Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Because I don't want to buy new pants: On deciding not to be content

I've gained 15 pounds in the last year.

A little backstory, for those who need to be brought up to date. For the past two years, I've been dealing with a cluster of issues: constipation broken up by the occasional unpredictable and raging opposite, abdominal pain, a growing list of food intolerances, and a loss of fitness level. And this weight thing. Despite my issues, I was at a size I was happy with just a summer ago. But last year, really in the few months following my 40th birthday, I put on all this weight.

This is something I have brought up to my doctor at the last two "Can we finally figure out what the Hell is wrong with me visits?"/ At the last visit, last week, she said what people would love or would hate to hear"

"Maybe your body is just happy at this weight."

I know many people for whom this would be all they need to hear. "Awesome! I can keep doing what I'm doing and it's all good!" In fact, I'm pretty sure this is the Standard Accepted Response, because to think otherwise would be size-ist and all that.

Yet, my response is: "I don't think so.Time to step up my game"

Before you think my reasons are *all* vain, consider this. I've lived in this body for years, and have grown accustomed to eating a certain way and exercising a certain way and therefore, maintaining a certain weight. And yes, maybe turning 40 flipped some magical switch that made that inadequate, but to have it in conjunction with a suite of symptoms that mainly seem gut related? It would be foolish for me to dismiss a link.If nothing else, cutting back my portions a bit more while exercising more between now and the next appointment in a few weeks may help shed light on that.
Then there's the practical. A friend recently descried his decision to lose weight as :"I had to lose weight or buy new pants, and I'm too cheap to buy new pants". As a cheapskate myself, I relate. I have a stack of pants I can't wear. Not all of them were $1.29 Goodwill tag sale finds, either: some I paid  as much as $10 for. Because I worked so hard to get into them. I don't want my hard work to go to waste. And to be perfectly honest, I'm tired of wearing my "period pants" for everyday.
So yes, for the time being, I will be watching my portions more and taking time to work out more.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Winning at infuriating

One of my little rules is that we use placemats at the table. at least 3 of our 5 family members can be pretty messy (raises hand), so this keeps me from changing the tablecloth every day.
Yesterday,  reminded me 14 year old to use a placemat when eating and she groaned and said, "Mooom. This must be your most infuriating trait!"
At first I was insulted, until I realised that if the thing a 14 year old girl finds most infuriating about her mother is her insistence on using placemats, that's pretty good.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Taking Your Kids to ComicCon, Part Two: Older Kids

Yesterday, I wrote about the general and younger kid aspects of taking kids to ComicCon. Today I'll look at some of the considerations with older kids.

While it may seem like things should be easier once you no longer have to deal with diapers, afternoon naps, or finding a quiet place to nurse, the truth is that things get more complicated when you can no longer pick up your child and plop her in a stroller. And it gets trickier yet when the pre-teen years approach, with all the attendant desire for independence. While there's no one right way to navigate that as a parent, it IS important to know how you will and to clearly communicate that to your child.

Costume propriety: Decide what your guidelines are and make them very clear. Put them in writing if needed so that your child can't claim to be unsure. If you take a more hands off approach to your child's clothing decisions, look up the con's costume guidelines and make sure she knows what they are and will adhere to them.

Free Range Geek Is your child ready to spend all or part of the time at the con out from under your careful eye? As usual, there is no one right answer or magic age; HOWEVER; your con may have its own opinion. Check the conventions policy before letting your child roam free, and don't be afraid to email them to ask. Personally, I find it best to ease into this freedom a year at a time; a panel or two, half a day, and then a whole day.

Cell Phones: I highly recommend them if you're going to let you child be a free range geek. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive: we use cheap TracPhones and our kids are expected to make their hours last for as long as the service days. It's valuable to be able to ask your child where he is, or for her to be able to tell you how AWESOME it was to meet Misha Collins.

Going it Alone: That's kind of the final frontier. You know, before college and moving out and all that. This year, my 16 year old wanted to go to PAX Prime, and I happened to log onto facebook just in time to see that my friends were in the ticket queue. I got him a ticket, and sent him on his way...although he'd never been to a con before (I don't always follow my own rules!) .While he rode up and down with others, he was on his own. Before you decide to let your kid do this, you should first, find out what the con's rules are; and second, know what your child will do if offered meth at a transit center after midnight.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Taking your kids to ComicCon, or its cousins (Part One- general and little kids)

Whether you're a long time con-goer looking to start your new offspring off in the geek world, or a parent who is going to ComicCon* for the first time with your kids, going to cons with kids is a bit different from going other places with kids, and a whole different thing from going without kids. Here are a few things I've found that can make the day easier.

(*For the sake of brevity, I'll use ComicCon, but this includes any other local cons you may enjoy)

Plan ahead: and I do mean for everything. Unless you're one of those people lucky enough to have both kids *and* money, this starts with the ticket purchase. Does a gift giving holiday coincide with ticket sales? If you buy these tickets, will some important soccer game your kid can't miss force to miss out on using them? We always get out Emerald City ComicCon tickets in our stockings...much better than more cheap plastic crap!
As soon as the schedule comes out, start looking at it as a family and decide which panels or events matter most to each of you. It's easy if you have at least as many adults as kids going, but when the kids start outnumbering you, and/or having opinions of their own, it's time to compromise (I'll talk about kids old enough to roam cons without you tomorrow) Make sure EVERYONE gets to an event, panel, or signing they care about.

I dragged him to the Doubleclicks show and he ended up on stage

Then, it's time to plan how you'll spend money and what you are willing to spend it on. Decide on a budget for everyone and take it out in cash. Letting your kids know they get to pocket unused budget can make them amazingly thrifty. Be clear before you go what you will NOT spend money on: be it a particular comic, yet another stuffed animal, or con food. I, personally, will not pay for an autograph or to get my photo taken with a celebrity, but for last year's ComicCon my daughter did just that: and it was the height of her day, week, and month.

Decide how you feel about photos: If you look at the terms of service of most cons, they will say something like this:
"Badge holder consents to use of their likeness or image by media or for advertising and other promotional purposes"

What that means to me is that when I walk in that door with my kids, I am OK with their picture being taken by anyone, and published anywhere. While it's certainly rude for someone to take pictures of a child and posting them to the internet without asking the parent, it CAN happen. If this would in some way endanger your child, it might be best to stay home or dress him in a full face mask.

FOOD: It's so much easier without kids, isn't it? You go go go until you feel like gnawing on your arm, then you buy some food. Well, not me, because I'm allergic or intolerant to like 5 different things. But most people. You just can't do that with kids, as you well know (unless they're still breastfed) . Personally, I find it much cheaper to pack a day's food and spend my money on cool stuff. If you'd rather plan a lunch break in a restaurant or local fast food place, you STILL need to pack food. Believe me. When you're standing in line for that ONE panel you didn't want to miss and your kids starts melting down, you'll be grateful you have those granola bars with you.

Take into consideration your child's particular needs: If your child has special needs, I know you're already the expert and are on top of making sure your child is accommodated. But don't stop at contacting your con's disability services! Contact your local 501st Legion to see if they can make your child's day special. 
If your child is more typical, you may still have needs to consider. If she is newly or currently potty training, you won't want a difficult to remove costume, but you WILL want a change of clothing. Does your child eat or nap at a certain time? Get cranky at 3? Think of how the day will affect your child's schedule and plan meal and rest times accordingly.

Tomorrow I'll look at issues particular to older kids, such as guidelines for costumes, cell phones,  and independence.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Why we should extend compassion to Richard Dawkins

I almost didn't read today's story regarding Richard Dawkin's statements on paedophilia. After all, Dawkins saying something something shocking that pissed people of is nothing new. When I did read it, my reaction was that same as pretty much every one's: anger and outrage. It still pretty much is, but as the day goes on I find it tempered with something kinder: compassion.

It's true, I rarely agree with Dawkins. Scientific acumen aside, he doesn't care who he insults and rather than agreeing to disagree on matters of the divine, he vociferously  attacks anyone who dares to imagine a world beyond this one. While I am able to frame those issues as a matter of individual experience, I will state this unequivocally: Dawkins is wrong, objectively wrong, when he states that "mild" molestation is damaging.

And yet I say: extend compassion.

Because I am a religious person, I could frame my reasons for compassion in terms of faith. But I won't. Most importantly, to do so would fail to show respect to my many atheist and humanist friends and allies who share my desire to protect children and to greet all with love. And hey, it's very true that Dawkins wouldn't care for the opinion of a deluded fool such as myself. The reasons we should extend him compassion are because the opinions he voices seem to thinly veil deep wounds. I can only imagine his dismissive attitude toward being molested is a reflection of what *he* was told at some point, if he complained or tried to seek aid. We should have compassion and love for that hurt little boy. Perhaps if Dawkins had received more help, more listening as a child, he would not be so quick to lash out at the world.

I have compassion, but again I say: On this matter he is wrong, and I certainly wouldn't let Dawkins or anyone who shows sympathy for that view alone with a child. It disturbs me to hear a parent say such a thing. May the cycle be broken.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Why this hard working American supports aid to working families

If you've been on the internet at all in the past 24 hours, you've probably seen the following. I feel a need to speak to it.

Before going on I should tell you where I'm coming from and am. I was raised by my mother and grandmother, and my mother received food stamps and welfare and eventually, disability. I was on free lunches at school. In my adult life I've been on state aid once: when I worked for UCP in California, which was a state agency, and the state failed to pass a budget, cutting my pay down below subsistence levels. We've straddled the line for most of the years since we had kids; we've had various bits of help here and there from family, friends, and my church. Even when we've qualified for food cards, my husband's damnfool pride kept us off them (and I *do feel* that if you have one parent employed FT and the other PT and STILL qualify for aid, you should feel no shame taking it). I have been working since I was 14. I currently three part time jobs alongside knitting and chocolate making on commission.



Put me in charge of food stamps. I'd get rid of Lone Star cards; no cash for Ding Dongs or Ho Ho's, just money for 50-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese and all the powdered milk you can haul away. If you want steak and frozen pizza, then get a job.

Put me in charge of Medicaid. The first thing I'd do is to get women Norplant birth control implants or tubal ligations. Then, we'll test recipients for drugs, alcohol, and nicotine. If you want to reproduce or use drugs, alcohol, or smoke, then get a job.

Put me in charge of government housing. Ever live in a military barracks? You will maintain our property in a clean and good state of repair. Your home" will be subject to inspections anytime and possessions will be inventoried. If you want a plasma TV or Xbox 360, then get a job and your own place.

In addition, you will either present a check stub from a job each week or you will report to a "government" job. It may be cleaning the roadways of trash, painting and repairing public housing, whatever we find for you. We will sell your 22 inch rims and low profile tires and your blasting stereo and speakers and put that money toward the "common good.."

Before you write that I've violated someone's rights, realize that all of the above is voluntary. If you want our money, accept our rules. Before you say that this would be "demeaning" and ruin their "self esteem," consider that it wasn't that long ago that taking someone else's money for doing absolutely nothing was demeaning and lowered self esteem.

If we are expected to pay for other people's mistakes we should at least attempt to make them learn from their bad choices. The current system rewards them for continuing to make bad choices.

AND While you are on Gov't subsistence, you no longer can VOTE! Yes, that is correct. For you to vote would be a conflict of interest. You will voluntarily remove yourself from voting while you are receiving a Gov't welfare check. If you want to vote, then get a job.


My first thought when reading that is that this author doesn't actually know anyone on assistance. Of course, that's statistically unlikely and it's more likely that she has some friends who just can't make ends meet on their own but would never dare mention that they get food cards in front of her, because look at what she thinks of them! You would think the average assistance recipient is a blinged out, drug addicted, LAZY, breeding machine! This CBS report shows the inaccuracy of those myths.

I know and have known many people over the years who need to use aid in the long or short term. Is there occasional "user"? Of course, and there always will be. Same thing goes for corporate welfare.  This website cites welfare fraud as falling in the 2%-3% range. Note that this is a conservative website! Is it worth letting 97 people go hungry to catch the three who are milking the system?

As for drug testing: even if it seems like a good idea, the states that have tried it have lost money. The New York times reports that Florida LOST more than $45,000 on their drug testing program: Oklahoma found that only 2.2 % of recipients tested positive for drugs. In both states, the percentages were lower than for drug use in the general population. Even if you have no moral qualms about requiring drug testing, the numbers don't recommend it. (Now, if someone gets brought up on drug charges or walks into their social worker appointment under the influence, that's a different matter)

It seems that in light of those numbers, anyone who still supports mandatory drug testing and denying assistance because of the chance of fraud must be more concerned with sticking it to 3% than with the best use of government money. 

Going back to the CBS report...I don't know where the idea that the poor are poor because they're lazy comes from. Perhaps that fiction is more comfortable than admitting that there are not enough living wage jobs, that many of the jobs that *are* available still leave gaps that need to be filled in, and that neither good or bad jobs are falling off the job tree. Recipients of aid, state or charitable, have many different stories and if you don't know them, you have no place from which to judge. I encourage you to read these client stories from Northwest Harvest. 

I hope that no matter how conservative you are, these numbers will at least convince to that this "21 year old female" didn't research her position very well, and and that you should do a little of your own. But for me, it's not about numbers. It's about my faith. You see, every person I've seen post this is a Christian. I don't don;t get this. So I will leave with this list of over 100 Bible verses about caring for the poor and let it speak for itself.