Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My City in Ruins

This is at the Kennedy Center Awards...Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder is doing the song that Bruce Springsteen wrote after 9/11. It is a near-perfect rendition.

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The nutters have found me (and it only makes me madder)

I knew I was asking for trouble when I posted this. I received four carefully-worded comments on this post that are clearly from the wackjob get-withholding contingency. They were careful to pay attention to my post enough not to capitalize every letter, and their grammar and diction are near-perfect. But their comments are almost verbatim off their nutter websites, and I recognize the propaganda in their comments. I'm going to exercise the same rights that they do when I attempt to comment on their crazy websites...as proprietor of this blog, I choose not to publish their comments. I don't want to be an instrument of spreading around their insanity.

You see, I know agunahs. I know their ex-husbands. I've spoken to them at length. And here's the thing...I'm about as straight an arrow as you can possibly get when it comes to moral issues and this makes me a very sensitive b.s. meter for when people spin immorality into some version of Torah. And when I talk to these guys, my needle runs into the red. These men are sick, selfish and evil and they cloak themselves very cleverly in Torah. Most of the time, they hide their immorality very well.

Orthodox Judaism is very gender-role oriented. I actually believe that most of the time, this is a good thing. But how I feel about it is sort of irrelevant...it is what it is, and though I do struggle with certain aspects of halacha, I embrace them, because overall, I think Torah is an ideal system. Orthodox Jewish marriage is one of these bizarre legal constructs that is centuries old. It basically involves the husband "acquiring the wife." I don't know a better English word than "acquire" although it is not exactly accurate. It's not the same thing as acquiring a goat or a piece of furniture, as the wife needs to consent and understand what is transpiring (a goat or table does not) and by acquiring the wife, the husband has specific legal obligations toward her. While halachic marriage is one-sided transactionally (the man is actively acquiring, the woman is passively acquired), it is not misogynistic. But since it is the man that is active in the marriage, it is the man that is active in the undoing of the marriage. The man holds the power of the giving of the divorce, the get.

On the positive side, I remember when I stood under my chuppah (both times) thinking that it was extremely cool that my husband was marrying me using the exact same words and the exact same action as my father did when he married my mother, my grandfathers did when they married my grandmothers, my great-grandfathers did when they married my great-grandmothers, etc. I felt like I was part of a giant spiral. On the other hand, when a woman stands under a chuppah with a man, she is putting her life in his hands. She is trusting him that if something goes wrong, he will do the right thing and release her. That is an enormous trust. Think about that. And anytime a husband withholds a get from his wife, for any reason, he betrays that trust and abuses that power.

I'm not saying that all divorces are the man's fault. I'm not saying that women don't play dirty in divorce and custody settlements. Hire a lawyer, rake her over the coals, do whatever you think is right, and defend yourself. But the get needs to be completely off the table. It is difficult for me to believe that God meant for husbands to torment and enslave their wives when He gave the power of the get to men. It was not meant to be used this way, and when men do this, they belittle themselves, halacha and the Torah. When a husband uses a get to extort money from his wife, he becomes a naval b'rshut haTorah, or worse, just a plain thief and extortionist. These men are cruel and often mentally unstable. I've met enough of them.

I've already lived long enough to accept that there are evil people in the world. That part doesn't keep me up at night. What bothers me more is the apathy of otherwise good, giving people when it comes to dealing with these men. People are more willing to advocate against global warming than against get-withholders....what the hell kind of value system does that show? If I owned a store or a restaurant in a Jewish community, I would have a sign up: "If you are withholding a get from your wife, your business is not welcome here." I get furious when I hear about synagogues that allow these men to come in the door. I want to tear my hair out when I hear about a Beis Din that instructs a woman to "just pay her husband off and get it over with." Every time a Beis Din condones this kind of extortion, they open the door for a hundred other men to do the same. The Batei-Din should decree that going forward, all gets that were bought-off with money are invalid. That would stop these extortionists cold. I want to scream when I hear about shadchans setting these losers up with unsuspecting women. And the women who date them, knowing their situation...well, I have no words.

But the evil continues and it remains a large boil on the backside of the Jewish community. It makes me cringe. When I see my Jewish sisters unable to date, remarry, have children, go on with their lives, all because they made the mistake of marrying selfish monsters, my heart breaks.

So think twice before you date one of these nutters. Think twice again before you let him into your home, shul, store, restaurant, or do business with him. Think about what you would do if your daughter or sister became an agunah and her life had to come to a screeching halt. Think hard, because all Bnos Yisroel are your daughters and your sisters, so stand up for them, protect them, and give voice to this injustice.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mi K'amcha Yisrael, Goy Echad Ba'aretz

I think I complain about the religious Jewish community enough, yes? So for a change, I'd like to post on how absolutely wonderful they are. You heard me right.

IVF is not cheap. The whole thing costs roughly $25,000 from start to finish and almost none of that is covered by insurance. My health insurance is very weird. They will cover any procedure or medicine that corrects infertility but absolutely none that will contribute towards a pregnancy. How stupid is that?

Given that my husband and I are now both unemployed and are being kept afloat by the odd contract job here and there, the idea of taking $25,000 out of our savings is not one we relish right now. Nearly a third of that $25,000 is the cost of IVF medicines. The medicines are unbelievably expensive. I've been looking into ways to curtail the costs and take the edge off of the expense.

I spoke to an IVF nurse at an infertility support group about possibly getting in touch with patients who had insurance coverage and are now done with their cycles and have no further use for their leftover meds. She said she's done this before, and she'd put me in touch with patients who would be happy to sell me their leftover meds at a slightly reduced cost from what I would pay at the pharmacy.

Then I visited some infertility support boards online. Again, lots of folks are willing to sell me their extra meds. Sell.

Then I got in touch with a Jewish organization in NY that helps couples deal with infertility. I'm not going to mention their name....they don't engage in any sort of IVF drug dispensing (and actually, they made a point of NOT doing it) but I don't want to connect them to this in any way. Basically, dispensing drugs if you're not a pharmacy or doctor is illegal. This organization refused to let me post any requests on their boards asking for meds (I assume this might have been a legal problem in the past) but I did post a request for information on less expensive medication resources, along with my email address. Ha'mayveen yaveen. I was flooded with emails from women who had extra meds that they were done with and they offered to give them to me. Give. So far, not one of them is willing to even be reimbursed for shipping costs. I am stunned and overwhelmed by their kindness.

So far, I have received offers for about $5,000 worth of medicine that I need.

As far as the illegality of it all, look, we're not talking about dealing heroin here. These are not narcotics, amphetamines or barbiturates. These are fertility drugs and I'll be using them under a doctor's care (my doctor is totally fine with this btw, as long as the drugs are sealed and unexpired). These are extremely expensive drugs that would otherwise go to waste if they are not used.

I am so touched by the kindness shown by these women. These are not women I would typically hang out with. Many of them are from Williamsburg and are Satmar Chassidim. From their emails to me, I can see that quite a few are partially illiterate...their grammar and diction are horrendous. But who cares? Kindness and generosity don't need to write well.

I am trying to think of ways to repay them and all I can think of is to take their Hebrew names and daven for them, since they are in the same infertile boat that I am. I'm also making small donations in their honor at the mikvah here.

See, to me, doing this is a celestial deal-changer. I don't think God will give someone a baby because she is drinking ruby dust or wearing a red string or any of the other kooky segullahs that I've heard about or been offered. But giving a fellow sufferer medications worth thousands of dollars just because you can...I think that is worth quite a lot, and I hope that God will agree and reward these wonderful women in kind for their kindness to me. It's times like these that I really do feel like I belong to a giant family. A giant, dyfunctional family, but one that cares about its members to the point of sacrifice and giving.

"Mi k'amcha Yisrael, goy echad ba'aretz?"

Sunday, December 27, 2009

More on babies and how I don't have any.

Lately, it feels like God is slapping me around a bit in the baby department. Let's make a list:

1) Normal but painful comment#1: Lady at Bat Mitzvah, holding one of her cute little kids in her lap (number 4 or 5) asks me in front of the whole table: "so how many kids do you and your husband have?" Me, not stopping to feel anything: "We don't have kids." Awkward Pause. Awkward Pause. Awkward Pause. Me, filling in space "So are you from the Midwest or did you move here recently?" (like I give a rat's etc.) Later, my shame is exacerbated by the lady telling my friend how sorry she was that she asked me that question and had she known about MY SITUATION, she never would have.

2) Last week in shul, I said to Moriah, new to my community, in front of five of our friends, "Yonatan (her six-year old) is so cute!" She replies "You want him?" Awkward glances exchanged all around. Again, not giving myself a second to feel, I force myself to laugh. I wish people would realize how freakin fortunate they are.

3) I had some blood typing and genetic testing done. (Thank God, all good news). But wouldn't you know that a woman from shul, Ellie, works at the lab, and didn't have the grace or discretion to keep quiet about it. She forwards the results and the bill to me with a little yellow sticky note attached, saying Hello and Good Luck with the fertility stuff, Love Ellie. I wanted to just die. I immediately called my doctor and asked him to never use that lab again for any testing. I could just imagine Ellie coming up to me after davening and saying something like "great news about your estrogen levels, huh!" or "how's the husband's sperm count doing?" while we're ladling out chulent at the kiddush. Kill me now, please. The other labs charge about twice the price, but I don't care.

4) This woman's daughter, whose wedding I attended six months ago, is 4 months pregnant. Just found out on Facebook and forced myself to wish her a "b'sha'ah tovah." Her response? "Thanks. I hope you're okay with this." Shutup.

5) A friend of mine whose husband just lost his job, was very upset about it. She was crying to me over the phone. I told her that at least she still had her job, and that she was in good company because both my husband and I were now both unemployed. She screamed at me (really, hysterical) that it wasn't the same because she had three children to support, and what nerve for me to compare. I said, "Honestly Debbie, I would kill to be worried about how I was going to pay for my three kids' tuition bills right now. " Again, people don't know how lucky they are.

6) Had an initial consult with the doctor. Turns out in my age category, assuming all my chemistry turns out ok, I have between a 10-15% chance of conceiving with IVF. Super. Happily, I also found out that with IVF, they can screen out for Down's Syndrome with a 90% certainty. It occurred to me that those odds are roughly the same.

I'm not as sensitive as I used to be about baby comments and baby-related stuff. I do understand that the whole world has babies and that it is I who is the exception, and that even though these comments bite and sting, they are normal and I need to turn off the emotion. And I do, pretty successfully. But every now and then, it catches up with me and I feel like I can't bear this pain, that it's too much for me already. Then I choke it down and wait for my next test.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Guess who's hiring? Uncle Sam!

Fascinating article in USA Today. So quick, without looking, tell me, where will you find the highest overall average salary, the government or the private sector?

Bong! If you guessed the private sector, you would be wrong. How wrong?

The average federal worker's pay in 2009 is $71,206, compared with $40,331 in the private sector. Yes, the average salary in the government is 77% higher than in private industry, in the midst of one of the most devastating recessions to hit America.

Now perhaps you don't trust these figures? The salary survey was done by USA Today, which is not exactly a bastion of Conservative or Republican ideology. And they excluded from this survey: the White House, Congress, the postal service, the military and intelligence agencies. I sorta wish they hadn't, but I guess they wanted to be mincingly fair.

Six figure salaries in the federal government have also been on the rise:

  • "When the recession started, the Transportation Department had only one person earning a salary of $170,000 or more. Eighteen months later, 1,690 employees had salaries above $170,000"
  • "Federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19% of civil servants during the recession's first 18 months — and that's before overtime pay and bonuses are counted."
And not only are gov't jobs on average higher paying, they are also more secure. In a recession that has cost 7.3 million jobs in the private sector, the federal government is hiring! The government is adding jobs at a rate of nearly 10,000/month.

Think about it. Working for the government has got to be the cushiest gig around. Since gov't agencies don't need to show a profit, there is no incentive for competence or excellence, no reasons to trim expenses or cut out bloat. As Michael Medved points out, if you go into a Joe's Diner and get lousy service, you'll be unlikely to tip the waiter and even more unlikely to return to the restaurant or recommend it to your friends. If, say, Apple doesn't sell enough Ipods this month, their investors will dump their stock like stones. Not so with the American government. If I go into a DMV, wait four hours on line, and am treated with rudeness and incompetence, where will I go the next time I need the address on my driver's license changed? Why, back to the DMV. What other choice do I have? What motive is there for the clerk at the DMV to treat me with courtesy or to go the extra mile for me? What motive is there for the directors of the DMV to figure out a way to make their service more efficient and reduce the waiting time? Will they make more money if they do? Sure. But see, they will also make more money if they don't. The DMV will always have me as a customer. Joe's Diner will not. As Medved says, "In every sense, private, for-profit businesses are more directly and immediately accountable to the public than are taxpayer supported bureaucracies."

Parenthetically, think about this when you consider the possibility of government-run health care. You doing the math? If I have to go back to the DMV three or four times to get my new license plates, that is inconvenient. If I have to go back three or four times to get my new kidney, well, that is just a whole different story, yes? But I digress.

Lest you think that gov't employees suffer in the benefits dept., uh no, they don't. If you work for the federal government, you will receive a generous insurance package and pension plan, along with mandated paid sick, overtime and vacation time. Do all or even most jobs in the private sector guarantee that?

This is your money funding these salaries and packages, taxpayers. Do you get these sorts of perks?

Thinking back on the anger that was expressed over the AIG raises and the rage over the salaries of the top CEO's of some of the bailout companies, I wonder if we will apply the same standards to the bloated salaries of our largely incompetent federal government. I think the American people are at a crossroads now, and we've got some important choices to make. Are we going to continue down the path of being a people of the government or do we want to reinstate a government of the people?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Anti-Agunah Nutters

Why is it that all those maniacs who support Jewish men who are withholding gets (divorces) from their wives speak in capital letters nearly half the time? They also seem to use really, really bad grammar and spelling. And they repeat things a lot.

I don't get the whole thrill behind torturing agunahs. Haven't they been through enough? I also don't get anyone who supports someone who withholds a get. What is that all about?

The few people I know who fall into these categories are always one or two sandwiches short of a picnic. They tend to be pathological liars, very insecure, misogynistic and full of themselves.

I don't want to post links to any of their crazy, messed-up websites, because I don't want to give them free publicity. They seem to have a lot of free time and I don't want any of them finding me and sending me vicious hate mail. I got four ugly hate mails this week alone. I have enough to deal with.

But, single Jewish chicks, if you meet a man who has withheld a get for any reason (or is still withholding one), run the other way like you are on fire. These guys are generally crazy/evil/power-hungry like nobody's business. And if you casually know one of these bastards, don't loan them money, don't get involved with them, don't engage. Some of these dudes are major sociopaths.

That said, I will shrink back into my anonymity and hope they stay away from my blog. But you have been warned.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gluttony

I was out of town this past weekend at a Bat Mitzvah in the midwest. My friends, the hosts, are rather wealthy, and put out QUITE a spread at the kiddush in shul. QUITE a spread. There was some really, really good food and quite a lot of it.

So why do normally calm, polite, courteous people think it's okay to behave like animals at kiddushes? I watched in awe as people shoved, pushed, climbed over each other, reached around people, etc. to get to the food. I watched them pile about 3 or 4 meals worth of pastrami, chicken, chulent, deli-roll, dolmas, rice, wings, oh, and of course, salad on their plates. These are not starving, under-fed people. These are people who just conducted themselves with the utmost decor while immersed in prayer. And then as soon as the food came out, they sank to the lowest levels of gluttony.

I didn't even try to reach any of the food tables. No way I was going to fight that throng of animals. I stood in line at the drinks bar (at least there was a line) and waited patiently for my Diet Coke while four people cut in front of me. I watched as a man ordered a scotch (a very expensive brand) while he continuously popped 1, 2, 3, 4 rolls of pastrami into his mouth with his fingers. Not sure if he even chewed. I looked over as a waitress tried to bring a heavy-looking tray of brisket spears to the buffet, and never made it, as people stopped her to grab the meat off the tray before she even put it down. Watched as someone tore off a hunk of bread before the Bat Mitzvah girl's father could even make haMotzei on the two enormous challahs. Watched as someone dove into the relish platter with his fingers because someone else was using the serving utensil.

Of course I joked about this with my friends, who waited a full hour until the tables thinned out a bit before they even tried to get some food. But why is this behavior deemed acceptable? The Christians have named gluttony as one of their seven deadly sins. Why have we set the bar so much lower when it comes to this sort of behavior? Why do we laugh off rudeness and piggery? Aren't we classier than this?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bad Writing, Randy, and Tikkun Olam

I find it fascinating that so few people can really write.

I don't consider myself to be a great writer. I consider myself to be a decently good writer. I think I'm generally a clear communicator, both verbally and on paper. The blog has been somewhat of a practice field, but not really, since this writing is very casual, very colloquial, and pretty much whatever the heck I want it to be. But I've written in other arenas as well.

Ok, now I feel really self-conscious about every word that I'm putting down. Gonna ignore that feeling.

I'm working on a grant-funded project for one of the Jewish organizations in my community. That project involves submitting a summary report to the grant powers-that-be at the end of the year. One of the requirements of the grant is that we hire a Jewish communal professional consultant and pay them $6,000 to evaluate the project and help with the reporting. I view this in the same way I would view taking a hundred dollar bill, setting it on fire, and using it as a shamash when I light Chanukah candles. A superb waste of money. But it's a grant and we are using other people's money for great things, and if they want me to throw away some of it on this, I will. They make the rules. So it goes with non-profits.

So my organization conducted a formal search for the top Jewish communal professionals in our midst, and after some whittling away of inappropriate people, we get to Randy. Randy is a colorful guy. He worked for many years for a Jewish cultural and educational organization that (IMHO) does nothing. He set out on his own now as a consultant. Randy is Reconstructionist/Reform, but incredibly respectful and knowledgeable about Modern Orthodoxy. I don't really get what he does, but I don't get what most Jewish communal professionals do. Frankly, I don't get much of the whole non-profit education and social advocacy world. I operate in tangibles. I get, for example, teaching. I get mentoring. I get rituals and rabbinics. I get social services. I get ladling soup in a food pantry. I get most advocacy, on some level (for tangible causes). These are good, good things. I get these things.

But I don't get what Randy does. I'm reading over his proposal to us, and he has hit all the important keywords like engage, navigate, organic, pluralistic, sensitivity, differentiated instruction, empower, shared. His sentences have subjects, verbs, and objects. But I'm reading it over and over again, and I have no clue what he is saying. His writing is bad, really bad. And this is the man who is going to be paid $150/hour for forty hours to help me write up a report. This is something I find astounding. Randy came highly recommended and is at the top of his field, whatever that field actually is or means. We practically had to beg him to take us on as a client because his dance card is pretty full right now.

His proposal is remarkably amateurish and juvenile. For starters, Randy got the name of his client wrong (mixed us up with another organization with a similar name). He also got the name of the program wrong. He pegged our population wrong. He calls our Rabbi, who is Rabbi Andrew Lastname "Reb Andy." He wrote almost the entire proposal in italics. And somehow he manages to charge $150/hour and get away with this.

I have never had a conversation about the Jewish-world-at-large with Randy without eventually hearing him talk about "tikkun olam." Tikkun Olam, for non-MOTs, literally means "fixing the world." It is the secular Jewish catchphrase of the 21st century. Tikkun Olam is used to justify every pee cee liberal social cause there is (even those that are halachically questionable). Support Gay marriage? Of course, Tikkun Olam. Going green? Yes, Tikkun Olam. In favor of government run health care? Certainly, Tikkun Olam. In the secular Jewish world, T. O. has basically replaced Torah and Halacha as the Jewish justification for doing good. Of course there are no real defining parameters to T.O.; it's just a "do what feels right" kinda thing. I bristle when I hear those highly overused words. Ich.

Randy is very into Tikkun Olam. When he starts talking that T.O. stuff, I just disengage. I've often told him that he should leave the whole T.O. talk in Temple, because religious Jews tend to gag on that rhetoric. He's thinks I'm cynical.

And while we're on the topic of rhetoric, oh, can he spin it. Pounds and pounds of it. He could give Barak Obama a run for his money in the rhetoric department; he is that good. At least when he speaks his rhetoric, he is understandable. When he writes his rhetoric, he is impossible.

But I digress.

Randy is actually a sweet, bright, well-meaning guy. I want so much to like him. But he makes it so difficult.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Put on your yarmulkah....


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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Happy Birthday NJG!

Here's wishing Nice Jewish Guy a wonderful 29th birthday! EOM

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Most Annoying Facebook Friend on Planet Earth

In my "real life," I am pretty active on Facebook. I like it. It's also quite helpful. It's helped me find freelance gigs, helped me find reasonable contractors to work on my home, helped me to set some friends up on blind dates, and helped me to promote a friend's political hobbies. Very, very helpful. It's also fun. I can wax rhetoric on politics, religion, relationships, etc. Of course, I do that here too, but here it's anonymous. Over there it's me. And I do enjoy it when my friends jump into the fray. I love a good debate.

But I like to argue with thinkers. With people who are intellectually honest. With people who may not agree with me, but at least are well-meaning, intelligent, funny, and smart.

A while back, a guy, let's call him Ricky, friended me. I searched my memory banks for how I knew Ricky, and it seemed that we dated very briefly when I was in my twenties. Very, very briefly. I have a flash of a memory of throwing a perfectly good bouquet of roses in the trash. If it's the same guy, I think I dumped Ricky for good cause.

So Ricky friends me. It's a million years later and we are both married to other people, and I figure, ok Ricky, I'll be your friend. Ricky is a very green, very liberal, somewhat socialist-leaning, government-will-take-care-of-all-your-problems, very progressive lobbyist in Washington. But that's not the part that annoys me. I actually have one other friend who is a prominent member of a progressive D.C. think-tank, and though his posts are as leftist as the sun is bright, at least he is a thinker. I disagree with him on everything, but he considers before he posts. I actually enjoy shredding his posts and he enjoys attacking mine. We mix it up and it's good for both of us. But that's not Ricky.

No, Ricky is a feeler. Worse, he is totally in the tank and won't consider any other points of view. He posts long-winded, idiotic diatribes about how the earth is on its way to being destroyed because of carbon dioxide emissions, how George Bush is Satan, how Barack Obama will save us, how all Republicans (especially me) hold Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity up as their intellectual gods, how he feels practically orgasmic about recycling, etc. He cites left wing blog post editorials as facts, even if they are not and they usually are not. He has no sense of humor. He takes everything, EVERYTHING, seriously. He cites silly, irrelevant, source-free statistics that no one believes. He spouts seriously ignorant urban legends about Judaism (he's Jewish But Clueless). He is difficult to argue with because he discards facts as they become available. He argues like a child. I want to flick him off my Facebook friend list like a gnat. But I can't.

Why can't I? Because 1) I don't want him to think that I unfriended him because he is a liberal or because I disagree with him. I have been unfriended because people find me too conservative and I think it's small-minded of them. No, I want to unfriend him because he is annoying. 2) He is a very sensitive guy and I don't want to hurt his feelings. I know you think this is silly, but this is the kind of guy who would email me after the unfriending and ask where he went wrong (oh God) and along those lines: 3) I think when we were were dating, I dumped him badly. Very badly. I have residual guilt. Finally, and this is a side of myself that I don't particularly like: 4) a part of me is fascinated by how utterly annoying he can be. He comments on at least every other status update, and virtually every link I post. He "likes" almost everything. He has verbally insulted my husband in a political argument. My hyperintellectual husband loves to hate this guy and thinks I should keep him on just for giggles. But I hate myself for wanting to be irritated by him. He's too easy.

I wish there were some way to keep him from seeing my posts without unfriending him. Advice, dear readers?

Friday, November 13, 2009

WebGirl on the Dole

So, apparently, I've now worked long enough for an agency as a W2 employee to qualify for unemployment benefits. I've been taking odd freelance assignments and contracts here and there almost exclusively through this agency because they seem to have good work. But the company is reorganizing and now only subcontracting accounting-related work, so I have been officially laid off, and they've informed me that I can now file for good old unemployment. This is brand new territory for me; I received unemployment only once before when I was much younger.

Well, the world has changed! It is a rosy, cushy world for the unemployed, thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 as well as some other fun laws. I thought I'd share some of the new perks that await me.

1) As one of my working benefits, I had allocated $2,500 into a medical flex account. I figured with all the unreimbursed medical expenses coming up with my fertility treatments, I would zip through that in no time. For those of you unfamiliar with this, it basically means that as long as I spend down this amount on approved medical expenses, the money is tax free. They had been deducting this from my income a little bit at a time off of my sporadic paychecks. To date, they have only withheld $250. Well, guess what? I can still spend down the rest of the account, even though I haven't contributed to it. That's $2,250 coming to me (for use only for medical expenses, but still) that is not only tax-free, but utterly unearned. Free money. Net perk, $2,250.

2) I was using this company's medical insurance and I am now eligible to COBRA it. But monthly COBRA for my husband and me will be in the neighborhood of $700. Ah, but guess what? As long as we don't jointly make $250,000 this year (we won't), the government will fork over 65% of our COBRA payments for 9 months! For nuthin! That brings our medical insurance down to $245, a mere song. And since I have a lot of other 1099 income, COBRA payments are tax deductible for me. Why thank you, federal government. And thank you, readers, since that is your tax money paying for my health insurance. Net perk is $455 x 9 = $4,095

3) Assuming I qualify for the highest unemployment payout, which is about $500/week, and figuring on about 7-8 weeks left to the year, the first $2,400 of that is TAX FREE as long as I receive it during 2009. Talk about incentive not to work! Tax free $2,400 is almost like taxable $3,600 gross, for basically doing, well, nothing. I'll take that. Net perk is the taxes I would have paid on the $2,400, or around $800.

4) While you're collecting unemployment, you can actually work and earn up to 25% of your unemployment benefit, and not lose a penny of the unemployment money. So say my weekly benefit is $500. That means I can still work small contracts as long as they pay $125 or less. Incentive to work, but not to work that hard. Net perk if I decide to take small contracts for the next, say, until the end of the year will be around $875.

All told, my perks will be a little over $8,000 (excluding my actual unemployment benefits). Thanks fellow taxpayers! That's your money.

I have mixed feelings about taking these benefits. One part of me is screaming "you've paid your taxes and if the government wants to give you a perk-filled unemployment period, enjoy. It's not in your control." On the other hand, I feel like some of these perks are almost ridiculous, and I don't want to be a hypocrite. It's hard to turn down legal, string-free money though. We'll see. Will you respect me in the morning?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I Want You Back


Sometimes, you mix weird ingredients together and get a really, really good dish. I give you KT Tunstall doing the Jackson Five. It's REALLY good. Who'da thunk.

Monday, November 9, 2009

On Being an UnMom

So now that I am miraculously, unbelievably, but quite apparently happily married, (I'm happily married! How did that happen?), one would think my life would be, well, good? Yes?

No.

I'm in my mid-forties. And we don't have kids. And it sucks.

Pretty much 98% of all my married and divorced friends have kids. I live in a world of parenthood. One of my volunteer gigs is at the local day school. My synagogue is crawling with children and pregnant women. I have siblings and siblings-in-law who want and expect me to have a great deal of involvement with my nieces and nephews. I have children and children-related stuff coming out of my ears. But none of these children are mine. I am an UnMom.

So I finally sucked up my courage and made an appointment with the best reproductive endocrinologist in the state. Literally. Apparently this man has gotten half my shul pregnant. So to speak. I have to wait about a month for the appointment, but he is supposedly The Man.

I've been married for more than six months now. I put off the whole fertility treatment thing because for some reason, I thought that since I was actually in a good, honest, wholesome marriage now, maybe God would just toss me a pregnancy or two. But it's not happening. I've never been pregnant. Ever.

It's gotten to the point where, in consoling a friend of mine for her third miscarriage, the following incredibly stupid sentence came out of my mouth: "well at least you know what it's like to be pregnant." Yeah. I said that. She is a good enough friend to understand the place of extreme narcissistic pain from which that comment emerged. She actually sort of laughed and said that was the first honest thing anyone has said to her since she lost the baby.

The funny thing is, there is nothing medically wrong with me or my husband. We got tested in the first version of our marriage. Nothing wrong but our ages, that is. But all my chemistry was supposedly in good working order, even considering my age. It just didn't happen. I figured if you added the stress of a horrible marriage into the equation, that probably kept me from conceiving. Or maybe it was the lack of magical pixie dust. Who the hell knows?

That's the thing about this whole fertility thing. Lots of it comes around to plain old mystery. And helplessness. And pain. Long, deep, pain. It's a whole other kind of abyss from the pain of divorce or singleness. It's sharper and nastier and makes jagged, messy cuts. You wake up every morning, and the pain says to you: you think you're in control of your body? Hah! Guess again, loser. No baby today. No baby for you. Loser! UnMom!

And the pity. Good Lord, the pity from my friends is the worst. The look-exchanging. The offers of being called "Auntie WebGirl." Seriously, if you know a childless woman, don't offer her auntdom of your kids. It's so demeaning. Think.

In-vitro fertilization treatment cost between $20-25,000. And in some states (like mine), none of that is covered by health insurance. Yeah. It's like they are saying, not only are you a loser because you can't have a kid on your own, but now we're going to gut your savings account. Ha ha.

Ha ha.

And what does The Husband have to say about all this? Well, he's confident that if we do IVF, we'll have a kid. He's completely, ridiculously confident. Even when I quote the horrible, bleak statistics, he just ignores it all. He won't say anything negative. He won't think anything negative. He just tells me we should go in there, throw money at the doctors, inject me full of hormones twice a day for two months, etc. and the baby will happen. It just will. Of course it will. Why would God get us to this point and then not give us a kid? Why indeed.

My favorite part of being my friends' token Childless Woman is hearing the stories of miracle babies. Yes, I'm being incredibly sarcastic. "WebGirl, my sister-in-law's best friends brother's wife just had twins at 47. 47!! Isn't that amazing?" Yes sirree Bob, I've heard all the stories. You would think that women over 40 are just exploding with babies, based on all the stories I hear! Why, we are just dropping babies like bunnies, aren't we!

The reason these stories are dumb is because all of them, every single one of them, are exceptional. For every woman over 40 who has had a healthy live birth, there are dozens of others who are having multiple miscarriages, or can't conceive at all, or have had babies with birth defects or genetic disorders, etc. The urban legends are the rare successes. So please. Again. You know that friend of yours who is over 40 and is childless? Don't tell her any damn stories. The stories don't give us hope. They just make us jealous. And they even reinforce our hopelessness. Frankly, everything reinforces my hopelessness. Yeah. I'm not an upbeat kind of gal.

So I have an appointment in a month. My friend who did IVF at 35 warned me that the first thing this doctor will do is recommend that I use donor eggs. I'm not doing that. Forget it. I almost don't see the point. I want my own children. My own genetic children. Doesn't everyone?

I'm scared of the appointment. I'm scared that I'll get tested and the doctor will tell me that my chances of getting pregnant are next to zero. That my eggs are not viable. That my body is broken. That I will never be a mother, (but good news, I can always be an auntie!). I'm so scared.

I took one of those (probably useless) home fertility tests, because I have strong masochistic leanings. It came out fertile. But what does it know? I'm old. I'm so freakin old.

My friend from high school is marrying off her daughter next month. Another friend who is a year older than me is a grandmother, three times over. You cannot imagine how much cognitive dissonance this creates in me. And how much it hurts.

One of my friends is begging me to go see this mekubal guy in New York, who apparently will give me ruby dust to drink and get me pregnant. See, this sort of wacky segulah stuff tests the limits of my faith. Will God, who holds the key to conception, give me a child because I drink ruby dust? I'm thinking, no. My faith doesn't include magical potions.

So what do I do, dear readers, ask you to pray for Webgirl bas Webgirl's Mom? I have so many friends praying for me, baking challah for me, saying Tehillim for me. Will it break through? Will it help? What will change God's mind? Will He remember me? Can God really forget someone? Is God waiting for me to drink ruby dust? Pixie dust? I don't think so. I don't know what to think. I sort of go a little cognitively and spiritually gray when I think about my infertility. It dulls the pain a little.

And will my life have any value if God decides not to give me a child? Hmm. I guess that's the big giant question, huh. Who will I teach things to? What about when I die? Who will be my heir? Who will inherit my stuff? Who will say kaddish for me? Who will remember me? Who will care?

Infertility cuts like a knife. A nasty, serrated, rusty knife. So, enough wound opening for today. Time to go gray again.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Good news! They like us! They really like us!

This article is by far the stupidest thing I have read all week.

We are popular with the world again.

Are we in 7th grade? Is being popular in the world a national, American goal? Is this something our Founding Fathers dreamed of?

I cannot believe that there are people who are stupid enough to think this is important. David Ignatius, hats off to you. You have said the dumbest thing I have heard in a long time.

Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

I give up. Uncle.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Secret Lives of Housewives

I graduated college at a pretty young age, nineteen, and have basically been working ever since then. Except for brief periods of unemployment lasting a few weeks here and there, I've been very fortunate about getting work. I've never really had long stretches of time where my life was completely my own. I've always been in some sort of structured, scheduled environment. Even when I was working for myself, I was rigorous about my schedule and very disciplined about my work routines.

I recently moved to an Out-of-Town (read: not in New York) community where the job market in my field is horrific. Absolutely sucky. I've been here about three months and outside of a few meager freelance projects, I've had no work. Realistically, my prospects of getting a position in the next few months are rather bleak. Yup. My husband is supporting me.

I'm going to say those words again.

My husband is supporting me. My husband is supporting me. My husband is supporting me.

For some reason, it's hard to get those words out. I feel weird and conflicted and guilty about not working. We don't have kids (yet). I'm very good at my profession and have high-income earning potential. We really need the money. There's not a whole lot to do around the house. Well, there's always something, but it's mostly mind-numbing drudgery. When I say mind-numbing drudgery, I'm not speaking in hyperbole. I could fill up my day with mind-numbing drudgery, like reducing the endless piles of laundry that scream at me from the kitchen (Sort me! Sort me!), or space-bagging the overflow of the linen closets, or organizing and re-organizing the "Costco shelf" in the garage. There are the trips to pick up The Husband's dry-cleaning, or buying things we need at Walmart or at Bed, Bath & Beyond. I could spend hours trolling Bed, Bath & Beyond, clutching my 20% off coupons that never expire (never!), feeling my brain cells jumping ship as I think to myself "lemon zester....do we need a lemon zester? Have I been wanting to zest lemons recently?"

There is a lot of that sort of stuff in my life right now. But there's also more meaningful things to do. I'm back in the Jewish community here and I've firmly re-entrenched myself in volunteer work. I'm on the board of an organization that I care about, I teach the occasional class here and there, and I'm doing a few hours a week at the kosher food bank. I'm raising money for one of the schools here. I'm making meals for people who have just come back from the hospital.

I'm bored. I'm so bored I could cry. Actually, I have cried, quite a lot. Twice I cried really bad. The Husband wasn't quite sure what to do with me.

I'm not sure why I'm not enjoying this more. There is something about waking up and kissing your spouse goodbye as he toddles off to work and having the whole day yawn wide in front of you that is utterly depressing.

I have friends who are housewives who are bright, capable women, and they are exhausted all the time. Why are they exhausted? What are these secret lives that they lead that make them tired and fulfill them as my work used to do for me? And as I reluctantly embrace my unemployment, how do I access that feeling that I am doing something useful and good even though I'm not working?

Let me explain right off that I don't have a feminist bone in my body. I'm comfortable and secure with the gender role-oriented aspects of modern Orthodox Judaism and always have been. This is not me trying to prove something or trying to compete in some way. I just want to work.

I just want to work.

I know it would be different if we had kids to raise. But right now, we don't. And I don't know where to put myself. I can't do another Walmart run. I can't even look at the washing machine. I don't want to make any more stuffed cabbage and I don't want to vacuum. I don't want to make packages at the food bank. I want to work.

And while I'm ranting on about the joys of housewifery, let me say some particularly unpeecee things about househusbandry. We have these friends from shul, a young couple, who are very young and stupid. She works, he stays home with their baby. I have to say, (and I know I'm going to get flamed for this but whatever) I have never known a guy who was a "househusband" who wasn't a little strange. Granted, I've only known four couples where this is the case, but thinking about these men, they are all either 1) too lazy and unmotivated to pursue a career or 2) trying to prove some social feminist point that no one really gives a damn about anyway or 3) equipped with a history of mental illness. Seriously. I know there are statistics and studies etc. that bear out that househusbandry is perfectly normal and productive and okay, but I've yet to encounter this sort of setup where the players are not, well, weird. And frankly, some of their kids turn out even weirder.

Ok, back to me. I woke up at 7am today and made my husband breakfast and then spent 8am-9am in bed with a good library book. At 9am I got dressed (no sweats, I will not wear sweats, no I will not) and headed down to Walgreen's to pick up bandaids and shampoo. At 9:25am, I sobbed silently in my car, just for a few minutes. At 9:45am, I sat down at my computer to blog about it. And so it goes. Tomorrow I will do it all over again, different episode, same show.

I'm not cut out for the housewife gig, I think. I'm just not.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Checking in

So here's something new.

I'm happy.

Yup. I'm actually happy. I'm not thrilled, ecstatic, on Cloud 9, over the moon. But, I'm happy.

I know a happy blogger doesn't exactly make for the most interesting posts. Hope I don't sound like a blithering idiot. Maybe that's why I haven't written in my blog so much these past few months. I started my blog as an outlet, a place to put all the mental energy and dust that got kicked up during my divorce, the divorce that shook my world to pieces. I just don't have that much to kvetch about.

Scratch that. I actually have a lot to kvetch about. I need a job. I have a very small biological window left to have a baby and I'm worried sick about it. We're short on money. My move here was a nightmare. My mom and siblings are driving me crazy, crazy, crazy. My house is still not unpacked and in need of some major fixing up. My community needs money. I need to have some minor (very minor) surgery next week. One of our contractors stole money from us. My car is badly in need of some body work and we can't afford it. I'm middle aged. Etc. Etc.

But these problems are all just part of being awake every morning. I don't expect life to be free of problems. That doesn't happen till you're, well, dead.

Truth is, I greet every day astounded at my lack of unhappiness. I think I've been unhappy for so long, I didn't really recognize the feeling of being happy. My miserable marriage, followed by my sad divorce....nearly a decade spent steeped in unhappiness. No wonder. I'm flexing new muscles. I'm getting laugh lines.

Well, thank you, God. Seriously. Thanks for turning my dear husband around and showing him that if we each devote ourselves to making the other person happy, we will have a good life together, and we will build something. Thanks for helping me change. Thanks for giving me something to work with. Most of all, thanks for a second chance. I owe you one.

Shana tovah.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fixing up our little nest

We've spent the last few months doing stuff to our house. Starting off a new marriage in an old house can drag you down...we wanted our external environment to be as fresh and different as possible. We've done quite a lot on a very, very limited budget. Since money is tight for most people these days, I thought I'd share some stuff I've learned along the way:

1) the cheapest and most effective facelift you can give your home is a paint job. What a difference a little fresh paint makes. We used a painter, but if your funds are seriously tight, do it yourself.

2) paint all your ceilings white, no matter what.

3) use Facebook to get recommendations from friends on contractors. Get a million estimates before you hire someone. Estimates are free. You will eventually find someone who fits your budget and does good work.

4) Home Depot takes Lowe's coupons, expired or not. Lowes takes unexpired Home Depot coupons. Sears will usually match Lowe's and Home Depot prices on appliances...don't be afraid to bargain. Lowe's 10% off coupons are available at the post office, in change-of-address kits. Grab five of them at a time. I buy nothing at HD or Low's without a coupon.

5) Another way to do cheap updates that make a difference is to change doorknobs, drawer pulls, handles, switchplates, socket covers, toilet seats, towels, lighting fixtures. You can get much of this stuff very cheaply online.

6) when decorating, use odd numbers when displaying things. Put out five plates, not four. Put out three vases, not two.

7) Use Craigslist, but very, very carefully, because there are a lot of weirdos out there. Hire lawn guys from Craigslist, but don't necessarily hire contractors that need to come into your house. Never give a contractor money in advance, no matter how trustworthy they seem. If they need to buy supplies or paint at a store, have a store call you from the register for a credit card number. They do it all time.

8) Go on Freecycle.org and look for posts on people giving away painter's tape, ceiling paint, clean dropcloths, etc. And when you are done with your paint job, freecycle your stuff as well.

9) A good handyman is priceless. Get one through recommendations. Wait until you have at least five things he can do and have him come and fix/install it all at once...you'll save the multiple traveling costs and it's so nice to get a bunch of stuff fixed.

10) If you're doing ongoing renovations, go into home improvement stores periodically to check out the floor sales. I stopped in one day and got a Moen faucet for our sink for $50, just because they were on overstock sale. I got a stainless steel refrigerator for $400, because it was the floor model.

11) if you're painting and driving yourself crazy with color choices, rather than just choose a color and hope it works, invest $3 and buy a color sample and throw it up on the wall. We made one bad mistake in a bedroom and had to pay the painter to repaint it (and buy new paint). We should have bought five or six color samples instead.

12) do things in stages. Don't try to do everything at once. Get your floors done. Pause. Get your repairs done. Pause. Get your painting done. Take a breather. Then get your window treatments. Put up some shelves. Go slowly or you will make bad choices.

13) Nothing gives a house a quickie external face lift and curb appeal like painting the front door. Make sure to use a semi-gloss finish and exterior paint...the elements are tough on paint.

14) Another cheapola face lift that brightens everything...have your windows professionally cleaned. Suddenly, the sun will come in.

Feel free to post your home reno tips here. Could use some ideas about low-cost window treatments.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Those who cling

I've been connecting to lots of old friends in Out-of-Town and it's been quite nice.

Last week, we were invited to a couple's house for Friday night dinner, and imagine my surprise when I saw Jessie there. Who's Jessie? Jessie is a great woman. She's fun. She's funny. She's nice. She's offbeat, interesting, and always great to talk to. I was quite friendly with her a few years ago when I first lived in Out-of-Town, but I had to let our friendship fade and disappear. See, the problem with Jessie is that she never lets go. Never. Lets. Go.

When we invited her for Shabbos meals, she would always stay for at least an hour to two hours after everyone had gone home. At first, I was sort of pleased and flattered that such a nice, funny woman would choose to hang out with me (The Husband always went to take a Shabbos nap) when she could have gone home any time. But it got tedious and old really quickly. I too wanted a nap, or at least to have some facetime with The Husband. But every single time we invited Jessie over, she hung out long after it was time to go home. She was The Guest Who Never Left. Sometimes, if we had her for lunch, she would end up staying for Shalosh-seudos, and then eventually for Havdallah, and then one time even went to the movies with me and The Husband on Saturday night ("I'm such a third wheel! You don't mind, do you?"). Sometimes she would ask me to go out during the week, and occasionally, because she was a fun, likable person, I'd willingly agree. But then she'd come back to the house with me and hang out for hours. Of course, eventually, I would start gently hinting, and she almost always took the bait. Almost always.

Sometimes she'd bring a ridiculously extravagant hostess gift, like the $80 Sharper Image corkscrew I'd mentioned we wanted but would never buy for ourselves, and then I'd feel horribly guilty about hinting that she should leave. She was single (never married), lived far away at the very edge of the eruv, and her kashrut was definitely not up to our standards, so she really couldn't reciprocate and invite us back, and so was always trying to do nice things for us "to pay us back," which we insisted was not necessary, but there she was. She called too often and sometimes at odd hours, and was hard to get off the phone.

Finally, I introduced her to some other friends of mine who had large lively Shabbos tables, and they started inviting her too. As soon as I realized that she had other places to eat on Shabbos, I stopped inviting her, and, I'm a little ashamed to say, stopped returning her calls. I'm not very proud of the way I handed her off.

My friends reported to me that she did the same thing to them in terms of sinking in her tenterhooks and not letting go. It was pretty clear that no matter how great Jessie was, she had some major self-esteem issues. I was willing to bet that this was one of the reasons that she never married, as I find that most guys like clinginess as much as they like garlic breath, and tend to run quickly from both. One of my friends that apparently had taken a real liking to Jessie even decided to get brutally honest with her and talk to her about her slightly obsessive clinginess, and how it turned people off, but Jessie was less than receptive, and told her that people liked to be engaged by other people. Yes, but....

So, it was with mixed feelings that we ran into Jessie last week. As usual, she held up her end of the conversation with wit and humor, and was a pleasure to talk to. She asked me about going out for coffee this week, and (after The Husband delivered a gentle reminder kick under the table,) I politely declined, though she was so engaging and interesting, I was tempted. But coffee with Jessie was practically a long term committment, and I could not afford to fall into that abyss again. We bade her a goodnight and good Shabbos as we left, and she was just settling in on the couch with the newspaper, even though our host had already retired to bed and our hostess was about to get into a robe. Jessie clings like liquid soap.

I wonder about people like Jessie who have so much going for them, but don't know when to let go. It is so utterly against my nature to impose myself into other people's lives, I can't even get my head around why she does this. I can understand why someone with less going for them would do it, but Jessie seems to have it together. As I said, she's very likable, and she's attractive, with an interesting job to boot. She could have a great circle of friends if only she stopped the clinging. Sad. Self-awareness is everything.

Free Granola Bar

Here and here. (Doublecheck the hechshers.)

Free Subscription to Spin

Here.

Free Black Crowes Download

Here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Free Dave Matthews Downloads

Here.

The Latest Assinine Comment on Healthcare from the Leader of the Free World

President Obama, at a Town Hall Meeting on August 11:

"All I'm saying is let's take the example of something like diabetes, one of --- a disease that's skyrocketing, partly because of obesity, partly because it's not treated as effectively as it could be. Right now if we paid a family -- if a family care physician works with his or her patient to help them lose weight, modify diet, monitors whether they're taking their medications in a timely fashion, they might get reimbursed a pittance. But if that same diabetic ends up getting their foot amputated, that's $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 -- immediately the surgeon is reimbursed. Well, why not make sure that we're also reimbursing the care that prevents the amputation, right? That will save us money."
Oh my Freakin Freakin Lord Amightee. Did the President of the United States of America just imply that American doctors would rather amputate their patient's leg than prevent the disease that called for the amputation for the money? Did he actually just say that?

Here're just a few of the many, many things that are wrong with this statement:
  1. Are you freakin kidding me?
  2. The doctor who counsels the patient (general practitioner, internist, or endocrinologist) is not the same doctor who cuts off the leg (surgeon).
  3. According to the American College of Surgeons, "Medicare pays a surgeon between $740 and $1,140 for a leg amputation. This payment also includes the evaluation of the patient on the day of the operation plus patient follow-up care that is provided for 90 days after the operation. Private insurers pay some variation of the Medicare reimbursement for this service." So Mr. President, not $50,000, not $40,000, not even $30,000. Around a thousand. Yeah, that's big bucks.
  4. How is this an argument for government-run health care?
  5. Are you FREAKIN KIDDING ME?
Does President Obama consult with anyone before he spouts pure, offensive, wrong, crap like this?

And where, exactly, is the outrage?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Feeling married (or not).

When will I stop feeling like a divorcee?

Given that we are born into this world single, you would think that it's sort of the natural, default setting for who we are, and how we feel about ourselves. I think though, that since most of the mainstream, "normal" world gets married in their twenties and spends the rest of their lives with one other person (Isn't that the mainstream, normal world? Isn't it?), feeling married takes over as the default setting for how one feels about oneself. Your average adults spend much more of their lives married than they do as singles.

And divorce, of course, screws everything up. Bluescreen.

I got married in my early thirties, and so it took a while for my settings to switch from single to married, but they happily did. In the first few years of my marriage, I couldn't imagine feeling any other way. Subsequently, divorce shook me to my core and of course, I went through months of self-redefinition, as any divorced person will have to do. Hard reboot.

So I suppose when divorcees get remarried, that redefinition recurs, only the settings adjust themselves to the new spouse. This is how it feels to be married to Spouse #2. It feels different from being married to Spouse #1. It feels different from being single. It feels different from being divorced. It's new. But it's a tangible, factory-installed setting.

When you remarry your Ex, the settings go off kilter. Frankly, I don't think there is a factory-installed setting for remarrying your Ex. You've got to create a custom setting. It's definitely different from being single or divorced, and it's also incredibly similar to being married to Spouse #1, because after all, Spouse #2 actually is Spouse #1. But it's still very different from that feeling because after all, Spouse #2 is not Spouse #1 at all (and if he was, we'd still be divorced).

Here's the thing: given the fuzziness of feeling (or not feeling) married again, I seem to be slipping back into feeling divorced from time to time. Even The Husband noticed some of this sort of weirdness.

For example, I still occasionally use my maiden name, even when I have committed to taking my husband's last name again. I tend to take care of a lot of "Man Things" that I used to rely on The Husband for when I was married, like car maintenance or mechanical stuff. I am much quicker to make decisions without him (something he finds a little annoying), even decisions that effect both of us. I am less domestic; I don't cook or clean as much as I used to when I was married. I still shop more for myself than for both of us. I tend to do more of my own thing.

I haven't really figured out how to feel married yet, at least not how to feel married to The Husband. I haven't really started dreaming about our future. I haven't melted my stuff (both material and psychological) into his stuff yet. I still feel a teeny weeny bit more divorced than married.

Don't get me wrong. I love The Husband, gangbusters. He's been fabulous. He is trying so hard to make our lives together good and special. I really couldn't ask for much more. I just haven't completely let go yet and surrendered myself to my marriage. I'm wondering if I'm still a little bit too damaged from the divorce, but I don't think that's it. I think it's probably just good old-fashioned fear. Maybe.

Lotsa freebies (didya miss me?)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Catchup

You know when you have a good friend that you tell stuff to almost every week, and then something major takes over your life and you fall completely out of touch, and you don't call the friend because so much has happened that you don't know where to start? Dontcha hate when that happens?

So my dear friends and readers, I got married and moved back to Out-of-Town. The move was huge. I'm still reeling from it. I cannot begin to tell you how much I hate moving. I've done it way too many times. To start with, it costs a fortune. It's not just the actual moving expenses that cost that much; it's all the stuff you need to throw out, and all the stuff that inevitably breaks in the truck, and all the stuff you just have no room for in your new place. Since The Husband and I were divorced for a while, we replaced a great deal of the furniture that we mutually took from each other, and now we are swimming in nearly new stuff that we don't need and for which we don't have room, and are reluctant to let go. I hate moving.

We did a little work on our house, which resulted in one of our landscapers making off with nearly a thousand dollars of our money. Yup. I do love getting swindled. We're taking him to small claims court, but it's not looking good that we will actually be able to locate him.

I am currently unemployed, which is bumming me out. A lot. I don't do well without work. I'm getting my health insurance from The Husband's work, so a lot of my expenses have disappeared, but this move has cost such a fortune of money, and our savings have seriously dwindled. For the first time in a long time, I am worried about money. I hate worrying about money.

On the plus side, The Husband is behaving very, very nicely. I like my second husband quite a bit. The first one, not so much.

Oh, and I was recently in a minor car accident. Minor in that I wasn't hurt and no other cars were involved, but the passenger side of my car is not a happy site right now. I fell asleep at the wheel.

That's mostly it, in a nutshell, I think. I think we're caught up. I'm trying to walk the fine line between continuing to write this blog and trying to keep it interesting, and respecting the privacy of my marriage and husband, and it's not easy. Let me know when I'm really boring you.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

WebGirl is busybusybusy

I know I haven't posted much lately. I'm in the middle of some transitional stuff and there is not much free time these days. Stay tuned....I'll be back in August.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Free Coldplay mp3s

Free Coldplay album (legal download) here.

OutofYourLife.com

It's time to break up with his jewelry, too.

LMHO. Talk about niche marketing. Watch the tv ad.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Free Music for Independence Day

A slight departure from my usual free music posts...click here for 10 Amazon free mp3's of patriotic tunes, in honor of our great country, and in spite of the fact that our President and Congress are slowly flushing it down the toilet. When I listen to God Bless America, I feel a little hopeful. Happy July 4th.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

On Michael Jackson

Honestly, I will heave if I have to read or listen to another thing about how incredible and miraculous Michael Jackson was...how he changed the world, etc.. No, he didn't. Watch any interview with Michael and you will see a seriously weird individual. Maybe borderline disturbed. Something was not quite right with the man.

I have no idea if he was actually guilty of child molestation. If he was, I hope he is, well, burning in hell, whatever that means. If he wasn't, then I am very sorry he died but really, enough already. He was a very talented musician and dancer. Unique. I saw him perform in the eighties and he was great. It did not change my life.

Assuming he was actually guilty of child molestation, can we still appreciate his music and talent? This is actually a very old question. Can we appreciate the operas of Wagner? The poetry of TS Eliot and Ezra Pound? I can go on and on with a list of creative geniuses who were evil individuals. The entertainment industry in particular seems to breed creative people who either lead amoral lives or hurt other people. Can we still appreciate the art if we abhor the artist? Very interesting question. I have no answer.

Assuming that most of the world thinks child molestation is very, very bad, if you think Michael Jackson deserves to be mourned, you either:

  • don't think he was guilty of child molestation;
  • don't know if he was guilty or not and have decided not to deal with the question because listening to Thriller gives you the warm fuzzies about your childhood in the eighties;
  • think that even if he was guilty, acknowledging that he was possibly a horrible person is enough and you are able to separate the artist from the art;
  • think that even if he was guilty, his music was world-changing and therefore he deserves our veneration.
I personally lean toward the second choice, regardless of the fact that I don't mourn Michael Jackson. I'm sort of done with all the MJ specials and tributes, and interviews of people who knew him or claimed to have known him. The excess of the world's response to the passing of a pop icon is too much, too too much. Really, I've had enough.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

And while we're on the topic of pop culture and music

Just for the helluvit, pick a rock/pop male vocalist and female vocalist from, say the last 40 years, who have the most distinctive, clearest, widest-range voices, a voice that you instantly recognize no matter what the song. My choices would be Freddie Mercury and Sheryl Crow. I hate Sheryl Crow's idiotic politics, but boy do I love her voice. I've always thought Mercury had one of the most flexible, amazing voices in rock history.

Attention Pop Culture Musical Geniuses

I'm trying to remember the name of a nineties one-hit-wonder. It was done by some guy with a synthesizer in his basement who had a pretty good techpop song with sort of morbid lyrics about a girl who gets in to all sorts of trouble. I think it was late nineties. Anybody have a clue?

Father's Day

Not sure why Father's Day gets to me so much. It just does. It's been 4 years since I lost my Dad to cancer. Time has worked it's magic and while I miss him terribly, I've more or less stopped grieving. I get through his birthday and his yahrtzeit just fine, with a visit to his grave and some tears and prayers, but then I'm okay. His death doesn't preoccupy my mind like it used to when it was fresh. But come Father's Day, and it hurts all over again and I feel like I lost him yesterday. Maybe it's because the rest of the world is celebrating fatherhood and I can't. I'm wondering if I will feel better about Father's Day if I ever make my husband into a father. Maybe that's part of the hurt.

I had to buy my father-in-law a Father's Day card, since my husband is allergic to all things Hallmark, and this sort of thing is my designated job. It feels pretty empty to be wishing my father-in-law a Happy Father's Day; he is no more my father than anyone else is. I like him; he's a nice guy and good to my husband, but he's not my father. I've also taken to calling my inlaws Mom and Dad, which is their preference, but certainly not mine. I didn't call them that in my first marriage, but I caved this time around, since it means so much to them. It feels very fake, but sometimes in life, you need to do the wrong thing for the right reason. They are wonderful people, and they certainly treat me almost like parents. But, they're not.

I miss my father. I dreamed about him two nights ago. I was living in the house I grew up in. It was the middle of the night and my father came into my bedroom. "What's the matter, Daddy?" I asked him. "I can't sleep. I'm worried about something and want to talk to you." "Want an Ambien?" I asked him. This is where it crosses over in dream-weirdness because if I was young and living in my parents' house, I wouldn't even know what an Ambien was, let alone offer one to my father. In the dream, my father tells me something which I can't remember then hugs me really tight and leaves the room. I can almost feel that hug and I wish I could remember what he told me.

I wonder what dreams mean. Was that my father visiting me from the next world (I can't sleep.) or was that just a product of my grieving mind missing him? I wish it were the former, but I sadly know it's the latter. I do believe my father exists somewhere, but I know we can't communicate. You can't imagine how sad this makes me.

Sometimes I go through some of his things to make me feel a little closer to him. I need to be in the right frame of mind for this though. I think if I did that today, I'd melt away into grief and hysteria. Wouldn't be a good thing. I still have the sefer that was opened on his desk before he was taken away to the hospital for the last time. I keep the bookmark in the place it was opened to. Yes, I know how foolish and sentimental that is. Once, someone was going through my bookcase and took out the sefer and opened it to the mark and then almost dropped it. I nearly had a coronary, thinking that my father's place would be lost. I told a friend of mine about the sefer and she thought it was beautiful that I was holding my father's place. "You know, so that when he come back in tchiyat hamaytim (God's resurrection of the dead), he can just pick up his learning where he left off." My friend is very spiritual. It's not that I don't believe in tchiyat hamaytim. I do. It's just that it would hurt too much to personalize it and give myself the hope that someday I might see my father again. It's one thing to think about it in religious terms; quite another to think about what it might mean to me. Though I will admit, since my father's death, I do say that particular blessing in the Amidah with more kavanah.

Sorry to get so morbid on such a happy day. If you're a dad, enjoy your day and hug your kids. If you're a son or daughter, give your dad a big kiss and appreciate and love the heck out of him. And have a Happy Father's Day.

Friday, June 19, 2009

How to Not Be Romantic

You're not going to like this post. I'm not even sure I'm going to like this post. It's so anti-intuitive. But I'm going to talk about how my marriage has completely changed my ideas about what is romantic.

When I married my husband the first time, we did romance. He sent me flowers. He got me jewelry. We did dumb, mushy, bad joke Hallmark cards. We lit candles. We went out for picnics on the beach, dinners in dark restaurants. We went on weekends away in ski resorts, vacations, etc. We followed the script. We were even following the script when we were being creative and spontaneous. We were both doing romance the way we thought it should be, the way it was on Friends, and in the movies, and in trashy novels. You know, explosive, demonstrative, with big gestures and lots of gazing into each other eyes.

Yeah. Well. Five years later, that romance didn't keep us from getting divorced. What it did do was cause a lot of resentment on the mutual lack of response to each other's efforts. Why? Why didn't I feel loved when The Husband bought me diamond earrings? Why did I silently criticize how small they were and how they were in yellow gold when he knows I like white gold and how the diamonds were so unwhite? Yes, I did think that, internally (thankfully, I knew enough not give voice to such pettiness). On his side, instead of appreciating my gestures, he resented the fact that I was spending so much money on them. The romance was hollow to us. It did nothing to generate love. There was so much wrong in so many other areas that the romance became plastic.

Fast forward to marriage #2. We just passed our one month anniversary and we spontaneously bought each other stuff to celebrate. I got him a portable Ipod speaker (cost: $9.99) and he got me Bananagrams (cost: $14.99). What was cool about this was that 1) we didn't decide beforehand to buy each other gifts, we just did and 2) we didn't spend a ton of money and 3) we bought each other very un-romantic gifts. But we spent two hours playing Bananagrams on Shabbos afternoon and laughing our heads off at some of our lame attempts at cheating. And he used the Ipod speaker while he was relaxing at home and didn't feel like having headphones on. And I think that we both really liked our gifts. And we both felt appreciated and loved.

When we got engaged the first time, I hooked The Husband up with my cousin in the jewelry business and he bought my engagement ring from him. He had a certain ring in mind (round stone, yellow gold, solitaire setting) and so did I (radiant stone, white gold, side stones). We went back and forth and settled on a compromise, but we both felt sort of bad about it. I wanted him to instinctively know what I wanted and was frustrated with what he wanted to choose for me. I realize now how foolish that was. He wanted to pick out the ring himself and was frustrated with how what I wanted was so different from what he thought would be the perfect ring for me. What we compromised on was still a pretty ring. But the process to getting there sort of sucked the joy out of it.

Fast forward to marriage #2. I still had the stone from the first engagement ring (I had reset it into a necklace during the divorce). I asked The Husband about putting it into a new engagement ring for our new engagement/marriage. He said: here's what I'd like to spend, go get yourself a new ring setting and tell your cousin to send me a bill. Very unromantic, right? But I picked out exactly what I wanted, and then threw in some of my own money to buy a matching band. Very, very unromantic. And when I showed him the rings, The Husband looked at my hand and said "Wow. They look gorgeous. I would have never chosen that style. We'll have to work on some matching stuff for future anniversaries." And then I tackled him. And what started as a very unromantic, practical gesture became a very sweet promise. And frankly, I don't care that much about when we actually buy the stuff. It's the feeling behind the promise that was never there in the first marriage. And when I look down at my hand, I feel like my husband really does love me. Finally.

This is probably obvious to everyone else, but at last I've realized how mature, happy people carry on relationships. It's not romance that makes the love. It's love that makes the romance.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hubris, Part 2

Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was testifying on the Louisiana coastal restoration process in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He began to answer one of Boxer's questions with "ma'am" when Boxer immediately cut him off.

"You know, do me a favor," an irritated Boxer said. "Could say 'senator' instead of 'ma'am?'"

"Yes, ma'am," Walsh interjected.

"It's just a thing, I worked so hard to get that title, so I'd appreciate it, yes, thank you," she said.

"Yes, senator," he responded.

Watch it here.
One who runs after honor will have it run away from him.
-The Talmud, Eruvin 13b

Hubris, Part 1

“I’ve got one television station that is entirely devoted to attacking my administration.”
-President Obama, 6/17/09
Really Mr. President? Would you like some cheese with that whine?

You forgot to mention that you've also got one station entirely devoted to adoring and worshiping your administration and pretty much the rest of the mainstream media soft-balling any criticism of your administration to the point of losing any real claims of objectivity. Oh, and let's not forget the prime time infomercial on your health care program that ABC is basically giving to you. Seriously.

And, btw, Mr. President, let me remind you of the fact that you are The President and that this is a democracy. The President gets to be criticized. Yeah, that's how that the Free Press works.

Why don't you ask President Bush how many stations were entirely devoted to attacking his administration?

Freebies/Deals Roundup

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Free Toonz

22 Free Itunes songs from Nylon Magazine, here.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Will on Green

I'm going to reprint here, in it's entirety, the George Will article about going green. (Thank you P.S. for yet another great email). I'm reprinting it because it is so freaking brilliant. I heard George Will speak at a university once, and went home thinking he was one of the greatest modern thinkers of the 21st century. I wish I could be this eloquent.

Oh, and I saw one episode of the The Goode Family and I almost fell over laughing. The show is sadly on target.


Green With Guilt
By George F. Will
Thursday, June 4, 2009

There once was an Indianapolis concert featuring 50 pianos. Splendid instruments, pianos. Still, 50 might have been excessive. As is today's chorus summoning us to save the planet.

In the history of developed democracies with literate publics served by mass media, there is no precedent for today's media enlistment in the crusade to promote global warming "awareness." Concerning this, journalism, which fancies itself skeptical and nonconforming, is neither.

The incessant hectoring by the media-political complex's "consciousness-raising" campaign has provoked a comic riposte in the form of "The Goode Family," an animated ABC entertainment program at 9 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesdays. Cartoons seem, alas, to be the most effective means of seizing a mass audience's attention. Still, the program is welcome evidence of the bursting of what has been called "the green bubble."

Gerald and Helen Goode, their children and dog Che (when supervised, he is a vegan; when unsupervised, squirrels disappear) live in a college town, where T-shirts and other media instruct ("Meat is murder"), admonish ("Don't kill wood") and exhort ("Support our troops . . . and their opponents"). The college, where Gerald works, gives students tenure. And when Gerald says his department needs money to raise the percentage of minority employees, his boss cheerily replies, "Or we could just fire three white guys. Everybody wins!" Helen shops at the One Earth store, where community shaming enforces social responsibility: "Attention One Earth shoppers, the driver of the SUV is in aisle four. He's wearing the baseball cap."

The New York Times television critic disapproves. The show "feels aggressively off-kilter with the current mood, as if it had been incubated in the early to mid-'90s, when it was possible to find global-warming skeptics among even the reasonable and informed." That is a perfect (because completely complacent) sample of the grating smugness of the planet-savers, delivered by an entertainment writer: Reasonable dissent is impossible. Cue the pianos.

"The Goode Family" does not threaten Jonathan Swift's standing as the premier English-language satirist. But when a Goode child apologizes to his parent for driving too much, and the parent responds, "It's okay . . . what's important is that you feel guilty about it," the program touches upon an important phenomenon: ecology as psychology.

In "The Green Bubble: Why Environmentalism Keeps Imploding" [the New Republic, May 20], Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, authors of "Break Through: Why We Can't Leave Saving the Planet to Environmentalists," say that a few years ago, being green "moved beyond politics." Gestures -- bringing reusable grocery bags to the store, purchasing a $4 heirloom tomato, inflating tires, weatherizing windows -- "gained fresh urgency" and "were suddenly infused with grand significance."
Green consumption became "positional consumption" that identified the consumer as a member of a moral and intellectual elite. A 2007 survey found that 57 percent of Prius purchasers said they bought their car because "it makes a statement about me." Honda, alert to the bull market in status effects, reshaped its 2009 Insight hybrid to look like a Prius.

Nordhaus and Shellenberger note the telling "insignificance," as environmental measures, of planting gardens or using fluorescent bulbs. Their significance is therapeutic, but not for the planet. They make people feel better:
"After all, we can't escape the fact that we depend on an infrastructure -- roads, buildings, sewage systems, power plants, electrical grids, etc. -- that requires huge quantities of fossil fuels. But the ecological irrelevance of these practices was beside the point."

The point of "utopian environmentalism" was to reduce guilt. During the green bubble, many Americans became "captivated by the twin thoughts that human civilization could soon come crashing down -- and that we are on the cusp of a sudden leap forward in consciousness, one that will allow us to heal ourselves, our society, and our planet. Apocalyptic fears meld seamlessly into utopian hopes." Suddenly, commonplace acts -- e.g., buying light bulbs -- infused pedestrian lives with cosmic importance. But:

"Greens often note that the changing global climate will have the greatest impact on the world's poor; they neglect to mention that the poor also have the most to gain from development fueled by cheap fossil fuels like coal. For the poor, the climate is already dangerous."

Now, say Nordhaus and Shellenberger, "the green bubble" has burst, pricked by Americans' intensified reluctance to pursue greenness at a cost to economic growth. The dark side of utopianism is "escapism and a disengagement from reality that marks all bubbles, green or financial." Reengagement with reality is among the recession's benefits.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Deal roundup

Monday, June 1, 2009

Of Mice and Freaks

We recently had a little rodent attack in our garage. That is a euphemistic way of saying that there are mouse droppings everywhere. It is beyond disgusting. Seriously.

So I placed an ad on Craigslist saying that I needed a few people who can deal with ickiness who will clean out my garage. It needs to be swept out and everything needs to be wiped down with a bleach based cleaner. I would provide rubber gloves, cleansers and face masks. I was paying a big twelve dollars an hour for this job, which is basically what we can afford. I posted the ad and sat back.

Instantly, I was flooded with responses from people who are desperate for work and cash. We had nearly fifty of those. It kinda bothers me that so many people are willing to do this sort of work for so little. That tells me how bad the local economy is.

Here's what I learned about job hunting in general from this experience:

1) if you are answering to an ad that specifies a salary, don't respond that you will happily do it for more. We had a few people saying that they would do it for $15/hour, with a minimum number of hours guaranteed. The thing is, I got flooded by emails from people who offered to do it for even less than $12/hour, so all things being equal, why on earth would I use the more demanding respondents?

2) I asked for references (these workers are going to be in my home). Anyone who responded without at least one phone number for me to call got dumped in my delete pile. If I ask for a reference, give me a reference. One person even berated me for asking for a reference for such a menial job.

3) while I didn't ask for experience since this is a fairly simple job, some people responded by listing references and cleaning experience. Those people went right to the top of the pile. If you have something relevant to the position, offer it up, even if the potential employer didn't ask for it.

4) People that sounded illiterate went to the delete pile. I know, you don't need good grammar to bleach a garage, but it helps if I can communicate easily with you.

5) One of the stupidest things you can do is offer to come here to do the job with your significant other. Yeah, that's just what I want. One girl even said that she and her boyfriend would be happy to show up to clean the garage, but her boyfriend would be doing most of the work. So why would I pay two people if only one is working? This isn't a day in Six Flags, it's a yucky job. I don't want people socializing. I want them scrubbing.

6) Lots of sob stories. I didn't penalize people for them, but I did ignore the stories and hated myself a little for that. It bugs me when someone writing a job response says he needs money to buy groceries. If he's got enough money for internet access but can't afford to eat, something is wrong with his prioritizing. And anyway, I want the best worker, not the neediest worker. This will probably sound harsh, but I feel like it's unethical to share your desperation with a potential employer. It puts them in an uncomfortable position. I know this sounds pretty mean-spirited, but I want to choose someone objectively.

7) Finally, this was my favorite response. Really, 99% of all responses were normal. But this one freak was the ray of sunshine in my day.

Dear Garage Woman, I know this is not going to be what you expected, I have a fetish that could work for both of us. I enjoy being Dominated and have much experiance (sic) role-playing as a naked houseboy. You would not have to pay anything to get your garage cleaned, if you would explore your Dominant side and give me orders and instruct me. I live in ____, I am 52 with black hair, blue eyes, 240 lbs. I can travel and am free as early as noon today. -Sir Rocket.
Yeah. He's not going to get the job. It would be a little problematic to have someone cleaning my garage, er, naked. LOL. I love Craigslist.