Monthly Archives: March 2009

Use it up; Wear it out

Hey, do you want to go get some new shoes today?

     Um. I don't know. Why?

Don't you need some?

     Not really.

 

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Going Digital

Can I help you?

    Uh, yeah. The Office of Anesthesia sent me over to fill out release forms for my children's dental records.

When were they last seen?

    February 12th of this year.

Okay. Um. Do you know if they had any xray's done? Because as of the 16th, we went digital.

    I think they did.

How many forms did you need?

    Six.

Okay, fill these out for me.

    Do I really have to fill out an entire form for each child?

Yes, I'm sorry–I know it's a lot of writing.

    Twenty minutes and six forms and lots of snapping gum from the receptionist later, I hand the release forms back.

Alright–looks good.

    I filled out everything I needed to?

These are great.

    So now you send their files over–there's nothing more I need to do?

Well, we can't actually send anything.

    Pardon?

We went digital on the sixteenth.

    And?

Well, they were seen on the 12th.

    Meaning . . . .

All our records are digital, Ma'am. If they had been seen on or after the 16th, we could have emailed their records over, but they were seen on the 12th.

    So what happens to records you made before the 16th?

They have to stay in this office.

    We can't get a copy?

We no longer have the equiptment to make copies. It's all digital.

    So . . . you have nothing at all–no xrays, no records–to send.

No. 
    You have no information to release to the other clinic?

No.

    So I didn't really need to fill out those forms.

No.

I stood there. She sat there. We stared at each other. She honestly didn't see the problem.   

      

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Pearls

Hey, Mom,

     Huh?

New Beginnings starts at seven.

     Seven, as in twenty minutes from now, seven?

Yeah. You have to wear a dress.

I knew that. Really, I did.

So I pin my hair up–with a ballpoint pen–and I put on a skirt that matches my shirt. I sit there in the chapel with my fourteen year old and the program lasts no more than twenty minutes. Concision at its best. I'm seriously impressed.

The president gives a short analogy relating the formation of pearls to the formation of a girl's character, and then she introduces the activity portion of the evening.

Oysters.

I kid you not–they imported oysters from Japan. One for every young woman. The oysters smelled like ninth-grade biology and didn't look anything special, but they held a promise. Those girls pried and wrenched and ewwed and bloodied their fingers and finally ahhhhhed as every one of them found a pearl. White and cream and every shade of pink; silver and black and navy blue. Amazing. 

New beginnings.

I sat here this morning bogged down in concern and I saw again those pearls emerging from the muck. Those girls with their gooey, bloody hands discovering pearls in unlikely places, rinsing them off and placing them in silver, hinged pendants and wearing them over their hearts.  

I took a deep breath and I was okay.

Because I have to believe that no matter how long it takes or what currents I travel–I have to believe there's whopper of a pearl forming somewhere deep here. 

And who knows what it'll look like? 

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Fickle Phone

I loathe the pinewood derby.

I know; I know loathe is a strong word.

That's why I used it.

I would have used the H word, but there are four preschool children sitting on and around my lap who likely would go into shock if they actually managed to sound out any of the words on my screen.

          Kimber, we don't use that word at our house!

                What word?

          The hate word.

                Well, yes. You are right. We don't say hate to people.

          We don't say itchy, either.

                Really?

          Nope. That's a bad word.

Yeah. So anyway, the derby.

We've had ten cars come through our house in the last few years. We have filed nails, sanded wheels, poured on the graphite, strategically positioned axles and weights; and enlisted the help of fathers, grandfathers, aunts and complete strangers.

Every year, the Lybbert car comes in last.

Every time.

The pep-talk at my house goes like this:

No matter what you do, this car is going to come in last. Even if you were Harry Potter and had no scruples about using your powers to cheat–your car is going to come in last. Every heat, every time.

(Someone came up with this great idea–let's run the cars in like one thousand heats so every kid in the whole district has a chance to beat the Lybberts' car several times.)

I tell my kids–just make your car really, really cool. Don't worry about making it fast. One year my son made a pick-up truck and loaded it with logs. It came in last–but it was cool.

There's all this lip service paid to the idea of the boys doing the building–but it's a block of wood, folks! A big, rectangle block of wood. A couple years my kids went at their cars with pocket knives and they did a pretty good job but how many eight-year-olds do you know have that kind of patience? For most parents, unless you are willing to entrust a power saw to your eight-year-old, your options are pretty limited. Volkswagen bus, anyone?

Although–a boy actually did that one year. I saw this sharp-edged, hand-painted monstrosity sitting up there at the top of the track next to our sleek little blue racer and I thought, YesFinally, we aren't going to be last!

I kid you not; the block won.

This year we tried an entirely new approach.

We left the car in the box.

It is sitting on my son's desk right now. One block of wood, four nails, four wheels. I know this because about a month ago when he brought it home we had drama because there were only two wheels and three nails; like the derby Gods didn't think our cars were bad enough with four. Conscientious mother that I am, I secured replacement parts for him. Brand new even–although I was tempted to just swipe them from last year's model. 

But that's as far as we got. Last night I got this voicemail. "Hey! This is your den mother calling! We're down here at the pinewood derby and didn't want to start without you! Are you coming?" Mercifully I didn't hear the message until long after the derby was over or I might have been guilted into bringing my son and his block to the race because it's all about fun, not winning, and stalwart members like us of course support, support, support the program. 

The news was probably spreading like wildfire; Oh no! The Lybberts didn't bring in the losing car this year to cushion the rest of the boys' egos! Aaaack! What if—what if ours comes in last? 

You know the phone call had to be made.

God bless my fickle phone. 

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Horse Breath

Daughter 1: There's no way the vacuum is going to pick that up.

Son 1: Yes it will–it's like [checks the sticker on the shop vac] five horsepower.

Daughter 1: Yeah–what does that mean? Is that like five horses going [makes a horsey face and sucks in really, really hard] all at the same time?

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Seventeen Dollars of Gum

M does this strange thing some of you may be familiar with–he saves his receipts. I save mine now, too, having married a saver, but I just drop them on his desk. Sometimes they're still legible.

He, on the other hand, actually does something with them. I think it's called reverse budgeting but I'm not really sure I didn't make that up.

About February or March of every year, he starts organizing the previous year's receipts into months and then he makes a spreadsheet detailing expenditures, and files said sheets in plastic protectors.

I kid you not.

This comes in very handy, especially when I'm doing taxes, but I can also authoritatively tell you that in 1993 we spent $17.30 on chewing gum and $92.70 on chocolate. For some reason chocolate had its own category that year.

Some other interesting tidbits I gleaned today:

  • In 2008 we spent almost $1000 dollars on milk. This is up 300% from the previous year. It is also equal to expenditures for clothing, gasoline and electricity. One begins to suspect the USDA requirements that I serve a full 8 oz of milk to every child at the start of every meal (whether or not the child ever, ever has taken a sip in his entire life) might be linked to some sort of government/dairy lobbying group conspiracy.
  • In every year except one, expenditures on junk food–defined since 1994 as any food item not strictly necessary–held steady through fat years and lean at about $400 dollars per anum. Except 1999 when it inexplicably rose to $716. I can only surmise that the son born that year was so colicky and so clingy that snacking was our primary strategy to avoiding the nuthouse.
  • It really is cheaper to go digital. My leap to a DSLR at the beginning of 2007 has already paid for itself in savings on film and developing. 
  • No matter how much we made–and over fifteen years it has varied widely–we spent all of it. Like my children's feet in shoes–no matter how much I plan, they are always needing something just a liiiiiiitle bit bigger.
  • In the grand scheme of things, we don't spend very much on shoes. I think the year 2007 holds the record at about $120 for the family and that was because son #2 had to have these bizarre marshmallow looking things and quite honestly they–fifty dollars or not–were the only ones in the store that fit him.

 

 

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Help Wanted

How does one go about making a living with a keyboard?

It occurs to me that someone–lots of someones even–out there could use a typist/proofreader/writer. I type 80 plus net words a minute with my fingernails and a kid on my lap, so really people. There must be a market for my skills.

Even a teeny, weeny, little market?

Just a couple grand a month?

Minus all the work-at-home scams that come up when you try to find that market on-line?

Anyone?

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One Trillion

Just in case you haven't received this email: I was wondering this very same thing:

What does one TRILLION dollars look like?

Some clever person at this address got on Google Sketchup and figured it out. Now, if you get all the way to the bottom, and you think the results are suspect like I did, you can go here and double check His/her results:

We'll start with a $100 dollar bill. Currently the largest U.S. denomination in general circulation. Most everyone has seen them, slighty fewer have owned them. Guaranteed to make friends wherever they go.

$100

A packet of one hundred $100 bills is less than 1/2" thick and contains $10,000. Fits in your pocket easily and is more than enough for week or two of shamefully decadent fun.

$10,000

Believe it or not, this next little pile is $1 million dollars (100 packets of $10,000). You could stuff that into a grocery bag and walk around with it.

$1,000,000 (one million dollars)

While a measly $1 million looked a little unimpressive, $100 million is a little more respectable. It fits neatly on a standard pallet…

$100,000,000 (one hundred million dollars)

And $1 BILLION dollars… now we're really getting somewhere…

$1,000,000,000 (one billion dollars)

Next we'll look at ONE TRILLION dollars. This is that number we've been hearing so much about. What is a trillion dollars? Well, it's a million million. It's a thousand billion. It's a one followed by 12 zeros.

Ladies and gentlemen… I give you $1 trillion dollars…

$1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion dollars)

(And notice those pallets are double stacked.)

So the next time you hear someone toss around the phrase "trillion dollars"… that's what they're talking about.

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Churning

Why is it that after weeks of agonizing over how to terminate childcare for two children that I knew needed, needed, needed to go, why after all the frustration and worry, now that the deed is done, can I not turn my brain off about the process of terminating them?

I was wide awake all night, vastly relieved to have them gone; but still the brain is churning it out, rehashing everything said, not said, done, not done.

M doesn't understand that. After all, we talked about it for weeks–months–about the problems developing; we knew these kids were not a good fit here–and so he is able to turn over and start snoring; just put them and everything associated with them out of his mind now that they are out of his house.

For some reason I am incapable of doing that, I think. Biologically hardwired to be incapable of just brushing aside conflict. I was not built for it in any form. I am a pleaser, a smoother, a diplomat and even when I know a situation is not due to diplomatic failure on my part, it bothers me. Deeply.

Wide awake.

Blink.

Blink.

Blink.

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Thirty-three

So here’s an idea–the Jewish year of jubilee in which all debt was forgiven, all slaves were released, and all property reverted back to its original owners.

Can you imagine that? What would happen, if worldwide, all debts were cancelled, today? Every debt. As of today, nobody owes anybody anything. 

Yikes. Not that I really think the global economy can get much worse than it already is.

Slavery–abolished. Man answers only to himself.  Enslaved only by his habits. And property! It begs the question, doesn’t it–how do you determine original ownership?  

Thomas Jefferson had this idea that the land belonged to whoever was willing to work it and maybe that view is what allowed freedom-loving colonists to declare the New World as their possession and not the natives'. And hey! Were the natives truly and inherently native?

I'm sure many wise men have spent many hours on this question, but I haven't been privy to the conversation and so I ask the question anew:

What gives man the moral right to own property?

If I buy stolen property would the law return it to the owner? What if I buy property from someone who bought it from someone who stole it?

What if I buy land that was stolen five hundred years ago?

Jefferson thought every generation should be free of the consequences of their progenitor's ambitions, faults, greed, ideas, everything. He saw how wealth inevitably shifts to the wealthy few and so envisioned a utopian society in which every nineteen years all laws, debts, everything is abolished and the new generation starts from scratch–equal chances, all across the board.

His contemporaries kindly pointed out that among other problems, generations aren't born in neat, 19 year shifts. I would point out that there aren't many men alive today I'd trust to write the Constitution anew. But I think he was talking about this sovereignty thing. How much we are bound to what our fathers have done or not done, owned or not owned, legislated or left to the free market.  

The truth is there isn't a single person or entity that can prove ownership of any physical thing. You can't do that. You cannot irrefutably prove ownership unless you can prove that whoever made or imagined or sold that thing can trace his right to do so all the way back to God himself.

Oh-ho! So you don't believe in God! You don't buy into the Jewish/Christian idea that the earth was created by a supreme being and belongs to him and we are all just stewards. No matter.

In the absence of one omniscient being here on earth doling out perfect stewardships, we are left alone—creationist or evolutionist—man in a fallen Eden, to work it out for ourselves. We set up the best governments we can to oversee the working of the land and the distribution of wealth because if we have learned nothing else, we have learned that ownership cannot be determined by finders-keepers or might-makes-right. We’ve had enough generations grow up and reproduce and interact with two year olds to know the folly of that approach.

I understand the need to pay taxes. I get that the founding fathers understood the need for a reasonably strong central government, Jeffersonian objections aside, because we live in an imperfect world inhabited by a fair amount of unscrupulous people.

But it bothers me that I don’t feel invested in that governing body. That I, and my fellow Americans, talk about “The Government” like it is some creature with a life and a will of its own that is to blame for all our problems and responsible to fix them.

Maybe it is a dereliction of duty on my part or maybe the creature is too big. Too far away. My tax dollars—what are those? I acknowledge my need to contribute, but I resent the idea that there is no way of knowing what I am contributing to. Foreign abortion clinics? Torture? Embryonic stem-cell research—I don’t even know what that is! I don’t understand much of anything outside my own four walls. I think I should probably find out.

But so what if I do? What if I find out it’s horrifying, or I find out it’s commendable? Is there really anything I can do to route my tax dollars differently?

Through payment of taxes or through innocent actions like having my child vaccinated by a company with ethically questionable research methods, I contribute every day to the actions of men and women I have no comprehension of existing even, let alone understanding of their motives.

I am thirty-three years old and I can no longer claim ignorance. I am culpable for every ripple effect, no matter how small, of my actions on this earth.

What’s an average citizen to do?

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