“I must learn to love the fool in me the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries” ~ Theodore Isaac Rubin

*Snow Bath by Corey Fickel

“All my life I have been on the brink of either a break down or a break through.” ~ Diane Ackerman

Saint Francis in the Snow

Our Internet has really been acting funky, which has made it hard to post. We have a wireless network in the house, and given that our house is not very big, there really shouldn’t be problems, but of course there are. My computer is farthest from the router, but that hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference until recently. The other computers in the house have Internet service, but I do not. It’s very frustrating, but we don’t really know why this is happening unless the router is going bad, which may be the case. I suspect the router because replacing it would cost money, and that’s how things work in this house. If it’s a simple, cheap fix, it doesn’t break; if it’s expensive, then it will break. 

Anyway, yesterday, I wasn’t even able to look at videos on YouTube, without my computer locking up, so I decided to abandon any hopes of posting. Today, things seems to be working fine, so I’ll take my chances. 

I think that I’ve decided to abandon Facebook. I don’t have much to report in the status bar, and my life isn’t so involved that I feel a need to update everyone on what isn’t happening. I think that Facebook can be fun for the people who participate in the games and polls, which I don’t. And it has been nice making contact with some people from my past, but after that initial contact, is there anything more to say? 

I think back to my old post on becoming a hermit, which I wrote sort of tongue in cheek, but I really think that a part of me is very much like a hermit: I don’t crave the company of lots of people, and the more time that I spend here in this little corner of my bedroom, the less I feel that I am connected to the outside world. I’m not bemoaning my fate, just making a statement. 

“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always . . .  ~ Yann Martel, Life of Pi

"I love this stuff . . ."

The port security company called Corey to schedule an interview, which is great. But now he is anxious, worrying about impressing them. I told him that it’s normal to be anxious given that he hasn’t really interviewed for a job in a long time, but he is convinced that he is not qualified. He finished his port security training with the Coast Guard but did not graduate because of his injury; therefore, he doesn’t have any certifications. I told him that he just needs to explain what happened, but he is tying himself up in knots over this. 

He does have the qualifications for this type of job. I just hope that he can make it through the interview. If he can do well in the interview, he has a good shot at the job. 

Being unemployed for so long has insidious effects, which are now coming to the front. Unemployment strips your confidence, makes you feel inadequate, and the longer the unemployment continues, the more you begin to believe that you are a failure, not worthy of consideration. Having had my own bout with unemployment, I truly understand what Corey is feeling, and unfortunately, all of the loving supportive words in the world cannot erase that overwhelming feeling of insecurity. 

Here’s hoping . . . 

“You can never have too much sky. You can fall asleep and wake up drunk on sky, and sky can keep you safe when you are sad. Here there is too much sadness and not enough sky. Butterflies too are few and so are flowers and most things that are beautiful. Still, we take what we can get and make the best of it.” ~ Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Snow Buddha

I’m back to not sleeping. I have no idea what’s going on, and I’m at the point at which I don’t even try to ascertain reasons. Last night, for example, I fell asleep somewhere between 5:30 and 6 a.m. I got up at 7, 9:20, and 11 to let the dogs out. I don’t really think that they need to go out, but they get restless. I finally fell into a deep sleep after 11. 

This is so backwards. I did have a migraine for three days, so that probably contributed to things. Funnily enough, a representative from my long-term disability insurance called for an update a few days ago. I told her that absolutely nothing had changed. Still seeing the same doctors, still taking the same medicines . . . she asked about my days, as in what did I do. What could I tell her? I sit at the computer for a few hours, read, watch television. She wanted to know if I do any cleaning. I told her that I do some things but not others. 

Those periodic conversations really bring into focus how much my life has changed in the past two years, how I have gone from working a full day and then going to classes in Alexandria, how I have gone from cleaning my whole house to cleaning parts of my house, how I have gone from sleeping 6 hours to sleeping 10 hours. It is more depressing than I can begin to describe. 

I spend hours with ice packs on my head. I spend hours on the heating pad. I take my pills, and I look forward to small things: new episodes of NCIS, a good book, a movie, my favorite coffee. So while I have lost so much, I have also relearned the art of appreciating small things. I don’t exactly see it as a fair trade-off, but it is what it is for however long it stays this way. 

“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. when you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ~ Haruki Murakami

In the news: Ben Stein, commentator for CNN (why should anyone listen to the former Nixon speechwriter?) says that he knows why Republicans are not in favor of healthcare reform: “. . . The answer is much higher percentage of Republicans are taxpayers than Democrats and the Republicans are the people paying for it, and the Democrats are the people receiving it.” 

Surface of Frozen Pool (or Ben Stein's Brain)

Let me just pause here for a moment while I collect my breath . . . First, and probably most importantly, the IRS does not have a spot anywhere on its myriad of forms that asks taxpayers to indicate their political affiliation, if any, so how, pray tell, did Stein come up with that factoid? Second, and this is personal, we pay a boatload of taxes, always have. A January 2009 report by Forbes magazine stated the following: 

“The 400 highest-earning taxpayers in the U.S. reported a record $105 billion in total adjusted gross income in 2006, but they paid just $18 billion in tax, new Internal Revenue Service figures show. That works out to an average federal income tax bite of 17%—the lowest rate paid by the richest 400 during the 15-year period covered by the IRS statistics. The average federal tax bite on the top 400 was 30% in 1995 and 23% in 2002.” 

This report says nothing about political parties, just income levels. In my many years of paying taxes, I have never had a 17 percent rate. Never. Stick it Ben Stein, you blowhard. (Thank you Skyewriter for the heads up.) 

In other news, former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis only received $32,171 in compensation for 2009. Poor Lewis. Oh wait. I forgot to mention: Lewis also received $73 million in accumulated compensation and retirement benefits, which brings his net to $73,032,171, approximately . . . 

Fannie Mae wants another $15.3 Billion, yes with a B, in aid. Okeedokee.  Let’s take these things and compare them to the fact that unemployment benefits for millions of people expire this weekend, but lone Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky is holding a temporary extension hostage over concerns about the deficit.  On Thursday, the House passed a bill temporarily extending the programs for a month until lawmakers can address the issues long-term. The Senate tried to follow suit, but the lone Republican Senator held out. 

Don’t get me wrong, I, too, have issues with the deficit. Perhaps we can ask Ken Lewis for a contribution, say $73 million or so? 

Enough financial news. It makes my eyes water and creates a sharp pain behind my right eye. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Imogen Heap, “The Moment I Said It” (heard it on “Criminal Minds,” which has a soundtrack almost as awesome as “NCIS.”) 

 

  

*Corey took all of the pictures featured the day after the snow storm we had here a few weeks ago.

 

You Know It’s Bad Because I’m Speechless

cracks-in-the-rose-colored-glasses

Cracks in the Rose-Colored Glasses

Corey came home from the maritime school today totally downhearted. He had to withdraw from the AB class in which he was enrolled because of our SNAFU with the IRS. Then he went to the union to turn in his application, and the guy who talked to him said that he would only be qualified as a beginner.

Imagine how it would feel if you have piloted tug boats on your own, you hold a 200 ton Master’s license, and because you don’t have an AB (able-bodied seaman) qualification, someone wants to put you in with a group of people who have never worked on a boat in their lives. It’s insulting, to say the very least.

At the moment, he is sleeping. It’s 5:30 in the afternoon, and Corey only naps when he doesn’t feel well and when he is really depressed. Today, it’s both.

I feel so utterly helpless because there is nothing that I can do for him. If I had something of value to sell to get the money for his tuition, I would do it without a backward glance. But I do not possess valuable things. The most valuable things I have are my wedding and engagement rings, and I know from previous experience that I would not get very much for either one. Their value lies in the sentiment.

I despise feeling helpless. I am angry at the world. And Eamonn is coming to me telling me about all of the things that he needs as a senior: his senior dues, his prom fees, his yearbook. We still haven’t finished paying for his senior pictures. We agreed to help with his senior dues when we thought that we were going to have a little bit of tax money leftover. I know that this is one of the most exciting times in his life, yet my answer to him is the same as it’s been throughout all of last year and into this year: We’ll have to see.

He has been saving money of his own, but working one or two shifts a week at minimum wage isn’t really giving him that much to set aside. And I cannot allow him to work more because he is not good at balancing school and work, and frankly, school and getting him to graduate are much more important.

You want to know the irony of the whole situation? We went to the City of Norfolk to see if we could get assistace with our water bill. They have a program specifically tailored to help people with water bills. However, we make too much money. Too much money? By whose standards? Certainly not AIG standards. We didn’t want to apply in the first place, not because we are embarrassed, but because of that whole concept of being able to take care of yourself, your family.

dorothea-lange-great-depression2
Dorothea Lange's Famous "Migrant Mother" From The Great Depression

Hard work brings its rewards: that Puritan work ethic in which we happen to believe. You know, that if you work hard, are honest and work within the system, then things will work out for you. I’ve worked since I was 15. I have been putting my share into the coffers for a long time now. Corey has worked since he was a teenager; he served his country. Something is wrong here.

But I cannot even begin to put a finger on all of the things that are wrong with this situation. Drug dealers drive around in fancy cars, wear the best clothes, want for nothing. People involved in organized crime have their own definitions of family and being taken care of. Wall Street gives out bonuses in the 8 figures. My son just wants to go to his senior prom. What’s wrong with this picture?

I mean, I’m thankful that we aren’t at the poverty level. Truly. I have a real appreciation for all that we do have and am aware that compared to so many Americans today, we are ironically in an enviable position. But the message in this is that too many people are doing without while a select few are doing really well.

I appreciate the fact that we have food and shelter. But my health insurance premium is killing us. It really makes me want to see nationalized health care. And don’t give me the argument that nationalized health care is the country’s first step into socialism. Too many democratic societies have nationalized health care, which disproves that big fallacy. If we weren’t shelling out so much for my stupid insurance, which I cannot live without, we might be in better shape. But as it is, we have no options.

No options. That phrase is unbearable to me for so many reasons.

I sent an e-mail to the White House today. Not that I think that anything will really come of it, but it just felt good to get some things off my chest. You see, I believe that you can support an administration and still exercise your basic First Amendment Freedoms. Maybe I’m wearing rose-colored glasses when I allow myself to think that things in this country will get better; my only fear is that we will sink before things get better.

Peace.

                                                                                                      

I thought that I would share a little poetry today as it always helps me when I am depressed, angry, or anxious (and I am all three today). And since I don’t have one of my own that fits my particular mood, I am going to borrow from one of my favorite poets.

The following pantoum is by Donald Justice. A pantoum is a type of highly stylized poem, like the villanelle. In a pantoum, which is written in quatrains, the second and fourth lines of a stanza become the first and third lines of the following stanza.

Pantoum of the Great Depression

Our lives avoided tragedy
Simply by going on and on,
Without end and with little apparent meaning.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.

Simply by going on and on
We managed. No need for the heroic.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.
I don’t remember all the particulars.

We managed. No need for the heroic.
There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows.
I don’t remember all the particulars.
Across the fence, the neighbors were our chorus.

There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows
Thank god no one said anything in verse.
The neighbors were our only chorus,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.

At no time did anyone say anything in verse.
It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.
No audience would ever know our story.

It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us.
We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
What audience would ever know our story?
Beyond our windows shone the actual world.

We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
Somewhere beyond our windows shone the world.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.

And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
We did not ourselves know what the end was.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues.

But we did not ourselves know what the end was.
People like us simply go on.
We have our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues,
But it is by blind chance only that we escape tragedy.

And there is no plot in that; it is devoid of poetry.

Donald Justice, October 1962

Screw the IRS and the Horse They Rode In On

no-irs-yard-sign

 

You Must Be This Insane To Ride This Roller Coaster

I am too angry to write a coherent post tonight. We received a notice in the mail today that our entire federal refund, such as it was, had been diverted to a federal creditor to go towards the debt.

I am not denying that we owe the money. However, would it not be logical to assume that we owe this money because we do not have it to pay? We are not deadbeats. We are hard-working, patriotic Americans who have been affected terribly by the economic downturn that this country as taken in the last year. Those statistics that we read about every month about how many people are unemployed? Well my husband is one of them.

Not for lack of trying. But it’s hard to convince a tugboat company to put its boats in the water when it doesn’t have any contracts to support them. It’s that economic domino effect, and the old saying of things rolling down hill and hurting those at the bottom the most. Well, we are close to the bottom. We are hanging on to our house only because Obama forced mortgage companies to stop foreclosing temporarily.

We have a roof over our heads, which is more than many people. We can put food on the table, again, more than so many. But we have one dead Trooper, and the truck is making terrible sounds. Both cars need state inspections, and we need to get current tags on the Trooper. We have suspended all home renovations. We do not go out on the town, hang out in bars, use recreational drugs, or even try our hand at the lottery. We don’t go on wild shopping sprees, and Eamonn’s birthday dinner was the first time that we had taken the family out in over a year.

So we were really counting on this refund of our money to pay for two classes that Corey needs that will help him to be more employable as a merchant marine. Now, he will have to withdraw from the classes, and we can only hope that the school will be kind enough to refund our deposit on the classes.

Imagine what it feels like after checking the IRS website to find that they have deposited the money into our account as of March 27, only to find out today through this wonderful explanation letter that the money has been appropriated.

Some of you are probably thinking, “Why didn’t you pay the bills in the first place?” Good question, but I have a better answer: for the past year, we have been living on my disability checks, and Corey’s unemployment. That is barely enough to pay for the mortgage, my health insurance (which is almost $400 a month), groceries and gas.

We own both vehicles outright. We try to pay cash for everything that we buy. This one line of credit was with the Military Exchange. Corey opened it when he was in the reserves, and we made regular payments on it as long as we had incoming income. But because of our personal family recession, we are overdue on everything.

We were really hoping that we would be turning the corner in just a few short weeks after Corey completed his classes and joined a new union that represents many shipping companies. Now, I’m not sure what will happen.

We still have to come up with the $300 for Corey to join the union. That was going to come out of the refund money as well.

I have long argued that the IRS needs to be abolished and that a flat tax is the way to go. It would be more fair in that people with higher incomes who pay fewer taxes would be on a level playing field with the rest of us. But that is neither here nor there. The current situation is that our anticipated refund is not coming. A debt that we had planned to pay as soon as Corey was working regularly again has gotten the funds that we needed to help Corey get a job.

I am so tired of this merry-go-round that I think that I am going to lose the little bit of sanity that I have left. And I feel so bad that Corey is facing yet another major disappointment, this after I assured him to believe that things were turning around for us.

no-irs Someone please tell me why . . . why is this happening to us, to other people, to people who have never hurt anyone, who just try to do the right thing? Too many peopleare falling by the wayside. Too many people are becoming statistics. Too many people are losing the little bit of hope that they had when they voted into office an ethical man of intelligence who seems to care about all Americans, not just the rich ones who pay $500 for a fundraising dinner.

I’m losing hope.

I didn’t think that it was possible for me to become more cynical, but the IRS took care of that feat today. Congratulations. As Sting once said: “I’m so happy . . . I can’t stop crying.”

Yeah. Right. Whatever.