Habit Breaker


Sunday, I was ready to kick this summer in the teeth.

Monday, I got a pretty good start (had to do my walk without my watch because the battery was dead) but was ultimately frustrated by some of my efforts.  Buddy and I had to get fancy cupcakes to boost my mood (also to celebrate our 2nd-1st Anniversary).  My throat was feeling scratchy so I took some cold meds before going to bed*.

Tuesday, I rolled out of bed, took more meds, and rolled back into bed.  Then I slept on and off all day.  Went to bed with a migraine, an upset stomach, and a bad feeling about my summer plans.

This morning, my throat was no longer scratchy, but I have a cough that has me looking over my shoulder for the Grim Reaper (if you knew how long it took me to come up with that we analogy, it would be abundantly clear how sick I am).  My head is packed with cotton and rusty nails.  But, I managed to make some chicken broth which is going to make this sick better, or else.

My school stuff is figured out, so at least that’s one thing I’m not worried about.

I’m going to have another…um..tea…or nap…or something.  Hate being sick.
*Buddy has a theory that it is actually the cold meds that cause colds.  He defeated his version of my cold with just cough drops, while mine seemed to drop like a hammer only after I took my first dose.  I’m beginning to think he might not be just paranoid.

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Toepener = Extinction


Public bathrooms.  We have all used them.  We frequently loath using them, but they are unavoidable, unless you have access to a stump or an empty bottle.  They tend to be gravity wells for poor spelling, inadvisable advertising, and fatal errors (like not checking the toilet paper supply before commencing Operation Yellow Flow).  And they are harbingers of germs.  This has led to a growing number of automated devices to the restroom.  There are toilets that flush themselves either while you are sitting on them or after you’ve started to panic that it might be broken.  There are sinks that turn on a lukewarm splash of water for 3 seconds and then refuse to turn back on for five minutes while you make an ass of yourself wagging soapy digits before the finicky sensor.  There are hand dryers that lackadaisically breath warmly on your hands while you stare longingly at the empty paper towel dispenser.  There are even automatic soap dispensers, which doesn’t make any freaking sense if you think about it.  All this is in the pursuit of a germ-free potty experience.

Many times, there will be a mash-up of automatic and manual devices in the bathroom, like auto soap and manual faucets, because that makes a lot of sense.  Sometimes you get a fully automatic experience but end up drying your hands on twelve paper towels that subsequently have to be crammed into a trashcan overflowing with a million other used towels.  But when it come down to it, it just doesn’t matter.  At the end of the chore, you still have to open the door.  And anybody who knows anything knows that door handles have more germs than your average toilet seat.  Mythbusters proved it, so it must be true (actually, they didn’t test a door handle that episode, but the toilet seat was waaaay less germy than a bunch of other common household items, so I’m counting it).  All the hands-free sanitary efforts are made moot by one snag in the system.

Until now.  I was out to dinner with my husband and excused myself to use the facilities.  The toilet was automatic.  The soap and faucet were automatic.  And they had a Dyson hand dryer (the only one that actually works, though it is way too noisy).  As I contemplated the futility of all this germ-avoidance, I noticed a sticker at eye-level above the dryer.  “We care about your hygienic experience.  Please use the Toepener on your way out.”  There was a diagram of a person using their foot to open the door by way of a bracket at the bottom.  I would have taken a picture, but I believe bathrooms are dirty enough without bringing cell phone germs into the mix.  It was a little awkward to use with my flip-flops, but I managed to open the door with my foot instead of my newly sanitized hands.  It was genius.

However, it got me thinking about all the things we do to prevent the spread of germs and other microscopic things.  I’m not a germaphobe by any means (Basic training does wonders for that impulse).  That said, I like things to be clean.  I wash my hands frequently in the kitchen and every time I use the restroom.  I have hand sanitizer in my purse for emergencies (hold-over habit from deployment, where soap was not a guarantee).  But I also believe that we may be going somewhat overboard on these preventatives.  Exposure to germs is supposed to help strengthen our immune systems, especially when we’re young.

I am not in any way saying that hand washing is bad, nor am I a part of the stupid anti-vaccination movement.  Vaccines are a safer way to expose ourselves to deadly diseases so that our body can build immunities against those diseases.  What I’m saying is that if we wrap ourselves in anti-germ bubbles, our systems will suffer for it.

It’s like War of the Worlds.  The alien invaders are defeated by the common cold.  What if we become so effective in germ extermination that all it takes is a cold to wipe us out?  The Toepener could mean the extinction of the human race.

This post was a lot funnier in my head.

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15AM000000122011 · 00:32

Back in the Habit.


Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my summer.  I’ve been slouching pretty hard the last two and a half months, but I have run out of excuses to put things off.  Time to get shiz done.

I just finished up a two-week road trip with my ever-adorable husband.  My car now has over 120,000 miles on it and a brand new chip in the windshield.  I have dozens of food pictures on my phone that I need to add to the food blog.  There is a mountain of finally clean clothes to fold.  I have a stack of used books awaiting the end of Discworld.  I must start walking again (made a lot of unhealthy food choices, mostly involving duck, bacon, and/or BBQ => don’t judge me).  I have to go yell at the Registrar a little and ascertain whether I can actually graduate this term with a major and a minor.  Gotta clean the house to within an inch of its life (lingering effect of staying in other people’s’ homes).  Gotta make meatballs and bake bacon and figure out meals for this month.

Funny thing about vacations (not funny haha).  I just spent two weeks trapped in a car with my favorite person in the world, laughing our way through Christopher Moore audio books and seeing family, friends, and battle buddies.  We ate great food, visited amazing breweries, saw the Falling Water house, the Henry Doorly Zoo, and the Ringley Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus.  We drove three hours to wait four and a half hours for BBQ and it was worth every second.  At the end of two weeks, we were exhausted, sore from sitting in the car and sleeping in so many different beds (only one hotel => yay, friends with guest beds!).  Bone weary and home sick for our cats and our kitchen and our own bed.  This is how I know it was a successful vacation.  Two weeks were almost too long of an adventure at the end.

It would be too easy to give in to the tired, I-deserve-a-break feeling.  When the alarm goes off tomorrow (technically later today), I’m going to punch deserve in the throat.  Probably.  Look out summer!  I’m coming to get you!!!

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15AM00000012011 · 01:09

Techno Crutches


I spent months scouring stores in search of the perfect purse to carry my phone and my wallet.  My new phone doesn’t fit in my pockets, an inevitable outcome of current smart phone trends.  Now, I could keep it in my regular purse, the giant monstrosity I bought to carry my laplet, but if I started carrying that bad boy everywhere, my spine would go Quasimodo in a week.  (Interesting note on female psychology: this is the second purse quest I have had since buying the monster purse.  The first quest was finding a mid-sized purse to hold all the smaller things in my big purse, like my passport and checkbook and crayons and things, because the big purse was pretty much a duffel of chaos and all the little stuff was making it difficult to find the things I actually needed.  So I bought a purse to go in my purse.)  All I wanted was a phone sized bag that would hold my wallet as well.  Is that too much to ask?

Yes it is, apparently.  Otherwise the search wouldn’t have taken so long.  There were clutches that could barely hold paper let alone anything three-dimensional.  There where phone cases (mostly for iPhones, the monopolizing choads) that were designed to hold a phone and things that go in a wallet, provided you keep it to a couple of credit cards.  Anything that was remotely functional or practical was hideous.  Now, it might make me shallow to refuse to purchase a practical item just because it doesn’t suit my style, but I simply can’t walk around with a lime green clutch with a giant, fake diamond on the clasp.  I was getting a bit ticked, even considering making my own purse, when I entered a low-rent version of Charming Charlies.

Most of it was cheap junk, little old lady fashion and atrocious attempts at sophisticated style.  No amount of bedazzling is going to make a baseball cap classy, okay?  But at the front of the store, there were little bags that fit both my phone and my wallet snugly.  A zipper pocket in the back for my wallet and an open slot pocket for the phone, with a broad strap with a snap to keep the phone from falling out.  The poor thing was sequined to within an inch of its life, but sequins and beads are the type of gaudy decoration that is easy to remove.  So I did.  It was an ideal solution.

Then the purse slipped out of my jacket pocket when we were getting groceries.  It landed with the phone face down, right on the snap.  It fell a foot, landed just wrong, and cracked the screen.  Now I have a very pretty alarm clock that I have to remove the SIM card to shut off.  Repairing it would cost almost as much as buying a new one, especially since it isn’t a model carried by the phone companies (we bought it straight from Sony).  So Buddy ordered a new one as well as his own new phone (it was time).  His is on the way.  Mine is on back order.

I didn’t write this all down to b*tch about bad luck and frustratingly fragile technology, though that is kind of what happened anyway.  No, I just want to point out all the ways being without my cell phone is screwing with my life in an attempt to illustrate just how reliant I’ve become on this tech.  I already mentioned the alarm, which I can neither change or deactivate without a working touch screen.  I got a text from someone shortly after it broke and I have no way of knowing who it’s from (this is really driving my OCD crazy).  I can’t communicate with my husband while he’s at work.  I can’t communicate with anyone outside of the internet and real life.  I can’t write on my food blog because the log in requires confirmation through my phone.

Worst of all, I can’t play Sudoku before I go to bed to shut off my brain.  This…this is hell, ladies and gents.  Hell.

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Words Suck Sometimes


When creating a universe, words are important.  Names have to seem natural, especially new names.  It’s the reason I put down most modern fantasy epics.  Their names are just badly copied from Tolkien’s works, who was a linguist and understood the nature of words and how they evolve.  I’m not writing a fantasy epic, but I am creating a universe distinct from the one I live in.  A world without Germany, for instance.  A world where sushi bars a populated by non-Japanese because Japanese people are acutely ashamed of their culture.  A world of super heroes that aren’t made by radioactive accidents.  They aren’t popping all of a sudden, but have been scattered throughout humanity since Genesis, showing themselves as pagan gods, mythical creatures, and fairy tales.  I’m tired of calling them super heroes because a) it’s lame and b) not all of them are super heroes.  A small percentage end up donning the required cape, yet 50% of the human population is made up with people who have “talents.”  They may be small talents, useless or annoying aberrations, so innocuous that they may be passed off as normal gifts.  Their blood says otherwise, though.  So I need a name for this parallel human species and mutants is taken.

I tried “Capes,” but the cape requirement only came in the mid-50s as part of the ranking system, and it feels artificial.  “Masks” feels equally silly.  I thought I had it last week with “Aberrations,” Abbies for short.  But that sounds silly, too.  It feels more natural, so I’m on the right track, but I also have Alphas, a rank within the super heroes, which could make things confusing.  So then I thought, gosh, where do our words come from?  Well, what would scientists call this species?  Here’s what I came up with:

Homo Praeditus (gifted man)

Homo Exsecrebilis (cursed man)

Homo Alatus (winged man)

Homo Praecipuus (special man)

Homo Nuntius (messenger man)

Homo Validissimus (mighty man) => Could shorten to Vlads, haha.

Homo Sciens (knowing man) => related to Homo Sapiens (learning/understanding man)

Homo Videns (seeing man)

Homo Credens (faithful man)

 

This is probably another dead end.  I just wanted to put out some ideas and see if they clicked somehow.  Knowing the scientific name most likely won’t lead me to the vernacular designation, but it might help.  I guess.  Besides, I don’t think Gaelic will work in this case.  It makes sense for the name of the major city to derive from a Gaelic word since it was founded by fleeing Celts, but that logic doesn’t expand to nick-names for a long-present aspect of society.  I don’t know.  It’s really early.  Maybe I’ll dream the right answer.

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So, I went on vacation in May for a week.  I don’t like advertising when I go out of town, so I decided to lay off posting for that week.  I planned to write everyday, just not post.  And then I didn’t write at all.  It was kind of strange.  The least I could have done was a daily log of our vacation, which was full of fun and interesting things to talk about.  But I didn’t.  I did a lot of reading.  And since I got back, the daily writing habit has proved difficult to reestablish.

I wish I could say I was busy.  Yeah, no.  I don’t know where June has gone, but I haven’t spent it being productive.  On the up-side, I have kept up with my recipe resolution.  I just haven’t been posting the recipes reliably.  I vow, here and now, to get on that.  Soon.

Buddy and I have been thoroughly roped into Battlestar Gallactica.  Granted, the second season had a lot of “who wrote this crap” moments, but I’m hoping it doesn’t pull a Lost or True Blood or Heroes in the third season.  I think part of the problem is that the main setting for the show is on a military ship and we are seeing a lot of things that are clearly what civilians think happen in the military.  The military is not a police force.  It is not an office of inquiry or a group of would-be assassins.  No Commander worth his stones would sacrifice his best pilot in an ill-planned assassination attempt.  Killing a bad officer is so far away from probable behavior that we knew it wasn’t going to actually happen.  Plus the fact that murder seems to be something we just pretend didn’t happen so long as the murderer was someone we liked.  I think after the hostage situation episode, Buddy asked me if I was taking notes on what not to do.  Of course I was.

That’s the thing about my fandom.  I love a wide variety of nerd universes.  Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, the list goes on.  And on and on.  But I don’t drool devotedly over every teeny tiny detail.  I don’t argue about which is better.  They all shine in their own way.  They are all deeply flawed, too.  I will argue against anyone who claims a perfect universe, a perfect story.  It doesn’t exist.  There are always and will always be badly written episodes, unlikely plot twists, unrealistic explanations, stupid characters, blatant crowd-pleasing, and boring exposition.  No one is without flaws.  Ask George Lucas or Peter Jackson.  They were gods of the nerdverse until the second trilogy.

What I’m trying to say is, loving something doesn’t mean being blind to its flaws.  I recognize that many of the things I love cannot be appreciated by everyone.  I know that Doctor Who is an acquired taste and that not all episodes must have deep meaning.  Most are just fun runs.  That blind devotion is the reason I hate Twilighters and Game of Thrones fans (GoT-ers?).  Few of them look at the works objectively, which I understand is asking a lot of any fan.  I read Twilight twice and I enjoyed it, but I couldn’t get over the absurd Vampire mythos.  Humans are about as dangerous to those vampires as sheep are to humans.  We don’t hide from sheep, so why should they hide from humans?  I also read GoT.  I didn’t like the narrative form.  Switching every chapter to a new story line like that, especially considering how very many story lines there are, confused me (and I’ve been known to read three different books at once without getting confused), not to mention the predictable way he kills off characters I liked.  The whole series could do with a very cruel editor.  The movie/TV versions of both series failed utterly to catch my attention.  But I try to say any of this to a fan and I’m some kind of monster.  All I really want to do is point them toward the books that spoiled my palette for second-hand drivel and badly written sex scenes.  Then they would understand why I can’t get all doughy-eyed over those best-sellers.

I have a story idea.  It starts with a sushi chef and ends with genocide and murder.

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15AM000000122011 · 00:42

Sex Talk (Sorry Mom)


I hate Cosmo.  There, I said it.  I am a modern, liberated woman  and when I was younger, I thought that Cosmo was what modern, liberated women read.  It’s the type of magazine that prides itself on encouraging feminine independence from traditional roles, not like, say, Woman’s Journal or Better Homes and Gardens which push the ideal of competent homemaker above career-focused bread-winner.  I should be shamed to my feminist core that I eagerly absorb articles about cooking, cleaning, gardening, and general homebody guidance.  I should be offended by the implication that a woman’s primary goal is to have a clean, organized home, and to have healthy, yet delicious and unique meals on the table every evening.  And believe me, I try to be offended as I rip out recipes, take notes on the best ways to remove stains, and drool over flawlessly organized pantries.  Honest.

Truthfully, I don’t feel a twinge of guilt about my girly magazines, except for Cosmo.  What I read in the homemaker magazines tend to be useful or interesting articles that in no way give me the urge to put on a dress and serve my husband a martini when he gets home from work (he pours his own beers => I wouldn’t even know which glass to use, let alone which variety he’s craving from the beer fridge).  What I read (used to read, now just flip through) in Cosmo is, well, a load of piss.  Horoscopes, quizzes, embarrassing date/sex stories, and sex advice.  Lots of sex advice.  Lots of bad sex advice.  50 Ways to Make Your Man Want You.  101 Tantalizing Tips to Tease Him.  10 Methods of Convincing Him that You’re Desperate Enough for Attention that He Will Stay More than the Requisite One Night.  Okay, it’s really early and I’m writing this with a migraine (which is why I’m awake), but I swear they are the most banal advice columns I have ever seen.

The message I get from Cosmo is that a modern, liberated woman is allowed to have sex with as many partners as she wants, just like men are.  We have been freed from the chains of the ignorant Victorian ideals that dictate subservience to our husbands and repression of the natural sexual urges.  And yet…I read more sexist BS in that stupid rag than in even the fashion magazines.  So maybe the goal for them isn’t woman’s liberation (obviously).

When I flip through Cosmo, I inevitably start writing my own advice in my head.  Real, practical advice which I know I will never write down because, well, my mother reads this blog.  And it’s all, you know, personal and stuff.  But you know, my school paper had a sex advice column for a while.  It was unbelievably bad.  There was one about favorite positions, all of which sounded like entirely too much work to be real.  If even the school paper is giving bad advice, what business do I have withholding my considerable “expertise.”  I give in.  Here is my advice on how to have a great sex life.

1.  Stop calling it a “sex life.”  Sex does not define your life.  Propagation of the species is a primary instinctive drive, so it makes sense that sex is everywhere.  Sex sells because it is nearly the only universal motivator for consumers, making it the easiest impulse to advertise for.  However, sex does not equal life, except in the most obvious, biological, ‘oops’ way.  My life does not revolve around whether or not I’m getting any.  Some might argue that since I am married, either I’m guaranteed to be getting some or I have stopped having sex entirely because married people just don’t do that any more (which is silly).  To be honest, though, sex was rarely a motivating factor even before I got married.  Oh, sure, hormones were always pushing for dumb decisions, but I never understood the bar/club scene.  I should get dressed up in uncomfortable clothes, drink over-priced beverages and try to make conversation over too-loud music with a complete stranger in the hopes that there will be an evening of consensual, amorous relations that don’t end in either embarrassment the next morning or an unfortunate case of VD.  Yeah, no.  Not interested.  Life is too short for that kind of crap.  Don’t waste your nights just to appease your hormones, especially when there is no guarantee that there will be any appeasement.

2.  Stop having sex with strangers.  Yes, experience and good technique come with practice.  But what exactly are you practicing with a one-night-stand?  Everyone is unique, with their own tastes, etc.  Expecting good technique to develop from multiple single interactions is kind of like trying to compose a song by randomly hitting keys on a piano.  It might work for modern composers, but so does sitting on stage for 4min 33 sec and not playing a doggone thing.  Nothing irritates me more than watching a movie or reading a book where the “first time” is amazing.  That simply has not been my experience.  That kind of propaganda made me think there was something wrong with me when I first became active because it was painful every time.  Where was all that unbelievable experience I had been taught to expect by countless depictions of earth-shattering intercourse?  Was Nora Roberts lying to me this whole time?  So I resigned myself to bad sex for the rest of my life, which is a surprisingly horrifying thought for someone professing not to be sexually obsessed.  Just imagine for a second that the primary motivating force behind most of society is a source of acute physical agony and emotional shame and you will know what my early 20s felt like.  And magazines like Cosmo would tell me to talk to my partner, tell him what I wanted because that’s what assertive women do.  Well, I didn’t know what I wanted, had no idea how to figure it out, and felt guilty that I wasn’t enjoying it.  And my partners (all two of them not including my husband, before you start thinking the worst of me) were not at all concerned about me enjoying it so long as they got their’s.  That was my “experience” before I met my future husband.  He taught me the most important aspect of a great sex life.

3.  Stop being selfish.  There are at least two people involved in a positive sexual experience and positive experience involves physical and emotional satisfaction for both parties.  Unlike with previous partners, I feel no guilt or shame about having sex with my husband.  Procreation is, after all, one of the purposes of marriage (even the Puritans knew that), and while we aren’t actively trying to have children yet, we are certainly practicing our scales, so to speak.  It’s more than that, though.  I never have to lie to Buddy.  And yes, by lie I mean “fake it.”  Women fake it all the time, I know I did.  Mostly, I think the purpose is to assuage the ego of their partners, or maybe to hurry them along to finishing so said women can get back to whatever they were doing before the inconvenient interruption.  This is the stupidest thing.  How, pray tell, do you expect your partner to learn anything if you are lying?  I suppose that doesn’t matter overmuch if it’s a one-night-stand, but honestly, why are you wasting the learning opportunity?  In fact, what is the point of having meaningless sex if you aren’t, at the very least, getting your’s?  Having a committed partner (read: not a stranger) means being involved with someone invested in your experience, and not just because your enthusiasm is an aphrodisiac.  Lying in the bedroom, where you are most intimate (obviously), is a bad precedent.  It can lead not only to lying in other aspects of the relationship, but also to growing resentment between partners.  So it is important to communicate with your partner and to listen in return.  You don’t need a bag of fancy tricks to keep your partner satisfied.  You need expertise, which means paying attention to more than just your needs.

4.  Stop frontin’.  Sex is the physical expression of love and trust in a relationship.  It is when you are the most vulnerable in a relationship, not hidden behind clothes, accessories, or attitude.  It is never just sex.  If it could ever be just sex, then rape wouldn’t exist.  Ah, but rape isn’t about sex, you say.  Rape is about power.  Exactly my point.  If sex didn’t mean anything beyond physical satisfaction, then it could never be used as a weapon.  Physical intercourse triggers emotional responses, which science will tell you is all down to hormones and whatnot, but does that really change how you feel?  Just because you know the lovey-dovey euphoria is all the fault of chemical do-hickies in your brain, doesn’t mean you can just shut them off.  If it’s just sex, why does it hurt when your partner cheats?  “I still love you.  It’s just sex.”  Yeah, that doesn’t fly.  I know people who have “open” relationships, and I marvel at the strength of their love, which is the only way I can see such an arrangement working.  I know I couldn’t pull that off with Buddy.  Eventually, the cops would find the bodies.  But for the rest of you, stop trying to cheapen what can be the most intimate experience you can have with another person.  We keep insinuating that it is a purely physical experience.  If such was the case, then I would have broken it off with Buddy when I PCS’d.  Long distance relationships suck and I had been actively trying to keep emotionally distant up to that point because I knew that three months wasn’t enough time to form a strong emotional connection and really we were just fooling around, no harm in it, just trying to recover from some truly horrific relationships.  Practically speaking, it could never work.  Imagine my surprise when he fought to keep me and we survived 2 1/2 years long distance (me in Alabama, him in Hawaii and Iraq).  I don’t recommend the experience to anyone.  And yes, I know that all that time we were abstinent, but that again proves my point.  If our relationship was just about sex, if sex wasn’t an emotional experience, then we would have crumbled as a couple, eventually seeking other partners to satisfy the purely physical urges.  As it was, the distance strengthened our emotional connection, engendered deeper trust, and demonstrated our ability to survive that kind of stress.  With that foundation, I found myself in a relationship where I could be completely honest with him and myself, which quite frankly led to better intimacy.  It means that I don’t lie to him, like I said before, and that I strive to remember that it is not ever just sex.

5.  Stop settling for less.  Remember to be responsible and be respectful.  Keep in mind that if you aren’t ready to have children, then you probably aren’t ready for sex (and if you think you’re ready for children but you’ve never baby-sat an actual baby, you’re fooling yourself).  Say all you want about being careful, but tell that to the countless mothers and fathers who took all the precautions and still had an ‘oops’ moment (my little brother beat three forms of birth control).  It’s not just a precaution, though.  Having a child is a big responsibility.  It’s a commitment to look out for the physical, mental, and emotional health of another human being for up to 18 years, possibly more.  When you have sex with someone, you are trusting them not only to help you with that commitment if it occurs, but with your own physical, mental, and emotional health.  It’s not simply a readiness to take on the responsibility of a child that is required.  It is the maturity to respect the well-being of another person.  It is acknowledgement that you can effect that well-being through your actions, even if your only goal is your own pleasure.  Of course, that’s just my opinion, and looking back, I don’t think I followed my own advice (my younger self always looks stupid when I think about her).  But that’s what I’m going to tell my kids, right after I point them to this blog post.  Teaching abstinence is all well and good, but telling kids not to have sex because it’s bad is extremely short-sighted.  Kids rebel.  It’s what they do, how they establish their individuality.  So, kids, if you’re reading this, sex is good.  Sex with the person you love, who loves you just as deeply, who cares about you and wants to spend forever with you, is AMAZING.  Don’t settle for less.  Hold out for amazing.

Well, I think I’ve embarrassed my mother enough for one post.  Personally, I regret having multiple partners. I put myself at risk, and not just for STDs or pregnancy.  I suffered emotionally.  I put my self-worth in the incapable hands of men who didn’t deserve that trust and I paid for that mistake with depression, low self-esteem, and heartbreak.  Thankfully, God watched over me, so all I have are emotional scars and an amazing husband to rub in their faces if I ever see them again.  But it could have been so much worse.  Please, please, put down Cosmo and any other media telling you that sex is all about positions and tricks.  It can be the single most complete expression of love and trust between two people.  It is not a game.  It is not an indication of your maturity or superiority.  It is often symptomatic of just the opposite.  I’m probably not convincing anyone with this spiel, but sometimes it’s better to get things out of my head.  And it might be interesting to look back on this and wonder at how stupid I could be when I was younger.

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You Get What You Pay For.


I don’t know why this set me off today, but I saw this in my social media and it struck a nerve.

“It’s incredibly stupid. Education should be free. We should want to invest in a smart society.”

The first part is supposed to be funny, if inaccurate (our taxes pay for public ed so it is never free).  The comment made me angry.

Why the hell should education be free?  I agree that higher education costs are unreasonable (un-freaking-believable, in fact), but in a society where worth is valued through cost, free things are not valued.  At all.

There are many things in this life that are free and most of the time they are taken as due until someone tries to make us pay for it.  I had to pay for wifi on the flights I took last week.  Which is ridiculous because wifi should be free, right?  It’s not like they have to pay for anything to provide wifi, like installing/maintaining equipment or internet service itself.  It’s just the internets, magically hooking my laptop to the rest of the world without the effort of any other person who might want to get paid for his/her services.  (I’m not saying airlines aren’t making a killing by fleecing their passengers for every service they possibly can=> does it really take $4 to run the internet for 30 min?)

I think the problem with the quoted statement is the level of simplistic thinking.  Education costs money.  The money still has to come from somewhere.  I can’t be sure, but a statement like that makes me think this person would also complain about tax hikes and insist that the rich should pay the way for the poor.  It’s a thorny mess in my head, but I believe that people should strive for their own way if they can and that giving back to the community shouldn’t be obligatory or else it becomes a punishment for those people who succeed honestly (we all know that the not-so-honest will always find a way to wiggle out of obligation and duty because that’s how they succeeded in the first place  => their punishment will just have to catch them some other way).

The comment is self-righteous fluff.  Of course we want to invest in a smart society.  That’s why we are paying out the nose for an education.

Public Education is a mess because it is free.  Schools are underfunded because people b*tch about taxes.  Teachers are underpaid because they aren’t being paid by satisfied customers.  When you have a really good waiter/waitress, you show your appreciation with a big tip.  When you have a really good teacher, they get a piece of paper with “World’s Best Teacher” written on it, maybe a mug or something.  They don’t get a raise, or a corner office, or an extra stipend for school supplies.  They aren’t valued because their services are perceived as free.

It’s worse than that, though.  The students are the consumers in this case, yes?  They are directly impacted by the quality of the education.  Yet they have nothing invested in it.  Oh, sure, you can tell kids that a good education will open doors and blah, blah, blah.  Some of them will grab a hold with both hands and squeeze every ounce of worth they can get out of free.  Most, if they were at all like me, will sleep and procrastinate and skip (don’t panic, Mom; I didn’t skip) because I knew that high school didn’t matter, that college would be completely different and public ed was just a waste of time because it was so crappy.

And (don’t be mad, Mom) I was right.  Nobody cares what grades I got in high school.  No one expects that to be the standard for me because public ed is worthless.  Literally worthless because it is perceived as free by the consumer.  Higher ed, though, that they pay attention to.  If I’m paying directly for the service, I feel personally invested in the outcome of the experience.  I don’t sleep through class or skip, though I do still procrastinate.  I work for my grades and I care when they aren’t good enough.

Yet I still complain about the cost of college.  Here’s the thing.  I spent 6 1/2 years on active duty earning my GI Bill to pay for education.  I get a hefty check every month for $1600.00, which isn’t enough to cover tuition, let alone the fees and book costs on top of that.  I came to school prepared to pay for it myself (okay, Buddy is a huge financial contributor, but he’s pretty invested in my future as a rich and famous author).  Your average college kid isn’t.  Either Mommy and Daddy are getting a second mortgage or someone is getting some debilitating student loans to cripple him/her for the rest of his/her life.  And Higher ed is raking in the dough because it is providing a valued service.  How do we know it is valued?  Because people are mortgaging their houses and accepting crippling debt to pay for it.  If it wasn’t valued, people wouldn’t pay for it.  And since people are willing to pay for it, they can increase prices ad nauseam until someone makes them stop.

So, okay, college is expensive, but a degree opens doors to bigger and better things because it was a lot of hard work to attain and you sacrificed a great deal of income in the process, apparently the only sacrifice we recognize anymore.  If it’s so important for so many opportunities (everyone looks for college degrees nowadays), then why not make it free to everyone?

Because you weren’t listening.  Free education already has no value in our society.  The standards are so low that colleges have to teach high school classes to college freshmen.  And they’ll do it because the college is being paid to teach them.  Public ed is being grudgingly paid very little to do what even small colleges will charge hundreds of dollars to do per student.  Once Higher ed becomes free, it loses its value.  “Oh, you have a Bachelor’s in Engineering?  Big deal.  Anyone could get that because it’s free.  I could get that with a 6-week online course wearing nothing but my drawers.”  Higher ed is sought after by employers because High School diplomas are no longer a guarantee that the employee can write in complete sentences or do simple arithmetic.  When people stop paying for college, the teachers’ salaries will drop, making the job less desirable (harder to fill with people who want the job and aren’t settling for the job).  The standards will fall because some idiot will decide that since it is free education, then everyone should pass and if they don’t, the teachers will be fired.  This encourages teachers to cheat by “teaching the test” and hoping that those students who don’t care about passing, because it’s free, won’t  eff up the curve too much.  (A pox on non-educators trying to “fix” education.)

Let me be clear, though.  I don’t like any of this.  I hate that the only value we understand is a price tag.  I hate that public teachers get paid squat to do a vital job for the betterment of society.  I hate that the only apparent path to success comes at the mercy of large institutions that have little accountability foisted on them to ensure the quality of the product they are selling.  I hate that children suffer for the selfish greed and obstinate bullying of stupid adults.  I hate that most of my life has been aimed at college and as my last semester looms, it all feels futile and empty.

Education should not be given away because it is a precious gift.  It should be invested in and earned through hard work.  It should be valued for the benefits it gives to individuals and society as a whole.  It should never, ever be perceived as free because all good things in life cost something.  Time, energy, sleep, stress, tendonitis, boyfriends, whatever.  Just because it doesn’t cost money doesn’t mean it’s free.

I don’t think the solution to our idiot society is free college.  If you want free college, there are grants and scholarships galore, not to mention GI Bills, that will ease the costs while still giving your degree value.  If you want affordable college, write your congressman or something so the government can stick its greasy hands in more of our problems.

“Education should be free.”  What?  12 years wasn’t enough for you?  Now you want to foist the paychecks of more hard-working teachers onto the tight-fisted tax payer so you can take the same classes you skipped in high school?  Public ed was your chance to learn how to learn so you can function in the world.  I know it doesn’t always work, but that’s what it’s there for.  Higher ed is not the only path to success, no matter how hard they try to convince you otherwise.  It’s certainly not the only path to happiness.

Remember, kids, we are guaranteed “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  There is nothing in there about free university.  So stop demanding that other people pay your way.  If you can’t afford to go the traditional route, maybe you should take your cue from all the famously rich people who snubbed Higher ed for the gold-paved road not taken.

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15AM00000032011 · 03:22

Catching Up


Last week, I was in California taking a much-needed break from just about everything.  They say that one shouldn’t advertize vacations on the internets, so I took a break from my writing.  It has been unusually difficult to get back on the habit, so I guess during the next vacation, I will have to do my writing but delay my posting.

While I was away, a lot of things went south.  My mom and my older brother are on (what I like to call) down cycles.  It upsets me a lot when they get this way.  Which is my narcissism peeking out.  Their struggles are not a reason for me to feel sorry for myself because there’s nothing I can do.  So instead of fretting over my own feelings of helplessness, I’m going to turn it over to God because I do not have the training or resources to help them, beyond empty, encouraging comments on their respective blogs.  They know I love them and support them.

My youngest brother is still in the neglectful arms of the Army, waiting helplessly while they decide his future and (presumably) lose his paperwork.  Nothing I can do there either.  Nothing but disappointment and regret and a thin slice of guilt because I convinced him to join in the first place under the mistaken belief that it might be good for him.  Stupid of me to think that, not when all the evidence showed otherwise.  I know lots of people who use the military to pull themselves up and others who use it as an excuse to fall down.  The Army doesn’t make them do anything.  Whatever they become was there already.  I was a bully long before the Army.  Rank just made me better at it.

Oh, and my sister-in-law has been having labor pains for days now.  Which I don’t find out until I see her request for prayers on the Facebook earlier today.  (Again, Narcissist Me is pissed off because I had to hear it from social media.)

This did genuinely make me angry.  I’m really worried about her and my soon-to-be niece.  I’m worried about my little brother because it’s only his second child and this is a little early for her to be getting labor pains.  And I’m really angry because they’re not telling me means (to me) that they don’t think I care.  (Logically, I know they have much bigger things to worry about, but who am I to start thinking logically at this late juncture?)  Last time, I got a text that she was going into labor and then I heard nothing until I texted the next day to see if everything was all right.  See, when they didn’t let me know that they were Braxton-Higgs (false) contractions, I assumed that no news meant bad news.  I spent a whole day thinking that something had gone horribly wrong and they were too freaked out to tell me.  That’s how my mind works.

The other reason this specific lapse in communication pissed me off is because last month I let slip that Buddy might be going to Korea.  I did the equivalent of a Facebook sigh (vague status update that makes people bug you until you respond with answers).  It was dumb, I know, but I honestly didn’t think that many people would respond so quickly.  My sister freaked a bit, which really put me off my game.  I get it now, I guess.  She’s a civilian and doesn’t know what Korea means.  It’s got it’s benefits and inconveniences, but I was angrier about the early assignment change than about the choices (though they were pretty atrocious considering Korea was the best option).  It is really not a big deal.  I really shouldn’t have said anything until we got orders, but I wanted to rant and get sympathy.  You understand.

After explaining most of this to her and my siblings, she let me know that she didn’t like hearing about this kind of thing from the Facebook.  I get that, too.  I just forgot that our levels of importance vary significantly.  Army BS is something I’m used to.  People get shunted off to new assignments at bad times, regulations change, paperwork is lost, etc.  It’s everyday life for us.  I get frustrated, sure, especially when fat cats are stealing funding to line their own greasy pockets, but it’s not worth special announcements until you have the paperwork because nothing is certain until you have orders in your hand.  Instead, I worry about people’s health and well-being, like pregnancies and sick kids and down cycles.  Those are things I can’t brush off as the normal BS.

The short of it is, none of my Army buddies, spouses included, were worried when I said Korea.  It was an “Oh, damn, but that’s the Army for you” moment.  It’s difficult to remember that most of my family weren’t trained for this, so I shouldn’t get offended when they point out that some announcements should be done privately before they are done publicly.  This is me chided.

Obviously, it’s okay for me to hear about difficult pregnancies over social media while it is unacceptable for them to hear about a temporary duty change from the same source.  I suppose I should feel flattered that she was so concerned, especially after I had to beg to find out if her daughters had received the birthday cards I sent (all it takes is a simple thanks via text or the Facebook, just so I know that the card made it and the gift card wasn’t stolen).  Which let’s you know that I can be especially petty when I want to be.  And I have unresolved issues with my sister.

Well, this started as a brief reintroduction and ended up being a terrible introduction to my family.  If it helps, my older brother and I had a very humorous conversation about switch-sporks today which really made my afternoon.  I think I’m in a down cycle, too, so I shall sign off until tomorrow, wherein I will recount my Cali adventures!

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15AM00000032011 · 03:01

View of the End


The Earth sat up

And brushed the clouds

Scattering them with his brow

 

He dusted the homes

Off his chest

They tumbled, crumbled down

 

Parched with thirst

He looked about

Searching for the Sea

 

But she was gone

His lover friend

Lost by humanity

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Filed under Misc Short Stories