Day 397: The Monster Again

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?

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Day 369 :Thoughts on Facebook and Other Social Media From a Person Who Grew Up Without It.

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.

Day 368:Another Card Turns Over

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.

Day 365: A Small Town Becomes a Little Less Small Minded

Books, Door, Entrance, Italy, Colors, City, ScenographyI 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.

Day 364: Sometimes the Bird Falters

Emily Dickenson wrote:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
Before mining was mechanized the miners used to bring canaries into the mines with them. As long as the bird was singing the miners knew it was safe if the bird stopped singing they got out as fast they could.If hope is a singing bird, mine struggles constantly, choking on the ever present coal dust and methane that are my feelings of depression and worthlessness. Feelings I fight every day, feelings that, in spite of medication and people who tell me they love me every day, have been overwhelming me of late.
I have no intention of hurting myself, but I won’t lie and tell you that I haven’t considered it many times this summer.I’m not telling you this so that you feel sorry for me. I’m not saying this to make anyone feel guilty. I am not trying to scare anyone. I am sharing this to shine a light on mental illness. Social stigma happens when there is fear of something and a lack of communication. The greatest  weapon against fear is truth,  no matter how awkward and unpleasant that truth may be

Bullfinch, Bird, Sitting, Tree, Garden

Day 363: Once Upon a Time, Before Disney

Nowadays we often tell our kids the sanitized, easy, version of fairy tales. We don’t tell them that Sleeping Beauty was raped while she slept and woke up to find herself the mother of twins or that Cinderella’s step-sisters cut off their heel and toe (one each) to try and fit into the glass slipper.  We certainly don’t tell them that birds came down to peck their eyes out at the wedding reception. We don’t want the stories we tell at bed time to cause nightmares, I get it. I wonder though if we aren’t doing kids a disservice by not introducing them to the grittier stories at a later point. I love Disney but I grew up knowing that Snow White and  Sleeping Beauty and all the rest of the Disney Princesses were not technically created by Disney.  Whenever she could she read or told my sister and I  the earlier stories as well. In several of them, consequences for the villain are far more severe than being left to seethe with jealousy while the good person they hurt finally gets everything they deserve. Sometimes happily ever after doesn’t happen. Ever heard of The Little Match Girl? It’s one of the lesser known Grimm fairy tales, she freezes to death. As I mentioned earlier, Sleeping Beauty does awake and is forced to marry the prince who raped her, hearing the older stories cured what tiny desire I might have had to grow up to be one, princesses had it rough! Fairy tales were meant to be cautionary because as every pagan worth their salt, casting circle, or crystals will tell you, there is a light and dark to everything, even fairies.

Day 362: A Cold Day in July

The wind scatters the autumn leaves around her feet. Red, gold, and brown covering her rainbow laces. The stitches across her chest are sloppy but they will hold. Blood seeps around the edges with each breath. As she scuffs through the leaves blood drips amid the ground cover.  The sky above is pewter, and snow begins to fall silently. Shrugging into her jacket even though doing so tugs painfully at the stitching, she turns and walks out, tears forming tiny icecles. Soon the only signs that she was ever in the woods are a set of half filled footprints and a bloody heart, the kind someone might carve in a tree..

Day 361: When You Dislocate Your Hip

Apparently,  I dislocated my hip sometime this week. My joints pop fairly frequently so I didn’t even really notice that the first couple of days and this morning it’s back in place, of course, the day I was going to see the doctor. When I was a kid I used to tell people assumed I was fragile because of my disability, “I’m not a dozen eggs,” I just wanted to be treated like a normal kid so I’m sure I was a broken record. As much as I hate to admit it, normal 32-year-olds do not dislocate their hips simply by going to bed or getting up in the morning.I’m not a dozen eggs. My mind is sharp. I don’t have an eidetic memory but it’s pretty close. There is only one person I know who can clean the floor with me at Scrabble, everyone else is always playing catch-up. I remember people’s faces for years. I am tough and I am driven once I have decided to sink my teeth into something. I’ve been chasing normal my whole life, and belonging somewhere for almost the same amount of time. Here’s what I know. Normal is a fallacy I will never enjoy. Belonging is a construct that is tissue paper thin that can be torn apart in a blink.  The only person I can trust is me.

Day 360: The Space Between

Image result for raven

Standing beside the freshly dug grave tears and blood that isn’t hers streak her face. Instead of the Christian marker of a cross, her lover’s sword marks where his head lies, a piece of both their tartans wrapped and tied around the hilt. She turns away, red eyes that have no more tears a mirror of the sphere in the sky. The wind picks up as she walks unflinchingly into the spreading shadows. The dying light of the sun outline a raven watching her from a nearby tree “no matter how far you fly from me I will find  you, always.” The bird flies away, leaving a single feather at the base of the tree.  She picks up the feather and tucks it into the pouch at her waist and runs after the raven or maybe to the flickering hearths of home, somehow colder because he’s not there. One of the older women has left an extra blanket for her so she won’t miss him when she sleeps, at least that’s the idea.

The sun chases the moon. The seasons fold into each other warmer than colder than warm again and so on, over and over until the grave on the hill is joined by a second, this one marked not by a sword but a simple carving of a bird. The sun chases the moon again and the seasons fold in on themselves until there is a town where the village used to stand and it hums with electricity. The town is bigger than the village and there are paved roads where once there was dirt. The two graves are still on the hill overlooking the town, one of the few things untouched by the passage of progress. Nothing escapes time though. The blade of the sword disappeared into rust long ago, leaving only the tiniest bit of boiled leather from the hilt and even that will be gone soon enough. The carved bird fares little better, it’s weathered features almost indecipherable. Curiously, there is a small pile of ravens feathers underneath a nearby tree. The feathers have all been left there by women. Some have come purposely, others found the place by chance but all compelled to leave the same single token. The feathers remain immutable by the forces of time and weather in spite of everything science says should have happened to them. A man and woman stand on this hill, shadowed by the sun setting at their backs. She takes the ravens feather that she has carried in her hat band for several years and places it with the others. She leans against the man in the setting sun, “I told you that no matter how far you flew from me I will find you.”

Authors note: I do indeed have a hat with a raven’s feather in the band. A raven gave it to me on my last day in Colorado, as far as the rest of the story…

Day 359: In Defense of Bill Nye

Image result for bill nye saves the world

When I was growing up watching Bill Nye The Science Guy was obligatory, almost the way church attendance was for other families.I’m sure part of the reason was because we were homeschooled for several years and my parents wanted to make sure our understanding of science was not neglected because they felt unequal to the task of creating a science lab in our home. Another reason is that we have the unfortunate problem of living smack in the middle of the Bible Belt where many people * teach their children to learn just enough science to complete a required course and then encourage them to disregard it immediately after passing the test because their faith holds the true answer and the only reason for learning the scientific answer was so you didn’t fail a test. I have known people who actually said that.My parents didn’t want us becoming the 18-year-old recent high school graduate shocked to discover that the sun actually has gravity. I am not joking my dad and mom actually ran into an 18-year-old who didn’t know the sun has its own gravitational pull.

Bill Nye has a new show on Netflix, Bill Nye Saves the World. He talks frankly about the scientific things that are making a lot of people squeamish right now, like climate change and GMO food(let me tell you that is going to spark debate in my house when my mom  sees that episode), and he manages to navigate these subjects without placing blame or using fear tactics. As someone who grew up watching his kids show this feels like a natural continuation even though there is 15 years or more between the two. A lot of people are slamming his credibility, saying that he is not qualified enough to be taken seriously, as a meme I saw on Facebook the other day pointed out, people have no problem when Mike Rowe steps into the shoes of the blue-collar working class, something he has never been but we slam Bill Nye, who has been a scientist of one form or another a large portion of life, because we don’t agree with him, because he might be right, because he at the very least makes us actually consider why we believe the things we do with a certain level of objectivity? If that’s why you don’t like him I call you a coward. Sit down, shut up, and let the rest of us get on with the business of leaving the world better than we found it.

*I am aware that not everyone in the deep South has a distrust of science that was just the prevalent attitude in my high school.