the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.“through an awareness of intersectionality, we can better acknowledge and ground the differences among us”
The state of Arizona doesn’t believe that I exist. I’m a woman with a bachelor’s degree, but I also have some rare diseases that have disabled me to the point that I am unable to work. I really had worked my ass off until I had my last shunt failure and surgery, when my neurosurgeon threw in the towel and gave up on me. The judge that I sat in front of for six minutes in March of this year noted in my paperwork that I had an exceptional work history. So my monthly pay is above the poverty level, because it’s based on the amount of take-home pay for the past 10-15 years (at the judge’s and state’s discrimination and calculation).
Let me back up a little. I got my official judgement saying I’m disabled. Yay. Then my attorney told me that I might have to wait a number of months to see any money. But on May 24th, I got a call from the federal office saying that my money would be released on May 27th. I asked how it would be paid. They said it would be sent how I asked it to be sent. I asked how that was possible, since I hadn’t specified. They said, oh, it looks like we have info from Arizona. (Instant panic, since I haven’t lived there for 3 years.) I said no, absolutely not, I have all of my info updated for Minnesota, there’s no reason for it to be sent to Arizona. They said too bad, if you want it sent to Minnesota, you have to go to your local Minnesota office.
So I did, on the morning of Friday, May 25th. I was a little worried because it was right before the holiday weekend. Luckily it wasn’t a long wait. But I found out that the money was already sent to Arizona – they didn’t wait until May 27th. It was sent on May 22nd. My former bank in Arizona reopened my account, accepted this rather large amount of money, and just sat on it. They didn’t tell me, and didn’t send the money back. For days. I was able to work it out so they could send the money to my current bank so it wasn’t lost. Anyway…
So, while at the Social Security office making sure they didn’t send anything else to Arizona, I mentioned Medicare. The man helping me said, oh, didn’t you know, you’ve had it since January of this year? Another panic. I knew just from reading some info and talking to others that meant that I had a deadline coming up in just a few days. I had to sign up for a supplemental insurance policy and medication policy or I could lose out on tens of thousands of dollars. And Monday was a holiday. That meant that I had Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to make phone calls and sign up.
This is no small task. I take 19 prescription medications, one of which is a weekly injection. The doctor that prescribes that had actually been working on getting an exception because my condition has been worsening. I reached out to the Minnesota SHIP office to talk about supplemental plans and medication plans. We found a supplemental plan that costs hundreds a month but could possibly transfer if I moved out of state. For the meds, I plugged in all of the names and we found out the injectable is not covered. It costs $37,000. Welcome to the world of rare diseases! So I had to call the manufacturer and talk to them about a patient assistance program, which might also allow me to get on a higher dose.
So now back to Arizona. When I talked to their local office that helps seniors find supplemental plans for Medicare, they couldn’t believe that a disabled person under 65 had a disability check that was above poverty level. It isn’t a huge amount, mind you, but it doesn’t meet the standards for poverty. So I can’t qualify for medical assistance as my supplement, which is their only option in Arizona. I also can’t qualify for utilities assistance, transportation assistance or food assistance. The woman on the phone had very little experience but offered to find out more info and call me back. When she did, she told me to buy the policy in Minnesota and take it with me, as there was no hope for me in Arizona.
So Wednesday afternoon, I purchased the supplemental plan for Medicare and verified it could come with me (in writing) if I moved out of state. It’s possible it’s going to become much more expensive, but not nearly as expensive as having nothing.
Thursday I finished sifting through all of the medication plans and tried to pick the best one. It was the least restrictive with the medications that I currently take (most of them wanted to restrict my Singulair, for some reason, of which I need double the normal dose). So I managed to get everything signed up before my June 1st deadline.
However, while all of this is going on, there’s something else that’s been cooking in the month of May.
Actually, this started in March. I had a crown fall off. A bunch of decay was discovered – first on that tooth with the crown, then the tooth next to it, then two teeth above it, then a bunch of cavities all over my mouth and it’s painful to eat or drink. I actually had to file a complaint against my dentist that I was seeing for about 2.5 years because he was physically abusive. When he was examining or treating me, he would pull my mouth roughly – so much so that the last time he left bloody fingerprints all over my exam napkin, and I had a swollen face for five days after. It was only after my massage therapist asked me who had been abusive with me that I filed the complaint.
The complaint was supposed to have been anonymous, according to my insurance. However, they revealed all of my info, and the dentist counter-complained (like I was the asshole, because I was the one sitting in the chair with my mouth open). Then my insurance told me to go to two other dentists, which I did, and then they told me to go to my original dentist, and he refused (DUH), all to get this decay and a root canal taken care of. The two new dentists told me that they wanted me to go fully under and to be in an oral surgeon’s office or hospital because of my anaphylaxis history as well as my inability to numb with Novocaine. They referred me either to the U of MN or to Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC).
I called the U of MN for five days straight, and got different answers each day. They would say they didn’t do sedation, or didn’t take care of complicated patients like me, or were too booked. In the end, I got nowhere. So I turned my attention to HCMC, which happens to be a trauma 1 hospital. They told me they weren’t taking new patients (a huge lie). Then they told me to get a note from my doctor specifying which medications I’m taking – but that was only after they refused to answer my messages for 3 weeks. They wanted to see if my medical assistance would run out before they had to do anything.
Well, ta da! First day of no medical assistance, June 1st! That means I get absolutely no dental coverage. So even though they have been aware of this issue for a few months and I’ve done everything they told me to do, I got zero help. By the way, it’s likely I’m having the trouble with the decay in my mouth because the abusive dentist put metal back in my mouth even though I told him in writing and verbally many times I’m allergic. I found out after the two other dentists examined me that he put metal-based crowns in my mouth after I paid thousands to remove all the metal in my mouth because of my allergies.
I’ve already talked to my dental office that I used to go to in Chandler, Arizona for 11 years, and they have an in-house plan. For $100 a year I can have my cleanings, checkups and x-rays, and then 20% off of fillings and other stuff. So that’s the route I’m going to have to take. Plus I like them and I know they’re not going to rip me up and make me bleed on purpose.
If there was ever a time that I have felt the impact of being poor and being female and being ignored completely, this is certainly one of those times. I’m sure I’ll have many more opportunities.
I’ve got all of $26.01 in my bank account right now. That’s all that’s left from the past three years, including selling my house and car and wiping out all of my savings to survive while going through the process of filing for disability and getting denied multiple times and finally getting approved.
Right now, in my tiny apartment, I’m going through all of my records and shredding duplicates and old unneeded receipts so I don’t haul anything unnecessary across state lines. It’s a daunting task. My belongings are half packed and I’ve only stopped because I’ve run out of room – I still need to be able to walk through my space. But as I’m going through everything, page by page, I’ve come across all of my applications for assistance and housing.
Two years ago I started applying to different locations around the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Some were through specific cities; some were through counties. All of my applications were for subsidized housing, meaning I was not applying for free housing at any point, I still expected to pay a portion, so the wait should have been considerably less. When I applied through the City of St. Paul, I was told “three to six months, tops.” That was 14 months ago.
Sometimes I fantasized about what it would be like to be able to have more than $100 for groceries in a month, if I could just get in one of those apartments. I have a small credit card that has gotten a workout.
I contacted local legislators to see if they could lend a hand with housing. After all, I’m disabled, and burning through all of my resources, and not able to live with anyone because of my severe allergies (because everyone has pets). The response I got from my representatives was “Too bad.” I’m small potatoes.
But here’s the deal: About 19 percent of the American population is disabled, with about half of that amount severely disabled (I’m in that half). That really isn’t small potatoes. That statistic doesn’t say that disabled means old, or with cancer, or any other stereotype. So what happens if you ignore 1/5 of the population? And why aren’t we demanding more of our lawmakers when it comes to making and enforcing laws? We can do things like make sure that a certain percentage of new or reclaimed housing is made available to lower income and/or disabled citizens rather than just allowing the most expensive developments to go up. There doesn’t have to be a huge housing bubble; it’s all an illusion, just like the diamond market.
As part of my move to Arizona, where I have a rent-capped apartment waiting for me, I have to write letters to all of these housing authorities to tell them to remove me from their waiting lists. I’m also going to tell one of them not to lie about the wait time, because it certainly doesn’t help with having to plan finances. But I’m also going to write to the Minnesota legislators, including a few who are running for offices different from what they hold now and remind them not to ignore the disabled or the housing crisis.
Please enjoy this song, “Wedding Day,” from Rosie Thomas. You will be startled by her speaking voice and then startled again by her singing voice – two very different sounds!
The hot headline today from the Democrat side is that Joe Biden is considering running for president in 2020. Like a good, genial grandfather he says there’s lots of good folks out there, but with a wink and a smile full of those big, white choppers, you know he’s itching to beat everyone out and sit at the helm.
Dear Joe: Please don’t.
There are a lot of good potential candidates out there. I’m not going to name them. They need to step forward themselves and allow their backgrounds and experience to be vetted properly – and not by watching reruns of reality shows. Let’s just talk about you.
1. You are wholly inappropriate. You may be everyone’s friend, but you lead with your hands and your crotch, especially if women are anywhere in the vicinity. It makes me really uncomfortable to watch, and as much as the women you encounter want to keep their jobs, they are wondering how far they have to bend to get away from your shoulder massages and ear whispers while still maintaining their employment.
2. We are ready for a non-white, non-cis-hetero-male president. I’m tired of hearing about how much men “love” me while taking away everything valuable about humanity and everyone around me suffers. In addition, you may surround yourself with the best advisers, but you will constantly be apologizing because you will be playing catch-up because of something you have said to or about a group of citizens. (As a side note, if I could nominate Leslie Jones on principal alone, I would. And she would ride in to work every day on a unicorn.)
3. We are ready for younger generations to step up and problem solve. I appreciate your enthusiasm and vigor, but it’s time to unite the country with someone who bridges the gap between young and old.
Joe, you don’t have to be president. Your life does not lack meaning or purpose just because you didn’t reach that final chair. But don’t put yourself in the position for ridicule or derision, as I truly think that is what would happen. At some point someone is going to catch a woman doing a karate chop to your fingers for trying one too many times to massage her shoulders. Then what the fuck are you going to do?
A Tree-Hugging Liberal
Co-dependent: I’m quick to use the term. It’s not so easy to define, though. I’ve been trying for better than a decade to find just the right words. It seems most psychology publications are in the same boat as me.
PsychCentral defines it as “a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs. It also describes a relationship that enables another person to maintain their irresponsible, addictive, or underachieving behavior.” So really, they provided two definitions, not just one.
GoodTherapy.org breaks it down with a good ol’ list (because we love bullets) and explains that the “old” way of thinking was that everyone’s feelings were centered on one person’s addictive behaviors. Now co-dependence is recognized in much broader terms to include the role of caregiving, denial of personal problems, low self-esteem, feelings of guilt when offered help or attention from others, sensitivity to criticism, perfectionism and fear of failure, a projection of competence and a need to control others.
But the definition from GoodTherapy.org doesn’t make clear that there has to be at least two people in the relationship to make it co-dependent. At least one of the parties has to have low self-esteem and be sensitive to criticism and project a false sense of competence, and have support and attention from another party to continue carrying on with those behaviors. And let’s be clear, here: both or all parties can be co-dependent upon each other. Mothers and daughters, friends, teachers and students, lovers. Of course, some relationships are much more intimate and lasting than others.
Here is a comprehensive list from CoDA.org (Co-Dependents Anonymous.org):
Patterns and Characteristics of Co-Dependence; Co-dependents often:
• have difficulty identifying what they are feeling.
• minimize, alter, or deny how they truly feel.
• perceive themselves as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well-being of others.
• lack empathy for the feelings and needs of others.
• label others with their negative traits.
• think they can take care of themselves without any help from others.
• mask pain in various ways such as anger, humor, or isolation.
• express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways.
• do not recognize the unavailability of those people to whom they are attracted.
Low self-esteem patterns; Co-dependents often:
• are extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long.
• compromise their own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger.
• put aside their own interests in order to do what others want.
• are hypervigilant regarding the feelings of others and take on those feelings.
• are afraid to express their beliefs, opinions, and feelings when they differ from those of others.
• accept sexual attention when they want love.
• make decisions without regard to the consequences.
• give up their truth to gain the approval of others or to avoid change.
Control patterns; Co-dependents often:
• believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
• attempt to convince others what to think, do, or feel.
• freely offer advice and direction without being asked.
• become resentful when others decline their help or reject their advice.
• lavish gifts and favors on those they want to influence.
• use sexual attention to gain approval and acceptance.
• have to feel needed in order to have a relationship with others.
• demand that their needs be met by others.
• use charm and charisma to convince others of their capacity to be caring and compassionate.
• use blame and shame to exploit others emotionally.
• refuse to cooperate, compromise, or negotiate.
• adopt an attitude of indifference, helplessness, authority, or rage to manipulate outcomes.
• use recovery jargon in an attempt to control the behavior of others.
• pretend to agree with others to get what they want.
Avoidance patterns; Co-dependents often:
• act in ways that invite others to reject, shame, or express anger toward them.
• judge harshly what others think, say, or do.
• avoid emotional, physical, or sexual intimacy as a way to maintain distance.
• allow addictions to people, places, and things to distract them from achieving intimacy in relationships.
• use indirect or evasive communication to avoid conflict or confrontation.
• diminish their capacity to have healthy relationships by declining to use the tools of recovery.
• suppress their feelings or needs to avoid feeling vulnerable.
• pull people toward them, but when others get close, push them away.
• refuse to give up their self-will to avoid surrendering to a power greater than themselves.
• believe displays of emotion are a sign of weakness.
• withhold expressions of appreciation.
As I revisit the definitions, I evaluate first my own behavior, but also a few specific relationships near me (that I have to be careful not to become too invested in, though I tend to become protective and outraged when I spot misbehavior). I think that the actual name “co-dependency” will be adjusted within the next 5-10 years, though what it will morph into will be a great mystery.
April 10, 2015, was the last day I commuted home from a paying job. It was the last day I was on a dreaded conference call with a bunch of frustrated staff members. It was a Friday, and only three weeks into a contracting job after being laid off from a place where I had worked for over twelve years. I was already nervous about surviving because work had been interrupted by so many shunt surgeries prior to that time, but April 10th was the final straw.
I remember driving home during rush hour and having the familiar “lights out” sensation cloud my vision. I was only working about 8 miles from home, but since it was rush hour, it would take at least 45 minutes, and the darkness squeezed in almost right after I got behind the wheel. It took all my energy to focus on my lane and not crash into anyone else. I don’t even remember how I made it to the hospital after that, which was another 7 miles in the opposite direction. But I remember having to call my boss the next day to tell him that I would never be coming back in; they wouldn’t hold a short contract position indefinitely.
I wasn’t even sure my neurosurgeon would do surgery #10 in less than 4 years at that point. He had already said after #9 back in November that if I failed again, he was not willing to operate. But he did – sort of. He only did half of the surgery. And of course it failed. And then he sent me away, telling me I had to figure out what was the source of the problem, because he wasn’t going to continue doing something that was going to keep failing. It was all being put on me.
I did figure it out. It took me from 2010 to 2017 and 65 doctors to put all of the pieces together, not to mention the fact that I am one person, not even an entire lab or radiology department. I got zero support from the NIH’s Undiagnosed Diseases Network. The Minnesota Board of Health decided not to discipline 3 doctors (among many) who falsified information to get out of treating me. The Mayo Clinic banned me so I wouldn’t hurt their success statistics and change their #1 in the nation status in 21+ areas.
I lost everything: my car, my house, my ability to earn a livable wage, my confidence, my sense of security and self-worth, friendships, independence, and every last penny of my financial reserves. Thank goodness I already lost my hair over 15 years ago because if I had to go through that right now I’d absolutely lose my shit.
After filing three years ago, I finally had my disability hearing on Wednesday the 28th of March. I didn’t know what to expect. My attorney pulled me into a small conference room prior to the hearing and prepped me, telling me that if the judge asked me questions, to not take longer than 15-20 seconds to answer, and to speak up because he was older and may be hard of hearing. I was also told it may go as long as an hour.
But five minutes, and we were done. Long enough to read my name, and say that it was obvious I was disabled and not making anything up. The letters I asked Dr. Afrin and my current immunologist write for me were key for my case and noted in the judgment. The judge also specifically said that the way I was treated by the majority of the 65 doctors was appalling.
What’s next? I have to wait for Social Security to process the judge’s ruling, and then enter my info for payment, and like the Kool-Aid man, all you’ll see is my silhouette – I’m busting outta here. I gave Minnesota a fair shake for three years, but the fact that so many doctors lied in my medical records and refused to treat me has made my decision an easy one. I’ve decided to head back to Arizona where I will pick up again with 8 of the doctors I previously had; only a few will be switched out, including getting in with a neurologist who specializes in MCAS and Ehlers-Danlos. (Minnesota is a great place to be employed as a nurse, because they are paid relatively well, but it’s a horrible place to be a patient, and I’m far from being the only person who feels this way.)
I want to be clear about what this disability status means for me: 1) It doesn’t change any day-to-day abilities that I have. I still have to lay down and rest for the majority of my day, about 20 hours every day. 2) The actual status of disability is not permanent; I’ll be reviewed and my medical records will be combed through every few years by Social Security to make sure my health and abilities haven’t changed. 3) I still have to take the short bus everywhere, especially now since I’ll be making “too much” to get medical assistance (which is more than $0.00). 4) I still can’t get a motorized scooter – do you really want a half-blind person driving one of those??
My prediction is that this is all going to go down by the end of May, but I’m at the mercy of Social Security.
From my MySpace blogs, four years before I became really sick; seems forever ago:
Billy Bob and a Bottle of Red 3/2/06
I think the red hair is working! The men at work now worship me; strangers on the street are offering me rides on their bicycle handle bars. Okay, so maybe I bribe the guys at work with candy, and maybe the kid on the bike wasn’t much older than 20……but I knew my luck had to change!
Last weekend was a great weekend. I got to do so many fun things that I feel like a normal person again – but check in with me at the end of May, which is the next time I’ll have an entire weekend off from Job #2.
I don’t think I could duplicate last Saturday if I tried. Jen was kind enough to invite me to her co-workers’ double birthday parties at a house in BFE Queen Creek. When I got there I only knew Jen and her husband; by the time we left, everybody was my friend! But let me tell you about Billy Bob Thornton, because he was at the party too. He’s Jen’s co-worker, nice southern gentleman, tall, older, a little bit goofy but very friendly – from Georgia, I think.
At a party, everyone plays musical chairs and rotates the people that they talk to. So the first round was “Gosh, you got perty eyes.” The second round was “Hey, you’re real intelligent, ain’tcha?” By the third time I made it back around to him, I had sucked down my whole bottle of red wine I brought with me, plus some screaming blue pre-packaged jello shots that were lying around. His next line was “Hey, let’s go snuggle on the couch!” I had to break his heart and turn him down……but after about a half hour, I wandered back into the house and found him talking to Jen and her husband, where he was saying something to the effect of “It makes you just want to kiss someone” (referring to the Pat Benetar playing on the stereo, I think). Then he looked up and saw me, and decided I was an angel sent to him for the very purpose of kissing him during a Pat Benetar song. He kept trying to pull me on to his lap and he was smooching me all over, but the wine put me into slow motion and all I could get out was a “Hey!” or two. Luckily Jen stayed there with us so I didn’t get completely molested. He asked me for my phone number and I tried to give it to him, but midway through writing it I blanked it out. I even told him I was giving him the wrong number. I’m probably on his bitch list now.
So the main reason I went to the bash was to meet one of the birthday boys, but he ended up in the hot tub and then the bathroom with mostly naked women (and I wasn’t one of them – I made enough of a fool of myself trying to talk to the guy’s boss after the wine and three jello shots). The only other action I got aside from Billy Bob was the owner of the house giving me an extra-long hug as we were leaving, and I just can’t get worked up about men who are married and have four kids. 🙂
I could say that Saturday was a no-pride night, but I actually remember at least 10 peoples’ names that I met that night – that’s pretty good, isn’t it? I didn’t throw up, didn’t pee my pants, didn’t break anything, left with my undies intact.
This is another post from my MySpace days.
The Sick and the Dating: The Weirdo in Mesa 4/17/07
Back in high school, I had a friend named Rachel who was a plus-sized girl that liked to wear trashy clothes. She had bleach-fried hair, and wore those day-glo green colored contacts because she wanted her eyes to stand out. One day we went down to a store on Hennepin Ave. (where all the hookers hang out, if you’re not familiar with Minneapolis) to visit a trashy outfit store, and a guy held the door open. He said “There you go, Green Eyes” and she said “Oh, they’re not real” and he looked her up and down like she was his next meal and said “I bet the rest of you is”. Thankfully, I didn’t get his attention – I certainly wasn’t going to pipe up that MY eyes were green naturally. Sleazeball who hits on teenagers, get thee gone!
I’m telling you this story because I found these postings in the “Missed Opportunities” section of the free alternative paper, Phoenix New Times, and it reminded me of THAT GUY. You know, the weirdo that you laugh with while he says something really disgusting and overt, and you’re planning your escape. This is the same guy posting these ads. They are all in Mesa, and he keeps imagining these hot encounters with random women. Notice how his age changes.
Friday, March 9th – Circkle K main and greenfield mesa – 43 (Mesa)
you are a gorgeous gal driving a station wagon with 3 ribbons on the back! you buy Marlboro reds 100’s between 730 and 745 weekdays!! in am. You have gorgoeus auburn longer hair!! and great body!! I drive a white Ford ranger and parked next to you on this past thursday!! I get smokes too! could I get some fries to go with that SHAKE? hope you read this!! its an older wagon you drive! and you wear tight jeans!! hope you are there monday am! hit me back if you think your it
Poster’s age: 43
Thursday, March 22nd – circle K on lindsay and baseline Mon. 7 pm – 41 (Mesa)
you were driving a white blazer was at the pumps! you bought an 18 pak of Bud! and asked for a pack of THESES? I bought keystone lite! you have longer auburn hair and tight LEVIS!! that looked so goo around your hips!! no ring seen on your finger!! WOW!!!!
Poster’s age: 41
Thursday, April 5th – circle K at main and val-vista wed at 4;45 pm mesa – 38 (Mesa)
you were a gorgeous blonde coming in the store as I was leaving!! you held the door and I said thanks! you said anytime!! think u drive a red grand am! wow!! long legs and beautiful hair!!
Poster’s age: 38
Monday, April 9th – circle K on lindsay and baseline Mon. 7 pm – 38 (Mesa)
thanks for gettin back to me!! but your e-mail address does not work!! or the phone number!! please get bak to me
Poster’s age: 38
Monday, April 9th – circle k on main and val-vista last week 445 pm – 38 (Mesa)
hey get back to me!! you e-mailed me but yuor e-mila wont go thru!! nor the number you gave me! gorgoues blonde!! jengirl??
Poster’s age: 38
Sunday, April 15th – hot brunette at Macayos on fri nite in parkin lot – 38 (Mesa)
I was walkin out out with another couple and you were outside with a nother gal havin a smoke!! you said Where do I know you from!! you have a smokin body and great smile!! wished I would have stopped!
Poster’s age: 38
Okay, buddy, none of these chicks are writing back to you – at least not with legitimate phone numbers or e-mails – because they can smell a lunatic a mile away. Are you stalking all of the Circle Ks in Mesa? I knew there was a reason I didn’t like that city. Everything bad happens at Circle K. I remember that from my court reporting days.
When I was 14, I was visiting my dad’s house for the weekend and sleeping on the couch, which was the normal – I didn’t have a bedroom there. I’m a light sleeper. So it was a surprise that somehow between 12:30 a.m., when I fell asleep, and 7:00 a.m., when my stepmom answered a phone call from a stranger alerting her to the fact that her purse was scattered on the stranger’s front lawn, that the house had been robbed – and the burglar had somehow gotten past me. Three hunting rifles had been taken off of the wall along with a video camera and tripod, and of course, the purse.
The next night my dad took my place on the couch with his handgun in case anyone decided to come back. We used all of my babysitting cash to re-key the locks. But this story demonstrates many points: I grew up around guns (that were never locked up), the hunting rifles made it somewhere into the wide world to be used for who knows what, and that we are a violent society. The cops were surprised I was still alive and unharmed.
Not many years later, when my brother was five and a half, he was given his first gun for Christmas. His first few minutes alone with it and he shot out his bedroom light. I was never given a gun because I was a girl. Mind you, I never felt as if I missed out. But my dad and my brother perpetuated craving violence and guns. Even though I was the one who was on the couch, exposed, they were the ones who wanted to kill, kill, kill. At least, that’s what they projected.
My dad’s own father died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. In fact, Dad was the one who found him. Included in the three rifles that were stolen was the one that Grandpa used to do the deed. It had a strange sort of sentimental value that I couldn’t relate to. Who would want to cradle that weapon, and use it over and over, knowing its history?
Fast forward a few decades to when I lived with violent men. One was the guy who grew up in Manhattan in a household whose own siblings stabbed each other. The last day I saw him was the last time I called the cops on him, when he was supposed to be gone at work while I moved my things out of the house we were renting. Instead he was hiding in one of the back rooms and came out when I set down some moving boxes and attacked me. I struggled to get back out to my car in my stocking feet and he was restraining me and pinning my arms, telling me that if I would just do what he told me to do, we would be happy. I finally wrestled free and got in my car and called 911. The responding police officers bought his big-eyed innocent act and told me that if I called them again that I would be arrested.
Then there was the live-in boyfriend who threatened to shoot me – twice. He also talked about taking his guns to work to shoot all of his co-workers constantly. The cops reassured me there was absolutely nothing I could do until he actually followed through and hurt one or all of us.
Most recently of course was my downstairs neighbor who moved out the last weekend of July, 2017. He used to beat his wife and abuse their cat. Whenever I had visitors I was a nervous wreck, because I had no idea if he would pound down the door while they were here, falsely claiming that we were too loud, or take it out on me later, screaming and raging and dreaming up reasons to call the cops on me. Worse yet he could of course physically pulverize his wife and cat for revenge, just for existing. He was ex-military so I knew it was likely there was a gun or two or seven in his apartment.
So here we are in the U.S. with our easy access to the worst kinds of weapons and ammunition. I am the one who was laying on a couch while a stranger or two crept past me to rob our house; you would think I would fall into the category of wanting a gun for home protection. I grew up around them; you would think I would relax around them. I’ve lived with and around plenty of assholes who have wanted me dead; you would think that I would feel safer armed.
First of all, we have over 7 billion people on the planet. We are no longer hunting strictly for food supply. Anyone who claims that is an outright liar. And hunting season is so abbreviated that there’s no need to keep guns out for the entire year to make them accessible to every man, woman and child on the planet. Second, home invasions do not happen with the regularity that the NRA has somehow convinced the gun lovers they do. I remember reading from one guy a quote last week that Texas experiences 800,000 home invasions a year. My answer was, “Are you talking about bugs?” I mean, c’mon. If that were true, Texas would be experiencing a mass exodus.
The biggest and hottest debate that has resurfaced is the arming of school staff. I cannot stress this enough, but there are so, SO many reasons why this is a bad idea. Right now I live in the city where Philando Castille was shot. He had a permit to carry a concealed weapon and told the cops, and was shot and killed anyway. If for some reason some idiots decided arming school staff members would be a good idea, the staff members had better be lily white, because we Americans cannot be trusted to be color blind. Even black cops have proven to have prejudice against black suspects without meaning to.
I posted this article on Facebook regarding an armed officer who never engaged in the shootout that was happening in Florida. He simply hung back while all of those kids were getting shot. I pointed out that if an officer did this, why would we expect teachers to uniformly charge without fear or hesitation, and to act correctly? A friend of 27 years, whom I considered a decently good friend, didn’t like that I used this as an example of why we shouldn’t arm teachers and staff. He also didn’t like that I proposed that we have stricter gun laws regarding background checks, wait times, amount of ammunition sold, amount of ammunition guns could fire, types of guns that could be sold on the market, and age of buyers/operators. He resorted to calling me an idiot. Finally, he just outright blocked me.
But am I an idiot? I’ve just been trying to stay alive. I have all of this violence swirling around me, and all of these men are insisting that they have a right to violate me. I’m saying no. I will continue to say no. I’m good with saying no.
Lastly, here is a comprehensive list from a woman named Karen Nichols in Ottawa Center, Michigan; she had many questions regarding arming teachers and staff, and did a great job of articulating them:
Which teachers get guns?
Where will the guns be stored?
Who decides when guns can be brandished?
What penalties will apply if teachers mishandle a weapon?
Will teachers volunteer for gun duty?
Can teachers refuse it?
Who will audit their adherence to regulations?
Will students know which teachers have weapons?
Who will be liable if the teacher with the gun becomes the shooter?
What will be the consequences when students are accidentally shot by a teacher?
How will armed teachers communicate in a tactical situation?
Will teachers with a history of mental illness be allowed to use weapons?
Will teachers be required to disclose any history of mental illness?
Will teachers be issued a weapon? Reimbursed for purchase? For ammunition?
How will administrators conduct non-weapon-related discipline against a teacher?
Will there be armed assistance available to deter workplace shootings?
Who will shepherd the armed teacher’s classroom while the teacher is attempting to locate the active shooter?
What happens when a teacher misidentifies a student as a threat in good faith?
Will teachers who do not carry lethal weapons be offered non lethal alternatives?
If an armed teacher is shot, can another teacher employ his or her weapon?
How will armed teachers identify themselves to arriving first responders?
Will armed teachers be required to learn how to give first-response medicine?
Will armed teachers be required to attempt an arrest before using lethal force? Under what circumstances?
Will proficiency training on weapons count for teachers’ continuing education and professional development?
How will insurers adjust health and other rates to account for the presence of armed employees?
Will teachers receive additional pay for being armed?
how often will armed teachers be re-evaluated for licensing purposes?
Will armed teachers leading field trips deposit their weapons in a personally owned vehicle or school-owned transport?
Will one teacher per wing of a school building receive weapons? Two? Three?
Exactly which standards will count for proficiency—greater than a big-city police department, State Police, FBI, hobbyist, marksman?
In training scenarios, how will using force against innocents be penalized?
Will racial sensitivity courses be required?
Do parents have a right to refuse to send their kids to schools with guns?
Will students have to sign waivers? Will parents? What if a parent signs a waiver for a minor student who, when that student turns 18, refuses to abide by its provisions?
Will teachers on probation be allowed to carry weapons?
What about teachers with active union grievances? Complaints about sexual harassment? Anger management? Divorce proceedings?
Will armed teachers wear holsters?
Will they be stationed strategically during pep rallies or other gatherings?
Will they participate in lockdown drills as if they were armed or unarmed?
Will funding for the policies outlined above be distributed according to local budgets, statewide formulas, or national formulas?
Will schools in high-risk neighborhoods receive more or less funding? Suburban schools?
What is the right ratio of armed:unarmed teachers by grade level?
What is the procedure for debriefing and assessing armed teachers’ performance during a crisis?
Can an armed teacher who flinches be fired? Can an armed teacher who breaks protocol be rewarded?
Will preschool teachers have guns?
Will teachers in “juvie” (high risk) schools have guns?
Will the teacher or the school be liable if their gun is stolen?
Can administrators carry weapons? Can they do so in disciplinary situations?
Think about this: I quit playing clarinet after 8th grade because my band teacher was an outright asshole. After I quit, he was fired for punching a student. But let’s give him a gun, right?
Originally published in my MySpace Blog, 2/10/2008.
Unhooked Generation by Jillian Straus
The woman that wrote the book was not a clinical psychologist; she was only a woman in her 30’s wondering why it seemed so much more difficult for people in our generation to find lasting love. She traveled to different locations around the U.S. to interview random people that responded to her ads posted in free newspapers and Craigslist. Some points really hit home for me.
1. Do you make a list? I know a man who has listed 42 qualities his future partner must have. I even have a list myself, though it doesn’t go up to 42: must pay his own bills and not try to steal my money; must bathe at least daily; must brush teeth 1+ times a day; must be nice to me. Some standards are reasonable, I think, and some absolutely no one can live up to. I don’t even think I can list 42 qualities about myself, so how do I know if I fit that manifest my friend created? Oh, and once you have your grocery list made, then you can go shopping on eHarmony or Match or Plenty of Fish to make your selection. Like a piece of meat. What ends up happening is that we reject everything, which leads to….
2. Why suffer? If I don’t like something, or if it isn’t working for me, why not just cut it off and be done with it instead of beating myself up trying to make it work? Relationships ARE work. Or at least they require effort. Expecting for things to just fall into place is unrealistic, and bailing is the easy way out. I have absolutely been quick to jump ship but can honestly say that I’ve never regretted doing so. I just don’t put up with any juvenile bullshit anymore. Of course, the “why suffer” mentality is one of the main reasons that couples get divorced; think about it: how many marriages do you know about that have lasted for less than a year? I can think of 7 of my friends right at this moment. Is it that they’re picking the wrong partners, or just giving up too easily?
3. Fear of making the wrong choice: let’s talk about the guy with the 42 requirements again. He repeatedly says that he never wants to commit, because what if the next person that comes along is a better match for him? He’ll never, ever be happy, I guarantee you that.
4. Never allowing yourself to connect because you are afraid to fail at marriage. Wow, this is a big one – I have always said that if I’m crazy enough to get married, it will be only once. Half of the interviewees said they were afraid of failing by not living up to the seemingly seamless relationship their parents have, or failing by turning out just like their divorced parents. I’m afraid of the second one myself. No one goes into a relationship thinking that it’s going to fail, but it’s another thing to think that you’re not even going to allow someone to get close so there is no opportunity to fail.
5. Losing our gender identities. Yes, women’s lib was a blessing, I will bang the drum about that one all day long. It’s what allows me to be a single woman in my 30’s [now 40’s] with a career and the ability to stand on my own. But……..I could really use a mate who knows how to work on cars. And by the way, can he also like going to art museums, and cry at mushy movies too? But I don’t want him to open the freaking door for me, I have two arms and two legs and can manage on my own. But can he still pay for dinner, because he’s the man? I can say that I want a really strong, stoic man who can build a house but still tear up over “Love, Actually”, but how realistic is that? It’s a bunch of mixed messages that lead to misunderstanding because one person gets pissed off that the other one didn’t pick up the check. It is every man for himself, I tell ya – because there are no boundaries on the gender roles anymore. Better brush up on your communication skills.
6. Technology. How easy is it to erase someone from your cell phone, and therefore your life? How easy is it to send e-mails and instant messages, but never talk on the phone or see each other face to face? We’re definitely disconnected and our spelling skills are becoming atrocious – because we are lazy. And scared.
This is one of the few relationship/self-help books that I’ve read from cover to cover – usually I get bored pretty easily or can’t relate to what the message is. This one is fascinating because I have so many single friends, just like me, wondering what in the hell is going on. If you recognize any of these factors within yourself, this may be an interesting read for you too.
[Disclaimer: Since it’s now 10 years old, some references are going to be outdated, but the ideas are still relevant.]
Written as a MySpace blog post 10.5 years ago, approximately 3 years before I became seriously ill with the disease that took me down and now has me bedridden. I can’t believe it’s been a decade already.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Legacy of Hope 6/2/07
When I went to the Chandler library to cruise for movies to check out for the weekend, the selections were pretty slim. The Poirot series that usually appears on PBS didn’t hold any appeal, and “Show Boat” wasn’t looking any better. I picked up a documentary called “Legacy,” about a multi-generational family of single moms trying to escape the inner city projects of Chicago.
The narration is provided by one of the teenage girls who lives with her grandmother, mother, aunt, six cousins and four siblings. Within the first 10 minutes of the film and after the grandmother gives her first interview about living in the projects, one of the nephews – the one that showed the most academic promise and stability, and was looked up to by family and neighbors alike – was shot dead in the street. The filmmaker chose to follow this family for a total of five years after this devastating murder, which included the boy’s mother joining and completing her 5th addiction treatment program, the narrator’s mother getting a stable job after being a welfare recipient since the age of 16, and the grandmother finally qualifying for her own house after a generous donation from an area businessman who saw the news story of the boy being shot. The narrator was the first in her family to complete a high school education and receive her diploma.
This was a difficult story on many levels. It is not dissimilar to watching episodes of “Intervention” on A&E. Nearly every person of my immediate and extended family is or was an addict; I saw and learned things that no child should. Every person in my father’s family with the exception of my uncle died young, including my father. This month will also mark the violent death 12 years ago [as of 2007] of my aunt at the hands of her boyfriend.
Poverty was also a strong factor in my childhood years. My mother nearly died when I was five after she contracted a bacterial infection, and was bedridden for three months. Add that to the strain of my own medical bills, with my terrible asthma attacks, allergies, and numerous bouts of pneumonia and bronchitis….and no health insurance. “Preventative care” was impossible to consider. We stood in line for milk and cheese. We were also issued these awful frozen fish portions, which were breaded fillets of cod with a hunk of cheese wrapped in as well. Luckily an uncle was a manager at General Mills and would give us test samples of various foods that they were developing to mass market. It was a treat when we once got “Bonkers” – if you remember those, they were rolls of peanut butter with rice crispies and chocolate chips on the outside. Mostly, though, we got these horrendous breakfast bars – vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate – that had the taste of chalk and the consistency of a doorstop. We ate them because we had to. [It is no mystery that impoverished people are overweight because the least expensive food is the most fattening and unhealthiest fare you can conjure up.]
One Christmas there was no money for presents. My mom contacted a local charity that gave us $14 each to spend on gifts, took us shopping, and had a wrapping party afterwards. Mom still had a sense of humor about it – somehow she convinced me to tell her what I got her, saying “Oh, I’ll forget, I promise. Just whisper it in my ear.” Of course I told her.
It is also no mystery that being poor is stressful, humiliating and limiting. It is easy to say “Why don’t they just ___________ ?”. Right now, as a nation in general, we have a very them-vs.-us mentality; every man for himself. If you are lucky enough to have grown up in a household that never really had to struggle to survive, it is much more difficult for you to understand how this cycle of poverty continues through generations. But instead of saying “Why don’t they ________?”, why don’t you ___________ to help? Because it’s their problem, not yours. I’m not saying that we have to give $10 to the people with signs at the end of freeway exit ramps. Can’t we lend a hand before it gets to that point? It may not be you or your family right now, but it could be in the future. Medical expenses alone are becoming outrageous, even for those covered under company policies, and one major illness could be financially devastating. Half of all bankruptcies filed are attributed to medical bills. For some reason, we as a society have associated medical bills with outright laziness, when it couldn’t be further from the truth.
There were elements in this film that I could not relate to. My extended family never bonded to get through the hard times. When my aunt was killed, my father had to admit to the detectives that he “never really socialized with her” and didn’t know her boyfriend was violent. Her death was heartbreaking, but instead of offering each other support, fights broke out over stupid things like who would get her dresser and bed.
These women in the documentary also had strong faith in God, which was never a part of my upbringing. Hearing “God will get us through this” and “by the grace of God” was like they were speaking in tongues to me. Faith is not something I practice. Even if we’re talking about people in general, or work, or good health, or anything for that matter, I never sit back and say “I have faith”. Instead, I have hard work and critical thinking skills. If I don’t do for myself, I have no business sitting back and waiting for something, or someone, to take care of everything for me.
Yet, there is still the legacy of hope. We need to be reminded that despite our circumstances, we can rise above with dignity and flourish. You or I may have been in a bad place 10, 20, 25 years ago, but that doesn’t mean we have to be there now. Good deeds should be handed out to strangers, friends and family alike – you may need their help one day.
My mom has recently started worrying that she made too many mistakes and bad decisions when raising my sister and I. It’s quite a time delay, since we are both in our mid-thirties and turned out pretty straight. I don’t hold anything against her. She also taught us love and affection, dignity, and the joy of survival.