the Life and Times of Warrior Woman

blonde recluse. nihilarian pronk.

Archive for August 2012

“that’s just not possible.”

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I met with a high-school friend this week.  I haven’t seen her since January 2007.  I could probably give you a more precise date, but I’d need to dig through my e-mail for that, and I’m currently avoiding my inbox.

I wanted to meet up with her in February that same year.  I called her about two days before I was due to leave to the States.  She said she couldn’t meet with me.  I said good bye and wished her luck with whatever it was that was taking her from the city.

I left to the States, in search of something.  I came back, three and a half months later.

I never initiated contact again.

I was pissed.

Not just at her.

At the world in general.

I was pissed at my friends back in the States.  I had a hard time finding a job (admittedly not very legal).  When a place opened up at a café where I knew I’d be hired, my roommate/ friend, who knew I needed a job and would get hired for that opening, recommended another person for the job.

If you think the person was doing a gracious lawful thing of not permitting an alien on a no-work visa break the thoughtful American law, think again.  Said person was working illegally in two places. 

So I had to leave.  I ran out of money, have already asked my mum for five money transfers just to support my little stint.  Bought return ticked with the sixth, came back home.

Father didn’t even come out of his room to greet me.  Kept telling everyone I was home ‘on holiday’.

So I was pissed.

Prior to my leave a young man I was desperately in love with contacted me with a ‘hey how have you been’.  Turned out after about three messages he really needed some musical equipment that could only be purchased in the US.  Also turned out said equip weighed like three tonnes.  Also turned out he didn’t have the money for it.  Thought I’d pay for it.

So I was pissed.  At everyone.

And I kind of just… vegetated. 

For years.

So when I met up with my high-school fried a few days ago and she’s asked me what I’ve been up to and I answered, “Nothing,” – I meant it.

Okay, she asked.  Then what’s happened to me during those years.  Things happen.

Nothing, I said.  Nothing happened.

“That’s not possible.  Five years have passed.  Something must’ve happened.”

But nothing really did.

Nothing happens to me.

I’m boring.

Alright, she said.  But that’s still not possible.

And I suppose she’s right.  That it’s not possible.

Things have happened.  But they’re not things one would readily talk about.

Or they’re things that make one look like an arse.

Or they’re the little things that mean the world to you, but look like nothing for everyone else.

Since 2007 (2006, really), I’ve had existential and religious crises.  Took more photos than I care to admit, but published maybe 200.  Lost two cats.  Became a licensed MUA and manicurist (terribly out of practice, though, and practice in these professions is everything).  Wrote probably a thousand blog posts.  Got interested in green living and environmental issues.  Watched many episodes of television shows, read many pages of books, fanfics, magazines, possibly twice as many blog posts.  Watched movies, wrote about movies, never shared what I wrote about movies.  Started a novel, scrapped it.  Got a job, lost a job.  Resurrected a bar, closed a bar.  Got into uni, dropped out of uni, got into another uni.  Gained what possibly is 100 pounds.  Sold loved books and clothes so I could feed myself, my family, and cats.

Lost two cats.  Adopted one.

Found out that I’d rather be alone for weeks than spend two minutes with people who do not interest me.

Found out that the number of people who interest me is decidedly small.

Found out that the number of people who are interested in me is even smaller.

Found out that I’ve memory for things no one gives two figs about, which makes for interesting conversation in a form of many awkward silences.

Got a job.  Lost a job.

Bought a new computer with money I made on that job.

Found out about mother’s illness.

Lost grandmother.

Gave up on a dream.  For time being.

Developed another dream.

But one doesn’t talk about these things in a conversation over a bloody latte with a person one hasn’t seen for five years.

We ended up talking about cats, mostly.  And when it wasn’t about cats, she did the talking.  She’s a busy person with a career and a life.  Seminars, workshops, new people, new friends, new places.

If you’re wondering, I am not bitter.  With an exception of some very devastating circumstances, I am happy with where I am right now.

I am still not interested in most people.

And even more people are still not interested in me.

Have I started oversharing yet?  Have I crossed the line between sharing and oversharing again?

Written by Alexandra

25 August 2012 at 4:30 pm

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just read: nickel and dimed.

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(General disclaimer: Even though I tag posts ‘book reviews’, I blatantly lie. I don’t write reviews, rather, I write long rambles or short notes on what the book made me think about. I’m not a critic and am usually very bad at outlining weak and strong points.  I’m also a bad reader, and unless the book is on a subject that currently interests me very deeply, I will have forgotten its contents in less than a month.)

“Or maybe it’s low-wage work in general that has the effect of making you feel like a pariah. When I watch TV over my dinner at night, I see a world in which almost everyone makes $15 an hour or more, and I’m not just thinking of the anchor folks. The sitcoms and dramas are about fashion designers or schoolteachers or lawyers, so it’s easy for a fast- food worker or nurse’s aide to conclude that she is an anomaly- the only one, or almost the only one, who hasn’t been invited to the party. And in a sense she would be right: the poor have disappeared from the culture at large, from its political rhetoric and intellectual endeavors as well as from its daily entertainment. Even religion seems to have little to say about the plight of the poor, if that tent reviva l was a fair sample. The moneylenders have finally gotten Jesus out of the temple.”

Nickel and Dimed, On (not) Getting by in America is a much-praised book by Barbara Ehrenreich.  I’ve been meaning to read it for a few years, ever since I’ve first heard about it.  It’s fairly short – I thought it much longer – so I read it in a couple of sittings in the span of three days.

The book describes Ehrenreich’s adventure in the shoes of a blue-collar worker.  For two years she’s left her life as a journalist and a writer to live “undercover” as a minimum-wage serving personnel.  She’s done various jobs – from waitressing to housecleaning to sales to serving food in an Alzheimer’s ward – in different states.  The account is very interesting indeed, and I’ve picked up a lot of new information.  I never knew, for example, that bathroom breaks were only federally mandated in the USA in April 1998.  Reads a footnote:

Until April 1998, there was no federally mandated right to bathroom breaks. According to Marc Linder and Ingrid Nygaard, authors of Void Where Prohibited: Rest Breaks and the Right to Urinate on Company Time (Cornell University Press, 1997), "The right to rest and void at work is not high on the list of social or political causes supported by professional or executive employees, who enjoy personal workplace liberties that millions of factory workers can only dream about…. While we were dismayed to discover that workers lacked an acknowledged right to void at work, [the workers] were amazed by outsiders’ naïve belief that their employers would permit them to perform this basic bodily function when necessary. . . . A factory worker, not allowed a break for six-hour stretches, voided into pads worn inside her uniform; and a kindergarten teacher in a school without aides had to take all twenty children with her to the bathroom and line them up outside the stall door while she voided."

Furthermore, I was more or less aware of the situation with the homeless worldwide.  But it never occurred to me how big the percentage of homeless people was in the USA, which is (I grudgingly admit) a superpower.  Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter and a related footnote:

It’s not hard to get my coworkers talking about their living situations, because housing, in almost every case, is the principal source of disruption in their lives, the first thing they fill you in on when they arrive for their shifts. After a week, I have compiled the following survey:

Gail is sharing a room in a well-known downtown flophouse for $250 a week. Her roommate, a male friend, has begun hitting on her, driving her nuts, but the rent would be impossible alone.

Claude, the Haitian cook, is desperate to get out of the two-room apartment he shares with his girlfriend and two other, unrelated people. As far as I can determine, the other Haitian men live in similarly crowded situations.

Annette, a twenty- year-old server who is six months pregnant and abandoned by her boyfriend, lives with her mother, a postal clerk.

Marianne, who is a breakfast server, and her boyfriend are paying $170 a week for a one-person trailer.

Billy, who at $10 an hour is the wealthiest of us, lives in the trailer he owns, paying only the $400-a- month lot fee.

The other white cook, Andy, lives on his dry-docked boat, which, as far as I can tell from his loving descriptions, can’t be more than twenty feet long. He offers to take me out on it once it’s repaired, but the offer comes with inquiries as to my marital status, so I do not follow up on it.

Tina, another server, and her husband are paying $60 a night for a room in the Days Inn. This is because they have no car and the Days Inn is in walking distance of the Hearthside. When Marianne is tossed out of her trailer for subletting (which is against trailer park rules), she leaves her boyfriend and moves in with Tina and her husband.

Joan, who had fooled me with her numerous and tasteful outfits (hostesses wear their own clothes), lives in a van parked behind a shopping center at night and showers in Tina’s motel room. The clothes are from thrift
shops. *

It strikes me, in my middle-class solipsism, that there is gross improvidence in some of these arrangements. When Gail and I are wrapping silverware in napkins – the only task for which we are permitted to sit – she tells me she is thinking of escaping from her roommate by moving into the Days Inn herself. I am astounded: how she can even think of paying $40 to $60 a day? But if I was afraid of sounding like a social worker, I have come out just sounding like a fool. She squints at me in disbelief: "And where am I supposed to get a month’s rent and a month’s deposit for an apartment?" I’d been feeling pretty smug about my $500 efficiency, but of course it was made possible only by the $1,300 I had allotted myself for start-up costs when I began my low-wage life: $1,000 for the first month’s rent and deposit, $100 for initial groceries and cash in my pocket, $200 stuffed away for emergencies. In poverty, as in certain propositions in physics, starting conditions are everything.

* I could find no statistics on the number of employed people living in cars or vans, but according to a 1997
report of the National Coalition for the Homeless, "Myths and Facts about Homelessness," nearly one-fifth
of all homeless people (in twenty-nine cities across the nation) are employed in full- or part-time jobs.

After all the years of reading up on the USA, talking to people online, and even visiting the country once, I still have trouble grasping the whole idea of a ‘trailer park’.  Perhaps the idea of ‘propiska’ (a stamp in a Citizen’s ID with an address of one’s official (as opposed to rented) place of living) is too much ingrained in my mind.  But a trailer is a mobile property and therefore cannot have a fixed address and therefore cannot be used as a propiska – ergo, a person living in a trailer is homeless.

The question of safety, especially women’s safety, is only mentioned in the book passingly, even though one can imagine that women, already a group at risk, are nowhere near safe sleeping in a truck.  In fact, this was the first thought that crossed my mind when I’ve read about one of the author’s coworkers ‘lodgings’.

Another thing that strikes me odd is urine drug testing.  Where I live (and this country is not a honey meadow) one only ever has to visit a substance abuse professional to get a driving license, and even then there’s no testing unless said SAP has any suspicions.

On the other hand, all servers, dishwashers, cooks, and salespeople (not to mention teachers, nannies, nurses, &c.) have to have a ‘medical book’.  A medical book is in essence a record of mandatory medical tests and visits.  If a job involves direct contact with people, one has to visit a dermatologist, gynecologist, and GP every three to six month (depends on the position), and have blood and urine tests and fluorography performed once a year.

And then there’s this odd discrepancy (and it’s mentioned later in the book) between being very nonchalant towards people hired to care for ill, aging, or differently abled, and the need to pee in a plastic cup before acquiring a sales-job in a chain store or pass a psychological evaluation to get a position as a maid.

The book, of course, doesn’t answer the question of how to live on a minimum wage in the States, or any other country for that matter.  It also doesn’t answer the question of what to do to escape the minimum wage jobs or help others escape them.  It wasn’t the book’s intention, I realise, but I can’t help but come out of reading with this bleak little feeling.  Wal-Mart still stands.  McDonald’s has opened its biggest restaurant in history this year.  Not-so-cheap motels with questionable living conditions abound, and no one has found the method of thriving on minimum wage, nor how to get out of it — all of these articles is arbitrary advice of praying (important and comforting), ‘starting small’ (not when there’s a car repair coming up and you’ve got one dollar to your name, no), downsizing and watching your lights (not very useful when you’re (borderline) homeless), having a grocery budget and thrift shopping.

All right, I made mistakes, especially in Minneapolis, and these mistakes were at the time an occasion for feelings of failure and shame. I should have pulled myself together and taken the better-paying job; I should have moved into the dormitory I finally found (although at $19 a night, even a dorm bed would have been a luxury on Wal-Mart wages). But it must be said in my defense that plenty of other people were making the same mistakes: working at Wal-Mart rather than at one of the better-paying jobs available (often, I assume, because of transportation problems); living in residential motels at $200 to $300 a week. So the problem goes beyond my personal failings and miscalculations. Something is wrong, very wrong, when a single person in good health, a person who in addition possesses a working car, can barely support herself by the sweat of her brow. You don’t need a degree in economics to see that wages are too low and rents too high.

The only economics class I ever took was back in 2001, and I wasn’t particularly interested, so I sat at the back and napped.  I kind of regret it now, though, because I still cannot understand why inflate prices until people are not able to pay for anything any longer.  Sure, the first to go are small businesses, but in the long run the stagnation will reach the infallible corporate monsters as well.  If, like the author states, one cannot afford a Walmart clearance shirt while working at Walmart…

There’s no punchline and no conclusion here. 

[..] I was warned that my purse could be searched by management at any time. I wasn’t carrying stolen salt shakers or anything else of a compromising nature, but still, there’s something about the prospect of a purse search that makes a woman feel a few buttons short of fully dressed. After work, I called around and found that this practice is entirely legal: if the purse is on the boss’s property – which of course it was – the boss has the right to examine its contents.

It is common, among the nonpoor, to think of poverty as a sustainable condition-austere, perhaps, but they get by somehow, don’t they? They are "always with us." What is harder for the nonpoor to see is poverty as acute distress: The lunch that consists of Doritos or hot dog rolls, leading to faintness before the end of the shift. The "home" that is also a car or a van. The illness or injury that must be "worked through," with gritted teeth, because there’s no sick pay or health insurance and the loss of one day’s pay will mean no groceries for the next. These experiences are not part of a sustainable lifestyle, even a lifestyle of chronic deprivation and relentless low- level punishment. They are, by almost any standard of subsistence, emergency situations. And that is how we should see the poverty of so many millions of low-wage Americans-as a state of emergency.

[..] When someone works for less pay than she can live on-when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently-then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The "working poor," as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else. As Gail, one of my restaurant coworkers put it, "you give and you give."

(Amazon links are affiliate links.)

Written by Alexandra

19 August 2012 at 7:44 pm

tucked.

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Whenever you look and wherever you look, there’d be a cat tucked in here somewhere.  I suppose to appreciate this you have to be a real cat person, especially when you come into the kitchen and realise that desk, counters, windowsill and all three chairs are occupied by these fiends, so the only place for you to sit is either on top of the fridge or on the floor.

Nevertheless, whenever I’m feeling stressed, all I have to do is wander out of my room to a more densely populated area, find a place to sit down, and watch them.

Lus was sitting in my lap as I was taking these photographs.

(This post was originally published on my old and obscure blog on 14 Jan 2012.)

Written by Alexandra

18 August 2012 at 4:57 pm

a walk in february.

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In the last days of February mum & I went for a small walk around the old part of Kish.  It was beastly cold, and I took only a few photos.  There’s a bunch more taken by mum.  Unfortunately, I have no idea where she put the camera, so this is going to be a two-part post.  This one is the short first part.

This particular building, my mum tells me, used to house the theatre costume shops.  When mum was a kid, she and her friends used to stand around looking into those windows (the ones behind the bars, below).  Sometimes the seamstresses would give them scraps of material for doll costumes and such.

It was a dreary day.

Twenty years ago, my late grandfather used to read lectures in this building.  Now it’s just a skeleton.

Insert some ‘two sides of one coin’ cheesy title here.  But it’s amazing, isn’t it?  How one side is well kept, and another one looks like it’s about to collapse?  Save for that shiny white balcony in there.  That one looks monumentally odd.

Such buildings is one of the main reasons I have so much trouble writing up regular posts for innermoldova.  It’s not for the lack of material or inspiration.  It’s because I seem to be incapable of writing something cheerful about the historical centre of Kishinev that isn’t entirely based on architecture and history books.  Reality, sadly, either looks like the photos above — or is mutilated into some odd semblance of modern buildings.  It seems that the birth of independence brought in death or total migration of the local school of conservation-restoration.

At the very least, most churches seem to be doing OK.

This is Saint Panteleimon’s Church.

It’s a comparatively old building, dating back to … 1891, I think.  Too lazy to go check my books.

I swear to God, when I first saw that sticker on the left, I thought it was one of those “we accept Visa &c” things.  SACRILEGE.  My mind is a blasphemous heathenish monster.

The picture quality is low, but I think the actual sticker informs us that the building is guarded by this or that security company.

When I was a teenager, I used to take violin lessons.  Very often before class and nearly always after I’d walk past this church to get home.  My class usually started way late in the afternoon, and since sometimes solfeggio, vocal, and even piano (I say ‘even piano’ because my prof was an early bird and preferred to have her classes in the morning hours.  Which is why as a teen I only had one day off during my week, if that.) classes were all aggregated in one day, I’d be heading home after dark during winter months.  And all these years ago ‘after dark’ sometimes meant ‘pitch dark’, because even central streets weren’t properly lighted.  And this church is eerie.  It really is!  So eerie in fact that it inspired me to write my old vampire epic.  Let me tell you, Twilight‘s got nothing on that masterpiece.  Too bad I never complete anything, so the story is forever stuck in its…  I think it’s a fourth revision/ draft.

Maybe when I’m 80, I’ll pick it up again and write Hindsight:  Vampires Ironically Reminisce Wild Nights of Eternal Yet Relative Youth.

Maybe not.

BIRDS.

Hitchcock would be envious.

And this is the last shot from that day.  Spot the odd sideways icicles!

(This post was originally posted 6 April 2011 on my old and obscure blog.  Published here with minor revisions.)

Written by Alexandra

13 August 2012 at 6:02 pm

currently trying to figure out: orthodoxy and evolution.

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One of my biggest problems with Christianity is burning Harry Potter books denial of evolution.  When I started my renewed foray into Orthodoxy, this was one of the first subjects constantly on my mind.

I still need to read more, but I’ve started, and I’ve started with the following:

Evolution on OrthodoxWiki

Orthodoxy and Creationism, an article by A. Kuraev

Earth, a Home for Life (also, resources links at the end of the article)

Orthodoxy on Faith and Science

Are Science and Religion Compatible?

Orthodoxy and Creationism (another article of such title)

I haven’t read all of these just yet; this is more of a reading list I want to get through during the next week.

recipe: le breakfast d’excellence.

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(tl;dr: scroll down to pictures for ingredients and ~method~)

I had thought that maybe the reason I didn’t feel hungry until late at night on both Monday and Tuesday was my being busy.  I rarely eat when I’m busy, quite often because I simply forget, and also because after eating I feel sluggish and want to lie down, which is not an option on busy days.  I’m more prone to consuming food when I’ve got nothing better to do, so even after a 15-hour day I wasn’t surprised to feel not even hungry, but peckish.  Today wasn’t the busiest day in the universe, but it wasn’t very laid-back either — yet there I was, ravenous and with a headache barely after noon.

I have an odd relationship with breakfasts.  I always try to eat one, and unless I have to be out the door at 5, I always succeed.  (Even when I have to be out the door at 5, I’ll probably eat something on the road.)  I could skip all other meals, but breakfast must always be present.  Yet I never really know what to have for breakfast.  I know I prefer savoury over sweet, but that’s about it.  Eggs are good, but not too good; porridge takes too much time to prepare and leaves an odd aftertaste; fruit feels more like a snack than a meal (though I’m getting over it); veggies I prefer for lunch…  My favourite is French toast, perhaps, but it slows me down considerably, so I try to only have that on weekends.

So on most mornings I end up with a sad commercial pseudo-yoghurt and a piece of buttered toast.  Which on a usual not-too-busy day means that I feel like hunting someone down to eat about three hours in.

Enter the Miracle Breakfast of Divine Pleasure and Wonder.

I had an avocado.  Avocados come at the price of kidneys here, so the paradox happens:  I rarely buy an avocado, and when I do, I take so long to decide what to do with it, I end up throwing half of it away, because it starts to rot.

This was how this breakfast came to be.  I remembered I had two avocados.  Both of them were quite ripe when I bought them, and instead of just making a guacamole the silly old me decided to look for something better.  As always, I never did, so when I fished them out of the bottomless pit of the fridge’s veggie compartment, I found out that they were quickly going past their prime.

Ingredients:

  • a sad overripe avocado (you need to be able to spread it easily)
  • a tomato
  • bread
  • goat cheese (here goat cheese is cheapest.  I know it’s not the case in many other places)
  • an egg (optional)
  • salt (optional)

Method:

0.  If you choose to have an egg, put it on the stove to boil the usual way.  (That’d be, place the egg in water, wait until it boils, and then cook to desired level, from 1 to 10 minutes.)

1.  As your optional egg cooks, slice the avocado in half, remove the pit, and scrape out the flesh.  Discard pit and skin (and all the bad parts if you, like me, have waited too long to eat the avocado).

2.  Slice tomato in 4-6 parts.

3.  Slice bread.

4.  Slice goat cheese.

5.  Spread avocado on bread.  Optional: salt a bit.  I skipped salting.

6.  Put a slice of goat cheese on top of avocado.

7.  Put a tomato on top of cheese.

8.  Repeat steps 5-7 until desired quantity of sandwiches is achieved, or until you run out of avocado/ bread/ other ingredient.

9.  Remove the optional egg from the stove and place it under cool water for 1-2 mins.

10.  Optional: Fight off the looming family members eyeing your precious breakfast.  Very optional:  Share.

11.  Eat.

What do you think, will I win some kitschy kitchen competition?  I think I’d need to garnish it with parsley and possibly some flowers fashioned from cucumbers first.

The plate above holds two (maybe even 3, depends on who’s eating) portions.  I find that 1/3 avocado, 1/2 tomato & 2-3 slices of bread and cheese each plus an egg is way more than enough for me.  Epic enough.  Not eating till Saturday enough.

So there you go.  A winning combo of good fat, good protein, fibre, and carbs.

(This post was originally published on my old and obscure blog on 14 September 2011.)

Written by Alexandra

9 August 2012 at 4:03 pm

candles and roses.

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candles edit

Written by Alexandra

7 August 2012 at 9:49 pm