Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday ~ The GTFO 2013 Edition

Since this is the last edition of TTPMOT for 2013, and I didn't write one last week because I was busy with family and gratitude and holiday stuff, this one will be extra ranty. I hope you are wearing your big kid undies today.

Off we go.

Keeping People Alive When They Are Dead
There are two major stories in the news right now that involve patients being kept alive through the use of machines when they are very much dead. There are two ways to declare death, either through physical death of the body, cessation of the autonomic nervous system which regulates breathing, heart rate and so on or through the death of the brain.

The trouble is that it's usually pretty easy to tell when a person stops breathing, when their heart stops beating, but it's difficult to tell when a person experiences brain death. Brain death diagnoses are exceedingly rare and really only exist through the wonder of modern medicine. The patient is being kept alive through artificial means, which can include ventilators, intravenous fluids, enteral feeding tubes, medications and demands 24 hour care.

There is a difference between a comatose patient and one declared brain dead. For a brain death declaration to occur, the standard requires two independent medical doctors to perform thorough exams on the patient, testing for reflexes as well as reading brain activity tests. Comatose patients (and other patients with suppressed neurological function) have a chance of recovery, but someone who is brain dead has no chance.

Sorry for the long winded explanation, but it's important to this rant. I spent years studying bioethics and this is the kind of stuff that makes me crazy.

Anyhow, there are two people being kept alive, one against her wishes, in hospitals today. The first is Malise Munoz. 14 weeks pregnant, she suffered a pulmonary embolism at home in the middle of the night. She was rushed to the hospital, but doctors were not able to save her life. She was declared brain dead because of lack of oxygen. What doctors were able to do, though, is to keep her body alive, and therein lies the rub.

She was pregnant. She is pregnant. Even though she is legally dead, her body is being kept alive to incubate a baby that was barely past the first trimester at the time of her death. A baby that no hospital, no doctor would have ever attempted to save. The doctors aren't sure whether the baby suffered damage from oxygen deprivation, and it is too early to tell. Her husband wants her disconnected from life support. They had discussed life and death issues, but never wrote anything down formally. The state of Texas forbids removal of life support from a pregnant patient.

The doctors have said they will do more testing after the fetus reaches 24 weeks, but under Texas law that's past the acceptable time to perform an abortion. Letting her die would mean letting the baby die too. Her wishes and the wishes of her family have been deemed irrelevant. In the meantime, she is being kept alive to keep a baby alive that might be just as dead as she is.

As if that case isn't bad enough, there is a legal battle raging over the body of Jahi McMath, a 13 year old girl who died after a routine tonsillectomy in Northern California. Her body is still being kept alive, but she has been declared brain dead both by the doctors and the courts. Her family refuses to let her go, and they are in the process of trying to find a nursing home that will take her in.

The problem is that in order to transfer her, she needs a tracheotomy and a feeding tube put in permanently, and the hospital refuses to do it, saying that it goes against ethics to perform unnecessary procedures on the deceased. Even if the family can find a way to get the procedures performed, they have to get her body transferred which will require involvement of the coroner since she has legally been declared dead. Then you have to ask the question of who will pay to keep a dead girl alive.

I get it. I do. It's excruciating to see your baby lying in a bed. Hope is crippling when there is none. I can't imagine the heartbreak of a family being told that their child is dead. I've seen a few families unwilling to accept the conditions of their children in cases like this personally, and the outcome is always awful. Jahi isn't coming back, and keeping her hooked up to machines won't help her. The family seems to have grounds for a negligence suit because of the details of the case, and would have grounds as well for a wrongful death suit...but they have to let her go first.

Yesterday, the judge extended the order to prohibit the hospital from disconnecting life support until January 7th.

Privilege, Privilege Everywhere
From Justine Sacco and her tweet about how she won't get AIDS because she is white, to all the Duck Dynasty fans telling the gays and minorities to get over it (and WHY is everyone ignoring the fact that he thinks 15 is the best age to marry girls???), even to Ani DeFranco and the plantation concert that wasn't...it's becoming clearer and clearer in my head just how clueless people are about the power of privilege.

White privilege, male privilege, financial privilege, birth privilege, whatever privilege. It all gives whoever enjoys it (or them) some tacit benefits in our society. I don't labor under any delusion that the playing field can ever be completely leveled, but I also think it would do most people some good to recognize the fact that these privileges exist.

This is a subject that has been on my mind a lot lately, but I haven't really been able to formulate a coherent post about it. I'm waiting for my more articulate friends to go there. Then I read an article yesterday that was supposed to be about a woman fighting cancer and all the wonderful support she received, and I read it as something else entirely. It reeked of privilege.

If you so choose, you can read the article here.

As someone who has been to Cancer-ville, it stung. It stung a lot. It stung because what she describes as love in many instances isn't love at all, it's position, it's access, it's knowing the right people, it's privilege, it's wealth, it's luck.

It's as if to say that those who don't get their PET scans bumped fail to do so because they aren't loved enough. Those who die do so because they aren't loved enough. Those who get diagnosed and into treatment after long delays must then wait because they aren't loved enough. She was loved enough that she didn't have to.

I don't in any way intend to diminish the awfulness of her diagnosis, of her struggle. I don't fault her in the least for exploiting her access to save her own life. Where my issue lies is in the false way she presents it all. The fact that she is wholly oblivious to the real reasons she was treated the way she was.

My father wasn't diagnosed for months after he sought help. He died. It wasn't because he wasn't loved enough. It's not about love. Not at all.

It's been almost 28 years, but it's still too soon. It will always be too soon.
Beyonce, Beyonce, Beyonce....really?

She included audio recordings from the Challenger explosion in the song XO, which is about a troubled relationship. 

No, I'm not kidding.

Why would anyone think this is okay? Actual real people died in this tragedy. It's the one that sticks in my memory the most from my own childhood. Their families weren't consulted before the song was released, and Beyonce's reps aren't returning phone calls.


2013, GTFO
You weren't the worst year, but you had some spectacular train wreck moments. You were far from the best. You were supposed to be awesome, you were supposed to be this fabulous new beginning and you failed to live up to my expectations.

You took my mom. You scared the crap out of me. You made me ugly cry way too many times. You locked me in a perfectly good bathroom in a perfectly good grocery store. You broke my heart a few times. You stomped on it and squished it between your toes at least twice.

Don't let the door hit ya.

See y'all on the flip side.

My Favorite Things of 2013

2013 wasn't the worst year, but it was far from the best. Before we flip the calendar over, let's take a journey for a second. Here are some of my favorite things. This list is by no means all inclusive.

Pinterest. Seriously. I freaking love this site. If you aren't following me, you should be. I have almost as many male followers as female, which has to mean something. I'm not sure WHAT it means, but it has to be fairly unusual. Here's my profile. 

The Walking Dead. Okay, so I'm late to the party, but I showed up eventually. Fashionably late. I heart Daryl. But you already knew that. 


Tom Hiddleston. Loki. All the things. I love a good villain. The line in Thor 2 when she slaps him and he says oh, I like her??? Good. Lord.


My friend at Nightdreams and Daymares sent me a link to a Tumblr account dedicated to him. Well, parts of him. I just can't bring myself to type the name of it, but should you find yourself in love with this man and have a few minutes to kill, go here. And you're welcome.

Zach Sobiech. He was a teenager who passed away earlier this year from osteosarcoma, but not before he wrote a song and touched the lives of tons of people. His grace and peace and gifts to the world are truly a legacy worth remembering. Thank you, Zach. 

Gay Marriage. The change is coming, and though the religious right may be opposed, their opposition based on that religion won't be enough to stop the change a nation founded on the separation of church and state demands. 

Here are my favorite youtube videos. I hope you've seen them already.









If you've just recently started reading here or missed some of these, here is a list of my favorite posts of the year, lumped into categories to make it a little bit easier.

Five Funniest (I'll try to be funnier in 2014)

Five About Parenting

My favorite posts about my kids


There are 14 hours and 38 minutes left in 2013. Tick Tock. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

The quick and dirty summary of what happened in the hive in 2013

These retrospective posts are hard, you guys, because they make me go back and relive so much of what has happened in the last year. Some good, some awful. I cried and laughed while writing them, I'll do it again re-reading them.

The things I do for you people.

Sheesh.

2013 will go down, for me, as a year I'm glad to see go. It wasn't the worst, but it was far from the best. I could use a little boring around here.

I started the year by diving into fiction, and began a story about a woman battling alcoholism that will hopefully be finished this year. I hope to publish it by the summer. If you haven't read it yet, here is the chapter that opens the story. It is pretty dark....I have to warn you. My head is a messed up place.

I revealed a lot about myself. Some stories I had shared in pieces before, some were things I never disclosed...sometimes to anyone.

I wrote about losing my first child, about struggling with anorexia, about the day that a close friend tried to rape me and how I didn't tell anyone. I opened up a vein and wrote about my battle with post partum depression. I confessed that I struggle with PTSD and anxiety attacks.

The post about losing my baby was a jumping off point for other women to share their stories of loss. It is what brought me closer to other women who understood. It is why I was asked to contribute to a book for grieving mothers, Sunshine After The Storm.

The post about anorexia pushed me to start a support group for parents dealing with children in the same place I was in. The rape post opened a can of worms and helped other women tell their stories, like Slice of Humble and My Husband Ate All My Ice Cream.

The PPD posts helped me to reach out to women who struggled with it as well. The PTSD posts and the response from them told me that I needed to start another online support group for those who need to know that someone out there understands. I spent an entire month hosting guest posts from people about mental illness in their lives and in the lives of those they love.

A friend asked for help in the wake of escaping from an abusive husband. You responded. You responded big and overwhelming and beautiful and words will never be enough to thank you all.

I spent a month on diabetes awareness after my mother died from complications of the disease. Others shared their stories as well.

After I lost my mother, I started to tell that story.

I still miss my father. I nearly lost my brother.

I hosted a photography challenge and started a group on Facebook to share pictures.

I did an A to Z Music Challenge and revisited the 30 Days of Truth. I hosted many amazing guest posts.

I fully embraced my inner nerd and became Princess Leia.


I'm still Wonder Woman.


I went to my first Con and decided the geeks should inherit the earth. I started a Thursday Nerdsday series where I reveal all kinds of ridiculous things about myself. I started a real-life Wonder(ful) Women series too, honoring the kickass gals I know (and the ones I haven't met yet).

I wrote legal analysis on the DOMA vote, the VRA, the Duck Dynasty debacle, gun rights, abortion, the death penalty, child rape, the rights of the accused, vaccine injuries, child support and the Boston bombing. I took on the drone policy, the Catholic church, Lance Armstrong and many more.

I wrote about the pollution from wells in the wake of the flood before it was sexy. I wrote about what it was like to help a family salvage what was left.

I wrote about Paul Walker's death and the post went viral. I learned a lot about myself and the internet in a few short days. I cringed that this was the post that went, given how rarely I write about celebrities.

I still get pissed off almost every Tuesday.

I learned that to some degree, happiness is a choice. Choosing to try and be happy again was terrifying. I know how crazy that sounds, but trust me when I say that PTSD will mess you up big time.

I learned that trust won't come back until and unless you let it.

I learned that some wounds never heal, you just learn how to live with the scars.

I learned that I have to use the hell I've been through to help other people. There has to be some good that comes out of it.

I learned that there is strength in being real, in being vulnerable, in opening up the ugly things and exposing them for the world to see.

I've lost fans over what I write, I've lost friends over it too. I've picked up more than I scared off, so I'll declare victory. I've learned a lot about myself this year, most of it the hard way, but I'm better for it.

I'm a hot damn mess at times.

I'm funnier on Facebook than I am on the blog.

I'm totally inappropriate in person.

I'm glad you're all here.

I hope you'll stick around...just in case I do something awesome next year.

xoxo

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ten Things We All Should Stop Doing in 2014

1. Stop falling for manufactured debates and controversies.

Stop allowing one person's opinion to turn the internet into a three week long argument complete with ranting statuses, soapbox proclamations, open letters, comment trolls and snarky replies. For the love of all that is right and just in the world, stop reading comment sections. Stop taking everything so personally. Stop believing that you can change anyone else's opinion. Stop thinking that anyone else's beliefs have anything to do with you. Good, bad, or ugly....everyone needs to own their views. Also, understand that a lot of the talking heads on television get paid just to start fights.

2. Stop believing everyone cares about the manufactured stuff. Realize that all those manufactured debates and controversies are the luxury of the healthy, employed, entitled first world.

People who are dealing with a chronic or terminal illness, people dealing with oppression and judgment, people who can't find work, people who aren't sure where their next meal is coming from...I can promise you that most of them don't much care about whether Miley has a nip slip in her newest video or what some guy on a scripted reality show said. On top of that all, remember that the vast majority of the people in the world would love to deal with your first world problems. Perspective. It's everything.

3. Stop ignoring the real issues.

While everyone is so caught up in arguing about silly things, we as a society have become masters at ignoring the real issues in front of us. Cities have criminalized homelessness. Hospitals are closing emergency rooms in inner cities. Kids are starving. And that's just here. Around the world, there are all the fights we throw ourselves into for questionable reasons and the ones we turn a blind eye to just because we can. The media keeps us in the dark. We need to demand that someone turn on the damn lights. Then we need to open our eyes and see what is really happening. Makes you uncomfortable? Too bad. Reality has that effect on people.

4. Stop talking. Start listening.

In everything. In personal exchanges, with family members, at work, online. We get so caught up sometimes in our experience with the world that we lose the ability to see things from the perspective of the other person. Even if we can't understand where someone else is coming from, try. Accept that their experiences will never be the same as yours, their perspective will never be the same, and they will never see things with the same eyes you do. There's truth to that old adage about not judging someone until you walk in their shoes. Be still. Observe. Listen.

5. Stop plugging in.

Stop worrying so much about what the people online think, what they are doing, where they ate dinner, what their vacation pictures look like. Does any of that really matter in your life? Truth? No. Social media is a blessing and a curse. We all (myself included) need to value it for the good and ignore the rest. We need to remember that many people only put the things they want other people to see out there, that most people won't tell the whole story, that we're getting the saccharin version of everyone else's lives. There's always, always, always more to the story. At this point in my life, I have to wonder if all the gloriously happy people who act like everything is 24/7 awesome are delusional or just heavily medicated. Seriously. Look up from the screen, look at the people who are there. Check on them.


6. Stop making judgments based on hypotheticals. 

If you make a habit of preaching to the world about things, about judging other people, about telling other people how to live their lives, stop. Take a long hard look in the mirror. Listen to the words that are coming out of your mouth. Realize that you really and truly have no clue what anyone else is facing in their lives, that any assumptions you are making about their choices are based on your limited information and until you've actually been there, you aren't there...and whatever you think you would do is purely hypothetical.

7. Stop worrying about the things that don't matter, start worrying about the things that do.

Ready for this one? If you're expending a ton of energy on something that seems like a waste of time, it probably is. Obsessing about something that isn't going to matter in ten years? Stop. Telling yourself that you'll work harder on that messy relationship tomorrow because it's too hard today? Stop. Telling yourself that you'll take the kids to the park tomorrow because you're tired today? Stop. Telling yourself that you'll make that phone call tomorrow because you are too busy with the things that don't really matter? Stop. Make the phone call instead. Life is short. Way shorter than you think it is. Do the stuff that matters, even if it's hard. Even if it sucks. The rest of it won't make a difference down the road.

8. Stop beating yourself up.

Carrying a few pounds more than you'd like, so you're refusing to take the picture? Stop that. Twenty years from now, I can promise you that you'll want that picture. Even if you don't, someone else will. Feeling like a terrible parent? Stop that. Chances are that if you're questioning whether you are screwing your kids up irreversibly, you aren't. Parenting is hard work. Much harder than you ever think it will be. If you occasionally think you're doing it wrong, you are probably doing it more right than you are giving yourself credit for. Focusing on the things you don't do well? Stop that too. Think about what you are kickass at and focus on that instead. Love what you love. Fly that freak flag. I'm rooting for you.

9. Stop over scheduling.

For serious. The best decision we made as a family this year was to take a break from all organized team sports in the fall. It was the first time in almost nine years that we weren't beholden to practice and game schedules. We played games, we built forts, we hung out at the park, we played dress up, we found new things we love. Plans are great. Not having them is pretty great too. Plan to do nothing sometimes. Do nothing together. Don't wait nine years to do it.

10. Stop using your energy on people who suck it out of you.

This world is filled with selfish narcissists who will use and abuse you as long as you let them. Stop. Severing ties with some people is excruciatingly hard, especially if you are like me and are well conditioned to tolerating it. You deserve better. You deserve to be surrounded by people who are supportive and real and don't just take and take and take. You deserve someone to lean on, someone you can trust. You are worth it. Don't ever let anyone else try and convince you otherwise.

This year is almost over. I'm glad to see it go. Let's kick next year's ass, shall we?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

This Christmas

On the way here for Christmas, my brother and his family were in an accident.

A terrible accident. 

One that they had no business walking away from. 

I got the call when I was in a kitchen filled with laughter and lightness, at the house of friend. The look on my face told them all that something was very wrong. I rounded up the kids and said we had to go. We had to go now. Some of my friends hugged me, I think. 

Held back tears the whole way home. Whispered to my husband, come here. 

The words they flipped the truck barely made it out of my mouth. I was shaking.

They hit a patch of black ice, fishtailed and rolled into the median.

I knew that they were all being brought in to the hospital and that I had to go. He told me that I needed to tell the kids, who assumed we left the party early because their cousins were here. They'd been on a countdown for weeks. 

Fortunately, my kids are all too familiar with the just-before-Christmas car accident, as it happened to us three years ago. Our accident was an inconvenience, but one that gifted us time we wouldn't have had with my dying father had it not happened. This was worse. Much worse.

I had to go.

I paced in the waiting room, waiting for the ambulance to pull in. Started to get text messages from the people who were at the party and knew something was very wrong. 

They called me back.

In one room was my sister in law, with my niece, still strapped into her car seat. I hugged her and said I'll be right back.

When I saw my brother, his head covered in blood, it took everything in me not to let the tears out. Beside him, my nephew. I scooped him up in my arms and he immediately started singing Frosty the Snowman

Then the tears.

They were all alive. I just needed to see them with my own eyes. The kids didn't have a scratch on them. My husband came and picked them up and took them home. 

Xrays and CT scans and lots of poking and prodding. They were both hurt, but nothing was too serious. We could go.

The following morning, my husband and brother went to collect what was salvageable from the wreck. The pictures they brought back told me that we're all lucky they made it. 

Underneath the row in the truck, between the car seats the kids were in, a rosary that no one recognizes. 

I don't ask questions anymore. I just close my eyes and say thank you.

Yesterday, in the shower, I had an epiphany. My father's car, the one we drove back after his death, the one that we have hardly used, the one that we haven't been able to get rid of, the one that we kept all this time without a good reason. 

They're taking it home.

There was a reason all along.

This Christmas, we are together. We shouldn't be. 

Our parents aren't with us anymore, but they're letting us know they are still here. 

Merry Christmas to all of you. xoxo

me, Dad, Mom and my brother
Ventura, CA
Thanksgiving, 2009

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Nutcrackers, My Mom and Christmas Without

My Mom and I had a complicated relationship.

That sentence may qualify as the understatement of the year.

Possibly even the decade.

She was a complicated person. I am a complicated person. Though we shared little else in common, we shared that. Over time, all of the things that made us each who we were and are became insurmountable obstacles. When she died just over two months ago now, I hadn't seen her in over a year. It was hard. It was all hard.

Her being here was difficult. Her being far away, impossible, but in different ways. There was little about our relationship that wasn't part of some intricate web, some labyrinth of differing perspectives, some convoluted story with a past you had to muddle though to get to now.

And now she is just gone.

I miss her.

I miss who she was.

She loved Christmas in an almost unnatural way. She was the polar opposite of me.

She could listen to Christmas music year round. I cringe at it when I am forced to listen. 

She could seek out the little Christmas boutiques in every city we ever visited and spend hours touching everything, find something she couldn't live without. I haven't bought a Christmas decoration in years. 

She bought and bought and bought and bought. I try to be frugal.

We couldn't have been more different, her and I, not if we tried.

The last few years have been exhausting. I won't even begin to sugarcoat any of it. Maybe someday I will write those stories, but for now, they reside in my head and my heart, confirmation that I did all that I could until I couldn't do it anymore, and then I did what I had to do, even if no one understands.

Last Christmas was painful. My Dad had been gone almost two years, it was the second round of holidays without him and she had gone back, moved away from here. Not because we wanted her to, but because I think in her heart she felt like it was the right thing to do. I don't know for sure why she did because she stopped really talking to me so long before then. I never will know what her motivations were for much of what happened those last few years. I sense that she may not have even really known. What I know for sure is that she packed up and left one day and whatever hope I had that things could be better between us someday was crammed into that truck with her belongings.

I didn't understand it then, I don't understand it now, but rationality and reason haven't suited me well when it comes to her. They never have, so I don't know why I would think that anything would suddenly make sense now.

I think perhaps it is because I crave it so desperately. I want to believe that there is a linear time frame, that cause and effect exists, that things happened the way they did because there was no other way for them to. That, at the core of it all, was some rhyme or reason. Or maybe I'm just trying to convince myself.

All I know is that I feel a bit lost sometimes.

This navigation of the world without parents is bizarre, to say the least.

It's something I tried to prepare myself for, something that I thought I was prepared for, and yet here I am, struggling anyway.

She wasn't very maternal those last few years, that's for sure. Our relationship had flipped and I was the one trying desperately to take care of her, even if she fought me the whole time she was here then shut me out when she was gone. She wasn't always kind and loving, not anymore, not with me anyway. She wasn't my safe place, she wasn't the place that I needed her to be. She wasn't very much like a mother at all, certainly not when I could have used one, and hadn't been for a long time.

But she was mine.

And I miss her.

I've realized so much about my relationship, not just with her, but with my father as well, in these past few years, but I have learned even more in these two months. I've learned things I never wanted to learn.

The hardest lesson of them all is that even if what she and I had was broken and damaged and flawed and dysfunctional, it was all I ever knew.

And now it's gone.

Sometimes it still doesn't seem real.

Christmas has not passed without a hole in my heart in a very long time. Most years were occupied with a constant nagging, a feeling of being pulled somewhere else, dreading the inevitable, trying to squeeze every ounce of the bittersweet taste out of each moment. Even back before all that, it wasn't nearly as idyllic as I thought it was, I just had no idea. Maybe it was better that way.

Delusion can be magnificent when you don't realize you're in it.

Those days are over, though, and I'm here now. Eyes wide open, missing both of my parents. Wishing that I could have just one of those moments in the past back, knowing that it can never be, understanding that there is no utility in entertaining such fantasies.

I live, irretrievably, in reality.

Uncomfortably.

Reluctantly.

This Christmas, I'm going to try. I'm really going to try. I want to live in the moment, remember the good times, shake the bad ones off quickly. I want to make new memories.

I need to make new memories.

I need to recapture myself this Christmas, whoever it is that I am now floating around this world without a mother or a father. I need to find my joy again, figure out who I am without them.

I need to remember how much my Mom loved Christmas and figure out how to do it myself.

I know deep down in my heart that she'd want that.

When we put out the decorations this year, a box of hers came up from the basement too. One that she'd left here, filled with Nutcrackers she bought in a frenzied insistence that she needed.them.all. They drove me crazy at the time she bought them, because they said so much about the chaos going on right at that moment. Now, they are bittersweet reminders. Pieces of her left behind that I still don't understand. That I'll never understand. That I've learned I must stop trying to understand.


On my cabinets now, the Believe sign she agonized over in the store one day, tracing the letters of the word she clung to when Dad was dying. Behind the sign, all the Nutcrackers. These little wooden statues are safely in a place where they will watch over her six grandchildren open gifts on Christmas morning, precisely where she would have wanted them to be, precisely where she would have wanted to be if she was still here, even if it had never been possible.

I'm trying, Mom. I am.

I miss you both so much.

Give Dad a kiss for me.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A to Z Music Challenge - X,Y & Z because I forgot to finish this one until now....

Squirrel!!!

Seriously though, I get distracted easily. I start these challenges, then I forget to finish them. I'm trying to tie up loose ends before the end of the year, and for that you are welcome.

Hey...they are a few days left in 2013. ;)

Here are the bands and artists from the tail end of the alphabet that I know and love.

X - I got nothing. I tried.

Weird Al Yankovic
He did weird before it was trendy. I love him. I wish he made more videos.


Young MC
Okay, so it was really just the one song, but oh what a song it was. You know all the words to this one. Go ahead, sing along.

You want it? You got it.


Young the Giant
They're mostly just another one of the great many alternative rock bands, but this song in particular resonates with me enough that I'm putting it here.


Youngbloods
They weren't around a whole long time, they didn't release a ton of records, they never hit super stardom, but I can promise you that this song is part of the soundtrack of your life.


Yardbirds
The English rock band that produced Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, they helped introduce the world to the distortion pedal and for that we thank them. They're also in the Hall, which is awesome.


Neil Young
I don't really need to write much, do I? Good. I didn't think so.


ZZ Top
I love me some guitar riffs that just go from the start. This music is totally not about the lyrics. Not even a little bit. I love me some crazy ass beards. I love me some ZZ Top.


ZZ Ward
She's new. She's young. She's sexy. And she sang this. Oh my.


Friday, December 20, 2013

A Desperate State of Affairs, a Guest Post from Anonymous

In this strange and beautiful online world, I have had occasion to meet some truly amazing people. This writer today, one of them. She needed to let these words out of her head, and she needed a safe place to do it. She asked if I would be willing to share her story here. 

With my deepest love and respect, a tale of what it's like to live with and love someone with mental illness, with physical illness, and how hard it is to keep what affects them from defining who you are.

Thank you for sharing your story, my friend. I sincerely hope that you gain some peace by setting the words free.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Desperate State of Affairs

I once made a friend the most incredibly stupid promise. Back when I was na├»ve, ignorant and pompous. I truly hadn’t the experience to make such a promise, and yet, with righteous indignation in my heart (and not one CLUE in my mind) I went ahead and made it: “I’ll never locate my self-esteem in my husband.”

What. A. Dickhead.

I had absolutely no business to be making such idiotic pronouncements – at the time, I wasn’t even married, for goodness sake! I was engaged; young, stupid, in love and yet still full of that sense of self which (semi)confident single-dom can bring.

We got married, and in my blinkered state, I managed to ignore that he was stressed beyond all reason. I was irritated at him, but chalked it down to the challenges of his job and the amount of organizing required by the mere act of getting married. We were both looking forward to married life. And its benefits – one above all (and yet untried by either of us).

Sex.

Through the historical strength of our individual convictions and our joint agreement to save ourselves until we had tied the knot, the limits of our temptations were tested and we waited.

The Wedding Night loomed. And in spite of all the stress and tiredness, it was good. I mean, it was nice. It was a very steep learning curve. But, ya know, the earth moved and we both had fits of the giggles and all was well. We congratulated ourselves on our first time being with each other, and reiterated how much we wanted to share the learning on this journey into a hitherto unexplored area of adulthood. We were happy.

I was dumb.

Because shortly after that, things began to go pear-shaped. Or at least, (if we’re using fruit analogies) not ‘nice, big, banana-shaped’. And gradually the realisation that having a spouse with relatively freshly diagnosed Type 1 Diabetes was a bit of a pain in the ass. It impacted HUGELY on his ability to function. Blood sugar too high? Say goodbye to sexy-fun-time. Blood sugar too low? Say hello to shaking and panic and urgent guttling of sugar while the furthest thing from anyone’s mind was their loins.

But there was more to it than even the diabetes. And as our (sadly already meager) sex life waned, illness and depression kicked in, and a long, awful slog towards an eventual diagnosis of autoimmune disorders gone mad and a broken endocrine system, leaving my poor husband with clinical depression, no energy, no spirit, and no spunk.

And because of the pressure (real? imagined?) of sex, he managed to develop a nasty little psycho sexual disorder into the bargain. When he (so, so rarely) was up for it, the chances of everything working as it should were so slim that the frustration of that expectation and the unhappiness of previous ‘failures’ would likely nix any chance of him achieving his happy place.

We began to argue more, and became distant from one another. I started to seek him less, taking matters into my own hands.

I nearly left him just before his diagnosis, and once we found out what was wrong with him, I thanked my lucky stars that I hadn’t gone off to seek a life of hedonism elsewhere, because in spite of my loneliness and wandering mind, deep down, I wanted him fixed – I wanted him back to the guy I fell for. I wanted us to grow old together.

Alas. The diagnosis held horror in store. His condition was treatable, but (because of the nature of the hormonal feedback loops, which are the mechanics of the endocrine system) the treatment would render him permanently infertile.

The doctors stayed the final medication to allow us to try for a child. I wavered, pondering the common sense of bringing a child into a world where his father was so unstable he’d already tried to kill himself twice (as I found out, one chilling day when I accompanied him to a doctor’s appointment to lend moral support). And yet…the idea of not having a child at all trumped everything, and we got busy (now cursing all former ideas of ‘having some time just to ourselves’ and anyone who’d ever told us ‘don’t start a family straight away’).

I found out that I was pregnant. And lost the baby mere weeks in. I was devastated. And he didn’t understand at all. To him it was a loss of potential. To me it was our dear child, whom we had longed for. I was so angry at him, and so hurt. And he so didn’t care, because the depression had taken root deep in his soul.

Eventually I got over my panic that sex might lead to another loss, and we tried again. With the same stumbling, awkward, pressurized, sometimes-ending-in-failure-and-tears methods we’d been used to. And four months later I was pregnant again. And then I wasn’t. Again.

We danced another dance of devastation and depression and wedges driven between us. And all the time, the deadline of that enforced infertility was moving ever-closer. When all of a sudden it hit us amidships, ahead of schedule, when a sperm count found one. solitary. sperm. No medication required. Just brokenness.

We both fell apart, but individually, and turned on each other instead of being able to offer comfort. I couldn’t tell him how upset I was because his guilt at making me upset would overwhelm him, and then my sorrow was transformed into a perceived attack on him and I lived in constant fear that he would try to kill himself again. He immersed himself in computer games, inappropriate amounts of sleep, and endless toy soldiers. No babies were getting tried for, and I could barely stand the sight of him.

The feeling was apparently almost mutual, because on the rare occasion I did feel that insistent yearning for some intimacy and the chance to ride the crest of our union into oblivious bliss, he was disinclined to participate. I vividly remember buying some new, vaguely sexy underwear and showing him, desperately hopeful that his interest would be piqued, but he murmured something vaguely placatory, then got all excited showing me his latest painted man-dolly; not caring – not able to care - that I was missing him or craving his
touch or falling rapidly out of love with him. The depression ruined all of it. We’d not been together for so long I wondered if my virginity was growing back.

And the rejection began to sink in, tapping into deep hurts from childhood, where my self-esteem and my physical appearance were consistently, wilfully, maliciously undermined by my father, who suffered the same brand of mental illness as had my husband in its grasp. The internal voices began rearing their vicious heads again “You’re so ugly. So fat. So disgusting. Even your husband doesn’t want you. No-one could ever desire you. No-one could possibly find you attractive – you’re repulsive, just give up. Don’t even try; there’s no point. Just LOOK at yourself in the mirror? Why would anyone ever fancy you? You’re vile.”

On and on and on they played, driving me near to the brink of succumbing to the depression myself! I admitted some responsibility and started trying to get healthier, slimmer, stronger (and hopefully, more attractive – at the same time feeling terrible about how vain and shallow I was being). Alas, even my shrinking figure was not enough to tempt him. It wasn’t about my size – it was about me. I was a terrible, unattractive, crap wife, and even when I made an effort, I couldn’t get him in the mood.

When you get married, you truly do hope that the one person who will always (or at least most of the time) find you desirable is the one who’s promised to love you forever. And when that person consistently would rather be dead, than alive and married to you, no matter what stupid-ass promises you made so flippantly all those years ago, your self-esteem will be BURIED. My sense of self-worth, already low, plummeted.

I gave up trying to get him in the mood. I focused on getting fitter for myself. So that I felt happy with the way I looked. Whenever one of my friends congratulated me on my success, or paid me a compliment, I brushed it off, but stored the words in my heart, beginning to think that perhaps I’d cracked it – maybe I was finally becoming the person I wanted to be – an attractive one. And slowly, the impetus of those friendly compliments increased, and my self-confidence began to grow.

But alas, the success was double-edged, and my slimmer, fitter self was still not enough to get him interested. It did get someone else interested though, which was in equal measures flattering and unsettling; because it was a friend who was very dear to me, and when she wrote me a letter simultaneously coming out to me and declaring that she had ‘far more than just a crush’ on me, my world got very confusing.

The guy I wanted had only indifference for me, and the girl I never sought, had anything but. And I was caught in the middle, pleased to have been found attractive (if by the wrong person) and wondering what on earth to do.

I shut them both out, unable to cope, and went seeking my validation in (marginally) less harmless ways, becoming an incorrigible flirt; enjoying the thrill of suggestion without promise and the return of the same. Meanwhile I was still awash with grief at my losses, the impending membership of the ‘Can’t Have Kids’ club, the lack of any kind of movement on the ‘Trying To Have Kids’ status and at the train wreck of my marriage, and I continued trying to get fitter (more beautiful? nah.), allowing myself to run in the dark, alone, deep in my tortured thoughts.

Because there was no way I could justify an affair. Even if I wanted one; craved one; was desperate to be desired and found womanly and attractive. And there was no way I could allow my desire for a baby, coupled with my need to be found desirable, to ruin the marriage I’d vowed to stay faithful to. But what if *something* happened to me, one night, in a dark corner of the city, which wasn’t my fault…which lifted all responsibility from me…which left me pregnant…what then?

Such shame. Such anger, that those kinds of thoughts were even entering my brain and at the same time, the idea of a completely guilt-free dalliance was alluring. I kept running alone, knowing all the while that the reality of that situation would be vastly removed from my sanitized fantasies. Fortunately, it never happened.
I went back to flirting with other people, instead. And things still weren’t fixed between my husband and I. But gradually, slowly, they began to improve. He finally got some much-needed help and the depression lifted ever-so slightly. I was 50lb lighter, far more pleasing to the eye (even to my own) and much fitter. But there was still the matter of sex, which is meant to bring such joy and unity in marriage, and which was so missing from ours. He was offered psycho sexual counselling to help overcome all the hooked-in negatives which accompanied the act for him. But he declined, unilaterally deciding that if he was beginning to be less depressed, he wouldn’t need it.

Except that I think he does.

And our baby deadline is February.

And I just don’t think it’s going to happen. And guess what, folks, there’s a whole vicious cycle right there – because if I’m stressed, I’m less likely to conceive. I’m also less likely to be ‘in the mood’. And as it frequently still takes a great deal of input on my part to get the mood going, guess what’s not happening…

We are truly (un)fucked.

And in spite of things (and one rather important one) being largely ‘on the up’, to quote a rather good movie – “It will all be alright in the end, and if it is not alright, then it is not yet the end.” - I know it’s not yet the end…because it’s really not all alright.

And I’m not sure I can see how it’s going to be.

But at least I look good.

The First Amendment & The Duck Dynasty Debacle

At some point last night, I put my phone down and sighed. It seemed like everyone on the internet was completely and totally preoccupied with the controversy over the words spoken by Phil Robertson and the resulting moves A&E made in their wake. 


I would like to discuss the First Amendment issue here since that seems to be the most talked about online. Essentially, there isn't one. Really. I say this not just as an opinion based on what he said and whether I think it should be protected speech, but as someone who has actually studied Constitutional Law in depth.

The First Amendment protects against governmental intrusion upon the freedom of speech. Phil absolutely has the right to say whatever he wants to here. He has not been arrested, detained or silenced by the government for doing so.

What he doesn't have the right to, is to say whatever he wants to say without consequence. His public persona is one that A&E has a right not to do business with, and if he says something they take issue with, there is no obligation on their part to keep employing him.

Their decision to suspend him from filming in the wake of these events is purely a business one...and in all likelihood a smart one, at that. Those who call for public support of the Duck Dynasty show, those who are going out and purchasing DD merchandise to show their solidarity are actually supporting A&E, who has the licensing rights to the merchandise, and who should be the target of their frustration.

In fact, this controversy has resulted in a huge amount of publicity for both the show and the network, which makes the cynic in me wonder if it wasn't all staged.  Particularly since it's a week before Christmas. Hmm.

It is the industry, after all.

If you want to make the argument that their personas aren't manufactured (or at least embellished) for television because it's a reality show, you should check out what the family (already wealthy from the duck call sales) looked like before they were on TV. Go look at that, then tell me it's not all for show.

Told you I am a cynic.

I have had a few people ask me if I am annoyed that he was even asked what he was in the interview in GQ. The short answer is no. I'm not surprised by much, actually, and it's pretty clear that the questions were asked because they would be answered, and those answers would get a lot of attention. Reporters like a story with traction, and this one had a ton of it.

Personally, I wasn't surprised by what he said in the GQ interview. Frankly, I'm not sure that A&E was. They certainly shouldn't have been. I will not even get into what he said or didn't say, because at the end of the day, that's not important. He has his views, he is entitled to have them, he is entitled to speak them, and though I may not agree with him, that's not important to this discussion.

Trust me when I say that those discussions are all over the internet right now if you are interested in finding them. I'm not about to start one here.

Being entitled to having and speaking those opinions, though, doesn't confer any protections in the private world of employment.

It seems that some of the people rushing to his defense, as well as those in a hurry to attack him haven't read the article itself. Whether he should say what he did is a subjective question, but whether he can is an objective one. He can and he did, but that doesn't mean that he should be insulated from the effects of his words. The lack of said insulation isn't a Constitutional issue.

As a writer, words are my medium. I say things. I have opinions. I write them and put them out there for the world to see. I don't get to tell the rest of the world that they have to listen to what I say, but they can't decide not to associate themselves with me based on what I write. Neither does Phil. The people who read what I write can absolutely choose to stop talking to me, stop reading what I write, stop being my fans, even stop being my friends.

It has happened before, it will happen again.

I don't live in a fantasy world where I am covered in bubble wrap and fully insulated from the effects of what I do and say.

Neither does Phil.

A&E can decide they don't want to do business with him moving forward.

And it has nothing to do with the First Amendment.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday ~ the war on Christmas edition

It seems like I have just been shaking my head a lot lately.

A lot.

Do you ever look around, watch the news, talk to other people and wonder what the hell happened to the world?

It's Tuesday, time to be pissed.

Claire Davis, Caleb Medley and every other person shot in the head for no good reason
Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm more sensitive to these shootings because I spent way too much time in a waiting room with the family of a guy shot in the head for no good reason. Maybe I'm hypersensitive to it all. Maybe I'm just being irrationally pissed that there is a beautiful 17 year old girl in a hospital not too far from here fighting for her life after being shot in the head with a shotgun at point blank range.

Have you seen what a gunshot can do to a head? Like....really seen it? I have.

Have you seen what a shotgun blast can do to a body? Like....really seen it? I have.

Shit you not.

In college, I studied/worked/volunteered at LAC+USC Medical Center. We had a LOT of gunshot victims come through, but the one that tends to stick in my memory banks the most was the patriarch of a family shot in the abdomen by a shotgun one Sunday afternoon. Trust me when I say that you really don't want to see what happens to a human body when a shotgun gets anywhere near it.

Last year, the day after the Aurora shooting, I ended up in a waiting room alongside Caleb Medley's family. He was the most seriously injured in the shooting that lived, and was shot in the head. His journey paralleled the one my friend who I was there to see was on for a long time, and still does in ways that most people can't understand or comprehend. Brain injuries of that magnitude are not something you just recover from. It changes everything. Permanently.

So, I've seen, in person, what a shotgun can do. I've seen, in person, what a gunshot to the head can do.

I cannot for the life of me fathom what a shotgun to the head can do.

There is a family that has to see that now. That has to live with it. That isn't sure if their daughter, Claire Davis, will live. If she lives, they have no idea what the rest of her life will be like, but the one guarantee is that it won't much resemble what it would have been before last week.

Perfectly good, perfectly innocent people, killed or maimed, for no damn reason.

In the days since this most recent shooting, there has been the struggle to find the motive, always more complicated when the perpetrator is dead. Just this morning, it's becoming clear that there is more to the story, there does appear to have been warning with this one, there does seem to be a history of direct threats, and even though the target wasn't hit, an innocent bystander was. There are those who rant about how we can't focus on the shooter because that gives them glory, but don't understand that doing so ignores the simple fact that we absolutely must try and figure out what motivates people to hurt others this way.

The gun arguments started within seconds of the news hitting, like they always do. The people standing on soapboxes screaming at each other about what they want, ignoring any valid point anyone else makes, yelling and circling back to the same points over and over and over again while nothing changes.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result.

Based on that definition, I do believe the entire country has lost its damn mind.

Just because it is probably unconstitutional doesn't mean anything will change
In a totally unsurprising turn of events, a federal judge said yesterday that the NSA's pesky little habit of data mining domestic phone calls is indeed probably unconstitutional, not that there was ever really any question about it.

Now that it is seeming more and more likely that the courts will rule this direction, this particular case was limited in scope to only the plaintiffs involved....which is interesting to say the least. So the NSA can't legally collect your information, but they still do it, but you have no remedy unless you sue them.

Seems legit.

Not.

Essentially, the end point of this is simple. The federal government is just going to do whatever the hell they want, regardless of the actual rule of law. Constitution, schmonstitution.

I'll refrain from letting my Luther out in this here post, but I can assure you that there has been clapping, snapping and high kicks.


Oh yes, I have a Luther.

A few lucky people have been lucky to meet my Luther in person.

Well.....I think they should consider themselves lucky....

It's Your Fault Kanye is a Douche
No, really.

He does it for you.

He doesn't do any of this for him. Nope.

He's making the news more for his on-stage rants these days than anything else, and the most recent one is a doozy....I mean, aside from awesomely bizarre videos with a jiggling Kim who's hair defies the laws of physics.

It's just a shame that the industry is hell bent on holding him down.

Also...you should watch this.


The War on Christmas that isn't and other manufactured reasons to be pissed off
I don't even know where to begin.

Bear with me. This might be a little disjointed and rambling.

There isn't a war on Christmas. Honest.

Some people celebrate Santa. Some people celebrate the birth of Jesus. Some people celebrate winter solstice. Some people celebrate Hanukkah. Some people celebrate Kwanzaa. Some people celebrate Festivus. Some people don't celebrate anything. Why does what someone else celebrates or doesn't celebrate have to have anything to do with you?

OH WAIT. IT DOESN'T.

Seriously, the amount of time people spend being pissed off about shit that doesn't affect them boggles my mind. 

If someone wishes me Merry Christmas, I wish it back, but if they say the godforsaken Happy Holidays, I want to cut a bitch???

Really???  WTF is wrong with people?

I say Happy Holidays because I love everyone and because I'm not about to impose my shit on anyone else.


You do your thing, I'll do mine. Can't we just smile and wish other people well instead of questioning why they believe what they do and insisting that whatever we believe is the only right belief? 

No one is assaulting Christmas. Laws and court rulings that mean that other religions must be permitted to display in public spaces as well don't infringe on your Christmas rights. They just mean you have to scoot over a little and make some damn room for the other people.

You know, like a loving your neighbor thing.

Who said that, again?

Jesus.

I could talk about how all those claiming that their Christmas rights are being offended seem to have missed almost all of Jesus' teachings. I can promise you that he would have been way more concerned with feeding the starving and helping the ill and taking care of poor children than he ever would have been with whether first world people 2,000 years later got to celebrate his birthday as loudly as they want. This article does a fantastic job of that and you should go read it.

I could talk about how Jesus wasn't born on December 25th and not even in the winter at all. I could talk about how Christmas was banned for years in colonial America. I could talk about how Christmas trees are actually pagan. I could talk about how the celebration originated more as a winter solstice thing. I could talk about how St. Nicholas didn't really have much to do with Jesus. I could talk about how elves are a recent addition to the lore of Christmas. I could tell you that Santa could be purple and kids wouldn't give a shit as long as he brought gifts...and then tell you that basing Santa's whiteness on Jesus' whiteness is a flawed freaking argument because Jesus wasn't white. I could talk about how Jesus probably wouldn't care about your exterior illumination problems and would probably ask if you've donated to charity instead.

I could.

But then I'd probably offend someone.

Happy Festivus, y'all.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Ghost of Christmas Past

I dread writing Christmas cards for a few reasons. It seems like every year I send out more and receive fewer. It's one of the things that I hang on to, a bit like the rusty and antiquated dinosaur I am.

I'm a walking contradiction sometimes. I know this. I write online. I have an entire virtual persona. I blog and admin a page on Facebook and some of my best friends are the people who only reside in my computer, and yet I crave the direct human connection. I need it. I require things I can see and feel and touch.

I still write all the important stuff down.

I like lists. They make me happy.

I resist ebooks, even though I've been a part of one that was published this year.

I like paper.

I like pens.

Get off my lawn.

I hand write the envelopes for my Christmas cards, even if I stopped writing the update letter years ago when life started to get complicated. I figure that the people who actually care either talk to me or read this and they should have a fairly good idea about what is going on. No one else cares enough, and that's fine too.

Handwriting the cards is one of those things I force myself to do even if it's outdated and old fashioned and absolute proof of my crotchety old age.

It's also one of those things that I absolutely dread doing every year, but I force myself to do it anyway.

This is why.


This address book. It's the one that I have had for every one of the fifteen years that I have been married.

I love this address book.

I hate this address book.

Every year I vow that this is going to be the year that I get a new one. My husband laughs at me and asks, every year, why I don't just keep all this information in some electronic format, you know now that we live in the digital age and all.

I shrug my shoulders, open the address book, and flinch every few pages.

This book isn't just a book of numbers and letters. No.

It's my past.

The good, the bad and the ugly.

Fifteen years of friendships that faded away. Fifteen years of people who hurt me. Fifteen years of addresses that I used to hand write envelopes to.  Fifteen years of little stars and asterisks and dots beside the names of those who received a card in the mail that year.

Fifteen years of the names of people who aren't here anymore.

Fifteen years of the ghosts of Christmas past.

This year, an address underneath my Mom's name that didn't get a star next to it.

I know that I should get rid of this address book. I do.

I also know that I won't.

I know that this time next year, I will reluctantly open it up again, and I'll remember.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday ~ the Merry F%$*ing Christmas edition

I'll warn you guys. I'm in a mood today. I can't really pinpoint what is going on inside my head right now, but it's like a gigantic swirling storm of emotions and every once in a while, one of them gets launched out like a projectile. I'm trying to keep it all in, but goddamn.

The truth challenge is kicking my ass. I do it because I hate letting myself off the hook for things I have committed to, because it is a fabulous mental exercise to do a legitimate self inventory and because it's forcing me to confront a lot of stuff that I feel like I should be ready to confront.

Which sucks anyway...but then this morning, one of the people that I write about elusively pops back onto my Facebook feed courtesy of the wonder of a twenty year friendship that went to hell and the fact that when you know someone for that long, you have a lot of shared friends.

I want to scream from the rooftops what she did, I want to tell the people who I know care about me what happened, I want to warn them to keep an eye on this one. I want to, but I don't.

That whole not stooping thing. The fucking high road can kiss my ass.

Sorry, I'm swearing today.

If that offends you, my apologies.

Anyway, I am in a weird place. I still mostly despise Christmas music. I'll be fine one second, then catch the kids playing with one of the Nutcrackers my Mom bought the year she was here. Then two seconds later they will be making a huge mess with all the craft supplies she bought and left. If you've ever been completely heartbroken and angry at the same time, but after the person who makes you feel all those feelings was gone and there wasn't a damn place to put those emotions, you'll know what I mean.

It's not pretty.

Plus, I do this thing. This totally unfair thing where I get my hopes up for some grand gesture. Some magic moment. Something huge. The something I want more than anything in the world and that I know won't happen and I try to pretend like it doesn't bother me because it's getting really old. But it's there. It's always there no matter how much I try to ignore it.

AND THERE'S NO CRYING IN STARBUCKS, KELLY.

PULL IT TOGETHER WOMAN.

Kanye, DUDE....just stop
Yeah, so I've confessed before of my strange love for Kanye. He's an ass, we all know that, but he's a ridiculously talented one. (Although I'm not sure WTF is going on with his new album...seriously)

He's pissing me off. Which is kinda his thing, I suppose. He doesn't care about pissing me off, but he seems to get off on pissing off the world...and if there is one thing he's the freaking best in the world at, it might be this.

Just in the past few days, he has tried to draw parallels between Mandela and himself...then tried to say that being him is as dangerous as being a police officer or soldier at war. 

The guy who designs $100+ plain white t-shirts is saying this.

Kanye...do you even have a mirror?

Speaking of Mandela...
The world lost someone amazing when this man passed away. You may not agree everything he ever stood for, you may feel compelled to nitpick his past and his associations, but don't do it at the expense of his legacy.

In the wake of his death, there are the extreme right wingers like Dick Cheney grabbing soundbytes about how he would still vote to keep him imprisoned and Rick Santorum who tried to compare his fight against apartheid to the GOPs battle against Obamacare.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that, at least on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, this seemed to finally be the one thing that almost everyone could agree on - that his death was something worth pause, that his contributions not just to South Africa, but to the world, are to be celebrated.

I wanted very much to write about him, but I chose not to because I feel like I have nothing significant to add to any conversation about a man like him. I know many who have visited where he was imprisoned, and defer to the voices they lend to this dialogue. Was he perfect? Of course not, none of us are. What he was, though, was a voice for the voiceless. He was a hero.

Songs that stab you in the heart
When you're battling things in your head already,the wondering why they were the way they were, the wishing that they had been different, music can reach into the depths of your being and crush you.

Right now, this song is doing it.

I just can't.


Unless you've been in this place, unless you have been begging for someone to give you a reason to keep trying, unless you've been pushed to the point where you had no choice but to walk away...you won't understand. If you have been, let me just say this - I am sorry. I am sorry that you know. I am sorry that you were put there.

I am sorry.

Liars, Fakers and The Great Pretenders
The world seems to be full of artificiality anymore. I make a point of being as real as I can without it hurting anyone else in all my relationships with people, whether they are in person or online. Sometimes life is totally freaking mindblowingly amazing, and sometimes it's hell on earth. Talking about both of the ends of the spectrum is not widely encouraged or accepted. People want the shiny and happy. People only want to see the shiny and happy. People only want others to believe the shiny and happy about them.

There is actually a thing now, a real thing, called social media depression. Derived from the false notion that everyone else's lives are better than yours, that everyone else is happy, that everyone else has more money, more friends, more of it all.

It's almost entirely based on lies. On half truths. On the shiny happy versions that people want you to see.

I don't live that way. My life certainly isn't that way, and I'm not about to pretend that it is.

Talking about the negative things in life doesn't make us negative...it makes us real.

I've been accused of a lot in the last week. More than is fair. I've been called selfish and self-righteous and stupid and insignificant and ignorant. The one that hurt the most? When someone accused me of being fake.

I wear my heart on my sleeve. It gets me hurt a lot, but I won't change who I am.

Call it whatever you will, but this is me.

Frankly, I don't have the time or energy to fake anything. Do you?

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Wisdom of The Walking Dead

Now that the show is officially in it's mid-season hiatus and I am desperately holding out on catching up with the last two episodes from season 3 I haven't yet watched, I thought it was time to finally write about this show.

I am going to attempt to write this in such a manner that it won't spoil anything for people who haven't yet seen it and plan to. It really is one of the best shows on television right now, and you really should be watching it. I also don't want to go through just rehashing the obvious things that those who do watch it already know well.

A while back now, we decided to try and start watching it at the urging of a few people who seemed deeply enamored with it. I believe the show was running the second season at the time, and we caught just enough of it to make clear the facts that we had no idea what was going on with the plot and that zombies are nasty.

We turned it off, shaking our heads and wondering aloud what the big deal was.

Then something happened, and I'm not quite sure what, but we decided to start watching it from the beginning a few months ago.

By five seconds into the first episode, I was hooked.

In deep, I was quickly sucked into the vortex.

My husband decided he wanted to read the comics as well, though the story lines diverge fairly early on. I have read through enough of them now to see how different they are - one is not necessarily better than the other, they are different enough, but they still center on the same ethical struggles.

At it's core, this show isn't about zombies at all.

I'll let that digest for a moment.

It isn't.

Truly.

It's about the resilience of people, about the sacrifices we will make, about the eternal battle of good versus evil, about the ways that people will justify choices and so much more. The zombies are more a part of the setting, the background, than anything else. They are just a defining component of the place in which these stories unfold.


With my background in public health, I am fascinated by the disease component of the show. Whatever it is that causes those who die to turn, whether it is a virus or a bacteria or a parasite...it's fictional, but not outside the realm of possibility. Since watching the show, I have had a great number of conversations with my older kids (who also watch it) about pandemics. Though our planet hasn't been ravaged by anything that brings people back from the dead and turns them into hungry flesh eating predators, the population has been brought into decline rapidly by diseases in the past. I don't imagine that anything out there will ever end in the manifestation of zombies, but annihilation of the population? Not out of question. Not by a stretch.

Fairly quickly in the first season, it becomes obvious that the world we know now ceased to exist very quickly after the disease spread. All the modern conveniences we know and love, gone. Running water, electricity, television, internet, no more. Until and unless you've actually lived in that kind of scenario, you can't really understand how much it changes everything to be without the things we completely take for granted. It becomes painfully obvious in a hurry how much we depend on those things once they are gone.

The show, as my experiences in real life have also shown, details how quickly some people can adapt. Those who don't adapt don't survive. Those who don't adapt just don't endanger themselves, but everyone else. Natural born fighters are the ones you want on your side.


The show exposes the darker side of humanity from the first episode all the way through to the current season. The biases and stereotypes that alter how people treat one another, the lies that people will tell themselves just to make things feel better in the moment, the underhanded way that people deal with one another anytime someone has what someone else wants. Natural leaders emerge very quickly, and it becomes clear that not everyone who can lead has the moral integrity to do so. It becomes obvious how much people will lie to get their way.

The show strips away the stigmas that we bring as viewers and forces us to do better. It tells us that even the strongest people struggle once they are inside their own heads. It tells us that good people can come from bad upbringings. It tells us that trust is essential to survival. It tells us that sometimes you have to cut your losses and move on. It tells us that faith is important, but work is more important. It tells us that some people will go to the ends of the Earth to protect the ones they love and that others will worry only about themselves when held to the fire.


The show makes you care about these completely fictional characters in this insane world. When a deeply loved character is taken out, you feel like you lost a little piece of your heart too. The more well loved, the more spectacular their deaths seem to be. The more they meant, the more horrid the ending they must meet. I'm still upset about the last one. Still. As a fan of this show, you should know better than to get close to the characters. It's almost a certainty that they all will die eventually, and yet they are so real, so raw that you can't help it. As they bond to each other, we bond to them.

The core of the show is one man's struggle with who he is, with what has happened to him, with what has happened to the people he loves. His resolve has been tested, his faith in others questioned. He's struggled with his own sanity, he's fought for control and pushed it away. The last episode that aired, the mid-season finale, told you just about everything you ever needed to know about Rick. About who he was, who he is, what he is made of.


Sure, there are zombies, always, a constant nagging presence that must always be dealt with, but I can assure you that the show isn't about them at all.

Nope.

The humans are the real monsters.

The zombies are just the eye candy.


The Walking Dead returns to AMC in February, 2014.

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