Archive for July, 2012

Speaking of boycotting…

See! I’m not alone in my Hyatt boycott…And these are even better reasons than my personal one.

And more here.

Where we spend our money or why I will never buy anything from Menards

I make choices every day in the ways in which I choose to spend our money. We all do. I also frequently make compromises when I make those choices. I think most of us do. For example, I was at Ace on Saturday, looking at shower heads for our new (!!!!) shower. I picked up the one I wanted, which is the same one we had installed in our upstairs shower, and looked at where it had been made. China. I picked up another brand and guess what? China. And the third one? China. I had exhausted all of the brands and left the store after purchasing the one I had initially wanted. I didn’t feel great about it, but I left the store unconvinced that I could find a shower head that was made stateside. I was bummed.

On the other hand, Aaron & Bear & I were recently at Costco and trying to find puppy treats that weren’t made in China. This search was prompted by some news about unsafe Chinese dog treats, as well as Gracie getting sick not too long after ingesting some previously purchased Costco treats made across the Pacific (whether it was related to the origin of the treats is unknown). After seeing “Made in China” a couple of times, we found some made in the old U.S. of A. and smiled broadly. Hooray! It was a small victory, of course, but we relished it. And so did puppy.

On yet another hand, I buy a million things all the time without even looking at where they are made. I’m not proud of this, but I admit it. I try hard to make more informed choices. I try to buy local, but I admit to frequent trips to Target and tons of internet shopping. I love to patronize local eateries, but I also adore a McDonald’s diet Coke more often than not.

In any event, one place that I hope that I can always say – unless their practices change drastically – I have never purchased anything from is Wisconsin’s own, Menards. It makes me sad that it’s a Wisconsin-owned company that tops my list for ‘most abhorrent business,’ but so be it. I’m sure there are other companies that are as bad as Menards (which makes me sad to say), but because it’s a *local* company, I pay closer attention to its wrongdoings.

For me, it all started when I started seeing Ben. I wasn’t really aware of Menards before becoming close to Ben. I mean, I knew it existed, but I never thought much about it. Ben used to say we could never spend our money there — something to do with dumping in the Eau Claire River. That was pretty much good enough for me. I was, after all, only 22 years old. That prohibition stayed with me a long time, though. Probably, at least in part, because it was never a great sacrifice to boycott Menards.

Time marched on, as it does, and then came this. Of course the lawsuit and the illegal, immoral and abhorrent behavior leading up to this came well before the supreme court’s decision, but the decision highlighted for the country the indefensible behavior of the Menard company.

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to our contractor about what we wanted done in the basement to make it something we can live with for the next few years. He had previously spoken the taboo word ‘Menards’ to me, but I had been able to ignore it. This time, after  telling me the best selection for a certain item was at Menards, I told him, somewhat sheepishly, that I could not shop at Menards. He said, “Yeah, well, John Menard is a pri–” and cut himself off. I stepped in. “He’s an ass%^&$#,” I said. The contractor then rattled off to me how much Menard is delinquent in his state taxes. He made it more than clear that he is not a fan.

For whatever reason, I was thinking about all of this today. And so I did a little Google search while Bear was napping and I came across this. In case I wasn’t clear, I’ll never shop at Menards. I guess I hope you won’t, either.


Middle class in America

In college, I spent an academic year abroad in Florence, Italy. It was pretty much the greatest year of my life. I have a million memories from that time but one in particular has been flooding my memory inbox the last year or so. During our spring break, my friends Andrea, Jon & Andy and I decided to go on a trip we called Operation Behind the Iron Curtain. Of course, the Iron Curtain had been opened by this time – March 1997 – but we all remembered it and thought we were very clever for our name and brave in our exploration. We flew from Rome to Athens and then took a bus around Greece for a bit (and hitchhiked up Mt. Olympus) and then took a bus into Sofia, Bulgaria and finally another bus from Sofia to Istanbul. The trip was really something. One of the things that really stands out for me, though, despite all of this time, is a guy we met on the bus from Sofia to Istanbul. I can’t remember where he was from. Somewhere in South America maybe. Anyway, my friend Jon really took to him and they were supremely chatty on the bus and the rest of us sort of worried this guy was going to latch onto us when we got off the bus in Turkey. We weren’t xenophobes or anything, but the guy just didn’t seem very, well, nice.

I don’t remember a lot of what he said, but I do remember this. He said that he would rather be a peasant anywhere (I actually think he named a place, but I can’t remember where it was) than be middle class in America. I was floored. I seem to remember Jon nodding knowingly. I had never heard someone say such a thing before. He wasn’t disparaging suburbia or strip malls or chain restaurants; he was insulting millions of people, including me and my family and pretty much everyone I knew because of their bank accounts. The statement feels as arrogant to me today as it did fifteen years ago. The difference is today I can’t shrug it off as a foolishly ignorant, condescending and pretentious thing said by a young man who had too much privilege and too little education and compassion. Today I see that young person’s sentiment all around me. The assault on America’s working class is as real as it is heartbreaking. And I don’t know what to do about it.

I try to buy American-made products, but not nearly as much as I should. I cry when I read about the unemployed and those that are losing their homes. I refinanced our mortgage so that it would no longer be held by Bank of America, but I have a half dozen credit cards that are held by banks that may be equally greedy and heartless and irresponsible. I don’t know when things got so bad, but I do know that it feels that I am complicit in letting it happen.

The thing that felt most important to me about last year’s protests and the recall movement was that it was more than a million people coming together. Teachers and professors and fire fighters and cops and iron workers and plumbers and lawyers and electricians and professors and paralegals and custodians – all working together, all singing together, all marching together. It felt like we all realized that we are in this together. Our lives and livelihoods are completely intertwined and we would not be taken in by The Rich’s effort to turn us against each other. We would refuse to fight each other for scraps and pennies. We would stand up for our neighbors and in turn stand up for ourselves.

I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it doesn’t feel like it’s getting better. I hope that’s not true. I hope that we realize what we used to know: a rising tide truly does raise all boats. I want Mollybear to have the dream, which I’ve always understood was to be middle class in America.

Dreamy sigh

Ok, folks, I feel like we have a ton to talk about, including, but not limited to the following:

  • Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise and all things Scientology;
  • The health care law decision and the Supreme Court;
  • My new closet (genius!); and
  • About a million other things.

All of that is going to have to wait, though, because I have breaking news. Because I sent Aaron to one of those wacky Iowa casinos for the night (a fathers’ day present), I treated myself to a People magazine. Being a single parent is hard and I figured I deserved a treat. I really bought it because the issue promises to tell me what really happened in the Tom & Katie story, but before I got to that, I came across a mini-interview with Mr. Darcy himself, Colin Firth. Firth was asked about his favorite authors and he rattled off a short list I quickly skimmed (Faulkner, Cheever, blah blah). But then I see the glorious Jane Austen’s name in bold. What’s this? I thought. Mr. Darcy tells People magazine,

I’d never read Jane Austen before I [played Mr. Darcy] in Pride and Prejudice; she was a revelation. I went through every book and wished there were more.

Ah, amen. So. Do. I.

Bear meets a bear!

And it was actually rather scary!

Sorry for the poor quality, but the polar bear made it clear s/he was not concerned with my composition. It was also taken with my phone.

This was Baby Bear’s first trip to the zoo since coming out of my uterus. Was she at the zoo when she was in my uterus? Yes! It turns out Baby Bear was a Baby Pea when we competed in the 2011 Great Urban Race but we did not know it at the time. So there.

July 2012

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