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Me, In a Rainbow, So I Won't Be Sad

I read this, and I’m filled with a seething, red hot rage.  It’s nothing new, and there are a million graphs and charts and articles  and commentary out there saying the same thing.  The rich are bending all of us over while they swill champagne.  My husband is willing to take a 50% pay cut just for a job that will keep the lights on, but still his recruiters shrug their shoulders and ask if he wants to relocate to Baton Rouge.  I am desperate to work, but with childcare costing us $2,000.00 per month and me being *gasp* a lowly social worker, it’s not feasible.

Last week while cleaning out the coat closet, I found one of the pay stubs from my last job:  $1,180 for two weeks of work.  You know what I did?  I was a Master’s level clinician with a certificate in the Advanced Treatment of Psychological Trauma providing free psychotherapy and crisis intervention to adolescents and adults who had experienced violent sexual trauma.  I saw grown men who had been raped by their priests, children who were currently being raped by a parent, husbands of women who had been raped by their employer, teenagers who were raped by a teacher.  The work is difficult and heart-wrenching and goddamn it I did good work that is needed, and I happily did it for pennies.  I worked on behalf of people who have no advocate.  I held hands in court rooms, clinics, and emergency rooms.  I loved my work.

And I see my husband struggling to get employment while our life spins down the toilet, and I see these people making millions doing nothing.  N-O-T-H-I-N-G.  They make nothing.  They do nothing.  I’m feeling this on an extremely personal level.  I used to tell myself that my low pay wasn’t a reflection on me, but on my clients value to voters and policymakers.  No one with any power cares about the kinds of people I work with; the poor, the mentally ill, the victims of powerlessness.  This lit a fire in me and kept me going working on their behalf, trying to be the best advocate that I could be.  And here I am, largely unable to practice at the moment and in a state of extraordinary powerlessness myself and the people wielding the power turn a blind eye to our suffering and our struggles.  There is no middle class.  The 1% has achieved their American Dream and the 99% paid for it.

Summarized on Yahoo! Finance from the article at  thinkprogress.org:

#1) The Top 1% Owns 40% of the Nation’s Wealth:

Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz points out the richest 1% of Americans now own 40% of the nation’s wealth. This disparity is much worse than it was in the past, as just 25 years ago the top 1% owned 33%of national wealth.

How much does the bottom 80% own? Only 7%.

#2) The Top 1% Take Home 24% of National Income:

While the richest 1% of Americans take home almost a quarter of national income today, in 1976 they took home just 9% — meaning their share of the national income pool has nearly tripled in roughly three decades.

#3) The Top 1% Own Half of the Country’s Stocks, Bonds and Mutual Funds: The Institute for Policy Studies illustrates this massive disparity in financial investment ownership, noting that the bottom 50% of Americans own only 0.5% of these investments.

#4) The Top 1% of Americans Have Only 5% of the Nation’s Personal Debt:

Using 2007 figures, sociologist William Domhoff points out that the top 1% have 5% of the nation’s personal debt while the bottom 90% have 73% of total debt.

#5) The Top 1% Are Taking In More off the Nation’s Income Than at Any Other Time Since the 1920s: Not only are the wealthiest 1% of Americans taking home a tremendous portion of the national income, but their share of this income is greater than at any other time since the Great Depression, as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities illustrates in this chart, using 2007 data.

I’ve been in the first row as a spectator, watching Occupy Wall Street and our local occupations develop.  I so want to be a part of it, but I’m needed at home with the babies right now.  I’m inspired and angry, comforted and reassured.  I feel a deep sense of solidarity with the other 99% down there yelling on my behalf, and on behalf of us all.  The criticism of the protests confounds me; don’t they know that we are all in the 99%?  That this is for your benefit, too?  I met with my financial advisor last week, and he told me that he wanted to get up from his desk and go join them in the loby!  Shocking and a bit scary, considering he has all my money which is still only a fraction of what a CEO would make in a month, but it’s all I have.

I read this amazing article that someone posted on facebook today.  Lindsay talks about how to Occupy Wall Street from home.  She discusses the act of making soup as a revolutionary act, of removing oneself from the industrial food system as one thing that women and mothers can do to free ourselves from the slavery of the corporatocracy.  I also read this article in the New York Times the other day, profiling a woman who found herself in Deep Trouble, and went back to the land in Brooklyn to feed her family.  I feel so inspired when I read these.  I feel that I am reading this today as a woman who has control over nothing, who has been crying all day at the news that another job we thought was ours has fallen though, at the idea of my family on food stamps and wondering what happened to my good karma points?  I have been thinking of my grandmother a lot, a woman who came of age in the Depression in a one room cabin in the Rockies, no electricity or running water.  I think that if women like her could get their families through it, then I can too.  Then I remember the world I live in, which is so different than hers.  How my generation has been cursed with debt beyond even my parents wildest imagination.  What are we going to do?  Who is going to help us?  Will there ever be an end to all of this?  Will we ever be OK?  Lately, I think not.

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I just don’t feel like blogging.  I keep hearing Obama’s speeches telling us to just wait, and Ron Paul supporters wanting uninsured people to die.  I keep seeing executions and Pakistan and it’s hard to have much hope.  The whole family seems in a funk.  We are in a holding pattern and all starting to get noodgy.  The weather has been hot and humid and we are waiting for fall.  We are waiting for our car to give its dying gasp.  Waiting for someone to call and just offer a damn job.  Waiting and waiting to see which fork in the road we are going to take.  Will I be waiting tables at night?  Will we be on food stamps?  Will we ever be able to sell this house?  Move to Vermont?  Buy new jeans? Will we be able to pay someone to fix all our broken shit?  Or renovate the third floor so the kids don’t have to share a room into their 20’s?  Just trying to hold on, but the consistently high cortisol levels are taking their toll.  Four more weeks until we are cut off our unemployment insurance.

In the meantime.

I’m in squirrel mode.  I was so resistant to getting the freezer in the basement.  J talked me into it and I will begrudgingly concede that I like it.  We got a 13 cubic foot Energy Star model like this one and filled it fairly quickly.   We have had it for five years now, but never really depended on it.  It just sort of expanded our storage space is all.  Now that I’m in Food Hoarding Mode, It has become a lifeline.

Cheeto™ hoarding may lead to cat hoarding

Someone asked me the other day why I don’t do the extreme couponing.  Aside from the fact that I don’t want a full-time job that pays nothing but sixty jars of mustard and a gross of toothpaste, there are just never any coupons for anything I need, and that is because I don’t need much.  I’ll be doing a post soon about how I save on toiletries for the family, and how I make my cleaning products but generally I think most people, including myself, have far too much crap and don’t need more.  For now though, I’m cleaning out my freezers and stockpiling food as I make room for more.

There are certainly not coupons for half a cow, but I can still get healthy, high-quality, ethical food for a good price with a little legwork.  It is definitely worth my time to drive far with my coolers in tow and get a large measure of food.  My freezer gives me that freedom.  Right now I’m cleaning out the old stuff to make room for new so we can go into this depression with at least a bunch of meat and veggies.  Preferably in the form of half a cow.

I was able to make dinner tonight for the kids and for J and I with just the freezer and pantry items.  Per usual, I made tons- as much as I had time and ingredients for.  I left enough out for tonight’s dinner and lunch later in the week then repackaged it all into stackable pint containers to freeze again.  I estimated that the entire meal cost $5.00 for four people plus leftovers.  That’s not per person.  What allowed me to do that was the squirreling away of about six pounds of roasted winter squash purée from last year.  My father-in-law came to acquire something just shy of a Shit Ton of unidentifiable vegetable of the winter squash variety and couldn’t manage to eat it all himself, so he trucked it down from Vermont and we shared in the bounty until we were sick of eating it.  I roasted, puree and froze the rest in one pound bricks.

I also discovered a pound of apple cider caramelized onions from two years ago deep in the recesses of the freezer and a light bulb went off in my thinking parts.  I whipped up two batches of soup; one with apples and onions and maple syrup for the kids, and one with chipotle mecco powder for the grown ups.  I made about two quarts of each soup, using up the last of my amazing chicken foot stock.  I also discovered two pounds of ground dark meat turkey from a local farm in there, and thought some mini-meatballs might be nice in the soup.  The recipe I used required some futzing to make it Paleo, but they actually turned out to be just the best meatballs I have ever had.  And I hate turkey meatballs.

I wish there was some way to calculate how much money that freezer has saved us.  I am confident saying that its had the best return on investment of anything in our house aside from maybe the spray foam insulation in the basement.  Anyhoo, here are the recipes I invented today.  I’m very happy with the cost breakdown and the flavor of everything.  Please not that all measurements are approximate.  My cooking style is more like “cross fingers and throw shit in a pot”.  Those bitches, the Fates, decided to throw me a bone and make something work out in my favor for a change.

Inexpensive, not cheap.

Sweet Apple and/or Chipotle Winter Squash Soup 

2# winter squash, roasted and pureed

3c chicken stock (bonus for chicken foot stock!)

1c cider caramelized onions (or, just sliced yellow onion)

2 cloves garlic

2 apples, chopped (I leave skin on, but you can peel or use unsweetened applesauce)

salt, pepper, maple syrup (optional)

butter or ghee

Roast squash in your preferred way (I cut in half, cut side down in roasting pan with about 1″ water, roast at 400 or so for about 45 minutes or until soft).  Purée in food processor or with immersion blender.

Sauté onions until translucent and starting to brown (or just add caramelized onions), add minced garlic and sauté just until fragrant.  Add chopped apples and season with salt.  Cook just until apples are starting to get soft.  Add stock and bring just to a simmer on low heat, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and purée with an immersion blender, or in batches in your food processor.  Return to heat and bring back to a low simmer.  Season with salt, pepper and maple syrup.

To make it spicy, omit the apples and add a half a can of chopped chiles in adobo ( to taste), rehydrated chipotle mecco chiles or chipotle powder.  Serve with crème fresh.

Paleo Turkey Meatballs

2# ground dark meat turkey

2 eggs

2/3c almond meal

1 small yellow onion, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2c freshly shredded Parmesan cheese (optional, if you don’t do dairy)

1/4c paprika paste (or, tomato paste but the paprika paste is really incredible)

1/2c flat leaf parsley, minced

1 T olive oil or other cooking fat of choice

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients together with hands just until blended.  Don’t over mix. Heat fat in heavy bottomed dutch oven or skillet.  Roll into medium-sized balls, about two inches in diameter.  Place in frying pan just until browned, flipping gently once.   Put the browned meatballs on a baking sheet into a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until cooked through.

Happy Equinox, Witchy Broads

I don’t really want to say anything to the Universe that might give Her a trail that She could potentially follow back to me. Sometimes She has it out for me and my family. I imagine her bowed over her cauldron saying, “Let’s test this bitch again!” I’ll just say that there could be good news on the horizon (aside from Elizabeth Warrens poll numbers) and we might be close to the end of this torment. At least, closest to the end than we have been in a year and a half. Now we are just in a holding pattern, waiting for the heavy cogs to move. I don’t mean to be cryptic, but I have actually started to hold my breath so if you could collectively tell the Universe that something good should come my way, I would super appreciate it. This is the four-week countdown to the end of unemployment insurance, so it’s critical mass. The alarm bells have sounded each day at a higher frequency and at a faster rate. Let’s all hold that witchy broad at bay and keep fingers crossed.

The Census Bureau released new poverty numbers today and it’s looking pretty grim, even for a person skeptical of the Bureaus methods.  The New York Times has some nice commentary here.  Someone said on my facebook page,

“I feel like I am reading about myself. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one going through this. It is reassuring to know that I am not, and I am also not the cause of the situation that me and my kids are in, contrary to what others choose to believe.”

It’s hard seeing that one in six people in this country are living in poverty, one in five among children.  It’s interesting that the numbers might have been higher if not for a more prosperous relative that the family can temporarily move in with.  Something that I find particularly interesting is that the poverty numbers, while climbing for adults and children, have stayed totally stable for the elderly.  Another 2.6 MILLION people slipped into poverty just last year, the highest number since the Bureau began keeping track, 52 years ago.

Economists seized on a telling statistic: It was the first time since the Great Depression that the median American household had a lower income, adjusted for inflation, than 13 years earlier, said Lawrence Katz, an economics professor at Harvard University.

This is a depression disproportionately affecting the young, single mothers, minorities, and working families.  Social Security has been able to offer a buffer to the elderly.  What role is there for a social safety net for the people most vulnerable to downturns in our economy?  This cannot become a country of only the very rich and the very poor.   What ever happened to shared sacrifice?

I know people mean well (or, sometimes they don’t) but I’m a little tired of getting this question.  It’s always during a lull in the conversation and brought up in a cheery, conversational tone that makes me think that it was deliberate.  I know that someone saw “the job numbers” on the TV machine and though, “Gee, I wonder if [token unemployed person] has seen these.  I’m going to ask them in a bland and non-offensive tone to communicate my empathy for their situation.”  Yeah.  It’s not working.  I don’t look at “the job numbers”, because they can be interpreted in many ways, and because it doesn’t get us a job. We watched them in the beginning for signs of hope, but they never seemed to correlate with our experiences.  So, if you want to help the Long Term Unemployed, don’t condescend to us. Just give some resources to your local food pantry, please.   Speaking of food…

I try to do one food project each day.  We are getting a glut of vegetables from our CSA now, and I’m working hard to keep as much of it as I can for the winter.  In the past I have done a lot of boiling water bath canning, and some pressure canning, too but It’s hard for me to think of anything messier, more time-consuming, or hotter.  I find myself dreading every canning project, especially after last summers 110# of tomatoes.  Yes, it paid off when I ended up with a bookshelf in the basement full of quart jars with fresh tomatoes in them, and I only just ran out of them a couple of weeks ago.  But man, that was a lot of messy work.  I don’t want to deal with it again, so this year, I’ll be oven roasting and freezing some tomatoes, and packing others in oil.  Much easier.  I can get one bushel (which is about 54#) of sauce tomatoes for $20 at a local farm.  I’m hoping to get two bushels processed before the end of the season.

Today I got a Groupon for $10 for $20 worth of meat from a local butcher, so I jumped on it and drove over there.  For less than $50, I got a pound of duck fat, three pounds of freshly ground lamb that they cryo-vaced into individual packages for me to freeze, 2.5 pounds of lamb shanks, 3 ham hocks, and 2 pounds of chicken feet for stock.  So everything went into the freezer except for one pound of the lamb that i made into some lamb meatballs with roasted eggplant sauce.  Yum.  We had everything on hand from our CSA or in the pantry, so it was almost a free meal.  That always feels good.

J talked to his recruiter today who had a great job at a growing company with fantastic people that he would be perfect for……in Baton Rouge.  I cried.  I just refuse to believe that there isn’t something here that he would be great for.  He is willing to commute to DC and NYC on the shuttle.  He is more than willing to telecommute with some travel to a home office.  We cannot afford to sell our home, uproot our family and move someplace with no job market in this economy when they could fire him in a  year.  It’s not fair.  He has a few more resumes in, but he always does.  One company who had expressed some interest in him suddenly decided to go in another direction with the job description.  At least he got a reason.  That’s incredibly rare these days.  Usually you send your résumé through an online form, and then the computer decides whether to put you in to the next step or lock you out.  If you move on to the essay portion (yes, the essay portion), then you have the opportunity to answer some questions in under 500 words about why you would be a  good fit for this job.  Then you hit Submit.  At this point, you either send it out into the ether with no further information and just wait for a phone call, or as is more likely to happen, you get a generic message saying that you’re not right for this position at this time.  Nothing has been reviewed by a human, no feedback is given, you have no one to contact, no phone number, name or interview.  It’s dehumanizing and disrespectful and these online HR systems are losing out on a  lot of great job candidates.  It’s just humiliating.  J read today in an article with tips on how to get around these systems that you shouldn’t even say “summa cum laude” on your résumé, and to change it to “high honors”, or your résumé will get screens out as porn!  We are not dealing with geniuses here, but there is seemingly no way though this impenetrable HR firewall.  Of porn.

Now, I’m off to watch the presidents jobs speech to congress.  Fingers crossed for a miracle.

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