There is No Cure for Knowledge: Part 2

[This is a two-part blog post. You can read the first part HERE.]

“Yes, but it’s just an English degree. What can you do with that except teach high school?”

“It’s not like you had to work as hard as your sister did in school. Science degrees are way harder than English degrees.”

“Degrees in the humanities are worthless.”

“Oh no, if you were an English teacher you must be judging my grammar!”

“If you want to get a Master’s degree you should do it in something more practical than writing. Do you know how few people are actually successful writers?”

“Books are for prisoners.”

“Wait, you work at the library? I thought all libraries were closed because people just read digital books now.”

“The publication industry is dying. Why do you care so much about writing a book?”

“We don’t need librarians anymore because we have the Internet!”

“I don’t read fiction because it’s a waste of time to read made-up stories.”

“I don’t have the time to read very much now in terms of the books.”

All of these statements are things people have said to me in real life, except for the last one which comes from our esteemed president, whose dislike for and discomfort with books is evident on so many levels.

It’s not like I need my friends and family, not to mention doctors and that runner I talked with once on a race bus, to educate me on the futile uselessness of my interests. The world does that already. I mean…just consider my career. I can work as a librarian only because my husband’s job can support us. If I had to support a family on my own, even working full time, I couldn’t do it on my own as a librarian. This isn’t because I work for a miserly city with unfair pay policies but because society doesn’t deem librarians worthy of a sustainable wage. (As with teachers and social workers and police officers, of course, but everyone knows that. No one pays attention to the librarians.)

That random runner on the race bus was right: publication is a hard industry to be successful in, and the vast majority of people who manage to land an actual, printed book don’t make much money on it. (Six-figure advances make the news, of course, and there are outliers like King or Rowling or Grisham or Patterson, but many, many writers don’t make sustainable wages.) This is partly because society values quickness, a 20-minute video game, a sitcom, a 100-minute movie. Books take time, effort, and concentration to enjoy (which, apparently, only prisoners have).

Or, think of it like this: I bet you could tell me who starred in the last movie you watched, but likely you have no idea of who wrote the movie. You know—the person who created the world of the story. That person rarely gets noticed (except for in the credits), while the actors seem to make the movie.

Books, reading, valuing a well-written sentence or cleverly constructed paragraph, the meanings and use of words, novels, essays, poetry—oh, God, don’t even get me started on the average American adult’s lack of interest in poetry. These things matter deeply to me, but to the world in general they are kind of pointless.

But I think they are essential. Essential.

Especially right now.

I have to tell one more story to make my point. A few weeks before the news erupted with the pandemic, I bumped into an old friend I hadn’t seen for more than a year at Costco. He is a trump supporter, but we have always managed to keep our conversations civil and respectful—he has done enough damage, I don’t want to allow him the destruction of friendships on top of it all.

So as this friend shared his opinion of the impeachment trial, I mostly just listened. But when he said “I don’t always agree with the way he handles stuff because his style is pretty outrageous, but I think he’s done great things,” I had to disagree.

I think it does matter how the president acts. Whatever the issue, whatever party you support, the president sets the tone for the country. So the current resident of the white house, with his mania and inanity, his relentless, misspelled tweets, his pandering to dictators, his unintelligence and his unfathomable speaking patterns, his disdain for reading—that influences everyone. “What if he could accomplish the ‘great things’ without acting like he does, though?” I asked my friend. “Wouldn’t the country be better?” [Please note that I did not ask about these supposed “great things” because really…I cannot think of one good thing he’s done in his tenure, but I do know that a friend bringing up things like Supreme Court judges and immigration issues would likely raise my ire higher than I could contain.]

This question gave him a pause. “I haven’t ever thought of it like that,” he said.

I haven’t ever thought of it like that.

Sure: I can tell you when to use every day versus everyday. I can usually think of a little snippet of a poem to go with nearly every situation I find myself in (I don’t often share these, though). I can talk literary theory with the best of them. I can discuss the way the feminist movement influences and is influenced by the sphere of literature. All of those skills and pieces of knowledge I’ve gained over a lifetime of loving and interacting with books, history, art, music, criticism, newspapers, literary magazines, university courses and professors and assignments—all of it is valuable to me.

But what I treasure the most is the ability to think about things in different ways. To know that my perspective is not the only one, my way of being in the world is not the only right choice but just one choice in a myriad of them. When I read something and I think I haven’t ever thought of it like that, I get excited. I ask myself why I haven’t thought in that way, what it says about my thought processes and how this new thought might change me. If I don’t know, I figure it out.

One individual human lifetime is small. So small. We get our years and our places and then we are gone. But with books, we can know larger parts of humanity than just our own. With knowledge we can see how we have changed and how we haven’t, how to do better and just how large our potential is (for both creation and destruction). I know just enough to know that I don’t know very much…you can read your whole life but still have a whole world left to discover. Just this spring, I read Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson, where I learned about something I had never heard of, the Tulsa race riots and burning of Black Wall Street. And then our country erupted in protests, and a political rally was scheduled in Oklahoma, and suddenly people were talking about that moment in history. “Why didn’t we learn about that in history class?” people asked.

The why is because of systemic racism, but it is also about you. If you decided to stop learning about history, culture, science, ideas, philosophy and everything else simply because you graduated from high school or college, the problem is now in your hands. If you have decided that your way of looking at things is the best way, or the only way, the problem isn’t with your tenth-grade history teacher, but with your own lack of progress.

So as the United States starts to change (hopefully), what I keep coming back to is how the lack of imagination stifles progress. Reading lets you see that there are many worlds, and that many of them have more potential than the one we have created right now. It teaches you that the world has not always been the way it is now, and that there are many other experiences beside your own.

We are living in a country that is led by a man who is, I believe, corrupt to his very core. There are enough obvious examples, but for me, it boils down to this:

He doesn’t read.

He doesn’t see the value in the written word, be it a novel or a biography or a political treatise or even the daily reports. This means he is incapable of seeing from any other perspective than his own. He is a small man who lacks imagination, and thus knowledge, empathy, and self-awareness.

But it isn’t only the president. It is, as my family and friends and podiatrist and the runner on the bus have told me, deeply held within the nation. Books are a luxury, books are only for people with too much time on their hands, books are a waste of time, books are just stories. Basketball players and actresses and Instagram influencers matter, fluff and noise and nonsense deserve our attention.

Our country is beset by a huge variety of issues and problems, so the solutions will not be simple. But I believe at the very core of each solution lies knowledge, critical thinking, history, imagination, intelligence, empathy. All of the things, in other words, you get from the seemingly-useless humanity degrees. From books.

None of us should ever find ourselves at the end of our searches for knowledge and truth. These help us to see our place in the world, to realize both how small our lives are and how enormous our possibilities become when we understand that one way of seeing things is too narrow.

We must all cultivate the skill of altruism.

There is No Cure for Knowledge: Part 1

One of my most abiding memories from childhood is the cold autumn Saturday my dad took me to a BYU football game. I don’t know why this happened, as I was not a fan of football and we weren’t like other families I knew, who bought season tickets. But there we were, walking across a college campus together. He told me that he hoped one day I would go to college. He said “one day you can go to college classes and learn everything you want. You’re smart. Don’t be like me and waste your time and your smartness. Spend your time learning.” We stepped into the stadium; he bought me popcorn and a hot chocolate, and while I remember absolutely nothing about the football game (I was likely bored out of my mind, or maybe I brought a book with me), I remember so clearly sitting on the cold metal bench, eating popcorn one puffed piece at a time, imagining myself going to college. By the time the game ended and we walked back to the car, it was a certainty for me: I would go to college.

Of course, life got messy, as life does, and once I’d destroyed my chances at the university I wanted to go to the most (the University of Utah) and my scholarship opportunities, I found myself twenty years old, married, and trying to live in a religion that focused on women having families, not getting an education. But I still had that same certainty that I wanted to go to college. So I pieced it together. I worked at a software company that would pay for some college costs, so I went to the local community college while I worked full time and got my Associate’s degree. After that, we built our house and I had Haley, but I wasn’t done yet. When I was laid off from my job, I had access to a reeducation grant, so I grabbed the chance, swallowed my pride, and did what I had never wanted to do: walked back onto the BYU campus and applied. (It’s another entire blog post to explain why that choice was hard for me.)

For me, college was always about books. During the two years I wasn’t going to school, I vowed to learn everything I could about books, reading, writing, and literature, so I haunted the library. (The library where I work now, strangely enough.) Those years of scattershot reading taught me about feminism, history, mythology, racism, oppression, ingenuity. Even grammar! I found genres I’d only had vague ideas about before, like essays and microfiction. I delved into poetry and discovered poets I still love today. I read novels. I read some Shakespeare. I tried to read what I thought I was supposed to read: Hemingway and Hawthorne, Fitzgerald and Faulkner, but I found I liked women authors better.

I was shaping my reading and learning tastes at that time in my life, and I think that my ability to be unencumbered by professors’ opinions during those years was immensely helpful. I learned to like what I like rather than what someone else thought I should like. But I was also learning. About history and other cultures and writing styles and genres and how writers are grouped. I was also learning how to think. All those books taught me that there are uncountable ways of being in the world, and mine is just one of them, neither right nor wrong; the myriad ways of looking at human existence is one of the astounding parts of human existence.

 I ended up loving many things about my experience at BYU. While I didn’t have the traditional college experience with dorms and roommates and making life-long friends, I learned. Yes—even at a conservative, religious university, I learned so much. Those two years of studying on my own meant that I had odd pieces of knowledge that my classmates didn’t have, and sometimes (OK, quite often) their perspectives were baffling to me, but again—it was about learning all of the things one learns from an English degree, but also it was about learning more of people. I had fantastic professors and horrible ones. I finally learned what people meant by “critical theory.” I learned that in literary circles, Dead White Male Writers are revered by many…but there are counter cultures, too, and I explored those whenever I could.

When I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree, Haley was four, Jake was one, and I was unknowingly pregnant with Nathan. A friend asked me, a few days after I graduated, what I would do next. At that point, I was exhausted. I wanted to just spend time with my kids. So, for a couple of years, that’s what I did. I graduated, and then I became a stay-at-home mom. I still held that image of myself I had created during the football game so long ago, a mental picture of who I would be as an adult. It had crystalized: I wanted a PhD, I wanted to be a college professor.

But again, life got messy. For a long time, I have felt like the Universe has wanted me to understand that sure…I’ve learned a lot about humanity, but it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t have value because it is sort of invisible. My form of knowledge means I can go to a museum and tell you stories about many of the things there, but I can’t create anything anyone can sell. I can’t program computers or write software programs or create apps. I don’t have medical knowledge; my skills are just in understanding, and that isn’t very marketable. I ended up being a high school English teacher, and then a librarian. Am I done? I wish I wasn’t. I want to get a Master’s degree. Somewhere in the messiness, however, I lost that ability I used to have, that belief that my dad was right, that I was smart enough to do anything. I don’t feel that anymore, so I don’t know how to take another step. Part of me started with what the Universe wanted me to know: my accumulated knowledge is sort of useless. The world doesn’t care.

But also within the messiness, I have continued to read. I thought that getting a Bachelor’s degree would teach me everything I wanted to know, but of course it didn’t. Knowledge is endless, and it is spread out everywhere. It’s not just found in one source, and almost everything has a piece of truth in it somewhere. I might not have advanced degrees, but I do still have knowledge.

So here I am: a middle-aged white woman with a couple of Bachelor degrees that don’t matter much to the world at large. I know a whole lot about books and history and about finding information. I can teach you how to structure an essay and I can give you a book of poems that would change your life if you read it. I could tell you how to correctly use a hyphen and what the difference is between an en- and an em-dash.

Meanwhile, the world is insane with a pandemic and racial uprisings. What do I have to offer?

Every day, I read Facebook threads and listen to conversations where people say things that I consider to be shallow and narrow-minded. And while yes, dear Universe, I so thoroughly understand your point, I also have started to realize: education matters.

I mean, I know that. I have always known that.

But the world’s current issues are telling me more and more: education matters. Knowledge matters. Most importantly, the knowledge that your way of looking at the world is not the only one—knowing that matters.

My next post will continue these thoughts. It’s the one I sat down to write this morning, but I couldn’t write it without explaining these pieces of my history. In the largeness of today’s social issues, my little thoughts are likely unimportant. But I’m going to share them anyway, because I also know this is true: narrow-mindedness got us into these issues, and the only way out of them is with the wide-open thought processes that education can bring.

[You can read the second part of this post HERE.]

Yes, But.

I went for a walk this morning. No headphones, no running, no Kendell tagging along. I needed to go to the doctor’s office for a blood test (my yearly check up of thyroid and other issues) and since it’s only about a half mile from my house, I decided to just walk.

Just as I got to the junior high, I heard the familiar sound of someone running. The pattern of breath and the repetition of footfalls; for a few steps there was a little tap instead of a thud because a pebble must’ve been caught in a shoe, and then it dropped out and the pattern went back to only thuds. I turned to see where the person was so I didn’t accidentally get in their way, and saw it was a black teenager.

Before I go on with this story, I have to clarify that I live in a state, Utah, where there is not a huge population of black people (at the last census it was 12% black), and I live in a county in that state where 2% of the population is black. I don’t know what it says about my prejudice that, when I see a black person where I live, I think “there’s a black runner” (or grocery-store shopper or whatever) instead of just thinking “there’s a runner,” but it is my unguarded reaction. Not in a fear-based what but an observational one, true, but I don’t like that that is my first thought.

As he ran past me I gave him that little wave you give passing runners, but he didn’t see me. He turned the corner and then, a few minutes later (he was fast!), I did too. We were both moving west along a frontage road adjacent to a much busier road, separated by a weedy berm.

Just down the street, there was a police car on the same side of the road, lights on, and a police officer leaning in to talk to the person he had pulled over.

I kept walking and I started really watching.

I thought about Ahmaud Arbery, and I thought about the sound of the running feet of the person running in front of me, how the cadence is measured and practiced, not panicked. That slight irritation of a caught pebble that all runners have felt, and the little relief when it frees itself.

I thought about the bland statement made by the leaders of my seeming faith, which was safe and generic and spoke of love but had no fire or outrage and certainly did not apologize for its history of racism.

And the one from the city where I live, equally safe, which made sure to point out how fantastic our police department is.

I thought about the interactions I’ve had with police in my city, which have always been calm and rational.

I thought about the tiny protest I saw last week, on one of the busiest corners of our town, thirty or so people—most of them white—chanting “no justice, no peace,” waving their signs in the rain, and how, when I was stopped waiting for the light to change, I looked at them and felt ashamed (because I have not protested) and hope (because they were all so young, so unjaded, so bright).

I watched the runner. I watched the policeman on the side of the road.

I touched my cell phone to make sure it was still in my pocket. Just in case.

I wondered what he was thinking—the runner in front of me.

Did he think about Ahmaud Arbery too? Did he think about what his parents taught him about his actions around police? Was he afraid?

As he got closer to the police car, he stopped running.

And, I don’t know. Maybe it was just part of his run that day, maybe he was doing a walk/run cycle, and the walk portion just happened to happen then, when he was passing a police car.

That’s possible.

But it’s also possible he started walking because he felt that was safer.

I kept watching.

I thought about all of the voices and ideas I have heard over the past three weeks. The people wanting to change the financial structure of cities so that less money goes to police forces, and the people who refuse to see that as a viable option. The people who have said “well, I’ve never had a bad interaction with police,” as if that proves anything. The bland voices of my community. The more passionate ones of closer friends who share my perspective. And about my own doubt that I can change anything.

The runner kept walking until he had passed the police car with the flashing lights. He stood still while he waited for the light to change, and he walked across the street. He didn’t run until he was on the opposite side of the opposite corner.

I let my hand stop hovering near my phone.

I’m still unsure. I still feel unable to make much commentary on what is happening in the world. I don’t want to say the wrong thing, I don’t want to be ignorantly racist, I don’t want to cause more hurt. Besides, what insight can I have, this middle-aged woman living in an uber-white community?

But I also remembered: it isn’t about what insight I can offer. Black people don’t need my insight, and what can I say that might help my more closed-minded friends open their perspective a little?

And I thought: it has, at least, changed me. Would I have been watching so carefully, before this spring’s events, when a black runner ran past a white police officer? I don’t think I would have.

I think that one of the keys to being anti-racist is the ability to be open minded, and by that I mean the ability to understand that your perspective is not the only way of looking at the world. The ability of imagination, perhaps: to see a situation with your own eyes and realize it might look different to someone else, and then to be able to imagine some of the possibilities.

(Which is one of the reasons that I find fiction to be just as enlightening as non-fiction.)

If the unrest and the killings and the violence has not given people the ability to see the existence of other realities than their own, nothing I can say will change it.

But those things have changed me. They have taught me that the scope of my imagination was far too small.

They have taught me that I still have so much to learn. So much. They have taught me that even in my white-washed community, I have opportunities to watch, to witness, to be prepared to speak out or take action if it’s needed.

I hear you—those “yet, but” voices. Yes, but our police force is really good. Yes but who are you going to call if someone burglars your house? Yes, but blue lives. Yes, but…all of it. I hear you.


But I am going to try to see things from perspectives other than my own.

Corona Virus Masks: My Process Notes on the A.B. Mask Pattern

I have finally started making masks! I don’t know why I didn’t start making them sooner; it’s not as if I don’t have fabric for it! I even prewashed and dried fabric that I thought would make appealing masks. And then Colorado, where Haley lives, started requiring people to wear masks outside so then it was a necessity! It still took a few days to get started because A—I was sick for a few days and B—I was kind of intimidated. In quilting, it is sometimes easier to hide mistakes than it is with clothing and while yes…I’ve sewn dozens of quilts and more than a few pair of pajamas, I wasn't sure my quilting skills would be enough to make a little piece of clothing.

Corona masks panic
Please: Allow me to caption this photo. This is not me making a goofy face. This is me PANICKING. Same thing happens when I put on a snorkeling mask. Low-key panic because I can't get enough air. Happy to make the masks. A little bit freaked out if I actually have to wear one.

But today I decided: enough. I’ll just try one and see what happens. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I mess up and make something unwearable out of a piece of fabric?

That is acceptable risk!

There is no 1/4 inch elastic to be found anywhere near me, so I went with this pattern:

A.B. Mask for a Nurse by a Nurse

It is designed to be worn either just on your face or over an N/95 mask. It uses ties instead of elastic and two layers of quilting cotton. It seems intimidating because there are a lot of steps and it looks complicated…but really the steps are well-written and make sense if you follow them carefully.

And it was really pretty fun to make!

I know there are a million mask tutorials floating around right now and I’m definitely not the person to write another one (remember: my clothes-sewing skills are pretty unremarkable).

But I do have some notes I thought I would share. These are just notes I made as I went through the steps, and maybe they will be helpful for someone else who is also making the same pattern.

So here are my notes on each step. You can also download a PDF of the notes at the bottom of this post. And if you are thinking about sewing masks, my biggest advice is this: just do it. If they aren’t perfect, who cares? Have fun. Use bright fabrics or fun fabrics or whatever you think fits someone’s personality. If you don't have big enough pieces of fabric, use a different color for the ties. Mostly, don’t get too worried about your mistakes. Perfection isn’t the point, right? It’s protecting and caring for each other!

First things first: before you start making masks, you should preshrink your fabric. Wash it in the hottest water your washing machine has and rinse twice. Wash light fabrics separate from darks. Use a color catcher because that hot water will stream out a bunch of dye. Dry on hot, too. Trim the strings and then iron. In theory the masks should be washed once a day so you want to get the shrinking done first.

Also, if you have a fabric marking pen or pencil, find it. It'll come in handy!

Notes correlate with each step of the original pattern and are named the same thing as the patterned named them, for clarity.

  1. Print the pattern. I had no problem with this, except I should’ve printed on cardstock instead of printer paper, just for durability.
  2. Fold fabric. Quilting cotton stretches more on the width side (selvedge to selvedge) than it does on the length size (cut edge to cut edge), so if you are using odd sizes of fabric, see which side stretches the most, and fold so the stretch goes across the width of the mask, rather than the height.
  3. Cut binding and ties. I cut my binding strips 1.75 inches instead of 1.5. I know…a quarter inch doesn’t seem like that much but for me it made it much easier to make the ties. Also, if you can use larger yardage so you can cut width of fabric strips, it does make it easier!
  4. Refold and cut mask face. I folded my fabric twice so I could cut four pieces at once. You can use scissors or a quilting ruler and a rotary cutter, up to you. I skipped the step of cutting out the notches. I marked it with a marking pen instead. Corona masks mark the notches
    Also, I have no idea what the difference is between a “taco” style fold and a “burrito” style fold…tortilla shells are all round.
  5. Stack and sew. I have a hard time knowing exactly where to turn at the points, so I just marked a line 1/2 inch from the edge. Corona masks half inch marks
  6. Iron in pleats. I have no idea if I’m doing this step right. I THINK the fold should go up, toward the top point, but if you look at the picture of the folded pattern, it seems like they Corona masks pleats down
    point down. I’ve made it both ways…I continue to think the fold goes up. But I am happy to be corrected if I’m wrong. UPDATE!!! I found an updated version of the tutorial that states Corona masks pleats up
    "Pleats should be facing downward when looking at outside fabric of mask face." OK, got it wrong! Luckily I've only made a few so far. Maybe no one will notice? The updated version also includes instructions for a pocket for a wire. I haven't tried it so I can't speak to that part of the process, but HERE is the updated version.
  7. Sew pleats in place. Careful not to hit the pins with your sewing machine needle. Just saying.
  8. Mark and sew darts. When you sew the darts in, use the denim stitch on your machine. This is the stitch that does three stitches close together; on Bernina machines it is stitch #6.
  9. Trim excess. The tutorial photo shows these cuts being made with pinking shears. If you don’t have those, regular scissors are just fine! (I might really now want to buy a nice heavy pair of pinking shears. My mom used to have a pair that fascinated me when I was a kid. Wonder what happened to them.)
  10. Prepare the binding. If you cut width-of-fabric strips in step three, you don’t have to sew seams! Also, the smaller pieces (the one you cut in half) don’t need to be 10 inches, only about 4 inches long.
  11. Attach side binding. Sew toward the folds of the pleats to avoid sewing them down the wrong way.
  12. Finish side binding. When you sew it down to the front, again sew toward the pleats; that way your presser foot doesn’t get caught in the folds. Try to make sure the fabric edge covers the stitching lines you already stitched (also, if it doesn’t, don’t sweat it).
  13. Attach top/bottom binding. Fold the binding strip in half (end to end) and iron the fold. Then, line up that fold with the dart from step 8. This way your ties will be even.
    Corona masks folded binding
    I had to piece these binding strips together out of scraps because I calculated wrong. This is how I know it is faster to cut them from the width of the fabric!
  14. Finish top/bottom binding and ties. If you folded in half on step 13, you can skip trimming the ties to make them even, as they already will be. However, I trimmed the corners off the edges of the ties because it makes sewing the ends easier.
    Corona masks clipped ends
    Fwew. This close up makes me realize I am about ready for a new cutting mat...This is the last birthday gift my mom gave me, though, so I just keep using it even though it's bumpy...

    When you sew the binding strips on, make sure to back sew once over the dart spot, just for added strength. Take this step slow at first, because it’s kind of tricky to get such a small strip in the right spot. Double check that you didn’t miss sewing both edges once you’re done; if you did, just sew it again.

Alternate version of the clipped ends, this time folded: Corona masks folded binding ends better

The first mask I sewed took me almost 45 minutes from start to finish. By the third I was down to 30 minutes!

Download Notes on corona masks.

Let me know if you are sewing masks, have questions about sewing masks, or are also, like me, utterly panicked at the thought of wearing masks...

Happy sewing, friends!

COVID-19 Experiences So Far

I have often wondered, when I read historical fiction set during periods when my grandmothers were alive, what they thought about them. My grandmothers were born in 1910 and 1911, so they were young children during World War I and probably only had vague, if any, knowledge of it. But they were in their twenties during the Great Depression and in their thirties—having their families—during World War II. Why didn’t either of my grandfathers, who would’ve been right in the middle of the draft age, get drafted? Did they grow victory gardens? How were their lives impacted by rationing? What did they think of having babies during the middle of a world war? How did they help with the war efforts? Did they have any friends who went to war? Did they pay close attention to the war or was it just background noise to their regular lives?

It has always bothered me that none of my ancestors wrote down much of their history. That bothered feeling is one of the impetuses behind keeping a blog. During the 14+ years of The English Geek, I’ve written about my response to many social issues. Maybe no one in the future will care, but it makes me feel a sense of…fulfilling a responsibility, I guess. Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic is a huge social issue right now, so I wanted to write down how it has impacted our life so far.

Kendell was already working from home, so for him this hasn’t been a huge change, at least as far as work goes. He works in the two-window bedroom, which has been the computer room for a long time. The PC is in there so that is the computer he uses, along with his work laptop. He had three heart doctor appointments in March and they were all cancelled until it is safer for heart patients to gather in groups again. His heart doesn’t make him more susceptible to catching it, but if he did get it he would have a harder time recovering.

I am mostly working from home. For the past two weeks I’ve gone into the library once and then spent the rest of my work hours at home. People get puzzled at the thought of librarians working from home, but unless you work at a library you probably have no idea how many projects we work on. Yes, helping patrons is a big part of our job, but we still have a lot of non-patron work that keeps the library going. I am working on rewriting all of the discussion guides that go with our book group sets. We have more than 175 sets so there is plenty to be done. I have my laptop set up on the desk in my scrappy space (the old desk I inherited from my grandpa Fuzz), which is in the one-window bedroom. I like the other room better because it has so much more light, but my tables and supplies work better there. In my non-work time, I’ve been scrapbooking again, but I think next week I am going to work on a table runner and some masks to donate to hospitals. I have been blogging less because I usually write my posts in the morning and that’s when I’ve been working.

Haley’s job is considered essential, so she is still going to work. She said that her hospital has cancelled all non-emergency surgeries and is working on getting everything stocked and ready for a large influx of patients. Austin is recovering from pneumonia so he is staying in their apartment. Three cats, one bedroom…hope it is going OK! We are keeping in touch with texting. I am trying not to worry about her being in a hospital during a pandemic. (But I worry anyway. Even though worrying won’t change it.)

Jake is still living at home and we have been so grateful he is here. He works for a call center that manages rentals and is able to work from home. For him (as for me), working from home is a mixed bag. The reality of never leaving “work,” because work and home are at the same place, can be draining and emotionally problematic for both of us. He is spending time at his friend Geoff’s house to get away. Mostly, though, we’re glad he’s here because he doesn’t have to deal with the stress of paying rent or finding groceries. I’m glad we can take care of him.

Nathan is still in Monterey doing his guard training. I think this has been the hardest for him (or maybe Kaleb). His classes are done online now, which isn’t an ideal way for him to learn, and the base is on lock down. (Meaning he can’t leave at all.) We are helping by sending care packages. Haley sent him a hammock and he’s found a little spot in some trees where he can hammock and read. I sent him cookies, art supplies, and books. We talk on the phone, text, and sometimes I even remember to check my Snapchat!

Kaleb…whoosh. I don’t have any little kids so I can’t say for sure, but I feel like this is hardest on teenagers. He out of all of my kids is most involved with his friends. He LOVES spending time with his friends, especially playing basketball. So, now that school isn’t meeting and he is doing his assignments online, and he can’t hang out with friends except for online gaming (they are all playing Fortnight together a lot), he’s kind of sad and frustrated. I haven’t done a great job at getting him on a healthy schedule and I’m going to work on that this week, but the has been good at staying on top of his schoolwork. He and Jake both use the computers downstairs, and I am really glad we have enough technology for everyone.

For the most part, we’ve been able to find the food and supplies we need. I had already stocked up on toilet paper, which is one of the things that people are panic buying. I’m low on paper towels but we really don’t use those very often (a habit from my childhood…my mom wasn’t a big paper towel user!) so we’ll be OK. We got lucky one Sunday at Costco and found both rice and flour, and another day I got a bag of sugar. Rice was worrying Kendell, so I’m glad we found some just so he won’t worry about it. Sometimes we’ve gone to Costco and they’ve been out of milk, eggs, butter, and bread, but we’ve still found them on different days. Baking supplies are especially hard to find, and it took me two weeks to find brown sugar, but, again…with patience you eventually get what you need.

My friend Wendy had to self-quarantine so I’ve been bringing her groceries when I go out. We also have been helping Cindy out with getting groceries. We bought a just-in-case bag of basmati rice, before we lucked into getting the kind we like better (Calrose sticky rice), so we gave that bag to Jeff. Whenever I go to a store, I check for baby formula because that is really short right now, too. I think that helping others has been one of the positives of this experience.

My biggest struggle has been stress eating. I just can’t seem to stop snacking. Like Kaleb’s schedule, that is one of my goals this week for things to improve. I need to end it now, at the start, before it gets to be a real problem.

What about you? How are you recording your experiences with the pandemic? The details I wrote today are the broad strokes---there are so many other small stories I could also tell, so maybe I will write about it more often here. I also want to think about ways I could photograph this experience. More next week?!

Looking for Peace in the Midst of Bitterness

(Please note: this is a political post with my political opinions, which are not meant to offend you. I'm just sharing what I think, not judging you for what you think. Politics aside, there is a recipe at the bottom of the post!)

Last night I fell asleep at 9:15. Partly this was the time change catching up to me, but mostly it was because I couldn't bear listening to the election results. But I still woke up with an anxious heart and a troubled mind. Today felt to me, in fact, like doomsday. Or at least, the beginning of the end of something.

I wasn't blind to Mitt Romney's faults. I think he should have chosen a different vice president, preferably a woman. (It's best not to get me started on the Republican perspective on women.) I think he comes from the filthy rich perspective and his environmental ideas are reprehensible. But I also think he is motivated by a moral compass. I don't say that because we happen to share the same religion, but because I felt like he earnestly and truly wanted to make America better.

I don't feel that way about Obama.

I think his environmental policies are better than Romney's (but still need vast improvements urgently). I think the Democratic perspective on women is one that goes along with the 21st century. I think his foreign policy is laughable and will have a world-wide impact for decades to come. Every time he promised to make more jobs I felt like screaming from my frustration—how does government create jobs? His handling of the economy couldn't be worse, and Obamacare? Obamacare will, in my opinion, become the cancer of the middle class.

Sure, the cost will sting a bit for the wealthy, but hello: they are wealthy. They will feel it less than the middle class. I don't believe health insurance should be managed or provided by the government. I think it should be provided by employers and be managed by insurance companies; I think government's role in health insurance should be to oversee (to insist upon) reform. (I do know that there are plenty of people who legitimately need assistance with health care. I have needed it before myself. But I think it should be a temporary thing, not a lifestyle choice.)

I also don't understand why insurance should be free. Didn't we learn in kindergarten that nothing is free? Someone will have to pay for Obamacare, and it will be middle-class people like you and me. People at Kendell's job are already talking about how, when we re-enroll in our health insurance next spring, the price increase will be unbearable. Couple that with the increase in taxes and the lack of pay raises and I am already starting to worry that I'll have to find a different, full-time job. All of which might sound like I don't want to help other people who are less fortunate than me, which isn't true; I do. I just don't think that Obamacare is the direction the help needs to take.

But what bothers me more than Obama's policies is his moral center. To me, it feels like he wants to be president because he likes the power and the fame, not because he wants to shape a strong, contemporary America. To me, the American he's shaping isn't even America anymore. It's more socialist than democratic and much more vulnerable. Couple that vulnerability with Obama's failures abroad (the Benghazi thing, the Israel thing) and it starts to feel nefarious.

I don't trust him and I don't think he has made my life better.

So today was a hard day for me. The ruthless gloating, the news pundits going on and on about Romney and how weak his campaign was. "But he won 49% of the popular vote!" I kept arguing back to the radio, "which means almost exactly half of the population wanted him to win." But mostly, it was the relentless anxiety and the knowledge that I am powerless to change any of these things.

So I searched for something to appease my anxiety. I scrapbooked. I went running. I ate the rest of the cake I made yesterday for work. I wandered around Target and bought some clearance Halloween stuff and some peppermint extra-dark-chocolate Lindt truffles (I am eating one right now as I write this in fact). I put away all of my Halloween decorations and got out all my Thanksgiving ones and repotted three of my plants and reorganized my linen closet and put together a big box of stuff to take to the thrift store and vacuumed the cobwebs off of my front-room ceiling. I listened to Kaleb talk while I cooked dinner.

I cooked dinner.

And, despite the other anxiety today brought (Kaleb's echo for his upcoming appointment with the cardiologist and all the accompanying terror that brings even though he's likely to be just fine), my little efforts at finding peace in my heart helped—a little bit. I don't feel any more optimistic about our future. But I do feel grateful that, for now, I have control of my home and my influence over my family at least.

Here's what I made for dinner. It's become a recent favorite at our house:

Buffalo Chicken Taquitos (adapted from Real Women of Philadelphia)

4 cups chicken, cooked and shredded (about 3 breasts)
12 soft-taco sized flour tortillas
2 cups monterey jack cheese, grated
4 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup Frank’s hot sauce
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup bleu cheese crumbles
2 T butter
1 tsp Lawry's seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
2 T vegetable oil

(I doubled this recipe and have some leftover taquitos.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread a thin layer of oil over a cookie sheet. Over medium low heat, melt butter. Add Lawry's and garlic powder. Stir to combine and cook for 1 minute. Add cream cheese and stir until melted and completely combined with butter and spices. Whisk in hot sauce, bleu cheese, and milk then simmer for about five minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Combine chicken and sauce. Lay out a tortilla; fill with 1/3 cup chicken and a sprinkling of cheese. Tightly roll up taquito and place, seam down, on the oiled baking sheet; repeat until chicken is gone. Brush taquitos with vegetable oil on the top. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, then flip the taquitos over and let bake until golden brown. Serve with bleu cheese dressing (or sour cream & salsa if you're Kendell).

on Voting

Last week our city held early voting in the city building, which is attached to the library. I loved that week. With people waiting in line for so long (sometimes 2+ hours) to vote, there was an enormous increase of people in the library. A busy library makes me happy because honestly, it's sometimes not busy enough, which makes me sad (because we have a great library) and anxious (because I want to keep working here). 

But it also made me a little bit sardonic. Because every time I needed to walk into the city side of the building, a line from a Sheryl Crow song would start repeating itself in my head:

The good people of the world are washing their cars on their lunch breaks, hosing and scrubbing the best they can in skirts and suits.

I know. That's weird, right? But it also makes sense in my head. Because it just seems so passionately good, voting early. Not waiting for the last minute because seriously, how do you decide? It made me feel a little bit jaded, looking at all those earnest voters. "Really?" I wanted to ask them. "Really? You really believe what any politician says enough to stand in line and then cast your vote?"

Because honestly: there are only a few things I believe that politicians will do. Like I totally believe Romney when he says that he's going to "open up" America's natural resources. YES! Bring on the fracking-induced poisoning, I can't wait for that. Great choice! And I absolutely believe Obama when he says he wants to continue "moving forward." More debt! Sign me up!

But the good things they're all promising to deliver? I don't believe them.

I’m not really sure what’s happened to me. In previous elections I’ve been, if not an early voter, at least a hopeful one. With this election? I’m not hopeful. I’m stripped of hopeful. And that, apparently, makes me feel cynical. Cynical and exhausted.

I just don’t have the energy of those hopeful early voters. I know: voting is my civic duty. It is a privilege. It should make me feel powerful, but it really makes me feel voiceless. Neither of the candidates want to take my country in a direction I want it to go. For me, voting (and I will vote tomorrow, regardless of my political malaise) doesn’t feel like choosing anything other than which path we will take into our own destruction.

My Favorite Olympic Moments

I love summers that include the Olympics. Even though it wrecks havoc with my sleep schedule (I stayed up until midnight or one in the morning for almost all two weeks), the Olympics makes me happy. The camaradarie! The athletic prowess! The stories & snippets & updates!

I love it.

Here are my favorite moments from the London Olympics:

Dana Vollmer winning the gold in the 100m butterfly. This was the woman whose cap came off but she still won. What I loved, though, was just how sincerely happy she looked to win, rather than one of those "of course I won" sort of faces. She was my favorite swimmer. 

The women’s synchronized diving pair winning a silver medal. Dare I confess that I had never watched synchronized diving before? I know! Watching them spin and flip together...beautifully amazing. Having done a few spins and flips back in the day, I cannot figure out how they get it together. I would’ve loved this event even if no American team had medaled, so their silver made it one of my favorite events.

Nathan Adrian winning gold by 1/100th of a second in the 100 freestyle. You know how you respond to a certain sort of face in different ways? This swimmer’s face—all beamy-smiled and open—made me love him before he even got in the water. When I watched this race I was literally jumping up and down in front of my TV yelling at him (in an encouraging tone!) to swim faster.

Oscar Pistorius’s two 400 meter runs. This is the runner from South Africa who runs on two prosthetic legs. I watched both of them with tears streaming down my face and even writing about it gives me a lump in my throat. I think I have this response because I think about Kendell a lot when I'm running. Because of his hip replacement, he can't go running with me. (And let's face it: even if he could run we would never be able to run together because he'd be much faster.) I know it bothers him and he misses being able to run and I wish I could fix it for him. I can't imagine not being able to run so quite often when I'm out running and I'm tired, the thought that Kendell would love to be able to run is one that keeps me going. It made me cry because even though it doesn't fix anything for Kendell, Pistorius's run showed that medical advancements do help some people. (I teared up again when his team ran the relay.) And then when Kirani James swapped numbers with him! (Signifying that the faster runner held the utmost respect for the slower.) This was one of my favorite moments because it showed that conceit and bravado are not the only responses a winning athlete need show.

The beam and floor exercise event finals. Almost every single gymnastics event was spoiled for me by the Internet. I tried HARD to just stay offline but sometimes at work I couldn't avoid opening up a browser and then whammo! getting hit by yet another spoiler. I knew Gabby Douglas messed up on her bars and that McKayla Maroni sat down her vault before I watched the events. (I still watched them.) But the beam and floor event finals were, somehow, saved from the effects of the Internet. I watched them right in a row (they happened on the same night), skipping whatever events happened in between (hooray for DVRs!). When Aly Raisman finished her beam routine, and the scores were going to be close, I said "she's not going to get it" and I was almost right—this was the event when the American coaches contested the score, and the US gymnast barely beat, by virtue of a tie-breaking rule, the Romanian Catalina Ponor for bronze because of it. I was happy for Aly (who, after all, didn't get a bronze in the all-around because of another tie-breaking rule) but so devastated for the Romanian. So when I watched the floor exercise, I almost didn't care that Raisman also got a gold. I mean, I was happy for her. She was my favorite gymnast anyway. Go USA! But I wanted Ponor to win a medal, too. Partly because of that lost beam bronze. But also, I confess, because she's 24 years old and seriously: that is old in gymnastics. That's like 87 in gymnastics years. Plus her leotard was the prettiest.

Any track event run by Allyson Felix. Not only was she fun to watch, she seems so gracious. The two runners who gloated about beating Lolo Jones in the 100m didn't make me like them—at all. But Felix seemed so kind about winning. So un-braggy, even though she put in the work to win. That, to me, is what makes a great athlete: graciousness.

No, really. Whether you win or lose, I think you should do it with grace. Compare, for example, McKayla Maroni's lack of grace when she won the silver medal for vault with Morgan Uceny's agony when she tripped during the 1500m final. Maroni's refusal to shake the hand of one of her competitors and then her "not impressed" face did not impress me. Certainly she should have done better and will probably have dreams about that vault for the rest of her life. But the way she acted when she lost made it feel like it was someone else's fault, somehow. When Uceny fell during her race, she abandoned herself to despair with a fulness of purpose that doubled my own tears for her. (What can I say: I tend to cry a lot when I watch stuff.) She pounded on the track and wept and you could tell it wasn't out of disappointment for "only" getting a silver. It was sheer, unadulterated grief that felt sincere instead of whiny. The tumble meant that she didn't get the chance to show the world what she could do, but her reaction to it showed the depth of her dedication.

Equally bitter was the Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang's grief. He was favored to win the 110m hurdles during the Beijing Olympics but an Achilles injury stopped him. This Olympics that same injury came back to haunt him, and he fell by hitting the very first hurdle. Then he hopped---he hopped!---the length of the race where he stopped to kiss the last hurdle, and then other athletes came to help him. This, in fact, might have been the most moving moment for me of the entire Olympics, both because of his courage and because of those other athletes helping him. 

Which really sums up the entire Olympics experience from my perspective: I like it when underdogs win. I like to watch the stories behind the athletes. I like seeing people be rewarded for their hard work. But of all possible athletic prowess, from speed to agility to strength to skill, the one that impresses me most is graciousness, win or lose.

Which were your favorite Olympic moments?

on Free Birth Control

Remember back in April how I was having all sorts of I-feel-icky troubles? I was nauseous for an entire month. Then I finally figured out what was making me feel puke-ish: when my birth control prescription needed to be renewed, I’d taken it to a different pharmacy and they’d given me a different generic—Qasense instead of my usual Jolessa. And even though generics are supposed to be identical, apparently in this case, not so much. I had to fight with my insurance (because I’d only used one month of a three-month supply) to go back to the original brand (which is itself a generic for Seasonale), but the relief was immediate: the morning after I switched I woke up feeling like a blackness had left my body.

And although that experience was a bit of karmic payback—I always did a secret eyeroll whenever I heard other women talking about how their birth control pill made them sick; I sort of thought it was just all in their heads until it happened to me—I’m telling that story for a different reason.

A few weeks ago I got a letter from my insurance company telling me that Jolessa was being moved from the lowest tier co-pay to the highest, and then there was some sort of something about other brands being cheaper, and I sort of just couldn’t deal with it right then so I ignored it. But then I watched the news yesterday and the light bulb went off: It all has to do with the new health insurance mandate about health insurance companies being required to provide free birth control (among other things).

Amazing! (That’s not really the word I’m saying in my head.) Because of free birth control, my birth control costs just tripled.

Or I can take the other option: switch to the "free" generic and pay with months (or an eternity!) of nausea and an annoyed uterus. (Because despite what anyone tells you---turn your head if you're a squeamish boy---switching brands does cause spotting & break-through bleeding & cramping. Wheee!)

Don’t get me wrong. I know that women are unfairly represented in the medical world, including insurance. For a long time, some insurances would pay for Viagra but not the Pill. One day you should ask me how I feel about postpartum hospital stays. Health insurance is expensive, co-pays sting, it’s hard to meet your deductible. It’s hard to pay for medical costs. (Remember...Kendell’s had three enormous, expensive surgeries over the past five years, and even with insurance it’s still cost a lot.) Insurance companies don’t exist to help people, they exist to make money. And I’ve also been on the other side, without insurance, which is exponentially worse. I know that nothing related to medical costs is fair.

But where in the world did we invent the idea that we shouldn’t have to pay anything? That the cost for a service or a product should be nothing? And how does anyone believe that government mandates are going to influence insurance companies? They won’t. The insurance companies are still going to make obscene amounts of money. (Yes! They, too, are filthy rich!) The entity that is going to bear the brunt of the "free" reproductive health services is people. Everyday people, but not the ones who might need the most help—the ones without any health insurance. This is only "helping" those of us who have insurance already.

In case you’re thinking "quit whining, Amy, at least you have insurance," let me point out that insurance isn’t free. We do make sacrifices order to pay for our insurance; if I had free insurance I could use that money for things like college funds and dance lessons and maybe a vacation that’s nicer than our usual cheap-everything trip to Disneyland every few years. Back in May, when I was still wrestling with that horrible nausea, I went to a meeting at Kendell’s work because his health insurance options were changing and I needed to figure out which one to choose. As I sat in that interminable meeting (4+ hours) I had a chance to think about just how much we pay for our insurance benefits. You tend to think that because it’s coming through an employer it’s not as expensive. But I realized: we pay a lot every month for our health insurance. I’m not sure it’s much less than a private policy. We pay to have access to doctors and then we pay co-pays as well. There’s no free ride.

If the free birth control is the cheapest possible generic, let’s extend the concept. What kind of quality will we be receiving from our free Pap smears and mammograms? Insurance companies aren’t going to scrimp on meds because they want to splurge on procedures. They are going to do whatever they can to make money. And I, for one, would rather pay my regular co-pays and feel like I’m getting better health care than to take the free stuff and worry about the quality.

What do you think?

Filthy Rich

A few weeks ago, the friend of a friend called me a bigot in a Facebook thread. Obviously this little jibe has stuck in my throat because almost two months later it's still bothering me. This happened in a discussion about THIS ARTICLE, which describes Mitt Romney's charitable acts. Don't get me wrong: I am grateful that he is one of those charitable sorts of ridiculously wealthy men. More ridiculously wealthy men should be like him.

But I don't think the fact that he is ready and willing to help those less fortunate than him (all 99% of America) negates the other fact: he is filthy rich. It was that term, in fact, that caused the "bigot" label to be stuck on me. In my comment, I was trying to point out a contrast I've actually previously written about: the difference between sympathy and empathy. Of course Mitt can sympathize with those of us who have actually had to worry about how we'll make our mortage payments or manage to pay off that looming medical bill. He probably feels sorry for us. He can (and does!) reach into his pocket and help people out. But he will never, ever be able to empathize. He will never be able to know how it feels to be filled with the terror of a very-real prospect of losing everything. Or even the less-dramatic moments, like when losing $100 feels like the end of the world . The sting of a dentist's bill or the derailment that happens when a car breaks down or the washing machine needs to be replaced.

He can have sympathy for us poor working schmucks but he will never have empathy because he has never been in our shoes. 

"But does that mean that only a person from a working-class upbringing would make a good president?" my friend asked. (I imagine she was trying to smooth out the bigoted wrinkles.) Of course not. There is an argument to be made about a man who runs his business so well that he's achieved that sort of wealth. A brilliant financial mind is something our country obviously desperately needs. And really, we don't want someone ordinary to be our president. We want someone extraordinary, right?

"But does his wealth mean he can't relate to average Americans?" she pushed me further. (Can you tell she is a teacher?) Most of me immediately says yes, it does. The problems and troubles of an average American have never been his problems and troubles, so how can he know how to help? Of course, that's not allowing for the power of either sympathy or imagination, which is what the very smallest part of my response builds on, the part that says no, his wealth doesn't keep him from relating because we are all, wealthy or not, still human beings.

To my mind, that article extolling Romney's financial graciousness is an attempt to make him seem like he's more like me. More like your average American, willing to step in and help out his neighbor. All of which makes me think, really? Really? Mitt Romney (and, frankly, nearly any politician I can imagine) is nothing like me. If I had any extra, I'd be willing to put down money on the fact that he's never wondered about his worth when he's looked at the contrast between himself and others. (I've been known to feel like wealthy people must be more deserving of the abundance they have, as if financial status is proof that all of life is us playing a big round of sibling rivalry, with God giving the most to the people he loves best. Even though I don't really think it works that way. Usually.) He hasn't agonized over how to pay for college for his kids or worried that the pressure to get good grades (and thus qualify for scholarships) might be breaking them with unforseen consequences. He's never gotten a stomach ache over spending too much at Walmart.

Or probably even shopped at Walmart.

The solutions to my problems are things like "maybe I should go back to work full time" or "what expenses can I cut from _____ so I can pay for _______?" The solutions to his problems are things like "the cabin on the Canadian shores of Lake Huron" and "let's just build an elevator for all the cars." How could a person like that ever relate to me? 

I stand by my label of "filthy rich," however, and its implications that it is somehow morally wrong for a person to be wealthy. I do that within the context of the label that stranger gave me: bigotry. A bigoted person is one who is "biased beforehand" or, in other words, makes a decision based on a lack of knowledge; the bigoted are "obstinately and blindly attached or unreasonably devoted to some creed, opinion, or party" and are "intolerant towards other groups." (At least, that's the part of the OED definition that applies.) Another good definition is this one: "a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance" (from Merriam Webster). Calling the term "filthy rich" bigoted is implying that the wealthy are a racial or ethnic group that needs protection from hatred or intolerance. I suppose I missed the politically-correct meeting wherein we all decided that the wealthy are a minority group? Or that my bitterness about not being in with the wealthy means I have hatred for them?

But deeper and more important than political correctness is that I am not basing my "filthy rich" label on a lack of knowledge. In my own life experiences I have met plenty of wealthy people who believe their wealth makes them better than others. They spend on themselves without regard for others. I'm also not blindly attached to that knowledge, as I'll readily admit I know a few wealthy people who don't let it go to their heads and who do good things with their money. Does that make me intolerant towards the wealthy? Perhaps, but I don't think so, and here's why: it isn't such a clean dividing line between wealthy and poor. Mitt Romney might be the candidate with gobs of money, but the 80% of us Americans who don't live below or very near to the poverty line are also complicit. I don't have an elevator for my cars, but I am still filthy rich. I have an air-conditioned home with food in the cupboards. My children all have shoes and sweatshirts and toothbrushes. We have a computer and a TV and cell phones, a health insurance plan and a green and grassy yard with shade trees and flowers and birds, while 20% of our population doesn't, and then when you stop to consider the rest of the entire world it all just seems impossibly screwed up.

I don't know what the answer is to our financial problems. I know I believe in working for what you need (a fishing pole instead of a fish), not getting government handouts. I also believe it is immoral that people are struggling with poverty and homelessness and hunger while others live the fabulous life. Maybe it isn't a problem that can be solved by humanity. I am hopeful that, despite their wealth and how it makes them unable to relate to the average American, politicians might figure something out. But I also know this without question:

We are (almost) all of us filthy rich.