Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Starting small

This month's Who Needs It? Challenge is to Start Small in de-cluttering.
I decided that, given my forced pause in de-cluttering the house, now was a great time to start small and feel accomplished that I got SOMETHING done at least.

I opted to start with my dryer and the shelves above it. Here's the before pictures.

Above the dryer on the top shelf are a folded, clean t-shirt, a bell.a band, a paperback book, my wide brim black with glitter hat, a baby fedora. On the lower shelf is a bag sling someone gave us when the kid was born (I think these are deemed unsafe now, I deemed it unsafe when we put her in it once, somehow it stayed at my in-laws and they helpfully gave it to us when Little Monster arrived), a lone brown knit mitten, and a Quiet Book which is hiding a small fabric toy sheep. You can also see a reusable grocery bag that was washed some time ago and hung up to dry and just behind it is a sweatshirt that's likewise been "drying" for months now.

Here's on top of the dryer itself.
We've got a bag of Rockin Green detergent, a box containing another bag of the same detergent, a box of store-branded bleach (note the censoring mitten hiding the brand, same mitten from the self above), a half full box of other detergent that we aren't using at all, a pair of the spouse's pants complete with belt that's sitting on top of a plastic tub containing some additional dirty laundry and the hair dryer (tub is meant to store socks in our closet).

I removed all the stuff that didn't belong in the laundry room anymore for starters and got the laundry put in a proper place (the washer or a basket of clean laundry, respectively). I then used the suddenly vacant shelf space to store the laundry soap and empty boxes plus some homeless stuff from the kitchen.

Here's the after picture, taken so you could see both areas at once.
Here you can see the soap and bleach are on the shelf, the hair dryer is also on the shelf since I don't have room upstairs for it in/near the bathroom, there's a box of baby bottles with lids that I'm not getting rid of yet (the red one), a plastic tub of pump parts I have decided I'm not getting rid of (yet) since they're my size and fit both major types of pumps, plus an empty small box and empty plastic tub. You can also see that the laundry that's hung up is stuff that is currently drying (wet bag, bibs, bag for laundering undergarments that are also drying) rather than that grocery bag and sweatshirt. The top of the dryer is EMPTY which makes me very happy.

Feelings: I really like it that this space is uncluttered. It's soothing to have usable space. I even cleaned the top of the dryer so it's sparkly and everything. I imagine that when I'm out of town I'll move the soap back down to the dryer but only one package. This space is also small enough that I can keep it clean. Any clutter that wanders in can be voted out quickly and returned to its actual home because this is meant to be an empty space.

For my next small space, I'm considering the dining room cupboard top. I'd like to put some of the dining room plants back up there so the cat quits eating them but it means creating a better cat-invasion-prevention barrier than a wall of empty cans. Zie previously would swish the cans down with a swipe of a paw or tail and then hop up to chomp on the plants. At the least, the assortment of pharmacy journals and holiday cookie tins needs clearing out.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Faith and business

So I've been tiptoeing around the issue for some time, and it is time to have out with it.

I think it is a terrible crime that we are imbuing non-persons with person-like attributes. I think we in America should stop now.

Let's back up and consider when and how and to whom this refers.

Primarily I am concerned that businesses are not people and should not be treated like they are people. It also worries me when we assign potential people (embryos and fetuses) the rights of people because, well, not people. Embryos and fetuses certainly are closer to people than businesses though, and they ought to get their own discussion of personhood in another post.

Businesses. When I think of a business, I think of a group of people that provide a good or service others buy such that the group of people can get paid salaries and the purchasers get whatever it is they pay for. A friend of mine runs a business that has one regular employee (my friend) and occasionally it hires some other people but for the most part, it's just my friend doing business and keeping business separate from play by incorporating so it's clear what's business and what's fun (it's an event planning business). This friend's spouse works for a multinational corporation that employs thousands on several continents. Size and scale vary.

But let's talk faith for a moment. Faith is a word with a specific set of meanings. It is a belief in something with no justification or reason for that belief, a set of religious beliefs such as Islam, an obligation of loyalty (Johnny acted in good faith to mend the rift between the white hats and the black hats.), or a trust or confidence in the abilities or intentions of another person (I have faith that Johnny will be able to find the cat). Faith is a noun. That means that an agent is needed to have it because it's that certain kind of noun that gets possessed. But if you look at those examples, you'll note that people are the agents in all of them.

So faith is something people or groups of people have and isn't something that could be possessed by an inanimate object. My chair has no ability to have faith or to act in good faith. I'll make the case that animals can't have faith either because they aren't sentient actors. Animals are unable to possess ethereal things like faith or an idea of an afterlife by definition because they aren't people.

So this brings us around to businesses. A business is a construct for the purpose of making money and therefore because it isn't a person, it cannot possess faith. A business is made up of people who work for it but the business itself can't exhibit the characteristics of a person because it isn't a person. A business cannot love. A business cannot get married. A business can't get baptized or have a bar mitzvah or participate in any faith-originated sacred event. This means a business, in addition to not being a person, has no ability to participate in a faith and therefore isn't capable of having faith in the same way a person can. Can you bless or curse a business? Sure! But that makes the business the subject of a faith-based action rather than the actor in it.

This is where the rubber hits the road. Some business owners are mad that they have to pay for health insurance for their employees. I get that, but it's a cost of doing business if you are over a certain size. If we had a different system where we had a single payer model for healthcare, we'd charge businesses or people more and call it something different (or just call it a tax) to pay for health coverage at that time. Business comes with costs - you need to rent office space probably, you need to pay for supplies, you need to pay your employees fairly, you need to pay whatever else your local area charges businesses who incorporate. Businesses in the US also pay specific taxes that support the common welfare: medic.are and Soc,ial Secu.rity. There's no denying these are taxes and no pretending the business can have any say about how these programs play out once the business pays them.

Let's talk about the difference between owning a business and the business itself. If you own the business, you get to set the tone of the business. Check out corporate cultures as disparate as Costc.o and as some examples. One encourages unions, pays a living wage, and employs most people full time. The other discourages unions, pays minimum wage and sometimes holds food drives at its stores to help its employees make ends meet, and employs relatively few people full time. The owners and major shareholders of these companies shape these choices, and if you have a big company then obviously some of what happens locally differs from what the corporate central office imagines might happen. The owner(s) of the business are people and they are not the business, no matter how influential on the business they may be.

Let me hammer on that distinction again. Because businesses are not people, the people who own them cannot "be the business" no matter how much they influence the doings of the business or are the only one doing them. People remain people and businesses can never be people, therefore nobody can "be the business" and no person's attributes can all belong to the business because there are some things that are people-only.

Based on businesses not being people and the people who own businesses being unable to change that piece of semantics and hopefully reality, businesses can't have faith and therefore can't use faith as a reason not to pay for health care of a particular nature that the faith finds objectionable. For lots of reasons that are icky (another post!), we in America require by law that employers of a certain number of people pay for health insurance for employees. There is no faith in that whatsoever, just business. For some reason we have decided it's the employers' job to pay for this, and I won't argue the whole system is ridiculous, but it is what we have. Employers pay taxes that support those government programs and they have no control over what employees do with that tax money in the future. Requiring employers pay for yet another thing is just par for the course then.

The argument that because the owners of a business have certain faith-based beliefs, they shouldn't have to pay for very specific pieces of health care is ridiculous. The logistics are awful for one (defining the faith beliefs, determining if they are real or the employer being cheap or misogynistic, etc), the idea that what amounts to a tax that businesses get some say in how much to pay can be skipped entirely because of such a personal belief is just silly (who gets to skip taxes they don't like to pay? Nobody! Not even non-person businesses!), and it is impossible in my mind to set proper limits. For example, some faiths believe that blood transfusions are immoral and inappropriate. Can a business say they won't pay for blood transfusions, even if the employee needs and wants one to save her life? What about if a woman has an ectopic pregnancy and needs medication to resolve that but her employer has forbidden the use of very specific medications that are viewed as immoral? What about the case of the schizophrenic person whose faith says that all medications starting with the letter S are immoral who suddenly owns a company through inheritance? It's too messy to decide individually what's what, so it's best to just have the law be the law and be done with it. Pay for health insurance that meets minimum standards to prove it counts as health insurance or stop doing business (or be awful and cut your employee's hours so nobody is full time anymore and therefore nobody gets health insurance).

This lands me in a personal spot where there's this lovely pharmacy down the street that would be a nice place to do a rotation. The problem is a tip jar on the counter. It's for the local church-group-run crisis pregnancy center. I have several problems with this but what crosses the line for me is the presence of faith in a business. If the jar is on the counter, it means the business (and not its employees or owners) endorses it. Businesses have no place supporting one faith over another. I've worked in places where we had similar jars for the humane society or a nonprofit children's hospital or to support some local sick person in need of expensive care. I cannot in good conscience work in a place that allows faith to bleed into business like that, particularly because crisis pregnancy centers ARE NOT a place to get health care and if you are in a pharmacy, it suggests an endorsement of any health-related things advertised. Pharmacies should not advertise fake health care options because it is dangerous to do so. I think I would get sued if I told a cancer patient I refused to order their chemo medication because they ought to just die instead of going against G*d's will. I wish we recognized that this faith-based intrusion is just as inappropriate as refusing to fill a prescription for contraception (as a business, remember, not a word about individual pharmacist ethical choices based in a personal faith in this post).

Business is about money. Using the "faith of the business" is logically faulty and very likely an excuse to avoid paying more to employ people, or as a way to show off how faithful the owners are to their friends. Don't accept the idea that businesses can have faith and should act on that faith. It's bogus.

Monday, February 3, 2014


I have mentioned before that one of my good friends is dying of cancer, sooner than later. So far the news is bad but not worst and there's no real sense for how long she has.

Firstly, thanks a million to everyone who's commiserated with me. It is awful and it hurts my heart to know her family (4 kids, oldest is 12) will be without her too soon.

It's been very moving to hear how positive she is though, despite knowing her prognosis. She's just stayed so hopeful and thankful for every day she gets. It's a great reminder that this life can be way too short and that today is pretty awesome, no matter what mess is happening.

So I made this irrational and expensive choice this afternoon that I'm going in person to visit her and her family for a few days. Little Monster is going to come with too. This means flying and renting a car and oh my scary but important.

We also decided that instead of birthday presents, Little Monster is requesting donations to my friend to help her afford the expenses that come with leaving the hospital when she's ready/able/allowed. Right now she's been in for a couple weeks and she's lost all below the waist motor function so she'll need a variety of things to be able to be home.

My kid is considering doing the same for her upcoming birthday too. Often I feel like she is in this totally selfish phase and then she wants to send all her "give to others" money to my friend to help her out and is considering skipping birthday gifts to help too. Sneaky surprising kids, learning things when we aren't looking.

I'm hoping that I'm being sensible and choosing a priceless opportunity over most of a month's rent. In the long term a little more debt is a drop in the bucket (that's a depressing thought... oof...) and this is it. There is no other time beyond this to go visit.

I read this interesting piece about this couple and their bunch of cats and I was reminded of the time we decided to spend a couple months' worth of rent on fixing up our cat. The broken jaw cost us thousands to repair plus hundreds in fancy food and meds after the surgery, but zie is a happy and healthy cat today 3.5 years later and I'm absolutely glad we spent that money. I guess it's an important factor to consider what we're getting from our loving relationships (even with our pets) as compared to what we're getting out of our financial stability.

In the long run, am I going to regret splurging and going to see my friend one last time? Nope. It's worth the leap to ditch financial solvency and to go see her. Sometimes it's worth it to save your cat even if it costs thousands. Visiting with Little Monster's awesome auntie is priceless and I'm glad I decided to take the leap and I intend to be glad every time I'm eating rice and beans in the coming months to pay for it. I'll probably be crying too but that's a side effect that's unavoidable.