A Crippled Girl Asks: Why Don’t We Stand Up?

My first peaceful protest was in 7th grade. It was February. We were celebrating black history month, and I was tired of getting yelled at by a substitute teacher. She kept yelling at me to sit down, shut up, and do my work… when that was ALL that I was doing. (Mind you, many of the other kids were being noisy and getting up and doing other stuff. She was picking on me because I was the only Jew in the whole school and with a name like Shapiro that she couldn’t pronounce, she wanted to practice saying it and telling me to shut up.)

I passed around a note telling all the other kids to keep doing their work but just to stand up on the count of 3. Would have worked too, if Sandy Canfield hadn’t laughed when she read it and said, “Who’s supposed to count?” I counted then, and half the class stood up. I got in school suspension for 3 days.

The vice principal, when I explained the story to him and told him that I was remembering Dr. Martin Luther King with my stand-in protest, he said that he hated what had happened but that I had left him without a choice. That I had left him without a choice. The child who was singled out by the teacher who led a protest that was simple and quiet had left the administration without a choice.

It’s a weird ass world we live in.

I was 17 when my father ran for general sessions judge. I was so upset that I couldn’t vote, but so excited to be a part of the democratic process. But on the day of the elections, the voting machines screwed up, and the election commission lost more than half the votes. The election was never held to a recount. Thousands of votes were lost, and someone who had never set foot in a general sessions court ended up being a judge instead of my dad.

In my first actual election that I could vote in, Bush vs. Gore, the president bought the election and there’s been plenty of paper to prove it.

People talk about how “might makes right” in this country, but it isn’t might. It’s money that makes right here. No one wants to die for their freedom because we all just want enough to live off of and to be left alone. Hell, the A-Team was only as badass as they were because they were renegade fugitives who had to stay away from the law. They did their work if you had the money and if you could find them.

There are people in Congress today who believe that there should not be Unemployment, Social Security, or Medicare. They stand in some sort of moral and financial judgmental superiority over those of us who stand in need of the very support that the government created those programs to give.

They huff and puff, thinking that their words do not affect those about whom they are speaking — as though being unemployed, depressed, and downtrodden, unable to work for your keep is a choice one would gladly take and that the self esteem of the thousands in need of their support deserves their twisted barbs. How delightful it must be to look down from so comfortable a position to taunt those who would beg for their scraps…

It’s like being kicked when you’re already down to first have a disease, then to need help, and then to be loathed for taking that help, and then to know that at any moment, Congress could take it away.

And to watch folks with money and comfort to talk about how brave Egyptians are for standing up for their beliefs… I have to wonder what they would think if the proletariat of America were to rise up one day and say, “NO MORE.”

I wonder if the children of today even know how, or if they know they have the option. It’s a bizarre legacy that we have given them over the last 40 years. We’ve been through a lot as a country, and it’s to the point that neither political party is trustworthy. Furthermore, our government has repeatedly been used as a bank to recover corporations (like banks and car companies) but it’s questionable whether or not it’s going to be there for us.

And the kids can’t help but notice that there’s a whole hell of a lot more of us “regular folks” than there are of Congress-people or wealthy people. When they see revolutions like what just happened in Egypt, they have to know that shit could go down in this country in a hot minute.

But we don’t do it because we love our country and we want to believe that we can make it work.

We don’t revolt because violence without a better solution is meaningless.

And we don’t revolt because we still have something left to lose.

I think there is a certain amount of class and dignity that we maintain as a nation, choosing to push our democracy to its very limits before we will scream for revolution. But we are certainly approaching its limits with wealth disparity and unemployment.

Freezer Cooking: Convenience Foods At Home!

One of the things that leads to quickly spending money that we didn’t anticipate is when both Adam and I feel awful at the end of the day. This is something that I’m certain happens for every couple who is dealing with chronic illness. Neither of us has the energy left to cook something, so the only thing that seems remotely fair is to phone it in. This is how we end up eating fast food or delivery restaurant food in our home when we otherwise could have had something that would have cost us less money and been healthier for us.

So, I thought about it a good deal and I asked my good friend the internet, “How do we kick this problem’s ass?” Because, frankly, I’m tired of wasting good money on bad food that makes me feel bad about myself!

Here’s the answer that I found. Use your tools!

The key to not wasting your money on food when you don’t have the energy to prepare stuff is to have ready-to-eat meals and snacks on hand at home, and the only way to have that is to have prepared the stuff previously.

This means that the process is:
1. Create Ready-to-Eat Meals, Components, & Snacks
2. Store in Refrigerator and Freezer
3. Heat (if needed) and Eat

There are folks out there who know an awful lot more about this sort of thing than I do, though!

Freezer Cooking Basics

What You Can Freeze

How To Plan A Freezer Cooking Day

Money Saving Mom’s Freezer Cooking Accomplishments Page

Most of these page suggest doing 1 month at a time, but I would be satisfied if I could do 1 or 2 weeks at a time where I just have extra stuff ready here and there, because it’s just tough having things done when you’ve got the extra stress of a tight budget and extra fatigue.

Still, it’s just as easy as seeing what you’ve got in your home, and what you need and doing some planning.

I’m starting to see caring for myself and home-making a lot like running a business. This kitchen for 2 needs to run optimally, with the best relationships we can have with our vendors (grocery stores & restaurants) and it’s up to me to operate at a profit, not a loss.

How I get Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts for $0.77/lb almost every week.

Back in the day, I used to pay $2.99/lb for Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts on the reg. Sometimes, if I was lucky, it was on sale for $1.99/lb. Chicken is expensive! And I wanted to get boneless, skinless breasts because white meat chicken is the leanest, healthiest white meat protein you can get, more or less.

And of course, because I was being health-conscious and money-conscious (or so I thought), that was all I wanted to pay for. Just the meat I was going to eat. No bones. No skin. Certainly no dark meat.

I would walk out of the store with a pack of breasts for 1 meal costing about $7-8 because the packs come with 3 or 4 portions. (Why they like to put 3 in there is beyond me. Odd numbers and cooking do not go well together!)

What I didn’t realize at the time is that just a few inches away were the whole fryers at $0.77/lb. I could get the whole bird – THE WHOLE BIRD – for the same price (or sometimes less) than I was about to pay for those boneless, skinless breasts.

And it’s not like the grocery store is hiding it. They put it big, bright, bold letters on the signs that the deals are there. I’ve just been raised to not roast full chickens and to not butcher full chickens because someone else has already done the work! I’ve been lucky and spoiled. 🙂

I realized that if I was willing to do the work for myself and butcher the chicken, I could have 2 portions of breast meat, 2 thighs, 2 wings, and 2 legs for the same price — and I could make stock with the carcass afterward to boot.

Now, this is not revolutionary thinking. It’s more like, “Well, duh.” But there are a whole lot of people, like me, who never grew up knowing what to do with a great big naked bird. We’re used to the muscles after they’ve been cut out. The thing in its natural (but thankfully pre-plucked) casing looks like something you would run away from screaming if you were pre-pubescent. They’re smelly and kinda gooey and gross when you first look at them. And the skin! It’s the kind of stuff of your nightmares, thanks to the creatives folks in cinema.. But you cannot be scared! Because dead birds cannot attack! Thus, you must put it in its rightful place. The oven. Or, a carving board, and soon on the other end of your knife!

These are the skills that keep you from being dependent on the butcher and will bring the cost of your meat down significantly, and they are explained, clearly here in fewer than 4 minutes.

And that’s just if you want to have it in pieces.

Here’s a link to the Top 200 User-Rated Recipes on All Recipes.com for Whole Chickens

I am personally a fan of whole roasting chickens in my crock pot, because there really is no easier recipe in the entire world. You really cannot screw it up, and it gives great value because it makes the chicken very tender and easy to shred. (Which is great when you’re making tacos or bbq sandwiches.)

You simply make 4 foil balls (to lift the chicken up from the very base of the crock pot), wash and dry the bird, season it on the outside however you want (a little salt & pepper is enough if you’re going for having just regular chicken to throw into recipes) and then set it to go for 1 hour on high. Then you let it go 8-10 hours on low. (or optionally 4-5 more hours on high, which is what I usually do, just leave it for 5 hours on high. That 5 hours includes the one at the beginning, for the record. I also like to add a little chicken broth at the bottom too so that there’s no chance that my chicken ends up tough.)

Then, once you have the cooked chicken, you can use that in tons of recipes too!

Here’s a link to the Top 200 Highest Rated Recipes Using Cooked Chicken on AllRecipes.com (Have I mentioned recently how much I love our internet-hive-mind regarding sharing recipes and knowledge and ratings of food? We have a pretty good collective palate!)

What do you do with the carcass? Make chicken stock! Bust that crockpot back out!

First make sure you have all of the meat off of the bones. You want to keep your meat for your other recipes.

Place the chicken carcass and any stray bones into your crock pot. For a bigger bird, you’re going to need a bigger crockpot. We usually get around a 5 pound bird, so our 4 1/2 quart crock works fine.

Go on and add any veggies you’d like – onions, celery, carrots, garlic, herbs. Using onion powder or garlic powder because they are less expensive works here, but fresh or frozen will always taste better, and usually you can get an onion for less than a buck and a bulb of garlic for less than $0.50 — so who are you cheatin there?

Cover the bones and vegetables with cold filtered water. Coldness actually matters here, because this allows the flavor and nutrients to be fully extracted from the bones, and filtered because you really oughtta filter your tap water if you live in Los Angeles. 🙂 If you’re in Memphis, clearly you can ignore that. (Your area’s water cleanliness may vary.)

Add 1 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to the mix and allow to sit for about an hour. This helps bring some of the chickeny goodness out of the bones before we apply heat. If you leave a timer on here and are just cleanin up, time flies before you even know it.

Then just flip it to low and leave it for a day. Then let it cool down. If you’re impatient, like me, you can remove the big parts with tongs to the trash – that will actually help it cool faster, since bones are excellent at keeping heat in. Once it is at a safe temperature, strain your chicken stock using a colander, sieve or cheesecloth.

I personally swear by cheesecloth because if it’s not liquid, it’s not getting through cheesecloth. And that’s the way it should be with stock.

Store in quart canning jars and use in soups, stews, sauces and for cooking grains. Good stock will have a jelly-like consistency when it’s cold because it has gelatin-like stuff in it from the bones!

Hope this post helps you get the most out of your chicken, your money, and your time. <3, Rae

Duck… Duck… ROSE!!!!!!

duckierose has been an absolute inspiration in my life over the last 4 years. Gosh, maybe 5 now! She is so full of life and is always looking for fun ways to get outside and go running or hiking and to encourage her friends to come with her. She’s a healthy, eco-conscious lady, and I respect the heck out of her.

Her upbeat attitude is catching and I can’t help but smile whenever I think about her because whenever we’re together, we both are so goofy and have so much fun, which is why when she emailed me about doing the ULTRAmarathon, I simply had to tell her that while I am not quite up to her Herculean effort, I am thrilled to tell the world about how cool she is. 🙂

So, please, click here to find out more about the marathon and the 100 Mile Club and to donate to Rose!

So you really want to save money, huh?

Okay, so the other day, I was reading my Facebook news feed, and one of my friends had linked to an article on how to save money in these hard economic times. The article, I have to say, made me laugh because the lady writing it made it through the year on only $75,000.

Yes, I am containing laughter as I type this because I have never in my adult life lived off more than $32,500.

If you really want to save money, here are my tips.

1. Stop paying for television programming more than once.
Believe it or not, you’re probably paying for your TV programs twice. Even three times for some folks. First you pay for your internet subscription (where you can get all the TV you need ever), then you pay for cable TV, then you pay for Netflix or Blockbuster. This gets expensive!

Monthly DSL or Cable Internet: $30 – $45
Cable TV: $30 – $100 (Depending on the channels you get and whether you pay extra for HD, DVR, etc.)
Netflix or Blockbuster Delivery: $18 (For 3 movies sent to you per month + streaming)

Right there, you can blow a big chunk of your disposable income each month.

The beauty of the internet is that, like DVR, you watch shows on your schedule, and because you are taking the time and effort to choose the show, you know that what you are watching is what you want to watch – so there’s none of the frustration of whining, "There’s nothing on TV." There’s always something on the internet. There is only a matter of finding it. So where do you look?

These LEGAL sites will open your eyes to a world of awesome television available to watch immediately, with the click of your mouse button.

ATDHE – For Live Television and Live Sports, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN

My Easy TV – For Live TV, Movies, and radio from US and around the world.

Surf The Channel – A well organized content aggregator site that has television shows from all over the world, organized by season and episode with links to where people have put them up to be shown streaming, like Hulu.

Side Reel – Another content aggregator site focused primarily on American audiences.

Hulu – A content provider focusing on American TV. For an extra fee you can see full episodes of all the past seasons of many available shows there. That’s one of the benefits of being owned by the studios!

And then, of course, there’s You Tube which has a surprising number of television shows if you just look for them.

Not to mention the number of TV shows with their own websites where they offer full shows AT the site — like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, two of my personal favorites.

2. Stop buying into marketing that says you need the more expensive things.
The truth of the matter is, as the human animals we actually are, we need a lot less than we think we do. The cosmetics industry especially works hard to tell us that we need them. We don’t. We like them. A LOT. They help us feel good about ourselves, and that’s important!

Granted, sometimes you do need the $20+ cream for your face because you’ve been hiking and your skin is cracked and peeling and broken and holy cow, your skin desperately needs and deserves moisture. But sometimes you don’t.

Only you and your financial situation knows if you can afford and want the $8 bottle of ultra moisturizing body wash or if you can get by with a $2 bottle of body wash and a $2 bottle of lotion. Sure, it’s extra time on your part, but you get better skin hydration from lotion after a shower than you would ever get from just a soap. And you realize, after a couple of weeks, that you have better skin than you did when you were using the more expensive product, and more money in your pocket.

Because time is money, you have to be okay with the fact that saving money means spending a little more time on yourself — and that’s ok and expected. It’s actually a good thing. You’re earning back your money and taking your time back for yourself.

Learn to Cook.
I can’t emphasize enough what a valuable skill cooking is. You will save a ton of money (and likely improve your overall health) by eating at home and not at restaurants constantly. In today’s hustle-and-bustle world, it’s an artform that has fallen to the wayside, while we pick up ready-to-eat meals at the grocery store from the refrigerated section or the freezer or opt to go to fast food joints or restaurants.

Each week, local grocery stores send out their circulars letting people in the area know what is on sale. These circulars tell you what is in season. If you learn to menu plan based around local, seasonal food that is on sale and make simple, rustic dishes (meaning that there are fewer than 8 components per dish), you are less likely to overspend at the grocery store. Also, by focusing on rustic dishes, you are guaranteed not to be spending an inordinate amount of time preparing the food.

Vices? QUIT IT. They cost money.
This is pretty straightforward. Cigarettes cost money while they kill you. So does booze. Recreational drugs? FORGETABOUTIT. And if you, like me, use medical marijuana for pains that other drugs can’t take care of, vaporize that stuff. It lasts longer, like 3 or 4 times longer.

I know what you’re thinking, “But Rae! I have no money! I’m sad! This is the only thing that makes me happy. I NEED MY VICES!” No, you don’t. Those vices are part of what is keeping you poor and sad. They’re holding you down. It’s an illusion. Vices play mind games with you because almost all of them are depressants of some sort. This is harder than any other area to change, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this is easy. But here is where exercise, especially group exercise (like going hiking with friends or having a living room dance off competition) is really helpful.

Recycle, Reduce, Reuse – Enjoy Creativity and Friendship!
Odds are you have stuff you don’t use. Clothes that don’t fit or that you don’t like anymore. Kitchen gadgets that you thought were a great idea but that you never actually got around to using, computers that were excellent and useful to you 4 years ago, but that now you have replaced.

You probably also have friends who are both richer and poorer than you as well. It’s just the way the world works!

You can have a great time having a stuff swap party with your friends. You never know what you might end up with, and you can really empower creativity within yourself and your friends by doing this! You never know what you might receive or how you might enrich someone else’s life.

Anyway, there are, of course, more tips, but these are the most important ones I can think of right now.
I hope they help ya! 🙂

E.M.D.R. – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

So, I took a break from blogging on In It For The Parking for a while, as I am sure you notice if you are looking at the archive or are a regular reader.

Part of having a seizure disorder for me is having both epileptic (meaning “responsive to medicine”) seizures and non-epileptic seizures.

Hearing from your neurologist that they’ve come as far as they can go, and that the rest of your seizures are “up to you” so to speak is never an easy thing to accept, but that’s exactly what happened for me. I was left with 1-2 seizures per day, but I noticed that there were times where it was much worse.

The name they give non-epileptic seizures is so demeaning because it sounds as though the seizures are make-believe Pseudoseizures. No lie. It’s not like you could create them if you wanted to. Clearly, it’s your subconscious or unconscious mind that has picked up a new trick — it’s found a new way to make you do things it wants you to do. Anyway, according to Dr. S, when I asked him, the way to fix pseudoseizures is always with psychological help.

Since I’ve been in and out of therapy for the last 7 years of my life (by choice!), I had no trouble looking my therapist in the face and saying, “Ann, this might sound nuts, but can you cure my seizures?”

I first heard about E.M.D.R. when I was at Lakeside. They had suggested it would help me, and my therapist happens to be trained in it, so I asked her if perhaps it might help. She brightened at the suggestion, and so we discussed what all it included, how long it could last, how scary it could get (and I had no idea in my particular situation how scary that was) and how much better you could feel afterward.

I will be the first person to say that E.M.D.R. is excellent and something that I would recommend wholeheartedly to people who are looking to maximize what they can get out of therapy, but who are also prepared to do some really hard work — because it “unpacks” all of your repressed memories and hurts. It’s better than pharmaceuticals, but it’s like Bactene for the soul. Some of the stuff stings like holy hell, but once it’s out, and you’ve worked on it with E.M.D.R., talking about it doesn’t hurt, and thinking about the stuff doesn’t have the same feelings at all.

I’m not going to go into all that we’ve uncovered. That’s what my sessions are for, but I will say that I have many fewer seizures now! And I am doing the (sometimes very) hard work to be a happier person. I’m learning that I’m like one of those cool clingie flowering vines that grows around stuff. I find the light. That’s just who I am. It doesn’t matter how messed up some of the stuff in my life might have been at some times, I just dealt with it, and flowered anyway. And really, that’s the way to be.

Now, I have the opportunity to look at the stuff I learned wrong and get things right before I start in on having my own kids — and that’s an opportunity most parents never get. At least not with the aid of a trained professional. 🙂

Dear Lord. For Reals? This is how beauty is made? Thank you for my ugliness.

When my parents sent me to St. Mary’s Episcopal School for Girls, I don’t think they had any idea that they were sending me to a school that was absolutely filled at the time with pageant girls. See, St. Marys (SMS) was the best school in the city as far as academics were concerned. No question about it. It was the best, which is why Mom and Dad wanted me and all my awesome potential there! And it was filled with charming, well-behaved, well-educated little girls. Ballet was a required course. That’s right, readers! I took ballet! For several years. Despite how horribly uncoordinated I am. And before anyone asks: Yes, there is video out there somewhere, and no, I don’t know where it is.

One thing that I used to hear on a regular basis,(aside from “You’re going to burn in the firey depths of hell for being a Jew, please let us save you!”), that I used to just shrug off, but that always kind of stung a little but just because I didn’t know what I was missing out on was this little insult: “What do you know? Your mother doesn’t even love you enough to enter you in a pageant.”

This of course always came from the prettiest girls after I had done something to defend myself from their awfulness or after I had sung a song in the playground and people had recognized that I had a talent.

Now, I have to give thanks to God today for my MS and for the show Toddlers and Tiaras for enlightening me on what I was missing out on for all of those years and for the “love” that my mother was “denying” me.

It is something else to know that for years, I let the opinions of truly scarred individuals taint my opinion of my own mother.

I can’t believe the number of times I looked in the mirror and thought, “My own mother thinks I’m too ugly to enter into a pageant even if they put makeup on me.” And the number of times those bitches would say things like, “No amount of makeup fixes ugly!” And how many times I still think that today, despite assurances from the people who love me.

I was taking my self-esteem and beauty cues from the daughters of narcissistic mothers who were willing to let their children be hypersexualized and objectified on a stage for money. Whoops! Wrong turn there.

I wondered for years when I was little, why, when I had vocal talent at such a young age, Mom and Dad didn’t capitalize on it or help me to do so.

It’s not because they didn’t love me and didn’t want the world to see me and my talent. It’s because they didn’t want me to be the kid that was crying and them the the mom and dad saying to smile anyway… even though that’s what ended up happening anyway.

Kinda ironic how that goes. But at least I wasn’t hypersexualized or objectified! 🙂

I’m glad the series exists. It’s helping me come to terms with my love/hate relationship with makeup and with the stage. And it’s definitely helping me forgive my mother for something she didn’t deserve to have me angry with her for in the first place.

But it has let me know a few things that are super important.

1. Every girl deserves a crown and a trophy and to be told she is beautiful. Each one. No matter what.

2. There are professionals out there who can teach how to walk with proper posture, be poised, be ladylike, have good manners, etc. I know these skills matter in professional situations. These things matter in life. I can give myself the skills I lack or have lost by hiring a professional if I so desire.

3. I have lived the majority of my life totally and completely misunderstanding my parents.

I guess being an uggo whose parents should have named her Betsy (since it’s a more suitible name for a cow) is more than alright by me. At least I was never just a doll. Not that they were “Just a doll” just that it can seem that way on TV.

The Yin to our Yang: Sharing the love for and frustration of our caregivers

In a thread on Patients Like Me, a very loving caregiver, wrote, “I do understand what my children and friends go through on every level.” While I desperately appreciate her passion, I disagree.

My husband, Adam, who I admittedly would not want to live without, and I had a talk about this just the other day. We cannot know what we go through — and that’s part of our natural paradigm. He is the Yang to my Yin.

As my caregiver, he has to watch me suffer, knowing he cannot take it away, but doing all he can to keep me safe and happy.

I, on the other hand, have no choice in my disease but to suffer and watch him, sad for my suffering. Clearly, I’d take it away, and yet I must still strive to find happiness, to be loving to him and to others, and not to blame myself for the things we cannot do because of the limitations placed upon us by the disease.

He must be cheerful despite the profound sadness of the situation, working doubly hard as a husband, doing all the driving for the chores, chopping the vegetables with the sharp knife (that was before I got my kevlar gloves. I ❤ my kevlar gloves!) whenever we cook, doing whatever extra is needed.

And me… control freak that I am… I have to be okay with it. I have to let someone take care of me. Like a child sometimes. At the age of 30.

So when she says, " I do understand what my children and friends go through on every level. "

She's both right and wrong. Caregivers are the rest of us.

They may not feel physically what it’s like to have Epilepsy or Seizure Disorder, but they absorb and feel its effects 24/7. There is a significant mental and emotional component that caregivers lovingly and willingly take on. In that way, caregivers have Epilepsy and Seizure Disorder (or in my & Adam’s case MS & Seizure Disorder) in their lives just as much as the person who physically has it.

Caregivers have an understanding of our disorder that we don’t because there’s an objectivity that we lack. It comes with the gig. There’s a lot they learn about us and how to take care of us while we’re unconscious or seizing or post ictal. These are the folks who come with us to our doctor’s appointments and remember what was said. They help us keep up with our papers. They are the ones who help you up every time you fall.

That’s why we’ve really got to give them love. We can’t take them for granted.

Adam is constantly awesome. He rocks my socks off in too many ways to name. Honestly. 🙂 From cooking meals all the time to taking the trash out to being an awesome kitten foster dad and a kickass screenwriter, I couldn’t ask for a better husband. 🙂 He actually griped at me to sit down this morning when I was cleaning because I wasn’t feeling good.

If there’s a special caregiver in your life, let us know about ’em!

If you’re a caregiver, please know, we appreciate you!!!!