Thursday, December 22, 2011

Patience, Old Grasshopper

Last night I made the mistake of stopping at Target on my way home from work, when every other resident of my community got the same idea at the exact same time. I only ended up with a handful of things in my cart, because the store was out of several key items on my list. This Christmas, if anyone asks you during an after-dinner trivia game, “Which major U.S. retailer was completely out of Rolos three days before the second-largest candytastic U.S. holiday?” you can now answer with confidence.

The lines to check-out were endless, streaming into jewelry and inappropriate tween wear. I wove my cart through the herd and settled into Lane 8, which only had three shoppers in front of me. However, Lane 6 only had one shopper! And she was already checking out! Oh, joyful, speedy day!

Quickly, I steered my cart into Lane 6. Which was when time waded into a pit of molasses and started to sink. After five or ten minutes of mouth-counting, the clerk finished sorting the ninety dollar bills the woman before me had laid on the counter. And then the shopper asked the clerk: “Do you have a pen?”

Holy, sweet, innocent baby Jesus, do you have a mother^&#@ing pen?!?! That’s right neighbors, Speedy Gonzalez was paying for a portion of her purchase with a check! A check! Like they used all the time back in 1982! And she was penless, despite having a purse the size of a Buick on her shoulder.

“Do you want to apply for a Target credit card to save 5%?”

“No, but why don’t you slowly read me the fine print anyway?”

“Sure!” After the clerk finished reading, she pulled out a massive abacus to complete the transaction, while the shopper fished through her purse for some glass beads and decorative feathers with which to finish paying for her items.

“Do you need to see my driver’s license?”

“No, as long as your license number is on the check.”

“I want to show it to you anyway, but it’s expired.”

“Oh, well why don’t you run down to the DMV to renew it, come back, and finish paying for your things? I can wait!”

They were completely oblivious to the orgy of frustration and impatience seething within me. The only clue was the twitching of my left eyelid; the sales associate in Lane 10 noticed, however, and started winking back at me. I wanted to throttle both of them, or gently ask if a swift foot to the taint might help speed the whole process along. I could suddenly see the merits of a concealed carry permit. But I took a deep breath, pulled my phone from my purse, checked the time, and settled for sighing heavily.

In Lane 8 next to me, twelve shoppers who'd arrived at the store after I’d switched check-out lanes had already paid for their purchases, and returned home. Several of them had already eaten spaghetti for dinner and were now cuddled on the couch with loved ones, watching the X-Factor finals.

Eventually, I paid for my own items, and eventually, I got home, made dinner, and watched a nature show on PBS because I am old.

Still later, the universe decided to teach me a few lessons about patience when I found myself upstairs in my painting clothes at ten p.m., numbly applying second coats of white paint to window and door trim, my taskmaster cracking a bull whip over my shoulder and shouting things like, “You’ve got a drip! Catch it, catch it!” and “Sand with the grain! With the grain, I say!!!”*

Patience. It’s what I really want for Christmas.

*J really isn't this bad, though I have been banned from doing any touch-up painting on surfaces at eye-level. My evil plan to get out of tedious detail-work by pretending to do things poorly is working…

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Half-Assery Abounds

We are at the point in our DIY adventure where it feels like we'll never see the finish line...who knew five rooms could have so much trim to prime, sand, putty, paint, and re-paint? The tedium is exhausting, and I'm battling a strong urge to do a totally half-assed job. My wrists have told me in no uncertain terms that they are not in their twenties any longer. Unfortunately, J has suddenly become more detail-oriented than a Swiss watch maker, re-puttying nail holes I filled yesterday, insisting on sanding and re-painting when I think it's just fine.

We also realized that we have no stairwell clearance for a new queen-sized mattress, so we had to break down and order a spendy Sleep-Number bed, sight-unseen. My heart still hasn't recovered from that unexpected additional expense. Also, we've never even tried one out! We just bought the mattress, one easy online click, because we knew we'd be able to get it up our steps. Just another one of the many joys of living in a 125-year old house built when people and their dreams were much, much shorter.

I console myself with the knowledge that in three weeks, we'll be able to stop sleeping in the living room, stop living like hoarders, and move back upstairs to sleep on a REAL (Sleep-Number) bed again.

Things I've learned during this remodeling project:
  • If your floor leveling compound is lumpy when you pour it on the floor, you did something wrong. Perhaps God is angry at you.
  • If I ever hear Bob Seger, Foreigner, or Warren Zevon again, it'll be too soon.
  • We should have gotten a Menards "Big card" YEARS ago.
  • Open a few windows when you're priming walls and ceilings, unless you don't really want the brain cells dedicated to math and/or critical thinking.
  • When your vanity counter top for some reason fails to overhang the vanity cabinet, it looks like shit. Get your husband to glue some kind of jerry-rigged pieces of plastic he found at work to the backsplash. Nobody will know.
  • There are always more cracked stair treads beneath the old carpeting than the one you are aware of.
  • Don't paint yourself into a corner, get up to date on your Tetanus shots, and buy a humane bark collar for your dog. Your contractors will thank you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

At the Girlfriends' Book Club...

I'm blogging today at the Girlfriends' Book Club about one of my stranger, more unsettling childhood memories and the books I loved way back when...

Monday, November 07, 2011

Could it be....Seitan?

Just checking in ... we are still up to our eyeballs in home renovations, although at least we are at the painting stage. All ceilings and three rooms down--2 more to go. Lighting, flooring, trim, and dear-God-can-we-really-stop-sleeping-on-the-futon-soon?

Tonight J's parents stopped by on their way through town for a quick visit, and I fed them dinner. I stuck to the game plan from my weekly menu: oven-roasted acorn squash with pesto pasta and sun-dried tomatoes, peas, and seitan. It's pronounced "Say-TAHN," but you can call it "Satan," like my mother-in-law did, because then you'll know whom* to blame when the gas kicks in later.

Yeah, I forgot about that part--I formally apologize to my in-laws for subjecting them to my weird meal AND the deleterious side effects. Some daughter-in-law I am!

In case you were wondering, seitan is vital wheat gluten mixed with broth and boiled for an hour--it sounds gross, and it kind of is (unless you grill it and season it and toss it with something else). A chicken analogue, of sorts. Best chopped up and tossed in a pot pie or soup, actually. Neither of which I did, resulting in a sub-par Meatless Monday.

Okay, I've got more painting to do, so I'm off. I can't wait to post the full before- and after- blog, with photos.

*Does it sound pretentious to say "whom" here? Is it even warranted?

Friday, October 14, 2011

I Can't Believe I'm Posting These

After living in the same house for 16 years, J and I thought it was finally time to seize the day and buy that house in the country we’ve dreamed of. With a garden! Fruit trees! A chicken coop! Maybe even room for more than two people to eat in the kitchen!

But most importantly:

Somebody once thought this was a good idea.

A toilet that isn’t stuck in the wall!

This photo may one day make its way into one of those “shit rednecks cobble together with duct-tape and gum” photo montages, but you saw it here first, kids.

So after attempting to sell our house for six months last year with ZERO offers, I am convinced that our bizarre walk-through, haphazard, dangerously not-up-to-code bathroom is to blame.

Can you believe I used to clean this room? Who did I think I was fooling?

I know, I'm as surprised as you. I mean, who DOESN’T love squishy walls and exposed PVC piping that appears to have simply been jammed into the wall, where it molds and rots and incubates and emits funky smells and you can fall asleep to the relaxing sound of the grody faucet dripping, because your bed is just eight feet away?

J and I took advantage of a recent loan sale at our credit union, sucked it up, and decided to bring our 125 year-old house into a safer, more hospitable state. Preferably something that wouldn’t give my four year-old nephew nightmares, rashes, or asthma when he comes to visit.

Living in a house with ample, code-safe electrical outlets and an actual bathroom vanity is a prospect that excites me to no end. Did you hear that? An ACTUAL bathroom vanity! On which I can set my toothbrush without gagging or grimacing! Be still, my beating heart.

While this work is being completed, J and I are living on our first floor. I suppose we could sleep in this—

But I may lose 60% of my lung capacity and end up with the sooty face of a character featured in a Dickens novel. So, futon-behind-a-sheet it is for the time being. I am also doing my hair and makeup in the same chair in which I wrote my last novel, and the dog eats and drinks four feet from the pillow I sleep on every night.

Nonetheless, I am still finding a way in the midst of this chaos to do some fall baking, because I’ll be damned if I have to bid farewell to summer AND miss out on recipes featuring pumpkin, cinnamon, squash, and sage. (Mmmm, pumpkin-ricotta lasagna ... I think it's the lead paint dust that gives it that spicy, piquant flair.)

Last night I baked a caramel apple cake (averting tragedy when I remembered just a minute after I put the cake in the oven that I’d forgotten to add an entire stick of butter… "Why is this batter SO DRY?!”) It’s my mother-in-law’s birthday today, so it’s actually for her—so, Happy Birthday if you’re reading this, Mama Riley! You take the cake!"* But first we’ll take you out for dinner to celebrate.

*Don't worry, there isn't any lead paint dust in it. And by "any," I mean "much (I hope)."

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Mama's got a (holy water) squeezebox

J and I have been busy removing every personal item and piece of furniture from our second floor, which is about to undergo a major renovation. We're talking moving walls, cutting new doors, new wiring and outlets, new sheetrock, new ceilings, new flooring, and--most importantly--a new bathroom. (Do you hear that? It's the sound of an angelic choir celebrating with me. They're singing Kool and the Gang: "Celebrate good times, come on!")

The absolute bane of my existence shall be gutted! And replaced with something that actually makes sense. After things are finished, I'll post a before and after photo. You will be horrified by the before. I guarantee it. When we had them visit to take measurements for the estimate, even our contractors were horrified, laughing and scratching their heads. "Now this is special," one of them said. The other was speechless. I got the impression that were he alone, he'd curl into a ball and start rocking in the corner.

As we pack and displace our belongings (everything must go!), it's been fun discovering personal artifacts we'd long-since forgotten about. A diary I kept when I was nine, accompanied by a creepy lock of hair...misshapen ceramic art projects J made in high school. And! A handful of rosaries and a small squeeze bottle of holy water.

I must have received it during some religious exercise in my youth (a better person would call them 'sacraments'). I can't remember if it was my confirmation, or my first communion, or simply because the nuns were worried for our souls and handed them out like candy one day after catechism class.

There is a sticker affixed to the back of the bottle which reads: "Holy water is a sacramental. Any deliberate misuse or disrespect of it is a serious sin of sacrilege."

Now, calling me a "lapsed" Catholic would be putting it mildly. I'm so lapsed that on the occasions I DO return to church, I worry about my skin smoldering. Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit, but I no longer am a member of any sort of organized religion for my own very private, personal reasons. I know what I believe and what I no longer believe, but most of all, I know that there is so much I do not know. YET--

Certain habits and long-ingrained beliefs tend to linger. Take the bottle of holy water. "What should I do with it?" I asked J.

"Water your plants with it."

I figured I'd go straight to hell if I did, so I tried giving it to my mom, who still goes to church. "Can you pour this back in the holy water fount?" I asked. She laughed and politely declined.

"Water your plants with it!" my Dad suggested.

"I can't do that!" And then I paused. Am I REALLY this superstitious??!! What would happen if I dumped it in a potted fern...would I be struck by lightning? Be attacked by a plague of locusts? Be forced to eat pork and wear a shirt of mixed fibers?

In the end, the holy water came back home with me. On the way, J said, "Maybe having this in the house is why it's not haunted." Granted, our house was built in 1885, but my husband is NOT the superstitious type.

Clearly, some of his childhood religious education and superstitions also lingered. It's a tenacious thing. Or maybe we'd just seen The Exorcist too many times.

Either way, the holy water remains in my living room, tucked near some photo albums on a shelf. Just in case.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It Ain't Me, Babe

Well hello there! I am pleased to report that the novel is FINISHED, pending a few small remaining revisions...and then I cross my fingers and ship it off to my agent. And then lie on the floor trying not to hyperventilate.

I have a new post for this very blog all planned--it's totally written in my head--I just need to get it on here. In the meantime, I am blogging with the Girlfriends' Book Club, about basing characters on real people. Come say hi so I don't feel lonely!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Consumed by the NIP

Last night, after a full day of dicking around and fretting and tweaking, I finally crossed page 200 in my novel-in-progress. I’d suggest we call it my NIP, but some people might get the wrong idea, so let’s actually call it my “work-in-progress.” My WIP. I’d prefer VIP, but I can’t think of a word that starts with a “V” that would refer to the most frustrating, complicated, messy novel I’ve ever had the balls to write.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s coming together. Every day I begin what’s come to feel like an agonizing marathon in clogs, with people along the route holding orange slices and Dixie cups filled with bad, demoralizing news instead of water, but every day I meet the page goal, somehow, and say to myself. “That wasn’t so bad. Off to bed, have to do it all over again tomorrow!”

After I got about 50 pages in, I began to sail, and like calendar pages flying by in an old movie, the pages rapidly multiplied. Now I’m floating on a warped, water-logged board in the middle of the ocean, parched and sunburned, desperate for a breeze to push me toward the right shore.

I have essentially eleven days until I am back at work full-time, at which point my fiction will be back-burnered, at least until I adjust to the new schedule. So I push through the empty space, nearly racing to beat the clock.

Darn stomach, demanding to be filled with food I must purchase with a paycheck.

So that’s where I’ve been these last few weeks. Cranking out the prose, trying to knit subplots together and keep track of the crazy characters who’ve come to seem like real people to me.

Also, this is going on:

This recently finished:

And the monster that's eaten my front flowerbed shows no signs of abating:

I’ll be scarce around here until September, but if you need me, you know where to find me. Unshowered and highly caffeinated, hunched over my computer keyboard.

Added on edit: I just came across this link today that explains it all. Perfectly.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Oh, the Humanity!

I'm blogging at the Girlfriends Book Club today. About anxiety as it relates to writing. And how I'm never anxious. Ever. Nope. Not me. Cool as a cucumber. In Tehran. During a ban on cucumbers.

Stop by and tell me to relax a little.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

More Evidence that I am Going Straight to Hell

We recently attended Summerfest, which is the experience for you if you ever wondered what it might have felt like to be separated into panicked, gender-segregated lines potentially leading to cattle cars en route to Treblinka.

Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but that was what I thought every time I found myself at the front of a chaotic line just to enter the damn park, when that line would suddenly “close,” and I’d be directed to join a nearby line "for women only." The women-only lines were 32 miles long and full of sweaty, tattooed strangers. I should emphasize that I was alone, because my husband and friends had left me behind, flagrantly barging past the groping / purse searching Summerfest staff shouting, “Males only! Males only!” in our faces, while I obediently followed directions.

I’ll never do that again.

Once in the park, I tried to relax, but a whirling press of drunks sloshing beer on your shoes and pretending to steal your fried eggplant while you desperately search for a bathroom that doesn’t smell like a dead prostitute doesn’t exactly create an aura of calm.

Beer helps. While in line for one, I spotted the most magnificent, Ode-to-the-Eighties hairdo I’ve seen in years. It was a perfect specimen—nearly every end split, teased and curled into a perfect helmet of wind-blown, feathered frizz. I took a picture of it, which I’d hoped to share with you here, but my dear husband dropped my phone and I lost all of the photos on my SD card.

Not that I’m still peeved about this …

Anyway, the woman’s haircut. It was a thing to behold. Just a glimpse of that hair could set a Poison album loose in your head, float the ghost-scents of Aqua-Net and Exclamation perfume on the breeze.

“Who wears their hair like that anymore?” I asked J, amazed.

“People who like to bowl,” he answered.

It was the kind of response that reminded me why I still loved him, despite his dropping my camera and accidentally erasing dozens of adorable photos of my nieces and nephew.

In other news, the first 100 pages of my new novel have been submitted to my editor. My agent loved it, but this doesn’t mean it’s “in the bag,” because my editor can still decide it’s worse than a trip to Summerfest and take a big fat pass. I’m hoping this one’s the charm, though. It’s got a tranny in it, for God’s sake.

And if you’re looking for a fun, breezy page-turner to read on your Kindle at the beach, check out my friend Malena Lott’s e-novella Life's a Beach. I didn’t read it at the beach, but it made the time waiting for my oil change and tire rotation that much more enjoyable. Malena’s a master of fun plot twists, and it's a steal at just $2.99.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Garden Mania

Summer is in full-swing now, and the yard is popping. I have been out at night, wearing a headlamp as if I'm going to do a little coal mining in my front lawn, to battle earwigs and prove to my neighbors once and for all that I am slightly insane when it comes to my garden. More specifically, when it comes to preventing the zinnias and sunflowers I started by seed back in early April from being completely skeletonized by a swarm of disgusting brown bugs with PINCERS. (Yeah, I had to look up how to spell that. It looks weird, doesn't it?)

So let me take you on a tour of the garden. First we have little green clusters of cherry tomatoes. I am counting the days until I can harvest these babies, most of which are destined for slow-roasting and freezing so I can taste some sunshine in January.


Here we have the blossom of a Delicata squash plant. If you haven't tried Delicata squash, you must--it tastes a bit like corn on the cob: sweet, fragrant, creamy, and perfect with sage, brown sugar, and butter.


I don't know what the hell is going on in the next photo other than it's completely out of control. I have to lift this shit up with a heavy-duty stick so my husband can mow the 0.5 inches of lawn you see...when he gets to this section he calls, "Stick girl!" and I come running. I think next year I'm ripping up the lawn and replacing it with a creeping groundcover. I retire the stick and the jungle wins.

Below are the two hanging baskets that have been absolutely infested with aphids. I have hosed them off, sprayed them with clove and garlic oil, and hand-squished aphids until my fingers were sticky. I am currently awaiting shipment of a magical product called "Aphid Chaser," which consists of pheromone-treated rubber disks that attach to the plant and send an alarm message that scares the aphids enough that they stop eating and move on. Makes me wish someone would invent "Nacho Chaser," which I could snap onto my wrists like little bracelets so I'd be alarmed into putting the chips down.

Also, in case you think this sounds like magical nonsense, I used them last year and THEY WORKED.

The basil below will be turned into a delightful pesto by next week, after I buy a new food processor because my last one crapped out on me. It's hard to tell in this photo, but the basil bush is two and a half feet tall.

My first Mexican sunflower bloom! In another month this plant will be two feet taller, bushier, and covered in dark orange daisies. It's a bona-fide butterfly magnet.

And last but not least, one of the bunnies from the explosion of rabbits inhabiting my yard. One of them is so small he could fit in the palm of my hand. That little guy lives under my daylilies, and he's become quite fond of my ornamental peppers. I've lost a few plants to these adorable buns, but I can't stay mad at them for long. It's like the universe is laughing at me for the $100 baby bunny I drove to the rehabber two summers ago.

To protect my perennials, I have been sprinkling a disgusting product called "Rabbit Scram" around the perimeter of my beds. This product is made of blood meal, pepper, and ground, dehydrated meat. The last time I sprinkled it some poofed up and I accidentally inhaled it. I have been a vegetarian for nearly ten years, and all it takes is a few adorable but ravenous rabbits threatening my garden and there you have it. I'm snorting meat dust.

I'll have to do some before-and after photos in the next post, because I am completely amazed at the progress things have made in just three weeks. Until then, I'm revising my novel proposal. I hope to ship it off to my agent soon...fingers, toes, and eyes crossed!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Alright, Alright

Oh man, the neglect! Let's just hope I never have to put you in a nursing home.

BUT! I have been feverishly writing, about to round the bend on 80 pages in the new novel. I'm obsessing about the characters, which is a good sign. I can't chop onions or get the mail without being struck by a snippet of dialogue or a turn of phrase that I must record IMMEDIATELY, dropping everything else I'm working on before I forget it.

Let's see...other things....picked up the first CSA box today (rhubarb, asparagus, early garlic, a decent portion of popcorn). We're also planning to gut and totally remodel our upstairs Bathroom of Horrors. Holmes on Homes could have a field day with that bathroom, and I promise a detailed "Before and After" photo essay on this blog when we get to that point.

My BFF asked if I'd be interested in running a 5K with her this August, and I had a candid conversation with my shins afterward: "Look. I'd really like to run this 5K, maybe shrink the waist just enough that I can fit into the capris I wore last summer. So you're going to have to suck it up and deal with the splints." But now that I think about it, maybe it can be avoided. Does anyone know a good preventative for shin splints? I seem to recall reading something about good running shoes, maybe some stretches, maybe drinking tart cherry juice before exercise.

Today while grocery shopping I ran into a guy I had a mild flirtation with in college. My cart was filled with fruits and veggies, and his cart contained a gallon of whole milk and two loaves of Wonder Bread. What kind of 40 year-old man still eats Wonder Bread? And still expects painless, regular bowel movements? I really dodged a bullet there.

Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there! May all your ties be attractive. If not, may they at least be returnable.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Blog-hopping

I'm blogging at the Girlfriends' Book Club today about staying motivated, getting out of the 'writing weeds,' and my favorite writing quotes. Stop by and say hi!

Monday, May 23, 2011

We Need More Schoolhouse Rock

Having recently emerged from my busy grantwriting season relatively unscathed, I now have some time to update the blog. (Although there is still some work to do--today I spent some time on hold with the Department of Education. Do you know what I got to listen to while I was on hold? "Conjunction Junction." Yeah, they were playing old Schoolhouse Rock, those hipsters.)

We also hosted the Mystery Showing this Saturday with the lovely young woman who inquired about our house a few weeks ago. Do you know how weird it is to watch strangers measure your living room to see if their furniture will fit? Now we proceed to the even more awkward portion of the dance: "What's your asking price?" "Well, not to be coy about it, but what do you think it's worth?"

When I wasn't showing strangers around my house this weekend and feeling compelled to apologize for my home's flaws, I was spending time with my adorable nieces; I am convinced these little munchkins are partly to blame for my new cavity, what with their immeasurable sweetness.

Also, it's not nearly as cute, but the kitchen garden is in: chives, rosemary, marjoram, three kinds of tomatoes, radishes, kale, Swiss chard, mint, basil, sage, parsley, marigold, Texas Sage. I grew all but three from seed, and I marvel every time I look at the little guys that I didn't kill them.




I still have a few things in the greenhouse: I don't know what to do with my one remaining huge tomato plant. Anyone takers? It's a purple heirloom called "Black from Tula," and I grew it two years ago with much success--no cracking or blossom end rot, and it tasted great just sliced from the vine, still sun-warm, with just a shake of sea salt and pepper.

But the photo I'm happiest about is this one, taken by my friend Leeann at the Green Bay Barnes & Noble last week. She made my day in a serious way, and even got yelled at for snapping this pic. Tip of the hat to you, Fee! (Does Stephen Colbert have that phrase trademarked? I hope not...)
My next task is to do this all over again. I'm ten pages into the new project...290 more pages to go!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Events are Turning

We were in Lansing, Michigan this past weekend for our adorable goddaughter's baptism--oh my goodness, she is the cutest little butterbean...I wanted to smuggle her back with me.

When we returned home we found a handwritten note in our front door from a woman possibly interested in buying our house. Wha???? She said her sister lives near us and she 'always admired' our house. So we set up a showing for the 21st. I've never shown a potential buyer through my house myself, but this gives us the opportunity to at least brace her for the upstairs bathroom as we ascend the stairs. A strange yet delightful turn of events.

There are just eight days until my next grant is due so I need to keep this short, but I want to share a cute story. My three year-old nephew spent some time with his grandmother (my Mom) this weekend. At one point he looked at her thoughtfully and asked, "Are you going to die someday?"

My mother laughed and replied, "Well, yes, we all die someday. But I won't die until I'm really old. How old do you think really old is?"

Corbeau thought for a minute. "Fifty-six."

My Mom turns 56 this August.

(The little vegetarian also asked during dinner, "How do you make meat?" To which my sister quickly answered, "You have to kill an animal." He didn't seem too upset by this. "We can just kill one, okay?")

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Only Good Filling is Cream Cheese

I am swimming in grants right now but took time from my schedule to visit Emo Dentist this morning. Emo Dentist looks like Justin Bieber, only with a full head of gray hair. I saw him shopping at Festival Foods once and had to do a double-take (“Is that 40 year-old Justin Bieber? No, it’s just the guy who nags me to floss more.”)

My old dentist moved to Arizona two years ago and sold her business to a new team of dentists, and things have changed a bit. Now, I get to wear a pair of ugly sunglasses when I have my teeth cleaned. I suspect this is so I’m not blinded by the light that illuminates every stain and stipple of plaque. I’m always tempted to ask, “Does this mean my future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades?” And then my mild-mannered hygienist would probably spray me in the eye with a blast of air.

So this morning, after my hygienist told me I looked an awful lot like the fourth wife on Sisterwives and subjected me to my annual dose of radiation through an endless series of X-Rays, they found a suspicious, shadowy area between two of my teeth. Who knew that as you got older, your teeth developed sketchy alleys with busted streetlights and germy hooligans lurking behind the dumpsters?

Emo Dentist seemed a little gleeful about it all: “See what happens when you don’t floss? Now you get to pay some handsome out-of-pocket bullshit for a filling. What flavor do you want? Mercury or bisphenol-A? Brain or endocrine damage?”

(Damn you, Lazy Not-Flossing Jess!)

Anyway, despite the shadowy area that is either a cavity or hang-out for n’er do wells, the appointment was decent enough. The hygienist didn’t make my gums bleed, which is always a plus, and Emo Dentist hummed part of a Styx song while he examined my mouth. I’m going to assume he was just absently humming to whatever was streaming from the speakers above, because if he really is a Styx fan, I may have to sever the relationship.

I’ll be back to see Emo Dentist again in a month for my filling and more awkward small talk. In the meantime, I’ll be dragging my ass toward the finish line for my last grants of the season.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Delisted

I have mixed feelings about pulling The Hovel off the market. On the one hand, we won’t have to worry about where to stash the dog when realtors tour strangers through our freshly cleaned, sparkling-spotless house.

On the other, we won’t return home after realtors have toured strangers through our freshly cleaned, sparkling-spotless house to find what appears to be a giant, black pube on our white couch.

On the one hand, the most entertaining people in the neighborhood have been evicted or actually died—including our Hoverround-bound penis-splitter. Can you believe that? He really died! He hadn’t walked in ages, wore an adult diaper, chain-smoked, appeared to eat only fast food, and told us last August that he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and would be dead by November—but come on. I never thought that guy would die!

On the other, we still have Probable Pedophile who buys a case of beer at the corner liquor store every day, precariously balancing it on his lap as he peddles past our house—and no doubt more colorful characters will move into Hoverround’s old house as soon as it’s ready for rent.

On the one hand, I still won’t have room to plant a Big-Ass Garden or read in the backyard in private. And even though my city just approved urban chickens, my yard is still too damn small to get even one tiny silky Bantam I could name Checkers and train to peck “What a Feeling!” on a toy piano.

But on the other, there is a pear tree one block from me that bears the most delicious fruit. How do I know? Because one night, while walking home from a bar down the street (shut up—a friend had his 40th birthday party there), I stole a few pears from their yard. I justified this because they were already on the lawn and probably would have just gone to waste.

Yes I ate them, and yes, they were delicious.

I need a moment to absorb the fact that I just publicly admitted to eating fallen fruit I stole from somebody’s yard.

Now that we are staying put, J and I are mentally preparing ourselves for some major remodeling projects on the second floor. The ultimate goal is to re-list the house in a few years and not have potential buyers shouting, “Mother of God, what is this abomination!” and sprinkling themselves with holy water when they see our second bathroom.

Also, to stop weeping in the shower because it is. That. Gross.

In happier news, the squirrels are nesting in the chimney again! I know because I can hear the rustling behind the bathroom wall while I’m curling my hair. Last spring I looked up one day to see five babies tumble out of the chimney, scamper across the roof, and leap into the nearest tree.

J is not as enamored with the squirrel babies as I am, but he is kind enough to indulge me and let them raise one more brood before he climbs up on the roof and fixes the chimney blocking-thing. He allows this because: A) he has a huge heart; B) they are not getting into the wiring, and any destruction they are wreaking behind the walls can be no worse than the bathroom’s current state; C) they are not rats; and D) he is married to someone who will cry over profiles on Petfinder or Adopt-us-kids, and he is not a fan of celibacy.

No doubt I’ll watch in horror while one of the baby squirrels is hit by a car in front of my house later this summer, but at least they had a chance, dammit. At least they had a chance.

This is not one of our baby squirrels, but one that somehow ended up wearing a plastic Easter egg bonnet near the school my brother teaches at. See? Totally cute!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

And Now for Something That Doesn't Suck. Figuratively.

Last fall I blogged about a neighborhood incident in which some jokesters placed a broken Kenmore vacuum cleaner on my front porch steps. Because I can be a terrible comment monitor, I didn't realize until months later that a sales rep from Sears had read my blog and graciously offered to send me a FREE Kenmore vacuum cleaner to erase any bad vibes the jokesters had inflicted.

It took me a few days to get over my suspicion before I emailed him to ask, "For reals, yo?"

And crazily enough, the answer was indeed, "For reals!"

Last Monday the brand-spanking new, totally FREE vacuum arrived on my front porch: a Kenmore Progressive canister with HEPA filter and pet hair attachment. Swoon! I had big plans for my darling new vacuum--I envisioned a "Spring cleaning!" blog giveaway / contest. Sort of a 'pay it forward' if you will, and I excitedly shared my idea with my mother...which she quickly squelched with:

"Well, you know your sister really needs a vacuum. I have to lug our vacuum to her place twice a month, an hour each way, up and down all those stairs..." Though I couldn't see my mother's face because we were on the phone, I knew exactly what expression she was wearing. We're talking about a woman who was once given a T-shirt for Christmas that read: "When it comes to guilt trips, I'm a frequent flier!"

D'oh. Ah, old Catholic guilt--I shake my fist at you!

Okay, my sister is awesome and her children have provided me countless hours of entertainment over the last three years, so she totally deserves it. My mother and I made the vacuum delivery this past Sunday. I had grand plans of photographing my niece and nephew posing adorably with the vacuum; unfortunately, Corbeau wouldn't cooperate. Grandma tried to show him how it's done:

At that point it occurred to us that my niece is too young to object to being photographed on a vacuum box, so my plan swung into action.

Why must they torture me so?

Of course, Corbeau's favorite thing about the new vacuum was the box. We spent (what felt like) hours packing him in the box, pretending not to know his whereabouts, and squealing with delight when he popped out. He called the game "butter," because who wouldn't associate a vacuum box with a pat of butter?

Adorable child not included.

After we assembled the vacuum and took it for a test spin, it became apparent that Corbeau was not a fan. Crying and screaming commenced because when it comes to loud noises and vacuum-related freak-outs, my dog has nothing on my nephew. Brilliant Grandma figured out how to reduce the noise setting, and Corbeau finally calmed down enough to try the vacuum himself. When he discovered that the cats hated it more than he initially had, another fabulous game was born: (Attempted) cat vacuuming!

Because my sister is incredibly thoughtful, she'd wrapped a sort of 'thank-you' gift for me--something she introduced with, "Now don't get too excited, it's really lame." (It's too bad she missed out on a career as an event emcee--she could have done well, don't you think?)

My gift turned out to be an electric stapler she'd gotten free as a bonus with a large art supply order for her students.

And here she is, multi-tasking and cleaning the shazaam out of her dining room. My sister was incredibly excited about the vacuum, repeatedly exclaiming, "Yaaay!" and "This is so awesome!" and already making feverish plans about vacuuming the curtains in summer, so as to reduce her allergies. I didn't have the heart to tell her that curtains could also be washed in the washing machine, because there's just something so thrilling about a new vacuum.

On the drive home my mother remarked, "Remember how messy her room used to be? Piles of clothes everywhere, water glasses balanced on the edges of dressers and tables...You'd never have guessed if you knew her in high school how thrilled she'd one day be about a vacuum."

(Thank you Sears / Kenmore!! You made our month.)

Monday, March 07, 2011

Luddite Love

For some reason, I am wary of new technology. I’m not as bad as my Dad, who once memorably said to me, “What the f*ck is this … YOUTUBE … my students are talking about?” But bad nonetheless. I was among the last in my group of friends to get a cell phone. When I joined Facebook I did so warily, and continued to feel suspicious of it for a few years…at least until I recently acquired a new Android phone a few weeks ago, with instant access to updates, and all hope of productivity was lost.

Oh, and when I got that Android phone? Suspicious! I skittishly followed J around the Sprint store, dubiously testing some of the phones, convinced that there would be some big catch in the fine print that would somehow doom me to a life of indentured servitude to Steve Jobs. Or Bill Gates. Or anyone more technologically-savvy than me, really.

I kept one eyebrow up the whole time I was in the store: “Yeah, see? But what’s the catch, hmmmmm? Will this take naked pictures of me while I sleep and post them online? Will it give me cancer if I charge it too close to my head? What if I accidentally download an infected app that auto-tunes my voice every time I call my Grandma?”

Today my sister sent me an invitation to LinkedIn. Normally when I get these invites I delete them, dismissing it as just one more headache in the making—I was sure LinkedIn was somehow related to the “Acai Secret for a Flat Belly!” and “Mom discovers this one trick for white teeth!” ads you see all over Teh Internets. Years ago I accidentally put my contact information into one of those ads (for a mortgage rate quote), and I was barraged with calls that skeeved me out for months afterward.

Okay, it wasn’t accidental, it was stupid and on purpose, but still. Someone dear to me was also unwittingly ‘signed-up’ for a fee-based ringtone service after completing an IQ test on Facebook.

You just never know. Technology can be dangerous. Because while you are learning to use your new phone, you might also take an innocent but titillating picture of yourself right after photographing the hand-woven basket your sister made you for Christmas and then send the basket photo to your spouse and the titillating photo to your sister with the subject line, “Here’s your basket!”

You just. Never. Know.

Anyway, today’s request had my sister’s approval, so I signed up. Immediately, I was invited to connect with 195 people in one of my email address books. Uh-oh. Should I do it? Should I do it? What would this mean? I didn’t even recognize half the names that popped up.

The reckless side of me said ‘Screw it’ and pressed “Proceed into the Unknown!” I don’t let that side out to play often—especially during the day when there’s no Bottle of Bravery uncorked in the kitchen.

Instantly I started receiving emails from the people I just connected with, indicating that they accepted my connection. I nearly ran and hid under the bed like Daisy does during a thunderstorm.

I have no idea what it all means, and I continue to be suspicious of it. My eye is still twitching. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the Amish compound to have my abacus polished.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

I Know Some of You Can Top This Story...

How quickly can a three year-old morph from angel to devil?

We arrive to babysit. Corbeau, in a benevolent mood, grants us an encore performance of a show recently given with his Montessori classmates at school: “Kumbaya we are working, kumbaya we are peaceful, kumbaya we are reading, kumbaya we are loving…”

Sung gracefully to the tune you know, complete with hand gestures, but no pants. It was a pants-free performance.

Later, after lunch and the addition of pants: “Kumbaya we are naughty! Kumbaya we are bad! Kumbaya we are naughty!”

Shouted while jumping on the couch and pulling my hair.

I tried to hide my laughter. My sister gave Corbeau a time-out.

When you’re three, sometimes you just can’t help yourself.

Our little angel.

~~~~

FREE BOOKS: My dear friend Manic Mommy is hosting the most amazing book giveaway on her blog for the entire month of March. She's featuring 31 authors of women's fiction (including moi)--a different writer each day. Leave a comment on that day's post and you're entered to win the featured daily book. You're also entered in a giveaway at the end of the month to win all 31 books! Comment every day and increase your odds of winning.

She's featuring my own novel, DRIVING SIDEWAYS, tomorrow, Friday, March 4. So if you haven't yet read it, don't forget to stop by and leave a comment to be entered to win it--signed, even! (I heard it's a pretty good read...) Here's your destination: http://manicmommy.blogspot.com.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Like a Good Neighbor

It’s amazing how much life can change in a matter of days. Here’s something fun: I’ve unintentionally lost a few pounds during this whole fiasco. Who knew that anxiously watching your beloved state devolve into a near civil war would be as good a weight-loss technique as having your jaw wired shut?

Given the fact that I will shortly be taking a pay cut to help cover a corporate tax break for Domino’s Pizza, we will be taking the hovel off the market and staying here for the foreseeable future. (Hiii-yo! Sorry. I really couldn’t help that. It just slipped out.)

So you know how we had some crazy-ass neighbors across the street for the last four years? Last fall they foreclosed on their house, walking away from all of their personal belongings: lawn furniture, mattresses, tricycles, lamps, desks, La-Z boy chairs, clothing. Five dump trucks hauled it away, including the mountain of debris they left in the driveway. (That second link takes you to one of my favorite scenes of all time. Seriously.)

Until a few days ago there was FOR SALE sign planted in their lawn, and of course we went online to see what our competition was asking. People. Check it. They bought that house for $125,000 back in 2005. The bank? Sold it for $40,000. Yowza.

The pictures told some of the story: mold on the walls, mysterious stains on the carpet, brand-spanking new bathroom sink and vanity because God only knows what they did to the last one, the garage service door left open all winter.

Even though they scared the hell out of me, I’m going to miss their strange friendliness. Never again will I have a Hoverround-bound neighbor who proudly tells my husband that he recently caught his catheter on something and tore his penis in half.

(Because you can’t see me through Teh Internets, I’ll just have to tell you that I have a lone tear slowly streaking down my cheek right now.)

This past weekend I witnessed another neighbor sell drugs to a blonde driving a tan Mercedes SUV. Well, okay, I didn’t watch the actual transaction so much as spy on her backing out of his driveway. She was just another in a parade of yuppies leaving his house in expensive cars that in no way, shape, or form resemble any of the actual vehicles driven by my neighbors.

I angrily scribbled her license plate number down, and then I had to wonder what the hell I was going to do with it. Track her down online and shovel “Just Say No!” into a snowdrift in her front yard?

Anyway, regardless of the tragic-comedic stylings in Wisconsin, spring is coming, and I have a few fun things up my sleeve. More on that in the weeks to come, so stay tuned!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

On Wisconsin. My (Extended) Two Cents.

Many of you may have heard about the situation affecting labor in Wisconsin. Our newly elected Governor Scott Walker put forth a bill just a week ago that would strip collective bargaining rights from the 175,000 unionized state employees and make over 320,000 state workers contribute more salary to their health insurance and pension plans, representing an average 8-10% cut in pay effective immediately. It is my understanding that police, state troopers, and firefighters are exempt, and may still collectively bargain for benefits, hours, & working conditions. Coincidentally, they were the only state unions to endorse Walker’s candidacy last fall. So that everything runs smoothly, Walker recently appointed the father of the newly-elected Republican majority leaders of the state house and senate as head of the state patrol. He also threatened to call up the National Guard if state worker protests get just a bit too caffeinated, or if a general strike is called.

Thirty-thousand people marched on the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin yesterday, and 23 (possibly more by now) schools are closed today due to teacher sick-outs. 30,000 people. This is exciting and frightening and amazing and terrifying and I’m considering rearranging my schedule to join the march tomorrow, if it continues. Because we are balanced on a cliff right now; if Wisconsin labor falls, newly-elected politicians in other states will propose similar measures to strip public workers of their rights and income. Ohio. Florida. Michigan. State by state, the already-suffering middle class in this nation will fall like dominoes.

This bill has the votes to pass. We are waiting, holding our breath to see what happens.

I hesitated to write about this, because I don’t want to alienate any readers. But I feel I owe it to my family, to many of my friends, to the good people I’ve had the honor to work with in Wisconsin state prisons and public schools in the last 15 years. And seeing as how my primary source of income comes from my tax-funded state job and I’m one of the people taking it on the chin in the Governor’s proposal, and it’s my blog, please indulge me this one time. I promise to return to non-political, lighter fare in the future.

Let me tell you a story. In the beginning, it was my mom and me against the world. My grandparents took us in. Grandpa was a proud state worker, Superintendent of Kohler Andrae State Park near Sheboygan. In the war, he was a unionized truck driver; we recently found his brotherhood membership card among some old photos and papers. My grandfather’s pension will allow my 88 year-old grandmother, a staunch Republican, to live her remaining years in a comfortable, dignified manner.

When I was born back in the mid-seventies (ugh), unemployment and inflation were high. Jobs were scarce, but the prisons were hiring, so Mom took a job there. We’d been on public assistance, and work was work. Labor struggled even then, and I’m told I was brought to the picket lines when I was three and the unionized prison employees went on strike. Mom married my Dad when I was five; he too was a public servant, first working in the same prison as a guard then a sergeant then a social worker then moving into probation and parole. Right now he’s an adjunct English professor in the UW system.

I grew up in a union family, and I remember my Dad proudly saying things like, “I’m a union man.” I was so proud of him, and I loved bringing friends and boys over to dinner just to expose them to different ways of thinking. (Yeah, we were “that liberal family” in a sea of red, rural conservatism.) We didn’t have much money; I wore hand-me-downs, had a homemade Cabbage Patch Doll, and I remember seeing frost on my bedroom walls in winter. We never took fancy trips, and we lived paycheck to paycheck. But there was consolation in the fact that we didn’t go without food, we had good healthcare coverage, and my parents would have safe pensions in their old age. We felt secure and life was pretty good.

After my public education (I had wonderful teachers), I attended a public university. In my senior year, I took a part-time job in the same prison in which my mother worked. First as a teaching assistant with emotionally disturbed and mentally challenged inmates aged 16-21. I worked with the most inspiring, dedicated teacher I’ve ever known: Ellen Goeden. She single-handedly introduced a new program to help her students prepare for the civics portion of the High-School Equivalency Diploma. Though I had threats leveled at me (“I’m going to find you when I get out!”), I also felt the quiet satisfaction and sense of achievement when I helped several inmates study for and pass GED tests, one by one by one.

The second job I held in the same prison was as a limited-term assistant for the Program Review Committee. In the face of exploding prison populations, we were shipping many of our better-behaved inmates out of state to private facilities in Oklahoma, Texas, and Tennessee. My job was to transcribe minutes from these committee meetings. I was privy to entire lives, and I found it fascinating. Here’s where I talk about unions again: our prisons? Staffed by highly trained, unionized, supported correctional officers. Those private, out-of-state prisons? Staffed by non-union guards making half the pay…turnover was phenomenal, and they were incredibly dangerous places to work. Riots and attempted prison breaks were nearly unheard of where I worked, but in Texas? Common.

After I graduated from college I found another job for the state: this time writing grants for public schools. I’ve done this for the last 13 years. As a non-union state worker, my salary is modest (have I mentioned my house is worth just $75,000 and I drive an old Honda?), but the total compensation package, which includes benefits, makes up for that. And I love what I do. I love to write, and if I can use my skills to bring millions in Federal dollars into our state for educational programs benefitting low-income students, fantastic. There is a dignity in this, and I am lucky as hell to have this job.

My entire life has been the result of union negotiations affording my family a decent middle class standard of living, a decent public education. I thank unions and union workers for all of this.

So. This brings us up to date, and back to the new Governer’s budget bill. I’ve spent the last few days alternating between shock and anger and despair. Not for myself, actually—we have no children, we live frugally, and the other income in my household is from the private sector. We’ll weather this storm. I’m actually worried about my sister’s family—my three year-old nephew and four month-old niece will lose their health insurance, because there is a clause in the bill pulling coverage from T.A.s employed by the University of Wisconsin. I’m worried about the single parents I work with, and their children. They’re already talking about finding more affordable housing and second jobs. I’m worried about two other people I work with who face a double-whammy hit, as their spouses are also public employees.

My parents, both state workers, will also face this double hit. My mother has busted her ass for the state for over 35 years, putting in unpaid overtime as a supervisor, taking unpaid furlough days, going into work on weekends and holidays as part of a new requirement by management. Thanks to this bill, her workplace will be even more dangerous and hostile, AND she gets paid less to be there.

I’m worried about the more than 320,000 people in this state who had no warning about this bill: who just bought new homes, got pregnant, had a baby, or sent their kids to college, wondering how they’ll pay their student loans and mortgages and car payments and daycare providers with an unexpected 8% pay cut.

I’m worried about prison guards who, without protection from the union, will have little recourse when inmates make accusations against them. I’m worried about the best teachers, their spirits and incomes broken, defecting from our schools—which are facing even bigger fiscal hits down the road. I’m worried that diminishing what has made state jobs palatable in the past—salary objectivity, security, good benefits—will drive the most dedicated and brightest professionals from those positions. I’m worried that our excellent university system will lose innovators and researchers to other institutions, that the quality of life in this state will decline, and that the only businesses attracted to Wisconsin will offer minimum wage salaries.

I’m worried that despite the Governor’s promises, layoffs are indeed coming even if this passes. I’m worried that—by crushing the unions—corporations and special interest bullies have effectively silenced their opposition, distorted the truth and manipulated the message, and locked up political power in this state for a generation. Yes, Wisconsin is open for business. Hope you like working for $9 an hour. Our middle class is shrinking, more high school graduates are arriving at college needing remedial help, but we have all the beer you can drown your sorrows in.

We all deserve a decent, living, fair wage. We all deserve a pension that keeps us out of the cat food aisle in our golden years. We all deserve affordable, quality health coverage. Frankly, it sickens me that we live in a society in which some people have to throw fundraisers to pay for their daughter’s chemotherapy.

I feel like George Bailey from that scene in It’s a Wonderful Life, when he’s urging people to stand up to Potter during the bank run: “If Potter gets hold of this Building and Loan there'll never be another decent house built in this town. He's already got charge of the bank. He's got the bus line. He's got the department stores. And now he's after us. Why? Well, it's very simple. Because we're cutting in on his business, that's why. And because he wants to keep you living in his slums and paying the kind of rent he decides.” I feel like the middle class is barely holding the line here, and that in ten years I’ll wake from this nightmare to find that Bedford Falls has actually turned into Pottersville.

But what really sticks in my craw is this: whenever private sector jobs are cut, I am terrified on behalf of those families. I worry about their kids. The spiteful, gleeful, bitter, vengeful comments I’ve seen on blogs –people celebrating this proposed hit on over 300,000 working families in my state—disgust me. State workers receive a fair compensation in exchange for providing necessary, quality services to state residents. Salary concessions were made years ago in exchange for solid benefit packages.

We educate your children, serving in many cases also as de facto parents, feeding and counseling and in some cases, even clothing these children. We bathe and care for the forgotten, mentally ill, or impoverished elderly, sometimes serving as the only witness to their death. We administer medication to the sick. We pick up the trash, clear the streets, monitor and keep watch on countless criminals, some of whom assault us and throw bodily fluids in our hair. We attempt to rehabilitate those criminals so when they return to your neighborhood, they don’t shoot heroin in your garage or steal your TV. We maintain parks and manage natural resources so families can always enjoy them. We train the next generation of workers to have the personal and career skills needed to be productive employees in state businesses. We are social workers called to rescue infants crawling with lice from abusive homes in the middle of the night, using our own cars and our own toddler’s car seat.

Make no mistake. There is a class war happening, and the latest tactic is to pit worker against worker, and to the victor go the spoils. (Hint: the victor is not us. The victor is not even those making $200,000/year.)

There are those on the right who have been beating this drumbeat for years, whispering in the ears of the disgruntled who are itching for a scapegoat, itching for a more specific place to direct their fear and rage: “There’s a black drug dealer hiding in your closet, coming for your women” …. “There’s a gay man in there with him, coming for you” … “The muslims want to build a mosque in YOUR BACKYARD, right next to the kids’ playset” … “There’s a truck full of illegal aliens in the Home Depot parking lot—they’re coming for your job” … “There’s a Jew working at your bank; he’s the one who made sure you were denied that loan” … “Here comes Michelle Obama—she’s going to take away your donuts and force-feed you KALE” … “There’s Al Gore—he wants you to drive an electric car; good Lord, he may as well castrate you!” … “The atheists are at it again—this time one of them pissed on the baby Jesus in your church’s live nativity scene” … “I heard a rumor that a consortium of scientists with French accents are trying to brainwash your children into believing they—wait for it—descended from monkeys” … “This morning Nancy Pelosi broke into your house and took all of your guns, right after she gave Nancy Reagan the finger” … “There goes a unionized prison guard—he’s the very reason your property taxes went up…Flag pins activate---GET HIM!

And the unionized prison guard listening to Rush suddenly stops nodding along in righteous indignation, puzzled…hey, wait a minute!

Where do I feel we should be directing our anger? How about greedy lobbyists? How about unethical, power-hungry politicians, past and present, who have cumulatively made the bad decisions that deregulated industries, lost jobs, and ruined our economy? How about rapacious speculators, shady fund managers, bloated military contractors that charge our deployed service people thirty bucks for a case of Pepsi? How about professional athletes? THE KARDASHIANS?

This bill sucks 1.2 billion from our collective paychecks in just one year—this vanished income will not be taxed and therefore will not contribute to state revenue. It will not be spent in local restaurants, stores, salons, or car dealerships. And as a result of that, it will not produce sales tax revenue for the state. The Wisconsin Home Builders Association just heartily applauded our Governor’s plan to reduce my income. Therefore, though we just attended a seminar on building our dream home, I heartily endorse not giving them my business. Change of plans. Well, I don’t have the money to hire them now anyway.

Wow. See how easy it is to get ugly and vindictive? Worker against worker. It’s so simple.

So why the sudden, surprise cuts now, Governor Walker? And how will busting the unions and eliminating workers’ rights to bargain for fair employment and workplace safety help the budget deficit? Last December the union already offered over $100 million in concessions. Also, I hear the economy is improving—why the urgency to ‘balance the books’ on the backs of middle class working families? I also hear, from the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, that our state would actually finish the year with a budget surplus of $121 million if our Governor hadn’t just granted $140 million in tax cuts and incentives to special interests and businesses to ‘possibly’ create jobs here. Fully 2/3rds of corporations in this state PAY NO TAXES AT ALL. Governor Walker himself said that he could find $165 million to fill in budget holes simply by restructuring existing debt. Is this a manufactured crisis? Perhaps. If I put my tin-foil hat on, I can go wild with theories.

Look. I get it. Taxes are high. Trust me, I know this all too well, since we were hit with an unanticipated special street assessment of nearly $9,000 last year. But state workers pay the same high property, gas, sales and other taxes and fees that everyone else does. I hate it too. I also hate that my job is tied to tax revenue, which politicizes it and makes me and other state workers easy and favorite targets when the economy takes a beating. But…when I was locked into my modest salary in the earlier part of this decade, when times were good, I didn’t begrudge the much higher wages and bonuses my friends in the private sector took home.

I don’t know the answer to the budget crisis. But I know it’s not to shove this down our throats in a week’s time . It’s not to bust the unions. There has got to be a better way to deal with this.

Yes, I know, it’s become quite fashionable to bash unions. It’s also become popular to quote Ronald Reagan. So though he’s not known as a big friend to organized labor (air traffic control strike, anyone?), let me close with a link to a video that proves that in some cases, he was.

Solidarity indeed. Thanks for reading.

Rant off, and peace out.