Monday, December 24, 2012

Having No Christmas Just Seals the Deal

This has been one of the hardest years of my life. My heart has been broken. My partner of 12 years has decided to end our relationship and I don't think I'll ever get any clear explanation for that decision. I've had to rely on the goodness, godliness, and sweetness of people who have absolutely no obligation to be there for me. I am so very afraid of where my life is going. I don't know how I will adapt to these new realities. But I have My Faith with me, no matter where life takes me.

The Creator has always manifested a presence in my life when I reached moments in my life when no human could or would go through it all with me. I'm just very, very afraid of how bad things may have to get before I can feel that reassurance that I'm not really and truly alone. I don't want to get any closer to rock bottom. I don't want to get any sicker or weaker or more isolated from the world.

I don't want to experience all of these things, knowing that people I still love simply don't care. I experienced enough as a person with disabilities to know that I'm at that stage where finding another partner isn't a realistic goal. Those without disabilities simply aren't going to be willing to develop a relationship with someone who needs so much and will only need even more in the future. People who are equally disabled aren't healthy enough to actually be able to carry out the sort of help that I need to stay alive. People like me, the folks whose partners leave for any of the myriad reasons that they use to justify it, remain alone. That's just the truth.

I want to say something hopeful now. I honestly do. I went to Liturgy today and it was wonderful. However, I couldn't even get the kind of inspiration that it usually provides. My mind and my spirit was just too distracted. It feels so unfair, but what does that matter? What difference does that make? There's nothing more pointless than thinking about how much unfairness one is experiencing.

I hope that tomorrow will bring me something to feel happy about. Right now, I'm just dreading it. I've loved Christmas for as long as I've been celebrating it. This year feels even worse, because I know just how much joy it usually brings me. Well, at least it will soon be over.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

I come from a family of medium brown to passe blanc Creoles. Unlike most of my cousins, my hair doesn't just lie down on my head in soft waves. If I'd had light skin or straight hair I think I would have been more accepted, but I had neither. My kinky, Mother Africa bush just laughs at flat irons. In my family, I'm "dark-skinned" and my older brother (with skin so light that he had freckles, even in the winter) never let me forget it. He used to taunt me with the children's song

"Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes, sir, yes, sir,
Three bags full;
One for my master,
And one for my dame,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane."

and he'd stick his fingers in my hair when he got to the third line. It always made me burst into tears. I grew up thinking that I was the ugliest creature to ever walk the earth. I was the darkest of all my childhood friends and felt the brunt of the (self-)hatred for all things deemed "black" that these girls learned from their parents.

It didn't make me hate other dark-skinned people, but it did make me want to have nothing to do with light-skinned folk. I didn't want them as friends, as lovers, as co-workers, or anything else. I had a child with a guy from a similar background: the darkest in his Creole family. Throughout the pregnancy, I envisioned my deep-brown baby only to birth a girl that was lighter than either of us.

Her birth forced me to confront my color issues and I've come a long way since then, but it's a lifelong process. It can't be separated from socio-economic class, gender, et cetera. So, I try to learn to love myself more every single day.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Romney as the First Latter Day Saint Presidential Nominee

I was raised in a religious minority with around the same number of adherents as the Latter Day Saints and we also have some common roots with them. My family was very conservative, Christian, and evangelical. So, even though I'm a progressive, I don't think that all conservatives are bad people. I think the GOP is rotten, but not all conservatives. Anyway, even though I'd never vote for Mitt, I remember how it felt seeing President Barack Obama elected that first time around and being able to show my daughter that someone like us (mixed-race people of color) could become President. For similar reasons, I think I'd have been just as happy if Hillary Clinton had won the nomination and I hope she'll run in 2016.

Anyway, I didn't want Mitt to win, but if he had, the one consolation prize I could think of was that little LDS kids could grow up knowing that their religion wouldn't be an unconquerable impediment if they wanted to become President some day. It really made me kind of sad to see him behave so dishonestly and classist and arrogant during the campaign.

With my parents' strong belief in the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" philosophy, they always taught me that if I was ever blessed enough to make it further than any other person of color in whatever I pursued in life, then I had a responsibility to make sure that I didn't make it hard for the next person like me who came along in the future. Romney could have still been dead wrong with his political beliefs without resorting to slimy campaigning.

I feel like it will be a long time before another LDS person will make it as far as he did, because he was absolutely nasty in his campaigning and, on top of that, he lost. Even though I'm not a Republican, that still makes me a bit sad. I want all kids to be able to pursue their highest aspirations without things like religion, race, gender, or political affiliation making that impossible for them.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Advantages of Urban Living During Natural Disasters

Today, I read a blog post called "Cities--to big to fail?" The writer uses the events during and following Hurricane Sandy to question whether urban environments should be encouraged. It used hospitals as a case study for perceived weaknesses associated with urban living.

I think that the writer would have benefited from examining how these issues played out in the Gulf, when Hurricane Katrina hit. I noticed several other problems with Logan's post. There was a great deal of ableism and classism, as a matter of fact. Logan gives virtually no consideration to how these PWD would have likely fared if they weren't in an urban area when a natural disaster occurred. After all, we do know that natural disasters don't just strike cities. When Logan finishes using the challenges faced by PWD during Sandy, she seems to have no more use or consideration for us. She switches to planning for a world where we don't exist. Alas, this is usually what one sees when non-disabled people try to imagine or describe or write about disability issues.

I'm glad that the writer mentioned electronic medical records. When Katrina hit, I was basically living in two cities: Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The reason was that I have a rare bone cancer and the only orthopedic oncologist in all of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas practiced in New Orleans (at Tulane hospital), but the only hospital that had IMRT was in Baton Rouge (Mary Bird Perkins Cancer center). I'd started my cancer care at  Medical Center of New Orleans (a.k.a. Charity Hospital).

When Katrina hit, Charity was still in the process of going from paper records to digital. Tulane was already digital. To make a long story short, the records at both hospitals were lost thanks to the hurricane. Now, all that exists are the post surgery records that were already in Baton Rouge. My current and future doctors will never be able to see how the tumor originally looked. Because of that experience, I actually do think that electronic health records are the best option. The only problem is that back-up records need to be stored off-site, so that they can be accessed by other medical facilities if patients need to be evacuated. It simply isn't feasible to stick with paper records. In times of disaster, it just isn't possible to make sure that every relevant sheet of information in a person's health record can be retrieved and sent with the patient.

When natural disasters strike, I think that urban PWD fare better than those who are living in a rural area. Even when there are no disasters, it's much easier to be disabled in the city than in the country. If you're disabled, you may already be reliant on others and the chances of someone coming to help during a disaster are just a lot better in the city. Support systems for PWD are much easier to create, find, and maintain in urban areas. 

From what I've learned so far, during and following Sandy, it wasn't much of a problem for many PWD to get the help that they needed. In one case I know of, friends and neighbors of the couple (both are PWD) were able to stop by the fire station right down the block and pick up the recharged medical batteries and then drop off the ones needing to be charged when they left out again. Urban living made that possible.

Rural living is just too risky for many people like me.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Being Poor Doesn't Mean You're Stupid or Wasteful

I saw this on Facebook today and started thinking about my childhood.

My mom had done things "right". She was a married church-going mom with 4 kids. She sewed most of our clothes and cooked every meal from scratch. When I was 8, my dad got a great job offer to transfer to a new city. Unfortunately, the bastard used that opportunity to tell his wife he'd been having an affair and was leaving us behind.

My mom found a job, but had to work overtime just to keep the lights on. Our house went into foreclosure and we moved into a rental.

She never took the welfare cash, but did apply for food stamps. And why the hell shouldn't she?! She'd done what society says a woman was supposed to do, but still got screwed. Food stamps didn't enable us to get the sort of food that we used to eat when my dad was around, but it kept us from starving.

My mom kept seeking better work. She got a job at Marshall's and the employee discount allowed her to buy me clothes nice enough to avoid getting teased. My brothers were so tall that they wore sizes that aren't carried at discount stores.

We practically stalked the local second-hand stores. If you've never been to one, you'd probably be surprised just how much brand new stuff you can find. Some of the stuff still had the original store tags on them.

As an adult, I'm in a better financial state, but I still the second-hand stores are my first stop when I'm looking for clothes. I can't tell you the last time I bought a shirt for more than $10. My daughter bought her gown for the homecoming dance for five bucks and it was prettier than any of the stuff we saw at Macy's.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

This Sadness

I've felt this before.
It was right after my cancer diagnosis.
The pulsing, sucking sadness
that pulls everything that has ever made me happy
into some dark chasm of my heart
that I can no longer see or feel.
It's a canker in my chest
and I can't hug myself tight enough
to seal it closed.
If this grief had some mass,
a delineable shape,
I could reach between my ribs
and tear it from my bosom,
ripping away every sinew
and cracking every bone,
until the bloody, seething protuberance
could be inspected and scrutinized
objectively by those with knowledge
about these matters.
But this abyss has roots.
Through foramen and lacunae it probes,
expands, extends and exposes
every slight and mistake,
once covered by abundant love.
This twisting, pulling anguish
infects my muscles, my tissues, my cells.
My spine is no match for it.
There's no one here to save me,
no one to wrap my wounds.
I have become the sadness.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Today's Lesson on How to Rid Society of People with Disabilities

Just when you think that you've heard all of the ways that the USA tries to eliminate people with disabilities, the USA comes up with another strategy to catch more of us in the net. Today's atrocity can be read about here:
Cindi Silvers Davis and her husband, have tried very hard to work with their bank, Wells Fargo, but they say they have been mislead, they have been treated poorly, and now Wells Fargo is trying to put an advanced stage cancer victim out on the street.

I have an incurable cancer, but these days lots of folks like me and others with advanced stage cancers can go on to live decades beyond diagnosis IF WE RECEIVE THE PROPER TREATMENT.

In order for me to get it, my partner and I had to forgo any state-recognized marriage. Cindi Davis is married with a (modest) home. It sounds like she's stuck in the same situation that I faced. She's not going to be able to get Medicaid without selling all they have. The state expects the person to use all of your resources before it will even consider letting you into the program.

If she was pregnant, she might qualify for a Medicaid program in some states, but not all. Of course, getting pregnant while you're in cancer treatment is disastrous, ill-advised, life-threatening. So, she's stuck.

Cindi and her husband tried to hold on to some sense of stability by continuing to make payments on their house, despite having to bear the cost of her needed treatments at the same time. The bank could have accepted the payments that they tried to make. They could suspend their payments for a period of time and just tack on interest.

Wells Fargo could work with the Davis family, still make money off of the loan and allow the family to stay in their home. But they don't want that. Instead, they're foreclosing on them. If the succeed, it will mean that all of the payments that the Davis' have already paid would be money down the drain. The bank would have their previously paid payments and the house. Doesn't that sound like a pretty sweet deal for the bank? I think so! It's unconscionable and the Davis family would be homeless, but why would that be a problem for Wells Fargo? They can simply re-sell the home and sucker yet another family into a mortgage they may never be able to pay off.

The Davis' are already struggling to afford Cindi's treatment. If Wells Fargo takes house, then they won't have to make any more mortgage payments. That should make it easier to afford her treatment right? Wrong! Anyone who has ever had to live out of a motel room for an extended period of time knows how much more expensive it is than when you're in a home.

There's no stove, so you have to eat out for each meal. There's no privacy. "Room Service" comes in whenever they want to. There's no storage space. So, if you have any belongings you're trying to hold on to until you get back on your feet (e.g. your great-great grandmother's dining table, your bed, your pots and pans, a refrigerator, washing machine, stove) they have to be put in storage. Unless you have a friend whose willing to allow you to keep this stuff on their property for an undefined period of time, you will have to pay for storage space. The more stuff you try to hold on to (so that you don't have to spend money buying it all again, if you do find an apartment or house to rent), the more you'll have to pay to store it. If you keep fewer possessions, your storage fee will be cheaper, but it may wind up costing you more in the end, because you'll need money to replace those items if you find another home.

I hope that anyone reading this will now understand how easy it is for someone to find themselves living on the streets for years, just because you or your partner made the mistake of getting sick in the United States of Hellmerica.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

To the Jerks Who Still Say that Louisianians CHOSE not to Evacuate During Hurricane Katrina

Most people did evacuate. Those who didn't were folks who had no way to leave. Or do you imagine that people just watched the water rise around them and decided to just save their gas for something TRULY important?

See, I know folks who didn't even have a reliable car, but drove as far as their automobile would take them. I remember the folks whose cars broke down on the highway in the 12-16 hour wait to reach Baton Rouge. Some of these folks were so desperate to get out that they started begging and offering money to any random stranger that would agree to at least drive their children or elderly parent to the first safe spot out of town that their money could convince the person to agree to.

Now, perhaps you have no sympathy for the elderly who died in their attics, scratching their fingers until they were bloody in an attempt to open some kind of hole that might have allowed them to get on top of their house. Perhaps you have no sympathy for those post-surgery patients in intensive care at hospitals that couldn't convince any medical facility to let them send these patients to safer areas.

Perhaps you know nothing about the folks out in St. Bernard Parish who didn't even have running water, much less cars to take them out of the danger zone. Hell, some of them can barely speak anything other than French! They couldn't even understand the evacuation order unless they had a bilingual relative or neighbor to explain it to them. None of the ignorant, but mouthy, outsiders are even aware of the fact that St. Bernard Parish suffered more damage than New Orleans. The Cajun white people out there are still pretty pissed at y'all Anglos about that.

Perhaps you have no sympathy for the families of first responders who believed that, while they were risking their lives for others, the American government would at least make sure that their own families were taken care of. After all, it's not like there were any hotel rooms available out of town. All of the hotels and motels in Baton Rouge, LaPlace, and Lafayette were packed to 100% occupancy even before the evacuation order was given.

Of course, we don't expect folks like you to care about your fellow Americans. Y'all know nothing about what it means to "Love thy neighbor".  Say what you will about the black people of the Gulf region who were labeled "refugees" and the white people who were considered not-quite-white-enough to be worth saving. However, I'd rather spend my life surrounded by any person down here, before I'd live with people like you as neighbors. At least we help each other down here. Folks like you would crumble in an instant if you faced these problems.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Why I Used Cloth Diapers for my Baby

When I had VanGoghKid (that's the online alias I use for my child), I was 18 and a single mother with few independent resources. My mom showed me how to use cloth diapers and that's what my child wore whenever we were at home. I saved a ton of money that way.

I kept a little bucket in the room, containing water and a touch of bleach. I flushed the wipes and major #2 deposits into the toilet. Dirty diapers went into the bucket and then when it was full, I deposited it straight into the washing machine.

A bottle of bleach could be purchased for less than a dollar. I used an empty detergent bucket to hold the diapers (the top made it perfect, because it could be sealed shut). I purchased about 6 or 7 dozen cloth diapers and some safety pins. That was basically all of the supplies I needed. For less than I would have spent for a month of plastic disposable diapers, I had everything I needed for close to a year of usage. I could have saved more money by using wash clothes for wipes and thrown them in the bucket too, but I did use the disposable flushable version instead.

It was a great investment for so many reasons. My child has very sensitive skin, so all but one brand of plastic diapers gave her an allergic reaction. It was just my luck that this one brand was Pampers Premium and it was one of the most expensive brands in the store. However, a big package of plastic diapers would last an entire month, because they were only used when we were out and about.

Cloth diapers never gave her any problems, because we used a mild detergent for people with sensitive skin. Plus, cloth diapers are extremely versatile. They can be used a diaper, a bib, a wash cloth, insulation for cold or hot foods, and so much more!

I Support Mothers Who Nurse in Public

In my family, all of the women breastfeed. It was a point of pride for us. I nursed until my daughter was 13 months old. I planned to keep on until she was ready--some of the babies in my family have still nursed until they were a little over 3 years old--but I got sick and had to take medications that made my milk unusable. She got used to formula and a bottle during that time and wouldn't go back to my breast afterward.

My mom told me that when she was nursing, in the 70's, there were diaper services and milk services that women could join. For a reasonably affordable fee, they would supply mothers with breast milk and launder cloth diapers and deliver them weekly.

 I wish nursing mothers had that kind of stuff available today. It would be best if women could get together and do this stuff for each other without having to make it prohibitively expensive for even the poorest of mothers, though.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Jennifer Livingston Takes on Fatphobia

Jennifer Livingston is a morning anchor for a television station in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. She recently received a fat-phobic bullying e-mail and decided to use it as an opportunity to speak out against bullying. She did an excellent job, in my opinion.

I'm 5'5" and a size 2. Even though men are usually portrayed as being most attracted to ultra-skinny women, my experience has suggested otherwise. I get the most flirts, second glances, and compliments when I'm heavier. I remember one summer I got up to 145 lbs and I couldn't believe how different men reacted to me. I felt like a walking, talking love goddess!

I haven't dated a skinny person since high school and I've always preferred partners who are obese (according to the charts). I love the silky softness of every embrace, the abundance of places to kiss and explore, and I think that a substantial body suggests a certain durability that any lover should be able to appreciate. I honestly don't understand how anyone could NOT like having more of their partner to love.

It bugs the hell out of me when people assume that being skinny means I will laugh at their fat-phobic "jokes" and comments. I won't. I think it's disgusting, because I'm not shallow enough to believe that weight equals worth. The best way to make me stay as far away from you as I can is to start praising women just for being skinny or dismissing women who aren't skinny. Ugh! I'm glad that there are folks like my "obese" partner who see through the bull$h*t obsession with weight and understand that there is so much more to love (no pun intended...or maybe it is).

Friday, September 14, 2012

Appropriation of Disability Culture

I like to use seed beads to make little barrettes or decorations for my headbands. I often check out Etsy to get inspiration (and aspirations) for my projects. Today, a jewelry-maker caught my eye, because she was selling rings and pendants with braille messages on them.

I was impressed, until I saw that she was also selling "Ohm" earrings and silver & turquoise Indigenous American styled items. It's obviously cultural appropriation. After thinking about it, I think it's fair to say the same thing about the braille jewelry. This is a non-disabled person using one of our languages as a gimmick to make money. In her jewelry description it said,
"Because most seeing people don't know the braille alphabet, it's words are like codes to us...hidden in plain sight."
That's just ignorant. No one is hiding braille. Most seeing people just don't take the time to learn it, but that doesn't mean that its words are like codes. Unfortunately, it got even worse. As I scrolled down the page, I saw this message:
"IF this pendant is meant to be a gift for a sight impared person- please know that they will most likely NOT be able to read this pendant with their finger tips-as I chose to DRILL HOLES where the dots would be raised (in order to read with finger tips); ironically, it LOOKED better this way."
This jewelry-maker chose to exploit the language of visually impaired people and purposely made it unreadable for the very people it was designed for. She decided that it "looked better" that way. I don't even know what to say about foolishness like this. This is what privilege makes possible. You can completely overlook the needs of marginalized people and exploit their culture without a care in the world.

Monday, September 03, 2012

My Thoughts About Queerness and My New Experiences with the Eastern Orthodox Church

My child and I are both queer. My child also identifies as bigender. She considered joining the Roman Catholic church but then learned of the Eastern Orthodox and instantly felt hopelessly attracted to it. I few months ago I allowed her to start attending a local Russian Orthodox church. I went with her, because I didn't want her to choose some faith tradition that condemned or rejected her. It feels as if this was just what she and I needed.

Recently, we both became catechumens. All of this has occurred without a single question being asked about her/our sexual orientation. I know that no congregation of people should be assumed to be perfect. However, I have had a wonderful experience so far. The congregation is small (not even 50 regular attendees). It has many of those kinds of "little old ladies" who are often prejudged to be intolerant and suspicious. Even they welcomed us--two African Americans with afros and no clue about what goes on in an Orthodox church--with open arms. They treat my child like a cherished grandchild and, during coffee hour, they constantly seek to fatten up her barely 100 lb frame.

It has all had the effect of making me simply enthralled with the church. The love of God that I have felt since my introduction to the Orthodox church makes me sure that the holy Trinity does not see my queerness as grounds for rejection. I have the hope to experience even greater communion with God, now that I know--KNOW--that the only thing that can separate me from the love of God is if I refuse to accept it.

I had no idea what I'd find when I googled "Queer and Eastern Orthodox", but this was the first link that appeared. I'm so very glad that someone wrote this and I truly appreciate all of the references that I can now check out when I'm ready to delve into this subject more diligently. Glory to God!

The Morality of Using Undocumented Workers in American Agriculture

Do you honestly think they care whether you think they are entitled to do it? There's a need for the labor and someone willing to fill those positions. In a capitalist system, there's almost nothing you can do to prevent the two from getting together, regardless of what people think about it. I think that if you were in need of labor necessary for the continuance of human life and there were folks who were willing to do that work, then it would be completely moral to allow it. I don't care about their supposed "legal status".

Some Americans don't want to face it but, the reality is that the government CAN'T stop it. Oh, I know we like to believe that a country with a military as big as our can do anything it wants, but that's just wishful thinking. Humans and their ancestors have been migrating for hundreds of thousands of years. What sort of hubris does it take to think that you can suddenly stop them from doing that? Look at all of the inhospitable places where humans have chosen to settle. Monsoons, hurricanes, earthquakes, year 'round snow, baked and parched deserts...People have gone to these places and decided that they looked like a great place to make a living for themselves. Do you honestly think that a wall or a few rules or some folks patrolling with guns can stop humans from going some place? If humans were that easy to thwart, we wouldn't still exist on this planet.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

National Organization for (Hetero) Marriage Just Never Stops

It's really amusing seeing ignorant white people speaking for a community they'll never belong to. White people who voted for McCain are never accused of being drunk on the color of his skin. Nor are the white people who voted for George Bush or Clinton or Carter or any of the white people that they've voted for. Let's face it, anyone who voted for McCain could have been doing it because they only support other white people.

Even though black people have been supporting the Democratic party since before Obama became a politician, white racists prefer to believe that if Obama had been completely white, then black people would have voted for McCain. Uh, no. Even when all of the candidates in a race are white, black people tend to vote for the Democrats.

Just look how many hoops people will jump through to avoid the fact that Obama is just as much white as he his black. Just like all of our other Presidents in the past, he was raised by white people. He had no black siblings or parent around. But, even that is not enough for ignorant white people. They still prefer to cling to the idea that he harbors some secret hope to institute white slavery.

It's this ridiculous mentality that keeps black people away from the Republican party. At one time, it had the support of black people. Then it went loco and black people exited it. Republicans would rather do anything except take some personal responsibility for why black people see no reason to support them. Even though many black Americans do identify as pro-life, highly religious, and view marriage as something between a man and a woman, the Republican party is so openly racist and anti-intellectual that the idea of identifying with it remains repugnant in their eyes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Iroquois Nationals Defeat Formerly Unbeatable USA Lacrosse Team

Today I learned that the Iroquois lacrosse team has defeated the USA in Federation of International Lacrosse World Championship in Finland.

FIL World Championships: USA falls to Iroquois, 15-13, for 2nd loss in tourney

The information was posted on Facebook by a user named SaSu Weh. He also helpfully explained the context of this win.
"Few know but forever the USA has vetoed and kept the Iroquois from playing in International competition, this is a sweet victory for all of us but especially for the nation who invented the game. They are 2nd place if they win it will be one for the history books, well it already is :)"
I think SaSu Weh may have been referring to the British refusal to grant the Iroquois team visas because the US wouldn't give approval and assurances that the team would be able to get back into the country with their Iroquois passports.

I always feel very bitter when I hear white guys talking about lacrosse without acknowledging its origin. It's ridiculous that the people who gave this game to the world were being prevented from playing. I don't think anyone should be surprised that the nations that are most responsible for the marginalization of Indigenous Americans would engage in these imperialist bullying.

It was pretty awesome just to learn that there was an Indigenous American team representing their nation all the way across the world in Finland. I was angry to learn that the USA has purposely and consistently tried to keep the Iroquois team out, but it makes their defeat even sweeter. How dare they try to exclude the originators of this sport?! Perhaps they knew that if the Iroquois were allowed to play, the world would see that we are not a defeated people and this game will always be OURS, not theirs.

This article explains what it means to have beaten the US team:
"The US – which came into the competition having gone 36-0 in international competition – had lost three days earlier to Canada, 11-9 in overtime.
Team USA has never needed to play in the quarterfinal round since sanctioned international U19 play began in 1988."
I love seeing all of the white salty whiners in the comments section of this article that gives a play-by-play description of the Iroquois/USA match:

U19 World Championships: Iroquois' Upset of USA Illustrates Changing Face of International Lacrosse

They just can't accept the fact that the Iroquois beat the USA. In their minds, it must be because the best players weren't chosen for the USA team. They can't even face the possibility that this was the best the USA had to offer and the Iroquois were still better. No, it must not be that. Perhaps, repeating it over and over again will make them feel better about losing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

American Girl Dolls Have Several New Disability-Friendly Items

American Girl Doll has now added some really great disability-friendly items to their already-numerous list of customized dolls.

Hearing Aids A Nice Fit for American Girl

My daughter is 16 and she still makes sure that her American Girl doll stays dressed and has her hair combed regularly. I remember the first time I went into the store and I was so happy that I could just cry. I wonder if most people know just how hard it is to find dolls for children of color. I was ecstatic that I could get one with the exact mix of features that my multi-racial daughter had. Her doll was/is just perfect. She had the spacey teeth, medium skin tone, brown eyes, and wavy hair. My daughter thought that we'd had a doll version of her made.

From her birth, I was committed to only buying dolls that were people of color. I had no idea how difficult it would prove to be. Louisiana has a large percentage of the population that's people of color, but still the local stores carried very few non-white dolls. Thankfully, my (white) mother-in-law understood and supported my endeavor. She would scour stores when she traveled for her job. My mom also got a few whenever they'd turn up in her city.

Back then (sixteen years ago), it was extremely hard to find black/brown/Asian dolls. There was Black Barbie and that was basically all you'd find in most toy stores. Barbie had a slightly racially ambiguous friend that might have been Asian, but I think many Asian parents were stuck with the same lack of options. Even when we did find non-white dolls, they were often of poor quality. The skin on them would be weird shades of taupe or some kind of bruise-looking color. So, the American Girl doll was a god-send.

Over the years, we've purchased lots of other accessories. The dog, Coconut, is the only pet they had back then. I'm so happy to hear about the hearing aid and service dog. I am a member of the "Beautiful and Bald Barbie! Let's see if we can get it made" Facebook group and I know that there are plenty of little girls who will love having a doll without hair.

I'm usually not in the habit of recommending a toy that's in this price range ($105), but I almost feel as if a doll isn't just a toy. I was living on a research stipend when I bought the AG doll, but I felt like it was worth the price. It's the best doll I've ever been able to find for her.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Antoine Dodson is in the same category as CK Lewis and Tosh? Uh, no.

Rape Joke Supercut: I Can’t Believe You Clapped For That

I'm really uncomfortable with the inclusion of Antoine Dodson in this.  His entire media exposure is due to the incident where he had to protect his cousin from being raped. Of more relevance, though, is that he has spoken out about being an actual survivor of rape.Sometimes, survivors of this atrocity cope in ways that others may not approve of. If we start dictating how survivors should speak or cope, where does it end? 

Being a woman with incurable cancer, I often engage in gallows humor. If I talk about the ways I'd like to go out with a bang, does it mean that I'm joking about the violent deaths of women of color? Does it mean that I am mocking the pain that women with cancer often experience? Of course not! I'm engaging in cathartic strategies that make it possible for me to deal with the reality that I am experiencing and that I will surely face in the future. The same is true when it comes to rape survivors.

This video is extremely problematic and doesn't even address issues like whether gay men (like Dodson) experience rape at higher rates (than heterosexual men) due to their sexual status, just as women are perceived as more acceptable targets because they also have a low sexual status.

There's also the factor of socio-economic class. This is an impoverished rape victim who is suddenly offered the opportunity to take his family from the place where his cousin was almost raped into more secure housing. Can we really say that it would have been more ethical for him to just allow others to make money off of his suffering? Why should his family remain in the place where his cousin was victimized while those who popularized his story rest comfortably in their domiciles (paid for by exploiting him and his cousin)? To throw him into the same category as those white, rich, hetero men who are shown on here is amazingly blind to the power of class privilege.

Lastly, it should be noted that these clips are being used as advertisements for their own media event. How is this really different from the way that Dodson has used his story to launch his own endeavors to improve life for himself as a rape victim and his family member who was subjected to an attempted rape?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Childhood Experiences of Having Public Health Care

Some of my friends didn't become disabled until they were adults. I envy their relatively healthy childhood experiences. For me, there was just a generalized sickliness from as far back as anyone can remember. I was the weak one, the underweight one, the one who had to be protected from everything. If we didn't have a public hospital in New Orleans (i.e. Charity Hospital), I'd never have reached the age of 18.

I spent many nights in the waiting room of the Emergency department, while the triage nurses juggled sick children, gunshot victims, prisoners from the local jail, and people with chronic conditions. I could never quite figure out how they decided who needed to be seen the fastest--it wasn't a matter of who would be first, because the people were always coming 24/7.

Between keeping track of who was next in a manner that wouldn't make anyone think they were ignored or looked over in favor of someone else, they had to deal with the paperwork associated with being the only hospital used by thousands of people across the state. Just getting your records brought to the Emergency department accounted for a large amount of the time you spent in the waiting room.

It wasn't exactly a free hospital. They certainly asked for your financial information. If you had Medicaid or Medicare or some kind of private insurance, then they processed that. If you didn't have any of these, they asked about your employer and whether you had any other financial resources at your disposal. Even if you were flat broke, homeless, completely destitute, you were treated just like everyone else. They did send you a bill for your care, but if you didn't pay it, nobody came to arrest you or punish you. When my parents could afford to do so, they paid the bills. After my parents divorced, my mother couldn't afford the hospital bills she received and we were just doubly thankful that we could still get care anyway.

I spent so much time in that Emergency department waiting room, that I have a lot of memories associated with Charity Hospital. Saturday and Sunday visits were only for near death problems. That was because of the frequent violence that took place in the city over the weekends. It was not unknown for people to have sat in that waiting room 16 to 20 hours on the weekend and, over my beloved grand-mère's grave, I promise you that's no exaggeration.

Weekday evenings were bad, too. People who had jobs that didn't allow them to call in sick, even for a day, went in the evenings right after they got off of work in order to have enough time to be seen before their next shift. It was almost always late at night when we arrived. If you could suffer through your problem until Monday around midnight, you'd get in and out the fastest. Near midnight, there weren't as many people arriving and the evening folks were already being processed. By that time, fresh support staff had clocked in, so they weren't lethargic from the exhaustion that must have tugged at them all toward the end of their shifts. It was years before I saw the workings of Charity during the day. Now that I've experienced both, I can compare the two, but the nights are the most memorable.

I saw the worst of what this city could do to folks: domestic violence spilling over from the outside, mothers without childcare support who had to take all of their children with them whenever one got sick, older people who were forced to come back whenever their chronic conditions became uncontrollable because they couldn't afford their maintenance medications.

The worst, though, was the listless shuffling of the homeless people who wandered in just to sleep for a few hours, before security officers forced them back onto the streets. When one set of officers would clock out and the next shift started, the same people would come back in and get a couple more precious hours of sleeping indoors. Everybody minded their own business about it. It was the strictly-enforced unspoken rule. Most people didn't see it as hurting anyone. If the homeless person was threatening or menacing, the police who filled the security jobs could have them hauled off to jail (another place where the homeless could get a few more hours of indoor sleeping). If they were delusional or nearly catatonic, they were in one of the only places where they could get treatment.

Despite this gloomy-sounding description, it was the best hospital in the state. Everyone knew this. When Methodist Hospital or Ochsner couldn't figure out what the hell was wrong with you, you came to Charity. Your socio-economic status didn't matter. Even if you had private insurance that was wonderful for primary care and specialists at the fancy hospitals, when it was your life on the line, you went to Charity.

There was no shame associated with being seen at Charity. When President Bill Clinton visited the city, security precautions necessitated that he have an emergency surgery room arranged at all times, just in case something happened. Guess what hospital they used. It wasn't Touro, Tulane, Ochsner, or Methodist. They chose Charity and it was no surprise to anyone here.

Every New Orleanian that I know had been treated there, at one time or another. They could get to the bottom of what was going on with complex cases that private doctors simply had no experience with diagnosing. I have heard innumerable accounts of the public hospital saving someone who was nearing death's door and had checked themselves out of a private hospital to be treated at Charity. Heck, they're the ones who diagnosed MY cancer and it's so rare that most oncologists will go their whole career without seeing a patient with it.

You know, I didn't really mean for this to be so long. At first, I was just going to write a few sentences on my facebook wall. Then, I figured that I might as well post it here and link to it afterward. Somehow it turned into this trip down medical memory lane. Anyway, I guess this has to stop somewhere, so this is as good a point as any. I just want to reiterate my initial point. I wouldn't have lived this long if not for public health care.

Joe Arpaio, Children Can Not Be Owned

There's something else that I noticed about Soledad O'Brien's interview with Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Listen to how he speaks about the little girl. She is not really a person. To him, she is an object. People can not be owned.

This man is the product of hundreds of years of European colonialism. Every time I see this frog-faced clown, I wish I could sit him on a lily-pad and give it one good push back toward the home of his European ancestors.

To the Sheriff Who Arrests Six Year Old Migrant Children:

Yes, it is Sheriff Arpaio. Yes, he actually has stooped to a new low. I'll likely never meet him, but if I did this is what I would tell him:

Sheriff Arpaio, you are aging rapidly. Soon, you will meet your maker. Do you remember what Jesus said? "Let the children come to me and do not hinder them" Are you following his example? I think not. When you reject these children, you're also rejecting your God. Just as you reject Him, so shall He reject you.
"Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in...Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." -Matthew 25: 41-45

Our New-Mom Family Tradition

Today, an academic and activist friend on Facebook shared an article about Cuarentena and New-mom traditions from around the world.

I feel really silly, because I never knew that this custom existed in "Latino" cultures. In my family, women and newborns are not allowed out of the house, except for the doctor's visit required during that period, for the first three months. There are no exceptions. Even if a beloved grandparent passed away--my aunt got in big trouble with the family for attending the funeral of my grandmother (her mom) a month after she gave birth to my cousin. Some attending folks from outside of the family just didn't understand "what the big deal was".

I was told that it comes from our Indigenous American cultures. I've never thought about researching its context. It may seem like a big inconvenience, but I do know that it does serve a few helpful purposes.

The women in our family all breast feed. Being home during that time makes it easier to do. The baby is supposed to be kept close to the mother during the whole time. There's no sleeping in another room. I think this helps with bonding, which is something that I initially had problems with because of PPD. It gives the baby's immune system time to develop before being introduced into the world.

It's also a time for skill-building. I was 18 yrs. old when I had my daughter and during that 3 months, I had my mother there to teach me all of the things I didn't know, like how to pin a cloth diaper on a baby and how to dress her without waking her up.

I hope that my daughter will carry on the tradition, if she ever has a baby.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Lupus and the Supreme Court Ruling

I also have lupus. Seeing this photo made me cry, because I understand her joy and why this ruling means that some of us will actually be able to live and work in the way that non-disabled people can take for granted. I'm allergic to the sun, but with enough frequently applied sunscreen, I can handle a few hours of it when I really need to get out and do something that can only take place outside. However, I am so often confined indoors because I'm already in the middle of a flare up that this disease severely constricts my ability to participate fully in society. I had to miss this years National Cancer Survivor's Day, even though this year marked my 10th year of surviving with incurable bone cancer (chondrosarcoma), because the event took place outside and I was already flaring up too much to be able to handle any more sun exposure.

This woman's joy mirrors my own instant burst of excitement when I heard the news. Honestly, I didn't have much hope that it would be upheld, because it's hard to believe that anything this wonderful could come from the judges on the Supreme Court right now. But it happened! It really did happen! Now my daughter has a shot at life that I never had. She doesn't have to base her every job decision and life decision around the fact that no insurance company would cover her. She can be a small business owner, if she wants to.

This decision changes our entire lives.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

To The Purists Who Don't Think That My Daughter's Life Is Enough To Celebrate:

The Supreme Court has upheld "Obamacare"/the Affordable Care Act. This morning when I woke up and logged on to the internet, I expected to see a few snide or negative comments from the handful of Republicans on my Facebook friends list. To my surprise, they hadn't said a word about it. That would have made for a great morning, if it wasn't for the fact that what I did see was several left-wing, self-identified progressives who were actually angry that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the act. At first, I only saw about two comments like that, so I just ignored it. Then I saw a few more of them. It certainly wasn't the majority of people, but it was coming from some high-profile supposedly "progressive" activists.

The one that pissed me off the most was from Cindy Sheehan.
"Like I said before, I refuse to buy shitty, high cost death insurance from private companies. Universal, single-payer healthcare (with holistic coverage) or NOTHING. I don't have insurance today because I can't afford it..and just because Obama says that I must buy it doesn't mean I will be able to afford it tomorrow. FTS."

Sadly, the person on my friends list who shared Sheehan's comment was actually in agreement with it. This privileged Special White Woman Sheehan was an anti-war activist during President Bush's administration whose son was a soldier who died in Iraq. Ever since then, she's been held up as some sort of madonna figure in the eyes of white hipster pseudo-activists even though she didn't give a damn about the war until she lost someone in it. She's done so much white-privileged b.s. that her acolytes and admirers are now almost exclusively white.

Anyway, when I saw the Sheehan comment posted the woman on my friends list (Emma Rosenthal), I simply said that the quote was completely ignorant. Of course, Rosenthal got indignant because she considers Sheehan to be a personal friend of hers (even though she's never once commented on anything Emma has said or even acknowledged it when Rosenthal tags in a post. After I posted my comment, the white privilege got as thick as mud. I've tried to give her food for thought when I see her exhibit a lot of ignorance about people of color issues and her barely concealed transphobia. I put up with a lot of her white privilege fuckery, but today just wasn't the day for that, I guess.

She started getting really condescending and telling me not to talk to her that way when she was spewing out all of these insults directed at me, because I happen to benefit from the Affordable Care Act that she and Sheehan can afford to just dismiss. It got down to her making the really low blow of saying how the ACA wasn't going to cure my "fucking cancer". I was hurt really deep by that, but I just pointed out to her that even a single-payer health care system isn't going to cure my "fucking cancer", because there is no cure for my "fucking cancer". Then she got down to saying that well, she's talked to people of color who don't like the ACA either. After telling her that she doesn't speak for those people, she started using the tone argument and I posted a link to the Derailing for Dummies site. Of course, she became indignant about the ablism in that title, but she had nothing to say about the ablism involved in Sheehan's call for universal health care or "NOTHING".

She de-friended me.

I'm not going to lie. It really hurt me.

I'm the third generation in my family to develop cancer. My grandfather died of it. My mother barely survived it. Several of her siblings have it and I'm still living with it. My doctors have talked to me about how seriously I need to take my family history. Because of our family history, and my relatively young age when my tumor developed, the doctors place my daughter in the category of those who need to screened regularly, even though she's much younger than the usual age when it's recommended.

Can't anyone see how much I had riding on this decision?! Can't everyone see? After all of my life-long struggles to get healthcare, because I've had "pre-existing conditions" my entire life, I was finally able to get Medicare. However, I only got it after several appeals and only because I was considered terminally ill. My daughter isn't sick enough to qualify for it. She's able to get Medicaid, because she's my dependent. However, she's 16 and will soon age out of her eligibility. So what are we to do then?

My partner is working towards a career where he'll be able to get health insurance and hopefully he'll be able to put her on it. However, being able to still get free community cancer screenings in the meanwhile will at least make it possible for us to know if she develops it. If the Supreme Court ruling had excluded any part of the health care act, then we'd be facing a hopeless situation.

My partner is only a little less disabled than I am. Please don't say what you're thinking. I already know. I've been told that I maybe should have partnered with someone who isn't disabled. Well, he wasn't disabled when I met him and even if he was, he's the only person who was willing to love me without reserve. My college sweetheart bailed when I got the lupus diagnosis.

But my current partner is able to work, it looks like his old employer is going to take him back. He worked for FedEx and that was how he wound up with a traumatic brain injury from a dog attack. They're looking for a position for him where he doesn't have to be a driver. FedEx has GREAT health insurance. I mean gold standard health insurance. If my daughter could get on his insurance, our problem would be basically solved. And it's almost within reach.

This ruling changes everything for us. EVERYTHING. The removal of the preexisting condition clause (and the Supreme Court upholding it) means that my daughter could get healthcare through an employer, when she grows up. Before this, she had no shot at ever getting health insurance--not with her family history and her own ADHD and Sickle Cell trait. We've never been able to get a company to insure her, because they could just refuse her.

Damn it! I'm so very angry that someone that I thought was truly an ally just chewed me out and belittled my struggles and couldn't even be happy for my kid for one damn morning. Just one damn morning.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Comprehensive Prenatal Testing Does NOT Cause Abortions

This article on LifeSiteNews is ridiculous. It's a perfect example of one of the reasons why I wish that most journalists would just avoid writing about scientific discoveries. The article is about a newly developed prenatal test that may make it possible for doctors to tell parents if their unborn child might be likely to develop a certain kinds of medical conditions later on in life or if the unborn might have a congenital medical issue.

As a woman with disabilities raising a daughter with disabilities, I think it is wonderful for women to be able to have advance knowledge about their babies. Just as the vast, vast majority of women who find out the sex of their child don't have abortions based on what they find out, it's ridiculous to think that the vast majority of women will decide to have an abortion just because they will know more about their developing baby.

A test letting women know if their child possesses certain conditions allows them to prepare for what they will need to do once the baby is delivered. If you're worried that knowledge is sooo very scary, then set up counseling for women who find out they are pregnant with a child with disabilities. Instead of just gnashing your teeth and throwing ashes on your face, you can actually make this into something that benefits women who are currently ignored by many self-identified "pro-life" people.

My daughter hopes that any child she has will have some sort of disability. Why? Because she knows that variety is the spice of life and having disabilities allows one to be a part of disability culture (another ignored group).

The idea that most women would abort if they find out their growing baby has a condition assumes that most women have no desire to keep their baby if she/he has what you see as a defect or disorder. The fact that many children with disorders are aborted should shame those in the "pro-life" camp. The time and effort spent whining about women receiving more information could be used to help mothers prepare for the challenges of raising children with disabilities. Studies have shown that parents who receive such counseling are much more likely to continue pregnancies like this.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Meditation on Medicare: Making the Case for My Life

Today is a day of so many emotions. I don't know how in the world to describe every aspect of it. However, I know that there was something that I needed to say today. What I'm trying to do here is make the case for why society should make sure that Medicare stays available for for Americans.

It is incredibly hard to live in fear, real bone-chilling fear, that even with a cancer that has been manageable for nearly 10 years, it might not be enough. If the government withdrew Medicare, I could never afford to see the coordinating set of specialists who have--to every one's surprise--been able to keep me alive this long.

I'm not above begging for my life. I LOVE living. And maybe keeping me alive could help others, too. My case has been studied all around the USA. My cancer is so rare that there are only about 600 known cases of it in the world. If doctors and researchers can figure out how to deal with complex cases like mine, then it will be much easier for others in the future who find themselves facing a lupus or cancer diagnosis.

Screw it all! I'll be America's guinea pig. It sure as hell beats being dead. I gladly participate in the long shot strategies. Maybe when you need it, it won't be so risky, because they'll have figured out how to perfect it by trying it on people like me.

If society keeps me alive, I'll do my part to return the favor. Please y'all, please remember to fight for Medicare and Medicaid as this society tries to move toward a more humane system of care for everyone.

My TENTH Anniversary of National Cancer Survivors Day

TODAY IS NATIONAL CANCER SURVIVORS DAY. It's one of the most important days of the year, for me. I simply can't believe that I can now say that I have lived for ten years with bone cancer. How can it be true? I have persevered. I have learned to live with cancer instead of despite cancer.

There are so many things that I want to say, but I am verklempt. I feel so very thankful and unworthy and blessed and...I just think that I'm going to have to wait a few days to try to process this thick swirl of emotions that feel. Today I am alive and that, alone, is more than I have ever had reason to believe I'd be able to say ten years later.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Republican Prescient Vision of Earth = Dune

Sometimes I think that Republicans want to turn Earth into this galaxy's version of Dune. They could, they'd issue las-guns to all of the 2nd Amendment freaks and privatize all water sources, until the planet is sucked dry and almost all life as we know it has been destroyed. I'm afraid the Golden Path no longer exists.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

To White LGBTQIA Folks Complaining About Homophobia in "The Black Church"

Actually, it's white church leaders who make up the majority of those complaining and threatening the President. You're just choosing to focus on the minority, which is convenient and predictable scapegoating. You're justified in not being impressed by them, just as I am justified in not being impressed by you.

It's so typical to see people avoid actually making real changes by ignoring those who are truly oppressing LGBTQIA folks. Instead, you participate in the marginalization of LGBTQIA folks like me. Sadly, there are many, many white LGBTQIA folks who would rather try to shift blame to people of color in order to avoid confronting the fact that it is other white people who are truly oppressing them. It's just so much easier to say that it's the Blacks, isn't it?

Have you forgotten the fact that Obama comes from "the black church" with "black church leaders"? Yet he has supported LGBTQIA folks more than any white religious President ever bothered to do. It was "the black church" that produced this President whose morals push him to seek equality for LGBTQIA people.

If what you said about "the black church" was true, then why has it always included and welcomed LGBTQIA folks into its hierarchy? If you were educated about "the black church", you'd know about the ubiquitous traditional roles that LGBTQIA play in their traditions. It sure as heck doesn't exist in the modern white evangelical churches that dominate this society.

I guess it would be asking too much for folks like you (white LGBTQIA folks who put themselves out there by whining about the presence of homophobia in Black churches), to actually ally with LGBTQIA people of color. While LGBTQIA people of color work to change the churches that kept them alive even when white LGBTQIA folks were perfectly content to see slavery and Jim Crow laws, people like you just sit there complaining and acting as if all of this activism doesn't exist.

Some days I just have to shake my head at the hypocrisy and un-examined privilege within white-dominated LGBTQIA communities.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

My husband is 6'4" and an ex high school football player. I was a single mom with a 3 year old, when we met. I thought my daughter would be scared stiff at such an imposing figure. Instead, she just adored him. My nieces and nephews have always loved for him to hold them, too. He swings them around and tosses them in the air and catches them with that upper body strength that most women don't possess. I still feel jealous that I'm considered absolutely boring compared to him. He never had a child of his own, but he knew how to make kids feel comfortable. It was just instinctive for him. He's also the smartest, most compassionate man I've ever met.

Like Obama, he has a father who was a person of color and a white mother, though he was raised with just his mom and grandmother and his sisters. He was as poor as a church mouse when we met, but I could tell that with his brains (He has an IQ of 151) and attitude he was "going places". He now works for a video game company, doing what myriad kids across the country wish they could do for a living. We own our cars and our beautiful house outright (no mortgage) and we don't use credit cards. We're no millionaires, but we live comfortably.

I can relate to Obama much more than Romney. This guy had it all handed to him. He's the kind of guy who used to pay folks like me and my husband to write their college term papers for them and tutor them, because they couldn't be arsed to do such menial activities like researching stuff or attending class.

I had no problem taking their money, in exchange for my help, because it was all coming from their mommies and daddies anyway. However, they are NOT folks that I would put in charge of ANYTHING. I wouldn't trust Romney to babysit my fish over the weekend.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Is This Cat Zimmerman Serious?

Trayvon Martin: Parents Reject Zimmerman's Request for Private Meeting

Zimmerman is used to being able to weasel out of trouble. This fool has faced domestic violence charges and a felony charge for assaulting A POLICE OFFICER! I'm related to all kinds of politicians. I've seen folks in my family talk their way out of traffic tickets by making a call or passing a police officer their auntie/uncle/cousin's business card. I've seen one of my cousins have a DUI magically transform into "driving without a seat-belt" violation.

But never in my life have I ever heard of someone assaulting a police officer and having that charge knocked down to a misdemeanor...and that's despite living in Louisiana--the US state best known for its corrupt criminal justice system. Do you know how much PULL your daddy would need to have in order for you to be able to assault a police officer and, not only live to talk to talk about it, but actually walk away with nothing more than a misdemeanor?

So, maybe I shouldn't be surprised that Zimmerman thinks he can change the way things are going for him by being able to have a talk with this murdered child's family. However, even knowing all of that, I still felt flabbergasted when I saw this article. Let me tell y'all something. If I killed some one's child, even if it was a completely unavoidable accident, I would be scared out of my mind to be in the same room as that child's family. I know that if *I* was Trayvon's parents, I'd meet with him, because there aren't enough guards in the world to be able to keep my hands from wrapping around his throat until ONE of us met our maker that day.

Monday, April 16, 2012

What it Means to Vote for Mitt Romney

The first and fourth one would pretty much ensure that I'd die in less than a year. I wish this was just hyperbole, but it isn't. I hope voters understand these issues and take them seriously to get out and vote against this con artist, Romney. I'm just going to say a little of my situation for those who don't know anyone who will be directly affected by these two issues.

Insurance companies automatically dismiss me. They're not going to take on someone who has two major (often fatal) medical conditions. Medicare is the only thing keeping me alive. I'm in the middle of a health crisis right now. I have to see 4 different doctors just to manage my health, because no doctors are trained in the multiple specialties my care requires. I epitomize the kind of cases you see depicted on those stupid shows like "House" and "ER".

I'm down to a size 2 right now. If I lose just a little more weight, at least I'll qualify for one of those pretty white mausoleums that tourists love so much.

Please vote, people. I'm begging. There is pretty much no degrading thing that I would not do, if it would insure that I get to have a few more years with the love of my life and my only child. Do I need to tap dance? I'll do it. Do I need to shine shoes while wearing a big ol' sh*t-eating grin? I swear I won't complain. I just want to live.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Well, Kanye WAS a Jackass!

Some people have criticized President Obama for calling Kanye West a jackass and then, recently, reaffirming that this is his opinion.

Since he's a dad (more than just a father) to two lovely girls, I can see why President Obama would dislike what Kanye did. I have yet to see President Obama behave in an ungentlemanly or rude manner toward a young lady. Swift was receiving one of the biggest honors of her career, but Kanye's actions spoiled that moment for her. That's the G.R.I.T.S. reason why I agree with the President speaking out.

The "feminist" in me agrees, because it was obvious that what Kanye did was an act of machismo over a woman AND he did it before an audience of thousands of people across the USA who watched it. I really dislike Taylor's music--I prefer jazz--but, I am also a WOMAN and I did NOT agree with this misogynistic act. Feminists often ask, "Where are the men who disagree with misogyny?". Well, I'm happy to say there's at least one man like that sitting in the White House, right now.

As a person of color, I saw what Kanye did and couldn't stop shaking my head. Those of us who aren't multi-millionaires are forced to deal with the stereotypes that Kanye contributed to. It's hard enough having to pay the "black tax", without folks like Kanye engaging in behavior that seem to give credence to negative stereotypes. President Obama's comment was much appreciated, because he showed that there are Black men who do not behave that way and actually condemn it.

Does Bella Santorum Really Support the NRA?

Rick Santorum has a daughter, named Bella, with Trisomy 18. She is one of the 8-10% of children with Trisomy 18 who live past their first birthday.

I'm severely disabled. Like Bella, I've managed to survive for several years, despite odds so grim that doctors all over the country have studied my case. So, I have a really big soft spot for others who are beating the odds. I know what it has meant for my daughter to be able to still have her mother around--her best friend/cousin's mom developed cancer at the same time I did and died soon afterward, so my daughter is constantly reminded of how different her life could have been. When I've seen the Santorum family together, I've always been really happy for them that they still have their daughter alive and possess the economic resources to give her the best medical treatment available.

When I heard that Santorum dropped out of the race when his daughter was struggling with double pneumonia, I was really impressed. Knowing that he couldn't get enough delegates to win hadn't bothered him enough to drop out of the race, but the second his daughter needed him, it looked like he was willing to sacrifice his personal ambitions to put her first. I felt like even though he was a slimy, sneering, religious fanatic, maybe it was possible that he was still capable of being a decent father to his own kids.

Apparently, I was fooled. He is just one of many politicians who are willing to use their children with disabilities as a way to further their political ambitions. This guy is just an all-around shitty human being. I don't often use that kind of coarse language online, but this time I think it's appropriate. He's just a shitty little man with a big, shitty ego.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Rest In Peace, Eisenhower

I was raised in a politically conservative Christian family in the heart of the Deep South (i.e. Louisiana, USA). I grew up with an adoration for Dwight David Eisenhower that would put any ten year old girl's Justin Bieber obsession to shame. I was too young to be a part of a political party, but Eisenhower was a Republican and I loved Eisenhower, so my assumption was that the Republican party couldn't be all that bad.

I'm just old enough to remember life under the Reagan administration and the beginning of the HIV epidemic. I thought that Reagan was a rat of epic proportions, but I still figured that he was an anomaly and that he didn't represent a strategy that the entire Republican party would soon adopt en masse.

I continued to call myself a conservative all the way until the middle of George W. Bush's first term. At that point, I gave up. It was apparent that Republicans had co-opted the term and made it synonymous with intellectual incuriosity and having an utter disregard for the lives of everyone who wasn't a rich, white American man. I had no desire to be associated with that, even though I knew what the term "conservative" had referred to originally.

I know there are a handful of Republican intellectuals who are still hopeful that the party can return to what it used to represent, but I think they are battling for a war that has already been lost.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Difference Between Liberal and Right-Wing Parenting

So, today I was online and I saw a picture that someone had posted of their kid holding an alligator.

The caption read, "his gator was a liberal so we had to put a rubber band over it's mouth to get it to shut up". Of course, I responded to it, in kind.
They didn't muzzle the gator because it was a liberal. They muzzled it, because chicken-hawk right-wingers teach their kids to be cowards, just like them.

Here's my liberal kid:

She's not so afraid of the world that I have to try and shield her from anything that's different from her.
Maybe that was shooting fish in a barrel, but I guess I'm just in that kind of mood today...Besides, ya' gotta admit that my daughter's picture was absolutely perfect for this.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Trouble With "Stand Your Ground" Laws

Hey, that's my local newspaper! Yeah, I kinda disagree with this, even though I truly appreciate the sentiments it meant to convey.

See, I think that what the cartoonist is describing as "the trouble" is really the intended effect of these laws. If the institutionally racist system can't remove you from society using all sorts of draconian prison sentences, then it must find some other way to neutralize those perceived as threats to the socio-political hierarchy.

If you break a law, then they can take you and make you into a modern-day slave in a private corporation's prison facility. However, some of us are going to manage to avoid that fate. I've never had so much as a traffic or parking ticket. I'm so cautious that it drives my husband insane. You can honk your horn at me. You can ride my bumper. You can flip me off and swerve around me, but I will NEVER go above the speed limit. But how many people can do that? My avoidance of any kind of criminal record is more dumb luck than anything else, because you don't have to be doing ANYTHING to wind up sitting in a police car with your head cracked open from a billy club.

The "Stand Your Ground" laws are one of society's methods of culling the clever undesirables. Folks like Trayvon posed an even greater threat to the system than some kid who has been in and out of juvenile jails half of his life. The kid with the prison record is already cut off from almost anything beyond minimum-wage level jobs. The kid with no record will probably graduate from high school and can qualify for financial aid to go to college. With a degree or two or three, he would have an advantage over many of those who belong to a culture that is used to automatic preferential-treatment so mediocrity is not much of an impairment to their future success.

Trayvon had a mother AND a father who were active in his life. You can see it in the myriad photos of him with his family. He was solidly middle class, with all of the advantages that this confers. Those factors are what drives the bigots nuts. None of them are going to come out and say that they resent the life that this little black boy was being given, but it's still abundantly evident from my perspective.

I keep seeing these folks who simply don't think that Trayvon Martin's death is worthy of this much attention. I think it's relevant to mention that these folks are almost all white. They've complained bitterly about how the media shows him as a neatly dressed, baby-faced teen with an adorable smile. They seem to think it's unfair and a betrayal to whiteness for the media not to find some "gangsta" photos of Trayvon to help justify shooting an unarmed kid. It makes it harder for them to dismiss this injustice when there's so little in this kid's history for them to use as excuses to slaughter him in cold blood. He was once suspended from school for a few days. That's it. That's the worst thing they've been able to find in this kid's past. That's infuriating to them, because they know that there own kids and even they themselves probably wouldn't look so squeaky clean if their life was suddenly placed underneath the magnifying glass.

Okay, I want to write more about this, but I'm exhausted. I'll try and get back to it on tomorrow.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

ADHD is the Next Phase of Humanity

Of course it is! Those who have children with ADHD already knew this. Her ADHD is what makes my daughter able to teach herself German and Chinese and Japanese while taking 2 years of Latin in school. She's a talented artist whose art had already been displayed all over our state before she even left elementary school. Her brain thrives in situations where I become overwhelmed and feel overtaxed.

We tried medication, because it was suggested by her doctor that it might help her concentrate more at school. It was a total disaster. She was almost zombified by it. She couldn't even stay awake long enough to go to school and come home and eat dinner afterward. We thought it might improve after a few weeks, but it didn't. When my daughter came to me and told me that it made it impossible for her to make art and that it felt like something was blocking her thoughts, we took her off of it, IMMEDIATELY.

She's in high school now and she's learned how to compensate for her weaknesses. She's thriving and she's not drugged, which is more than I can say for a huge chunk of the adult population in this country.

She, and the others like her, are definitely the new model of humans. I have a moderately high IQ and her father is in the genius IQ rating. Though I can see where her father and I have a few of the traits she exhibits, it's very clear that she has a lot of abilities that we don't.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why I Decided to Learn These Languages

I found this post after googling a Yiddish saying.

I'm from New Orleans. I grew up with Creole/Cajun French mixed in with our English, much in the same way that many people in Jewish-American communities grow up hearing Yiddish words and phrases.

I have two Latina cousins and my mother taught herself Spanish and we attended a Spanish-Speaking congregation for about a year. Most of the Spanish that I know comes from these experiences. I'm not fluent enough to speak it, but I can understand it when it's spoken or written. Spanish never interested me enough to really pursue learning it.

With that background, I took a year of French in high school, to increase my vocabulary. Because of my culture(s), it wasn't very difficult to absorb. I truly believe that French is the language of love. No language sounds sexier, to me. They have the best terms of endearment and interesting twists of phrases that have to do with intimacy. Even my German-American husband loves it.

Many Semitic Arabs speak French, so when I started college, I was able to interact quite well with the international students from areas like Algeria and Morocco. They would invite me to off-campus cultural events, because I could at least understand the French that they mixed with their Arabic.

That motivated me to take a couple of years of Arabic at our university. It was mostly Cairene, but one semester we did have a very strict professor from Algeria who endeavored to remove all of what he viewed as slang words from our vocabulary. He also taught us a bit of Classical Arabic, which is useful, if you want to read the great works of literature from that area. It was really helpful and I think I benefited from it.

If someone was going to learn Arabic, I would still suggest that they learn Cairene. It is the most commonly understood dialect. Egypt produces much of the television programming and theater movies that are watched by Arabic-speakers throughout the Middle East and the Maghrib (i.e. North Africa). You might not understand all of what a person from, say, Oman is trying to express, but he will likely be able to understand you.

Since I could understand Arabic, hearing people speak Hebrew always sounded vaguely familiar. It was JUST close enough to Arabic for me to understand a word or two when I heard someone speaking Hebrew. Naturally, I decided that I should learn to read Hebrew so that I didn't have to rely on someone speaking it, in order for me to understand things like traffic signs, names of buildings, et cetera.

I just finished a Hebrew course offered as a leisure class at one of our local universities. Knowing Arabic made learning Hebrew grammar feel quite natural. I'm hoping that there will be enough people interested for them to offer a Level 2 class over the summer.

Once I finish tackling Hebrew, I have no idea what that will make me interested in. Maybe Yiddish? Or Amharic? Yiddish would let me use the alphabets that I'm most familiar with, but it has a lot less Hebrew. My brain has seems to have permanent block, when it comes to learning German, so I wonder if that would make Yiddish pretty difficult for me. Amharic would require learning a new alphabet, but it would include more of the vocabulary that I've already studied.

I think learning languages enriches a person's life experiences. It's also a good way to get a better deal, when you're doing business with someone whose primary language isn't English. You're less likely to be cheated, if a person sees you as a part of their community. I've found that to be true in every language, including English.

If you're reading this, I hope that you'll pursue the languages of your ancestors. One of the worst aspects of American slavery was the fact that the enslaved people were not allowed to teach their native tongue to their children. Because of that horrible and indelible stain on our nation, most African-Americans don't have any knowledge of the languages spoken by their African ancestors. This has caused us to be disconnected from our ancestral culture--no matter how many speakers you have around you, a person will always be excluded from significant aspects of their culture, if they can't speak it it themselves. I think that those who are fortunate enough to know their history owe it to their ancestors to pass on as much of the culture as they can to their descendants.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Jesus in the Qur'an and in my Cousin's Living Room

Saturday evening, The German, VanGoghGirl, and I went to a family fun night for the General Lafayette descendants. After we left the restaurant, VanGoghGirl and I went to an impromptu "girl's night" at the house of one of my distantly related cousins (I think her mother is my grandmother's sister). We had a great time! We didn't get home until 4a.m.

Anyway, while I was there, some were talking about how difficult it was going to be to get up for church the next morning after staying out so late. One cousin said that she wasn't actually going to a Christian church the next day; she was visiting a mosque with one of her coworkers.

I was very happy to see that no one said anything critical or ignorant in response. There are two entirely Muslim households in our family, but neither live in our city, so most folks don't know about them. We're a rather tolerant family; I think it's in large part because our multi-ethnic/multi-racial identity makes us more inclined to embrace diversity than to reject it.

Out of curiosity, I asked her what made her decide to visit a mosque. She said that she's been feeling really disillusioned with Christianity for a while and she really liked that, from what she's seen so far, everything in Islam seems to revolve around doing things for God's sake and not to impress people. I was pretty pleased to hear that. I don't know her coworker, but it's obvious that this person was setting a very good example and living her faith at their workplace. It's frustrating when I see an individual from a marginalized community behave in a way that makes life harder for everyone else in the group.

She said that she wasn't really sure about whether she was interested in becoming a Muslim, though. It might have been a bit nosy, but I asked her what made her feel that way, because she seemed a little uneasy. She confided that she was worried because she found out that Muslims only view Jesus as a prophet. That made me feel really glad that I'd asked.

I explained that what Muslims mean by "prophet" isn't exactly the same as what a Christian means when they use this term. In Islam, a prophet isn't just some guy who says true stuff about God. I think that the Muslim use of the term "prophet" corresponds most closely with (the Catholic title) "Saint". I told her that Jesus isn't viewed as "just" a prophet, either. His role is unique and asked her if she knew that Jesus is the only person in the Qur'an who is referred to as the Messiah. She didn't know and a few others in the room also expressed surprise upon hearing this. Seeing their reaction brought back fond memories for me. I half disbelieved it when a class mate in college first told me this. When I researched it for myself and found that it was the truth, my mind was absolutely blown.

VanGoghGirl was right there next to me and she chimed in, by telling our cousin that being a Muslim wouldn't mean that she was just ditching the God in the Bible, because Muslims and Christians worship the same God. The biggest difference between the two religions was just how you worship God.

I was very pleased by my child's contribution to the conversation. Like many parents, I often wonder how much attention she's paid to what I've tried to teach her about the world around her. She could have left the room or put on her Mp3 player and ignored us. Instead, she showed a great deal of wisdom by discerning the root of my cousin's hesitation and then making an effort to dispel one of the most common misconceptions held by people from Christian backgrounds.

As a parent, I expend a lot of effort trying to make the most out of every moment that can be used to teach her something. However, on Saturday night, I got the opportunity to see her creating her own teachable moment. I couldn't have been prouder of her than I was at that moment.

Friday, February 24, 2012

My Perspective and Experience with Children Having Cell Phones

After reading the article "Preteens and cell phones: my change of heart", I wanted to commend the author's husband for helping their daughter find a constructive way of voicing her opinion and trying to persuade her parents to reconsider. Instead of whining and begging, she presented rational arguments. Even if it didn't change their mind, I think she should be encouraged and praised for behaving so maturely.

As parents of a teen, my husband and I have had to deal with this issue. We decided to get a "family" cell phone that we could allow her to take with her when she was out with friends or going to soccer practice. This solved the issue of convenience without creating a situation where she might develop the texting addiction that was already causing problems for some of the other kids in her middle school.

We didn't give her a cell phone of her own until she was in high school. My husband and I carefully selected the kind of phone and phone plan she'd have. Since my husband is a techie, he opened up her phone and disabled the camera on it. There is A LOT of pressure on girls to sext and we didn't want her to have to deal with that right away. We told her that we'd re-evaluate things in a year. If she showed that she could use her phone responsibly, then we'd consider getting her a phone with more features. We also told her that she would have to leave her cell phone in our room at night. She was so happy to finally have a phone that she didn't balk about our restrictions.

I'm proud of how she's taken on this responsibility/opportunity. She had heard friends talk about how they accidentally--a parent would probably call it carelessness--racked up huge cell phone bills from texting so much. She came to me and told me that she researched alternatives to that and she found a program she could download to her phone that would allow her to text through the internet. She said it would allow us to select a cheaper cell phone plan that doesn't include texting without losing any of the features she now had. We checked out the program and she was absolutely right. That impressed us. We're always talking to her about the importance of frugality and it was encouraging to see her making an effort to save (us) money.

Now, we've developed a sort of system where she inherits our old phone whenever my husband or I get a new one. When I got the Iphone 4. She inherited my old Iphone 3g. Even though it's not the newest one, it's not obsolete and it does everything WE need it to do for her. She's happy with our system, because by the time she gets a phone from us, there are already lots of cool applications available for them.

I'm glad that we stood our ground. I think it's good for children to learn to delay personal gratification. No child should grow up receiving everything they ask for, as soon as they ask for it. As a family that--thanks be to God--can afford to give our only child everything she needs and much of what she wants, we think it's important to prevent her from growing up to be one of those adults who were overindulged as children and walk around expecting the world to cater to their every whim. We were able to use the cell phone issue as an opportunity to reinforce that lesson, instead of trying to "keep up with the Jones" and give her something just because most of her peers already had one.

If only the rest of parenting was as easily dealt with... :)