Thursday, September 25, 2014

Oh, Poddy!

There's been a devastating loss in my household. My very first iPod Video (now called the Classic), the gateway drug, er, product that made me a devoted Apple acolyte, my Poddy, full name Poddington, is on his last legs. During the move, something must have been stacked on Poddy's little home, and he's cracked, as you can see from the picture. I am in mourning.

Prior to the iPod Video, I eschewed the need for any Apple music player, and I am a music JUNKY, a former on-air personality for my college radio station, first adopter of all things musical. My mom used to tell the story of how, at age 5, I wouldn't let anyone else play with my 45 player, handled the precious Disney records by the edges, placed the needle lovingly on and off, put them away in their little sleeves, and I've only gotten worse since. When the iPod Video came out, and I realized I could take my ENTIRE CD collection (over 300 CDs strong and 19 gigs at the time) with me, I was hooked. But I couldn't afford one right away. That was when I found out about Apple's refurbished store, and I told Scott it was ALL I wanted for Christmas, 2006. He saw the crazy gleam in my eyes, and he ordered it. Later, he found it wouldn't be delivered before Christmas.  I could wait, but he used that info to get a few more bucks off (YEAH!). It was delivered after Christmas, and I was in love, saving all my CDs to itunes and uploading them to my Poddy. It was also immediately placed on non-child touching lockdown.

Then I was on the hunt for a player, because I have music on all. day. long, and the ear phones weren't cutting it. I went to Target and Best Buy and played my little Poddy on each and every offering, assessing sound quality, bass, treble, volume, and how difficult it was to get out. The Altec iM9 pictured below, was the winner. It had fabulous sound, and there was no danger of a kid ripping the iPod off the top mount. Plus, it could run on either battery or AC/DC. This little twosome has been my companion while painting the walls of our home, to Girl Scout and Cub Scout meetings where music was needed, to my classes where I played podcasts, to friends' homes, camping, and now, it's outdated and obsolete for charging current models, but still, I could just cry.

I know, my phone holds all my music now, but it was so great if my phone was charging to play music in the kitchen. It was also awesome to jam out when the kids weren't home to my music with "naughty" words in it, or to hold impromptu dance parties at high volume. It still plays music, but I can't really decipher what song or artist it's on.

Poddington and his loud companion will be missed, sorely missed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Peanut Butter Experience

We are deadly serious about our peanut butter in my family. I have certain texture issues that must be satisfied, and only crunchy will do for me. Skippy is my crunchy peanut butter of choice, but the brand the sell at Aldi's is good, too. Jiff? NO. Peter Pan? HELLS to the NO. The boy and I agree 100%. Scott? He likes CREAMY, and really, what's the point? But whatever, he too knows only Skippy will do, but if it's all creamy, I don't really know what his criteria is. Megan? She's complex, needing chunky for sandwiches but creamy for apple or celery dipping. Diva.

We come to Louisiana, and Uncle Bob has JIFF, not only that, but CREAMY JIFF. It was a situation that required immediate attention. Additional peanut butter was purchased, and all was well again in the land, and the people were happy. Really, it takes so little to keep us all amused.

Last weekend, we went to the "big town" closest to us, about a 20ish minute drive. Doggies came along, as we had doggy-related issues to attend to, and we'd heard there was a slamming dog park (there was!) in town. We thought we'd pack a picnic, and the dogs could roam freely.

Uncle Bob was kind enough to make our packed lunch while Megan and I tended to last minute girly things. En route, Megan, of course, asked what had been packed. Uncle Bob said he'd packed PB&J and listed other items. Megan immediately honed in on the PB part, citing our noted peanut butter stances. Uncle Bob replied that he'd made all the sandwiches the same--crunchy peanut butter. Megan reminded him of his preferences, and he said since it had been at least 15 years since he'd tried crunchy, and we had been so adventurous moving down here, he was going to be adventurous and try crunchy again. Awwww, right?

Come doggy park/lunch time, we're sitting at a picnic table, letting dogs roam, sharing our apples with a man and boy who stopped to chat, and I'm eating my sandwich, chit chatting, and I notice I feel smoothness, infinite smoothness. I take more bites, still smooooooth, and wrong where PB&J is concerned. Hmm. I'm near finished when Megan leans over and says "there's no BUMPS in my sandwich" with a displeased look on her face. She feels infinite smoothness too. Man and boy leave, and I ask Uncle Bob if he didn't just try to trick us with smooth peanut butter. He says no and that he used the jar with the blue top. I ask "medium blue or dark blue"? "Medium blue" he responds. Megan and I look at each other and I tell him that DARK blue is the color of the crunchy top. He says "oh" and continues to contentedly munch on his smooth peanut butter sandwich. At least we know we can get rid of the Jiff now.

So much for peanut butter adventure.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Poor Uncle Bob

Yes, poor Uncle Bob. He raised boys. That means he never had TWO women in the house, let alone a 10 year old girl on a consistent basis. There is a whole WORLD of knowledge he's gained in the last month, including some of these:
  • Women--young or old--cannot use the same hair products for long. They have different hair needs that must be addressed, so for each female, there will be approximately three products in the shower at any given time. This math is confusing to men.
  • When making room for us, poor Uncle Bob was unaware of the criteria his home would be graded on by Megan when we arrived. She immediately needed some furniture moved because it was necessary to have ample dancing space. Uncle Bob said he didn't know that was a consideration. Megan replied with "always" and left it at that. Girl is serious about her dance spot.
  • The emotions of a 10 year old girl run hotter and colder and are more rapidly changing than anything else on the planet.  There is more drama to those emotions than those Mexican soap operas Erik Estrada stars in. I think he was a bit shell shocked last week when one dramatic episode arose, then just as quickly disappeared.
It's an education for all of us.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

It's the Disrespect for People that Kills Me

Ok, so we know economically times are hard. They are improving for some, but they are hard for many. It was primarily due to these difficult economic times that we moved our family 1100 miles south. There was a time when things for my family were good, not great, but good. We have never been the people who were interested in big vacations (we mostly camped, much cheaper), we weren't fashion or possession hounds. I will admit to a weakness for techie stuff, but I've never been a first adopter, and I always searched for screachingly great deals. We didn't enroll our kids in overly expensive activities. We did all that, in part, to live in a modest home in a great school district.  We did everything right when we moved there, had about six months' savings in the bank, put as much down on our house as we could afford, we didn't risk. Two extended job losses--one of 10 months, one of almost two years--wiped safety out. In between the two job losses, my husband had essentially a 50% pay cut from before his first job loss. That meant we were NEVER out of the hole. Things still weren't horrific yet. We all wear clothing from thrift shops, the campouts were fewer, we didn't go out to eat unless there was a groupon involved. We started a business to try to make ends meet, and I took on a second job. We didn't qualify by the state of Illinois as "poor" but we didn't have much compared to our neighbors, who weren't rich themselves. Living in that town was hard.

I say all this because of two things. One is this ridiculous clip/article that says if you have a computer and/or air conditioning, you "can't be poor" in the eyes of some politicians. Essentially, he, and those like him who might not say in public but in private agree, is saying that only the basest of existences can be considered "poor" for the government's purposes, and anything above that is a-okay! So if a single mom has a kid and someone gives her a second hand computer her kid does homework on, she can't be poor. If, like my family, we had some good times and were able to purchase computers that are now four years old, we can't be poor. Because we lived in a house where we turned on the a/c when it was reaching 100 degrees, nope, we can't be poor. He's a moron. I could probably feed my kids on what he spends on dry cleaning in a month.

The other reason I say all this is a general sense of disbelief I have after having moved to Louisiana. I registered my kids for school, and the school has been AWESOME, telling us to send them with whatever supplies we had, they'd make up the difference, and they didn't charge us for the "spirit wear" shirts kids can wear on Fridays instead of their polos and khakis (which we still had to buy). I think they're used to people who stay with family members, as there's a significant migrant worker population here with sugar cane harvesting. In any event, when we were back in Illinois, and the unemployment benefits stopped last December, my pitiful salary, made even more pitiful after the deductions for parking pass, health insurance, pension, union dues, simply wasn't enough for four people, two of whom kept insisting on eating and growing. I looked into public aid and found I made too much per year by about 6K, not even small enough to get help with lunch costs through the school, as that threshold was in the low 30s. When we got to Louisiana, I'm filling out all the paperwork, and the threshold for reduced lunch is OVER $44,000! The cost of living is less here, gas is less, granted milk is more, but I know people who are raising kids on a far less than $44K. I've actually been walking around muttering 44,000! at random times during the day. I have issues letting things go.

It amazes me that areas can be SO different and have such a different attitude. When living in that SW burb of Chicago, where many people had great incomes, but there were just as many who didn't, and I inquired about assistance through the schools, all but one person acted annoyed and put out to give me any information. Here, they just said "don't worry about it" and gave me stacks of information. We may be going through a lot of adjustments here, some that have made me bang my head on a desk recently, but there is definitely more of a feel that we're all in this together that I'm really liking.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It's a Complex Situation

No Louisiana talk today, branching out to what's going on around us for everyone.

We've got a complex situation going on in our world. The actions of police, police brutality, racism, abuse, racial profiling are all very serious issues that people feel deeply about. For myself? I'm conflicted. I've personally known people pulled over for Driving While Black, thankful it didn't escalate to something far more dangerous. I've known people touched by police officers' overuse of power, and it's devastating. Here, a woman talks about how frightening and demoralizing these situations are. I feel her questioning, her anger, her embarrassment, her outrage, and she's completely justified in all of those emotions. There are police officers who are making decisions that affect people short and long term in devastating ways. Just as there are bad people in EVERY profession, there are bad police officers, but in their situation, the stakes are infinitely higher and far more frightening.

On the other hand, I know police officers too. I've had them in my classes, I call some friends and extended family. I know they have to go into every traffic stop, every domestic situation, every loud party with the expectation that the person they are detaining could have a firearm and is itching to use it. If they don't, they are putting themselves and their partners in infinite danger. Every situation has to be approached with DEFCON 1 seriousness, or danger could ensue. I know even great police officers can't find out information about attacks and shootings in high crime areas due to the inherent mistrust of police bred by media sensationalization of police brutality cases. Even if the cops come from. that. neighborhood. there is distrust from other community members. I know it has to be difficult and stressful to tell a superior officer that maybe someone who has had your back, saved your life, has gone too far in an arrest. When a police officer is killed in the line of duty, there should only be tears that a public servant is gone. This article spells out the sacrifices even the families make. Again, I feel her pain, her longing, the depth of her despair.

I don't pretend to know what the solution is to this issue, but I know we can't toss up our hands in question and despair. Somehow, we've got to get police officers to serve in ways that respect humanity. We've also got to get community members to respect the job officers do. I wish I knew how to make that happen.

Monday, September 15, 2014

I Expect to Have a Criminal Record

Those of you who've driven with me know speed limits are merely suggestions, and I rarely listen to those suggestions. Well, karma is about to kick my ass.

I don't know if this was simply a scare tactic used by local police, but my uncle got a speeding ticket not long after moving here two years ago. He, unlike me, is a speed suggestion abiding citizen, but there are a number of places here where speed limits go from a blistering 70, down to 55, down to 35 or even 25 in a flash. He got caught in one of those change ups going 46 in a 35. The officer told him in Louisiana, ELEVEN MILES OVER THE SPEED LIMIT IS A FELONY! A FELONY, my friends. I'm doomed.

Every time I drive anywhere, my accelerator foot twitches, and I feel like I have hives. To paraphrase Sammy Hagar, I can't drive 25!

I give me two months.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


It is apparently a good thing we came to my Uncle Bob's house. Had we not, he'd have probably killed himself ingesting over expired food and medicines. I'll admit, this may be a familial thing, as before Scott, I wouldn't even think of checking dates on things. It wasn't until he sat down to eat some of my homemade spaghetti and realized the parmesan cheese I'd used had an expiration date of six months prior, and of course the apoplectic fit that followed, that I realized I needed to LOOK AT dates prior to cooking. I'm still not the best, but I use my Christmas cookie making time to cull my spice cabinet of outdated baddies, ditto with regular foods when it's food drive time at the kids' schools.

When we arrived, Scott started checking dates in the fridge, and he became sad. Four or five items in a row ended up being significantly expired. One day, while Bob was at work, we held a refrigerator intervention. It sure cleared out space and made things easier to clean, lol. We knew we had to do it while he was gone when Scott pointed out Bob's favorite mustard was expired, and he replied "then I guess I need to eat it FAST." We bought a replacement when next at the grocery store.

Little did I know, the fridge was just the beginning. Megan had an upset stomach, and Bob offered up a remedy, but he actually looked at the box and said I didn't want to know. Oh yes, I did! 2002, people! 2002! That means he'd carried it from his home two years ago in Georgia expired! Gah! I hit the medicines, and we were left with maybe four items. The next oldest was 2008, which means, again, transferred expired. Eek!

Use this PSA to go clear out your fridge and medicine cabinet, and let's see if anyone has anything older.