My Milkshake

Just a little update: I was finally diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis in May, and my case is fairly advanced. I have growths all along my spine and just got confirmation on Friday that all of the difficulties I’m having with my hands (horrible pain, swelling, tenosynovitis in every tendon, and cysts) is also likely from the AS, as I have grown to suspect. Humira is out for treatment because it accelerated my hidradenitis suppurativa, so I’m going through testing and trying to get approved for a different injectable. I’ve already been denied by my insurance company because the co-pay is $1,523/month so we’ve started the paperwork for a patient assistance program.

I also flew back to Minnesota twice to get two different laser treatments for my hidradenitis suppurativa. The dermatologist who is treating me started experimenting on another patient and mentioned it to me when I was moving away last year. I tried this as a last-ditch effort because absolutely nothing was working. Boy, what a difference! After the first round I got about 60% improvement, but it took about 3 months to see it. I’ve got about 75% improvement now after the second treatment. I know I’ll have to go for a third treatment but I’m hoping to wait until after the snowy season, which means I’ll have to postpone at least until April/May. This is a really, really difficult disease. I couldn’t convince any of the local Phoenix dermatologists to use the same method, so now I have to spend a fortune in travel and hotels (can’t stay with family because I’m allergic to their animals).

During all of this I had to fire my pain doctor for dropping the ball in a major way. I finally got into Barrow again with a new neurologist (I really liked the resident and I hope he doesn’t burn out; the doctor seemed suspicious of me because all of my stuff is so weird, but hey, I think neurologists are pretty much useless, so right back at ya, buddy). The next thing I think I have coming up is my teeth. I’m having a lot of issues with the gums and pain with two teeth, and I noticed a growth that I thought was just some swelling initially. Mast cell activation syndrome really fucks with all of this.

So just in the past week, I had some perverts knocking on my virtual door.

I still have a notice on my FetLife profile that I’m not participating in any activities because of health issues; that includes parties, one-on-ones, texting, role-playing, etc. I will say hello and that is it. In all honesty, I’m sick to death of online stuff anyway. I much prefer real life. But this is what I got in my inbox:

A nice smile nice conversation nice lips nice eyes nice hair nice tits nice pussy nice ass nice personality all boils down to one thing. Can this person make me orgasm and use rope to tie me up and take advantage? After having long stressful days and weeks and unfulfilled sexual satisfaction a person just wants one thing. With me it’s just straight to the point. No need she pretending to be the princess or the dominated woman that you pretend to be and your outside personal business and work life. I didn’t know what what’s going on until I made her come and orgasm over and over again until she blanked out several times. Are you then figure out what was going on, suggest a few commands and before you know it she was coming on command. I’m straight to the point very blunt. I host everything. I get a hotel or motel room here in Tucson You show up in the proper attire and the session begins just that simple. No strings attached just you and I and you getting what you want. All I ask is give it one try. After that if this is something that you don’t want then you cut the string and this is all forgotten about.

[I’m just going to say here that it’s every man’s fantasy that his dick has magic juice. Seriously. Every guy thinks he can make a woman black out or blank out. Hahahahaha! Or this Jedi mind trick shit – cum on command. Fuck you. Fucking lazy shit.]

Me: Kind of a bummer you went through all the trouble of copying and pasting that without reading my profile.

Him: Sweetheart I read your profile, how was I or anyone to know how you are now? Your last entry was 5 months ago. 
Note: [His thought process is that my request to be left alone doesn’t matter. His dick has magic juice. P.S. – I hate being called sweetheart when I’m calling him out on shitty behavior and we don’t know each other.]

Me: That should be a clear indication that nothing has changed. Sweetheart.

Him: Maybe a person got off FetLife because they lost their account information. Maybe the person wanting a break. Maybe a person was in a certain situation but things got better but just never updated.
[Translation: Maybe I have a magic dick and if you get some of my magic dick juice, you’ll be cured. I will then claim that on my profile – and in this copied and pasted paragraph for the next victim. Whatever is going on, though, I’m not listening, I’m not listening, I’m not listening, I’m not listening, I’m not listening, I’m not listening…]

Me: Maybe we’re done talking now.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
Crickets after that.
* * * * * * * * * * * *

I accepted a friend request from a friend of a friend on Facebook. It seemed like we had the same political leanings (something I ALWAYS check for now) and he might possibly know my mom and stepdad – he knows one of their friends, at least. I don’t accept a lot of strangers. So he messaged me immediately.

Him: I couldn’t resist your beautiful eyes! And I am working on my hesitancy with beautiful red headed women. Frightens me some….love to look, but never touch.

[Jesus H. So he puts redheads up on a pedestal of weirdness. I wasn’t even going to bother telling him that I’m bald. None of his fucking business. I’m pretty sure he had already printed off a picture of me at work and was taking my picture into the bathroom with him to wank off.]

Me: I appreciate that you want to appreciate certain features, but you should do that on FetLife. Once you fetishize a person, you miss the red flags and seeing them as a whole person.

Him: That’s your first conclusion of me based on one comment? Kind of discriminatory!

[WTF. He immediately opened up with his fetish.]

Me: You don’t understand discrimination. You approached me. Redheads aren’t different beasts.

Him: I did not say you or they are…I only indicated my opinion.

Me:  Look, you obviously have a fetish. It’s okay. Own it. This whole thing about being injured because I recognize it is weird. Go out and explore all of your kink.

Him:  I do. It’s the enjoyment of discovering all kinds of people and their diversity.

Me: Fine. But I’m not on FB for fetish.

Him: Fantastic, me either and I will happily delete contact with you, while at the same time reinforcing my fear of redheads.

Me: Haha! Baby.

[So, he hit me up regarding his fetish, then claimed he didn’t have a fetish, then told me that our only purpose of contact was for his fetish and redheads are back up on the pedestal. Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker.]

Ushering Out 2018

2018 was a year of personal growth or a very painful year, depending on how I choose to look at it. Really, truly, it was tough. Probably one of the most difficult in all of my years.

It began with me finishing up emptying up my savings account while I waited for my disability hearing, which took me 3 years to get to. Thank goodness it went in my favor. I never would have imagined that I would get to the point where I would be too sick to work. Now my days are consumed by doctor appointments and adding to my list of chronic illnesses.

I moved back to Arizona from Minnesota after trying unsuccessfully to get a complete care team in Minnesota. A major part of the problem was the Mayo banning me in writing, stating I was “too sick to diagnose or treat.” After that, every other area office declined me as a patient, saying that if the Mayo couldn’t handle me, then surely they couldn’t either. I talk about this as much as I can to whomever will listen. I think it’s important to understand. The Mayo is driving a certain model, which is that the insurance companies reimburse according to how successful a doctor or facility is. The Mayo wants to retain their success statistics in turning away me and other patients like me (I’m not the first, and have heard of other – female especially – patients) who have less than simple cases. Now insurance companies are reimbursing regular doctors and hospitals according to their statistics, all because the Mayo was the pilot program.

While in Minnesota, I was able to be home for some big events and to reconnect with my nephews, and for that I’m grateful. I also got to be home for the birth of my niece. I really did get teary-eyed when I got to hold her and all of her hair! She was born with a full noggin of brown hair, definitely from her mama’s side. Now that I’m back in Arizona, I’ll have to pay the big money for plane fares if I have to fly back in a hurry.

The especially painful part was letting go of some friendships that I had had for long periods of time. 

One was with my high school and road tripping buddy, whom I had known since age 16. We had a lot of shared experiences. She always dropped off the face of the earth, for years, it seemed. This last round was four years. She only felt comfortable telling me now. What can anyone say to that?I got a message from her stating that she cut me off because 20 years ago I had promised to bring her food when she was sick with a cold, but I went to Las Vegas with my (first) boyfriend instead. She used to smoke a lot of weed, and when she did, she fought with everyone. She also would only allow me to page her (no cell phones back then), and wouldn’t answer her pager. She has a really warped memory of perfection. But anyway, she and I got sick at exactly the same time 8 years ago. I had wanted to be with her to support her, but I was in really bad shape. I had about 8 months in the whole 8 years where I wasn’t super sick, and I did manage to visit Minnesota in that time, but she didn’t like that I suggested that she visit while I was visiting other family members while I was flying into her city. So according to her, I’m a horrible friend. 20 years ago I didn’t bring her food, and then in that small window of time when I could travel without assistance, I didn’t make enough alone time for her. So long, senorita.

A woman I became friends with through work whom I traveled with to Europe about a decade ago has always had some challenges in personal relationships. My tolerance for bullshit has consistently been pretty low, so I never let her get away with much. (She always likes to tell a story about how she made a cop apologize for pulling her over for speeding.) The beginning of the end was when she had a particularly nasty bout of pneumonia when I was visiting Phoenix last year. I was supposed to stay with her for a few days, but she contacted me a month prior and said she was sick, and specifically said, “Do not call me or text me. I’m sick. I’ll still be sick when you get here.” So I responded and said, “Okay, I’ll make other arrangements. I hope that you’ll be feeling better sooner rather than later and you are being taken care of by a good team of docs.” That was supposed to be it. However, I did hit her up during my visit and offered to wear a mask and visit for a few hours. She flipped the fuck out. She asked why I wasn’t staying with her anymore. I told her she specifically told me not to, and because it’s likely she’s still contagious (because the bacteria are still in her body), I can’t stay with her because I don’t have an immune system. She told me I was a horrible person and she didn’t want to see me at all. Also, I was a terrible friend. She rearranged her schedule for my visit (which I knew wasn’t true because she was at work the whole time, she never leaves work). I told her I could meet her for a few hours in public and wear a mask, but I couldn’t stay at her apartment because she was still contagious. She told me she didn’t want to see me at all.

Then, a few months later, she hit me up and acted like nothing happened. I still have zero tolerance for bullshit. I reminded her she told me that I was a terrible friend and a horrible person. She said she didn’t remember doing that at all, and it doesn’t sound like something she would do. I told her that just because she doesn’t remember it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen (one of her favorite ways to play manipulation). Then I told her to get her shit together and go to counseling.

And wouldn’t you fucking know it – out of all of the airports, and flights, in the entire U.S., she showed up on the one that I was on when I moved from St. Paul to Phoenix in June of this year??? I just about shit my pants. And then I had to pretend I didn’t see her because otherwise she would have come over to me and chatted me up.

Also in Minnesota, my former prom date ran for a Minnesota office, and won. But before that, I received a message from him that his mom died. I felt bad for him, but I couldn’t bring myself to call him back. Mainly it was because the last conversation we had centered around him lecturing me about how my deceased father would be disappointed in me dating men of other races. As if I give a shit. My prom date also ran on a ticket claiming that he was all about “family values,” but he refuses to marry his girlfriend, and they have a daughter together. I also happen to know that he sleeps out in the garage; they don’t even share a bed. Last but not least, he thinks I’m a drag on the system. So fuck him. We’re not friends anymore. I’ve known him since I was 11, but if time is the only common factor, I’m okay with letting this one go.

One of the most hardest hits for me was another friend from my high school years. We fundamentally disagree on guns, how they should be regulated and who should have access. Facebook can be a harsh stage. This friend called me stupid, and then announced he was “taking out the trash” when he unfriended me. I won’t ever change how I feel about guns, and I suppose he won’t either. I’m just grateful we got some unforgettable (at least to me) events in before that. Most of my former classmates don’t know why I was crying at our reunion I planned while I was up on stage. I felt like I was able to give back to so many of the people that supported me when I became sick, because a lot of them were there. This friend was one of them. I’m okay with closing this one with a good party. I don’t think I’ll be able to travel back for more, and even if I could, I don’t think I’ll want to. It’s just too fucking sad.

Last but not least: Well, I don’t know if I can adequately describe this one. Communication? That’s definitely a problem. Assumptions? Those got in the way too. Denial? It’s not just a fucking river in Egypt.

2019 is going to be my first full year of living on my disability income. I am hoping to not have any major upheavals and therefore less expenses than what I shelled out in 2018, except maybe a root canal or two (I can tell #30 and #31 are going to give me hell already). It is a strange existence. One of my biggest challenges is to remind people that I’m not just lounging around, or waiting to go have fun. I also don’t have loads of disposable income. I think the last time I had this salary was 1995. By the way, my mention of my income is not an invitation to tell me all about working from home; I actually used to work from home before I was awarded disability.

No-No List for 2019                                                      Yes List for 2019
Skydiving                                                                       Ferris Wheel
Swing Dancing                                                              Singing
Driving                                                                           Arts Festivals
Arena Concerts                                                            Music in the Park
Golf                                                                                 Board Games

Sugar and Spice and…NO.

Today was dedicated to running around and getting prescriptions and a flu shot. Nothing special about today except the weather was grey and rainy, which is not at all normal for Arizona.

And oh god, a message that started with, “I’m sending you this message because…”

I didn’t read it while I was out in public. It was from someone I used to be close to, who dropped off the face of the earth for the thousandth time. She sent it through Facebook messenger, so I’m not sure if she previously deleted my email addresses.

The gist of her message was, “I don’t expect a reply. I cut off contact with you because 20 years ago you didn’t bring me food when I was sick and you went to Las Vegas with your boyfriend instead and you didn’t call me. And one time when you were visiting you didn’t call me, I had to call you, and you said you were getting really busy, and I could drive up to St. Cloud to meet up with you or go out to eat with you and your sister and brother-in-law and it offended me.”

So let me explain a few things. When we lived in New Mexico at the same time 20 years ago, she had a pager she would never respond to. That was how I was allowed to contact her. Also when we lived in New Mexico, she was a heavy pot smoker, and whenever she smokes weed, she starts fights. All of her other acquaintances would ask me what was wrong, and I told them to keep her away from the weed if they didn’t want to fight. They finally made the connection. And for the last few months that I was there, I couldn’t get ahold of her at all even after driving to her last known location because she cut off all communication. This is a repeating pattern.

Whatever visit she’s referring to where she had to reach out to me, again, I have never been allowed to call her. She doesn’t believe in talking on the phone. Keep in mind that texting has not been a thing for the entire last 27 years that she and I have known each other. She didn’t like to talk on the phone because it made her nervous; the reasons why changed over the years. Email was not always practical because, again, it was not always portable. So there were times our relationship was limited to mailing letters back and forth. When I used to travel, sometimes I would only be back for 3 or 4 days, and I would have to see multiple households because my parents were divorced and remarried, plus my siblings were grown and married. I was fucking trying to make everyone happy. Plus, hey – I was flying into their state. The last time I flew into the area (not as a resident), I DID see her, stayed at her place and saw her boyfriend perform with his band.

I’m not going to keep score on who didn’t fly out to see me. She had her own shit to deal with. But to be told I’m not worthy of friendship because of these things makes it pretty easy for me to close this chapter.

Let’s Play Family Feud

This week has been really tough.

First, I had to run to the pharmacy to get some meds. I belong to a reduced rate program for disabled people and it’s contracted with a cab company; I just have to let them know I’m in the program when I call. I did that. The phone rep didn’t want to take down my address or the address where I was going. I found out when I got in the cab that the rep also didn’t specify that I was on the program, because the cabbie was expecting cash. He was pissed. He called into the home office and kicked me out of the cab, telling me to call for a different one. I had already waited 45 minutes for him (but I didn’t tell him that). My anxiety went through the roof. 

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But then he called me back and said the home office fixed it, and he would take me – but he wasn’t happy. I ended up giving him some extra cash on top of my fare, which he appreciated, but I had to fight back tears when all of this went down. I did everything right, yet I was punished for the fuck up. 

Two days ago, I had to go to an appointment because of my tunneling infection disease. If any of you have hidradenitis suppurativa, or you feel brave and have a strong stomach and you want to see videos, have at it. There is a guy here in Phoenix who has posted some pretty gnarly videos of his hiney. Mine DOES NOT look like that (yet), but I do have lots of scar tissue and tunneling. The crazy thing about this disease is that if you drain or squeeze any infection out, it actually forces the tunnels back further, like what a gopher does if you try to chop into its tunnels. The infections are incredibly painful because of the acidity of the bacteria. It’s also not the oil glands that clog up, but the sweat glands. My active areas happen to be the places where I sit. Most women have trouble under their arms. Bless you, ladies, for having it anywhere. It’s three times more common in women than it is in men.

Anyway, I had to get one spot tended to (I have over 50 active spots right now) because it was getting so painful that I couldn’t sleep. The doctor was trying to inject me with steroids and Lidocaine, not realizing that Lidocaine doesn’t work on me. So…I don’t get numb. Not one little bit. Before anyone came in to work on me, I had another panic attack and more than a few tears, feeling overwhelmed by everything happening at once.

At some point when I was sleeping last week, I hyper-extended my left knee outwards. When I got out of bed, I could barely put weight on it, and I noticed bruising around the knee cap. My quadriceps above the knee cap also swelled up. At first I put on a couple of knee braces, but then my left hip started hurting from the misalignment as well, so I gave up and went to my pain doctor. The doc and his nurse practitioner were reading up on my conditions and asked me to do the laying down/sitting up trick to move around my CSF. I got a referral for physical therapy for someone who specifically knows how to treat patients with hypermobility, but I had to put it on hold, because my short bus transportation has been a problem. 

In August, I received a notice from the company running the accessible transportation in the Phoenix area that I would only be eligible if the temperature was 90 degrees or greater. I sent in a 3-page letter and some highlighted medical records. I was scheduled for a hearing to try to overturn that decision on Tuesday. I received a call today from an extremely cheerful woman (think Sesame Street) who told me that they decided to approve me unconditionally, no hearing needed. I thanked her and told her that it had caused me a lot of stress. I wanted to swear at her but didn’t want my privileges revoked.

So now, tonight. There was a meme going around of Trump and Kanye making out, because let’s face it, that’s what they do. A cousin who is all the way up Trump’s ass decided to comment on my sister’s post and say that he was disappointed in her post, that he loved our dad who passed away young, that I (Chelsea) had unfriended him (the cousin) for his viewpoints and that he still loved us. Well, I’ve got some screen shots – not all – so you can read them. But the conversation that led to me unfriending him in the first place was him telling me that he was tired of paying for me. Basically, he believes I should die rather than get healthcare. This is someone who has been to rehab and probably needs to go again. But he’s telling me to get off my lazy ass; I must be lazy because I’ve had 10 failed brain surgeries.

Andrew1
Andrew2
There was a little more that I typed before I blocked him, but I ended it with this:

Because he really should eat a bag of dicks. He wasn’t around for any of my surgeries, or for the 7 years it took me to figure out what I had with very little help with any of the 60 doctors I saw up to that point. I guess he even threatened me for crossing him, but I jumped off that conversation before seeing it, but other people did. What a great guy, huh?

Secrets and Lies

Every Sunday at 12:00 am EST, a group of postcards are published on Postsecret.com. This was something that was started a long time ago by a man named Frank who originally set up an answering machine that people could call into and leave their anonymous secrets. It graduated to an anonymous postcard opportunity that people could send in to his address, and he would publish a handful every week.

Then he started making collections of books. Devotees would make their own postcards and instead of mailing them in, they would go to bookstores and slip them inside books waiting on shelves with their rightful owners. Or the postcards would make their way inside library books, not necessarily by the last person to check them out, so one could never assume there was a clear path of those secrets.

Frank started doing live shows where people could submit their secrets to be read aloud. Now there’s a theater performance where the postcards are being acted out like little short plays. For a while, a Post Secret display was up at the Smithsonian, and a display of selected submitted postcards was set up in San Diego to visitors to admire.

I’ve been a faithful reader of Post Secret for years now. I also have a few books. But I rarely send in postcards, and I have never left cards in library books or items being sold in a book store. The past few months have been really tumultuous and I really felt the need to spill my guts – because some things were getting lost in the shuffle of current events.

My heart skipped a beat because recently, as I was scrolling down the published postcards, there was one of mine. I actually mailed off three cards at the same time. This one made the cut. My handwriting, my cut-out pictures, my outrage and fear and exhaustion. I kept looking at it. I wondered if anyone I knew was looking at it and recognized my handwriting. I also wondered if it even mattered, because I’m always outspoken, and after a while, people just tend to tune me out anyway.

But then it happened again: another one of my secrets was published. However, it’s not my type, it’s not my picture, and it’s not the entire message. Frank only used the first line and went and found a stock photo and pasted some text onto it. I was edited. 

This is what it’s like to be a woman, every single day. I honestly didn’t know that he was editing others’ post cards that were being sent in before posting them. I have no idea how often he does it. But I can tell you there is nothing I said that was illegal or immoral. He has published secrets that talk about suicide, murder, abuse, theft, and just about anything else under the sun. I can assure you that mine included none of those. Yet, he decided that I needed to be censored. 

This entire past week as we have sat through Kavanaugh and Ford being questioned, those of us women and men who acknowledge the trauma have endured either long term or short term understand this concept of being censored, and of having our experiences being minimized. When we do reveal our secrets, whether it’s in front of the entire world or it’s with something as small as a postcard, we are automatically accused of lying. In the meantime, our testimonies are changed and twisted to something unrecognizable. 

The biggest lie is that “two families are being torn apart” by these proceedings. Focusing only on Kavanaugh and Ford for a moment, Kavanaugh is only going to be disappointed if he doesn’t make it on the Supreme Court. He has had a lot of insulation from the Republican party telling him he’s a good guy, no matter what he has done and what he does now. Ms. Ford, on the other hand, has had death threats. She’s been called a liar when she can’t remember the finest of details, even though she remembers far more than Kavanaugh. In order to stay alive she’s had to go into hiding. Kavanaugh hasn’t. That isn’t equal treatment by far.

What hurts me the most is hearing from other women that Ms. Ford (and the other women) must be lying because this is the first time they are hearing about this. I know for a fact one of my family members was abused and we never talked about it, even to this day. I have had friends and co-workers tell me about their abuse from their family members. I have had friends either try or succeed in raping other friends. I have had my own experiences with sexual violence, as have countless women I am close to. During a recent discussion with another woman, we acknowledged that the official statistic is supposed to be one in six women experience sexual violence, but we don’t actually know someone who hasn’t had something happen – whether they want to admit it or not.

But we don’t sit around and talk about it. We certainly don’t call 911 the minute our sick uncles pull their dicks from our 4-year-old mouths, or when we’re struggling to figure out if we gave a friend mixed signals and if the cop is going to believe us if we call it in, even when we’re in full panic attack and the shaking never stops. (I’m saying “our” and “we” because these experiences belong to all of us.) Sometimes I don’t hear other women’s experiences until decades have passed. I can’t talk or write about all of mine.

What can we do now?
– Believe victims
– Stop shaming victims
– Stop treating men who manipulate and violate others sexually and violently as if they are the victims – they are not
– Vote for public officials who support women’s rights and human rights in November, not a patriarchy.

It’s a small list, but it will make all the difference.

The Great Debate

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.

Fuck that.

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?

Suffering For Art

 


Yesterday I posted this article on my Facebook page, indicating there are certain entertainers I won’t support even on Netflix/Hulu/Amazon because they still receive royalties. I won’t even check out their movies from the library.

I was subjected to “Annie Hall” my freshman year in college. Woody Allen is a whiny fuckhead criminal, and I don’t understand why people, especially women, keep clamoring to work with him. Who does he remind me of? The abusive guy who doesn’t live downstairs anymore. I have paid attention to the trailers of Woody’s subsequent films, and quite frankly, they have nothing to offer beyond what we have already seen. Who keeps saying he’s a genius? Other men who want to bang underage girls.

One of my friends agonized over the fact that “great artists” might be shitty people. And by “shitty people,” he means that they probably rape and molest women and/or girls and/or boys. But, by god, look at their art! What would we miss out on if they didn’t do all of those things to other people! So the conclusion that this friend came to is that we should still support and admire the art – works by Salinger, Brando, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Mailer, Eliot, the list goes on.

My answer is no. I’ve never seen any of The Godfather movies. I’ve never lingered on a Pollack painting. Never read Salinger. When I find out that someone is a douchebag, I drop them like a hot mess. I will never again laugh or relate to a Cosby joke. He drugged women to fuck them, and then, you know, blamed them or tried to gaslight them.

Another friend who jumped in on the conversation jokingly said that he would support the art if he could pirate the material rather than outright buy it. But he would still miss the art too much if he had to give it up because he loved it too much; he was a huge John Lennon fan, and that outweighed any bad behavior.

What is especially disturbing is that the second friend wrote up a little speech during the first wave of #MeToo posts, saying he became aware of how unsafe women feel after a female friend asked, “But is it safe for me to go there by myself?” He expected and received a lot of accolades. But he and the other guy were pissed at me for this post about not supporting assholes and criminals. I mean, they both apologized for offending me, but only after speeches about why I shouldn’t be mad. Don’t be mad, brah. We’re just flawed and we don’t want to stop bad behavior if it results in good art.

We all attended the arts high school together. I’m always surprised and then disappointed when I think that we’ve all evolved at the same rate, because we had this really great experience, and I’m proven wrong. I’m a harpy now. Why can’t I be all cool about loving the art and understand that men will be men and suffer and need salvation – but know until then, they are going to beat and rape women and children?

I’m just wondering when I stopped deserving to be safe. Is it because I’m an artist and I should expect violence from other artists for the sake of art? Is it because I’m disabled and I should be thankful for whatever comes my way? Where is the motherfucking disconnect?

I’d much rather throw my money and my spirit at artists who aren’t shitty people. For instance, I like Sara Bareillas. I’m pretty sure we’re not going to be reading any shockers about her. I also like X Ambassadors. Have you heard about their partnership with No Barriers for the Renegade Scholarship Fund? “The organization helps people embark on a quest to contribute their absolute best to the world. From middle and high school students, to adults with disabilities including wounded veterans, the organization serves people of all backgrounds and abilities united by a common desire to live purposefully despite the barriers in our way.” And since I live across the street from the art gallery my sister manages, there is an endless stream of local visual artists I get to talk to and take pictures of their goods to post online for social media.

There are so many opportunities to support positive artists, both living and dead, that I don’t feel the need to give my attention or money to those who destroy others. I don’t accept the status quo. I don’t go along with the idea that I should like them or their art just because they are “classic” or “geniuses.” Now that we have the internet, we have access to so much more material. Besides, last time I checked, The Doors aren’t putting out any new songs.

V-Day

I ran into my next-door neighbor yesterday as I was coming back from the pharmacy up the street and she was heading out to her car. We usually only exchange a “hey” and weak smiles. Instead, I said, “Did you hear the downstairs couple screaming for eight and a half hours Saturday???”

She said, “Oh, I guess he has PTSD, so that’s why he’s violent.”

I said, “That’s NO excuse. None.”

She walked away from me quickly and snidely said over her shoulder, “Well, stuff happens in relationships.” 

Yeah, it does. I can tell you all about the relationship downstairs. There’s a lot of crying. The guy rages and screams and says that he CAN’T EXPRESS HIMSELF LIKE SHE CAN and SHE’S GOT IT EASY and EVERYONE LETS HER TALK BUT NO ONE LETS HIM TALK and I can’t hear her response clearly because he’s raging and screaming and telling her to shut the fuck up. Sometimes he tells her she’s stupid for touching his stuff. Sometimes he tells her she’s stupid for cleaning a certain way and that no one else cleans that way in the entire world. THE ENTIRE WORLD DOES IT BETTER THAN SHE DOES. If she would just LISTEN TO HIM THEN THINGS WOULD BE BETTER, but NO, SHE’S GOT TO BE FUCKING SELFISH, and WHY DOES SHE MAKE IT SO HARD ON HIM? She’s so self-centered!

This went on for eight and a half hours Saturday night. The only break was when they had visitors at around 7 pm to sing one of them – I think the husband – happy birthday. Just a half hour beforehand there was sobbing, so someone had to get cleaned up before the friends came over. Then when the visitors left, there was a huge, audible sigh, and the fighting resumed. 

Is this what my next-door neighbor really believes is the norm? Is this really what is healthy in her eyes?

It doesn’t feel good to me. It makes my skin crawl. Specifically, it affects me because I have been in it before. The worst was Drummer #2, the guy who would write me hate letters in dry erase marker on the kitchen tile counter overnight and cover the entire counter and I would wake up to chaos. Our fights would last hours and days, and the scripts were the same: he couldn’t talk about his feelings (while screaming at me), if I would only do things his way then he wouldn’t get pissed off at me (but the rules were always changing), and by the way, why was I so selfish?

But I didn’t learn my lesson with him. The most recent live-in boyfriend that I had turned violent after we moved in together. He became very unhappy after realizing that I wouldn’t be able to wait on him hand and foot because I’d be recovering from one of my many surgeries, and it really pissed him off that I made twice as much money as him. He shoved me three weeks after one of my surgeries. I broke up with him five months after we moved in together, but I still kick myself for even letting it go that long.

Eve Ensler, the creator of “The Vagina Monologues,” came up with a brilliant movement: V-Day. On Valentine’s Day, it’s important to remember that it’s not always roses and chocolates – sometimes it’s booze and bruises, or worse.

http://www.vday.org/homepage.html

And of course a block down the road from us in St. Paul is the oldest women’s shelter in the U.S.

But even though we have these wonderful resources, and we have the women’s march in D.C. and around the globe, and we can say “pussy” and “vagina” without raising an eyebrow, there is still such a huge disconnect.

Why is my neighbor so flip about “stuff” happening in relationships? Is she just so fucking grateful that it’s all about pleasing the guy? And is her assumption that I’ve never been in a relationship so I don’t have a clue? Oh, honey, let me direct you to my blog…

But I feel like it is such a never-ending battle, for me, and for all women, to be considered equal and to not be slut shamed or used as punching bags, and to make sure we are not buying into some patriarchal and misogynistic vomit.

The Ballad of the Broken Neighbors

“FUCK. FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK! SHUT UP! JUST SHUT UP! FUCK YOU!”

It first came on Sunday night, a man’s voice, from the direction of my windows to my right. I had my ear buds in and had been laying in bed, watching movies, as usual. My first thought was that a guy was watching a sporting event and was just generally being a dick and being really passionate about a goal that was scored.

But then I heard a much softer female tone answer. I could tell she was in tears but I couldn’t make out what she said. Then he again exploded: “FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! SHUT UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Then he punched something, hard, multiple times. It may have been the wall, or it may have been a piece of furniture, but I don’t think it was her. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. I got out of bed. This building is old, built somewhere around 1910, and the floors are the original wood. They creak with every step I take no matter how quiet I try to be.

I went to the kitchen, and it seemed to be slightly louder. I could hear them both. I have a very tiny apartment, only 360 square feet, and much of the wall space is covered with art, so it was really difficult for me to find any blank wall to put my ear to. By the time I did, they had stopped. I hovered for a while but everything stayed quiet. I slowly walked back to bed, wondering if they were truly done.

At around 12:30 a.m., there was another outburst. “FUCK! FUCK YOU! STOP IT! JUST STOP IT! JUST SHUT UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP! FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!” More crying from her, and words, but I still couldn’t hear what she was saying. I got up and they stopped. I got into bed again and wondered when they moved in, because I hadn’t heard anything like it before from that space below me.

At around 9:00 the next morning, the yelling started again. I got out of bed and laid down on my floor so I could put my ear to the floor boards. I could hear them walking around, I could hear the air moving between their bodies and their ceiling/my floor, I could even hear them making holes somewhere close to me – maybe to hang electronics, or pictures? I felt like I was in a movie, where the cinematographer shows how close one character is to the other, and all that is separating them is one flimsy piece of board. I wondered if they could hear me breathing. I tried to hold my breath.

I heard him say, “Why do you always fucking do this?!” and I know that she answered because I heard her voice, but it was still too quiet and tearful to make out the words. Then it was silent except for their bodies moving, and the periodic pounding into the plaster. After about 15 minutes I got up from my place on the floor because it was becoming far too painful to maintain, and I started getting ready for my caseworker to visit. As soon as I did, the yelling started again.

When my caseworker arrived at around 1:30 p.m., I warned her that the couple in the apartment below mine had been fighting, and she would likely hear it. About three minutes later, we heard the guy again, just as loudly as all of his other rants. He never seemed to tire. I imagined that the woman was exhausted.

His rage continued for a total of 15 hours on Monday. He hit something again too. I still don’t think it was her, but it set me on edge. The last screaming rant was around 12:30 a.m. again; I had my ear buds in watching my final movie of the night trying to get tired enough to sleep and his screaming penetrated the ear buds.

For the next two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, he had screaming fits again, but not for the 15 hours that he did on Monday. On Wednesday I typed up a text to forward to the property manager but at the last second deleted it. Then an hour later, a notice was slipped under my door saying that we were getting completely new apartment managers (our 7th and 8th in a year and a half), and to be patient during the transition. That’s why my instincts wouldn’t allow me to text the now-fired old manager!

Today at lunch I took a chance and stopped by the office, which is located directly across from the new tenants’ apartment. I pulled the door shut, introduced myself, and told the new managers that I heard abusive behavior from the male tenant of the two. The new managers said that maybe the guy was just watching a game or playing XBox. I said that was bullshit, and that the woman had been crying. Then one of the managers said that yes, she had seen the woman crying. Then they said they didn’t see any marks on the woman’s face. I told them that didn’t mean anything, and by the way, women don’t cry over scores that men get while playing XBox. They said that I could always call the cops if I needed to. I am fine with that – and I will, do not doubt that – but here’s my problem: I have to actually do things to get ready to get to the front door to let the cops in that people who are able-bodied don’t think twice about. We have a secured front door without an intercom. Plus I am the only apartment within close proximity of the asshole, they don’t touch walls with anyone else (even though my next door neighbor heard him shout once), so when I report him, he’s going to come after me.

The new managers assured me they would talk to the new tenants. I went back to my apartment and laid down, and then someone started banging on my door and buzzing the ancient doorbell. I had to say “Just a minute!” more than a few times to get them to stop. After putting my wig back on, I opened the door to discover one of the managers there; she apologized and said she should have called instead of knocked, but then said that the woman said the man was playing with his XBox. I told the manager that that was absolute bullshit. The manager said that if I felt like the new neighbor was disturbing the peace, I was certainly welcome to call the cops, but she had to accept what the woman told her. I asked her if the woman came up with the XBox explanation on her own, or if the manager gave her that option as a possible “out,” and she couldn’t tell me.

So at this point, it’s me against the neighbors. Why do women stay? They just want the abuse to stop. They want their men to value them and to see how much they love them. They want their love to be enough to fix them. They don’t want to get their men in trouble. They need their men for financial support. I run the risk of both of them turning against me when I pick up the phone.

You had better believe I’m going to call it in.

To Put Into Words

Six days post-election here in the U.S., and it feels like every day is different.

The night of the election I stayed awake until about 11 pm until it was clear that Trump was going to win the electoral votes. I refused to watch TV; I couldn’t bear to listen to voices yelling in disbelief, but rather I listened to my own favorite music and instead refreshed Google and saw everything roll in real time.

On Wednesday morning I woke up with my alarm clock – or rather, I woke up with alarm, saying to myself, “Fuck, Trump is president.” I went through the motions of getting ready for an appointment; as luck would have it, my regularly scheduled counseling appointment just happened to be that morning. Above and beyond my normal anxiety and depression and PTSD, I cried for all of the kids that morning who my friend as a teacher said were scared in her classroom about being targeted by racism and ignorance because of their immigrant status and religious beliefs.

On Wednesday afternoon, I was shocked by a call I received out of the blue. Back in August I wrote a letter to the POTUS regarding the sluggish process of applying for disability and antiquated means of qualifying, when people like me are clearly disabled but can’t qualify because science hasn’t caught up to our diseases. This woman was a staff member of the Obama administration and she had the unfortunate task to call me the day after the shitty election to talk to me about my letter to make sure my immediate needs were being met. I assured her that my hospital bed finally came through (it should be here in a few hours this morning) after trying to get it since January. Then we talked about how my current governor chose to expand medical assistance (“Medicaid”) to everyone at or under a certain income level (which comes out to be around 120% of the poverty level, or $1313/month for a single person without children in my case). In two years when my governor’s term is up and he has indicated that he will not be seeking another term, our new governor has the option of continuing this, or only allowing people with children and/or only allowing people who are federally recognized as disabled (which I cannot get) to continue receiving medical assistance.

So to be clear, I could lose my last line of access to healthcare. I confirmed that with her because I just needed to say it. We both cried on the phone together.

She gave me her phone number and told me to call her in case I had any follow-up questions for her. I will call her this week to see if she has any connections at the NIH to see if I can get anyone to reconsider my case, but I think that’s all that I can ask of her.

There are so many things rolling around about Trump already. I’m not sure I can remember all of them and they change hourly, so please excuse my imperfect recall. First, there are rumors flying about his desire to only spend part of his time in the White House in D.C., and part of his time in his place in Manhattan. It can be argued that not all presidents lived at the White House 100% of the time, but that was probably before there was electricity and running water and the Secret Service and, you know, technology. It’s not like his Manhattan penthouse has a bunker in case he starts a nuclear war by being a complete asshole – and let’s get real, it’s not such a far-fetched expectation.

I’m not sure what to think about him actually making it to the swearing in ceremony. Is he truly going to trial for rape and false imprisonment of girls under the age of 18? Are those cases going to suddenly disappear just because some judge is going to feel sorry for a guy who has been elected, just like judges feel sorry for star athletes?

And Jesus H., why isn’t anyone bothered by how many times he has filed bankruptcy? When I worked for Bank of America, we had to pass strict financial checks, and I just worked in the tech area. We couldn’t be hired on if we had bad credit including bankruptcies or foreclosures or judgments. Also, during my years as an escrow assistant, I was especially skeeved out when I had to work with mortgage brokers who had no scruples about giving financial advice to customers when I knew that the brokers themselves were on their own fourth or fifth bankruptcy filing (they told me how they played the Ch. 13 system before the laws were made more strict).

After his first visit with Obama, he walked out telling everyone that he wasn’t going to reverse everything about the Affordable Care Act, specifically the bits about the pre-existing conditions. That means that he has already reversed one thing he promised the ignorant, writhing masses who were convinced that “Obamacare” was responsible for their rising premiums – not the greed of the insurance companies trying to make a profit off of our bodies at the widest margins possible.

So if Trump doesn’t get sworn in, does that mean we’re stuck with Pence? I’m screwed with him too, since I no longer have my uterus, and he thinks that’s all that I’m good for – bearing babies and overpopulating the earth. That’s all he’s concerned about. Read “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood for reference.

On Thursday I had my very first psych evaluation test, ordered by a neurologist I met on Monday. It took about six hours to go through everything and I was mentally exhausted. It’s one thing to explain to doctors that I lose my words when I’m speaking and writing (you can’t see it, but sometimes it takes me 7-8 tries to write words that used to come easily to me), so this test was supposed to help pinpoint my deficiencies. From what I could tell I had pretty good picture and spatial cognition, but when it came to actual word gymnastics, I had a really hard time. One really painful portion of the testing was coming up with words that began with a particular letter. I think we did four or five letters total, but I only remember two letters – “A” and “S”. With the letter “S” I came up with about 10-12 words in 60 seconds that had multiple syllables, and with the letter “A” I came up with about 5 words and they were 1 to 2 syllables at most. It felt like the bottom of my mind had dropped out. This is actually what happens now on a regular basis and is one of the reasons that before every phone call I make I get a fair amount of anxiety, even if it’s just to make an appointment.

So after I went through all of that (I won’t get results for at least a few weeks), I got my usual cab ride/medical transport. I’ve been taking pictures of the cabbies and asking them questions and posting everything on Instagram. I asked this particular driver what he thought about the election because he was an immigrant and had only been living here in the U.S. for five years. He said he supported Trump because “Obama hadn’t done everything he promised to since he was elected.” I was absolutely floored. This guy was everything Trump (and all of Trump’s supporters) hated. I feel like his safety is at risk and I don’t want him to find out the hard way. I feel like all of us are at risk.

All of us, that is, unless you are a white guy between the age of 18-70 and you’re telling everyone else that they have to adapt to Trump/Pence and that you’ll be “fine” having your rights and/or access to basics taken away from you. Because, you know, ‘Murica.