Category Archives: #amwriting

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 They fought with tooth and toenail against Prop 8, before and after passage, until it was repealed.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.”

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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

12 REASONS TO GET BARIATRIC SURGERY SOONER RATHER THAN LATER

  2017 Terceira.jpg

Tomorrow marks two and a half years since my Roux-en-Y. I’ve learned a few things about myself and our society. This is the first of a four-part series explaining why, for me, it would have made sense to get bariatric surgery forty years ago.

Before anyone goes off on me – I am NOT saying everyone who is overweight should lose it. That is a medical decision which only you can make, I hope with the advice of a wise physician (or four). Many very healthy people carry extra weight around and I’m pleased as punch for them that they’re not suffering as I did.

I’d tried various diets since childhood and can proudly say that I am an EXPERT dieter. I’ve lost anywhere from twenty to eighty pounds utilizing fad diets, food supplements, and rigorous exercise programs. Unfortunately for me, diets worked only until I’d lost the weight. Then, once I started receiving approval and congratulations for having accomplished such a challenging task, I’d relax my strict (self-hatred driven) dieting behavior. Gradually, I’d relapse into my old eating habits regaining everything I lost and adding more (my body’s way of protecting me from these periodic episodes of starvation). Over the years and in total, I estimate I’ve lost close to five hundred pounds and gained closer to six hundred, a very bad habit that’s placed a lot of stress on my body. Bariatric surgery is the only way I’ve ever lost this much weight and kept it off this long. There’s no guarantees I’ll stay this weight forever, but 2.5 years is two years longer than any weight loss prior.

Please do not interpret my experiences as medical advice. If you are overweight and are unhappy about it, please talk to a doctor about all your options before making life changing decisions. These are merely my own experiences. Yours will be completely different.

So, here we go:

12. PEOPLE ARE NICER

I’m talking about strangers, here. While I weighed in the mid-two-hundreds (from my early twenties to late fifties), I understood that people were nicer to slender women, but I had no idea how much nicer they were. If I’d known people who’ve never met me before and will never see me again, could be so considerate, polite, and charming I’d have considered this procedure forty years ago.

Seriously, my life might have been SO MUCH more pleasant. Instead, I got judgmental glances, called rude terms, asked if I were pregnant, turned down for jobs, and given unwanted and unnecessary advice. It got so bad that when I’d see a new doctor for the first time I’d start the initial visit by saying, “I know I’m morbidly obese, but that’s not why I’m here…” and still I’d be told that if I’d just lose weight I wouldn’t have any health issues.

Um, seriously? C’mon, skinny people get high blood pressure, slender folks can suffer gout and sleep apnea, and lithe human beings still live with chronic depression. I bet their new doctor’s first words aren’t, “Lose weight, it all stems from there.” And doctors weren’t the only ones doling out advice. Complete strangers felt justified recommending diets, exercise workout routines, weight-loss programs, all without once being asked.

Every time someone was rude, or unkind, or judgmentally preachy, I spent time stewing over the situation and wondering if I really deserved that kind of attention. Without spending so many hours miserably contemplating my imagined failures, I could have gotten much more done AND been more in the mood to do so.

Of course, I also could have gotten therapy to help me deal with my low self-esteem issues, as well. But instead, I dieted, lost weight, received approval, regained all the lost weight and more, and repeated the process for decades.

11. HAIR LOSS

Bariatric surgery deeply affects the entire body, and when it’s accompanied by either gallbladder removal or as in my case, undoing a Nissan fundoplication, it really throws the body for a loop. Think about it, part of your stomach is being amputated and your digestive/evacuation system is being re-routed. That’s a lot of cutting and stitching, and it takes time for your body to heal and get used to utilizing energy in new ways.

Your hair falls out. The body is marshalling its resources and your hair is not ranked as a high priority compared to surviving and adjusting to a very serious surgery. By waiting until I neared sixty to have the bariatric surgery, I put it off until my hair already began thinning. I did take biotin for six weeks before and am still taking it years after the surgery, but my hair will never be the same again. The thick, luxurious locks of my youth would have suffered a bit but rallied sooner and more fully if I’d had the Roux-en-Y in my twenties.

10. IT’S EASIER TO CHANGE YOUR LIFESTYLE

Okay, I’ll admit it. Getting older means becoming set in your ways and bariatric surgery demands change. You’ve got to adjust to much smaller and smarter portion sizes and food choices. You’ve got to make food a lower priority and learn a healthier way of living and breathing as much as eating and exercising. I listen to my body in ways I never have before and try to react in time to save myself from disaster.

Stomachs, for better or worse, are flexible. They grow larger if stretched and shrink if starved. Bariatric patients who are not careful, or have difficulties following surgery, or who just plain regret the permanent change they’ve made, can re-stretch that malleable organ right back to a large enough size to put back on all the weight and more. It’s easier than you think to regain all the pounds you lost, unless you CHANGE the way you live.

I’m fighting forty-five years of self-abuse and unlearning a half-century of bad and deeply ingrained habits. It would have been far easier to switch to better ways before I fell prey to so many unhealthy habits.

So, now you know the first three reasons why I believe bariatric surgery in my twenties would have been a good idea. My reasons may not be valid for everyone else, but after living post-op for two and a half years, I know they are for me.

Check back  soon, as I’ll be posting reasons 9-6 sometime in the next week.