When he sees older machines being thrown out Brian takes them home and fixes them: it's what he does to relax. He keeps working, tested legacy computers for all of his clients in our attic. He rescued the client within 8 hours, replacing their broken Pentium with a functioning one. Brian's employers are thrilled his does this, and charged the grateful client $1,000.
Brian's employer compensated him the wholesale price of the replacement machine: $483. He spent it on a 42-inch, high def, high-contrast, LED flat-screen television. Sure, we did not actually get the TV until November of 2013 because it was held up in customs due to the "sequester," but we are really enjoying it. We could never have afforded it otherwise.
He hooked it up to our PC. We just spent an enjoyable evening watching YouTube videos of Sting, part of Simon and Garfunkel's concert in Central Park, and James Taylor and Carol King Live at the Troubadour (six minutes from the end they do a duet of "You've got a Friend" that knocked our socks off).
All because I married a man who can spin
Dear Ten Year Old Child Who Shook My Fence in Frustration,
This summer, you were on the small hill next to our front yard, looking at our car, our house, our garden. There was some contrast: your great aunt is renting a house next to ours. We own our house free and clear. Your great aunt works in a department store; her position is easily filled by another and somewhat precarious. My husband has worked for the same company for 36 years and they wonder how they would get along without his skills. Our car, although 15 years old, is well maintained. Your great aunt drives a 21 year old car that may die at any time. And as I well know, renters cannot really establish a garden.
Not all of these things are different because you are black and I am white. Some, but not all. You shook our fence, angrily, in frustration, tears in your eyes. In case any of that was about the contrast between our homes, I want to cry with you ,too, and offer you whatever help I can.
As I understand it, racial prejudice is real and much harsher than the prejudice I ran into working as a woman in a primarily male field. My daughter-in-law is a woman of color, and she says that if you’re a woman, they can treat you like a child. But if you’re black, they can treat you like a thing, like a problem that needs to be solved. I get that. (I see you as a person, by the way – a person that God made and loves, same as me. Everything I write here I write as a Christian and a mother who wants all of God’s children to thrive and succeed. )
There are things you can do to make your life better, and lots of people who want to help you be the person you want to be. But there are forces in your way. I get that, too. You’re poor. What you may not realize is that I’ve been poor: gut wrenching, one-step-from-homeless poor. Wash your clothes in the bathtub because you cannot afford the quarters for the washing machine poor. Denial of water service and no money for oil to heat the house poor. Choosing between rent and necessary medicine poor. Food bank poor. $2 for two kids to buy all my Christmas gifts poor. Living on oatmeal, saving up for six months to buy a 99¢ container of chili powder poor. Even our shoes and underwear came from thrift stores after my ex left me and my sons.
I wish I could talk to you, and tell you that, yes, government programs can be a nice stepping stone, but such programs won’t give you your dignity, ever. What worked for me might work for you, so I am going to try and share.
Where I seem to disagree with the common wisdom is that I do not think that a handout is more than a stopgap measure. I’m 58, and during my lifetime I’ve seen poverty get worse for most people trapped in that cycle. I’ve also seen some exceptions, where people broke out of poverty. They all had these things in common.
Employment and Education. First of all—and I wish someone had told me this when I was a youngster—they understood that a business can only afford to hire you if you make them more money than you cost them. You have to add value. How can you add value? Well, first of all, prove you can finish tasks. A high school diploma does that; it tells potential employers that you finished something important. If you’re in a bad inner city school get a GED, since it sends the same message.
As to where you can add value, what are you good at, what do you love? Employers love people who are enthusiastic about their work, where it’s not just a paycheck to them. Don’t spend money on college if a trade school is where your heart is. In fact, unless you see a job with a shortage, don’t consider college at all. My husband has technical certifications & licenses instead. Those are cheaper and require you to keep up in your field, which means more job security.
I went to college, but I found a career no one else wanted to do that required it, in a field that had a shortage of workers. Then I tailored my studies toward that career . . . while raising three kids as a single mom and working a full and part time job. It’s a good thing I loved what I chose to do with my life because it gave me the energy to handle all that.
Government Programs are Not Your Only Recourse. Yes, I had subsidized after-school childcare, but no food stamps or help with the rent or any of that. I’m not saying I would have turned down more help if they offered it, but all I can tell you is what happened to me. Most of the help I got was from private agencies: F.E.G.G.S. helped, that;s a Jewish charity that works with single moms (I am not Jewish); Catholic Charities helped (I am not Catholic, either), and I had a church that had a food pantry and other mothers who shared hand-me-downs. A thrift store helped me with clothes and toys for the kids, too. And these private agencies did not make me jump through hoops via some bored, impersonal government bureaucrat who treated me like dirt. They treated me like a person. The government agencies I applied to would have stripped me of my dignity; had I qualified, the support was not enough to live on and I would have had to lie about other sources of income, money from doing childcare or cleaning houses off the books. I would have had to lie every month. Where is the dignity in that?
Be a Father and Husband. Your great aunt is supporting her mother, her daughter, her daughter’s baby, and her teen grandson. I had to support three children. Part of why she is poor and I was poor is that the menfolk are not being fathers. I don’t know what your great aunt’s story is, but too often the menfolk walk away and let “the government” provide for their wives and kids. The government is a lousy provider.
I’m not saying there are not times you have to walk away from a bad marriage, but stay if you at all can. Those who I’ve seen rise out of poverty treated marriage as a commitment of their will, and they did not expect the first feelings of love to flutter in their hearts for all eternity. They grew up rather than chasing feelings. Don’t buy the Disney lie that the right person will “make you happy,” and don’t marry a gal that believes you can make her happy, either. No one else can make you happy but you. If you want to avoid poverty, find a frugal woman and stay married to her. Your kids will need you. And you’ll discover you need them, too. The hell with all the songs and movies and stuff that either tell you to go out and party pr have sex with no consequences. You want out of poverty? Be a man.
Avoid Debt. Not all white people have money. Most of those on welfare, in fact, are single white mothers (see “be a man,” above. It applies to white folks, too.) I’ve been unemployed for four years now. The only reason we are at all comfortable is that we live within our means. I mean, if we have to eat beans and cannot afford meat, we do not put the meat on credit. Signing up for any kind of credit is walking into slavery: the credit card company or the bank ends up owning you.
So what if you bring your lunch or dinner from home when others eat at Mickey D’s? So what if your clothes are not the latest thing? So what if they “ go out” and you stay home? (and don’t even get me started on the wastes of money that are drugs and booze and cigs.) So what if your place is small and your car is old but serviceable? So what if most of your furniture comes from relatives ,thrift stores or garage sales? Learn to care more about what your bank account looks like that what your friends, family, and neighbors think. Financial security is freedom.
Learn how to make and fix things. I used to change my own spark plugs, back when cars needed that much more often, and change my own oil. I sew and mend things, I repair an awful lot of stuff with just a glue gun, and I learned how to make my own things like bookshelves. Paint makes old walls and furniture look new. My husband learned to fix his own computers and other devices – off the internet—and if you do not have internet there is always the internet at the library to look up how to do things. You can do more than you think you can, and it’s deeply satisfying to save money.
One of the biggest places to save money making things is to learn cook at home. Many easy things to cook take as much time as a trip to a fast food restaurant, and are usually much cheaper than in a restaurant. And you can control how much salt and fat go into homemade meals. Think about it: which of the following deals makes more sense? 1. Buy twelve egg sandwiches with coffee at a restaurant for $2 each? (total, $24) or 2. Make 12 egg sandwiches with coffee at home for $8, total. That $2 breakfast special doesn’t look so special when you realize how much cheaper it is at home, does it? Or how about this: 1. A fast food special bucket of chicken with two sides (let’s call them mashed potatoes with gravy and cole slaw or green beans) and a 2L drink is $20, and although they say it feeds eight you’ll be lucky to feed six. 2. The same amount of chicken, with double the sides, is $8 made at home.
Be content with what you have. Can you name all of the ten commandments? One of them a lot of people forget is “Thou shalt not covet.” Covet is an old-fashioned word for want, as in wanting what others have. It is perfectly okay to want to earn your own way, but being envious and dissatisfied is a sure ticket to unhappiness. And, yeah, I know you are fighting an uphill battle regarding race sometimes. Coveting what others have is not going to help you win that battle, and it has NEVER helped anyone I know climb out of poverty, white or black. That’s what’s wrong with liberation theology: some churches preach that income inequality is the greatest evil, but they are forgetting something. It involves a quote a lot of people get wrong that really bugs me, because it is so important to get it right. Money is not the root of all evil, the love of money is. And you do not have to have money to covet it. Many poor people love money (or looking like they have money) more than the richest people in the world. It can make them do incredibly wrong things. People are more important than things. You’re more important.
So anyhow, kid, I offered your cousin, the teen your great aunt is raising, a part time summer job, and we let him use our internet for school until they could afford their own. We helped your great aunt when she had a problem with the water company, and we fixed her daughters computer. You’ve never been inside our house, but we furnished the place with hand-me-downs, garage sale and thrift store items, hand-sewn things, and love. If you ever need help with a school report, I’m pretty good at English, and if you need help with math or science, my husband is great at those. These are things I have some control over. Don’t shake our fence in frustration and tears about the inequalities. Lets break down the fences, the walls. We are all God’s kids.
We love your cousin and your great aunt, and you. We want to get to know you. It’s not just who you know in the white-dominated world, don’t let your friends tell you that. It’s who you are. You look like a pretty cool kid and there are lots of people, black and white, who want you to succeed. I’m one of them.
Your neighbor, the gardening lady.
I was especially pleased that Ender's Game had nothing of that “special effects for special effects sake” sensibility that has marred so many recent films. The special effects completely served the story. In fact, I do not believe this story could have been adequately told on the screen without today’s post-Inception techniques: the scenes in weightlessness, especially. The effects gave it visual scope. This is a Big Screen movie, and I--normally a person to wait for things to come out on TV--heartily recommend you see it in theaters, if you can.
The emotional scope of the movie was as good as the novel's: better, in that the dragging pace of the end of the novel was not even hinted at. I saw reviewers who thought the bullying and young people fighting were disturbing, to which I reply that it's supposed to be disturbing. Card was making a negative comment on the human condition almost as profound as the culmination of the plot. That was the theme: the evil we can do in the name of good and self-preservation.
While I was fully aware of the devastating secret at the end of the film, my husband had forgotten it. I was able to appreciate the story knowing what shock it led up to while he was blissfully unaware of what was coming. He called the secret at the end a "gut punch." I was very pleased that he experienced the film on that level. This is how a person who had not read the novel will react. Please – this is like "The Sixth Sense" in that spoilers make it a whole different experience for the film-goer. I hope none of my “in-the-know” friends let on in advance what devastation and hope await Ender.
* Work: My ethical disagreement with my ex boss meant I was effectively unable to work in my field, and no details but that's a shut door. I did some soul searching and decided to put the money I was going to spend on Worldcon on getting credentialed in a new field. (Being offline also kept me away from all the painful "I'm not there" online brouhaha about the Con and the Hugo Awards. Dammit,. I missed you all. Congrats to the winners, a week late.)
* Physical health: My blood pressure is much higher this year, and I made an appointment with a cardiologist to deal with this worst part of my genetic risk legacy. Oh - and guess what? I found out why I am such a lousy typist and screw up dates for things. Dyslexia. *sigh* I had to stop living at my old insane NY pace before things got quiet enough to see a pattern to the symptoms, and not jut blame it on sheer overworked exhaustion. http://www.dyslexia.com/library/adult-s
* Step-daughter's fixer-upper: On August 3 my step-daughter bought a house, "as is" from a bank and has to have it ready for both her mother (my husband's disabled ex wife has nowhere else to go) and a renter by Oct.1 It has not helped that the heat pump (A/C) was broken, there is a major leak in the slab that requires re-piping through the attic, it had carpenter ants, and more. Brian's been there most days after work and I've been helping him and painting. One last push and the nest will be empty. Who had time for social media or a con? My contributions to the rehabilitation are over, finally.
So today I caught up on the housework read back through LJ until I hit the Hugos. Tomorrow I read back a bit on Facebook, then work on A&A things. On Sept 12th I start back to school toward a Master Gardener title and a certificate in Landscape Design & Horticulture. Onward.
Let's take a minute here to talk about the prevalence of mile-marker streams, too. Ten Mile Creek is ten miles west of Columbia, SC and Twelve Mile Creek is . . . you're catching on. There are mile-marker creeks at obvious distances from most larger towns here.Cartography is often a numbers game in the Deep South.
I find it utterly fascinating that this sort of thing is no longer being tolerated in silence simultaneously with a very public anti-bullying
crusade. Perhaps we, as a culture, are waking up.
In this article, "I was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl," a Dr. Who fan talks about one of the alternatives film and novels give young women as an alternative to the rather one-dimensional objectified Blonde Bombshell. Typified by the Doctor's companions, at one time she modeled herself on the rather two-dimensional Manic Pixie Dream Girl. It's a supporting role. Eventually she wanted to star in her own life.
"I stopped being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl around about the time I got rid of the last vestiges of my eating disorder and knuckled down to a career. It’s so much easier, if you have the option, to be a girl, not a person."
That was my experience, too, minus the eating disorder. And, she goes on to say:
"It’s definitely easier to be a girl than it is to do the work of being a grown woman, especially when you know that grown women are far more fearful to the men whose approval seems so vital to your happiness."
I stopped applying for supporting roles when my ex-husband, the "man whose approval who was so vital to my happiness," had run off with another woman--several other women, in fact...all right. anything in a skirt--after he'd already made sure he'd done all he could to crush my soul with indifference and neglect for ten years prior to that. I'd come to the very logical conclusion that leaning on anyone else for my happiness was a losing proposition. Favorite songs became "You Gotta Be" and especially, Billy Joel's "My Life" where he says:
They will tell you, you can't sleep alone in a strange place
Then they'll tell you, you can't sleep with somebody else
Ah, but sooner or later you sleep in your own space
Either way it's okay to wake up with yourself
So. Waking up with myself, I spent 20 years alone after my ex left. You might say I've had time for some introspection. And one thing I got right was spending time on finding out who I was before committing to a second marriage. I married someone who supports my writing, editing and genre roles. If he comes home and I feed him toasted cheese sandwiches and canned soup for dinner because I was plowing through slush or writing several chapters of a non-fic book or polishing a short for submission or working on a rewrite for an A&A author...he's not only cool with that, he's proud.
The author of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl article seems not so lucky. She says, "You cannot be a writer and have writing be anything other than the central romance of your life, which is one thing they don’t tell you about being a woman writer: it’s its own flavor of lonely. Men can get away with loving writing a little bit more than anything else." And women can't? Not necessarily. But you need a real man who is no longer a boy and appreciates a woman rather than a girl, or a fantasy.
Luckily, just as I suspected when a started seriously looking for a new husband at the age of 50, you;'re more likely to find such a man when he is older and more experienced.
Consider this a belated (very) Happy Fourth Wedding Anniversary post. If you're older and single, don't assume you can't find someone. And don't settle for someone who belittles you, ever.
"These are not the assaults, the beatings, the rapes. These are not the traumas. These are small things, mostly; they happen a hundred times a day, you have to deal with them all. To ignore these is to know they’re collecting little victories of privilege, and to wait for “baby” to turn to “bitch” when you don’t answer. To respond almost always risks escalation, telescoping the amount of time you’ll have to deal with it. Either can be dangerous, if the man has a mind.
"You’ll have to assume you’re operating alone; a dozen men at that bus stop will stand and watch the man with his iPhone out; when he threatens at length to rape and murder you for telling him to fuck off, they will stand and watch as you try to dial the cops with one eye on his fists. They’ll tell the bus driver you were making a scene. Sometimes that’s how you deal with it.)
"Either way, when you tell the story, someone will suggest you should have taken the opposite tack. (This is an equal-opportunity moment; the whole world is invited to question women, and this is an easy win for anyone – to keep quiet is wrong, to engage is wrong.) If you don’t tell the stories, they stack up in silence, and they weigh. You have to deal with that, too.
"All of these moments are claims on you. This process is always running; it takes up a variable but dedicated percentage of your active memory. This process is mandatory; your operating parameters haven’t been designed otherwise."
If I may, I'd like to talk about what that process is for my subcategory of female. Genevieve is gorgeous. She's beautiful. She streaked like a glittering meteor through the glamorous people I met at the 2012 Locus Award Weekend. All that she says in her post is right, and valid and true. But my perspective is skewed by a simple fact. I'm not beautiful.
My body type has never been the cultural ideal of some sort of slim model, buxom Barbie, or elfin grace. I'm large boned and have struggled with my weight my whole life. I would have made a good farmer's wife; the polite term for someone like me was "handsome." I suppose I was tolerably better looking in my teens and twenties, enough to suffer a rape in my home town and sexual harassments on the NYC subway of my own at any rate. But usually, I was scorned. I'm not saying I envy those who go through constant sexual harassment, who are treated as if they were sexual objects to be casually abraded by any passing male with a whim to do so. But it might have been nice if, once in a while, someone cared one way or another if I lived or died. Being raised in a home with an alcoholic father also painted a great big "Victim" sign on my chest that took years to erase. Still, I came to the conclusion early that people were people, humans came in male and female, and both were worthy of kindness and respect. I just never got much of that respect back from a world completely swept up in appearances. I was unlovely. I was not a brag-worthy conquest. Nothing to see here, move along.
This is not a request for pity or reassurances. It's a very naked look at how the unlovely can retreat into silences and emotional deadness. Dealing with it? I eventually dealt with being female (and unlovely) by not giving a rat's rear end what anyone thought. I cultivated a dangerous indifference to what any harassing male might say or do to me. I took martial arts, and I learned to fight very dirty, physically dirty and verbally venomous - but only if provoked. My normal defense mechanism was to draw into myself, and to lash out only when coddled or belittled. Not all of it was because I was female: God knows, the new guys on any job or in any situation have to prove their worth. But because keeping people at arms length was safer than letting them in.
So I always expected some men to behave badly, and some women, too. I never have suffered fools gladly. At ten a wrestled a 12 year old harasser to the ground and pushed his face in the dirt. At 12 I broke a harassing 14-year-old's nose*. At 18 I carried a pointy umbrella to jab into anyone trying to hump me on the subway in the rush hour, which happened all too frequently. At 30, I confronted my rapist** and threatened to break his nose. At 35, my husband left me, saying he'd only married me because he thought no one else would take him. Seriously, that said more about him that it did about me. And I knew it, but it still hurt.
And all I wanted to do was have a nice, feminine life - to be appreciated for being me. I wanted to read books and arrange flowers, decorate a home and wear perfume and not be treated like a freak for thinking I could have that when I was not "pretty."
Eventually, I reached the top of my field in one of the most respected professions, engineering, in a male-dominated industry: construction. I was asked to run Abyss & Apex and when I shared that with my face-to-face crit group, and for the very first time in my life I saw the respect of my friends in their eyes. And little by little the respect of my colleagues and friends in SF & F and construction engineering allowed me to come out of my angry shell.
For me, there's a happy ending. My Brian and I are very happy, Abyss & Apex is respected, and I had the satisfaction of being a female trailblazer in my field. But I'm still a little unbalanced by the kindness of my friends in the genre. I love you all. Please see past appearances for the next generation of genre people coming up. Not all of them are beautiful. Most, however, are gorgeous inside. And I love you Genevieve, for speaking out. You're gorgeous - inside and out.
* Both times to defend a defenseless younger girl.
** My husband and I had a discussion about whether or not to make this post "friends only" due to the mention of rape, but I decided that shame should stick to the rapist, not the victim. Every time a woman (or man) acts as if their rape was the rapist's fault it lifts a burden off other victims. So this is public.
We are using my LLC for all this;it's all open and above-board and legal and on the books. Projections show that this side venture will replace our missing income from when I had to quit working for my ex boss, so yay!
- Current Mood: happy
We found this out when we noticed she was looking at houses online. Maggie has been at the same company 13 yeas and is considered a good risk for a mortgage. Houses here are cheap, and she is pre-qualified to get a loan on small one. So she's been looking. The financial education involved in her getting her own car and paying her own insurance and slowly paying more and more of her own way has left her an independent adult. Brian thinks his daughter learned a great deal as my "apprentice" and that she has the skills now to run a household and not be taken in by her mother's financially grasping ways.
What's odd and touching is how much Maggie is carefully spending time with me as if she will miss me. I will miss her, too.