Two birds no stones

Bitch, please.

Yesterday the man who taught me the most important thing I know about death passed away December 14, 2015

Yesterday, the man who taught me the most important thing I know about death passed away. He was 92. My sister and I called him “Uncle Frank” although technically he was our step-grandfather; the father of our stepmother. There is always the tale of the wicked stepmother or the stepparent’s relatives being unkind to children from a previous marriage but my sister and I were so fortunate to never experience that. Our stepmother has always been kind to us and so has her family but none more so than her parents, whom we called Uncle Frank and Abuela Ella. When my brother by my stepmother and father was born her parents moved up from Miami and into a newly built addition in my father’s house. Abuela Ella watched my brother while my stepmother and father worked and Uncle Frank, who was a retired landscaper and talented gardener took care of outside of the house. Ella and Frank had been married for 30+ years and were still very much in love. They were legal immigrants from Cuba who had embraced their life in America. They had 3 children together and were some of the kindest people I ever met. The sort of people that make you think the world has some redeeming qualities. Their lives revolved around each other, their children and grandchildren, among which they counted me and my sister. They really only had to be decent to us but they clearly loved us, counted us as family and never seemed to mind caring for us when we visited. My sister and I visited every Wednesday for dinner and spent every other weekend there for visitation so we got to know them well. Ella did all the cooking (delicious Cuban food) and Frank made sure I was included in the after dinner espresso because he knew I liked it. He snored terribly loudly while sleeping and I recall hearing him at night and thinking with my child logic that Ella must love him an awful lot to sleep next to that every night. She did and he loved her very, very much.

When I was 12 on a night my sister and I were not visiting, just after dinner, Abuela Ella suddenly collapsed and died. It was later determined she died of a heart attack and while she was no longer a young woman she wasn’t very old yet and her death was unexpected. All of the family was sad and her children were devastated. I was terrified at the idea that people could and someone I knew did just drop dead. I was old enough to understand the gravity and permanence of this but not yet mature enough to have confidence I could lose someone I loved and recover from it. My mother, who knew how good Abuela Ella had been to us, insisted we go to the viewing and funeral so that we could understand it was real. The viewing and service went smoothly, although there was much grief. Some of the worst to see was Frank’s grief. He faced continuing on in life without his love. We arrived at the cemetery and it came time to close Ella’s casket for the last time. Her rosary beads were laced in her hands and someone removed them. Frank bent down, kissed her forehead repeatedly and brushed the hair back as he whispered to her in Spanish. He was crying. He was saying goodbye and I realized he wasn’t afraid of her. He still loved her. As much as he ever did while she lived. That moment is when he taught me the most important thing I know about death: living creatures die but love never does. Death can kill a body but it cannot end the love. And because I believed in an afterlife I knew in that moment, she still loved him too. They would be separated now for a time but the love would remain. A love that guided and enriched their lives while they both lived would continue to do so in death. When you love someone nothing changes that. It cannot be corrupted even by the power of death. Seeing him kiss her forehead is still the sweetest thing I have ever seen. I grieve for his loss and the hole it will leave in the family. For those of us left here things will never be the same, except the love. People die but the love always remains. This is the lesson he taught me about both love and death. And I treasure it.

 

America….what the yo?? November 22, 2015

America….what the yo?? What has happened to you? What on earth are you thinking? All of this hate and fear and exclusion and blind aggression; it’s not you. You are simply not yourself. Usually idiotic politics makes me feisty or on fire to make a convert or even angry. But today I feel sad, and well, defeated. I can’t believe my eyes and it grieves me to my core. I am baffled that previously reasonable people seem to have turned to a mob mentality. And when the folly (not to mention unfairness) of this is pointed out they double down on their terrible opinions. When did we become an America that excludes? An America that discriminates based on religion? An America that manages to be whiny, greedy, ugly and stingy all at once. Why have we become so blind to our flaws and mistakes but worst of all, so very determined to do nothing about them? When did we become so selfish that we can’t stand to see those in desperate need receive the basics, even when it costs us little to nothing? When did we all decide that cold, empty excuses were enough to absolve us of responsibility to fellow human beings? Why are we doing this? What can we possibly hope to gain by doing it? This isn’t the America I know. This isn’t the America my father’s family knew when they came as refugees from Cuba. This isn’t the America I want to see. This isn’t my America and I refuse to accept it. I refuse to allow prejudice and hate and apathy keep me quiet any longer. No, I cannot fix the problem on my own. No, I do not have all the answers, I may not even have any. But I have my compassion. I have my humanity. I have the ability to use my voice and not let these ugly things pass as acceptable behavior. I may not be filled with the hate and prejudice I am seeing, but staying quiet when I do makes me guilty. I won’t change any minds by speaking up, I am pretty sure of that. But that isn’t the point. The point is, this nastiness is not acceptable any longer from Americans, therefore it is my responsibility not to accept it. We need to put up firm boundaries when people speak in such ways. Not to convert, but because it is the right and decent thing to do. Decency is something in very short supply lately, however, it is something we can all summon up to inject into any situation. This isn’t “my” fight anymore than it is yours. I am not a Muslim. I don’t support or sympathize with terrorists. I have never been to Paris. I don’t have the money or resources to sponsor an immigrant family. What I do have is a clear, firm voice with which to speak the truth. I have empathy and a welcoming spirit. I have things to offer…we all do. It is our responsibility to cultivate those things and offer them. It is yours and mine and everyone’s. It is no longer acceptable to see or hear such prejudice and say nothing. It is no longer acceptable to think, “it’s not my problem” or “*I* didn’t say it”. It is your problem. It’s my problem. It’s America’s problem and we can’t allow any longer. It erodes our humanity and it tarnishes our greatness as a people and as a nation.

So I urge you all: when you see or hear this hate speak up. Gently but firmly communicate that it is not acceptable. Push back against the tide of nastiness. Hold fast in a position of compassion and decency. Refuse to entertain this as a legitimate opinion on complex issues. Be human. Be strong. Be decent. Be compassionate. Be American.

 

The forgiveness of Jesus is just a red herring: and other points involving the Duggars. June 4, 2015

So. Evvvverybody has heard about the interview the Duggars gave recently. If you haven’t, go Google it. We’ll wait.

Good. Now that we are all up to date, I have a few points to make. I will say I did not watch the whole interview, just clips and read transcripts. Really, that is more than sufficient. A few things really stand out to me:

1) The dodging of mandated reporters while handling their family crisis.

2) That rape culture logic has it’s tentacles all over the place, even into the sheltered oasis of the Duggar home.

And..

3) That the forgiveness of Jesus is nothing more than a red herring pickled in the vinegar of hypocrisy.

Jim Bob and Michelle claim that they did the best they could at the time they learned of their son’s behavior, implying that they were somehow confused or distraught enough to perhaps have made regrettable decisions about how to handle the issue; but that it was all an honest sort of mistake. I would argue that their actions do not support this. In fact, something Jim Bob said even last night disproves it. Jim Bob and Michelle decided to handle the molestation of their daughters and a babysitter by their son, Josh, through channels that were carefully free of mandated reporters under the law. Josh was sent to a program with Christian “counselors” who were unlicensed and sent their victimized daughters to “counseling” with unlicensed church members; in both cases dodging involving mandated reporters who would have contacted the police. Mandated reporters which includes doctors, licensed therapists/counselors and teachers are required under the law to report any suspected abuse or neglect of children they come in contact with. If the Duggars had sent their children to licensed practitioners or Josh to a licensed program individuals there would have been required to report the abuse to child protective services. It is no accident that they actions they chose avoided this risk. Licensed child psychologists and counselors who are Christians and have a Christ-centered practice exist, but the Duggars chose not to go this route and were deliberately thoughtful about it. As Jim Bob said in the interview, “You know, what? As parents you’re not mandatory reporters. The law allows for parents to do what they think is best for their child.” Oh really? Which child, Jim Bob? Which child?

In last night’s interview a very ironic and unexpected thing reared it’s ugly head. Well, unexpected in a family so obsessed with sexual “purity”, to the point that even their engaged daughters had to side-hug their future husbands and be chaperoned on dates. That unexpected thing was an attitude known in modern, secular circles as rape-culture. One key element of rape-culture is minimizing sexual assault that has taken place. Jim Bob states in the interview that Josh’s “heart has gone had gone astray” and compared his molesting son to a lost sheep. Victimizing the offender is a common element of rape-culture. “He was drunk, he didn’t know what he was doing” or “she *did* come onto him, you know” are examples of this. Another particularly relevant instance of this is the Duggars insistence, repeatedly, that most of Josh’s victims were sleeping at the time and did not know they had been inappropriately touched. According to Jim Bob, “He said he was just curious about girls, and he had gone in and just basically touched them over their clothes while they were sleeping. They didn’t even know he had done it.” This is akin to the rape-culture arguments that if a person is sleeping or passed-out drunk and the rape is not violent, it is somehow less terrible. Further minimization of the seriousness of the crime came from Jim Bob when he said, “It’s not like this was rape or anything!” Excuse me while I reject that bullshit right out the back door. *Tosses out and slams door*

Next we come to the issue of the love and forgiveness of Jesus. Something the Duggars claim to be central to their lives. Undoubtedly, they believe that their son confessing to his offense, expressing remorse and apologizing to his victims is sufficient to earn the forgiveness of Jesus. And perhaps it is but it is not all that is needed to deal with the problem. The Duggars seem to believe that the forgiveness of Jesus is the gold standard for addressing the issue but I have to wonder if they would feel the same way if it was a stranger who victimized their daughters. If a strange man snuck into their home, molested their daughters while sleeping (assuming the daughters are unaware, for arguments sake) and then confessed to them and asked for the forgiveness of Jesus; would that be enough for them? Would they still choose not to involve the authorities? I doubt it very much. Which means, of course, that Jesus and his powers of forgiveness are just a red herring. If that would not be enough of making ammends/punishment for a stranger why is it sufficient for their son? Jim Bob said in the past when he was running for public office that offenders of rape or incest should be subject to the death penalty. Seriously? Remove the plank from your own eye and then we’ll talk. Right now everything the Duggars have to say is thoroughly pickled in their own brand of hypocrisy and has become markedly unpalatable.

 

On being brave…. May 15, 2014

This week I gathered all the bravery and fierceness in me to make a spectacular offer to someone I felt deserved it. This offer involves me going to Paris. I expect my offer will be politely declined. After all, life is not a fairy tale. And when it is I expect it will sting. Quite a bit actually. But I realized something extraordinary: I am finally healed enough in my heart and spirit to take risks again. I have back the fierceness and the fire that in the past drove my ambition. I can again see something I want and pursue it. In pursuing it I know the risks. I may not get what I am after. I may be humbled or hurt in the process but the important thing is, I am being authentic to myself.

So much pain and struggle in life comes from being inauthentic to one’s self. It comes from denying what we really want. It comes from the fear within us that blocks our ability to behave in a way that will give us peace about life. My offer will likely be declined so I will not get what I am after. However, I tried and in trying I can feel peace about any failure in the process. If I had not tried, if I had not pursued my desire I would always doubt. I would always wonder what might have happened if I had. I would feel like a coward. As it is now, I was brave. I was fierce. I was ME.

 

Paris is the farthest I have ever considered following my heart. It is the biggest gamble I have ever considered. I am not sure if this person is worth moving to Paris for but I am not afraid to try. Nor am I afraid of going and realizing I have made a mistake. I have doubts and fears but I do not plan my life around things that make me afraid. I plan my life in an effort to get the things that I want. The one fear in life that does drive my behavior is the fear of not trying when I should have and not pursuing the things I want. I don’t always get them and sometimes I get hurt in the process but I can’t hold back out of fear anymore than I can stop breathing or be someone I am not.

 

I have learned that ultimately nothing is broken forever. Given enough time and work all things may heal. Because of this, I worry less about mistakes. No matter what happens, no matter what I might lose, no matter how much I hurt; it can be healed. And as long as I am making choices that are authentic to myself I will have no regrets. No matter the outcome.

 

Winter and seasons of doubt February 12, 2014

Filed under: Things that make you think.,Uncategorized — mangobirdie @ 9:39 pm
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It is winter here in New Hampshire. Everything is frozen, ice coats the branches of trees, snow banks sparkle in the sun and another snow storm is on the way tomorrow. Winter is many things. It can be beautiful. It can be dangerous. There is no quiet on earth more pure than when the snow is falling. Heavy or light, windy or still, when the snow falls nature comes to a hush. Winter is a time for nature to rest. A time for animals to hibernate, trees to be still and the earth to be silent . Winter seems endless sometimes precisely because nothing is happening. Foliage is in a deep slumber and time can seem frozen as well. But Winter is necessary. Without Winter all things would be in a constant state of growth, which is not sustainable. So the world is cold and quiet until one day…it suddenly isn’t. From beneath the snow, even in the cold, pop tiny green and yellow buds of daffodils, the bright red of tightly closed tulips and the whimsical curls of fiddleheads. One day you look around and see that while all was white and cold to your eyes the earth was stirring, beginning to grow. Showing the glorious beauty of Spring. Spring is a celebration of growth, light, color and the end of a forced quiet.

 

People have seasons too, just like nature. Winter will come to us all where it is cold, silent and peaceful. We tend to squirm under the enforced rest in our lives; the pressure to grow and do and BE is so great. It is easy to forget that while all looks still to us under the ice and frost there is renewal, rest and eventually new growth underneath. We doubt that. We doubt that we will ever be in a season but a personal winter. Why? Does nature doubt the cycle of seasons? Do we doubt that an environmental winter has an end? Of course not. We know that eventually it does. When we find ourselves in a personal winter we must fight to stay quiet. To be still. But we should not doubt the eventual end. Every season has a purpose. Even winter.

 

So do not doubt when your life is still, when a relationship is quiet, when activity comes to a halt. Just like we prune much loved plants, so we are naturally pruned by the Winter of life. A pruned plant will grow larger and stronger than an unpruned plant. And just because we see nothing on the surface there is change waiting just underneath. What it will be we cannot see until it peeks through, much like the variety of fauna that grow from snowbanks. Sometimes it will be just what we expected. Sometimes it will be the unexpected. But the joy of something new and tender blooming through the still, still cold of a personal Winter should not escape us. Nature knows what it is doing when it goes into a seasonal slumber. So you are exactly where and when you need to be when a personal Winter comes upon us. Where you are in your life is because you are who you are. Every journey you have taken, every path you have chosen, every Winter you have slumbered through was meant to be. Some things cannot be fought but that does not mean they must be simply endured. A deep breath, and then settle into your resting season; for beyond it lies change and growth. Beyond it lies who you are meant to be. Who you will eventually be after the Winter ends. But for now there is the sparkle of ice coated branches, the glitter of undisturbed snow and the peace of lightly falling snow.

 

roads winter landscapes 1680x1050 wallpaper_www.wallpaperhi.com_57

 

Insufferable conceit, conservatives and universal health care (you might get your feelers hurt!) October 1, 2013

This. This story I am about to tell you right here is why we need universal health care in America. And also why we need to stop spewing meaningless phrases around like “personal responsibility” as if building a ridiculous word-salad is the key to solving the problem.

I have been looking for a good job with benefits, a living wage and insurance for nearly 3 years. In the meantime, I have worked other places because not working is not an option. I finally, FINALLY got a job offer from a large, respected hospital to work as a receptionist in one of their clinics. Good hours, good pay, health insurance, vacation time, etc. I was beyond excited. It should not have been so difficult for someone with a college degree and good work history having worked for the state and a large multi-national law firm to find such a job but it is what it is. In August I went camping and while doing so injured my knee. I saw a doctor at urgent care about a week later and they x-rayed the knee. Told me it wasn’t broken. Yeah, thanks. I was told I should probably see an orthopedic but I did not because I did not have insurance and could not pay for it. The knee improved. It no longer hurts all the time. It really only hurts when going up or down stairs. But not so much I can’t do it. I live in the second floor apartment and do it all the time. Fast forward to my pre-employment visit today. I had to take a mandatory drug test, give proof of immunizations, have a TB test…all those fun things. I had 12 pages of paperwork to fill out ahead of time. There was one section that asked if you have any problems with your legs, knees, feet or ankles. I wrote down briefly about my knee injury and the pain with stairs. I didn’t think it was relevant but the paperwork stressed in several places that if you were found to have deliberately left things out, you could be later fired. Of course, I don’t want that.

Imagine my surprise when I was told that I would need to see a doctor and provide them with a note saying I was okay to work, what the injury to my knee was diagnosed as and if I have any work restrictions. WHAT? I’m going to be sitting for work! It doesn’t take a pain-free knee to sit, answer the phone and be pleasant and helpful. Worse than that, I was told it would likely affect my start date.  They only do orientation every 2 weeks. So if I missed Oct 14th I would be pushed back to a November start date. I’m not even totally making rent now! So I think, I’m going to make this happen NOW. I call my primary care right away. Oct. 11th is the best they can do for me for an appointment. I go to a public health clinic that is done on a sliding scale basis, because I am uninsured. It is impossible to get a quick appointment there. So I decide I should contact the Urgent Care center I went to and see if I can get the documentation I need.  I call there, I get cut off and told to speak with the record department. The record department tells me they can’t help me, I need to talk to urgent care. *headdesk* I quickly realize that trying to go either of those routes is going to take more time than I have. I come up with another plan: I will go to urgent care in a different city and get an “okay for work” note. DONE. I go into an urgent care facility. They now have a policy that if you are uninsured you must pay a $150 deposit to be seen. GAAAAH! I don’t even have $150 to give anyone. I am told there that I can go to the ER and be seen without any payment same day.

Yes, the Emergency Room. Where I know the wait will be longer. The end cost will be more and I will take the time and resources of health professionals away for my ridiculous knee, as people with heart attacks or other serious illnesses/injuries. But if I do not go and try to get the documentation I need right away I run the risk of losing this job offer or at least delaying the start of position AND the availability of my health insurance through that position. Not to mention the issue of not making rent on time. I feel trapped. I had worked and fought for too long to let this delay stop me. So I went to the ER.

At the ER I waited for 2 hours before being seen. Around me were people far more sick or hurt than I was and yet, there I was with pretty much no choice, despite my best efforts. The physician’s assistant had no trouble giving me a note that said I could go back to work with no restrictions. The knee hurts on stairs but it has full range of motion, I’m no longer limping on it and was never unable to walk on it. So I get the note…but it doesn’t say what my diagnosis is. I tell the nurse I NEED this information, as per instructions. She consults with the PA again and says that due to HIPPA privacy laws they legally cannot put in a note to an employer or potential employer what the diagnosis is. They can only give a return to work/time off work instruction and any relevant work restrictions.  Did you get that? It is literally impossible for me to get what I was told I need. I was told that if they need a “diagnosis” I should show them my discharge paperwork.

This Ladies and Gentleman, is why we need universal health care. Because it effects EVERY part of your life. Because the issue is not as simple as, just get a job with insurance. Because you can do everything you are supposed to, do everything the right way, get lucky with a good job offer and have it snatched away from you over something as stupid as a fucking sprained knee. A knee that you don’t even need in perfect condition to do the job they want to hire you for. If I had insurance, I would have seen an orthopedic as the first urgent care doctor recommended in August. I would have complied with whatever treatment I was told to do. It actually might not even hurt at this point. Certainly, it would have been easier to get the note I wanted. Call them up and ask them to write it. But I couldn’t. Because I had no insurance. Instead, I went to urgent care for initial treatment and while the knee improved it did not get completely better. Then because I am honest and planned to use my insurance (which I get after 30 days employment) to see an orthopedic if necessary I filled out the pre-employment paperwork with the details of my injury. I, in every single way, was TAKING RESPONSIBILITY for myself, for my injury for my health care for my needs in this country. So you see this argument about “personal responsibility” being something that “those people” need to learn or telling people like me “if you want health care, get a job!” is in every way possible a  big, fat crock of SHIT. Doing things the “right” way, guarantees nothing. It doesn’t mean you necessarily get a good job, or health insurance. And if you manage through a combination of your own efforts and serendipitous timing, to get these things it only takes one small thing to threaten to derail it all. I didn’t want to sit in the ER tonight for 3 hours to get a note for work that may or may not be deemed good enough to salvage my start date. I didn’t want to run up yet another medical bill I can’t pay. I didn’t want to take resources away from very sick or very injured people to deal with my problem. But I had to. And I had to so I could earn for myself the things that conservatives believe that liberals like me want “just handed to them.” I don’t want anything handed to me. I am willing to earn and fight tooth and nail for what I have. The fight for these things, the earning of these things is not as simple as you believe. Navigating life as a responsible employed person with insurance and a decent income is not simple. It is not a straight line. I have debated this in the past. I have tried to explain compassion to selfish, greedy, judgmental people in reference to this topic. I’m done. From now on, after this, if I hear that shit I’m going to do what I should have done from the start: I’m going to call them selfish, greedy, hateful assholes and tell them to shut the fuck up. Because if you have your decent job and your health care and your kids taken care of and your retirement invested and all your T’s crossed and your I’s dotted and are going to try to tell me you did that shit all on your own you would deserve being called exactly what you are.

 

9-11 and the Currents of Life: This is how I choose to remember September 11, 2013

For those who do not know I was living and going to school in New York City on 9-11. I continued to live there for another 5 years. Living through this event profoundly changed me. In the middle of the shock and the death and the fear I had to decide if I wanted to stay in the city I felt was my home and my future or leave and go somewhere safer. Now we know that the events of 9-11 were the end, not the beginning of acts of terror in NYC. But we did not know that then. I was afraid but I chose to stay. I loved my college, I loved my city and I would not be driven out. In the years since I have struggled with this choice since I feel it set me on a path to a struggle with major depression and anxiety. It has been difficult to make peace with this decision but I have. I made a decision authentic to myself. I’m not a quitter. I am not easily scared off from anything that is meaningful to me. If I had chosen to leave, I would not have been making a decision authentic to myself.

 

In the last few years the anniversary of this event has been hard for me. Living in New Hampshire I was struck by the realization that no one else here feels like I do. They did not live it. For people here, it is history. Unfortunate, sad, troubling history but history none the less. For me it is the largest, most traumatic life event in my adulthood thus far. It was the moment I became a real adult, making difficult decisions for myself and then living with the consequences. I had to make a plan to handle the anniversary in a way that was healthy for me. No more sitting in my apartment watching 9-11 themed shows and footage and crying. No more reading endless articles online. And this year, no more reading Facebook statuses where people recount where they were on September 11, 2001. For those who posted a status similar to this, I say that you should be free to post what you like and I hope it is a healing action for you. But for me, reading them is not. I want to remember those who were lost, I want to acknowledge the importance of the event in my young adulthood but I am done reliving the grief. I am done inviting in the fear. Many people say, “Never Forget!” in reference to the events that day. I don’t think I ever could. But I need a way to remember that is healthy and healing for me.

 

This morning I spent some time in quiet prayer for those lost but most of all for their families. I sent prayers and good wishes out to those, like me, for whom the anniversary is difficult. The day was very hot here in New Hampshire. In the early evening I left my apartment and went down to a river near my home. The river sometimes runs high and fast with rain water or snow melt but even when the water level is lower it has a distinct current. It runs only one way. Most people are aware that sometimes the natural current in Life can bring things to us that we never wanted. 9-11 is one of those events. But I realized that the natural current of Life can also take things from us, if we know enough to let them go. I walked to the edge of the river with six small pieces of paper in my pocket. On each was written a word. I took them out and separated three. The words on those pieces were, “Fear”, “Sorrow” and “Loss.” I let them go and let the current take them. After a moment of watching them flutter away I looked down at the three small pieces of paper remaining. The words on them read, “Strength”, “Survivor” and “Love.” The events of September 11, 2001 brought me all six of those things. All these years later I have learned which ones to let go and which to keep. I slipped “Strength”, “Survivor” and “Love” back in my pocket and walked away.