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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Turning 41, Champions and Jesus

Tomorrow (Thursday already? Seriously?) is my birthday. I'll be 41. I want to pretend that I'm all Zen and chill about this fact, but instead I am...not. I'm not going to get an 8-ball of blow and grab a couple of hookers, mind you. Well, I don't think I am.

Anyhoo, I have multiple novels to write, and I apologize for sucking so badly at my return to blogging. I plan on carving out some time to write several posts, so that you can be bored out of your mind on a more consistent basis.

Last year, I did a fundraiser for a favorite organization of mine as a birthday celebration. People got to spend money (aka donate) and didn't have to deal with the nightmare that is Southern California traffic to cough up cash on overpriced drinks and questionably sourced food. I've decided to do a fundraiser (of sorts) again this year.

So, if you have a second and a spare dime or two, would you please join me in celebrating the glory of my birth--no, wait. That's douchey. How about we celebrate the painful and beautiful journey from brokenness to wholeness? 'Cuz lawd knows that's a journey we all share. This year, I am supporting the fundraising efforts of Troy Wynn, a 12-year Army veteran (Green Beret!) who is raising money to help support New Directions for Veterans. After Troy left the military to get his business degree, he struggled, as many vets do, with PTSD and depression. He began dabbling with drugs and alcohol to cope, and as the story too often goes, lost control of his life. He became an addict, started committing crimes, and became homeless.

Interestingly enough, this is also Easter weekend. I've written about my faith before and my ever so progressive take on the subject. I don't think about Easter the way most of my Christian brethren do. To me, this season isn't a joyous celebration so much as an acknowledgment that we all suffer unbelievably horrendous things. Combat, rape, poverty, burying a child--these are not uncommon tales. We suffer unimaginable pain, yet somehow, we rise. We take off that death shroud, roll back the stone, and walk back out into all that brightness that destroyed us in the first place. We are scarred, forever changed, but alive. This is the message of Easter to me: You will suffer things you should not be able to survive, and somehow, you will rise. In that resurrection, there is a gift.

Troy survived combat tours and the hell that is war. He found his way to New Directions for Veterans and is now on the path to health and wholeness, with more than 10 months of sobriety under his belt. The gift of that resurrection can be found in his renewed commitment to service. He's found his way back to the champion he is. I would like to celebrate that gift for my 41st bday. It'd be great if you could join me by giving a donation to his Walk for Warriors team.

Thanks, y'all.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dump the Douche

I've written about this before, so pardon me for repeating myself (but it was years and years ago and have I really been blogging that long? Wowza), but it bears repeating. Over and over and over again. Most of the links in the old post still work, FYI.

Mother Jones had an article recently highlighting how big banks are screwing poor folks in California. Bank of (we hate citizens of) America has a deal with the State of CA to provide benefits through debit-type cards. Naturally, there are all kinds of bullshit fees attached to these cards that cut into desperately needed funds. If you're a bleeding heart do-gooder like me, that article is gonna piss you off. You have been warned.

This is how the story always goes with these blood sucking assholes. Fees up on fees upon fees. Shady practices like calculating withdrawals before deposits. Packaging and reselling debt so frequently that folks have no idea who owns their debt to work out payment plans. Illegally foreclosing on homes, particularly among military personnel while they were serving abroad. Oh, yeah, and there was that whole wrecking the economy thing.

Big banks are run by sociopaths who would skin their own mothers if they could get 50 cents for their pelts. I don't care if they are simply playing the game of a "free" market. Their actions are frequently illegal and all too often immoral. Handing over our money to these monolithic douchebags is an act of self-harm. So, despite my previous DGAF supporting ways, I beg of thee: If you are still banking with the big beasts, stop. Dump the douche. Many, many folks have written details on how you can make the switch. Smaller, community-oriented banks are rad, but nothing really beats your local credit union.

I dumped B-holes of America a few years ago and am happy as can be (after getting over the initial screw ups I committed during the switching phase). I get excellent service and have a great rate on my car loan. Most importantly, I am part of a non-profit community-oriented bank that doesn't do heinous things, such as foreclosing on a soldier or marine while he or she is serving abroad (seriously, you demons? Seriously? Soulless bastards!). The switch does take some work, but it's a one-time deal that will ultimately save you money and take yet another tool away from the bad guys. And really, who wants to be a tool for those jerks?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Help Primal Pastures Change Industrial Chicken Production

Hey y'all! Random Friday begging post. Forgive me, but I really want these guys to win this.

My favorite farmers over at Primal Pastures, who supply me with my chicken, beef and lamb, are in a kick ass contest thanks to an amazing adaptation they've made. They are veteran owned, treat their animals properly (you can tour the farm if you'd like) and treat their customers wonderfully. Their grub is amazing, and I'm ever so grateful to have found them. And they need your help! Let me have them tell you about it:

"OK guys - massive favor to ask... There is $15,000 on the line and all you have to do is click below and VOTE FOR US! We have a crazy, rad idea to END FACTORY FARMING and a really good chance to win if you help us out by clicking below and voting for us - no signup required!

You all know that we're super passionate about eliminating factory farms and feeding the world with pastured poultry and grassfed meats. As a family team, we have come up with a massive innovation that will allow super cost effective, automated pastured poultry systems to be installed throughout the world. These systems will heal the land, heal the people, heal the birds, and heal entire countries. We entered our invention to University of Wisconsin and they liked it enough to make us a top 30 finalist and fly us, all expenses paid, to present the idea at a major "International Agricultural Innovation contest next month at UW-Madison. The winner takes home $100,000 and there is also this $15,000 "Audience Choice / Facebook Contest" going on now! The idea takes the Joel Salatin style "floorless chicken tractor" to the next level with a scalable solar powered track system that will allow pastured poultry to become more cost competitive with factory farmed chicken. The goal: END FACTORY FARMING!

So here's what we need: 1. PLEASE share this post with your network. The key story is that this idea could legitimately put an end to factory chicken farming as we know it in the United States. Who wouldn't want that!? 2. Click on the link below and VOTE for us! You don't need to sign up or anything, it all happens through facebook. 3. Comment with any questions below. I would love to show some initial design photos in the comments if anyone is interested."

Pretty sure this is through facebook, so if you have an FB account, click away! Thanks and have a kick ass weekend.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Conscious Frugality: The DGAF Edition

I'm starting to wonder if the forties shouldn't be renamed the DGAF Years. I've certainly mellowed with age, thank the sweet Baby Jesus, and have found that things I was once incredibly passionate about have turned into...well, a bit of "meh."

Age? Health issues? Being tired as hell at the end of most days? Who knows. I have found myself saying fuckit more times than I can even count recently. Here are a few things I actually care about that have somehow managed to get wrapped in DGAF:
  • CAFO meat is the devil (I still order meat off the menu when out a restaurants I know damn good and well don't source their meat responsibly)
  • Toxic chemicals in my body care products (Pretty much everything I use has a storm of ingredients I can't pronounce)
  • Toxic chemicals in my cleaning supplies (Still using the toxic shit my former cleaning lady asked me to buy. Ain't going back to vinegar and water until these neuro toxins are gone!)
  • Fast food companies are run by sociopaths (when I am running late from work and the thought of cooking makes me want to weep, I go to Carl's Jr. The most misogynist piece of shit chain on the planet)
  • Freaky endocrine disruptors in my food  (Bought some pre-made pie dough this weekend with, yet again, tons of stuff I can't pronounce in it)
You get the idea. The kids call this Not Living With Integrity. I call it Shut Your Face You Punk Ass Brat, I'm Tired. I suspect we're both right.

It's hard to be frugal when you're in a DGAF state. The pre-made pie dough, for instance. Not only does it have "natural flavor" on the list of ingredients (urine! The most natural ingredient of all!), it was $4. Do you have any idea how many pie crusts you could make from scratch for $4? Neither do I, but I suspect it's way more than the two I purchased. 

Frugality, particularly of the "conscious" kind, requires energy, planning, and a hefty load of GAF. I'm allowing myself a slow re-entry post Crap 2013, accepting that I will purchase some pre-made stuff to help with cooking at home (onion tart, yo!) over spending more money eating out, or pleaseforgivemesweetjesus, getting grub from Misogynist's Jr. I will allow myself the too frequent dinner out, and I might even use the valet. I'm also going to allow myself to get comfortable with some areas in which I may want to be more frugal, but not enough to push past the DGAF inertia, (guarantee: hate spending money, but always gonna use the valet).

Previously, I would have railed at myself for not being more stringent with my choices. Even the small stuff matters, dammit! Yes, yes it does. But right now, calming the fuck down matters so much more.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

40 Bags in 40 Days

Are you doing it? The world's most awesome and awful Lenten project? 40 Bags in 40 Days is a decluttering challenge over the Lent holiday. Short version: Clean out one area per day over Lent. Donate, toss, sell or recycle unwanted/unneeded goodies, and rest easy in your tidy space. (Try not to choke to death on the dust bunnies.) There is also a facebook group that is absolutely amazing. Brave souls are posting before and after pictures. I used to feel ashamed of my messy space. Not so much anymore. Many of us struggle with clutter and too much crap.

I moved into my studio apartment in 2002 and haven't done a major overhaul since then. That's 12 years of crap, people. Although I wouldn't qualify for an episode of hoarders, I definitely have way too much shit. And I'm don't mean stuff. I mean shit. Crap. Junk. Paper. Fortheloveofmike, I'm drowning in paper.

Last night I cleaned an area that was less than 3 feet long and 2 feet wide. I managed to pull out a 30 gallon trash bag of crap. How that is even physically possible, I can't tell you. I had a small bookshelf in my bathroom, crammed with stuff. Magazines from 2010! 'Cuz that makes sense, right? Hold onto a magazine for four years because of one set of pretty pictures in it? GENIUS.

Anyway, the bathroom book shelf is gone. A few other things are gone. I've managed to get through approximately 1/4 of the apartment thus far. I may move this year, so I am going through everything under the eye of, "Am I willing to pack and move this?" It would appear the response is most often, "no. Why the hell do I even have this?"

I am now trying to get comfortable with empty space. I am like hoarders in that I find stuff to be comforting. The empty space in the bathroom where the bookshelf lived freaks me out a little bit. But I have been a slave to comfort, and my freakish attachment to it rendered me nearly brain dead. Asleep at the wheel of my own life. So I am finding ways to get uncomfortable. Being more social. Got that new job where I have to learn how to write government grants (oy, what a pain!). Going on dates. Dates! Talk about uncomfortable. And staring at empty space, allowing for new possibilities.

My miserable job and marriage made me realize just how scary comfort can be. Usually, we see it as a lovely thing--a warm sweater, a comfy couch, a solid routine. But it can also suffocate us and keep us stuck in places that just plain suck. I'm finding the process of decluttering and being uncomfortable kind of exhilarating. I've been able to give a friend clothes she enjoys, and she's selling what she can't use. Donating goodies to Vietnam Veterans of America so they can make a buck or two for their work. I may sell a furniture item or two, if feasible. Mostly, I just want to get rid of the stuff. I may get some new stuff when/if I move. Maybe not. (I'll save first, fellow frugal folk!) But lawdy, lawdy, is this process difficult and wonderful.

Anyone else out there doing 40 Bags in 40 Days? If so, how's it working for you?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Entering the Barbie Years

My dad always said I would be the first female linebacker in the NFL. To say I was a tomboy is a bit of an understatement. My pops was most proud of me when I was kicking ass, being strong, and taking up space. My sisters got play makeup sets for their birthdays and paid careful attention to dance of attracting boys. I got footballs and bad ass Pat Benatar albums and repeated my father's favorite saying, "You need a man like you need a hole in the head."

All of this means that I entered my adult years with zero girly girl skills and a profound disdain for all things expected of women. Why should I have to do my hair and makeup when all Joe in accounting needs to do is throw on some khakis, comb his hair and show up? Fuck you, patriarchy! You can't tell me what to do!

Like most folks, I mellowed with age. And then something odd happened--I hit my Barbie Years, somewhat late in life. I found myself enjoying girlying up. I didn't feel as compelled to kick ass (not that the two are mutual exclusive, my warrior beauty queens). Unfortunately, I entered these years without any skills. I'm still in the process of learning. This makeup and hair shit is complicated, yo. Women who can use a round brush while blow drying their hair really should win some kind of award. Every time I've tried it I've nearly had to cut the brush out of my hair. I officially threw in the towel on that one.

I'm soon to hit 41, and the Barbie Years are in full swing. I live in dresses, dye my hair a version of its former youthful self, and delight in playing with makeup. It seems I've gone from telling the patriarchy to suck it to embracing this dance I used to think was horseshit. (Well, I still think it's horseshit, but it's fun.) Thankfully, both life stages have delighted me, and my self-esteem has taken a massive boost as of late. One major problem though: Fuck You, I Ain't Wearin' No Makeup is a lot cheaper than all this Barbie Years crap. I'm having a hard time figuring out how to incorporate my "consciously frugal" ways into an industry that is laden with toxic shit. The genuinely "natural" products are mind bogglingly expensive (seriously? $50 for foundation? Do I at least get some oral sex with that?).

My product trove includes the following, beyond basics like shampoo (not doing NoPoo' y'all. Prices are averages): leave-in conditioner ($20); leave-in argan oil ($6); occasionally some mouse ($4); hairspray ($4); foundation ($23); blush ($8); mascara ($8); eye shadow ($5); lip grease, generally 2 varieties ($8-$16); powder ($1); and don't even get me started on the moisturizing products. Granted, a lot of this stuff lasts forever (e.g., eye shadow) and I don't subscribe to the "throw it out every 6 months or you'll die from an eye disease" philosophy, but still. Going from virtually $0 spent to all this noise? Hard on a frugal girl.

I make my own makeup remover/facial cleanser by combining different oils. My skin LOVES it, it lasts forever and doesn't cost nearly what the fancy dancy cleansers cost. I have all the tools (brushes, eye lash curler, etc.). I discovered the $1 Elf line, but I have no idea what the hell is in it or how it is made. Kenya over at Be Well {Groomed!} has great natural, responsibly made products, but dayum, they are 'spensive!

Wow, this is a really long rambling post that essentially says: I don't know how to do this consciously frugal thing in regards to makeup and hair. I want to support small businesses that produce their products responsibly. I'd prefer not to put toxic shit on my face and hair. But given the sheer amount of products this song and dance requires, I can't really afford to go balls out in the expense category. Anyone have any ideas?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Starting Over

This would probably be better titled, "The Point When I Finally Pulled My Head Out of My Ass." But then again, that seems to be a never ending process.

It's doubtful there's anyone listening in this corner of the interwebs anymore, since I have been gone for months and months. But blogging is too often an act of narcissism, so I'll just keep typing, if only to hear the sound of my own keyboard. We'll find our way to chatter and sipping cyber teas again.

2013 lived up to its Chinese name: The Year of the Snake. Old skin was shed, and I spent most of the year on the ground, trying to muster my way through it. I got a divorce, grabbed a new and fun chronic disease, and buried my father. Those were just the most difficult highlights. It kicked the absolute shit out of me. And here I am, sitting pretty in 2014, creeping up on the ripe ol' age of 41, starting over.

I hate to sound like a tired cliche, but I am grateful for all the punches to the gut I survived over the past five years. Each one woke me up from a long and troublesome slumber. I married someone I loved, but who I knew all along was not a good fit, simply because I was tired of being single. I stayed in a job I absolutely hated, because I had convinced myself that I could somehow endure it for the good bennies. I stayed in friendships I found exhausting with people who waved huge red flags in front of me prior to our becoming buddies. I made dumb choice after dumb choice, because somewhere along the way I decided that being nice and knowing how to tough it out was more important than being happy. My misery reached a tipping point, and I cracked open. It woke me up. The process was painful, but living in a state of constant low-grade misery and detachment was (not metaphorically) killing me.

Although 2013 sucked a bag of dicks, 2014 started out with a glittering bang. After I heard yet another insult and yet another threat, I decided I had endured enough at my "good bennies" job and declared that I would be out by year's end. I learned a great deal in my four years there and for that I am grateful, but I will endeavor to never again put myself in a situation like that. I began looking for a different job less than six months into my stay there. It took four years, but the moment I decided that I would get out, BY MUTHERFUCKINGGOD, I did.

But I took a leap. Long ago, I worked for an organization we'll call Domiciles for the Destitute. I loved that job, and it broke my heart. It took me a very long time to get to a point where I could give a shit about work again. I now work for an organization that marries my two passions: helping veterans and the homeless. I Give A Shit about this place in a massive way, and it feels amazing to be fully back in the game. Hell, that's why I started in this do-gooder field in the first place--to help poor folks. The Universe decided to pile on the blessings, because not only am I working for an organization I love (and stalked for two years, trying to get a job), the culture is the complete antithesis of my previous gig. It is the most competent and ethical place I've ever worked. And most importantly, praise the sweet Baby Jesus, my boss absolutely kicks ass. She is a dream. I am so grateful to be here, I want to build altars in praise. Oh, and did I mention I'm making more money? Yeah. That doesn't hurt either.

Relationships that were not a good fit dissolved. I made a commitment to pay attention to red flags in the future and not allow my compulsion to be nice to override my good sense. I lost my mind, of course, and had a decent stretch of "dating" (yeah, that's a euphemism) men I wouldn't normally let clean my car. Praise Allah, that idiocy has left my system (anyone else go nuts after divorce and death?). I went on wild spending sprees and will be paying off that idiocy for the next year. (Note to self: conspicuous consumption cures nothing.) But bit by bit, I woke up.

Here I find myself in a new land. Awake after more than five years, essentially asleep at the helm. I do not have the life I thought I would have. Isn't that such a common experience? Looking at the life you wanted compared to the life you have and making peace. Now I get to enjoy the process of reinvisioning my life and taking steps to make that vision a reality, but this time, fully awake.

My phrases for this year are: Let Go; Consistency; and Calm the Fuck Down. I am starting over with a job I love, friendships with amazingly brilliant people who got me through the worst year of my adult life, a dating experience that has given me hope that the romantic love I want is possible, and an an appreciation for my body that I have never had before. Seemingly common things that most would not think merit much applause. But after the painful process of shedding skin, I realize those gifts are the most important in life, and I am blessed beyond reason.

So, back to blogging it is. Chatting about money, the new journey, and shit I hope we all care about (homeless veterans, yo!). I hope your 2014 is kicking ass. If you're out there, tell me how it's going. I'll grab us some tea.