Family Does Not Mean Common DNA

We talk to each other on the phone
Nothing much of nothing

So many topics not to be discussed

Stepping around the land mines of opposing views

The things we say don’t matter, have no connection

The only thing we have in common is the past

Mother, father and child

Years later and light-years apart

Idle chit chat of dinners out and what the lawn man said about the hedges

Have you heard from your children

And I pass along the news of the next generations

As we talk, I find myself wondering

Why do I even bother to talk to them

I owe them nothing, I have no debt to the past

I have fulfilled my childhood obligations

An obedient child, bowing to their authority

Learning how to lie and be sneaky to get past

The eyes of parents who don’t like small children

We have less to say to each other than

The conversations we have with strangers

I am not that child; I have changed more than they can imagine

They have changed into sad people, waiting to die

I feel sorry for them

Mother is a complainer, nothing makes her happier than to

Grouse and mutter about her health, the clerk who was rude

My father’s staying up all night on the computer

My father is trapped in the house with her and

He hates confrontations so he hides in the Internet

He’s not as vocal about her shortcomings to me

As she is when she speaks about his; even as she laughs

You can tell it makes her angry

Two strangers living in the same house

Even after more than 50 years of marriage

To be honest, I don’t really know these two people

That I call my parents

Our lives diverged when I left home at 18

Thirty-six years later and we’re all of us new people

I have come to a deeper understanding of myself

And I know that the “me of me” is not someone they’d want to know

I think maybe they suspect that as well

So we maintain the façade of familial ties and emotional connections

Where there is none, not any more

And we talk on the phone, speaking nothing much about nothing

Our only link is the past; and our relationship has no future

~~KGChmielewski 2016


Family: fam-i-ly; fam-uh-lee, noun

~~a group consisting of parents and children living in a household.

~~all the descendants of a common ancestor

“We are family”; family honor; family dinner; holidays with the family; family time; family rules; family movies.

We have a fairly common idea of what a family is–you know, Mom and Dad, the 2.48 children, house. white picket fence and a cute dog or cat. We buy into this concept of family as the only form that “family” can take. We recognize all the labels of family: mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece, nephew, grand(label) and if you live long enough, “great-grand”(label). We compare strong relationships to those not related to us with some version of those labels–my “brother from another mother”, “the daughter I never had”, “like a grandmother to me” and so on.

I think that’s backwards. Based on my own (dysfunctional) family, I strongly believe that “family” is NOT “all the descendants of a common ancestor”–or a commonality of genetic information. Just because we share the same genes does not mean I HAVE to love you–or even like you, and they are different things. In theory, families are the ones to whom you can turn to, no matter what, and they will respond in love. In reality, we all know that it doesn’t always turn out that way. And just because we have common DNA doesn’t mean that I have to stop my life to get you out of some mess or lend you money without expecting it to be repaid. You can swap the personal nouns in that one and it would still be true: you don’t have to stop your life and etc.

The concept of family, especially the Norman Rockwell version of American Family, is such an ingrained part of our society’s structure, that we don’t even question it. Most of the time. I have had to question it for several different reasons. Let’s do this chronologically: my parents do not actually like children and probably shouldn’t have reproduced. But that was a part of their generational expectations (marry, have kids, in that order) so it never occurred to them to not have children. And I am grateful to be here (as is my brother, I assume). So I was brought up by an overwhelmingly authoritarian mother. Example: when I was still a baby, when we went to someone else’s house, my mother would spread a small blanket (say, 2 feet square) and place me and my toys on it. I was not allowed to go off of that blanket. People were impressed by my ability to not get under their feet or demand things from Mother, just sit there and play quietly. (The thought of doing this to my children still gives me the willies.)

As I grew older, there was still the hard-line rules and the unspoken but definitely understood requirement of complete and immediate obedience. I got spanked if I didn’t do what I was supposed to–or if I did something that I wasn’t supposed to. My mother usually punished me–she used a wooden spoon as her method for spanking. One time though, I did something real bad (and in hindsight, it was something very foolish–but childish) and my father spanked me. With a leather belt. I was 7 or 8 years old at the time.

We lived overseas for several years and at one point, there was no English-speaking school. So my mother home schooled me. Three or four hours in the morning, then we’d have lunch, then she let me go outside. I wandered all over the local area, for hours at a time. I was allowed to go to the beach by myself but with very strict instructions of NEVER entering the water. I was smart enough then to know that if I did go in, I’d have to dry off before going home. (The only time I ever broke that rule wasn’t even for swimming–I was offered a chance to water ski. Complete strangers (but a woman, if that makes a difference) and she asked if I’d like to try–they were using a sort of beginner’s skis–one wide ski with two foot holders. I got on in the surf, rode out and around and landed back up on the beach. Not a single drop of water on me!)

Let me reiterate that for you: I was out of the house, beyond my mother’s vocal range, doing whatever with no supervision. I went to the beach and built sand castles; I played in a little group of evergreens that made “rooms” between their trunks. I walked around the other houses and made friends with an old lady who spoke no English and I spoke very little Thai…but I’d go inside her house, she’d give me cookies and a drink and we’d watch some Thai kick-boxing together. Then I’d go home. I don’t know if I ever told my parents about her. I learned from a very early age to be sneaky (and to lie).

Fast forward 20 years and I have my own children. The thought of them being somewhere that I didn’t know where they were, and doing the same sort of things that I did at there age…made me have nightmares, so to speak.

So under my parents’ regime, I was outwardly obedient and inwardly rebellious. I came home drunk once–a cast party for the spring musical, I tried every single drink that came around and my friends had to carry me into the house. I was grounded for 6 weeks and missed the Junior-Senior Prom because it was during that time. A little bit after my sentence was over, I mentioned not being able to go and my mother looked all shocked and told me that I could have gone to that! No, I couldn’t because you didn’t tell me that PRIOR to the dance.

I think you get the idea. I usually sum it up as “I never had a childhood”. I lied to do the things I wanted to, especially during those rebellious teen years. I freaked out other adults when at the ages of 7 or 8, I would sit in the room with the adults and occasionally added something to the conversation–pertinent and not the sort of thing you’d expect from a child. Things didn’t improve when my brother was born–7.5 years between us and I became his 3rd parent. Poor guy.

At 18, I joined the Air Force and left home. The first 6 months of freedom were spent on the stupidity that comes with freedom from the jailers. I drank, I had sex, I got pregnant. That “sobered” me up pretty fast. (Side note: I told my parents about being pregnant; I’m pretty sure they think that I lost my virginity to my child’s father. Sorry, folks. Did that 2 years prior with my boyfriend.)

I gave my child up for adoption and went on with my AF work. I married a co-worker and when my term of enlistment was up, got out of the AF so that we could start our family. My son was born in ’86, my daughter in ’88. We moved as the AF sent him and then at 11 years’ of service, he chose to get out of the military and return to civilian life. We ended up living in the same city as the rest of his family…but our marriage is best left for another time. Let’s just say it ended long before I gave up and divorced him.

My mother had the unmitigated gall to tell me that perhaps (he) would accept God’s love into his heart and “take me back”. I told her in no uncertain terms that I was never going back, that he hadn’t pushed me out, I had left him. (And when I did leave, I lost the family (of in-laws) that I had belonged to for almost 18 years.)

Leaving home and having my own life did not stop my mother from trying to tell me what to do. It took her about 25 years before she realized that my brother and I would listen to her telling us what we needed to do and we’d just go “uh huh” and then do what we wanted. She was not happy about that. And the biggest reason for that unhappiness is that, as I have come to realize, she is a narcissist. One of the main characteristics is strongly identifying (yourself) by the job or title you hold. In other words, you are your job. My mother wants to be a mother, NEEDS to be a mother, in order to have any sense of identity.

I haven’t spoken to my brother in almost 6 years–not because we are fighting, but because our lives are so different, there is no common meeting ground. All of my grandparents are dead, my favorite uncle, too. The only living relatives (all cousins) I have beyond immediate family are completely unknown to me, scattered who knows where–and there’s very few of them. I am, in a very real sense, an orphan.

However. For a long time, I had a group of friends that were closer to me than my own DNA-related family. Then circumstances changed and we all moved on. I met and married my Beloved, and have become part of his family. In fact, my mother-in-love told me that she did not think of me as a “daughter-in-law”, but as a DAUGHTER. His parents have been more involved in our lives than mine ever were. And I don’t mean the bad kind of involvement–I mean emotionally AND financially supportive. For various reasons, he and I chose to move across the country from them–and while they miss us, they absolutely agree that we had to do it. We talk to them almost every day. I talk to my parents maybe once a month.

They say that “home is where, if you go there, they (family) *have* to take you in”. WTF is that? A mandatory obligation to take in someone just because they happen to share DNA? Let’s put this in really simple terms: you do not have to accept anyone or anyone’s behavior “just because” you are related. If your DNA family treats you in a way that you would not tolerate from a stranger, you do not have to tolerate it from them–even if it means cutting of contact with these (poisonous, negative, judgmental) relatives.

If your DNA family is not supportive of you and your goals; if they do not give you respect; if they denigrate you or in any way make you feel bad about yourself; if they treat you as a child even after childhood; if they don’t like your chosen friends or mates and say so to you; if they don’t accept your choices; why on the gods’ green Earth would you bother to spend time or the effort of any contact with them?

Those who you spend the most time with–happy or sad time? THAT IS your family, regardless of genetic codes. The people you rely on, the ones you can trust, those who support you being you…are family. And the best part about a chosen family, instead of an accidental one is that you can have endless amounts of “relatives”–no limitations on how big (or how small) this healthier family is!

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Once a Mother, Always a Mother

I miss my children. It’s not the miles (we live across the country from each other), but it’s the passage of years. I am proud of them both. They’ve made good lives for themselves, with jobs and partners and children of their own. They have grown up to be what I had wished for them: responsible, independent, compassionate people.

But lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about those years when they were young. (And I was younger, but that’s not the point.) Looking back over all those years, it’s like a slideshow in my mind. Flickering images, passing in succession, of babies and toddlers and tweens and teens. I have come to realize that I loved every moment with them. I’d like to be able to relive some of that, to have a second chance to enjoy all those “firsts” for those new beings.

I had only the first 3 days of my eldest child’s life as I gave her up for adoption. While that was a hard decision, I have never doubted it, have always known that it was the best thing for her–even if it wasn’t what I would have wanted for me. But my circumstances were such that I was not able to have a child in my life at that time. I am still in contact and I am happy to report that her mother did a great job–I’m also very proud of her and her accomplishments.

W, my son, was born in the year of the Texas sesquicentennial (150 years) of statehood and the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. I was 8 months pregnant with him when I watched Challenger blow up. Ronald Reagan was in the White House. We were listening to “That’s What Friends Are For”, “Addicted to Love”, “Rock Me Amadeus” and Prince was giving us a “Kiss”.

Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos had fled the Philippines, leaving her thousands of shoes behind. 1986 was the year of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, Chicago won the Superbowl and the Mets were the World Champions. Science was giving us the first Hep B vaccine and superconductivity; Voyager passed Jupiter and sent back photos that answered some of our questions about it. Fox channel was born on our TV and Oprah had her show.

I was busy with more important things. W was born at the end of March. I watched him lift his head and turn it over while in his layette at the hospital. His father and I took him home and began our life as a family (not just a couple). Because I breastfed him, we had a lot of “face” time. I talked to him and sang to him–not unlike the mariachi bands that wander through the Mexican restaurants while you’re trying to eat. There were so many firsts, those remarkable moments of new actions, new abilities. His first smile was wonderful, all gums and happiness.

Now, looking back, it seems like the time went by like lightning…a flickering moment and then on to something else that was new. He learned to drink from a straw. He tasted strawberry jam for the first time. He laughed, that deep and wonderful belly laugh that only babies have. He went to Mother’s Day out, leaving the house as it had always been and then coming home to an empty house; then he crawled all over, looking for our things. He (and I) lived with his great-grandparents for several months until we left for Germany. His first Christmas filled the floor with presents from the grandparents / great-grandparents. He preferred his father’s optic orange golf ball.

He got a stuffed animal for his 2nd birthday, a duck we named George. W still has George and he still sleeps on W’s bed. Apparently his wife cuddled with George when he was on sea duty. He would take all of the toys out of the footlocker (toy box) and then climb in his…boat? Spaceship? Maybe it was his car… He had a toy phone and he would hold it up to his ear and hold a conversation–complete with pauses while the “other person” was speaking. He was a loving baby, happy to get hugs and kisses, which he learned to return with great enthusiasm. There was a certain feeling of awe to realize that I was the center of his Universe–at least for the first couple of years.

His sister (L) was born in 1988, when W was 2.5 years old. That was the year George Michael sang about his “Faith” and it was the first time we were Rick Rolled. (We didn’t even know that was what happened, those first few times of hearing Rick Astley singing.) And we all knew the words to Bobby McFerrin’s song…”Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. Reagan was still President. Pan-Am flight 103 exploded from a bomb, to crash in Lockerbie, Scotland. Benazir Bhutto was elected as the first Islamic woman to be Prime Minister in Pakistan; she said of her two terms in that position: “The government I led gave ordinary people peace, security, dignity, and opportunity to progress.”

Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen were the candidates for the Democrats; George Bush and Daniel Quayle were the GOP’s choice. Washington won the Superbowl; LA Dodgers were the World Series winners. CDs were outselling vinyl and Ted Turner created his own TV station. “The Last Emperor” won the Oscar for Best Picture. Oh, and the US Navy shot down an Iranian airliner after mistaking it for a jet fighter.

L was born in the middle of November, just in time to get Christmas presents that year. She was also born in Augsburg, Germany. The first stuffed animal she was given was from her father and brother–a little orange tabby kitten. Last I heard, L still has it.

Each of my pregnancies were different except for the morning sickness that lasted all day. This time, with L, I had a toddler to chase after and couldn’t just sit quietly, hoping for the queasiness to pass. By the time I was about 6 months along, poor little guy had to climb the four floors up to our apartment by himself. I wasn’t able to balance him and my tummy without feeling like we’d all go rolling down. The only question he asked me about the sibling that was coming along was “how does the baby get out?”. Whew. Missed the big one, “how did the baby GET IN?”

I announced this pregnancy to my grandparents (the “greats” for my kids) when I told my grandmother that I could not come to the US for their 50th wedding anniversary because the airline wouldn’t let me fly with a newborn. Instead, they came to Germany for Christmas and New Year’s. It was the first time they had ever been out of the US.

I got to see my children interact with my grandparents–the youngest and the oldest of the family. My grandfather took out his dentures to show W–who promptly ran to me and held on. I guess he thought he’d get bitten. For various reasons, I was bottle-feeding L and it has been a cherished memory, the sight of Grandmom, holding her and feeding her.

W took his position as the older brother seriously and was always helpful–bringing me diapers or a burp rag. He was always gentle with her and I enjoyed watching the two of them, learning about each other. BUT! L’s personality was already manifesting itself: she could be extremely vocal about the things she wanted (even if it only was in baby-babble) and I told her father that one day, our child would come running into the room, crying and saying, “SHE hit me!”. (I was not wrong.)

As a stay-at-home Mom (SAHM, so I’ve heard is the acronym), my world revolved around my children. Taking care of them (and their environment) was a major priority. I wasn’t chained to them, there were no bad feelings about being at home. As a matter of fact, I thoroughly took pleasure and joy in being with them, in the daily routine. And a daily routine with a baby and a toddler is a study in changes and discovery. (I don’t mean diaper changes, although we had those, too.)

I tried to mark in my own mind each of the many milestones, for both of them. The first food, the first drinking from a cup, the first step…so many “firsts” it could be overwhelming. I’d be marveling at one and then BOOM! We’d have another. Even the “firsts” I had had with W were different than those same things with L. And I loved every minute of it.

The whole world takes on a new, lustrous and exciting feel when you are seeing it through the eyes of a child. Even explaining and talking about the mundane things they were doing, I knew that “mundane” was my word and “wowee” was theirs. I took the time to explore their world as they explored this big world they were living in. The trees are a little taller, the grass a little greener, the dog or cat a little fluffier and softer.

As time passed (as it is wont to do), the “first” events slowed down a bit. I had a chance to really savor it and even catch my breath before the next one came along. L was my dramatic child. Supporting evidence: she was in the high chair, W and his friend were seated on the bench and W says to me, “Mommy, (L)’s face is blue.” Mommy went into freak out mode because when I looked at her, by the gods, she was blue. A blue that no human face should ever be. I pulled her out of the high chair and that action knocked the food loose so that by the time she was in my arms, she was breathing again.

She wasn’t done with us and high excitement. Not too long after the high chair episode, she was coughing and hacking around the house. Friday afternoon, of course. Did I mention we were living in Germany and had military healthcare? No appointments over the weekend. So her father and I both agreed we would be taking her first thing Monday morning. That apparently did not meet with her agenda… I was downstairs at the neighbor’s house when the husband knocked on the door, holding L. “You need to go back upstairs to be with W. I’m taking her to the ER. I was changing her diaper and she stopped breathing. I had to resuscitate her.”

These are not words you ever want to hear. The wait was horrendous. Husband came home, without L, about 10 pm. The hospital had done an xray of her esophagus. If this (      ) is the normal esophagus, hers was like this (XX|XX) where the “|” is the actual opening for air. No wonder she was not breathing well. Turned out, she had the croup. Poor baby got shots in her thighs every 6 or 8 hours…and the medical team had asked her father to help hold her down for the first couple. When I went to see her, she very pointedly refused to look at her father. I think I lost some popularity when I didn’t grab her up and take her home. Scary, scary times for a mom (and a dad).

It’s not like W didn’t have excitement. No, his was of a different style. When they were tweens, we accompanied their father to an office party at the boss’ house. There was an above ground pool. It is pertinent to the story to understand that in this circular pool, in the center, there was a slight dip so that all the dirt would collect in that one place. My son dove in and found himself standing within that dip. It made the water just *that* much too deep for him. I saw him, thought he was play-bobbing up and down and then I realized that he was in danger. It’s true: people who are drowning are NOT yelling for help. Their arms go out, up to shoulder height and they spend all their energy trying to catch a breath. I had a glass glass in my hand and didn’t want to drop it (making another hazard) and by the time I found a place to set it down, I heard a splash. Husband had gone into the pool (clothes, watch, wallet and all) and got W out of the water. Let’s just say that W didn’t dive in again and it took a while before he got back into the water.

I know it sounds melodramatic, but…except for the quick response of their father, there would be a very good chance that both of my children would be dead. And that thought still makes me shudder. I don’t want those scary times. But you don’t always get what you want…

At 14, L broke her arm, rollerblading. When he was about 3, W fell and cut the skin on his forehead/hairline. Head wounds bleed a lot, but a simple butterfly bandage fixed him up, no problem. I don’t remember any other medical emergencies, so I guess we were blessed with reasonably good health and a bare minimum of dramatic sickness or injury.

W went to Kindergarten and I had two school years of having just one child at home all day.  Then it was her turn and L went off to get some edumacation, too. For the first time in 7 years, I had days of being “single” again. Odd feeling and I got a lot of reading done. And handicrafts. And I could grocery shop without threatening my offspring for getting away from me. Or having to explain 469,756 times why I was not buying (X). I missed them.

Christmas time was always fun. I decorated our house and as the lights went up on the other houses, we’d ride around at night time and “ohh” and “ahh” over them. When they were little, we had some serious discussions about what they would like Santa to bring. The ToyRUs catalog would arrive and they both did the “I want this…and this…and this…and this”–you get the idea. So I would ask them the Big Question: “If Santa could only bring you ONE present, what would you really, really want to have?” They generally got whatever that one thing was–and Santa did bring some other things, too. But Christmas morning, Santa’s presents were always wrapped in Santa paper. The other gifts were from Mom and Dad. (And then we’d go over to the husband’s parents house for Christmas with the whole family. And when I say whole, I mean siblings and their spouses and children as they came along…and considering the number of siblings was 7…lots of family!)

We’d let them stay up long enough to see the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. There were a number of years where they didn’t manage it and had to be carried to bed. The Easter Rabbit hid eggs and treats all over the house. (I didn’t want to encourage animals coming along and eating them.) One year, he left plastic eggs with hints left in them–and when they got to the end of the treasure hunt, there was one special gift for each of them. (Actually two hunts, if I’m remembering right–one for L and one for W.) Halloween was also celebrated and one year I made their costumes–Robin Hood for W and Maid Marian for L. They were adorable. But the amount of work was too much to try and repeat it–and they were happy with the Power Rangers costumes from the Halloween section of Party City.

We had one Halloween tradition that saved them from sugar comas. Keep in mind that we lived on a street that had other children, and they were allowed to go around the block and across the streeet, around the block. So that’s about 40-ish houses. Once they had gotten their loot, they brought it home and we dumped it out to make sure there were no razor blades. Then I would have them pick out the ones that they only had singletons of, as well as the candies that were their particular favorites. These candies (probably 25% of their take) went back into their bags and no one else ate them. The remaining pounds of candy (not kidding!) would go into my 26 cup Tupperware bowl…and fill it to brimming. Anyone could eat out of that. While their bag had candies, our tradition was that they could eat all the candy they wanted for 20 minutes. Then they had to go brush their teeth…not quite 20 minutes, but certainly enough to get the sugar coating off! Sometimes that might mean just 1 candy–something larger, or a lollipop that was to be sucked on.

And I had candies to nibble on for the next month. (They nibbled, too…but you know what I mean!)

They played tee ball; W went on to play on a team but L decided that baseball was not her thing. They learned to ride bikes, rollerblade, swim (not just walk into the water and get wet–or dive in). They went fishing at the family cottage near Dundee in the Finger Lakes. When we visited my family in Baltimore, they went to the National Aquarium and the Science Center in the Inner Harbor. (L tried to jump into the beluga whale tank. She is and was always a Water Baby, like her mother and her great-grandmother.)
(Ed. note: Here is the story, “Water Baby” , which is where I got that term)

We only had one computer, back in the “old days”. Which saved me from having to buy TWO computers and never seeing the kids because they’d be up in their rooms, surfing the Net. Nope, we had one, and it sat in the corner of the kitchen. I could keep an eye on them and they could go pretty much wherever they wanted–and there were sites that wanted a parent’s “signature” to ensure that the child was allowed there. The three of us learned about Internet research–and Google, when it came along. I answered all of their questions, but when I didn’t know the answer, the 3 of us would go on the computer and find it. They weren’t the only one who was learning new things!

We started getting the Nintendo gaming consoles, starting with the SuperNES and Mario. All 3 of us played–my time was mostly at night, once the kids were in bed. And if it was a rainy day, I’d let them play most of the day…but on nice (not raining, maybe even some sunshine) days, I’d let them play for a couple of hours. Then I’d say, “It’s time to quit and save!” — and I always got the cry of “Mooooom, it’s SAVE and quit!!” And back in those days, I could rent the games for a week–and sometimes, if the game was involved enough…I’d spend most of my free time playing.

When they were tweens, their father and I split up. (It took 3 YEARS to get the final decree, but that’s another story.) I moved out and took them with me, getting an apartment about 20 miles away from our old home. I was working nights, so I’d get home after they had left for school. I’d sleep until they came home. Then we’d spend a couple of hours together, have dinner–and I’d go back to bed for a 2 hour nap. I discovered that I couldn’t sleep for 8 hours, be up with them and then try to work an 8 hour shift. I needed the psychological effect of getting up and going to work. (Even if it was just a nap.)

They were good kids, taking care of each other and not having *too* many fights. Then I was invited to share my friend’s house and get a (better) job in VA. That was well out of the range that I could take the kids. It was a tough, tough, tough decision. But I finally figured that if I could get myself in a better place, I would be a better mom for them. So I left them, living back in the house with their father. It was only 8 months before he allowed them to move back with me. Rather, I should say, that he asked the children if they’d like to live with me and he barely got the question out of his mouth before they were both saying “YES!”.

So South they came. We lived with my friend, her 2 kids, her boyfriend and his 2 kids and then me and my 2 kids. We counted 11 people for Christmas (boyfriend’s ex-wife and mother of his kids and a friend from work with no family in the area). We couldn’t afford to buy presents for everyone…or so we thought. My friend came up with a brilliant idea and I pass it on to those of you who find it helpful. We loaded up everyone and went to the local Dollar Store. We bought 11 big gift bags and everyone split up to go into different aisles. The idea was that each person would buy one thing for each of the others–and so in the end, we each had 11 presents to open.

Eventually the three of us moved out of the commune (haha) and got our own apartment. I got a new job (I had been working at a place called Dominion, making flash memory) at the local assisted living center. I started courses on Network Security and Administration. One of my fellow students suggested trying for a job at the place he was working. I did, and thus began my tenure as a Customer Service Rep, making reservations for teleconferences. I left for about 18 months to work at the help desk of a company that was contracted to provide computer support for Congress. There was no place to move up, and so I returned to being a CSR at the same company. I had not burned any bridges when I left.

The kids continued growing up and it seemed like it had only been a few days before that they were being born and being toddlers… They both participated in the Junior ROTC program at school; they were both actors in several of the school’s plays. W actually got the high school version of an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Modred, King Arthur’s nephew (and son) in the musical, “Camelot”. L got her starring chance in her senior year with “The Hound of the Baskervilles”.

In the twinkling of the eye, in the space of time for one breath…they went from helpless, wide-eyed newborns to being teenagers and on the verge of going out into the big wide world on their own. I loved every stage. I was and still am grateful for the discoveries we made together. I was the best Mom I knew how to be and I must have succeeded because my two wee ones are all grown up now, with wee ones of their own. And I look into the face of my daughter’s older daughter … and see my daughter there. I can do the same with my son’s son. Both of those grandchildren have a younger sister. I am blessed with a foursome of proof that I did a good enough job that my kids were willing to try that role for themselves.

And yet I still miss my own little ones. Even the throw-up and backtalk and bickering between them. I’d like to go back in time and visit them again–and I’ve found a way to do that. I simply close my eyes and let the images scroll through my mind. My son. My daughter. And the 20 years that flew past like an express train. They were both very good children. They are both very good parents. I can only wish them the same joy with their children as I had with them.

My Grandmother, Pauline Baker Foote, 1914 -1992

Today is my grandmother’s birthday. She would be 102 years old. She died in October, 1992 at the age of 78. It’s been 24 years since then. I miss her as if it were yesterday.

Grief never really goes away. You learn to live with it, you learn that it really won’t kill you, you learn to put it away into a tiny corner of your heart. But then something triggers a memory and the grief comes galloping out, as if it had never been there before. This sudden swell of grief can make you staggered, make you cry, make you angry at a Universe that took someone away from you.

My grandmother’s name was Pauline. Nobody called her that. To most of her friends, she was “Polly”. To a select group of longtime friends, she was “Bunny”. (That’s because my grandfather called her his “Honey Bunny”…and it stuck.) To me, she was “Grandmom”…there is no greater way to name someone like her: Grand Mom.

Without going into the gory details, let’s just say that my parents don’t like children as children; they are supposed to be little adults. Of course, that’s a ridiculous demand; children are children, or they’d be called adults right out of the womb. All that growing and learning stuff to do, you know. I am grateful that they had me (and my brother) but…if it weren’t for my Grandmom, I would have a lot more mental issues than I already do. It’s not that my parents were not caring or loving. But they were authoritarian enough that the military regimens had no horror for me and in fact, I found boot camp to be more free than my childhood years. How sad is that? But let’s not talk about the ‘rents. This is about my Grandmom.

She had a life before I showed up, as amazing as it seems. She was born in Portsmouth VA on February 20, 1914. That’s just a few months before the start of World War I. Her parents lived long enough that I got to meet them…when I was 4. I have a picture in my head of a tall, thin man and a short, round woman…and having to look up up up to see his face. My great-grandmother died in the ’70’s, while we were living overseas. My great-grandfather lived until I was 16…and it was amazing that this oh so tall man was now eye to eye with me.

Grandmom did all the things that people did, back then. She had something called a “Baby Party”, where everyone dressed up to look like babies. Don’t judge, this was before the Internet. (Found a mention of these from the Wheaton College records, where their first Baby Party was held in 1914. It was part of the “moving up” of juniors to their senior year. Apparently something of a tradition.)

She had a younger brother, named Hugh. I don’t remember him, although apparently I had met him, probably at about 3-4 years old. Grandmom told me later that he like to eat mac’n’cheese cold. I tried it that way, and that’s something I still do these days. A connection to my past, even if I began it on secondhand knowledge.

She met my grandfather when she was 16. He knew that she was The One for him. But he was 20 years old, so he waited several years for her before proposing. When Grandmom graduated high school, she went to work for the the Baltimore Steam Packet Company, nicknamed the “Old Bay Line”, as a secretary. (Click here for more about the Old Bay Line ) At some point, she was in a beauty contest and was Miss Portsmouth, about 1930-32. I can’t say for sure, but this may have been a local pageant that led to the Miss Virginia pageant.

My grandfather had a picture of her on his dresser, taken when she was a teenager. It could have been a photograph of me, there was that strong a resemblance. But I’m not tooting my own horn when I tell you that Grandmom was beautiful. Lovely dark eyes, dark brown hair, nice legs…but what made her truly beautiful was the love that poured out of her, that shone in her eyes, her entire life.

I met my Grandmother when I was born. Needless to say, I don’t remember it. I have snippets of memories, like snapshots in my brain, of her and her house from about 4 years old until…I could remember whole movies. My family lived overseas from 1966 until 1971 and again from 1973 to 1976. So a great deal of my childhood was spent too far to see her on anything resembling a regular basis. I do vaguely recall my mother’s friend taking us from the airport to my grandparents’ house and surprising them early on a Sunday morning. They didn’t go to church that day.

When we finally came back to the States to live, my father gifted my mother with living close to *her* mother–and when I say “close”, I mean 5 minutes’ of walking across the elementary school’s property and up through the alley, then down the alley to Grandmom’s house. My parents had actually sent my brother and me home in the summer of 1976 so that we would be in the US for the start of school. So he and I lived with our grandparents all that summer and into the fall, until my parents came home.

My grandmother was the most loving, most patient person I have ever known. I try to be like her. She had the amazing gift of “just listening”. People, all sorts of people, would come to her and pour out their lives. She just sat and listened. The few words she would speak were always loving and wise. She would babysit for anyone she knew, so there was a crib permanently set up in the back bedroom. She kept clean sheets on the double bed that was in the same room, as well as on the single bed in the other bedroom, just in case they were needed. That smaller bedroom was my room whenever I was there.

When I think of “home”, it’s always her house that appears in my mind. It was (and still is) a red brick “row home”, the Baltimore term for what is called “townhouse” or “condominium” in other places. It had a wonderful basement. All sorts of things, on shelves, in boxes… A couple of chest freezers (she had begun with one, but when it no longer stayed cold enough, she added the second and used the older one for things that didn’t require deep cold, like bread) that could have been used to hide bodies… A player piano, the old fashioned kind with the feet pedals to pump the air to make the music. It sort of worked…until eventually the bellows got so full of holes, it wouldn’t play on it own. I learned to play the piano on that.

There were stacks of comic books, a favorite activity for any child–and even for teenagers. There was an old Lionel train set…had to use steel wool to get the rust of the tracks before you could even hope to run it. And there was a bench that had storage inside of it. Flip up the seat and enter Fantasyland…that’s where she kept all sorts of things for “dressing up”. My friends and I played with those quite often.

The first floor was your basic kitchen/dining room/living room set up. The kitchen was smallish, with limited counter space but in a way that was good, because it meant few steps between tasks. In one corner there was a hutch…and on that hutch were 5 glass jars, with glass lids, in graduating size from about a gallon, down to about 2 cups. In each jar there was some type of candy: Hershey’s mixed small chocolate bars (milk chocolate, milk chocolate with almonds, Mr. Goodbar and Krackle); M&Ms (always) and then the other jars held whatever else sweet they wanted, like spearmint leaves or Canada Wintergreen Mints (or as we called them, “pink mints”, for they would leave your tongue Pepto-Bismol pink). My granddad kept some bull’s-eyes, a caramel wrapped around a white sugar icing. Sometimes there would be a package of Oreos or sugar wafers in the biggest jar.

Upstairs were the three bedrooms and the bathroom. And there was a set of stairs in the hallway ceiling, the kind you pull down and can then go up into the mysterious attic. Not quite as much fun for kids as the basement (and the candy in the kitchen), but still an adventure to have. Just a regular row home, nothing special about it…but because my Grandmom lived there, it was MY home,and it was also the childcare center, the hotel for wayward souls, the counseling center…

If someone knocked on the door, they were always invited in. (Thank goodness we didn’t have vampires in the neighborhood.) My Grandmom always had a pitcher of “Southern” iced tea–you know, with sugar–and everyone would have a glass of it. She actually crocheted what we called “pants” for the glasses–think coaster with a wall, going about halfway up the glass. Kept the condensation off the furniture. Any time anyone needed something, they could usually get it from Grandmom, if it was within her power to do so. A bed, a meal, someone to cry on, someone to share the joys of life with, a person so good, so giving that no one ever said a bad thing about her. Ever. And there are still houses today (that if I knew where they were) I could go to and say “I’m Polly Foote’s granddaughter and I need a place to stay” and get invited in without a second thought.

She and my granddad were both extremely active in their Presbyterian church. (I mention the denomination because she had been Baptist and my grandfather Episcopalian…Presbyterian was the halfway point between those religions, so there they were.) Grandmom’s service to the Lord was often, almost always, done in the kitchen. She helped with church dinners, wedding receptions, and the Thursday Pancake Breakfast. For several years, the church offered teenagers pancakes before school. I first went when I was about 9 or 10. I helped my grandparents carry in supplies, I ate pancakes and helped them load the car back up. Eventually I was one of the teens eating pancakes on Thursday mornings. And it was free. The church paid for it all.

She was so much a part of the kitchen that when it came time to buy new dishes, she was the one who chose them. She taught Sunday School when she wasn’t attending her own Ladies’ Group. She worked at Vacation Bible School. She was, as they say, a “good person”, a “good Christian”. Yes, she was. But she wasn’t good because she was Christian. She would have been a “good Buddhist” or a “good atheist”…she was good. She just happened to be Christian.

Her heart was huge, large enough to hold the hundreds of people she knew as well as the strangers she met on the street, in the store… She glowed with love. No other way to put it. She was Love, personified. It drew people to her, to bask in the love of her heart.

And for me? Well, it’s not that I *don’t* love my mother. But when I think of Mother, the source of all wonderful-ness, the person I want to be good for…I think of Grandmom. She let me prattle on about anything and everything. So did my mother. But Grandmom’s listening had a different feel to it, an intensity that my mother’s lacked. Sometimes I wonder how my mother can be as she is (another blog someday, when I’ve had my mood stabilizers, haha), coming from that home.

My Grandmom loved cardinals. She had one that she fed peanuts to…and if she was sitting out front, the bird would come and chirp at her. So she’d say “All right, I’ll meet you out back.” And by the time she went through the house, got a peanut and stepped out on the back porch, he was there, waiting for her. She also loved Canada geese and I cannot see a “V” of them without wanting to show her. She loved purple, something I obviously inherited from her! Being born in February, her birthstone was amethyst. Lucky! I now wear her amethyst ring, as well as an amethyst pendant and her gold bracelet…all the time. (I wear other jewelry all the time as well; getting any imaging done {x-ray, especially MRI} is a study in removing a pound of metal off my body. Okay, I’m exaggerating…but the count is impressive: 7 earrings, a tongue ring, 2 rings, 6 bracelets, 3 necklaces, an ankle bracelet and a toe ring. I’ll be able to trade with the natives for food and blankets when I’m on a trek.)

Grandmom was not a trend-setter. She dressed like…any other grandmother. (Side note: she still had her wedding gown, a glorious, gorgeous heavy satin gown; I tried it on when I was 17 and thin…could not get the waist of the dress past my shoulders.) She was petite, standing only about 5’3-4″. She, like so many of us, weighed more than she had as a young woman…but she was a joy to hug. She was a champion back-scratcher. Even after 50 years in Baltimore, she still sounded like she had stepped off Tara just yesterday. Soft spoken, Southern accent…when I worked at an assisted living community, all those little old ladies, with their white hair and their Southern accents always reminded me of her.

She was generous in a way that has nothing to do with money. She was generous with her love; she was generous with her home, but most of all, she was generous with her time. That’s something most people do not, cannot, do. She was thoughtful and she was wise. She was kind, the sort of kind that we sorely need in the world today.

She was my Grandmom and I miss her. Happy Birthday, Grandmom!

A Family Vacation, Complete With Mooses and Other Excitements

Starting before the vacation: I took Beloved to the hospital on Friday, Feb 28 with a fever of 103 degrees, chills, vomiting and pain. Before he was done, he had been given about 14 litres of fluids (IV), pain meds (IV) and super antibiotics (IV). He figures he got stabbed with needles about 40 times in the 5 1/2 days he was there. If he wasn’t needle-phobic before (and he was), he is absolutely needle-phobic now. Doctor’s diagnoses: strep throat and cellulitis. (Medical note: cellulitis is an infection (“-itis”) in the cellulite layer of the skin. It has nothing to do with weight as both fat and skinny people can get it. It hurts like hell.)

We were concerned that he would not be out of the hospital before Thursday, Mar 5, but he managed to come home on Wednesday. So he got a better night’s sleep in his own bed before we began the Grand Tour of Local Restaurants.

Because of our disabilities, and especially with him just out of the hospital, we can’t really “do” all the tourist-y things when people come to visit. We can’t walk up the Avenue of the Redwoods, go into most of the shops in Old Town Eureka, or any other activity that requires standing/walking for extended periods of time. (And for us, extended is pretty much anything over about 15 minutes. Sigh.) But we bygods make sure that our visitors are well fed, and in a wide variety of cuisines.

So Beloved’s parents (hereafter referred to as “MIL”, Mother-in-love, and “FIL”, Father-in-love) landed in Sacramento on Wednesday the 4th, spent the night there and then drove up to Eureka on the 5th. They got in about 5, giving us just enough time to get them settled in the hotel and then taking them out to the beach for the sunset. (A tradition for us, since the first thing we did once we got settled in the hotel upon *our* arrival was to go the beach for the sunset.) And then we took them to the same place that was our first introduction to Eureka, Annie’s Cambodian Restaurant. Amazing and good, not quite Vietnamese, not Thai, not Laotion, but a sort of blend of all three. Annie’s crab puffs are the best we’ve ever had. Of course we also established the sharing all around of every dish, something done pretty much everywhere we ate in the 9 days they were here.

Because MIL and FIL had a car, they could do some sight-seeing on their own and they did so enthusiastically. They drove north to the Avenue of the Redwoods; walked up the hill and back down again, went on the skyway tram to view the trees from above. They were going to drive on up to Oregon (a short jaunt) but the fog came rolling in so fast and so thick that the decision was made to come back to Eureka. What’s the point of going anywhere when you can’t see anything?

They did a lot of poking around in Eureka on their own. When we joined them (mostly at meal times) we rode with them, rather than taking two vehicles everywhere. So MIL, who does the driving, got a good feel for the traffic and how the streets are laid out. That’s a really good thing because they are considering moving out here, to be near to us and to get out of the hell most people refer to as “Northern Virginia”, or NoVA for short.

EurekaSailorWe got to see the old sailor sculpture in the harbor, something I had only seen pictures of before. He is much bigger than I was imagining and I had Beloved take some photos so that I can attempt to paint or draw him. I’m sure that he’s been recreated in pretty much every medium, but I haven’t done it yet so I’m not worried about other people’s paintings or sketches of him. Driving up to the sailor took us through some protected wildlife lands, actually fenced off with signs about not crossing over the fence. We saw a pair of elk, which my MIL laughingly refers to as “mooses”. So now we’ve got a new word for when we drive out looking for wildlife… we are looking for those mooses!

Like I said, we began with Cambodian food. We also fed them Chinese (two different restaurants, one which does “comfort” Chinese, the sort you’d be used to if you ate Chinese food in the 1970’s; the other is familiar but doesn’t fall under the “comfort” heading. They also do sushi, which we made his parents try…and it was not something they really wanted. That removed the two sushi restaurants off of our list.); we fed them Vietnamese, Thai, Mexican, Greek, German, GREAT steaks, “American Diner”, pizza and one place for organic breakfasts and another for incredible bagels. We also showed them our donut shop which is run by Asians so you can get an order of Chinese food and then get a couple of donuts to go with it. They are, by far, the very best donuts I have had in a very long time. Dunkin’ Donuts got NOTHING on “Happy Donuts”.

We did show them some mundane things, like Costco, Walgreens, RiteAid and our Co-Op grocery store. If they move here, they’ll want to know where things of that nature are located. We also did some looking online at some rentals, to help them understand that with the enormous decrease in the cost of living (by coming to the West Coast, specifically Eureka), they can afford a 3 bedroom house for significantly less than they are paying for a 2 bedroom apartment in NoVA. And by significant, I mean anywhere between 4 and 6 hundred dollars per month less. We were not subtle in our hard sell, trying to encourage them to make the decision to move here, even though our friend had suggested subtlety. We don’t do subtle.

We were glad to see them–it had been almost a 1 1/2 years since we were last together, right before we moved. We had a really good time with them (and we ate really well!) but the physical toll was tremendous for both of us. I figure a healing and restoration time of at least 3-4 days, possibly longer. Fortunately, we have a minimum of appointments this week.

We had actually started our physical therapy (pool therapy), but with Beloved having a bazillion holes in his skin, I cancelled our sessions for last week and this week. We are scheduled to return next Monday, and we’ll see if we can make it. I need to call my psychologist and get an appointment with him, since I had to cancel the last one. Beloved sees his PCP, partly as a follow up to his last appointment with her, but also as a follow up from being in the hospital. He also has group therapy and his gaming group on Friday. So it’s going to be a very quiet week.

MIL and FIL took us shopping on Saturday at Costco and Co-Op to refill our larder and refrigerator. So we’ve got food–and we’re still working on leftovers–but how much cooking either of us is up to…is a good question and I don’t have an answer for that right now.

When they arrived, MIL handed me an Adroid tablet that FIL had gotten as a “retirement gift” and they couldn’t make it do very much. I’ve got it up and running, with various apps that I wanted and I’m pleased with it. Except for one thing: I cannot, CANNOT, make the damned thing acknowledge the 64G SD card I put in it, except as a storage unit for music and photos. And I’ve got enough apps that the internal memory is pretty much full; I’d like to move some of that over to the internal (already there, can’t be changed out) 4G SD card, but it doesn’t seem to want to let me do that. There’s got to be a way, otherwise no one would take the tablet because it wouldn’t/won’t hold all the apps wanted. Oh well, it’s an IT conundrum that I will continue to wrestle with.

I was very glad to have it because it was a calming thing for me to be able to use it, thereby tuning out all the people around me. My pain this week was high enough that even my Vicodin didn’t do much more than tone it down; with high pain comes a vague nausea, so I was eating just a little bit of this and that most of the week. I have had tremors most of the week, but especially during times of higher anxiety. When we went to get steak (at a place that is very carefully designed to look like a dive bar–but it sure isn’t because the bathroom is immaculate!), I actually had to put in my earbuds to block all of the noise. I was on the verge of tears without them. They worked so well, I have gotten a box of actual earplugs, in pink because they’re made for the ladies (we have smaller, more dainty ears!) and they came with a holder, so I can keep a pair in my purse and use them as needed.

Regarding the tremors: I talked to my dad about 2 weeks ago and we got to comparing ailments. He has tremors (bad enough that he can no longer make jewelry) and he suggested that what I have are Essential, or Familial, Tremors–something that is inherited 50% of the time if you have a parent who has them. The doctors don’t know what causes them and there’s no real treatment, although there are some medications for people whose tremors have gotten significant enough that they are embarrassed by the shaking, like when you’re out with people at a restaurant. I know that I have problems holding a fork steady without being stressed… add in the anxiety and I can barely get any food in. Takes two hands–one to hold the fork and the other to hold the food on the fork. I use my natural eating utensils whenever possible–you know, my fingers!

I will be asking about my tremors at my next PCP visit, if only to get the proper diagnosis added to my (ever-growing) list of diagnoses. And speaking of doctor’s visits, my long term disability  (LTD) insurance company (Reliance) has found a doctor who will do an independent evaluation of my condition so that the company can make an assessment about whether I am really disabled or not. And if I am really disabled, according to them (because I am, whether they want to say it or not), they will send a check with a year’s worth of backpay, and then continue with a monthly check. And if I get SSDI, the LTD will pay the difference between SSDI and the insurance benefits, which means about $400 per month more. We sure could use it.

I have two weeks to gather any paperwork (like my health records) and fill out the forms the doctor’s office sent me. I think it’s the new patient forms–and there’s all kinds of mentions of being able to go after the patient for money if the insurance company doesn’t pay for it. HAH! They can try. We already have about a quarter of a million dollars in combined *unpaid* healthcare costs. We’re going for bankruptcy… hate to do it, but we need to “wipe the slate clean” so that we can eventually qualify for a mortgage. I have a pre-approved VA loan, as long as what we want to move into meets their requirements. Needless to say, we need our home to be ADA compliant–and I might start looking around to find out what kinds of grants we can get that would help with the costs, especially since we’re talking about getting a new house. We’ll buy land and then have a manufactured home delivered there. The VA’s requirement for railings on every stairway will not matter, since we’re going for a single floor.

I’m not sure what was harder to deal with this past couple of weeks: the pain or the stabbing awareness that I can no longer do a LOT of things I took for granted as recently as 2 or 3 years ago. Watching my MIL (65 years old) and my FIL (almost 80) walking into the stores, carrying OUR stuff upstairs so that we wouldn’t have to…real slap in the face, let me tell you. Makes it very easy to slip into despair, since I’m already chronically depressed. I really appreciate my meds because without them…and I don’t mean the Vicodin. So recuperation, such as it is, consists of keeping my movements to a minimum to help control the pain as well as doing meditation and some self compassion exercises to help control the negative feelings. (Check this out, from Toni Bernhard: How to Talk to Yourself . Toni suffers from chronic illness, but also uses her Buddhist beliefs to find that Middle Road, even for us, who are having to ride an accessibility scooter on that road.

So that’s where I’m at, just trying to keep on making it through life, one day at a time.
Namaste!

 

Disabled or…UNable?

So here I am, at the end of week 3, still waiting for some word about my SSDI and whether I’ll get it or have to go to the appeals panel–which could take another couple of years. I began this Death March of Bataan through the application/appeal/adjudication process 3 years ago. I should have Long Term Disability (LTD) benefits still being paid, but the insurance company decided that there were 3 jobs I could do and kicked me off the small raft that had been helping us stay afloat in the sea of financial necessity. So here we are, living on Beloved’s SSDI and the incredible generosity of his parents who throw money our way with an embarrassingly often frequency.

Everything occurs for a reason. I believe this completely. It doesn’t mean that I have to like the occurrence. There is a lesson to be learned from all that happens in our lives, and I am learning a hard fought and almost overwhelming lesson this time around. It began with my diagnosis of fibromyalgia and has only gotten more and more intense as it goes on.

The doctor told me I had fibro and I arrogantly stated that I would not let my disease define me. First lesson: my disease defines me, defines my level of activity, defines almost every single thing I do or say in some fashion. I learned to accept help from other people (mostly–I still ignore this one on too regular a basis and still pay for it in pain).

I began to take medicines and we had to try various things before I settled into my current regime. I’m not going to list all of that here–but let’s just say that when I go to a new doctor, or to the ER, I have to list my meds and it’s always a show stopper and impresses the staff. I resent the fact that I take 4, FOUR, medications specifically addressing mental issues: depression, anxiety, mood and sleep (or the lack and poor quality thereof). I take narcotic pain killers, but I have a very limited supply because the Veterans Administration (VA) healthcare is concerned that I will become addicted or sell them on the street or something. I need about twice the amount I am taking now; I was supposed to have a pain management team that would work with medications and various therapies (massage, chiropractor, physical therapy in a nice warm pool, STIM and TENS therapies and etc) but I haven’t heard a peep out of that group since they insisted I go to SF for an MRI which was done in May. Four months later and there’s nothing more done.

(Side note: I seriously doubt my propensity for narcotic addiction since my VA care provider in Fredericksburg VA stopped my narcs COLD TURKEY. And I didn’t have withdrawal symptoms at all. So there!)

I have learned that I need support when I walk because I’m very unsteady on my feet. I have learned how to be a cook, instead of a chef–preparing meals that are simple and easy to make, with a minimum of preparation–no chopping lots of vegetables into pieces to stir fry, no complex recipes that require more than about 4 steps. For someone who was at the point of trying a new career as a personal chef…this hurts beyond words. I love to cook, I love the creativity of putting things together in a new way, I love the satisfaction of feeding people and having them enjoy the food. In many ways, I am a true “kitchen witch”, pouring myself into the food I prepare to make magical meals for friends and family. I am happy when I cook. And I can’t do it now.

I used to have nearly photographic memory, a prodigious ability to recall, great concentration and instinctive multitasking. Gone, gone, gone and gone. I have an enormous vocabulary–but I “lose” words in conversation and writing…you can’t tell that some of my blogs took HOURS because I would want to use a specific word, a word I know, and yet for the life of me, cannot access in the dusty, messy library of my mind. And I have to stop, let go of reaching for the word and sort of think around it, hoping to lure it back into use. Like intentionally ignoring a cat, waiting for it to come to you when it realizes that it is not your focal point. And it can take just as long–as anyone who’s ever had a cat can tell you.

I used to enjoy groups of people, parties, dinner out, all that social stuff. Now crowds terrify me–and I consider anything more than about 5 people to be a crowd. Going to a store or a restaurant becomes an exercise in NOT looking around me too much, not letting myself acknowledge just how many people there are within my line of sight. I focus on my shopping, or on my meal. I will sit with my back to the rest of the restaurant just to be able to do this. And it’s not that I’ve suddenly become phobic of another human being–one or two at a time is not a problem. It’s just the larger the number, the greater the impact, the faster I need to go home to my nearly solitary nest.

And for those of you with a chronic disease, you will understand what I mean when I say it’s not just the anxiety of being around people. It’s also the great amount of energy that being social requires. The interaction, the conversation, all the little things that make up our social lives, takes energy. And frankly, those with chronic illness are made aware very early on in their trip on this road that energy is the one thing you will never again have enough of, that you will often lack to the point of poor personal hygiene and eating carry out way too often. It takes energy to hide the pain, to be polite, to speak at any length. And when I say “hide the pain”, I do not mean that you cannot share the pain or how much you hurt but when that’s about all you can talk about…people start to avoid you. Most do not want to face such an obvious reminder of the fragility of the human body. Some cannot believe that it’s all that bad when in fact, it IS all that bad. And because you’re not “out and about”, your actual ability to hold a conversation that is equitable with the person you’re speaking with becomes impossible. They talk about going places, doing things, meeting people. We the chronically ill are hard pressed to suitably astound someone with the mere fact that we took a shower today–although for us, it’s quite an achievement. And when asked, “What did you do this weekend?”, we recoil at giving the answer of “Slept most of it.”–AGAIN. The things we fight for, the efforts we make to gain some semblance of a life…are the mundane, unmentioned activities of daily living for everyone else. Taking a shower, preparing a full meal, going to the grocery store. These are major accomplishments for us…and so trivial as to not even merit mentioning to the rest of the world.

Over the past 3 years, I have developed an evolving and greater definition of “disabled”. Dis-abled, as in “not able”. You’re willing, but you just can’t. And “unable”, which means not able as well, but at least to me, seems to carry the faint hint that it’s a voluntary decision. “I’m sorry, I’m unable to make it to the party.” However…I can use both terms in their purest sense of “not able”. Fibro causes a variety of disabilities and my physical condition makes me unable to do things. I have debilitating levels of pain, all the time. Pain has been my constant companion at some level, for all of my life. Lately, it demands most of my attention–and most of my energy trying to accommodate it and to live some sort of a worthwhile life in spite of it. Not a whine or seeking sympathy, just a matter of fact explanation of the worst symptom I have. Chronic fatigue, poor sleep, inflammatory bowel (and bladder) syndrome, depression, anxiety…the list goes on but pain tops it every time. It’s been in the “Top 40” (haha) longer than any other song. Gallows humor, but why not laugh at my problems, rather than singing dirges of doom and gloom all the time. I try very hard to not be the cranky, unpleasant sick person.

I had my SSDI adjudication 3 weeks ago. I went into the video conference room, dressed to carefully cover all of the tattoos, tongue ring removed, hair re-dyed a color I haven’t seen in 15 years–my (mostly) original natural color again. I answered questions, the judge talked, my lawyer talked, the vocational expert talked…the judge thanked us and left. I mostly saw the top of her head, as she did not make eye contact with me once the introductions were done. This may be her way of keeping aloof of emotional interference in her role as impartial arbiter of people’s fates…but it actually made me feel like a number, just another piece of paper, in her metrics for cases allowed versus denied. She gave no indication of which way mine would fall, just said that she would issue the decision. My lawyer says that she is known for this sort of passive-aggressive manifestation of power. I guess she does it to prove to everyone just how incredible a judge she is, weighing every case so very carefully…and it might be more impressive to me except that according to the SSA’s own rules, I should not have been denied upon my second appeal (the last step prior to this one) because I am old enough and cannot even do “light” work–which involves being able to lift 10 (maybe 20?) pounds…for at least 1/3 of an 8 hour shift. But someone else decided that just maybe I could, so…denied. And there I went, into the adjudication circle of Hell. (By the way: a gallon of milk or water weighs 8 pounds. That is now a two-handed lift for me and I cannot repeat it more than two times.)

I thought waiting for the adjudication was bad. I thought waiting for the adjudication without my LTD benefits was worse. Well, the worst thing of all is the wait, with no specific scheduled end time (like waiting for the hearing), for the decision. So much depends upon this coming to me in a very timely manner. I will appeal my LTD dismissal–and I only have 180 days to do so, which ends sometime in November–but if I can send the SSDI certification of disability, it’s pretty much a done deal and they will have to reinstate the benefits–until 2028, when I turn 67 and “retire”. It means the difference between SSDI and what the LTD benefits by themselves had been, which results in a net increase in our income of several hundred dollars a month. And while that may not seem like a lot, when you’re talking about a combined family income of about $3500-$4000 per month (or about $48,000 per year), that “several hundred dollars” additional is about 10% or so of the monthly checks. Helps provide for things like upgrades on technology and other “little” purchases that can mean the difference between a bearable life and a pleasant life.

Beloved is OCD. He’s OCD about numbers. Money is numbers. Need I tell you that he is practically frantic with worry and not knowing how the budget will work? His mental illness manifests in his emotions…and he’s the cranky sick person. My worry always hits my stomach. I’m not eating well, not at all. In fact, a great deal of the time, I’m not eating. That’s bad. And what had been barely managed pain is totally out of control, as I have hit a full blown fibro flare-up that makes me the crankier sick person. The bottoms of my feet hurt to walk on. It hurts to touch my skin, anywhere I touch. Which adds another aspect to the disease: I long for, starve for skin contact. I am a tactile person–or in laymen’s terms, a “touchy-feely” kind of gal. I want my husband to touch me (and it’s not about sex, you perverts!) and to pat, cuddle, stroke, scratch my back. And he knows that it hurts me, so he doesn’t…and that hurts me inside, even as I understand his reasoning–and I can’t really find fault with that decision. It’s not him, it’s me…he is trying to avoid inflicting more pain and my damned disease (double damned, triple damned) prevents me from being able to have anything resembling the normal intimacy of love and a committed relationship.

I am nearly frantic with worry…not just for me, but because this is also affecting him so deeply. I mean, I know that of course it would. It’s not just that it affects his standard of living, which it does, but that it affects ME, his chosen wife. So we’ve got this cycle of being concerned about the decision itself as well as the escalating damage it’s causing to each other. I half joke that by the time this judge does finally render a decision, I will be utterly and truly disabled, beyond what I had when I saw her. Three weeks ago. Dear gods, it seems like three months. And theoretically, we have from one to three more weeks of dangling in mid-air before we do get the decision. Everything else is on hold. There are things we want to do, once we know about the money which are having to wait until we have the numbers. I have my LTD benefits dangling with me, adding another fishing weight to the pounds of weights I already had. I’m holding on by a thread and I’m afraid it’s going to break before the decision is handed down. At which point, Beloved and I will need adjoining rooms in the local mental health hospital–and matching fancy white jackets that let us hug ourselves.

I’ve been trying to maintain my “#100happydays” (see the website) during this time and frankly, it’s just not working out very well. The original intent of the foundation was to get people to slow down and see what in their lives makes them feel happy–and to acknowledge it daily, for 100 days. Most people drop out because they don’t have the time to do it…sad commentary on our society. My problem is NOT time–it’s the one things I have endless amounts of. It’s that the current situation is so taxing to my mental and physical well-being that finding things I’m happy about is hard or inane. “I’m happy I took a shower.” Yeah, and so are the people around me.

Another area of my life that’s taking a serious hit is my ability to stay in touch with my family. I have to deal with a time difference of 2 or 3 hours, depending on whom I want to speak to in addition to working up the energy for that conversation. It’s not that I DON’T want to talk to them, it’s the fact that holding a phone to my head for an hour hurts my elbows (because I switch arms to avoid completely destroying one). One of the things I want to get “when the money comes in” is a hands free headset to plug into the house phone, so that I don’t have to hold it. In the meantime… And there’s the inescapable fact that I lose track of the time and the days…then the weeks. Time slips away from me and I just don’t realize how utterly long it’s been since I’ve talked to…my mother, my daughter, my son, etc.

Worse yet is that I caused unhappiness in my son’s household…my fault totally and my daughter-in-love felt that she needed to “unfriend” me on Facebook. Her right to do so and I understand why–but she is my main, almost sole, connection to the Froggy grandson. I owe her an enormous apology and want to do it when I can talk to her–but I lack the actual energy to deal with this now…so time slips by and the wound has not been addressed, nor forgiveness asked. Not for a lack of wanting to…but for the physical inability…disability?…for me to do it. Just trying to write it here makes me weepy, so I think I’ll let this go for now. Hopefully I can repair the damage I did and we can knit back a relationship–or I’ll pretty much never know what’s going on with that part of my family.

So that weighs on me, lurking there in the back of my head. To say that my life is NOT happy at this point seems melodramatic, but it’s a relative truth. And one of the most aggravating parts of this dangling is that once it is resolved, hopefully for the good, everything else will start up again. My whole life is teetering in balance, waiting for one woman’s decision–and that one woman is unreachable, impervious to my plight and holds the outcome merely as another number in her record, to show that she’s doing her job oh so wonderfully. This is as bad as being told your lab work came back with some seriously bad numbers, but you’ll have to wait a month or two before you can see the doctor to find out if you’re going to die or not. The anxiety and fear that both of those situations cause is…pretty damned large and leaves no room for any other activity because if you move, you’ll break that thread.

I have a disability. It makes me disabled. I am unable to work and I need to have SSDI benefits in order to pay for the things that are required to live. I am unable to alleviate my husband’s suffering because of my own suffering. I am unable to move on with my life, being able to make whatever necessary accommodation I must to deal with fibro. I am stuck in a holding pattern (like an airplane) and I am running out of fuel. Dire and dreadful, yes. But “it’s always darkest before the dawn” and “you know a thing by its opposite” so if it’s real dark now, when the light comes–and it will!–we will appreciate it even more. As a Buddhist, I strive for the Middle Path, for balance, and for a simple life. Doesn’t mean I give up everything I own and become an aesthete. A simple life, a minimalist life, is where you have everything you NEED and an appropriate amount of what you want, and a few of the things you wish for–and not all the “things” are tangible. Part of the Middle Path is the lack of attachment to things–again, not always meaning tangible things like cars or fur coats–but the losing the attachment to whatever holds you back, drags you down, makes you live an incomplete life. I have a disability. I am disabled. But I am NOT my disabilities and I am not attached to being disabled. It is a state of living, not a definition of who I am. I am me, just me. I happen to be disabled. It means no more and no less than being brown-eyed or having tattoos.

I share this with you all not because I’m looking for a pity party…but because I know that there are others out there who are also dealing with disabilities, with dark times. I would hope that you could find your own Middle Path, the way through and then out of the darkness–and I suggest that sharing gives each of us a little candle, glowing in the blackness like a beacon. Enough candles will destroy the darkness. I share mine with you, and hopefully light your candle so that you can see there is a way out. Namaste!

It’s Not Easy Being Zen

I started this blog over 2 years ago. I had no idea when I began it that I’d be where I am at this point of my life: mentally, physically, spiritually. It’s been a rough and gritty road, with some sizable potholes. It’s also been a while since I actually wrote about what’s going on with me, fibromyalgia-wise. So let’s address that.

First, let me update you on my medications list, which is quite a feat to be able to recite the names, doses and such. Much longer than I’d like it to be, but I am thankful that every med seems to be doing what it’s supposed to and that makes life better. So let’s make a list of what, how much and what it’s for:

AM Meds:

One Gabapentin (Neurontin), 300 mg, for neuropathy; also acts as a mild anti-depressant
One Hydrochlorothiazide, 25 mg, for swelling; it’s a diuretic
Two Hydroxyzine Pamoate, 25 mg each, for anxiety; prescribed to be taken up to 4 times a day as needed
One Hydrocodone APAP, 5/325, for pain (aka Vicodin); prescribed to be taken twice a day for pain with an extra few for those really bad days when I need 3)
One Venlafaxine, 225 mg, 24 HR SA, for depression
One Lamotrigine, 25 mg, for mood stabilization

PM Meds:

Two Gabapentin (makes the daily total 900 MG; the two at night help with sleep)
Two Hydroxyzine Pamoate (also helps with sleep)
One Omeprazole20 MG for acid reflux/GERD
Two Trazodone, 50 mg per tablet, total is 100 mg; for sleep (specifically)
Two puffs, each nostril, Fluticasone, 50 mcg, for sinus and upper respiratory decongestant

And I have Clonazepam, 1 mg, as an “emergency” anti-anxiety, to be used as needed, but no more than one per day

Wow. Heckuva list. So let’s make a synopsis of what I’m taking all these chemicals for: I take two different medications for pain; I take two different medications for anxiety; I take one medication that is specifically for depression, but I have another that also has anti-depressive effects. I take one medication to help with the swelling in my feet and hands. I take one medication to keep me breathing (well, at least not as stopped up in the nose as I would be otherwise). And I take one medication for mood stabilization.

Let’s talk about that one for a moment. Lamotrigine is what my Beloved but bi-polar husband takes for his mental illness. He’s taking a way massive more amount than I am and it works well for him as long as everything else stays reasonably stable. He’s fortunate that in his being bi-polar, if things get out of whack, because the illness is brain chemistry, he can literally “reset” his emotions by taking a nap. (We all do that, did you know that? You reset your brain when you go to sleep. Probably because it runs on Windows 95, haha.)

So about a week after the Worst Thing happened (NO more LTD for me), I got a letter from the SSA with the date for my adjudication hearing with the judge. I have gotten a new lawyer, as the one in VA has formally relinquished the case–and waived her fee. I feel bad that she lost a lot of money on me and am very, very grateful for all that she did, for both of us. My new lawyer spoke to us for about half an hour, 45 minutes–and it was sort of an audition on my part, to see if he would take the case. He did, and seems very competent. I also figure that he wouldn’t take a case he thought he would lose.

[EDITED]

He did make a really good suggestion which is a better way to describe my disabilities, rather than just saying I have fibro. Frankly, that’s what my psychologist should tell me, but hey, I’ve only had one meeting with him and maybe he will talk with me about it. What I’m supposed to do is speak about what is currently disabling, in a functional (or in this case, non-functional) manner. This is going to be hard for me, because it basically is a list of all the things I cannot do, or cannot do without great pain or effort. I’m going to have to face up to the reality of my disability, which I have been kidding myself that I was doing, just by covering it with the word “fibromyalgia”.

My husband said to me, “You’re supposed to be a good Buddhist” and I replied, “I TRY to be a good Buddhist”. So I can use this as a chance for advancement on my spiritual path as well, if I can frame my life to be “in the moment”, which is very important to me. I believe in the NOW, each moment passing, never to be repeated, to try to live each moment to the fullest, with awareness and focus on that moment. (And then let go and move on to the next moment which has come.)

So here goes:

Hi, I’m Kate and I am disabled. I can no longer stand or walk for more than about 15 minutes without excruciating pain in my back and down my legs (sciatica); I also have neuropathy in my legs and arms. I have swelling and pain in my hands to the point where I am clumsy holding things and I have to be very careful with heavier objects or I will drop them. I cannot twist my hands to empty an ice tray without pain. While I am on the computer for most of my day, I have several different types of activities that I do which changes up how I am using my hands–I mouse for a while, I type for a while and I use a game controller to play computer games. I also stop and stretch my hands, or flex, then rub them, to ease the pain. I have both Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Irritable (Stress) Incontinence, which means when I have to go to the bathroom, I HAVE to go. I have very limited range of motion in my arms and can seldom lift them above my shoulders. Things put on higher shelves are no longer accessible. Pulling on clothing over my head is done by putting my arms in the sleeves and pulling everything up to the shoulders, then ducking my head into the neck hole. Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are difficult for me; combing my hair is tiresome because it requires me to lift my hands to brush the length. I shower when I have the energy to deal with all of the bending and stooping, scrubbing and hair washing. I have stopped wearing a bra because I cannot put it on by myself. I have also stopped housecleaning for the most part, only dealing with dusting, sweeping, cleaning the bathroom and etc when the filth passes my point of being able to ignore it. And I still do it the way I have for the past 20 years–do about 20 minutes of cleaning, then sit and rest for a while, then do some more cleaning and repeat the pattern until the task is done. Or I’m in too much pain to continue.

I have depression because of my pain and the various occurrences related to my disability, such as losing the LTD disability benefits. I have contemplated suicide more than once and have thought about how I would do it. My most recent suicidal ideation (great term, huh?) was when I got the notification that I had lost those benefits. If the Pacific Ocean wasn’t so damned cold, I’d have just walked into it and kept going out to sea. Truth: I don’t want to be dead. I just want the pain to stop, I want the uncertainties about money and our lives to settle down. I want peace.

I have anxiety, duh. Problem is, it interferes with my life. I am developing social anxiety; I hate to be out in a crowd of more than about 8 people. Small crowd. And very ironic, since my life has been filled with people–I have spoken to large crowds, I was responsible for the local Pagan group back in VA, I had a weekly dinner date with my friends–and we could be as few as 3 and as many as 20. Now I begin to freak out if there’s more than about 3 or 4 people around me, like you would have at a dinner table. I often don’t really want to leave the house–not quite agoraphobic, but definitely not good. This limits me in so many ways–I have no friends here, just the wait staff of the various restaurants we go to, or the staff at the grocery store. But nobody that we say, hey, let’s get together.

I would attend services at Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, but all too often, one or the other of us is not up to going. So neither goes. Lots of nice people–completely overwhelming to me. But probably our best chance to meet friends, people we can hang out with and do things with. Beloved wants to get back into his gaming (table top RPGs, with paper, pencils and dice; NOT D&D). If he does, I’d probably go along and play, if only to keep myself from becoming totally a recluse.

I can no longer play the piano. I cannot knit or crochet or do other fine motor crafts for more than the time to do one row of knitting or crochet, or about 20-ish minutes of fine motor work like making chainmaille or jewelry. These are all things I used to do. I can’t talk on the phone comfortably if I have to hold the receiver to my ear for more than 15 or 20 minutes. (Which means when my mother calls, I switch hands a lot.) Even if I were not taking narcotics, I would still be very careful about driving since I have limited range of motion with my neck–you know, turning it left and right. Looking back over my shoulder is almost impossible. With my limitations, I am always afraid that I will have an accident because I cannot react fast enough, or fully enough, to avoid it. Beloved does almost all of the driving. Only on his really bad days do I get behind the wheel–and he helps me watch out for possible dangers.

There’s also the whole loss of concentration and ability to deal with details as well as a certain amount of short term memory loss/lapse. I am easily distracted from whatever I am doing–and just going from the bedroom to the kitchen (about 20 feet) means I can forget what I’ve gone in there for–and cannot recall it, no matter how I try. This is particularly vexing for me, as I used to have nearly photographic memory. Well, my shutter speed is way down, let me tell you.

I’d love to be able-bodied, to do the things I used to do, to do the things I want to do. But that’s not my reality. And I don’t write this all out for you to feel sorry for  me, or to gain your pity. I’m just trying to explain what my life is now, in this moment.

There are good things as well, really! We’ve been going to the beach more often now that the weather has warmed up. We’ve seen pelicans, a seal, a fish that made the mistake of biting onto the bait of the surf fisherman. Lots of dogs, since there’s no prohibition on them being on the beach. We’ve seen a horse and rider enjoying the fun of trotting through the edge of the surf. I’ve even managed to pick up some driftwood and seashells–razor clams and even sand dollars.

Being with Beloved is always fun, even if we’re just doing the parallel play thing, with both of us on our computers and no particular interaction until one of us wants to share a meme or an article. We go out to eat when we can afford it and we enjoy sharing the meals and making our critiques of the food.

I am especially grateful for a healthcare team that works with me to deal with these realities of my disability–my Primary Care Physician, my psychiatrist and my psychologist, the PCP’s nurse (who is a dear!); the front desk staff, and just everyone I’ve come in contact with when I’ve gone in for an appointment.

I enjoy the view out my window. I watch the birds, occasionally get a glimpse of an egret flying by. I watch the trees blow in the wind and I’ve watched the flowers blossom, each according to their time. Rhododendron is a major “thing” out here and there’s lots of it, in different colors. It’s time for hydrangeas now. I’ve also seen a hummingbird. I’d like to put up a feeder for it, but haven’t gotten around to doing what that requires. C’est la vie.

Thanks to Facebook, I am actually in touch with my friends from VA almost more than when I lived there. Daily posts and shared items make my day better.

So I’m reaching the limit of what my hands can take and rather than save this as a draft, I’ll finish it up and post it out. Yes, I have my limits. So does everyone else. My biggest goal right now (behind winning my adjudication hearing) is to find something that I can do for fun, just for me. See, my psychiatrist asked me the other day, “What do you do for fun?” and the first answer (which you should always go with) that popped into my head was “Not a damned thing.” Time to change that. I’ve got several possibilities, just a matter of seeing if I can manage them within my limitations. I want to try watercolor painting and even have a “how to” book to start it with. I’m also trying to do some sketching. Nothing major, just little doodles to get used to drawing again. We’ll see.

So this is where I am, and with the oh so helpful chemicals in my system, not doing as bad as I was a week ago. I’m Kate, and I’m disabled. But I can still enjoy the perfection of each moment as it comes along, whatever comes with it.

Namaste!

The Lost Child

Start here: Miscarriage Stories

And then there’s this:

OrganDonorsandPregnantWomen

So the battle over women, their bodies, pregnancy and the rights of the unborn continues to rage.  You can’t use birth control.  You can’t have an abortion if it’s beyond a certain amount of time, or if you weren’t raped, or if the child is deformed or the product of incest.  You can have the child removed forcibly from your body without your consent (Forcible Cesarean) or if you suffer catastrophic illness, up to death (and resuscitation) and you end up in a coma, you can be kept on life support to be an incubator for your fetus (TX woman in coma) against your express wishes to not have your own life extended by artificial means.

But what about the women who desperately want a child?  Who are actively attempting to become pregnant and have every intention of carrying the child for 40 weeks to a safe delivery–and cannot?  The sheer numbers of women who are not able to maintain a pregnancy are staggering.  (Fertility Data )  A long time ago I heard that 1 in 9 couples are not able to have a child together (which includes male infertility as well).  That’s a lot of people.  It’s greater than 10% of the population–or to put it into more imaginable perspective: if you have a party and invite 10 couples over, at least one of those couples will not be able to have a child.  And most of us know at least 10 couples.

I was very, very blessed.  I have never had to go through the agony of a miscarriage; I got pregnant three times and I have three children.  But I know far too many women who have had to deal with this–and sometimes, more than once.  Even my own mother had infertility problems.  The fact that she and my father were married for two years before I was born (and no birth control during that time) and my brother is 7 years younger than I am indicates a less-than-optimal chance for pregnancy for her.  And she had a miscarriage between the two of us.

My father’s mother had a miscarriage between each of her 4 children.  My mother’s mother carried to full term a daughter with esophageal atresia  where  the esophagus does not grow down to the stomach correctly–and this was in the 1940’s.  So the surgery they do to correct this today was barely out of its own infancy at the time.  My grandmother comforted herself by thinking that perhaps my aunt’s surgery, even though it was not successful for her, gave the doctors greater knowledge and ability so that they could save other children.  

And when we visited the cemetery where my grandparents were eventually buried, we always went to look at my aunt’s tiny grave, in a row of children’s graves.

Of course I have also had friends who miscarried.  So I have been a bystander in the sorrow of losing the promise of child, the hope of a baby that you’ll never know.  I cannot imagine the feelings involved and I prefer not to try.  Once I had my own children, I couldn’t bear to even think of anything bad happening to them.  I would weep just from news stories or magazine articles that dealt with childhood traumas and accidents.

A friend share the article above and coupled with the photograph, set me to thinking about all the “stuff” that goes on around pregnancies.  I can understand why there is a hesitation about announcing a pregnancy until the child has settled in solidly (so to speak).  It begs the question of whether this generation of women is having more miscarriages than women did before all the industrial agricorp foods, with the myriad of chemicals added to everything, the state of our environment and the lack of pure, unadulterated drinking water.  I’m not even sure where to start that kind of research and find numbers to put in this blog.

Regardless of why it happens, there are many reasons for miscarriage–or what can also be accurately called “spontaneous abortion” because the body itself will expel a fertilized ovum when the zygote has no chance of survival out of the womb.  (One of the odd biology class facts I’ve retained since high school (back in the dark ages, haha) is that 80% of all conceptions end in spontaneous abortion. So the fact that we even can get pregnant and stay pregnant long enough to increase our population only attests to how much loving is going on.)  The reason for your miscarriage may be different than the reason for your friend’s–or maybe there’s no understandable or knowable reason at all.  The point is, miscarriage is a very common occurrence…but that doesn’t make it any easier for any woman who has to go through it.

I ask you, then: why are so many women silent about what has happened?  There is no shame in a miscarriage; no stigma in the loss.  Or did I miss something?  I seem to remember my mother, and her mother, talking about miscarriage in a normal tone of voice–not a hushed, secretive voice.  Someone had miscarried and while that was very sad, it wasn’t a rare or unknown event (sorry to say).  When did it go underground?  And assuming I’m not wrong about that, WHY did it go underground?

If  we wait until after that first trimester to announce our pregnancy, what do we do about the pregnancies that turn into miscarriages?  How do we honor the life that was lost? How do we acknowledge the miracle of a beloved (but unknown) soul that didn’t make it onto the Earth? How do we mourn, when there is no grave to visit? No pictures to look at, no memories of the face of our child?

Even a very early miscarriage, when it is really just a blob of cells, hardly identifiable as being something that will be a person some day…even that blob holds the hope of a child, OUR child.  Please note that I am NOT getting into the discussion of when life begins.  I have VERY strong views on that which contain such phrases as “viability” and “live outside the womb unaided” and most especially “quality of life”–for the mother AND the child.  But every act of sexual intercourse without birth control contains the idea, the dice throw of possibility, of the starting point for the creation of life, which culminates with the bringing a new person into this world, planned for or not.

It is an inalienable right for every woman to decide what she tells anyone at all about her body and its condition, and pregnancy certainly falls under that right.  So does miscarriage.  Letting them know and NOT letting them know are both good, solid options.

But silence about something this life-altering may not be the BEST choice.  And I mean both states of being: “pregnant” and then “not pregnant”.  I’m not going to discuss silence about being pregnant.  That’s for another blog someday.  So let’s move on to the silence that very often surrounds miscarriage.

There are many, many reasons not to talk about a miscarriage.  Like any other tragedy, having to repeat it endlessly keeps it fresh and dreadful in the mind and heart.  And to put it bluntly, there are just some people who don’t need to butt into your business and don’t need to be told.  Those Helpful Hannahs will talk your ear off about THEIR miscarriage, and how THEY felt when all you want to do is scream your anguish and throw china dishes at the wall.  They are worse than those whose eyes tear up and they hold you close and just keep saying, “I’m so sorry.  I’m so sorry.”  Sympathy can be tolerated; clueless nattering about their pain without so much as a “I feel ya” to acknowledge yours is beyond bearing.

There’s also a sense of following the old adage of  “Least said, soonest mended.”  It’s over and done with, why keep talking about it?  No point in going on and on.  Move on with your life.  It’s not like it was “real baby” anyways…  It was just a miscarriage, for goodness’ sake.  REALLY?  I don’t care if it was an accidental pregnancy and now you don’t have to pay for an abortion.  (But you will pay in guilt and remorse for feeling relieved…and that’s not necessary, either.)  I don’t care if the woman had a history of “female problems” and was told she’d never even GET pregnant, so what did you expect anyway?  (Try to have hope that the doctors were wrong, that you can have a child of your body with your beloved…and then lose that hope in a gush of blood and pain.)  I don’t care if this was a carefully planned, carefully thought out pregnancy that ended in miscarriage through nobody’s fault, it just happens that way (and more often than one might think.)

Whatever the reason for becoming pregnant and whatever the cause for the miscarriage, you are going to have strong, sustained feelings about it.  Trying to mash them into a box in the back corner of the attic of your mind only means that they will pop out, like a Jack in the box, at the single most inopportune time and place.  Promise.  That’s how mashed feelings are.  Doesn’t matter what they are: relief, pain, sorrow, anger, whatever.  You’ve got’em and they ain’t going away.

So you lock them down and go back to “life before the pregnancy”.  Except that you WERE pregnant and now you’re not and everything has changed.  It’s like losing an arm or a leg, or suddenly being struck blind.  The world is completely different than the one before sperm and egg combined.  You can’t hide from babies in strollers, toddlers on swings, children playing tag on the grass.  You can’t pretend that you don’t see the fathers and the mothers, all with their children, living their lives together.  You cannot completely fool yourself into thinking that you’re just fine and this has not changed you in the least.

You may think to yourself, “But I DON’T want to talk about it.”  And then you get into the company of  a (any) group of women and the topic comes up.  One by one, the stories come out.  And friends you’ve had for years admit that they have a Lost Child somewhere out in the Universe, a child whose face they never saw.  And you…can either tell them or not, but you know that you are a part of this category of women forever, the Women Who Have Had a Miscarriage.

I am not advocating the wholesale blurting this out to everyone you meet.  (Although I suspect that there are women who do indeed deal with their own miscarriage by doing precisely that.)  What I’m saying is that who you tell is up to you.  It may just be to the child’s father.  Or your mother.  Or your doctor.  Doesn’t matter.  But you need to talk to someone who will listen to you without interrupting, who can offer you comfort and support, who can help you grieve for what was lost and can never be recovered, only replaced.

There is an easing of pain in this sharing of miscarriage and loss.  Trouble shared is trouble halved, so the saying goes.  I don’t know about that, but I do know that finding out that you are not alone in your sorrow, that others KNOW what you are going through…makes it possible for you to go on.  Just knowing that someone else has climbed this mountain means that it can be climbed, that you can do it as well.  Sometimes, that’s all we need to make through another day, to keep on with living until the pain subsides to a dull roar and then a faint echo that only catches us occasionally instead of constantly.

With every tragedy there is also a lesson we learn, a strength we are given or a willingness to accept what is and find a way to live with that.  Your Lost Child may guide you, through their very absence, to an aspect of your own being that you did not know you had, or had not given enough attention to its formation and growth.  It may be a chance for someone in your life to become closer to you, love growing out of like and friendship into something more, in the common bond of the grieving.  It may strengthen the relationship with your significant other; if you can weather this dreadful a storm together, clinging to each other and coming through the other side more committed to each other…then you can face anything together and win.

I would also suggest that you talk frankly, and openly, with any siblings the Lost Child might have had, in an age appropriate manner of course.  Even if it’s a bit awkward for you, even if everyone cries…this is life, it’s not always like you see on TV.  Sometimes bad stuff happens and this is how our family deals with it–together and with love (and information!).  If you don’t, you do a disservice to your children.  If they are old enough to understand it (even if it’s only that something bad happened), they are old enough to talk about it, even in the most simple terms.

My son was five years old when my grandmother died–and we were at her bedside for that last weekend of her life.  She waited until everyone had left the room on Monday morning and then departed for the other side.  So we then had to go into action, getting the body out and preparing the funeral, etc.  He went out back and was sitting on the porch when the next door neighbor came out and asked what he was doing…he told her that Grandmom had died and he was sad.  She agreed that it was something to be sad about and later on, told me what had happened.

Talk about guilt.  He felt that he couldn’t come to me, because I was up to my eyeballs in stuff and I hadn’t even realized he was outside.  So the moral to this particular little story is that even a fairly young child can understand when something momentous occurs, good or bad.  And as their parent, it is up to you to help them absorb it and express the feelings it creates.  And it’s always good to let them know that you also have feelings about it, and what those feelings are.

There is so much that can be associated with this Lost Child of yours.  The Lost Child may not have ever had a name but you will carry them in your heart for the rest of your life.  The Lost Child is a dream, the best and most perfect child one could hope for.  The Lost Child is the one that would fulfill all of your plans for offspring, would have succeeded beyond measure, would be all that you were not or that your other children could not accomplish.  The Lost Child will tease your thoughts with “What would he/she have looked like?”  “What would she/he have accomplished, would they have been like me or my husband?”  All the “what ifs”, all the unknown events and all the uncelebrated milestones belong to that Lost Child.

I offer you this bit of solace for your Lost Child: wherever the Lost Child goes, whatever your beliefs about afterlife and souls…they are never alone.  They are with all the other Lost Children, playing and singing and occasionally, whispering in your ear to remind you that once upon a time, they were YOUR Lost Child.

We each handle things in our own way, for sure. But sometimes silence is not the answer and we need to share the pain to make it easier to bear. Blessings of comfort and peace to all who have had this happen to them; my sisters, we are here to offer whatever you need, if only to listen to the story of your Lost Child.

Namaste!

Family, Illness, Fear and Loathing in My Own Life, Act II

If you read the the first part,  you know that Beloved was in the hospital; to sum up, he had his gall bladder and the boulder inside of it removed.  He also had a slipped lapband, and the good hospital quickly took care of that by removing the saline that allows them to adjust the opening between the top of the stomach and the lapband, ergo the bottom of the stomach.  So he was there from Sunday night (very early Monday morning) until Friday afternoon.  And most of that, say from Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning until his discharge was recovery and making sure his stomach was back online after not eating for almost a month.

I was not able to stay with him in the hospital, but a friend and then his parents took me over to see him several days of the 5 days he was in.  It was a joy to bring him home on my birthday–best present I ever had.  But I also have to tell you that this was the best birthday I’ve had in a long time.  His parents took me out to Eggspectations for a wonderful breakfast (and a rather large Bloody Mary) and gave me gifts of US mint green and the size was … surprising and very generous.  Beloved had primed the nurses, so when I walked in, I had several people wish me “Happy Birthday” and that was surprising and pleasing to me as well.

And somehow, this man who was in the hospital still managed to shop for my birthday.  (Thanks to the Interwebs in the hospital).  I am now the proud owner of a couple of different kinds of titanium utensils and a titanium cup.  These go with my spork and straw.  This all comes from Snow Peak, and is really made for camping–but works for us very well.

Now for the darker side of what began to happen.  The day before he came back from the hospital, as I was waiting for the in-laws to pick me up, I checked the mail…to find the 2nd rejection from SSA for permanent disability.  I made the decision not to tell Beloved because I did not want him to have to worry about it.  (This, by the way, was a big mistake.)

So he came home and all should be lovely, right?  Well, distress or eustress, it’s all still stress…and I’d been on a rollercoaster of emotions that makes any of the supercoasters look like a kiddie coaster.  To put it bluntly, I began to exhibit erratic and irrational behavior, accompanied by stumbling, falling, vertigo, anxiety and several other possible side effects from my medication.  I also had what the professionals refer to as “emotional lability”, which means inappropriate outbursts, possibly hysterical outbursts of laughing or crying.  Short term memory loss was another unpleasant side effect, especially considering how much I have prided myself on being able to remember things.

The most (or least) amusing side effect was this most amazing British accent I suddenly could not shake.  And as Beloved would tell you…it wasn’t just the accent.  I used the British syntax (“my husband is in hospital” rather than the American, “my husband is in THE hospital”) and British slang.  Now, in my own defense, when I lived overseas (1966 – 1976) most of the people to whom I spoke talked to me in the Queen’s English, not in ‘Murican.  AND I have seen thousands of hours of Monthy Python’s Flying Circus and Benny Hill.  I also (when speaking normally) speak very clearly and enunciate my words; I have some British words in my vocabulary (“sshedule” instead of “skedule” or “labORatory” instead of “labruhtory”).  So a British accent is particularly easy for me to slip into, even without being doolalley.

I pointed out that it could have been worse: I also had taken 5 years of French et je parle en francais un peu aussi.  Or I could have had a German or Russian accent.  Can you imagine me, going into the US Veterans’ medical facility with one of those accents?  Not cool.  No, I just sounded like Russell Brand.  And I used the word “fucking” A LOT.  Except in the British accent, it is somehow simultaneously more intense but less offensive, I think.  “Fuhhhhh-KING”.

So he calls my nurse in Fredericksburg and they confab…result: take her to MaGuire Medical Center in Richmond, where they can run a FULL panel of tests, blood pee and otherwise.  Neither of us were thinking very clearly, but we did the best we could.  We gathered up clothes and books for Beloved, because I fully anticipated being “kept” in the hospital.  I called around, looking for a friend’s house for him to have a bed at nights because we couldn’t afford a hotel, for him to drive back and forth, and had no idea what the facilities were like in my room for family members.  The upside to that was that I got back in touch with my aunt and uncle after not seeing (or speaking, really) for about 8 years.  “People have lives!” is what my aunt told me when I mentioned this–and I will say, we went right back into interacting as if NO time had elapsed, so that part was very good.

We had to go north to Warrenton to pick up his medications so that he would have an adequate supply while we were gone, however long we were gone.  So it was late before we got out of town…we waited until my aunt and uncle returned from their dinner engagement to go to their house so that they could meet my husband (first in my family other than my kids to do so) and we talked, probably more than we should have, but it was all necessary.  I was provided with a moment of pure enlightenment from my aunt which made the entire trip worthwhile.  Sort of.

So we finally head over to MaGuire…and the gate is locked.  We have to drive around in the dark, in the rain, without a good idea of where we were going…in a not so great neighborhood.  Finally found the main gate on the OTHER side of the facility grounds and headed for the ER–the only department opened at that time of night.

I cannot bring myself to try and tell you all that happened.  But let’s see if I can adequately describe the most outstanding parts.  The man who came to talk to me did not introduce himself, was not wearing an ID.  Found out later he was, indeed, The Doctor.  He kept asking me what I was in the ER and when I told him it was because no other department was open, looked at me as if I had walked in covered in shit.  I award him the “Pain in the Ass Award” because between the Hardees I had eaten earlier (BIG BIG MISTAKE) and the stress, my IBD kicked in.  FULL FORCE.  I made trips to the little girls about every 20-30 minutes.

Back to the fun: they took 4-5 vials of blood, x-rayed my chest (I do NOT have tuberculosis) and CT scanned my head–found nothing, as the joke goes.  Did a urinalysis, a complete drug scan (I have a new list of things to try next time I want to do recreational drugs) and the end result was I still have a slightly elevated blood sugar count.  And they got all this done in (drum roll) 3 1/2 hours.  Including an hour’s talking to the student intern psychiatrist, who, while completely sympathetic, had apparently been sent down from the psych ward to “practice” taking a history because NONE of the copious notes we watched her take were included in the wad of discharge papers they gave me.

I went there, terrified of being crazy and getting locked up.  Being kicked to the curb with a new script or two was….anticlimactic.  I was almost disappointed.  And Beloved was so angry and insistent, we drove back home, getting into Bealeton about 8.  Almost 24 hours without sleep, with bad food, with the Tijuana Trots thrown in….BUT I was HOME, with MY Beloved.  Took the necessary meds and tried to sleep.  I managed only 1-3 hour spurts of sleep until Monday night–so for 4 days, I was sleeping a lot but not all at once.  I didn’t eat again until Monday lunch time–this is a fuck all of a diet; I dropped about 5 pounds in 5 days.  I carefully and under the Beloved’s very watchful eye, took a Vicodin when I needed it…and broke a cycle of pain I had been in for over 2 months.

And the British accent went away, mostly.  It crops up when I am feeling anxiety or stress.  I have an appointment with the psychiatrist on the 11th, but of more worth, I think, is my appointment with the psychologist on the 6th.  We’ve had such an incredible amount of stress, both good things and bad, that it would not be odd for me to have an anxiety disorder.  Having my main support go into the hospital, knowing that the BAD hospital could have killed him (you can die from dehydration, and pretty fast)…did NOT help me at all.  Is it any wonder that my brain decided to go on vacation without me?

I tell you all of this because it’s not shameful.  I may add more details as I feel comfortable talking about them–there are still parts that make me go all British and emotional lability all over the place.  I am finding that I get very anxious out in public, especially in larger crowds.  (Grocery stores pretty much do me in.)  I would prefer not be agoraphobic, I like the outdoors, but…I feel safer in my house, no matter how filthy it is, or how much laundry needs to be done.  I do not plan on living my life like this, so I will seek out whatever kind of treatment will help me cope with the levels of anxiety and stress I have–I obviously need the help.

I am almost OCD (CDO?) in the taking of my medications.  I set them out, verify them with Beloved, and take them.  I am back to eating more or less regularly–and we are trying to get started in the routine we want to have in Eureka, which actually involves eating 4 times a day.  Better for both of us.  I am sleeping a full night and not having to nap during the day (or face crash into my keyboard!).  My guts have finally settled down and I feel pretty good physically.  I do not need the quadruped cane, using the single footed one instead–and mostly as an accessory, instead of leaning and limping along.  I am walking smoother, not stumbling and the speed is kind of amazing.  Oh, I’m not going to win any races, but at least I can move almost naturally.

And we are taking this week to heal and recuperate, especially as “SOME” of us had real surgery and aren’t allowed to lift or exert.  Then we begin preparing for the move, and he’s got it planned out pretty well, I think.  He’s reminded me that while it may look overwhelming (and it does!  Something I can get frantic about, even fuuuuuhhhh-KING frantic!), it’s not that bad and once things start to move (like the furniture his parents are taking, once they move at the end of THIS month), it will get easier and easier.  And he not only reminded me, he stressed this: on November the 1st we ARE flying out of here to CA.  I was beginning to lose sight of that.

We’ve talked about it before, so I won’t badger you with the details, but CA, especially Eureka, is necessary for us: food, cost of living, constancy of the climate.  I wish it wasn’t across the country, but it is, and so there we are.  This is a time of real introspection for me, figuring out what obligations I have here, if any…and what onus do I lay on others that I should not, that I have no right to expect others to do or be?  I’m having to re-examine my ideas about interactions and letting go of the dreams I have held as truth.  I have acknowledged the facts, the truth of the actual situations, and accepted that what I thought should be, never will.  And that it’s okay.  It was never going to be like that, was not for the generations before me…why should I be different?

I will appreciate phone calls, Skype, or Facebook (a couple of things my grandmother would have killed for when I was little) to keep in touch with friends and family, to see pictures of my grandchildren and keep track of what’s going on.  In some ways, the social media of Facebook has us MORE connected than if we all lived in the same neighborhood…no matter where in the world we are.  I look forward to keeping in touch with everyone, as much as is ever done.

I’m not afraid of being crazy, or losing my memory.  I’m only afraid of not living the life I’m supposed to be living because I’m so afraid of losing my mind or memory.  This has been a time of deeply profound reassessment for me.  Or as my Beloved and I talk about this, using technical terms: I have just upgraded my OS from XP to Windows 7–and not only that, gone from 32 to 64 bit.  Even once the actual OS successfully upgrades, you then have about 13 reboots as it adds the new dlls, the new drivers, and so on.  I can only be lucky enough to have the legacy hardware accept this new OS and not crash and burn.  I still have to re-download Chrome and configure everything, but I think, I hope, the new program is up and running.  We shall see.

In the meantime, I take it literally one day at a time, sometimes just this hour by this hour.  I am hoping that the new antidepressant (Efexor) will help; I am going to ask for something for the anxiety and stress, since the Clonazepam doesn’t seem to work really well and I’d prefer something a little less addictive, tolerance building, etc.  As I mentioned, there is a lot more drama to the trip to Richmond, but I truly cannot handle trying to write it down at this time–it still stresses me out.  Not trying to be mysterious, or get you to buy my next book, but just letting others know that shit happens, and you can only muddle through it the best way you know how, hoping to come out the other side still mostly intact.

I am still me, but I have changed and I think am still continuing to change–and that’s mostly in my head.  Need to do a LOT of meditation and contemplation, once I can “ohm” without falling asleep.  At this point, my Beloved is a better Buddhist than I am…and that kind of smarts.  Let go, says the Buddha.  Let go.  Apparently, there are things I still need to let go of.  I’m trying, trying my best.  Think that’s all that can be asked of anyone.

Namaste!

Family, Illness, Fear and Loathing in My Own Life

So this begins with a series of email my mother sent me, emails of political or religious nature; her views and mine do not agree and so after receiving “one more” emotionally inflammatory and incorrect email, I send this as part of my email to her: “If you do not know for yourself that what you send me is true, please don’t send it.  I have an Internet connection and in about 10 minutes, I will have checked it on snopes.com for blatant lies and then sought out reputable (and not paid for by the Koch Brothers or their ilk) sources for the questionable stuff.  You can thank my husband for my new political awareness but can only blame yourself for my inability to swallow horse manure.  Especially when it’s delivered in such grand, large portions.

Republicans AND Democrats will lie to the public.  I acknowledge this, which is why I get most of my news from the UK, Reuters or Al-Jazheera.  Most politicians no longer represent their constituency; they serve corporate masters.  Frankly, the Republicans win the prize for the most blatant disregard of the people they are supposed to be serving (See: OH, NC and TX, and their questionable actions in bringing in some of the most stringent, draconian anti-abortion laws, in direct challenge to Roe v. Wade).  And if you think Mr. Obama hasn’t done what he should have in 6 years, you can blame that on the intransigent, intractable, immovable Republicans in the Congress.  ”

We had reached the point at least a year prior where I had asked her to stop spamming (mass mailing) or particularly sending me religious posts.   So this email, pointing out the errors of her email and asking her to stop sending it is dated July 10.  Well, here’s what followed:

July 22 (hers is in black, my reply is in red.  Please note that I really try to get off these topics with her.)

YOU KNOW THIS WOULD PUT U S BACK IN THE BLACK BUT NO POLITICIAN WOULD DARE SUGGEST ANY OF THE CHANGES.  I LIKE IT  WHAT DO YOU THINK ?

“IF YOU CAN’T FIX IT WITH A HAMMER, YOU’VE GOT AN ELECTRICAL PROBLEM”

WRITTEN BY A 21 YEAR OLD FEMALE –  Wow, this girl has a great plan!  Love the last thing she would do the best.This was written by a 21 yr old female who gets it. It’s her future she’s worried about and this is how she feels about the social welfare big government state that she’s being forced to live in! These solutions are just common sense in her opinion.

This was in the Waco Tribune Herald, Waco , TX

PUT ME IN CHARGE . . .

Put me in charge of food stamps. I’d get rid of Lone Star cards; no cash for Ding Dongs or Ho Ho’s, just money for 50-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese and all the powdered milk you can haul away. If you want steak and frozen pizza, then get a job.

Rice, beans, cheese and powdered milk are NOT a balanced or healthy diet.  Poor people are fat because they have to buy the food they can afford, which is often carbohydrate intensive and lacking in basic nutrition.  This also leads to health issues like diabetes and heart disease, increasing their cost to the Government through Medicaid or Medicare.  I am very grateful that we receive food stamps and that I can shop for the food I eat, regardless of what other people think about my choices.  And I am not “wasting” that Government benefit when I buy not only steak, but grass fed, pastured beef steak.  I am buying the healthiest food possible and food stamps help us stretch our food budget and still have a healthy, balanced diet.  I shudder to think what we would look like if we lived on rice, beans, cheese and powdered milk.

Put me in charge of Medicaid. The first thing I’d do is to get women Norplant birth control implants or tubal legations. Then, we’ll test recipients for drugs, alcohol, and nicotine. If you want to reproduce or use drugs, alcohol, or smoke, then get a job. 

This is right up there with sterilizing the mentally retarded.  And Florida has already proven that testing the welfare recipients cost a lot more money than the two (yes, TWO) who failed the test are costing the system.  
I WISH I had had Medicaid for the 7 months I was without insurance and before the VA accepted my claim to health benefits.  I went to the free clinic and was able to actually get my fibromyalgia medication through them–or I would have had to do without, which means being untreated and therefore unable to do very much at all.  But WE paid for my pain medications because the free clinic does not dispense narcotics or opiates–you know, because of all those “drug addicts” who are abusing the system.  Oops, not in Fauquier County, they aren’t.

Now I have the interesting problem of getting almost all of my meds through the VA–except for one of my fibro med, arguably the most important, because it’s “not on their formulary”, so they don’t dispense it.  I have a prescription for it, so once again, we will have to pay for it if I am to take it.  Just one more item to come out of Beloved’s SSDI check, our only source of income at the moment.  And Beloved is now without health insurance until his Medicare kicks in, August 2014.  His head meds are paid for, through the free clinic.  But what about his pain meds, his gout meds, his high blood pressure pills?  His prescription acid reflux medication?  We will also be paying for those as we can, and hoping that the free clinic will be able to give us most of them.  But we’re not counting on it.

Incidentally, there are NO “Welfare Queens”, living off the system and laughing it up at taxpayer’s expense.  This is a fabrication, made up by people who think ANY government involvement in our lives is unacceptable–and these same people are usually benefiting in some way from a government program of some sort…ironic.
  
http://www.statisticbrain.com/welfare-statistics/

Yes, sometimes welfare recipients get more money than minimum wage workers.  That’s because the minimum wage is NOT a living wage, and welfare is at least trying to provide enough money to LIVE on.  So “getting a job” might actually mean a standard of living LOWER than being on welfare.  And that is called “poverty”, which nearly HALF of the citizens of this nation live in or at the ragged edge, due partly because minimum wage is NOT a living wage.  The average minimum wage earner must work a 67 hour work week in order to “afford” the necessities of life.

Put me in charge of government housing. Ever live in a military barracks? You will maintain our property in a clean and good state of repair. Your home” will be subject to inspections anytime and possessions will be inventoried.  If you want a plasma TV or Xbox 360, then get a job and your own place.

And here is where this “21 year old female” shows her complete lack of “real world” living.  First off, there is not enough military housing to accommodate the welfare recipients.  Secondly, this seems an awful lot like rounding up the “undesirables” and putting them into concentration camps.  Separate them, keep them from the rest of society.  Make sure they NEVER can integrate with the “rest of us”.  They don’t “deserve” it.  REALLY?  People do NOT choose to be on welfare; it’s simply NOT this program that allows you to live like royalty without some effort on your part.  Most people who have to use welfare are off of it within a year.  Whoopi Goldberg received welfare; J K Rowling also received the comparable British governmental payments before she wrote “Harry Potter”.  It’s not a “hand out”, it’s a “hand up” and it needs to be given with respect and dignity, to help those who need it and to guide them being able to “get a job” (that will pay a living wage; NOT a job at Wal-Mart where they will make about $8/hour AND receive training in how to apply for Social Services in their town.  EACH Wal-Mart store costs the government $900,000 in food stamps and other Social Services BECAUSE they refuse to pay their employees a LIVING wage.  And ALL of the Walton heirs are amongst the top 1% of the richest people in this nation.  How do they sleep at night?  Apparently very well, secure that they will have more money than they ever know what to do with… Incidentally, at least here in VA, Beloved and I are NOT eligible for welfare because we do not have any children.  And before you think that’s just more reason to sterilize welfare recipients, be aware that ONE IN FOUR — TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT — of the children in this nation go to bed hungry because their parents can’t feed them.  We are a Third World country, with a decimated “middle class” and the most unequal wealth distribution in history–and Fox News and their ilk will NOT report this, and the corporate propaganda machines will continue to churn out “Hooray USA” because they don’t want you to realize that everything that made this country great has gone to Hell in a hand basket.  All it takes is a little research and awareness of what is going on around you–look at the people you see in the grocery stores, at the mall…  Look at the people who are walking along the streets, go down to the Social Services offices and watch to see what kind of citizen goes in.  I know here, in our Social Services, it’s predominately white, but there’s young and old, male and female, married, with children or without, every demographic is well represented–except of course for the wealthy.  Why are more people applying to welfare?  Because so many employers have refused to pay a LIVING wage (different than the minimum wage, and the Koch Brothers are working to get rid of the minimum wage) that in order to feed their children, they must go on welfare.  They can’t afford childcare for the 67 hours they’d have to work to get enough money to live on.  And don’t say, “Well, they shouldn’t have had children.”  You did.  And what if, when Lowell was 3 or 4, Dad had lost his job and all he could get was something that paid, oh let’s say $3.75 per hour.  We couldn’t have lived on that–and like you, most of these people had their children when they had a job and thought they would be able to afford a family.  You don’t know the circumstances and to make a blanket statement about (essentially) sterilizing them and denying them the choice…is completely wrong.  Offer birth control, teach how family planning is the best way to take care of your family…but to mandate surgical procedures to get money?  Ummm, NO.

In addition, you will either present a check stub from a job each week or you will report to a “government” job. It may be cleaning the roadways of trash, painting and repairing public housing, whatever we find for you. We will sell your 22 inch rims and low profile tires and your blasting stereo and speakers and put that money toward the “common good..”

I actually have no problem with “workfare”–but I would also take it beyond just making them clean public buildings.  I would offer job training and help in job placement.  So why aren’t more of them getting jobs?  Oh that’s right, many of the jobs that used to be here in the US are now in China.  Or Malaysia, or some place else where labor is cheap and there aren’t things like governmental interference and mandated “minimum wages”.  We used to be a country that manufactured stuff…not any more.  We are a service economy which will inevitably fail.  And people on welfare are doing their best to put food on the table and cloths on their backs, trying to keep a roof over their heads.  They don’t have a lot of “free money” to purchase services.  And it’s not just people on welfare… it’s also those who are barely making ends meet, working longer and harder hours than anyone else in the so-called “First World”, who live in a world of revolving debt, trying to maintain some fiction of having money and those “services” the middle class can afford.  Except that our middle class is dying, squeezed to death by the corporations (“And aren’t you glad that you have a job in these tough economic times?”  — Beloved was asked this at work, so I’m not making it up…it really does get asked) and there’s no end in sight because “corporations are people”. 

Before you write that I’ve violated someone’s rights, realize that all of the above is voluntary. If you want our money, accept our rules  Before you say that this would be “demeaning” and ruin their “self esteem,” consider that it wasn’t that long ago that taking someone else’s money for doing absolutely nothing was demeaning and lowered self esteem. If we are expected to pay for other people’s mistakes we should at least attempt to make them learn from their bad choices. The current system rewards them for continuing to make bad choices.

Once again, the author shows her complete ignorance of why people are on welfare, need Medicaid, are using food stamps.  It’s not about mistakes…it’s about “shit happens” and sometimes you need help–that does NOT come from religious institutions or your neighbors and family.  While many religious groups do offer food pantries or some limited amount of money (a one time payment for rent, for example), they are not set up primarily to aid the poor and can require a certain agreement on the part of the recipients to also participate in their particular religious life.  In other words, you have to “be like us” to be given “our” help.  The same lack of consistent funds is true for family and neighbors–if you even know your neighbors and live close enough to your family to even make their care possible.  

Neither of us is in a position to help the other, for example–no matter how much we want to, our situations preclude any meaningful amount of help.  It’s not like we could move in with you, or you with us; our budgets do not include sending a check to the other.  And that’s okay, because there is a source of consistent and available income IF you qualify…and we have to re-qualify on a regular basis.  So the idea that we could be rich on welfare…doesn’t exist.  There are all kinds of checks and measures to ensure that no one can, simply because of the rumor of the “welfare queen”.  

Beloved and I have a friend who has received an SSDI check his entire life; he is not mentally capable of taking care of himself.  He gets a check for a whopping $400 PER MONTH.  That’s ALL he gets to live on.  He AND his mother get food stamps…$16 per month.  For both of them.  HE is the kind of person more likely to be on government subsistence and it’s not enough.  He can’t own too much, or they’ll take away some of that enormous check he gets. (Sarcasm!)  He has walked from Manassas to Richmond because of paperwork requirements for his “free government hand out”.  He’s been on this system for almost 20 years…and he will tell you that he has NEVER met that “welfare queen” –and he’s seen a LOT of welfare recipients.  If you know where that money is being handed out, let us know, because we’ll take him and go get some for ourselves.

AND While you are on Gov’t subsistence, you no longer can VOTE! Yes, that is correct. For you to vote would be a conflict of interest. You will voluntarily remove yourself from voting while you are receiving a Gov’t welfare check. If you want to vote, then get a job.

This part is particularly stupid and demeaning.  Voting is a RIGHT and unless you have been found guilty of breaking the law, with your rights suspended as a result of that verdict, NO ONE can just “remove” your rights.  Which is really what this girl is talking about: removing your right to have a family (“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”); removing your right to live where you please, removing your right to elect the very people who are overseeing the programs that you count on and are a part of.  I would think that gives you an even stronger incentive to vote.  People on welfare are a part of our society, and we need adequate representation of EVERY person in the elections, not just angry, old, white men who seem determined to remove everyone else’s rights.  (And this young woman, who I am willing to be someone who has never had to worry about where her next meal was coming from, or that her employer wouldn’t pay her a living wage so that she could afford to live on her own–most of the apartments in this area are set up for a “housemates’ situation–because NO ONE can afford to live around here on their own.)

Now, if you have the guts – PASS IT ON…I WOULD REALLY LIKE TO GET THIS BACK, IF EVERYONE SENDS IT, I WILL GET OVER 220 BACK!!!  I WOULD KNOW YOU SENT IT ON!!!

Ummm NO.  I won’t, and not because I lack guts.  I sent it back to you with MY opinions–and cited evidence where necessary, didn’t I?  It reads easy, seems like a good answer to the problems (if “welfare queens” were real, anyways) and she appeals to the mob sentiment of “we” don’t need these programs, but “they” do, so we have to control “them” and limit what they might actually receive.  Well, I am a part of “them”.  I NEED food stamps and I wish I could have medical assurance that I would receive ALL the medications my doctor(s) think I need–and Beloved, too.  He is on SSDI, arguably a form of Social Security, but he has not paid into it his entire life–just the first 20 some years.  So odds are good that he will be paid more “out” than he put “in”.  And we NEED that money.  It’s all we have right now, and $1350 doesn’t go far when your rent is $800.  Part of the reason we’re moving to Eureka is the cost of living is 30-40% LOWER than here in VA.  So our limited and set income will cover more of our costs.  There is every indication that I will also be approved for SSDI–and I haven’t paid in very much at all, comparatively.  And when we get to Eureka, we will RE-apply for food stamps (indications are that we will have to wait a year, to establish residency)…and we may not need to if we find that we can get through that year without them.  When Peter was still in the military, we were VERY eligible for food stamps–but we chose not to get them because we knew that we could live on what he was making.  That’s not so true now, which is not just a shame, but a damned shame to say about active duty military people–like William and Maria.  

I would offer this suggestion: please stop sending me political propaganda of any sort, and I’ll stop correcting it with cited sources and sending it back.  Just so we’re clear on this, I voted for Mr. Obama; I don’t think he’s somehow infallible–he’s a politician and has his own failings–but I do think that he was a MUCH better choice than that man with an elevator for his cars and the idea that an income of $250,000 per year is “middle class”(Source for actual statistics of “middle class” is wikipedia, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_middle_class where there is a table down the page comparing various demographs…and NO WHERE on that chart does the number 250,000 appear.  Talk about “out of touch” with the average American.)  
Mr. Obama may be “just a community leader” but we need community now, more than ever.  We have become so divisive, us versus them, no matter what the difference is that we’re talking about…

Regardless of your views on abortion, the very notion that a roomful of old white men should be making ANY decisions about a woman and her medical choices is outrageous–and dangerous.  This whole anti-choice program is merely the start to remove HUMAN rights, beginning with females.  We have already effectively lost many of our 4th Amendment rights thanks to the Patriot Act…which is somehow not very Patriotic but much more about taking away the citizens’ rights.  In the meantime, more and more rights are being handed to corporations–don’t even start me on Monsanto, which I consider to be the most evil thing in the Universe at this point in time.  Like our individual choices about religion, politics is an area that we will probably not agree on, so it’s just better to let it go. 

And then began the veritable flood of religious and political emails, as offensive as they could get:

(Picture)F R O G we all need one.
I do hope this returns to ME the sender! Isn’t the little green guy sort of cute?(Picture)

I was told a story about a lady in the hospital who was near death, when a Chaplain came to visit her.This Chaplain was a young female, with long blond hair. She listened to the lady who was ill and left her a small gift for comfort, a tiny ceramic frog.The next day a friend from church came to visit.The lady told her friend about the beautiful young Chaplain who had come to visit her. The friend was so impressed with the way her friend had improved and felt the need to talk to the young Chaplain. In her search to find the young girl, she was repeatedly reassured that their chaplains are never very young, and that there was never a girl that fit the description given.
Upon returning to her friend in the hospital, a visiting nurse entered the room and noticed the ceramic frog.The nurse made the comment “I see you have a guardian angel with you.” As she held the frog we asked why she made the comment and we were informed what the frog stood for:

“Forever Rely On God”

To The World You Might Be One Person;
But To One Person You Might Be the World.
You have been Tagged by the Froggy,

which means you are a great friend!!

You will BE BLESSED if you send this to more people.
Friends are quiet Angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.
Hi Lord, it’s me. Things are getting bad here, gas prices are too high, too few jobs, too much disrespect and violence, food and heating costs too high. I know some have taken You out of our schools, government & even Christmas. But Lord I’m asking you to come back and re-bless America . We really need You.Thanks Lord, I love You!

IN GOD WE TRUST

The Lord says when 2 or more are gathered in My Name, there I will be also!!! Let’s see how far this goes. Please pass this on…

Please God… please Bless America again.

GOD BLESS AMERICA , PLEASE, HELP KEEP THIS COUNTRY FREE

Then this arrived:

Subject: A country Founded by Geniouses but Run by Idiots

Attributed to Jeff Foxworthy:

If you can get arrested for hunting or fishing without a license, but not for entering and remaining in the country illegally — you might live in a nation that …was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

If you have to get your parents’ permission to go on a field trip or to take an aspirin in school, but not to get an abortion — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

If you MUST show your identification to board an airplane, cash a check, buy liquor, or check out a library book and rent a video, but not to vote for who runs the government — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

If the government wants to prevent stable, law-abiding citizens from owning gun magazines that hold more than ten rounds, but gives twenty F-16 fighter jets to the crazy new leaders in Egypt — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

If, in the nation’s largest city, you can buy two 16-ounce sodas, but not one 24-ounce soda, because 24-ounces of a sugary drink might make you fat — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

If an 80-year-old woman or a three-year-old girl who is confined to a wheelchair can be strip-searched by the TSA at the airport, but a woman in a burka or a hijab is only subject to having her neck and head searched — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

If your government believes that the best way to eradicate trillions of dollars of debt is to spend trillions more — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

If a seven-year-old boy can be thrown out of school for saying his teacher is “cute,” but hosting a sexual exploration or diversity class in grade school is perfectly acceptable — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

If hard work and success are met with higher taxes and more government regulation and intrusion, while not working is rewarded with Food Stamps, WIC checks, Medicaid benefits, subsidized housing, and free cell phones — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

If the government’s plan for getting people back to work is to provide incentives for not working, by granting 99 weeks of unemployment checks, without any requirement to prove that gainful employment was diligently sought, but couldn’t be found — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

If you pay your mortgage faithfully, denying yourself the newest big-screen TV, while your neighbor buys iPhones, time shares, a wall-sized do-it-all plasma screen TV and new cars, and the government forgives his debt when he defaults on his mortgage — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

If being stripped of your Constitutional right to defend yourself makes you more “safe” according to the government — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

What a country!

How about we give God a reason to continue blessing America!

Then I had to deal with this:

67 years later!

What happened to the radiation that lasts thousands of years?

HIROSHIMA  1945
We all know that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed in August 1945 after the explosion of atomic bombs.
However, we know little about the progress made by the people of that land during the past 67 years.
HIROSHIMA – 67 YEARS LATER

(Series of pictures, all modern and fabulous looking)DETROIT- 65 YEARS AFTER HIROSHIMA

(Series of Pictures, all decrepit and ruined)

What has caused more long term destruction – the A-bomb, or Government welfare programs created to buy the
votes of those who want someone to take care of them
?

Japan does not have a welfare system.  (That is an out and out lie: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare_in_Japan )
Work for it or do without.

These are possibly the 5 best (BIGGEST LIES) sentences you’ll ever read and all applicable to this experiment:

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!
5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.
Can you think of a reason for not sharing this? Neither could I.

Next, I had to read this:

OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  (Which I sincerely doubt my mother even knows what it means, since she does not “take the Lord’s name in vain”)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXNZFe63brY

THERE ARE NO SURPRISES HERE FOR THOSE OF US WHO SAW IT COMING–

Look who’s new in the white house!Arif Alikhan – Assistant Secretary for Policy Developmentfor the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

 Mohammed Elibiary – Homeland Security Adviser

Rashad Hussain – Special Envoy to the (OIC) Organization of the Islamic Conference

Salam al-Marayati – Obama Adviser -founder Muslim Public Affairs Council and its current executive director

Imam Mohamed Magid – Obama’s Sharia Czar – Islamic Society of North America

Eboo Patel – Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships

This is flat out scary!!!!   The foxes are now living in the hen house…Now ask me why I am concerned!!!

Then this, while interesting, not going to change my religious views:

Subject: God vs. Science–thought provoking! Read until the very surprise ending.

This one has been around many times but is still good.

Don’t give up on this one too soon – it does an about face.  🙂

 God vs. Science

“Let me explain the problem science has with religion.”The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.‘You’re a Christian, aren’t you, son?’

‘Yes sir,’ the student says.

‘So you believe in God?’

‘Absolutely ‘

‘Is God good?

‘Sure! God’s good.’

‘Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?’

‘Yes’

‘Are you good or evil?’
‘The Bible says I’m evil.’
The professor grins knowingly. ‘Aha! The Bible! He considers for a moment. ‘Here’s one for you. Let’s say there’s a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?’

‘Yes sir, I would.’
‘So you’re good…!’
‘I wouldn’t say that.’
‘But why not say that? You’d help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn’t.’
The student does not answer, so the professor continues. ‘He doesn’t, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Can you answer that one?’
The student remains silent. ‘No, you can’t, can you?’ the professor says. He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax. ‘Let’s start again, young fella. Is God good?’
‘Er..yes,’ the student says.
‘Is Satan good?’
The student doesn’t hesitate on this one.. ‘No.’
‘Then where does Satan come from?’
The student falters. ‘From God’
‘That’s right. God made Satan, didn’t he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?’
‘Yes, sir.’
‘Evil’s everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything, correct?’
‘Yes’
‘So who created evil?’ The professor continued, ‘If God created everything,then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.’
Again, the student has no answer. ‘Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?’
The student squirms on his feet. ‘Yes.’
‘So who created them ?’
The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question. ‘Who created them?’ There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized. ‘Tell me,’ he continues onto another student. ‘Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?’
The student’s voice betrays him and cracks. ‘Yes, professor, I do.’
The old man stops pacing. ‘Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?’
‘No sir. I’ve never seen Him.’
‘Then tell us if you’ve ever heard your Jesus?’
‘No, sir, I have not.’
‘Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that matter?’
‘No, sir, I’m afraid I haven’t.’
‘Yet you still believe in him?’
‘Yes’
‘According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn’t exist… What do you say to that, son?’
‘Nothing,’ the student replies.. ‘I only have my faith.’
‘Yes, faith,’ the professor repeats. ‘And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.’
The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of His own. ‘Professor, is there such thing as heat? ‘
‘ Yes.
‘And is there such a thing as cold?’
‘Yes, son, there’s cold too.’
‘No sir, there isn’t.’
The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain. ‘You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don’t have anything called ‘cold’. We can hit down to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458 degrees. Everybody or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.’
Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer.
‘What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?’
‘Yes,’ the professor replies without hesitation. ‘What is night if it isn’t darkness?’
‘You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it’s called darkness, isn’t it? That’s the meaning we use to define the word. In reality, darkness isn’t. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?’
The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester. ‘So what point are you making, young man?’
‘Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.’
The professor’s face cannot hide his surprise this time. ‘Flawed? Can you explain how?’
‘You are working on the premise of duality,’ the student explains. ‘You argue that there is life and then there’s death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought.’ ‘It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.’ ‘Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?’
‘If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do.’
‘Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?’
The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.
‘Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?’
The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided. ‘To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an example of what I mean.’ The student looks around the room. ‘Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor’s brain?’ The class breaks out into laughter. ‘Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor’s brain, felt the professor’s brain, touched or smelt the professor’s brain? No one appears to have done so… So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir.’ ‘So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?’
Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his face unreadable. Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. ‘I Guess you’ll have to take them on faith.’
‘Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life,’ the student continues. ‘Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?’ Now uncertain, the professor responds, ‘Of course, there is. We see it Everyday. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity to man. It is in The multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.’
To this the student replied, ‘Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.’ 
The professor sat down.

If you read it all the way through and had a smile on your face when you finished, mail to your friends and family with the title ‘God vs. Science’
PS: The student was 
Albert Einstein.   Albert Einstein wrote a book titled ‘God vs. Science‘ in 1921…

And knowing that we are moving to Eureka CA in November, she sends this “joke”:

CALIFORNIA:

The Governor of California is jogging with his dog along a nature trail.

A coyote jumps out and attacks the Governor’s dog, then bites the Governor.

1.  The Governor starts to intervene, but reflects upon the movie “Bambi” and then realizes he should stop because the coyote is only doing what is natural.

2.  He calls animal control.  Animal Control captures the coyote and bills the State $200 testing it for diseases and $500 for relocating it.

3.  He calls a veterinarian.  The vet collects the dead dog and bills the State $200 testing it for diseases.

4.  The Governor goes to hospital and spends $3,500 getting checked for diseases from the coyote and on getting his bite wound bandaged.

5.  The running trail gets shut down for 6 months while Fish & Game conducts a $100,000 survey to make sure the area is now free of dangerous animals.

6.  The Governor spends $50,000 in state funds implementing a “coyote awareness program” for residents of the area.

7.  The State Legislature spends $2 million to study how to better treat rabies and how to permanently eradicate the disease throughout the world.

8.  The Governor’s security agent is fired for not stopping the attack.  The State spends $150,000 to hire and train a new agent with additional special training re: the nature of coyotes.

9. PETA protests the coyote’s relocation and files a $5 million suit against the State.

TEXAS:

The Governor of Texas is jogging with his dog along a nature trail.  A Coyote jumps out and attacks his dog.

1. The Governor shoots the coyote with his State-issued pistol and keeps jogging.  The Governor has spent $0.50 on a .45 ACP hollow point cartridge.

2. The Buzzards eat the dead coyote.

And that, my friends, is why California is broke (NOT TRUE) and Texas is not. (BUT TAKING ALL OF THE FEDERAL MONEY IT CAN; PROBABLY THE MOST GRABBY OF ALL THE STATES)

Stupid Email that only shows racism and disrespect/hatred of Mr. Obama:

Subject: Let’s Move to Mexico

Dear President Obama:

I’m planning to move my family and extended family into Mexico for my health, and I would like to ask you to assist me.  We’re planning to simply walk across the border from the U.S. into Mexico , and we’ll need your help to make a few arrangements.  We plan to skip all the legal stuff like visas, passports, immigration quotas and laws.   I’m sure they handle those things the same way you do here. So, would you mind telling your buddy, President Pena Nieto, that I’m on my way over?
Please let him know that I will be expecting the following:

1. Free medical care for my entire family.
2. English-speaking government bureaucrats for all services I might need, whether I use them or not.
3. Please print all Mexican Government forms in English.
4. I want my grandkids to be taught Spanish by English-speaking (bi-lingual) teachers.
5. Tell their schools they need to include classes on American culture and history.
6. I want my grandkids to see the American flag on one of the flag poles at their school.
7. Please plan to feed my grandkids at school for both breakfast and lunch.
8. I will need a local Mexican driver’s license so I can get easy access to government services.
9. I do plan to get a car and drive in Mexico , but I don’t plan to purchase car insurance, and I probably won’t make any special effort to learn local traffic laws.
10. In case one of the Mexican police officers does not get the memo from their president to leave me alone, please be sure that every patrol car has at least one English-speaking officer.
11. I plan to fly the U.S. flag from my housetop, put U S. flag decals on my car, and have a gigantic celebration on July 4th. I do not want any complaints or negative comments from the locals.
12. I would also like to have a nice job without paying any taxes, or have any labor or tax laws enforced on any business I may start.
13. Please have the president tell all the Mexican people to be extremely nice and never say critical things about me or my family, or about the strain we might place on their economy.
14. I want to receive free food stamps.
15. Naturally, I’ll expect free rent subsidies.

16. I’ll need income tax credits so that although I don’t pay Mexican taxes, I’ll receive money from the government.
17. Please arrange it so that the Mexican Government pays $4,500.00 to help me buy a new car.
18. Oh yes, I almost forgot, please enroll me free into the Mexican Social Security program so that I’ll get a monthly income in retirement.
I know this is an easy request because you already do all these things for all his people who walk over to the U.S. from Mexico . I am sure that President Nieto won’t mind returning the favor if you ask him nicely.

Thank you so much for your kind help.  You’re the man!!!

And then her best, most offensive and disgusting email arrived.  SO many lies and half-truths, so much vitriol and hatred towards LGBT community….I could barely read the first part before I had to just send her another email, slightly less polite.

Brilliance in Three Parts

Part I

A. Back off and let those men who want to marry men, marry men.

B. Allow those women who want to marry women, marry women.

C. Allow those folks who want to abort their babies, abort their babies.

D. In three generations, there will be no Democrats.

I love it when a plan comes together!

Part II

10 Poorest Cities in America and how did it happen?

City, State, % of People Below the Poverty Level

1. Detroit , MI 32.5%

2. Buffalo , NY 29.9%

3. Cincinnati , OH 27.8%

4. Cleveland , OH 27.0%

5. Miami , FL 26.9%

5. St. Louis , MO 26.8%

7. El Paso , TX 26.4%

8. Milwaukee , WI 26.2%

9. Philadelphia , PA 25.1%

10. Newark , NJ 24.2%

What do the top ten cities (over 250,000) with the highest poverty rate all have in common?

Detroit , MI (1st on the poverty rate list) hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since 1961

Buffalo , NY (2nd) hasn’t elected one since 1954

Cincinnati , OH – (3rd) since 1984

Cleveland , OH – (4th) since 1989

Miami , FL – (5th) has never had a Republican mayor

St. Louis , MO – (6th) since 1949

El Paso , TX – (7th) has never had a Republican mayor

Milwaukee , WI – (8th) since 1908

Philadelphia , PA – (9th) since 1952

Newark , NJ – (10th) since 1907

Einstein once said, ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’

It is the poor who habitually elect Democrats . . . yet they are still POOR.

Part III A MESSAGE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA—FROM ANOTHER PRESIDENT.

“You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.

You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.

You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.

You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.

You cannot build character and courage by taking away people’s initiative and independence.

You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.”

. . . . Abraham Lincoln

“I’ve tried to ask nicely.  Now I am telling you.  DO NOT SEND ME THIS KIND OF STUFF.    I have tried to point out to you that I do not hold the same political views and that I find this offensive–and having told you that, I find this not only offensive, but incredibly, thoughtlessly, purposefully offensive.  I consider sending me stuff like this the same as sending me the nastiest dirtiest porn you can find–and frankly, I’d prefer that.  

I lack the energy to deal with continual assaults on my beliefs–religious, political or otherwise, especially when those attacks consist of biased opinion, slanted evaluations and unthinking bigotry, fear, hate, xenophobia, and religious zealotry.  And I will stop reading emails that affect me this way.  Which means that I will stop reading YOUR emails if they contain that kind of material.  And if I can’t tell from the subject line and open them to find it, well then I will have to stop reading ALL of your emails.  

I really don’t want to have to do this, but as I said, I have tried asking nicely.

Send me emails that talk about what you and Dad are doing, what you made for dinner, who you had over for lunch.  Tell me about what’s going on in the neighborhood, your health…in fact, talk about ANYTHING but politics and religion. “

Called to let them know that Beloved was in hospital: Aug 4.  Got a dressing-down (chastisement) from my FATHER about how I had talked (written) to my MOTHER.  NOT A WORD ABOUT BELOVED: NO INQUIRIES ABOUT HIS HEALTH, HOW I WAS HOLDING UP, NOTHING.  Just an old fashioned “talking to”.

So on Aug 5 I sent this email to my mother:
Just letting you that Beloved is in surgery for an endoscopy and they are looking for both growths and lesions.Then it’s probably real surgery to remove the gall bladder because he also has a 3cm gallstone. 
I called and told Dad but getting a lecture about how I had spoken to you was both insensitive and not appropriate at that time. I am an adult now and frankly, I spoke to you as I would have to anyone who persisted in sending me the emails that you had. I am not a child to be reprimanded for not agreeing with you.  If this is a problem for you, then it is your problem not mine. So how much we communicate is up to you.
And right now, I am dealing with my husband being in the hospital and am having all my support being friends and HIS family. It’s up to you.  K  (And it’s now the 8th and I haven’t heard a word from her.)

I really could have gone my whole life not knowing that my parents were so wrapped up in their religious and political views that they have lost all emotional and sympathetic connections to other people.  I have said for years that my parents shouldn’t have had children, as they really don’t like them…but I did not understand that the dislike went this deep.  Coming on top of a week of my dearly Beloved being so ill was devastating.

I had a friend who might have been more than a friend but we never had the chance to find out because he died of stomach cancer 8 or 9 months after we met.  His last words to me were “I love you”.  Having worked in the medical field as a nurse’s aide for 5 years, “looking for growths” has a fuller, more dreadful meaning to me: looking for cancer is the true explanation.  I was terrified I’d come back to find Beloved diagnosed with that cancer and I’d lose him.

I did not need to deal with the psychology of parents who couldn’t even offer sympathy…on the other hand, it cuts that frayed cord just that much more.  I haven’t seen them in almost 4 years; we talk barely once a month.  We are polite strangers and the truth is now easier to face than it was and it really boils down to this: if you weren’t related to this person, would you tolerate their behavior?  (Answer: No, I would not.)

All that matters now is that my sweet Beloved is home, getting better and preparing for outpatient gall bladder removal.  He wants to mount the 3 cm gall stone (that really is the size of a golf ball, you know) and beneath the stone have a plaque that reads “That’s no space station, that’s a gall stone!”  And we’re still going to Eureka, especially now that my stupid LTD insurance has FINALLY kicked in…oh, guess we were wrong, we’ll reverse the decision and pay it out–and since Fibro is no longer a ‘self-diagnosed’ disease, that means a pay out of not just 2 years…but 5.  Suck that!

I have what truly matters: a man who loves me as much as I love him; friends and my chosen family that are concerned and have been so kind and eager to help this week; and 3 months to get ready to move.  Thanks to all for the good thoughts and positive, healing energy.  Let’s keep that up for his surgery.  And blessings to those who understand the whole blessing process.

Namaste!!

UPDATE:  I am seriously going through the Kubler-Ross steps of grieving: Anger, depression, denial, bargaining and acceptance.  My parents, in their own way, have made this easier if I just go with the fact that they are old, and therefore, treat them as if they had died–and in their own way, they have died to me.

Makes it REAL easy to get rid of MORE things before moving, as I no longer have to acknowledge possession of this item or that and I feel no remorse or pain in getting rid of “heirloom” items.  Indeed, I will see just how much money I can get for them.  I do not need them any more to remind me of the fantasy I’ve been holding onto.  I don’t need to justify getting rid of family heirlooms, I don’t need to apologize for not keeping all of the various bits of stuff they have sent me.  My birth stone is peridot; I truly hate it.  Now I can get rid of every piece of jewelry that has it, that they gave me, without a qualm.  I will keep the things that mean something deep and personal to me: my grandmother’s amethyst ring, and HER mother’s amethyst ring.  The Goddess necklaces that my dear friends bought the parts and made just for me.  The diamond hugs and kisses tennis bracelet that my beloved husband put on my arm when we married.

Anyone want a peridot pendat?  A rather elaborate ruby ring?  I am keeping my great-grandmother’s quilt.  Just saying.  But there’s going to be a lot of other things that no longer have any indecision about keeping or getting rid of.  And I look forward to creating my own beloved family once we move to Eureka (I found it!) CA.

August 19:  Still not a word to be heard from my parents.  Beloved had his gall bladder removed, but pathology wouldn’t let him have the stone, so he has to live without it–and without the gall bladder either.  He tolerated the surgery well, but still has intractable vomiting and is not holding down much of anything.  Basically, he’s not eaten for almost a month now.  Every time he could get a saline IV going, it helped and he began to improve–and that was the orders from his surgeon.  Unfortunately, every time his surgeon’s associate GI doctor came on duty, he pulled the IV and Beloved regressed AGAIN.  Last Saturday (2 days ago), I came home to shower and get some clean clothes–having packed for what should have been an overnight stay and had been two weeks, I needed both–and my dearest Beloved called me and said, “Come and get me, they are putting me out.”  They waited until I had left the hospital (considering I had been at his bedside 24 x 7); then they gave him delaudid (making him heavily medicated and legally incapacitated, ie, not able to sign himself out of the hospital) and then told him he was being discharged.

I went and got him and brought him home.  In 24 hours, the only liquid he was able to hold down was about 6 ounces of local whole milk (pasteurized but NOT homogenized, as close to fresh out of the cow’s teat as a person can get around here!).  He did void over 1500cc of urine, which is good, sort of…and in 18 hours, slept about 14, which he desperately needed, having been awakened at least every 2 hours for the prior 3 weeks.  That’s called sleep deprivation and is a form of torture because you never reach REM stage of sleep–it’s really bad for you.  So almost a month later, several forms of what could be considered torture (lack of sleep, unnecessary procedures, lack of IV hydration for appropriate amounts of time), he’s just as sick, possibly sicker and still throwing up.

All the people at Fauquier hospital (And yes, I am naming names, because that’s where he was for all that time and that’s where all this bull shit went on–to the point where I can barely refrain from calling it the “FuckYouHere Hospital”–hereafter referred to as FYH Hospital) kept telling him that he needed to see a GI doctor.  They had two, whom he had seen–and they were soooooo fascinated by his lapband (a form of weight loss, Google it because I’m not going to try to explain it here)…and they both wanted to remove it, even though THEIR procedure of contrast imagery proved it was right were it belonged, in textbook location.  So “see a GI doctor” got changed ever so slightly to “see YOUR GI doctor” and a light went on in his head!  He had had a wonderful GI doctor, back when before having the lapband inserted, a doctor that he trusted and would be thrilled to return to his care.

EXCEPT…that meant going to Centreville to the doctor’s office, or (and this was the end result and more likely option anyways), going to Fair Oaks Hospital–both of which are farther and farther away from our house, harder to get to with a car that is ummmm about as sick as Beloved.  But anyway…Sunday evening, I called the doctor’s number, got the answering service with the name and number of the doctor who was covering for him.  Called THAT doctor; explained what was going on.  His immediate orders?  Go to the hospital and get on an IV!  And he told me that Beloved’s GI Doctor (who has a super hero name: Lance Lasner) would be in the office Monday morning.

I tried to find someone who could come to our door and take Beloved up to Manassas, to his parents house, so that they would then take him to the hospital.  No luck, so I ended up driving him up there…and feeling such guilt at not going with him–but I am so worn out, so exhausted from the past 3 weeks–I haven’t really slept more than a couple of hours at a go either…  I was worried about my driving that far, in the dark (which I have problems with anyways) and thank the gods, my husband is a most understanding man and did not hold it against me, and in fact, ordered me home to sleep, perchance to dream.

And then we found out this morning that our superhero doctor is on vacation through the end of this week.  Oops.  SOOOOO there’s another doctor covering for him and I contacted his office and spoke to his nurse/receptionist? and poured out the story to her.  She was so kind and so efficient.  “We will get the record from the other hospital and I will let Dr. Substitute know that he has a consultation at the hospital this morning.”

Needless to say, I have been in contact most of the day with Beloved.  (Mostly because I was smart enough to look for his phone when I came home to shower so he has it again.)  They have put him on an IV, cranked it open wide (drip rate is much higher than usual rate of flow) and are giving him IV meds where they can–to include Valium!  YAY! Get that pain level down, down, down.  The nurses and doctors at Fair Oaks have been expressing disbelief at the methods and actions of their ahem so-called colleagues at FYH Hospital and bluntly, I already have the name and contact information for a good malpractice lawyer.

Beloved is a little concerned that the doctors at Fair Oaks are also enthralled by the lapband and seem to want to take it out–but they do insist on running the (same) test to ensure that it is still in the place it’s supposed to be and not moved, since his vomiting has been…energetic.  So he’s supposed to have some sort of contrast imagery done this evening.  They have already begun the paperwork to see how much money Medicaid can throw at this–instead of throwing forms at us and leaving, as they did in the other hospital.  And they aren’t treating him differently because he doesn’t have money, which it seems like that particular issue DID make a difference at FYH Hospital.

And somewhere in all of that medical stuff, my Beloved managed to arrange for our friend, Little Miss (LM) to come over here tonight, stay the night and then drive me up to Fair Oaks tomorrow.  I can take all of his meds (which hopefully, he’ll be able to take by mouth and keep down then).  Since she’s off of work, it’s not costing her anything but time–and I will more than happy to fill the gas tank and feed her.  I will also be glad to see her.  I am weepy and angry and find myself talking out loud to myself–in a lovely British accent, I might add.  I also have lost 5 more pounds in the past 3 weeks.  It’s a great diet, other than the side effects of having your most Beloved love in the hospital and no one can figure out why.  I can only imagine how much weight he’s lost.

I am terrified that he’s going to die, that this will kill him before they can figure out what the hell is going on.  He insists that he will not die, that he’s too stubborn and not that sick…  I can only hope that he is right and that I am completely wrong because I don’t want to be right, not at all.  My feelings of terror and hopelessness are lessened by the growing assurance that he is finally in the right place, with the right medical people around him–and if nothing else, our superhero GI doctor will be back next week.  We can certainly hold on that long!  And Beloved would tell you that no one knows his gut like Dr. L!

So that’s where things stand now.  I could keep writing, but it begins to repeat and just be all morose and stuff, so I’ll stop here and hope, hope, hope that my next update will be a happy one!  Blessings and Namaste until then!

Father’s Day 2013 (Updated on Jun 28)

So I scrolled through my Facebook feed this morning, reading status after status of Father’s Day greetings.  Some were for fathers who have died but are still being acknowledged for the influence they had on their children.  Some were for the fathers of their children, even if they aren’t still a husband–and the fact that, once you have kids, you are connected to this man forever, no matter what you think or feel about him.

These messages were, almost 100%, positive and affirming, thanking men who had great influence on lives beyond merely donating genetic material for their lives.  Many posters changed their profile picture to one of their father, or of their father and them.  Several talked about the continued interaction they have with their fathers, even being adults themselves, and how this continues to make their lives more meaningful.

I guess you can tell that we’re not going to have that kind of conversation here.

I’ve blogged before about my father ( My Daddy ) so I won’t go into long details about my childhood here.  But I got to thinking, as I was reading my friends’ comments, that while I love my father, I feel no particular connection to him.  I may not even call him today because frankly, he’s getting old, he doesn’t hear well, he’s hard to understand on the phone–and he wants to talk about health issues and what I should be doing about mine.  There’s not much left for us to talk about; computers, how my car is doing, health.  When I do call, if he answers, once he realizes it’s me, he hands the phone over to my mom almost immediately.

I haven’t seen my father in almost 4 years; the last time I saw him (and my mother) was when they came to Baltimore to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary with me, my children, my brother and his family.  We tried to make the trip as pleasant as possible and they both just complained about everything.  (Minor side not here: choosing the restaurant for the anniversary dinner was horrendous.  Suggestion after suggestion was made, internet research was done and menus were compared.  It finally came down to my father telling my mother, “ML, just pick one because you’re not going to like it anyways.”  Prophetic words.  They both groused about it later, how the food wasn’t that good and so on.  I thought it was really good and so did everyone else at the table.  Sigh.)

It is entirely possible that I will never see either parent again.  And when they die, I am not going to TX to the funeral(s).  I cannot afford it and I see no reason to go visit someone if they don’t know I’m there.  Hmmm visits.  I got to counting how many times I’ve seen my father after I left home to go into the AF (1980).  He visited MY house exactly ONE time.  I think the total is 8.  And one of those is actually the 3 month period when I lived with my grandmother (who lived just 5 minutes walking from my mother, her daughter).

So in my adult life I continued the pattern of my childhood–my father loves me, provides what he can, whether it be advice or material things, but he’s just not around.  My father is NOT my friend.  And I don’t mean that in a nasty way.  But you hang out with friends, you see them and call them regularly, you know what each other likes and dislikes.  I don’t do any of that with the man whose genetic information I carry.  I look like my father.  I cannot tell you what his favorite color, food, band or TV show is.  I don’t know what size he wears, or what kind of shirt he prefers.  In fact, there’s an awful lot about my dad that I don’t know.  And that’s true the other way around: he doesn’t know an awful lot about me.

So there’s no connection beyond that DNA thing.  Not really.  We might pretend that there is.  We can talk about “remember when” from a history of 18 years together–but I don’t remember the first 3 or 4 real well and to be blunt, he wasn’t there for a great deal of the other 14 years.  Not until I was in high school was he truly a routine part of my routine.  And folks, it’s been 34 years since that time existed.  We’ve all forgotten a lot about it, so there’s a few highlights that get mentioned whenever we’re talking about the good old days.  We don’t have any current congruent events to discuss.  And no upcoming common events to plan.  So no connection of the normal social interaction that defines friendship and family.  (You can have lots of family that has NO common DNA with you–it’s the family that you’ve chosen rather than the one you were born into.  And generally, these are better and more assured places for support, resources and emotional bonds.)

He IS my father.  As I said, I look like him.  Even with him being gone so much of my childhood, my mother has told me that in many ways, I act like him.  I believe that personality has at least 50% of its basis in your DNA; you are born with a personality framework that is in your genes.  THEN your environment either brings out or suppresses various parts of the personality.  So I can act like him without knowing how he acts.  He has many characteristics that I respect; he has done many great things in his life.  He has had an interesting and exciting life (and while it’s not over, I suspect that the drama factor has dropped substantially.  The biggest event now is driving up to San Antonio for his doctor’s appointments.  LOL).  But I do not have a bond with this man whose genetic traits I carry.

Father’s Day.  I honor my father for all that he has given me, for all that he has taught me, for the example he has been to me and my brother.  I respect him for the life he has led, even though I cannot tell you most of it.  I love him in a way that I will never love another man, but in many ways, he is still a stranger to me.  And all I can tell you for sure is that he is my father.

So I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, reading about fathers and feeling sad about these truths I hold about my father when I read my daughter’s status.  Like many others, she mentioned her biological father as well as the father of her children.  I read that status a couple of times and while I would have loved to click the “Like” button on this status as I had on so many others, I just could not.

Here’s why.  She could have mentioned a third man, honoring him for being another person in her life who loves her and is a resource for her–emotionally, physically, financially.  Someone who is there to talk to, who visits and who also loves her children.  Someone who has no children of his own, will have no grandchildren that look “just like grammpa!”.  A man who wanted nothing more than to be a part of my family–my husband.  It’s not that there is a nasty scene with high drama that explains why she didn’t mention him.  She CHOSE to preclude him from the status of “step dad” of her own free will and without any cause from him.  And this makes me both incredibly angry and terribly sad.

It affects me because it affects him.  I talked about this in my earlier blog, “Changes, Choices and Chagrin” and obviously, nothing has changed since then.  Today’s status was just another emotional slap in the face and frankly, I am not in a condition to deal with it.  Which is why I’m writing it here.  If I can write it down, share it with you, perhaps I can let it go out of my heart and not continue to cry about it.  He never wanted nor meant to replace her “real” father in her life.  And I truly believe that we can never have too many people who love us.  So it always makes me sad when people choose to refuse offers of genuine love and support.

I was told that it would get confusing to the granddaughter to have all these grandparents, that the biological father’s wife wasn’t being called “grandma” either, so my husband didn’t have to feel that he was being singled out.  Well, guess what?  No child can have too many people to love them, either.  And just exactly WHAT do you call the husband of your grandmother or the wife of your grandfather?  I was initially told that the title also could not be used because we weren’t married.  And the impression I got was that there was this conga line of men going through my life, and it WOULD get confusing if Grandmom had a new grandfather with her every time she visited.  Not sure where that impression was based, because Beloved was the first man I had dated in several years, and the first man I moved in and was living with since a relationship that had died in 2002.  We’re not talking conga line.  We’re barely talking MEN plural.  And regardless of that, we ARE married now.  Have been for quite a while.

And it’s not confusing to the kids if you say “Grandmom Lisa and Granddad John are coming over.” And then there’s Granddad Bill and his wife, Grandmom Julie.  And considering that my daughter’s quasi-in-laws are also divorced and there’s 4 of them as well…it’s just the way things are, and there’s a lot of families that are having to use this same kind of naming system because divorce occurs so often.  This doesn’t even begin to include the “greats”–the still living parents of the grandparents.  Or the dear, dear family friend who is too old to be “Auntie” or “Unk”.  And when a small child is referring to this one as a grandparent, do they call the spouse by their first name?  Unless said spouse has indicated that’s the preferred method of naming, it’s kinda rude.

“The child will pick their own name for the (not) step-grandparent.”  Really?  Then we’re in real trouble, especially considering that my Froggy calls his other grandmother “Nut Nut”.  And my granddaughter calls her (not) step-grandmother “Poopie”.  No thanks.  I’d like SOME control over what I’m going to hear out my beloved grandchildren’s mouths for the next oh 18 years.  Truthfully, I’m not caught up in the title part.  I really am okay with my grandchildren calling me by my name.  It’s short, it’s easy, even a child can say it without too much problem: Kate.  But that denies the social nicety, almost necessity of that title, which defines my relationship to the child.  Which is why I’m peeved that my husband is going to have to be explained–and the explanation comes down to, “This man is my grandmother’s husband, but he’s NOT my grandfather.”  Fuck that shit.

And up a generation, the introduction sounds like this: “This is my mother’s husband, but he’s NOT my father.”  Wow.  Really?  What’s wrong with, “This is Jim, my stepdad.”  Because there are step-parents who are as bad (or worse) than your biological ones.  It’s a title, it explains the relationship between the two people without having to make someone feel bad because you talk around the connection.  Oh connection.  That’s right, it has been chosen to refuse that connection.  And in refusing to make *that* connection, the grandchildren are also denied the connection.  It could not be made any clearer that my Beloved, MY husband, is not a part of my family.

My family, that I have loved and thought was strong, my children who I also call my friends.  Seems like I was wrong and I’m not sure where I lost that.  But it’s gone.  I have to acknowledge that while we have a different relationship than if we were just parent and child, we really aren’t friends any more, for the reasons listed above about why my father and I aren’t friends.  Same reasons, same results.  And if I have to choose between my children, who are grown and have children (and lives) of their own–and my husband, there’s no choice.  Why should I give up my happiness and my love to sit at home and wait for my children to visit me at their convenience?  They have lives of their own, it is not their responsibility to take care of me nor to be at my beck and call–or even to be a regular part of my life, given the geographical distances there are between us.

I expect them to be smart enough to know that the last sentence works both directions.  I have a life of my own, with my own Beloved and this is the life that I choose.  I do NOT choose to exclude my genetic offspring.  I would prefer to see them often, to have time together…but it’s just not the reality of our lives.  I have offspring by choice–young people who do seek me out, that I spend time with, who are my friends.  I consider them family just as much as the 3 I pushed out of my body and into the world.  That genetic bond will always, always be there; I do and will always love the children of my body dearly and would do anything I could for them if they needed it–BUT I will also live my own life, with my love, with the family of my choosing.  I hope that I will choose wisely and always welcome into my life the people who will love me, support me, be a resource and a help to me.  I know that people will come and go; there is a tide to who is in the family just as sure as the tides of the ocean.  Being related means that you get first dibs, but you don’t get the only dibs.  And if you don’t maintain the other relationship ties, the genetic tie can end up not being enough to say that you are family any more.

I say this even as I acknowledge that I have both a mother and a father, still living.  I have a brother (who has his own family).  Are the original four members of the first family I ever knew still a family?  No.  Not really.  Being family requires effort, it’s a relationship, same as being in love, or being married, or being friends.  It requires the expenditure of time definitely and money possibly.  It requires commitment…and I am feeling very unhappy that my daughter and her love, the parents of my granddaughters, will not accept my commitment to my husband nor do they welcome the chance for a new commitment to someone who would be another person to love them–and their children.  I feel very unhappy that my son apparently has some of the same hesitations, although our interactions with him have not been as strained or requiring as much conversation as I have had with my daughter.

I cannot tell if this is just a part of their concern for me.  The rapidity with which my Beloved and I went from meeting to married was…well, whirlwind.  (See “The Case of the Disappearing Queen“)  I can’t tell if the timing of my decline in health and our being together has seemed too coincidental and therefore, it’s *his* fault.  Which it’s not–and apparently, no one has considered where I would be health-wise if I did not have him with me.  I shudder to think what state I’d be in, physically and mentally, if I did not have him to help me, to care for me when I need it and to have been a financial resource when I couldn’t work.  OMG, I’d probably have a dreadful life of work and sleep with no ability to do anything else–and I would not be diagnosed, so I’d be getting sicker and sicker, taking more and more OTC drugs to try and handle the pain…don’t want to think about it.

What began as a routine Sunday has been changed into a long rant about fathers, family and what constitutes both–and what doesn’t.  I think I feel a bit better, although sadly resigned to the way things are in my life, both in the direction of my father as well as in the direction of my children.  I am going to be posting another blog pretty quickly behind this one, as things have been happening and I haven’t been telling you about them, but they are separate from this one.  Thank you for listening, maybe this has started some introspection of your own about your father and your family.  As I told Beloved, the best definition for enlightenment is probably this: Learning something you really didn’t want to know, but knowing that it’s true.  Sigh.

Namaste, and Happy Father’s Day!  (We all have one, no matter what!)

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UPDATE:

So.  Things have happened, conversations have occurred and I need to make an update to this blog.

I owe some apologies to people who were mentioned earlier.  First, for “airing dirty laundry” in public, “all over Facebook”.  Even though I don’t use names, if you know me, you know who I mean when I talk about my family.  So it’s not as discrete as perhaps it should be.  On the other hand, this is MY blog and while the link gets posted in FB, I find it really hard to believe that EVERYONE reads it.  If they do, then I have a larger audience than I ever imagined.  

Second, I apologize to everyone that I “pushed” my husband on.  In my love and enthusiasm, I wanted everyone who knew me to love him as much and accept him as someone with a greater claim to association than perhaps they felt comfortable with at first meeting.  He was also enthusiastic about having instant relationships, again, simply by association to being with me.  He is a generous man, who believes that if he has it, does not need but you do, will then give said item(s) to you for your benefit.  It may be something as simple as sharing the names of his favorite sci fi authors, or the information he has gained about organic foods.  It can also include physical things, from a shared meal that you don’t have to pay for, to a book that he thinks you will enjoy, even up to expensive electronics that are on “permanent loan” until it can be paid back over time–and the cost is always at a loss to him.  

Unfortunately, his bipolar disorder causes some behaviors that may not be understood by others.  He loves to talk about his gaming, or military history…and when he knows about a topic, he KNOWS about a topic.  And the more enthused he gets, the louder he gets.  (Doesn’t help that he’s got moderately severe hearing loss in both ears.)  He is also particularly susceptible to emotional swings (he’s bipolar, remember?) and a casual remark that seems slighting to him can push him into depression faster than Superman changes his clothes.  If he were diabetic, I’d warn people not to give him sugary things.  There’s no nice or easy way to warn them about the various manifestations of his disease–which is mostly controlled by his meds, but the stress anxiety disorder rears its head up and makes some visits with people really interesting.  Let’s just say that he needs ALL that he can take for stress before going to see his mother…a major source of anxiety every time we go.  

So he’s not “normal”, does not react to things the same way as you or I.  He was thrilled to think of my family as suddenly being “his” family too.  Neither of us considered that relationships don’t spring into being…and we should have.  We’re not around children very often…and even though he would love to have a child, it’s obvious that we’re not going to.  So he lacks some of the social skills for interacting with the little ones.  Watching him hold a newborn was amusing because it was very apparent that he felt like he was holding a piece of dainty china!  I also suspect that his size can be a bit intimidating to the little people, and as a person they’ve just met, or met before but not seen very often, they may not initiate interaction with him–and he has no idea how to start up playing with them.  He has really very little experience with anyone younger than about 15-16 years old.  But he does enjoy contact when it occurs; he tries to be welcoming to them and having a good time with them. And children are much more accepting than adults.  

Having said that, it is important to tell you that it was never meant for him to supplant an already present family member.  NEVER.  But he is not considered to be a part of the family at all.  He’s just “my husband”.  It’s apparently irrelevant that by being “my husband”, he is MY family.  He and I are related, by love and by law.  

I think that my biggest problem with this, even as I understand the reluctance to give him not even the same, but similar name, to other family members is that I never hesitated to consider various other people who came into our lives over the years as family members…I have a “son by another mother” and a couple of daughters that I did not give birth to.  I’ve had sisters by another mister…and even some older friends who felt like aunts, uncles or even grandparents.  An insistence that only people related by blood and DNA can be given familial titles is something that I find extremely limiting.  And in limiting them by title, you do the relationship an injustice–and can end up not realizing just how much like a “true” family member they are.

You are related to some people by blood and DNA.  And they may not be good for you; they may be abusive, or neglectful (its own sort of abuse) or they may simply just not want the very best for you and are nothing but a negative influence in your life.  They may be leeches, in subtle ways as they wear you out emotionally, or in more obvious ways as they live off of your efforts, including your money.  They may have all sorts of bad, unpleasant or obnoxious behaviors–and if they weren’t related to you by blood and DNA, you would have NOTHING to do with them.  So why do you accept behavior you find deplorable from someone, just because they are “related” to you?  You don’t have to.

And other the hand, there are people that you meet–in the grocery store, at the library, in a bar; you might meet them by being introduced to them by a friend or your blood relative.  And the Universe has put them into your path because they can help you, they can be a resource for wisdom–or money; they can be a sounding board for your new ideas because you know that they will give fair assessments and plausible suggestions to make those dreams come true.  Sometimes, they do end up replacing a “real” relative who has died because they have taken on the role that relative was for you.  

“Home is the place that when you go there, they have to take you in.”  And home is not a specific building, just to be clear.  There are plenty of folk who have been kicked out the home they thought they had, told never to come back.  Or when they need to return because their life hasn’t gone well, they are grudgingly allowed back, and served up a litany of how rotten they are, what a loser they are… So sometimes being blood related ain’t worth shit.

Which is why I have said, over and over again, that you have family that you are related to, but don’t HAVE to endure…and you have the family that you choose.  These are the people that you KNOW have your back, that will welcome you into their home no matter what time of day, to let you stay as long as you need to.  They will give you money, food, clothes and their car without question.  They will comfort you when things get bad, and cheer you when good stuff happens.  And in this family that you’ve made, there might actually be several “moms”, a “dad” or two…some uncles, some sisters, some whatevers…it’s just about having a group of people that love you, just as you are.  They are a resource and a refuge whenever you need them.  And it’s always a joy (and generally lots of fun) to be with them.

Frankly, I do not understand why anyone would want to limit this chosen family, to keep the familial titles for those who share DNA–even when those DNA sharers aren’t worth the time of day.  I don’t, and won’t.  So I guess I tend to forget that not everyone wants to just add people in, willy nilly.  So I apologize for that as well.

I never meant to make anyone feel unhappy or uncomfortable at any point since meeting my Beloved.  I can only point to my enthusiasm for finding the love of my life as the reason for wanting to include him at every level with my family, related and chosen.  I failed with both and now there’s just him and me.  Which may be sad, but perhaps as it was supposed to be, so that the move to CA would not be as heartbreaking, having to leave everyone behind.  Even the ones I thought might be going with us will not be going at the same time…and things can change, so we shall have to wait and see.  

I hope that we can continue to communicate with those we leave behind–yay for the Interwebs, Skype and FB. And maybe, just maybe…people will at least come to visit?

Namaste once again, my friends–and my family.