Category Archives: Uncategorized

Just Like Everybody Else Does

 

 

“I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does.”               – Morrissey

Invalid feelings and desires. That’s how I feel when I express myself as someone suffering from mental illness. It’s as though — once I’ve come out and said, “Yes, I suffer from Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, fill the blank” — that even the others who I’d expect to understand, write off every feeling or thought I have because I’m crazy.

It’s soul crushing. Admitting to having mental health issues demotes me from the status of human being to somewhere between a dog and a chimpanzee. Like maybe I can qualify for “personhood” and humans can’t use me for inhumane cosmetics testing, but other than that, my feelings and rights don’t count.

A man kills a church-full of people, and suddenly the talking heads are on about “mental illness.” Because, crazy people! People with mental illness are 10 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the general populace, and no more or less inclined towards violence, but so what? It’s much easier to discard a human being’s rights than the NRA’s cash. It doesn’t matter how you feel about the 2nd Amendment, the pattern of dehumanization is there. Crazy people check your rights at the door, maybe we’ll treat you as well as a dog.

And that’s just one issue in the public sphere that has me pissed again. But do I have the right to be pissed? I mean, seriously, if I’m crazy then you don’t have to listen to my crazy thoughts and feelings, right? I must be having “a bad day,” or be “overreacting due to past traumatic stimuli.” My thoughts and feelings are invalid. Perhaps my family has changed from using the term “dramatic” to “sensitive,” but I still feel limitations.

But, family, eh? What are you going to do? What about when it’s my therapist or psychiatrist? Then what? When the very institution I’ve given myself over for treatment for the past five years, suddenly makes it glaringly obvious that my questions are not welcome. I can follow all the damned rules, but why can I not question my psychiatrist’s “discomfort” with helping me through something? Is there “a no questions” rule for crazy folks as well?

I use Pennsylvania Counseling. I’ve been receiving my therapy and psychiatric visits with them since 2013, when I moved from Philly. In Philadelphia, I worked with Thomas Jefferson’s various outpatient clinics since I was 19. I am committed to my treatment. I spent 2009 until 2013 with Dr. Serota at Jefferson. And before the Obamacare federal expansion, he’d help me renew my Medical Assistance every year. He’d fill out the “Health Sustaining Medications” form. And he’d mark me as disabled, so I could still work if I could and get Medicaid. More than that, he was a kind and gentle man. And he liked to talk about film and literature with me. He made me feel like a human being. I wasn’t just “good girl.” *pant pant pant*

I always feared, when I moved to the Susquehanna Valley, I’d get some friggin Mennonite with a stick so far up their asses it kept their bonnet on. And wouldn’t you know it! Bingo! 

If Pennsylvania lost the Medicaid expansion, I’d be shit out of luck. Forget how long I’ve been receiving treatment at my current facility.

This place won’t touch a thing that would help me get services I need. And I’m a compliant patient. I go to my therapy, when I remind PA Counseling that my therapist has been out since Labor Day, and I’m in a bad way and get a damned appointment.

With a few exceptions, I have not generally experienced that Germanic, Prussian tendency to “just follow orders” and expect everyone else to goosestep in line that I expected here. Although I’ve had my share of nightmares in which I’m in a re-education camp though. And some printed dress down to the ankles wearing, post-stroke Nurse Ratched, Sarah Huckabee Sanders bitch wants to usher me to the gas chambers. Usually because I didn’t take Jesus into my heart.

Pennsylvania Counseling won’t just won’t return my calls. Or they call at 4:59, leave a message then bugger off. Talk about treating the mentally ill in crisis with dignity and respect, and generally making me feel as though I don’t matter.

But now, having experienced it, all I know is I have very limited options for care in my area. And no one cares because I’m crazy. And definitely not a human being with the right to a question, feeling, or opinion of my own, just like everybody else does.
“Sit crazy girl! Sit! Good crazy girl.”
Rough! Ruff!

 

While you’re here:  Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of crazy stuff I like and hate! 😊

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The Soil Falling Over My Head

“I know it’s over, and still I cling. I don’t know where else I can go.” – Morrissey

Last few weeks were so bad. How bad were they? I’m glad you asked. So bad that I tried to watch a David Attenborough nature program, and my mind over-dubbed his narration with Werner Herzog. “The screams of the infant monkey will not bring back its dead mother. But merely fall silent on the pitiless jungle of life, bent on meaningless slaughter and overwhelming murder.” Morrissey was too cheerful to listen to, even when safely in my bed. So, we’ll go with “very bad.”

I felt, and still do to a point, as though I was slowly being buried. And each good thing that brings me joy was like a gasp of air, but each gasp seemed shorter and shorter, and provided less air for less time. Eventually I was buried under. Nothing meant anything, even my life. Even my life.

My mind is my favorite organ. And it just could not work.  I started being more flighty than usual, then forgetting dates in history, people’s names, what day it was, what time it was. I began losing things, too. And I don’t lose things! I just don’t. So when I do, I feel like I’m losing my mind, and I — tentatively using the past-tense — was. I had days lost in bed in silence. I didn’t want any sound or light, just to fall back to sleep. I was staying in my pajamas, not showering. And I simply could not handle anything anyone else said, or communicated in any fashion. There was no room or ability to pay attention, or listen, or just have others’ thoughts in my head. I didn’t even eat.

I considered entering inpatient psychiatric care. I got this bad for many reasons, some of which I can control, and others that are completely out of my sphere. And part of it that I could fix came down to my therapist. She has been absent since just before Labor Day, and she was helping me with some difficult issues. But after some naturing over the weekend with friends, and a desperate visit to my psychiatrist, I was finally given a new therapist. And she’s great. She has an extremely positive vibe, but manages to not be punchable because of her tremendous empathy and inner beauty.  So, I’ve climbed off the literal and figurative ledge for now. But it’s not as though I’m raring to freakin’ go this week. Poco a poco.

I still feel the need to constantly excuse myself to my family and loved ones for asking for anything.  I fear over-taxing them and that my crazy is contagious. But I’ve found all the people that truly love me are happy to help me be happy. And I want more than anything for them to feel good too.

To accomplish this, I took the unprecedented step of looking for good things in my life. And stuff I enjoy. It began with my dog, Abbey, the go-go Border Collie who keeps me outside and moving despite the weather or how I’m feeling. She also gives excellent morning cuddles. And then there’s Mr. Puddems, my fancy kitten man, who is a world-class lap-warmer. The Stan-man, of course. Our home. And going to friends’ houses. And golly-gee but I started taking showers, dressing nicely, dressing in general. Coloring, and I even started an oil-sketch. Gosh darnnit, I even cooked and cleaned in the same day. I honestly have to stop all this or people might get the idea that I’m a capable human being, and like *gasp* expect stuff from me. I may have to go to family meals! They may expect me to be on time!

But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. I’m back to taking a lot of emotional strength and capacity to live and love from Mozzy and The Smiths. Some folks might mistake this as indulging in depression. But it’s not so. Morrissey is just on my level. All the right amounts of passion, aggression, gentleness, strength, weakness, frustration, and joy however fleeting, just suits me fine. And keeps me going. He still is. So, everyone just deal with my love of Morrissey. It’s difficult, I know, but I’m not going to desert the music that’s gotten me through my teenage years, and through many troubles in between then and now. I’m more sorry about asking others’ to accept this than for most anything else.

And then there’s this blog. I started it over a week ago. And I’ve written maybe a paragraph or two a day. I used to be able to do these in one afternoon. But it’s been rough to communicate at all, nevermind attempting to explain these feelings to others. I feel extremely vulnerable, and of course sorry for anyone reading this, and sorry for perhaps upsetting them. Some habits are harder to break or reinstate. But, hey, at least I can write this much again.

What I hope is two-fold. Firstly, I want my friends and family to know why I’ve just not been present for a while. Why I may not be liking your blog, or Instagram, or even engaging in the Book of Faces. Secondly, I thought my story might help both people living with a depressed person to see what goes on in their brains. And all of the people living with depression to see that they are not alone, and that, as Morrissey croons: “there is a light that never goes out.”

I’m still working through this extreme debilitation of my mind, I have a lot of work yet to do. I’m happy to have found a new therapist to help. I’m also glad that when it came to it, I grabbed the tool-kit I worked on in therapy, and not some rather more dangerous object.  I’m not gonna lie though, the Mueller indictments and that one guilty plea really helped. 😀

 

While you’re here:  Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of crazy stuff I like and hate! 😊

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All the Lonely People: Mentally Ill in America

 

mental-illness

“No, really. I’m fine.”

I’m a white girl from a good family, I have a college education, I have a life and loved ones, and I’ve been in treatment for mental illness since I was nineteen.  I’m lucky. But everytime I see a homeless person, hear of a suicide, see someone lost to drugs or alcohol, or working on a non-violent criminal record, I think: There but for the Grace of the Force go I.

But just because I’m crazy, doesn’t mean I don’t have every right to be extremely pissed at this particular moment in time. While the Congress debates precisely how much cruelty is acceptable in the US healthcare system, we clearly have a President whose clinical diagnosis is “Crazy-pants w/ nuclear codes.”

Crazy is classist. The brilliant film The Ruling Class (1972, starring Peter O’Toole) savagely explores the old saw that the poor are “crazy.” The rich are “eccentric.” Sometimes “unpredictable,” but definitely a member of the club. And they can get away with anything, including shooting a guy in the face in Times Square, as Trump eloquently expressed the principle. But you can also observe it at work in talk shows praising the “courageous” celebrity who admits to seeking treatment, and explores their “struggle.”

The rest of us who live with mental illness don’t get the same press or privilege. Whether we deal with abuse, genetic predisposition, addiction, or life experience — and it’s usually a complex of some or all — mental illness is a lonely slog. For families with mental illness and/or dysfunction — again, usually both — the family generally falls into camps. The “get over it and move ons” and the silent and suffering. And those camps often overlap. But the punishment for breaking silence can be severe for those brave enough to admit there is a problem.

Although I have found that adopting an attitude of “Yep. I’m cray-cray. But I’m not hurting anyone. So deal with it.” has been helpful to me, it took me two decades of continuous treatment to get to that point. It is liberating, but even so, telling someone you have a specific mental illness, doesn’t mean suddenly they will “get you.” It certainly won’t help in a job interview. Depression or Anxiety may be abstract ideas that exist in people’s heads, but when you behave like a person who suffers from those disorders, few understand.

While informing friends and family that you have cancer is a thing my father could not even do, cancer is something that people understand will come with a certain set of painful difficulties. They will often research it to see what to expect. Doesn’t work that way with mental illness.

If you tell a family member or loved one, “I suffer from mood disorders,” you might as well have said, “Hey, I’ve gotten really into day trading.” Their eyes kind of glaze over, and they sure as hell aren’t going to Google “what is day trading?” Or, “what to expect when a loved one is day trading?” But get ready to witness all manner and degree of expressions of shock, dismay, anger, and shame when you behave like someone with a mood disorder. Or when your needs and/or limitations get in the way of their life and plans. That’s why the most common thing a mentally ill person says is “I’m fine.” Especially if we’re not.

When most people think of mental illness these days, they think of school or church shooters. Violent killers, all of them “mentally disturbed.” But, even among schizophrenics, violence and mental illness don’t go hand in hand.  I have to watch idly by as people discuss forcibly registering people as mentally ill who want to purchase a shotgun for their home. That’s two Constitutional rights, if you’re counting. (The Fourth Amendment Right to Privacy is the other one.) “Mentally ill” is a stigma, and a silencer.

If I went to Senator Pat “I don’t ever listen to my phone messages” Toomey’s office to protest, all you would see is a white girl with a sign and an attitude. And if I were hauled off by the police, you’d probably think “Crazy chick!” You can’t see by looking at me that I have serious health problems. I “present well.” I appear “normal” and “fine.” But if you did discover you were right about me being crazy, you could discount my opinion completely, right? And I have been told too many times to not even follow the news. Apparently, I cannot even handle being informed on issues that affect me.

The mentally ill have no political voice or capital. No one is courting our votes. Should crazy people even be allowed to vote anyhow? We are not only socially marginalized and stigmatized, we have no say in policy or our care, if we can get it.

Do you know what the wait times are to begin treatment if you have Medicaid? At least a month. That goes for drug and alcohol, and dual diagnosis treatment as well. And if you have private insurance, how many therapy sessions does it cover?  Can you fit therapy into your work schedule? Do your medications impact your ability to work? How many hours in six months before therapy starts coming out of your pocket? What about the prescriptions? Do you just go to your family doctor and get some random “happy pill”? Get sent on your way with no therapy or guidance? Do you know what the side effects may be? Do you understand how to take it? Most importantly: can you afford it?

Now that opioid dependence is an EPIDEMIC thanks to white people. Except for Attorney General (for the moment) Sessions, more people in power are realizing that criminalizing is no substitute for immediate, accessible, free treatment. Perhaps mental illness can ride addiction’s coat tails into some public opinion and  policy? After all, if we can get past of the stigma of “junkie” perhaps we could get past “crazy.”

Most importantly though, when it comes to it, doesn’t it just make more sense to at least make sure that those who suffer from mental illness receive care and treatment to ease their suffering? Nevermind free those who are treatable to live productive and even happy, “normal” lives?  Ease suffering, make more functioning citizens? Am I making any sense? More sense than the latest Tweet or speech by President Trump? Or do I sound crazy? If only I had money.

 

While you’re here:  Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of crazy stuff I like and hate! 😊

While there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

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After the Blue (A story of Friendship and Survival in parts) Part 1: Nicole Laughed

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In the striped Light of the Sun.

 

Light was once Blue. That I am one of the last who remember The Blue Lights pushes me to preserve the memory of that time. The time before now, when the Blue Light reigned and wisdom slept. For it was in this time that I encountered the True Light. Through the woman who lead me through the Dark of the True Light after the Blue. NICOLE. Who’s lack of Blue and strength in the True made her the embodiment of the True, and hers the Path through Blue to True. Who LAUGHED and saved my life.

Nicole first acknowledged me with a LAUGH. As well she should, and I deserved, having LOUDLY CURSED a sudden yet inevitable betrayal, as my easy-up tent fell about my head, capturing me within its silky, billowing folds of white and blue nylon.

How apt my predicament! How her blonde hair shone as I emerged blinking into the True Light, from my encasing in the False and Blue. Nicole rightly accused me of plagiarizing a line from an ill-starred fiction of the Blue Times, which had treated with the subject of the fire of flies.

I was unconscious of the significance of the moment. But she had seen into my soul, and perhaps she saw the SPARK of the True Light in my eyes, so long darkened by the Blue. So many fictions, so many earnest reports, so many thumbs, so many narratives, as of the fire of flies, the trekking of stars, and WES ANDERSON. Worst of all, my own creations on the Screens of Blue. I felt ashamed.

And then I saw! A drunken camper nearby had started a fight! A man was bleeding and protecting a young woman, the object of a love triangle, I supposed. The camp manager subdued the drunken man with skillful and minimal force. Truly his Kung Fu was on point. Soon police arrived and arrested the drunken man.

I had seen this without the Blue Light! I immediately suspected that Nicole had called this scene forth from the True Light, so that I could see. And I LAUGHED! Just as she had done to me. Truly, life in the True Light was more true than anything called from the Blue! And this Nicole showed to me.

And so it was for many month’s passing. I would pitch my tent by Nicole and her consort, and I would see wonders!  For they would MAKE MUSIC ISSUE from stringed instruments and from their mouths, and not from the Blue Lights, not even Spotify.

Soon we learned to MAKE LAUGHTER from the True together. We fished often, and while I never saw her catch one, I knew she only waited for the Truest and most tremendous of fish. She left me the others to encourage my learning the Path of the True.

When forced indoors, she would visit me to encourage the making of art. And REMINDED ME WITHOUT WORD that one should set out the food one makes for visitors, and other gentle arts of the True Light world.

But just as I began to see and value the True Light through her, the Blue Lights came between us. We SPOKE ONLY IN SILENCE through the blue blurbs on the Blue Screens. The True had forsaken the world, and there was a GREAT NOISE of ORANGE, and then the Blue Lights went out. We will never know why because the Blue was suddenly gone. No screen lit our faces and nights, and the only light of day was the sun; and of the night, the moon and the trekking stars, and the fire of flies. But no Wes Anderson.

Plunged into the Light of the True, however dark it may be, my one hope for Salvation lie in Nicole, in the living of the True Light and the Path. Her consort, JOE, was cool too.

And so my life in Truth began, with my consort (STAN, who was handy and cool too) and my loyal friend, the canine ABBESS OF ROADS.

So begins the tale of my struggle, survival and eventual mastery of the world of the True Light, by the Grace of the one named Nicole. Who LAUGHED and saved my life.

 

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

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Don’t Get Me Flowers for Women’s Day

womens day Stalin edited

 OG Women’s Day.

bad women's day

This is just all kinds of wrong.

Let’s get something straight. Women’s Day is not Valentine’s mixed with Mother’s Day. Although there are many competing claims for the first Women’s Day, including Suffragette, Socialist and Workers strikes by women in the US and Europe, the best claim goes to the women of Russia. By the Russian calendar, on March 8th, 1917, female textile workers stormed the streets of Petrograd (St. Petersburg) demanding bread, protesting Russian engagement in WWI, and demanding the end of Romanov imperial rule. A week later, the Russian emperor abdicated, and women were granted the right to vote by the interim government. The date was proclaimed a working holiday in Russia that year, but was declared a full national holiday in 1958. In 1975, it was recognized as an international holiday by the UN.

The point of this little history lesson? That Women’s Day celebrates the power of women to bring about revolutionary change. Not how pretty or cute or sweet we are. It is a revolutionary holiday. In essence, it’s a day to acknowledge the power of women to effect change in the world. And I never even knew about it until I was in college.

I switched my major to Film midway through my Freshman year. And of my almost completely male new department, one man became my first friend. Let’s call him Max. Max is from a republic in the former USSR. He had served in the Red Army, and his father was a Party member. Max got to come to the US with refugee status, and became a citizen while teaching himself English from the TV. Eventually, he pursued his dream of studying film, and there we landed together: two strangers in an exclusive club of upper-middle class white males.

Max was the first person to wish me a happy Women’s Day. I had to ask him what it was. Because, even though many nations celebrated the day, The Land of the Free did not.

equallity now

US women marching in the first International Women’s Day March in 1975

And it’s the revolutionary (and Soviet) origins of the holiday that America has feared most. Because while the Soviets were sending the first woman into space  in 1963. Back in the USSA, only married women could be prescribed The Pill by an (obviously male) doctor’s discretion, and back-alley abortions were claiming women’s lives. Meanwhile the Soviets had female doctors.

Maybe it’s the historical nature of female experience that causes this revolutionary fervor. After all, it was the working women of Paris who marched to Versailles in 1789 to demand bread, and who returned to Paris with King Louis and Marie Antoinette in tow, kickstarting the fall of the repressive Ancien Régime.

Women often hold multiple jobs: lover, wife, companion, caretaker, mother, chef, cleaning lady — usually while holding down paying jobs. We are taught to care for everyone but ourselves. We apologize for doing things a man would never think of being apologetic for: talking on the phone, spending money on things we want or need, playing our favorite video game. But let’s face it, how long can any person truly live this way? Sure we care about war because our loved ones and innocents could die, obviously bread because we don’t want to see our family starve, we care about oppressed groups because we get it. But we also want those freedoms and the equality that we help others achieve for ourselves. Sorry!

Womens day in USSR

Soviet poster for Women’s Day as a national holiday, circa 1958

We want to control our reproduction because that is the key for us to have the freedom of men. We can go to college, have a career, and a family we can afford to care for. Or not! This is never a question when it’s a man’s choice. We get to have that choice as human beings, too. Our value is more than what our uteruses can do. By demonizing and depicting women without children, or unpartnered, or with a career as sad, unattractive  (read “overweight”), and lonely; we devalue the women who have made those choices. And it just so happens to be a great way to direct female anger and frustrations at women who made different life choices  from the actual cause of their pain (whether it be abuse or simply frustrated dreams) onto other women. It’s splitting. And American culture is great at it.

Women’s Day is a revolutionary day. A day to unite. We are the most historically oppressed class of humanity since the Bronze Age. And yet, here we are. Patient Penelopes enduring when we must, and fighting when we can. Usually at wit’s end. So don’t give me flowers for Women’s Day. Give me equal pay for equal work. Give me coverage for my health needs, and access to safe and legal family planning. Give me the right to post pics of myself on social media without being stalked. Give me the right to wear a tank top when it’s 90 degrees without feeling gross and ogled. Give me the right to say “No.” Give me the right to leave an abusive partner. Give me the right to report my boss or colleague for inappropriate behavior. Give me equal representation in government. Give me the rights that men enjoy without a second thought: my human rights.

It really does come down to that one phrase — the one by the woman who allowed herself to be burnt at the stake by America because she believed, without apology, that she was the most qualified candidate for President, and she was right — “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” History upholds you Hillary Clinton, unlike the nation you served so long. Here, have some pretty pretty flowers!💐

*Please check out this list of nations from those with the most equal representation of women in government to the least. Rwanda is tops. See if you can spot the USA.

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

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Anger, Fear, The Plague & Trump

Christ and Sisyphus

“Jesus! I feel like my entire life is a protest now.” “That just means we’re free, Sis.”

Trump is a plague. He has mastered inspiring fear and rage. Not just in his supporters, but all over the globe. And certainly in myself, and most people I know. My therapist told me that the number and intensity of reports by clients regarding Trump is a phenomenon. Possibly even an emergent disease. So, he literally is a plague on humanity. So what do we do, besides suffer in fear and anger and hopelessness? What can we do?

I have a fascination with plague. It began very young. Maybe it was the first time I realized that something scary and dangerous can swoop down on me and my family at any moment, and with no “why.” That there is no cosmic purpose behind the suffering caused by disease, WWI, The Holocaust, or Donald Trump. Suffering has reasons, but no “Reason.” We give these events meaning in hindsight. And our reactions and actions during times of suffering give meaning to our lives and experience. It’s tempting to believe there is a form of “cosmic justice” to it all. But in the end, real people with lives and family died in the camps, while Hitler got off with suicide. People brought the Nuremberg Trials, not the cosmos. The Universe doesn’t care about Earth, or one single species. People must bring the meaning AND the justice.

So, what to do? What to do? Well, I read The Lord of the Rings three times in succession since the Election. And while that book has spiritual influences, it comes down to the individuals involved to each do their part to bring down Sauron, even the trees! And here we all are, so many reluctant heroes, wishing for the Shire and a big, wise Gandalf to hug, but this isn’t Middle Earth. And the winning of the War of the Ring had a lot of casualties, from the Elves, to the trees, to Frodo himself.

Tolkien has more in common with other post WWI and WWII writers than his fantasy war suggests. Today we’d call it PTSD. Seems to me the man was so traumatized by his experience of WWI that he invented other languages just to express his thoughts and feelings . But some authors used more common-place settings. In The Plague, Albert Camus set his story in a place so ordinary that it could be anywhere. And the characters could be any one of us.

The “heroes” in The Plague are a motley crew, like The Fellowship of the Ring. There’s Doctor Rieux, who just doggedly pursues his work while his wife is away for a tuberculosis cure . The political undesirable, who gets stuck in the town while on the run, and becomes the Doctor’s best friend. The guy who is motivated to be reunited with the woman he loves. And dear old M. Grande, the minor civil servant, who works tirelessly on his “great novel” by night, as he goes out of his way to ensure that The Doctor has everything he needs, and whose life (and great novel) are at last saved by the Doctor’s successful serum.

While much of the town in The Plague is dying of disease, the rest is taken over by hopeless drunken revellers, angry mobs attacking the poor, African section of the town, fear-mongers preaching God’s wrath and judgement, profiteers, and suicides. The sane characters — the heroes — are people who have accepted that the worst may happen to them. They too feel fear, anger, despair, but they choose to simply be decent human beings anyway. They all play their little part for both their own reasons and a common goal: ending the suffering caused by the plague and freeing the town from its quarantine — its fear, anger and despair. Their very existence is a protest against the inhumanity of suffering and a world turned upside down. Their lives and work together are a testament to Gandalf’s assertion that:

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”

There is a touching passage near the end Camus’ book, that describes why Doctor Rieux recorded the events of his experience during the plague, down to the detail that, amidst the tearful reuniting of loved ones after the crisis, his wife never returned from her “cure.” The quote has been honored with a plaque in New York City, on Library Way (East 41st Street between Madison & Fifth Ave.). And I will leave that here for reflection.

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Let this be said of all of us, when the story of this time of plague is written.

Whatever your method or motivation, never forget those who suffer, bear witness, and choose decency. That is how we defeat the plague of Trump, anger, fear, and despair.

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

While you’re there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

Got a comment? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, tap Like and Share! Click here to follow on Twitter.


Free: One POTUS, Barely Used!

 

hamlet-tennant

“You cannot, sir, take from me any thing that I will more willingly part withal — “(Hamlet, 2.2.231-232).

Why elect your own nationalist leader, when you can have one for free? Seriously he’s tremendous, folks, believe me, except for his loser Administration and failing Presidency –Sad!  But believe me he is the best at alienating neighbors and allies, who are great really I love them especially Trudeau who is hot and smart but failing Canada — and did you see the crowds at the President’s last rally? Huge! I saw something that said they were the biggest crowds since VE Day. And you know the tremendous job Putin regime is doing aggressively trying to destroy NATO, Europe and the West — believe me! — this President is their own eyes and ears so you don’t need lying intelligence community or leaking aides or fake diplomats. He’s the whole package. Big league.

Seriously, friends, when is this guy getting impeached? Because I had this thing called a life, my historical fiction series, and fun and hobbies and Star Trek and history podcasts that didn’t give me nightmares. I just finished my third re-reading of The Lord of the Rings — in almost as many months — just for the sweet release of that Ring getting into Mount Doom and the destruction of Sauron. I mean, that’s a lot to endure for one single moment of feeling like “Ah… gone for good…”

I WANT MY LIFE BACK!!!

And to everyone who says: “Yeah, but the level of political action and awareness is great!” I say:  “Go to Hell, go directly to Hell, no passing Go, no $200 for you!” You know what I loved? The Obama Administration. I was doing better financially, mental health-wise, relationship and writing-wise, and in every other measurable way until the 2016 Election. There were issues and debates, but I didn’t look at my news feed every morning to see if we were at war yet. It’s the little things.

I felt safe just knowing No Drama Obama was always there. I trusted him to think things through, discuss the details and possibilities with the best qualified and most creative people, as well as lawyers and the heads of government committees and agencies, and then come up with a thoughtful response. But now I’m supposed to be the eternally vigilant resistance? Screw you.

I want to plant my garden. I want to spend money on new art supplies, not postage stamps and notecards to the dickhead politicians who don’t even answer their phone *Toomey*. I want to enjoy and fix up our new house. I want to write my fiction. Go fishing. Have an appetite. Sleep at night. I want to play video games. I want to have sex with my equally beleaguered boyfriend. Is that so much to ask? Isn’t that the American dream? I don’t mess with you, and you don’t mess with me?

Why must we all suffer, my anti-Hillary, Bern it Down, friends? I thought continuing the work of Obama by a competent and experienced leader was a great idea! You really thought Hillary Clinton was as equally evil as Trump? You were duped by the Russian propaganda! Ah, hindsight! Or was it just that “thing” about her? You know that thing she just didn’t have. What’s the word for it? Oh, right, A PENIS! Such a little thing, but the difference it makes in the US! I knew as a girl there would be Black President, Jewish President, Gay Atheist President, Vulcan President, Amoeba President before there was even a shot at Woman President. So fuck you too, Patriarchy protectors.

All you guys go take to the streets. You write the postcards. You helped bring this on all of us. YOU believed the fake news. Nevermind the rest of the Earth and its people and climate. I did my bit by voting for Hillary. So you fix it.

I’m de-Trumping my life. I’ve only got one. I’m not going to waste the prime of it untying this Gordian knot when I can use a sword and cut it all off. Yeah, I’ll read a bit and listen to NPR, laugh at the stupid shit, and stew on the bullshit. But not like before. I’m reclaiming my life from Trump.

I’m a writer. I can’t help but be here, but not. Like Hamlet’s “mirror up to nature.” My job is reflecting back on you. I’m the cameraman at a wedding. I don’t take part in it. I just capture what went down, edit the bits together, throw some transitions and filters on it, and hand it back over to you. It’s not my job to be overtly political. That’s called Propaganda, and I want no part of it.

Besides, have you seen where I live? It’s awesome. A 130 year old farmhouse with  a stream, two ponds, a wood stove and fire pit for cool evenings, a spring house for hot summer days, wisteria-grown arbors, ivy creeping up the hill. Song birds, butterflies, flowers and hummingbirds. There is land here to work and love and care for. An interior to remodel and decorate. This place and I need each other. This is my refuge from the noise of the world.

So, my crazy-pants friends, who let’s face it, I love but you know not so great in NOT driving me crazy sometimes. And the Hillary supporters who still have steam, the other progressives, and the good Republicans who let’s face it could be more like the tremendous Arlen Specter, who is doing great things now more and more I hear, and grow a backbone, which I hear is just fabulous for standing up. Let’s just #DumpTrump so we can go back to being the decent, neighborly, let’s talk this over, come together, work for a better life for all, pleasantly plump, Shire-loving hobbits Americans truly are at heart. Big league.

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

While you’re there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

Got a comment? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, tap Like and Share! Click here to follow on Twitter.


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.

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

While you’re there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

Got a comment? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, tap Like and Share! Click here to follow on Twitter.


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, slaves, 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.

Got a comment? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, tap Like and Share! Click here to follow on Twitter.

 


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! 😊

While you’re there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

Got a comment? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, tap Like and Share! Click here to follow on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 


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