Thursday, December 27, 2012


I've been catching up today on the pop music I missed in 2012.  I don't listen to a lot of music on the radio, occasionally on the rare car trip that I forget my cd case, I'll surf country/rock/pop stations, but that's usually a drop in the bucket for what's out there any given year.

Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger" has me rocking in my cube.
I know.  Pop music... cliched old cliche.... I still like it.

I really feel like 2012 was a mile marker for me.  I do feel stonger.

When I walked out of ESCO that summer of 2008, there was a large part of me that just felt broken and beaten. Life went pretty far downhill for the next year or so, unemployment, a baby born I couldn't pay for, WIC, food stamps, self doubt about my worth and my choices.

2009 saw us move to NW Iowa, to take a job I had huge doubts about. What if I couldn't do it? What if the problem was me, and not ESCO? What would we do if I crashed and burned again? Maybe I should just take the hint and switch careers to something ag related...

There were definite bumps, I'm sure I didn't have as much experience as my new company would have liked, but they didn't fire me after the first few months.  They didn't fire me when I messed up my first big project.  I just kept showing up for work, even when I went home crying.  They kept paying me, and kept training me and kept encouraging me.

Somehow, at some point this year, I finally feel like I broke past my leftover issues from ESCO. I may not be the best computer engineer in this world, but god damn it, I am not the worst.  I feel like my decision to leave them was not only the right decision, but I wish I had done it earlier. I feel like I do have worth as a programmer, and I am good at my job, and I haven't felt like that since I was a stripper.  (Yes, I know, there's a bit of irony in the fact that my last high point of self esteem was during my tenure as a nude dancer.  Let's move on.)

I recognize that programming will never be my passion.  It just won't.  There is still part of me that wishes I had stuck with geology or gone into something related to Ag, but I just didn't have the guts to switch out of Comp Eng while I was in college.   And who knows, maybe those degrees would have left me more destitute than I am now.  Hindsight may be 20/20 but we can never know what might-have-been.

So, we're finally digging ourselves out of the financial hole we fell into.  Student loans are still horrendous, and what they've done to me over the past 6 years should be illegal, but of course it's not.  I still owe more on those loans than I did when I graduated.   But, other debts are slowly getting paid off.  If the economy can keep things together for another 3 months, I think we will see our bills decrease by about 25%, as certain debts reach a zero balance.

I know our vows didn't include the classic, "for richer or poorer" but Dave has definitely seen the poorer side of things, and I'm cautiously optimistic about having some time together on the not-so-poorer side of things.

I'm hoping that 2013 sees us saving up to move somewhere closer to relatives and like-minds. Interstates has been good to me, and I will be forever grateful for the space and support to heal.  But, we aren't going to be happy here long term.

I feel good about the future. Yes, I still think our country is headed for rough times, yes I still expect to hit bumps, professionally, and personally.  But I feel stronger.
I feel confident in my abilities. I know I can lean on my partner and vice versa and we can make it through anything.

Hopefully this isn't an ego trip of a post.  (It could be argued, and probably has been, that keeping a blog at all is an ego trip.... whatev.)  I'm just in a retrospective mood, what with the end of the year around the corner. And speaking of stronger, I'm almost back to my high school weight again, after baby #2.  I need to go buy new pants and a new belt. :-D

As we head towards the new year, I'm hoping that all my readers are on an upwards swing. If you're not, keep fighting, keep striving, and don't try to go it alone.
Happy New Year.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Winter's a'comin

We have our first big winter storm (for this year) bearing down on us, the fun is supposed to start this evening.

We are as prepared as we can be. We've got a ton of food in the house, and a couple of new snow shovels. One of the new shovels is a small one designed to go in cars I think, but we got it because it's just the right size for Rowen (boy #1.)  Shoveling is sooo much more fun when there's a 3 year old helping. :-D

We won't be headed out tonight to pick up last minute essentials.  If it's essential, we have backups in storage for it. We certainly won't be headed out for gifts or decorations. I think the boys have a couple of store-bought toys, but everything else is largely DIY or handmade.

It will be nice to have snow on the ground for Yule.  Silly, I know. But with time off from work, and no gardens to tend, I like playing in snow.  Shoveling is ok when I need to get in some exercise, but building snow people, snow forts, snow sculptures, is all just fun.  I love sledding too, and Rowen is just about old enough to take to some gentle sledding slopes.

It's also nice to be headed into winter and know that I'm not going to be ginormously pregnant. I've got all my balance and flexibility back from pregnancy with Logan (baby #2) and I'm quickly regaining muscle strength. There's just something about pregnancy during winter that makes me feel especially vulnerable, and I'm glad to be past it.

Anyway, I hope this storm finds you and yours bundled up warm and toasty.

Have a great Solstice.
May the darkest night give way to a brighter morning. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Here's another way to give

Aid going directly to the families of the Sandy Hook elementary victims.

Two Sisters

Sometimes it feels like I have two sisters.  I don't, I just have the one. But, it's hard to grasp that the addiction riddled, organ-killing, homeless person is the same sister I grew up with.

I was remembering this morning, a fond memory of our childhood in Oklahoma. My mother was sending us up trees to collect mistletoe for the holidays.  All three of us kids were tree climbers, but Melody was the best.  She could climb higher and longer than either Will or I.  She was fearless.

Not a word I can use anymore in conjunction with her name.

I wish I had advice for others facing a similar disconnect with loved ones. But I don't.
She was a bright, athletic, normal sort of kid. She was a high maintenance teenager, but who isn't? Did she fall in with too many drinkers in high school?  Was she genetically predisposed to alcoholism?  Maybe.
Was there more we could have done as a family? I doubt it.  She's had more help and more opportunities than many young adults get. We've tried interventions, tough love, no-strings-attached love, none of it seems to help.
It can't help, not until she decides to quit her addictions, and that's the only fight we can't fight for her.
It can't help, not until she loves herself as much as we love her.
Not until she stops trying to fill the holes in her life with alcohol or the latest man/boy/sugar-daddy.

I know, logically, that there's a good chance she'll die before she gets to that point.  That is almost too painful to contemplate.  I want to delete it from this page, and never think about it or write it again. But, something stays my hand. Something in me needs to have that out in the open where it can't fester in the dark and quiet corners of my head.

Give your loved ones an extra hug this year when you see them. Count your blessings if they are whole and happy and leading productive lives.  For those of you fighting through the pain of addiction, your own or a loved ones, know that you're not alone. Find a support group, or make your own if you need to.

Let's go back to that happy memory of the mistletoe, that's a lot nicer to write about.

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows on trees and bushes. Birds eat the ripe (white) seeds and then as they clean their beaks on branches of trees, the seeds get "planted" for the next generation. The mistletoe has no roots of its own. What it does have is tiny extensions called holdfasts, that grip onto the bark of the host plant. They also serve as a sort of umbilical cord, and suck the nutrients from the host. Because of its dependence on the host, mistletoe is only found on living trees. Mistletoe plants can be either female or male; only the female has the beautiful but highly toxic berries.

Mistletoe as decoration during the dark of winter is an old tradition. Predating Christianity. In the old druid and pagan traditions Mistletoe represented the Green Lord, or Saturn.   

No one loves a party like the ancient Romans, and their festival of Saturnalia is one of the most well-documented celebrations of the Winter Solstice. This week-long bacchanal included exchanging of gifts, lots of food and wine, dancing and music. Slaves got the week off work, courts were closed, and all kinds of debauchery took place. This festival honored Saturn, of course, and he was an agricultural god. To keep him happy, fertility rituals took place under the mistletoe. Today, we don't quite go as far under our mistletoe (at least not usually) but it does explain where the kissing tradition comes from.

:-D See, much more interesting than you may have thought.
Go send your kids up a tree for some mistletoe if you live in an area where they grow.  I've not seen any since we moved to Iowa, so I think it needs warmer locations. Good Luck! Happy Holidays!


Monday, December 10, 2012

Charitable Giving - As An Atheist

My company has a great program, called, "Jeans for Dollars."  In return for $5 a week out of an employee's paycheck, said employee can wear jeans to work on Fridays.  The $5 gets combined with all the other $5, and a check is written each week to a different local charity. It's an optional thing, no one is pressured to participate. For the first 3 years of my employment here, I elected not to participate.  Even during the time when I was on the committee that managed the list of 52 charities.  My problem was always that the list was chocked full of religious leaning charities. Faith based charities, church organized outreach, whatever you want to call them.  It seemed like there wasn't anyone in this area doing charitable works without needing Jebus along to proselytize.

I wasn't interested in sending my money to religious based organizations.  In my opinion, the harm done by religions far outweighs the good their charitable arms do.
I feel like fewer women would need rescue shelters if fewer of them followed church doctrine.  Telling women they are inferior to men. Telling women to stay home and raise as many kids as possible, preaching against practical birth control options.  Telling women not to pursue education or careers. Telling women not to speak or teach as those are men's roles, yes, that IS still happening.
All of that just leads to women who have far fewer options when the Shit Hits the Fan; when Lord-Husband becomes abusive, or a user, or just has the bad luck to die.  I don't want to imply that running a family and keeping house are easy, or not hard work, they are. But, they don't translate well into jobs that can support said family. Especially when the person in question has no other training or certifications.
I feel like you can't, as an organization, intentionally and systematically limit and debase an entire HALF of the population, and then turn around and want accolades for, "All the good we do."

Where was I? Oh, right, the company program. My plan was to find a few secular charities in the area and either get them on the list, or just send them my money directly. Sadly, no such charities exists in the area.  This is a really religious corner of the upper midwest.
Additionally, my wardrobe has shifted a little since baby #2, and I have some better fitting jeans than I do work slacks. Winter is closing in, and jeans are warmer than my work slacks.
All of this combined to convince me to finally sign up for the program.  I try to convince myself that in the trenches of poverty and addiction, maybe these organizations are actually doing some good. Some of them provide food for women and kids, some provide emergency housing.  If they are more Christian than I'm comfortable with, well, maybe I can live with that for now.  And maybe I'll rethink things once summer comes around and I'll remove my $5 from the program.  :-D Stay tuned for further developments.

Here are some excellent secular charities, for those interested in charitable giving before the end of the year.

Camp Quest - a secular kids camp, they have scholarships for kids who might not otherwise get summer camp experience.

Foundation Beyond Belief - They aggregate charitable giving by humanists and atheists and give funds to a set of causes/charities every quarter.

Burners Without Borders - the usual "without borders" deal, a group of people interested in volunteering to help others. They take donations of money and time.


Friday, December 7, 2012

What Do You Call It?

Hubby and I were raised in different areas of the country. Neither of us is really "from" somewhere, as we both moved around extensively.  In general though, we grew up in different parts of the country. Different parts of the country, with apparently different language customs. It's a bit funny when it comes to names for pieces of furniture, or parts of rooms.  I never realized how many different names there can be for one piece of furniture.

We find that if we don't address it head on, we'll spend months talking past one another, missing important directions or requests because we're not understanding what the other is talking about.

We had to go through the  house and point at things and say, "We're going to call this the, "small pantry," and this will be, "front mudroom," and this is the, "large pantry," and this is the "small mudroom."

It was the same with furniture.  I always called the main table, "the kitchen table." And it drove Dave nuts, because it's not in the kitchen. hahahaha  I'm trying to get in the habit of calling it the "dining room table," but it's a hard habit to break. And we have this TV hutch we got somewhere, I think from my mother, and we don't have a TV, so we use it to sort mail and hold the archives of past years' mail.   I spent 5 minutes today trying to get him to pull out a piece of mail for me so I can call the guy from work today, and I couldn't get him to understand which piece of furniture I was talking about.  He says he would call it a cabinet, as opposed to a hutch.

I think this can come up in other situations, not just marriage.  At least for those of us who don't live and die in the same city we were born in. Take the time to clear up the language confusion, before it becomes a problem. :-) Your team, or family or whoever, will appreciate it.


Sorry for the long blog silence.  I've been blogging a lot with my paid position, and I don't have the pressure in my brain to get things out like I used to.  Most of my prepper/survival posts are going to that blog, and no longer going up here.  If you want to know where that blogging is happening, let me know and I'll whisper it in your ear (digitally speaking.)   I don't want to link to it, because we're trying to keep my writing on that blog entirely separate from this blog.

I am going to try to put up more posts here moving forward. Call it a new year's resolution. Smaller things, quicker to write things. 
Probably more culture and personal news and probably some sewing projects show and tell.  And, probably a few more of my Jennie-rants, that can't go up on the other blog. :-D

I hope your winter solstice season is full of warmth and family and good food.  Take care!