Tag Archives: America

Anybody can find fault

28 Aug

Anybody can find fault.  Fault doesn’t seem to get lost very often, and it usually doesn’t really hide that well either.  Sooner or later, fault always comes marching out, demanding to be recognized by someone, anyone, guilty or innocent.

But there sure are a lot of people who devote their lives to seeking out something that never was lost to begin with.  Why are so many people absolutely thrilled to find those faults and be the first (or even among the hundreds) to point out those faults so that everyone knows that they spotted them and recognized them.

Like get a life, dude.  (Or dudette!)

You don’t need a degree or any special training or even to be above average in intelligence (or anything else) to find those faults that weren’t really hiding.  These internet trolls that seem to delight in exposing each and every flaw and then dissecting it with minute attention to detail seriously have some issues.  Above all, they remind me of chickens.

I’m not being a smart alec about that.  Seriously, they do act like chickens.  I realize that most of America has never been intimately acquainted with chickens.  For many people, their closest exposure has been at a petting zoo or even just a news clip on television.  In reality, there’s nothing cute about a flock of chickens, especially if they have decided that they don’t like one of their flock mates.

It’s horrifying to see what they will do then.  They will literally, over a period of time, peck that chicken to death, while also driving it away from food and water and otherwise making their lives as miserable as possible.  It isn’t all of the chickens in the flock that do this, just a handful out of the group participating in this “troll” behavior is enough to result in the pecked chicken’s death.

Hence the expression of “henpecked” that we have often heard used to refer to a husband who is being micromanaged by his wife to an oppressive degree.

Sure, there are lots of theories about why these chickens will do this.  Usually, overcrowding and other stress factors will get the behavior started.  It can happen in free range chickens, but it’s far less common.  As a country person would say, “once in a blue moon.”  In confined and crowded conditions, even when the chickens have the recommended space and ability to go outdoors into the sunshine, it can really get started though.  The more stress and crowding, the more the behavior shows up.

Maybe mankind is just like a flock of chickens.  We’re getting more crowded and stressed, and we’re seeing more outbreaks of “troll” behavior.  On occasion, this behavior accelerates and becomes violent rather than just verbal (or written) attacks.  When this happens, the usual cry is to restrict access to potential weapons.

Gun control isn’t going to change the behavior, folks.  Chickens commit homicide regularly, and have never figured out how to use firearms.  I have a gun and have had guns most of my life, yet I have not committed murder, nor even shot at anyone.

I have worked armed positions in my lifetime.  I’ve also been threatened with a gun on more than one occasion, although not while working.  Usually, the threat was by a police officer of some kind.  Was the threat warranted? No, I wasn’t armed, wasn’t threatening the officer, was not committing a crime, and usually had no idea what was going on or why I had a gun in my face.  Each time, it turned out to be some kind of mistake, quickly resolved, and I was not handcuffed or arrested.

I must have some caveman DNA floating around and connected to my violent genes.  My weapon of choice has always been throwing rocks.  I’m pretty good at chucking them too or was before I got hurt.  Southern Mississippi, however, is starved for rocks.  Our rocks have to be imported from elsewhere.  I guess that’s why I haven’t done any rock chucking in a long time.

But I digress…

This troll behavior is an indicator of a deeper problem or fault in our society, one that we need to address.  It’s just as real as any tectonic plate’s fault on our planet’s crust, and indicative of an equally deep flaw in our society.  Fault in this sense is a very real concept regarding what is happening today.  This fault is an early sign of henpecking that can and eventually will turn homicidal in some individuals.  Granted, not all of these individuals will ever become physically violent in person.  Many of them may be too intimidated in person to even say “boo!” to a stranger, let alone become verbally confrontational.  Even so, they feel that they have the right to do so, often in very unpleasant ways, on the internet.

I’m not sure that the spirit of the right to free speech includes the right to say things just to hurt other people, whether it is merely an emotional hurt or any other kind of hurt, even if it is commentary based on truth.  I certainly do not think that condoning troll behavior and allowing them to surf the cyber world in search of fault which they can then use as their war cry as they begin yet another flaming attack on some unwitting soul.

Do I think I would turn homicidal? Not with the current level of stress and crowding, but I know that even I have certain points where I may well rationalize violent behavior if I am honest about myself.  Remember, the word stress is just another word for stimuli.  Breaking into my house when I am home is going to qualify as a stress.  So is attacking a family member.  Heck, even attacking my dogs is a stressor!  I also tend to get rather confrontational if I feel my home turf (aka house and yard) is being intruded upon, something I came to grips with last year when a neighbor’s dog tried to claim our backyard as his personal turf.

We have to find new ways of adapting to living in smaller spaces, to working closely with others, to living closely with them.  We have to identify individuals that have reached that magic red line that defines when they are going to become violent, and then come up with appropriate intervention.  All of that without causing new stress by stripping away personal freedoms and rights.

It’s a tall order, but the end result is worthwhile.  It means creating a society that encourages supportive and nurturing behavior rather than glorifying confrontational and violent behavior.  It means doing away, worldwide, with the concept of war too.  It means creating a worldwide society that encourages growth, on each and every level, as well as celebrating diversity and individualism.

Yeah, I know—it sounds like Utopia.

It really is Utopia, I suppose.  It’s not impossible  though.  Gene Roddenberry  dreamed of it with his Star Trek world.  I’m not the only dreamer.  The world just needs a lot more dreamers, a lot more people who are willing to ostracize and discourage those who want to be trolls, and willing to encourage people to be something they all possess the ability to be.

With a heart.

Maybe we need to remind everyone of our mothers’ old adage while we’re at it.

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Don’t forget to visit our new location for this blog at www.exogenynetwork.com!

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Gender Non Conforming…and Me

31 Jul

First of all, let me set some things straight.  I’m not gay, lesbian, transgendered or bisexual, and I never have been.  With that said, I do have immense empathy for most of the issues plaguing the LGBT community.  I’m not homophobic, and I know without a single doubt that I will never “catch the gay”.  I’m also old enough that I’m not shocked by seeing public displays of affection between same sex couples, as long as it is within the same boundaries of good taste that I expect from heterosexual couples.  In regards to PDA, I’m probably a bit on the conservative side.

I also live in a small town in the South.  The Bible Belt isn’t particularly sympathetic to the LGBT community, and it’s highly unlikely that I’ll see a gay couple strolling down the street holding hands anyhow.  I suspect that most gays in our small town prefer to remain under the radar or even in the closet rather than face the consequences of coming out.  I guess I don’t blame them.

I’m a bit non-conforming in a lot of ways in regards to the Bible Belt, such as my interests in the paranormal and non-Christian religions.  For this reason, if you knock on my door and I open it, you will not see my bookshelf.  Instead, you’ll see my sewing machine.  The bookshelves are out of sight, preventing me from rocking the boat of any neighbor, witnessing Christian, or casual visitor.  I’m not an evangelist for opening minds, and tend to be a recluse who prefers to be unnoticed in my own neighborhood.

My husband and I, (Gregory is a male and was born one, btw!) knew that we were buying a home in a conservative blue collar neighborhood in a small town in Mississippi.  We have chosen to live here for personal reasons, and they do not include religion or politics.  We also do not debate the topic with our neighbors, although we have talked some local issues with our representative to the city council.  We’re a pretty normal couple, I suppose, other than we spend much more time together (almost all day every day) and rarely have actual angry disagreements.  We get along better than most couples, it seems, but we’ve also only been married a few years.

While this is my second marriage, I still regard my relationship with Gregory as the first healthy relationship I have ever had.  Maybe, as I hovered at the half century mark, I was finally mature enough to do so.  We share a deep respect for each other, as well as love.  We also accept each other’s idiosyncrasies and individual needs.  He’s my best friend, and the first person I sound things off of as well.  I do not feel a need to keep secrets or avoid letting him know certain things about me.  I don’t even mind letting him read things I’m writing when they are still in that vague first draft state, although he isn’t inclined to do so without a lot of encouragement (okay, without me being really PUSHY about him doing so.)  He accepts me, and I am comfortable letting him see me as I actually am, good and bad, along with the mostly in between stuff.  He knows my fears and dreams too.

He also knows that I am a gender non-conformist in many ways.  I was labeled a tom-boy as a child, and since my given name is actually “Georgia” rather than Gia, I grew up being called George, just like my father, even though him and I were nothing alike.  Calling me Georgie was a certain way to end up with a confrontation that usually resulted in someone getting hit, and I was perfectly willing to deliver punishment to anyone that dared do that.

I was also a bit slow to become interested in the opposite sex in any way other than as fishing partners.  My daughter, hearing me talk about my own childhood and adolescence, is firmly convinced that my maturing was retarded.  I don’t know–I do know that my body matured earlier and faster than the other girls and I was immensely uncomfortable with it.  It felt like my own body was betraying me, and being forced into even more “girly” clothes was increasing my own discomfort.  I hated dresses, ruffles, silky fabrics, lace, etc.  I felt stupid in high heels, and despised wearing makeup.  I had little interest in doing my hair and fussing over it like other girls.

It didn’t change much with adulthood either.

I worked non-traditional jobs.  I felt awkward when forced into a traditional feminine role anywhere, except as a mother.  Of course, this didn’t include my sexual side.  I was attracted to men, not women.  I was not attracted to men who demanded a woman behave traditionally, however.  Rumors that I was actually a lesbian were always fluttering around me.  Of course, in a small town, that isn’t uncommon–men who are turned down for sexual favors or even dates are often going to say that you have to be a lesbian.  It’s unfortunate, but true–it’s how small minded men (they are not all like that, obviously) can preserve their own dignity, since I obviously could not turn down such a prize as they are, right?

Yeah, small town life can be interesting sometimes.

As a teen, I shopped in the men’s department.  I preferred Levi 501s, flannel shirts, and football jerseys to anything that was regarded as feminine.  I refused to wear anything with ruffles and bows without a great deal of protest.  Since it was the 1970s, I lost the protest often.  School activities often forced me into outfits that I despised and made me feel like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  I sometimes wondered if something was wrong with me.

As an adult, I didn’t change much in terms of my clothing.  Part of it was my physical build.  From the back, I could easily pass as a boy or young man.  Only my bust size, which I regarded as immense and garnered a lot of staring from guys, told the world that I was a woman.  I used my boyish appearance a lot when walking around at night, dressing to appear as a boy, with my hair in a hat, I was unlikely to be harassed.  It wasn’t hard–a tight t-shirt under a loose shirt or jacket, combined with a ball cap, and bingo, I was neutral.  I felt safer in neutral anyhow, I wasn’t “fooling” anyone then.

When I did have to show up somewhere dressed more feminine and fulfill somebody else’s idea of formal attire, I chose clothing that was more tailored and understated.  I still refused the ruffles and bows.  I still hated high heels, and finally repeated knee injuries made them something that I had an actual medical reason to avoid–they could cause me to seriously injure myself again.

I also had predominately male dominated hobbies and interests, and most of the company I kept was that of males.  I felt more comfortable with the guys, usually.  I understood them.  With women, I always felt like I was missing something, that I had missed a critical chapter in the book of womanhood.  I was lost in that world, whereas the men’s world was comprehensible.  I’d rather buck hay than sit around discussing soap operas, childbirth and the latest cookie recipe.

I often felt inadequate with my daughter too.  She wanted me to be friends with her friends’ mothers, but I couldn’t find common ground.  I finally explained that to her, and as she was navigating her own way through puberty, she began to understand where I was coming from.  She also discovered that the world considered it very peculiar that her mother taught her how to use power tools such as circular saws and drills, as well as how to cook, build a fence, saddle a horse, clean a horse’s hoof, fix the roof, etc.

I do remember a guy friend telling me that I was not feminine though too.  He wasn’t a romantic interest, we were genuinely just friends, and he happened to have a huge crush on my best friend at the time.  He spent a lot of nights at my house, sleeping off a drinking binge on my couch, then playing games with my son the next morning.  At the time, I was confused and hurt.  I was really trying to get with the program, and I obviously was failing if I was obviously not feminine.  So, I asked him what feminine was.

I pointed out that I did all of the expected things: I cooked and baked, I sewed, I did crafts, I wore makeup and did my hair, I wore clothing from the women’s department (and some home sewed items as well).  I wasn’t ugly.  What was wrong with me?

He had no idea what feminine was, even if he did recognize that I was not actually feminine in a traditional sense.  He thought it might be  partly related to my independent nature and the fact that I was very capable of solving almost any problem on my own.  I was not needy in any way, and he thought that maybe, most men found that threatening to their own sense of masculinity.  He might have been right, but I also was not interested in the kind of man that wasn’t totally confident with his own sexual identity.

Still, his comment has haunted me for decades.

I was further confused when a lesbian friend of mine confessed she had a crush on me, and that I appeared to be a lesbian in everything about me, except for my long hair.  (I’m not sure what that really had to do with anything, but okay?)  In my case, I loved her as a friend (and still do) but I had zero interest in a romantic or sexual relationship with her.  She was able to understand that, even if her girlfriend at the time could not.  The girlfriend remained intensely jealous and suspicious of me, as well as openly antagonistic.

It seemed that I was a miserable misfit.  I appeared to be a lesbian, but I wasn’t and didn’t want to be.  I was not feminine.  What in the hell was I?

Then, I saw a video about clothing for people who are gender non-conformists.

Hot damn, I’m not alone????

I had actually come to terms that I was as some oddball misfit.  I was okay with who I was, even if I did dress funny.  I was now past fifty, the mark when women in the South are totally allowed to be eccentric and odd.  I’d found out what kinds of skirts were comfortable in the hot summers, even for me, and learned what I was comfortable wearing and not.  I’m also much heavier than I ever was before, and that has meant that many of my tastes in clothing have changed, as well as my desire for “fashionable” clothing that I was comfortable wearing.  I’d long since gone to wearing women’s suits, choosing simple designs without the embellishments I despised.  I loved blazers with either pants or a skirt, over a plain blouse.  I preferred flat shoes.  I often still shopped in the men’s department (and still do for some items).  I was perfectly happy pairing a men’s shirt with a skirt.  I had different rules than most women did.

A decade or two ago, I would have been thrilled to buy clothing like they are selling to the gender non-conformists, although the price tag would have likely stopped me.  I’m not willing or able to pay the price for a tailored suit, and face it, there weren’t shops that offered tailored-to-fit clothing in Flagstaff, Arizona, in the 1990-2003 era either.  (That’s the closest city for shopping when I lived in Northern Arizona, prior to moving to New Orleans.)  Northern Arizona was okay for someone like me anyhow–I got by with my jeans-and-flannel-shirt look as well as my peculiar assembled outfits without much attention there.

Maybe it’s silly, I’m in my fifties, and after a lifetime of fighting against wearing labels, I’m suddenly ecstatic to have found one that fit me, at least beyond the ones like mother, grandmother, wife, daughter, sister, etc. that I was already comfortable with.  But it defines what it is like to be me to a world that honestly doesn’t “get it” any more than I got the whole feminine thing my entire life.

Greg and I talked about it tonight too.  Not like the fact that I was me was a big surprise to him–he knows me pretty well.  It was the label that we talked about.  We even had the lewd jokes and sexual innuendos that a couple will share privately, because the label doesn’t bother him.  He doesn’t need to see me suddenly become someone else in order to stroke his own ego or make him feel safer with his own sexual identity.  He doesn’t need me to feign being helpless to do so either, although disabilities have made me far more needy in terms of help with various things than I ever was before.  I don’t have to pretend to be stupid or vapid, inept or foolish.  He isn’t attracted to a woman like that.  He loves me, because I am me.

So if I’m happy that “gender non-conformist” is a label that suits who I am, then it makes him happy.

I think the truth of it all is really that I am happier knowing that I’m not a single freak in the entire world.  Nobody likes being a freak, even if their freak status isn’t putting them in the side show at a circus.  I’m happier knowing that being who I am is not that uncommon really, even if I hadn’t been dwelling on it every minute of every day.  I really was uncomfortable with the unpleasant remarks about some of my views, opinions, behavior, and attire being inappropriate and somehow wrong though.  Being honest about who I am is part of who I am, and that should not make me wrong or a freak.  So I’m not feminine in behavior and tastes, that’s no big deal.  So what if I act and appear somewhat masculine despite long hair?  It doesn’t matter if I have an aggressive walk or stance–it’s not that I’m challenging anyone, but rather how a woman who doesn’t behave in the way society has determined she should behave is perceived because she is walking, talking, and standing more like a male.

I laugh because so often, my voice and name has people conjuring up an image of an Italian model to match me and the radio show.  That is so not me!  Sure, I have (or actually, had–it’s going platinum now) dark hair and dark eyes.  That’s not an Italian exclusive thing.  I’m told by many male listeners that my voice is “sexy” and that makes me laugh too.  I actually look more like the stereotypical grandma than I do that Italian model image.  I’m short, overweight, and dress badly.  Tonight, I’m wearing a pair of olive drab shorts with a far too big navy blue scrub top.  My hair is confined in its usual folded pony tail that is neither a tail nor a bun.  I wear oval granny glasses to see with, either my “computer” glasses or bifocals.  My shoes of choice lately are tennis shoe-like clogs that just slip on.  I’m sitting bolt upright in an antique “occasional” chair that is in serious need of re-upholstery.  It’s late at night, and I’m sipping now cold coffee.  When I finish this blog post, I’ll likely either put the finishing touches on a skirt I’m sending to my great niece or work on my writing…or both.  I have big plans for tomorrow–Greg and I will make some ginger-pear preserves from pears from our neighbor’s tree.  We also need to take the box for my niece to the post office and send that to her–she’s expecting twins.  Their big sister is getting some skirts similar to the ones I have made for my granddaughter.

So I’m a gender non-conformist.  I still bleed red blood.  I still love my family and friends.  I still have a husband I adore.  Is it any wonder that I think the LGBT community should have the same rights to have a spouse and family as I enjoy?  In my case, my gender non-conformity is confined to my interests, hobbies, and clothing.  Sexually, I identify completely as female.  I just was never comfortable wearing those badges that society has determined I should wear because of that sexual identity.  I also was and still am uncomfortable with the unreasonable restrictions that sexual identity has put on me.  A woman’s body IS different.  It means that I had less upper body strength than a man of equal proportion, but I had more lower body strength than a man of equal proportion.  I had to deal with a menstrual cycle, cramps, pregnancy, boobs, and mood swings.  It didn’t mean that I couldn’t do a job because I did those things, nor should it mean that I should get paid less because I was a bit short tempered a few day a month.

But that’s a rant for another day, isn’t it?

Just for a head’s up…

This blog is being MOVED to www.exogenynetwork.com in the next month.  At this time, posts are being made on both sites during the transitional phase.

The Homosexuality Contagion

12 Jul

I’ve heard a lot of anti-gay rhetoric.  I live in the Bible Belt where there seems to be a genuine fear that they are going to “catch the gay“.  There is a lot of statements about how people don’t want gays in their neighborhood, schools, workplace, restaurants, or churches too.  I have to assume that they truly believe that it is somehow contagious and they are afraid that they too, will become gay.

I have also read a lot about how people are gay from birth, as well as arguments that people are homosexual because of their upbringing, experiences, choices, etc.  I can’t answer those questions, and that’s not what this blog post is going to address.  I’m only going to look at the fear of “catching the gay.”

I have had a number of friends who were homosexual over the years.  I’ve gone camping with them, eaten meals with them, cooked and laughed with them, and on occasion, even shared a drink with them.  I’ve had plenty of opportunity to “catch the gay.”

Guess what?

I don’t have a single symptom of being gay.

I’m married, I’ve had kids, and I’m totally comfortable with my sex life as a monogamous heterosexual.  I don’t feel threatened by gays, whether male or female, unless they are armed and specifically state that they are threatening me.  Of course, I would feel equally threatened at that point, regardless of sexual orientation.  I have to also admit that I have never once asked anyone who was threatening me with bodily harm about their sexual orientation.  It just never seemed relevant at that point.  The assailants that were known to me also happen to not be gay, so I also don’t regard homosexuals as potentially threatening individuals.

I’ve also heard that homosexuals are basically child molesters in training.  Thinking back to the years that I worked in law enforcement and corrections, I try to remember a single case involving a convicted child molester also being a homosexual.  Guess what?  I don’t remember any.  That’s not to say it is impossible, but I don’t think the two have anything to do with each other.

The next bit I hear is how the Bible specifically forbids homosexuality.  Well, sure it does, but the Old Testament has a lot of things that we don’t regard as moral or legal in modern society, like incest, polygamy, stoning, etc.  Besides, what happened to that bit about separation of church and state that is in our constitution? Or maybe the whole bit about “thou shalt not judge”?  Or even all that bacon, sausage, pork chops, etc. that America buys in the grocery store each year…that is forbidden too, if you want to get right down to it.  So, we’ll toss out that Old Testament bit, and the New Testament mostly talks about tolerance and love, and stoning homosexuals is definitely out.

I’ve also been told how the gay community and especially same sex marriages are going to threaten the “sanctity of marriage.”  When it comes out of the mouth of a man who has been repeatedly divorced or has been publicly pointed out for extra-marital affairs, that’s hardly going to fly.  Personally, I just don’t get the sanctity of marriage thing when 50% of marriages in the USA end in divorce in 5 years or less.  I also don’t see where having a gay couple who is married as neighbors is going to threaten my marriage, unless my husband was going to “catch the gay” (since I’m obviously immune to it.) I also don’t think that a gay couple’s children are going to “catch the gay” or expose my children or grandchildren to the risks of “catching the gay.”

Homosexuality isn’t a disease, and it isn’t a virus.  You can’t catch it.  You either are or you aren’t, that’s all.  Okay, there are people who are bisexual, but that’s another thing entirely.  I’m not addressing that.  Since I’m not bisexual or homosexual, I can’t pretend I understand how or why it is.  The only person that truly knows your own sexual orientation is yourself.

I don’t understand why people are so afraid of homosexuality unless it is because they have not addressed their own sexual orientation and find that thoughts of the same sex indulging in sexual behavior is arousing, and therefore is “bad” and must be suppressed.  I do know that my mother always insisted that those who persecuted gays were afraid of their own sexuality and sexual urges, which is why they became so angry and fearful when exposed to gays.

I think she may have been right.  I don’t fear them, I don’t find that they make me angry, and I do support same sex marriage.  I think it would be great for the economy too.  After all, most gays never have children, and have far more disposable income as a result.  That means that they will spend a lot more money on things like their weddings, anniversaries, homes, cars, etc. over the years than those of us who devote our lives to raising another generation.  Same sex marriages also means fewer children being born–which will mean more economic and educational opportunities for the children that are born into this world.  The same sex marriages will also probably pay more taxes over the years, as they will not qualify for the child tax credit, will be able to concentrate more on career advancement, and will probably make more money in their lives to be taxed as well.

Sure, they can adopt.  They can use surrogate mothers and sperm donors too. Some of them will have kids, and that’s okay too.  They will have jobs, buy houses, build neighborhoods, attend churches, buy goods & services and do all of the other things that other families do.  Why should I care if Johnny and Jane have two dads or two moms?  Why should I worry about their parents’ sex life at all?  Or any of my neighbors for that matter?

As long as they aren’t breaking any of the other laws we have, it doesn’t matter what orientation they have or don’t have.  It doesn’t matter and it shouldn’t matter, nor should we even give a second thought to what their sex life is about.  I honestly have never gone to a PTA meeting and sat there discussing the other parents’ sex lives or lack thereof.  There are some things that I just do not care about. I also don’t worry about co-workers, other church members, the shopkeeper, or any of the other people I may come into contact with in the course of a day.  In fact, making me visualize such a thing about any of those people is probably going to leave me with an “ewww” and a mental desire to scour out my brain to get rid of it.

The world will be a much better place when we all quit worrying about whether or not everyone else has a better sex life than we do and we start concentrating on our own issues.

Just get over it.  You won’t “catch the gay” even if your neighbors are a same sex couple and they come over for a bbq one weekend.  You can drink after them without it happening too.  You are more likely to catch hepatitis or drug resistant tuberculosis, and neither of those diseases care what sexual orientation you have.  Their marriage won’t make you get a divorce, and your husband isn’t going to run off into the sunset with a gay guy because of it either.  (If he was going to do it, he’ll do it even if you have nobody that is a homosexual in your neighborhood.)  Your wife isn’t going to start lusting after the pastor’s wife either.  You are safe, honest.

You are seriously not that stupid, are you?

Mother’s Day

10 May

I’m not able to spend Mother’s Day with my mother–she lives halfway across the continent from me.

I’m not going to spend it with my daughter either, although she lives closer.

That doesn’t mean that they aren’t both on my mind.  I love them both, more than there are words to even express.

I’m a bit blue though too, as I think about long ago Mother’s Days.

I remember my Grandma W telling me all about what the flower corsages meant.  You wore one color if your mother was alive, another if she was dead.  I don’t remember what color meant what now though.  She was big on traditions like that.  Mother’s Day meant that soon it would be Decoration Day, which most of the country calls Memorial Day.  That meant it was time to start making the rounds of the cemeteries, putting flowers on graves.  It was a time when she would tell me stories about people who were long dead, stuff like how they died, or things that they had done when they were alive.  Sometimes, she would mention things about some extraordinary act of kindness they had done during their lives.

Most of those extraordinary things weren’t about spending money, or not much anyhow.  It was about simply being kind when they didn’t have to.  They lived on, through that act of kindness.

 

Funny how that works.

Then, my mind drifts forwards to my own adulthood.  I remember one year, my son was very small, he’d just turned two that spring.  My daughter was older, she’d be turning ten in a few months.  I was a single mom, and money was usually pretty tight.  I’d bought my own Mother’s Day gift that year, in the form of a cheap wheelbarrow.  I needed one.  My mom and I put it together with an adjustable wrench and a pair of pliers on the front patio.  We had then left the tools lying, and gone on to other things.

That next morning, the kids were outside playing, including my son.  I don’t remember what I was doing, so it probably wasn’t something important.  The next thing I knew though, my son had taken the tools and disassembled his wagon, a small metal red one.  We never did get it back together.  I was still impressed though.  He had learned how to use the tools from watching us the day before, and had put his new information to work figuring out how to take the wagon apart.  Not bad for a toddler, actually.

He died in 2000.  I still miss him.  He was my fishing and hiking buddy.  I still cry sometimes, and the grief will wash over me as fresh and raw as it was on that awful unbelievable day.  How was it that I was alive and he was dead?  My mind still can’t wrap around that.  It makes people uncomfortable though, so I generally keep that grief locked away tight.  I take it out for airing in private.  It’s just better that way.

I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy.

Now though, I focus more on the future.  I have a granddaughter that is the light of my life.  She’s my little hot shot, the celebrity of our clan, you might say.  She is a miracle in my eyes, something I never thought I’d get to see, let alone hold her hand.  Her bright eyes light up when she sees me, and that alone is worth more than all the money in the world.

Her mother isn’t doing so well though.  She has Type 1 diabetes, and a lot of complications.  Her kidneys and her eyes aren’t in as good of shape as they should be.  I often make the trip to her house and chauffeur her to doctor appointments, as well as spend time with my little girl.  There is almost no chance of a second child, but we don’t let that bother us.

The little one absolutely cannot understand that her mama is my baby, and I am her mama’s mama.  To her, mama is HERS and HERS alone still.  Of course, I’m her grandma, and nobody else’s.  She’s right.  She is my only grandchild.

I was able to go on her first and second camping trip with her.  That was a riot, and something that I’ll always treasure in my memories.  Next week, we’ve got another first.  I will be going to her very first dance recital.  That’s special too.

I get to see my mother too.  She came for a visit shortly after the baby was born, and has come each year.  This year, she was here far longer than she had originally planned.  Her great granddaughter was very sad to see her leave, screaming “Great Grandma!” at the sky for days, as though she was hoping she would hear and come back.  She went home in March, but just a couple of weeks ago, I was wearing a pair of shoes that my mother had given me over a year ago because she didn’t like wearing them.  (We wear almost the exact same size.)  My granddaughter looked down and immediately informed me that I was wearing Great Grandma’s shoes.  We had to laugh, even though we were surprised that she remembered a pair of plain white tennis shoes from over a year before.  I guessed that the reason was because I never wear white tennis shoes, as I am a stick-in-the-mud.  I had worn the same pair of Keens since she was a baby, along with the same pair of knock-off Crocs.  It was the first time in her memory that I was wearing something different.

But Mother’s Day is more than about your own mother.  It’s about every mother or potential mother that you know.  It’s about your wife, your girlfriend, your daughter, your sister, your sister-in-law, your neighbor, your own mom, your aunts…about women, really.  Of all ages, all sizes, all shapes, all colors, and all types.  It’s a time to honor that femaleness and appreciate it.

Spend a bit of time alone and think about the women that helped shape you into who you are.  Some were related, but a great number of them probably weren’t.  Some were teachers.  Some were just friends.  Some were probably people who never knew who you were, like Billie Jean King.  She helped me become the woman I am today, and I’ve never met her, nor am I likely to do so.  She stood up and stood out, in a way that said it was okay to be different and expect fair treatment anyhow.  Watching her, I realized I could be whoever I wanted to be, not who society expected me to be.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t pay the price though.  I learned about how painful standing out could be at an early age, and how to just grit my teeth and get through it.

I must have done a lot of gritting my teeth over the years.  One tooth after another has been sacrificed after cracking or decaying.  This year, I will be getting false teeth.  While I’ll be a bit sad, and I’m really dreading the pain of the extractions of remaining teeth, I’m looking forward to something I have not been able to do in years.

Chewing my food.

Funny how false teeth reminds me of my Grandma W though.  When I’d stay with her, I’d bring her a container of water for her teeth to soak in overnight.  On the other hand was my own mother, who had to have her teeth (which had no cavities at all) pulled when she was in her late twenties.  I remember the first time I saw her without teeth.  She had forgotten to put them in after showering and dressing, and when I said something, she clapped her hand over her mouth and ran up the stairs again.  I still have to grin about that.  Years later, she had to spend an entire day without them while they were being repaired.  She was mortified.  Now, she has to take them out at night, and thinks nothing about me seeing her without them.  Maybe its the difference in our vanity between being ThirtySomething and SeventySomething.

Corsages, cards, false teeth, wrenches, pliers, wheelbarrows and wagons…for me, they are part of my memories of Mother’s Day.

Most of all, I want everyone to remember to tell the women in their life how important they are to you, as well as how much you appreciate what they do for you.  Tell them you love them, treasure the moments.

Because one day, it can all vanish in the blink of an eye, and instead of a warm hug, you will be standing at a cemetery.  It really does seem that quick and they are gone.  I remember my grandmas, all of them.  My daughter remembers one of them, as the others had died before she was born or when she was too young to really remember them.  One great grandmother that I never met, my daughter did meet once.  I only knew her from stories from my mother, and I wasn’t along on that trip.

I look over our family tree when working on tracing our genealogy.   There are a lot of women there, women that are strangers to me.  I can’t help but wonder about their lives.  What were they really like?  What were their dreams?  What did they most fervently want and did they ever get it?  What made them laugh?

History.  Too often, its just HIS story, and we need more herstory.  Listen to the women in your life.  What is her story?  Tell your own story too.  After all, that’s what it is really all about, our stories weaving together to create a rich tapestry, and our mothers’ stories are interwoven with our own.

It’s about love and kindness, cruelty and dismissal, unfairness and justice, dreams, of watching  your hopes be dashed, or seeing them come to life.

Mother’s Day though, that’s all about the stories and the love.  Mothers give up a lot, even now, to be a mother.  Once, it was often fatal to bear a child.  That’s not true in most countries today, but it still is about sacrificing for the next generation, whether it is time, social activities, career advancements/choices, or even marriage.  It’s about putting that next generation’s needs above the current one too.

Maybe we need more mothers in Washington?

 

Obamacare?

10 Nov

Everybody seems to be up in arms about it, either defending it or trying to destroy it.

Ideally, it would have provided something called universal health care. A basic level of health care for everyone, regardless of income. It doesn’t do that. But, that’s what conservatives were afraid it was going to deliver, since that smacks of “socialism” and they drag up old Cold War phobias to make us fear the concept.

So, what we really got was federally mandated health insurance.

Sort of.

From what I can find out, it isn’t universal. If you are low income, you are likely to still not have any health care coverage, so you are still regarded as one of the “leeches” on the system and the reason that health care costs keep rising.

From where I’m sitting, in Mississippi, it looks like business as usual, but great for insurance companies.

Okay, I went through the enrollment process.  The website everyone makes fun of worked just fine for me, and this was a couple of weeks ago when it was all new.  We were offered very limited choices to start off.  One company, that’s it, folks.  Reminds me of the electric company, we’ve got another monopoly going on.  Maybe we’d have had more options if we lived on the coast or in Jackson, but even so, we’re only 30 minutes from Hattiesburg now, and that’s one of the larger cities in Mississippi.  So it’s one company with two plans, and they don’t include the highest coverage, the platinum level.  (Not that it mattered, we couldn’t afford either one we were offered anyhow.)

The two lowest plans did not offer very good coverage, and it included a large deductible.  To add to the injury, the crappy plans cost roughly $850-950 per month for a couple.

The state of Mississippi, like a number of other states that have vocalized their dislike of the “Obamacare” Affordable Health Care Act, has refused to consider expanding their Medicaid program.  Likely it’s due to the impoverished state of the Mississippi economy to begin with.  After all, where would the money come from?

They are being generous.  They will not fine those below the income threshold, which I assume is the poverty line.  Whatever that line is, we’re below it.  So, it is status quo.  No fine, no health care, and nothing has changed at all for us.

But let’s do some math.  Let’s assume that a couple who is working 40 hours a week at minimum wage ($7.25 per hour).  That would mean that they got an annual gross income of $30,160.  They are paying an average of 26% of their income to taxes, Social Security, etc.  That’s $7841.60 leaving them with $22,318.40.   Let’s say that they select the lowest cost plan at $850 per month.  Their annual costs will be $10,200.  That leaves them with $12,118.40.

That sounds reasonable, right?  Surely they can live on that, right?

Well, let’s experiment.  The average rent is about $600 per month, totaling $7200.  Their annual income is now down to just $4918.40.

But, they have to get to work, and most of Mississippi doesn’t have mass transportation of any kind.  They don’t live close to work, but they are careful with managing their lone vehicle so they are both able to get to and from work.  Even so, they average 25 miles round trip each day, their vehicle is older so the annual cost of license and tags, combined with the inspection, totals to just $45 per year.  They carry the minimum insurance, but it still costs $90 per month.  Being an older  vehicle, it also does not get good gas mileage, coming in at only 20 mpg, at an average cost of $3.15 per gallon.  It also requires two annual oil changes, which cost $35 each, for another $70 per year.  On average, they have to buy tires every fourth year, which cost $400, adding another $100 to their annual expenses.  They pray it does not break down, as they are already spending a lot on their transportation, a grand total of $2732.19.  That leaves them with $2186.21.

But, remember, they are still left with bills to pay for utilities, clothing expenses, and their grocery bill.  The real problem is that after getting their affordable insurance, paying their rent, and getting to and from work, they are left to figure out how to survive on $182.18 per month.

That won’t even cover their utilities, let alone let them cover their deductible, pay a co-pay, or buy a prescription.  They won’t be able to eat either.

But, a couple earning minimum wage, in the eyes of many, is not below poverty level.

I’m not seeing anything affordable in this.  I’m not seeing anything resembling universal health care either.  I damn sure don’t see anything resembling socialism in it. The only ones who are actually going to have health insurance are the same ones that have it now, barring the ones who can afford it but are too cheap to pay their portion of the premium for their families through the plan offered by their employer.

I can remember those people well.  Back in the “good old days” when I had an employer that offered health insurance and treated their employees as though they were a company asset (like good companies do), we had a giant hike in our health insurance premiums.  They had a meeting with all of us, explained what was happening and why, as well as what their options were in terms of offering us health insurance plans.  They listened to us, then came back with an option.  The costs of extending insurance coverage to our families was going to have to be deducted from our paychecks, and we could elect to have coverage if we so desired.  I desired–I had a kid with a chronic health problem (she was a type 1 diabetic who was often in the hospital).  My co-workers, knowing that I paid about half of my paycheck to health insurance, asked me how I could afford it.  For me it was simple.  I could not afford to NOT have it.  There is a vast difference in the kind of health care one receives with health insurance versus without it, and I had witnessed it first hand.

I also had pretty good insurance.  I didn’t have a lot of out-of-pocket expenses.  Sure, I had a co-pay at the doctor’s office, as well as for prescriptions, but it was reasonable and affordable.  I didn’t have big bills for the hospital stays, and I had both dental and vision coverage as well.

Even if I could afford the insurance plans offered via the so-called Obamacare plan, neither of them included dental or vision insurance.  The co-pays were reasonable, but the deductible was a serious issue.  So was the percentage of coverage on procedures and hospitalization.  With only 60% coverage on these things, how is someone with $182.18 per month to pay utilities and groceries out of, going to pay even a $1000 procedure (far less than a single emergency room visit) which is going to cost $400 out-of-pocket.

The Affordable Health Care Act may have had some great intentions, but some how, along the way, it got left with loopholes and giant black holes that once again put insurance corporations into the drivers’ seat leaving the rest of us clinging to the bumper and terrified.  The worst part is, it hasn’t even gone into effect yet.  We have sticker shock, as well as discovering that we’re ordered to choose from models X, Y and maybe model Z for health insurance, but we’re standing here realizing that the other shoe hasn’t dropped yet.  What kind of problems are waiting to appear?

We, as a population, has little faith in the government in general and even less in the federal government.  It’s notorious for favoring those with mega-money and tromping on the little guy without regard for the welfare of the masses.  It’s all about special interest groups, with an ample seasoning of mismanagement and bureaucratic red tape.

It seems that there is only one escape from the tyranny of the Affordable Health Care Act.

Get elected to Congress.

Yep, they were smart.  They made sure none of them would ever have to deal with this monstrosity that is neither affordable nor healthy.

Social media & politics

12 Oct

I have been seeing a lot of political commentary posted to Facebook, as well as receiving a fair amount of political based commentary on things I post to my timeline. It’s made me realize something.

A lot of people are pretty clueless about how our political system works, not that I’m an expert on it.

Many people truly do not understand that the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) was not passed by the President. Presidents cannot legislate, so unless it was an executive order, he cannot be the one responsible. The ones responsible are the senators and representatives in Congress who passed it. The only direct action on that health care bill that was an option for the president was to veto it when it landed on his desk afterwards.

The government shut down was not orchestrated by the president either. That was the direct result of Congress’ inability to compromise on a budget. They knew it would happen when a budget was not agreed upon. They knew the deadline too.  In private industry, we call that “incompetent” and “irresponsible”.

I understand that there is a lot of conflicting ideology around the budget.  There is the rising debt and the continual stream of tax credits and government hand outs to a wide assortment of corporations and industries, let alone foreign countries’ aid packages.  There is the Affordable Health Care Act, with its confusing assortment of rules and regulations, as well as rampant rumors that affordable is the last thing it will be in practice.  If half of it is true, I will be destitute and homeless within two years of it going into effect.  Average citizens, such as myself, are left without answers about what is actually true and what is just one more piece of fear-mongering propaganda being tossed about by the anti-healthcare faction.

Most of all, I’m seeing an increase in dissatisfaction with the federal government.  I’m also seeing an increase in fear of the government and a perception of it as a totalitarian force.  I hear more  about secession than I would have ever dreamed of hearing too.  I look back to history, to the antebellum era, and I’m seeing a frightening parallel.

If you don’t like it, whatever the it is, do something about it. Write your congressmen & women. Call them. Don’t vote for their re-election. Work to get them recalled if necessary. Ignore the continual and useless online petitions.

Whether you like or hate Obama, he can’t be re-elected. That is courtesy of an actual amendment to the constitution, the same thing that a lot of people have been ranting about lately.  It’s the 22nd amendment.    That means that Obama is on his way out with the end of this term. In the meantime, we’ve still got a corrupt & incompetent Congress…being re-elected over and over.

Maybe we need to limit terms as a senator or representative too, and put an end to the career politicians.  Of course, that could be a problem.

We’d have to have the same ones we want to put an end to vote to pass it.

Right now, it’s a great job.  You get to vote on your own benefits and pay.  You can take off time as you please.  You can take bribes and distribute favors.  If people don’t like what you do or don’t do,  you simply point your finger at the POTUS and pass the buck.

So, give up on the useless online petitions–they are not going to do a darned thing.  Give up the chain emails and shares and likes–they don’t do anything either.  Neither do blog posts like this one, other than to urge others to take some sort of useful action.

DO write and call Congress. Be loud.  Be persistent.

DO vote!  It does make a difference.  Voter apathy bought this Congress, folks!

If you don’t like what Congress is doing, we have a system in place to do something about it.  Use it.

People Watching

7 Sep

I am a people watcher.  I notice a lot of things about people, and some of them are very subtle cues about their psyche given away by their body language.  When I worked in fields such as corrections and law enforcement, it was very useful.  When I was younger and lacked knowledge about the frequency of people having less than honorable intentions, it was what saved my silly butt when my brain failed to use what is called “common sense”.  People watching is a lifelong habit.

As time as moved forward, the internet was not only born, but grew up and out, swallowing our world.  It has given us access to the thoughts and comments from people from all over the world.  In many cases, it has removed the economic barriers that had previously isolated certain sectors of society from each other.

So what does that mean?

It means that I have the ability to regularly observe the public behavior and comments of those people born into a life of privilege.  You know the sort–their vacations cost more than my house’s total purchase price.  They have never experienced actual hunger, been homeless, or been worried about whether their utilities were going to be shut off before they could scrape together the money to pay the bill.  They have no idea what robbing Peter to pay Paul even means in terms of daily life.  They can have personal trainers, multiple cars, multiple vacations each year, etc.  They also have the ability to go “find” themselves and put their principles ahead of survival.  

When they were graduating (or their children) from high school, their biggest worry was not trying to find a way to pay for college, but rather whether they would be accepted into their first choice college.

But that’s okay.  It is nice that some people can enjoy a life of privilege, and if they inherited it from their grandparents or great-grandparents, well, lucky for them.  It’s hard to not envy that financial state when you are struggling, but I really don’t bear them animosity.  What does torque my psyche is that these people with  a life of privilege feel that they not only have the right, but the obligation, to pass judgement on the rest of the world.

People usually do not choose to be poor or financially struggling.  No one enjoys being hungry, homeless, sick, etc.  Our natures encourage us to try to avoid those states.  They, which in this case, includes me, may have made some poor choices or been the recipient of an unfortunate series of events that lead them to that state.  From there, circumstances can snowball to other issues, with a wide range of observable results.  These things can happen to people who are intelligent, moral, hard-working, and considerate of others.  They may even have a very good education to go with it.

It’s sad but true, money talks in this country.  Without money, if you are sick, you will die, the same as anyone who is poor and sick in a third world country.  Some areas have better indigent health care than others.  In Mississippi, if you do not have children at home, you are unlikely to receive any assistance with any medical needs, from medication to hospitalizations. The state does not consider keeping their population healthy to be financially feasible or a good investment, apparently. It means lower costs for the elderly too–Mississippians tend to die younger than most Americans, reducing the number of years that the elderly receive Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SSI, SNAP, etc.  Sounds great on paper, if you are one of the privileged category that can afford good housing, good nutrition,  lifelong insurance and private elderly care.  Poor people tend to believe that they are “lucky” to have minimal health care for their children.  The new national health care plan is painted to be the tool of the devil himself, an affront to the very fabric of American society.

Why do these people of privilege believe that they are responsible for passing judgement on every overweight person they see, everyone who is struggling to make a life for themselves, everyone who asks for help, and everyone else that they may observe in the course of a day?  Who gave them that right?

Somewhere along the way, the capitalism that we all treasure became a corporate based economy that has little to do with the concept of “free enterprise” and a whole lot to do with monopoly and control.  It’s not really capitalism anymore, more like corporatism.  Now we are told that corporations even enjoy many of the rights of a person.

Wonderful, right?

Not until a corporation dies on the battlefield or in a hospital bed of a curable disease.

In most cases, those with a life of privilege have acquired it via the corporatism society we live in today, not due to extraordinary efforts or great inventions. The sad thing is that with the rise of corporatism, we’ve lost compassion.  We illustrated it with the reality show industry featuring Donald Trump pointing his finger and stating “You are fired!”

There is no compassion from corporations.  It’s nothing more than the cogs of a wheel that bring the downsizing from the board of directors to the employee being laid off, all pre-planned like a paint by number painting and never seasoned by compassion, to give the dreaded pink slip to someone who is going home to his or her family with the worst news imaginable.

Even the safety net of the extended family is gone, also courtesy of corporatism and its demise rushed by the corporatism that fuels Hollywood’s representation of society in films and television.  We are now like a nation of three year olds grabbing everything they can reach and shouting “MINE!” at the top of their lungs.

Corporatism has convinced us that we need those “toys” and that he who dies with the most toys wins.  Too many people are working too many hours to buy toys so that they look as though they are living the life of privilege, when instead they could be enjoying the luxury of a real life with enough.  It’s made us a nation of people who trample over other people just to grab one more toy too.

Did you think Hunger Games was a depressing book?  It’s not that much different than the corporate career many face.  Most “die” early on, doomed to a life in the mail room, secretarial pool, or being fired.  A few climb to the next level, if they are greedy enough and willing to stomp on enough other people to do so.  At each level, more die and fewer rise to the next level.  Then, finally, there is a handful of “winners” who get the prize.

I think we need a whole lot more compassion, respect, and consideration for others and to stop entertaining those in positions of privilege with our envy and efforts to rise to their positions.  We need to learn what enough really means.  We need to remove the concept of false shortages and monopoly from our economy and create an air of plenty and competence.  We need to reward excellence and despise greed.

I can dream, right?

Sometimes, I wonder how Gene Roddenberry’s world came into being, what kinds of growing pains it experienced before money went away.  What measure did they use to bargain with others then?