October 18th, 2013

Daily Activities Include: couch arrived

It was a tricky morning. We had a couch due to be delivered between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. T. usually gets on the van around 8 a.m. I usually go for a walk around 10 a.m. I drop A. off at school at 8:45ish. You can sort of imagine my concerns. Normally, R. would have Friday off and be available to cover for the delivery, but he had a dentist appointment in Nashua at 9 a.m.

Fortunately, the couch arrived shortly before 8 a.m.; the only issue was there was a little driveway overflow with T.'s van pickup.

We love the couch. Well, A. and I love the couch. The living room looks like a living room now, rather than half family room/half overflow dining room/spare furniture storage. We had been thinking we'd need to do a big furniture rearrange, but now, not so much. It's just perfect.

Over time, we will still want to replace the piano (three keys don't work and we have it on piano tuner authority that this is Not a Repairable Action). But I'm going to contemplate for a bit before proceeding.

Home Ec

Technically, I could probably be considered a stay-at-home mother. I do _not_ think of myself as one; I identify as "retired". Technically, I could be considered a home-maker: I do sh*t like cleaning (as little as possible, and hire someone else to do the things that generate a lot of complaining), decorating, decluttering, family schedule management, laundry, cooking, baking, wtf. But I _do not_ identify as a "home-maker". I do, however, value having a nice living environment, and I generally prefer to do some amount of stuff myself, because I have trouble buying substitutable goods/services on the open market. For example, it's damn hard to find baked goodies in my area that have no milk products, so I bake (in Seattle, I also baked, but I also bought vegan brownies and similar). This type of thing can be expanded upon, but in general, if it was possible to buy whole grain, low sodium, dairy free cake/pie/cookies/etc., I'd probably entirely stop baking. The same goes double (or triple) for virtually all cooking. I was buying a ton of pre-made entrees (frozen or at the counter at Roche Bros.), but the sodium eventually got to me, and I started cooking again when I had the time and energy.

There have _been_ feminists who grasped that the only way to open the shackles bringing women as a whole down would be to replace the services women are expected to provide the family (hauling water and fuel, cooking, cleaning and caring for children, the sick and the aged). Mostly, those feminists had in mind socialist or communitarian replacements. What we got in practice was McDonald's, Merry Maids, natural gas, municipal water and sewer, FMLA, social security and Medicare. There's a lot of work left to be done.

Some of that work can be done by other people in the household, but honestly, as long as the adult female in the household is the most skilled and most motivated to keep things up and running, she's stuck providing project management and honestly, that's almost half the work now anyway. Not Much of a Solution. But points to Jezebel for understanding that part of the problem. Adults (not all, but mostly male) who can't do the basics of making a domestic life for themselves need to Step Up Their Game.

http://jezebel.com/be-a-goddamn-adult-learn-to-cook-1447153381

But everything else that article refers to? Embedded links include:

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/10/why-home-ec-class-should-be-mandatory

and

http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/10/12/bring-back-home/EJJi9yzjgJfNMqxWUIEDgO/story.html

Look, Graham is in New Hampshire; we know all those fuckers are a bunch of white, heterocentric reactionaries who lack any real capacity to contemplate anything other than a market solution to a problem. When things get hinky and they can't keep their driveways cleared in the wintertime, they move to Maine. Boston in general suffers from a milder form of the same disease; it's hardly surprising the Globe published a piece arguing in favor of Education in Better Living as a solution to structural problems of poor service provision, income inequality and other inequities. _Those_ assholes have been doing that for over a hundred years; the daughters of the drug running brahmins used to Do Good by telling all the Catholic immigrants to quit eating tomatoes and pasta and learn how to prepared a decent boiled dinner.

It's less clear what Phillpott's excuse is. He's writing in _Mother Jones_. How the _hell_ did a left wing rag get sucked into the furthest reaches of the right wing, advocating for family based solutions to society-wide problems.

If your solution is to teach everybody how to navigate through the tiny, cramped path the market provides to healthy, affordable, Good Stuff, then you are a Tool. You should be applying some thought to regulating the market to produce better choices, so when we all go out for fast food -- because that's all we have the time, money and other resources for -- at least it doesn't kill us with fat, sodium and a conspicuous dearth of green options.

ETA: For what it is worth, I _love_ the idea of more and more men being the ones to drive domestic maintenance and projects, including child care. But that's ultimately the same kind of solution for domesticity as addressing the problem of grooming demands on women by having young men spend as much time and money on grooming as young women. It's equality -- sort of. I'm okay with the idea of one's appearance being a source of personal satisfaction, even a sort of hobby, and I'm okay with domesticity -- right down to spinning and weaving and making your own candles -- as a hobby. But if we see a society wide manifestation of problems, we shouldn't be fixing it through domesticity education. Well, if we _are_ going to fix it through domesticity education, we'd better be prepared to back it up with a _lot_ of transfer payments to account for the time and energy demands of implementing the domesticity program. Otherwise, this kind of thing looks very much like those budgets one of the fast food chains put together to show you could live on what they pay their employees.

That all aside, it may make sense to have the public school system explicitly teach things like financial management, household budgeting, financial planning and similar. But I don't see the specifics identified in the articles mentioned as relevant to those goals.

"But imagine a home ec that taught basic skills like how to prepare a simple pureed vegetable soup, whip up a quick, easy, and much-cheaper-than-bottled salad dressing, or stock up a pantry with inexpensive bulk staples?"

I _don't_ make pureed vegetable soup because I don't _eat_ pureed vegetable soup. I am wildly unconvinced that my home-made salad dressing is that much cheaper than bottled -- at least not in a way that makes any kind of bottom line difference. And there is no point stocking a pantry with inexpensive bulk staples without knowing how to cook them. I think it might make more sense to structure the class to involve the kids in what to learn how to cook, as a way of teaching kids learning new cooking skills. Part of school is about learning specific things; part of school is developing lifetime learning strategy and tactics. So any list of specifics is going to sound ludicrous to a lot of people -- but most people are going to eat some number of meals at home, typically breakfast, and it makes sense to help them make healthier and/or thriftier choices within those parameters. It also makes sense to teach kids how to read labels, and participate in the political process of improving those labels and disclosure of nutritional information in restaurants.

I could go on, but I'm fairly certain that once you start thinking about what the school system could do to help out in this important part of life and the living of it, you can imagine the possible content of a "home ec" or FCS curricula -- and how dramatically that diverges from what the above references articles describe.

(Seriously: low interest credit cards? Everyone uses debit now anyway.)

(I keep telling myself I am _not_ a hypocrite for writing this, just because I've been poking around trying to buy a particular varietal? of hard red wheat berries for a couple years now. Having recently abandoned any real hope of getting Turkey Red, I'm now trying to get Red Fife -- but continuing to fail. Which is a bummer. But just because _I_ have a ridiculous hobby involving wheat berries and a Nutrimill doesn't mean that the average household should be making their own bread. We all know what lies down that path: bread machines collecting dust on kitchen counters or in storage. I have other ridiculous hobbies, too.)