How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

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.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

I'm Mad Now and I Have to Carry Damn Signs.

You know I've been thinking, "When did I become so damn liberal?" then it dawned on me. I haven't become more liberal; the old Republican party just got so far right, so scared of the social changes taking place in our country, and so intolerant that it has made me seem like a liberal. I was this way my whole life. I have always voted, but I was pretty much a middle-of-the-roader. I didn't change.They did.
Oh,I think a lot of the far right who are coming out of the closet and airing their intolerant more have always had those dark corners of bigotry inside them, but they kept them hid away because it wasn't socially acceptable to bring them into the light. And as long as they kept those awful beliefs to themselves and didn't try to force them on others, in the way of actual law and policy, I pretty much followed the maxim, "Like and let live."
Now I seem like a raving political lunatic, when I'm really not. I just want everyone to be treated with respect, fairness, and equal representation under the law. No religion, no race, no gender, no sexual preference, no culture is better than any other. That's how I was raised., That is what I was taught. That is what I have always believed.
So, in order to stay true to those values I had to become this sign carrying, protest marching, letter writing, phone calling activist. If that's what it takes for me to stay true to myself, then so be it. I can't condone sugar coating rabid hate in unreasonable and histrionic fear. But make no mistake: l am pissed off. I now have less time to devote to reading and writing because I have to protest bullshit that should be a no brainier.
Peace out :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A letter to my daughter on her twenty-eighth birthday

To My Lara-
Twenty-eight years ago at 1:46 a.m, while the stars were falling out of the endless night sky, I gave birth to you. You came into the world wailing, voicing your extreme displeasure at being thrust unceremoniously out of your safe, warm existence. Still wailing, you were placed into my arms, and as I clutched you to my endorphin saturated body you quieted and gazed at me with slate blue eyes. You studied me intently, and at that moment it dawned on me that you were going to be unique, tough, demanding, beautiful, and charming. I was right.
As a six month old baby you loved music- any music, although I admit to saturating you in 70s and 80s rock. Your sense of rhythm and melody was astonishing. You would bounce your head from side to side, wiggle your tiny body, and go off into the music. You are still that way! As you grew, your questions were not the ordinary ones a mother usually hears from her child. No, My Lara wanted to know if a person could slide down a rainbow, you wanted to know what existed outside of space, you wanted to know what the word “love” meant, which by the way you defined for me at four years of age, “Love is when you love someone so much you don’t want to unlove them.” Pretty profound.
And at four years of age you would howl with laughter every time you heard the word “China” because it sounded so similar to the word I had taught you for a part of the female anatomy. At nine, my sweet curly haired, pig tailed daughter, you could field a softball with such force that you often knocked other players out of your way. I can still hear you screaming at the other players, “Get the ball! Slide! Slide! Who cares if you get dirty!” At twelve you balked at having to wear braces and proclaimed I was the meanest mom in the world for making you get them. At thirteen you entered a local beauty pageant, not because you wanted to win; far from it- you coveted the Miss Congeniality sash. If you had won first place you would have been devastated. You won Miss Congeniality and walked on air for weeks afterward.
When you were fourteen, I was once again “the meanest mom in the world” when I took your bedroom door off the hinges because you refused to clean your room and because your grades were slipping. At sixteen you punched a boy in the nose at school, creating a blood splatter that is, quite possibly, still on the school walls. You took the two day suspension with no arguments.
Then overnight it seemed you were all grown up and gone, the mother of your own daughter, and with your own road map of love and heartbreaks. Like every mother and daughter relationship, the road for us has been rocky at times, but you and I grew and changed with one another, developing a relationship that today I treasure. Forgive me if I sometimes slip into My Mom Mode- I truly try to keep that in check, however, once a mom, always a mom. You’ll find that out one day when your children are adults.

Today, at twenty-eight, My Lara, you are, by far, one of the most interesting people I know. You are still trying to slide down rainbows. And dear Lara, do not ever stop trying to slide down rainbows. Keep looking at the world through your Lara Eyes, keep crying at societal injustices. Stay curious, keep reading, and keep looking for causes to believe in. Refuse to be molded into anything except what and who you are. 
Happy birthday to my brilliant, shining falling star…

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

THISCLOSE to Hoarder status or Collector of Memories?

Lately I have been on a shameful binge of devouring Hulu episodes of the reality television show Hoarders. As a rule I do not find reality shows even the least bit interesting, yet I am drawn to Hoarders for some reason. I am not interested in the shallow lives of the Kardashians but I find myself morbidly fascinated by the poor souls who pull material items close to them as a way of placing physical barriers between themselves and the world. But maybe hoarders and the Kardashians are just two polar opposites of the same problem. They both have the need to constantly acquire material items to feel loved and comforted. The only difference between the pitiful, disastrous, sad hoarders and the Kardashians is that the latter can afford to hire someone to keep all their shit organized and they can acquire their comforts at Versace.

             As one episode after another of Hoarders has unfolded before my eyes I am drawn to the never ending jumble of chaotic disasters that are televised for the entire world to see.  I am mesmerized by hoarders- how does a person get to the point where they can no longer part with absolutely anything and the items grow into piles of debris that have to be climbed and navigated over and under? Teetering piles of papers, furniture, books, electronics, old bike parts, wadded rotting clothing, broken dishes, expired cans of food, cat litter boxes, fast food drink cups, cast off toys, unopened mail, broken appliances, pens, stuffed animals, paint cans, broken suitcases, and pet carriers. Why do some people feel the need to hang onto these items year after year even when the items have lost their usefulness and their value? Even when they have nowhere to sit and eat a simple meal, and they live amid broken refrigerators and toilets, too ashamed and embarrassed to have anyone enter their house to repair these necessities, they still hoard.  Even when they risk losing loved ones or their children over their obsession for drowning their existence in ever increasing mounds of items, they still hoard. But how do items become more important than people? What is the catalysis? Personal tragedy? Each of us experiences personal tragedy if we live long enough. But perhaps the coping tools to live with personal tragedy do not exist for hard core hoarders.

            I believe each of us has the potential to be a hoarder in this age of mass consumerism. After all, the ones with the most toys wins, right? So we collect our toys and our toys overtake us and as we collect more and more they eventually control us. We do not own them; they own us. But we can't  take them with us, no matter how hard we may try. That's an inescapable fact.

            I always try and look at the bright side, so a positive occurrence that has come from my obsession with hoarders is that my house is getting a thorough once over. I have cleaned out dresser drawers, thrown away clothes I haven’t worn in years, cleaned my office desk so I can actually see the surface, emptied the junk drawers of their junk, collected odd photos and put them in one box, thrown away pens that don’t write, and coats that won’t ever be worn.

            But I can’t for the life of me bring myself to throw away even one of my many books, one of my hundreds of CDs and movie DVDs, old concert ticket stubs, or old or new love letters. My oldest and youngest sons’ tiny t-shirts that they wore home from the hospital over thirty and twenty years ago are folded and sitting on a closet shelf. Yellowing faded pictures that my children colored in kindergarten are carefully preserved in manila folders and filed away in a metal file cabinet. My dad’s notebooks of song lyrics he wrote so many years ago are within sight of my computer desk where I write. My grandmother's beige woolen sweater she wore when she was living is folded inside a plastic bag and stored with some samples of her embroidery.  I still have a mood ring I wore eight years ago, Superman Mardi Gras beads a friend gave me over thirteen years ago, and hard copies of short stories I have written over the years. I won’t pretend that I can even entertain the notion of throwing any of these away, much less actually do it. 

            I am a collector of memories, memories that won’t mean a damned thing to anyone else once I am gone from this earth. I think most of us are collectors to a certain point. With time the items I am hanging onto might very well end up in the bottom of a trash dump under the memories of other people who have left this world, or else sold in some obscure thrift store. After all, I own fifteen black and white photos of an entire family that I’ve never met. I picked the photos up in a flea market one day because it hurt me to think that those people would be forgotten.

            So maybe my obsession with the pitiful hoarders, and so many others’ obsession with them, stems from the fact that we all know that we are within a hair’s breadth of crossing over some invisible line where our possessions overtake our ability to separate our emotional identities from our physical identities.  We fear becoming old, we fear becoming irrelevant and not remembered. We don’t want to become black and white photos collecting dust in some country thrift store. And while I am able to espouse on the psychology and existentialism of it all I still cannot bring myself to toss even a badly written book or a scratched CD. There is a secret hoarder in us all. What does your secret hoarder world contain? 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

There Should be a Law for That!

There are laws and rules in life. We have to have them because human beings can be so stupid. Want proof of this stupidity? Some people dress their dogs in coordinating designer clothes. And the poor dogs look so pathetic. Their sad eyes scream, “My owner is stupid. Help me.” It should be illegal to dress a dog in clothes.

            Some laws and rules make sense, like not killing other people and robbing banks. Then there are arcane laws such as the Georgia law that bans sex toys. Yes, this one is STILL on the books. Don’t believe me? Look it up. This last law means that most of my family and friends are criminals. They’re happy, but they’re criminals.

            Then there are unspoken societal rules that aren’t laws but should be, such as cutting in front of the line at WalMart. I mean there are only like what- two registers open at WalMart even during the height of Christmas season? Cutting in line justifies the death penalty as far as I’m concerned.  Another law we need is No Talking on a Cell Phone while standing in a checkout line. This should get a person thrown out of the store, then tarred and feathered. We need to bring back tarring and feathering. I bet that shit hurts, not to mention how ridiculous a person looks covered in feathers like some big dumb chicken.

            Another unspoken societal rule that should be law concerns convenience store gas pumps. After a person pumps his/her gasoline they should  IMMEDIATELY move their TWO tank 90s era extended cab F150.  No strolling into the store to buy four thousand twenty-five lottery tickets while the truck sits at the pumps. Move the damn truck or have your Red Man and Budweiser taken away for life and be forced to listen to The Barber of Seville in its entirely, five times, sung by Lil Wayne. While sitting in a room filled with fire ants.

            And selfies? God help me. A person’s phone should explode if they take any more than three selfies in a row in an attempt to get just the perfect photo for their  Facebook profile. Just BAM! The damn thing blows up. Would be funny as hell too. I’d pay to see that. Every time a phone explodes an automatic text would be sent from the phone to EVERYONE in the contact list two seconds before it explodes. The text? “I went Ka-boom. LOL” followed by an entire row of exploding smiley emoticons.

            Other laws should include the following:
  • A woman (or man.. hell, I can’t be gender biased here) who plucks his/her eyebrows completely out and then draws in dark boomerang ones will not be allowed to speak under any circumstances.
  • A driver who parks two inches from another car in a half empty parking lot should have their driver’s licenses suspended for fifty years.  Same punishment goes for drivers who try to apply mascara while they drive. This goes for women and drag queens.
  • Any person who sings the word “douche” in place of the word “deuce” in the song Blinded by the Light by Manfred Mann will have their thumbs removed.
  •  A person cannot go to a rock concert wearing a band t-shirt of the band that is performing the concert. That’s lame. The punishment is seventy-two hours of very loud, disco music.
  • It shall be unlawful to not inform the gas station attendant or restaurant manager that the restroom is out of toilet paper. A fine of one-hundred fifty dollars and banishment from public restrooms for a period not to exceed two years will be strictly enforced by the formation of The Bureau for the Enforcement of T.P. 

I could think of a lot other laws we need, but if more people would just act like their Mamas raised them right we wouldn’t have so many problems.  I heard that Jesus don’t like ugly,. so go forth and don't be ugly. And take off that Aersosmith t shirt before you go see Jethro Tull. Thankyouverymuch.

                                                                 Boom! Second try.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

I See You: Notes from the Rabbit Hole.

I have become the great piddler, the great waster of time, the great quiet observer.  I used to be busy, busy, busy with my life: nurse my babies, raise my children, cook endless meals, clean  house, show up to family functions with a smile, shop for groceries, attend college, study deep into the night,  divert energy to a divorce, attend school conferences, travel one hundred and forty miles round trip daily to another college, graduate, find a job teaching, raise the children some more. help them wrestle with their teen years, clean the house some more, wash clothes, fall in and out of love, juggle not enough money for too many bills, work, work, work. Living life meant being too busy to truly ponder it, shifting its weight back and forth in my hands to weigh decisions that I always thought would be available. If not now, then tomorrow. I can always do it tomorrow.

            That is what my life was once. Now my life seems to holding its breath, for what I don’t know. No more children to raise, no more teaching high school students, no more buying work clothes, no more feeling useful, productive, needed. I now juggle doctor appointments, fight insurance companies, clench my teeth when someone asks how I’m feeling, endlessly refill my medicine tins, re-read books I have read before, read online news, write when I am able, and wait wait wait for tomorrow when my body will be mine again and I can get back to the business of attending to life. And in the process I have discovered so many kindred spirits who are waiting also. Kindred spirits who have been forced to rearrange the many tiles of their lives. They live in the quiet shadows, attempting to reinvent themselves. asking themselves, “What now?” while watching
all the busy people hurry past. We become accustomed to the predictability of life and when that predictability is taken away before we are prepared, or as prepared as we fool ourselves into thinking we can be, we flounder like gasping fish who find themselves in a suddenly dry riverbed. 

            The business of reinventing oneself while being fully at the mercy of forces beyond one’s control is daunting and perplexing and liberating and confining, all at once. Waking up each morning to try and fit our now square selves into the round pegs of our former lives.  It’s like discovering a secret brotherhood that has its own language, its own timetables, its own tools, its own beliefs, its own rules- all quite different from what we believed would always be enduring and controllable.  We step into a new land that on the surface looks the same, but underneath, where we are made to go, down the rabbit hole, the whole of life takes on other hues and other perspectives. We are Alice who drank the potion and became quite, quite small, then tried to rectify that smallness by eating the cake that would make us so much larger than our surroundings. A largeness that consumes us and sets us apart. And even if some day we manage to climb out of the rabbit hole, the experience will have irrevocably changed us, so that we are forever cut off from the person we were before the deep descent.

            To all the people who have been pushed down the rabbit hole by cancer, crippling arthritis, severe injury,  heart disease, diabetes, depression, the death of a child or spouse, COPD, Alzheimer’s, M.S, persistent Lyme disease, lupus, and any of the other myriad things that life can dream up, there are more of us down the rabbit hole than you realize. I won’t tell you to “fight on” or “be brave” or any of the other clich├ęs that are about as useful as water to a drowning man or legs to a fish. I just want you to know that you aren’t alone. You aren’t alone. I see you. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother.

It is almost Christmas and maybe I should be writing some heartrending tale of giving and the power of seasonal love, but I want to write about my first memory, so that is what I am going to do. You want Christmas sentiments go buy a Hallmark card.

My first memory is of a Japanese babysitter trying to boil my brother alive like a lobster. Or maybe a shrimp. He was pretty small back then. I bravely and heroically threw myself at the babysitter and told her to put me in the boiling water instead of her lowering him into it. I say, bravely and heroically, but I knew if the babysitter boiled my brother alive I’d somehow catch the blame for it and I’d never ever hear the end of it for the rest of my life. Every family reunion, every Thanksgiving, every Fourth of July barbecue someone would say, “Hey, what about the time Teri let her brother be boiled alive?”  I knew, even in my five-year-old little heart, that I couldn’t bear sixty years of that story being repeated and repeated and repeated ad nauseam.  Screw that. I’d rather be boiled alive.

            Fortunately Mom and Dad walked into the house just about the time the babysitter stuck my foot and leg into the water and I let out a blood curdling scream that sent my dad running into the bathroom to jerk me away from the babysitter. He yelled at her, but since she could speak no English she just stood there and smiled and nodded her head while he railed into her. Mom and Dad had never used the babysitter locater service offered on Misawa Air Base again. Turns out that Japanese babysitters in 1965 didn’t know much about the hot water tap and didn’t know that they should be checking the temperature of the water before lowering a one-year child into it. You are welcome, brother. But instead of thanking me, about two months later he repaid me by pulling the string completely out of  the back of my Chatty Cathy doll and she never talked again.  My brother still owes me fucking big time. And I do mean big time.

            When we left Japan to come back to the states we almost left my brother behind because he refused to get on the plane. He kept pointing at the plane sitting on the tarmac, shaking his head no, and saying “Big bird, big bird (he predicted Sesame Street’s Big Bird long before Jim Henson came up with the idea- I think he should be getting some royalties or something).  I say we almost left him in Japan, but I know Mom and Dad wouldn’t have done that. If he hadn’t calmed down they would have just tranquilized the shit out of him and carried his comatose tiny body onto the plane. It didn’t come to that, although I think it would have made a great story for every family reunion, every Thanksgiving, and every Fourth of July barbecue. I made up for what my brother did to my Chatty Cathy by terrorizing him for years with this: “We got you in Japan, Someone just left you on our doorstep and one day your real mommy and daddy are going to come back and take you away and you won’t even be able to talk to them because they will speak Japanese and you can only speak English”. Hey, a sister has to what a sister has to do. I am still pissed about Chatty Cathy. I may need therapy for that. You think?  Oh, wait, I AM already in therapy. I’ll just have to make sure to bring it up at my next appointment. I mean, after all, what am I paying him for?

            My brother has no recollection of the day he was almost boiled alive, and his first experience with planes didn’t seem to scar him much. After all, he grew up to work in the airline industry. Go figure. I know he makes good money but not once has he offered to buy me another Chatty Cathy doll. Told you I needed therapy for that shit.

(below: base housing Misawa, Japan 1965)