Archive | February, 2011

Breaking news

21 Feb

I just spent money at Walmart, blatantly just spent away on food that is delicious and needed, plus cat food, shampoo and even a truck headlight. Because things are good here. As they always turn out to be. ­čÖé

What’s your plan?

17 Feb

What’s neat about blogging is that I am now able to overcome my compulsion to tell you what I did today and just tell you the best part of what I did today. I once had a professor who hypothesized in research that storytelling is not just the most important but the sole ┬ámeans by which humans communicate.

Everything is a story — it’s just a matter of the telling that gives it merit.

So, a story.

Tonight at dinner, we discussed our zombie plan.

For the uninitiated, a zombie plan is your solution to the problems that inherently arise when the world is overrun by undead who want to eat your brains.

If you did an informal poll of those with zombie plans, a large majority would tell you they plan to simply head to Walmart and barricade themselves inside. Makes sense, right? Lots of food, weapons, an electronics section. Only problem is, Walmart is crowded enough Thursdays at 5 — what happens when every non-undead (is that redundant?) man, woman and child in town makes for the same place? Chaos, I tell you — chaos on top of the chaos that already ensued from the realization that life as we know it has ended.

So we got to talking about said zombie apocalypse, and in the end we have more questions than answers about our future.

We were split on living arrangements — half of us (that’s me) wanted to try to live on a houseboat while the other half (Vivi and Ol’Boy) thought we’d be better off on an island we could defend.

Which begs the question: Can zombies swim? I like to think not, but that opened up a whole host of questions about surviving the apocalypse, which we all agreed we wanted to do.

So if any of you know the answers to any of these questions, please let us know, because it will help us unify as a family to survive the end of the world. Please and thank you.

1. Can zombies die?

2. If so, how?

3. Will they starve to “death” if they don’t get enough brains/human flesh, or will they simply wander the earth forever looking for animated tissue?

4. Should I just plan on shooting them in the head vs. starving them out?

5. Do they burn?

6. Blow up?

7. Can they drown? In other words, can I help others by luring them to my boat by shooting and waving my arms and yelling “My brains are awesome!”, only to watch them sink to the depths one by one? (You’re welcome.)

8. How did they get to be zombies? Does one person somehow become a zombie and then bites someone else and now there are two zombies who bite someone else and now there are four zombies etc. ad infinitum?

9. Or is it more like the recently dead arise, say people who’ve been dead like 24 to 72 hours, all at once?

10. How many zombies before an official “end times” designation?

11. If Jesus descended like he promised in the middle of this, would he be edible?

12. How fast are zombies? (This is actually a critical component to surviving the end of the world — if they are lumbering and slow like in a Michael Jackson video before the dancing starts, that would be a real win for the living.)

13. And this is really just more of a statement: While Ol’Boy and Vivi brainstormed solutions, I suggested that perhaps it might be easier to simply give up early on in the undead Earth takeover so I didn’t have to spend the rest of my life worried that a zombie was going to eat my brains. I mean, that is a really stressful existence. Add kids to the mix and whew! I’m not sure that’s the kind of lifestyle I want to try to maintain.

Again, any input you have would be appreciated. Also, we realized tonight at dinner that we don’t have nearly enough shotguns or hand grenades in the house. I put Vivi in charge of rectifying that. She’s in there listening to Glen Beck now …

Karma

10 Feb

And so tonight at Walmart there was a nice-looking young woman in front of me who paid for her milk, cheese and meat with some kind of WIC voucher. Food stamps, right?

I was buying chocolate chip cookies for Cal’s birthday, which is Valentine’s Day. I was going to make them, but I ended up just buying the dough. Then I burned them. Well, they aren’t exactly burned, that are that stage right before they burn. So super brown and crispy. I hope he likes those qualities in a cookie. I know he doesn’t like them in women (even if I do).

I also should have done this Monday and gotten them in the mail, because how in the hell is the post office going to ensure my boy gets his cookies by his birthday if I can’t even get the damn things in the mail before Thursday? God, being a procrastinating journalist sucks.

But Jaclyn’s comment made me think I need to tell more stories and do less rambling, so here’s my best story from today (since most of my day was spent at the drum shop trying to reconcile Ol’Boy’s QuickBooks, exciting).

Baxter and I like to take walks, and I especially like to let him run around off-leash. We found a massive field very close to our house which I believe to be some kind of OSU wheat and soil testing area. Anyway, it’s fenced on two sides and must be a mile or so both ways, so we park along the street and I let him run around in the fields, chasing birds and mice and the Children of the Corn. It’s winter now, so there’s not much growing, and it’s basically just a big empty space. I really wanted to get in a walk today because we didn’t get to go yesterday because of the weather, and I didn’t think I’d last long because it was SO cold out. So I bundled up in layers — two pants, three shirts, a coat, a hat, a scarf for my face and earmuffs. I even wore two pairs of socks.

I was OK except for my feet, which had a tendency to freeze around the ankles where the snow drifted in and up my pants. There were probably three inches of snow on the ground, but because it is wide open, the snow tended to blow off some higher spots and drift in low-lying areas. In short, there was a little deep snow to walk through but mostly I kept to high, dry ground.

And, naturally, my thoughts turned to the Plains Indians.

Can you imagine what life would be like without our warm houses, without (fucking) ONG? Without (goddamn) PSO and (God-forsaken) City of Wherever you Live? Don’t even get me started on (godless) AT&T. And here’s the thing — they didn’t know any better. As far as the Indians were concerned, when the days got short it got cold, and when it got cold they just bundled up and took to their homes (teepees, I presume? I hate my ignorance about Native American history) and built a fire and probably kept pretty warm.

The only thing that they had going for them that I don’t was Baxter — I imagine the Plains Indians did not have to get up in the middle of the night to let their dogs out. That said, they probably had to pee sometimes, and their elders probably made them leave their teepees to do that. Or did they make pee holes for the guys? If so, the women still probably had to squat in the snow. Goddamn sexist males since the dawn of time.

Anyway, so I’m out there thinking about the lives of the Indians and looking at the snow drifts and the sky, and I was struck once again by the beauty of it all, the fragility and the simplicity that we tend to ignore in favor of other pursuits. Just then, Baxter and I came upon dozens and dozens of Canadian geese who took to flight as he ran joyfully toward them, and as they rose majestically into the air, my little dog looked up at them, cocked his head toward the sky, and then threw himself to the ground to roll in/eat their shit.

And, scene.

 

The poverty line

9 Feb

I am now about to talk about some things that may make some of you uncomfortable, or make you think you should take some helpful action.

You should not. You should let this play out, because this is such a good experience.

I have mentioned before our family’s rather strict budget. We made a commitment almost a year ago to forego certain luxuries (read: all of them) so that one half of our leadership could pursue his rock’n’roll dreams, essentially living on my salary alone. We are thrilled to have taken that chance and see it take off — it’s like The Little Drum Shop That Could. It is not, however, The Little Drum Shop That Could Make Us Rich. Rather, it’s a grand experiment in finding personal fulfillment through professional fulfillment. And he has. And our little house is a fun place to live because we are all so very happy in our day jobs.

So. I make a pretty good wage. As soon as I get paid, I immediately pay all our bills, trying to put a little money away, and bankroll what’s left for groceries, gas and Vivian’s activities. We share one car that’s paid for, and we live super close to work and school so there’s lots of walking and biking.

Some of the “luxuries” we’ve given up include new clothes or shoes — our generous families and birthdays and Christmas have allowed us to keep from looking like hobos. My mother slips me cash every couple of months for a haircut and dye. But we haven’t bought anything in the way of new furniture or appliances or art since we moved to Stillwater a year ago. We rarely eat out. But again, this is a fun little family. We love to watch movies and funny TV shows together while playing tug of war with the puppy. We eat dinner together every night. We go to the library, we take walks, we read and play games. We hug a lot. We don’t NEED much money to be happy. Sure, there are lots of things we WANT, and sometimes it’s really hard to deny Vivian things that seem reasonable for her to possess. But for the most part, this life is far from unbearable just because money is tight.

A lot of people go through a “broke” phase, and if they’re lucky, they experience it when they’re young and single or recently married. I was never the most financially responsible, and lived beyond my means for years when I should have been roughing it (kind of like I am now). I always made excuses for why I spent more than I earned, especially once I took on two children not of my own making and eventually their girlfriends. While it was awesome to be the house everyone gravitated toward, it was pretty pricey to keep them all fed (to use one example of how I justified my overspending).

So I’m going through my broke phase later than most of my peers. I have handled it pretty well so far, I think, with a sense of humor. I remind myself of the payoff, and what it was like when we were both working at a place that didn’t make us happy, how hard it was to get out of bed in the morning. I also remind myself that we really have it better than so many people in the world. Having a warm house and food on the table has always been my consolation.

That took an interesting turn this week. For whatever reason, some extra bills came due and by the time I’d paid everything, I had only a little bit of cash left for the month. By Monday of this week, our cupboards were pretty bare. The next payday was a week away, and it was obvious that we weren’t going to have enough food to last us until then.

Don’t get me wrong. I have savings that I could dip in to, and my parents would never let me starve. But we set goals, dammit, and two of them were Don’t Spend More Than What You Have and Don’t Let Vivian Know How Tight Things Really Are.

My menu from last night’s entry was true — the best I was going to be able to do was boxed mac and cheese several nights. At that rate, things were going to get ugly. Then Ol’Boy came through with this text from the drum shop — “I have $20 to contribute to groceries.”

Hot damn.

Flash forward to Wal-Mart, later that night. I have a 20 in my back pocket, a snow storm bearing down and a family of three to feed for the next six days.

These are humbling times. I think by the time I got close to checking out, I had about $40 worth of groceries in my cart and had to whittle it down by half. I also had to decide whether to buy healthier, more expensive food or cheaper, less nutritious fare.

93 percent lean ground beef is $3.36 a pound. A pound that’s 27 percent fat is $2.68 a pound. I could get a loaf of generic white bread for $1.18, whereas our usual 100 percent whole wheat loaf was $2.28.

A jar of pickles for our hamburgers (we happened to already have four buns at home) was almost $2, so that seemed too luxurious and that went back.

Baking potatoes were 88 cents a pound. Three of those would be a meal, and probably ring up just shy of $3 — one for each of us.

Vivian loves Ramen noodles, and at just 18 cents a pack, that’s four lunches or dinners for her for under $1.

The big box of Lucky Charms we all eat for breakfast was almost $4, plus we would need more milk — another $2 at least. Too much of a hit for breakfast when the $1.98 package of 12 tortillas could be heated up and buttered for breakfast.

I spend about 30 minutes in there, putting stuff into my cart and taking it out, trying to stretch $20 as far as possible. It was stressful and humbling. I was glad this wasn’t my life every day, but for a lot of people, that’s the reality.

Tonight for dinner Vivian had beef ravioli (92 cents a can) and Billy and I had hot dogs (88 cents for eight dogs and $1 for eight white buns). During the snow storm we’ll have leftover popcorn and hot chocolate. There’s salad in there and peanut butter and ham and enough bread to keep us in sandwiches through the weekend.

But I know there are other folks out there right now who live like this every week, paycheck to paycheck. I pray tonight that they have heat and that their kids have enough to eat. I hope that one day when we’re more financially solvent, I’ll be able to spend more time and money helping people who truly need it, and this week’s lesson inspired me to focus my efforts on hunger.

Not having enough money to feed my family was terrifying. Something worked out — something always seems to work out — but what if it hadn’t?

My total rang up to $2o.52. I had to have the cashier take the potatoes off.

 

Oh, the possibilities

8 Feb

Sometimes, when it’s late and I want to write but I don’t want to commit to a certain topic, I think sometimes it’s better (read: easier) to just write a list of all the things I could write about. If anyone actually read this, we could vote about your favorite one and then the prize would be I would write about it. Or take you on the boat. Your pick, but it has to be this weekend.

So in my world:

1. Today’s newsroom discussion centered on how best to put “rape by instrumentation” into laymen’s terms, IE, how we could best explain this non-medieval torture practice to our readers. Suggestions included digital molestation and finger rape. “Fondling” was tossed out because it seemed to be more indicative of “second base.” And then somehow our e-edition headline teased to a basketball player being charged with “rape by implementation.” “OK, so to begin the rape, we’ll start by implementing the following: an unwilling partner … ”

2. I am trying like hell to get addicted to the cough syrup prescribed to me by my (hot) doctor. (That fact that he is hot has nothing to do with this anecdote, but I’m so much quicker to go to the doctor now when I feel bad. I just thought you should know that. He’s not nearly as hot as Ol’Boy, but then again, who is?) This elixir contains codeine with a modifier, something like hyper-codeine or hydro-codeine or stellar-codeine. It makes me sleep soooo good. I hate for it to end. Am I developing a habit? I hope so. I was getting kind of boring, and what’s more exciting than a slow descent into narcotic addiction?

3. I have no money (literally) and don’t get paid for another week, and while my bills are paid, we are running out of food, and we’ve never run out of food before. This has led me to certain curious behaviors, including, but not limited to, eating an ENTIRE bag of Cheetos I found in the newsroom today at 10:30 a.m. because I wasn’t positive where my next meal would come from. It’s exciting, really, to see our family in action, trying to hide from Vivian the fact that we are broke as trail mules and make her think we have plenty of food — PLENTY! — when in reality our dinner plans look something like this: Tuesday, soup and crackers; Wednesday, boxed Mac and Cheese; Thursday, bean burritos; Friday, boxed Mac and Cheese; Saturday, boxed Mac and Cheese; Sunday, leftover Mac and Cheese. You would think I would be devastated about this, but really it’s kind of exciting. I’ve had such a privileged life to this point that I’m glad I have to go through this to appreciate what I have. Like Cheetos.

Ooh, the maxi-codeine is kicking in — my limbs are going comfortably numb.

Now do a YouTube search for “thunder snow.”