The Case For Getting Rid Of Public Libraries

This is going to be an incredibly unpopular post if you read just the title. But hear me out. I think it’s time to get rid of public libraries, on the whole. Just chuck ’em in the trash. Close them all.

And – here’s the critical part: start over.

My local library was sold by the county years ago (I’m talking over a decade, now) to a private company that manages public libraries. Tax dollars still go in to the library, steadily. But it is also operated by this company, who works closely with the city to also do programs, allow the city to use rooms for special events and meetings, and – as it turns out – sell the place for use as a wedding venue.

This was a great solution to a growing economic and management problem for the city. And, to be fair, it has ensured that rebuilding and remodeling of the library, and a steady stream of employment opportunities, continued to be available.

But the quality of the library since then has steadily gone down hill.

Years ago, I started complaining about this here on my blog, and on Twitter. The library is no longer a quiet respite, where anyone that utters a sound above a whisper is quickly hushed by an elderly woman with Coke bottle glasses, standing behind the reference desk. No, the library is a loud, chaotic place, with children screaming in every corner, rolling around on the floor and running like it’s a race track. The only thing louder than the screaming children is – ironically – the employees, who frequently while assisting people in finding books will yell at the top of their voices from aisles away “it’s over here!”

I read a few years ago in an article written in the Wall Street Journal that libraries are no longer what they were in the past. This environment of quiet and serene and calm, combined with every book you could ever want – the ultimate, introverted bibliophile’s dream – was dead. Now, libraries are considered “information technology centers.” It is expected that they will be loud. The computers and technology have taken center stage, as has designated spaces for teens to hang out and thrive. No sooner after reading that article, in fact, had my local library made the decision to demolish half of its reading, study, and meeting areas in favor of a Teen Center, which actually has a sign posted in the front of it: “this is a space for teens, only.”

Libraries are different now, there’s no doubt about that. And while I can definitely – DEFINITELY – acknowledge the positives that come of some of these changes, it’s essentially turned libraries into spaces for certain people only.

There are a few incidences at my local library over the years that has led me to believe that.

The Fight at the Balloon Show

I blogged about this years ago, but I’ll refresh all of your memories, just in case.

Several years ago, before I had my toddler, my dad and I took my older kids (who were little kids at the time) to the weekly summer shows that the library held. It was always fun stuff then, like puppet shows, magic acts, and a balloon show – where the people running it did tricks inside human-sized balloons, followed by making balloon animals for all of the kids.

Of course today, these acts have been largely replaced by African drum circles and “The Zany Xylophone Show,” but then…it was a great, free activity for kids.

While standing in the line to go in to the balloon show that day, a small child ran in to my senior citizen dad. He had not had his hip surgery yet, and my dad almost fell over. My dad steadied himself on his cane, and told the kid to be careful so that no one got hurt. Five minutes later, the child’s mother approached my father screaming.

We moved to the back of the line to avoid any more conflict (probably the wrong thing to do), but sure enough, halfway through the show, I saw the woman’s child standing up in front of a group of other kids, in effect blocking their view. A father walked over and whispered quietly to the kid that he needed to sit down so the other kids could see. Five minutes later, again, the same kid’s mother was at that guy’s throat.

The entire show stopped. Like halted with a record screech. All of us sat there as we watched this crazy woman verbally abuse the man for asking her son – politely, I will add – to sit down so the other kids could see. Eventually a librarian showed up and got involved.

And asked the man and his child to leave.

It was that day that I learned a very important lesson about the world, or at least the community library in which I live. The loudest person to yell and scream and bully is invariably the one that comes out ahead. That doesn’t make it okay. It’s just the way it is.

The Pornography On The Second Floor

My kids homeschool. They always have, actually. It’s worked for us, and they are still super social.

And, my kids are pretty advanced in the majority of their subjects.

Several months ago, I took them to the library because they were working on a research project and paper. The way our library is set up places every single reference book on the second floor, so naturally – because they needed a variety of reference books for the project – we headed upstairs to get to work.

Well, the other thing that is upstairs is the computer lab. There are two computer labs in the library. One on the first floor in the children’s section, which is mostly host to video games. And one on the second floor in the reference section, which is – therefore – designated for adult or reference/research use. The ones upstairs have Jstor and other academic journals, while the ones downstairs have Fortnite.

My kids were only planning to use reference books, though, so we immediately headed to the encyclopedias. We had not even made it from the stairway to the encyclopedia section, though, before a librarian approached us.

“Sorry, children are not allowed up here,” she said to me, sternly, and blocking our path to the encyclopedias.

My oldest children are 16 and 12, so not exactly “children-children” but whatever. I replied, calmly.

“Oh, they need to use the reference section though for a research paper. We can just grab the books and go downstairs to a table if that’s okay.”

“It’s not,” she said. “Reference books are not allowed off the second floor. And children are not allowed up here. They can utilize reference materials at their own schools.”

“We homeschool. Seriously? Children aren’t allowed to use the reference books?”

“I didn’t say that. I said children aren’t allowed up here and reference books are not allowed downstairs. Your children will have to vacate the floor immediately.”

At this point another librarian came over to me and explained – more politely, I will add – that the problem is that the public use computers are paid for by tax payer dollars, which means they cannot have any real controls on them. This means that a large number of adults at the library have to be assumed to be using computers to look at pornography. And exposing children to pornography is – obviously – illegal.

So no kids allowed on the second floor. Ever.

(The thing about the reference books, I can’t explain.)

Today’s Unfortunate Incident

Today I brought my kids to the library to check out some reading books. After the reference incident, we’ve mostly just utilized the library for fiction and non-fiction books of interest, and for the required high school reading that my oldest daughter is doing.

We’ve tried a few of the reading times they have for toddlers, too; though it only reminded me of how loud and unruly small children are allowed to be in our library. I’ve seen kids running around in circles. I’ve seen kids rolling around on the floor. I’ve seen kids lying in a group on the floor to read. I’ve seen kids laying on the couches with their feet in the air. I’ve seen kids ripping pages out of books. I’ve seen it all.

Generally speaking, we are in and we are out.

Today was going to be no exception. The difference, of course, was that on the way there, we had stopped for my toddler to get blood work for allergies. He was not in a particularly good mood. But when we got to the library he was quiet and cooperative. He had his Kindle Fire and it was on silent.

As my two older kids stood at the computer designated for looking up call numbers, I stood there with my little guy sitting at my feet.

As I said, he was not in a very good mood, so I wasn’t going to fight with him to stand. It was a pretty clean tile floor. He was literally between my legs, sitting quietly. Looking at his Kindle.

Meanwhile, other children were screaming. Running around. One child was crying.

Mine was quiet. Looking at his Kindle. Between my legs, right there. Waiting patiently for the girls to get their call numbers so we could find their books and get out of there.

Less than a minute went by and a stocky woman stalked over to me from the check out desk.

“Hi yes, are you mom?”

“Yes.”

“He can’t be there.”

“I’m sorry?”

“On the floor like that. He’ll have to sit in a chair, stand, or leave.”

I’m starting to get a little bit of a complex here about people kicking my toddler out of places. I don’t know what exactly it is about us or him that makes people say he has to leave, but this is twice now (the first being the incident with him being scared on the Polar Express last month).

Other kids do literally the same shit right there right in front of us, and get away with it.

We act polite and nicely, and are asked to do something different, or leave.

The loudest people are invariably the ones that come out ahead.

I looked around, as I had when we walked in. There was not a single available seat for him (remember that thing about the teen center taking away a large portion of the seating areas?). He was certainly not going to stand.

So we left. I told my daughters we would come back later, when my little guy had gone down for his nap with my dad.

But I also got in the car and cried. I cried because this is not how libraries are supposed to be. They may not be quiet places for book lovers to spend hours perusing and reading through books at no cost, anymore.

But they are still a public respite paid for by our tax dollars.

And more than that, I cried because I’m trying my best here. I’m raising three kids, mostly alone. I do everything I can to comply with all the rules and educate and care for my kids, and sometimes – yes – I choose my battles and let my kid sit on the fucking ground. Wow. Call the police on that one. The point is that if I had fought with him to stand up, he would have started screaming and acting like one of the other many brats there. Or, I could have not gone to the library today, and then I would be denying my older children their educational materials. Or… or… or…

The local library is one of the few places left in our community that access to education and information is supposed to be readily available. They are supposed to be a safe place, as well. A place where people of all interests and places in life can go and feel comfortable. Where the homeless can find a warm chair to read the paper in for a while, or teenagers can have a safe spot to do their homework after school.

Or homeschooled kids can access reference materials.

I get the challenges that are faced in running a place like that which is wholly open to the public, and all of its bad sides.

But in the interest of – I don’t even know what – they are turning it into a place that is only for certain people. People who look at pornography. Adults without children. Adults with young children who also will loudly bully until they get their way.

Certainly, the library is not a place for homeschooled kids to do research projects. “They can utilize the reference books at their own schools.” And moreover, the library is apparently not a spot for a mother to bring her kids to check out some books, while trying to keep her toddler happy and quiet for a few minutes, however she has to do it.

I say get rid of libraries as they’ve become now, and start over. I don’t know how they would start over, or what would address these inequities in treatment from one patron to another. I just know that there is something inherently not right about the experiences we’ve had and witnessed at our local library. The library isn’t supposed to be for just certain people, or particular circumstances. It’s supposed to be for everyone.

If it isn’t, then what exactly are we paying for?

It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like F&ck This

Sorry for that whole censorship ‘o’ the title thing, but a lot of times blog posts won’t make it into email boxes if they have swear-y words in the title.

Fortunately that doesn’t apply to the content. So here we go.

It’s beginning to look at a lot like FUCK THIS. That has been going through my head over and over, AND OVER, again for about three or four weeks now.

I don’t know about you guys, but Christmastime is a combination of magical wonder and complete and utter bullshit for me. I have been screwed over, stressed out, raked over the coals, and that was just in the prep leading up to the *big day.*

Some of it didn’t even have to do with the holidays, either.

  1. Thankless Thanksgiving

I wanted to do that thing on Thanksgiving that yuppies do, where they go around the table and everyone says something for which they are appreciative. We don’t pray, and the other adults in our house have a hard time being grateful and complimentary; so I just thought it would be a good time to set a better example for the kids, you know?

I was too buried in mashed potatoes and mixed emotions to even remember to have everyone do it.

The thankful part of Thanksgiving – unfortunately – went largely unrecognized. This isn’t to disregard the sincere and kind comments made by our guests; I’m really just referring to the 25 times I had to ask the people that live here “is it good? Is the turkey moist? Do you guys like the sweet potatoes?” …only to receive grumbled “it’s fine”s, or to notice that many of the dishes I lovingly prepared went largely untouched.

Which was fine. We had enough leftovers for me to spend the day after Thanksgiving turning all of it into freezer meals that fed us for roughly 9 days.

2. Who has time for hurt feelings, though, when medical stress descends upon you?

We’ve had some medical situations that sort of pumped the brakes on the rest of life, anyway.

My oldest daughter – almost 16 years old – had been having weird pain symptoms for some time, and because she’s a woman, naturally, every doctor we had seen prior to the last two months has dismissed her as “just another chick complaining.” She’s had three, main things going on – simultaneously: migraine headaches, severe abdominal pain, frequent and unexplainable “sports injuries” (in bilateral joints). We’ve been blown off by doctor after doctor after doctor. “Just a chick with migraines.” “Oh obviously you are playing too much tennis and not resting enough!” “Cramps are normal.”

One doctor at UCLA Women’s Health – a woman, younger than me no less – had the audacity to look me blank in the face, say “believe it or not, pain is actually common in many women that experience periods.” Then she asked me to leave the room and asked my daughter what kind of birth control she was really there for.

So in the last couple of months, it’s all sort of gotten worse. My daughter has hardly played any tennis or worked out at all, and yet she’ll still feeling pain in her knees or her shoulders as if she’s been training 6 hours a day. Her migraine headaches have gone from once a week or two, to Imitrex every day. And a few weeks ago, she started having the abdominal pain she got intermittently, which she describes as barbed wire being wrapped and pulled around her waste and back (those of you familiar will immediately think endometriosis, I know…); well that’s been happening almost daily now, and so badly we’ve wound up in the urgent care, the emergency room, and a solid two weeks of one doctor’s visit after another.

What has made the situation all the worse is this: everyone is a fucking asshole.

Healthcare in this country is total garbage. And I’m not just talking about the expense of it.

I made an appointment with one specialist over 100 miles from our home. We got halfway there and were going to be a few minutes late for the paperwork check in time (but still on time for the appointment), so I called, only to find out that the person who made the appointment never actually scheduled it. We turned around, defeated.

In a startling turn of events, when it was time to figure out the migraine situation – in late November – I learned that there is exactly one neurologist in the entire county that sees children. And he isn’t taking any new patients right now. One. Apparently kids don’t have neurological problems where we live, this is just too perfect of a place, right?

Luckily I found a phenomenal physician in LA County, we just have to drive 57 miles each way to see. Every four weeks.

(But wait…the migraine maintenance medicine he prescribed makes her so groggy and sleepy she can’t even do her schoolwork.)

What else…

  • A kid in the ER one night threw up on me.
  • Over 6 different people have suggested that birth control will resolve everything (it won’t, in fact birth control makes migraines worse and if she really does have something like endometriosis, birth control or any hormones for that matter are not the answer).
  • We hit our out of pocket maximum, and yet everyone is still collecting the money up front, leading me to be owed over $4,000 now at this point in refunds, reimbursements, and “hey this is YOUR share of the medical expenses.”
  • For pain, someone gave her Naproxen, and even though she has no problem with Ibuprofen, with the Naproxen, she broke out in over 20 canker sores inside her throat and mouth.
  • I asked the nurse practitioner at our primary care physician’s office to send her for abdominal ultrasound, just to be sure…sure, sure, no one thinks her pain is anything legitimate, but can we just check? The ultrasound came back with her left ovary literally swarmed by ovarian cysts. (The nurse called to tell me the news and suggested I put her on birth control, even though one day prior we had discussed just how that was not a solution and would only worsen her migraine headaches.)
  • In response to the news that my teenage daughter, who has been experiencing pain in some way or another for at least six months now, to the point that she is unable to function in her normal life on many days, was going to have to start having tests and seeing specialists to get a handle on what is going on, my husband asked me when the budget would be freeing up for him to get some things preventatively done on his commuter car.

The good news is that we are – hopefully – finally getting to a point that we are going to be taken seriously. Why? Because finally the neurologist suggested I just take her to my OBGYN practice. They are old men and they don’t really deal with menstrual disorders, but they won’t blow her off and they will advocate on her behalf to get good care.

3. It’s beginning to look a lot like fuck this

And then there was Christmas. Because of everything going on, Christmas was a scurry in the last couple weeks to make magic. I think I slept about two hours a night, while the rest of the time baking like crazy, ordering gifts on Amazon, and – finally, in a moment of desperation – paying my 16 year old (who is too nonfunctional to do much else) to wrap the majority of the gifts.

I did manage to take the kids to a light show, like we do every year; although – lesson learned – my dad can’t go in the future because he just rushes everyone through it, complaining about how cold he is and ruining the evening with his griping.

When the real FUCK THIS came up, though, was about a week before Christmas, when I attempted to take my kids to the Polar Express train ride out of Fillmore and Western.

If you are in Southern California, you know that one of the priciest and – supposedly – magical Christmas experiences is actually to take a ride of the Fillmore and Western Polar Express. Everyone shows up in their Christmas pajamas, there’s lights and music and they act out the movie/book in front of you as you take a train ride and sip hot chocolate. Everyone gets a bell; it’s fun.

We had never been, and I decided with everything shitty going on, it would be a fun break one evening for my kids. So we attempted to go, and the bad news is that my 3 year old – who gets startled pretty easily – was getting on the train with me, and a man behind us started yelling to his kids who were ahead of us. It scared my little guy, and he started to cry.

Not like a screaming tantrum crying though. A basic cry. It was honestly so loud in there, my other two kids didn’t even know he was doing it.

Nonetheless, we were sitting in the front of that car, and had barely even sat down; he was still crying and I was starting to calm him down, when the train employee came over me and told me I should take him off the train to calm him down.

I understood, but I also didn’t. Like I know my kid, and I know that I can calm him down before the train leaves. We still had 30 minutes, and literally no one could have noticed what was going on. I also knew that if I did take him off the train, there was no way I would get him back on. When a toddler cries for a calmer situation and immediately gets what he wants, instead of learning to self soothe and adapt… well, come on…

Still, I understood that the lady was just doing her job. Right? And I don’t like the thought of being one of those people that ruins the experience for everyone else with drama; especially at an event for kids. So we got off the train, and I – obviously – couldn’t get my little guy to go back on. The train left, without us.

So I emailed customer service, and this is where it gets really annoying. I told them what happened and just asked if they could maybe send us the bells. At the end of the whole thing Santa gets on the train and gives everyone a bell. My kids just really wanted their fucking bells, and I paid for them, you know?

I got an email back from them not apologetic. Not saying I could have my bells.

I got an email back saying it didn’t happen. That what I said DID. NOT. FUCKING. HAPPEN.

At that point, I just gave up and gave in. Christmas became fuck this. I did the gifts, the day. All of it with as big of a smile as I could manage. I made Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning brunch, and we did all the things and I’m sure that it is a fact that my kids had fun.

But I was also just done.

The terrifying part is that Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas is just the start of it for us. Now we have birthday after birthday after birthday, Easter…Moms have it hard you guys. We don’t just do it all, we bear the mental and emotional load of it. We are the figure it out-ers, we don’t just have to take our kids to the stuff, we have to figure out how to make it all work and advocate for them and make sure everything is where it needs to be so that things don’t get worse.

But also, we do it all because we want to. And that is where being a Mom is the weirdest and most emotionally conflicting job of them all.

So if you had happy holidays that resembled the most picture perfect scenario you could ever imagine in a Hallmark movie or quaint Christmas card hanging on someone’s mantle, I am genuinely happy for you. If you’ve had it rough this season, I feel you also. Or, if you are like me, and it’s a mixed bag of negatives and negatives, but also positives and unbelievably happy children – in spite of it all… well, I am right there with you in the trenches, my friend. This is a weird place in life to be. It’s beginning to look a lot like fuck this, but also fucking bring it.

Marie Kondo Opens Store and People Literally Implode From Stupidity, News At 11

If you’ve been on the Internet at any point this week, you know the big news, which is that Marie Kondo – the tidying, Shinto guru who went famous after her books were turned into a made-for-Netflix TV series – opened … wait for it … a store of housewares.

The greatest part about this is that people of all walks of life are going BERSERK. I mean crazy. Like hundreds of comments calling her hogwash, claiming her a fraud, calling out this huge conspiracy to get people to throw away their stuff just so that she can sell them more (as if there aren’t other retailers out there who sell things like reusable water bottles and bamboo drawer organizers).

Even major mass media publications are posting online with captions like this one:

[Insert loud cancelation buzzer noise.]

Anyone that actually took the time to read Marie Kondo’s book, or even just sort of pay attention during the explanations, narrations, and intermittent side talks with Kondo on the TV show, knows the reality of the KonMari Method. It isn’t about getting rid of stuff, or having less. It is not – let’s say it a little louder for those in the back, NOT – about minimalism. It’s simply about only keeping things which spark joy or even joy-through-usefulness in your life stuff.

Let’s say this a little louder for you guys, just in case:

It isn’t about getting rid of stuff, or having less. It is not – let’s say it a little louder for those in the back, NOT – about minimalism. It’s simply about only keeping things which spark joy or even joy-through-usefulness in your life.

Did we get it this time?

It then follows that if Kondo opens a housewares shop online, the critics – large and small – are making themselves look like complete morons for the simple fact that they clearly never took to the time to actually know or understand what she proposes in her Shinto-based philosophy.

So while I think that just about everything in her shop is cute, but grossly overpriced, that is a criticism in and of itself, and has nothing to do – at all – with the spark joy belief system she has become so famous for.

Other critics of Kondo have said that she largely overlooks matters of inequality and instead proposes a belief system for people of privilege. Again, I think we’ve largely missed the mark on what she is saying. If you take her philosophy down to the bare bones of it all, the Shinto belief system, what she teaches is gratitude for the things that you have and no longer find a use, and joy or appreciation for the things you keep. If you are in a low income family and have three pairs of scissors, and read that Kondo suggests you consider paring that down to just one pair…you have to read the entirety of the philosophy, and focus also on the words she actually uses, like consider. Her rules are not hard and fast, rather things to think about. Consider that your three scissors do have usefulness, and moreover bring you joy in knowing that if one pair breaks, you will not feel the economic stress of having to come up with the money to replace them. You have two others stored away, which – I’ll add – she has gads of advice on doing as well in such a way that life is organized and people can spend more time enjoying it.

So I think we all need to take a deep breath and just simmer down.

I, personally, read both of her books about two years ago, and began to implement her method in my daily life. To say that it was life changing is an understatement for one reason, and one reason only: while I did get rid of a lot of stuff that was simply cluttering up my life, it broke open a daily and consistently reaffirming gratitude within me in every day life for every single thing that I have, material and otherwise. My entire life and outlook has changed because of the way decluttering and tidying by her method made me look at the world differently.

(And for those interested, there are a lot of things about her tidying methods I have chosen to ignore…in particular, the folding ones – who has time for that?!)

So she opened a store and everything in it can be boiled down as: overpriced dust pans. So don’t shop there. Her movement is not a movement of minimalism, so who is to say those overpriced dust pans fail to spark joy in at least some people? Calling her a hypocrite is still incorrect.

This is one of those rare times that I feel like evoking the old adage that we should not judge a book by its cover. In this particular case, I would go on to add: especially if you didn’t even read it.

REMINDER: Not Having To Work On Thanksgiving Is A Privilege

Every year, I see all of these posts on Facebook and other social media sites going around about companies choosing to not be open on Thanksgiving, so that employees can be with their families. There’s also the loud, ALL CAPS proclamations that only hideous and awful people would work or shop on the holiday.

I wrote about this several years ago, in fact it was the only time I was Freshly Pressed on WordPress’s coveted homepage. I guess I didn’t get my point across to you guys, though, because still many of you are continuing, I see along your own blogs, Facebooks, and Twitter feeds, to look down upon people that work on holidays, and shame those that shop on Thanksgiving.

To be clear: if you don’t want to shop on Thanksgiving, I don’t care. And if you are fortunate enough to not have to work on Thanksgiving…well cheers! Good for you!

But this is one of those times that the famous quote comes into play: privilege is thinking something is not a problem, because it does not affect you personally.

So let’s try this one again.

Not having to work on Thanksgiving is a privilege. I’m sure if your house catches on fire because you don’t know how the fuck to use your oven properly, you’ll appreciate the fire fighters and ambulance workers that – wait for it – work on Thanksgiving, instead of spend time with their families.

Let’s say you suffer some burns and have to go to the hospital. Certainly the employees there are terrible people for choosing to work on the holiday, instead of being with family as well.

There are a host of professions in which holidays are like any other day: non-negotiable. And before you all get back on your high horse and start in about how retail employees, specifically, should receive the day off to spend that time with their families, consider a few things:

  1. Many retail employees don’t make shit for pay any other day of the year, so need the overtime pay. When I was in college, paying my way through, I volunteered to work every holiday so that I could have some extra cash for books. I still got off in time for my family to plan their dinner around my schedule. It can be done.
  2. Many retail employees work in jobs where they don’t make shit for pay AND they don’t get holiday pay or PTO for that day off. That one day to “spend with their families” is literally the difference between making the rent, and being evicted.
  3. Many people have other family members who work in the positions I mentioned or are in the military, or have recently had a falling out with family or recently had a tragic death …there are a ton of reasons why someone would choose to go work to take their mind off an otherwise depressing situation. It’s the holiday season, and that isn’t always a positive thing for people (check post-holiday suicide rates if you don’t believe me). We should all be comfortable doing what we have to do to get through it.

And for the people that shop on Thanksgiving…that go out and wait for the deals. Sure, some of them are just materialistic pieces of trash who want cheap, new TVs.

But there are some in there, too, that have to get those deals, or Christmas for their kids doesn’t happen. Like at all.

Not having to working or shop on Thanksgiving is a privilege. Those of you in either, or both, of those positions should be grateful (hey…you could post about it on your Facebook grateful status).

REMINDER: You Do Not Have To Post On Facebook To Be Grateful

Shocking, I know.

You are capable of being something – anything – without posting it on the Internet.

A lot of people are doing that whole month long grateful post thing. You know, the thing where every day, for the entire month of November, you post a pithy status update on your social media app of choice professing loudly and clearly for all to hear that – YES, YOU ARE GRATEFUL.

If this is your thing, cool. Let me say that again for the people in the back: IF THIS IS YOUR THING, COOL.

I am not saying you shouldn’t do it.

But don’t be coming at me with bullshit like the claim that I am not grateful because I choose to not post a daily gratitude affirmation for the entire world to read.

Honestly, people.

Here’s the thing about Facebook. It’s a place where people can, much like in Las Vegas, be just about anything they want to be. Grateful is one of them. It’s all about the impression that you give people with your Facebook impressions, and all that jazz.

There are going to occasionally be people posting about gratitude that actually are the most terrible, selfish and ungrateful people on the planet. And there are similarly going to be people that don’t post the whole gratitude thing, and appreciate things more than you could ever imagine. This is the result of the Internet’s ability to let people unabashadly craft their own persona, based on reality or not.

So this can serve as a little reminder for those of you that are in the back, and haven’t gotten the memo just yet: you do not have to post on Facebook – or anywhere else – about being thankful to actually be grateful for what you have.

I’m A Stay At Home Mom Because It’s Too Costly To Not Be

I woke up this morning with a start, realizing it is November 2nd and the gas bill was due two days ago.

I’ve been so swamped lately, it just slipped my mind. This was the last of the bills to go on autopay, I just hadn’t gotten around to setting it up yet. Fortunately, I called and the gas company said I was within the 5 day grace period. So the bill wasn’t even really late. And they set up autopay right then on the phone, too, so now I literally never have to make the effort to pay bills anymore. It just happens.

It got me thinking about the costs (financial and otherwise) of working, though, because the reality of the situation is that for about four weeks now, I have been working even though I’m really a Stay At Home Mom.

Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Well without going into all of the emotionally exhausting and – quite frankly – mind numbing details of my husband’s attitudes with regards to me and the children, and money, I decided to try and start doing some work on the side of my full time mom gig, just so we had a little extra money so that the kids didn’t have to miss out on anything (fun or otherwise) when he gets into one of his moods.

There was a problem, though, with the whole arrangement. Well, several problems:

  1. My husband works overnight, and long hours, in film. It’s not like he can be counted on for anything with the kids. He can’t. He leaves for work at 4:30 in the afternoon, gets home when the work is done, then sleeps until it’s time to get up and go back to work. It isn’t like he comes home and takes over with the kids. I do everything. Everything. Cooking. Cleaning. Yardwork. Errands. Driving. Everything.
  2. My two oldest kids homeschool. I am their educator.
  3. I went back to school in August, after a ten year hiatus, to start working towards finishing the graduate degree I (foolishly) stopped working towards all those years ago. SO now I’m the teacher. I’m a student. I’m the only parent most of the time. And I’m working?
  4. I have no real childcare whatsoever, and no budget for said childcare. My two oldest kids had to free babysit my toddler, while I worked. Or my dad, who lives with us and is 76 did, but he’s old and has limits. (I’m sure you can all imagine how healthy that is for everyone involved after a couple hours of Grandpa time; my dad has to nap for an average of 3 hours after just an hour with my little guy…)
  5. I was already stretched thin scheduling-wise and getting only about 4 hours of sleep a night.

So for one month, I started writing part time in a freelance writing position. I used to do this before I had my third child, and was relatively successful. But things are different now, and three kids is no joke, so success isn’t exactly how it went this time.

Within a week, I stopped having time for almost anything. No more gym. I was driving my kids around town on virtually no sleep. I even started skipping meals and showers, just to keep up with the schedule.

I worked about 6 hours a day, but got only minimal work done because I was trying to juggle everything while doing the writing. The worst moments were when my toddler was running around, crying because I was on the computer. He would run up and slam the laptop screen shut. Stay up until 2 in the morning to have playtime with Mommy. Within a week, he was getting even more clingy, too. He still nurses and was suddenly nursing double what he had cut back to.

The best moments were when I turned my freelance writing profiles on “out of office.” I did this twice in the four weeks, for two days each. That means I took exactly four days off in the entire month. But it wasn’t really time off, because it’s when I had to catch up on all of my other stuff. I cleaned the house, did heavy yard work, caught up on grocery shopping.

The first two days “out of office,” I realized towards the end of the two days that I had gotten behind on planning the kid’s homeschooling. So I stayed up for 36 straight hours to make sure everything was set for the rest of the month. I literally had no other option, the clock was ticking and there was just too much for me to do.

That is the first time I considered forcing my kids into public school. When I finally went to sleep after 36 hours of working and catching up on everything, I did so crying.

In the four weeks, I made a lot of connections and got almost 100 positive 5-star reviews.

After taxes, site fees, PayPal transfer fees, and getting screwed by not one, not two, but seven people who decided not to pay their bill, but publish my work as theirs anyway, I brought home exactly $46.

Forty. Six. Fucking. Dollars.

I felt so guilty for all the time away from them and everything that had sort of fallen apart, I used it all to take my kids to the movies.

Here were the costs:

  1. I spent less time with my kids, and by “less time,” I mean virtually no time. I went from Stay At Home Mom to Mombie, sleeping less than 2 hours per night, and just going through the motions to get through each day.
  2. I had no time after the kids went to bed to work on my blog, and for the first month in – I don’t know, the entire time I have blogged – my blog was not self-sustaining (because my clicks and social media ticks went down).
  3. That thing about my toddler being sad.
  4. That thing about my two older kids losing their educator, and having to become almost full time babysitters.
  5. I forgot about two assignments for school, and didn’t have time for a third. So now I’m unsure that I can even do this school thing with the kids and everything else.

And then there were the risks. I was driving around town on virtually no sleep, with three children in my car. Several times I caught myself thinking I could close my eyes for just a second. On more than one occasion, I was driving faster than was safe for the conditions, because I needed to get home to get the work done so I could get school done so I could make dinner so I could finish the laundry so I could …

My blood pressure went from its normal and healthy 110/68 to an alarming 148/92

People said my older kids could pitch in more. I disagreed. They had already all but quit sports and school to help with my toddler, pick up the slack with cleaning and laundry and dinner… And while I know that kids do that all the time in a variety of situations around the world, I started to ask myself: why would I ask that of my kids when there is absolutely no necessity whatsoever? No necessity, and it’s actually costing more?

But I digress…

There are two issues, as I see it. One is that I don’t really want to work, I want to be with my kids. I know, I know…what mom doesn’t? and all that jazz. But here’s the other thing: it cost us significantly more money and other stuff for me to work last month in a semi-regular position (unlike my blog and books, which can be done here and there as I please), and I didn’t even get into childcare.

To work in any capacity for the long term, we would have to completely change the children’s lives, most importantly there would be paid childcare needed and paid help with transporting my older kids to and from school and other activities, or if they continued to homeschool we would have to pay someone else to educate them.

At a minimum, for me to work and have that help, I would have to bring home – net pay, after everything – around $30,000 a year. And that would leave nothing, not a penny. Again begging the question: why do it?

(Not to mention the fact that $46 a month is not $30,000 a year.)

And there’s also all the other stuff. I’m one person, managing a lot, and I do it all alone. Adding this was just too much. To allow myself the indulgence of a cliche: it really was the straw that broke this camel’s back.

So I notified my regular “clients” today that I just can’t keep up with this anymore, and I’m backing out. My blog and my books are sufficient; school is sufficient. Being a mom is enough.

I’m a Stay At Home Mom because it’s too costly for me to not be. Costly in terms of money. And costly in terms of who I am and what’s most important.

The Russians Interfered With My Dog’s Mayoral Campaign (and I couldn’t even make this up if I tried)

To say I have had a weird summer so far is a gross understatement of the situation at hand. My summer has been so strange, with odd events, weird injuries, and zany outcomes, I’m sort of just hanging on to anything not moving to ride this out for the last couple of weeks.

One such absurdity was that my town had a campaign for dog mayor.

And then it didn’t, because the Russians interfered.

It started innocently, one day in June. My husband was reading the local paper before heading out to work, and he saw that the city was having a campaign for Dog Mayor as a fundraiser for the local dog parks. Sounded like a good idea, and it seemed like a good opportunity to get my kids to take the dogs out more.

It was $25 to file, and you needed to run a normal campaign with flyers and appearances at designated candidate events (located, conveniently, at the dog park down the street from our house).

At the first candidate event, not many dogs had entered yet; so we were surprised when the voting opened and there were over 10 dogs on the roster. Some were cute, many were former shelter dogs (like mine), but one stood out as unique, in the sense that she looked exactly like my dog, and the owner was willing to match dollar-for-dollar any donations people made to the SPCA through the course of the campaign. It seemed a pretty extreme commitment from our middle class community, but I quickly forgot about it and focused my efforts on my own dog’s campaign.

We made a website, and started getting flyers going. She started making appearances in a red-white-and-blue bandana. And I started to solicit votes from people we knew.

Quickly the unique one, the one that stood out to me when the voting kicked off, took the lead with almost 800 votes. 800. EIGHT HUNDRED. Despondent, with only about 60 votes, I told my kids we needed to start preparing for the worst, but hoping for a good appearance at the next candidate event this coming weekend.

Then, yesterday, I saw a comment on the Facebook voting event that struck my attention for the fact that it was typed in all caps. The gist of the comment was that the family that owned the top dog was from Russia, and as such had solicited votes from their own social network, many of whom resided in Russia. I responded to the comment and asked if this was for real, and the man replied “YOU WILL SEE!”

I immediately dismissed it as crazy.

Today we were on our way home from running errands, and my phone rang from a number I didn’t recognize. Naturally, I didn’t answer; and I’m glad I didn’t. The message was the coordinator of the mayoral dog race, and she was letting me know that in my email was a letter to be read immediately regarding the cancelation of the election.

In short: the crazy, all caps contention that the Russians were hacking the dog mayor election was true.

Not only had votes been solicited from outside of the region, which was entirely against the rules, but the back-and-forth online arguing between the top dog and the crazy commenter had apparently continued to the point that the city decided to pull the plug on the whole thing.

It’s so bizarre to think that the Russians interfered in a race for dog mayor in a two bit hillbilly city such as my own, and yet – if we are going to be honest about what technically happened, here – they did.

Which doesn’t make much of a difference to me, because even if they had just disqualified that dog, mine was still all the way down in 4th place. There was no way she was going to win, which was probably a blessing in disguise because at the prior candidate events, she wasn’t exactly polite to the other dogs.

I can’t help but wonder if this is actually what the bigger Russian hacking conspiracy was all about. Infiltrating all these tiny little things to create a bigger, societal problem and certain level of unrest.

Whatever the case may be, it was the weird turn of events I could have never imagined happening in my local-yocal suburb.

Summer, amiright?