Archive for January, 2014

So, I had an unpleasant surprise on Facebook today. Not that all on FB is pleasant; there’s some disturbing stuff sometimes. This, however, was like a slap in the face.

I had clicked on a link that a friend had commented on because I was interested in the article. It had to do with Sandra Fluke. You remember, the woman that Rush Limbaugh condemned as a slut on national radio. Anyway, it seems that Ms. Fluke is considering a run for Congress. From the article and the comments that followed, you would have thought that she was the Whore of Babylon. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen such venom and malice directed toward someone who was not a dictator of a third-world country. She was called a slut, a whore, a bitch, a sexual orifice, by both men and women! One commenter, a woman, said that she should have been aborted. Another said that her mother should have used contraception. She was accused of having constantly open legs. Such crass, misogynistic bile. I read more than I wanted to. It was like a horrific car accident, I couldn’t look away. I wish I had. I feel sick.

Now, I don’t know much about Sandra Fluke or her politics, only that she may just as well have had a scarlet “A” pinned to her chest after she came before Congress to argue that insurance plans should cover contraception. That’s it. Like many in the country, I saw a woman basically crucified for daring to say that insurance plans should cover contraception. Rush Limbaugh, patron saint of the crude, crass, obnoxious, and ridiculous, felt that it was his duty to use every disgusting term he could to insult this lady. It was embarrassing. It was disgusting. HE is disgusting. And he felt that it was his duty to do that to a woman who is not only a successful attorney, but a graduate of Cornell and Georgetown Universities. Jealousy, perhaps? Inadequacy issues?

And why is a request for birth control seen as a sign of promiscuity? I’ve been married for over 17 years and I was on the pill for much of that. Am I a slut? A whore? Am I wrong to want to limit the size of my family so that, oh, we don’t go broke with all of the mouths to feed that would come without it? Seriously, I even got pregnant on the pill. I’m as fertile as they come and I didn’t want 10 kids. Women are still branded as all of those previously mentioned vile names when men who have bastards all over the place are not. Most people in the world have had at least one sexual partner before marriage; many have more. That doesn’t give ANYONE the right to judge, demean, or to make a person feel ashamed over anything in their past. IT’S NOT OKAY!!!!!! And if a person is sleeping around (which is none of anyone else’s business) and they’re using contraception, isn’t that a plus??? They won’t end up on Judge Judy as one of these people with twelve kids who can’t support them. Apparently, Mr. Limbaugh has lived a pure and holy life and has never had to deal with any of that. Last time I heard, he had enough personal problems of his own and he shouldn’t be throwing any stones, let alone the first one. If you have any thoughts on defending him, just remember that he would have said the same thing to your wife, your mother, your sister.

Again, I don’t know Ms. Fluke, I don’t follow her, and I don’t claim to know anything that she’s done other than that fateful moment when Mr. Limbaugh made her famous. I’m not a supporter and not a paid defender. I didn’t even know that she was thinking about a run for Congress But I do know this: Ladies, we have not yet won equality, not by any means. She doesn’t deserve this abuse and in letting it go, we are condoning it and saying that it is okay.

When we live in a country where people use every rude, filthy, nasty, UNACCEPTABLE name to fling at a woman just because they don’t think she is right for a job, (and this is for Congress!) we have descended into that pit of the past where women were property and blamed for the sexual transgressions of men. We live in the freakin’ 21st century, for crying out loud! We look at what women go through in the Middle East and how awful it is, but in reality, in the minds of some people, American women, any women, are worthless, no matter what. If a man had asked for that same thing, there is no way that he would treated in the same, sickening manner. What amazed me the most was that WOMEN were hurling these vile insults as well. What is wrong with people? One can express distaste with class, especially in a public forum. There is no need to descend to the level of a high school locker room.

I guess I’m frustrated. I’m angry. I was fooled into thinking that women had gained some ground, that people were getting more intelligent about the equality between men and women. I’m wrong as of now, but that won’t keep me from being vocal for change, to forever lock away these outdated and insulting opinions that do nothing but feed the ignorant. We need to raise young men and women who find those ideas of using sexual slurs abhorrent and replace them with intelligent ones. We need to speak up and to not stay silent when a slur is used. We need to make it clear that that behavior is unacceptable. The more people that speak up, the less of it there will be. As I tell my students: You don’t have to like everyone or to agree with everyone, but you do have to respect them. Maybe someone should tell that to Rush Limbaugh.

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So, Facebook friends already know that during the coldest snap of the year so far, our furnace died. Well, not died completely, but in the context of doing what it is supposed to do, the furnace failed and when the temperature is several degrees below zero, that becomes a huge issue.

To make a long story short, we had the repair guys out to the house five times over eleven days to replace parts and figure out what the heck was going on. The furnace is just over 20 years old, so we knew that this day would be coming eventually, but as our friendly repair guy Tom put it, people don’t think about the furnace until something goes wrong. He said that he sees customers who have landscaping that cost them in the thousands of dollars, but balk at the thought of having to replace the furnace, often for about the same amount of money. Now, those who know us in real life, especially our neighbors, know that the amount we spend on landscaping is several thousand dollars short of “in the thousands”, pretty much amounting to whatever flats of annuals that English Gardens has on sale that week, but we also used to not think about the furnace very much at all. Like most people, we (used to) take it for granted that when it begins to get chilly in October, you switch the little tab to “heat” and on it goes, and so it has for more than twelve years. Then, last Monday, it didn’t. The good news is that Tom was able to eventually replace the circuit board and get it running again. It has been running for almost two days now without doing anything hinky, but Marty and I are still fairly paranoid about it. I listen for that click of the ignition when it starts feeling chilly, especially this morning while waking up to 6 degrees. I will probably dread that cool, drafty feeling until the weather turns from frigid to scorching all in one day, usually sometime in May or June. We don’t get much of a spring around here.

I have to say that not having heat really did a number on my psyche this week. I was stressed anyway from being back in school, going through an unsuccessful audition, dealing with the furnace going on and off, getting a magazine issue out, and not sleeping very much in the process. Last night, one of boys clogged the toilet and while trying to unplug it, the water ran over the edge of the bowl. Not very much, but enough to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. At 11:30  at night I was having to not only unclog a stupid toilet that no one told me about earlier, but having to bleach the bathroom as well. I’m a total germaphobe when it comes to the bathroom. I hate toilets and everything having to do with bathroom functions to the point of absurdity. Marty knows this and he knew that there would be nothing he could do to help me when I get into that state and so he just went to bed. That was for the best, as two seconds later, the tears came rolling out. All the stress from all week long just kind of ganged up on me all at the same time. In my head, this dialogue was playing: “I can’t believe this is happening! Is it too much to ask that I get one freaking night where I don’t have to worry about anything or fix something in this money pit? Just one night?” And on it went for about ten minutes while I toweled up excess water, put towels and rugs in the washer on “hot”, bleached the toilet and anywhere in the bathroom that the contaminated water might have touched. It was a nice little pity party, but it did stop and I calmed down. It was scary, though, to think that just that little taste of no heat, along with everything else, was enough to cause a little meltdown. It made me wonder about other people, those who have to live without central heating as part of their lives instead of just because their furnaces went out. We hear about it on the news all the time, of house fires that start because of an oven being used as a primary heat source or space heaters that overheat or get too close to something flammable. How do those people feel all winter long? How can they stand it? It really made me feel guilty about feeling the way I did, even as cold as we had been. We’re by no means well-off, but we’ve never had to worry about a problem like that, thank God.

As a middle-class person, you hear the plight of the poor and you feel bad for them, but how often do you really experience what they do? I remember working at Greenfield Village, at Firestone Farm where we used a coal-burning stove and fireplace to heat the house. Even though there was a heater in the house set to very low to keep the artifacts from being damaged when we all went home, it was still really cold in there when we would arrive in the morning. It would eventually warm up as the day went on and I remember thinking that I could have done that, lived in that time period, especially when I would think of all of my Little House on the Prairie books which told how Laura Ingalls and her family stayed warm in the winter. I remember thinking that with a roaring fire, it wouldn’t be all that bad and that it had probably been pretty cozy with all of them together. It just goes to show how naïve and idealistic I was at that time. Being cold sucks. A lot. Laura and her family were probably used to it, but that wouldn’t have made it any more fun for them. When you can’t get warm, because there’s nowhere to go that is warm, being cold begins to feel desperate. I can imagine having to look forward to that feeling every day and it scares me. There are kids growing up like this, probably only a few miles from where I’m living in my (now) warm colonial.

I guess, at the end of the day, that losing heat taught me a lesson on perspective. I want to know more about helping people, about warming centers, and supplying the warm and fuzzy tree that we have at church. I feel stupid now, but I really hadn’t thought of the donations on the warm and fuzzy tree as items of clothing that some would wear inside as well as outside during the winter. Spending a couple days wrapped up in my scarf and hat while in a blanket on my couch lit that particular light bulb in my head. I don’t know what I would do if that was my way of life, if I couldn’t afford to pay the heating bill or to finance a new furnace. I do know that going through this has made me incredibly thankful for what I do have and that we had the means to fix what was wrong. I also know that I’ll never take that particular blessing for granted again.

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No, we haven’t, unless you count the $2.00 little beauty we snagged over the summer. Marty and I have never won anything of significance, although we do buy the occasional Mega Millions ticket. We, like millions of people in the country, bought a ticket (or two) a couple of weeks ago when the jackpot got to be over $600 million dollars, but, as you may have heard on the news, we didn’t win.

Now, I know people who refuse to play the lottery at all because it’s gambling or they don’t want to throw their money away and that’s fine; it’s their choice. I don’t think that spending $1 once every couple of weeks or once a month is going to break us and it’s fun to think about what we’d do if we ever won something more than $2.00. I know that it’s more likely that I would get struck by lightning and bitten by a shark at the same time, but that doesn’t stop me from analyzing it all. I don’t think I’d want to win the whole jackpot of millions of dollars, but of course, if we did, it would be as my cousin, Mike, says, “No one in this family would ever work again.” I feel pretty safe in saying that if I won $600 million, our families would be set for life, but the thought of that much money makes my head spin. Of course, you can invest it, but what can one person do with all of that? I wouldn’t feel right with that kind of stash and would probably give most of it away to charities, leaving us enough to live comfortably. I mean, $600 million is a lot of money. Lots of families are ruined by that kind of windfall.

I’d rather win the amount that the Michigan lady won from that drawing, just one measly million, $700,000 after taxes. That’s manageable. With that, we could pay off our student loans ($85,000 or so), pay off the house, replace the ancient heating/cooling system, fix the leaking foundation, install new energy efficient windows, and repair countless other things that need to be done. That would use up more than half of it. We could take the family on a nice vacation and invest the rest so that we would not only end up in a good nursing home one day, but we’d have something to leave the kids. Nice, right?

I’m firmly in the work-for-what-you-have school and pulling one’s self up by the bootstraps and all of that, but sometimes everything that needs to be done (and paid for) weighs on me and it’s nice to allow a daydream once in a while. We’re by no means in dire straits or wanting for anything, so we are very blessed, but who doesn’t think of what they could do if there was just a little extra to go around? There’s another drawing tomorrow night. Maybe we’ll get lucky and get a $2.00 winner.

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