Friday, May 24, 2013
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
A few years ago a friend of ours got hired at Walmart, and in the course of filling out paperwork, his boss handed him the forms he'd need to submit to the state of Missouri so he could collect food stamps for his family. My friend asked why the company couldn't pay him enough money to feed his own family instead of relying on the state to do it. His boss didn't have an answer.
I do: corporate welfare.
Here's a great article that supports my point, "The Conservative Case for Raising the Minimum Wage" by Ron Unz for Salon. This part especially:
Our federal and local governments currently spend vast sums of money subsidizing the social benefits and living standards of our working-poor, including mailing them checks via the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). These expenditures constitute an enormous corporate welfare program in which businesses obtain the full value of their low-paid workforce while shifting much of the cost onto the general taxpayer, a classic example of economic special interests privatizing their profits and socializing their costs. Private sector employers should cover the expenses of their own workers rather than force middle-class taxpayers to pay the tab.
I refuse to shop at Walmart until they raise their employees' wages enough that my family no longer has to pay for their employees to eat.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
On the same day my 80 year old Marlboro Man of a stepdad survived a risky heart surgery at a well-funded, highly-regarded hospital in Nebraska, seven children drowned in the basement of their elementary school in Oklahoma. After I read an email from my mom that said medical staff were working for an hour to get his blood to clot, worried my stepdad wouldn't pull through, I called my mom in a panic and told her I'd say a prayer for him.
I'm not a daily pray-er. I save my prayers for desperate times, when I literally can think of nothing else to do. When I feel hopeless and scared and unsure. When life is chaotic and unkind.
When I pray, I usually try to find a dark, enclosed space--under the covers in bed or huddled on the closet floor. I'm usually sobbing before I get there, and I let the dark wash over me. My prayers usually go something like this:
Please God, help me.
Please God, help [insert pitiful person's name].
A cry for help. And that's it. I don't know what else to say. I figure God knows.
I used to be a daily pray-er. When I was young, my mom taught me this prayer, and I said it every night before I went to sleep, with mom sitting at the side of my bed:
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
Thinking of a six year old Becky talking about "if I should die before I wake" creeps me out. No wonder I had to sleep in bed with someone until I was twelve. I mean, yeah, it's great and all to ask God to care for our souls in the afterlife, but must we really focus our thoughts on dead children at bedtime? Couldn't we end the day on an up-note? Something like this:
Thank you, God, for everything.
In the end, does it really matter what we say to God when we pray? "Let go and let God," the bumper stickers say. Isn't that what prayer is? Telling God, uh, um, I don't know what to say, or where to turn, or what to do, so I'm going to be quiet and try to tune into something bigger than me.
This morning after I talked on the phone with my mom, and my stepdad, and we marveled at science and how tough he is, I turned on the radio to listen to the news while I washed dishes. I felt a little guilty when I realized I had forgotten to say a prayer for my stepdad the night before like I told my mom I would. Then I heard the man on the radio report that seven children had drowned while hiding from the tornado that hit their school in Oklahoma. From the safety of my suburban home in Kansas, my own hands submerged in dishwater, I pictured these sweet, precious gifts from God, seven dead children floating in a pool of water under the rubble of their school. Tears flowed from my eyes and plopped like rain drops into the dishwater. I immediately wanted to say a prayer for these seven nameless children, too. But what good would it do? They're already gone. So I wanted to say a prayer for their surviving loved ones. I thought of my own child, my sweet, precious gift from God, sitting in school right now and I wondered how solidly constructed her building is. I worried about what she would do if we had a tornado. I wanted to say a prayer for her, too, to ask God to protect her. I immediately felt selfish for thinking God might answer my prayers while other parents' prayers went unanswered as they sat in a church in Oklahoma and waited for authorities to tell them their children are dead.
I pulled my hands from the water and dried them on my pants and turned off the radio and turned off the light and stood in the corner of my kitchen. I looked at the unwashed dishes. Particles of my husband's and my daughter's and my own DNA covered those dishes and it was my job this morning to wash them and dry them and put them away until we'd come together for another meal. I cried and held my face in my hands. I felt so sorry for those seven dead children and their surviving loved ones. I felt so happy for my mom and my stepdad, that they'll have more time together on this earth. I thought of my husband at work and my child at school and I pictured them getting home and sitting down to dinner with me later this evening in the safety of our home. I wiped my eyes and shoved my hands back into the dishwater. I looked out the window, up at the sky, and I said this through quiet tears:
Thank you, God, for everything.
I don't even know what that means, but I figure God knows.
As I washed my family's dishes, I felt lucky. If I ever catch myself complaining about the drudgery of housework again, I'll think of those seven dead children and how their parents would feel lucky to get one more chance to wash their children's dishes.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Friday, May 17, 2013
Dara O’Rourke, co-founder of The Good Guide, which rates consumer goods on safety, health, green, and ethical standards, explains how our clothing is made and how consumers can make informed decisions about our purchases. He recommends tweeting our favorite brands to ask them to sign agreements that they will pay to make improvements to these crumbling factories. But companies like Walmart, The Gap, JcPenney, Kohl's, and Target so far have not signed such an agreement. Abercrombie & Fitch signed it, but they don't want fat people like me wearing their clothes. So what's a concerned, fat, naked American to do?
Will and I were talking about the Bangladeshi factory collapse the other day, and I said I wish I had it in me to learn how to sew so I could just make my own clothes. I try not to buy much of anything new, to save money for our family, but also to cut back on waste in general. Why not buy a shirt someone donated to a thrift shop instead of giving my money to companies I don't like for a brand new shirt I'm just going to end up spilling spaghetti sauce on anyway?
The problem is, someone in our neighborhood who is also a frugal shopper must wear the exact same size I do, because I have trouble finding a decent selection of clothes in my size at our thrift stores. Or else fat chicks hang on to their clothes disproportionately longer than skinny chicks do. What's the deal? Once we find something that actually fits we hang on to it til it turns to dust?
That's why I wish I could sew my own clothes, or at least buy smaller clothes at the thrift store and then add fabric to them so they fit me, but alas, when my seventh grade sewing teacher told me I was the worst student she'd ever had after she caught me playing basketball that evening against her kid's team even though I had pretended to be too sick that day to go to her class, I hung up my needle and thread and never looked back.
Throughout high school my mom sewed my clothes for me. My hippie taste clashed with the fashions for sale at Oak Park Mall in the eighties, but Mom kept me well-supplied in long skirts and bell-bottom pants until I was kicked out of the house at age eighteen for skipping too much school.
Once out on my own, my fat girl wardrobe began to shrink considerably. I currently have two hand-made dresses I bought. One I got at this cool store in Westport called It's a Beautiful Day. I love their clothes, but, again, it's hard to find a size big enough to fit my gargantuan ass, and they're a little expensive for my tight ass. The other one I ordered online. Even though I entered my measurements on the form, the dress is too small in the bust. I feel too self-conscious to wear it outside the house. Since it was made just for me I felt too bad to return it. Online shopping is a drag for hard-to-fit sizes.
So basically I just wear my clothes until they turn into rags. I'm about due to buy a new dress though, so I'll save up some money and head down to It's a Beautiful Day again soon. It would be so much cheaper and easier if I could just learn how to sew. At least when I buy a fifty dollar dress at It's a Beautiful Day I can tell myself I'm supporting a local artisan instead of a company that mistreats its garment workers. I don't mind paying a little extra for that peace of mind, knowing I'm contributing to the greater good of the planet.
Once I was riding in the car with Will and he turned right a block ahead of our street. I asked him why he does this since it uses more gas for us to drive around the block to get to our house. He explained that since the block ahead of ours has a turning lane, he uses it whenever there are cars behind him so they don't have to slow down unnecessarily.
"We have to pay a little more for the gas it takes to drive around the block, but think of all the brakes and gas wasted when those other cars behind us have to slow down for us to make the turn. If I use the turning lane, it's only affecting my gas use minimally, but it's better for the planet as a whole."
Hey, Will's a big-picture thinker who likes to tread lightly on the earth. Maybe I could sucker him into becoming my own personal dressmaker? Either that or I'm going to have to just stay home and live in my robe. Either way suits my style.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
The moments I live for and what pleases me most is writing. I've discovered I don't like to eat when I write. I feel lighter and free-thinking, more clear-headed and energetic when my stomach is not full. Occasionally I've begun to worry I might be sliding back into my old anorexic habits when I'd be on an all-day writing binge and forget to eat anything. But I listen to my stomach and I pay attention to my energy level, and I feel great. So what gives? How can a former anorexic get by without eating for eight hours and actually be healthy?
Turns out, Dr. Weil recommends what I unwittingly have been doing: occasional fasting. Turns out, the less-food, more-mental-energy thing might not all be in my head:
Occasional fasting also seems to activity and growth of certain types of cells, especially neurons. This may seem odd, but consider it from an evolutionary perspective -- when food is scarce, natural selection would favor those whose memories ("Where have we found food before?") and cognition ("How can we get it again?") became sharper.
Not that occasional fasting is right for everyone. As Dr. Weil writes:
I don't recommend IF for everyone. Children under 18 should not fast, nor should diabetics, nor pregnant or lactating women. Some health conditions -- such as severe gastrointestinal reflux disease, or GERD -- are easier to manage when food intake is more regular.
What I take away from my experiences and Dr. Weil's article is not that most people should follow a particular restrictive diet, but that we should follow our body's natural cues for hunger and satiety. Eat when you feel hungry and work when you feel energetic and relax when you feel stressed and rest when you feel tired. Our bodies are wiser than we think.
The Census Bureau finds that about 3.5 percent of stay-at-home parents are fathers, though that's doubled in a decade. But Stephanie Coontz of the Council on Contemporary Families calls the figure vastly underreported. It doesn't include the many fathers who do some work yet are their children's primary caregivers, a trend that cuts across class and income.
You can listen to the story here:
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Here's the version for sale on her website:
So powerful. Thank you for sharing your soul with us, Mary Lambert. We need more heroes like you, taking their pain and creating beautiful art to share with the world so we all heal together. I cried at the end when she talks about concentric circles:
i know girls who are trying to fit into the social norm
like squeezing into last year's prom dress
i know girls who are low rise, mac eyeshadow, and binge drinking
i know girls that wonder if they're disaster and sexy enough to fit in
i know girls who are fleeing bombs from the mosques of their skin
playing russian roulette with death; it's never easy to accept
that our bodies are fallible and flawed
but when do we draw the line?
when the knife hits the skin?
isn't it the same thing as purging,
because we're so obsessed with death,
some women just have more guts than others
the funny thing is women like us don't shoot
we swallow pills, still wanting to be beautiful at the morgue,
still proceeding to put on make-up,
still hoping that the mortician finds us fuckable and attractive
we might as well be buried with our shoes,
and handbags and scarves, girls
we flirt with death everytime we etch a new tally mark
into our skin
i know how to split my wrists like a battlefield too
but the time has come for us to
reclaim our bodies
our bodies deserve more than to be war-torn and collateral,
offering this fuckdom as a pathetic means to say,
"i only know how to exist when i'm wanted"
girls like us are hardly ever wanted you know
we're used up and sad and drunk and
perpetually waiting by the phone for someone to pick up
and tell us that we did good
You did good.
( i know i am because i said am, my body is home)
so try this
take your hands over your bumpy lovebody naked
and remember the first time you touched someone
with the sole purpose of learning all of them
touched them because the light was pretty on them
and the dust in the sunlight danced the way your heart did
touch yourself with a purpose
your body is the most beautiful royal
fathers and uncles are not claiming your knife anymore
are not your razor, no
put the sharpness back
lay your hands flat and feel the surface of scarred skin
i once touched a tree with charred limbs
the stump was still breathing
but the tops were just ashy remains,
i wonder what it's like to come back from that
sometimes i feel a forest fire erupting from my wrists
and the smoke signals sent out are the most beautiful things
i've ever seen
love your body the way your mother loved your baby feet
and brother, arm wrapping shoulders, and remember,
this is important:
you are worth more than who you fuck
you are worth more than a waistline
you are worth more than any naked body could proclaim
in the shadows, more than a man's whim
or your father's mistake
you are no less valuable as a size 16, than a size 4
you are no less valuable as a 32A than a 36C,
your sexiness is defined by concentric circles within your wood;
you are a goddamn tree stump with leaves sprouting out:
from letters don't talk, track released 17 July 2012
from Letters Don't Talk, released 01 August 2012
Writing, beatbox, vocals: Mary Lambert
Mandolin: Soren Olsen
Percussion, vocal percussion: Braden Torras
|The Daily Show with Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Barack Trek: Into Darkness|
But hold on. Carlin is right in cases like the IRS targeting conservative political groups. But a few misguided people in one government agency does not mean the government is full of power-hungry jerks.
I'm a part of good government. I've worked for the county for twenty years at my library gig. Taxpayers pay my salary. It's my job to help all patrons, regardless of their political persuasion, regardless of how much I might personally disagree with them on how our society should operate. Just because I think Bill O'Reilly is a pompous blowhard and I'd rather pluck my eyelashes out one-by-one than be forced to read his latest book, it's my job to be aware of it--to read reviews of it and pay attention to how popular it is in our community. I don't have to subject myself to the cruelty of reading it myself, but if someone asks me for a good read and they tell me they like other conservative pundits' books, I don't point them to my favorite political books, I point them to books by guys like O'Reilly. The number one trait I must exude while being a government worker is this: empathy. Guess what the number one trait I must exude while being a decent human being is? Empathy. If you lack empathy, you'll be a shitty employee no matter where you work.
Yes, as in business, there are plenty of government employees who make flagrant errors and ignore rules and operate unethically. But let's not talk about Government like it's one entity. Some of us who work for the government really do care about you, even when we disagree.