Twenty Eight Days Later Under 45

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The Curse, The Russians & Trump

The Universe, in its infinite indifference or irony — I’m not sure which — decided that I should be visited by my Curse of Eve on the eve of the inauguration of Donald J Trump. It’s true. I got my “woman punishment” as Trump took office. Like a Grand Marnier hangover: it’s perfect.

I used to wonder about zombie apocalypse timelines, like in the Danny Boyle film 28 Days Later, or how long Rick was in a coma on The Walking Dead.  I always cottoned to Max Brooks’ zombie apocalypse scenario in World War Z. The Z’s started in an isolated area, far off, spreading slowly by travellers or refugees, shipping and black market organs. For months it would be whispers and rumors, a few distorted reports, then isolated disturbances, then in the nearest city with an airport, the commuter train stop, the local hospital, and then they are breaking down your door.

I imagined an emergent global threat would takes months, even years to fully take hold. But, no, Danny Boyle was right. It took twenty-eight days.

Because here I am, once again, suffering my biology, and the world has spun out of control. Or, rather, was spun out of control. We are at a crisis. (*I can’t even keep this post updated with the news tonight.) The Republicans have paused on their much anticipated march towards eliminating health care for millions and making sure that women are less important than what their uteruses can do. Because we’ve gotten to a tipping point. McCain demands answers. Spicey and KelleyAnne can’t get their stories straight.They’re in the garden, grab your bat.

Michael Flynn was forced to resign. Just think about that. If Flynn, who has been with Trump since early in his campaign, was dealing dirty with the Russians (under the Logan Act) and lying about it to the Vice President and the FBI, who else was?

Seventeen US security agencies said our election was influenced by Russia and Russian intelligence. There’s the dossier, by Christopher Steele, mainly famous for the pee, under review by intelligence regarding Russian links to the Trump organization and the Russian ability to blackmail Trump. There was Paul Manafort and Carter Page. And now Flynn. (*Whoops, looked at my phone, now Stone. *Now “Trump aides in constant contact with senior Russian officials during campaign ” per CNN . *And now that headline is under scrutiny. *This will be outdated by posting, sorry.)

So what did Trump do? He kept the head of the FBI, Comey, whose midnight email may have cost Hillary the election, while the agency he heads investigates Russian influence of the election.  Trump jangled a bunch of shiny objects in front of our faces to distract us. He fired Sally Yates, former acting Attorney General, not over opposition to the Muslim ban, but because she spoke up about Flynn. Every Executive Order, their timing, the tweet storms, all to keep us from the dawning revelation of  the most horrifying possibility ever. The United States’ President and his Administration were put in office by the Russians.

Makes The Manchurian Candidate seem quaint.

As Trump tows the Russian line against China, our European allies, and Japan; he pushes our neighbors, friends and allies (including our Middle Eastern ones) away from us. All while Russia is seizing land in Ukraine, flying their war planes over Turkey, and supporting Assad. They seek to conquer the West by dividing and destabilizing it. We are alone. And who does Trump et al insist is the only man who can save us? Why Trump, of course.

So, here we are. Twenty-eight days later. Asking the Watergate question: What did the President know, and when did he know it? Our nation teeters on the edge of a Constitutional crisis — even Civil violence –Russians in the White House, some very unhappy Chinese with nukes, some Iranians with nukes, North Korea with nukes. And our nuclear codes in Trump’s hands.(*There is a Russian ship off the East Coast now.) My boyfriend and I talk about if only we can get two seasons in on our farm before things get too bad. We are grateful for our own water source, and a wood stove. I’m learning about medicinal herbs and local flora. We’re getting chickens, and thinking about what best to grow for trade. We have a good spot for a variety of hot peppers. But I’m thinking something you can distill would be more valuable.

I’m wondering if I’ve gone mad, except my friends and family express the same in skittish Messenger chats. “Buy powdered milk in bulk!” “Get your RXs filled on time, and save the extras!”

I used to care that a pair of shoes I  wanted on Amazon dropped in price. I used to play games. I wrote mysteries and historical fiction and screenplays and journaled about movies and my favorite parts of Tolkien. I used to binge Netflix. I read Roman history for pleasure. I enjoyed the outdoors and fishing, camping and making fires to cook over. I liked using my machete, Killary, on the brush on our land. I enjoyed gardening. Now, I look at Amazon for seed prices. Suddenly basic Roman fortifications seem like valuable knowledge. I have no idea what’s on Netflix. The Walking Dead is my one cheer-up show. I have Pinterest boards about how much food we need to plant and of what, and even the flowers all need a purpose. I mark trees for selective felling.  And all my girl scout stuff is now marked “survival skills.” Everything has changed, twenty-eight days later.

Please, my friends, Americans, everyone, do what you can to bring down Trump, and retain our Constitution. I don’t care how you voted or why. Bombs don’t discriminate. Love your country and resist Trump. The monsters are at the door. And we’ve all got a lot to lose.

I’m going to rename my monthly friend. It’s no longer The Curse. It’s now The Hope. As in: hoping for another twenty-eight days. I don’t know how many more like these I can take, or are even left.

This is JL, twenty-eight days later, signing off.

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How to Make an American

 

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So many backgrounds! Just an American!

 

What makes an American? What’s the recipe? Well, unless you are purely Native American, the recipe includes immigrants and refugees. Whether they came of their own accord, or were forced here in chains or shipping containers, your family came to the Americas from somewhere else. So I thought I’d share the recipe of me.

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This is me according to my DNA.

So this is where I’m from according to a blood test through ancestry.com . But the story is much better than this map. And this map doesn’t even include all my ancestors, my mother’s looks different!

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Mom’s DNA map.

And my sister’s shows much more Eastern Mediterranean! So, that’s the science. Here is the story.

So, who came first?

We’re not sure! There were adoptions on my Great-Grandmother’s side. But they were Presbyterians and had red hair. So let’s say, Scotch-Irish. Along with the Welsh, the Scotch-Irish immigrants came pretty early on, usually as indentured servants or victims of the terrible resettlement policies of England from Scotland to Northern Ireland. The Scotch-Irish were some of the first pioneers in the “Westward Expansion” … to the Appalachians and beyond! My Great-Grandma Miller came from Kentucky, honey!

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Willie Mae Miller, nee, Smith. Born 1900, died 1991

 

Here she is with her (short!) red hair. And proper, ankle-revealing suffragette dress! She was the absolute best. Fiery till the last. And a great fisherman. (But she cheated at cards.)

She married the other contender for longest in the United States, Christian Erisman Miller. Here they are:

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Christ (krihst) and Bill.

Well, the Millers have been in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania since the War for Independence. Story is, he was a German mercenary fighting for the British. After the war, he settled in the already German-speaking county with it’s large population of Mennonites who fled religious persecution in the German states. He married one of those Mennonites, and now there is Millersville University (on their donated land)!

The amazing thing is why the Mennonites were here in the first place! Pennsylvania’s founder, William Penn, was a religious dissenter in England. He did time in The Tower of London for writing Quaker pamphlets with charming titles such as, “No Cross, No Crown.” He famously declared religious freedom in his colony, stating in his Charter, “We cannot make windows into men’s souls.” Which is why the first Jews in the Americas lived in Philadelphia, and why it’s home to the oldest Catholic Church in English-speaking North America. So, when the Mennonites fled Germany, PA was the only colony they could settle in. 

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Mary E.Childs, nee Sirbak, nee Miller, 1929 – present

Here is their daughter, my maternal-grandmother. I hate to say it, but Grandmom is HOT! She helped her parents during WWII and after, but she soon caught the eye of a dashing fella, and a Catholic! *gasp!*

The Magyars!

 

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Joseph P. Sirbak, 1926-1981

My maternal-grandfather was the son of Hungarian immigrants, who fled Europe when the Austro-Hungarian Empire landed on the losing side of WWI. And, apparently, people from Hungary identify as Magyars, a horse-archer people from the Steppes who took that land in the early middle ages. It was Latin writers who called them Huns!

Even the women served during WWII in this family!

But obviously we’re concerned with Mary Miller and Joe Sirbak. Because they made my Mom.

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Mom. Eating a sandwich while striking management and a pose!

Yeppers, so that’s how you make this lady. This woman who left her hometown in Lancaster to move to Philadelphia, to work as a social worker in the blighted area of Front and York Street. She was also shop steward for her union at her welfare office. Yes, I get my bleeding liberal heart from her and that whole nutty family!

So that’s the maternal side of my family. Let’s go back to the tumult of WWI, and the Italians and Greeks who fled here, and check out my Dad’s side. 

James N. Lakis and Nicholas Lakis (formerly Triantafilakis, 1896-1973, born Khios Greece, died Cape May, New Jersey)

Here is my Dad with his, my Grandpop Lakis, “down the shore” of course! “Interesting” is barely enough to describe my paternal-grandfather’s story. He was born on the island of Khios, just off the coast of modern Turkey. He spent his days collecting olives and lemons. But he also collected salt from a rock that was exposed at low-tide. Story has it that he had to fight an octopus once on that rock with his knife. He killed it, and his family had it for dinner!

But he also grew up under the rule of the Ottoman Turks. As a young man of 16 or so, a Turkish soldier raped a local girl, and my Grandpop killed that soldier. He had to be disguised as a girl by monks, and secreted off the island on a merchant ship. Well, that ship was torpedoed. So he was picked up by an American ship, which was torpedoed. Whereupon, another American ship picked him up and docked in New York. He decided to stay.

He helped paint the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia, but he gambled and was owed money by a sometime concrete contractor and bootlegger named Frank Gigliotti. Frank was a recent Italian immigrant. But his wife, Asunta Camarotta, had returned to Italy. She took all their children, but Frank made her leave their daughter Anna, my Grandmom, as proof that she’d return. My Grandmom Lakis never saw her mother or siblings again. Apparently, her father hid the letters her mother wrote to her. And he exchanged her to fix a gambling debt, while Grandpop Lakis got his Green Card and became a citizen. Grandmom had that kindness that is strong from much perseverance and personal pain.

But even though their marriage was arranged, they were prolific. And  Grandpop Lakis eventually owned his own diner — of course — first in Philadelphia, and then in Wildwood, New Jersey.

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The Lakis/Gigliotti clan. Back, left to right: Anna Lakis (aunt), Mike Lakis, Nicholas Lakis, Anna Lakis (grandmother), Frank Gigliotti, James Lakis. Bottom, left to right: Mary (Mimi) Lakis, Marcella Lakis, Frank Lakis

Enter my Father. He’s that cool guy with the jelly-roll hair and zoot suit above in the upper right. While my Dad’s older brother Mike joined the Navy in WWII, my Dad ended up drafted into the Korean War.

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James N. Lakis, 101st Airborne, Screaming Eagle, discharged Sergeant First Class, awarded Bronze Star (1931 – 1998, Philadelphia, PA)

Well, not much left but for this handsome man to go to college on the GI Bill, become a successful freelance artist, and meet that blonde, bleeding heart liberal gal on a blind date at Dirty Frank’s Bar in Philly!

 

And the rest is my story!

 

It was a weird and messy road to me. Mercenaries and persecuted religions. Central Asian horse-archers in Easten Europe, who lost WWI and ended up as refugees. Killing octopi and Turkish soldiers! Escape. Backroom gambling. Bootlegging. A real-life, immigrant tear-jerker worthy of Puccini. Criminal dealing for Green Cards. Hey, it’s all good. It’s All-American, like me.

What’s your “American Story”? What recipe of immigrants and survivors makes you 100% American?

Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of things I like and hate! 😊

While you’re there: check out my (Polish, German, English, Irish, Welsh) BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

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My Best Ally

My last blog was about hate, this one is about love. And I’m well-endowed on the love front as well. I want you all to meet my best friend and the best ally ever, Stan. We share our life, our home, and our values. (And, boy, is it ever great to have a Marine combat engineer on your side!) Having support at home in resisting Trump is a gift. Especially in the one you love.

OK, so, yes there are some incredibly practical aspects to having someone like Stan when you live in a house that’s 130 years old with land. I know he’ll also keep me safe, and always be there for me, but it’s his goodness and humor that truly shines through to me.

Here’s a guy who served his country during wartime, and has never viewed himself as “political,” but suddenly he’s become the Bruce Lee of social justice. As he says, “I’m white and male and a Marine. I’m going to let my freak flag fly!” And he has.

Since the election, he has been exercising his status for good. He got laughs and applause at a local convenience store when he said to the old white woman screaming “Go back to your own country!” at an young hispanic lady, “Well, you must be the whitest Native American ever.”  Because, seriously, people standing in line the Friday before Christmas, waiting to pay for gas and cigarettes really just want to get out without being screamed at or hearing a crazy person screaming! So score one for team decency.

On Inauguration Day, which I can hardly believe is only last Friday — seems like a million years! — he stopped by the grocery store that sells beer (that’s a big deal in PA), and he noticed an older black woman actually sitting on the curb in the parking lot, in the rain, crying. So he stopped and sat with her for a bit, and let her talk out her fears and sadness. Even though they both acknowledged the weirdness of a white dude giving this woman, who despaired of a lifetime of struggle with both black and women’s rights, some human comfort.

Firstly, I cannot believe that we have come to this point as a nation — here in the US — where people are openly weeping in public over their fears of the election of that alternative-fact, Alt-Right, Russian supported, greedy, pussy-grabbing, Manchurian Candidate Trump. But I am heartened by the millions who marched in the Women’s Marches and Sister Marches ALL OVER THE WORLD, and the zillion anti-Trump and commiseration groups on Facebook, right there with that woman on the curb, and myself. Never have so many suffered so much for so few. And it’s good to know there are some who should, in theory, be on the other side, out there performing random acts of decency.

We all need to know we have each others’ back! No matter what. Whether in the marches, in the groups, or simply in a grown up Boy Scout who happens by. He even challenged a guy talking about “fat chicks” in the marches just yesterday. In a way it’s odd, but it’s really about Allies and support. And it makes all the sense in the world. There are plenty of white males out there who hate Trump, and I’m glad they are using their privilege to help oppose him. It’s a lonely world, and we all need to be each other’s support. Intersectionality is Unity is Power.

So, I’ll keep ‘splaining the issues, and keeping my voice strong, practicing my action lists,  but I’m beyond grateful to have my best ally right here with me. I know a lot of women don’t have that in their other, and I acknowledge that I’m fortunate. He gives me hope and strength and laughter. And that matters as much on the personal level of daily interactions with real people as all the Facebook groups ever.  Everyone should have a Stan. Who is yours?

Thanks Stan. You’re a mensch. (And you’re my mensch!) 💖

 

Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of things I like and hate! 😊

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#currentmood #inauguration #fuck

And on that day of Friday, January 20th, 2017, Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. Fruitless the search of my soul for rays of hope. Pitiless the news. Unrelenting the trolls. And all of my friends were busy lying on their carpet face down in utter resignation. So, I scoured the internet for a ray of light. Surely somewhere there was hope.

In Middle Earth, the mood was grim.

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Gandalf had been lost in Moria since the before the election, so Pippin told him.

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Now he can’t even get off this rock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bilbo finally broke open the Old Winyard laid down by his father.

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Arwen stopped trying to use her millennia of Elven wisdom in internet exchanges and now simply  intones profanity

 

 

 

 

 

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Aragorn just beheaded Kellyanne Conway.

 

In the Zombie Apocalypse, the Walking Dead group shared their reactions to the Trumpocalypse as well.

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Rick has been watching a lot of Olbermann.

 

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Carol prepares for the legions of the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief. “Look at the flowers boys!”

 

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Zombie Shane is still pissed about Bernie.

 

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And Orange, Morgan!

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Yes, Daryl. But it just pisses people off more!

 

Folks in the future also reflected on the barbarism of 21st Century humanity before First Contact.

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Yes, Bones, it is.

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We presume this is performance as social commentary from Kirk.

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Riker is overwhelmed.

 

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Spock breaks down in shame over his human heritage.

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Worf goes with the classic facepalm.

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Captain Picard is working up to speech just riddled with Shakespeare.

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Data leaves the Enterprise to join Lore in destroying humanity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But that’s not all!

Folks from all time periods, both real and imagined, are weighing in on the hopelessly flawed American Electoral System and on how genuinely fucked we all truly are.

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Heisenberg for one has his murder face on.

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Sherlock is not pleased.

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Scarlett O’Hara has taken to binge-eating in a corset.

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This Canadian trailer trash is gobsmacked.

 

 

 

 

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Definitely not Samwise the Brave on GoTs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there’s all these people…

And:

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This lady from TV.

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This guy from the internet.

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And this scream we all have bottled in our souls.

 

So, I looked, with childlike eyes, to the man and leader I have loved and trusted to safeguard our lives and liberties for so long:

President Barack Obamaobama-fuck-it

We’re doomed.

 

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A Pause in the Dark

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The long dark.

I know too many shattered people right now. After the initial anger of the Election passed into frantic holidays, the hangover of a New Year, and now through the long dark of winter, there don’t seem many reasons left to get out of bed. Unless the compulsion of work or family drives forced actions performed without joy. Helplessness, fear and exhaustion reign as the emotions of the moment. Locked inside from the cold and weather, the natural cycles of day and night cease. Just a gruesome slog through the dark.

And this is OK. These are precisely the emotions you should be feeling right now. Our feelings do have purpose.That is why we have them. And while we’ve been raised to deny our hearts’ cries for attention, don’t. Feel it. Feel all of it. Just let it wash over you, and then stop.

I don’t mean stop feeling how you feel. I mean PAUSE. The world will last without you for a moment. So pause. Don’t think. Don’t reflect. Don’t judge. Just be still enough for whatever amount of time you can gift to yourself. Shut out everything else.Your mind, heart, soul and body ARE EXHAUSTED. Aren’t they? So pause. Develop a sudden and terrible illness. Text the world your grandmother is on fire. Make your status “Dropped phone in toilet.” Then do it for real. You cut people breaks, time to carve one out for yourself by whatever means necessary.

If you can achieve “pause” for five minutes or five days: take it. You absolutely, without doubt or question or self-recrimination need to. Right now. And this is why: across the yawning abyss you see before you now, there is life. Your single, precious life. And all of the signal and unique lives of those you love and who truly love you. Everything you still love and hate and fear are there as well. But you can’t face any of it until you can cross that chasm in your heart.

You have lost something. Your guide, your bearings, your sense of the world, your comfort, your joy and righteous anger, your laughter, your silliness, your sense of your own strength and voice. You’ll find them again. But you’ll never be the same. You’ll be stronger, sharper, and bear with you forever the hard and unblinking brightness that you have earned. Your secret, sacred  fire will blaze forth from your eyes and heart, your words and deeds will kindle the fire of fellow travellers through the long dark; warm the comfortless, and sear your foes with its wroth.

But, just now, pause. Let the darkness wash over you. It will pass. The days grow longer by seconds that become hours. And on one of those days, you may stay in your clothes longer than your pj’s. Maybe not on the first day. Don’t force it to happen. It just will. You know it will. Just allow yourself this time to process all that has passed. Only then will you be able to face what is come. Pause.

If any women are interested in this post or my previous, please consider joining a new Facebook Group: Women’s Community for Psychological Strength and Support. This is a closed group, so please contact me via Messenger to be added. 

Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of things I like and hate! 😊

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The Best Words

Words

Words.Words.Words.

Trump must have the best ones — held hostage under Trump Tower —  because I sure don’t got ‘ em. Not lately, anyway. I’ve had angry words. Frustrated words. Major depressive words. Anxious and frightened words. But where are my clear-sighted words? My poetic words? My witty words? The words that come from whatever that place is that I call “me”?

Since the election, words have baffled me. My words are my Voice. They are my way of communicating my experience to the outside world. I feel my anxiety rising and my heart beating faster simply thinking of using my words and my voice. This is who I am, dammit! I’m a writer. I process my experience through writing. So where is my voice? Where are my words?

And it is Him. The Deplorable One. Trump. This Election has been and still is the reliving of a trauma. It really began with the “grab them by the pussy” comment. How could any woman accept this sort of speech, when not a day passes that we can truly feel “secure in our own bodies,” as Michelle Obama described it? For every woman who has ever been ogled, groped, silenced or passed over, victims of unwanted advances, abuse and trauma, that comment shredded old wounds open. Of course, the true horror is that some women argued vehemently in defence of the remark, and even embraced it!

Are they suffering some form of Stockholm Syndrome? A legion of Patty Hearsts?

And now that IT happened, it’s worse. Women scold me daily for my assertiveness, for my apparently blasphemous notion that “women’s rights are human rights” as Hillary Clinton said, or because she said it. But there is another side as well. And that is I’ve rediscovered the value and comfort of speaking and sharing with other women. It’s a sisterhood that I once had, but lost. I lost it to an abusive husband. To someone who reminded me with every action and word that I had no value, and my words and wants were less than worthless: they were laughable. Someone who cut me off from any companionship that might comfort or lift me up. A relationship in which I had no control, no voice.

Staring down a Trump Presidency seems to me like my abuser, my torturer, has become President of everything. I’m right back in those worst moments. And it has shut me down. But realizing that other women felt the same has been a revelation! I am not alone! And these women are struggling right along with me. We can listen to each other. Support each other. Help each other find our hard won voices again. To find our words.

This is why I feel that men, with certain exceptions, cannot possibly understand how I feel this moment. How I have been feeling. If you’re a white, straight, gentile male it will never be the gut punch it is to me. You may hate Trump, disagree with him on everything, and even think he will bring on WW III, Fallout and The Walking Dead all at once, but you must have lived through some sort of abuse to get it as a straight white guy. And even there you have me beat. You are still a man and benefit from status and privilege that brings. One day you may have come home and socked your abusive father. But I don’t know if women are even supposed to do that. It makes us damaged, crazy chicks. And gloating over our shitty ex’s failures just doesn’t feel like something women can do freely or with as much glee as men speak of their “psycho bitch” ex.

That’s how it seems to me. These are my words. I don’t want or need male input on this. My experiences, my feelings, my words do not require your permission, endorsement, approval or comment. These are my words. This is my voice. I’m taking my words back. Writing this piece was scary and hard. This isn’t the sort of thing I eagerly share. Some will say I’m playing the “victim card” or the “woman card.”  And honestly, if you feel that way, you really do have the Trump card now. At least I have my voice. I have my words. These are my experiences. They don’t need your understanding. They just want the right to exist.

I have my words again.

Post script: To my sisters, let’s help each other and find solidarity in each other. Please feel free to contact me through this site (see below), or Facebook Messenger if you are interested in brainstorming and creating with me a group of like-minded women, a sisterhood of support, sharing, of laughter, joy and awesome.

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We’ll Let You Know

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Oh, but only if, you’re really interested.

Finally sharing thoughts on the Election:

“How sad are we?
And how sad have we been?
We’ll let you know
We’ll let you know
Oh, but only if, you’re really interested”

I’m tired. And sick. Far more than disappointed. I’ll spell out my weakness for anyone who’d like to take a stab, why should I care? That is precisely how life has always worked, and I don’t see why I ought to have expected differently anymore.

A female President? The kid who yelled “faggot” in school. That’s the President of life. He always was.

I was thinking of Oscar Wilde. That is how we live again now. Hide your fear with a quip. Bury your love deep from jealous hands. Hide your soul. Live inside.

That’s how it’s always been. The kind people are tired. The tired must do for themselves. The gentle bow til they break. And we sensitive faggots, well, we know how to take the punches, until we can’t.

 

“You wonder how
We’ve stayed alive ’till now
We’ll let you know
We’ll let you know
But only if, you’re really interested”

– Morrissey, Your Arsenal, 1992

Click to listen to the song: We’ll Let You Know

 

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It’s All Good

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Pictures from my kitchen porch.

I took Paul McCartney’s advice and got a home in the heart of the country.  It’s been good for the blood pressure, even though most of my life is still in boxes. This is the sort of place where a thing is done in good time if it’s done well. More haste, less speed, I guess. Actually, not even so much haste. Just the haste of the rolling of the seasons. But most often I just sit here on my porch, or in the swing under the willow by the stream, take a walk, look at stars, notice the moon phases, and stare at the goats who live across the stream in front.

Getting here was trying. Molly, my dog of 13 years, died a few weeks before the move. The previous owners had left the house abandoned for three years, and the place and land was full of their stuff and suffering from neglect. Also, my cat ran away the first day. I spent a week and a half walking around, clinking a fork to a can, shouting “WET FOOOOOD!” But one day he just turned up hungry and miserable looking, ready for snuggles, a clean litter box and wet food. Guess he just needed his Mountain Lion merit badge.

Of course, when the first day I’d be alone rolled around, I was the loneliest girl ever. But that afternoon Stan came home with a new friend, which he held up like John Cusack with a boom box.  But, even better, it was a 3 month old Border Collie pup with freckles on her white nose. We called her Abbey Road. And she was just the friend I needed. Border Collies really want to learn! She looks to me constantly for a cue as to what she should do. So, when on my first day alone with her, she learned “sit” it was “challenge accepted” for us both!

It did take some time to bargain with my love for Molly and for Abbey. But I like to think that Molly’s independent, no-nonsense, terrier spirit haunts me like Obi-wan Kenobi’s Force ghost. Maybe showing up sometimes to deliver exposition to Abbey, or to warn me of encroaching “booshit.” Molly was a great one for hunting down and destroying that. And Abbey is my little go-go Padawan. Always eager to stomp through the trees on the hill behind the house, chase the frogs in the pond, herd frisbees, and bark at the goats, of course. She’s also the biggest love-bug. And I’ve had to defend her from multiple kidnapping attempts when we go to Lowe’s, PetSmart and even from visiting friends and family!

Mr. Kitter-kat wasn’t exactly pleased to come home to “Dog 2.0,” but now they’re great friends, and play and cuddle. He has several channels of bird feeders to watch. Wet food. And he can go out on the kitchen porch whenever he wants to dream of his days as a fearsome hunter alone in the woods. He’s a happy man.

Anyhow, after going without hot water for the first few days (which gave new meaning to “icey cold spring water”), and two weeks of having public sewer pipes laid down what can only be called “the lane,” things finally started coming into focus. Stuff is getting done. I can putter. Actually, I put in some major back and elbow grease! More importantly,  I can breathe again. From locked up in an apartment surrounded by noisy people, on a busy street around the corner from a firehouse, while mourning my dog. To long walks, starry skies, noticing how many species of woodpeckers there are, playing with Abbey, and, of course, staring at goats. Cars are so rare on the road up the hill, I watch them go by.

Sure, the house is old, and nothing is straight, but it’s sturdy and good old — like the Parthenon! A few more years and the forest would have overgrown the place. It feels like a happy house to have people to love it again. And each season has a charm and rhythm of its own. Soon, we’ll move from fire rings outside, to the wood-stove inside. And we’ll all gather before it, and say “let it snow.” More importantly, I have a space of my very own where I have many places to sit with my laptop and write. I am home.

Now, I just need the big green door-shaped sign with Gandalf’s mark, so travelling wizards, dwarves and fair folk know to stop for tea or adventures! 

For more pics of Abbey, the farmhouse, and more check out my Instagram! For even more, check out  Stan’s!

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Updates “About Me”

 

Lake Redman

Catching a beautiful sunset.

It has been too long since Molly died, and I’ve moved into a for real house and got a new pup. So to break my long spell I updated my About Me page. What do you think? Any suggestions?

Check it out here.


Good Grief

image

Admiral Molly loving life

 

Friday morning, Molly, my dog of thirteen years, died in my arms. Then I just sat there next to her, drank my coffee, and read about Orlando and guns on the interwebz for an hour. A dissociative episode: shock.

I knew it was coming, her death. In the last few weeks I’ve inhabited that inbetween world of weird: the frantic care, fatigue, constant foreboding, and desire to be strong that being with the terminally ill brings. Down to Molly’s doped up desires to do odd things in the middle of the night, it was flashback to the final weeks of my father’s cancer.

I’ve seen enough death to know how odd it is. One moment a living being is before you, and then they’re a stiff, cold shell that needs to be washed and cleaned up so other people can look on the dead and say “oh they look so peaceful.” And as the dead lie there, appearing to sleep, you do stuff like excuse yourself in the way you would talk to a department store mannequin you bumped into. It’s just off. They’re there, but not.

When I worked for a funeral home, I used to have to walk past Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So everyday to get coffee. I learned grief speak like a sick Monty Python parody: passed on, deceased, shuffled off this mortal coil, gone to meet their maker, joined the bleeding choir invisible.

Truth is, no one remembers those first few days after a death. People in grief are halfway to the other side themselves.  Hence all the couched terms and euphemisms. So fragile. The grieving have one foot on the other side. They want to follow the dead into the grave.

It’s not until they realize that life trundles heedlessly on that the depression and anger sets in. How dare people go about their lives as though nothing happened?! Don’t they know what I’ve lost?! Don’t you see I just can’t!?

I had Molly for 13 years. I was checking out her rather plain smooth coat JRT brothers, when this ball of white and ginger fluff tumbled down the stairs. Molly! She Bogarted herself into my heart, like the true independent and stubborn alpha gal she was.

She was my total bestie, excercise partner, fishing cheerleader, vermin killing, begging, spoiled, loving buddy who never let me down once. And this house has never been so empty. The park never so unappealing. The sun never so harsh. My favorite fishing and camping spots…all haunted by the spirit of Molly, unconquerable in death as in life.

I know it’s normal. Malaise and sadness, nausea and emptiness, anger and wroth that would make Achilles blush. All changing places, shuffling, resurfacing. The careless moment in which you call the deceased’s name. Looking for someone who you’ll never again see with mortal eyes.

My advice to folks who know others that are suffering the trauma of grief is “Chill.” Let them have their space. Don’t tell them what to think, believe, or feel. Let them come back to life in their own time, in their own way. Just remind them that you are there. There’s no substitute for being there.

And that’s very much what I tell myself and others who are grieving. Give yourself time to feel the whole mess. Don’t feel as though there is a way you should feel. Own your feelings as they are right now. You may never feel as though the pain will go away, and you may not want it to. And when it does, you will feel guilty. Feel it. Feel all of that. This is life at the marrow of the bone. Recognize it. Name it. Accept it with compassion for yourself, a poor mortal. In time, you’ll be OK with the fact that the pain will dull. But you’re nowhere near that now. Don’t push it. Just be.

It occurs to me that the entire nation has been plunged into a great momento mori yet again. We won’t always be here. But we are here now. Say Yes to all that is good and right to feel and do now. Be mad, be rash, smoke and explode, sell all your clothes… Just remember to hold your loved ones a little dearer, and most importantly, hold onto yourself. I hope, for all of us who are or have or will love and lose (i.e. all of us), that as deep as your pain goes now, that’s as high as your joy will soar…hopefully, again, someday…just not today. Today, just chill. Today, let it be.

In memoriam: Molly, 2003 – 2016

Thank you for teaching me to love all of life even a fraction as much as you did.

-JL


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