Saturday, March 4, 2017

Taking action, not inaction

Most years for Lent I have given up sweets. I was successful only once, in 2001, I think; I forget the year, but I had devoted myself to fitness in an almost obsessive way. It was a tough 45ish days without a piece of candy, cake, or bowl of ice cream. But I was doing that more for myself than to bring myself closer to God, which is a big part of doing (or not doing) something for Lent.

I don't have nearly the faith I did then, but I do try most days to be a decent human being. If everyone strove to do that, the world would be a pretty great place, and it likely would not matter so much which religion people were, or if they had a religion. But I digress.

This year for Lent I have decided to do a few things.
  1. Try to lessen my "saying the opposite" of what the hubs says. I do this. A lot. It is not so much that I have to be right. I am pretty sure I AM right most of the time (he would disagree). But I am going to try to let things go more. This one is going to be tough. Really, really tough. But important. I don't expect to go 40 days (or even 4 days). But if I can do it a little less, that will be all the better for our relationship.
  2. Be thankful for what I have daily. Although I am not the steadfast prayer (prayor?) that many religious people are, I try to pray most days. And I try to say thanks during these prayers. But I am going to make a conscious effort to specifically name one thing every day that brings me gratitude and put it on Twitter and maybe FB. I have committed to do this in both places, which will likely compel me to carry it out. 
  3. While I am posting about what I am thankful for, I will also post something good I have done. I am not looking to save a life or bring someone immeasurable joy, but small things can add up. And even if they don't seem to, doing something good is still doing something good and will hopefully make me a better person. And, as Pope Francis recently said on Twitter, "Do not underestimate the value of example, for it is more powerful than a thousand words, a thousand “likes”, retweets or YouTube videos."
  4. Eat better and eat less This is not really related to Lent, though, but I want to include it here. I joined a "weight race" at work with two other coworkers. We each set a goal to lose so many pounds in 12 weeks. My goal is 6, but I will be somewhat satisfied with 4. If I lose only a pound or two or nothing, I will be disappointed, and it will tell me that I did not fulfill #4. I am keeping up with exercise, but eating, unfortunately for me, is a bigger part of losing weight. I have done well the last two weeks during the week, but I kind of faltered last weekend. We shall see how the rest of this weekend goes.
So there you have it. I am hoping #'s 2 and 3 will help lessen my anxiety. And I have felt better this week once I started to make a conscious effort to do those things.

I am heading out to walk the dog now. Hopefully during that walk, I do some good (other than picking up litter, which I do nearly every day, and seems "unfair" to count it more than once). If not, I will definitely be counting the 3 loads of laundry I am doing. If that is not a good, selfless deed for the family, I don't know what is! :-)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Give a hoot; don't pollute!

Litter is my biggest pet peeve. It bothers me even more than when someone uses a hyphen instead of an em or en dash, and that is really saying something.

I have said many times, in many mediums that there are only two acceptable reasons to litter:
  1. Someone is threatening to kill you if you don't throw your empty McD's bag, water bottle or losing lottery tickets out of the car.
  2. Continuing to carry your grocery bag of wing bones, bag of chips, or half-eaten burger will impeded your ability to run away from a would-be assassin.
I am tired of people having no regard for their community. But I am even more tired of having to look at it when I walk my dog nearly every day. So most days (not including a couple of winter months) I pick up things along our 1-2 mile neighborhood stroll. Fortunately, because I do this so often, most days I have just a couple of things to pick up. Unfortunately, last year, my perception of litter became more heightened, and I started to become bothered by little bits of trash in people's lawns and driveways. These various items likely fell out of their garbage bags, or they might have been dropped there or were carried by the wind. But whatever the reason, the homeowners/renters do not feel compelled to pick them up. Last night, I reached down in someone's driveway and picked up a plastic lei that had been there for weeks. A few houses down, I picked up a spoon from the edge of a yard which had been there since sometime in January. Two weeks ago, I walked several feet into someone's yard to pick up wrapping paper that had been there since just after Christmas. I know I should not be doing this. I am pretty sure it constitutes as trespassing, but these things are so visible on my walk, and I just get tired of seeing them.

When I went to confession just before Christmas, I told the very traditionally conservative priest that whenever I pick up litter, I often wish something bad on the person. Not death. Nothing serious. But I find myself saying things like "I hope you were throwing up all night or had a horrible hangover the next day" when I pick up a beer can. Or "I hope you felt your chest tighten and stained your shirt" as I pick up a fast-food bag and ketchup packets. and, my most often "I hope you get into a coughing fit and that your lungs don't turn too black" (I did not mention that one to the priest). The priest, who actually chuckled, told me that if I felt this way, it might be best to stop picking up litter. I told him I was not sure I could. He also suggested I pray for them. I tried that for a few days. Then I was back to cursing people, though a little less often.

When I was nearly done with my walk last night, and had filled my bag with a variety of things, I noticed a piece of mail in a yard near ours. I walked a couple of feet into the yard and saw an official-looking envelope addressed to the woman who lives across the street. I hated to leave it there, as it would surely blow away. I figured the mail carrier dropped it (our neighborhood has had plenty of issues with mediocre mail people). I decided to pick it up and walk across the street. Because I had my dog with me, I did not want to ring the bell, so I just put it in the already full mailbox. And then I went home and told the hubs, who was quite upset. I get it. It was wrong. The neighbor whom I barely know might have thought I was taking mail from the box and could have called the police. In fact, there is a chance, although remote, that one day when I walk into someone's yard to pick up some trash, the homeowner might accuse of me something. I intend to call the police to ask what I should do in this situation. Unfortunately when I was walking last night, I also came upon a raw hamburger patty in a grocery bag that my dog almost got to. This was the third time in two months that someone has tossed out raw meat (the last two times it was a single chicken breast) in the same location. Some local people think maybe someone is trying to poison animals in the area. I hope it is not that. But I figure a phone call will not hurt, though a police officer might laugh when I call.

In the meantime, I will likely keep on picking up litter and attempting to keep my little part of America clean. And hopefully I can resist the urge to stop walking into others' yards to try to keep their places clean. As for wishing for hangovers and coughing fits? I am still working on it. Lent does start next week!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Some days I feel as if I am drowning.

At this very moment in my life, I feel okay. Overall, I am a pretty positive, optimistic person. When I get down, it rarely last more than a couple of hours. Even when someone does me wrong, depending on the person, I am usually over it within an hour (my kid) or a few hours or a half a day (the hubby) or a day or so (coworker or friend). I used to hold grudges much longer. But life is short, and I have learned to let things go.

But lately, I have these days, sometimes fortunately only half days, where I feel overcome. This usually happens to me as I am lying awake at night, fretting about something. Mostly it is my kid and various things around that, not the least of which is her going to high school in the fall a bit of a distance from our house. I fret about my job, which is not stable. I fret about the husband's unemployment. After more than a half year without work, he finally starts a job in two weeks, but that brings with it some different anxieties. I fret about my various relationships, from marriage, to parenting, to relatives, to friends.

I worry about myself as a person. A lot. Some days I think I could be a better human being, and then other days I think I let people walk all over me too much. I worry about letting people down. Sometimes I think I could be doing so much more, but I don't know what. Or where. Or how.

I think my feelings of dread, worry, and feeling lost began around the election and have stayed since then. It kind of took a piece of me, sadly. I feel differently than I used to. But I don't seem to know how to get past that. In my liberally conservative views (or is it conservatively liberal), I feel alone at times. I am scared for the country. I (try to) believe the best in people. But sometimes it is so hard. Whether it is seeing litter in my neighborhood and picking it up for the 10th day in a row, or hearing/watching people chant "Build the wall. Go back home."

It seems so simple to me: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But I guess it is not. And I don't get it.

And then I start to question myself.

And I worry.

Yeah, so I feel okay right now. Not great. Certainly not at peace. A bit aimless. Somewhat frustrated. (As an aside, I have not been sleeping well; and as a result, my brain does not seem to be working as well as it used to. My memory has certainly suffered.)

But I will try to keep on keeping on.

And choosing kindness and love.

And going high when they go low. For the most part.

But I will still worry. And struggle.

I am not sure I know how else to live right now. (As another aside, #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike has been trending on Twitter. I could say a lot of about that. But just not in 140 chars.)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why I am an "Other"

Last month while I was getting my driver's license picture taken, I tried to change my political party affiliation. For whatever reason, my choices were Democrat, Republican, Other, and None. But first, how I got there.

I registered as a Democrat when I first registered to vote, just before the '92 election. At that time, I was "kind of" liberal (for growing up in a somewhat rural area in western PA), and pretty much all of my relatives were registered that way, so it made sense. I was not really into politics at that young age, however.

As I got into my late 20s, I started to realize I was becoming more conservative, so a few years later, when it was time to renew my driver's license, I changed to Republican. I still remember the day at work when I told my coworker Anne that I was really a Republican. She told me she had known it for years. During the 2008 election, I was on board with John McCain running for president, mostly because I thought he was a good person, and in 2012, I campaigned for Republican D. Raja, who was running for Allegheny County Executive at that time.

But over the past few years, as I was surrounded by liberal (and only liberal) coworkers, I started to drift back to the left side. It was a gradual shift; I did not wake up one day and pronounce myself that way. And I was not fully converted; I really saw myself as more of a Libertarian. But it became a little telling when I did the "I Side With" quiz last January, and my second, third and fourth choices were Democrats (at that time, I sided the most with Rand Paul, but Bernie was only 1% behind him).

But as the months wore on, and the election season was in full swing, I became more conflicted than ever. I was liking Bernie, but it was not looking good for him. And as Hillary became the front-runner, unlike the rest of my office, I could not say "I am with her." I had issues. But I also could not get past Donald Trump as a person. Frankly one of the main reasons I did not vote for Bill Clinton two decades ago was because of his infidelity; at that time and for years after, I voted for people on character. Eventually, I had to get past that; unfortunately and sadly, staying faithful did not seem to be a top priority for too many people in the political world.

But with Trump, I just could not get past how he seemed to portray women and non-whites. And just his demeanor in general was troublesome. I was starting to feel that Gary Johnson might be my best choice; and in August, when I retook the "I Side With" quiz, he was at the top at 86%. Much to my surprise Jill Stein came in at 72%, and Hillary and Donald brought up the rear at 65% and 63%. I felt okay, not great about that (I hated to "waste" a vote on a third party candidate). But within a couple of months, my mom informed me that he did not know where Aleppo was (or maybe it was what was happening there). Crap.

So now the election is a few days out, and I am still struggling. So I call my priest. He said a lot of helpful things, but most important to me, he said that it was unlikely that my one vote would affect the outcome of PA, so I just needed to make a decision and be okay with it. Right around that time  (maybe the day before the election), Hillary came to campus, and I went to see her. Even though I still was not "with her," I was pretty sure that after the recording of Trump's vulgarities toward women and one in particular came to light, Hillary would be our next president. So I wanted to be there, to see the first woman president just a couple of days before the election (note, no one else in my liberal office was there).

One the eve of the election, I took the "I Side With" quiz one final time; by now, Gary and I were in agreement only 63%. Hillary was next at 39%, then Donald at 34%. I had considered that and some other things, and made a decision. And then I woke up the next day and promptly changed my mind. As I got into the polls, I again changed my mind. I literally decided as I touched the screen, and I almost changed my mind for what was the 4th or 4th time, when I reviewed my choices. Insane.

Ultimately, I could not vote for Trump in good conscience, but I get why some did (mostly because I asked and read about it). My vote came down to Hillary and Gary. And only a few people know who I ultimately chose. But I am okay with my decision. My vote did not change the outcome, as Trump won PA by almost 60k. I am not sure who Johnson took votes away from, but my guess is more Donald; most of my conservative friends voted for him.

So why the "Other" party? Because I am not much of an R or a D; I am still pretty conflicted. But unlike a lot of people who are firmly on one side or the other, I have read a lot on both sides. I have not dropped FB friends as so many have done and continued to do. In fact, I have been dropped by people on both sides; I bet not many can claim that! I want to hear and understand both sides. I don't know want to know what just "my side" thinks. Of course, I don't really have a side.

Here is the thing: I get a lot of it. I get people who are scared about terrorism and that fear wants to keep people out of the country. But I also don't want to generalize. Just like I don't think banning guns will necessarily save lives, I don't think banning Muslims will necessarily either. For the record, I am for stricter gun control; I don't want to take people's guns away, though.

I have friends who had no insurance before the ACA. So I very much get that. But I also am married to someone who worked for a small company that pretty much fell apart due in no small part to high premiums because of the ACA.

I get people who believe you were born a man or a woman and you should stay that way. I get people who cannot accept gays because it is against their religion. It is against mine (well, not being gay, but acting on it). But I am a tolerant person who believes love is love and you cannot make yourself one way.

I get women's wanting the right to choose. I likely won't fight to end abortion. But I am pro-life; that is likely not going to change. And I am pro-life in everyway, whether a baby in the womb or an adult on death row.

And I get so many other things. I can see both sides, and a third side in many cases.

So even though I will be sitting out the primary this year, because unless you are a D or an R, you don't get to participate in PA, I am okay with that for now. As I said on FB, I just need to be "single" for awhile.

My Other party is about kindness; it is not about hate. My Other party is about seeing both sides and not being so quick to dismiss differing viewpoints. My Other party is about standing up for what we think is right or at least speaking up against what seems to be wrong. My Other party is about fighting the good fight. It's about helping others. It's about trying to do the right thing. It is about respecting ALL lives, no matter what stage, religion, nationality, job, gender, orientation, socio-economic status. My Other party is about starting small and caring about the community around us and focusing on things we can have an effect on. My Other party is about hoping for the best, but knowing the worst could happen. My Other party is wanting people, all people, including the President, to succeed. My Other party is about working hard and doing our best. My Other party is about saying sorry when we are wrong, and forgiving others both for our and their sakes. It is about saying thanks to those who deserve appreciation. It is about moving on and not beating ourselves and others up because we screwed up.

I am an Other, and that is just where I need to be right now.

The End. But hopefully really just the beginning.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Calamityware for unique holiday gifts

I have been really lousy at blogging during 2016, for several reasons (some of which I don't even know). One big reason is time: Between working full time and helping promote Calamityware, plus having a small family and doing the occasional social thing, there is not a lot of time left to put thought into blogs. [Sadly, I can put hours into FB, but that is mostly my reading and not thinking, and perhaps writing short comments. :-)]

Anyway, since we are now in the middle of the holiday (shopping) season, I thought I would again promote Calamityware. If you are like me, you have a few people on your gift list who are really challenging to buy for. That is where Calamityware may come in handy. Following are the unique, quirky, fun, and even some beautiful items you can purchase here:
  • Various porcelain plates adorned with fun things like frogs, zombie poodles, pterodactyls, tentacles, a volcano, a vortex, and more; buy a plate or one of the series of four
  • Soup bowls with fly (1 fly per bowl!) and small plates with ants (ranging from 1-4 per set)
  • Mugs with a dozen calamities and mugs with "classy" cursing (the former is on back order, but should be back around 12/15; the latter should be online within a couple days)
  • Puzzles (Bad Neighborhood and Evil Twins, the latter which just finished a successful Kickstarter campaign and should be online around 12/15)
  • Bandanas (black Spirited Bones, blue Angry Paisleys, and purple Space Worms, in sets of 3)
  • Pocket silks (frogs, bad neighborhood, sea monsters; they are based on other products)
  • Sea Monster notecards
  • Sea Monster shower curtain (Do you notice a sea monster theme? There was a print at one time, but that sold out)
  • Prints (Octopedestrians and Remembering Albrecht)
Please consider stopping by to see if any of the little works of art may work for you, your loved one, your friends, or even your boss. If you happen to read this in the next 3 hours, you can get in on the "spend $100 and get a free gift" Cyber Monday promotion.

Or just check out the site to learn more about the products, the story of Don (the designer behind it), or just to read some of the interesting blog posts. Calamityware is also on Facebook and Twitter (@Calamityware).

Thanks for stopping by on this Cyber Monday. Hopefully within a couple of weeks, I will have something meaningful to post. :-)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The speed of life

Life just keeps zooming by. Not sure how it happens. Would love to slow it down (except during an awful workday or a painful conversation). But, alas, on we go.

And speaking of living life, I have found a way to spend even more time on my phone (the hubby did not think that was possible). I finally replaced my iPhone 4 with an iPhone SE. It is nice to be on an operating system that came out in the current year (My 4 was still on OS 6, which was updated in 2013, just not by me). And to have actual memory on the phone (I went from 8 to 64 GB). I can have more than 12 apps! My desktop computer (on which I am typing this post) is older than a lot of grade schoolers, and I keep clinging to XP, but at least I have made technical progress somewhere!

So what else? Hockey season is back. Yeah! Please just no one else hurt Sid (including Sid). The Steelers' football season kind of hit a skid with Big Ben's injury, but it ain't over yet. And Penn State beat then #2 OSU in a spectacular game last week. Still get the feels about that one. Pitt continues to throw away some games at the end, but not all, so there is hope!

I am trying to step up my volunteering by encouraging the kid to volunteer with the youth group and then helping out. She also joined a service group at school. I am really trying to impress on her the importance of helping others and giving back. Even though we are currently a 1.5-income family (soon to be 1), as long as I can help some out a little, I will. Locally, I do this in the form of helping small businesses. Maybe some day I can do more.

I am still helping my friends out at Calamityware. The holidays will be here soon, and if you are looking for a unique gift, please check out the site, which has plates, puzzles, mugs, bowls, pocket squares, notecards, bandanas, a shower curtain, and even fun t-shirts. Our crazy white menace Bailey was made less menacing via the Spirited Bones BADbandana. :-) Bailey also was recently selected for #FurryFriendFriday by #1 Cochran (where I got my Forester this spring) with this pic.

I won't even go into the election, other than to say it is sad when you don't want your 13-year-old to watch the debates. Sigh.

And speaking of 13. Boy is having a teenage daughter fun! I tell everyone that she can go from sweet to Satan in 60 seconds. Lord, help me. Fortunately, thanks to my low vitamin B12 levels, my memory is not great, so I often forget the really trying times.

And that is true for most anything. I really, really try to be positive and look at the bright side (monthly trips to Phipps help), though I sometimes need a reminder of this. But as we go headfirst into the holidays, I will keep trying to be grateful for what I have and remind myself that I don't know what battles others are facing. Kindness can go a long way.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

It's just a game!

Today, I went to the Pitt-Penn State football game. The last time I saw Penn State in action was also the last Pitt-Penn State game, also in Pittsburgh, way back in 2000. It was and I am quite different this time.

Today, two jagoffs Pitt fan did things that I find reprehensible. About 1.5 hours before kickoff, I was walking down West General Robinson Street with a ton of others. All of a sudden, when I was nearly at Art Rooney Way, some a-hole in a Pitt shirt cross-checked my shoulder so hard, I spun slightly and dropped my water bottle. I was stunned. But being the middle of a fast-moving crowd, I picked up my water bottle and continued on. There is no way he could have accidentally done it. He just looked straight ahead right after and kept going. After I recovered, I could not help wondering what kind of a person does something like that to a complete stranger, a woman especially, presumably just because I had a Penn State hat on. I guess I will never know. But I feel sorry for his girlfriend/wife, if he has one. Ten hours later and my shoulder still hurts. I am mostly glad the hubs was not there, because when I told him about it, he said had he been there, he would have leveled the guy and then probably ended up in jail. My shoulder will recover. My memory won't fade too quickly.

The other instance happened when I got to my heavily-dominated Pitt fan section. Some guy behind me looked right at me and shouted, "F_ck you!" I said, "Hey, I am a Pitt fan too." He repeated his profanity. I then asked him if he kissed his mother with that mouth, and he said it a third time. Throughout the game, I listened to him refer to Penn State as F__ing homos. He said F-U to the Penn State fans who came late and cheered. Basically he was a profane arse every time Penn State did something good. I am surprised people (all Pitt fans) who brought their children were okay with it 

Since I was in Heinz Field, which is Pitt's house, and because I am a decent human being who is not equating this game with life and death or curing cancer I kept pretty quiet. I stood up a few times and/or I clapped when Penn State had a good play or scored usually rather reservedly. I never cheered loudly. I never bragged or got in anyone's face. I just wanted to enjoy the game. The guy next to me repeatedly said he felt sorry for me that my team was going to lose. He said other various negative things. But he never cussed at me. He never touched me. Sure it was annoying, but I will take that over the other crap I went through. And, unfortunately, when Penn State came within 3 points and was close to scoring again in the final few minutes, I left my section. Fortunately, I was in the club level, so I could watch the rest of the game on my choice of dozens of TVs in air-conditioned comfort. I just knew I did not want to be there for the ending if Penn State pulled it off. I was 95 percent certain I would have had stuff thrown at me or at least been the victim of a verbal tirade.

But here's the thing: Unlike too many others, I don't paint people with a broad brush. There are jagoffs everywhere and in every category. Young and old. Male and female. Black and white. Gay and straight. Christian and Muslim. Pittsburgher and Clevelander. Penguins fans and Flyers fans (mostly in the latter category here). And, yes, there are plenty of Penn State fans who are douche canoes. Pitt fans may not outnumber them. After all, I am a Pitt fan. :-)

If I do go back for the game in 2018, I don't think I would risk wearing a Penn State hat again, sadly. But I won't let today's unfortunate instances mar my experience. It really was a great day. I got to meet and talk to many nice Pitt fans. I saw/heard the Blue Band play just outside of Heinz Field. I caught the last 30 minutes of the Alumni Association tailgate and sang "Fight On State" and the Alma Mater. And I got to take my picture with Mike the Mailman! He even hugged me!

But most of all, today and all those idiots who kept saying "Joe knew" and "Ped State" and "Penn State sucks" reminded me of something important: I am proud to be a Penn Stater. Penn State forever. We are Penn State!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Swearing with style

Before I launch into some random thoughts, I first wanted to make a push for the latest Calamityware project on Kickstarter, the Classy Curse Kit. Each element of the Classy Curse Kit includes a colorful and typographically refined, all-purpose curse in a socially acceptable form—the euphemism graphic ($%*?&!, which starts off with a lightening bolt). The kit contains 2 mugs, 2 decals, 12 note cards, and 12 calling cards with customizable Banner-Hulk scale. I really hope it funds, because I look forward to raising my coffee mug during boring meetings where someone says something annoying. I especially want to place the decal on the back of my car with all the jagoff drivers in and around the Burgh. And it would be pretty nice to slip a calling card with a personal, pointed note underneath the windshield of a car that parked stupidly. If you are like some of my friends and most of my coworkers, $48 may be a bit steep. But I encourage you to talk to a friend and split the kit. What do you need two mugs for anyway?! :-)

 Now on to a few other random things:
  • I still don't know whom I am voting for. If I had to do it today, I would vote for Gary Johnson, who appeals to my libertarian side. I could and probably will change my mind by November. In the first presidential election I was able to vote, I voted for Ross Perot. Not for very good reasons, but I did not like the other choices. In all seriousness, I am scared for this country no matter who gets elected (but, for the record, I am much more scared of what happens if the Donald gets the nod)
  • In a few weeks, I will be the parent of a teen. Some days are really challenging now. I can only imagine how much harder it will be in a couple of years. 
  • I have developed a bit of a negative attitude over both local and national events. But I still am trying to make the world a better place, in whatever small way I can. Locally, I pick up litter, just about every single day. And, as often, I get frustrated. I am almost ashamed to admit, as I pick up my 10th cigarette butt during my daily dog walk, I often mutter something like "I hope your lungs turn black." Or, when I pick up my second McD's bag of the week, I say something equally as awful as "I hope your arteries clog." A part of me wonders if I should not just stop picking up the trash, if that is going to be my attitude. But seeing litter lie on the road makes me even more frustrated. 
  • I hate that I live in a slight and "odd" fear about some things. I am not really concerned about my driving through one of the most violent neighborhoods in the city every weekday, a neighborhood that has had shootings in broad daylight, yet I would not drive there in the later evening. Similarly, there are places I go to only in daylight, such as the movie theater and the mall. I won't stop going to some places that have had shootings, but I am trying to minimize my risk, I guess. I am sad, however, that I was too afraid to go to a "dance with/for Orlando" event a couple of weeks ago. It came on the heels of police/civilian shootings, and I was just too afraid to be a part of that, even though it was in the middle of downtown, in broad daylight. 
  • The Pens are still the Stanley Cup champs. :-)

Sunday, July 3, 2016


About a month ago, I embarked on a freelance gig spreading the word about Calamityware—quirky porcelain, paper, and fabric projects that my friend (and former boss) retired graphics designer Don Moyer has come up with. I am charged with trying to find newspaper and magazine people as well as bloggers to talk about these fun, practical, and (sometimes) beautiful items.

The Calamityware series started in 2011 when Don inherited a traditional, Willow-pattern plate and decided to redraw it and add the excitement of a pterodactyl. Over the next few weeks, he drew several more plates—each with a different calamity. When he posted his sketches to his Flickr site (, people encouraged him to reproduce his drawings on porcelain, and the first in a series of successful Kickstarter projects, a plate with flying monkeys, was born. Since then, Calamityware has seen 10 plates, a mug, a set of small plates and bowls, a puzzle, 4 bandanas, and 2 letterpress prints. Just a few days ago, Don launched the Sea Monster Jamboree Shower Curtain, based on his letterpress print of sea monsters. Kickstarter named it a "Project We Love." It has 28 days left to fund, and is already almost 3/4 of the way there. 

I never really followed Don's projects until I was asked to do this. But since then, I have an appreciation for them. If you are extremely traditional, Calamityware might not be for you. But if you like looking at things a little differently, if you have some specific or unique tastes (poodles, frogs, robots, sasquatches, sea monsters, pirates, volcanos, skeletons, space worms, etc.), or if you just want to liven up your china closet, wardrobe, or handkerchief or puzzle collection, chances are good you can find a calamityware product for you or someone else.  

Below are a few pics of the products. If you are already thinking about the holidays and gift-giving, consider backing the shower curtain on Kickstarter (or checking back next month for another launch; you can view the past products here). Or visit the online store at

Bad Neighborhood puzzle (750-piece jigsaw puzzle with bonus "warm-up" puzzle)

Calamityware Plate 5: Pirates

BADBandana 1: Angry Paisleys

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Health Insurance Angst (part 17, probably)

As noted here and on FB, the hub's previous employer had pretty crappy health insurance, for which he paid about $1,100 a year for single coverage. I pay less than that per year for my individual plan (which has far better coverage), but adding him would have cost another $2,100, year. Since he has been to the doctor about three times in our many years of marriage, we had decided when I started my job a little over three years ago, it was not worth the extra $ to put him in on my better plan (J is on it). We were right. :-)

Sadly, the hub's new employer's plan makes the last plan seems like the gold-star option. If B goes on this plan, which he could not get on until August, he would pay almost $3,000/year. But on top of that, he would first have to pay a $1,500 deductible. If our entire family was on the plan, almost $19,000 would be deducted from his yearly pay, plus there is a $4,500 deductible. Coinsurance (no idea what that is) is 30% after the deductible. And the co-pays range from $30-250 (PCP-ER). The family dental and vision plans add another $700-$1,500 per year. After taxes come out of his pay, I bet my husband would net well under $10,000 in salary.


Is it any wonder that people have gone without health insurance?!

As you can imagine, I will be adding B to my employer's health insurance plan, which will result in about $175/month less in my pay. Yee-haw. But much better than the alternative. [Sure hope I continue to stay gainfully employed...]

But that is the easy part. 

My employer's vision plans range from just over $200/year to $285/year for a family; I am currently on the high-end individual plan and pay about $115/year (B had all three of us on his plan and paid about $170/year). If J continues not to need glasses, it would be the least expensive for me to continue to pay $115/year for my plan, for B to pay $71/year for his new plan, and for us to pay $65/year for J's eye exam. Pretty sure it is not worth it to save $35/year, especially when his plan has co-pays for various lenses (we will both need bifocals soon). So one problem solved (right here as I typed this!). But there goes another almost $175 out of my pay. 

But wait, there's more!

Dental is the real crap-shoot. Under B's previous plan, he paid $307/year for our family; both my and J's dentists were in the plan, and our bi-annual cleanings and x-rays were covered. That was a good deal/well worth the cost. People, if you have dental coverage, and cleanings are included, go to the dentist twice a year! Otherwise, you are throwing money away.

Unfortunately, my employer's dental plans for me and J (B never goes to the dentist, so I would not add him) are anywhere from $432/year to $632/year. Neither of our dentists is on the one lower-end plan, which covers what Bs former plan did. The other lower-end plan would allow us to go to any dentist, but we would have to pay a $100 deductible each year. Not sure that about $525/year would cover 2 dental exams each for me and J plus X-rays. Neither cover orthodontics, which J may or may not need. The highest plan, as I understand it, covers half of orthodontics, but the lifetime maximum is $1,500, and the annual plan year maximum is $1,000. That is very confusing to me; I am presuming that means only $1,500 would be covered for braces, and that would have to be over more than one year. We would have to pay the same $100 deductible for anything other than a cleaning or X-rays, and things like cavity fillings and crowns would be only partially covered. Sigh.

B's new employer's plans are a little less expensive, but I cannot determine which dentists we can use. The cheaper plan ($475/year for family) seems to cover more orthodontics, but if our dentists or orthodontist (which we don't yet have) are not included, not worth it. I would not go with the more expensive ($1,300/year for family) plan since B refuses to go to the dentist anyway.

Sadly, the enrollment for my employer ends on Tuesday. Two days. The timing is awful. If I had to decide now, I would probably just go with my cheap(er) dental plan for me and J, and hope and pray our teeth need nothing, since we would have to go to a dentist that we don't know (and, quite frankly, is probably not the best, since so few choose to participate). I am going to call both of our dentists tomorrow to see what they charge out of pocket. My guess is that the cost of 4 cleanings (two each) plus X-rays (J has never had them) would be more than the cheapest $432, but not sure. If I go that route, I will have something like $30-50/month come out of my pay for the HSA. We get the tax benefits either way, so this may make the most sense.

There is a enrollment seminar tomorrow, but it may be very general, and if many people show up, I might not get to ask questions. Here is hoping for the best.

One more thing that really irritates me: It seems extremely unfair that family coverage is the same if you have 1 kid or 7 kids. I have bought many family memberships to things over the years, even though I have one kid. Those things are "wants" or luxuries. Why can't health insurance, something so very expensive, go with some sort of a tiered coverage?! People want to complain about the ACA subsidizing so many people (which it does). But why do I, the parent of one, have to subsidize families with many kids?