controversies, politicians, politics, work, YouTube

So-called useless, worthless, overpriced college degrees for the “woke”…

In the wake of Joe Biden’s announcement that he plans to forgive some student loan debts for some borrowers, there’s been a lot of talk about so-called unmarketable, “useless”, college degrees. I saw an article yesterday about how some people who have high debt loads “regret” studying subjects that lead to jobs in low paying fields. They wish they’d studied business or a STEM subject– science, technology, engineering, or math. Why? Because they can’t make any money, and they are drowning in debt.

Meanwhile, many Republicans are loudly complaining about people who get degrees in “underwater basket weaving” or “lesbian dance studies”, and then act surprised that they can’t find work and repay their student loans. On the surface, that does sound like a valid complaint. Many conservatives think that a degree in “women’s studies” serves no purpose whatsoever. Ditto to “gender studies”, or any other new-fangled major that explores the issues that affect the disenfranchised. According to them, everyone needs to be studying a field that will lead to MONEY.

Henry Winkler asks… “Who is studying ‘underwater basket weaving’?” And why is a Trump thinking he is qualified to talk about it? It’s not like his father made his own money, right?

It always distresses me to hear people express disrespect for liberal arts education. It also bothers me that so many people seem to be “triggered” or offended that someone would put value in learning about gender theories. Why does going to college only have to be a pathway to a well-paying job? As many people might have realized, that’s not how it worked out for me. But I still see the value in my education. Yes, I have a degree in English, which was very helpful when I went to graduate school and could write coherent papers. More than one professor actually thanked me for being able to write competently and spell properly. I got minors in speech and communications, because I think public speaking is important, and a lot of people are terrible at it and actually fear doing it. Communication is also important, as it helps people effectively share information in a clear way.

I got master’s degrees in more specific fields. One was in social work– macro focus– which means I learned how to manage people, engage in community development, and do research. I have found that most people don’t even know what social work is, and assume it’s a specific job title. It’s not. Social work is a field of study that can be applied very broadly. It’s about helping humans achieve self-determination, and changing environments to suit people’s needs. It’s NOT just about helping poor people, facilitating adoptions, or taking children away from abusive families. And those are not things we learn in social work education, even if those areas are where a lot of social work graduates can be found working. Sadly, a lot of people who studied other fields are also often in those jobs… but they get labeled as “social workers”, when they shouldn’t be. Incidentally, a man who is now gone from my social media used to tell me “you don’t have to have a degree to work with the poor.” Ah… but you DO need a degree to be a social worker. And social workers DON’T just work with poor people. If he had gone to college himself, he might know that.

My other master’s degree might, marginally, be in more of a STEM type area. It’s in public health. I took a health administration focus, because I had to for the dual program I was in. Since I graduated, more dual programs have been developed, and if I had to do it over, I probably would have chosen one of those. But in that program, I learned about management, research, and core public health principles, as well as finance. When I graduated, I felt prepared to work. Then life intervened, and I met and married Bill… and became a globetrotting Army wife. 😉

My point is, though… you can get a good education doing most things, and in almost any field. Too many of us focus on what a person’s major was in college, when we should be focusing on their individual skills as a person. A person who majors in women’s studies can certainly learn transferable skills. I presume women’s studies majors have to write papers, learn how to research, read books, take tests, and work in groups, right? Aren’t those valuable skills? Can’t some of those skills translate to work? Hell, the Peace Corps accepts people with a broad variety of degrees. I learned a hell of a lot in two years of Peace Corps work, even if it didn’t land me a dream job with the State Department or an NGO.

I know that going to college is challenging. Come to think of it, so is working at McDonald’s. Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America, just died yesterday. I read her book in 2000, when it first came out. I read it for pleasure, but I think it would have been a great book for anyone in my grad school program. She showed that: 1. there is NO such thing as “unskilled labor” and 2. Nobody can get by in America on “minimum wage”.

I like what Beau had to say about Ted Cruz and his offensive comments about “slacker baristas”.

In the above video, Beau laments Ted Cruz and his unfortunate and OFFENSIVE comments about “slacker baristas”, who have “worthless” degrees and “wasted” seven years in college studying what he deems useless things and now can’t get a job. But, as Beau points out, the reason why Starbucks makes big bucks is because of the baristas, who make coffee drinks that people want to buy. It’s not because of the bean counters or the managers. And it does take effort and skill to learn how to make good coffee drinks. I know. I’ve done it myself– not at Starbucks, but in a fancy restaurant, where I waited tables (the hardest job I’ve ever had, by the way), and at a chocolatier shop that sold pastries. It’s also a good look when the barista speaks proper English, knows how to behave in a businesslike manner, and is professional.

No, you don’t have to go to college to learn those things, but it is one place where those soft skills are taught. And you can also grow from friendships, experiences, and the opportunities to take courses in other fields. I’m living proof of that one. It was in college where I discovered my ability to sing, a talent that I was able to develop in college. I have used that talent in countries around the world. Does it make me money? Not really, but it makes me a better, more well-rounded, more interesting person, and it improves my life immeasurably.

Too true.

Another point I’d like to make is this… Not everyone can succeed in business or as a STEM major. I SUCK at math. I don’t have a head for it. I don’t enjoy it. Even if I somehow got through a math major at a university, I would be completely mediocre in the field. And if everyone decided to major in business, the worth of that education would plummet.

I do have master’s degrees in public health and social work, which are technically healthcare related fields, but I would be absolutely awful as a nurse. I don’t think I have the right temperament for it. I’m not good at math. I don’t like the idea of giving people shots or inserting IVs or Foley catheters. However, I probably would be good at writing for a Web site like WebMD, or hospital newsletters. I would be good at writing patient instructions or other literature that provides valuable communication with the public. My English degree helps immensely with achieving that job.

If I had gone to college to study a so-called “in demand” field, it truly would have been a waste of time and money. I don’t think I could succeed in those fields. My talents are in the arts. And God knows, we value the arts, don’t we? We like to be entertained. We like being stimulated to think about things. What would the world be like if everyone studied hard sciences and business? Who would write the scripts for shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, or any of the other famous TV shows that people can’t miss? Who would make the music that helps make life easier to bear? Who would take care of the impoverished who need help, or the children who need to be taught life skills?

I think we all need a collective change in attitude. I think Americans should broaden their perspectives a bit. There is value in almost any field of study. Do people need to be spending six figures for a bachelor’s degree? I don’t think so. But that has a lot to do with what our universities are charging, and a lot of what they are charging cover things like athletics, alumni events, renovated dorms and other facilities, and technology. And also, the fact that people don’t want to pay more taxes to support those institutions.

I do think it’s true that there are a lot people who shouldn’t go to college. Maybe they aren’t intellectually cut out for the work. Maybe they lack discipline or skill. Some people really should go to a trade school, or learn something on the job. But I do think that college has value, and most fields– even the so-called worthless ones– have something to offer. We just don’t value education the way we should, and we don’t want to invest in the community or each other. I see community in Germany. Last night, one of my neighbors told me that she has no student debt, and she looks to be in her 20s or so. But then, not everyone in Germany can go to college. In America, almost anyone can go to college, if they can pay for it or get loans. That mindset probably ought to change… and we ought to get rid of most of the “for profit” colleges.

But really, I think people like any one of the Trumps (except maybe Mary Trump) or Ted Cruz need to get down off their high horses… and people need to stop looking up to them. They certainly don’t understand regular people. And they obviously value those “slacker baristas”, too… who make them their fancy coffee drinks. Those baristas make the money for Starbucks. I hope more of them will vote, too… especially if they are college educated.

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family, money, musings, work

Repost: You’ll never make more than minimum wage…

Here’s a repost from January 16, 2016. I am reposting it because it sort of relates to today’s fresh content, right down to my sharing of Ron Block’s beautiful song, “Someone”.

Today’s post is going to be some personal, self-indulgent, introspective drivel that may not interest everyone…  apologies in advance.

Yesterday, a guy I used to work with who is now a Facebook friend posted a tribute to a retired Air Force colonel who recently died.  The colonel, whose name was Luke, had been a manager at the restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia where my friend and I used to work.  I never knew Luke, but I heard many stories about him.  He was one of those people who became legendary everywhere he went. 

My friend’s tribute to Luke was very moving and inspiring.  Luke knew my friend when he was very young and broke.  He stood up for my friend when others were against him.  He helped him become who he is today.  Luke was a few years younger than my dad and may have even run in the same circles with him a time or two.  He retired from the Air Force six years after my dad did; but he was a full colonel, while my dad retired as a lieutenant colonel.

The restaurant where my friend and I used to work was notorious in Williamsburg.  It had a great reputation as a place to eat, and a horrible reputation as a place to work.  The chef, who was also one of the owners, was rather famous because he’d been on television and written a lot of cookbooks.  He was also a Marine.  Having worked in his restaurant, I definitely picked up the military style that was used there to keep things running.  That didn’t mean there wasn’t chaos from time to time.  In fact, when I worked at that restaurant, my life felt like it was totally chaotic.  I was suffering from depression and anxiety and felt like I’d never amount to anything.  At that time, I was also living with my parents.  I was in my mid 20s and had a college degree and international work experience.  But I still felt like a big loser and was unable to find work that would help me launch. 

I remember the day in March 1998 that I decided to apply to work at that restaurant.  I’d had a huge fight with my father.  He told me he thought I was a very arrogant person and that I’d never succeed at anything in life.  He said, “You’ll never make more than minimum wage!”  At the same time, he and my mother were putting tremendous pressure on me to move out on my own.  I was paralyzed by depression and anxiety at the time, and their demands made me feel panicky, helpless, and hopeless.  I was also very angry about a lot of things, particularly that my parents seemed to be ashamed of me and didn’t seem to recognize that I really was trying to become a full fledged adult.

Immediately prior to working at the restaurant, I had been temping at the College of William & Mary.  I was there for several weeks, working in their admissions office, as well as several other places on campus.  I spent the longest time at the admissions office, where I filed away report cards, SAT scores, personal essays, and all of the other stuff hopeful high school kids sent with their bids to achieve admittance.  Having worked in the admissions office and in other places around the campus, I could see why people wanted to go there.  It’s an excellent and prestigious school.  Looking at all the stellar academic records and flawless personal statements written by potential students, I felt a bit sad for myself.  I was a college graduate working as a temp, filing endless reams of papers.  It was mind numbing work that didn’t pay well.

My sister is a William & Mary graduate.  She’s done very well for herself.  They never would have accepted me.  I didn’t measure up to my sister’s greatness, although I do have some things in common with her.  We are both returned Peace Corps Volunteers; we both have advanced degrees in public health; and we both worked at that same restaurant in Williamsburg.  She worked there when it first opened, and I worked there eighteen years later, when I decided I would make more than minimum wage and get on with my life. 

I remember being very determined on that day in March when I applied for the job at the restaurant.  It was my first time waiting tables, though I had worked with food in other capacities.  I had even been a cook.  I enjoyed working with food and thought I could be successful.  It also wasn’t lost on me that the skills one learns waiting tables can be applied to many of life’s trials.

As I sat for the interview, I thought of my dad and how pissed off he made me… and how much I wanted to get out from under his thumb.  It was my second attempt at getting a job at that restaurant.  I didn’t mention my initial unsuccessful attempt to the captain or the manager who interviewed me.  I knew if I got hired, I’d make money and be able to get away from my dad and his belittling comments.  I would someday prove myself.  I set my mind to it and got the job.  I’m still friends with the man who hired me.

Working at that restaurant was one of the most difficult experiences of my life.  It was even harder than being a Peace Corps Volunteer.  The work itself was very demanding and stressful.  It was physically and mentally challenging.  I remember coming in every day, when I first started working there, and feeling like I was going to throw up.  I lost a lot of weight and learned how to wait tables.  I made good money.  I was also sick a lot during those 18 months.  I saw a lot of people quit and a lot of people get fired.  I was incompetent as hell at first and worried that I, too, would get fired.  One time, I accidentally spilled beer on a customer.  My dad sneered when he heard about it and asked if I still had a job.  I did.  I learned that if you were reliable, worked hard, and were honest, you wouldn’t get fired.  And eventually, I became competent and even good at the job.   

I was promoted a couple of times and made enough money to cover all my bills.  Living with my parents allowed me to save up for the next step I needed to take.  I sought help for the anxiety and depression I had been suffering from my whole life.  That process, too, was very difficult for me.  I came to some tough realizations about people I cared about and trusted.  After a brush with insanity and suicidal ideation, I finally felt a lot better and made the decision to go back to school. I took the GRE and applied to graduate school and was accepted.  I haven’t had to look back.  It was my final escape from Gloucester County after several dramatic attempts, one of which being my decision to join the Peace Corps.

Going back to school was a life changing experience for me… as much as the Peace Corps was.  But, I have to admit, working at that restaurant with people who knew and loved Luke, was equally earth shattering in the grand scheme of things.  I never knew Luke, but seventeen years after quitting, I am still friends with many of the people I knew in the late 90s when I was working at that job.  I have read their tributes and comments about Luke.  I can see that they all think of him as a comrade or even family…  Maybe they even think of me that way.  I hated the job when I was doing it, but now I’m honored to be in that group of people.  We were the ones who didn’t quit and had achieved some success.

This morning over breakfast, I was talking to Bill about all this stuff on my mind.  I remembered how my dad had told me I’d never make more than minimum wage and would ultimately amount to nothing.  Back then, that comment was devastating to me.  I was in my 20s, and unsure of what to do with my life.  I felt like I was really struggling, even though others surely struggled more than I ever have.  I kept doing all of these things that I thought would help me succeed, yet nothing seemed to lead anywhere.  But now I think of my friend who wrote the tribute to Luke; he actually slept outside a couple of nights because he lived far so away from the restaurant and had to take buses to and from work.  He’d missed the last one and couldn’t afford a motel.  He did what he had to do to succeed in the job and survived.  Now he’s thriving, living in Washington, DC and enjoying what appears to be a very good life.

Thanks to my parents, I never had to sleep outside.  But I felt like I was never going to launch.  Now, I look back on what my dad said and realize that he had no reason to be ashamed of me.  While I may not be the highest achieving person on the planet, I’ve done alright.  And I have made more than minimum wage more than once.  Maybe I didn’t end up being as successful and awesome as my sisters have, but at least I found someone to love, who loves me back.  I haven’t done anything really shameful or embarrassing.  In fact, aside from being overeducated and too fat for my Dad’s tastes, I’m even living an enviable life.  Maybe that was part of his problem with me.  Maybe he felt like I didn’t deserve what I have.  He probably thought I wasn’t living up to his idea of what my potential was… or maybe he was just projecting some of his psychic shit on me.  Who knows? 

Anyway, though I can’t say working at that restaurant was a whole lot of fun most of the time, I did learn a lot and met some fine people.  The skills I picked up have served me well in life.  In fact, I’d say in many significant ways, I ended up rather rich.  Reading my friend’s tribute to Luke made me realize something important.  Ripple effects can be positive.  Luke inspired and influenced my friend and my friend, in turn, inspired and influenced me.  I’d say that’s worth as much or more than minimum wage.  And I don’t have to be “someone” to be worthwhile.

This isn’t the way I feel about my dad, but it is kind of how I feel about success…  This song is called “Someone”.  It’s by Ron Block, a musician who has earned my admiration and gratitude.  The words are very wise and meaningful to me.  I think this song could be a theme for my life. (And at the time I wrote this post, Ron hadn’t shared a video of “Someone”, so I made one myself.)

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dogs, videos, work, YouTube

Professional dog grooming seems almost like making magic to me…

I had every intention of writing a fresh post yesterday for this blog. I did write one for the travel blog, although it wasn’t necessarily a travel related post. Bill has been using a new gadget to help him sleep better. I thought it was kind of cool, so I decided to write a post for my other blog about it, since it kind of pertains to our home life, and the device comes from London. You can click here if you want to read that and hear us talk on a video. Otherwise, I will move on to the topic of the day, which is dog grooming.

A few days ago, I made a music video honoring Ronnie Spector. I wasn’t a big Ronnie Spector fan. In fact, I didn’t really know who she was until 1986, when I was a high school freshman, and she sang with Eddie Money on his hit, “Take Me Home Tonight.” I actually got pretty tired of that song when it was popular, but now it makes me feel nostalgic. And it occurred to me that Ronnie Spector was a very talented performer who probably didn’t get the respect she deserved… especially from her ex husband, Phil Spector. I will have to read her memoirs and get more of the scoop on that, and the rest of her career.

Actually, this very sweet video probably led me to the stray dog video…

Because I made that video, as well as the one I made for yesterday’s travel blog/gadget review, I somehow also ended up also watching a video showing a stray dog in Serbia being rescued, rehabilitated, and adopted. Noyzi and Arran watched with me, and were really enjoying the video. Noyzi was especially excited by it and actually tried to bump noses with the shaggy, rescued dog named Albert who was adopted by a Danish diplomat.

A very sweet video about a dog who found love off the streets, which led me to Rover’s Makeover.

One thing led to another, and next thing I knew, I had found Rover’s Makeover Dog Grooming’s channel… And that pretty much did it for the rest of our Sunday. Before I knew it, I had spent hours watching this Oklahoma lady named Marybeth shearing, shaving, and clipping the masses of stinky matted hair off of a bunch of long haired dogs. Marybeth says she does free jobs for some animals who desperately need to be groomed. The free jobs, naturally, tend to be a lot of work. Some of her videos run for a couple of hours. Much to my surprise, I watched several of them from start to finish. Because of that, I never got to my big computer to write anything. My travel blog post was written on my laptop as I watched Marybeth transform mangy mongrels into much happier, healthier pets.

This was the first video I watched. I was hooked pretty quickly.

I used to clip my dog, Rhonda, when I was a kid. She was a cocker spaniel/English setter mix, and she had long hair that would mat if we didn’t brush her a lot. Rhonda never got nearly as bad as some of the dogs on the videos Marybeth posts. My mom later found a groomer who took care of Rhonda’s grooming needs after my dad shaved her all over and made her look embarrassingly bad. Dad seemed to think Rhonda was like the sheep of his youth that he had to shear for his dad. He had no eye for the aesthetic when it came to grooming our poor pet… Rhonda might as well have been a fellow Air Force recruit, getting shaved before basic training!

As a teenager, I also spent hours grooming my horse, Rusty, trimming his whiskers, bathing him, feeding him supplements, and making him shine like a new penny before our big state horse show every year. But while it was satisfying cleaning up Rusty for the show ring, he was never so unkempt that he literally smiled at me after a clip and a bath.

And at the beginning of the pandemic, I had a go at cutting Bill’s hair with trimmers. I did a pretty good job of it, if I do say so myself. He never looked any more ridiculous than he usually does, anyway. But Bill doesn’t have matted hair.

Some of the dogs Marybeth grooms are so neglected that they can’t even stand properly. They have matted hair on their paws that force them to stand in an odd way, and cause their toenails to grow straight out instead of curved.

These dogs often smell pretty terrible, too, which makes people less likely to want to pet them.
This little sweetheart was in heat. Marybeth says she doesn’t usually groom dogs who are in heat, but the owners had driven four hours to get to her. Apparently, none of the local groomers would do the job.

While I can imagine this work is very physically demanding and often unpleasant, there must be so much satisfaction when Marybeth sees how much better the dogs look when she’s finished. In many cases, they can literally see better, stand and walk better, and no longer have to endure the heat and pain of hair that has pulled so tightly into mats and turned into a thick cloak. Remember, she is in Oklahoma, and it gets HOT there. I couldn’t help but share in the celebration, watching these animals transformed in a matter of hours.

Phew! This little cutie is smiling now!

Marybeth did mention that sometimes, people do dirty things, though… like ditch their animals with her. At the same time, she cautions her viewers not to judge the owners. Sometimes the “owners” are just people who found a badly neglected dog somewhere and rescued them from the street. Sometimes, the owners don’t have the money to groom their dogs properly, but they still love them.

When it comes down to, you just never know what someone’s personal situation is. Sometimes people take on pets when their health or finances are good, only to go through a severe financial or health setback that makes it impossible to take care of their pets properly. I have also noticed that people tend to be very judgmental when it comes to pets. I think sometimes the kindest thing someone can do for an animal is rehome them– to see that they go to a home where they can get the right care and attention. People will often judge others for doing that, too.

I’m just glad to see Marybeth doing this work for the animals. I can tell it’s a labor of love for her. She’s endlessly patient with the dogs, and so many of them seem to be much happier when she’s finished taking care of them. I’m sure their owners are happy, too.

YouTube is a treasure trove of talent. I’ve found so many YouTube channels with original content that offer fascinating glimpses into people’s lives. I follow so many content creators now, some of whom have been able to turn their channels into full time jobs. I have a very modest channel myself, which I mainly use as a supplement to my blogs and a place to put my musical pursuits. If I weren’t so camera shy, maybe I would make a video showing my face, too. Bill and I have talked about it. He’s as camera shy as I am, though. We would probably do a podcast where we don’t have to be camera ready.

Someone on RfM listened to my tribute to Ronnie Spector and said it led her to watch other videos. She said she found other musicians who never got the attention they deserved… and that just made me realize that for every famous person who has made it big with their talents, there are probably dozens more who are equally or even more talented and flew under the radar. The Internet makes it possible for some of those people to be discovered on YouTube or wherever else. In that sense, the Internet is truly awesome. Of course, it can also be the source of much drama and pain… but that’s a discussion for another post.

Anyway… I am glad I discovered Marybeth and her channel yesterday. Those dogs are so lucky to have her. I know she works very hard at what she does, but the results are so satisfying on so many levels. I know the dogs feel better; Marybeth can see the results of her work; and as a viewer, I can see the transformation right before my eyes, even if it takes two hours or more. Seriously… I can’t believe I watched as much as I did yesterday. I was glued to the channel.

I also got a couple of other chores done. I changed the strings on my guitar, which was easier than it was the last time I did it. I also ordered new lamps for our bedroom, because when I picked up my lamp for dusting yesterday, the base of it fell out without any warning. I bought those lamps with Epinions income share money when we lived in Georgia, about twelve years ago. They have served us well, but it’s probably time for new lamps, even if they are going to be 220 voltage.

Today, we are expecting a delivery of heating oil, which is always fun. Maybe after I practice guitar, I’ll go watch another grooming video. I actually caught myself thinking I might not mind doing that for a living… but then I remembered that I have a sore back that would probably not tolerate that work for long. So I guess I’ll just be content to watch Marybeth work and do great things for dogs in need as she educates thousands of viewers like me.

Edited to add: there is also an update on Leon the Lobster. His “dad” also got a sponsorship to help pay for Leon’s new home.

Leon is lucky, I guess.

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complaints, money, rants, work

Repost: Got big expectations? Want quality? Well, quality costs… and right here is where you start paying for sweat.

Here’s a repost from my original blog. I wrote this on September 23, 2018. As Christmas approaches, I think it’s relevant… and I’m still deciding on today’s topic. My mom made the socks on my feet in the featured photo, too.

A friend shared this post from Scary Mommy yesterday.  It was originally written in March 2018, but somehow I missed the viral round.  I entertained myself by reading it as Bill and I came home from our excursion.  The Scary Mommy story was gleaned from a Reddit post that shows just how completely rude and entitled people can be sometimes, especially toward creative people.  

A guy on Instagram asked a crocheter named Krafty Katt if she takes commissions.  He wanted her to make him a queen sized blanket using expensive wool yarn and employing a complicated stitch.  She told him she’d do it for $400, with $200 paid upfront.  The guy’s response was very profane and he basically told her she was ripping him off because he could go to Walmart and buy a blanket for $15. He used every trick in the book to get her to lower her price for creating something stunning by hand.  She wouldn’t budge and eventually doubled her price.  I offer mad props to her for being so calm and handling that jerk the way she did.

I must admit, she was a whole lot nicer than I would have been.  I probably would have told the guy to go eat a bag of dicks the first time he started using foul language toward me.  Some people don’t seem to understand that handmade goods don’t just cost the price of the supplies.  They also require time and effort.  The guy’s insistence that the crocheter could buy yarn on sale and basically work for free was extremely insulting, especially considering how rude he was being to her.

My mom was making this the last time I visited her.

She also made this.  I did not inherit any of my mom’s talent for needle creations.  My sister got that gift.

I probably have even more insight into this phenomenon than other people do.  I grew up watching my parents making money from their creativity.  My mom ran her own knitting and needlework shop for over 25 years.  She ran her shop out of our home and taught countless people, mostly women, how to knit, needlepoint, cross stitch, and candle wick.  When I was really young, she even used to make clothes for me.  My mom has a gift for making beautiful things and she sold high quality supplies to like minded people who wanted to create beautiful things.  She probably knows all about the yarn Krafty Katt wrote of on her Reddit thread.

My dad had a complementary business doing custom picture framing and selling art by local artists.  Both of my parents made their livings laboring over beautiful things.  People would bring their creations to my mom when they needed help.  I remember her “blocking” needlepoint done by other women or finishing up projects for people.  I remember my dad and his assistant, Deborah (who took over his business), creatively framing pictures and making shadow boxes for patrons.  It all took a lot time, effort, skill, and most of all, vision.  Most people were very pleased with the end results, although some bristled at the cost.

Edited to add for 2021– this is my mom and one of her creations. She’s in her 80s and still does this…

Besides running her own knitting and needlepoint business, my mom was also a church organist for over 50 years.  People were eager to hire her to play for weddings and funerals because she is extremely talented.  I don’t remember her charging a lot of money to play the organ, but I do remember that each event required her to practice.  She had to practice for each Sunday service, every wedding, and all funerals.  That took time, energy, and effort, and she was entitled to be paid for it.

I have run into this issue myself.  I am a writer and a singer.  Writing and singing are two of my innate talents, so they come fairly easily to me, but I still have to develop them.  I studied voice for several years and put in a lot of time practicing and learning how to breathe.  I paid for music and an accompanist, as well as instruction from a teacher.  Now I can sing pretty well, but that skill didn’t come without cost, commitment, and a lot of effort.

My mom also made these.

It takes time and effort to make music or write a piece for someone else.  A lot of the pieces I’ve written for money have required extensive research, fact checking, and equipment.  Computers cost money.  Software costs money.  So do subscriptions to publications that provide the information I need to write something factual and credible.  I went to school for seven years past high school to develop the knowledge and skills to be able to write professionally.  God knows that took money!  Some people might argue that one can learn how to write well without a college degree.  I might agree with that.  However, I went to graduate school and studied specific areas that give me expertise that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  It’s been awhile since my last freelance assignment, but back when I was writing for money, I was earning anywhere from $40 to $80 an hour in the Washington, D.C. area.

I even had a social work professor who told his students that we should never give away our work for free, even if we only charge a dollar.  When someone pays for something, they value it more.  Although I don’t always think monetary compensation is required for one person to value another person’s contribution, I do agree with the idea that nothing is really free.

A person is more likely to take another person’s work seriously if payment is required.  The payment doesn’t always have to be monetary.  It can also be given in the form of gratitude.  For instance, I would never expect someone to give me money for a gift I present to them.  A gift is, by definition, given without the expectation of money.  I would hope that the recipient would “pay” me by saying thank you, although that doesn’t always happen, either.  Sometimes people are clods… myself included.

Bill had this kilt made when we went to Scotland in 2017.  The kiltmaker measured him and created that kilt by hand.  It’s absolutely beautiful, but it cost plenty and took about three months to create.  Ultimately, it was worth it.  I’m glad we went to the kiltmaker instead of a big company that makes kilts in bulk.

Aside from the hard costs of producing something beautiful, there’s also the issue of time and labor.  No one wants to be a slave.  There has to be a pay off for being productive, and the more productive a person is, the bigger the pay off should be.  Krafty Katt is obviously very good at what she does– good enough that the guy who proposed that she make his blanket asked if she does commissions.  But then he insulted her by accusing her of ripping him off by demanding to be paid for her work.

I would not have made a blanket for the guy on Instagram for any amount of money.  I don’t think I could put my heart into creating something for such a selfish prick.  I think his best bet is to go to Walmart and buy something that was made in a sweatshop.  That’s the quality of person he seems to be… and probably the quality he deserves.  

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complaints, politics, rants, stupid people, tragedies, work

You should worry about yourself…

Apologies in advance for this disjointed rant. I have a lot on my mind, and it’s coming out in heaves today. I hate to say it, but I’m beginning to think that a lot of people who identify with conservative values are actual morons without consciences or souls. It’s probably because, as usual, I’ve spent too much time looking at the news.

A few days ago, I noticed that my former college professor answered a question on Facebook about whether or not she would accept a ticket to see Bill Cosby perform. She answered “no”. Just as I was about to click off the page, I noticed that my cousin responded. This cousin shares a Facebook account with his wife, so I’m not sure which person actually wrote the comment. Friends, I was a bit sickened by it. He or she wrote that Bill Cosby is “past his prime”, but was good in concert back in the day. And Cosby had engaged in some “negativity” some time back, but is otherwise a good entertainer.

I was pretty flabbergasted. So I commented, “You’re referring to dozens of cases of drugging and raping women as ‘negativity’?” I didn’t add this, but I should have also written, “And Cosby ADMITTED to doing this, too. He’s out of prison on a ‘technicality’.”

I can hardly believe I’m related to this guy. Well… actually, I guess I can believe it. I remember overhearing him tell a nasty story to another cousin when I was six years old. He and the other cousin, also male, were several years older than I was. Still, they made it seem like a funny story, so I repeated it to two younger cousins and got in trouble with my aunt, who gave me a tongue lashing I haven’t forgotten. Later, she apologized to me, explaining that her kids were very young and “didn’t know what to do with that”. Um… neither did I! I was six years old! And I had overheard a story being told by my cousin, who apparently thinks Bill Cosby’s habit of drugging and raping women is plain “negativity”! And he’s also a proud Trump supporter, who blithely ignores Trump’s disgusting record of treating other people like shit and, like Cosby, abusing women for his own vile gratification.

This morning, I read an article in The Atlantic from March 2021 about how a lot of relationships haven’t survived the Trump era. I’m sad to say, it’s true in my case, too. There are family members I used to love seeing with whom I no longer have contact. It’s not necessarily my doing, either. A lot of them have cut off contact with me because I think Donald Trump is a poisonous man. Somehow, they fail to see that Trump is a liar, thief, and a cheat, while they bitch and moan about people “abusing” unemployment insurance and welfare benefits. I’ve got news for them. Trump doesn’t pay his fair share. He hires cronies to screw over honest businesspeople while he harasses and molests women. Read Micheal Cohen’s book, Disloyal. Cohen, Trump’s former attorney who spent time in prison due to his business with the former POTUS, writes about how he would strong arm and screw over businesspeople on Trump’s behalf.

Meanwhile, your garden variety Republican is under the delusion that people who are getting unemployment insurance and welfare benefits just stay on those programs forever. Newsflash– they DON’T. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF– also known as “welfare”) is just that– TEMPORARY. And that has been the law since 1997! Granted, state leaders are allowed latitude in how they run TANF, but the program was designed to strongly encourage recipients to look for work or engage in training to prepare them for work. Recipients have to show proof that they are job hunting or getting training in order to receive temporary benefits. And that money is generally not enough to live on for long.

I ran across the above post this morning because another friend had answered the question. My friend answered “no”, he doesn’t know anyone who hasn’t taken a job due to unemployment insurance. He lives in Virginia, where payments are notoriously low. Just under his response was a rant from some guy who said he “knows people” who aren’t working because it will interfere with their housing allowance or “food stamps” (SNAP) eligibility. And then he wrote that there should be “time limits” on aid. I had to respond. As I pointed out, “welfare” does have time limits imposed– it was five years or 60 months (federal guidelines) or less (depending on the state), last time I checked. But so does unemployment insurance. When Bill retired from the Army in 2014, he got unemployment for a month. The money he got was based on what he’d paid into the system, and he had to show that he was applying for jobs. When he got a job offer, he had to return a payment he received, which wasn’t really much money.

I’ve read a lot of comments from conservatives who have bought into the “welfare queen” myth, thanks to a 1970s era story perpetuated by former President Ronald Reagan and like minded folks. They spread a tale about people who took advantage of social safety nets, which caused some people to believe in a stereotype about poor people being lazy and bilking the system. It seems to me that the whole “welfare queen” story was news because it’s not that common. Are there people who game the system? Yes, of course. I ran into a couple of them during my brief time as a social worker. But I doubt most people enjoy using benefits like SNAP cards, especially when busybodies are judging them for what’s in their grocery store buggy and watching how they pay for such items. Also, SNAP cards can’t be used for just anything at the store. Seems to me, most people would rather have the cash to buy things they want and need. Yes, some people are truly lazy, but I don’t think it’s as common as some people claim. Moreover, it’s actually expensive to be poor.

I get wanting to see people working and paying their own way. I understand that it’s distressing to be going to work every day when someone appears to be living off of the system. But what I want to ask these folks is, why is it any of your business? Do you know these so-called welfare cheats and unemployment abusers personally? Are you aware of their story? Do you have knowledge of their characters, or have any idea about their family situations? My guess is that you don’t– because why would you be “friends” with someone you think is a lazy cheat? If you were friends with them, maybe you’d understand more about why it appears that they’re “getting over”. Maybe you’d realize that, in fact, most of them aren’t getting over. Anyone who has ever worked has paid into “the system”, which exists so that people have somewhere to turn when they fall on hard times. The assistance we offer in the United States isn’t really that much, either.

Let me ask you this. If you had a family and were receiving benefits, would you really want to take a job at McDonald’s just so you could be earning your own money? Stop and think about it for a minute. Yes, you’re making your own money, which might be paid to you in debit cards that you have to pay a fee to access. But let’s say the money you make is less than what you’d get from welfare. How long can you afford to work for minimum wage? And why the fuck would you? In that situation, doesn’t it make more sense to get trained for work that pays better, or to search for a job with a higher hourly rate? What if you have children? What do you do with the children when you’re working at McDonald’s, which many people think should strictly be a minimum wage job? Do you pay a babysitter to watch the kids while you work at McDonald’s? How can a person get ahead that way?

I’ve often heard people complaining about folks who drive “nice” cars or have “expensive” cell phones, but turn up at food banks. The people want to know why the nice car driver or cell phone user doesn’t sell their “luxury items” so he or she can buy food. What if the car or the phone was paid for during better times? Why would someone sell their means of transportation or communication, if it’s been paid for? Isn’t it easier to find work if one has transportation or access to WiFi? Especially if the car also serves as shelter? Now, I get that owning a car or a cell phone requires money, and if someone is between jobs for a really long time, selling the car or the phone might make sense. But you probably don’t know that person’s story. Their need for food at a food bank may be very temporary. Why does it matter to you, anyway? You don’t know that person’s story, or the obstacles he or she is facing. You should know your own story, though, and you should worry about yourself.

And finally… yesterday, I read a couple of disturbing news stories about how Republicans are turning COVID “vaccine hesitancy” into outright hostility. Of all of the bullshit I’ve read about conservative “thinking”, I think this has got to be the most ridiculous, tragic, and demented. Why in the holy fuck are COVID vaccines being politicized? My God– this virus has killed millions of people WORLDWIDE! It’s not a fucking political issue! It’s a public health issue! And in areas where people are being vaccinated, the rates of COVID infections are decreasing. The fact that so many Republicans are spewing this bullshit about how vaccines are part of a socialist agenda is just unconscionable. It just isn’t true! But, according to The Washington Post, some Republicans are spewing lots of grade A tough guy bullshit. From the article I linked:

The notion that the vaccine drive is pointless or harmful — or perhaps even a government plot — is increasingly an article of faith among supporters of former president Donald Trump, on a par with assertions that the last election was stolen and the assault on the U.S. Capitol was overblown.

Appearing at CPAC, lawmakers like Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) took aim at Biden’s push for “door-to-door” vaccine outreach, framing efforts to boost inoculations as a creeping menace from big government.

“We’re here to tell government, we don’t want your benefits, we don’t want your welfare, don’t come knocking on my door with your Fauci ouchie,” Boebert said, referring to Biden’s top medical adviser, Anthony S. Fauci, her voice rising as she paced the stage and shook her finger. “You leave us the hell alone!”

However, I do take comfort in seeing that Mitt Romney, a man I dreaded seeing run for president, has said that we need to stop politicizing the COVID vaccines. It’s nice to know that not all Republicans are like Marjorie Taylor Green and Lauren Boebart. From The New York Times:

“We don’t control conservative media figures so far as I know — at least I don’t,” Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said in an interview on Wednesday. “That being said, I think it’s an enormous error for anyone to suggest that we shouldn’t be taking vaccines. Look, the politicization of vaccination is an outrage and frankly moronic.

Yes, it’s moronic! I completely agree, Mitt. Things will not get back to any semblance of “normal” until we get COVID-19 better under control. This is why so many people were out of work in the first fucking place! This is why we’re having a problem with inflation, as supply and demand for certain products was interrupted because people couldn’t work. Why? Because of the deadly virus! However, during our unique COVID-19 crisis, people had the time to stop and think about how completely insane the American system is. Now, some of them are demanding some changes. I say, good on them! We should be demanding work that pays enough for people support themselves. We should be demanding access to benefits that makes living healthier and happier for everyone. People should NOT be going into onerous debt because they went to college or had the misfortune of getting sick or hurt. We shouldn’t have multi-billionaires paying workers minimum wage for demeaning work while they make plans to blast off into space as tourists. It’s sheer lunacy, and yes, it’s MORONIC!

I love Amazon… but you gotta admit, the working conditions are insane and, frankly, cruel. Why do we accept this?

Through it all, many Republicans decry abortion. They say that people who have abortions have no regard for the “sanctity of life”. But they don’t want to do anything to help people who have unintended pregnancies. They don’t want employers to have to provide birth control access in health insurance policies. Their answer is to tell people not to have sex, which we all know is a policy that doesn’t work for most (it DID work for me, but my situation isn’t the norm). Tell me… why would you want to bring an innocent baby into a world where he or she can look forward to low pay, high cost of living, onerous debts, shitty employers who treat their workers like robots, deadly viruses that people don’t want to work together to arrest, and old white men in charge who literally don’t give a damn about anything but money and “pussy”? I tell you what. I don’t think the world looks so great right now. We’ve got natural disasters out the wazoo, worldwide– here in Germany, over 50 people have lost their lives because of flooding attributed to global warming, something else conservatives don’t want to talk about or fix.

So yes… I think you should worry about yourselves. Conservatives have made it plain that in today’s world, it’s every person for themselves. They don’t care about you and yours. They sure don’t seem to want to lend a hand toward making the world better for everyone. And, as much as I always wanted to have children of my own, I’m grateful that my particular line of ancestry is going to die with me. It seems to me that many conservatives are interested in money and power, and they haven’t realized that we’re all connected. What good does money do you if there’s nothing to buy because people aren’t working? What good does money do if you can’t find someone to help you clean up after a flood because so many people have died of COVID-19 and the workers who exist are already engaged?

We need to worry about ourselves and have more forbearance toward others– but we also need to realize that we’re all in this together and we could all stand a bit more humanity. So instead of judging the person you think is “getting over”, why not pay attention to your own situation and do your part to make things better? And whatever you do, don’t make excuses for creepy predators and cheats like Bill Cosby and Donald Trump. It makes you look like an asshole.

August is wise beyond her years.

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