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Giving up my smartphone

I know, I must be crazy. I’m not a Luddite, really.

I’ve had a cellphone of some kind since 2001. Before everyone had iPhones, I had a Motorola Razr, which I absolutely loved.  Of course, texting in those days was limited to a few words and “text speak”, which is unheard of these days with the predictive text on our phones rarely making the dreaded auto-correct mistakes some of us were so familiar with. The Razr had music download capability and a really cool interface. Also, it was thin and small.

Since having an iPhone since 2011, I have noticed that I spend A LOT of time on it and feel actually anxious when I don’t have it around me at all times. I don’t do much texting or messaging, but I do love having Google at my fingertips at all times and of course, there’s the ever-present social media trap. FOMO, fear of missing out. But what am I really missing out on? More political bullshit on Facebook?  Playing mindless games when my brain needs to shut off for a few minutes? The simple fact that my phone is small enough to fit in my hand makes it too convenient to put down. Just for the record, I do have a very nice new tablet that I can use for playing games, checking Facebook, etc. I can even listen to audiobooks or read the news. The thing about the tablet is that it’s bigger than a phone. It’s not as portable or as convenient for constant checking and keeping snugly in my palm for a quick distraction.

So, what to do? Delete all of my apps that cause a distraction? Leave my iPhone at home? I decided, after much consideration, to get a “basic  phone.” Yes! You can still buy a phone that doesn’t have the capability to download a million apps or require a fingerprint or face scan to use. Something that doesn’t cost $1000 and requires a $60 case to protect the “investment.” I bought an Alcatel “Go Flip” phone for $20. I downloaded some music for working out and the very limited KaiOS store had a couple of very retro games. I have had to learn other forms of communicating with friends. It is time-consuming to type long texts, so I have a texting app on my tablet if I need to type something long and I can also use Messenger. It does the job and it does it cheaply.

Do I miss having my iPhone on me at all times? Sometimes. I actually like not being tied down by all the messages and notifications.

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You can’t have it both ways

This week there has been much talk about abortion in the news and on social media. I really should steer clear of reading the latest because as a woman who had an abortion 32 years ago, I still get triggered. I would never presume that all women had the same experience as I did, but it was not something I would ever do again and it was extremely unpleasant and anxiety-provoking.

Those who call themselves pro-choice state that it’s a woman’s choice what to do with her body. I don’t completely buy that argument because even though I agree that it’s her body, it’s not just her body. Usually, abortions are performed sometime after 8 weeks and before 20 weeks gestation. At that point, science determines that the mother and the fetus are separate entities. It’s not just a “part of the woman’s body”, it’s a separate life. By acknowledging that, I’m not changing my pro-choice stance because there are some instances in which the mother’s life and ability to continue functioning in the world will be seriously jeopardized if the fetus is carried to term. It’s not a perfect world. Circumstances sometimes suck. Adoption is not always a choice that can be made.

It’s important for pro-choice people to back up their positions with rational conclusions. If you cannot accept the fact that the fetus is a “life”, separate and apart from its mother, then perhaps you need to go back and reread some scientific literature.  If that fact makes you squeamish about abortion, hey, I understand. However, please do not resort to the christian bible to back up your claims. The god of the christian bible, if you believe it literally, was a cruel man who routinely killed his people and ordered born and unborn children to be slain. There are also passages in the bible that (wrongly, because science) suggest that life isn’t life until the baby is out of the womb. That’s bullshit, sorry.  You can use the bible, cherry-pick it to death, to back up your opinions on any number of subjects. Please don’t do that, atheists and others who are pro-choice. Otherwise, the battle for choice becomes a scripture shouting match and you lose your credibility.

None of that matters. If you cannot justify your position without using a fictional text which was never meant to be a guide for health and science, you need to change your argument. This goes for all medical decisions. An abortion is more than a talking point for politicians. It’s more than a bumper sticker. This is a woman’s life and the life of a fetus we’re talking about and most often, the decision is not made lightly. Support the women in your life by recognizing that they should make important decisions based on reality, not what was written in a religious text.

Posted in politics

While we argue about things that really don’t matter…

Four days since the altercation in D.C. among MAGA hat wearing kids, a Native American, and some Black Israelites. People are STILL debating this bullshit.  Friends and family are divided, yelling back and forth about whose side is right. I experienced this on Facebook just last night while attempting to explain to my right-wing cousin that we are all being played like pawns in the chess game that is American politics/media.

Meanwhile, the government shutdown has gone on longer than any other. 

Children are locked up in cages and some are dying.

Three men and a teenager are accused of making homemade bombs in preparation for the bombing of a Muslim community in New York state.

A woman in a vegetative state was raped and gave birth.

All over this country, those who are vulnerable are still being harmed. They’re not safe. We’re not safe. As a woman, I never feel safe. We put our faith in those who are supposed to protect us and we’re let down.

If you really think an incident in which no one was harmed or killed is that important then perhaps you have too much time on your hands. Maybe it’s easier to debate things that don’t matter in the long run.

In a couple of days (hopefully), the Catholic schoolboys, the Native American and the Black Israelites will be old news. All over the country, shit that really matters will still be happening and all over the internet, you’ll hear crickets.

 

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What exactly is “adulting?”

I’m sure unless you’ve been living under a rock, that you have heard the term “adulting.” By the way, the recent trend to morph a noun into a verb by adding “ing” to the end (does that officially turn it into a gerund?, anyway, I digress)  is getting pretty annoying.

adult·ing
/əˈdəltiNG,ˈaˌdəltiNG/

noun

INFORMAL
  1. the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.

Ok, so there is the definition from Dictionary.com. My issue with the concept of adulting is that most often it is used by millennials when bemoaning the tasks that most people don’t like to do, such as paying bills, cleaning the house, or going to work, as in “adulting is hard work” or “I’m so proud of myself for adulting today.”  I don’t want to bash millennials because it seems like they get their share of criticism, some warranted and some not so much. My own children are millennials and they are fine, productive members of society.  The problem, as I see it, is that many of that generation have been brought up in households where they didn’t have responsibilities and now that they are out in the big, bad world, they find their responsibilities overwhelming. There are also things that they have not been taught, such as balancing a checkbook or sewing on a button or changing the oil. I just threw that last one in there since my own father found it imperative that I knew how to do that. I’ve actually never done it once. But you get the picture. When faced with the ever-present tasks of working for a living, cooking meals, cleaning a house, basically taking care of yourself, many people are shocked at what they entail.

30 years ago when I was a new homeowner, I spent little to no time thinking about my new life. I loved the freedom I had as someone who was finally an adult. Wasn’t that what we all wanted to be? Didn’t we always say that adults can do anything they wanted and that’s what we strove for? Perhaps the generation that had so many choices and so much freedom didn’t really want to “grow up.” Many of them already had every material thing they could ever want, someone to pay their phone bill, their car insurance, their car payments in many cases. Many millennials never even “had” to work as teenagers and some were either not allowed to or didn’t work so they could pursue other activities. Hell, I couldn’t wait to have my own money when I was a teen!  I knew my parents wouldn’t buy me the expensive Nikes I wanted, so I saved up and got them myself. Getting out from under a parents’ thumb is what we all desired so badly and we had to “adult” in order to do it.

So, millennials, next time you complain about “adulting” and pat yourselves on the back for doing the “adulting” thing so well, remember that this is life, baby. Sometimes it’s drudgery and if you’re lucky, there will be happiness to offset it. Just quit bitching about having to do the minor life stuff that we all have had to do for so many years and if you have problems completing the tasks, maybe we can show you a thing or two.

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35 years later?!

Weighing in on the Kavanaugh issue. He and I are about the same age. He and I both grew up in Maryland, though that has little to do with what I want to talk about. This issue of sexual assault has triggered some memories for me and as I’ve gone about my business the past week or so, I’ve noticed that some of my peers have strong opinions about the nominee for SCOTUS and all of the news that has come out about what happened when he was a high schooler.

I drank in high school and I was underage when I did it. I can’t think of a single one of my high school friends or acquaintances who didn’t. Brett Kavanaugh did, too. He went to parties and got wasted. So did I and so did the majority of people I knew then. The typical scenario was that a person’s parents would go out for the night or the weekend and the party would take place. Word got out, booze and drugs would be obtained and before you knew it, your house was full of people you didn’t know. In a few hours, drunken antics would occur. Some people went to other parts of the house to engage in sex, some would barf and fall asleep, some would just hang out. That was the typical underage high school party as I remember it. I’m not proud of some of the things I did at such parties and I don’t really like to remember myself then like a drunken idiot, but we were all drunken idiots and we have grown up since then, hopefully.

At one party, a guy I hardly knew cornered me. Another guy came to my rescue. I’m sure that many of my female friends have memories of similar scenarios and some like Dr. Blasey-Ford, were not rescued. I’m sure that if the guy who cornered me had gone through with whatever he had planned, my life would have been much different.

I hope that today’s young men have gotten the message that “no means no” and through the “me too” movement, the conversation around sexual assault has opened their eyes and made them more sensitive and aware of the damaging power of being violated.  There was little to no conversation about it when Kavanaugh and I were in high school. Girls didn’t speak up for many reasons. Maybe they thought that if they let a guy have his way, he would like her. She might become popular if she relented. If she had been physically overpowered by a male, then, of course, her power was taken away in a more violent fashion leading to more psychological scars.

So why now? Why is she coming forward 35 years later? Why can’t she just let bygones be bygones and carry on with her life? Why would she rehash these events now? Is it a political witch hunt? Why can’t we just drop it and look at who he is now? Why bring up the past? I’m going to tell you why.  The obvious answer is that a SCOTUS nominee should be of outstanding moral character. There should not be these kinds of skeletons in his closet. The real reason and most important reason is that the skeleton is out and if we ignore it and give it a pass, we are sending the wrong message to today’s young people.

For 35 years, we have worked very hard to start a conversation about sexual assault. Through the “me too” movement, I learned that most women were affected by unwanted advances and worse, in some way. We are not your playthings. We give ourselves to those we love and those we choose to. It’s our choice, not yours. Blasey-Ford was victimized, just like most of the women I know. We would be sending the wrong message to the males in our society if we swept this under the carpet. We have spent years telling the next generation of girls that their bodies are their own and to boys, “no means no.” Give a pass to someone less important if you want. Women, get your head out of your asses and think about what happened to you. Think about the person who violated you. Let yourself go there, even if it’s uncomfortable.  Think about the future generations. Think about your daughters or granddaughters. Don’t we want better for them?  If you haven’t appropriately dealt with your own sexual assault, that’s on you. Don’t defend a man who did something criminal to one of our sisters. It’s not right. If you think for one minute that we should ignore this, you’re wrong. Women, I urge you to come together in solidarity. Let’s not allow this to be acceptable.

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The Sad Business of Poultry Processing

Last month, I accepted a job working as “Orientation Trainer” at one of the country’s largest poultry processing companies. I had been considering a career move to a Human Resources position and thought that this might be a good career move for me. In my previous job, which was downsized after five years, I had the responsibility of interviewing contractors, submitting paperwork and onboarding them. As Office Manager in a small office, I was in touch with them at all hours and helped them gain an understanding of their job.

So, what is an Orientation Trainer, you ask? First, some background. Poultry processing (a nice euphemism for chicken slaughter and cutting) is not pleasant work. The plant literally stinks. I actually thought I was going to toss my cookies due to the smell. It never did happen because I learned how to breathe through my mouth when walking in certain areas of the plant. The plant is very cold and the employees who work on the production floor perform their tasks repetitively for long hours and are subject to meeting very high metrics. Then there are the employees who work at the “kill plant.” They’re the lucky ones who work mostly third shift stunning and slaughtering the birds.

Poultry processing plants rely on workers who have nothing to lose. Many of the employees I encountered were ex-cons, most have less than a high school education and some are immigrants and addicts in recovery. For the record, I believe that these populations deserve a second chance; however, these companies know that they need a job and exploit them. I also want to state that I believe in a living wage. If you have a family to support, you should be making at least $15.00 hour for a 40-hour workweek, especially in the harshest conditions, such as poultry processing.

The poultry processing plant where I worked will hire you as long as you pass a drug test. You go for a short interview, tour the plant and then discuss jobs available and you must sign an agreement that you have accepted a certain position and this cannot be altered during your probationary period. Orientations begin every Monday and last five days. If you come on a Friday for an interview, you are scheduled for an in-house drug test as soon as possible. If you’re cleared, you begin the following Monday for orientation.

On the first day of orientation, you are asked to read the code of conduct, the employee manual and submit your I-9 documentation. I saw quite a few employees who could not read or write or who could not provide proper documentation. Those who couldn’t produce documentation were cut from orientation. A class of 20 usually dwindled to 15 after the first few days. At orientation, the employees learned that they will be treated like children. They were required to put their phones in a locked box during class. They were also required to answer questions based on the many Powerpoint presentations and videos they watched. Some of these employees were not able to comprehend and missed questions. If you missed the questions, you were reprimanded and asked if you really wanted this job.

Tuesdays through Friday afternoons the class was sent out to the production floor. Water was not provided because the only manager who had authority to purchase it was on vacation. I actually bought drinks for the class on more than one occasion.

Admittedly, I didn’t know much about these kinds of jobs. I had known people who started out working these kinds of jobs when that was all that was available. Some of the people working in jobs like these are older people, people with disabilities and those who have no other choices in life. Those people should not be treated with the kind of disrespect I witnessed. They should be paid better and they should be treated like people with dignity.

So, what does an Orientation Trainer do? My job was to read Powerpoint presentations to the class and show slides while assembling paperwork. I was hired with no experience in the poultry processing industry. I hadn’t even gone on a tour of the plant before I was hired or anytime during my employment. I was the one who was expected to orient the class to the company, yet I had no real-life experience or training to do so. I felt like an outsider, someone who was hired to babysit the class. Many days I was left on my own with a class that had legitimate questions that I was not able to answer. Why wasn’t the job of Orientation Trainer filled from within the company? I’m quite sure there are intelligent, competent adults working in production who would have loved that job and would have done it so much better, as they would have been able to relate their real-life experiences to the class.

I felt bad for my classes. I knew they were being shortchanged by having a trainer who was not trained. I wanted to be able to help them, but in the end, all I could do was help the ones who didn’t read and buy them water when they were thirsty. I hope that they find a job in which they are treated with respect.

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June 25, 2018

I will never forget yesterday as long as I live and have cognition. Yesterday, 6/25/18 is the day that I almost became a widow at the age of 54. Yeah, I know 54 is not young, but it’s not 74 or 84, either.

I now know what it feels like to wonder how I will manage without my husband. To try to remember where he said all of the important papers are. To frantically search through his pants pockets to find his wallet that has his I.D. and insurance card while the paramedics lift his almost lifeless body onto a stretcher. To be the frantic spouse who calls 911 and attempts to calmly explain that her husband is not responsive while wanting to shout, “just get the ambulance here, damnit!” I know what it’s like to sit in the crowded hospital ER waiting room and rehash the previous hour’s events and pray that you don’t see a grim-faced doctor striding towards you.

For over three hours, I didn’t know if my husband was going to live. The outlook wasn’t good. He had not been feeling well and a trip to the ER two days prior was supposed to be the beginning of his recovery.

So much has happened in the past three weeks that it’s almost impossible not to believe that through some sick twist of fate or some carefully orchestrated plans,  I was here for a reason.  You see, I lost my job on 6/12/18. My full-time job was reduced to part-time and then finally it became a no-time job. It’s been a difficult transition, but a transition that has given me the opportunity to be at home and help out around the house. I thought then that perhaps there was a deeper reason or meaning to what was happening. Even prior to 6/12/18, my husband’s health started to deteriorate rapidly and I found myself simultaneously job hunting and trying to hold it together at home.

I accepted a job offer which gave me two weeks before the start date and last week, with the urging of my husband, I planned a trip to visit family out of state. Hubby’s health continued to decline and he couldn’t walk even a short distance without becoming winded. I canceled my trip last Wednesday and didn’t look back. Monday, 6/25/18, was the day I was supposed to be driving 700 miles alone while he stayed behind. Sure, he said, he could make it without me. He’s proud like that and not much scares him. I told him that while I appreciated his unselfishness, I couldn’t leave him.

If I had, he would surely be dead.

Thanks to God or the universe or whoever intervened. He is in the hospital where the experts can hopefully find out what happened. In the meantime, I’ll never forget 6/25/18. I will never forget finally being allowed to see him, not knowing if he would be able to talk or see or breathe on his own. When I turned the corner to his room and saw him sitting up looking at his phone, I have never been more thankful and grateful.

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Racism in 2018

This post is not what some of my readers will expect. I try to present a well-balanced viewpoint. Sure, I am what some may call a liberal. I believe in separation of church and state, the rights of gay people to marry and have/adopt children, keeping abortion legal and safe and I generally “side” with the left on a host of other “hot button” topics.

I want to talk today about what racism is and what it is not. I want to talk about what it looks like and I also want to talk about institutional racism and how that differs from what we all see in our social media feeds and on the nightly news.

Recently I have seen a video circulating of a white woman calling the authorities about a black family barbecuing in the park in California. I have also heard of an incident of another white woman reporting a black student for sleeping in a forbidden area of campus at college. And of course, there is the infamous Starbucks incident where three black men were arrested for allegedly doing nothing.

Many of my friends are circulating these videos and these news stories on social media decrying racism. Is it fair to affix a label of racist to a person because they have a possible legitimate concern with the activities of a person of color? I say no. Is it possible that these incidents were somehow a result of latent racism or simply white privilege in action? Sure, it’s possible. Each one of these incidents and others like them should be viewed individually and with as few preconceived notions as possible.

I will never, ever defend the shooting or maiming of an innocent person by law enforcement. I will not defend name-calling and spewing hatred towards an individual based on the color of their skin, the language they speak or who they choose to love.  Should we ignore minorities who have blatant disrespect for laws, rules and/or ordinances? No, but they should not be singled out, either.

As progressives, it is important to stay focused on what is important. Let’s direct our energy towards increasing the number of Democrats in our local governments. Let’s help struggling families by stocking our food banks and electing school boards that care about public education. Spending time reposting videos and memes of supposed racists does absolutely nothing. It just makes us look as vindicative and mean-spirited as the people we’re shaming.

 

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The cult of Jack Pearson

Jack Pearson is a fictional character. He is the patriarch of the Pearson family, the family many of us have let into our living rooms every Tuesday night. For those avid fans, I have to preface this by advising you not read further if you have not seen the episode that aired after the Super Bowl this past Sunday.  SPOILER ALERT!!!

I watched the episode and like many, cried tears of grief along with Rebecca when she went to Jack’s hospital room and discovered that he did die from a heart attack brought on by smoke inhalation. Rebecca refused to believe the doctor who stopped her at the vending machine to break the bad news of Jack’s untimely and unexpected passing.  Of course, the fans everywhere had been speculating for months about his death, as we had been teased in so many episodes.

Reality aside, I want to talk about the character of Jack Pearson. Why do men and women alike love him so much? Why are millions of Americans sobbing about the death of a fictional character? The obvious answer is that he was relatable. The family is relatable. Blue collar Pittsburghers meet in a bar, fall in love, get pregnant with triplets, lose a baby, gain an African American son (the very same day!), raise children, and deal with life as it’s thrown at them. Jack Pearson, through all of the heartache and all of the family struggles, is steadfast in his love and devotion to his family. He’s a hard worker, he loves and worships his wife, he treats his children with love and respect and best of all, he loves his daughter and constantly reminds her that she is beautiful JUST THE WAY SHE IS. Kate, the daughter, has a weight problem. She is teased by other girls at the pool. Jack loans her his shirt so she can cover up, never once making her feel that she is anything less. He adores his sons Kevin and Randall and never once do you see him raise his voice or lose his patience. He is perfect. He is also the perfect husband, working hard at his job, working around the house, surprising his family with trips and presenting a united front with Rebecca. He is handsome, romantic and always cheerful. The fact that Jack has a drinking problem and is an admitted alcoholic is always tucked away in the series and attempts to show that Saint Jack is not perfect after all. Oh, but I disagree. He goes to AA meetings and readily admits to his ER doctor that he cannot have pain pills because he’s a substance abuser. Jack never sneaks pills. Jack doesn’t look at other women and Jack doesn’t yell at his kids.  Jack ultimately saves his entire family and family pet but in doing so, inadvertently took his own life.

Jack is like Jesus. As you see him emerge from the house in flames, you see him carrying the family dog, rising out of the ashes like a phoenix.

We like to see characters we can relate to and there is something to be said for losing yourself in the life of another family for an hour per week. However, we must be careful. I have heard so many women say that they wish their husbands were more like Jack. I have wished that I had a father who was so accepting. My father has personal issues with weight and he passed that on to me. He is not perfect, but he’s my father and he’s all that I have. I love him despite his faults.  It is so tempting to compare the reality of our own dysfunctional relationships with the relationships we see created for our consumption on television or in the movies. There is a reason women like to read romance novels and that’s fine. If we women heard our husbands longingly wish that we were more like Rebecca, we’d be rightfully hurt. The same goes for our husbands, our sons, our daughters and our fathers. They are real people with faults. They’re not Jack and Rebecca or Randall, Kevin or Kate. I love the Pearsons, too. There isn’t anything wrong with that. It’s when I start to feel sad for my own father daughter relationship that I need to question my own reality and accept it for what is in, warts and all.