How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

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 some 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 meant for hardworking Americans, not 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 country. 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 f--- her. She was married…. And I moved on her very heavily... I moved on her like a b----, 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 coming out of the closet today 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  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 mater 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, one old concert ticket stub, or an old or new love letter. 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. 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)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Americans Are Assholes

It’s the most wonderful time of the year; upcoming political elections. People are yelling and screaming and disagreeing and calling one another names like “idiot” and “moron”. I’ve never really understood the name calling as part of our democratic process. If someone doesn’t agree with you I don’t think calling them names is going to magically make them see the light and come over to YOUR side.  “Wow, this person just called me a moron so I must be wrong about everything I think. I will give this person hot doughnuts for helping me see the error of my ways”.

Throw into this grand mix a few thousand refugees who are fleeing a war torn, decimated country (that WE have had a hand in creating) and you’ve really got a show to rival anything ever conceived on Broadway.  I am expecting any moment for someone to take a chisel and chip away the words engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty. You know those words? That whole “Give me your tired, your huddled masses” thing?  The words to that poem for the 21st century America should read something along the lines of: 

Not like the brazen giant of capitalistic fame,
With conquering limbs astride from Wall Street to Silicon Valley;
Here at our BP-oil washed, smoggy gates shall stand
A paranoid woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Go-Away. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide scorn; her suspicious eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Stay in your war torn lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With tight lips. "Give me your Christian, your bootstrap able,
Your low wage masses yearning to breathe McDonald’s grease,
But the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to refugee camps,
I lift my lamp beside the locked door!"

Am I crazy? Do I not understand that terrorists could be hiding amongst those refugees? Do I not understand that the children of these refugees could grow up to bomb a town in Wisconsin or Ohio? Do I not understand that the refugees are going to destroy American Christian values with their Sharia law? Do I not understand that Halal law could effectively close down Big B’s BarBQ restaurants? Yes, I know, I know. Paranoia run rampant (you still thinking you’re going to end up in a FEMA camp, right?). Are we really going to keep professing that Christianity is such a great loving religion and keep harping that the U.S of A IS a Christian nation, but in the next breathe refuse to admit to our shores a small fraction of homeless, war torn, cold, hungry refugees based on unmitigated fear that we allowed to take root and bloom?

 Yeah, I know, “Why isn’t Saudi taking them?, “Why isn’t the UAE taking them?”, Why isn’t Qatar taking them?”. I used the same logic before I realized that argument isn’t logical at all but childish selfishness. As a teacher nothing drives me crazier than when I get onto a student for some misbehavior and the first thing that student utters is, “Well INSERT NAME is doing it and you’re not getting onto them.” Let me cry you a river, kiddo. WE are supposed to better than THEM, remember?

Our country was founded on taking chances. It is in our DNA. We are the ancestors of the persecuted, the slaves, the down trodden, the hungry, the stateless. We are Irish and English and Scottish and African and Cuban and Chinese and German and Egyptian and Japanese and Filipino and every other nationality one can think of.  America has long been famous for being the Melting Pot of the world. And being a melting pot is what all Americans have to thank for our advanced technology and medical research. Americans take chances and reach further into the unknown than others dare to, and the more anyone tells us we “can’t” then we somehow “do.” THAT is what being an American is all about. Or used to be. Or maybe it never was and I am living in a past that never existed because I was told over and over again while I was growing up that that is who and what Americans are.. 

Back to the refugees: If you take the time to educate yourself about the process these refugees would have to go through to even be considered for entry into this country, the whole “I want to protect my country” argument starts to fall apart.  Notice I wrote the word educate. That doesn’t mean reading one news story in one news source and then proclaiming yourself informed.  How did we come to be what we are? How did we come to look upon another group of people and hate them simply for the way they look or for their religion or for the fact that they want a better life? America has become a country of “It’s mine and you can’t have it,” all the way from the 1% down to the lowest person on the economic ladder. 

We don’t want to share. We don’t want to give. We want our 155 channels, our new cars, our specialty grocery stores, our green lawns, our new patios, and our shiny new smart phones and we could give two shits if another human being is going hungry or going without needed medication or has a decent education or a warm house in winter. Hell, we don’t even take care of our own in the U.S.A so whatever makes people like me think that America would be willing to show some human compassion towards nameless, faceless refugees from a land far away? And you think that America is still the land of The American Dream?  Take a long drive through the Mississippi Delta, the lesser known streets of Detroit and Philadelphia, and the outreaches of the Appalachian Mountains and then tell me that America is the land of opportunity and equality.  America has become the land of assholes. And I apologize to the world for that. I’m sorry we are assholes. And yes, I just resorted to name calling, but I included myself. 

Happy early holidays everyone…. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

In the Shadow of Alzheimer's

I read a CNN story today of one man's battle with Alzheimer’s and his unique ways of being able to actually describe what he is going through. Mr. Sandy Halperin, like my father did in his early to moderate stages of the disease, uses his intellect and creativity to compensate for the disease. My dad did that: that is why he was able to hide what was happening to him for so long. There is such an twisted irony in the fact that Alzheimer’s often strikes people who exhibit high intellect and creativity.

Mr. Halperin talks of feeling like cotton is stuffed in the front part of his brain. He talks and then pauses, his train of thought erased in a millisecond.  All too familiar patterns I saw in my father. Dad used to refer constantly to a whisk broom in his brain literally sweeping information and brain connections away. Dad could be sitting watching t.v or eating dinner and he would suddenly say, "That broom is back."  He could hear it inside his head. The entire family knew what he was talking about because he had explained it to us so many times.  Unfortunately my dad also had Parkinson’s that affected his ability to speak. Mr. Halperin is able to articulate well what he is going through. My dad couldn’t. He would stutter and stammer and maybe finally blurt out a few words of a sentence. My family and I were always playing a sort of sad game of charades.  If I could have had anything while dad was still in the moderate stages of the disease I would have asked for his ability to speak to be restored. I missed out on so many important conversations with him that I would have liked to have had. But, in spite of, and because of, Dad’s dysphasia, he learned to talk with his facial expressions and his eyes and his body language. And sometimes that communication was louder and clearer than any words could ever have been.  Until a year and half before his death he was still able to whisper “I love you” in my ear when he hugged me. Eventually he was only able whisper the word, “love” but I knew what he meant. Then it was only the hug, but I could still hear him say “I love you”.

It has been two years and almost three months since dad died. I can actually write the word “died” now instead of referring to it as one of the many euphemisms our language supplies for death; “he passed on” or “he left us” or “we lost him”.  He died. Plain and simple, the way all of us are one day going to die.  Now I can admit that. I can look at photographs of my dad and smile, I can remember how his eyes would twinkle (I swear, they twinkled, that is not a figure of speech), I can remember him grilling his famous Fourth of July hamburgers. I can remember him sitting over his steel guitar hour after hour trying to get a portion of song to sound just right (and he always did). I can remember a lot now and not be sad. Time is taking care of that deep grief and gifting me with all the good memories. My heart still has am empty place and I still miss him so much that it is a sharp ache in the center of chest that feels like a stone, but I can work around the weight of that stone now and smile at the memories.

 Dad didn’t want us telling people that he had Alzheimer’s because he didn’t want them to treat him any differently. And he was right. After people found out he had Alzheimer’s they did treat him differently. They treated him like a child and he wasn’t a child. He was a grown man who knew that parts of his brain and his self were being slowly eaten away. Maybe with more education and knowledge and with people like Sandy Halpern coming forth the fears will be eased and others will be able to understand how vital it is to keep on relating to the person with Alzheimer’s as a person instead of a disease.

Back to Mr. Halperin and HIS story. I hope that the stories of people like Sandy Halperin can offer more insight into the disease and lead to more understanding. His story is important.

My thoughts are with the Halperin family because I truly know what it is like to watch someone you love sink into this disease. And I thank you for telling your story, Mr. Halperin. You told it with dignity, grace, and gave a peek into your daily struggles that will enable others to dispel the many fallacies about Alzheimer’s that simply are just that: fallacies.

Please take a moment to click on the link below and read Sandy Halpern's story. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

My Lyme Disease Story That I Wish I Didn't Have..

I believe I may have had Lyme disease for many many years, maybe as far back as 1986. In 1986 I lived in a town in rural Georgia that was overrun with ticks. I remember pulling ticks off my then two-year-old son. I don’t remember finding any on me but that was a long time ago. That same year I developed about 200 mouth ulcers that covered the inside of my mouth, down my throat, and on my gums. I also started getting very very tired and suffered from debilitating fatigue. I got pregnant in 1988 and the fatigue , paradoxically, became somewhat better. But was that the start? I'll probably never know. 

Fast forward to 2001. I received a Hep B vaccine on Feb 14, 2001. About two weeks after I received the vaccine I noticed quarter-sized bald patches on my scalp. About two weeks after that I woke up one morning with severe pain in my sternum like I had been hit with a fast pitched baseball. Over the next few weeks the pain spread and became more severe. Eleven days after the pain started I started breaking out on my hands and feet with small pustules. They would pop and then the skin would die off on sheets. My hands and feet started looking more like raw hamburger meat than human appendages.  

Meanwhile the pain in my sternum spread into my entire rib cage and into my hips. I could barely endure the mattress touching my torso and I started sleeping in a recliner. I started getting painful, crippling hips spasms that would make me scream and writhe in agony. It got to the point where my legs were so wobbly and weak it was sometimes difficult to walk. I started sleeping sixteen to twenty hours at a stretch. It took eight months for me to get a diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis. I started on enbrel and methotrexate.  The pain never went into my fingers, hands, feet, or toes. I never got the bone deformities that psoriatic arthritis can cause, but I did have some of the spinal issues. I often wondered if I had received the correct diagnosis.

Eventually the pain amped down a bit and my fatigue got a tiny bit better; enough for me to work. I maintained for a few years, but always had bouts of days when the pain and fatigue would hit all over again and I’d be sucked back down into periods of intense pain in my rib cage and sternum. I had about one, or maybe two (if I was lucky), good weeks a month where I wasn't in pain or just in mild pain. 

Since 2005 I have been hospitalized twice for lung infections that would not go away; cytomegalovirus, that made me extremely ill for two weeks; and I tested positive for EBV (Epstein Barr Virus). I was teaching in a juvenile justice detention facility and was exposed to TB at some point, so I also went on lsoniazid monotherapy for nine months through the local health department. I never stopped taking my Enbrel injections or my methotrexate. My rheumotologist said it was fine to keep taking auto immune suppressant drugs while I was in TB treatment. So, my body was under a great amount of physical stress from many different internal avenues. 

In 2010 the periods of pain started progressing and coming closer and closer together and I was having fewer and fewer good days. I developed a feeling like I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs and I also developed anxiety and heart palpitations. I was still teaching full time though. Around this time my rheumy said I had fibro as well as PsA (psoriatic arthritis). In November 2011 I had cervical spine fusion surgery. Pain had started radiating into my skull and my neck popped all the time like a bowl Rice Kripsies. The doctor recommended surgery and I jumped at the chance to actively DO something that would make me feel better.  

It took me a long time to recuperate from the surgery. The pain in my sternum and rib cage was intensifying, so in desperation I went to the Mayo clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. as soon as I could travel in the Spring of 2012. The doctors there put me through test after test but they could no find reason for my chronic rib/sternum pain, shortness of breathe, heart palpitations, anxiety, and chronic fatigue other than  psoriatic arthritis (which there is no test for).  

I was fortunate  in that I had a very good internist doctor in my hometown and he (the most caring doctor I have ever had), at my behest, kept me working full-time with help from Ritalin for the extreme fatigue and pain meds for the bad, bad days of rib/sternum pain.  This was in addition to the weekly Enbrel injections and methotrexate (both which lowered my immune system responses) prescribed by my rheumy.  I wanted to work. I wanted to teach. I was fighting every single day to stay in the game.  When I was given the chance I even took a teaching job overseas, but two things: my father’s worsening Alzheimer’s and the very real possibility of my not being able to continue receiving my Enbrel in the Middle East, forced me to return stateside after five months. Back home I was lucky and got a teaching position in a small school in South Georgia, which I came to love. Truly a teacher’s dream job.

In June 2014 I went to Arkansas to visit my son and on June 21, 2014 I was bitten by what I thought were ticks, but then again I thought it might have been spiders. I just knew the bites were painful, red, angry looking and took weeks to heal.  I knew very little about Lyme disease. 

Looking back, I believe that I had an old Lyme infection that dates back at least as far as 2001 when I first became so deathly ill, and while in Arkansas I was re-infected which caused a major shit storm in my body. By late August, 2014 I was noticing more intense pain that was harder and harder to get under control, neuropathy in my hands, gastrointestinal problems, and some cognitive difficulties. At my doctor's appointment in late August I informed my rheumy  that something was going on and I was very concerned. Her solution was to suggest a new psoriatic arthritis drug medication, Otezla. I took the new med for four weeks and had to stop due to awful side effects. 

By October 2014 I was hearing soft music in my right ear whenever I tried to go to sleep; my brain started getting foggy like I was thinking through a wall of mist; my emotional state got to where I had a difficult time dealing with my high school students; and the pain in my rib cage was, on some days, so bad that I would sit at my desk at lunch and cry once the students left for the cafeteria. I would forget to do tasks that my admin had told me to do (it's not like I forgot and then remembered when I was told- the information was simply not retrievable). I started crying easily over nothing and I became very depressed. I have always read voraciously, but all of a sudden I was having trouble comprehending long passages of texts. Never a great typist, my typing skills became even worse. I think the depression was secondary to the fact that, by this time, I was in pain almost 24/7. Constant pain will break even the strongest person. My right leg and left arm started going numb and throbbed and burned. I was still stubbornly walking three miles about three or four times a week, and I can remember several of these late night walks where I sobbed in pain with each step as tears rolled down my face. But I kept pushing myself.

 I started seeing a chiropractor on a weekly basis, but it did little to help my pain levels. I developed left lower lid eye twitches and deep muscle twitches in my abdomen. I also started having awful stomach pain that felt like pen knives were being driven into my stomach and into my right side under my ribs. My insomnia became much worse and I was maybe sleeping four hours a night. I would find myself nodding off at my desk in the day time. I bought a broom and dust pan and started sweeping the class room in an effort to stay awake, like a mad woman, while the students did their class work. Then, like a cruel joke, when I got home in the evenings I couldn't go to sleep no matter how hard I tried.

That was my life. Now, imagine that every single day this is YOUR life from the time you wake up until long after you fitfully fall asleep. Imagine that after year and year you have no idea what is really wrong with you. No medication helps. You feel your body unraveling like a corded rope and you are helpless to stop it.  No one will listen. No one will or can help you. All that is offered are Band-Aids that don’t work. And all the time you are silently screaming, “SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH MY BODY!”, and you are scared. Very scared.

On December 4, 2014. much to my shame,  I finally completely broke down in the class room. The ongoing relentless pain and fatigue, the insomnia, the emotional stress of dealing with pain on a daily basis, and the demands of a normal high school class room, along with brain fog and memory issues slammed me face first into a proverbial brick wall.  I waved the white flag and went out on medical leave, determined to find out once and for all what in the hell was wrong with me so I could fight. It’s almost impossible to fight a faceless, nameless monster. I needed to put a face to my adversary.

 On Jan 28, 2015 I had another appointment with my longtime rheumy and she told me I was having a "spell" and I would come out of it because I had come out of them before.  I don’t even think she looked at me when she uttered the all profound "spell" pronouncement.  There I sat in her office crying my heart out while my left hip muscle spasmed painfully, and she was telling me I was having a "spell". She seemed in a hurry to get to the next patient and I left feeling as if she hadn’t heard a word I had said. I walked out of her office, demanded copies of my medical records for the past eight years, and the next week I found a rheumotologist in Cumming, Ga. I saw him for the first time on March 2, 2015. Unknown to me at the time he tested me for Lyme disease and the test came back positive on band 23 (a Lyme specific band) with a high Lyme Ab/Western Blot Reflex IgG/IgM and a high CCP antibodies IgG/IgA.  I had never, in fifteen years of being ill, been tested for Lyme disease. When he told me on March 17 that I had Lyme I was speechless, and this ole gal doesn’t do the speechless thing often. It wasn't even anything I had considered. 

Meanwhile I had been subjected to tests for nerve damage to my leg and arm (negative) and an MRI (normal) by a neurologist, and I had a CT scan on my stomach (inconclusive) ordered by my internist. In fact, three hours ago I had an ultrasound on my abdomen. Something has to be causing the awful stomach cramps I get after I eat, but all in all the stomach issues aren't the worst symptom I have and I could easily live with it if I could clear up the sternum/rib pain and the constant fatigue. Just one more piece to a puzzle that has become increasingly perplexing as the years have passed.  If anything else in my body starts going haywire I’m going to lose my shit. Literally and figuratively speaking.

After I showed positive for Lyme disease the doctor started me on doxycyline, but after five weeks it was apparent it wasn't working (I had taken doxycycline for years for acne cyst breakouts and had apparently built up an immunity to it). The doctor switched me to amoxicillin. The first two weeks on amoxicillin I thought I was dying. I mean I really thought I was dying, this is not some sort of writing-for-shock-effect hyperbole. I later found out that this process is called a “herxing” reaction and that it occurs when the Lyme bacteria start dying off. That was a helluva two weeks in which I didn't even have the energy to walk across my backyard.  I now take amoxicillin twice a day, and except for having to take a four day break recently and then going back through three more days of herxing when I started back on the antibiotic, I am really not much better off than when I started treatment in March.

 I am now able to function at about 40% to 50% of my normal level.  The extreme fatigue is often off the charts (think of how washed out you felt when you had the flu and you have an idea of how very very crippling the fatigue can be- it’s not just being “tired”) and many nights I cry myself to sleep from the constant pain in my sternum and rib cage. It hurts to breathe and I become frustrated after a few days and have to let off steam so I can keep going. No medication or pain pill or hot shower makes the pain ever go away- it only dulls it enough so I can endure.

So, after all this time I am nowhere near well and it’s going to take tweaking my treatment and medications maybe several more times in order to kill as much of the bacteria as possible, but I am determined to get my life back. I have to. This can’t be my life forever and ever, amen.

How do I feel emotionally? I am angry. I am angry at the medical community (some of the so-called best) who never thought to test me for Lyme all those years. I am angry at the doctors who tried to make me think that my being sick was somehow my fault, and at times, even insinuated that it was all in my head. I am angry at medical colleges who aren’t teaching upcoming doctors about Lyme disease and what to look for.  I now have a lot of issues with trust when it comes to the medical profession.  What is it going to take before the medical community starts listening to Lyme patients? What is it going to take before people with Lyme don’t have their entire lives stolen because the medical profession doesn’t want to admit that Lyme is as prevalent as it is?

 Doctors who specialize in Lyme disease are far and few between due to CDC and insurance restraints on treatment methods. The closest LLMD (literate Lyme doctor) I have found is a doctor who comes to Savannah from Maryland every six weeks. Then there is a LLMD in FranklinNorth Carolina

Due to the absence or presence of co-infections, how long the patient has had Lyme, and various other factors, treating Lyme disease can be extremely tricky and vary wildly from one patient to another. There is no one-size-fits-all medical protocol. I have not gotten to the point where I am quite ready to see a LLMD ( I really do like my rheumy and I can see where he is trying to help me), but if I don’t see some improvement by September I may have to consider that option.  It would mean traveling and incurring a great deal of expense, but my health, my peace of mind, and having my life back would more than balance out the inconvenience and costs that are not covered by insurance. 

What makes Lyme disease so difficult to detect and treat? Let’s look at the statistics;  they aren’t confidence inspiring: Fewer than 50% of those infected have any recollection of a tick bite. Last year there were over 300,000 new cases, more than West Nile virus, more than new HIV cases. That’s 25,000 new cases a month. Lyme has six times more new cases a year than new cases of HIV, yet Lyme research only garners 1% of funds for research and study. Lyme disease is the Great Imitator and can mimic M.S, ALS, Parkinston’s, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and chronic fatigue syndrome, among others. ( )

 I am thankful for the few doctors who have tried to help me and were compassionate, but, in the end, they weren't trained when it comes to Lyme disease and the co-infections that oftentimes come with Lyme disease. As for the doctors who plainly didn't give a shit that I was so sick and who told me there was nothing wrong with me or that it was "just" fibro, I wish for them to be visited by some health issue that will enable them to become more compassionate practitioners. I think that's fair. 

Lyme disease can carry a life time of serious implications for people affected by it, especially when the disease is not treated in a timely manner. Lab tests now available for Lyme are, at best, only about 60% reliable. That’s not good enough. Not when it’s people’s lives that are being gambled with. I was lucky, in a way. When I was finally tested my results showed Lyme immediately, but I often wonder what my life would be like if I had been tested in 2001. Would I still be teaching? Would I be this sick? Would I have so much day to day pain? Lyme disease is the fastest growing vector borne infectious disease in the United States. 40% of people with Lyme disease end up with long term health problems. (

I don't know if I will ever be able to go back into teaching, and I am in mourning for that part of my life. I was a good teacher and dearly loved my profession.  Now the future is murky and here I am still fighting, trying to get well, trying to find my way out of this bad dream.