This photo is one I took of me with my webcam right before I started writing this post. The lighting is not great and the camera is probably the least used feature of my laptop. I don’t like selfies . I find the whole movement scary and depressing at the same time. So then why take the picture? I am here. I don’t know what your first impression of the picture is but let me tell you some things you can’t see from this picture. I love to read. My favorite board game is Scrabble or the Internet version Words with Friends. The families in our Fort Bragg Army base neighborhood used to have Scrabble tournaments every Friday night during the summer and I was playing with the adults by the time I was eight. In the second grade, a conservationist group brought a whole bunch of reptiles to our class, somewhere someone still has a picture of little tiny me, still about the size of a kindergartner, with a 6-foot long black king snake draped across my shoulders and both arms. I was the only kid in class brave enough to hold it. Italian and Mexican are my favorite foods, yes it really is a tie. My fifth-grade year the year after my mother was discharged from the Army., I was emotionally abused every single day by the teacher’s aide whose job it was to write my assignments, help me eat lunch in the cafeteria and take me to the bathroom because I couldn’t do my own transfers. I still can’t. Every single day she told me I was ugly. She told me I was a burden to her, barely worth the paycheck the school is paying her. I was stupid because I had trouble learning math at my grade level, nevermind that my reading was way above grade. She badgered me several times a week to wear skirts, to make things easier for her helping me in the bathroom. I didn’t like skirts because if I wore them the surgery scars on my legs and the leg braces I wore during school were obvious. I was miserable that year. Why didn’t I tell, my teacher, my parents, anyone? I didn’t tell because she said, “I’m the adult, you are the child I will make sure no one believes you and “she (my teacher) is my friend, she got me this job why would she believe you?” So I didn’t tell. Looking back, I would do it differently. I would tell my teacher because she really was a wonderful teacher who stood up for me when I came to her about everything else went out of her way and into her own money to find ways that math made sense to me. I should have given the chance and on top of that, I should have told my teacher from the previous year if I didn’t think she would listen or maybe just for extra backup. When I went to college and living on campus I often dressed so that people would mistake me for a young man so that people were less likely to harass my girlfriend and I. I almost got thrown out of campus housing for having a girlfriend, because one of our roommates was homophobic and neither one of us knew that that particular section of housing that we lived in was not “approved” for couples. I sat for at least 45 minutes of an honest to God interrogation. That ranks as one of the top 10 scariest things I’ve ever been through in my life.
I wanted to go to Julliard. My favorite musicals are Hamilton, RENT, and Sweeney Todd. The Sound of Music will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the first musical I ever saw. I have as many swords and knives as some people have guns. I think that you should have a license to be a parent just we require people to have a license to drive a vehicle, but I am wary that whoever got to decide who gets the license would reject me because of my disability even though it is not in any way genetic or transferable. I have loved men, women, trans people and non-binary people. I have made mistakes, I have regrets. I will not apologize for taking up space, for making noise, for living my life. Why the picture? Because when the government tries to force through legislation built with fear and asks you to vote for it I want you to remember this picture. I am a woman who loves dogs, musicals, and apple pie. I learned to turn double Dutch and sing all the jump rope rhymes just like many of you. I was petrified when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and elated when she beat it. I am not a demon and I have no agenda beyond the pursuit of happiness which according to the Declaration of Independence is why my inalienable rights.
An unattended death. It’s what they call it when someone dies without anyone around them noticing the passing. Nobody notices when they stopped going to the grocery store or church. What relatives they might have are probably far away, if they have relatives at all. The brief candle flame of their life is extinguished into smoke and no one notices the wisps as they drift away. With no one to notice and take care of them, nature is left to take its course. Nature’s methods are effective but crass and ugly and definitely messy. It’s not the decomposing I object to, birth is messy no matter what anybody says so but follows the death is equally so. I object to the idea that a soul can pass from this plane of existence without anyone remarking on it. My great aunt Jane died just before our 100th birthday. A year or two prior to her death, my uncle, Dan made it a point to take my sister and me to the assisted living care facility where she lived while he was visiting us from Virginia. I am so glad we went to see her. It is truly one of the treasures of my life. My great aunt knew that her memory was slipping and so she constantly wrote herself notes especially when she was expecting visitors, to remind herself of their names and relationship to her for example. She was determined to hang on every bit of herself for as long as she could. During that visit, I learned many remarkable things about my aunt that I might never have known otherwise. She raised a daughter alone in a time period where that was strongly frowned upon. She was secretary to the Attorney General (I want to say of the United States but I’m not sure, even if it was “only” for the Attorney General of Tennessee I still think it’s pretty cool.) During the time that I knew her, she was a retired antique appraiser and I had no clue about her previous work at all.
Every so often bloggers find themselves answering the question, why do you blog? We all have different answers. I have answered the question many times over the years of having this space and none of the answers are the same. Today the answer is that I want people to know me. In case I die alone in my 90s with no one around who knows much about my life prior to me being seen as an old lady with seemingly no history, but I want people to know I am here. I have opinions, and even if you meet me for the first time because I have died I am still relevant.
Authors note: In case you are wondering where all this came from I just saw part of a documentary which discusses unattended death in Australia.
I love technology, some days it makes me want to pull my hair out and scream bloody murder. I just spent 45 minutes arguing with my headphones because in less it is sitting just so in the headphone jack my speech recognition program doesn’t think it’s there, who knew software could be temperamental. I can type manually (as in with my fingers) but it is much slower as I do not have the coordination to touch type and must settle for using the hunt and peck method with one hand. It is very frustrating. I often snap at people when my tech decides not to cooperate. I’ve been fighting depression for months now because this year seems to have been one crisis or disaster after the next. The summer was mostly awful with the exception of a dear friends wedding. The highlight of the awfulness was definitely July when I was in the hospital for five days because of a blood clot and small ulcers. A blood clot and ulcers at 32 years old. I know exactly where the ulcers came from until last month there was a possibility that the house my family (myself, Oz, my parents, and my uncle) would go into foreclosure. It didn’t, thank goodness but it was definitely a stressful time. The icing on the cake is that one of my dogs died at the beginning of last month and Oz’s grandmother is in the hospital recovering from both a stroke and a broken pelvis and nobody in his family thought to tell us when it first happened. The bright spot that I’m holding out for is that my new service dog in training comes home in January. It’s a girl and I still haven’t decided on a name. I have seen video and she is the most adorable sausage I’ve ever seen. Her eyes and ears aren’t even open yet and I’m sure I may be driving the breeder a little nuts because I message her at least once a week asking how the puppies are. She is very patient with my enthusiasm.
My sister is in town from NYC. Whenever she’s in town I always get super introspective about my life. She is rocking her personal version of success and I am thrilled for her. Then I look at my life and am deflated. I didn’t plan on living in my parents’ house at the age of thirty-two. I’m not sure what I did plan but I’m sure that wasn’t it. For many adults, at least the ones I know their childhood home is a place to visit for a few weeks at a time to recharge their batteries and reconnect with loved ones. When we were forced into the position of having to come to Tennessee after leaving Denver I was crushed. The town that I spent my adolescence in holds very few good memories for me. The awful memories don’t come from my family, not my immediate family anyway. During this time my sister and I were homeschooled and we were often teased and picked on by our cousins and other neighborhood kids for not going to “real” school. Mom said they were just jealous, which was true, but it didn’t help much at the time. Even after we decided to return to public school, a decision I still sometimes regret, I was still shut out. I didn’t go to the school I was zoned for, they claimed they were not equipped to handle my needs and so I rode a school bus for an hour every morning to a different school. I didn’t get to see the few kids in our neighborhood that I was on speaking terms with so that put even more distance between us. They were still my sister’s friends so I still saw them reasonably often but most of them kept me at arm’s length, the same as the kids I actually went to school with. The children in my neighborhood were at least a little better than those I went to school with. Kids at my school didn’t tease me or make fun of me to my face, they just froze me out, because in the American South we grew up with someone in our family who said, “if you can’t say something nice don’t say it at all.” In the South, you also have someone in your family who reminded you that it was impolite to stare at disabled (depending on the age of the relative admonishing you they might say crippled instead of disabled) and a lot of houses both of these things were imparted to you by the same person. The end result was that when I would say hi a lot of my peers would not even look me in the face. They would often cross to the other side of the hallway to avoid me. I’m not sure whether they were just trying to be considerate and not block my path or if they actually thought they would catch something from me.
So when I finally left I wanted to stay as far away as I could from the area. Life hasn’t worked out that way though. Every time I think I have finally settled somewhere else I get yanked back like a yo-yo or a rubber band, or maybe the town has its own gravitational pull and I’m the only one affected. I honestly don’t know what my dreams would have looked like if I had been born without brain damage. I do know that having a disability informed the scope of my dreams. I graduated high school with a 3.0 GPA but I didn’t work my ass off to become valedictorian because if I were going to use Vocational Rehabilitation to fund my college I would have to go to a state school, Harvard and Yale and Princeton and Georgetown were not even a distant hope for me, they might as well not exist. I didn’t really care much about “resume padding” for college either because nothing I would have even considered as a safety school was on the list I could attend. I did take choir but not because it would make me look any better to an admissions board.
The worst part about it is that not a single person ever asked me where I would have liked to go if I had no barriers at all. Not a single person. Many people don’t get to go to their dream school for whatever reason but at least someone asks them what it is. No one asked, not even my parents and it still stings. I’m sure they didn’t realize it or if they did I’m sure they were just trying to be kind. It felt like they assumed I had small dreams, small ambitions.
So when Morgan comes to town and I see that she has flown as far as she ever wanted to I feel happy and proud of her but I also feel just a little bit hamstrung and cheated. Morgan has never made me feel less her she is probably my biggest cheerleader, especially when I don’t think there is much to cheer about. I wouldn’t change her for the amount of money in the world. The green-eyed monster does make its appearance though and what am I to do but struggle with it mightily lest it overtakes me?
I joined Facebook when it was just for college students and educators. My RA spent weeks talking me into creating an account, and to this day I’m still not sure why it was so important to him.Fast forward to the present and it seems like everybody and their mother has a Facebook.It’s not just for the college crowd anymore. A lot of business people communicate with clients and customers through Facebook.
My generation is the last one to grow up before the advent of the internet and social media. I remember when dial-up was the only type of internet connection. My parents taught my sister an I what I’ve considered the golden rule of the net long before social media was a thing. The golden rule is, once it’s out there you can never take it back. It can be photos, videos, conversations, anything.If you not sure you can deal with the possible repercussions of a strange knowing something personal, leave it off the net.
It’s a rule that has served me well. I like the internet and social media as much as the next person but there are things I won’t do. I don’t have arguments in Facebook comments. Facebook was not meant to be the Internets version of a daytime talk show. If you insist on hashing things out over Facebook, message me privately.My blog is linked to my Facebook, in part so that family I don’t see often can keep up with me. .That being said, I am always mindful that both Facebook and WordPress are public sites. Yes, I am aware of the fact that both sites have privacy settings, but computer code isn’t unbreakable so I’m very select in what I say. Anybody mentioned in my blog is mentioned only after I have cleared it with them. Sometimes they say no and that means I have to rework or totally scrap post ideas, and that’s ok because as wonderfully connecting as the internet is, the very ease of that connection can make it dangerous. The other things my parents taught was to trust my instincts. If something feels wrong, it probably is.I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I don’t spook at my own shadow, but I’ve seen how willing some people are to be transparent with near strangers. It can be a cruel chaotic world. Be as safe as you can be. Be kind every chance you get.
I grew up watching my mother periodically read tarot cards, mostly for other people. Every single time the wheel of fortune turns over I cringed. For those unfamiliar with tarot, the wheel of fortune signals change and I’m not a real big fan of change. Even change which I have every reason to think will bring positive things scares me. Whoever first said, this too shall pass, forgot to mention that is true of all things, not just the negative ones. Everything is in a cycle and some cycles are shorter than others. The only constant besides change itself is learning, I’m not the same person I was last year. I’m not the person I was last week. Thank you to everyone who reached out to me in whatever way you did, it means so much.A part of me still wants to shut down, to stay still, to scream and cry and wallow in sadness. That’s not how this is going to work. I miss her terribly and there will always be a space in my heart that is uniquely hers, but my goal has not wavered. My steadfast Gideon isn’t getting any younger he may very well retire early( he is six and has arthritis from a wrenched kneecap) the knee is back where it should be but he moves a little slower in cold weather and is more cautious navigating steps and inclines in the cold. So after drying my eyes, I went searching once more. Dad requested I get a German Shepherd this time because they are known for their smarts as well as their protectiveness. I can’t argue with the smarts, they were the first dogs trained to guide blind people. Dorothy Harrison Eustis had written an article about Shepherds being trained to help blinded German veterans, a young man wrote her in 1927 and a year later the first guide dog team in America was created. As far as being protective I think dad is being a little overly so himself but I concede the point that a lot of people will think twice before bothering me with a Shepherd on the other end of the leash.
So “German Shepherd breeder” went into Google and the third link is Presley German Shepherds and on the very front page of their website is a video of how one of their pups is being trained to help a veteran with PTSD. So after a phone call and several emails and Facebook messages, I’m getting a puppy. I don’t know whether the puppy will be male or female because I am more concerned with the pups willingness to learn than its sex. It’s still several months but rest assured there will be pictures soon.
Author’s Note: I got this photo from Pixabay under a creative commons license, this is not one of Carol’s dogs to my knowledge.
This week has been crap. My Australian Shepherd service dog in training was hit by some asshole speeding down our country road and now she’s dead. She wasn’t even two years old yet. On top of my personal shit, Las Vegas happened and our legislature says absolutely nothing of substance, what the hell is wrong with you people? You are supposed to be our leaders. This is not leading. Puerto Rico got hit by a hurricane and Trump calls the people lazy for not being able to take care of themselves. Those are American citizens you spray on tan-faced illiterate sub-primate.If their bodies are good enough to serve in our military and bleed and die for our flag(which they’ve been doing since 1917) they deserve as much help as any of the fifty states.As if a hurricane wasn’t hard enough, their economy needs some serious help on a good day but unlike a recognized state they can’t request aid from the government because they are “just” a territory. All of the crazy this week has made my heart hurt.
So I just saw Trevor Noah’s monologue about the shooting in Las Vegas. He’s right. We need to talk gun control. In the last two years, there have been twenty mass shootings, twenty. That is bizarre. This is something that needs to be addressed. I’m not blaming the guns themselves, they are inanimate objects. We need to control the access to the guns. An average person does not forty guns or more, in spite of what The Walking Dead and Z Nation diehards might think, the zombie apocolypse is not an imminent danger. You say you’re a firearms historian fine. I think there should be different levels of licensing similar to driving a car and the difference between a standard one that most people have or a CDL (commercial drivers license.) I think there should be a “collecter” classification which allows for a larger number of guns as long a percentage of them are antiques of historical significance, have the firing pins removed or are only shot a certain number of times a year, I am thinking of the guns owned by American Civil War reenactors and other “living history” hobbyist and educators To be fair stipulations like this might already exist, since the chances of me being to use any firearm, antique or modern, safely are slim, I’ve never really checked.
Background checks need to be deeper . and that the laws against people with mental illness having guns should never have been repealed I believe the average American should not have access to an AK-47 or any gun of similar make. For that matter, I’m not convinced that most people need semi-automatic weapons. I am not anti-gun, both my parents are former military. We have guns in the house growing up, we have guns now. My sister and I were shown what a bullet could to our brans at a young age. Take two coffee cans, fill one with water leave one empty,. The can with water is a stand-in for your brain. Shoot both. The empty coffee can, small entry, little bit bigger exit. Coffee can with water in it, small entry, big gaping exit wound. I believe we were shown that at the ages of four and six years old. We had no desire to sneak around and play with them At roughly the same time we were given the twin commandments of guns. Always treat a gun as if it’s loaded even when you know it isn’t., and never point a gun at something you don’t intend to kill. Some people say injure instead of kill, but I remember mom being very adamant, other weapons can be used to injure, guns were made to kill plain and simple and treating it as anything less was dangerous and foolhardy. I am tired of people dying while politicians and gun owners hide behind the Second Amendment. If the people who wrote the Bill of Rights could see how far guns have evolved they would probably have a stroke.The framers didn’t make provisions for semi-automatic ownership because to them the existence of such a weapon was technologically impossible, just because they could not foresee it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be regulated. Get over yourself, too many loved ones have died because people won’t see the elephant in the room.
I live in a small town. I remember when we incorporated and we are still not big enough to merit our own post office. Mom’s family has been a part of this community since before I was born, my grandfather owned a small grocery store here for years. It’s a rural Southern town with its share of rednecks.It’s also been predominantly white, a place where nonwhite people just don’t settle.I was pleasantly surprised when I went to the library over the weekend and saw that one of the librarians was a black woman about my age. I didn’t ask her but since libraries usually respect the people who work there to live within the area they serve I can infer that she lives here.
One of Oz’s friends who grew up in Alabama described his town by saying, “they give out KKK membership cards at the same time as they issue you a Social Security card.” My town is not quite that bad but it is not much better. I have a friend whose mother came from Pakistan as a teenager she and her sister both take after their mother. In spite of the fact that she had been going to the same church long before the attacks on the World Trade Center, I remember defending her repeatedly when someone from here hurled abuse at her just because of her skin color. I’m glad to see my town become even a little less hidebound in its acceptance of people. I don’t usually go to the library on the weekends because of the shorter hours but I think it is worth going every once in a while in hopes of getting to know her.