Category Archives: Rants

No Sugar

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The Man and I had spent a quiet night at a state park in a rather remote location. We woke up early, as we tend to do, and The Man realized he’s forgotten to buy ground coffee before we left civilization. The Man needs to drink his coffee every morning or he gets irritable and ends up with a headache. Since he wasn’t going to be able to make his own, he said we really needed to head back into town.

I wasn’t ready to leave the state park; I’d paid my $7–my half of the $14 camping fee–and I wanted to get my money’s worth, dammit! However, what could I do when my partner needed his fix? I could wish he’d thought about being out of coffee when there was a Wal-Mart nearby. I could wish he wasn’t a coffee fiend. I could wish whatever I wanted to wish, but my wishing wasn’t going to change the fact that he needed coffee and we didn’t have any. So we packed up the dog and the few items we’d left out on the picnic table during the night, and he drove the van to the town where we were headed, about twenty miles away.

When we got to town, he decided he didn’t want gas station coffee or McDonald’s coffee. He wanted good coffee, coffee from a local coffee shop. He asked me to use my phone and ask the GoogleMaps lady to find us a local coffee shop.

As we pulled up to the place the GoogleMaps lady had found for us, I saw it was just a drive-thru, not a place where we could go in and sit down.  A drive-thru is fine, except for the fact that the van’s driver side window doesn’t roll down. I usually avoid drive-thrus for that reason, but The Man was driving, and he wanted coffee, so I figured he could deal with the window situation.

The second thing I noticed about the place was the Bible verse posted on their sign. I wish I had taken a photo of that sign! I don’t remember what it said, but I immediately knew it had something to do with Christianity. I told The Man, This is some kind of Jesus place.

Neither of us is really into Christianity, although we both think Jesus himself was probably a pretty cool guy. We wouldn’t go out of our way to support a business whose owners are flaunting their religious beliefs, but we wouldn’t necessarily leave for that reason either. This place had coffee, and The Man wanted coffee, so we would go through with our transaction, Bible quote notwithstanding.

There were several cars in line, so we joined the queue. Two wholesome young people–a man and a woman–approached the van. The Man opened his door to facilitate communication. The wholesome young man mentioned the coffee shop was having a fundraiser. He said he and the woman were taking people’s orders before they drove up to the window in hopes of speeding up the transactions. So far, so good.

The Man told them he wanted a large cup of regular coffee. So far, so good.

Then The Man asked about sugar. The Man likes a lot of sugar in his coffee, as do I. However, because he always gets a large cup of coffee, he needs A LOT of sugar, as in twelve packets. Really, he just wants to pour sugar from a big container into his cup, but most places these days, offer no big containers of sugar, only little packets. I’ve heard a lot of rants lately about having to rip open twelve packets of sugar and pour them one-by-one into a tall cup of coffee.

Anyway, The Man asked the wholesome young people something about sugar, and I heard the young woman say she would go find out. She walked away from the van and over to the little building from whence the coffee was to come. She had a conversation with someone through the building’s window, then came back to the van.

They’re out of sugar, she said. Will Splenda be ok?

No, The Man said. Splenda will not be ok. Nevermind. We’ll go somewhere else.

How can a coffee shop be out of sugar? Don’t a lot of people take sugar in their coffee? I bet if Jesus had been around, he would have miraculously turned that Splenda right into sugar for us.

We ended up at a gas station for The Man to get his coffee. They had sugar too, in little packets that he ripped open and poured into his coffee one-by-one.

Easy Bake Oven

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It was a couple of weeks before Christmas, and I was in a Wal-Mart in the metro area of a large city in the Southwest. I was in a hurry. I’d grabbed what I needed and was booking it to the check out counter to pay for my purchases and get the hell out of there.

On the outskirts of the toy department, I saw an endcap stacked with boxes of Easy Bake Ovens.

I always wanted one of those and never got one, I thought idly.

Then I saw a young boy pictured on the box.

That’s nice, I thought. Hasbro is showing that boys like to bake too. Inclusivity is a wonderful thing…

Then I thought, WAIT! WHAT? as I realized the boy was dominating the use of the Easy Bake Oven.

Ever hear about those studies of toy advertisements that show boys are depicted as being more active while girls are depicted as passive? Thought that kind of thing went out of fashion in the 70s or maybe the 80s at the latest? Uh, no. We’re living in the second decade of the 21st century, and I’m showing you a real world example of sexism aimed right at kids.

So yeah, the boy is taking the active role in the baking game while the girls look on in admiration and wonder. Wow! the girl in the middle seems to be thinking, He sure can slide in that cookie sheet! (Gag! I hadn’t even thought of the sexual undertones of having the boy slide something long and thin into a small opening until I started ranting here. How could that seem like a good idea to the Hasbro’s marketing people?)

The girl in the purple shirt seems to be adoring his baking prowess.

In an article called “Care Bears vs. Transformers: Gender Stereotypes in Advertisements” (http://www.sociology.org/care-bears-vs-transformers-gender-stereotypes-in-advertisements/), references a study by B.A. Browne published in the Journal of Advertising in 1998 [Browne, B.A. (1998), “Gender stereotypes in advertising on children’s television in the 1990s: a cross-national analysis”.  Journal of Advertising, 27 (1), 83-97.] The study

provides further evidence of the substantial gender stereotyping that is found in advertisements.  According to Browne,

Boys appeared in greater numbers, assumed more dominant roles, and were more active and aggressive than girls. (p. 12)  In commercials containing both boys and girls, boys were significantly more likely to demonstrate and/or explain the product even when the product used was not sex-typed.

So um, yeah, Hasbro, sociologists already know this kind of gender stereotyping is a problem. You too should know it’s a problem and YOU SHOULDN’T DO IT!

While I’m ranting, can I point out just how white that group of kids looks? I know we can’t determine everything there is to know about a person’s ethnic and cultural heritage by the tone of her or his skin (and maybe the girl in the purple shirt is Latinx), but some diversity in skin tone could have gone a long way here.

What can parents do to combat this sexism and racism? Contact Hasbro and call them out on it. Send them links to this blog if you like. More importantly, talk to your kids–your girls AND your boys about this kind of gender stereotyping and racism. Point it out and have a discussion when only white kids are pictured playing with a certain toy. Tell your girls they don’t have to look at a boy with adoration simply because he knows his way around the kitchen, and tell your boys not to expect a girl to think they’re the greatest things since sliced bread just because they can put cookies in an oven.

In my ideal world, all people will take turns baking for each other because baking is fun and a cupcake is a lovely gift.

I took the photo in this post.

 

I’m Not Going to Tell You What to Do

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I’ve spent the last few days reorganizing my van home. It looks awesome, and I will definitely write about it and share photos.

What I won’t do, however, is say that other folks “should” or “need to” do what I did.

In the almost four years of being a single female van dweller, many people have told me I “should” or “need to” do this thing or buy that thing or go this place. (I swear to god [in whom I’m not even sure I believe], if one more gray-haired man tells me I “need” solar, I am going to lose my shit!) I have a rebellious nature. If someone tells me I “should” or “need to” do something, well that something goes to the bottom of the list of things I have any interest in doing.

However, the main reason I am not going to tell you what you need to do is because I don’t know what you need to do. I don’t know how your van is arranged (or if you even have a van, for that matter). I don’t know what things you want to tote around in your van or RV or travel trailer. I don’t know what your physical limitations are. Maybe plastic tubs make you grit your teeth and shake your head, and maybe you can’t stand the colorful tapestries I can’t seem to live without. What you need to do, what you should do, is what makes you happy, and I don’t know what exactly that is.

Recently, one of my readers told me she wished I’d “write a book on how to live free and still make enough money to live !!!!!” I responded. “I couldn’t really write a how-to book on living free…because everyone’s needs and desires are different. All I can do is tell people how I live. Maybe I can inspire people to figure out how to make living free work for them.”

I feel the same way about the organization of my van. I’ll tell you what I did, and I’ll show you photos too. I’ll answer questions. (I love to answer questions. Questions show me people are really interested in what I have to say. Please always feel free to leave questions in each post’s comments section.) But I won’t even pretend to believe that what works for me is going to make sense for anyone else.

My welcome mat, a carpet remnant bought for $1 at a thrift store. I took this photo.

Scam Artist: Western Dental

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Folks who’ve been reading my blog know that I had a lot of problems with my teeth this past spring, culminating in having a molar extracted. It’s been six months since my last cleaning, so I called to make an appointment at the local Western Dental office. I figured the dental chain would probably have lower prices than a dentist in a private practice. When I spoke to the woman on the phone (who was not in the same town where the dental clinic I’d be visiting was, but at some corporate office), I told her I needed to have my teeth cleaned. She told me there was a special running, and I could get the cleaning for $39.99 with free x-rays and exam.

On the day of my 10:30 appointment, I arrived early, at 10am. I tried to confirm with the receptionist that the cleaning would cost $39.99. I told her that was the price I was quoted when I made my appointment. She told me the exam and x-rays would be free, but she couldn’t quote me a price until after the dentist examined me and recommended treatment. She said if I needed an extraction or a root canal, it would cost more than $39.99. I told her I understood that, but I wanted to confirm the cost of the cleaning. I told her I didn’t want to spend any time there unless I was going to get a $39.99 cleaning. She said they would get to my cleaning that day, and that the $39.99 special was still in effect.

Although I arrived at 10am for the 10:30 appointment, I  was not called to the back until 11:15. At 11am I asked the receptionist how much longer I would have to wait. She confirmed my name and then left the front desk to ask someone when I would be seen. When she came back, she told me I would be next. I sat there another 15 minutes before the x-ray technician called me to the back.

When the x-ray tech asked me how I was doing, I told her I had not expected to sit in the waiting room for 45 minutes.  She apologized and said they were down one x-ray tech,but  she didn’t know why. She also acted like I was an idiot to have made an appointment on a Monday, which she said is pediatric dental clinic day. I didn’t know that because when I called to make the appointment, I talked to someone at the corporate office. In any case, I am not a pediatric patient, so I don’t know why the pediatric clinic determined when I was seen.

In addition to every messed up thing that happened in the office, I am also concerned about the x-ray tech flipping a switch in the hallway, then sticking her hands in my mouth. How often is that switch cleaned throughout the day? Also, although the computer keyboard was covered with plastic, she touched it after having her hands in my mouth. How often is that plastic changed? Is it changed after each patient? I shudder to think she’d had her hands in someone else’s mouth, then on the keyboard, then in my mouth, then on the keyboard. Gross!
 
After the x-rays were taken, the tech tried to get me into a cubical where I would be examined by the dentist, but none were available, so she sent me back to the waiting room. I sat there over 30 minutes. When I asked when I would be seen, a different receptionist tried to tell me the wait was so long because I was a new patient. The x-rays are computerized. They didn’t have to be developed. I don’t know what was taking so long.  I think I was repeatedly forgotten.
 
In any case, five minutes later, I was called to the back and put in a chair. The dentist was soon there to examine my mouth. I told him I was there for a cleaning, told him I had a regular dentist in another state, but needed a cleaning now while I am in the area working. He looked in my mouth for less than a minute, but managed to ask me a question I had just answered, showing me that he was not paying attention to what I was saying. (I had just told him I was working in the area. The next question out of his mouth was, “So you’re here for a visit?) He told me he had to write up his observations, then one of the “ladies” would be along to do my cleaning.
 
Ten minutes later a woman came over. I asked her if she were going to do my cleaning. She laughed and said, “We’ll get to that.” She was there to explain the cost of my treatment options. 
 
She immediately started talking about dental implants, even though I had given no indication I had any interest in dental implants. (If I wanted dental implants, I would have that work done by my regular dentist.) She was kind enough to tell me which of my teeth had been extracted. I laughed at her and told her I knew which of my teeth were missing. She tried to explain the payment plan for the implants I didn’t want and hadn’t asked about, but I told her I had no interest in implants, that I just wanted a cleaning.
 
Then she told me I need a filling to the tune of $303! That seems exceptionally expensive to me. I told her I was not prepared to have a tooth filled, that right now I just wanted to have my teeth cleaned. (At this point, I was beginning to feel like a broken record.)
 

She told me the cleaning would cost $197! WHAT? I had been quoted $39.99 for the cleaning.  I think this was the old bait and switch. You know what that is, right? That’s when a business quotes a low price to a potential customer, only to require a higher price when the customer is actually in the store.

The woman claimed to know nothing about the $39.99 special I was quoted over the phone. Strange, the first receptionist I talked to didn’t tell me there was no such the special, she said that special was still in effect, but the second woman told me the first woman must have been “confused.” I think they tried to trick me into paying more than they quoted me, thinking after they wasted so much of my time, I would just go along with whatever they said I needed to do. I got out of the chair and didn’t let them do any work on me. When the woman asked me if I wanted to take the paperwork explaining the cost of the procedures, I told her no, because I am never coming  back here.

When I walked out of the office, I was so angry! I called the Lady of the House to let her know what had happened, and I started crying while thinking about all the poor people this corporation is taking advantage of. The company gets poor people in there with the promise of free x-rays and payment plans, then jacks up the prices after keeping people there for hours and wearing them down. Luckily I escaped.

I have an appointment for a dental cleaning with a dentist in a nearby town scheduled for September 14. The price is $59.99 for x-rays, exam, and a basic cleaning. When I talked to the  office manager, she told me the dentist might recommend a deep cleaning, depending on the condition of my mouth, and said a deep cleaning costs more. But, she added, it would be up to me to decide if I wanted a basic cleaning or a deep cleaning.

Imagine that. I get to decide what’s best for me.

Acceptance

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I actually wrote yesterday’s post before I read What It Looks Like by Marta Maranda. In that book, I read a few lines Maranda wrote about acceptance which much better express what I was getting at when I wrote

I get accepting oneself as one is. I get forgiving oneself for what one has done in the past. But releasing ALL concepts that one should be ANYTHING but what one is? That seems like a little much.

This is what Maranda says about acceptance:

…acceptance is not an opportunity to be dismissive. It does not mean you escape responsibility for your actions. And it is not a justification for future inaction, or a way to disregard the lesson that must be learned. (p. 334)

So, yes, we should accept ourselves and each other as we are, but that doesn’t mean we should quit trying to be better people.

I accept that I’ve made mistakes in the past and realize I can’t change what I’ve already done. However, I can change what I do in the future. It’s not enough simply to hope I don’t make the same mistakes again. I’m gonna have to work at it.

Earth Day

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Today is Earth Day.

According to http://www.earthday.org/earth-day-history-movement,

[e]ach year, Earth Day — April 22 — marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.

The idea came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media; persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair; and recruited Denis Hayes as national coordinator. Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land.

As a result, on the 22nd of April, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. “It was a gamble,” Gaylord recalled, “but it worked.”

As 1990 approached, a group of environmental leaders asked Denis Hayes to organize another big campaign. This time, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It also prompted President Bill Clinton to award Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1995) — the highest honor given to civilians in the United States — for his role as Earth Day founder.

You can find an article Senator Nelson wrote about how he came to found Earth Day here: http://earthday.envirolink.org/history.html

I hope Earth Day actually helps the earth. I’m afraid it’s just a day to make people feel better about their shopping habits when in reality their other 364 days of the year are anti-earth days. I’m not saying I’m an environmental angel. I drive a gas guzzling vehicle, I use electricity, and I love me a long hot shower. However, I’m also not walking around feeling like it’s ok to empty eight 8 oz plastic water bottles a day because I recycle them.

And on a side note rant, why does recycling get all the publicity when reduce and resuse come first? Hey, I actually know the answer to my own question. If consumers reduce and reuse first, big business isn’t going to make as much money off of us. Recycling is an afterthought. Corporations do NOT want us to buy less, so we’re made to feel a bit better about what we do buy when we’re told the empty container can be recycled.

Do we  know how much of what can be recycled actually is? I tried to find a statistic to share, but couldn’t find much information on this topic. According to https://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=47701

Depending on the [public recycling] bin and on the city’s recycling system, between 60 and 80 percent of recycling is actually recycled. Those numbers have probably improved over the past few years…

The article goes on to compare single stream and multi-stream recycling programs in New York City and Phoenix at the turn of the 21st century. Of course, this article gives information only about what people put into public recycling bins, not what percentage of everything that can be recycled actually is.

Here’s my #1 tip for saving the earth: Stop buying all that brand new crap you don’t even need.

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