And So It Goes.

It’s one of those days – one of those days when I wonder why I keep saying yes instead of no, one of those days when I’m really not sure if I am caught up or can get caught up at home or at work, just one of those days.

Meanwhile, I plug away.

Laundry. Why does Mount Washmore look taller than usual? Oh, yeah, I dug out another pair of jeans for myself and picked up three or four items at a thrift store. It’s Sunday, too. I normally get the clothes washed on Saturday. One day, amazingly enough, makes a difference.

Linens and things. I finally folded the tablecloths and napkins from Thanksgiving and stored them with the big roasting pan and the gravy boat. I use these once a year. If they took up more space, I’d toss them on the rummage sale pile and sell them. As it is, the gravy boat, tablecloths, and the matching napkins all fit inside the roasting pan. Perfect.

Rummage sale! I have all the curtains we took down before putting new windows in the great room. I washed them, but they still need to be measured. These are worth buying, if the right buyer comes along, and the right buyer will want to know the sizes. I have all the curtain rods, too. More to measure, more to sell.

I was asked to write an article for Teaching Today, a state publication. I said yes. I could have said no, sorry, please ask me again when my workload is lighter. I could have even asked for pay – but asking is harder than it seems. I have a skill: writing coherently. When I use this skill, I make my employer look good. I enjoy the process and the results; but working for free feels, well, cheap. Readers, I’ll link to the article when it’s up and running. I’ll consider the feedback to be my reward.

The last time-taker lies on my own shoulders. Once again I’m applying to be a teacher curriculum reviewer for the national level of my school organization. I’m investing in this time because 1, I believe I can do the job well; 2, it looks good in my files when I’m up for observation; 3, this position actually pays.

In conclusion, I can get caught up on the laundry and set aside the rummage sale items for spring. I wrote a draft of the article on Friday between classes. It needs revisions and tweaks; it’s kind of boring in it’s first incarnation. Maybe I can make reference to a children’s book or a seasonal song in each paragraph to keep the readers’ attention. Yes, that could work.

Oh, no, I forgot something: holiday shopping! Aaargh! I might never get caught up!

Readers, what’s on your minds? How are you keeping up?

 

First World Problems, indeed.

It’s a bummer of a day when all of these happen.

I was talking to myself, and my self replied, “That’s a stupid question.”

I pulled up a batch of volunteer tomato plants because they came up in the area in which I want to plant tomatoes next year. I told myself, “It’s October!” in order not to feel guilty for failing to transplant them.

I’m still dizzy, cause unknown, and yesterday’s ER visit had limited success. Limited in that I mean the testing ruled out stroke or brain tumor, but didn’t find the cause of the dizziness. Stiff neck improved with medication, so that ruled out another angle that might have meant some really painful and icky testing. I’m relieved, at least, for crossing those possibilities off the list.

On the good side, I’m still able to laugh. I heard a Miami Dolphins coach talk about building a quality team, and then I saw Jay Cutler at starting quarterback. How could I not laugh?

But then I remembered that Jay Cutler has a job, and Colin Kaepernik doesn’t. That, my friends, is sad. It’s a First World Problem, indeed, but that doesn’t excuse the implicit racism in the situation.

This dizziness makes it hard to pick tomatoes and water plants. I use one tomato support for balance while I pick tomatoes with the other hand. But then I don’t have a hand to hold the container for the tomatoes. Tough life for a gardener, indeed.

Watering plants involves too much bending and turning for my dizzy head. It’s a bummer because the remaining tomatoes need water, the beans are still growing and need water, and the rain barrels are all relatively full.

Speaking of rain barrels, we have three. I filled out the application for a one-time credit on our water bill, and we received a note from the Powers That Be that they needed more information. They included an aerial shot of our house and asked us to indicate where the rain barrels were and how the barrels fit into the storm water flow. The picture was outdated, so Chuck put in a few updates (like the new garage and the second garden plot and the updated landscaping) and indicated all the necessary information. None of that information was mentioned on the application for the rain barrel credit in the first place.

And there you have it, readers. I’m grateful for MRI technology, and I hope my insurance considers the testing necessary. The ER doctor did. In the meantime, I’ll quietly recover, hopefully, from whatever illness inspired this post full of rants.

 

Scraps or Pantry Raid – Tomato Soup

The end result was tomato vegetable soup, served with grilled cheese sandwiches and applesauce. Here’s how it came about.

I’d been canning tomatoes a few days earlier. The process of peeling tomatoes, while not like herding cats, is time consuming and yields an interesting leftover. To peel tomatoes, I drop several into hot water for a few minutes and then into ice water. The peels slide off (almost) effortlessly. Almost. The results: a lot of tomatoes without skins, and a big bowl of water laced with tomato remains.

On the theme of the TV show “Scraps,” I decided this tomato water was too good to throw away. On the theme of a Pantry Raid, I used only ingredients that were readily available in my freezer, refrigerator, or pantry. Nothing fancy!

Step one: we skimmed off some of the water floating on top. The tomato content kept sinking to the bottom, so why not?
Step two: poured the tomato water into a large slow cooker and let it simmer on high overnight.
Step three: add herbs. A few green onions, a clove of garlic, some minced basil – all simmered in the soupy mix for several hours.
Step four: Store boiled down mixture in refrigerator overnight.

To make soup for supper, I added a few simple ingredients along with salt and pepper, thickened with arrowroot starch (Penzey’s is the best), and served with crackers.

Simple ingredients added (but not measured precisely): a dash of Worcestershire Sauce, a small can of commercial tomato paste, salt and pepper, frozen peas & corn & shredded fresh zucchini.

This tomato soup, whether you call it a Scraps menu or a Pantry Raid, is a winner. Next time I can tomatoes, I might do the same!

Insanity? Frustration? Or both?

Einstein is often credited with the quote, but verification in the form of evidence is slim.

Whether he said it first or not, it’s a good point. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results isn’t logical.

If the progressive leaders keep relying on outdated methods such as phone banks, we’re unlikely to regain the White House. Even the midterm elections in the Senate and House will be weaker if phone banking is the main tactic.

My point is this: keep training focused on messaging. Phone calls are not the most efficient way to reach voters any more, so we progressives need to find other ways to get our statements heard. With the training focused on spreading our message concisely and clearly, we can then move on to finding ways to get that message heard.

That said, I think I’ll make sure my caller ID is working. I might even reset the voice mail to kick in after two or three rings instead of its current five.

Oh, Dear Congress –

Dear Congressman Gallagher;

Voting Yes on the American Health Care Act and then following your vote with a statement that included, “This legislation is far from perfect and I look forward to continuing the process of improving the bill as it makes its way through the U.S. Senate” does not give you a pass on accountability. Nice try, but not good enough.

Sincerely put off by the vote,

Daisy

Dear Speaker of the House Ryan; 

I fail to understand the celebration after passing the American Health Care Act by only three votes. Were you celebrating a skin-of-your-teeth win? Or were you cheering for the Senate to take over and consequently take the blame for the resulting badly written legislation? Oh, by the way, did you even read the bill? 

Not My Speaker, 

Daisy

Dear County Executive Nelson;

Thank you for being frank with our Governor when he arrived for a photo opportunity. I noticed, as many others did, that the Governor responded rudely and would not state his position on the Health Care Act.

Still on your Side,

Daisy

Dear Governor Walker; 

I was surprised you didn’t respond professionally when asked your position on the recently passed Health Care Act. After all, you mentioned earlier that day that you were looking forward to sticking it to people with pre-existing conditions, er, I mean taking advantage of parts of the law that would allow you to waive essential care requirements. 

Sickly, and getting sicker, 

Daisy.

Teacher Appreciation Week

I was taking advantage of a teacher discount last night. Papa Murphy’s Take and Bake Pizza offered 50% off to teachers for Teacher Appreciation Day. Chipotle had offered a Buy one Get one (BOGO) the day before. Once a year, a handful of businesses let us know we’re valuable.

So back to the story. I was sitting down, feeling fatigued from this nasty virus that hit my family this week, and a teacher pal came in. After we greeted each other, I had a flashback. This incident happened when Teacher Pal and I (and three others in our building) were in the midst of our graduate program. I needed to send a fax to the university’s registrar, so I was in the school office asking the secretary for help. Principal overheard me telling Secretary to let me know what the cost would be. At this, she called out loudly, “There ain’t many perks in this job, Daisy! Send the damn fax!”

That, um, “conversation” took place more than ten years ago, and the memory surfaces all too often. When I’m pulling out my school ID to get 50% off on pizza and cheesy bread, when I picked apples from the tree in front of our office, when I planted milkweed from pods I salvaged when our office landscaping was dug up – I’m always hearing that comment in my mind. “There ain’t many perks in this job!” And even thought it’s true and it’s not a good thought, remembering that moment makes me smile.

At the Risk of Exaggerating – Research Rocks.

Seen on Facebook – shared by reliable people on my timeline

Here are nine people who will lose their coverage under Trumpcare and one who won’t:
1. a diabetic
2. a cancer survivor
3. an asthmatic
4. someone with allergies
5. a heart disease patient
6. an HIV/AIDS patient
7. someone with chronic lung disease
8. someone with Cystic Fibrosis
9. someone with Multiple Sclerosis
10. any member of Congress
List by:
Dr Cathleen Greenberg
Oregon Health & Science University
Residency Family Medicine
Yale University School of Medicine

I kept hoping it wasn’t true, wasn’t that bad, so I called on my closest tool: the Internet. I searched for a reliable source (no alternative facts or fake news would do) and found the following.

In summary, the decision will be left up to the states whether to maintain two parts of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ObamaCare). The first: the requirement to cover Essential Health Benefits, including but not limited to maternity care, birth control, and emergency room visits. The second is the part widely feared. The replacement for the Affordable Care Act would let states decide whether or not to keep the Community Rating Rules, the piece that insists coverage be available to all. All, that is, regardless of their zip code, gender, pre-existing conditions, and more.

Some states will weather this storm. Those (Minnesota, I’m looking at you) accepted federal funds to establish their health care exchanges. They set up a system that worked for their people, and they’re in a good place to continue covering state residents.

Mine? Under the questionable leadership of Scott Walker, a man who turned down federal funds for anything he could, a man who seemed to fear cooties from any funds that were generated thanks to President Obama, I fear my good state of Wisconsin will go with the GOP flow and let those two pieces of the AFA lapse.

We citizens with preexisting conditions will not be cut outright, but we’re likely to see our premiums go sky high to the point where we can no longer afford health insurance. And that, my friends, is scary.

What can we do about it? We can lobby. Call, write, email, call, write, and email our legislators. Give them these two points:

  1. It is not equitable for Congress to exempt themselves from the tough results of their own lawmaking.
  2. Forcing people to pay extreme premiums to get the treatment they need is wrong. Simply put, wrong.

I think it’s a good time to write a few postcards.

 

Actual Phone Call to Customer Service

“Chuck” called the cable television company – let’s call them Looney Tunes – to have them remove their cable off the house so we can do the siding. It was a never-ending story.

  • “You’re not a current customer… I’ll transfer you.”
  • “Those aren’t our cables, do whatever you want with them.” So he will have to climb a ladder and cut the cable which will then be lying on the street.  That’s not good, so he should climb the utility pole and cut the cable there? He told them he would want the company to sign a release that he wouldn’t be held liable for any damages or loss of service to all the customers in the neighborhood.  “I’m speaking to my team leader and that’s what he says.”  “Let me speak to him please,” Chuck responded.  “Certainly, sir. I’ll transfer you.”
  • “Hello. Billing. How may I help you?…I’ll transfer you.”
  • “Oh, you need to speak to a local office…I’ll transfer you.”
  • So the local office has contracted a 3rd party person to take care of it sometime within the next 2 weeks.  And it is their cable and their responsibility.

And that’s why we’re not Looney Tunes customers.

What Free Lunch Really Means

Subtitle: a story told through experiences

I once worked in a child care center that served several programs for low income families. Some of our kids had parents in prison. Some children were in foster care. A fair number were living in what we called “risky homes” – families where abuse and neglect happened, but not severely enough to remove them from the home.

These children were hungry. On Monday mornings, they dug into their breakfasts like they hadn’t eaten in days – and sometimes that was precisely the case. We planned our Monday morning meal accordingly – often oatmeal, because it was inexpensive, nutritious, and filling.

Fast forward several years to my first teaching job, in which I learned about free and reduced lunch. One indicator of the importance of this program showed on half days – those days that dismissed students before lunch and had meetings and training sessions in the afternoon. Attendance was weak, very weak, on days that the school did not serve lunch.

Fast forward again, same school, same neighborhood, same large number of low-income families. Our school meals program earned a grant to provide Grab and Go lunches on half days. These were essentially bag lunches with a sandwich and fruit and a small juice box or milk. Do you see where I’m going? Half day attendance picked up in a big, big way. Kids who straggled in late would greet me with “Can I still order lunch?”

I learned even more as I became aware of the McKinney-Vento Act, a program for homeless students. When a family becomes eligible for services through McKinney-Vento, one of the first things that happens is automatic free breakfast and lunch. The family doesn’t need to jump through the usual paperwork hoops required to qualify for free or reduced meals. When a family’s housing is insecure, schools make sure that the students in that family have at least two meals a day.

I’m not quoting numbers or dry statistics, my friends. I’m speaking from my own experiences. Now imagine: if this is my experience, in a relatively stable community like Happy Valley, the need that we label “food security” must be even more widespread in inner cities and poor rural areas.

And in Betsy DeVos’ experience? I’ll rephrase that. Betsy DeVos, the completely unqualified Secretary of Education, has no relevant experience. She has no idea how important free and reduced meals can be for families. She has no idea how feeding a child makes it possible for that child to grow, to feel safe, and ultimately, to learn.

Free meals matter. That’s the bottom line.

Boycotts – to buy or not to buy?

Chuck’s new job (electrician, fire truck manufacturer) is turning out to be tough on his jeans and tee shirts. Luckily, he wears jeans and tee shirts, not anything more valuable or expensive. But I’m standing in the closet staring at two pair of good Lee relaxed fit jeans that are ripped in the rear, and I don’t sew.

I did what I do: I reached out for help online. My post said “DH (Darling Husband)’s new job is hard on his jeans. Do iron-on patches still exist? I don’t sew.” The responses were mixed, but positive. Sort of.

“Yes, you can buy iron-on patches at WalMart!” I don’t shop WalMart. I haven’t for years. In my state, WalMart encourages their employees to sign up for the state health plan for low income residents. It works because WalMart doesn’t pay enough for their typical worker to buy health insurance through the company, thus saving WalMart the investment in health coverage. Therefore, I’m already subsidizing WalMart through my tax moneys. Shop there? No, thanks. That company doesn’t deserve any more of my money.

“Try Joann Fabrics or Hobby Lobby.” Joann Fabrics, okay. They’re in the same mini mall with Penzey’s Spices, and I love me an opportunity to shop Penzey’s.

But Hobby Lobby?

Remember the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case? Hobby Lobby brought suit against the Affordable Care Act complaining that the company did not want to pay for coverage that included birth control. They claimed it was a faith-based decision. Let me get this straight: a nationwide corporation, claiming deeply, sincerely held religious beliefs, can apply those beliefs to its employee benefit programs. I haven’t shopped there since the decision.

That leaves me with Joann Fabrics. I certainly hope they actually carry iron-on patches. If not, keeping up my principles might get expensive. I might need to buy a sewing machine and learn to sew.