FAMILY MEMORY:

When I was a kid (maybe 9 or 10 years old) my dad bought one of the first Polaroid cameras, the kind where you rubbed the ejected square with chemicals to get the picture to appear. He was having a wonderful time with his new toy and on Easter Sunday, since we were all dressed up for church, he sat each of his five children one at a time in a straight-back armchair to take our portrait.

We started from the oldest to the youngest because Mom was still getting the youngest ones ready to go. When it finally came to the baby’s turn, she was all decked out in a fancy dress (she was 2 or 3) with gloves, hat, and fancy white patent leather shoes. Everyone gushed over how cute she looked, so she was excited to have her photo taken.

While waiting, she’d somehow gotten a thumbtack stuck in the sole of her shoe. When Dad perched her up on the chair, her little legs stuck straight out and everyone watching (i.e. Dad, Mom, and her four older siblings) all shouted, “A tack!” and lunged for her foot.

The baby, terrified by having her entire family shout, “Attack!” and race toward her, burst into tears. Poor little thing…we probably scarred her for life.

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Is the democratic party broken?

The other day I saw this:

Hilary already had her time. I like Bernie Sanders. 

This was my response:

Bernie Sanders is unelectable. He divided the Democratic party so much it left room for the Russians to foist the Orange One upon us. His misogynistic Bernie Bros pushed his campaign by hating Hillary because she was a woman. He’s alienated so very many. Lesser of two evils, indeed. Hmmph

His messages, policies, and platforms are now shared by many potential candidates. And for the record, Hillary never got her time, it was stolen away from her. In my humble opinion, while the DNC needed/still needs to stretch it’s goals to the more progressive side, it was FAR from broken.

That started me thinking which led to today’s post. I’m a lesbian woman who has watched my party pull the USA toward the more liberal agenda over most of my lifetime. I’ve cheered and participated the whole way, being born in the late fifties as one of the tag-end baby boomers.

The DNC, while I’ve been alive, mind you, have gotten Social Security enacted to protect/improve the lives of the elderly as well as Medicare for the poor. They passed civil rights legislation that included voting rights for black Americans, and funding for public education and schools. Wade v. Roe may have been a legal victory, but the Dems made sure abortions were affordable and available.

The Democrats won a hard-fought battle for Title IX, demanding equal opportunities for women athletes, as well as pushing for legislation to improve the health care for women, reproductive and otherwise. More recently, they helped push through voting measure after measure to ensure the rights of everyone to marry the person of their choice, regardless of gender, a matter quite dear to my heart. They fought with tooth and toenail against Prop 8, before and after passage, until it was repealed. And when the banks nearly collapsed, they passed the Frank/Dodd legislation to rein in banks and protect people’s savings and IRAs.

Democrats have been at the forefront of every major political battle of my life. Although not always victorious, sometimes inexcusably negligent, and occasionally hoodwinked by the unscrupulous (just like the individuals who make up the party and the human race as a whole) they have clearly and quite demonstrably made my life a better place from where it was destined when I was young.

In 2016, once again, the Dems were at the forefront of change, supporting and backing a female candidate for president after putting the first black man in office. There was no more deserving person than Hillary Clinton, who’d worked to improve the lives of women and children her whole life. When pushed by the patriarchal leadership to conform to the good-old-boy’s standards, she did it. When told to toughen up and take it on the chin like a man, she did. When she came nose to nose and toe to toe with some of the most powerful male leaders in the world, she held her own and represented the USA with powerful grace and skill. She is so effective as a leader that she had the Russians quaking in their boots.

Now we know what we didn’t in 2016 when all the post-election blame was being hurled at Hillary’s feet. The Russians have been targeting the American political system for decades, trying to influence our government into such political chaos that they can either tear us down or force us into a much more compliant nation.

The Russians (and others, I’m looking at you, China, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia) have used subtle forms of propaganda to convince the American people to pull away from each other. They target the poorest (financially) of both political parties with Plain Folks speech, namecalling the opposition, fake news, glittering generalities, and by urging them to jump on the bandwagon of either ultra-conservativism or progressive liberalism. The RNC has been pretty much taken over by the alt-right who demand unquestioning loyalty in support of business and profits. The DNC is also being divided, although not surprisingly the party of inclusiveness is showing signs it may survive as a whole.

The truth is, in my humble opinion, the liberal progressive agenda was moving ahead fairly well in our uniquely American one-step-forward-two-steps-back kinda way until portions of our population got hoodwinked by propaganda into a simmering discontent. Next thing I know is the party that’s always fought to make my life better is being divided almost as effectively as the conservative party by social media and the political machinations of Bernie Sanders. The originally Liberty Union Party, then Independent, then Democrat, now Independent again candidate, who has a lot of good ideas but no sound ways of implementing them, taps into the misogynists within the Democrats the way Trump tapped into the racists among the Republicans.

Sanders, needing a strong political base, didn’t squash the anti-woman rhetoric some of his followers (the self-proclaimed Bernie Bros) spouted. Even after his defeat in the primary, Sanders refused to throw his full endorsement behind Hillary Clinton. Instead, he chose to fuel the fires of party division with innuendo and slippery slope arguments and only at the very end of the campaign, when hints of a Trump victory were in the air, did he urge his most devoted to not stay home as they’d announced they’d do, but instead go out and vote for the ‘lesser of two evils’.

By then he’d dumped the Democrats to assume the mantle of the Independent Progressive, otherwise known as He-Who-Would-Have-Been-Elected-If-Only. He kept insisting the parties were basically the same, a patent falsehood that has been stated so often people are starting to believe it.

With all this division and refusal to compromise, while foreign entities create false memes and fake websites filled with clickbait to outrage and inspire, is it any wonder our country is grinding to a standstill, our citizens suffering, as our great American experiment of a democratic republic crumbles before our eyes? Can’t you just see Putin doing the happy dance while pulling our strings, making our president and citizenry dance to his tune?

But, even as we’re encouraged to judge without evidence, hurl insults rather than offer help, and are being dragged into a nationalistic Us v. Them mentality/behavior, those messages are being questioned. Our shared humanity has begun to shine through.

As always when the powerful make the financially vulnerable suffer, individuals with little more themselves are making up the difference, opening food pantries, starting crowd fundraising, staffing and serving those in need. People across the political spectrum have always responded to cries for help because when we aren’t beating drums within our individual tribes we’re all basically the same.

We want to live in peace among our neighbors, love someone who loves us back, provide for our children and elderly, and chase a dream or two. Our country was founded on the assumption that every human being is equal, and entitled to the chance to attain happiness. It’s time to make good on those premises (pun intended, oh spelling-nazis).

It may be a shame, but it appears neither Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders could wrest control from The Donald anymore. Fortunately, a whole new crop of liberals have entered local, state, and federal elections. They’ll tell us who they are over the next year, gearing up for the big one of 2020. The heart of the liberal still beats among us and as our voices join they grow louder every day.

I think it’s especially pertinent as we watch the changing landscape of the synergistic DNC, to remember the wise words of Maya Angelou:

“When someone tells you who they are, believe them.”

The Elephant on the Phone

GOP_Trump_ElephantDailyKos
https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2015/7/22/1404275/-Cartoon-Trump-is-the-face-of-the-GOP Cartoon credit Laloalcaraz @dailykos.com

In the past, I have always heeded sage advice and avoided using this blog to discuss politics and politicians, in particular. It never works for authors to refer to their own political leanings in print, online, or social media conversations. Inevitably, fans with different political leanings will turn away, sometimes feeling so betrayed by you that they actively dissuade potential readers. That’s the kiss of death. So why do it today?

Because I’m in the position of a woman anxiously waiting by my phone for a certain man to call. But the entire trope is upside down, which makes it noteworthy, at least to this author. Usually, said woman is hoping to be pleased if not thrilled when Ms./Mr. Right finally phones. I know this. I write romances. The anticipation is pleasant, spiced with the normal dread of disappointment.

But that’s not the way I feel. I don’t like this. It feels scary and wrong. I don’t want Big Orange having access to my ever-present cellphone that I’ve been told can gather information about me by not only listening in but also providing real time video. For two days I’ve been hearing that Big Orange is going to phone every American’s cellphone to test a new national alert system. While I can’t object to the government being able to alert its citizens in case of emergencies, the anticipation I feel is near terrifying. I find myself dreading the ringing of the phone.

Things are so extreme these days. I’m constantly being reminded of alarming dystopian fiction, not to mention the lessons of history. I’m reminded that events which seem like ancient history to us now were ‘modern times’ when they happened. What if our ‘modern times’ include a government led by narrow-minded holier-than-thou types who approve of spying on its citizenry, using what it learns to keep the populace in line? Is it possible for them to watch, listen, and record me twenty-four/seven? Which of the digital gadgets in my house are already gathering info about me with permissions they’ve gathered unbeknownst to me?

What if I start receiving messages that are duplicitous, or outright lies? Could propaganda be ringing me up? What does that mean? What will happen? How will society change? What will be the new norms? Will families like mine be allowed to exist legally? Will we need to flee our own country to remain free?

Sounds paranoid, I know. But, I’m an older white female, well-educated, who’s only missed three elections since her eighteenth birthday, all due to distance or illness. (Please, don’t nag me to vote absentee. I prefer walking into the polling place and wearing my I Voted sticker all day.) I’m also a lesbian with a wife, two kids, four grand-kids, and three great-grands. My personality is quixotic and usually upbeat. An artist, I easily find the beauty of the world all around me; as a teacher I can’t help pointing it out to anyone nearby. But it’s been a rough twenty-three months for people like me.

Everything I thought I knew about my country, my fellow Americans, my neighbors and friends, has been turned upside down. Harmful laws I thought gone forever are being reinstituted while helpful ones are dismantled as if they never existed. Ethics are being ridiculed, sacrificed on the alter of wealth. Women are being ridiculed, sacrificed on the alter of white male privilege, easily mansplained away. People aren’t listening to each other, compassion is rare, and judgement abounds.

“The times,” as Bob Dylan once noted, “they are a’changing…” and not for the better. Or, as Wednesday Addams said more succinctly, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

I refer you to the novels:

  1. Nineteen-Eighty-Four by George Orwell
  2. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  3. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  5. Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  6. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  7. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Read, think, vote. We dare not go gently, like lambs led to slaughter.

VOTE ON NOVEMBER 6TH, 2018

EEK! There’s the phone…

Lauren Margaret on a Hard Part of Foster Parenting

My niece is doing the tremendously hard work of foster-parenting. It’s a noble thing to do which can backfire on the host family in any number of ways. Their efforts have brought her family both joy…and heartbreak, as Lauren’s following blog post proves:

DISRUPTING

 

Lauren Disrupting
Photo credit: laurenmargaret.com

 

 

 

You Can Piss Me Off Like That Anytime, Kiddo!

JJA 2018So, we get home from our staggeringly long vacation visiting family on the island of Terceira. Ten weeks, otherwise known as seventy days, aka the-whole-frickin’-summer, seemed ever-lasting at first but swiftly grew to the familiar scale of ‘never-time-enough’. It always happens like that, a longing to return inescapably swoops us up weeks before we’ve even touched ground again in America.

If you’re wondering how in the hell we can afford something like this, the answer is complicated. We work really hard to make it happen. From saving tax refunds and any ‘found’ money, almost never eating out, reading only free books or ones I manage to win in contests, to cooking from scratch with as many ingredients grown in the backyard by my talented wife, we always pinch our pennies. Heck, it took me three years to be able to afford a new Kindle because I allowed myself only to buy one from gift certificates. And now I’ve gone and lost it, but that’s a story for another post.

Then, while we’re on the small island in the Azores archipelago, we live frugally. Due to local contacts, we’re able to score a place to stay at only ten euros a day. Family members store fishing gear and other necessaries between visits, and (at no little upheaval to their regular schedules) they loan us a car. Most nights we’re welcome to join family dinners at any of several tables, and our lunches consist mainly of local cheese, bread, and fruits. We enjoy simple pleasures rather than participating in tourist activities. And we have a hella good time. I’m already missing steaming mornings with my granddaughter, Mac, riding swells and floating in sea water while arguing generational differences and points of view. We watched puffy white clouds grow and shift endlessly in clear blue skies as tiny fish (and a few not so small) swam around us. Ah… yes…

But, we’re back now. It’s time to pick up the mantle of responsibility and get the five-year-old ready for kindergarten, the sixteen-year-old ready for her junior year, and get my head into the thoughtful beta-reader responses I’ve received over the summer. I want to finish Get Yourself Another Butch and get it to a publisher. As always happens, my head started planning for the American experience, preparing myself for the paradigm shift from vacation to work, Europe to America, island versus city time. When our youngest daughter picked us up from the airport, I was ready to hit the ground running. So, I grabbed a couple of suitcases and (after a brief examination of the abundant garden) turned to negotiate our crumbling back steps.

They’ve been pummeled by weather and ravaged by time, ice and weeds alternated turns at forcing gaps wider, while rain and wind ground away at exposed concrete. To avoid some of the worst gaps, we grab the ironwork rail to kind of haul ourselves up to the kitchen door. But they’ve loosened over the last year, so you’ve got to watch where you step and forge your way up carefully. That’s what I expected to see but this is what greeted my stunned eyes.

New Back StepsI shrieked, thrilled and stunned. Our daughter, Michelle, turned white as a sheet.

“Are you mad? I knew you’d be mad,” she said.

I just shook my head, speechless. My wife turned to see what the commotion was all about. Michelle stared at her mom and backed up a step.

“Hey, that’s great,” cried my Traf. “They look great.”

“They do!” I finally managed. “They’re beautiful!” The steps had been our first priority for repair, but we’d been putting it off to better afford our trip. Now we’d had our trip and returned home to our daughter’s spectacular generosity. But her reaction really floored me.

She’d told everyone she knew, the neighbors, her co-workers and friends, family in person and on the internet, that she was terrified we’d be upset, angry, pissed off. She thought we’d dislike the end results.

I didn’t know what to say to that. Traf and I love it and couldn’t be more pleased to have this home repair done with no effort on our part. We’ve thanked her and told her several times how pleased we are, but she clings to the idea that we wouldn’t have liked it.

I hate that she feared and seemed to expect harsh judgement for such a thoughtful, considerate, generous act. I hope she’s been pleased with our thrilled reaction. We see you, kiddo, for who you are. You can piss us off like this as often as you like!

Oh, to Hell with it.

80 PoundsI’m sorry. I know I promised 12 reasons why I should have gotten bariatric surgery sooner rather than later, but I lost interest in the project half-way through. Perhaps I’ll pick it up again later.

But today I wrote a piece of my mind to a young woman considering bariatric surgery and I’d like to share that with you. Kind of sums the whole thing up. She asked if I (as she does) ever felt, by getting bariatric surgery, I took the lazy way out, cheating as it were. Here’s my answer:

Oh hell, yeah. And I come with decades of baggage. I was 58 when I had my Roux-en-y and I felt like such a lazy loser. But look at what I’d done before resorting to my last option:

 
1. Yo-yo dieted for literally five decades. My earliest memory is of my diaper falling off while my parents taught me to suck in my toddler-tummy. I lost and gained the same twenty pounds at least a hundred times over the years and you know what that taught my body? That starvation is periodic and to be expected, so stock up on those extra calories and store them in fat cells.
 
2. I would go through periods of terrible self-loathing. I needed to so that I’d deny myself the substances my body demanded to maintain itself. Dieting hurts (I’m sure you know this) and to make myself succeed I’d have to call myself horrible names, expect failure to force success, and other unutterable abuses I’d NEVER take from someone else.
 
3. Taught myself that I was only worthwhile when small, i.e. thin. Crapola to that. I was worthwhile every minute of my life and spent way too much time in trying to satisfy my own (and society’s, so-called friends, co-workers, and stranger’s) idealized images. So what if I took up more space than others? I was worth it.
 
4. Spent too much time in my head, hating others, hating the times we live in, hating anyone who judged me as wanting, hating, hating, hating.
 
So, young woman, you’re not alone. Yes, I felt I was cheating, but you know what? I didn’t. I chose a medical procedure that has been working for me for the last two and a half years instead of expecting something that failed me (dieting) to suddenly work when it never had before.
 
Do what you need to do to be the best YOU you can be. If that’s surgery (as it was for me) then embrace it, learn everything you need to do to be successful, and work it just as hard as any diet you’ve ever been on. It’s not easy choosing to amputate a part of your body and have your pipelines rewired, trust me.
 
You ain’t lazy, girlfriend, and you sure aren’t cheating. Trust me, it’s a challenge every day not to lapse back into bad habits. But if you’ve ever lost 20 pounds or more, you’ve got this.

By the way – if you’ve been following my blog via the http://www.gentasebastian-author.com link (since the creepy weight-loss schleps stole the first one), it has expired. I’m now http://www.GentaSebastian.Net
You might want to update your links, or chance losing contact with me forever…(oh, the horror!)

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