flightless hag

A chronicle of the adventures of birdwoman: a lonely, talentless freak who wanders the internet in search of entertainment.

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Location: Philly

I'm a 40-something married white female, survivor of weight watchers, avid reader of pulp. Dogs (not cats), extreme right (handed, not politics), ENTJ, alto, wanna-be knitter.

August 05, 2014

Give it all to charity?

I am a selfish person. I know this. I am also judgmental. These are two of my major flaws, and I do try to work on them. (Laziness, I just accept and go with).

A friend posted a link to this video - of course it's only on Facebook, so I can't put a link here. The summary: a dude goes through a rich, suburban foodcourt asking for food. He's clean, polite, and everybody says no. Cut to a park where a homeless guy is sleeping. Dudes 2 and 3 offer said homeless guy a bag of food - not a huge amount, but a good sized meal. Dude 1, from the food court, comes along and asks homeless dude for some food, which homeless dude happily shares.

Lessons?  I guess there are a lot of them. Mostly, though, I think, is that having stuff makes you afraid of losing stuff. We're afraid to share with the beggar because we're afraid he has an ulterior motive and will try to take us for more. That's usually the reason people say no to beggars. It's not usually judgment, though sometimes it is. It's fear.

I have three examples in my past that I remember where I tried to be generous.

The first was when I was accompanying some of my dorm-mates to the Owl's Nest. I went to Temple in the height of the crack epidemic. It was a rather... interesting time to live on a middle-class island in the middle of North Philadelphia. So, crossing Broad Street at night in winter to go to a pizza joint was not something this farm-raised girl was used to. Also, please note, I was just going. I had no money to spend on pizza.

So, we're jay-walking across the 4 lane road. On the median, there was a woman, shivering and crying. Her heat had been turned off. Her kids were cold. She needed help.

I had no money, but I gave her my only scarf and gloves.

The next night, I was coming back from the library, or someplace... I don't remember where. But she was on a different corner, shivering, crying, scarfless, gloveless, begging for money. I was also shivering, scarfless, and gloveless. And I felt like a complete rube. It was the last time I gave anything away when I was in college. I remember feeling justified in this selfishness when I was walking down broad street to my home in South Philly (LOOOOONG walk, but saved me the SEPTA token) and I saw the woman who begged for quarters at the SEPTA stop getting into her car. Her car.

Years later, I was in the UK with my husband. It was our trip for ourselves - we had saved, we hadn't had kids yet. One of the things we did was stay in Birmingham (a total pit) because it was a train hub and we got trailpasses. Next to the train station was a Burger King. Outside the BK was a girl - probably my age at the time, maybe 5 years younger. She had a dog with her. She was hungry, wanted a milk shake. Now, I had been burned before. But the dog looked hungry. So I said, yeah, I'll get you a meal. What do you want? Fish sandwich and a milkshake, please, she replied. So, I went in and got her a fish sandwich and a bottle of water. Because I figured the dog could drink the water, but milkshakes are bad for dogs.

She yelled at me that I couldn't even take an order, then tried to go in and exchange what I had gotten for a milkshake. The BK manager gave me a very dirty look, as though it was my fault this woman was making a scene because I had purchased food and given it to her.

The last incident was the only time I did direct charity was through my church. We have this thing going with a bunch of other churches. Interfaith Hospitality. One of the churches donates the building - a former rectory. The rest of us provide chaperones and food. They invite families who are down on their luck. Missed a rent payment, had an unexpected bill, whatever the situation. They are families with young children who are temporarily homeless. We provide food and shelter for a few weeks until they get on their feet.

So, we volunteered to do a meal. It was December,  and it was really, really cold. I remember being pregnant for Tim. Sean was 2 years old. He "helped" me make cookies and homemade bread. John made a huge lasagne and a big salad. The lady from church who had done this before and was going to show us the ropes made a big ham and green beans. It was a good spread for the 2 or 3 families who were in residence.

We got there, and the one mother proceed to sneer at our food, saying she was Muslim and didn't eat no pork products. She then went over to the thermostat and turned up the heat to a very high temperature, saying she was cold. Except, it was at least 75 degrees in there already, because it was a lot warmer than my house.

The families eventually all came in, ate the lasagne (it had sausage in it, but the other two families were ok with that), the first family heated up frozen entrees in the microwave since they didn't eat no pork, then they took all the cookies, took the bread, and left the room. We were told we were supposed to encourage socialization - eat with them, watch television or play games - but they didn't want anything from us. Not really. And they really, really didn't like us much. I guess they felt we were judging them, and to be truthful, I was. I didn't fault them for bad economic luck. I faulted them for bad manners and lack of respect for what they had been given. I was mostly angry because they had been so rude to that little old lady from my church.

I guess what it comes down to is that these folks all acted as though they were owed a certain something, and when I tried to give them something, they were angry - not necessarily with me, but just angry. I took it personally.

Mostly, now, I've stopped giving directly to people because I don't like feeling foolish. I don't like feeling that I've been somebody's mark. I'll take being called a selfish white bitch (that happened twice this school year alone) because you know what? I am.

Sadly, I'm more okay with being called that than feeling like I've been used. Sadly, I am surprised when I say hello or good morning to the folks in the soup kitchen or free breakfast line say hi back, with no ulterior motive. Sadly, I feel like I have to justify to myself that I do give away blah blah blah as I sit in my nice house on my personal computer with wifi.

Guess I have some more work to do.

July 28, 2014

My Dog, the Nut

My dog is nuts. He wants to play ball or frisbee ALL THE TIME. Yes, he's a Border Collie.

I think they're all nuts.
But he's so sweet, such a nice little thing. Doesn't bark (unless he wants to play ball and you don't... err....), doesn't run away, doesn't jump on people, and is house trained.

Or so I thought.

You see, we have a basketball net at the end of our yard, on the street. It's kid bait. Most of the kids on our side of the block, at one point or another in the week, come over to shoot hoops. Sometimes with my kids, sometimes without. It's all good.

But not for Loki the Dog.

See, they're all playing ball. Yes, it's a really big ball that he can't catch. Could probably get really hurt if he played with them. But it DOESN'T MATTER. They're Playing Ball. Without Him!!

No matter that this has been happening for the better part of 2 years now, he still, as my husband says so eloquently, "loses his shit:" every time kids are ballin, he's bawling.

Cut to yesterday. I chased him out of our side room - we used to have a useless garage; we turned it into a suite for my mom when she stayed with us. Now John mostly uses it, in his big-honking chair next to the windows he reads the internets. The windows look over our driveway, toward the street court. I got home from my Long March of the day and wanted to sit and play video games there. It's a comfy chair! Loki was in there - I usually don't let him be in there because his hair stands out even worse in there than in the rest of the house. AND he'd been in John's chair. Sheesh.

So I sit down, and I notice a wet spot on the arm of John's chair. The chair Loki had been sitting in. And the wet spot on the carpet, next to the window. Great. Now, he's peed in the house.

Benefit of the doubt, I call John in. Were  you drinking in here, and your glass either condensed on or spilled on the chair and floor? No, he says. And he looks at the chair arm in disgust. Then Loki comes into the room and stands at the window, crying.

While I'm down sniffing at the stain, figuring out it's NOT pee, Loki's going nuts at the window - and drooling on the spot on the floor at his feet. The boys playing ball got him so excited, he DROOLED enough to leave big marks on the floor and the chair.

Now, that's what I call obsession.

He's a good dog, truly. But don't get between him and spherical objects. The results aren't pretty.

June 22, 2014

This was some week

So, this week was a crazy one. I thought since grades went in last week, it'd be easy peasy fresh and breezy....

except, I'm no cover girl.

Monday, I decided to try to update my OS on my mac, since I could no longer run ANYTHING. Firefox and such wouldn't update, so I couldn't even get in to my gradebook anymore... sigh. So, I ended up having to go to the Geniuses, because I wasn't about to let the tech at school wipe my computer.

So, Apple wiped my computer.

I spent all of Tuesday making sure all of my apps still work (thank god for time machine, and wow, upgrading was time consuming but EASY. Not like the old days where you'd have to reinstall everything. To note: My OS was from early 2008. And all my stuff still works after a wipe. LOVE it.)

Wednesday was Moth's graduation from Elementary School. Yes. I said that right. Graduation. From Elementary school. Whatever.

I went, because he's a sentimental sap, and he wanted me to. (rewind 2 years - stinky wanted me far, far away from the festivities. Mom embarrasses him by her very existence.)

Wednesday was also our school's very first National Honors Society induction. I was on the committee. We selected 24 kids from the 60 or so that qualified by GPA. (not bad in a school of 500). School had closed at noon due to heat, and we still had a good turn out for the ceremony.

Thursday was graduation, and I left 2 hours in. They hadn't e'en started handing out diplomas yet. I remember at good old TAHS we had a separate "senior awards night" and now I know why. As my students are wont to say, "it's too much, miss".

Friday, I got up to go running, fell off my stairs, and hit my head/neck on the corner of my couch. Hard. Really, really hard. Gave myself a minor concussion. Scared the poop out of me, I tell ya. Having blood run from your ear is not cool. I had to go to school because it was close out day, but I spent the whole day wondering, why do athletes do it? Especially football players? I mean, I felt like I was gonna boot all day. And mine was MINOR. How do those guys - more WHY do those guys - put themselves at risk like that? Weird.

Yesterday, I delivered Stinky to my sister, who will show him what a nice mom is like. One he wouldn't be embarrassed of by her very existence. Alas. He'll find out that she hugs, and he'll be glad to return to me!

That was my week. Somewhere in there, Comcast came and FINALLY (after 2+ weeks) turned the phone and internet back on. And now I can blog away! Right.


June 17, 2014

What a Fiasco


So, I've been a complete Basket Case lately. I missed Father's Day. I even missed my kid's piano recital. How did I get the video above? Well...

I was 4 minutes late. FOUR. She had him go first, I suppose to reinforce to me that I ought to get to things on time. Shoot. If my mom didn't get that in my head, no piano teacher will succeed. And, generally, I'm on time. Even early. But, I was doing soccer mom x4 duty on Saturday. And, I've been a complete Basket Case lately.

So, I walk in while he's playing his second song. I waited til the end of the recital, when everyone else left, and asked if he could play this one again. So, it's staged. And it's here because I can't mail it because it's Too Darn Big.

In other news, um... there is no other news. I haven't had internet or phone service at home for 2 weeks now. Comcast customer service is a JOKE. When I called to reschedule an appointment after they failed to show, the rep had the utter gall to COMPLAIN about my cell phone line quality. I started talking like I was dealing with a foreign, mentally-challenged child. "THAT'S... BECAUSE... MY... REAL... PHONE... HAS... BEEN... OUT... FOR... A... WEEK." By the time I was giving my cell phone as a call back number (they apparently tried to confirm our appointment on the phone that is out... morons), practically yelling each number distinctly, Stinky was in stitches at my antics.

Summer is rapidly approaching. We've got plans, though not evil ones. Unfortunately. And school police just ran down the hall - a NEVER occurrence at this school - so I have to go be newsy. Have a nice day, and pass it on.


May 18, 2014

60's hits for 60's folks

Today, I went to see the Philly Pops. I've always wanted to go see them, and it was a fun show. They had 4 dudes from Jersey Boys (not Jersey Shore) who call themselves the Midtown Men. They were jammin. They sang all sorts of stuff from the 60's, backed by the Philly Pops orchestra. I couldn't help but wonder if some of those orchestral dudes weren't cursing at fate: they studied at Curtis to perform Rachmaninoff and Schoenberg, now they play Robinson and Spector. On the stage where the Philadelphia Orchestra plays, but still...


As I was saying, it was a lot of fun. As I looked at the audience, I saw a lot of hair a bit greyer than mine, hips a lot stickier than mine. I saw one couple who was TOTALLY into the show, much to the chagrin of their stuck-up seat neighbors. That was quite a lot of fun to watch, actually. But still, I suppose that music is for the generation above mine - specifically that of my oldest siblings and cousins.

I remember, as a kid, those cousins making fun of my Aunt Fannie and Uncle Don listening to muzak-type stuff: pops orchestras, like Arthur Feidler and the Boston Pops, performing radio hits. And now, those kids are paying for the privilege of watching what they used to dis. I think that's ironic, but ever since people started making fun of that song, I've never been certain what irony really is.

Speaking of, I wonder, will Alanis will ever be muzaked? (you-you-you outta know; tune carried out by the french horn.) Will Smells Like Teen Spirit will ever be carried over into "pops" territory? Probably not, but some of my kid music, like Come On Eileen or We Got The Beat, seems to be custom-made. When I'm in the crowd listening, as an oldster, will I be the dancer across the way, or the stuck-up seat neighbor? I hope I'll be the dancer, but find myself rather empathetic with the snob.

Maybe I should stick with Rachmaninoff!


May 11, 2014

the opiate of the masses

Today was a Big Day for the boys.

They got confirmed.

The Bishop raised hands over them, and lightning Did Not Hit The Church. I think this is headline worthy.

So as you may or may not know, John and I decided on a middle-of-the-road Episcopal church when we moved to the current aviary. I was raised Methodist; John is a recovering Catholic. We figured the Anglican church was a happy medium.

We generally like our church. They mostly leave us alone and we do the same. We're not huggers; we're not joiners. Our church is okay with that. But in the last few years, our boys have been asked to acolyte. Our boys. Our little pyromaniacs.  Carrying fire through the church.

Still, there are so few kids their age the priest was stuck. And acolytes have to wear dresses, also known as robes. Humiliations galore, which fits in with our parenting style. So, we agreed. It, unfortunately, has the side effect of forcing John to go to the smells and bells service at least once a month.

Anyhow, these confirmation classes started sometime this spring and have been going on for a while. This confirmation mass, which would be longer than the normal 1.5 hour mass, was looming over us like a cumulonimbus. We knew this service was going to be a doozy, with the bishop presiding over 3 confirmations and 2 baptisms (thank god Bishop Windbag retired a few years back... We still shudder about the 2 hour service that jabbermouth presided over a decade ago.) We knew we'd get through it, though. After all, it's all on the kids at this point.

But on Thursday, the priest sends an email reminding us that our boys had to be in coat and tie.

Our boys. Formal.

Great. Did I know this? I did not. It's Thursday, I am in the last crazy quarter at school, and we're having company all day on Saturday. What's a hag to do?

So, I walked to Burlington Coat Factory after school. Thank God For Burlington Coat Factory (ha). I get home and say, "Boys, I have presents for you!"

They were all jazzed. Then they saw suits. And dress shirts in bright colors. And ties. They whined. They grumbled.

They acted like I do when I'm told I have to wear a dress.

But once I got the suits ON them this morning, and they saw the mirror? Straightening of jackets. Squaring of shoulders.

"Hey, I look pretty good!" Stinky says in amazement. (of course he does. He looks like his dad.)

So Moth puts his on and says "Hey, I like suits!"

Still, they act like ratfinks:


Now, they're confirmed. My job is done. I think I'm going to become a wiccan: they have better holidays. They have holidays like every 1.5 months. There's equinoxes and solstices and samhain (halloween) and beltane (may day) and some crazy ones I've never heard of and are nigh impronouncable: imbolc and lughnasadh. Who doesn't want to celebrate St. Bridget's day? Or Walpurgis? It's gotta be better than Groundhog's day, even if it is the same time.

Anyway, now that I've got my religious jealousy under control, I'm signing off. I have all of 3 hours before I turn into a pumpkin and the weekly cycle of insanity begins again.

Later, gaters.

March 28, 2014

Environmental waste

So, we have a guest speaker coming in today. She's going to talk to the kids about environmental conservation and her research in Antarctica.

I find this dichotomy disturbing. If you truly wish to perform environmental conservation, stay the heck away from the last pristine biome in the world.

But there's recently been a tendency among us middle class ed-u-ma-cated folk to worship the "environmental" solutions, when common sense tells you: that's worse than what we were doing!

case 1:  my "green" dishwasher. If I use the "saver" cycle, I must completely wash my dishes first, and they don't go through a sanitization cycle. Then, they don't dry, so water just stands in the dishwasher. Talk about a "green" cycle. In order to actually get clean dishes, we have to use the "high heat" setting. Which is no longer green. :(

case 2: the stupid CFL lightbulbs. Talk about a scam. GE and the rest couldn't compete with the Chinese when it came to making incandescent lightbulbs. Since their profit margin was dying, they decided to do what any honest American entrepreneur would do: legislate their problem away! They got congress to pass a law that all of us Yanks have to use CFL lightbulbs. You know them, the spiral bulbs that are supposed to last something like 5 years (NOT) and are full of TOXIC MERCURY SALTS. Nice. A bulb breaks, you need an EPA clean up kit. Additionally, they take for freaking EVER to warm up. God bless you if you put one of these crappy things outside. By the time the thing warms up enough to create light, it's morning. We've started buying LED lightbulbs, which are supposed to last 10 years (Right. Have they even had one for 10 years to test this?) but at least they're not toxic. And darn are they bright. I feel like the gestapo is questioning me when I turn one on in the morning.

I'm sure there are more. But thinking about the silliness and hypocrisy makes my teeth itch. Like that "Into the Wild" book. Just the idea of reading about some suburban kid who decided to "live off the land" and proceed to starve to death seems like an exercise in futility. I can't believe they made a movie out of that crap. I thought I was alone in this thinking, but apparently I am not. Perhaps all is not lost. Perhaps there are more voices in the not-wilderness who respect the wilderness enough to leave it be.

But meanwhile, I'm sitting in an assembly, encouraging my kids to think about visiting Antarctica. Whatever.