I have a right to …

Fill in the blank.  I have a right to go to the beach, to get a haircut, to attend church … Well, I have a right to be sick of hearing about what you have a right to!  Yes, we all have rights and suddenly everyone seems to be an expert on yelling about their first amendment rights.  It’s true, and in a nutshell the first amendment does indeed guarantee freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assemble, and the right to petition the government.  Like Matthew 5:45 who wrote “The rain falls on the just and the unjust” … the first amendment falls on the intelligent and the ignorant.  Yes, you have a right to free speech but you do NOT have the right to yell fire in a theater.  You have the right to free speech, but you do not have the right to incite hatred and violence (racism, discrimination, etc).  They are called “hate crimes” not “free speech” crimes.  Freedom of speech does not mean you can say any old thing that comes into your head, and once upon a time, people knew the difference.

This nation has been permeated with this toxic “me first” mentality.  If the fish rots from the head down, then this nation has gone petulant from the president down.  He espouses true rights with false logic, and on the subject of religion, obviously knows not of what he speaks.  Another Matthew quote (18:20) “When two are three are gathered together in My name, I am there…”.  Church may technically be building, but spiritually, church is anywhere and everywhere.  I have felt closer to God, alone, kayaking, with only the sounds of the water and the birds.  Church can allow us to worship as a physical, tangible group … but restriction from being inside the physical structure does not prevent us from being with God and with modern technology, we can worship virtually.

Opening churches has become political.  Wearing a mask has become political.  Why?  It seems that in the advent of the “make me great again” mentality, it’s all about MY rights.  Keeping me from working, from going to the beach, from hitting the bar is somehow infringing on those rights.  Being unable to work is truly causing suffering for a great many people, and there doesn’t seem to be any way around it. It’s not fair and we, as a nation, as a government need to do all we can to help those affected.  Slowly some business are working out plans to use the social distancing guidelines to be able to reopen.  But, let me emphasis this … if you are sick or dead … whether or not you have a job is going to be a moot point.  You may be willing to risk your own life, but do you stop to consider the lives of those around you?  All those people that holler “Give me liberty or give me death” might just have to amend that placard to say “Give me liberty and give me death” and I really hope they don’t get their wish.  For all those people who claim this whole pandemic is some kind of liberal media hoax … visit 96,000 graves.  Talk to 96,000 families.  Tell the doctors and nurses it’s a hoax.  Go on, I dare you.  But know this, as much as you yell and scream about the health care system being part of some conspiracy theory … those same doctors and nurses will take care of you if you were to become ill.  Think about that for a minute.

It’s this simple.  Wearing a mask is protecting other people.  Social distancing is protecting other people.  Since when did looking out for other people become political?  Since when did denying yourself in protect others become political?  I don’t know, but I have a strong feeling it started on a Tuesday back in November, 2016.

When might makes wrong…

A disturbing wave of “protests” have reared their ugly and misguided heads as of late, and I find the “reasoning” behind these protests somewhat confusing.  I use the term “reasoning” with quite a bit of generosity in the direction of the people for whom it aimed.  These “liberate (insert name of state here)” cries from (often) MAGA hat wearing, flag waving, truly misguided people is worse that confusing, it is dangerous.

While their anger at the situation is understandable, to blame the government for “imprisoning” them at home is wrong.  Of course they feel helpless, desperate, confused and scared … those are very common emotions these days.  Everyone is likely one or more of the above.  Even if you are able to work from home, it’s still a stressful time.  You might have to juggle kids trying to do distance learning while you are trying to work. And if you are one of the essential workers, from garbage collectors to cashiers to a nurse or doctor (and bless you if you are), you’d likely rather stay home than go to work knowing the dangers and stress you will face.

And the president isn’t helping.  He will never admit to it, but statements like “they are very good people” is most certainly a spur to encourage their protests.  It is validation from the most powerful and important person, for many in the crowd at least.

To turn on the t.v. and see people, in crowds no less, demanding and chanting “open our state” must make your blood boil.  It sure sets me off.  Don’t these people understand this lock down is for their own good?  God, I feel like I am talking about a group of unruly kids “this is for your own good” instead of grown up, supposedly mature men and women.  What good is everyone going back to work when the virus is still out there, undetected in many people?  You are willing to risk your life for the freedom you imagine has been taken away from you?  You are willing to risk your life for a paycheck?

Well, risk your own life as much as you like, just don’t you dare risk mine.

 

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This young girl in Haiti lives very much without the basics that we take for granted.  And now, when we’re chaffing at the bit about having to stay inside and social distance from our routine, I wonder how she is doing.  While we’re hoarding toilet paper like it’s the zombie apocalypse, she still has to fetch water from a common tap.  We have the luxury of Grubhub and Doordash.  Of working indoor plumbing.  We worry about the coronavirus but don’t spend any time fearing an outbreak of cholera.  I don’t mean to minimize our fears, because they are very real with very real consequences.  I am still recovering from a serious lung infection and, while I feel 100%, my body is still healing.  This coronavirus could send me back into ICU, or worse – so yes, I am concerned.

This situation is a wake-up call for the world.  Of just how interconnected we are, and how no “big beautiful wall” can keep out danger, real or imagined.  It is also showing our penchant for prejudice.  Here, Chinese-Americans are being spit on, yelled at, or otherwise verbally attacked, according to an article in the New York Times.  It doesn’t help that our “leader” insists on calling it “the Chinese virus”.

This is the time to face facts, to react with calm deliberation, and to look out for our neighbors whether they be across the street or on the other side of the globe.  We can’t directly help China or Italy, but we can stop bigots from attacking people for simply being of a certain ethnic origin.

We can stop hoarding supplies and stop the self-fulfilling prophesy of shortages.  Buy what you need, realize the supply chain is still intact and that the coronavirus does not give you diarrhea so there’s no need to turn your bathroom cabinets into your own version of Sam’s Club.  We can, if financially viable, get a take-away from a local restaurant a little more often.  We can pray for those who cannot work from home and have lost their precious income, but as an old Russian proverb goes, “Pray to God, but row towards shore”.  In other words, keep giving to your house of worship, keep donating to food banks, keep giving blood, keep supporting international aide groups.  It is all needed now more than ever.

 

 

Scarred for life

Where to start.

September 13 … a Friday night (Friday the 13th … not that I believe in that superstition … just saying) and I was preparing to attend the football game between FSU and Virginia the next evening.  There was no hint of the adventure to come.  But, for some reason, I suddenly felt nauseous.  Nothing I ate or drank stayed down and my stomach felt crampy.  These symptoms continued through to the next morning and I was forced to cancel going to the game.  Monday saw a trip to Urgent Care and Wednesday started out with a repeat visit as I hadn’t been able to keep anything down since that Friday night.  Urgent Care drew blood and sent me to the emergency room where they did more tests and prepped me for emergency surgery.  Sixteen days later, I was discharged … with several inches of large intestine removed and a scar that ran from my lower abdomen to just under my chest.  It’s a nice straight line that does a little dogleg around my belly button, and I’m damn proud of it.

Why the surgery?  At the time, no one knew what was going on … simply that there seemed to be a large mass in my abdomen. What was it?  I prepared myself for the worst.  Cancer.  A colostomy bag.  The list running through my brain until the anesthesia kicked in.

I remember hitting the morphine button.  A lot.

When I woke up enough to realize I was awake, my parents were there and soon after, the doctor walked in.  He explained my large intestine had herniated up through my diaphragm and gotten stuck.  The trapped tissue had died and released toxins into my chest cavity.  One lung was partially collapsed and there was a real danger of pneumonia.

I learned many things in those sixteen days in the hospital:  When you check into the hospital, leave your dignity at the door.  I believe I inadvertently mooned about everyone on the fourth floor at least once.  When you finally are allowed clear liquids, you’re grateful for chicken broth.  When you need help to go to the bathroom, you don’t wait until you’re sure you have to go.  When you’re as helpless as a baby, you realize superheroes aren’t born on Krypton, they are the nurses that you depend on and are there 24/7.

And you realize the true meaning of endurance, of just what the human body (and mind) are capable of surviving.  There’s a Japanese word for it, kintsugi.  It refers to vases (or anything really) broken and repaired with precious metals.  It is the essence of resilience.    It is the strength we gain from surviving trauma … it is being proud of your scars.

End of an era …

I’m faced with a difficult decision.  My dear old pug, Coco, is going on 14 and his health is not good.  He has significant nerve damage to his back and hind legs, he’s practically blind and deaf.  He sleeps 99% of the time.  He’s incontinent.

But …

He doesn’t appear to be in pain.  Then again, maybe that’s why he sleeps so much?  Resting from what little activity he’s capable of?  How am I to know?

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He’s a fine old pug.  He’s been my sole companion ever since Scooby Doo passed away four or five some odd years ago.  He’s always been more of a sleeper than a runner, not that pugs are knows for running anywhere (unless it’s to the food bowl).  He would thrash around a favorite toy but it’s been months since he’s shown any interest in toys.

I didn’t realize how much time and energy I poured into caring for him until the decision about his future began to percolate in the back of my mind.  It formed in the depths of subconsciousness and grew until it nudged at my consciousness.  We went to the vet who didn’t offer a recommendation one way or the other, except to support whatever decision I made.  They did suggest that the only way to know about his back was to do an MRI, but I drew the line at that.  At 13, he was hardly going to be undergoing any surgery and what good would it do to know?  The prognosis wouldn’t change.  So we went home.

And the thought took up residence in my waking moments.  It was time.  Then, of course, the doubts and questions followed.  Was it?  Wouldn’t there be a sign?  He didn’t seem to be in any pain or discomfort, and he was still eating … but then again, he had difficulty walking, was incontinent, didn’t show any interest in his toys or playing, slept most of the time and frequently didn’t move for hours.   What kind of life was that?

To be brutally honest … I was tired.  Tired of cleaning up messes, tired of cleaning the dog, tired of carrying him up and down stairs, tired of looking to see if he was still breathing when he hadn’t moved from where he was lying all night or all day.  I was tired of being on constant alert for “a sign”.  I was emotionally exhausted.  I am emotionally exhausted.  I am tired.  I am waiting for my dog to die.  I am risking his last days being painful so I don’t have to make that dreadful decision.

And that thought tells me everything I need to know.  I need to do the only thing left I can do for him.  I need to let him go.

The Price of Friendship

Why does it have to be so complicated?  Can’t we have any kind of relationship free from stress or tension … or are we just too emotionally intricate for that sort of thing.  Or, could it be that dangerous word “assumption” creeping into the most innocent of connections that leads us to overlook the danger signs.  What happens when we assume that, because we’re “just friends”, that a friendship will be smooth sailing.  None of the typical relationship rules apply, there’s no implied “he/she should understand me without having to explain”, or is there?  Do we exempt friendships from the heavier more intimate unspoken rules of a spouse or mate?  And if we do, what’s the worst that can happen?

Indeed, what is the worst that can happen?  I found out recently when a seemingly harmless friendship re-emerged.  The other half of the friendship happened to be a former co-worker, a nice fellow, some years my senior and a kindred spirit in our political and philosophical attitudes.  He lives in the mid-west, I live in the north east.  He has a lovely wife and two grown children.  I have an ex-husband and no children.  Having no brothers, I tend to find myself casting my male friends in that role.  This particular friend and I were quite close but, it turned out, different kinds of close.  And therein lies the problem.  

I can only speak (or write) from my perspective, guessing what someone else is thinking is akin to skipping blindly through a minefield.  But were there warning signs there, and I just didn’t recognize them?

As I said, we had a close friendship … I thought of him with the close familiarity of a dear brother.  It could be he thought of me with just a bit more closeness … but nothing suggestive of anything more than friendship.  But were there were word choices or phrases that ought to have set off warning bells?  Why, when it would never have dawned on me to be on my guard?  He was deeply in love with his wife, they’d been married for some 40-odd years.  Why would I worry?

I worried when he started to mention misgivings by his wife.  Misgivings that grew into to pointed questions, which in turn grew into accusations.  Suddenly, I’m left feeling like the other woman … caught in the act of something I didn’t even know I was doing.  And feeling the fool, the naive unsophisticated kid who took a situation at face value.

Feelings have been hurt, intentions misunderstood, and relationships strained.  Now, of course, I’m re-evaluating every male friend I have and wondering, can men and women really be friends or will there always be a hint of something more.   How do you value a friendship when you don’t know the price?

My year in review …

Writing is hard work … the muse doesn’t necessarily strike every day, and in my case, the muse has been missing since early November.  What to write about when nothing comes to mind?  Pros have discipline, and probably a few tricks to get them past the blank page.  I have ADD and too many TV channels.

So, going with the flow of “Looking back at 2018” as the media is wont to do this time of year … I thought I’d take a look back at how the year went for me, sort of do a little inventory of things.

January: Intermittent fasting … bust.  Partridge family obsession still going strong.  Crypto-currency experiment … expensive (and not in a good way).

February – March:  apparently nothing of note occurred.  Or nothing worth writing about.

April: Marched on Washington for sensible gun control.  Broke shoulder and tore rotator cuff falling off bike at speed.  Bike, however, not a scratch. 

May: Railed on cyclist who don’t obey the rules of the road.  Started rehab on broken shoulder.  Impatient for results.

June: Tried Grubhub … not an overwhelming success.  Burger never left the restaurant.  Ended up with cereal for dinner.  Again.  Pondered visit to Haiti vs being a blood donor.  

July:  Actually took a vacation.  Tried to get the most out of every moment while also relaxing and getting some rest.  It’s the windmill I tilt at.

August: Gave in to impulse and bought e-bike.  Joined the ranks of the cyclist commuter.  Realized how little cars pay attention to cyclist.

September: Accused of being a traitor by co-worker for daring to express a dissenting opinion of our idiot president.  All things being equal, I considered it a great compliment.

October:  Art projects took a decidedly abstract path.  Generally unsettled and unreasonably annoyed.  Pondered getting in touch with former brother-in-law as a means to spy on ex.  Wisely decided against it.

November: Chatted up on Instagram by what seemed like a very nice guy.  Flattered but wary.  Then he claimed to be a three star general.  Really?  A three star general hanging out on Instagram?  Alarm bells ring … pressed him for a video chat which he avoided.  Blocked the account.  

Which brings us to December.  So, what have I learned this year?  Ordering clothing on the internet is a tricky thing at best.  There are all kinds of fakers hanging out in e-space.  Broken bones take way too long to heal.  Electric bikes are way cool.  I’m happy being single.  The joy of cake-in-a-cup … desert in 90 seconds!  Discipline, like patience, is a virtue which I will always struggle with.  And, meal kits are great!  

2019 will start with rotator cuff surgery … but, hey, things are bound to improve from there!

Cheers from 2018, see you in the New Year!

To date or not to date …

That is indeed the question.  I’ve recently met someone online and we’ve struck up quite a friendship.  It came out of nowhere and took me completely by surprise, mostly by the speed and intensity.  I’m a fairly cautious creature, never one to dive into the pool instead I creep in inch by inch.  Evaluate, analyze, observe, those are the words I live by.  It can take months or years to make a major decision such as buying a new car or even ordering a new sofa.  Is this the absolute best choice, I ask myself.  Do I really need this thing?  Do I deserve it?  Is it worth the change?

That is the ultimate question, is it worth the change.  Every new thing or person we bring into our lives means change.  Most change is minor, barely a ripple on life’s pond while other changes reverberate.  Like a stone skipping across the water, the changes keep coming, echoing the one before until finally dying out.

Life may be change but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.  After years of upset and upheaval, of moving house and changing jobs, of being married and then being divorced, I’ve reached a plateau.  The highs and lows have leveled out and, for the first time in a long time, I’m pleasantly bored.  I work, come home, play with the dog, fix dinner, perhaps work in a nap, watch tv, go to bed and start the cycle over the next day.  Some people may find the isolation constraining and urge to break through, but I revel in it.  I am, like the title of Caroline Knapp’s last book, “A Merry Recluse”.

Cue change.

I get to chatting with a nice man online and before I know it, we’re striking up quite the conversation.  Talking about dreams and goals, what we like to do, what kind of music we listen to, what we do in our spare time … it’s all innocent and at a nice safe distance as this man is located elsewhere.

But,

He’s close to retiring and, from the tone and content of his emails, interested in more than just casual conversation.  This guy sounds like a girl’s dream come true, happily ever after material.  Trouble is, I don’t know what my dream come true looks like.  When I daydream about my happily ever after, I never picture anyone else in it.  Does this mean I’m destined to single-hood or simply that I haven’t met the right guy yet.  And is this guy the right guy?  Why do I feel like life is trying to fix something that isn’t broken?  Did I just answer my own question or should I keep this door open a little while?

Should I or shouldn’t I …

The other day while wandering around Facebook, idly searching for names of past or former friends, I came across my former brother-in-law.  Boy has he changed!  He went from slim to body builder … a 180 degree difference … I almost fell out of my chair.  Only his face was familiar.  

Wow, did a lot of memories come flooding back.  Recently I wrote about things I’d like to tell me ex and … is this a sign that I should?  Or should I send an innocent “oh, hi” message to my brother-in-law?  What would I say?  It’s not like we have any Facebook friends in common that I would naturally stumble across his profile.  The only way I would is if I’d purposefully been looking.

Some backstory … my brother-in-law, let’s call him Steve, has quite a colorful and storied past.  He was an addict, cocaine and alcohol (that I know of), had been through rehab (? times) but seems to have traded drugs for body-building.  A much healthier path, to be sure.  While in the midst of the drug years, we had a tense relationship.  I liked him a great deal but loathed his behavior.  His family seemed to accept his drug use and subsequent actions as “that’s Steve, what can we do?” while I silently seethed with anger and disbelief.  Once he wrapped a brand new truck around a telephone pole, after which when the police arrived, the search was on for a body … the crash was that severe.  I either don’t know or don’t remember if Steve said how he got home that night but I do remember the truck was a gift from his grandfather and owned barely 6 months before it’s embrace with the telephone pole.  Again, the reaction from the family was limited to “at least you’re okay” with not a thought or mention of the fact he could have easily killed or injured an innocent stranger.  Not a word about being so drunk the police were looking for a fatality.  Nothing about wrecking a very expensive gift.  Not one single utterance.  I was outraged and held myself apart from the family, sitting very quiet and not speaking to anyone, let alone joining in the “thank God you’re okay” talk.  And guess who got chewed out later on for “being rude to Steve” … yes, me.  Talk about insult added to injury.  Of course, the admonishment came from my former husband making it all the more cutting.  I have not and will not be a quiet witness to abuse, of drugs, alcohol, to oneself or another … I certainly won’t be complicit by refusing to take a stand.   By accepting his behavior, his family condoned his actions and enabled his lifestyle.  I refused to be a party to this attitude and for that I was chastised.  

Addiction ran in the family as both parents were alcoholics, as (it turned out) so was the eldest son (my erstwhile ex).  It was status quo for them but inconceivable for me.  Admittedly patience is not a virtue I’ll ever be known for, so I might have been on the harsh side of judgmental.  However, if my choices were cooperation or condemnation, I chose the latter.  There was a grey area of compassion I couldn’t quite manage.

So, switch to present day and the discovery of Steve on Facebook … and the question de jour … do I reach out to him?  What would I say?  Or should I let past rest in peace.

…squirrel!

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Inside the mind of someone with ADD … or, as we used to call it before its fancy medical term came along, BSO or bright shiny object disease.  Here’s how a typical unstructured day goes for me:

Get up, eventually … after rising at 5:30 during the week sleeping in is my first treat of the weekend.  Figure out what sweats/yoga wear to lounge around in, go downstairs and it’s like a dog distracted by a squirrel … I clean up any “presents” my geriatric pug might have left during the night which leads me to decide the rug needs cleaning which leads to vacuuming the whole room and while I’ve got the vacuum out might as well do the whole house.  While downstairs, I see some boxes that need collapsing before being recycled which I start to do, but in looking for my box cutter I come across my heat gun which I recently used to do some melted crayon art (see above).  So I put the heat gun away, forgetting the boxes as I look around at my studio, I decide I need to tidy up my mess and that leads to going through boxes of goose clothes (more about that later).  It’s fall, so I need to change my gooses outfit.  She’s now dressed like a scarecrow and the FSU cheerleading outfit she was wearing needs washing so I toss it in the wash, realizing that I have a spare FSU cheerleading outfit but the FSU patch has come off … so it’s back upstairs where I trip over the vacuum cleaner … oh, right, I was going to vacuum downstairs, but first I need to iron the patch back on.  That task done, I return the ironing board to the closet and head back downstairs to return the goose outfit to her dresser of outfits.  As I sort through various art projects, I manage to actually throw a couple out which means a trip to the garbage cans and the boxes to be recycled get stomped flat instead of neatly cut and collapsed but they make it to the recycle bin.  All this is going through my mind and I’m thinking, maybe I ought to blog about it.  Going back upstairs, moving the vacuum cleaner upstairs (my townhouse is three floors) in the vain hope I’ll get that chore done eventually.  I sit down at the computer desk which has some sheet music printed out, and I decide to hole punch it and put the music away in my book, but looking at one of the tunes – I realize it’s a Christmas tune and wonder if I can play it on my violin.  So I get out my violin, where I discover one of the strings has come almost undone so I have to tighten that peg and retune the violin, then I try and play the tune which I can almost do.  That stupid torn rotator cuff is still inhibiting proper violin playing posture.  I’m aware I’m hungry so I go into the kitchen and make myself a meal replacement shake but notice the dishes in the sink so I stop to wash them but first I have to empty the clean dishes from the dishwasher.  Eventually I end up with the dishes put away, and make my shake and now … several hours later I’ve gone from cleaning the rug to … oh, darn, I never did finish vacuuming did I?

That’s kind of what it’s like to have ADD … you barely start one task when … oh, look! Bright shiny object … and you’re drawn to something else, and something else, and the original task is likely to fade into the mists of time.  It’s a variation of “what did I come into this room for?”.

Partly it’s the way my mind works, and partly it’s an inability to deal with unstructured time.  As much as I complain about work and how much I’d rather be retired … it does force a certain structure to my day.  Left alone, with no deadlines or other requirements, I’m (to quote Carrie Fisher) like a hamster in search of a wheel.

About the geese.  All the women in my family own these big cement lawn geese.  They have a variety of clothes and are often dressed to match the season.  My goose has about 30 outfits.  I’m known in the neighborhood as “the goose lady”.

What was I talking about?  oh … was that a squirrel?