Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Cruelty ≠ Love

This was on my Pinterest feed, and because negative comments are not what Pinterest is about, I have to say it here. This is an absolutely terrifying expression of love. Why anyone would consider this romantic is beyond me. "Pretend you're going to throw her in the pool. She'll scream and fight you but secretly she'll love it." "Tickle her, even when she says stop. When she starts swearing at you, tell her you love her." "Get her mad, then kiss her."  What kind of shit is that? She is NOT going to secretly love it - when she says no, she fucking MEANS IT! If you're in a relationship with someone who treats you like this, get out because he/she will throw you in one day.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

"Half that tree, a phone book, and a broken arm, that's all we had left."

FEMA is people.

People like the family in rural Alabama whose entire life disintegrated in the wind. The title of this post came from them. They are trying to rebuild, living in a FEMA trailer and getting regular visits from case workers who work with them to find a permanent place to live. Except thanks to Republicans, now they might not.

People like the students in northwest Alabama whose high school, the one thing that holds the town together, was ripped apart. They’re meeting in temporary buildings right now, provided by the good citizens of the United States of America by way of FEMA. Because of Republicans in Congress, a new school building is now uncertain.

People like me and those I work with in Birmingham, Alabama. FEMA has a policy to hire local people for disaster recovery. It’s good pay although the hours are brutal-when I started back in May it was 12 hours a day 7 days a week.

The local jobs are the silver lining to a disaster like the April 27 tornadoes. I was able to get off unemployment. Some of my co-workers can pay off student loans. Now our jobs are in jeopardy and the people we are working to help are left hanging.

The people who work for FEMA in disasters are not regular federal employees. Some are reservists who are deployed to a disaster like a flood in Fargo or a tornado in Missouri, away from their families for months so they can help someone else. Some are local hires like me, who can connect with their communities.

They are case managers, who work with individuals and families who have suffered enormous losses to try and regain a sense of normalcy. They are crisis counselors, who go out in the community, sometimes door to door, to help heal the psychologically wounded.

Here in Alabama and across the county, we have seen amazing responses from volunteers and donors. We help each other here, and we are justifiably proud of how far we’ve come. But that doesn’t mean it’s all we need.

Federal disaster assistance, in the form of grants and loans and people, is how all our citizens pitch in to help.

Republicans (including the ones in Alabama and Missouri and Virginia and Texas and all those other places blown away or washed away or burned up) believe that corporations are people but federal agencies aren’t. It’s a fallacy at best and a cruel and vicious lie at worst.

We are Americans and we care for each other. FEMA is people.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The first thing you notice is the sky

The lights didn’t even flicker at our house the afternoon of April 27. The cable TV stayed on. That morning, when the squall line came through, the trees came down a quarter-mile from our house, but we just heard hail and hard rain while we hunkered downstairs. Then the sun came out but the warnings kept coming and so we watched.

We watched the snaky funnel cloud exploding through downtown Cullman just a mile from my in-laws’ house. We held our breaths when the sky-cam went out and we had no idea where the storm was going. It headed away from them, the weather guy said, and we relaxed for a moment.

But then another monster emerged and it was on a direct path to Tuscaloosa. Both our daughters were there. Anna was in her dorm. Genevieve went to a friend’s house, taking her dog and her computer. We were in Bluff Park, 45 miles away and all we could do was watch. For long minutes a ravenous cloud sunk its fangs and talons into the city. Pieces of people’s homes and lives spun like so many angry wasps in the funnel. All I could do was watch and wait and hope.

The campus was fine, but Genevieve’s neighborhood was devastated. I watched the video taken in the mall parking lot and that monster was right over her house. I saw no way it had survived and we consoled each other that at least she had her dog and her computer but her Little Blue Haus was most likely gone. Her dad got in the truck and drove to Tuscaloosa in the rain and went there and her landlord was already on site and miraculously although all the trees were gone, the house still stood.

It was not until this past Thursday that I truly saw the destruction. I’d already made four or five trips – I’ve lost count – but this was different. I drove up Hargrove and all of a sudden there was nothing there. I could see the sky because all the trees were gone and all the houses were gone. It looked like an African plain after a drought, like a forest after a wildfire. We’re accustomed to seeing houses and trees at eye level and now it was just wide open sky, an unnatural desert with formations of lumber and shingles and crushed metal.

Genny’s house has one of those search and rescue X’s on the window. Hers has 0/0 for no injuries, no deaths. A few doors down, it’s 0/1. My in-laws lost all their trees, and their outbuilding, and their gazebo but not their house. I think sometimes about what could have happened. If that tornado had veered a few degrees then campus would have been hit and Anna would have been buried under tons of rubble. A few degrees a different direction, and Genevieve would have been homeless. A slight variation of wind direction and a tree could have killed my mother-in-law.

But I am ultimately a practical person and it does no good to dwell on could have beens. What does help is to tell our stories. We are a story-telling species and this is mine and once it’s told then it is time to move on and do what I can to make things better.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thunder Road

Today is Springsteen's 60th birthday? Damn! I'm sitting here listening to a 1976 performance of Thunder Road from You Tube - don't know where it was, but it was around that time that I got to see Bruce live at Auburn University. It was just after Born to Run was released and I'm not sure anyone in the South had heard of this New Jersey guy. But I'm a rocker, so I was going to be there.

It almost didn't happen - the fire marshal, obviously not a rock and roll fan, insisted that not only could there not be festival seating, but there was NO FLOOR SEATING at all! So we're all in the risers, and remember this is the days when everything was hard-wired, and as Bruce is singing the first song he sprinted from the stage, LEAPT into the risers and sang the entire concert from there. It was amazing. He even sat in a girl's lap to sing one song (regrettably not mine).

Fast forward to 1984, I'm working for a congressional campaign in Birmingham, driving around in the campaign van putting up signs. On the radio someone announces that Springsteen is coming and tickets go on sale the next day. This, thank god, was before Ticketmaster took all the fun out of ticket buying. I immediately told my co-campaigner-it was Robert Houston- to take me DIRECTLY down to the BJCC, I am going to camp out. This is also pre-cell phones, remember. So I get down there around 2 p.m. on a Friday and I'm like 20th in line. Robert goes back to HQ and calls my sweetie-pie Phil and gets him to bring me down some clothes and a blanket. I stayed down there the rest of the night. Even got my picture in the paper!

Got great seats on the 13th row, aisle and man I held on to those things like they were precious gems. The concert was great - it was shortly before Christmas and the encore was "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." Close to three hours of guitar and sax and that voice and those songs. I think we stood up the whole time and hardly felt it.

I know I'm a writer but I just can't find the words for the experience of Springsteen, whether I'm blasting "Thunder Road" on the car radio or tearing up when I hear "The River" and think of what might have been. They just give me the oomph to get up and do what needs to be done.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

PACT, promises and politics

The Alabama pre-paid college tuition plan apparently isn't what it was sold as. We got "the letter" this week that says the PACT plan is running out of money and the board that runs it just isn't sure what to do. The fact that we were promised that our child's college tuition would be paid (I have the letter, "signed" by Lucy Baxley which tells you how long ago we paid for the plan), apparently is of no use to us now.

An interesting fact: on the PACT home page now, the plan is described as a "529" plan. But that is not what it was when it started. In fact, we got a 529 plan from out of state because Alabama did not have one at the time. Folks, pre-paid college tuition is not the same as a 529 investment plan and the PACT folks are stretching the truth by describing it that way.

Now to inject a little politics into the discussion: Our Republican state Treasurer, as head of the PACT program, apparently drank the Wall Street kool-aid and thought the market would always go up. When I was googling around earlier today, I came upon this newspaper article from the Decatur Daily during the last campaign, when the Democratic candidate sounded the alarm. But no one was listenting.

Segrest seeks PACT changes: State treasurer candidate says tuition program in trouble.

Article from: Decatur Daily (Decatur, AL) Article date:October 17, 2006
COPYRIGHT 2006 The Decatur Daily.
Byline: Bayne Hughes
Oct. 17--State treasurer candidate Steve Segrest believes Alabama's prepaid college tuition programs need a management change. The Montgomery Democrat told THE DAILY editorial board that Republican incumbent Kay Ivey is wrong if she believes the Prepaid Affordable College Tuition fund is in good shape financially and is one of the nation's top prepaid tuition funds. Segrest, a real estate agent and businessman, said Joe Hurley of Bankrate.com gives Alabama's PACT a two-star rating, while at least 15 other states' funds get a three-star or better rating.

We bought the PACT contract and finished paying for it more than 10 years ago. We got it because we figured that if we got a regular investment plan, and the market crashed the day before we wanted the money, that we were screwed. Prepaid tuition would guarantee that our children would go to college. They might have to live at home and go to the hometown university, but they would go. Now it looks like the whole thing was premised on a fabrication.

We're not taking our money out. That would be foolish - the amount we put in ten years ago wouldn't cover a year of college. And there's no way we could invest it and get a return that would cover tuition for a child who starts college in 2010. But my faith in the state of Alabama is shaken.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

25 Random Things, the Facebook Game

1. I would rather sweat than shiver.
2. I am a cat person. I like being around creatures that don't need me.
3. I have never been bored with marriage and family.
4. Ever since I was little, I have always wanted to see where the trail goes.
5. I can be quite happy alone.
6. I never wear heels.
7. I rarely wear makeup.
8. I look pretty damn good for my age.
9. I take things too seriously sometimes.
10. I am fascinated with quantum physics and the concept that energy and matter are the same thing.
11. I am not very romantic.
12. Office work can be tedious but I do love a regular paycheck.
13. I love to travel. Especially to places I have never been before.
14. I will eat pizza beyond the point of reason.
14. Katherine Hepburn is my fashion icon.
15. I envy my nephew Josh and his off-the-grid lifestyle.
16. I am a politics junkie of the left-wing variety.
17. The only person who is allowed to call me by my husband's last name is my dad.
18. I'd rather be hiking.
19. I see money as a tool, not a possession.
20. I like putting things in order. I just wish I had more time to do it.
21. If I could do whatever I wanted, I would have a studio and make things.
22. My name is on a bronze plaque on a library in Birmingham.
23. Don't mess with my kids.
24. A vine ripe tomato still warm from the sun is nature's perfect food.
25. Gratitude is powerful.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Nine to Five

Well, I finished my first week (actually four days since Monday was Labor Day) at my first "regular" job in more than 15 years. It has been a long long time since I worked in an office, with a regular schedule and if not a time clock then at least keeping track of time.

I have definitely been spoiled working for myself. The upside of self-employment is flexibility, but the downside is that you're never not working. That is, I would fit in house work during the day but then that meant doing work work at night when the rest of the family came home.

The other downside of self-employment is, of course, financial insecurity. You never know when you'll get, or lose, a job. That's not a whole lot different from any job in today's economy, but self-employment seems even more tenuous. So when I got an opportunity to work in a new field and get a regular paycheck, I just had to give it a shot.

It doesn't leave much time for blogging (not that I have been especially loquacious anyway) but I'm thinking that once things settle down a little I can do more writing in the evenings. We'll see.

For now, I am enjoying a little structure and looking forward to that first paycheck!