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?

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The Best Little Gift Guide

I used to pride myself on being able to find little things – and big things – that seemed like a perfect fit as gifts. I would look or listen for clues. Okay, maybe sometimes I wouldn’t get it quite right, but at least I would try. My shopping would take place over the course of the entire year and during festivals and trips, because you never know when you will stumble on something unique that screams “_____!” (Use your imagination.)

But times are different. It seems like the majority of the people I know are much more careful about how and where they spend their money because of various constraints or social awareness. I have to be careful too; I no longer have an income, so no extra money to spend during the holidays. This list that I’m going to lay out is for someone – like me – who has little or no income, who might not be able to buy much of anything anymore.

1. Time. This is a big one, and it’s free! I simply can’t get out and socialize like I used to, because my body has put a hard stop on that. Sometimes I don’t want to be by myself. I love it when people visit or call, but I don’t always initiate stuff like that because I don’t want to be a burden. There’s nothing worse than a whiny-ass friend constantly saying “Pay attention to me,” right?

2. Gift cards. Conventional manners/wisdom say that giving gift cards is tacky because then people will know how much you spent on them, yadda yadda yadda. Bullshit. I love gift cards. I especially love them when my entire monthly budget has gone to rent/utility/medications and I have nothing left over to buy groceries, and I have a lovely gift card to the rescue.

3. Wheels. Man, I miss driving. I miss those Saturday mornings when I would get up at 8 am and run around until 11 am and go to about 8 different places and get all of my shit done. Now I ride the short bus and I can only go one place, and it takes me 2-3 hours. And it’s a drag. And I never know who’s going to be with me and if it’s going to be a bat out of hell drive. I would love it if I could have a whole morning of driving around for errands, like dropping off my recycled clothing/rags, recycled toner cartridges, disposing of hazardous waste, petting animals at the humane society, recycling old medications, getting 5 favorites from Trader Joe’s and 6 favorites from Hy-Vee and 4 organics from Aldi. As a side note, disabled people like to recycle too. It’s just that we can’t easily get to these locations and facilities. Plus, me getting out to do these things instead of doing them for me means I get to get out. (As a side note, I have discovered that more than a few people have assumed that the short bus is free. It’s not. It’s actually more expensive than the regular bus. Each round trip for me is nearly $10. It’s really, really expensive when you have no money coming in at all.)

4. Independence. My oldest sister made up a list of modified items that would have made her life easier, like rounded chopping knives that were easier to grip. We were puzzled at the time; it didn’t seem like fun, especially for Christmas. She had debilitating MS and was bedridden because she had lost the use of her legs and some of the finer motor skills of her fingers and hands. Looking back, and living what I am now, I understand that ignoring her list and insisting that we only get her “fun” stuff was a huge mistake. It is not only fun but a huge relief to get everything you ask for and need. So if someone asks for a modified chopping knife, get them the chopping knife.

5. Entertainment. I’m a movie/TV snob. I don’t like most sitcoms because there’s a lot of yelling involved. I also don’t watch cartoons. I know what I like, and I’m a binge watcher! I’m a loyal customer of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Plus. Yes, all three. They have some overlap, but there are some things that don’t appear on all three, and Hulu allows me to watch network shows that aired the night before. If you love me or someone like me who is in bed a lot, give the gift of streaming entertainment. I guarantee you it will be used. (Side note: I’ve tried reading. I used to be a voracious reader. Because of brain damage and eye problems, I don’t read much right now. Zero memory and attention span. Squirrel!!)
20171114_135010-1

6. Amazon. This deserves its own category. I have used Amazon for vitamins, durable medical equipment (that was not covered by my insurance), ingredients to make my own deodorant/antiperspirant, and tons of OTC medication like Benadryl and Pepcid, which I take megadoses of. Of course, I use Amazon Prime too, so I get the movies, and it comes automatically with the music service too. Another great thing is that if you purchase through Smile.Amazon.com and designate a charity to receive 0.5% of your total spent, you can automatically make donations. I don’t have money to donate to any causes, so it still makes me feel as if I’m making a contribution, even if I can’t hand anyone cash. So you will never go wrong with an Amazon gift card.

7. Skin. Disabled people like luxury stuff too. Not everyone wants to smell like an Avon or Dove whorehouse or litter box. A little company called Villainess was just purchased by a new owner and sold out within a few days of its new stock because everyone was so excited to dive back into its soaps, lotions and scrubs. I’m telling you, their stuff is sooooooooo yummy. I just got 3 of their jars of lotions. I’m going to wait to open the jars until I feel really poor because it should be used within 2 months of opening (less preservatives = better for your body) and I want to stretch them out. So keep an eye on them, and put in an order and make someone feel extra special.

Another great place with amazing combinations is Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. I’ve had some bottles for 2-3 years because I have enough to rotate them around and not smell the same every day. You can buy samples (“Imps Ears“) instead of full bottles, but if you are sure you are going to like all of the flavors that they list, go ahead and buy a whole bottle. I have very rarely been disappointed. Buying scents for other people is a crap shoot, so be very cautious! I’m deathly allergic to lavender and patchouli. Anybody can be allergic to anything. If you aren’t sure, there are always gift certificates.

8. Pain control. I reviewed two different lotions in my blog, and I recommend them both: Mo’s Dream Cream and Invigorate. You can’t go wrong with either of them.

The Oska Pulse is a device that is a financial investment, to be sure, but it has a 30-day money back guarantee, and I use mine every day – because there isn’t a part on my body, somewhere, that isn’t hurting. Sometimes I end up using it six or seven times on that part. I’m just grateful to have it because I always end up feeling better. (It is important to note that it shouldn’t be used around any medical devices that are surgically implanted that could be affected by magnets, like shunts, stimulators or pacemakers. My shunt is strictly all silicone because I’m allergic to nickel.)

9. Massage. I go to a massage therapist once a month. There have been a couple of times where I have second-guessed myself and the wisdom of going, especially when I’ve had to shell out extra for medications and money is getting low, but when I’m on the table and getting worked on, I know I need it. First, it’s hard on my body to be in bed so much. Second, I rarely ever have any physical contact with anyone else. The massage is it.

10. Activism. I can’t do all of the work. Literally, I can’t do all of the work. The best gift you can give people that you don’t even know personally is to tell your elected officials that disabled people need housing, healthcare, transportation and good nutrition. I’m still waiting for housing that I was promised 8 months ago; it would mean that I would have things like grab bars, instead of constantly falling in the shower, and affordable rent, instead of paying full price on zero income (still no disability income after nearly 3 years of filing). Do not buy into this idea that everyone who is disabled should be punished.

Honorable Mention:
Check out The Unchargeables for a variety of chronic/invisible/rare diseases for gear – you can even look for items according to the disease! I checked my alphabetized list and they have a few of mine in there. Pretty impressive! And for each disease, there’s a bunch of items, so you’re not limited to just a t-shirt or bracelet.

Are You An Organ Donor?

I have friends who have received organs from living donors, from cadaver donors and from donors who have indicated that they wanted to donate their organs and tissues in the event that they suffered trauma that they could not recover from.

There just aren’t enough organs for the people that are listed. And organ rejection is a real concern. But scientists are looking to pigs to fill in the gaps on how we can avoid rejection:

New Hope in Organ Donation Crisis

Also, this story has been making headlines from the Mayo clinic, based here in Minnesota. It’s the first facial transplant that the Mayo has attempted. It was also surreal to realize as I was originally reading the article that I have a personal connection to one of the families. I was not much younger than Lilly when her mom and I met each other and became fast friends while attending a school for the arts. I can’t imagine going through all that she has – marriage, pregnancy, the sudden loss of her spouse, and then deciding to go ahead with this donation – at her age, but damn, she has done good. By the way, their baby boy is absolutely adorable, and absolutely adored.

Mayo Clinic Performs First Face Transplant

We have so far to go with science and healthcare. We don’t know all there is to know. We have to keep moving forward, and supporting lawmakers who approve budgets for science.

 

Dude, You’re Stepping On My Personal Space

I wrote this article for Patient Worthy on February 14th; since that day I got daily (sometimes twice daily) texts from this guy saying, “Good morning cutie” or “sweet dreams cutie.” The most recent ones – because he still won’t stop – say “Just got to my hotel” and “How are you?” For the life of me, I can’t figure out why he would bait me with the hotel remark because that one really came out of the blue. I haven’t traded texts with him since February 10th. Was the hotel text his clumsy attempt at a booty call? Or was it not intended for me, and instead should have gone to whomever was playing the part of his dirty little secret?

Dude, just…stop.

Boundary Waters and Dating Boundaries

You Spin Me Right ‘Round, Baby, Right ‘Round

Okay, I admit it: These words together make absolutely no sense to me. However, they keep popping up as a successful search phrase that someone is using to plug into a search engine and then be directed to my site:

“fragile handle with care name that porn”

No, it’s not two phrases – “fragile: handle with care” or “name that porn.” It’s all of those words mashed together. I suppose the fact that I am posting the phrase to call attention to it is also going to lead that party back here a third time, but seriously, weirdo, that’s messed up. A phrase that is normally used to ship expensive art work doesn’t normally immediately precede a phrase about porn. Porn isn’t fragile. I actually dislike a lot of porn that’s floating around because it always looks like the women are in pain. They do their best to hide their discomfort and disgust because they’re trying to make the big bucks, but at the first sign of acting, I lose my lady boner. Maybe it’s not the naming part you need to worry about, Anonymous.

I got another voice mail from Nashville. His voice sounded all hang dog, like “Gosh, I’m real sorry.” (Make sure you say that sentence in your mind with a twang, so all of the words are at least two syllables – “ree-yawl”). Oh, wait, that’s what he actually said. Then he followed that up with, “I know I didn’t call you (“yee-ooo”), I just got real busy with work and all (“aw-wall”).” Nashville ended the message saying he wanted to talk to me. Now I’m just flat out irritated that he is going back to his original lame excuse. Did he think I wouldn’t recognize it? Did he think I’d forget that I know he has a minimum of 3 days off each week, and which days those are? Now I know I can’t call him back, because I’m going to talk to him like he’s a flat out idiot, and he’s not going to like it. Oh yes, I’ve made grown men cry, usually because I don’t take their shit.
Lastly, I got a text on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning at about 12:30 a.m. from Hidden Creeper (https://thesickandthedating.com/2016/02/04/crouching-tiger-hidden-creeper/) saying, “Sweet dreams.” Wednesday night at about 9:30 pm I wrote back, “Thanks, you too.” He must have been waiting for my reply, because it took him two seconds to respond with, “Good night babe I want to see you :|”

Here’s the problem with technology: it’s a lot easier to analyze the shit out of everything that appears in front of your face in writing instead of having to improvise with someone in person. I had already established that he does not respect women’s boundaries since he couldn’t honor my repeated requests to not be addressed as “cutie.” Now he’s calling me “babe” as if we have actually exchanged bodily fluids, when in reality, I’ve never met him. Also, he’s making it sound like we had a couple of dates and he is now pining for me. Sorry, Hidden Creeper, your texts and phone calls are now going to be hidden from me permanently (unless I’m looking for entertainment, then I’ll peruse my spam files).

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Creeper

I’ve been on an opera kick this week. Puccini is my absolute favorite composer, so I’ve had that station going all week while I have read articles, organized my taxes, and for the first time have colored in my “adult coloring book.” I’m a little slow on trends sometimes.

I often don’t understand the meaning of the songs because who here speaks fluent Italian? Not I. But it certainly adds a little flavor to my tasks. Also, it’s the funniest thing to run across some slow-motion films of dogs wiping out in the sand or attempting and failing to catch treats or toys in their mouths – so dramatic when Maria Callas is wailing!

I was feeling very passionately that my OKCupid profile needed another revamp. Guys don’t care what I’m doing with my life or which books I’ve read or if I know all of the cool places to eat. They just want to know if I will go hunting and fishing with them (welcome to Minnesota) and if I can hook my ankles behind my ears. So I took all that crap out. This is what my profile says now:

MY SELF-SUMMARY
*******I’M ALLERGIC TO:********

– Hookups, FWB, DTF
– Threesomes, foursomes or moresomes
– All animals furred or feathered (even “hypoallergenic” animals), though I love them
– Misogynistic behavior
– Bad behavior and excuses
– Cheaters, liars, thieves
– Poor dental hygiene
– Conspiracy theorists
– Stalkers
– Contemporary country music, rap
– Republicans
– Being called “cutie”
– Organized religion or prayer

The most private thing I’m willing to admit

I don’t get out as much as I would like to because of some major health issues.

You should message me if

– You are a non-smoker (of all things) and don’t use chew/snuff (ever)
– We live in the same country; my preference is to connect with someone in the same metro area because I dislike long distance relationships.
– You know and use proper grammar, spelling and punctuation.
– You would like me to proofread your profile for grammar, spelling and punctuation errors.

Almost immediately after posting these bullet points, a guy hit me up and said I was hilarious, and unfortunately, he was a hardcore Catholic and a Republican – but he really appreciated my sense of humor. We ended up having a really good chat through the site. He talked about his daughters, and how one of them was living with him as well as a nearly 2-year-old grandson. We chatted about the intricacies of finding and keeping a job that could pay the bills without the need to add another job. We talked a little bit about my disease and how it affected my ability to be social.

In all, a respectful, flowing conversation happened. Then I got an unexpected but very welcome call from my close friend in Arizona, and told the guy that I couldn’t chat because of the phone call. He said that was fine and posted his number, and I replied back with mine. He asked if I would be interested in a date. I thought what the hell, if we get along, we both could include each other in our circle of friends.

My call with my friend was pretty lively. She told me about the difficulties she had with men she had dated (or really, had minimal contact with) who kept calling and texting, even though she wasn’t interested and told them so. She told me how one had briefly been a professional MMA fighter, and took it upon himself to put her in a choke hold and then forced her to the floor. Another was a guy who couldn’t seem to accept the fact that she had gotten into a relationship with someone else instead of him, and even agreed to a double date so my friend could introduce him to our other friend – until he realized that my friend was also bringing her boyfriend.

My advice was that she must use small words and tell them why she is cutting them off, and then cut them off. First, they are not respecting her boundaries, and she does not owe them anything. Second, she needs to get her mind out of the space where women are required to be people pleasers and make sure they don’t anger men. That anger rears its ugly head when men think they are simply entitled to women’s bodies. How dare we reject them?

After we ended our call, I texted the dude and apologized for taking longer than I had planned. He called me “cutie” with a smiley face, just to piss me off. The next thing he did was tell me how beautiful my eyes are. I thanked him and told him I appreciated his complement, but I put more value in values than I do appearance. We discussed options for activities where I wouldn’t be up and out for too long (hopefully longer than a high five).

And then Hidden Creeper came out.

I was trying to discuss meeting places with him, and he kept talking about my appearance and how “cute” I am and that he just couldn’t help it. Then he asked me if he could kiss me.

In my head I was saying, “Hold on there, buddy – where in the hell did this come from, Mr. I’m-a-Hardcore-Catholic?” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that him talking about kissing me is his code for testing me to see if he can go balls deep. It happens all of the time.

I told him that if we both felt attracted to the other person, then sure, we can have a smooch. But I also told him that I didn’t want to discuss it further, because it has been my experience that if all you do is talk about what you want to do with the other person once you have entered their personal space, and then you actually meet, it doesn’t end well. Sometimes there’s no attraction from one or both parties. but then they feel obligated to ______ because it was talked about. I told him that I wanted to make sure we’re not getting ahead of ourselves.

He replied with, “Ok sounds good” and then stopped texting me. So I still have no idea if this date is going to happen, but my guess is that it won’t.

I feel the change in personality happened as soon as we started communicating off of OKCupid and that is because he knows I could easily block him there and he would have no idea how find me. Luckily I can push his calls and texts to spam if I get some on my cell, but he doesn’t know that. I just feel sorry for his daughters. He revealed to me that his oldest daughter moved back in with him because she’s 24, has a 2-year-old, is kind of lost, and the baby’s daddy is an asshole who took off. I want to shake him and say, “He took off because you didn’t teach your daughter how to value herself, or she may never have let him in in the first place.”

Being able to look at everything and process it in a much healthier way than I have in the past is my present to myself. I’m not perfect, but I’m getting better. I wish everyone else luck, would like to remind you that it sometimes takes effort to get on the right track, and keep holding yourself and other people accountable.