Next Round

Right after these short weekends

Well, here we are again. I only moved the houseplants and she knowingly marched over.


Apparently, tape timeout isn’t a novice parent move. I tried over the weekend to implement it, but Mom couldn’t ignore the looks she was seeing, and fell victim to the old never-ending debate tactic. When we use regular timeout, we just wait for them to calm down and then re-engage in discussing how we got there. Sometimes, they aren’t ready with nice words, and sometimes they’re too eager with nice words just to get out. You just give it a few minutes and try again. This is more of an endurance match for those staunchly refusing to be amicable. Once on the tape, it’s the silent treatment and having the patience to let them screw around. As expected, there was looking away, being glared at, wiggling around, stretching a leg at a time, screwing around with clothing, and staring intently at one of Mom’s artworks.  It only took about an hour for her to decide to kindly address me and the reason she was there.

It’s that magical time of the year…

Those seasoned players will know the significance of a certain Monday in August. Which Monday it is depends on the official 1st day and the individual household, but for this household, it was this week. You know, that day is coming, and there’s no way we are waiting until that day to get back into the routine. I posed the question to the whole family the weekend before last, “When are we getting back on schedule?” The kids having not delivered an actual suggestion, the parents decided it to be this week. Over the weekend, Mom and I discussed the schedule and wrote it on the whiteboard. Sunday night kicked off with an attempt at being in bed by 8:30 pm, lights out at 9:00 pm. This week is really about working towards the schedule, that being without having to have a battle over it as long as we can get there by end of next week.

Monday morning started with a snarly, nasty growl at Mom, who was gently rubbing and whispering a soft, “Good morning, my sweet little girl.” That was it. That’s all it took. Mom turned the radio up full blast, which was, ironically enough, just at the beginning of Eye of the Tiger! I heard Mom dancing around and pep rallying from the kitchen where I just wanted to get my coffee made. Then the yelling started. I gave a ten minute warning until my coffee was brewed, frothed, and cleaned up, then I was coming to reinforce the situation!

The song finished, the cappuccino got poured, mess cleaned up, and the bickering continued. I walked down the hall, and my presence immediately brought it down. I gave the look, and Mom walked out. Wiley was out of bed and on her feet, growling with her eyebrows drawn in tight. “Getting dressed?” I asked curtly. She gave me a tense Yes and walked over to close her door after me. With a flick of the wrist, the door slammed shut. In all fairness, maybe she didn’t mean to slam it closed, but it did close extremely loud. So, the battle continued. We did eventually get all ready for the day, but tensions remained between Mom and Wiley throughout the evening.

Mom and I debriefed the situation because she didn’t like how it all went down, and I gave my perspective on what could have been better. At the bottom of it all, is the fact that Wiley doesn’t want to deal with anyone in the morning. I can empathize! Mom just doesn’t always consider that she’s the only early bird in the house. I made sure to have Wiley set the correct time for her morning alarm (a struggle in of itself), and Mom agreed to leave her alone as long as she emerges dressed and ready within 15 minutes of it.

This morning, Mom headed out the door at her usual time, about 10 minutes after Wiley’s alarm went off. While the morning started out smooth sailing, even through a quick chore, I had an agenda for her of setting her bedroom fully back in order. Clean clothes were hung up, but as it came to the bed being scattered with all manner of hard and stabby things, the growling started up again. I didn’t hesitate to send her to timeout. Once again, I was just trying to get my dang coffee made, which is only the second most frustrating 10 minutes to have interrupted behind trying to have my morning constitution. Given the dirty looks, I walked over and moved my plants while the carafe was filling…

Now, the general rule of thumb with Wiley has been that any given incentive or circumstance that proves effective, only remains effective a few times over. The tape timeout has outlived the typical 3 to 5 uses, so I guess we’ll see how many more times around it works before she figures out a way to dispel it.


Boots Economics

How the wealthy pay less and the poor pay more

I checked my bank accounts after it was all said and done… just under $3 to my name all up… and I’m glad! Stoked, even! Because someone else is looking at a big, fat ZERO and wondering what in the hell.

So, I see this thing circulating around, and it grabbed me because it exactly explains what we just went through. Author Terry Pratchett narrated a bit about a character’s “Boots theory of socio-economic unfairness”, which goes to point out that poverty restricts access to more durable goods. This, in turn, causes higher costs of living as those cheaper goods fail to perform as their higher cost alternative.


Reading through a couple threads, I can see this isn’t entirely accepted. It’s intuitive, all seem to agree. Buy quality for more now and spend less in the long run, but does it hold up? There are certainly a lot of goods to consider, and I imagine the short answer is: it depends on the goods.

There’s a point to this story, so I will avoid diving into the details of what makes a wise purchase for now. The theme I want to emphasize is socio-economic disparity. Mostly because a certain member of the audience is driving a brand spanking new car, and with their connections, no doubt got a screaming good deal on it. At the same time, my partner and I just bent over backwards, begged and borrowed, just to avoid getting royally screwed for the next 2 to 3 years.

It goes like this: have no car, can’t get good job; have crap job, can’t afford car; have no car, can’t get out of crap job; repeat for … ?


That’s where my girlfriend was at. Both of us have been relegated to public transit for months, and when income just barely covers basic necessities, credit goes to hell over every expense that goes unpaid. She has been scouring the job postings hard trying to get out of her current low pay, low hours job. I was almost in disbelief of her efforts until she showed me her sent email folder welling over with several dozen applications. Probably one every other day on average. Now, I have always thought highly of TriMet, the Portland area public transit system, and I still believe it’s far better than most. However, that’s just not where the good paying jobs are. Without reliable transportation, and I can’t emphasize the reliable part enough, one can only really expect to make $14/hr at most.

Now, the first big hurdle was to encourage her to hold down her crappy job for as long as possible. I’m obstinate, I’ll admit. Work finds me all too easily to want to waste my time on a bad business. I know what I bring to the table, and employers that I reckon are worth my time tend to do a lot of catering to my requests in order to keep me around. My girlfriend is not me. She has been let go from jobs and has quit jobs over personal differences. Her current job is crappy, and her boss clearly has it out for her. Still, it needed to be held down.

She passed the 6 month mark recently, which I know from experience as being the point of ‘barely loan-worthy’. She was so frustrated over the jobs, and the dead and dying hand-me-down car was rotting in the parking space with expired tags, just asking for a citation. We needed to be rid of it, but the title was never completely transferred, posing an additional hassle. She didn’t want to hear it, but I finally wore her down to admitting she would just have to bite the bullet and suffer vehicle payments for a while to allow her to get the job that would actually cover the additional expense. Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, as they say.

The used car vs. new car debate is right at the heart of this whole conversation. My parents did everything they could to avoid making car payments. Which is to say they didn’t try very hard to avoid buying complete piles of junk. Well, they did a good job at avoiding payments, but I still have PTSD over a certain Ram Charger and it’s damn rear axle/differential. So it goes that when I bought my pickup, brand spanking new so many years ago, I didn’t think I would hear the end of “you just lost $10k driving it off the lot.” I didn’t think I would hear the end of it, until I was called upon one fateful night to come retrieve a drunkard who didn’t realize he was going to kill his coolant pump by refilling the radiator with ditch water. I invoked the Mastercard “Priceless” commercials in gloating my ability to turn the key without a single thought to if and where I might break down. I don’t know that he ever really agreed that peace of mind is worth $10,000…but isn’t it??

Well, I tell this story to my girlfriend, whose parents operated much the same until only very recently. I can tell you that peace of mind translates to reliable, which is literally the key difference here between $13 something per hour and $16 – $18 per hour. Something in the neighborhood of $500 per month increase in pay. After one year, that almost pays for the kind of car that will last longer than a few months. She conceded that she was also quite over the trauma of being the one driving when the wheels actually fall off, and finally agreed to getting into a better vehicle with payments.

We limped the car to the local mechanic, who cited an oxygen sensor as the problem, and reset the check engine light. From there, we went straight down the road to a little startup dealership that had all of maybe 5 vehicles for sale. I figured that a small guy would necessarily be the most negotiable, and we really didn’t have time on our side. To our delight, that was the last trip we made in that car. We got more for trade in value than we felt we could sell it for, and my partner was in heaven with a vehicle that drove so nicely. She exhausted her bank account for a down payment, and I pulled a couple weeks earnings out of my money to match it.

Here’s the thing… she did get a loan. We expected to be making monthly payments of less than $200. Honestly, we couldn’t actually afford any payments, but that was a number arrived at assuming she could get a better paying job before risking repossession. Which is to say that the cycle of poverty takes an enormous amount of risk and luck to break out of. What if she doesn’t land a better paying job in the next few months? It could all very well fall apart and keep her pinned in the poverty cycle. The payments came in at nearly $250 per month. Combined with full coverage insurance meant that even with a better paying job, she could only hope to just barely cover expenses at best. It had me bent out of shape, because there’s no way I was $50 per month off in my back-of-envelope calculations. Upon further investigation, I found that the financier, United Finance Company, set the financing at 30%! Even after our not insignificant down payment, the total loan amount rang in at nearly $2000 more than the cost of the vehicle! Thirty percent, folks! That’s an entire month of expenses worth to cough up in a short 24 months. Honestly, there’s no way in hell that by stretching the budget so thin, we would actually be able to make 24 consecutive on-time payments, so add in some ungodly amount of undisclosed late fees and additional months of making payments to help reinforce the poverty cycle.

After some contemplation, all I could think about was two more upcoming Christmas holidays of being too broke to buy gifts because we’d be under these payments. I did some more calculations and stared at the scant few paychecks that I managed to squirrel away before those started getting had at. (standby for further ranting raving in the future on that) I decided that we were going to do whatever the hell it took to knock the payments out in short order, 3 months if at all possible. We called the finance company to discuss early payoff, because there was oddly nothing in the fine print about it. There were a lot of “I don’t knows” from the first representative we spoke to. It was tough because my partner was the sole holder of the loan, but it was me asking the hard questions (because suddenly, nobody in this financial business can simply answer with a number). Finally, we were transferred to a manager, who gave a lot of the same. I had ascertained that by paying early, we would avoid some of the finance charges, but I couldn’t get a number from them for the life of me. I finally insisted that we would be making two equal payments to pay it off, and asked them to ‘run the numbers’ (whatever that meant to them, because I don’t believe there was actually any arithmetic happening). They squeamishly gave us the payment amounts with an air of uncertainty. I was pissed. It smelled scammy, and I could only think of what to do to get out of it.

There was a 30 day clause in the fine print. Remit the principle owed and the whole debt could be cancelled free of charge. I raged and complained about it for the following three weeks leading up to the end of the 30 days. I took to calculating again, and thought we would make it. There were two paychecks coming from my partner, and I insisted it would take every bit of both of them in addition to everything I had. By her suggestion, we went straight to the ATM after work each time, withdrew the entire amount, and I held it in my safe (the combo to which is only in my brain). I was waiting on one final paycheck to hit my account to make the last hundred of the principal, and it never came. I debated which of my very few close contacts to ask for money, and my sister came through with a bit of help. We stood at the bank teller with a handful of cash and plastic trying to make a few pithy thousand come together. The electric didn’t get paid. Rent didn’t get paid. Insurance didn’t get paid. It was so bad that I even refused to cave into buying a single beverage until it was done, not even a $2 fizzy piss beer!

We called ahead to let them know we were bringing it and to ask how they’d like it served. They tried a couple final times to weasel in some kind of bullshit closing cost or fee. The fine print wasn’t convoluted, it said specifically that only the principle was owed and cancellation was free of charge. My partner was all too happy to be the bulldog and firmly correct them. When we went to their local branch to settle up, we saw a lady come in to make a payment. She was dragging around 3 young kids and didn’t even know how to fill out the check she was handing over. My partner and I watched quite judgmentally while this obviously struggling family gave up their payment, with a whopping 30%, I’m sure. While standing there, I read a review from a customer that was still making payments on a vehicle that had long since broken down beyond repair. He stopped making payments, they threatened to repossess (which he wanted them to do), then they refused to repossess because it was not running, and went right back to expecting payment. I thought about the vehicle we were paying off and the likelihood of it needing maintenance/repairs within the next two years that we’d be otherwise under unbearable payments. I thought about the lady that loaded her kids into an okay but definitely older vehicle, and wondered if she was headed for a similar fate. In any case, we finally received a receipt to acknowledge that conditions had been satisfied, and walked out victoriously.

My partner and I stood on our balcony, celebrating. I remarked how I felt like giving a Dave Ramsey ‘We’re debt free!!‘ shout, even though I couldn’t be further from it myself. She was ecstatic, because she had never in her life owned a vehicle this nice before. Mostly, it was a breaking of the poverty cycle, or some part of it. Who has two thumbs and doesn’t owe United Finance Co shit? That’s right!

Or, maybe it wasn’t? I have looked back and pondered what else I could have done with the couple thousand I managed to pull together. I imagine a lot of folks wouldn’t have put off things like rent just to get out of making payments. Strictly speaking by the numbers, we came out ahead. However, after all the bills get caught up that were put off, we are absolutely hosed for next month. I’m not too rattled, as a lot can change in two weeks. Still, I could have used that money to buffer our next few months of payments. I could have shopped harder for a $2000 vehicle and hoped it held up. I could have started in on an industry certification to help my earning power along. I could even have reopened the woodshop and tried to spin up some more business. (I’m still doing a bit of woodworking for income, just in the covered parking of the apts and it’s pissing all the neighbors off) Clearly, we didn’t just break out of poverty like a supernova, so the benefit of all that effort is debatable.

Again, this isn’t really about just us and our situation. It’s about the fact that a certain company feels it’s okay to expect already struggling families to come up with an additional $60 to $90 per month to line their pockets. The reviews are screaming of predatory lending as everyone seems to be getting the same 30% finance charge treatment. The positive reviews are highly suspicious as being the only review those users posted. (hey, team..we’re getting destroyed by Yelp…I got gift certificates for whoever leaves a 5 star review…) Right!? It’s also about those people that are insulated from such financial struggle. How many people are able to buy a brand new car with a nice, low APR because they have family money filling in the gaps? It’s easy to never have a late payment when the Bank of Mommy and Daddy is always there to offer 0% interest loans with no certain payoff commitment. It’s easy to save money for a nice vehicle when you don’t have to purchase or maintain the decent one that gets you by for a few years. It’s easy to settle right in to a house that was bought for you and mock those who have no choice but to relocate every couple years because landlords ratchet the rent up relentlessly.


I think a lot of insulated people are quick to offer their opinions on money, but avoid having to admit that they didn’t actually use their own advice or hard work to get where they are. I have found that many insulated people actually have no feasible solution to some of the economic problems faced in life when BoM&D is not an option. Still, I’m open to all opinions on my decision here. I won’t be led to regret my choices, but I’m genuinely curious as to how people view this ‘bootstrapping’ in terms of Pratchett’s ‘Boots Economics’.

Counting Down

There’s always that feeling that comes with a welcome change ahead. Some aspect of your life that has been dragging on your mood for a good while is scheduled to close out.

And so it goes that I can’t help but start counting at some point, 6 months being a point that I particularly like. Why not a year? Seems more complete, but one year is a ways out. Counting down till Christmas starting at New Years is a bit silly, and looking forward to something that is a whole 4 seasons away just doesn’t feel the same. Officially rolling past the 6 month mark feels a bit more like just a season away.

Now, in less than 2 months, someone turns 10 years old! For many parents, that’s nice but not anything terribly impactful. For parents living in certain states, Oregon being one, there is the law stating that children cannot be left unattended until they reach a decade old. This still doesn’t make a big difference to some families. For families that really can’t afford daycare or babysitters, it is a game changer. We are that family, and I am specifically that parent. With the home schooling firmly on my shoulders, a majority of my days are already quite occupied.

I mentioned the fact at some point, and mom recoiled at the thought. Child at home, alone!? Look what happens to her bedroom when you leave her for 30 minutes! Leave the whole place to her for hours at a time? Craziness! No way!

Offers for a free cell phone started coming in, and out of desperately wanting to get Wiley operating on her own, I finally handed off one of mine to keep alarms on. That ended up doing it, as nana and papa quickly turned around and got her a Timex Family Connect. It’s basically a watch phone with extremely limited calling and text.

It still hasn’t been easy for mom to allow her to be home alone, but we are practicing with short errands. Honestly, nobody really enjoys running errands, groceries, and all that. To be left out of those chores is a blessing, she’s likely not trying to ruin it for herself by getting up to no good.

For the time being, we have to give attention to next year. Recently, the kiddo let me know that she didn’t like being home schooled, to which I hotly responded with my dissatisfaction and what a hindrance it is to me to have her attached by the hip. I suggested that if she could get it together and show she can do what is asked, public school could be an option again.

She changed her attitude toward her work, and has been going at it. By early May, she had completed the minimum coursework required to pass. Her last month and a bit of school was finally at a comfortable pace, and we all got to relax in relief. Many of her days, she finishes all her work by 12:30 and has practically the whole day to herself. It will be interesting to see if she even cares to resume public school full time or just enjoy the electives and keep the self- paced work style.

In any case, next month I will finally be somewhat less bound by responsibilities. I’ve been daydreaming about what I might be able to do that I haven’t been for so long. Have a freaking brewchacho with my brochacho?? Maybe?? Chase down some more work? Put some miles on my running shoes? Shopping for myself, by myself? Oh, the possibilities!

Fire Child

Containing the Blaze

Wiley stood on two pieces of tape on the floor. She stood there for a good, long while. Mom tried to speak nicely to her, was met with a growl, which was met with my demanding 30 more minutes.

It was a long while, and it took several tries. Eventually, though, she got dressed and cleaned her Guinea pigs’ cage. She did it without growling, stomping, and even fought back the angry face. Afterwards, mom found that she had even put away her laundry without being asked.

I’m not trying to break you, child.” I started to tell her over a waffle breakfast. “I’m not trying to douse that fire that burns in you.” She looked confused and I elaborated. “You got a fire. You have so much fury and fight. Most adults can’t handle your fire. You got a fire that can burn the world down, child! You realize that?”

She had nothing to say, words or gestures. She was listening. “I’m not trying to douse your fire, child. If you didn’t have your fire, you wouldn’t be Wiley. But, if you don’t master your self, your fire is only going to burn you down while you spend your life wondering why.”

I went on to wish that she grows up to learn to use that fire for good. Someone who just won’t take No for answer is a powerful ally and veritable adversary. These fiery, spirited children are a rare kind and their power must be acknowledged before it can be controlled.


Must be the time of year.. my feeds are flooded with success tips. I subscribe to most of it, and sometimes I transcribe it to the whiteboard.

So, my partner included a quote.

Success is never owned, it is only ever rented, and the rent is due every day.

I chewed on it a bit, and spat it out. I thought about how to ask her to elaborate. What is this rent that’s due on it? Who do you, uh, lease it from? How can it be ours only temporarily?

I erased it and wrote my own, feeling that a complete change of mindset was called for.

Your success and failure is the result of your actions. Own them!

What do you think? Was there something to the first quote that I discounted or was it calling for change?

Where do we go from here

Four. That’s how many times my family of two adults and two children uprooted and relocated, this year.

Right about the time that I last posted a blog, we were scrambling to figure out where to go after getting a letter saying our apartment would simply not extend us a lease renewal. That letter was drafted and supposedly dropped in the mail exactly 60 days before the end, so despite a lot of people insisting our move should have been paid for, it wasn’t. I wasn’t shocked, but I was rather angry.

We dealt with it. Some friends lent a vehicle, another lent a roof in exchange for labor, and we got on with it.

Those that have been reading may not be surprised to learn that one child’s school dropped her like a bad habit. Whilst her teachers paid us a home visit with grocery store gift cards and well wishes, the principal had concocted a whole dramatic situation without any verifiable basis, all in hopes of removing our child from the district altogether. Parents had suggested home schooling in the past, and with that instance came our enrollment into K12. The district told us that it wasn’t an option because of this, that, and any other. To our great relief, we not only got her enrolled, but had computer and books in hand within almost one week!

This adjustment put me in the position of full time “Learning Coach” because, well, being such is not for the faint of heart! For a long time, I had thought of homeschooling as something that well off families would do out of dissatisfaction with public school. Turns out, much like ourselves, that it is the only feasible solution to educating certain challenging kids.

My partner was out for full time employment, opting to focus all of her efforts on her small business. I figured that I had managed production and handfuls of people before, so managing just her in a small shop would have been fine. A few weeks in, our little girl was locked on and doing almost all of her work every day without fuss. Mom, however, just wasn’t seeing the sales she needed. I gave it a good hard ponder before deciding to get myself back to work. Three emails got me one interview that same day, and I started punching a clock right after the weekend.

Meanwhile, she whom I am restrained from naming, had a fucking field day of our situation and threw all the weight of her attorney at me over it. My entire year was speckled with court appearances and an enduring bitter taste of injustice. I struggled with feeling betrayed by the government I went to war to defend. I overcame the feeling slowly but surely as my veteran status turned out to be a key factor in getting help.

Now working full time for a shit wage a painful commute away, I had no time for working on the house we were staying in. The owner was peeved, and we had no choice but to move out. We also suffered a break in, and considering the items stolen, we pretty much know who it was. Perhaps the most painful part of this year was my decision to move in with a coworker to appease the court. That is, I moved in, sans family. My girls moved in with another friend for an incredibly short time before disaster struck and forced them to move back in with Nana and Papa.

We just suffered. For months, we just put one foot in front of the other, tired, beaten, apart more than together, and absolutely heartbroken. The gavel came down with me under it, and we just… suffered more. There came days that I simply didn’t leave the bed except to use the bathroom, neither sleeping nor being fully awake.

Somewhere in the midst of getting help, our caseworker asked me to submit documents proving disability. It had already been a painful long process and, in that moment, I couldn’t recall whose disability this help was being based on. I focus so intensely on the matter of what we are all able to do in each situation that it hit me like a bag of bricks to face the reality that all four of us has our own issue within our being that we struggle with aside from all the external strife. We really are a bunch of disabled individuals.

The day finally came. I got the call, and it was great news: we were accepted to receive help getting a roof over our heads. The lady held on in silence…I think most people shout, jump, and cry for joy. I only had a deep breath and a thank you to offer. Good as the news was, it couldn’t begin to settle the sour feeling in my stomach of what I had just lost.

I carried optimism in spite of it all, and looked forward to reuniting the family and being walking distance to work. Then came a little accounting error in my employer’s favor, which they tried to rectify at my expense. After the manager spent copious time yelling and having a childish temper tantrum over it, I threatened small claims court. The situation blew over, I got paid what was owed, called it good riddance, and got a replacement job at a slightly better wage working for an absolutely wonderful couple from Poland.

Right as all that excitement settled down, it was back to school for the kiddo. Her mom took up the role of learning coach, and I could almost hear the bell ringing to start the next round. I don’t know what it is about moms and daughters, but it seems like they just can’t help but dig at each other and get each other’s goat. Kiddo loves to play mom, and has many games in her repertoire. There’s the “I need ___ first” game which is a slightly less absurd version of the “I don’t know where my ___ is” game usually played with something that is immediately in front of her, sometimes while staring at the very thing for extra annoyance. There’s the rush through the lesson game, where nothing gets read and blanks just get filled with nonsense and doodles (if anything at all). Given enough pushing, she will even flop out of her chair and roll around on the floor crying, “it’s too hard!”

Mom pushed every day, but to absolutely no avail. Every morning began with growling and groaning at best, sometimes outright screaming at worst. Doing work was like pulling teeth. I did what I could in the time off that I had to move her forward in her learning. The truth of it was that having spent her time in public school being ‘OFP’ set her learning way behind. Now in 4th grade and being manipulative as she is, it is really difficult to tell in each situation if she genuinely doesn’t know something or she is just head fucking us.

Coming into our new apartment wasn’t a complete relief. Now located a good hour out of downtown by car on a good day, I have been feeling somewhat stranded and isolated. It was a straw that broke my back, so to say, and I decided it was time to stop asking for improvement and demand it. Nobody likes yelling or spankings, but when it comes to this child screaming NO!!! over doing anything she’s told, we have found no other solution. I hit my breaking point. I decided that shit was going to get better one way or another.

It was ugly for a bit. I didn’t hold back, and I made it clear that it would stay ugly until everyone started straightening up. Before long, my partner and I came up with a response protocol that we agreed to stick to. Turns out that both the girls fully agreed the yelling was by far the most unreasonable response, much worse than a swat on the butt. I have a pretty good drill instructor voice, there are stories about just how big the ‘startling radius’ of it is, but suffice to say it gets reactions. Coming to terms with everyone’s yelling was an important point because, damn, I sure get screamed at an awful lot by the exact two people who claim my yelling (back) is excessive! I made a big point of getting the promise of not being yelled at, big enough that they couldn’t conveniently forget it. Now, when voices get crazy I can calmly press the point and most of the time the voices settle down.

As for the schooling, we spoke with the teacher about the struggle. She had been offering suggestions but nothing really worked. Finally, I made the call to back off on the kid. Mom was to focus on her business and avoid any argument over schoolwork or lack of. The teacher and staff took the extra time to conference with kiddo about the situation and it was left at that.

Once October came around, I started getting antsy for my partner’s shop to start seeing holiday orders. There were a couple inquiries for fairly involved custom jobs. Seeing as she is early in her journey as a woodworker, one order was simply outside her ability and the other wasted a bunch of her time just to end up wanting to be shown the craft rather than pay for her craft work. I worked my butt off and it at least held us over. Orders finally started trickling in right as my season wrapped up, and things were looking up.

November started off bright, but dropped off sharp at the second week. We kept pushing production in anticipation of getting Black Friday sales, but my confidence in the holiday sales carrying us was gone. My partner picked up an hourly job, then promptly lost it thanks to an emergent medical procedure. All of my work was on hold for the holidays. It was frustrating for the lack of income on my end, but at the same time reassuring that owning a small business can, in fact, bring the kind of comfort that allows a person so many weeks off.

My partner got back on the job hunt quick as possible. An interview in the last week of November turned into pre-employment papers and orientation in the first week of December. Finally, a few short days in the second week got her a terribly skimpy paycheck in the third week. It had been a while since suffering the biweekly grind, and the stress was thick enough to cut with a knife. I can’t even begin to explain how those pay cycles destroy and keep people struggling. It is absolutely the worst aspect of any job, and it is quickly becoming the very worst aspect of every job. There is hardly a bill out there that will accept payment a week or two out when you will actually have the money. Until then, life is just a sick fucking game of late fees and overdrafts.

Despite the dismal numbers of the business, a last couple sales still put groceries in the fridge where the biweekly check fell short. I had been talking about closing up shop, like maybe it just isn’t worth the time to keep up the effort. Days like that, when a paycheck comes so hard earned, so untimely, and so insignificant, followed by a surprise bout of dough, dashes the thought in an instant. It has happened so many times, the cool drink of water when we are dying of thirst, that employment feels more and more absurd with every lousy paycheck that hits the bank like a drop of water on a hot pan.

As my work went quiet, I had more time to put into homeschooling again. The teacher was shocked at what happened during the ‘cease fire’ between mom and kiddo. It had clearly been a while since she had to see a student just not doing at all. Entire days went by without even logging into school, tests were tanked in rapid succession, and progress ground to a halt. The teacher made the threat that she will be stuck continuing 4th grade next year if she doesn’t step it up. It was a weird conversation to have, but I had to first inform her that getting that child just to be present for 5 days in a week was already great progress. Public school couldn’t keep her in the classroom for two hours on most days, much less doing anything productive. It may be substandard, but we have to call it a Win anyways. As for repeating the grade, it ceased being a threat years ago. I fully expected public school to make her take second or third grades over, given the absolute lack of everything including her presence in the classroom. But, public school didn’t have the backbone to do such a thing. You can’t make threats to a child with ODD, you can only spell out the consequences and only when you can follow through with them. We threatened taking a grade over, she called bs, and the school proved her right by letting her float by anyway. After four grades of that crap, she doesn’t exactly respect education. I told the teacher to accept taking two years as a viable course of action and not bring it up again.

As much as the kid fights just for the sake of fighting, the hidden truth is that she is never going to cooperate with anyone that doesn’t show themselves to be an ally. I guess the tough part is trying to accurately identify her fight, and sometimes the challenge is in winning the struggles that aren’t supposed to be hers in the first place. A computer that dies constantly, school materials being scattered, and not having a proper chair to sit in are all terrible barriers when stacked on top of mixed fractions.

Beyond that, there is an element of humility. We have long ago learned to tag team because sometimes, she’s just ‘got your number’. You want to tell her how it is, set her on the right path, but find yourself wielding logic in an absurd circus of shouting. Sometimes, you have to admit defeat and let the situation stand at a loss. Some days, I have closed the books, packed it up, and opted for walking some laps. It happens.

December is winding down much in the same fashion. I can’t say I’m satisfied with what came out of this year. It was a wholly unacceptable, absurd circus. Logic had no place among the powers that be, and all I can do is accept the failures with humility.

I unplugged for a bit, from work, from projects, from schooling, from everything. I unplugged from worrying about money and making decisions. I had hoped to feel refreshed at some point, but I only grew antsy to get busy again. I sat down to a couple different projects waiting for the wind of inspiration to set sail. It didn’t. So, I have stayed unplugged and decided to figure out where I’m going from here, where this business is going, where my projects are going, and where this blog is going.

See you in the new year! ✌

Able vs Willing

Time and time again, I find this very disturbing truth about people….

Those who are able to help, won’t; and those that would help in a heartbeat, are unable.

It’s been rainy here, spring monsoon kind of rain. We noticed a car parked down the street with a loaded shopping cart beside it. It didn’t take a day for the car to be removed. In the evening, I took out the garbage to find a man digging through the dumpster. He gave me a ‘how ya doing’ and I carefully set my trash out of his way as I gave my response. Only a few minutes later, he was done and sitting on the curb across the street near where the car had been.

It was still raining buckets. We saw him with a phone looking upset as he sat there trying to figure out what to do. We sat the kiddo down for dinner, and my girl said she wanted to bring the guy some dinner. I started making phone calls. Shit, what’s that guy to do? His only shelter presumably got towed, and he didn’t have so much as a tarp to hold back the rain.

As I was on the phone with help, I see the old guy across the way come out and chase the guy away. The poor guy wasn’t even on the homeowner’s curb, he was across the intersection! But, that old man chased the homeless guy away even as we were trying to bring him food and help.

This old man is retired. He owns his house with attached garage. He drives a nice, pretty new Subaru outback. He had a nice motorcycle he can no longer ride. Aside from a car, there is little else in his garage after last summer’s garage sale. With room to spare, at least a garage, I found it awfully appalling that he would walk out and tell the guy to be out of his sight. Did this same crotchety fucker have the guy’s car towed? I’m pretty convinced he did.

We don’t exactly have means. We are struggling ourselves. Man, I could go for what would have been dinner leftovers right now, in fact. We get the occasional bag of cans to cash in (10 cents per), which we also need. Still, we have often given them to poor folks we find digging in the trash.

So, US of A, what the fuck is so great about a country where a homeless guy gets chased away from the vicinity of homes that are half empty and an apartment complex that can’t fill their apartments? What the fuck is so great about owning a home and hoarding it all to yourself? What the fuck is wrong with people that can do so much for society, but keep everything they have from everyone that needs it? Why are the only people offering help the ones who can’t afford it?

I catch myself feeling this way so often. I see friends buying cars, buying houses, going out to eat, going out to party… in a recent moment of desperation, I found myself texting my friend, “I hate to have to ask, but what can I do for you for __.” I hate feeling bad for asking for help. But the predictable response comes through, “I love ya, man. But, we just aren’t down to help.” Am I supposed to feel okay about this? He has helped a lot, so maybe he reckons I’ve had enough. I just thought that’s what friends are for. Then again, I have had the same experience with my family on many occasions, too.

It just leaves me realizing that this country is polarizing. Those that have plenty, keep having plenty by not giving. Those that give are often giving of their own necessities.

The States are only great when they are United. We are not. We are in a civil war of economics, not divided by geography, but by income. Roosevelt must be rolling in his grave at Americans working 50 hours a week just to exist.

No Limit

I want to set the scene for this one. Imagine a toddler, just turning one year old, barely able to walk. Imagine him screaming, wailing, crying. First tugging one parent’s pants for comfort, then stumbling to the other parent and doing the same, also to no avail. Both parents yelling at each other relentlessly. The child stumbles back to the first parent, cries harder and tugs again. What else is a 12 month old supposed to do to stop an adult quarrel? The parents yell louder to overcome the child’s desperate cries instead of realizing the trauma they are causing their child…

That moment, watching my son pull at my pants in fear at our lashing out, that look he gave me, haunts me to this day. It was the beginning of the end, even before she turned to outright violence.

I am sort of surprised, but absolutely shouldn’t be. I knew upon posting a project on instagram and hearing my son ask me about it (though he had never seen it himself). I left Facebook for the very same reason: Stalking.

So, a special someone has been reading my blog. She has been very quiet about it, right up until I put the truth out there. Now, she is asking the court for a gag order against me. She doesn’t like being exposed, you know?

Next week, we will be going to court for modification of parenting time, because seeing my son every weekend is just absurd according to the gender biased status quo. Ever since the very beginning, she has been pushing for every other weekend. She took me to court a few years ago to try to get it and failed miserably after I brought forth some emails she sent. I have more to bring this time around, and I expect more of the same.

I’m glad there’s all this awareness being raised around bullying. However, there seems to be some vagueness about who that bully is or what harm they actually do. There’s a Hollywood romantic idea about a yellow eyed punk and his only friend chasing and picking on you on the way to and from school everyday. However, it has been my unfortunate experience that bullies are often the ones closest to you. They are the ones that go out of their way to upset you, to vicariously gain from you, who seem to have no motivation or focus in life other than having a problem (mostly with you). Bullies often know full well they are being so in their actions and, especially as adults, are not about to be so obvious about it. Bullies tend to be the ones to bring up a problem they have with someone to everyone except that person. They can be positively identified the moment they utter something along the lines of, “After all I’ve done for you!” It has also been my experience that bullying in the adult form almost always brings with it alcoholism, which is where the real sinister side comes out as the abusive drunkard. And please note that this is absolutely gender neutral! Bullying is by no means restricted to physical harm. It can come in the form of put downs, threats, triangulation between friends and family members, stalking, and really anything that knowingly and intentionally causes another distress. Even going to court repeatedly has been proven to be a form of harassment. Making blatantly false accusations behind a veil of anonymity to cause someone to be investigated by the authorities repeatedly?

There is simply no limit to how far a bully will go just for the entertainment of making another person miserable. Is there, Meagan Theresa Margaret Jones from Perth?

With that said, I don’t care if the court does rule against my inalienable right to free speech in this matter. Someone is going to hear about it until I feel like I’m being listened to. Until fathers get the gender neutral treatment the judicial system swears up and down every hallway they are entitled to. Until there is a branch of local government enforcing parenting time with the fervor that child support is enforced. Until fathers stop getting 4 days per month with their kids by default. Until divorcee mothers stop beating the dad to death and calling it his fault, I’m going to write for the world.