Category Archives: #amwriting

Pushing Buttons

Teens managed THE coup of our times by buying up the tickets of the Tulsa rally, guaranteeing empty seats and low turnout.

Yes, the same teens who sat on pins and needles in classrooms where they trained in the art of sheltering in place before learning the curriculum. They who were raised on the kindness and decency of Obama and now watch corrupt, cruel Trump. Today’s teens skate around the internet like wiry young adults of the 50s once did on roller rinks.
Not politically savvy in the ways of their elders, which might be a good thing, they were nevertheless effective in their strategy and not giving it away beforehand. They embarrassed and deflated Trump, kicking the legs from under this throne.

BTW, I put up a meme about this a long time ago, kind of a ‘wouldn’t it be funny if’ thing about buying out blocks of free tickets so his arenas would be empty. Which, lets face it, seems to be the only thing that really lets the air out of the orange windbag. I didn’t do it, I was re-posting a funny meme of the time, and I promptly forgot it in the wake of ongoing news.
I believe the Zoomers and KPoppers fooled the rally organizers, it fits the circumstances perfectly: the bragging about a million requests for tickets, building an entire outside area with stage and large screen outside to accommodate overflow crowds, and then being caught up short by the actual low turnout.

Sure, the low turn out is probably the result of Covid fears and the warnings from their obviously concerned governor probably kept some Oklahomans from showing up. Fear over possible violence, ditto.

AND a bunch of smart, dedicated, and capable kids who know how to push buttons, literally and figuratively.

JOIN THE GREAT DISCORDANT CONVERGENCE CATHARSIS OF 2020

Remember the great Harmonic Convergence?

It happened in 1987, so if that was before your time or if it passed you by the first time as ‘some kind’a hippy-crystal-lovin’ shit’, let me explain. On August 16th and 17th the first global attempt at synchronized meditation occurred across the planet. As Earth aligned with the other planets, people sang, danced, and prayed together in a universal plea for world peace. It didn’t work, but it brought enough like-minded people together that environmental issues, social networking, political support groups, religious and spiritual growth, and many other good things, took root in the World/American consciousness. The great harmonic convergence not only made us feel better, it was the beginning of a lot of important growth for the people of Earth.

It’s nearly 33 years later, and tonight there will be an impromptu opportunity for another shared experience as we survive our simultaneous losses. Over the last decade our families have collectively absorbed the Pritchett/Dunphy family and together we’ve become a Modern Family. With humor, style, and honesty some of the best writing/acting/producing on television led many topical conversations. As their family grew up, we recognized ourselves and our children in their hopes and dreams, attempts, failures, and successes. We laughed with them more often than at them, but one way or the other they left us laughing week after month after year. Tonight, we lose them forever.

Which hits a very un-harmonic chord of pain within me, channeling a path for hot tears of mourning and loss. I burst into tears at the breakfast table the other day and when questioned for the reason, I sobbed, “It’s too much. We’re losing so much it doesn’t seem fair that we’re losing them, too.” I gestured at the TV screen where a promo for the grand finale episode shows a group hug they can’t break.

Now, I trust ABC/Disney to expertly milk my thin-skinned emotions tonight. I expect to be crying, sobbing, and laughing while they wrap-up a lifetime of stories in a two-hour period. So, since my tripwires will be triggered anyway, I thought, why not cry for everything at once?

I plan to howl at the beautiful uncaring moon and let out every bit of pain I’m already feeling and my fear of what’s still to come. Tears will be shed in memory of those already gone, fears for my nears and dears, and fury because I don’t know if I’m an asymptomatic Covid Cary (think Typhoid Mary), but I must act as if I am and treat you as an infected creature shedding germs in your wake. I hate this loss of normal, and the cost of holding it together is showing, so I’m going to roll around in my misery, sob my eyes dry, rail at fate and face the pain of final farewells through hiccups of reluctant laughter. I welcome your company, as shared pain is halved.

Everyone is hurting. So, YOU are invited, you who face daily danger as you deal first-hand with the sick and dying, burying the horror of what you’re personally living through to deal with in future therapy. And YOU who risk continual exposure from a never-ending parade of panicky strangers who must shop for food, medicines, their basic daily necessities, you need this, too. And YOU, if you’ve lost a job, your life savings, travel plans, graduation or another honorific celebration fairly earned, join me. Your losses are not trivial. They are substantial and deserve recognition. Together WE will grieve them, and the loss of hugs, shoulders to lean on, and arms linked in camaraderie. Our families face devastating changes. Tonight, we can howl at the moon together, a discordant convergence channeling our emotions through a cathartic mutual loss of our friends and neighbors, the Pritchetts and Dunphys.

Join me tonight during the grand finale episode of Modern Family, aka the #GreatDiscordantConvergenceCatharsis2020.

spend eight minutes and bring a hanky

My smile is so big as I write this. While watching this short film, at minute 4:54 I saw for myself the growth of our society in the skillful portrayal of a parent getting a shock, sucking it up, and instantly choosing loving support. Yes, we slip a lot and yes, we have citizens howling and screaming to drag us back in time, but in the land of lawn mowers, oleanders, and teen dances we’ve come so far. Every single actor in this 8 minute production gave their absolute all to the project, every character springs to life fully 3-dimensional. And wow, do they tell a brilliant short story.

Go back up and watch it for yourself. It takes half the time of a coffee break. I’ll wait.

Told you so. Listen, spring dances start in a matter of weeks so please pass this wonderful short film around and help people see a story about the love and support our youngsters deserve from us.

I’ve got sympathy for teenagers, their hormones jump around, adulthood looms large, and they reject and demand responsibility for themselves simultaneously. They stew in an odd mix of fear, courage, paranoia, assumptions, growing self-awareness, dreams, options, and most of all worry. Their emotions are as raw and real now as yours were at that age.

We store memories as reminders of who we were once and sudden strong memories pop up in everyone’s mind once in a while. They swoop into your brain, peck at your ego, knock you down to size, and leave behind the same emotions you recorded in that moment. Remember? Of course you do. We all grow through adolescence and awkward young adulthood. You’re a survivor.

Prom night will be a night your teen will NEVER forget and you, their folks, will play significant roles in their lifelong recurring memory. Ask yourself, ‘How do I want my youngster to remember me long after I’m gone?’

Choose kindness and love. Choose your child.

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.

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.”

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!)

12 REASONS TO GET BARIATRIC SURGERY SOONER RATHER THAN LATER – part II

belly-2473_1920Welcome back to my four-part series about what I’ve learned over the last two and a half years following bariatric surgery. Following my Roux-en-Y, I reminded myself to pay attention to my body, my emotions, and my experiences. The first three reasons why I believe now I would have been better off getting the surgery in my youth are in part one. Here are reasons 7-9.

9.   LESS MEDICATION

Growing old ain’t for sissies and the health issues that accompany morbid obesity begin to take their toll earlier rather than later. There is damage to my joints and spine that directly correlates to carrying around eighty extra pounds for decades. I’ve been plagued with plantar fasciitis, early-onset arthritis, and bad knees that only got worse. The damage to my body led to more and stronger medication over the years.

I hoped to get rid of many of them by having the surgery, but only 70% can significantly reduce their medication and it seems I’m in the unlucky 30%. I do sleep without the c-pap machine strapped to my face now, though, so yippee for that.

8.    SIMPLE EVERYDAY TASKS ARE EASIER

Not to be indelicate, but just using the restroom is far easier, especially public ones with tiny stalls. I don’t have to scoot in sideways and worry about what germs might linger on walls various parts of me used to touch. I don’t have to wait for the handicapped stall and then suffer the judgmental glances of skinnier women I usher past me to the smaller ones.

And in the shower, I can easily wash parts of me that formerly took acrobatic acts of skill to reach. My daily shower time is half what it used to be, as is my water bill. Although I’m drinking about five times as much water as before the surgery, so maybe it isn’t, after all.

I go down to the basement and up to the attic twice as often as I used to and don’t worry about trying to carry as much as I can manage in one trip because I’m not afraid to go up or down for a second load.

I can stand in the kitchen to prepare the family dinner without having to take a break and sit down to rest my back. No one, least of all me, thought I’d be cooking so much post-surgery. My family more or less expected I’d leave the cooking to them, but I still watch the Food Network and the Chew (bye bye, sob sob) and have as much interest in the process as ever. I may eat way smaller portions, but my family are thrilled that I still cook their favorite recipes.

And much to my wife’s chagrin, I can shop as long as anyone these days. And with more selection in clothes and shoes, I’m much more eager to do so.

7.    PEOPLE ARE NICER

Yes, I know I mentioned this before, but now I’m talking about friends, specifically straight friends. Sure, they were kind to me before and they still are, but their ways of being kind have changed. They respect me more now that I’ve achieved this significant weight loss and have kept it off for so long. They now turn to me for dieting advice and commiseration instead of offering it.

Straight women seem to feel camaraderie over the struggle and occasionally envy my success. I believe this is because almost every woman struggles, at one time or another, to lose weight in our overly judgmental America. Even after menopause, we are urged to be physically attractive as potential sexual partners for men (misogynistic claptrap – a topic for another day) and are judged by a strict scale of youthfulness and societal norms of beauty.

If there’s been a few months between visits, my straight girlfriends almost always mention it and ask if I’m still losing or exclaim over how much I’ve lost. At first, I was surprised by this but then I realized that, having been obese for the better part of sixty years, they’ve identified me so completely with being large that my new appearance surprises them every time they see me.  Oddly enough, my LGBT+ friends adapted to my new look much faster and no longer comment on it, probably because I’m not identified as strictly by appearance/gender norms.

To some of my older friends, I will always be ‘tagged’ in their brains as ‘the fat lesbian’ no matter how much they may like me. They’ve been conditioned to identify ‘otherness’ and both criteria fit when they met me.

Because I’ve slipped the American societal noose of fatness, I’ve done what very few others achieve, and their minds rebel at having to shift labels. That’s okay with me. Call me this, call me that, but don’t…

…call me late for supper.

Catch you next week for the third part of my four-part series. Drop me a comment and let me know what you think of my musings.

2017 Terceira