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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Colorful World of Poverty on Television (and in my own house)

We all know the "ugly girl" trope on cheesy TV shows: glasses on a hot girl and, boom, she's ugly!

But have you noticed what I've noticed about how the lower middle class is presented in television shows? Their homes are bathed in color. People who have above-average means (most people on television) tend to have a general color theme, but "poor" people just have random stuff sitting around, I guess, and that is what shows us that they're not people of means.

For example...

Of course the first thing to spring into my mind is the Conner house from "Roseanne." My grandma crocheted (or knitted??) at least one blanket like that. How about yours?  I guess the theme here is that they have mismatched pieces of furniture, and this shows that they don't have any money, because if they did, they'd have stuff that was matchy-matchy? In fact, did they change it the last season?

Oh, another thing that shows "poverty" in television shows is the colorful restrooms. Here's the one in the Conner house.

I actually dig the flamingo curtain, obvs. I'm sure if someone bought a house with this bathroom today, they'd rip it out... but I don't know that I would. I think it's kind of cute.

The bathroom on "Malcolm in the Middle" had a similar pink and blue theme, but I can only find a .gif of that from the spider episode. So just trust me.

On "Married with Children," the living room was kind of bland, but that was to illustrate Al Bundy's life, I'm guessing. His very colorful wife had a bathroom that reflected her own personal, ahem, taste?

On The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt, Kimmie and Titus live in a basement apartment in an allegedly poor (but gentrifying) and crime-ridden area of New York. Again, we have these deep, rich colors: turquoise on the walls, red window coverings, purple paint in another room, patterned flooring, and mismatched couch cushions on a blue couch.

Oh, plus Ms. White going "upstairs." Genius.
It doesn't look that small or that awful to me, but when richer people come by, they always remark about how poor Kimmie is. *shrug*

I don't watch Shameless, but have read that it's one of the better depictions of poverty on television righ tnow. Guess what?

Right: colored walls, wallpaper with tiny pattern, that bright turquoise pack-and-play, teal shelves, and colorful stuff on the shelves. Then the kitchen (below) has curtains with a small pattern and a bunch of stuff hanging on the wall. So I guess any small pattern, whether as wallpaper or on draperies, indicates that one didn't have the funds to buy something more subtle?

One of my favorites, both in terms of the television show itself and the decor, is The Middle. It looks "real" to me, and it looks comfortable. And I can relate with the "months without a kitchen sink" thing. I never did that, but I did have no oven for a year once. But I'd totally live in the Hecks' house.

Handmade blankets are another common thread. Do rich people not use hand-crafted items made by grandma or anyone in the family? Do they only buy stuff from Peru that was pre-selected because it complemented their Flor tiles?

This whole house just looks like fun to me. A little loud? Maybe. But I'd take it.

Oh, and we can't forget another infamously poor group: The pals from Friends. Although their lack of funds and "crappy NY apartment" were a joke, guess what they had to PROVE they were poor? Yeah. Turquoise.

Oh, and mismatched dining chairs. Delightful.

So, what does that mean? I don't know, but I look at these obviously color-saturated abodes... Oh, yeah, here's one that's way more literal first.

Where Lois and Hal from Malcolm in the Middle lived after they'd had kids: 

Versus where they lived pre-kids, when both had jobs so they had more money (and time to clean, I suppose):

I couldn't find a great picture, but EVERYTHING was white.

Does this Hollywood design strategy reflect a larger truth? Our living room is crazy with randomness, but here's what I see when I look around: 1) A giant old comfy couch (that we haven't moved since 2013 because it's TOO HEAVY and justifies hiring movers all on its own) that was built during the 60s or 70s, likely, and that used to belong to James' grandma. It's orange and yellow and faded brown, as you would expect. 2) A giant blue recliner and a half that I bought for $25 from a guy who was moving out of our old apartment complex. It's SO comfortable. 3) A beat up old travel trunk that I bought off of Craigslist from a guy in Dripping Springs so James would have a place to store stuff in "his" new Austin house, other than just keeping it in boxes. 4) A red foam kids' couch that I got for Mal and that he uses as a ball pit sometimes; one of the best purchases I've made for him (other than his kitchen). 5) A red kids' recliner that someone who has never met me before ordered for Mal because she saw a picture of him watching TV sitting on a stepstool. 

You know what? That makes for one loud color pallette, but I love all of these pieces, and I did get an area rug to kind of pull everything together, but it actually adds another color (TURQUOISE!) that wasn't in the living room before, and there's no red in it. So it's still a hot mess. I probably could afford to switch it all out, but why would I? 

Color makes me happy. Patterns are fun. When I moved into my house in Sherman, a Las Vegas friend saw a picture of the dining area (which we used as a homeschool room) and said, "You can paint over that wallpaper and it won't hurt my feelings." I never did. It was warm and inviting. Did it look like it belonged in a grandma's house? Probably. But being at Grandma's feels nice, right?

When we moved here, I purposefully got mismatched dining room chairs. Again, I like the variation. And, if one breaks, I don't have to work hard to find an exact match. Just find something else that strikes my fancy at the time (which is a thing that your grandma would have said).

Our bedroom is another non-uniform collection: a bed we got because we gave up on our kid sleeping on his own for years, a leather recliner James "won" in a raffle (his friend was organizing the giveaway and manipulated the drawing), pictures from our trip to Haiti, nightstands that were originally end tables James' parents got as wedding presents maybe, and a cat condo. Oh, and a blue chair back with arms. 

I blogged a year or so ago about how I thought I would never own "grown-up" furniture, meaning a set of really anything. At the time, D didn't love my ideas and asked if we'd ever have a cohesive design scheme. However, lately, between the awesome NASA pictures we did (had each one printed on canvas), and the sweet outdoor couch area we finished off today, D is starting to appreciate the "quirky" "style." 

So there are two things: I want my house to be comfortable, and I think what we've done accomplishes that. Also, when our little tiny house downtown was up for rent, the listing called it an "adorable eclectic home."  Thing is, move our loud, clashy, comfortable stuff out, and it's just this kind of boring itty bitty space.

Thus, I'm sticking with the poor TV folk style. I like it, and I hope you do, too. Feel free to come over any time! <3

Monday, January 23, 2017

Cooler heads, prevail!

Friday, I had a lot of friends who were jubilant and a lot of friends who were miserable. Saturday, I had a lot of friends who were jubilant and a lot of friends who were irritated and perplexed. As for me, I have a lot of hope. I have a lot of opinions, but I have even more hope.

I, too, have been a bit disenfranchised, as I'm sure most of us have been, over the past, really, year's social climate. In just the past week, I've seen people I care about and admire called names on social media and by "news" outlets... and I just really want us to do better.

Believe me, I get that knee-jerk stomach punch feeling that comes when someone says something that goes against what I know to be right or true. And while I'm not willing to say that there's no such thing as absolute truth, I will say that there are many things we want to insist are inarguably one way or another when that just isn't the case.

Or, in their words, "There's room for everyone in this world, so everyone make some room."
I can't do anything about the news outlets, except recommending that you just stay away from the more biased sources, whether they oppose your viewpoint and piss you off or affirm your beliefs and make you smug and unwilling to keep an open mind.

Maybe use this nifty graphic from this website as a guide, committing to reading/consuming the publications toward the middle and top of this picture.

Now, I'm going to make a commitment to you, and I hope you can extend the same courtesy to me, and, really to everyone else who might not agree with you:

1) I will not assume that the beliefs you hold are because you are *something*: ignorant, racist, sheep, liberal crybaby, baby murderer, misogynistic, not a patriot, (and, if you're a Christian: watering down the gospel to make it palatable, trapped in legalism, weak faith, not really a believer), etc. unless you do something I can point to and tell you to your face. I've seen so many people talk about how "the other side" doesn't value freedom or how they're just mindless drones doing what actors tell them, or how they're hell-bent on keeping women pregnant and in the kitchen. I don't think these caricatures are broadly applicable, and gross generalizations and insults weaken a person's argument (stance, not necessarily "fight").

Even if I disagree with you, I'm going to assume that you came to your conclusions based on a mix of your experience, research, and thought. If you want me to explain what I think or believe, I'm glad to talk about it, and I'm glad to hear your side. I do not assume that, given enough of *my* special information that you'll change your mind and see your way to the "correct" side, and I hope you don't think that about the information you give me.

However, I will say that one of my best friends over the past 20 years is someone who has been, at various times, on the polar opposite side of most political issues from me (although, over time, we've both moved more center and have, in fact, reversed sides on some things), and through our relationship and talking, I've seen a different side of things than what I believed, and I've changed my thoughts on a lot of things. That's not always comfortable, but I think we have to be open to that.

Otherwise, you're just one person talking at someone else, and that conversation's not going to last very long, because it's not fun to be yelled at and not heard.

2) If I disagree with you enough that I feel I need to bring it up, I will have actual facts to back up any arguments, however impassioned. However, know that I probably won't bring it up. Honestly, I have enough on my plate to pick a tiff with anyone else.

3) I will not presume to understand the way that "all" Democrats, Libertarians, Republicans, Independents, anarchists, Christians, atheists, black people, poor people, teenagers, Muslims, pro-choicers, 2nd Amendment activists, etc. must think. I will not assign to you a morality or ethic that you do not personally hold. I will respect you as an individual.

4) I will seek information and listen to people outside of my "echo chamber." I will seek to be empathetic. I will try to see it from someone else's point of view. I am currently in a personal struggle with where to land on a certain political stance, and I'm not going into it here because it would become "the" thing, and it's not what this post is about, but let's just say that I spent about 21/22 of my life "knowing" the right answer, but people I really admire have helped me see another side. I still think that what I believed is *mostly* right, but not "zero tolerance" right anymore. I want to be willing to examine with honesty and openness any issue that is important to the human race. I might not change my mind, but I might. I will fight my own bent to stay soft here.

I think I just ran out of steam. Plus, I have to empty the litter boxes to get the trash out this afternoon, because my life is glamorous. Anyway, can we be nice to each other? Can we remember that he IS your President, if you're a citizen of the US? Can we remember that protests aren't the same thing as riots, and that a LOT of really positive change has happened in our country's history because of people marching for things they believe in? Can we all hold these impassioned beliefs and not let it rip us apart?

Peace out. Scoop time.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Our Morning, in Pictures

Thursdays are Toddler Story Times at the local library, so around 9:45, we suited up, Mal got onto his tricycle (after I caught both of the cats he let out), and we walked over. We were a little early, so Mal did several puzzles first.

After "tasting" most of the treats on the numbers puzzle (sorry, Jonestown friends; the germs should be dead by the time your kids get to this), he went to look for the stepstool.

He kept telling me that the stool was "Mal's." He's really into possessions and that things need to belong to him. He's been possessive on behalf of others for a long time (crying when I let a lady at McDonald's use my phone, or when the maintenance guy took our microwave, etc.), but recently takes it very personally that we have several drawers in our common area that are specifically for D's arts and crafts. He'll reach in, pull out the glitter or food dye, and say, "Mal's," then fuss when I remind him they're D's... until I give him something else to play with.

Anyway, we were talking about these books, and I walked over to other aisles to see if there were any more stools. I said, "Nope. There is just that one stool with the grown-up books." So he would say, "Mal's stool? Grown-ups." Over and over.

 Finally, it was time ot hear a story.

He was the only kid there, so he got some one-on-one attention from Mona, one of the two librarians who does story time (the other one, whose name escapes me but I'll remember after next week) moved here after retiring from working for Clark County, so we were in Las Vegas at the same time!

Anyway, the second week of being the solo toddler has really been to our benefit, as you know well that this child is active and just doesn't sit still naturally. The librarians have been so patient with him, waiting for him to come back, and even changing out books to keep him plugged in. Love it!

After the stories, he colored a dog... and got distracted when his soccer sticker fell off.

When he was finished with the picture, we walked up and across the very busy street to the Subway James told me about. I'd not been before. It's super beautiful there!

We had a coupon for buy one and a drink/get one free, so I got a veggie on multigrain flatbread, and he had a melted ham and cheese. This is the first non-PB&J sandwich he's ever eaten!

Oh, and check out that lake view out the window! It was so pretty, we decided to finish the meal outside. Did I mention we set a record for today's high? It got up to 83 in Austin proper, but I don't think it broke 80 here.

On our walk home, we passed a filling station (what my Mema used to call it) that has a locally well-known barbecue joint inside. I hadn't noticed this sign before.

When we got home, Mal wanted to check the mail. It was empty, but we waited... see down the street? It's the mail truck!

There was something from the company that built Mal's swingset!

It was a flying disc! (Not a FrisbeeTM.) We played with that in the back yard, but I don't have pictures because... it's hard to take pictures of yourself playing not-Frisbee. I also moved a bunch of random old fence wood to the back of the yard and made a rectangle where I think I'm going to throw wildflower seeds for spring. I want to garden, but I have no idea what I'm doing. This seems like maybe a place to start.

After a while, we came back in and Mal watched Daniel Tiger, finished his lunch, and relaxed.

We ended up going back outside later, to the front yard, and spent a couple of beautiful hours raking, pulling out dormant stuff, replanting things, and clearing out old growth. Again, I don't know gardening, but I can use a rake. And so, apparently, can this kid.

He had a lot of fun, and we both got filthy. We raked, we swept, we watered. We met our caddy-corner neighbor, whom James met before we moved in. He has a neat screened-in porch with a writing desk at the front corner, and I often see him sitting there with the lamp on reading when I go past. It makes me happy.

Finally, we got this view as a parting gift from our day!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Of Dogs and Parrots

This morning, Mal wandered into the laundry room, opened James' tool box (we're waiting to house it permanently in our Tuff Shed, whose metal roof is *definitely* coming in on Thursday, and then they'll call to schedule the installation), and found a keyed padlock. He took the key out and went outside to try to open the doors with it. After a while of that, he decided he wanted to go into the back yard to swing. I opened the side gate and let him back there, then came inside to go through the office door so it would be unlocked. I was able to do this because we finally put padlocks on the gates out back, and I don't have to worry about Mal opening them and plummeting to his death in the grotto.

Well, I thought we'd padlocked all of the gates. I found a third stinking gate on that back fence later, but neither Mal nor I knew about it at the time, so no harm/no foul.

Anyway, when he got out there, he was met with excitement and... barking.

At first, I thought that someone was hiking back there, and was getting myself ready to have a "sorry, but this is private property" talk with them. But then I realized that, no, these dogs were on their own. They had collars with tags, but the smaller dog (in the background) wouldn't stand still. The bigger dog just wanted attention... he REALLY wanted in our back yard. But when I'd grab his tag, he'd try to lick my hand, and it took me a long time to be able to read the number... which went to voice mail. So I tried the second number. And the guy didn't even know that his dogs had gotten out!

When they came to pick them up, the guy was telling me where he lived. He asked, "Do you know that house that's the Eagle's Nest?" Why yes. Yes, I do.

I took this picture last month!
He said that they live next door, "with the buzzard on the wall." Um, well, yeah. I am familiar with that one, too.

Also taken last year.
He said that they call their property "The Buzzard Lounge" because before they moved in, the buzzards would all just hang out on the property.

That reminds me: If you ever visit the Waco zoo, check out their vulture exhibit. They didn't really plan to have a vulture exhibit, but the vultures wouldn't leave, and they're protected, so the zoo just put up signs about them and treated it like it was meant to be.

So that was my dog story. As for the parrot? Well, he's a two-year-old who lives in my house.

We were driving home from the grocery store yesterday after church, and because I was chatting with Mal, I missed one of the turns onto our street. I say "one" because it seems like very road in our town eventually crosses ours. So I actually missed two turns, due to traffic, before I could get into the lane to turn onto the third street. Could I make it? It'd be close, but...

I punched it and made the corner, but also tipped several grocery bags (which were in the back seat because my trunk is full of a 10 x 7 wool rug that someone gave me for free, and which I had picked up on the way to church) into the floor, with a resounding crash. Mal was surprised, as was I. I said, "Mommy is DUMB!" He happily offered, "Mommy! Dumb!" Okay. Whoops.

Last night, Mal wanted me to read a book to him, and I was trying to arrange pillows to make myself comfortable first. He said, "Animal book. Here right now!" Then this morning, he wanted something immediately and said, "Here right now!" I guess I ask him to "come here right now" a lot? I will say that listening to that kind of thing is not his strong suit yet, which is why I get stressed about things like grocery store parking lots, and why we had to put padlocks on our gates. So when I say it, I'm pretty forceful as his literal life might often be on the line .He's learned the tone well.

Today when we were out back playing, I reminded him that when he's on the swing, he needs to "hold on tight!" He said, "Hold tight, princess!" It took me a minute on that one.

Our friends gave Mal a book for his first birthday. It's "Epic Yarns: Star Wars, A New Hope" by Jack and Holman Wong. Each page has one word and a picture. This is the page for "swing."

Every time we read it, I think I say, "Hold on, Princess!" which doesn't appear in the movie at all, but the Imperial March isn't in this movie, either, and I do that whenever Darth Vader shows up, so you can take your nit-picky observations elsewhere.

Mal also wanted go into the back back yard to explore the grotto, which we did. He went down into it for the first time, and I kept having to remind him to hold my hand and let me go first (going down; coming back up, he went first). And every time I asked him to hold my hand, he said, "Hold on, princess!" What a kid.

Here are a couple of pictures I took on my phone.

Look at the bottom!

That ice looks jiust like the rocks, riddled with dripping water holes. 
Check out the roots of that tree! So many are exposed! It's holding on to that rock for dear life.

He was sweeping the leaves off of the rock ledges.
Although Mal was still in his PJs, I had changed into street clothes. I was really glad, because even though we didn't go anywhere, we did have unexpected visitors. Oh, and in addition to sweeping leaves, Mal also threw some rocks off of the path and down into the grotto. We got to listen to them roll and hit things on their long trip down, and I tried to explain that that's why we don't want him running around like a crazy person back there. He just wanted to throw more rocks.

AND lastly, there are some oak shoots back there that we need to get off of our "nature path." Well, I tried to do that last week, but you can't pull them up. Or you can only pull them up so far, and then the roots get bigger and bigger... they're not from acorns (or whatever) falling; they're upshoots from the bigger trees' roots! Just Googling that, apparently root sprouts are how oak trees propagate. I did not know that. There. Just unschooled myself.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Sleeping on the Floor

When we moved in to the house, we got a futon mattress for Mal's floor. Not a frame; this kid WILL fall out of a bed if someone's not there to be a human bumper. Anyway, about 2/3 of the time since we've been here, Mal and I have been sleeping in his room. Eventually, I plan for him to sleep alone like an actual person, but he's not there yet, and we're creating "positive sleep associations" with the room.

It's worked out pretty well so far. James' snoring has gotten more persistent over time, and I was waking him up A LOT to have him reposition so I could do that whole "sleep when the baby sleeps" thing. But James has mentioned feeling lonely. Also, we have a GREAT bed, and an AMAZING room, which I kind of miss.

So last night, we slept in the master bedroom. James snored not at all until pretty late this morning, and it was much warmer up high than on the floor.

This morning, however, James asked me if Mal had been more restless than usual. Uh, no. I think he just got used to sleeping alone, however "not a part of the family" he might have felt. So we're back to Mal's room tonight. But tomorrow? When it's supposed to be in the 20s? We might all huddle back together.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Magic and the Monotony

Yesterday, I'd taken some pictures (duh) through the hours and thought it'd be kind of cool to present "a day in the life of Mal." It seemed almost idyllic, though there were a few rough spots, like when he wanted to go to sleep at 5 PM and I wouldn't let him, and when he really wanted to climb up on his new slide, but the workers were still constructing it, or every single time I needed to change his diaper.

The same kind of thing happened today. I was so frustrated when Mal came in after playing on the aforementioned new play set, only to leave the door open and let Rudy and Carol out. Rudy was easy enough to catch, but I had to run around the yard quite a bit to corral Carol (try to type that 3 times fast). On the up side, although it was in the low 40s, I wasn't cold at all by the time I came inside.

Then there was the absolute delight of having a conversation with Mal about whether or not he wanted to try some chewy Christmas mints I bought on sale the other day. (And which I offered to distract him from my general chest area.)

I told him, "You can try the mints, but they might be a little spicy."

"Mint spicy?"


"Fruit snacks, not spicy."

"No, fruit snacks are not spicy."

"Mint spicy."


"Don't like."

"You don't like spicy mints?"

He shook his head.

I said, "I DO like mints, even though they're spicy."

"Don't like."

"That's fine. We can like different things."

"Like fruit snacks. Want two."

So so cute.

And it occurred to me how my days are laced with magic and monotony, as they do this beautiful and sometimes frustrating dance, weaving in and out of each other and creating memories and moments I'd rather forget.

Like when Mal walked into his bedroom today, holding up a finger that unmistakably had been down his diaper and discovered a mess. I asked, "Did you poop?" He immediately burst into tears and started yelling, "Noooo!" but I think that's because he's a little sore. I told him not to touch anything and cleaned off his hand first. There wasn't anything on it, but there was a smudge on the outside of his diaper. And he'd just gotten out of our bed. So I went back in there (after I'd finished my initial job) to see whether there were any hidden treasures amongst the sheets, which there do not appear to be. But I don't like surprises of that nature, and hope we just got lucky this time.

Mal just took a nap, his first non-injury-related nap in more than a month. So I get quiet time! But this means he'll be up until ten. BUT that means he'll get to see his daddy tonight, which he didn't last night and usually doesn't when he doesn't nap.

I need to get started on dinner preparations. I need to put away the clothes from the laundry. I want to make a nice soft gingerbread loaf, and maybe even save it for the other members of my family.

Tomorrow is our first attempt at going to the library's storytime. We can walk. The weather was nice enough to ratchet itself up to the 60s tomorrow, before dropping below freezing tomorrow night.

I'm planning a Valentine's cookie open house (or open yard, if the weather is nice enough) for our new neighbors. No one may show up. 200 people may show up. I guess we'll just have to see.

James only has to work one more day this week, for a total of 3 days, and then he'll have 3 days off. But that next week, the 5-dayer, is going to hurt... all of us. We got used to having him home when he had 11 whole days off in a row!

Oh, and this last thing: I can't tell you where Mal's first freckle is, but it was all by itself for months, until another one popped up on his ear (I thought it was dirt at first!). Months passed, and I noticed last week that he had a third freckle on his right temple. Today, when he was rolling around (testing my hands-off approach to wardrobe because I am so chilly inside, and he's not wanting to wear anything but his diaper!), I spotted two freckles on his back, and then as he was going to sleep, I saw two teeny tiny ones on his left cheek, almost to his ear. I guess he's just going to have freckles now. 

Why did I feel it necessary to document this? A mom thing, I guess. Also, I'm lousy at remembering things. Like I have no idea how much he weighed when he was born, anymore. This is why we journal, people.