Saturday, February 14, 2009

Running Away from Home

I packed my bag. I packed the dog's bag. I made two sandwiches and brought the dog food. I grabbed an apple and the GPS. I was running away from home.

You might ask, "Why?"

Here goes.

I live in Vermont where it's very cold and snowy. We've had about two feet of snow on the ground since Christmas. I look out my bedroom window on a beautiful white rolling lawn dotted with trees covered in white cotton candy. One foot down below my bedroom window is the roof of the porch -- the maghogany porch that runs the length of the house. That roof has been layered with snow since December.

Between Wednesday and Tuesday the weather pattern broke. We finally received our "thaw." We usually get at least one thaw -- a warm spell of a few days (and by warm I mean 40-50 degrees) in January, and one in February. I guess we must not have paid our January dues. Anyway... the snow began to melt. This is a little tricky because at night it gets cold again, which means ice forms. And then it rained and we had an skating rink on that porch roof.

I said to my husband, Steve, "Please do not go on the roof. It's two inches thick. Abso-f'ing-lutely do not go out on that roof when I'm not home."

This is not the first time I've asked him to quit the dangerous behavior of going on the roof when nobody's home. Does that make any sense? He's in good shape, but he's soon to be 69 years old and he has had one heart attack. I don't think anybody should be on a roof or even a tall ladder when nobody's around to get help should that person fall. To me, that's common sense.

I have had to deal with Steve practicing a lot of unhealthy behavior and it doesn't make me happy. He fails to wash dishes with hot water. He doesn't want to turn on the heat when it's freezing (and I mean below zero). He turns down the flame on the hot water heater when I'm not looking. And he'll eat stuff that has mold or fuzz. He drives on his tires 'til his son calls them "baloney flaps." I know. I know. He's frugal. But at what cost? Where frugal stop and unhealthy begin? He worries that the ice on the roof will damage the porch. I get that. But we can hire somebody or he can wait until I'm home.

I drove off to school in a drizzle at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday morning. Steve would be leaving for his job at 7:30 a.m. I would be home around noon -- with the next week off for Winter Break (I love being a college professor). I looked forward to a mellow "time off."

Every day I get home, the first thing I do is take Casou, our dog, out to relieve his bladder. He'll jump up and down, kiss me a lot, and head for the door -- all 15 fluffy white pounds of him.

Thursday, I followed him across the porch to the side steps, right below our bedroom window. And what do you think I saw all over the ground?


I knew. And I was furious. My very first thought was -- I want to run away from home. I want to drive as far as I can go. Right now. Really. I could see myself in the car, just going.

I grabbed my phone and tried to call his cell. Then I called him at work. And I couldn't have been more angry. Ever.

That's when I packed the car and left.

But I had no idea where to go. I've lived in Vermont for eight years and I don't think I have any friends. Not the kind you drop in on with an overnight bag and cry and vent anger. And who would "get" this, anyway? Everyone thinks Steve is a pussycat. No, I saw myself in a hotel for a couple of days, eating from room service, reading books, walking the dog, and not sleeping.

I drove to my favorite places: Michael's, JoAnn's, and the public library. I might have driven to Burlington but that's north and the roads are always a surprise this time of year. I would have driven south, but I wasn't in the mood to shop, and Manchester is about all that's south, unless I was truly serious about going to Disneyland... DisneyWorld.

I dithered and wandered. One good thing: I didn't eat my way through this problem. That's a plus. I just moped and mumbled and kissed Casou a lot.

I returned home about six o'clock. I didn't talk to Steve. I told him to just keep away from me. I slept in the guest room -- and that's not my style. I went to bed at 11:30 p.m. and woke at 11:47 a.m. -- 12 hours of sleep -- Casou right along with me. Sign of depression? I yawned all day, yearning to go back to sleep. I don't know why I'm so upset and why I have inaction written all over me. My heart is just weary. I still won't give Steve even a hug. I've talked to him about mundane things, but I haven't moved past my anger.

And he knows he "screwed up." But he acts like a little boy digging his toe in the dirt and not looking at me, and making excuses. But how does that lead to change? I want to hear an admission of realization. A mature admission and a sincere request for forgiveness. He broke my trust. He can't go on the roof and he needs to rethink other unhealthy practices -- for my sake if not for his. I feel as if I always lose out to material things. To money. I can't see that as viable for two people who love each other. We need to trust that we'll both do the right thing for each other -- even on the smallest stuff, or what the heck can we trust with the larger issues?

Goes to show. No matter how old you are, how long you've been together, or how secure you feel, relationships are hard. It's Saturday and I'm still trying to figure out how to get past this heavy feeling. I'm sure I'll be able to deal with it eventually. I love Steve.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Holy Stimulus, Barackman!

Is that a bit irreverent? I mean, he is now Mr. President. I realize more than a few of us think of Barack Obama as our candidate, our go-to guy, that regular dude with the cool style. Maybe we have to step back and collect ourselves a bit? The mantra needs to go something like: He's the President, President Obama, Mr. President. We'll have to all cut the "Yo! B.O.!" stuff.

Meanwhile the Stimulus Bill rolled out of the Senate, a little light and skewed. And I soooo don't get it. Okay, I get the whole "we don't have enough votes" to pass it. But... I swear, if you're a Democratic Senator or Congress-person, and you can't understand how popular the President is, how unpopular the Republicans are, and how MUCH you need to get in line... well, I hope I can send some money to your next primary competitor.

Get On Board!

I just listened to a complete dipshit, Senator Ben Nelson (D) of Nebraska. This guy must have 24/7 nurse care, because surely he cannot find his butt with two hands. I hope he is the one who gets the car and driver -- no way this guy should operate even a Cuisinart. Rachel Maddow interviewed him and you should have seen her face -- a blend of incredulity and freaking out. The guy was so proud of himself for cutting the spending in a bill designed to SPEND MONEY.

If you do not understand the problem, here's how it goes. No money is flowing anywhere right now. And the spiral is... no buying widgets, widget company closes, jobs are lost -- not just the widgetmakers, but the little donut shop on the corner next to the widget company headquarters (and the dry cleaner, deli, shoe repair...all local business that go under because one larger employer folds or cuts back employees). Then the former employees have no income and their pensions are shot because the Big Bad Banks lost it all in the crash. So, the former employees CAN'T: buy food, pay their mortgage, make their car payment (afford their car insurance -- doing without seems wise) get that loan for junior to finish college. Forget going to the movies, subscribing to netflix, or going out to dinner. Restaurants cut staff and maybe (like the Weathervane) close. Pretty soon the grocery store has to layoff 1/3 of their crew and colleges have to layoff adjunct professors (eeeek! like me). The former widget-guy husband, wife and four children lose their health insurance and quit getting check-ups. Dental? That's been cut long ago. The family dog? Left at the shelter.

You can see how this keeps building? Or not? Want more? Okay, you asked for it.

Widget guy and his family now have no income. When it comes time to pay taxes -- they make too little to pay. Oops... the state's coffers are drying up! What does the state cut? Road work. Extra cops and fire personnel. Teachers (hey! kids love being one of 35 in a class). And with every job cut, the state loses money in the long run. The more people who aren't working, the less money will be paid in taxes. If a family has to leave a home through foreclosure -- where do they go? And, again, tax revenue -- this time for local government -- decreases.

If you learn about what makes stimulus stimulating, it's rather common sensible. We can go back to Ronald Reagan and see that infrastructure has been neglected since the onset of the philosophy/guise of "government is the problem." Yeah, those pesky bridges, and roads, and power lines, and electrical grids, and transit systems!! Trash, water, sewer -- the basics. Sidewalks, parks, buildings, museums, libraries. NEGLECTED. Come on! It's the 21st Century for goodness sake. Aren't we supposed to be modern?? Why are we still driving cars that use fossil fuels, heating homes with fossil fuels, and producing energy with fossil fuels??? You can blame the oil companies and the car manufacturers -- but somehow, somewhere, we are all going to have to CHANGE.

Here's a really simple one. Why does the electricity go out in large areas of the country when we have a storm? A frigging storm. A storm we know is coming every winter.

Every school, hospital, fire and police department, city/county/state admin building, and health clinic should have new technology. EVERY. (large/small/rural/urban and in between). Every community should have a library where citizens can access information. We own the airwaves -- the television companies and the cable companies and the Internet providers do not own the broadband. We, citizens of the United States of America, own and rent those rights.

Stimulus means spending money on those projects -- and other projects that will put people back to work. And get paid. And pay taxes. And buy food, clothing, goods and services. Money is circulated, local businesses return and/or see profits again, and can hire new employees -- who work, pay taxes, buy stuff, and.... the circle begins to widen. Save money, buy stocks and bonds, invest in the future.

Tax breaks for big honking corporations do NOT create jobs. Give Exxon more money? What do you think they will do with it? Trickle down economics is a FARCE. It has NEVER worked. NEVER. Give the billionaires tax breaks? What will they do with it? Do you think they will give more to charity or buy more widgets? No. They will go to Paris and buy escargot.

And we haven't even talked about POOR PEOPLE. They are so far off the radar at the moment so as to be INVISIBLE. We've been talking about guys on the line in Detriot and women working for Lehman Brothers or Sears. We've been talking about people who OWNED homes, now losing homes. What if you could never afford a home? What if you were always living in a little apartment with your two kids and your mom? What if you never finished high school and are a waitress at Denny's? And Denny's has to cut your hours because nobody is eating out during a Depression (don't kid yourself about "recession" because that's just a fancy word to stave off your fear) (and you should be afraid).

Food stamps and welfare are the most stimulating stimulus on the planet. Poor people spend the money. They don't go to Paris. They don't take care of their horses. They take care of their kids. If they get a rebate or a break, they take care of the long list of needs. They go to the doctor or dentist. They buy their kids new shoes. They buy food. They won't go out to dinner or buy a new car, but they will support local business; they will circulate the money. And that is what you want in a Depression.

Time and time again economists tell us that SPENDING money on real jobs and projects, on welfare and food stamps, on health care provisions for poor women and children will stimulate the economy 1.75 times more than a tax break. Tax breaks actually lose money for the government in the long run (we dole out and don't get any revenue in return for a tax break).

With stimulus spending, we not only create jobs, income, and self-esteem. We have the added value of the finished project: roads, bridges, grids, schools, sidewalks, museums, waste water systems, green technology, new fuels, and so much more. If we give Exxon a tax break, we only get more oil. You do the math.

Stimulus is SPENDING. I believe ignorance -- economic ignorance is afoot at the Circle K. And that means... our Republican brethren are either woefully ignorant (seriously, they act like it) or they are clinging to some mythological conservative ideal that does not exist. I hate to break it to them but Ronald Reagan raised taxes AND amassed the largest deficits and grew the government more than any other president, up to the Big Failure that is W. The great god Ronald Reagan was no more fiscally conservative than George W. Bush. Just because you distain abortion and gay marriage and love guns, doesn't mean you are fiscally conservative. And W. came into office with a Surplus. And who left him a smaller government with a Big Surplus? A Democratic president, Mr. Clinton. And if you do your research, you will find that Democratic leadership tends to post good numbers. And post good numbers while balancing the philosophy that we ARE responsible for each other, we ARE our brother's keeper, we ARE a community.

The bottom line? This Stimulus Bill will pass. And no thanks to a bunch of Republicans that haven't put on idea forward that would work and haven't supported the American worker on anything. Who do these people think actually MAKE the products that sustain the Billionaires? What do these Republicans think that last election was about? They squandered our resources, our army, our values, our good will around the world. They ruined the country. They cut protections for workers, stripped the environment of protections, and decimated the banking and investment systems in this country. And now they have the gall.... the unmitigated gall... to vote no and smile and think they've done something noble? What's so noble about dismissing the widgetmakers of the public so that you can hang out with your cronies and fund-raising fat cats, sipping martinis, smiling ruefully, and patting your own back for your "accomplishments"?

Pay attention to who is working for you, the little person. Pay attention to who cut the funds for education or who wanted to add a tax break for billionaires. And the next time that Senator or congress person is up for election, send money to his or her primary opponent or volunteer to help at the grassroots level. Or just talk civilly to everyone you know -- about changes that need to be made.

Write letters. Send email. Make phone calls. You're in the spiral, even if you can't feel it now. This is touching every heart. And if you aren't part of the problem, you truly need to be part of the solution.

And be PROUD of the new President of the United States. He speaks in complete sentences. He thinks on his feet. He doesn't pack his town meetings with all one kind of people (and we know who did that for 8 years). He is not afraid of opposing ideas. He has an intelligent, mature sense of humor. He exudes grace and calm and responsibility. He is real and his wife is real and his children are real. He is working for you and me and everybody in the USA -- no matter what political party, race, creed, or gender. He is Mr. President -- President Barack Obama.