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100 Things About Me
The Spouse Thingy
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Torture... pure torture.
September 4, 2002
Serve Your Country, Then Bend Over
Imagine that you’ve spent 20 years working for a company who promised you, in writing, that if you stuck it out for the full 2 decades with them, you could retire with a pension (50% of pay) and full medical benefits. That’s the contract: 20 years for full medical and a pension.
Now, imagine what you would do if you reached that 20 year mark and they turned around and said “Well, no. We meant it when we said it, but we changed our minds. You have to pay for your medical.”
You’d sue their asses, right?
Military members don’t have that luxury. They are property of the U.S. Government, and as such don’t have the right to sue Uncle Sam on their own behalf. So when, years back, the government decided to not honor that part of the contract and shifted medical benefits to the HMO-like TriCare, hundreds of thousands of military retirees found themselves faced with losing their medical care, unless they were willing to pay hefty premiums for what had been promised to them for free.
These are the guys who served in World War II, Korea, Viet Nam. These are the guys who uprooted themselves at the government’s whim, frequently, moving their families with them, to every corner of the world, serving this country with not just their sweat, but their blood as well. To thank them, the rug was yanked right out from their feet, the promise reneged on.
It took several years for them to get back that “free” medical care. Recently TriCare For Life was implemented, giving retirees back their medical care. Sort of. They also must be enrolled in Medicare, which becomes the primary payee on medical costs. But, essentially, they got back their care.
That leaves the pension promised. For the most part, if you serve 20 years in the military, you get a pension that equals 50% of your base pay (it does not include any housing or subsistence allowances). If you gut it out for 30, you get 75% of your base pay.
If you leave the military officially disabled and can’t work because of that disability, you get screwed by a law that prohibits the military retiree from drawing a pension in excess of a disability check.
In a nutshell, that means that if a civilian retires from a private company and has a pension of $2000 a month, is certified disabled and his disability check is $1500, he has an income of $3500 a month. If a military member retires with a pension of $2000 a month, is qualified for disability at $1500 a month, he has an income of… $2000 a month. $1500 of that is disability, and his pension drops to $500.
Those are generous numbers, by the way. A $2000 pension is for the ranks of major and above. Junior officers and enlisted won’t see that kind of money.
The numbers don’t matter, though What matters is that this is legal discrimination, invoked on people by the government they spent the better part of their lives serving.
Spend your career on your knees loading bombs or repairing airplanes, destroy your lungs while serving as a Fuel Specialist, or have them seared from the fires in Kuwait… Become 100% disabled – meaning you cannot work after your 20 years are up - while serving your country, and you will not get the pension to which you are entitled.
Most retirees go on to other careers; they have the ability to earn for themselves a second income, enough to put bread on the table and their kids through school. Disabled retirees, however, cannot work. They don’t have the options. And then they’re expected to live on anywhere from a few hundred to about $1200 a month. Pretax dollars.
If they were civilian, they would get both their pension and disability.
And people wonder why I want a generations-long tradition of military service to end with my husband. Why I don’t want my son in the military.
Why would I?
September 6, 2002
A Case Of I Want
Some of the simplest things can be a big thrill – I saw a commercial yesterday for Rally’s and literally stopped what I was doing and sighed “Oooh, I want that.” I haven’t been to a Rally’s in at least eight years, and dang, it sounded so good. As I recall, it was nothing but cheap burgers and seasoned fries, but I really liked it.
The Spouse Thingy, being the Good Person that he is, looked it up in the phone boo, saw there was one not too far down the road, and declared Night Off From Diets and Cooking. After feeding Hank and PsychoKitty this evening, we jumped into the car and headed down Airway Road.
Yep, there was a Rally’s there.
It was closed.
Not just closed, but Out Of Business closed.
I was so bummed. Now granted, it’s just a burger, but dammit, I wanted that burger. We pulled into Wendy’s instead, and I had a burger anyway. Heck, it was good, I love Wendy’s burgers. It just wasn’t Rally’s.
Before we left I decided I wanted a Frosty. If I can’t have the burger I want, then by golly I’ll have a Frosty. The Spouse Thingy went to the counter to get me one, said “one small Frosty to go, please,” and the counter person handed him one.
Ok, so I’m still bummed the Rally’s was closed, but a free Frosty? Heck yeah!
We know for sure we’re in the Midwest now. Aside from the various county fairs, tomorrow Beavercreek is having its annual Popcorn Festival. Yep, an entire festival dedicated to Popcorn. According to the newspaper, every booth there has to off popcorn in some variety; a local church is planning on having popcorn noodles and chicken.
We’ll check it out on Sunday (because Sunday they’re also having a car show, and even though I lack the requisite testosterone, I want to see the cars).
Saturday there’s a Starving Artists Show somewhere in Dayton that we’ll try to see. I need to pick up a cheap crappy painting to match the cheap crappy painting I bought at WalMart just before we left California. I like my cheap crappy painting; it kind of goes with the Thomas Kincaid the Spouse Thingy bought me for Christmas.
If the Spouse Thingy would get his stuff out and get back into Bob Ross painting, he could create the cheap crappy picture I can’t seem to find anywhere else.
Surely some Starving Artist has created the ultimate cheap crappy painting…
More than Rally’s, I want a car. A convertible. Almost any convertible will do at this point. Yes, I’m pouting.
I want Jelly Belly Jelly Beans too.
Mostly, I want the car.
September 7, 2002
Coin, Shiny, Other Side
We’re coming up on 18 years in the United States Air Force. Technically, the Spouse Thingy is, but since I’ve bounced from place to place with him, I’m a part of it. Eighteen years; that’s a fricking long time.
Now, granted, it’s not what I want for my son, not in terms of a career anyway. Over that 18 years things have shifted back and forth so much in terms of whether its worth it or not, that for the most part, I don’t think it’s worth it. Not for the long haul. I have serious issues with how little the enlisted troops are paid (hey, our military members should not qualify for food stamps, not even an E-1 or and E-2; and no, very few really know what they’re getting in to when they sign up, and no one can just quit if it turns out to be less than desirable for their family circumstances). I have issues with the rules of fraternization, though I do understand the basic “why” of them; I just think those rules are carried too far. I have issues with the way retirees are treated, like 3rd class citizens who seem to exist only to block the commissary aisles. I have issues with the officers' wives who seem to think they wear their husband’s rank.
But for all the reasons I wouldn’t want my son to make a career of it, it really isn’t all bad. It's been very good to us.
When the Spouse Thingy went in 18 years ago, it was as an enlisted guy; he was roughly 3 semesters short of his BSN, but we had a baby and needed to pay rent on more than an orderly’s salary and what little I could make working at International Fitness Center. He enlisted, and started bringing home the megabucks. All $800 a month.
One of the benefits of the military is the educational programs available. At the time, if he had wanted to take college classes in his off-hours, they would have paid 75% of his tuition. That’s up to a full 100% now. There are several programs available through which an airman can get a degree; the Spouse Thingy applied for, and was granted admission to, the USAF Bootstrap Program.
Basically, this gave him 3 semesters off work, at pay, to finish his BSN. When he graduated with his degree, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, and began working as a medical ward nurse. He had his eye on cardiac care nursing; six months later he was transferred to the CCU. It was invaluable experience.
His eye shifted to anesthesia; he wanted to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. The Air Force had their own training program via the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. After two years of CCU nursing – a requirement for the program – he applied and was granted admission. By then he was a Captain… and the pay was better than $800 a month.
Two years after that he had his MSN in Nurse Anesthesia and a required commitment to spend another 4 years in the Air Force. By the end of that 4 years he was at 12 years in and made the decision to stick it out for 20, reasoning that the pension would be worth it.
And it will be.
But the gist of it is that he took advantage of the military education benefits in the best way he could, and when he retires he’ll have another career waiting for him. One that pays pretty danged well.
There are risks to being in the military, obviously. Being shot is one of them. Tours in the desert in the middle of summer. Being called at 3 a.m. and being told you have to be on a plane to an undisclosed location in an hour, for an undetermined length of time. War. The wrong end of things that go =boom=
But the benefits are there. Education. Medical care (hey, I got a $30,000 surgery and we’ll wind up paying a whopping $50.) Travel.
It’s worth it for the short term, I think. Four to eight years. Serve your country, get an education, see places you never would have, like endless cornfields in the Midwest and huge fricking desert scorpions. And you get really cool food, like dehydrated pork patties.
Yep, that’s worth it.
September 8, 2002
By Any Other Name...
We learned something this weekend. It may prove to be invaluable in the future, when we’re trying to decide what we want to do on any given weekend, as we peruse the newspaper for local goings-on. “Festival” in the Midwest generally means one thing, no matter what else is tacked on to the title.
Saturday we went to the Starving Artists Festival. I assumed, naturally I think, that there would be artists there. You know, as in “I paint pictures” kind of artist. There were some awesome displays of woodwork, homemade jewelry, tie dyed t-shirts, quilts, embroidered shirts and skirts… but no paintings.
Today we went to the Beavercreek Popcorn Festival. I like popcorn. It seemed promising; 200 booths, and all were supposed to have popcorn in some form (according to the Dayton Daily News, anyway.) There was also a nice little car show, with enough classic cars and ragtops to give us both minor cases of drooling.
I only saw 5 or 6 booths that had popcorn. The rest was, well, woodwork, homemade jewelry, tie dyed t-shirts, quilts, embroidered shirts and skirts. The skill of these people is incredible – at both festivals – so good I wondered a few times why they were hawking their wares there instead of setting up shop in the mall. But I also wondered where the heck all the popcorn was.
I can only conclude that in the Midwest, “festival” when coupled with any other word really means “craft show.”
I wonder what we’ll see if we go to something advertised as a craft show…
September 11, 2002
If today is your birthday, celebrate it. If it’s your anniversary, celebrate it. If it’s your kid’s recital, talent show, first lost tooth, go, enjoy, celebrate the changes. Take a deep breath and be glad to be alive, and take back your day.
Take it back. It’s yours. Don’t let them have it.
Will we have another surge of National Pride today? Will it last? Will people haul out the flags they out away, or replace they ones they just weren’t ready to store? And will Other People not grind their teeth at the show of what they think is bandwagon patriotism and just let them fly a flag without being made to feel like a lemming?
Yes, people started flying the flag last year. But it wasn’t out of pretentious patriotism; people had their reasons for it.
For some, flying the flag was an in-your-face, red-white-and-blue Fuck You to anyone in this world who would blink twice in the direction of the U.S. It was Empowerment. Capital E intentional.
I suspect for most people, though, flying the flag fulfilled an emotional need. It wasn't sudden patriotism, it wasn't jumping on the bandwagon to be that Perfect All American, all apple pie and cookie cutter God Fearing US Citizen... it was a blanket, a bandage to cover a deep, deep wound.
Face it, for most of us, even those of us who had friends in NY who are still suffering the emotional backlash of a year ago, and for those of us who had friends who are still grieving the loss of family, there was literally nothing we could do. Someone kicked us all in the teeth, but individually we couldn't hit back. There was a collective owie, and people needed a collective Band Aid.
That Band Aid was the flag... People wrapped themselves in it for comfort, not necessarily out of a surge of patriotism, but of a need for something indefinable. The flag became Mom's late night, make-you-feel-better cookies and milk. It's tangible, something that can be touched, felt, seen...
And as the healing began, people began to take the Band Aid off. The pressing need to fly the flag wasn't as great. Yes, greater respect should have been paid to the flag itself, and those that became tattered should have been removed and replaced, but the circumstances are not the norm. Some people are not, not even now, ready to give up the thing that made them feel even just a tiny bit better, not even to replace it with something identical.
They still need time. And that should be ok.
I don't think it was ever bandwagon patriotism. For the most part, the surge of flags flying was the Band Aid, the security blanket people needed.
Seize the day, friends. Be glad you’re alive.
I know I am.
September 18, 2002
CNN Late Breaking News!
It has been reported that Osama bin Laden was captured this morning at 4:22 AM Pacific Standard Time by US Special Forces.
The prime suspect of the recent terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, bin Laden was captured at gunpoint as he fled an underground passage in a remote mountainside of southern Afghanistan.
Northern Alliance troops, who witnessed the events unfold, explained that moments earlier United States war planes had sprayed liquid Viagra across the southern Afghanistan countryside, and the little prick just popped up!
Heh... stolen from a post on Wil Wheaton's Soapbox
September 20, 2002
Remember that song? It was a hit a few years ago, a very sappy but kinda catchy tune about a dad mourning his little girl having grown up. I suspect most kids at the time thought it was a gag-me sort of song, and most adults thought it was sweet. I liked it (didn’t love it), but I always wondered… how freakishly long were the eyelashes on that little girl? If she was hugging her dad and he could feel her eyelashes fluttering against his cheek, she either had mutant lashes or he was holding so tight her eyes were popping out and the poor kid couldn’t breath. It’s amazing she survived long enough for him to write the song and smother the airwaves with it.
I thought about that song yesterday morning as I was climbing out of bed. I wake up every morning – a lot earlier that I would actually like – to whisker kisses. They start at about 4 in the morning; Max jumps up on the bed and very quietly creeps up to my face, sniffing my nose, checking to see if my eyes are open. I can feel his whiskers tickle my face, but I know better than to open my eyes. Once he’s satisfied that I’m still asleep, he crawls over me and either plops down on the bed to sleep, curling up and jamming his furry little body as close to me as he can (what is it about my ass? Is he trying to flatten it or what?), or he jumps onto the nice, soft window perch that the Spouse Thingy hung for him.
Like clockwork, he’s back at 8:30. During those 4½ hours that he lets me sleep he snoozes a while, then gets up when the Spouse Thingy does and helps him get ready for work (because, after all, we all know that the Spouse Thingy could not get ready properly without his help), and then he waits. Sometimes patiently, sometimes not. Once in a while I hear him, standing out in the hall by his dish, meowing his little head off, but for the most part he waits until the time he knows I should be getting up. He jumps on the bed and starts to sniff, his whiskers tickling my face.
He’s not so willing to let me stay asleep by then. If my eyes don’t open, the whiskers on my face become his head butting into my nose (which is still pretty tender from the surgery almost 3 months ago), and he starts nagging me. I don’t need to speak Kitty to understand what he’s saying.
“Get up. I’m hungry. Get up, I want food. Get up, dammit, get up get up get up!”
I either roll over – which does no good because he crawls over my body and starts the whole thing up all over again – or I open my eyes and let him know I know he’s there. That’s all he needs, to just know that I’m awake, and that I’ll get up soon to feed him. As soon as my eyes are open I get another healthy dose of whisker kisses, and he drops down onto his side to cuddle up against me, squirming and twisting, trying to get me to pet and adore him.
It used to annoy me, the clockwork precision way he’d check me out at 4 in the morning, every morning, and how he pushes me to get up before I really want to. But I thought about that corny little song, and realized that if he stopped doing it, I’d miss it.
At least I don’t have to squish his little head that close to feel his whiskers. I still wonder about that kid in the song, and if her head is all squarshed out of shape…
September 23, 2002
Here, Have Some Cheese
Maybe I’m just being on the sensitive side lately, but I’m hearing a lot more whining these days: life sucks, my parents/boss/job/siblings totally blow, my friends are turning into little pricks, and I just don’t like the way everything is going. I want everything on my terms, and dammit, I’m tired of waiting for that to happen. Does the world not realize it revolves around me?
Ok, so maybe the whiners don’t feel things to quite that extreme, but it’s how they sound.
Venting is one thing. It’s a one-time, get it off your chest blowup that’s over 2 seconds after the last word escapes your lips. Whining is chronic. At some point it becomes noise, that background static people train themselves to ignore. Listen to yourself speak. If you’re complaining most of the time, if you’re snapping at people because they don’t seem to be treating you fairly, if friends are avoiding you… maybe it’s you.
Face it, you get out of this world what you put into it; if it seems like your parents are always on your ass, you can’t find a job, your siblings seem to walk on water which makes you look like scum, everyone is snapping at you, it may very well be because they’re reacting to the you treat them. It’s like parasitic symbiosis. You’ll continue to feed off one another until one of you changes.
Why not be the one to make that first step? Be the adult, be the mature one. Start being nice, even in the face of nastiness, and see how the people around you respond to it. Attitude is everything. If you can change that, you can change the way you see the world, and the way the world sees you.
But whatever – don’t whine… it only makes you look immature and annoys the holy bejeezuz out of everyone around you.
September 25, 2002
Ack! Pooey! Furball!
I occured to me today, while I was vacuuming up enough dog hair to be able to knit three blankets and a couple of sweaters, that I'm not a dog person (though I love Hank), and if something happens to the Spouse Thingy, it's likely that I'll become a Cat Lady. You know, those freaky old women who live in the dark house at the end of the street, with the grass that never seems to need to be cut but still looks pretty bad, who have 22 cats roaming around inside and a couple of dozen outside. I'm going to be one of them.
I realized this while I was vacuuming, because the constant shedding of dog hair annoys me, and I had just had a conversation with the cat. Yes, I talk to the cat. He talks back. What's worse, is that we seem to understand each other. I never have conversations with the dog. I talk to him and he stares back with this vacant "I want food" look. I talk to the cat and he answers. I'm definitely a cat person.
I'm not much of a people person, either. I suck at casual conversation with other bipeds. But I can talk to cats.
Yep, I'm going to be that freaky old lady at the end of the street, who chases kids off the lawn with an old broom. =sigh=
September 26, 2002
Shamless Self Promotion
For the many, many, many (okay, all 3 of you) who have asked about signed copies of my latest book As Simple As That I finally got a shipment in. It only took a month [insert rolling of the eyes]. They're $14.95 plus shipping. I still have signed copies of the first book, Charybdis available, too.
No pressure. But I really need to buy a car...
September 27, 2002
Major kudos to Scary Duck. Our Webfooted Web Weaver was voted Best British Blog on the ‘Net, and deservedly so. He’s got a funny-assed blog, loaded with memories from his childhood, told in a way only the Duck can. Be prepared to spend a lot of time there reading.
It started raining here yesterday afternoon; a nice, steady soaking rain that we really need (oohyeah, I want those leave to change to all the pretty colors!) Now, don’t ask me why, but an hour after the rain began, one of my neighbors was out there mowing his lawn. I understand enjoying a walk in the rain, but cutting the grass? I wonder how thrilled he was later that afternoon when maintenance workers brought a mini-bulldozer over and ripped his lawn up to get at a broken water pipe.
I wondered, too, when the rain was coming down in torrents this morning – we got a good 4 inches – why he was standing outside, shaking a carpet runner…
Cats are supposed to hate water, right? (nice segue from the rain, eh?)
PsychoKitty doesn’t want to get in it, but he sure wants to watch it. It’s not possible to take a bath or a shower without his help. He stands outside the tub, waiting patiently for us to finish, so that he can stand at tub’s edge and watch water go down the drain. A flushing toilet fascinates him (for this reason all toilets are closed when not in use…) To keep him occupied for an hour, I can just dump ice cubes in the sink, and he’ll stand there and watch them melt.
Eh, I don’t get it, but whatever floats his little boat.
My books are still for sale, and I still really need a car.
No pressure, though…
September 28, 2002
Holy Brain Surgery Batman!
Ok, it wasn't rocket science, but it was brain surgery. Slowly, envelope by envelope, the bills for my surgery in June have been trickling in. A thousand here, and few thousand there, until the total reached about $30,000.
Today we get another envelope in the mail, just as we're heading out the door to go see a movie. Did you hear a wild "HOLY SHIT!" riding on the air outside your house today? That was me, after opening said envelope.
No, there are no typos there. Eighty seven thousand, one hundred seventy five dollars and five cents (I think the 5 cents was the price for me blinking freely in the recovery room; after all, the movement did displace air...). That brings the grand total to well over one hundred thousand dollars. $100,000.
This, boys and girls, has made all eighteen years of military bullshit worth it. Eighteen years of moving every 3 years, leaving friends behind, having to find new and inventive ways to keep myself occupied whilst the Spouse Thingy is at work and while I know no one and have no where fun to go.
Our share? About $50. Yep. Fifty dollars.
God Bless the United States Air Force.
September 30, 2002
Today we found a Rally's.
I missed Rally's. The last time I had a Rally's burger was when we were stationed at Scott AFB in Illinois, and we left there in July 1996. I reallllly wanted one. We thought we had found one a while back, but we got there and it was closed. Permanently.
Today we were leaving the base and had to stop by the post office (oohyeah, those of you who ordered books, they're on the way) and decided to see what was just past the place where we normally turn off.
There it was. The Spouse Thingy spotted it first, and I thought he was kidding. Cruelly teasing me. Yeah, right, there's a Rally's this close and we never saw it before. I mean, we looked in the phone book and never saw it there. But there it was. On the right. Just a couple miles away from the Number One Gate of the air force base.
So we stopped, and The Spouse Thingy treated me to a Rally's combo. Burger, fries, and a coke. Yes! Yesyesyes! I was having Rally's for lunch!
And you know what? It sucked.
This is a good thing, over all. I don't need the temptation of a nearby really good Rally's.
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