Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Thursday Thirteen #296

What I value. President Joe Biden has said, "Don't tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I'll tell you what you value." That quote is top of mind for me because when I uploaded my financial documents for the accountant, I noticed I gave to 23 charities in 2022.* This list of the 13 organizations I gave the most to (listed highest to lowest) does say something about me.

1. My church.

2. The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation. No surprise if you read this blog very often. Anthony Rizzo is my favorite-most baseball player of all time, and I pledged to donate every time he hit a home run. He hit 32 in 2022 during one of his best seasons. 


The funds help families battling pediatric cancer, reimbursing costs not covered by health insurance -- parking and meals at the hospital, rent and mortgage, etc. In 2022 he also took kids on outings to amusement parks in Chicagoland and Florida, and on a shopping spree at the FAO Schwarz flagship store in New York, and catered meals for hospital workers in the pediatric wards. Rizz survived cancer himself as a teen and uses what he and his family endured to inform where the money goes.

3. Harmony House for Cats. Chicago has a lot of animal shelters. I've chosen to devote my greatest efforts to this one. They do great work, but they don't get a lot of publicity.

4. My local food pantry. Because these are my neighbors. In addition to monthly cash contributions, I also throw a non-perishable ($1.10 or less) into my cart every time I go grocery shopping. Today it was a can of green beans (on sale for 69¢). Anyway, by doing that, I'm able to bring a bag of food over to the pantry in person every month without even feeling the cost.

5. Feeding America. This national organization supports food pantries and meal programs all across the country.

6. Doctors without Borders. If you're like me, you see stories about Ukraine, or the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, and you wonder, "What can I do?" Through my monthly donation to DWB, I am helping provide aid.

7. Greenpeace. I do this for my late mother. She worried about the impact of climate change on endangered species.

8. Planned Parenthood. I am personally opposed to abortion. But that is a decision arrived at through my faith, and I don't expect -- nor do I want -- every woman to believe as I do. Legislating one faith's tenet over any other is very UNAmerican. Secondarily, I want every child born to be wanted, and every woman to have access to reproductive healthcare.

9. The Night Ministry. The homeless are our neighbors. The Night Ministry supports them with food, shelter, and medical care.

10. PAWS Chicago. PAWS stands for Pets Are Worth Saving. I believe that, and so I support this organization. More than 95% of the animals that enter PAWS survive.

11. Tree House Animal Foundation. This Chicago humane organization has great PR, deservedly so. They are a model for no-kill shelters nationwide.

12. Goodwill. In 2023, I have committed to carrying gently used items to Goodwill once a month. In 2022, most of my support for this organization was monetary and to the national organization. Next year I'd like to see this one fall out of the Top 13, with the cash replaced by contributions of my gently used STUFF.

13. Colonial Williamburg Foundation. I know I can be a patriotic sap, but I believe knowing where we've been can help us decide where we want to go. And so I support Williamsburg. It really is a living museum.

Before you give to any charity, make sure it's worthy of your money. Check it out at

*Don't be too impressed; all I gave to one of them was $4.

Please join us for THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.

Pieces seem to be missing

Kathy turns 75 today. She loves jigsaw puzzles, so I had one made for her. A picture of her and her grandkids' dog at the beach, with the date and place printed right on it. This seemed like a good gift for someone who has trouble remembering things.

It was delivered on Saturday afternoon. I know this from USPS tracking. She never mentioned it. In my Facebook "Happy Birthday" post, I asked her if she received it. She hasn't answered.

I bet she forgot ... that she received it, or why I sent it, or who it was from.

I remember the last time I celebrated with her in person, which was three years ago, just before covid.  It was a highly disturbing day. I recall sitting in her living room and giving her a gift, a photo of her with little great grandchild. She seemed happy with it and displayed it on her bookshelf. Then she got up to get me a tangerine. She brought it back into the room, saw the wrapping paper on her coffee table, and said, "Did you give a me a present?"

That was three years ago. Her cognitive decline is three years worse. To my knowledge, she has still refused to see a doctor regarding this. She had an appointment for a check up in April 2020, but it was cancelled because of covid. I don't think she ever rescheduled it. She gets very angry when you mention her memory to her.

Kathy isn't my only friend with cognitive issues. My friend Henry is declining fast, too, the result of a traumatic brain injury.

Suddenly my bad teeth don't seem like the worst problem in the word.

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

I'm riding on rough pavement right now

I admit it: the past 7 days have kicked my ass. 

1) The State of Illinois is threatening to imprison me. Oh, they won't. But it's scary nevertheless. I am still getting severance from my former employer. It's completely legal in Illinois to receive unemployment benefits while collecting severance because severance is not wages earned in exchange for work. However, when my W2 was generated, the state got a copy of it and since my severance has gone on more than a month -- I worked for that agency for 18 years! -- the algorithms assumed that my former employer must have rehired me. Therefore, I have been fraudulently receiving unemployment benefits when I am employed.

Only I wasn't and I'm not! I was told to respond by completing and returning the enclosed form by a specific date. But all the questions are very, "When did you stop beating your wife?" There are just boxes to check, and no place to explain. I went rogue and included a letter, along with a portion of my separation agreement from my employer (it's a 15-page deck), but I have no confidence anyone will see it because the forms are bar coded. I suspect the pages will just be scanned and this won't be the end of it.

All I have to do is talk to a real, actual human and show them the pertinent parts of my separation agreement. But that's not an option right now and I'll feel so stressed until this is behind me.

2) I lost another crown. My previous dental adventures aren't over yet, and I am unexpectedly embarking on another one. Tomorrow morning at 7:45 AM, I have a consultation with the oral surgeon to see if I need another crown lengthening. More pain, more expense. I am bereft.

3) So Sunday I went to church, which didn't help at all. I love my church. I love my faith. I get a great deal of comfort feeling closer to God in that building. That. Building. Our interim minister, who only has a few months to go, spent the sermon talking about how we've outgrown that "edifice" and it's time for us to unload it and move. She made some valid points -- upkeep is expensive, the Sunday School is impossibly cramped. But I love that building. I don't want a new church! And who is she, anyway? A freelancer, an interloper, a short-timer. Most of all, I was royally pissed that, when I was expecting comfort, all I got was agita.

4) A jerk joined our movie group. We watched a movie from 1948 called Deep Waters. It was a fine, completely forgettable little drama. Anyway, Stephen (pronounced "Stefan," thankyouverymuch) loved it for its "proper" gender roles and said it should be shown in schools to teach children the way it "should be," especially important in this age of "Gender LGBTQ." I was very upset. Not because he's a Neanderthal, but because he invaded our space. We have disagreements about the movies all the time, but he was being intentionally provocative. Plus, he doesn't know the sexual orientation of everyone in our group, and that homophobic broadside was mean. At the end of our gettogether I felt like I did after church -- unsettled from time spent in a place I'm supposed to enjoy.

That gives you an overview of my Wednesday to Tuesday. I've been having a stress dream -- I do that -- about a dying bird on the pavement. It's writhing in pain. I know I should kill it and end its suffering, but I can't. I wake up feeling cruel and cowardly. Not a great way to start the day.

So I talked to my shrink and everything became manageable.

1) I have done nothing wrong. Once it comes to an in-person appointment at the Unemployment Office on Lawrence Avenue, it will be fine. I just have to try not to obsess on it in the interim.

2) I have dental insurance and I have savings. It is what it is. I got that latest traitorous crown when I was working on the Clinton campaign. That would be Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign. The sucker lasted more than 30 years. Not a bad run.

3) Nothing is going to happen to my beloved building any time soon. It can't. It's not like there's a big plot of land nearby just waiting for us to buy it. It's not like we could afford it if there was, since there isn't an eager buyer looking to buy our existing "edifice" (<<<<I can't believe she called my darling church "an edifice"). It's not like the temporary minister will even be here six months from now, and I'm not sure our new, as yet unmet minister will want to take on such an ambitious project right out of the gate.

4) Fuck Stephen. Unpleasant people come and go. I can't change him, but I can ignore him.

I have to find my happiness where I can, breathe deep, and trust that soon I'll be rolling along and enjoying a smooth ride again soon.


Photo by Philippe Beliveau on Unsplash

I agree with Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Last night, in her Republican response to President Biden's State of the Union, newly-inaugurated Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “The dividing line in America is no longer between right or left; the choice is between normal or crazy."

She's 100% right. Only she was, from 2017 to 2019, the face of crazy, acting as the White House Press Secretary to the President who whipped this crowd up on January 6, 2020.

This is not normal, Gov. This is crazy.

Please, let's make sure we never go back to this. Please, let's let Donald Trump enjoy hosting professional golf tournaments funded by the Saudis.

Thank you.