Saturday, August 23, 2014

Little Orphan Laurie

No matter how old you are when it happens, when your parents are both gone you are an orphan. You have lost the two people whom you have known your entire life. The relationship between parent and child is very intimate. After all they have dealt with you through every thing -- poop, vomit, blood, tears, illnesses, accidents, dreams, failures, Christmases, birthdays -- far more than anyone else in your life. When they are gone there is a huge hole that they used to fill.

A week ago I passed the anniversary of my mother's passing. It was just two years ago and I still mourn her loss. This year it was punctuated by the loss of Lauren Bacall, Robin Williams, and the father of a friend. All the old feelings came back and I was laid low with a deep depression.

You don't "get over" the passing of a parent. The grief lessens with time and you learn to deal with the loss. You find things to help fill the hole. But it never totally goes away. I think that is why people have  created such elaborate death rituals over the centuries. It is not just to send off the one lost from the tribe, it is more of an acknowledgement of the enormous change that is happening in ourselves with adjusting to their loss.

I was talking with my friend and next door neighbor who helped me through my loss and I voiced that I was still realizing that in the last few years I was holding myself together and doing for Mom. Now I need to rediscover all of that energy that has had no place to go, turn it around, and use that energy for myself and the future I want to create for myself.

I made one last promise to my mother -- that I would finish my book and get it published. That is not just her dream, it is mine. In spare moments here and there I have been rewriting and editing. Now I need to take all of that time and energy I used in caring for her and put it in to finishing my book. When I tell people about it they want to buy it and read it so it may very well be the avenue to the future I want to build for me.

Mission identified and accepted.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Catching Fire

There is nothing quite so frightening as fire. I found that out for myself last week when my house caught fire. It was the middle of the night when an electrical outlet shorted out. Fortunately I happened to be awake and saw the flare from the arc and heard the pop. I got out of bed and rushed to put out the fire by dabbing it out with a kitchen towel.

It was only then that I called 911 to get the fire department. They came and made sure that the fire was completely out. It had been small enough so that I was able to stay in my home -- with no electricity. I was shaking from the adrenalin rush and was unable to sleep, even after the hour it took me to get the cat inside.

When morning dawned I was faced with finding an electrician. Naturally, when one came I found out that my home needed a complete rewiring so that the 57 year old wiring wouldn't keep trying to burn my house down. To do this in the standard way would mean having to remodel the entire interior of my home. There was no way to afford that,so I went with the less expensive total rewiring option and now have shiny metal cords running through the house along ceilings and walls. It isn't the prettiest way to do things, but oddly, it is already beginning to feel like this was the way it has always been.

It was one of the scariest things that ever happened to me -- and yet amid all of this there are so many blessings. I am blessed that it was a small fire. I am blessed that I was awake when it happened. I am blessed that I was able to put the fire out quickly. I am blessed that the fire didn't spread. I am blessed that the electrician was able to come and do the work right away. I am blessed that a wonderful angel came forward to pay the bill -- and that others also offered help. I am blessed that the cat is fine and that I only suffered a bruise on one foot from tripping over something. I am blessed that I didn't lose any of the food in the fridge . . . It goes on. . .

Being fortunate isn't about never having bad things happen in your life. It is how you view them in the aftermath. It is how you handle the event. Shit does happen to everybody in varying degrees.

I have chosen to re-frame everything in my life in terms of love and gratitude, with a strong side of prayer. If someone is rude to me I try to remember that beyond me their world could be falling apart. If someone cuts me off in traffic I try to remember that they could be rushing to the side of a loved one (or a bucket of chicken). Then I thank God that being cut off did not result in an accident.

So, basically, strange and crazy as it sounds. I am thankful that my house caught fire. You just have to hear the reasons before you decide I need a straight jacket. Or a padded cell. I'll be visiting my therapist tomorrow, so I've got that part covered.

Monday, May 19, 2014

What's In A Name? Beyond The Boobs

Everyone knows that both men and women have private parts that they tend to name. These parts are the ones that demonstrate the difference between men and women. As I was sitting in the bathroom today (which is where I do my best thinking), I began wondering about this.and why I should limit it to the Honeydew Twins (a couple of nice melons).

Choosing a name for other body parts is not something that comes naturally. You have to take into
Clinton and Reagan
consideration the natural traits of said part, which part it is, your relationship to that part, and your own sick personality for wanting to name your body in the first place. Have I totally over-thought this? Oh, yeah!

The first was my belly. It is far to much a major part of my life and it is big. Far bigger that I would want. So she became Bertha Big-Belly. That was easy. Now, the butt. Not as big. Overall, probably the closest I come to having anything that could be called "skinny." This one wasn't as easy, but I had it. "Back-sida Ida."

I reached into 1920s slang to call my knees "The Bees." The bees knees was a  phrase that was used to indicate something wonderful. The Bees have been a wonderful source of support all my life.

After that they started coming more easily (and at times strangely). My hands are Clinton and Reagan (left and right respectively -- Hillary and Nancy). My arms are Huggy Bear and Snookums. My feet are the Walkers. That is not just a name, but an encouragement to keep doing just that. My legs are Starsky and Hutch. No reason -- it just sounds fun.

My head and brain are the A-Team (although some days it shifts to the Twilight Zone).

This is about where I decided where I should really stop before someone decides that I need to be institutionalized.  I named just one more -- my face. I have chosen to call it Kenley..This is an homage to the two people who gave me this face -- Ken and Shirley.

By the way, did I mention that I have OCD? Not officially, just as a hobby. Next up? Traffic lights I have named.

Oh, how I wished I was kidding.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Republican Misogyny and Equal Pay

I am amazed at how the Republican party continuously manages to sink to new lows in their attempts to pander to the Tea Party on the far right and make it sound plausible. They have gone so far out that if the world really was flat they would have fallen over the edge quite some time ago.

The recent act of congressional Republicans to vote down equal pay for equal work (the Paycheck Fairness Act) -- or more precisely equal pay for women. It was a misogynistic move that should have every woman in the country questioning any Republican values or beliefs they may hold. Why should they be loyal to a group of old white men who don't give a crap about them? Well, they shouldn't.

The Republican party has now sent a very clear message that woman are worth less (read worthless), that all those single mothers out there struggling to pay the bills don't really matter, that women  don't work as hard as men. Most of the women I know work harder than most of the men I know. Women generally put more into their jobs and then go home to run their households and  raise  the kids. While husbands of younger generations are stepping up more than the older ones, there is still a gap when it comes to taking care of home and family.

In the past the argument was made that deserved more pay so that they could support their families. It was a lame argument then and it certainly hasn't improved with age. So now conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly has one again shown that Republican thinking is mired in the past -- the loooooong past.

This dinosaur of a woman trotted out that old idea that a woman who makes more money won't be able to find a husband. This argument is so old that it became fossilized back in the 50s.  Women no longer need to marry for financial security. The vast majority of women marry for love these days. Period.

Let me point out here that not all of us are in the market for a husband. Just like there are confirmed bachelors out there, there are also confirmed spinsters. Not to mention lesbians who also just don't fit this stereotype. Since we have no intention of looking for, let alone finding, a husband. This doesn't even begin to include the fact that more households than ever before are headed by women. By Ms. Schlafly's heavily flawed logic, those of us who are not seeking a husband should then be paid the same as men.

This logic is just as insulting to men since it presupposes them to be insecure jerks who can't handle being considered "real men" without a bigger paycheck. Now if I were looking for a husband I don't think that a man this insecure is exactly the person I would want to have children with, let alone raise children with.

The true measure of a man is not found in the size of a paycheck or penis. It is found in the goodness of his heart, the integrity of his actions, and the fairness of his judgement. Of course, no man is perfect, but he should be able to be confident in his manliness without demeaning a woman.

Schlafly also chose to argue that women don't work as many hours (in my experience they often work more) and insist on a clean, comfortable office among nice people. I assume this means that women are higher maintenance employees than men. I find this a strange argument after all of the years that women have worked, and continue to work in farm fields and sweatshops.

Her bottom line came down to this -- that the best way to empower women is to provide better job prospects for their men. This is another amazingly bizarre twist of logic. It wipes out a good 50 years of women fighting for empowerment. You do not empower someone through someone else. It just doesn't work that way.

I admire women who have stayed at home to raise their children and did not HAVE to work to help pay the mortgage. Should things take a bad turn and these women lose their husbands to divorce or death I want them to be able to make a decent paycheck and not have to scramble to find another man just to survive.

This thinking that a woman is nothing without a man is as outdated as foot binding and corsets. And men deserve a woman who wants to be with him for who he is, not what he can do for her. Men and women are not two halves of a whole. They are two wholes.that compliment one another and create a balance.

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook saying that after the Republicans voted down the Paycheck Fairness Act she couldn't believe any woman could conscionably vote Republican.  One of my brothers corrected her from woman to human being (I'm so proud of him!). My response was that a human being wouldn't, but a sheep would (my homage to George Orwell).

We should all empower one another, and no one at the expense of someone else. There is enough respect to go around. The Republicans could start with an honest vote and not just voting against hte Democrats. And vice versa.


Monday, April 14, 2014

The Bygone-Era Bear -- Writing Down Memories

Many people write memoirs. This is not to same as writing an autobiography though. An autobiography is an all-encompassing and generally time progressed account of one's life. A memoir can be short or long and recount a single event or thought or a series of connected events. I started thinking of this topic when I was looking at an old friend a couple of days ago.

I have known him for most of my life and he has been my most constant supporter for all of those years. He is a wonderful listener, great at mopping up tears, and he is never stingy on the hugs. I am, of course, talking about my toy bear. His name is Pooh (but not Winnie-the). He is named in honor of that very famous bear of very little brain.

Yes, I still have my bear. He still hangs out on my bed, although he has been relegated to the foot of the bed rather than the head. He is the head of a whole group of bears that have entered my life in years since. There is the bear I was given after surgery years ago to help me cough. And the bear I received on a job for a job well done. Bears that were gifts from friends. They are his posse and keep him company while I am busy being an adult.

He is old. Very old. Most of his tongue has worn away, part of his plastic nose is missing, there is a splotch of blue paint on the back of his head. Dear Pooh has been through numerous surgeries as I have mended the areas were his fur has worn out. He definitively has that Velveteen Rabbit thing going on. There is a little patch of fabric under his tail that is as new as the day he came out of that ugly Christmas box that was yellow with red figures on it.

My pairing with him was brought about by my godparents (the first set, I had two pair) after my first bear had died tragically in a vomiting incident. That was back in the days when stuffed animals were not washable. It had been a horrible few months during which I had tried to transfer this relationship to other stuffed animals to no avail. When this Pooh arrived (basically he is really Pooh Too) it was love at first sight and we have been together ever since.

Perhaps part of the reason that I was so drawn to thinking of Pooh so hard in the past couple of days is because my godmother passed away recently after a lengthy battle with Parkinson's Disease. I haven't seen her or her husband in many years, but through the best toy I have ever owned they were always a part of my life.

Why do I still hang on to this piece of the past? Because he has been such an important part of my life. I was an only child and he was the closest thing I had to a sibling. It embarrassed my grandparents to know end when I would drag him along to go out to dinner and then insisted the he also have a booster seat to sit in. My mother allowed it because she knew how bored I would be during dinner with four adults.

Pooh was the only emotional support I had during my parent's divorce and nasty custody battle. He was there for me when my mother went back to work and I spent long hours alone. He was always there for everything. Now that my parents have both passed away and I never married or had children, he is still a strong constant in my life. I may no longer need to hold on to him to sleep, or talk my problems over with him, but he is a bit of reliability and stability in my life. Just seeing him spending his retirement years at the foot of my bed gives me a feeling of emotional security.

Pooh has always supported my dreams, both realistic and foolish. He kept me company through my early writing attempts and never tried to talk me out of my dreams of being a writer. For a short time I tried to turn his life into a story -- in it he drove a VW Bug and lived in a house on a corner. While that tale never took off, he didn't take that personally. He has never told me to lose weight, or find a boyfriend, or wear more (or less) makeup. He always accepted me just the way I am. Writer's warts and all.

There. That was a tiny memoir. Now what are you remembering these days?

The Poor on Poverty

There has been an awful lot of talk by Republicans about cutting back on programs that help the poor and so-called "entitlements." These "entitlements" are programs we have paid into for years. "Entitlement" suggests getting something for nothing. People receiving these benefits have all put into the pot the same as everyone else.

Let me back track just a little. I have heard the poor called lazy in these discussions and that is why their benefits to help provide food and a roof over their heads and a chance to see a doctor when sick. These people have the image of the poor just sitting back and raking it in. Having become very poor myself I can attest to the fact that you cannot be poor and lazy at the same time. It just takes waaaaaayyy too much work. Let me illuminate those who aren't knowledgeable:

While looking for a job, keeping home and family together, and the usual daily duties that we have all accumulated, we are also filling out mountains of paperwork to prove that we are poor. This does not just happen once and we are set to go. We have to repeatedly fill out the same paperwork every few months to make sure we are really still poor (this is because of the people who do try to abuse the system -- only about 2% of recipients -= and we rail against them not the system). We have meetings we have to wait for. We are in a constant scramble to figure out where the next bit of help will come from.

We spend hours on the phone trying to unscramble the problems that are bound to occur in making sure that any bureaucratic system is bound to encounter. Paperwork gets misplaced, computers get data entered wrong, and things can get inadvertently over-looked. The people who run these systems are only human and are often overworked since their places of employment are understaffed -- often due to budget cuts.

Medicaid didn't cover some treatment you had been advised that they would, or they changed the rules without telling you and won't approve your prescription for insulin, or dropped you for a couple of months for reasons unknown. While the Internet is loaded with pics of people on food stamps (now SNAP) benefits with fridges loaded with food, the truth is that it doesn't quite cover the total food bill. So we scrounge and spend time getting help from food banks that aren't able to keep up with the demand of additional poor and declining donations. In addition to food, those same benefits do not cover such crucial items as toilet paper, tissues, shampoo, soap, or deodorant.

We spend hours on the phone searching for help in other ways. We call churches and other charitable organizations to find help with rent, car repairs, household repairs, clothing, and so forth. These things are not covered in any way by government programs (some assistance if you have children). I am currently face with a list to see if I can find help purchasing new glasses. Apparently the Medicaid coverage on glasses is so small vendors lose money providing such items. So I must find some place that has a charitable partner to help out.

Instead of waging a war on poverty, the one that started during the Depression, there seems to be a faction out there (primarily Republican) who are out to wage a war on the poor. Most of these people also seem to be Christians. They are Christians who seem to ignore the parts of the Bible where we are encouraged to help the poor. We are taught to have compassion for those less fortunate. However the love and compassion for others for these people only extends to those who don't need help other than a ride to work or when moving.

Let me be clear here. I have been looking for a job for more than two years. I have been hit with a slew of health issues (seven surgeries in six months). And I work everyday. Not just Monday through Friday. I work seven days a week writing for two websites. Since this is freelance, this work is not covered by minimum wage laws. I love writing and doing this work, but it just doesn't pay anywhere close enough to live on. So I keep looking for a job. At least a part time job to help pay the bills minimally. Because of health issues I can't work on my feet or I would be serving up fast food in an instant to get my income going.

Being poor is not some sort of free ride for people who don't want to work. We work. We work hard. For the most part we are people who want a job and will take one if offered. These programs are not an "entitlement." I have paid into them with my tax dollars for over 30 years. They are not an "entitlement," they are a safety net for when things go south. Thank God it is there. And thank God most of you will never need to use it.

I don't ask for pity. I ask for respect and to not be judged adversely just because I have hit a REALLY rough patch in my life. We need these programs and NOT for lazy people. If I hear anyone calling the poor lazy again I am going to have to take them out (verbally).

Friday, April 11, 2014

Lesbian Lessons

For years there have been millions of debates over gay rights and slowly people are starting to realize that gay people are just like the rest of us. . . well, hell they are the "rest of us." People are people. And weird things happen to people.

I am not gay. I have wonderful friends who are. I have no problem with anyone's "gayness." Well, gaydar" for me to pick up on the fact that she belonged with another woman years before she made history by coming out of the closet. For me it was a huge relief when she did.
okay, one problem. It is Ellen DeGeneres. Dear, sweet, funny Ellen. Oh, not with her now. Back when she first had her own sitcom and was playing it straight. Every time they had her character in a straight love situation it freaked me out. It just didn't feel right to me. I have just enough "

Earlier this week I had cataract surgery on my left eye. My friend Randi has been doing chauffeur duty. On the day after surgery we went to lunch before my day after eye check. We were sitting at our table at IHOP when another woman stopped to chat with us for a moment. Neither one of us will turn down a good chin wag with anyone, so we chatted.

After a few minutes of chatting I realized why the woman was talking with us. She was a lesbian and she thought we were a couple. Usually people mistake us for being mother and daughter. Randi is considerably older than I am. In this case she was also totally clueless. I was getting a chuckle on the inside. The woman was very nice and fun to chat with, regardless of the reason. Since she didn't address this directly, I didn't choose to correct her view. It didn't matter to me.

She veered into gay rights once just briefly, but since she assumed we were on the same team, she didn't need to preach to the choir. After she had gone on her way and Randi and I had taken off for the doctor's office I told her that we had just been mistaken for a lesbian couple.

"Oh, I don't care about that!" she said.

"I know, I just thought you'd be interested to know what was going on there. You know, the subtext," I responded.

We chuckled a little. It was interesting to get an idea of how some people see two women who don't wear makeup or high heels. It also gave me some sort of insight into a part of my father's life.

My father, though 100% Scandinavian, was very Semitic looking. He was mistaken for being Jewish on occasion. During World War II he was in the army and one of his fellow soldier went out of his way to make my dad's life miserable. It turned out that the soldier had assumed that my dad was a Jew. Once that misunderstanding was cleared up the guy thought dad was just fine. Something that really ticked dad off. Years later I was telling my Jewish chiropractor about the incident and took a picture of my dad in for him to see.

"Oh, my God! He looks like my uncles!" he exclaimed.

Being taken for someone you aren't at face value can swing both good and bad, harmless and harmful. It is based in stereotypes and erroneous thinking. In the wrong hands it can feed hate and fear. It can have devastating consequences. In the case of Eileen, I like to think that what she was mistakenly sensing as lesbian, was really a sense of kindred spirits.

If someone has assumed that I was a lesbian and treated me differently because of it, I have not had such an overt experience of discrimination. I fervently hope that this is because we are learning to accept people for who they are.

I don't wear makeup because even the hypo-allergenic stuff bothers my eyes. I no longer wear heels because I once actually broke a foot falling off of them and being overweight makes them uncomfortable. I am a feminist, like many women in my family over the past couple of centuries. I haven't dated in a while but am not totally opposed to doing so should a nice guy with a sense of humor, a good heart, and an open mind came along. None of this makes me a lesbian, but may make it appear so to someone else.

Looking back on the incident I have just one lingering feeling -- that Eileen would probably make a good friend.

Also, you never have heard, and never will hear, me say "that's so gay." Except for that one to make a point.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dancing With Pavlov: Trying to De-Condition Conditioning

Okay, this sounds terribly psycho-babblish, but I did study a lot of behavioral science in college and I did work for a number of years in industrial psychology and sociology, so I come by it honestly. Of late I have had a major face plant right in the area of conditioned response. Most of you will have
heard of the Russian researcher Pavlov and his team of dogs that learned to respond to the promise of food at the sound of a bell. I am currently trying to woof down the reverse course.

Over the last week and a half I have had cataract surgery on both eyes. While they are in there they insert a lens to help improve vision overall. So I am no longer exactly nearsighted. And herein lies my problem!

I have been wearing glasses every single day of my life since the fifth grade. It is totally ingrained in me to reach for my glasses upon waking in the morning, to push them up if something in the distance isn't clear, to look over them to get a good look at something small, and to remove them at night. Now that I no longer have them I am still acting as though I still have them.

I hunt for them on waking until I remember I don't need them. I try to look over non-existent glasses to get a better look at something close up. I have punched myself in the nose any number of times trying to push those same invisible glasses up. I claw at my face to take them off at night. Worst of all, not being able to see well enough to read.

Okay, it will get better. Behavior modification is not outside of my psychological repertoire (though personally I am more of a Jungian, by why confuse you more?). My eyes are still in the process of healing and they will change a bit more. They will settle down to a new normal. Chances are that I will need glasses again to correct astigmatism and that pesky not being able to read thing. I have bought a cheapy pair of readers so that I can see for the most important reading in life -- like checking my blood sugar and taking insulin. But still I struggle.

I think it was easier being conditioned to that rather than to recondition myself. Partly because I was so young the first time around that just about everything in my life was about becoming conditioned. Now I keep wanting things to go along smoothly and having to learn to see the world in a new way is anything but smooth.

I have discovered a whole lot of new things with these new eyes -- that there are cobwebs on the ceiling that I hadn't seen before, and the inside of the car windshield is badly in need of being cleaned, and that my eyes are more sensitive to the changes in my blood sugar than I had previously realized. The last one could be a good thing. It may help me keep a closer "eye" on my sugar level.

Like most thing in life getting what I always wanted -- to not need glasses -- is a mixed bag. At the moment it is difficult because of all of the things I need to re-adapt to these new things. On the other hand I love being able to lie in bed and look out the window at more than a blur. There are beautiful visions ahead of me. I just need to de-condition my previous conditioning and stop responding to that bell that just isn't ringing any more -- at least for now.

On the New Age spiritual level I am wondering what it is that I am now willing to see that I wasn't before. Time for a good meditate. Om. . .