How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Monday, April 16, 2018

!@@!%$!@ and %!@#$^%

Four years ago you could not have convinced me that America’s leading newspapers, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, et al, would have to even entertain the question of whether or not to publish utterances by a presidential candidate that included the word “pussy.”
Can you imagine the conversations in the newsroom?

Tom: The word pussy is in this piece you wrote, Dick.
Dick: Well, that’s what he said.
Helen: But can we actually print the word pussy if it’s not referencing to a cat? Maybe we can use dollar signs for the letter S.
Dick: That would look like graffiti, not journalism.
Helen: Again, do we really print the word pussy?
Tom: I don’t know. What did The Wall Street Journal do?
Dick: They printed it.
Tom: No shit?
Helen: No shit.
Dick: (mutters) I wasn’t allowed to write the word “damn” at the Boston Globe twenty years ago.
Tom: My journalism degree didn’t prepare me for a presidential candidate saying the word “pussy.”
Helen:  Mine either.
Dick: Oh, it’ll be a one time thing. It was an audio that he thought was private. There is no way he would say anything like that that in a public speech.

One year later:
Helen: He called the football players “sons-of-bitches.”
Dick: Really?
Tom: He said that publically?
Helen: Yes, in a speech in Alabama. Can we print it?
Dick: I guess so.
Tom: I don’t think there are any rules anymore.
Dick: But what if he says “cunt”?
Tom: We print it.
Helen: What if he says “fucker”?
Tom: We print it.
Dick: I need to retire.
Helen: Tell me about it. I feel like I write for The National Enquirer now.

Two years later:
Tom: Can you believe this?
Helen: He actually called them “shithole” countries?
Dick: Durbin was there and confirmed it.
Tom: My ten-year-old called his baseball coach a pussy the other day. When I punished him, he told me it wasn’t a bad word because the president said it.
Helen: Oh, that’s nothing. My two-year-old is running around chanting, “Porn star, porn star!” I left the t.v on during the news and she heard it. Now she might get kicked out of daycare.
Tom: You left the t.v on during the news with a child in the room? Are you crazy?
Helen: I know.
Dick: I miss the good ole days when all we had to worry about was one word: “blowjob.”

So is it any wonder that yesterday when I was reading the news, lo and behold, there was talk of a “taint team” being assigned to go through Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s FBI seized materials.  I’m a fifty-six-year old woman but sometimes, especially when it comes to gutter humor, I have the brain of a twelve-year old boy, so when I read the words “Tiant Team” in a headline yesterday, I immediately turned into that twelve-year-old boy.

I have so many jokes for that. So many jokes that I dare not tell, but please, give yourself full permission for your imagination to go wild with this one. Go ahead. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Keeper of Secrets (a short story)

I am the Keeper of the Secrets in a town of a little over five thousand. Five thousand-two hundred and sixty-seven, to be exact. Secrets run deep in small towns and even deeper in the South beneath the suffocating summer heat when everything is as still as a corpse and the drone of mosquitos drill into your brain.  Secrets as deep and muddy as the Tallahatchie and Ocmulgee Rivers. Secrets as deep as December winter evenings when the sun sets at five o'clock and shrouds the world in a premature darkness. Secrets as deep and dark as the grave. I know the secrets. I keep the secrets.
         Tessie Burrell has a grown child that doesn’t know that her real father is the insurance man in town. Gretchen Crown has a slight problem with kleptomania that has led to her being banned from the Family Dollar, no small thing in a town with only four stores. We’ve been working together though, and she swears she hasn’t stolen anything in a year. At least she hasn’t been banned by one of the twenty-six churches. Now if she would just talk about her addiction to prescription drugs, most noticeably Xanax and Percocet. She skirts that one every time I try to bring it up. Wonder if she’s stealing them?

            Then there’s Robert Hollister who had a complete melt down in my office one day and confessed to once having had a love affair with a horse that Old Man Frank owned; Chester Richards and his proclivity for peeping into the windows of teen girls at night; Mavis Fordham and her fascination with yesterday she swore she had leprosy; dear perpetually white attired Bertha Noles who brings me baked goods and proceeds to cry over Fred, dead these past fifty years. They weren’t married. Bertha just had a crush on him. When he married Carla Morris and then two days later was killed in a farming accident, Bertha swore that Fred had been planning on leaving Carla and taking Bertha away from her father’s oppressive house. Our own Miss Havisham.

            I’d rather not know all the darkest recesses of people’s souls, but it’s what I’m paid to do. I am the only therapist within a fifty miles radius. A Licensed Professional Counselor.  I was born and raised in  this town. I am the equivalent of the old small town doctor who used to make house calls, except I don’t make house calls unless my patients have been carted off to the E.R after trying to overdose or slice their wrist with a rusty razor, they’re being held for psych eval at the local jail, or Miss Howard has a fresh baked apple pie she wants me to pick up from her house.  Miss Howard won the State Fair pie competition five years running. I do love pie.

             I went to high school in this town, drank myself into drunken teen stupors by the river, went to the prom, played pool at Howie’s Pool Pub, and ran up and down the streets in my ‘68 Camaro. That Camaro was outfitted with a 427 cubic inch engine and a glove box full of weed. I’m still scratching my head over the fact that the same people who knew me as a hell raiser in my youth can see me in another light now that I’m more than a few years past middle age. I guess because I’m one of them.  They trust me with their lives. I mean, literally their lives. I could ruin 65% of this town either through direct knowledge or indirect knowledge of their secrets. Just think of all the blackmail material I possess. I could cash out those secrets and buy a place in sunny Spain.  Te gustaría otra cerveza? But, my patients pay me, or their insurance company does, a pretty legal penny to hear their confessions. Enough to live on. In this Southern Baptist town I guess I’m the closet thing they’ll ever have to a Catholic priest. So I am the Keeper of the Secrets.  All the secrets. Go forth my son and sin no more. Fifty Hail Mary's and ten Our Father's. I've heard it all.

            Russell Overstreet was sent to me because he killed all of his ex girlfriend’s Vietnamese pot bellied pigs- all twenty of them- when she broke up with him. He told me that he a was bit “miffed” when he found out she had screwed Lester Mitchell while Russell was away at a job training seminar in Atlanta. He said he had every right to kill those pigs since he had bought all of them. Judge didn’t see it that way, so now Russell has to come talk to me every two weeks for an hour.  He’s over his ex girlfriend, in fact he has a new girlfriend named Fran that he met in Macon at a bar two months ago, and he was best man at his ex girlfriend’s marriage to Lester in October, but he still has nine months on his court ordered counseling session, so we usually just play a few hands of poker.

            James Winsome is the mayor and he sneaks into my office through a back alley door so no one will see him. James is what I would call a special case. He thinks the Mafia is after him and that if they catch him they’ll make him a sex slave. His story on why they are after him changes every visit. One time it was because he had impregnated the Don's daughter with a two headed cat and another time it was because he stole a shipment of cocaine from them, stuffed it up his rectum, and it’s still there. He says he can inhale with his rectum, so he pretty much stays high all the time. And this is the man running our town.

            Poor Mrs. Tippley, who was my fifth grade science teacher, believes that very well endowed aliens kidnapped her one night and did sexual experiments on her. She suffers from PTSD. Seventeen- year-old Logan Kitchens is a pyromaniac who burnt down the American Legion, and I suspect the storage shed behind the First Baptist Church  He didn’t get any jail time because he is the son of the richest man in town; Buster Kitchens, the owner of the paving company. Ken Unger, the local undertaker, thinks he’s a donkey; Mrs. Marshall, the librarian, believes that there is a very tiny man living in her head; Bill Carswell, the president of the Farmer’s Bank, is a coke addict; Fanny White, a housewife, has nothing wrong with her. She just likes me because I actually talk to her- her husband is a deaf mute. June Reynolds, the secretary at the elementary school can’t stop herself from sleeping with every man in town who asks, me included. Don’t report me to the state licensing board. It was a very long time ago in high school and involved a pony kegger at the river after a football game. I have lines even I won’t cross. Anyway, when June sleeps with a man once she loses complete interests. It’s the chase that thrills her.  

            I can’t even look half the town in the eye if I see them in the grocery store. I have the drug store deliver my prescriptions and I hired a lady to do the food shopping for me because I truly dread running into my patients outside of work and having to make small talk. I mean what does one say?
             Oh, hello, Mr. Browning! Smoke any meth today?”
             “You look perfectly lovely today, Janice. Remember, don’t binge and purge!”
             “Great to see you, Billy Bob!  I see you got another White Nationalist face tattoo.”

            My job has its dangers. J.C tried to choke me to death at the jail when I went to evaluate him. Damn near killed me. And I still have to see the bastard when I go pay my water bill. He’s the clerk at city hall. Two years ago Nathan started stalking me because he thought I had stolen his soul in one of our sessions. He stopped when I gave him a Ball canning jar filled with antifreeze. I told him that I had taken his soul in order to clean it for him and now that it was all shiny and clean I was returning it. He left me alone after that. Glenda Victors fell in love with me, and it might not have been so bad if she hadn’t been eighty-nine years old. When I gently refused her offer she took a .45 from her purse and held it up to my head.  Another patient knocked on the door and scared Glenda so badly she dropped the gun. I kicked it under the table and then bolted for the door. After Glenda bonded out of jail she felt so bad that she baked me a plate of chocolate chip cookies.  Ernestine Whitehead roofied me when I left the room for a minute and she stirred Rohypnil into my sweet ice tea. I came to about three hours later and she was gone. I staggered over to the E.R and when I told them what had happened, they tested me. Seems Ernestine had tried that shit before. No one warned me. I stopped seeing her as a patient and thank God I don’t remember one thing that happened after I took a few sips of that tea.  I don’t want to.

            I’m sitting here now waiting for my four o’clock to show up. Benjamin Garrison. I always schedule him last because he has dementia and half the time he forgets he has an appointment. I’ll wait for an hour, catch up on paperwork, and then go home if he doesn’t show. He’ll phone tomorrow and apologize profusely and I will tell him not to worry about it. If this were the city he’d be charged for the appointment anyway, but this is my town, my people so I forgive and forget. At least he hasn’t tried to kill me.

            I smile because I am the Keeper of the Secrets. I smile because no one told me when I received my LPC license that the people in my home town were so much like the text book cases I had read. It’s rather disturbing how people can hide behind masks. Maybe I am Keeper of the Masks. The masks get ripped off in my office and then carefully put back into place as my patients, my friends, my townsfolk end their sessions. They go home, they eat, they play with the dog, they take a bath, they watch T.V.  And all the while their mask is set firmly in place.

            Believe me once you’ve seen behind all the masks you can never forget. I wonder, when I die will the town bury me in a spot near the very back of the city cemetery under the old magnolia? That area is carpeted in soft bermuda grass and it's hidden halfway by a wall and great sloping branches. Hidden in the shadows.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Eulogy For My Friend Barbara Asbell Bryan

On March 11, 2018 my best friend for the past 40 years, Barbara, passed away. She had been ill with heart problems for some time but we truly thought she'd pull out of this latest hospitalization the way she always did.  When I received news of her death in the early morning hours of March 11, I couldn't even cry. I tried to cry and couldn't do it and felt like I had betrayed her because I was unable to shed tears for her.  My mind refused to believe what my ears had heard. 

Later that afternoon I got in my car and drove down a back country road with the music blaring "I'm Still Breathing" by Green Day, I screamed and I cried and I yelled and I finally allowed my heart to feel her loss. Today was her funeral. It took me three days to write her eulogy. Her eulogy from a friend. I just hope I did justice to Barb and her memory.  Here is the eulogy for family members who might like to have it.
 My heart goes out to her family:  Mike, Phillip, Becky, Will, Miss Sue,  Angel, Andrew, Alex, Emily, and KatieLynn. 
Barb will be greatly missed.

                                              Eulogy For My Friend 

I met Barb when I moved to Cochran in my eleventh grade year. We become friends almost immediately. In our senior year, due to my dad being transferred from San Antonio to Keesler AFB in Biloxi, I found out I would also be moving to attend Biloxi High School. I remember telling Barb in school during second period class. She ran out of the classroom into the bathroom and I followed. She was crying her heart out. When I asked why she was crying she stammered, “Because you’re leaving.” As an Air Force kid I had never had anyone cry when I moved away. She had my heart from that day to this. Before school was over our senior year I was able to come back and graduate from Bleckley County High school with Barb and the rest of the class of 1980.

This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I never wanted to stand before you and talk about Barbara, I still don’t want to, but I do want you to know who Barbara Elizabeth Bryan was.  I want you to know what she was like. I want you to know what she loved. What she was most proud of. What she dreamed of. What she hoped for. The things that made her human.

Things like what a huge wrestling fan Barb was in high school. She came to school one day clutching a photo of herself with some wrestler named Ric Flair. I had no clue who he was, but she was so excited you’d have thought she’d met all the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd. She kept that photo in her notebook for awhile and then tacked it on her bedroom wall.

Barb somehow acquired an orange and white Bobcat car in her senior year. She’d pick me up for school in the morning and we’d always be late because I am NOT a morning person. We’d be late for school and Mr. Smoot or Mr. Harmon would get onto us. Barb would get mad and threaten to stop picking me up, but she never carried through on her threat. That old Bobcat was something else. We thought it was kind of cool. I look back now and realize it was one ugly car. We’d turn the radio to Q 106 and drive around after school to see who was in town, try and run into our crush of the week, and find who was riding around with whom. At night we’d park at Bohannon’s or across the street from the old Otasco. Everyone would. There’d be eight or nine cars parked side by side with us kids milling around talking. There wasn’t much else to do in Cochran on weekends, except hang out at Bogies, the local quasi arcade, and play Space Invaders or Pac Man, or go the river.

Like most of girls in the late 70s, Barb wore her hair in the famous Farrah Fawcett hair style. She always had a can of AquaNet in her purse and she’d spray her hair every so often throughout the day so not even a single feathered hair fell out of place. The wind would gust and her feathered wings would stand straight up then lay back down like nothing had ever happened. There was an art to wearing that hairstyle and Barb had it down to a science.

 People keep telling me how sweet Barb was. She was that way even in high school. The word sweet is used so often that it has become a cliché, but she WAS sweet. She never wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings. She would allow people to hurt her before she hurt them. I saw that happen many many times over the years and it drove me crazy. But she didn’t know how to be any other way.

When I moved back to Cochran from Biloxi in 1983 and became a mom, Barb was already a mom, and she’d babysit my oldest son, Adam, while I worked a few hours a day. Adam and Barb’s son, Phillip, became close. Barb called Adam Adam Bomb and to this day Adam still calls her Ma Barb.

 I know many of you remember when Barb was the librarian in town at Tessie Norris. She loved her job because it allowed her to connect with people. She loved having the children come in for story time. I’d go by the library after classes when I was attending college and we’d talk. I miss those talks. We talked about new books coming out that she should order for the library, raising kids, stretching our meager budgets, problems we were having in our personal lives, and how to effectively get rid of stray mustache hairs. I insisted plucking was best. She preferred bleaching. She’d throttle me if she knew I’d told you that. But I always warned her that if she went first I would tell one tiny little secret. I thought maybe if she knew that, she’d try to outlive me. So there, Barb, told you I would do it.

 Many people don’t know this, but Barb was an excellent writer. While working as the Acquisitions Supervisor at Mercer University she earned her degree, and she was published in the Mercer University Literary Magazine “Regeneration.” She blossomed at Mercer. I remember how proud and energized she was about writing then. Last year she talked about wanting to write again, but didn’t know how to get started. I told her, “Just write, it will come, I promise.” I don’t know if she tried. That was about the same time she started having a lot of problems with her eyes and couldn’t see well enough to know when to step over a curb, much less write, so those stories probably went with her and we’ll never  get to read them.

One of the highlights of her life was when she traveled to Guatemala as part of a Mercer University Mission program. Her and other Mercer students and professors visited an orphanage in Guatemala to lend a hand in whatever was needed. While she was there, Barb became enraptured by one little boy. His name was Pablo. She wrote to him for a long time.

 Barb had a kindness in her that was a quiet kindness. She didn’t toot her own horn about it. She didn’t draw attention to herself. She just acted. When her son, Phillip, was stationed in Iraq, all three times, she started a coloring book and crayon drive at Mercer. She would collect the books and crayons and ship them to Phillip’s unit and they would give them out to the Iraqi children. She did it for the children, but she also knew that if a U.S solider handed a coloring book and crayons to a child, then the relatives of that child might have a harder time shooting that soldier.  And Phillip just told me about that the other night. I never knew. She never told me. When Phillip drove to Houston after the most recent hurricanes, Barb supplied him with toys to take with him. Some of those toys ended up in the hands of a seven year old little girl who was having a birthday and had lost everything she owned.

 Barb liked to rock out to Molly Hatchet.  Just listening to the song Bounty Hunter took us both back to the old days and even as recently as two years ago we jumped in the car one day and went for a drive while we played that song full blast.  She loved The Walking Dead television show and would tell me about the latest episode while I listened in bewilderment, trying my best to figure out why some dude named Negan carried a barb wired covered bat. Barb also loved her cats, Jack and Grayson. She called them “The boys.” One day her and Mike said something about buying some food for “the boys” and I thought they meant Phillip and Will. Took me a second to figure out that they were talking about the cats. A few years ago the black cat, Jack, got really sick and Barb phoned me in tears worried, she might lose him, but somehow Jack pulled one of his nine lives out his cat bag of tricks and he lived.  Barb talked to that cat as if he were human, and he listened as if he were human.

Barb and I traveled to my mom’s cabin in Hiwassee a few times. Once to see Bad Company and once to see Molly Hatchet, both at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds. We actually met the members of Molly Hatchet who, when they found out we were from Cochran, started peppering us with questions about people they had once known in Cochran. This past November we went back to the cabin to spend time together without real life interfering. When we left Cochran that day I told Barb I had a new Green Day CD and would she like to hear it. I knew our musical tastes were different, but she said sure. The song started playing and after the first verse I looked at Barb and she was crying. She grabbed my hand and clutched it tight throughout the song while she cried.
Some of the lyrics to the song are:

I'm like a child looking off on the horizon
I'm like an ambulance that's turning on the sirens
Oh, I'm still alive
I'm like a soldier coming home for the first time
I dodged a bullet and I walked across a landmine
Oh, I'm still alive

As I walked out on the ledge
Are you scared to death to live?
I’ve been running all my life
Just to find a home that’s for the restless
And the truth that’s in the message
Making my way, away, away.

Am I bleeding am I bleeding from the storm?
Just shine a light into the wreckage, so far away, away
'Cause I'm still breathing
'Cause I'm still breathing on my own
My head's above the rain and roses
Making my way away
My way to you.

When the song was over, with tears streaming, she turned to me and said, “I’m still breathing.”

That weekend we ended up watching comedies, cooking, grilling on the covered porch in the rain, eating, junkin’, and laughing. A storm hit the third night we were there. The wind howled and shook the cabin and we went out on the covered porch and watched the trees sway in the moonlight and the wind chimes go sideways. There was so much energy in that storm and Barb and I just stood there and took it all in.  We didn’t talk as the storm rose and then eventually died out.  We didn’t need to talk. I didn’t realize what a treasure the memories of that trip would be one day. 
She and Mike went to the cabin last month for their third anniversary. There’s a chaise lounge in the cabin that I bought that I always claim as mine. Barb knew this. So what did she do? She texted me a photo of her sprawled on that chaise lounge claiming it as hers. The last time I saw her, the Friday before she left us, we talked about going back to the cabin in April after she got her strength back.

Barb had so much love inside of her. So much optimism. She always believed the best of people. She always had faith that things would work out. She hid her health problems so well that a lot of people had no idea that her health was as precarious as it was. Barb took care of everyone and put everyone else before herself.  When she had her first heart attack at age 36 it was the middle of the night, but she didn’t want to bother anyone, so she waited until morning when she knew her mom was awake and then phoned her.

Barb adored her mother so very much. They had a very quiet, loving relationship. Barb was Miss Sue’s number one caretaker until her own health wouldn’t allow her to care for her mother anymore, but she went and saw her often and would always fill me in on how Miss Sue was doing. One of Barb’s greatest achievements was being a mother to her boys, Phillip and Will. She always talked of “my boys” (not the cats), how worried she was when Phillip was deployed, how happy Phillip and Becky were together, how they had given her a granddaughter, KatieLynn, her little “mini me”, how well Will was doing in his job and how very grown up and confident he had become. Whenever I’d see Will at his job I’d text Barb and she’d text back, “Hug him!” Will remembers when he was a little boy and had trouble going to sleep how Barb would lay down with him until he drifted off. Phillip told me that his Mom instilled in him the belief that you don’t give up. You keep fighting for what you want, just the way she did.

She fought for her college degree, she fought as a single mother, she fought paying her bills, like so many of us. She fought her health problems, she fought trying to stay at her job at Mercer even when she was so sick and worn out that she was nodding off while driving to Macon everyday. She fought the feeling that she would never have the love of a partner who cared for her the way she should be cared for.  Then she found Mike.
Or should I say, refound him?

Barb loved Mike. He’s been her rock.  I was teaching in Nashville GA in 2014 when she phoned me one night and asked if I remembered Mike Bryan. Remember him? He spilled red punch on my dress at the prom. He had been her date at that prom. Of course I remembered him. She told me that they had started emailing after she had found an old email address of his while she was cleaning out her inbox. She didn’t know if he had the same email but she wrote anyway and much to her surprise he answered. Next thing I knew they were dating and she was gushing and calling him Yogi to his Boo Boo nickname for her, and then he asked her to marry him to which she replied with an enthusiastic “Yes!”

 I was at their wedding, and when I saw her standing at this very altar with Mike as they exchanged vows, I knew he’d take care of her and love her, for better or for worse. And he did. To the very end, he did just that. They went on trips together and dressed up silly every Halloween. They double dated with me and my husband to a concert by an AC/DC cover band. Mike made sure she took her medications, he took her to doctor appointments, he sat with her hour after hour every time she was in the hospital refusing to leave until she went to sleep. He put a smile on her face and gave her the safety and security she had always longed for.
 I love Mike because he loved my friend.

 Barb tried to warn me that this day would come. That one day I’d lose her. I didn’t want to believe it. I still don’t want to believe it. What Barb failed to tell me was how I was supposed to live my life without her being a part of it.  Barb and I shared secrets that no one else will ever know. I kept hers and she kept mine. I will still keep her secrets because that’s what friends do.

 I told her that I was supposed to go first so I could donate my heart to her. She would protest and say, “No, I don’t want you to go first.”  Then I’d try and joke and remind her that my heart was in a lot better shape than hers and she better grab it while I was offering. She would always cut the conversation short and change the subject. Well, it turns out she took my heart anyway when she left all of us here to figure out how to live the rest of our lives without her.

I love you, Barb. BFF and always. I promise.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Monster That Lives Inside of Me

Once again I have completely sunk back into the hole where the monster lives. . I’ll have one or two days of feeling almost human, almost normal, and I’ll think,
            “Maybe I can do something.”
            “Maybe I can go somewhere.”
            “Maybe I can clean out that closet today.”
            “Maybe my brain is clear enough to actually write a short story.”
            “Maybe I’m getting well.”
            And then I feel it.
            Slowly, like a sharp claw reaching underneath my rib cage and sternum, drawing its talons down against my muscle, my tendons, and my bones, it travels quickly. The claw closes and rips at me. It tightens its grip and my body drips into weakness like someone has encased me in concrete, and then I begin to tremble like the last fall leaf on a tree. 
          Try to take shallow breathes because it hurts too much when my rib cage expands. Little sips of air. 
          Tiptoe into the back yard at night, slip down into the dew grass, and cry where no one can see me. 
          Curl up into a tiny ball and rock myself in time with the pain that pulses with every beat like a toothache in my body. 
          Tell myself I’ll feel better tomorrow. That the doctors will call me and shout, “Eureka! We know how to treat you and give you your life back!”

            One day I’ll go back into a classroom. I’ll teach again. I’ll stay late after everyone has gone home, creating lesson plans that will turn literature into magic for my kids. After we read Of Mice and Men one kid will take his time gathering his books when the bell rings and then shyly come up and ask me why, with tears in his eyes, Lenny had to die, or her eyes will flash when she howls  her anger after Jack has killed Piggy, or he will pretend to be Mercutio sword fighting Tybalt.

            But none of that is ever going to happen again, and I open my eyes. I am in the backyard alone. The moon is a slice of a fingernail and the stars are teasing me with their sparkle. They mock me. The night air smells of tea olive flowers and the world is still and beautiful, and I am trapped in my own pain. It is wrapped around me like a thick quilt that suffocates. I want to breathe in the tea olive. I want to swim in the white beauty of the stars against the inky sky. Star light, start bright, take my pain away tonight. But I can’t unwrap myself from it. The pain beats like dead drums. Thump! Thump! Thump! The pain encapsulates. My brain is one entity. My body another. They are forever battling for control. Little sips of air, always tinier sips of air.

            Years and years of internal cuts and slices that lap over one another like waves on a shore, a nightmare time-stumble that is circuitous. One year bleeding into the next. Doctors. Xrays, MRIs, injections, infusions, toxic medications. Hopes raised, hopes dashed. Family and friends:
            “But you don’t look sick.”
            “I saw you yesterday and you were fine.”
            “Aren't you well yet?”

             Fuck them. Fuck them all.

            I want them to slither their brain into my body and tell me how to live, how to continue, how to open my eyes each morning.  I want them to show me how to not feel the pain, how to ignore it, how to get my life back. Against all odds, against all I think I can do, I somehow wake up. Each morning I am ripped from my dreams where there is no pain and where I am able to breathe deeply and run among wild colors and clouds and I can hop off deep cliffs like an astronaut on the moon. I am free.. until I open my eyes and then my body engulfs me and my brain screams as it registers the sharp pulses under my skin.

            Another day. Another day trapped.

            The pain and exhaustion and trembling and weakness will not kill my body like cancer or leukemia or any other number of fatal illnesses, but it chips away at my brain. It clouds my thinking and makes me sink into deep chairs and stare out the window for hours. It saddens me. It angers me. But there is not one damned thing I can do to control any of it. Maybe pain is supposed to be my life lesson. Maybe pain will bring me to some sort of enlightenment or actualization. Then again, maybe it will just chip away at me until there is nothing left but a sliver of bone with a bit of rotten tissue attached.  

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Bang bang, that awful sound.

I was getting caught up on the daily news yesterday, like I usually do a little before 4 p.m, when breaking news of an active shooter inside a high school in Florida was announced on abc news. I watched live footage as law enforcement stormed the high school. I saw kids running out with their hands over their heads. I saw a sheet covered body being loaded into an ambulance. I saw EMS checking over the bodies of teens for injuries. I saw shaken teens running to their parents in tears. I saw raw fear and incomprehension on the faces of not only the high school students who had been in that building and heard the screams of their classmates in between the loud pop pop of the rapid fire gun shots, but I also saw fear etched into the faces of teachers, parents, emergency personnel, doctors, and law enforcement.
     But I also saw anger. Anger at a system that would continue to throw up its hands in resignation and say, “Well there’s nothing we can do about it,” when there IS something we can do about it.

     The shooter in Parkland (17 dead) yesterday, like the shooters in the Aurora movie theater on June 20, 2012  (58 dead), Sandy Hooks Elementary school on December 14, 2012 (27 dead), the Pulse Night Club on June 12, 2016 (49 dead), San Bernardino on June 16, 2016 (14 dead), the Las Vegas concert on October 1, 2017 (58 dead), and the church in Sutherland Springs on November 5, 2017 (26 dead), ALL used an AR 15 due to its ability to fire rapidly. But the AR 15 has been used in lesser publicized American shootings:

·         Oct. 7, 2007: Tyler Peterson, 20, used an AR-15 to kill six and injure one at an apartment in Crandon, Wis., before killing himself.
·       June 7, 2013: John Zawahri, 23, used an AR-15-style .223-caliber rifle and a .44-caliber Remington revolver to kill five and injure three at a home in Santa Monica, Calif., before he was killed.
·         March 19, 2015: Justin Fowler, 24, used an AR-15 to kill one and injure two on a street in Little Water, N.M., before he was killed.
·         May 31, 2015: Jeffrey Scott Pitts, 36, used an AR-15 and .45-caliber handgun to kill two and injure two at a store in Conyers, Ga., before he was killed.
·         Oct. 31, 2015: Noah Jacob Harpham, 33, used an AR-15, a .357-caliber revolver and a 9mm semi-automatic pistol to kill three on a street in Colorado Springs, Colo., before he was killed. (Source: USA Today February14, 2018).

     Is there anything we can do to help slow down gun violence in this country? Yes. We can outlaw rapid fire weapons like the AR 15 so that civilians can’t own, buy, or sell them. Those guns are meant for one thing and one thing only: to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. Will outlawing rapid fire weapons solve the problem immediately?  After all, the NRA estimates that there are some 8 million AR 15s in circulation in America, other less conservative figures put that number at 15 million (and that doesn’t even take into account other types of rapid fire weapons). So, no, outlawing those types of weapons for civilian ownership won’t solve the problem immediately, but in five years there will be fewer of these types of weapons on the streets, in ten years there will be still fewer, then in twenty years still fewer. We have to start somewhere. 

     And don’t give me that Second Amendment bullshit. If you are one those people who hold your “rights” to own a rapid fire weapon higher than the rights that American children have to live and breathe and grow, then you are part of the problem. And if you continue to insist  that you need those weapons to protect yourself from your government in case it goes rogue, then you are deluding yourself if you think you could defend yourself against military tanks, Apache helicopters, or weaponized drones. If you distrust your government that much then maybe you should get off your ass and actually DO something constructive, like staying in touch with your senators and representatives, and voting (half of voting age Americans didn't even bother to vote in the 2016 presidential election). Maybe you could actually DO something that would help make you feel safer, rather than just stockpiling weapons. The NRA has spent billions since 1975 to lobby in Congress. Recently their lobbying efforts succeeded in scrapping a CDC proposal to study gun violence in America. The NRA isn’t protecting your rights. They are protecting gun manufacturer’s, seller’s and buyer’s financial interests. They don’t care about you. And they damn sure don't care about American children.

     What can we do to help make America safer for kids to attend public school and for you to go to a mall? We can make our existing gun laws stricter. We can increase the wait time to own a gun. I don’t mind waiting longer to buy a gun if it will save the life of a child (and yes, I own a gun). We can establish a federal database to keep track of people who have histories of violent crimes and domestic abuse, and make it illegal for them to own, buy, or sell a gun. We could raise the federal age to buy, sell, or own a gun to twenty-one (if we won't let people buy alcohol until they are twenty-one then why the hell would we allow them to own a weapon?). We could make it illegal for anyone on a terror watch list or no fly list to own, buy, or sell a gun.We can do away with the gun show loophole.” Most states do not require background checks for firearms purchased at gun shows from private individuals -- federal law only requires licensed dealers to conduct checks (Source: My youngest son sold a gun four years ago in the state of Georgia through a want ad in the local sales paper. This type of gun transfer should be illegal. We can hold adults fully responsible when children gain possession of guns owned by adults. And finally, we can create stiffer penalties for people who break gun laws. 

     I am a retired teacher, and way back in 2000 when I was student teaching in a small rural Georgia town, three police officers walked into my classroom and asked that I take my ninth graders across the hall into another classroom. I told my students to gather their belongings. One of the officers stopped me and said, “They can all go, except for those two,” as he pointed to two students. Later I found out that one of those students had had a gun in MY classroom. The other kid had known about the gun. The officers escorted the students out and I didn’t see them for the rest of the semester.  
     Thanks to that experience, the entire time that I taught high school, in the back of my mind, I was always on the look out for any sign of guns in the school. The only time I never thought about guns in my school was for a brief period when I taught in the United Arab Emirates. That was the only time I ever felt completely safe in a classroom. There simply were no guns to be worried about. I am glad I am retired now. I don’t know if I could teach in the current atmosphere of fear that permeates our public schools. And I damn sure don’t support arming teachers. Teachers in this country are overworked and over stressed and underpaid and over medicated. You want to give teachers guns to keep up with when most can’t even keep up with their cell phone in class? My cell phone was stolen from my classroom twice in my career.

     I have six grandchildren who attend public school in three different states: Florida, Georgia, and Arkansas. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of my grand kids and hope that for one more day they will be safe at school, that no one will run into their schools shooting, that my grandchildren won’t die by a bullet tearing into their bodies. And what about the other members of my family? Will one of my grown children be shot down while shopping at a mall? Will my husband be shot and killed in a movie theater? Will I be shot at a concert? Who knows anymore? Not me and not you. Thirty years ago I could never have imagined the state of fear that we live in in this country in 2018.  If we don’t do something proactive to solve our gun problem, and we do have a gun problem, what is it going to be like in thirty more years? I shudder to imagine.

And for those who say that now is not the time to talk about this; They’re right. We should have been talking about this after the first school shooting. We should have talked and talked and talked, and not stopped talking until something was done. Maybe if we had, there wouldn’t have been eighteen school shootings in the past seven weeks. Maybe if we had talked about it back then, the people in that Aurora theater wouldn’t have died or the people at the Las Vegas concert shooting wouldn’t have died. Maybe the 17 dead teens in Parkland would still be alive. Maybe we would actually feel safer. Maybe there wouldn't be grieving and shocked parents in a Florida town making funeral arrangements for their children as I type this.  

Monday, October 9, 2017

I Yield the Blog to my Husband.. To Take-a-Knee or Not to Take-a-Knee? That is the Question.

Americans Are Free to Protest

A couple of years ago, I read an article from a recent immigrant from China. She was amazed that in America, one could legally burn the American flag. In China, she would have been executed by the government with no trial for burning the Chinese flag. She now lived in a country, the United States, that was so strong that without fear citizens could speak out against their country and government. She wanted to live in this kind of country.

In contrast, in Nazi Germany, common citizens were expected to give the extended right arm salute and pronounce “Heil Hitler” to each other as a matter of greeting. The straighter you extended your arm and firmness of your voice the more patriotism you displayed. Not following this ritual, at a minimum you would be publically ridiculed and it was not uncommon to be beaten by a mob, or arrested for suspicion of being a traitor. German citizens, blinded with nationalism or the fear to express otherwise, provided the power to Hitler and the NAZI party... and you know the rest of that story.

I think the most important ideal that this country has is freedom. The freedom to make choices, to express opinions, to peacefully protest or exercise civil disobedience towards policies or the government. And when we feel that the government or country is not living up to ideals and principles of what we are supposed to be about, we have not only the freedom, but the obligation to express that something is wrong and it needs to be fixed. There are many examples of this in our country’s history, when citizens joined together to right a wrong. One example are the marches and demonstrations of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, protesting state governments that legally allowed segregation and other racial injustices, and a federal government that for many years turned a blind eye.

When I teach civics in high school, I emphasize that the freedoms in the1st Amendment of the US Constitution are the most important of all the amendments.  Each of these freedoms is why the American colonies revolted against the English government – every one of these freedoms had been denied to the colonists, even though they were loyal British subjects. When these freedoms and rights are denied to us, then we no longer have a United States of America.

When I was a senior in high school, my classmates knew what I stood for. I knew that I wanted a career in the military, to serve and support my country. My classmates knew that I supported the Vietnam war – especially when one Sunday night with another “war monger” friend, we did a recon raid onto the school roof and hung a banner in the court yard proclaiming “Bomb Hanoi.” All knew who did it when they arrived at school Monday morning. When I was asked why one of my closest friends was a radical “hippie” and another a conscientious objector to all wars, I explained that it was because I wanted to defend a country that allows its citizens to disagree; both of my friends were true in their convictions and I was proud of them.

When, then presidential candidate Obama was chastised for not wearing an American Flag pin he explained that he did not think it was necessary to wear a pin to express patriotism or loyalty – instead it was your actions. I understood exactly what he meant as I did not wear a flag pin either for the same reason. It was and still more important to me that people know who I am and what I stand for – by observing my actions and demonstrations of my pride in being an American – not by wearing a piece of metal or plastic on my lapel, or a bumper sticker next to a car’s filthy exhaust pipe. Patriotism is actions and spirit, not jewelry, cloth, or stickers. When I choose, I do wear on the lapel of my coat an American Flag and Eagle, Globe, and Anchor; usually for an occasion or ceremony where I would normally have worn my uniform when on active duty. Of course, both of my biceps are adorned with my Marine “tats.”

I choose to stand for the National Anthem and salute the passing color guard during a parade. When I lead my high school classes in the Pledge of Allegiance I stand tall and straight as if on a parade field. When there are students that want to talk during the pledge, generally it is only because they are talkative lazy teenagers and they have not settled down to begin the school day yet, not as any protest. I instruct them that one of the great things about this country is that we have the freedom of expression and choose whether they want to recite the pledge to the flag, but I expect – require – them to remain silent out of respect for their classmates that choose to recite the pledge. I remind them that many American citizens, such as myself and others have served or are presently serving in the military, some in combat, to protect their rights to make choices and express their views. This usually clicks with them, gets them thinking, and I notice that next time all is well. They realize that they have choosen to stand and recite the pledge because they want to, not because it is demanded of them. In the same way, after the pledge we have a “moment of silence.” I also ask that again, that all of us out of respect for our classmates to remain silent for those that choose to privately pray, meditate or contemplate, or day dream.

So, when I see our so called president screaming that those that do not stand for the National Anthem should be beat, and demand that NFL football players should be fired for the same, I am reminded of a fascist dictator, I think of the examples of the Chinese immigrant amazed at our freedoms and German Nationalism that demanded a salute and “Heil Hitler.” This is not my America. This is not what makes America Great.

I have seen many veterans from WWII to the current wars express that although they might not agree with “taking a knee,” they fought for the right of these Americans to express themselves by taking a knee or holding arms in solidarity. If I was on the field, I too would link arms to support the freedom to protest or express our views. If these ball players were yelling or screaming, disrupting or trying to prevent the National Anthem from being played or sung, then that would be disrespectful. Instead, they are making a quiet protest – not against the flag or country, but against what they perceive as failures to live up to what ideals of their country is supposed to be about. They are showing their respect to those that want to sing the National Anthem.

I hold all the freedoms and rights for our Constitution, especially all those in the 1st Amendment dearly. Without any one of these, we do not have a free country. Because I am a patriot and love my country, I served in the Marine Corps, and now, when I see injustice or when we fail to live up to our ideals, I have the right and I do protest peacefully. I marched in NYC for the Women’s Movement in January, I have marched in Savannah, and I have participated in rallies on the Washington Mall, and in Atlanta. At all of these I have stood with veterans that feel the same as I do. We all look at this as a way to continue to serve our country and protect the Constitution.

I will never deny or belittle your feelings, please do same for me. That is why America has always been Great. We don’t need to Make America Great Again, it already is.

Semper Fidelis,  Jim

(Photo taken at March for Immigrants Atlanta, Ga)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Death of a Nation

The world changed on 9/11. I knew it and so did everyone else in America. That is why we remained glued to our television sets in the days following the attack. It was horrifying to watch. We wanted to pull our eyes away from the twenty-four news coverage but we couldn’t. We watched the raw footage of the first plane hitting the north tower, and then we watched as a second plane flew into the south tower. We watched as people leapt to their deaths from the burning towers, like dolls falling. We watched as rescue crews geared up to enter the towers. Then we watched in stunned incredulity as the towers buckled and fell like two stacks of cards. We watched as the survivors, covered in the dust from the debris, stumbled out of the gray ash. And we watched these images over and over and over again. For days, for weeks we were glued to our televisions, trying to incorporate the images we were seeing. American Airlines Flight 77 crashing and exploding into the Pentagon. United Airlines flight 93 plunging into a Pennsylvania field, killing all on board; the passengers of Flight 93 having made a courageous stand to prevent the plane from crashing directly into either the U.S Capitol or the White House in D.C. We watched these images on a seeming endless loop for days, for weeks, for months. We watched, not being able to pull our eyes from the carnage. In the days following the attacks there was a subdued silence as people attempted to process the images we had seen and what we had experienced individually and as a nation. The symbols of our invincible military and economic strength had been reduced to so much rubble. We were vulnerable and raw.

            Tears were cried, not only for the thousands who died, but for ourselves and America, and for the slowly dawning realization that our country had changed irrevocably in the time it took for a late summer morning to pass. A few hours was all it took. A few hours that stole our feelings of security, our belief that there was somehow a magical golden shield around the United States that would forever keep us removed from the chaos and violence of the rest of the world. We were special. WE were the ones who marched into other countries with our guns and our tanks, and WE were the ones who toppled buildings and killed enemies in far off lands. There were certain unwritten rules, one being that wars do not travel to the shores where the Constitution, Lady Liberty, and the ideals of democracy reside.
            We had persevered through World War II and walked out of the smoke and horrors as heroes of the world, the saviors. Later, in 1991 when the undeclared Cold War ended with the fall of the Soviet Union, we exhaled. We had survived it all intact. Our enemy had once again fallen and our safe, cocooned notions took an even deeper hold on our collective psyche. We were Americans. We were untouchable.

            Then the morning of September 11, 2001 shook us awake. Our false perceptions about our safety and security were replaced with fear. Fear of people who resembled those responsible for 9/11, fear of those who prayed differently, fear of those who called God by the name “Allah”, fear of those who spoke a language that had become suspect to our ears, fear of those who dressed differently, fear of women with brown skin who wore head coverings. The fears took hold. Our fears caused us to start viewing more segments of people as “other.” Who were all these foreigners? They weren’t Americans. How did they get here? We envisioned them streaming unchecked across our borders. We imagined them murdering us in the streets, raping our women. Illegal immigrants were taking our jobs and stealing our tax money by enrolling their children in our schools and applying for government assistance that was meant for hardworking white Americans, not for some brown skinned Mexican from across the border. 

            As the economy lagged and suffered and the recession of 2008 engulfed us, and as poverty among Americans sharpened its teeth, we divided further into the “good” and “bad”, the “us” and “them.” Our racial divide of blacks vs whites once again reared its ugly head from the shadows of denial. Blacks were ruining our country with their gangs and their ghettos. Their rap music was violent. They were killing our police officers. This country had opened its arms to others and what had happened? We had been unjustly attacked on all fronts. White America was on the verge of extinction. Our culture was at stake. This was evidenced by America electing a black president. If he was leader of the free world didn’t that mean that the free world’s power no longer rested in the hands of white males? Didn’t that mean that power would have to be shared with people of different races, religions, genders, and sexual preferences while America was gripped tight in the fist of economic uncertainty? The apple pie must not be shared. 

            And out of that fear and uncertainty a lone man hit the American stage ready to take our country back to the good ole days where economic security reigned, where jobs were plentiful and white America was not threatened with being ousted from power. A country where “illegals”, no matter their length of time in the U.S, no matter their contributions to our country and economy, no matter if they had been brought into this country as small children, would be booted from our shores. A nation where access to the American Dream for "them" would be narrowed and walled. A country where religious freedoms would apply to everyone, except for those who weren’t Christian. We would not allow crosses to be dismantled from church steeples and Bibles thrown away, even though there had not been one instance of this happening in America
            Many saw this lone man as a joke. A media diversion. A buffoon. From his bombast, verbose, and puzzling campaign he flipped from being openly pro choice to being anti abortion, from being an open Democrat to being a hard core Republican, to not showing any interest in religion to being a Christian that Evangelicals supported whole heartily. His sentences were word salads, his vocabulary limited, the points he attempted to make almost unintelligible, his ranting and ravings stirring violence at his campaign rallies: “So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Just knock the hell … I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise” and “I don’t know if I would have done well, but I would have been out there fighting, folks. I don’t know if I’d have done well, but I would’ve been — boom, boom, boom. I’ll beat the crap out of you.”  
            His misogynistic attitude and name calling of women on Twitter became well known, “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America”, “Fox Viewers give low marks to bimbo @MegynKellyy will consider other programs”, and his public statements about his Republican rival Carly Fiorina were deplorable, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next President? I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?" His now famous recorded-for-posterity, “I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it. I did try and fuck her. She was married…. And I moved on her very heavily... I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there." And it didn’t stop there. Karena Virginia accused him of groping her at the 1998 U.S. Open Tennis tournament, Summer Servos stated that he kissed, groped, and thrust his genitals at her (she has an open lawsuit against him), Jill Harth accused him of cornering and groping her in his daughter’s bedroom in 1997,  Kristin Anderson said that in the early 90s he groped her while she was sitting next to him on a couch at a Manhattan nightclub, Natasha Stoynoff said that he assaulted her and pushed his tongue down her throat  in 2005 while she was on an interview assignment for a magazine, Jessica Leeds emphatically insisted  that he grabbed her breast and tried to reach under her skirt while on an airplane flight thirty years ago. But still America ate him up like left over cake batter.  And then suddenly he wasn’t a joke anymore. He was the leader of our country and he was taking us backwards, not forward.
            Unshackled white supremacists and homophobes slithered out of their snake holes. The Empowered Evangelicals ratcheted up their condemnations of anyone who didn’t believe the Bible was the direct holy word of God, meaning of course, their word.  The president put his stamp of approval on rounding up illegal immigrants like cattle, separating them from their families. He openly goaded one of the most unpredictable nations in the world, “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”  He verbally attacked his own cabinet appointees,  " Why Didn't A. G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge Clinton..."  He attacked the highly respected Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, railing that she was "an incompetent judge", "has embarrassed all by making dumb statements about me", and "her mind is shot ! Resign!

            He pardoned a federally convicted sheriff for racial profiling just days before the sheriff was to be sentenced, and in doing so made a mockery of our justice system.  He picked fights with the London Muslim mayor, Rosie O’Donnell, China, Cuba, Kathy Griffin, and CNN. On his infamous Twitter feed he threatened the city of Chicago, Mexico, Iran, and the University of Berkley, to name just a few. He blamed “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville, even though only one group arrived looking for a fight, armed, and chanting racially charged rhetoric. He verbally attacked members of his own party: House Speaker Mitch McConnell, Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham, and Senator John Flake. And he spends most weekends away from the White House, even in times of crisis.  
            This billionaire real estate mogul who has filed for bankruptcy six times, been married three times, committed adultery on wife number one with wife number two, hosted a reality T.V show, and creates historical “facts” as they suit him (the plaque honoring a battle at one of his golf courses has been reputed by historians), and called the White House a “dump” is a direct consequence of America’s post 9/11 fears and uncertainties. He “tells it like it is” and he’s going to “Make America Great Again.”  He has managed to pit mother against daughter, father against son, brother against sister, causing hurtful rifts within families.
            When he took office he bragged that he was bringing “the best” with him, yet seven months later most of “the best” have either resigned or he has fired them. He fired FBI director James Comey, Attorney General Sally Yates, lead prosecutor for the New York southern district Preet Bharara, Chief Usher Angella Reid, and White Communications director Anthony Scaramucci. Many more have resigned under a veil of suspicion of corruption or because they dared to openly contradict him: National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, U.S Office of Government Ethics Michael Dubke, Chief of Staff Reince Pribus, White House Communications Director Sean Spicer, White House Assistant Press Secretary Michael Short, Special advisor to the President on Regulatory Reform Carl Ichan,  Deputy White House Chief of Staff Katie Walsh, Director of the Office of  Government  Ethics Walter Shaub, National Security Council Senior Director Greg Deare, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, National Security aide Sebastian Gorka. The White House Manufacturing Council and the White House Economic Advisory Council had such an influx of resignations after the president’s comments about Charlottesville that both councils were quickly disbanded.  
            The president has failed to appoint 384 of the 564 positions in his administration. These posts are sitting empty, being led by interim directors, or staffed by holdovers from the Obama administration. Our Commander in Chief is relishing his moment of power. He treats the office of the presidency like a reality television show, brags about crowds at his continuing rallies, boasts about how many people read and respond to his tweets, stays forefront in the media by acting out his outrageous unpredictable impulses and condemns any news media that doesn’t openly admire him and agree with him by labeling them "fake."
            9/11 may have occurred sixteen years ago, but we are finally witnessing the apex and the long term consequences of that attack. The terrorists may have slammed airplanes into our buildings, but it is Americans who have taken it upon themselves to dismantle the precepts and ideals that the Founding Fathers laid out for America. America is not being destroyed by outside terrorist, but rather inside by far extreme right political and religious groups who encourage violence, separate Americans into “us” and “them", attempt to bend our Constitution and our courts to their will, ignore agreements with our allies, and attempt to take away the civil rights of certain groups of people
            Back on September 11, 2001, watching as the towers fell and realizing that over three thousand people had been murdered, my heart cracked and I felt a knife twisting with the knowledge that this was the beginning of the end of the country I hold most dear. I never could have predicted or envisioned the path we would choose to take on November 8, 2016 that would ultimately lead to the destruction of  ideals that have stood fast (sometimes only superficially) for two hundred and forty-two years.  The glaring proof being played out right in front of my eyes, that my instincts were more correct than I could ever have guessed, does not give me comfort or validation. I wish my gut instincts had been wrong. God, I wish they had been wrong.  America is on life support and fading fast.