Category Archives: ranting and raving…again

Before we head back to the mountain house…

“In order to be an immaculate member of a flock of sheep, one must above all be a sheep oneself.” (Albert Einstein)

In the past few days, I’ve mumbled “Just shoot me now.” more than once. Probably at least three times. In a good week I only have to deal with one of the following: Direct TV, BrightHouse, Anthem Blue Cross, Sprint or Citizens Insurance. In a bad week I have an encounter with Pudgy Fingers at Bank of America. (If you don’t know that rant, you’re not on my FB and it’s just as well. That was both an all time high and an all time low in rants, applauded by many.) This week I have had to deal with ALL of the above, plus a plumber, a rodent control person, a wind mitigation insurance inspection, an appraiser and a new bank. This last group, to a one, have been quite nice and professional but still. The contractor who did the improvements on the house didn’t have his crew reattach the screening that covers the cinder block vents that are common to Florida houses where you have crawl spaces rather than basements. Rats got in and ate through the main house drain. Really? I know. Really. Most likely they came to call after a major rousting from construction on the house next door. Rats are endemic to places with citrus trees. Anyway, they got thirsty enough that they ate through the drain. We called pest control. Crawl spaces are not nice and the access is a little 3 x 2 hole in the closet floor of the guest room. About the third time someone squeezed out of that crawl space covered in mud and filth with a giant dead rat, I said “Just shoot me now.”

(The plumber noted that sometimes, here in Florida, rats come up into the toilets through the pipes. WTH? This is the stuff of nightmares.)

Then the plumber went down and came up and looked like he might be having a heart attack so I invited him to sit his filthy self down and have some ice tea. He recovered, left and once again I cleaned up the mess and shoved some of the detritus that doesn’t fit in this tiny house back in the closet before the appraiser came. But before he could get here, the screen repair guy came and everything was dumped out and down he went with bales of screen and tools and then he came up wheezing and sweaty and I cleaned again and refilled the closet.  Not 24 hours passed and the mitigation guy came to inspect the house for homeowners insurance. This is because, although Florida is notorious for gouging people on their homeowners insurance, I have long felt as though we are being especially gouged. Singled out, you might say. This house is a piece of sh historic property which means we get to pay 3500.00 a year to insure 1200 sq ft for 200,000 which it is probably not worth and definitely wouldn’t be enough to replace it. We also haven’t been getting any credit for new hurricane shutters, new roof, new heating/cooling, etc. And we’ve been charged for being in a flood zone, which we are not, according to the city. We are on relatively high ground. The solution is you hire a mitigation inspector to come and certify that you have certain protections and then hopefully your insurance rate is reduced.

The mitigation inspector came and I sort of whimpered, “You don’t have to go in the crawl space do you?” and mercifully he said, “No.” Instead he pulled down the ceiling ladder and crawled up into the attic to look at the inside construction of the roof. Insulation rained out of the attic and I sighed. When he came down about 10 minutes later he said the new roof was up to snuff but it appeared there was a possum living in the attic. Just shoot me now.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (St Matthew 7:15)

In my never ending effort to put as much distance as possible between those criminals Bank of America and ourselves, we’ve applied for a new mortgage with a bank that seems, up to this point, helpful and courteous. They’ve offered us a good rate compared to Bank of America, where they are braced to raise our already outrageously high adjustable rate through the heavens when it comes up for change in 10 months. The fine print of the contract that was signed 6 years and 3 banks back notes that, in lieu of attaching our rate to some reasonably low federal index plus some, they can attach it to any old index- oil futures, gold, intergalactic exploration, whatever- and then add a whole lot more for their trouble. How does 10.75 percent sound? Funny, the stuff you’ll sign without considering all the possibilities of the fine print. So, early this morning a very kind, round appraiser shows up to figure out how much our house is worth. We already know that what seemed like a lot of down payment equity a few years ago is now a drop in the bucket of a dead housing market, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed. We spent the past little while stripping and refinishing 600 feet of deck, power washing the house, cleaning (and re-cleaning) from top to bottom in preparation. The house now, on the eve of our return to North Carolina for the year, is so spit-spot that it sparkles in that way that houses do only when they are up for sale, not when people are actually living in them. This gentleman measured, photographed, scrutinized the premises and admired it greatly. And then he spent half an hour telling me horror stories of every single upside-down house he’s appraised in the last six months. Just shoot me now.

(It’s a cute little house.)

The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same. (Stendal)

Meanwhile, back in the world of health insurance, Anthem Blue Cross is trying to kill us. There are many details and hours of heated exchange about how they quoted us, in correspondence which we signed, copied for our records and returned, the wrong rate. I won’t go into all that because it would get your blood pressure up, too. Although we’ve been, all these months, dutifully paying that quoted and already prohibitive rate that makes us seriously consider living uninsured, we fell behind by a couple hundred dollars, unbeknownst to us. (what kind of sentence is that?) I guess the real rate was a secret, kept only unto Anthem Blue Cross. We didn’t know any of this until we showed up for Rich’s middle-aged person’s routine colonoscopy (which means he’s already having fun, right?) and the little clerk informs us that that will be a deposit of 1700.00 please, because our health insurance was cancelled. The total cost will be determined after the fact, depending on the state of his colon.(It’s good. In the end, no pun intended, we are always grateful.)  The one and only thing that is covered short of the Mack truck scenario under our policy is now not, because we have been cancelled. Seriously. the ONLY thing they cover is a routine colonoscopy and it’s so exciting to have something, anything covered by insurance that it seemed like a great idea to drink a gallon of Go-Litely and toddle on over to have it done. So I said to Rich, “Hey! This is great! You go first!” except after he did, endlessly, we find our insurance has been cancelled. Just shoot me now.

Wait. I’ll do it myself. The idea seems even more attractive because THIS HAS COME TO MY ATTENTION. Click on the link to see this 3000 year old innovation. Right when I despair that the whole world has gone mad AND is against us a friend sends me this. In an age when so many old fashioned common sense ideas have  fallen by the wayside, when all sense and sensibility seems out of reach and values have thinned to translucency HERE is an old idea whose time has come. Debby, a savvy woman of great good Midwestern sense,  passed this on to me and by God, it makes death look down right attractive. I mean this is everything I have been trying to explain to people for the past two years. Cozy, soft, warm, no artificial colors, ecologically sound. I am about to re-write “cremation, please” to “wool coffin, please.”

Wool: The Perfect Fiber

Sheep : The Perfect Animal









These sheep which belong to Donald Slater of Whitehouse Farm Centre, Morpeth, Northumberland, were sprayed, using the paint with which farmers traditionally mark their flocks, with the words of a “haik-ewe.” They were then left to graze, and the poems formed as they wandered into different patterns were noted down.

And for Bonnie, who always leaves perfectly poetic comments :

Si quelqu’un veut un mouton, c’est la preuve qu’il en existe un.”





Nice or nothing at all?

(update: I’m not sure I deserve such thoughtful friends and/or comments but I really want to thank you for them, both here and on FB. The comments make much more sense than I do- you could skip directly to those. Several messages are clear (thank you for that honesty) and I take them to heart. First, I need to decide the tone and tenor of what I want out of social networking and really, it’s the lighter side of friendship and good natured sharing. I don’t much enjoy reading other people’s rants and the blogs I enjoy most are relatively free of them.

Belinda over on FB made a great point and here’s her comment, in case you don’t FB:

“The posts that are blatant lies or just baiting/trolling/hating, I used to speak up in a (hopefully, but not always successfully) positive manner, but now I ignore them. There’s no point wasting breath or getting your cortisol levels up. And no, President Obama does NOT “refuse at every turn” to salute the flag. Things that are utter poppycock, I feel no need to refute.

That said, I do believe that we can separate what people BELIEVE from who they ARE, and still maintain good relationships with those who think very, very differently from ourselves. I try, anyway, because when you break things down subject by subject, more people agree than disagree, and more people are good at heart than not. It’s like NPR’s Jay Smooth says–you want to separate the “what you did/said” conversation from the “what you are” conversation, because the two are often very very different.”

She then added this video link, which I think is just great. Click on it.

The second point, made most clearly by wise friend Judy, is about the power to pick and choose what you respond to in any one person’s postings and sometimes you take great exception to a part of what that person presents but there is value in the “friendship” in any case.

Finally, everyone seems to agree that yes, we are all preaching to our own choirs. Getting someone to open their mind and consider other possibilities is tough in most cases and impossible in some. Energy spent on those conversations is probably best reserved for real life encounters with friends and people where you can really have an open and honest and meaningful exchange of thoughts and ideas.

In this blog, while I did pull out a couple of identifying quotes that I found so offensive, unless you’re a reader of those posts, you wouldn’t know the person posting. And when I speak of how offensive I find them, I am truly commenting not just on those or the attitudes expressed by the person posting ( as opposed to the person) but the pervasively destructive spirit of so much political posting that shows up on FB and around the net. It’s an attitude that is blocking progress and change at every turn, in both political parties, when we are so desperately in need  of progress and change. It’s gotten to the point where we merely move from one election to the next with four years of uninterrupted, spurious and vicious attacks that divide rather than unite. “Free speech” has become cheap and hopelessly stupid, “Freedom of the Press” has largely become meaningless garbage.)

In the arena of social networking among all your virtual friends, is it a matter of only preaching to your own choir, be it the Mormon Tabernacle or Buddhist monks chanting? What happens if you sing out of tune or say “I don’t like that song”? What constitutes “trash talking?” I was accused of that this morning. Certainly mocking someone’s post or opinion is low and not nice. I did that. Not that it justifies my rude behavior but I felt provoked. Lately, I’ve gotten increasingly disturbed by the raging, divisive bigotry that seems to be cropping up, all under the guise of expressing a political stand or opinion, frosted over with a layer of Christian fervor. It’s not just here and there; it’s all over the place and when one person posts something vile, people seem to come out of the woodwork, laughing and hooting in disdain.

My father was a hard-core right-wing Republican all his life. He liked Ike, Ayn Rand and he hated big government and welfare. My mother was a dyed in the wool Connecticut Yankee, a spoiled only child who could afford to be a bleeding heart Liberal. On Sundays, we would go alternately to the Congregational Church and the Unitarian Church and all week long they would fight like cat and dog over their respective viewpoints. It made for an interesting early childhood. But here’s the thing: They weren’t ignorant about their political beliefs and they weren’t disrespectful or dishonest or hypocritical. There was no tolerance in our household for racism and although my father would talk with a generalized disdain about the “welfare mentality” I never, ever witnessed him demeaning or disparaging someone because of their beliefs or station in life. They did not hold themselves up as paragons of anything and right about the time one or the other of us children would stick our nose in the air with an “ain’t no flies on me” attitude we’d get it with the fly swatter. It was clear from the get go that we were not to think we were better than someone else and we were not to believe that we had the definitive answer to anything. Ultimately, politics were politics and while it was important to be informed and take a stand, politicians and the media didn’t inform or define our moral values or way of life. Religion was personal.

So now I see and read what feels to me like hateful, misinformed and ignorant bigotry. Muslim and Islam: four letter words. Obama: I see pictures of him with a fly on his upper lip (I guess that means there are flies on him) with this caption:

The only reason we saw the Obama’s go to church is because there was an Islamist speaker there on Sunday.

Yep, Obama attended church, with ISLAMIC SPEAKERS!

I guess that doesn’t count as trash talk. How about a photograph of the president with four white military advisors and this caption:

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

Don’t get me wrong; this is not a pro-Obama post (although ask me and I’ll work on one). It’s about the anger I feel over the destructive, petty and vile way this country is conducting itself politically. Yellow journalism leads, ignorance follows.

It’s also about how I conduct myself when social networking (I may permanently ground myself from FB) and that leads back to the question. When you’re on Facebook or roaming about the blogging neighborhood do you feel compelled to be nice and say nothing at all? Do you keep your mouth shut if one of your friends posts material that really flies in the face of your moral code? And when that sets off the proverbial shit storm of, well then, get off my friend list? (I know, I know- get off.) The thing I’m really mad about is that I didn’t have the guts to say hey! This is just unmitigated ignorance and self-righteous nastiness. Instead, I take a pot shot. Shame on me. My father would have at me with the fly swatter for that.

I have something really nice for tomorrow. Promise.