Posted in Politics

Day 351: Nonstop

I found the tracks for the musical  Hamilton on Spotify last night. They have been on repeat since then and everybody in my house is probably sick of my singing by now. I don’t really care. It’s that awesome. I love the whole thing but my favorite song is probably  “Nonstop”.  “How you do write like you’re running out of time/Write day and night like you’re running out of time? / Every day you fight like you’re running out of time.”

This is what I’ve been doing, writing, whether conversations, emails, or blog posts, it has been near constant writing with just as much urgency, though the reason for the urgency is not something I can quantify or explain. I only know that I have to write.   Writing has never held this kind of energy for me, never. Maybe we are heading for a second Revolution. Maybe this urgency comes from feeling the gaze of history on the back of my neck. If we do see a second revolution I  hope we don’t see as much bloodshed as the first time. My experience as the daughter of two soldiers says that it is very likely a pipe dream.   I find it interesting that Hamilton, who was, and is, revered for his writing, spent so much of his time wishing to be something more than a secretary while never once denying that his skill in writing was formidable. I feel as though  I  may as well be looking in a mirror.  I would never presume to compare my writing to his that be crazy.  I feel as though I have similar motivations. I have named myself Valkyrie, and if my sword masquerades as a pen so be it. When you’re living on your knees you’ve got to rise up, every story is worth telling.  You have no  control who lives, who dies, who tells your story, but maybe by being  the keeper of other people’s stories now someone will tell my story one day

My name is Rachel Kestner and there’s a million things I haven’t done but just you wait.

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Posted in Politics

Day 350: The Things That Keep Me Up at Night

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If you had told me in  2015 that I would be here in two years time I would have shaken my head in disbelief. Of course, if you had told me how the election was going to pan out I wouldn’t have believed you either We now live in an America where many marginalized people find themselves not just ignored but actively persecuted by our federal government.   During the campaigns leading up to the election, Mr. Trump gave a speech in which he said he would use the armed forces to deport American citizens of the Muslim faith. I didn’t see the speech but I know about it because a mother came home that day to find her seven-year-old little girl very seriously packing a small bag for when the soldiers came to take her family away. The mother posted about it on Facebook and response she got back from hundreds of former and current military as well as civilians promising to protect that little girl made me cry. The idea that Mr. Trump’s threat is even plausible now scares me.

A good friend of mine is getting married soon. Her mother moved to this country from Pakistan as a teenager. My friend isn’t Muslim and as far as I know the only other language she speaks is the Spanish she learned through our public school system.  She and her younger sister really take after their mother and that has led to some very ugly things being said, especially after 9/11. Then it was just some scared poorly educated redneck teen, who much like the rest of us who hadn’t quite reached adulthood yet, was probably repeating things said by a family he assumed were correctly informed.  Now, there is a poorly educated adult with a lot more power spewing the same narrow-minded trash talk.I am afraid for my friend’s family.

Is it just me or does there seem to be a social war waged against the trans community lately?  I have always felt the necessity of standing with others in an effort to validate stories that aren’t mine. Except now, unexpectedly, these stories are part of my story. Now, this struggle puts an icicle of fear in my heart on a regular basis. I love a trans person with a much bigger part of myself than  I would’ve thought possible if you had told me that this was coming two years ago. When I love someone I worry for them. Lots of times I know that my worry is blown out of proportion and I talk myself out of most of it.

I can’t do that this time.This fear doesn’t feel silly or overblown. I joke that I’ve become a bat now. I’ve been a night owl for a long time but it’s no longer uncommon for me to see a sunrise before I ever see the inside of my eyelids. I do this because talking to him feels similar to breathing, as unconscious and as necessary, and he works third shift.

I do this because somewhere in my head and heart I believe that if I talk to him during his shift I can keep him safe.If I can’t tell myself that my worries are silly, then I will be the sword at his back. There has been a half joke in our house for a while that our parents raised Valkyrie. I will be a sword at all their backs for as long as is needed. We are now facing the choice between what is right and what is easy.Trump was the easy choice, I’m still waiting to see if we can make the right one.

Posted in Politics

Day 349: The Power of Words

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Most of us have probably heard “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” I have dealt with more than my fair share of verbal abuse in my life and I can tell you that words can hurt. Words can leave scars that last forever. I have only just begun to make peace with those scars, fifteen years after the fact.The current White House would like to use words to divide us. White, black, latino, middle eastern. Christian, Muslim, terrorist, patriot. Gay, straight, transgender, rich, poor. These words may be part of our identities but they are not the beginning and end of them. We are also mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, neighbors, lovers and humans.Too many people want to turn us against each other because if we’re squabbling amongst ourselves we are too distracted to notice when much bigger issues  We can’t let others dictate what makes us afraid.We are better, stronger than that.Before you let the political vitriol currently being circulated use your voice as yet another echo chamber use it instead to talk to those people you are supposed to hate and fear.Use your ears, heart, and voice as tools of compassion. John Lennon had it right all along, all you need is love and sometimes love is scary but it’s always worthwhile.

Posted in Politics

Day 347: At the Closing of the Year

Image result for toys movie poster  One of my favorite movies of all time is the Robin Williams movie Toys, if you have never seen it I believe it’s on Netflix and right now, or any time leading up to New Years is a great time to watch it. One of the songs from the movie,”At the Closing of the Year”, has a line in it, If I cannot bring you comfort then at least I bring you hope.  That is going to be my goal for at least the next four years. I’ve said many times that the idea a Trump White House scares me, it’s more than an idea now, it’s reality. Now is not the time for quiet acceptance of Trump’s America. Fear tactics and hate speech and bigotry have no place in my America. We, the marginalized citizens of America have been conditioned not to make waves, to stay safely quiet and let white, mostly male, able, straight people speak for us, we’ve seen how well that turned out.  Trump wants us swept farther under the rug at best and gone at worst. Speaking up and out is scary when you think you are alone, so to close this year and begin a new one I’m offering an open hand. Anybody this reaches is welcome to contact me, I will be a listening ear a steadfast shoulder. If you want to tell your story but are afraid of reprisals, I offer you the platform of this blog and the cloak of anonymity. Tell me your story, I’ll be your voice, do a guest post. Or I can just listen. It doesn’t have to be a story similar to mine. Anyone who needs a protected space is welcome.

Posted in Politics, service dog

Day 345: Facing a Trump Presidency, Lessons Learned From a Golden Retriever

When Gideon was seven months old or so he saw his first full-size horse. He had already met my miniature guy but there is a world of difference between him and a saddle horse who is at least 15 hands tall. Even though the bigger horse was not doing anything even remotely threatening, he was only looking over the pasture fence, for a moment Gideon was totally freaked out. He moved to hide behind my chair and then stopped as though he realized that he would be leaving me to face the big scary monster by myself if he hid. He planted himself squarely between me and the horse and barked, in that single moment he grew up.

Donald Trump as President of the United States scares me for more reasons than I can adequately articulate. The people he’s putting in his cabinet have little or no concept of what it is to struggle for basic human dignity. Even more frightening, I read some of the things that they have said in an interview and I realize that they have absolutely no empathy. Trump is considering dismantling the federal Department of Education, leaving the governance of schools entirely up to the state. In theory, this does not sound so bad until you realize that Texas is considering a bill which would put a cap on the number of special needs students who could receive services through the school system. in case you don’t have a special needs student in your life let me explain what this means. Right now there is a federal law that says special needs children must be educated in an environment as close to that of their nondisabled peers as possible, to this end, public schools must provide services and accommodations which allow the student to fulfill their academic potential as much as possible. To use examples from my own experience, I saw a speech pathologist several times a week during elementary school to help correct and mild impairment. The school paid for this because it would help me communicate more effectively with my teachers and classmates. I also saw an occupational therapist, they gave me modified utensils so that I could eat my lunch with a minimum of assistance from an adult. The same occupational therapist tried to teach me cursive handwriting when my classmates learning it, with adapted pencils and special paper and when that didn’t work it was the occupational therapist who insisted that I have a computer to write the answers to my spelling tests, so the dictating to my aide would not interfere with my classmates taking the test. In high school that computer became a portable battery powered word processor called an Alphasmart, a tool that I enjoyed using so much that I recently looked up the company and bought one for myself as an adult.

The bill the Texas legislature is trying to pass would mean that once they reach a specific quota of students the school system would then deny services to any other special needs child because quota had already been filled. Pres. Donald Trump scares me and there is still a huge part of me who wants to run as fast as I can to Canada, stick my fingers in my ears and hum,”not my problem anymore.” The criteria for moving to Canada is not something that is accomplished overnight and my boyfriend has a good reason to want to stay.Besides that, Trump and people like him are always going to be my problem. I am a special needs adult, I bear a  responsibility to the children and young people growing up with the same label to make sure they have the same opportunities that I was fortunate enough to have and to make the system better where I can.

So much like my Golden, I will stand in the breach and face the thing that scares me most, because behind me there are those who cannot defend themselves, even some who cannot comprehend that the danger is there at all. I will hold the line, today, tomorrow, for as long as necessary, because I became an adult when I wasn’t looking and now it is my turn. To President-elect Tromp, “not my children, not today, not ever.”

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Posted in Politics

Day 343: A Badger Goes to Battle

Image result for hufflepuff crestThis blog was never meant to be about national current events or political commentary it was never meant to have a specific focus or niche even though I have never made any secret of my disability or anything else. Then the 2016 election happened. Bernie Sanders happened. The North Dakota pipeline and the protest at the Standing Rock Sioux Indian reservation are still happening. President-elect Donald Trump is actually happening unless the electoral college refuses to back the popular vote, something which they haven’t done in years. In spite of being good at public speaking, I never wanted to be the person behind the podium or on the stump saying, “hey, listen to me!”The thing about drawing attention to yourself is that if you make enough noise people actually look. They pay attention to the words coming out of your mouth, every single one and suddenly every little misstep you make, no matter how little, is noticed. The margin for allowable human error becomes seemingly minuscule. 2000 military veterans showed up at Standing Rock Reservation to be a human shield for the pipeline protesters.. Pick on someone your own size big oil. I have never sought to be a revolutionary,  a rabble rouser. Time doesn’t fix what is broken, intent, courage, and actions fix things. If the pen is truly mightier than the sword, do not come into my community seeking to squelch it  with hate and greed and expect me to say nothing because the world is my community, humanity is my business and you have just made a very big mistake.’

Author’s Note:
Yes, I am a Harry Potter fan. Yes, I am a Bernie supporter. No,I do not think Donald Trump should be allowed to be the POTUS and oil companies should stay the hell off tribal lands. I apologize for nothing.

Posted in Politics, service dog

Day 341:Service dog bias

My golden retriever turns six in April. He is still extremely willing to go to work but a knee injury that he got when we lived in Colorado making it difficult for him to go up and down stairs at times. So we have decided that it is time to start training another dog so that he can retire in a few years.He is still going to go everywhere with me but so is the puppy one she is housebroken. Medical school has a saying “see one, do one, teach one,” and that’s the theory I’m using. She is not a golden retriever, I considered another one but I didn’t want to fall into the trap of expecting her to behave exactly like Gideon, that’s not fair to either of them. She will be my first Australian Shepherd. I know they are high-energy but I believe I’m up to the challenge. At this point, I would like to address something that frustrates me immensely. Service/assistance dogs are often separated into two categories owner trained and program trained.  Gideon and Nekoda, (named for the main female character in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Chronicles of Nick book series), fall into the owner trained category. Many owner trainers do so because waiting lists for program trained dogs can be several years long and many require that the service animal is the only dog in the house. Some people are willing to make that choice and rehome a pet dog to comply with the program stipulations, I am in no way trash talking the person who chooses to do so, or the program for having those rules. The fact is that most people do not  expect the same level of behavior from  their pet dogs as is required in a service animal.

Training my service animal has been my personal crucible.I’m not the same person  I was five years ago. I am no one’s doormat or rug. Training my dogs has given more self-confidence than almost any other experience in my adult life. After the recent election, I need every bit of that confidence. In  the face of a very real and very worrisome  Trump presidency, we as service animal handlers need to shelve our bias and preconceived  notions of each other. Someone once told me that our first and best advocates  are always ourselves. We can’t be the advocates we will need to be for the next four years if we are fighting among ourselves.

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Mom, Gideon, and Nekoda