Friday, October 14, 2005

He giveth and he taketh away...

Unless you happened to retire as the CEO of a major global company or are the beneficiaries of money your ancestors made (aka Old Money), life is tough for old people these days. Not that it's ever been easy, particularly under Republican regimes, but one cannot look at retirement with envious eyes lately unless you happen to fall into one of the two groups mentioned above.

Big news! Retirees are to get a HUGE increase in their social security! A whopping...earthshattering...shall I spend it all or invest part of it sum of...wait for it...$39 a month!! The average social security check will rise from $963 to a giddy $1,002 in January! Be still my heart. Such largesse. Such an incredible gift to our senior citizens. Such total crap.

$39 a month.

It doesn't sound like much of a windfall to me, even assuming that God - or President Bush as those of us in the know call him - wasn't giving with one hand and taking back with the other. Some AP reporters need to go back to English class to learn the meaning of certain words. I even have a dictionary they can borrow.

$39 a month is not a HUGE increase. It's chickenfeed. It's half a meal for four at Applebees or The Outback. It's 9lbs of ground beef, or ten gallons of milk or ten loaves of multigrain bread. It's two packs of Depends undergarments or two bottles of Advil. And depending on your location, it's roughly ten gallons of gas.

But hey...want to hear the funny part? This'll slay you.

At the same time they're trumpeting this HUGE increase of $39 a month for the average senior, the government is also raising Medicare premiums by $10.30 in January. So I guess that's now down to a VERY LARGE increase of $28.70 a month, right?

Well wait. It gets better. If a senior doesn't want to pay extortionate amounts for prescriptions (and being old, they tend to wind up needing quite a few of these on a monthly basis), they can sign up for the BRAND NEW prescription drug benefit, also beginning in January. The cost for this new benefit to the average senior? A mere $32 per month! A steal! Ingenious!

Now let's see. $28.70 minus $32 leaves us with the princely sum of.......minus $3.30. Say it ain't so!! Say we're not screwing over people in the twilight of their lives yet again??!!

Wait a sec...did I say screwing seniors? How about those of us who work and pay social security? Buried in the piece was this little gem:

"The Social Security Administration also announced Friday that 11.3 million workers will pay higher taxes next year because the maximum amount of Social Security earnings subject to the payroll tax will rise from $90,000 to $94,200 next year. In all, an estimated 159 million workers will pay Social Security taxes next year."

So the $39 per month increase is our own little gift to the seniors of the country. And there I was thinking that the government might actually doing something beneficial for someone earning less than $100,000 per year. It's the Republicans, what was I thinking!!??

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sunrise...Sunset...

Do you remember the song from "The Fiddler on the Roof" by the name of "Sunrise, Sunset", where Tevya and Golde are talking on the eve of their oldest daughter's wedding about how their children are growing up?

Whoa! It just struck me today as I'm making arrangements to pay for Lema's PSAT how true that is. Doesn't seem five minutes since she was surreptitiously tossing books and diapers into the playpen on top of her baby brother while my back was turned. And now here she is, a junior in high school, preparing to take her college preparation exams. And the baby brother she used to try suffocating with cloth diapers? He's now 6'3" and a freakishly good cook. She wants to be a psychologist. He wants to be a chef - although he'll consider nuclear physicist as a career and gourmet cook as a hobby as long as he gets to practice blowing things up.

Isn't it a weird thing that when you have small children - or I should say when I had small children, because I know there are some people who actually ENJOY babies. Personally I think those people are certifiably insane, but I digress - that period seems to swallow you up. Toddlers are little bundles of NEED, who WANT things constantly and are the dictionary definition of contrary. Mired in the under-five portion of motherhood, it seems as though things are NEVER going to get better, and that you'll NEVER have any freedom again.

And then someone puts your life on fast forward, and all of a sudden you see these midgets becoming grown people. Yeah, they're still Teen Peeps and they still need their momma. But the time is fast approaching when they're going to spread those wings and fly on their own. It's astonishingly amazing and pretty darn wonderful to watch.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Groups and Hot Button Topics

OUCH!

A writing list of which I'm a member - Momwriters - has a thread going at the moment, and it's one of those hot button topics. You know the kind...you can look at the very first email and just know that it's going to end in tears. One of those topics upon which people have extremely strong opinions, and which, in my own humble opinion should probably have been squashed by a moderator within the first day or so. That didn't happen, and I just read a post which made me wince. I know that an email which has that strong an effect on me has to be one which is an invitation to a flame war waiting to happen.

The topic is whether women who work outside of the house are justified or not. Oh bless ya...a question which is laced with dynamite. It deals with how we value ourselves as women. And you would think that a list full of women might just be a little gentle with each other, and that sisterhood would cause us all to band together and sing a chorus of Kumbayah.

Of course, that doesn't happen. People tend to fall into three groups. First are those with a laissez-faire attitude of whatever works for you is just fine, and it may not be my way, but I'm cool with whatever you want to do. Second are those who are bitter and angry about feeling they have to do XYZ and wish they didn't have to do it, and are resentful that they do have to do it. The third group are the self-righteous ones who feel that their way is the one and only way to live and people who don't live up to their lofty expectations are not living properly.

I love the first group, as it's where I also reside. Yeah, I might grumble at having to work more hours than I wanted to in a particular week, but that doesn't mean I don't think women shouldn't work. I've lived in a relationship where my every move was controlled by another person - another person who was the only breadwinner and as such was the one who made every decision, and made me feel like a third-class citizen. So yeah...live like you want to live, baby. Whatever floats your boat.

I understand the second group, as I was once a member of it. Having husbands who don't appreciate a single thing you do in the house or with the kids, and who think your job is some kind of 'cute little hobby'. These are usually the men who also believe that women should do everything that needs doing in the house, and then proceed to leave clothes, shoes, plates, mugs etc, all over the place rather than picking up behind themselves. I equate this to having one extra child to take care of.

The third group, frankly, piss me off to the nth degree. Particularly those who pepper their emails with christian references, and try to make us all feel that if we don't live like little chattels, then we're not honoring our marriage vows. Now if this is the way you want to live...cool for you. But do NOT try to make me feel guilty or insinuate that you are doing things the only right way.

The lady in question wrote this little diatribe about how those of us who don't martyr ourselves along the lines of Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa are going to have kids who don't want to have anything to do with us when they grow up.

Reality check here. My own mother was oh so much like this lady. And she made damned sure we knew how much she was sacrificing in order to make sure she did everything we needed, and our father was a lazy ass who came home from work and was waited on hand and foot and thought of her as a piece of furniture, and lived like a dictator. Head of the household as the bible would have us believe.

And guess what? Of the four children these two people produced, two of them do not speak to them at all, and two of them only hang around because they provide free room and board to one and free daycare to the other. Are they respected and adored as the writer of the letter would have us believe? Hell no. It's hard to respect someone who martyrs themselves for their family. Don't kid yourself that by devoting yourself to your family to the exclusion of personal interests and outside activities, and yes, a little selfishness, if taking time for yourself is selfish will win you undying affection and rewards from your children. We tend to see right through it. And we know that deep down you blame us for the life you missed out on.

The writer of the email wrote these words:

It's not easy and it's not perfect and sometimes I'm resentful and I have to tell my husband in plain English (they really are very simple creatures and they can't read our minds) that I need something more from him. But when we hit these bumps in the road, the solution is never to just focus on what I want, but to swallow my pride, offer up my suffering, and push myself to care a little bit more about other people than I do about myself, especially the one person I stood in front of God and 200 people and pledged I would love and honor and cherish for better or for worse, not as long as he did what I wanted in the way I wanted him to do it. This path has only brought me inner peace and greater self-confidence and the feeling that right now I am doing what God asked me to do, and that is what we are all here for.

I'm sorry, but this just SCREAMS martyr to me. Why the hell should anyone feel that the solution to doing too much for no respect and no appreciation should be "to swallow my pride, offer up my suffering and push myself to care a little bit more about other people than I do about myself..." And then insinuate by the last sentence that this is the RIGHT way for everyone to live...including me. No. Martyrdom isn't for me. It took me many years to escape my mother's influence and feel astonishingly guilty about buying a new pair of jeans for myself rather than an outfit for the kids. Not any more. The teen peeps have so many clothes that Lema's closet rod actually SNAPPED. They're not exactly missing meals. They have a warm house, they know where the washing machine is and how to use it.

I like to think that they're being raised to be self-sufficient and able to take care of themselves and not having the baggage that my siblings and I have had to spend the past twenty five years shaking off. Xander loves to cook, so he cooks. Lema doesn't love it in the same way, but she does it too. How else do they learn? This knowledge isn't just suddenly imparted to them by osmosis when they reach the age of 18. They can clean up after themselves. They can wash their own laundry. They're very capable young humans and I'm fiercely proud of the things they can do.

Motherhood is all about letting go. From the moment that child's umbilical cord is cut, raising them is a process of learning how to let go of them and let them live their own lives. And as such, though the temptation to write a vitriolic response to the lady's email is an extremely strong one, I will instead resist the desire and hope that she wises up to what she's doing with herself and her family by doing for them and denying herself.

And I'll get down from my soapbox now.