Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Natural Selection. I'm all for it.

A messy office special from yesterday. First one in forever. I'm a bit rusty.

I don’t get it. When I was a kid, I had to take public transportation to my school when I went to the local schools, or my parents drove me when I attended the American DOD School or the International School, since they were far from where we lived. But when I was in Catholic Intern School, my dad would drive me there to drop me off, but after the end of the week, I’d take the train back to Brussels, and the Metro to the embassy where my mother worked. I did that all by myself, carrying my bags for laundry. I navigated all over the place using public buses and trains from a pretty early age. In the mornings, it was up to me to get out there and to get on the bus to go to school and up to me to find the bus home when I attended a non-intern local school. There was one convenience and that was my student pass.

But I was always fascinated with the American icon of the yellow school bus that I saw in movies. Those did not exist for me. The DOD school provided bus-service for the kids that lived nearby (we did not), but they were not the yellow buses, they were the big huge flat-faced buses with mustachioed Belgian drivers. Kids filed in, kids filed out. They waited at bus stops. Got on, got off, waited to cross the street when the time was right. It was simple.

Then I moved back to the US. I was shocked to discover that the iconic yellow school bus not only has the power to stop traffic to load and unload kids, it can also disrupt traffic to stop at railway tracks. They have to stop and open their doors before they go over railroad tracks—what that accomplishes I do not know? So the kids can run off when not getting hit by a train? But that’s not the end of it; the crowning achievement of the Yellow School Bus is the arm. American school buses have a little arm affixed to the front that opens out towards the curb and bars children from crossing in front of the bus when it’s stopped.

Okay, call me heartless... but WHAT THE HELL? Seriously? What are we teaching our kids if we are coddling them to the point that the world has to stop for them to get on and off a god-damned bus? If the kid is too stupid to figure out how to cross a street responsibly, then he or she is probably better off getting run over. Natural selection! If the kid is that stupid, he'll probably grow up to be the guy that gets tragically killed doing something else incredibly stupid on the job anyway. 

Yep, that kid you protected with the yellow school bus grew up
to be the reason why this warning exists.

Reality is, SEEING EYE DOGS can be trained to cross the street safely, why can't your kids? Is this a sign of devolution? Someone, somewhere thinks your kids can't be taught to make safe choices as well as a German Shepherd can. For God's sake. ::facepalm::

And what about the bus drivers? Are they so retarded they can’t be trusted to drive safely enough not to kill your children? They have to have all these crazy precautionary measures and accessories in place to help them do their job responsibly? I mean jesus, where should the responsibility end? Oh, I don’t know... with the PARENTS??? OMG... Flash of red lights, traffic needs to stop both ways because little Bobby and little Suzie can’t be trusted to cross the street on their lonesome. ::facepalm::

What next? Are we going to start making all kids 20 or under wear Kevlar to school on the off-chance someone pulls a Columbine? Wrap them in bubble-wrap when they go out to play? OMG... it’s CRAZY! What about teaching them to be responsible in the REAL WORLD? How’s that for a concept? How about teaching them to do things like cross busy streets safely? No. Instead let’s create a massive traffic inconvenience to the countless masses that happen to be driving to and from work during the times when these buses are picking up and delivering your hapless, bumbling offspring. As long as the kiddies are safe.

What are we breeding? A bunch of mouth-breathers that don’t have to take any responsibility for anything? A pack of coddled oafs who don’t have to make a single god damned decision for themselves? Oy! It’s infuriating. It’s like those warning signs posted for the most obvious dangers... why does the lowest common denominator have that much power as to make thing inconvenient for the rest of the world? Some idiot makes a dumb-ass decision and all of a sudden everyone else who has managed to avert disaster by using their eyes and brain is stuck having to abide by the most ridiculous precautions. Thanks ASSHOLE—so sad you died doing something colossally stupid! FU!

This is the perfect microcosm of America when it comes to kids. They are increasingly turning out to be entitled, the ‘world-will-stop-for-me because it always has’ kids. It spares the parents having to bother to teach their spawn any valuable life-lessons, or for that matter, even bother to take the time to supervise them so they don’t step in front of buses.

But hey, let’s force society to make all the decisions and take all the precautions to keep your brats safe and sound. Then you don’t have to do any parenting at all!

Okay, I’m done now. 
One of my Worth1000 submissions. It seemed appropriate.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

‘Tis the season to be grumpy, fa la la la... meh.

It’s beginning to look a lot like annoying. It’s taken quite a while for me to even begin to feel that Christmas spirit, and when I say feel the spirit, I mean barely even acknowledging that it exists. Part of my scrooginess was attributed to spending several days in the prior weeks being mired in a HoneyBucket Hell, which is a special place for people like me. You see, I described the septic situation we’re in at home. Well, piles of begged family money later, the back-yard looks like a WWI trench, or the surface of the moon, all the trees are gone, there’s a rectangular mound the size of an in-ground swimming pool in front of the garage where the driveway used to be, and two hideous cement manholes and a power box sticking up out of the ground behind the house. It’s hard to look at that devastation and not burst into tears. But at least we have working plumbing again. For a few days, I was consigned to the use of a Honey Bucket at home in 18º weather—and let me tell you, getting up at 3AM for a potty emergency, and having to hoof it outside to the frigid air, NOT FUN!!!! And worse? The septic tank at our office building failed back in April, and we’ve had a porta-potty at work since then, so I couldn’t get away from the freezing toilet seat if I tried. It has been a nightmare!

But, the toilet is now reconnected at home, and even though our toilet is slightly tilted, it’s warm, so that’s a bonus. It’ll be a little while longer before we can use the indoor facilities in our offices again. So all this toilet-related drama that has sort of set my mood into grump-drive for the next few weeks.

But then there’s all the other additional factors. 1) we can’t afford to give gifts again this year, not even to one another. 2) our Christmas tree didn’t arrive until this past weekend, and he was from the ‘slim-pickings’ pile, because he was cheap. Because we insist on buying live, potted trees, and buying locally, we have to move quickly to get the best looking tree. But since we waited, all that remained were several twiggy trees, a bush that thought it was a tree, and the tree we have, which I call the ‘Special Ed Tree’. I’m convinced that as he was growing up in the Mount Hood forest, all the other trees teased him and laughed at him, playing cruel tree jokes and making him cry. He probably wore a bicycle helmet too, but one of the other trees probably tore it off his top and flung it where he couldn’t reach it with his one, randomly long limb that sticks out from his bushy bottom half. His top half is a single thin trunk-stalk with about eight single branches on it, one set of four in the middle, and one set of four close to the droopy top. His one long branch sticks out from the others by at least two feet. Yep. He’s a special tree.

No amount of blurring, bad lighting or can a bad camera
hide the gaping void on the top half of the tree.
Oh well.
I decorated the hell out of him. I tried to compensate for the lack of branches on the top half by hanging ornaments all over the lighting wire and wrapping tulle around them to give him bulk. He doesn’t look half-bad, in spite of his ‘specialness’. He’ll do. He’s a Norway Spruce, so he’ll go into the back yard, now that there are no larger trees present to tease him. Maybe he’ll grow into himself a bit. Who knows? Decorating did put me in a better mood.

3) Part of my seasonal resentment is also instigated by all the snacks and meals and treats that come along with it. The holiday season revolves around FOOD and for folks trying to lose weight... it SUCKS. Since Thanksgiving, my husband and I have been beset with every temptation known to man. We’ve won some battles, but lost most, and every day is a torturous opportunity to FAIL. My weight as a result has been stagnant. The retreat did not help either because being faced with four days of Stephanie II’s cooking and trying to moderate was IMPOSSIBLE. So I have decided to pretend it never happened and move on. But trust me.. With this kind of noshy deliciousness arranged before you like a feast... There’s no stopping yourself from grazing like a blue whale inhaling krill by the thousands of pounds.

A plate of evil. Delicious, delicious evil.
The ORS retreat was a blast, if not a lot of hard work. My feet hurt for several days afterwards, my 40-year-old body just isn’t able to keep up with Stephanie II. Although I did drive her nuts with a couple of inordinately early morning wakings during the retreat. ::muaha:: I’m surprised I didn’t find sharpie written all over my face or something like that. She can be a brat that way. But that’s all right.

Here I am attempting to read two or three lines of Mary's novel
before being irrevocably distracted by tasks and fun (and also
sporting a lovely double-chin to boot).
Last Thursday, I visited Mary Robinette Kowal’s home to trim bonnets. I was trying out my new bonnet pattern and discovered to my great dismay that it did not scale right, so it’s back to the drafting board. I’ll be re-releasing the old pattern though on Etsy for the time being, until I get my stuff together. And this pattern is tried and true. So it will be for sale as it is for a while longer until I can redraft it and clean it up a bit.

Here at work, my boss is retiring (today is his last day), which has stirred up a lot more emotion than I ever thought it would. I’ve found myself being unusually snippy and angry about stupid things, and this morning, when Sherry texted me a picture of the door-decorations we made all ready to be posted on his door for his last day, I had to pull over and cry. He truly is the best of bosses. He’s funny, he handles us, even at bad moments, with humour and affability, and he trusts us. I don’t know this new guy who is replacing him, except that he’s close to my age. It’s scary. For all of us, but mostly for the other two ladies in my office who have both worked with Dave for over twenty years. I’m going to miss him very much. More than I imagined. We had a little retirement shindig for him at Winestock in Oregon City last Friday. He was SO bratty and out of control. SII made a little jukebox cake (which was so soft and delicious OMG – CURSE THE CAKE!) for him (he restores jukeboxes as a hobby). Strangers in the wine place were asking for pieces of it.

On Saturday, a small group of us had tea at the Heathman Hotel to celebrate Jane Austen’s birthday. I have to say I was a bit disappointed with the Heathman. For $32, what we got was pretty laughable, and SII was scandalized. Last time we went there for tea, the portions were pretty much double what we had this time, so I’m thinking the kitchen is trying to cut costs, but holy crap... the cost is too high. I’m not sure if we are going to do a repeat of that again if it’s so little for so much. Just not worth it! The foods were also pretty mediocre. Next to SII’s teas served at the retreat? Not even close. But we all had a really great time. And a moderately OK photo of me was taken by SII.

At Saturday Market in Portland before we
made our way up to the Heathman.
Still not pregnant, but not for lack of trying. I am still popping clomid like pez every time the cycle comes ‘round. Not sure how much longer I’ll keep doing that. We’ll see.

Anyway, that’s my update for now. If I don’t post again until after Christmas, I’d like to extend my warmest “BAH HUMBUG!” to you. ;)

The HC

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


My mom makes me crazy. What’s worse, is that left to her own devices, she creates this special reality where she always looks like the shining beacon of virtue and perfection to strangers, while making sure she puts as equal amounts of energy into decrying, manipulating and belitting the people closest to her.

Case and point number one: We took mom with us to my sister’s house in Arlington (about a three-hour-drive from where we live going the long way). My mom was thrilled when we picked her up. She had a little box of stuff she’d bought for my sister; some flower bulbs and two really ugly coffee mugs which my sister accepted graciously. We made the drive, mom was totally fine, she was in an excellent mood. She behaved moderately well during the stay, except for the occasional slip up of snideness, but that was minor. Her most annoying behaviours were her blatant lies. She invented a sudden case of lactose intolerance, said that my dentist tore her mouth up, bragged about how she told some old dude off complete with F-bombs, and all number of other random crap. Most of the time, when she lied, my sister and I would exchange a look of incredulity and laugh, and we’d tease her, to which she would respond with laughter and tease us right back. We have *always* teased mom about her accent, and when she said to my husband: “Jou did whaat?” And my husband said: “What about a Jew?” we all had a good chuckle. We laugh when she says jankee pot-roast and when she says joyo instead of yoyo; squeedle instead of squirrel; cheessbehrgehr instead of cheeseburger. It’s just something we have always done, and she’s always given it back with equal jocularity.

We also didn’t allow her to fabricate lies about the absent sibling, and stopped her short whenever she came up with some madness or other. She did not like that, but we wanted to keep the visit positive and having mom play her ‘I’m going to play you against your siblings’ game was not something we were about to entertain. We called her out on every one of her wild suppositions and utterances, and she was a bit cowed by our united front.

She didn’t eat much, and when we were back in Gresham, she declared she was starving and insisted we stop at Jack-In-The-Box to get her a cheessbehrgehr. Miss Lactose-Intolerant was shouting from the back seat when hubby was at the drive-through “Does it have cheess? Make shoor eet haz cheess!” Mind you, both hubby and I are still doing WeightWatchers, and sitting in a closed car with the aroma of fries and burger wafting around our heads was pure torture. We get her back to the assisted living facility, she’s so happy and delighted and she tottered off to her ‘warehouse’ carrying her bag of fries.

The next day, I get an email from my eldest sister (in Florida) admonishing us for our terrible treatment of our mother. Apparently, my mother called her in a tizzy as soon as she got back on Thanksgiving. According to Satan, we were ‘disrespectful and ungrateful, making fun of her. We were horrid, and we were mean to her (which is bullhockey). She whined at my sister for a long time about how ungrateful and horrid we were to her. Little did eldest sister know that hubby and I had to listen to my mother ripping my eldest sister apart on the drive all the way home. People with Borderline Personality Disorder can shape realities into whatever best suits them, ultimately.

Second case: I stopped by to visit mom on Monday, and when I walked in I was confronted with Amy, the activities director. She assailed me at once with: “Oh, thank goodness you’re here! Your mother is so sad, she’s pouting! I’ve never seen her so upset.”

“Why is she upset?” I ask, already developing a sense of trepidation.

“Oh, she was so sad. She told us about the big dinner you have planned, and how she spent all this time and effort to prepare a special dish for this dinner, only to find out she wasn’t even invited! She’s been depressed ALL DAY.” For one... WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT, OVER? Seriously? Who the hell does she think she is confronting me about this supposed dinner. Even if there WERE such a dinner, whether or not mom was invited is none of her god damned business, and it sure isn’t her job to censure me for not inviting my mother. OMG the gall! But the worst part is, this supposed ‘big dinner’ is a figment of my mother’s imagination, one of her convenient fabrications created for the sole purpose of inviting sympathy from her apparently gullible and vapid audience. I mean WTF????? You’d think someone who works in a Senior facility would be well-versed in knowing that you can’t believe everything that comes out of these octogenarian mouths. They spew all sorts of shit about their families that isn’t even remotely true... But the crime here was that this Amy chick had the stones to stand in front of me and dump guilt on me for something that was none of her business for one, and something that was not even true to boot. Oy.

Incidentally, Amy did it to my husband too. He walked into the facility and she was standing there, and said: “OH! Good! You’re here! Your grandma has been looking forward to your visit all day. You’re taking her out? She’s been so excited that you were coming to take her out, she had her hair done and everything!” Dan is very susceptible to guilt when it comes to his family. He often extends himself to a breaking point to help them when they can’t be relied upon to do anything for him when he needs it. His grandma is an especially sore subject for him, because he loves her to hell and back, and it’s taking a very hard toll on him watching her fade into a figment of who she used to be, with fractured memories and no capacity to hold short-term anything in her head. He will be there visiting, she’ll get up to go to the potty, and then forget he is there and go back to her room. She will state the same things over and over again, and she still thinks she can go home at any time. He visits her every week, and brings her a 20 oz mocha coffee (we are Oregonians after all) and sits with her while she repeatedly asks if he’s heard from his father (which he never does), and if she can go home (which she cannot), and she asks him again and again what he’s been up to. When we take her out, she stays for ten minutes and then wants to go back. She’s not easy. And Dan is struggling with her decline. I’m not sure if Amy just invented the whole thing about Grandma spending all day getting ready to go out, but Grandma would not have held onto the knowledge of it for more than ten minutes. Getting her hair done to go out? He never planned it, or called her to tell her she was going anywhere, so either it was a fluke, or Amy was pulling this out of her rather large ass (which is my guess). I had to call the facility to day and talk to the director and explain to her that deliberately dumping guilt on relatives when they come and visit isn’t the best incentive to compel them to return.

I digress....But all that is a perfect illustration of the drama my mother creates simply for the sake of being evil. My mother invents all sorts of tall tales to elicit sympathy. She has always had people convinced she is a paragon of virtue and wonder, a sacrificing soul, a giver and a hero. I’ve gone through life having people arch their brow at me and look at me in disdain because I don’t share the glowing opinion of my mother. You see, they don’t *know* who she is. Not even remotely. They don’t know about my brother being locked in a bedroom for 18 hours a day, smearing his feces on the wall because my mother didn’t want to deal with him. They don’t know that the reason why my father was repeatedly hospitalized in his final year was because he was malnourished, dehydrated and suffering from bruising from being roughly handled and hit. My mother’s ardent fans are not aware that my mother had repeated affairs throughout her marriage, and brought a pedophile into our home. They don’t know that the sacrificing, wonderful mom they saw would take us to bars on school nights after knocking my father out with valium and laughing most heartily about it, or leave a fifteen year old girl in charge of the riding club and the bar, so she could go out partying all night, or take off to the US and leave her 17 year old daughter in charge of the stable without a penny to buy horse food, and the electricity turned off because she hadn’t paid the bill. They have no idea that when we moved back to the states, she flew back to get my brother from his school, and disappeared for two weeks. When we managed to hunt her down, and found her at a friend’s house, she’d been out drinking and partying and hadn’t even bothered to go see my brother, let alone notify the school he was going to be flying to America. Oh no. Instead, these people who see her as the paragon she’s painted herself to be just look at us children like we’re awful for feeling the way we do about her. We watched her neglect and abuse our brother, we watched her pretty much kill our father by roughness and neglect, and we watched her introduce the concept of lying, cheating, duplicity and manipulation into our lives very early on. To this day, I am still amazed at how aptly my mother was able to hide this bleakness behind the glossy sheen of our household. Nobody ever knew.

I’m amazed the three of us stepped out of childhood moderately intact. I won’t lie; the things we’ve had to live with have taken their toll. For me, it’s been a constant struggle with depression and for a short time, I was almost committed for entertaining some pretty dark thoughts about suicide. For my sisters, it’s issues of abandonment, trust, overcompensation. We’re all broken in one way or another, but we did not take the bad road, thank god. We are not alcoholics or drug-addicts, we are not criminals or ne’er-do-wells. We all managed to emerge with a particularly strong sense of empathy, a near-obsessive desire to surround ourselves with pretty things and to take care of them obsessively, or in one case, to put little to no value on pretty things at all. In some cases, we have issues with identity—and figuring out who we are—often becoming chameleons to suit what we think are other peoples’ preferences which goes back to the whole abandonment thing. We’ve emerged with strong personalities and we are all so different.

It’s taken me years to be comfortable enough with myself to talk about these things with a matter-of-fact sort of approach, to talk about these things without personal shame. I had to figure out that these things weren’t my doing. I had to learn that in spite of what society tells you, the adults in your life might be fallible and they can’t *always* be relied upon to be what they are supposed to be to their children. I learned that adults don’t always protect you and that kids sometimes have to learn to protect themselves. I had to learn that there’s nothing I can do about it now, and there was really nothing I could do about it when I was a kid. It took a while to finally figure out who I am. But I know now, and I’m comfortable enough to spout it all out on a blog for the world to see, flaws and all. I’m okay with oversharing. LOL. I don’t take medication (though some of my friends might argue that I could definitely use it to despazzify myself). I can laugh at myself, and I can laugh at the walking tragedy that is my mother, and still sit down across from her and look at her watery, beady little eyes as she tries her very hardest to undermine me and be okay afterwards.

“You used to worship me, I don’t know what happened...” she told me one day a few months ago while we were out shopping together. She doesn’t understand why we don’t have the same relationship anymore, as we did when I had no self-esteem, no self-value, and was too depressed to care.

“I opened my eyes, Mom. I’m not a kid anymore. I grew up. And I got tired of carrying you, enabling you and apologizing for you.” When I say these sorts of things, she does this thing where her eyes sort of focus somewhere else far away, and she goes: “Hmmm” and then deftly changes the subject. She hates it that I can laugh at her lies now and it bothers her that her manipulations aren’t working on the three of us anymore. She bitches about me to my sisters because I reflect the truth of who she is back onto her like a really cruel dressing-room mirror—bad lighting and all. If that’s disrespectful, then so be it. Respect is earned—my mother is bankrupt of it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A secret to snaring a woman with ease, heads-up single men

Single men, you are missing out on a motherlode. I’m going to let you in on a secret. There is available to you a virtual trove of women for the picking. Forget OKCupid or eHarmony. I have a much simpler solution. But you need to just get over your issues about dressing in costume, and be willing to step out of your comfort zone. You men ask women to wear sexy little things all the time… so turnabout is fair play, and doing this is will pretty much set you up for a a sure thing if you do it right.  If you do, you will find yourself surrounded by admiring women. I guarantee you this.  Why do I say this? Because I’ve spent the past four days at the Oregon Regency Society’s regency retreat—and I know now that this notion is not only my own. The retreat was 99% occupied by women this first year, (although we are hoping there will be more men at the next one), and there was a great consensus among the participants as we discussed things by the fire in our dressing gowns. Single guys who dress Regency would find themselves with no shortage of women swooning after them.

For example, one of the ladies’ husbands showed up on Saturday for the ball. A large group of women were in the meeting hall taking a dance workshop when he arrived, and he arrived in a shirt with high collar, waistcoat, frock coat, top boots and top hat.  He came striding down the path and someone said: “Look! A Gentleman!” and all the women erupted in gleeful squees and applause, and went running to the window.  He was no Hollywood actor, he was an ordinary guy who was made hot by his costume, and all the women melted into silly puddles at the sight of him.  If he had been into the dancing, his wife might have had to carry around a big stick to beat the women away from him.

Take this as a heads-up, guys… This…

::Coff-coff HOT ahem coff::

…This right here is the pinnacle of the Regency-loving woman’s fantasy. This is what she dreams of when she’s thinking about Mr. Perfect.  Right here.  And we’re not talking about Colin Firth… it doesn’t matter what you look like, what your body type is… if you put on the high-collars and the top boots, the women will be swooning like teenaged girls. And god, if you bothered to display the gentlemanly manners and were willing to do the English Country Dances, you would be likely competed over, hunted down and violated… politely of course.  Because in all the discussions we had about this during the entire retreat, it wasn’t ‘oh, it would be so romantic…’ no. It was, ‘oh that would be so HOT… he’d just have to grow the sideburns and wear the shirt and I’d be all over him’. 

You guys who already have women who are also into the Regency thing, but you refuse to participate, I am just saying… if you want more nookie, you’d be well served in putting on the frock coat on occasion. It’s the equivalent of your wife wearing the cheeky schoolgirl outfit or the French maid with thigh-stockings and a crotchless panties.  Put on the outfit and just swagger into the room, lift your arm and point to the bedroom and say: “Woman, get into my bed at once!” and I guarantee you she will go skittering to bed, giggling with delight.

There are hordes of women out there who sop up the regency novels like water. Any man with his head screwed on right would be taking advantage of it. He’d be secretly buying costumes or patterns, having them made to fit beautifully, ironing and starching collars, growing out his sideburns and combing his hair forward. Any man who wants to be the center of female attention needs to just get dressed in Regency costume, and show up at a Regency event. Ask a few girls to dance, be stoic but slightly flirtatious and you will find a girlfriend, and keep her. I’m just saying guys…::nodding::  This is privileged information, and I hope you all choose to use it wisely. If you’re from Oregon, you are in luck, we have a huge group here and lots of events… And it’s pretty estrogen-heavy, so you won’t have too much competition.

Here is a blog-post on outfitting the Regency man -- it describes the costume from the period.  You can use it to locate the pieces you need. If you go to the ORS resources page, you can also contact some local costumers to put you in something that is correct and well-tailored (the more authentic you’ll look, the more women will drool).

The facebook group: Men in Regency Era Costume -- a place for women to admire them, and for men to join and be admired.

Incidentally, we are looking for gentlemen who are interested in military and male-related history from the period (1812, Napoleonic, Naval Exploration, Louis & Clark). We want to build up the events for the guys.  So if you are interested, email the Oregon Regency Society ( and declare you interest. We need someone to head the drive to create gentlemanly activities.

The Oregon Regency Society's main Blog.


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