My Life is More Interesting Than Yours

And I'm willing to fight about it

I had a nightmare about Hamburger Helper May 29, 2012

Filed under: What is your childhood Trauma? — lizzietish81 @ 8:56 pm
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Most people either don’t appreciate the food they eat or realize that there is food out there that tastes like something.  Micheal Polen talks about the addictive qualities of fat, sugar and salt that is in most processed foods, and the epitome of horrible foods that don’t taste like anything but is highly addictive is Hamburger Helper.   I mean its just dried pasta, powder and half a pound of hamburg (pink slime optional) mixed together in a greasy mess that is both filling and lacking in any kind of nutrition.

My mother wouldn’t eat anything that tasted or even looked like anything.  Except liver for some reason, but that’s another nightmare.  Nope, every night it was half a pound of ground beef plus whatever flavor of Helper we had.  Sometimes I would get to cook spaghetti which was also ground beef, noodles and some overly processed sauce.  Vegetables were the occasional can of string beans or lima beans, which if I never have to touch again will help me appreciate life.  The process took about half an hour.  I would scoop out the half pound of ground beef into the frying pan, break it up with the spatula and cook until there was no pink left.  Then I would drain out the grease into an old coffee tin, where it would congeal until we threw it out.  Course there was also grease splattered everywhere in the kitchen from the frying process.  Then you pour in the pasta, powder and x amount of water, simmer, stir, and when the pasta has cooked and the sauce has congealed serve it up.  Flavors ranged from cheesy to slightly less cheesy.

Since becoming an adult and being allowed to choose my own food I have discovered the wide range of flavors out there, and have been glad to never touch the stuff again.

So of course having a dream where I am being forced to cook it again is a horrible nightmare.  I can’t remember anything else about it, but really, isn’t that enough?

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OCD and the art of bathroom selection May 27, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lizzietish81 @ 2:25 pm
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As many of you may know, or not know, I have a moderate case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, or holy crap I touched something now I need to burn my hand in order to kill any germs that may be on there.

Thankfully this is moderate and I am on medication for it, otherwise I would be unable to leave my apartment to face the very large and very dirty city I find myself in.  This condition presents itself in many fascinating forms, one being on the amount of time I think about where I am going to go to the bathroom when I’m out.

Having my own bathroom is one of the many, many reasons why I will never have a room mate.   I know what’s been done in there and that the only germs around are mine.

Still, using public facilities is inevitable if you don’t want to live life as a hermit, which has led me to a system to minimize the holy fuckness of the situation.

The basic rule is that its important to find the toilet that gets the least use possible.  Duh right?  But how do you know?  Well you cant, really, but you can make an educated guess on the following factors.

How public are we talking here?  If its a “customer use only” bathroom that rules out random people from the street who aren’t willing to spend a dollar on a drink they didn’t want just so they can use the bathroom.  Bonus points if the bathroom requires an employee to open it.  Another good place is away from the main flow of traffic.  The science building where I went to school had bathrooms on every floor, but only the first two floors were really used by the general student population.  The upper floors were more for the actual science students, which meant the bathrooms saw less use, and were therefore cleaner.

Stalls are better.  Think about it, you have one toilet in there, that means that every person who uses that bathroom uses one toilet.  With stalls you have some leeway and the more stalls, the better.

Never pick the handicapped stall.  Obviously unless you are handicapped or there is no other stall possible (and no one who is handicapped around).  For some reason, perfectly able bodied people opt for the handicapped stall.  At my school, a new student center was built, which nice large bathrooms, sporting something like 20 stalls each and a handicapped section that was its only sub room in the back.  Amazingly I noticed that people would walk right past several unused stalls to use the handicapped bathroom.  Even at work, people opt to use the separate handicapped bathroom (which is one toilet and unisex) rather than turning the corner and using the regular bathrooms.   I don’t fully understand this, as I never feel comfortable using the handicapped stall, one because I know everyone does, but also, I’m not handicapped, the extra space in here is for someone who really needs it.

Use the stall furthest from the door.  Most people will select the first open stall they pass, just as most people try to find a parking space closest to the store.  Especially in a large bathroom, this means that a lot of toilets will go unused most of the time, unless its a handicapped.  No I don’t get that either.

Finally, once you have selected a toilet, sit on it.  Now that may seem like a contradiction, after all if I’m not touching the seat, that’s better right?  Well no, cause as a female I’m not designed to do that and as a not asshole, I’m not inclined to leave the inevitable mess behind, and in cleaning up I’m probably more likely to pick up something than just sitting on the toilet, since I don’t eat with my bum.  I eat with my hands, and toilet paper isn’t exactly a guard against germs, nor is it going to be an effective cleaner for any real mess.  For the same reason, I won’t use those toilet seat covers, because all they can really do is add to the waste.

Porta potties are right out.

And that is my guide to finding a bathroom when you’re worried about contracting zombiism from the toilets.

 

 

Who really has the power? May 23, 2012

Filed under: Politics — lizzietish81 @ 10:32 pm
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Considering that “job creators” like Romney not only put people out of work, but moved his money outside of the US AND hedged against the dollar, this is a bit of no shit sherlock.

And yet the myth continues.

But that’s  not what I am going to talk about (actual economists can talk about that), what I am going to talk about is how this principle works for enacting social and policy change.

Take for example, Target.  Not too long ago there was a controversy about them giving donations to an anti gay politician or group.   There was an immediate response among consumers.  Most importantly, pop star Lady Gaga used her marketing power to enact a change of policy when she said that should they keep this policy in place she would not allow her new album to be sold in their stores, BUT was willing to give them exclusive rights if they did the right thing.  And so they did.

Now they are selling Gay Pride T-Shirts much to the consternation of anti gay group, Family Research council.  How effective will their protest be?  I’m thinking about as effective as the Million Mom protest of JCP when they brought on Ellen Degeneres.

All of these were powered by consumer voices.

Another place where we can use our market power is in changing the food we eat, something that is already building speed.  As more and more consumers demand locally grown, organic produce and ethically raised meat, suppliers will sit up and take notice.  This is already happening, as we saw with the whole pink slime debacle, people are starting to demand better standards across the board, and if demand grows, the providers who already exist, the farmer’s markets which support small scale organic farms, which in turn promote a healthier environment.

The hard part is changing policy within the government, since they don’t answer to market changes.  Change is happening, and its growing, but imagine how much faster it could grow if we reverse the disastrous policies of the last thirty years?  If instead of giving welfare to big Ag companies, we invested in small, environmentally friendly farms that provide real food.  The benefits would cascade beyond the farmers (who barely scrape by when serving the processed food industry) to our environment and even our health (less processed food equals less obesity).  If instead of subsidizing fossil fuels, we began investing in green energy solutions?  In new technologies, in better waste management, in better infrastructure?  If instead of wrangling with charter schools, we could reinvest in our public school system instead, and train the future job creators of tomorrow?

Because we have the power to enact change.

 

Altruism? Or grand standing?

So this evening I got home to find an abundance of mail.  Aside from a flyer for an Italian restaurant there were letters from Planned Parenthood and Heifer Fund, but also an oddly non descript large envelope that asked not to be bent.  The Planned Parenthood and Heifer Fund mail was what I was expecting it to be, thanks for my recent donations and would I be willing to donate more?

The large envelope however was a letter that turned out to be from the Southern Poverty Law, asking for support, and including a certificate of appreciation….for money that I haven’t given yet.  This isn’t at all strange though.  Many charities use this method to feed the ego of someone to get them to give them money.  The biggest example is the Save the children group, with their promises of giving the donor a “sponsor child”, a kid that the donor will never meet, but whom writes to you telling you how awesome you are.

Who does this appeal to?  Frankly the whole sponsor child thing made me very uncomfortable for the three months or so I gave to Save the Children.  I was giving money, its not like I was in Columbia personally digging a well for them, or braving roving bands of mercenaries so that I could provide medical care to the poor.  I mean yeah, my money was helping that.  Or was it?  The other major thing about Save the Children was the sheer amount of mail I would get from them.  Most of it junk too.  I started to wonder how much of my donations were going to actual people in need and how much was going to these mailing campaign.

Right now I give regularly to Doctors Without Borders and Amnesty International, and their selling point was that giving monthly meant less mail, because they knew that money was coming and so didn’t need to spend on begging for more.  Also the updates I get from them are news stories about what they were doing, none of this massive ego stroking I get from other organizations.

In light of the recent article about organic food buying assholes I think this points to the nature of some people and their motives to be altruistic.  Rather than doing it because they want to help make the world a better place, they give to charity, buy organic food and what not because it makes them feel important and helpful.  Even though they’re not making major sacrifices, doing heavy lifting or even taking extreme risks, they feel they’re owed something, whether its a certificate or the ability to cut off people in traffic with impunity.  In short, sanctimonious assholes love finding good reasons to be sanctimonious about.

 

The complexity of Mom May 13, 2012

Filed under: What is your childhood Trauma? — lizzietish81 @ 4:54 pm
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Its that time of year again. Yesterday at work, my colleagues were discussing their mother’s day preparations (or lack there of in a panic).

I didn’t add to the conversation. Its not a secret that my mom is dead, or that I’m estranged from my dad and most of my family, and while I do take a sadistic joy in watching people squirm when they ask me about my family, I didn’t see the need to bring it up now and no one asked me, probably out of politeness.

I did however get something for my sister, who is also technically my god mother, I gave to the Heifer fund to provide bee hives for struggling families. I cited in the card my thanks to her for instilling in me the spirit of giving and aiding those who need help, and she was very verklempt.

This morning though, I remembered something. When I was a kid, my Aunt Ellen (my mom’s youngest sister, she was the oldest of three) got everyone these gifts, and my mom received a card saying that a donation of a sheep was given in her name. She was thrilled, I remember her showing off the card. She was less thrilled when the rest of the family (her parents and other sister) put on a snit about it.

I give a lot of credit to my sister for making me who I am, but I must also remember that mom, despite her many flaws, also believed in charity, love and understanding. She believed that that was the message of Christ, and also her duty as a human being. As such, she became a mother to many of our friends. As self involved as she was, and she was, I knew so many others with mothers who cared even less about their children. When our oldest friend heard the news that she had died, she picked up a baby blanket mom had made for her daughter and cried that her mother was gone.

She was a complex woman, with whom I had, and still have, a complex relationship with. She was abusive and angry because she couldn’t control her life and couldn’t, or wouldn’t take control of it. It was like she was waiting for someone else to come and fix it all for her. But tempering this was a compassionate spirit. And maybe she found it easier to show that to people she didn’t know, or maybe she found it harder to hide her bitterness and anger from us, in some complex way blaming us for the way her life had gone. At the same time, I think she felt guilt and self loathing for this.

Once, while she was having a particularly hard time, she looked at me and said “Lizzie, don’t end up like me”

My therapist once commented that mothers with suicidal tendencies tend to resist for the sake of their children. That my mother allowed herself to waste away may be a testament to her self involvement.

But in another respect, it set us free and showed us that life is far too short to live with regret and anger, something that took me ten years to fully understand.

There are times when I can hate her, where I can cry in anguish that she abandoned us, that she scarred us all, especially my brother, that she forced us to become adults long before we were ready.

But I have to temper that with a woman who believed in helping those in need, in accepting everyone for who they are and showing compassion.

So that’s my story. If you also have lost your mother, whether through death or distance, come in, have a drink and share with others, because you are never alone.

And if you’re interested in giving to the Heifer fund, here’s their website!

I’m tempted to get something for my grandmother, because I know it will help someone but also annoy her. She’d be too polite to say anything though.

 

M is for the Many things…. May 12, 2012

Filed under: What is your childhood Trauma? — lizzietish81 @ 1:36 pm
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Ah, mother’s day.  A day when adults scramble to get their mom some flowers and kids spray glue and glitter onto some paper to show their love.

Cynical?  Well yeah, but I haven’t had a mom in over ten years.  I do give gifts, usually charitable donations, in the name of my sister, who is also my god mother and had a hand in my upbringing.

But I think today I will reminisce about some of the crazier moments of my child hood, cause yesterday I found myself thinking of the yearly drive to New Balance, so I’ll start there.

In scenic Allston, part of the greater Boston area, is the New Balance outlet store.  A place where you can find just about any size for less than retail, so if you’re a poor family whose kids have freakishly giant feet, its the place to go.  This pilgrimage typically took place in summer, before school started, and it was always a big tadoo.   My father invariably got lost, it was hot and our POS cars were often prone to dying in the heat.

One year I remember being crammed in the back of a two door with my brother and sister while my parents fought in the front.  My parents never bickered, it was always knock down drag out fights.  At one point, my mom started freaking out, declaring that the car was going to explode!  I immediately figured that I could get out of the car easily should this become an issue.  Its all about planning people.

 

Poverty is subjective, the problem is being unstable May 9, 2012

Mittens Willard Romney would have us believe a lot of things.  That he saved the auto industry, that he was always pro life, that he was an effective governor in Massachusetts, that he never approved of his signature health care plan.  And while I take issue with just about everything he claims, there is one thing that I think he really truly cares about and believes, and that’s being rich, that people who aren’t rich aren’t trying and furthermore that people are “envious” of his wealth which is why they take issue with it.

Class warfare has been an interesting buzzword this election cycle.  Unlike the war on women, there’s agreement that it exists, but disagreement on who started it.

In America, class is an odd nut.  There is no “noble” class, no one who leads by accident of birth.  Here, its all about money.  Now some people may point out that there have been a recurrence of family dynasties here, the Kennedys and more recently, the Bushes, but its not the same as nobility.  Its the accident of birth in being born into wealth, which leads to power.  In fact one of the great things about America is the ability to move beyond your class.  Being born poor doesn’t mean you will be a peasant all your life, or that you have no chance at acquiring power on your own, and while some may say that that’s a dead dream, I can say that its still true today, but it is harder than it used to be.

Which brings me to the subject of this entry.  Poverty being subjective.  Lately I’ve been telling people I grew up poor, but with the caveat that I was poor…in Massachusetts.  This is a huge difference from being poor in Louisiana, Mexico or Kuala Lampur.  This hit me the other day when I was in the doctor’s office talking to my doctor who came from a different country and had one toy growing up.  Usually we divide class up by income level, but is that really a good indication to how “poor” someone is?

My sister grew up in the 70s, a time of bad inflation, and our parents were very young.  Yet they weren’t doing all that bad.  Especially compared to the 80s, with two extra children and the advent of Reganomics.  Growing up, money was always an issue.  My parents would pass bad checks to the supermarket in order to get cash for a few days, the house had a lien on it most of the time and it fell into disrepair.  And yet, we had a house, a car (most of the time, sometimes even two) and we weren’t starving.  I knew people who were far worse off, who were constantly moving from rental to rental, never had adequate transportation or job stability (by the time I was a kid, my dad was a union man at GE) and where abuse was physical or even sexual.

But no matter what the difference in income level was, there was one common thread.  Instability.  Living paycheck to paycheck isn’t stable, and yet many people who would be dubbed “Middle Class” are doing just that.

Without stability, how can you hope to thrive, grow and move up in the world?