe, probably bought one (I would have at least drooled on it again)…..and I did not find them. But NO, she insisted…..

Hmmmmmmm…I am getting the distinct impression that she is telling me to buy myself a damn machine, and quit using hers. Jeepers, it’s only been three days. So, we went to PriceSmart, and sure enough, there is a fresh pallet full of sewing machine boxes, fresh off the truck and forklift. Dammit. So, I bought one, brought it home in the car, and returned my friend’s machine, with some extra empty bobbins as a thank you for the loan.

Well. At least my neighbor’s daughter has a brand-spanking new school uniform to wear this year – and school begins for them on Monday. And *I* have a brand-spanking new sewing machine, anytime I want to use one. All’s well that ends well, I guess.

360: The Difference Between Poverty and Wealth

That title sounds ludicrous, right? Everybody knows the difference – one has money and one doesn’t. One has plenty and one not enough. Simple, right? Not really. You see, the difference here is in the offspring of the poor and the wealthy.

I am a teacher, for more than twenty years, most of which was spent in public USA schools, in urban, suburban and rural areas of Georgia. That means, for those of you who are not familiar with that environment, that I am intimately acquainted with the offspring of poverty. A significant percentage of our school populations were receiving free and reduced lunches.  These were students in my classes, and the students of poverty had some fairly common issues.

First, most of them had maturity issues. Oh, yeah, they were grown, and would TELL you they were grown, but mature? Please. They were clueless about delayed gratification, logical critical thinking and problem-solving. They were often street-smart, but woefully book-stupid. There is a clear distinction between ignorance and stupidity. We are all born ignorant, and that state is fixed with education. Stupidity is a choice, and many of my students were so choosing.

There is an analogy I often thought of when I saw them in groups. Fishermen who fish for crabs take along a washtub to throw the crabs they catch into. The sides of these tubs are not tall, and the crabs can, with a little effort, climb out. But the crab fishermen never need to take lids for the washtubs to keep their catch, because the crabs themselves perform this function. When one of the crabs reaches up for the edge of the tub to freedom, the other crabs reach up and pull the escaping one back down into slavery and certain death. I saw my students do this to their classmates as they glorified thug style, denigrating education and “looking and acting white,” as if being educated was automatically not something a person of color or poverty could ever have – or would ever even want, and applying strong peer pressure against any student who actually dared to apply themselves in class.

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Many of them were raising themselves, because their parents were either working two jobs and gone all the time, trying to make ends meet, or their parents were drunk or stoned and out of it that way. That’s if their parents were still (or ever) married. Either way, their parents were essentially no-shows. They never heard no, because there was no one around to say it. It did not help to make for dedicated students.

I remember the gifted middle-school child in my class when we were researching careers. She asked me why we were studying this stupid stuff, because when she grew up, she was gonna go on Welfare like her mama. I thought, honey, at that point, there is nothing I can do for you, when that is the height of your ambitions – even if you were born with intelligence, it won’t take long to snuff that out of you.

Here lately, however, rather than working with the children of generational poverty, I have moved overseas from the USA and am teaching at private, international schools. These children are from some of the wealthiest families in the country. They have their own chauffeurs. What I discovered, contrary to what I thought I would find, is that these children of the ultra-wealthy…..have exactly the same issues as children of extreme poverty.

I was shocked when I realized this….because I expected that they would have different issues, and would have many varied experiences that children of poverty could never have experienced, and to some extent, that was true. These kids knew how to travel and shop. That’s about it.

What I learned is that children of wealth..essentially raise themselves. Mom and dad (assuming they are still married, too), are off on business trips or pleasure vacations all over the world. The maid, or nanny, or chauffeur could not care less about raising a quality human being, and deferred to their little masters in every way in order to keep their jobs. They never heard no, because there was no one around to say it. Even if mom or dad were at home, there was a maid to cook, clean the room and messes, so they never actually did anything useful like chores, or laundry. And much of the time, mom and dad were just gone. Boarding school didn’t help, either. My poor little rich kids were almost identical in stupidity and immaturity as their poverty counterparts.

Now, it is one thing for a person who has nothing, to choose to be stupid and lazy – they have nothing to lose. It is another thing for the offspring of one of the richest families in the country to make those choices (and they did), because they had LOTS to lose. I used to try to tell them they needed to work harder than the others less fortunate, because they needed to know more than their employees (accountants, managers and brokers) so they would know if they were being cheated. I never seemed to make an impression.

So what’s the difference between wealth and poverty? Not much, it seems…..

359: Opinion? Everybody’s Got One…..

…and, like most assholes, they are usually full of shit. Yeah, I know the old joke – that really isn’t a joke. It does appear that most people today ardently believe that other people’s opinions (read: other people’s opposing opinions that don’t agree, lock-step, with mine) are full of shit. Scatology aside, it is fair to say that some people are pretty crappy, and you would expect that their opinions would naturally follow suit.

Still, just because someone does not agree with your view of the world and the rightness of things in general does not, ipso facto, make them shit-carriers. It is possible *gasp* that they could actually have the right of things and YOU are the stinky one.

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I commented on Facebook lately to a former student, now grown into independent adulthood quite well, thank you, that he was flogging a dead horse by trying to convince a liberal DemocRAT to change their opinions by presenting them with facts and logic. Liberals recognize nothing that is not on their previously conceived and accepted agenda – all facts to the contrary. They call you ugly names for even trying. And the worst part of it is that they are very, very similar to radical Muslims.

Don’t throw rocks at me. I know Muslims who are decent, hardworking family-oriented people. In fact, praise God, I don’t actually know any Muslims who are not reasonable, rational people, but I read about them all the time in the news, unfortunately, so I do know that not all Muslims are the sort I know. And liberal DemocRATS are like the WORST sort of Muslims. They are rabid about their agenda like fanatical Muslims are about any imagined slur towards the Koran or the prophet Mohammed – and behead all unbelievers.

Notice how violently, aggressively and rabidly the liberals and their complicit cronies, the liberal-oriented press, attack and vilify anyone who has any criticism whatsoever of officially accepted liberal policies or leaders – or who has anything to say in support of what used to be thought of as traditional American values. OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!! This is fanaticism of the worst sort – that refuses to believe that the opinions (morals, values, ethics whattheheckeveryacall it) of others have any validity at all…not even based on the right to be human and think for oneself. Heck no – behead the unbelievers!!

It is tough enough thinking for yourself without someone who supposedly believes in the sacredness of the individual berating you for doing it. Stand your ground, and persist. Be the boulder in a liberal’s path, and make them GO AROUND. You are important, and so are your opinions…articulated aloud or not.

 

 

358: Empathy

I understand that you empathize with my situation.

I doubt, however, that you comprehend the depths of my rage and despair –

as I suck it up one more day

watching the most precious symbol of freedom on this Earth slowly sink

beneath the filthy trampling feet of greed and power.

I know you care, like you know I care.

I just don’t think you are quite

as pissed off as I am.

There are things I know I can’t change, and

things I am trying mightily to change, and

things that MUST change, and

I’m not sure any of that CHANGE is ever gonna happen.

What I do know is that the change I was promised

is damn sure not the change I got –

which I suspected when I heard the promises,

and voted for the guy who didn’t win…twice.

Change…yeah, right.

 

357: Believing the Facts

First, let’s consider that word: FACTS. We all remember facts from school. They were inarguable things, like 2 + 2 = 4, unless you are working with Singapore math, a current educational fad that makes absolutely no rational or logical sense AT ALL, and which proves {sic} that 2 + 2 = 27.328. I refer to Singapore math as Democratic math, for reasons I will elucidate.

Facts in school were mostly easily identifiable. In the grownup world, facts are very, very fluid. Just look at liberal Democratic facts. I’m not choosey, you pick any fact you like from their arsenal. See what I mean? Their facts are fluid….like sewage is fluid. Anytime you are considering vast, complex problems such as social ills, or vast economic impacts, or the impacts of a particular piece of legislation on the citizenry…things get really murky. Facts become whatever you choose to believe…and lots of people are choosing to believe whatever their agenda was in the first place, completely and totally ignoring evidence to the contrary….and I do mean ALL EVIDENCE to the contrary of their pre-chosen agenda.

I am not a member of any political party, because both of the reigning (deliberate choice of words) parties in America are guilty of un-American actions. Americans used to have a code they lived by. Many Americans still live by a moral and ethical code that the reigning politicians in the country have never, ever heard of – and they are not listening, either. They are too busy buying the votes of those holding their hands out for free cash – legal and illegal. It used to be that Americans were ashamed to take charity, and worked very hard to get off the dole if they ever found themselves reduced to taking charity, and man alive THOSE days are OVER. Shame is a totally foreign concept to these leeches. Don’t get your panties in a wad – I know full well that there are deserving people on government assistance who need help. But I also know darn good and well that many, many, many others are getting help they do not deserve, don’t need, and are shameless about taking.

I saw them every time I went in the grocery store and was standing in the checkout line with my small basket of groceries that I could pay for, behind somebody with two overflowing carts full of things I could not afford to buy, who was paying with food stamps, and asking if they could trade some of the stamps for cash, because cigarettes and alcohol were not eligible for purchase using them. I watched them with their cell phones (newer and more expensive models than my basic, not-even-a camera-phone), with their fake two-inch-long acrylic nails that require weekly touch-ups, and their fancy salon hairdos. That does not even begin to include their multiple, multiple children, or their nice car, or their expensive clothes, shoes or accessories. NOBODY was handicapped, because there was no handicapped parking going on. Don’t get your panties in a wad – I know not all handicaps are visible. If that had been the one example, I’d agree. But seeing this sort of thing week after week after week, with only minor variations, sets in your mind the definite suspicion that something is rotten in Welfare. And it didn’t matter which grocery store you went in, either, in which state…there they were.

Government assistance pays very, very well – apparently.

That’s only one example. Have you gotten your new healthcare information since Obamacare is enabled? Like the changes? Is this the CHANGE you were hoping for when you voted for his sorry ass not once, but twice? Thinking maybe that things were not so bad under the previous administration? Thinking maybe we do need a CHANGE from the current one? Praying you don’t get sick? Welcome to the club of wiser but poorer.

At the end of the day, people judge a president by the impact the policies he’s responsible for make upon them personally. I hope that those who voted for the rat now in power soon realize the smoke and mirrors they voted for was fluid…of the sewage sort.