Come at Me, Bro

It’s been reported that border patrol is now looking at Facebook for people with political views opposing their own. Come get me. I dare you. My Bible tells me that I am supposed to welcome the stranger in every possible way that I can, and that message is echoed from the Jews to the new church. I’m sure those border patrol agents don’t remember that Jesus would have been dead as a toddler if Mary and Joseph hadn’t been able to get into Egypt. That now he wouldn’t even be able to get into the US because despite popular belief, racial profiling would cut him off at the pass. What, he’s the only European-descent white guy in Israel/Palestine? #dumbassattack

If Paul needed to evacuate his mission after his conversion near Damascus, had it happened in present day, he’d be just as screwed as everyone else trying to get out of that dystopian shitshow of a country.

I’m impressed by all the hypocrisy around here these days. For someone who rails at the sky that no one believes he’s a Christian, Trump isn’t doing much to prove it. It takes a lot of gaslighting to get people to believe that you follow religious principles when you’re clearly suffering from delusions of grandeur. Religion, in its purest form, is the examination of the self… the realization that if there is a God, it’s not you. It’s meant to push your ego out of the way, and if there is anything that is NOT happening in the White House, it’s the submission of ego for the greater good of many.

Trump’s racism is unprecedented, because there are plenty of white terrorists running around already here. We’re not banning white people from coming here, I assure you. The difference is that there’s not as many immigrants from European countries because they aren’t under constant threat of having civillian neighborhoods bombed either out of spite or a missed target…. plus, all of the sudden, and I’m sure no one can figure out why, people in European countries seem to be really happy staying where they are.

Perhaps it’s that the US is getting more self-destructive by the day, and it’s not going to get any better until we have a president that understands what the job entails can form coherent thoughts and sentences. I’m not even sure that Trump can understand the words as they’re coming out of his mouth, and he’s not a detail-oriented policy wonk. Reading the headlines and using soundbites to form opinions seems to be enough… even with security briefings from people who are probably doubled over in pain trying to dumb it down enough for comprehension. Or maybe they just do what they do and give him a coloring book. Who knows?

I’ve long thought that there was a shadow government that really runs the country, and I can only hope that their main job right now is to keep Trump from running off the rails. But Trump seems to fire everyone who thinks about it, so public agents that disagree with him are gone. I can only hope that undercover agents still have their sanity intact. It is obvious to me that White House senior intelligence is now just an oxymoron. I think senior intel in the White House serves at the pleasure of the president, so once the transition team was out of there, we lost any modicum of sanity around a megalomaniac of a President.

Now that there’s starting to be a rebellion in the Republican Party, our hope has to be that it spreads. Maybe this will be the event where working across the aisle is restored after The Hammer destroyed it.

Not everything is a nail.

Sad Enough for You

I’ve got the beginnings of another cold, and this time, I know it’s because there’s something in my room that I can’t find that’s making me sick. Perhaps it’s a dish I forgot to take downstairs that got pushed under the bed while I was trying to organize and missed it. But whatever it is, people don’t get sick this often, and I think a deep clean with Fabuloso™ is necessary. As I quote often from Ralphie May, Fabuloso gets out third world dirt. If I end up taking the road of full-time job with laptop tether, I’d like to find a housekeeper, for two reasons. The first is that obviously, my room would always be organized. The second is that I tend to keep it up so that I’m not embarrassed when the housekeeper comes over. I’d like to hire someone who could really use the money, and I couldn’t care less if they’re legal in this country or not. I just don’t know how to reach out to someone like that. But that is putting the cart before the horse, because I need enough money to hire an employee before I hire an employee, capiche?

But thoughts of coming home at night with my room spotless and my laundry folded are deep motivation for finding any sort of job, and I am sending out resumes and filling out applications like a fiend. I am blessed in that my rent and bills are the cheapest I’ve ever had, so even if I worked at Safeway, I’d still have enough money to pay someone else. This is because I don’t really spend money on anything. When I left DSI, I had three and a half months’ worth of living expenses saved up because I wouldn’t leave the house. Most of that was because not having a car made it where I was so exhausted from my commute that I didn’t have room in my life for anything fun. The rest was that my savings account meant more to me than leaving the house.

Because I had that cushion, after I lost my mother I came home and completely decompensated. I couldn’t even make myself take a shower and get dressed some days, and though I have graduated into wanting to get back into real life, I ponder the re-entry greatly. At this point, I will take anything to make my savings account happy, but I do not want to be distracted from going back to school. The only reason I’m just now thinking about it is that I haven’t needed a degree to get where I wanted to go previously, and now I do. I need two of them, actually.

Because I want to work in the inner city with the homeless population, it is possible that I could get grants for loan forgiveness with grad school. I don’t know about undergrad. I am going to make an appointment with a counselor at Howard to see where I need to go from here. It’s not important that I go to Howard for undergrad, but it’s where I want to go to grad school, so I will start there and branch out. There are a few courses I could take at a community college, because even though I am a second-semester junior at University of Houston, there’s a couple of first and second year classes that I need to take care of… like a math class and and a sophomore English class like “Intro to Writing.” I am not worried about passing English. I took freshman comp at Wharton County Junior College and on the first day, our professor said that she just wanted a benchmark for where we were in our writing ability, so she gave us 30 minutes and a topic. She thought it was so good when I was finished that she made me read it in front of the class. I wish I could remember what it was about, but I’ve slept since then.

But back to Howard….

Howard’s divinity school is United Church of Christ, which means that I could get all of my denominational requirements done at the same time I’m taking classes. If I went somewhere else, I’d have to go to school first and THEN work out how to get ordained in that denomination. The only reason I find it a bit sad is that so much of my soul is Episcopalian, but I just cannot even. I know that the Episcopal church would be a good fit for me, but there is no changing the liturgy under any circumstances, and as I’ve pointed out before, I am a writer. It’s what I do, and it’s what I’d like to continue to do with my bulletins. When I was at Bridgeport UCC in Portland, when I preached, I also put together the orders of worship, so that the calls and responses were something I’d come up with myself. I enjoy preaching a great deal, but to me, what was even better was hearing 150 people read out loud something I wrote, because as a writer, all we want is for our words to be read.

That being said, it doesn’t mean I don’t want the choir to wear cassocks and surplices, either. 😛

I have so many ideas, and at this point, no where to put them. But that will change over time as I achieve one goal after another. The hardest part is finding momentum in the midst of deep grief, because as I was telling one of my friends, the hardest part of losing my mother is that people expect me to get back to normal, and there is no normalizing this. There can be a new normal, but the grief regarding what normal used to be is often overwhelming. My natural depression is made so much worse by the added situational depression of losing a parent, and it’s not something you can explain to anyone that hasn’t lost a parent themselves. They just have no frame of reference for it. I actually had one friend tell me that they didn’t want to hear about my grief because they didn’t even want to imagine losing their own mother.

And another said I didn’t seem that sad, and it would have been so much worse if I’d lost my father instead. I said, “because it would have been so much harder to lose my right arm than my left?” That shut ’em up.

It’s hard not to feel internalized rage at the stupid things people say to me, but I have to remember that again, they have no frame of reference for what I’m going through and won’t until one of their parents dies. In the words of Jesus, forgive them Father, for they know not what they do. The comment about losing my father over my mother absolutely undid me for days, because the idea that I “didn’t seem sad enough” was heartbreaking. What is “sad enough” supposed to look like? I’m already metaphorically tearing my clothes and refusing to engage with anyone on most days. Is that sad enough for you? There are days when I can’t even pick up the phone, I’m so depressed. There are days when, because I don’t have anywhere to be, I don’t get out of bed. There are days that when I do, I regret it. It’s been since October that my mother died, and except for a few outings, I won’t even go to the grocery store regularly. My appetite fluctuates between EAT ALL THE THINGS and eat nothing for a few days until my appetite returns. IS THAT SAD ENOUGH FOR YOU?

In fact, right now I have to send a text message to Hayat and tell her that since I haven’t been grocery shopping, everyone has taken up all my space in the fridge so that if I did shop, I wouldn’t have anyplace to put my groceries. What does that say about how long it’s been since I’ve bought milk, eggs, etc.? What about that? IS THAT SAD ENOUGH FOR YOU?

What about being glad that Dana and I are divorced so that I don’t have to engage with anyone unless I want to? That I don’t have to take care of a marriage and my grief at the same time? Glad that Dana doesn’t require my attention and love so that I can be as absolutely selfish with my time as I want, even though I know she would have been so supportive of me that I wouldn’t have even had to sigh before she was johnny-on-the-spot with a hug? IS THAT SAD ENOUGH FOR YOU?

What about on my deepest, darkest days, feeling like going to college and grad school, getting remarried, having children (my own or my partner’s), etc. is pointless because my mother won’t be there to see it? IS THAT SAD ENOUGH FOR YOU?

I started this entry with so much hope for my future, but something got under my skin and I just spiraled into all of the anger I feel. But again, very few people are equipped to deal with others’ grief, and I have to be loving and forgiving because they really don’t have any clue what nerve they’re hitting on any given day. Being sad enough is not something I feel I should need to prove, but because it runs under the surface, people are apt to comment on it. But it doesn’t take much to make me come undone.

Which is why I don’t engage. I want to be by myself as all this processing gets done, because others’ input is often not helpful, because again, they have no frame of reference and are just trying to help…. and can’t.

I need to reach out to my friends who have also lost parents, because they understand that absolutely helpless place…. the one that says despite external appearances, I am DEFINITELY SAD ENOUGH FOR YOU.

Never Bad

Leader: Show me what democracy looks like!
Crowd: This is what democracy looks like!

This was the chant of the day, repeated like a mantra as I marched on Washington for the first, and hopefully not the only time.

I started the day at Autumn & Dan’s house, where Autumn made breakfast and coffee for the five of us (Lindsay & Kai were there as well… Lindsay of “don’t look, but that guy over there is David Sedaris” fame). In order to avoid parking issues, we parked in Alexandria and walked to the Braddock Street Station, where crowds were staggered going up the escalator so that the train platform wasn’t overcrowded. It took a while to get upstairs, but once we did, it was a festive atmosphere. Every train that came through the station was already jam packed, and only a few people from Braddock could get on at a time. And every time a train left the station, the cheering and whooping and hollering would start all over, because it was one more train headed to the march. I don’t know how we managed to get all five of us onto a train at once, but we did, and as I whispered to Lindsay, “if we were any closer, we’d have to get married.” I also told her that of all the mental health issues I have, I am glad that claustrophobia is not one of them. The crowd was so tight it was hard to breathe, and I am sure that both weight and number limits were exceeded by a large margin. No one cared… or if they did, they were too polite to say so because they recognized what a gargantuan feat was being pulled off yesterday.

I have to give a YUUUUUGE shout-out to WMATA, because lines were long, crowds were frustrating, and they did the best job they possibly could… because let’s face it. No matter how you plan for something like this, there is no easy way to get 400,000 people around a city. I hope they made enough in fares to cover the extra trains, because it was so gracious of them to step up frequency and open early.

Though it continued to be more and more uncomfortable with every stop, because like I said, no one was getting off the train, we made it to Federal Triangle unscathed. From the moment we entered the station, the streets were just as crowded as the train. We tried to find alternate routes, but with that many people, there were no alternate routes. We made it to The Mall, where we could breathe and walk around. If you see pictures of The Mall, you’d think that the protest wasn’t that large, but it was actually on the surrounding streets, with onlookers packed onto the steps of every federal building and Smithsonian museum. I hope that I was able to capture the spirit of the march on my Facebook feed, but I wasn’t able to get high enough above the crowd so that everyone could see the scope. It was massive…. just absolutely crazy busy with activity. The people, united, will never be defeated.

The best (non-offensive) sign I saw was I’ve seen better cabinets at Ikea. To me, the worst protest yell was hey hey, ho ho… Donald Trump has got to go. The reason for this is that Mike Pence is an actual legislator, and I think his rollbacks are even scarier than what Trump might do…. conversion therapy, funerals for every abortion, shutting down federal funding for women’s health even though none of that funding goes toward abortion, etc. Although, who am I kidding? Whether it’s President Trump or President Pence, there will be a lot of changes because the legislators around President Trump know for sure that he has no idea what he’s doing, and will capitalize on it regardless. The second-best sign I saw, which rang so much truth it hurt, was we are the 51% minority.

As I “walked,” I wished that President Obama could have remained in office while we tightened cybersecurity and voted again. If Trump won again, fair and square, it would at least be what the people wanted instead of the proven ability of Russian intelligence and the possibly infiltrated FBI to sway an election.

All of the sudden, The Americans doesn’t seem like a TV show anymore, but a documentary. All you need to know about the show, and you can watch past seasons on Amazon Prime Video, is that it is about KGB operatives pretending to be Americans embedded in the DC suburbs to look as normal as possible, despite doing things like bugging a clock in Caspar Weinberger’s office. It does not take place in present day, but it seems as if history is repeating itself as the “woke” and politically active are doomed to watch.

Dan brought up the point that it was a shame that we weren’t protesting for anyone. It’s not like anyone from the administration showed up to listen. In fact, as we passed Trump’s hotel, there wasn’t a single face watching from the windows out of curiosity. However, the power was not in getting the administration to listen. The power was having almost half a million people show up for safe space, peaceful congregation that no one could take away from us. It made us all feel better that President Trump’s awful deeds did not represent us, and there was no way we were going to stop fighting. There will be more protests, but this was a “welcome to your first full day” present. If you look at the pictures from the inauguration, there seemed to be an exponentially larger crowd right at his front door.

Not only were there Americans walking the streets, but Canadians who’d driven or flown down, and a contingent from Ireland as well. I am sure that many more countries were represented, but the Canadians were wearing easily identifiable maple flag clothing and the Irish had protest signs to make them equally noticeable. I also wished that somewhere, somehow, the Obama family was watching, not able to attend because they would have been mobbed… not in a bad way, but more like people attaching themselves to their pant legs and begging them not to go. The Secret Service could never have prepared enough.

The police and military presence was on point, not there to interrupt but to observe, and I thanked the military (as I always do) for their service. At one point, the car that was parked in the middle of all those people was called away, and I couldn’t help but think that of all the units they could have called, the car stuck in the middle of hundreds of thousands of people wouldn’t have been my first choice. It was slow going for them because there was no room to move out of the way. And first, all the protest signs had to be removed from the windows. The cops joked with us that the signs had to come down because they’d been called away, but we weren’t the ones they were worried about in terms of turning over or burning out their car.

It was amazing how many different perspectives were represented, from listening to religion over science to pro-choice to immigration and welcoming the stranger in accepting refugees. There was not one message, but ALL THE THINGS. It felt good not to be a single-issue march, but solidarity in all beliefs.

As an INFJ visionary, I was constantly reminded not of how things are, but how they could be. Even I was astonished at my ability to rise above my introverted nature, willing to join in because I knew I was making history and writing about it all day in my head. I wished I had Wil Wheaton’s “I’m Blogging This” t-shirt, but it was too cold at some points to wear it without layers. At others, the people were so jam-packed that I had to take off my jacket and sweater, because even though it was in the 40s, the crowd was so tight that body heat was radiating everywhere.

I sort of felt bad that I hadn’t bought an outfit especially for the march, but I did try. I was walking through a store and found the perfect long-sleeved t-shirt, which said “Fight Like a Girl….” However, it was not in the women’s section and though boys’ clothes fit me, girls’ clothes do not. They did not have my other perfect t-shirt, a famous conversation between Mia Hamm and her coach:

Coach: You run like a girl.
Mia: If you ran a little faster, you could run like a girl, too.

Women power was self-evident, empowering and humbling at the same time. I took all my women friends with me, the angels on my shoulder. Dana and Argo and Notorious and The L___nator and Lindsay and my mother. I carried them with me in spirit, because the idea of carrying them physically was just too funny… a lot of ass and a little shoulder.

There were so many people I wanted to see that I just didn’t run into, impossible in a crowd of that size. Giles and Zaid brought their male babies with a sign that said “Two Dads, Two Sons, Four Feminists.” For those just joining us, Giles was my voice teacher at University of Houston, and I couldn’t be prouder that he’s here now… one of the people truly trying to make a difference. Giles’ home country is Canada, and though there are plenty of Conservatives there, I wonder every day what our country would be like if our Conservatives, like theirs, could just get past the politics of kindness. Universal health care, women’s rights, and gay marriage are done. There’s no fighting about it anymore. How far along would we be as a country if those things were settled as well?

I am pretty sure that they would be had the Republican Party hadn’t just been bodyslammed by crazy, trying to convince people that Donald Trump is a Christian with those values at heart. I think the Two Corinthians would disagree. What the pro-lifers don’t seem to get is that with universal health care, the fear of bringing a baby into the world in poverty is alleviated, thus resulting in less abortions. It seems as if pro-lifers think that all people who seek abortions are well to-do and using abortion as mere birth control, not trying to avoid a situation where a mother cannot possibly take care of her child. It has always been my belief, echoed by others, that if Republicans were really so concerned about children’s lives, they’d be lined up around the block with bottles and blankets for the poor children already here… never trusting the science behind abortion, trusting in their religion that life begins at conception, when Judaic law offers so such limitation. I believe that the “point of viability” argument is a reasonable compromise, with the exception of aborting fetuses that would never survive outside of the mother’s womb. As Molly Ivins pointed out, there are no mothers who don’t anguish over a late term abortion, as if they waddle past a Planned Parenthood clinic after carrying a baby that long and deciding parenthood just isn’t for them. When we talk about late-term abortions, we are talking about children whose brains and organs have not developed, not carelessness.

I also don’t understand why you can’t be pro-life and pro-choice at the same time. Pro-lifers seem to equate pro-choice with pro-death, and try to legislate all women’s choices for them. For a lot of people, including cases of rape, an abortion is just not something they can wrap their brains around, but at the same time, believe wholeheartedly that it is not their job to make those choices for all women, because they cannot imagine the situations under which abortion might make sense for others, and don’t want or need to try. It’s not their job, and they know it. Just because those laws have become popular does not make them correct.

Even Barry Goldwater (AuH2O) tried to warn us:

Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.

The Religious Right is neither, and we are fighting a “divine right of kings” mentality. It’s one of the reasons these marches are so important. The Republicans may not be listening, but it’s about getting people fired up for change, especially in the Midterms, where checks and balances might be restored. People are beginning to pick up the phones and call their Congressmen, even people who hate the phone, because it is far more effective than an e-mail or a letter.

My feelings about this are muddled and clear at the same time, because while I am all for getting in touch with Congress, it feels like two years is so far away. I have never felt more disenfranchised and more powerful at the same time.

It’s only been a few days, and already I am exhausted…. but not a fatigue that will stop me from joining the fight. Hope is not dead, and Jesus dealt with governments much worse than this (the Sanhedrin & the Romans). Especially as an introvert, my Jesus is distressing me out of my comfort.

We ended the day debriefing at Los Tios Grill, which is never bad.

Mishmash

My brain has been scrambled and fried since I lost my mother. This is the first time in a very long time that I’ve been on an “up,” hypomania that allows me four hours of sleep a night, if that. The flip side is that I am very productive during these hours, so it is not all bad. It’s kind of like a superpower that I don’t know when or if will come. Most of the time, my Bipolar II presents as a down with very few ups. I do not cycle more than a few days a month, and sometimes I skip it entirely. I do not know whether this is my natural cycle, or if my medication helps (sarcasm because downs are sometimes intolerable). But I do know that when I swing upward, I am happier. It feels good to be productive, to want to go outside, to want to live life to the fullest rather than sitting in my room hoping that something will happen.

It will make me feel a lot better about being in a huge crowd this weekend at the Women’s March. I haven’t decided who I’m going with, because I might go with the UCC, and I might go with my friends. They’re trying to decide if they want to march with another group, or if they want to get their own group together. However, if I go with the UCC, it’s not like I won’t be with friends. I don’t know who from our church will be there, but I’m guessing Matt will, and that is enough. I am greatly hoping that men do not feel excluded from marching for women’s rights, because some of the best feminists I know are male UCC ministers.

It comes from an example that Jesus taught in one story about Martha and Mary. Martha gets hacked off that she’s doing all the cooking and cleaning (as Larry Gipson once said, churches love Marthas… not the hacked off part, but those that see cooking and cleaning as ministry, because it is). But Mary wanted to sit at Jesus’ feet with the rest of the Disciples and listen to what was being said, and Jesus welcomed her, even though in that time and place it Was. Not. Done. Jesus’ feminist example has echoed through time as Christianity has become more and more progressive, although there are still pockets where women are not allowed to preach, being “relegated” to Sunday school teachers because that is what’s seen as women’s work. I recognize that teaching children is perhaps even greater than preaching to the masses, but it is also an incredible glass ceiling (*squints hard at Fundamentalists*).

However, society will leave them behind, and that version of Christianity must change or die.

I have my own feelings about becoming the kind of person God has asked me to be, because sometimes I feel entirely unworthy, and at others, I know that unworthiness is unwarranted because no one in the Bible that Jesus ever called in the New Testament, or God called in the Old, was ever the type person you’d expect to wear the mantle. My saving grace is that I keep working on myself so that I am becoming a vessel instead of focusing on the parts of my heart that have turned black and need cleansing, because I am realizing one day at a time that those black spots can be cleaned with hard work. I have a long and interesting history of being emotionally messed up, and it is my goal before I am finished with grad school to be able to work without passing on my flaws to others.

It is already beginning, but there is a staircase, and I am somewhere in the middle of it, ever climbing toward the top. Perhaps it is Jacob’s Ladder, and perhaps I am building my own spiral. I can promise you that the pericope of Jacob wrestling with the angel resonates with me deeply, and in some ways, my emotional “stuff” to deal with are where God has touched my hip. I can only hope to heal the limp… Ironic only because my sciatica is a constant reminder physically of the road forward in therapy.

Every day, I make a choice to leave my past behind, or to continue to ruminate about it, trying to figure out where and why I went wrong. It is the natural dance of intimacy, getting closer to finding my true self and alternately running away from it. I know that I have been running since I was a teenager, and now it is time to stop. I have an incredible wealth of resources at my disposal now that Vesta takes my insurance again. Perhaps today is the day I will go back, because I have to take advantage of the productivity while it lasts.

The rest of the time, I am content to sit at my computer and send out resumés, because that takes barely any energy at all. I have also sent out applications for things that make money, but don’t require a lot of brain power, like working at a grocery store. I don’t know that it will make me happy, but what I do know is that I can save my brain power for writing as opposed to being tethered to my laptop 24 hours a day. I am capable of that life, and have often done it, and what I have learned is that it keeps me busy enough that I don’t have time to think about where I am going and whether it is a direction or a distraction.

I will have time to think about it on vacation. I haven’t had a vacation in probably ten to fifteen years, and my father and my sister want me to meet them in Orlando to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I have tried copycat recipes of butterbeer, and I am hoping that the real thing is better. I also hope they have a bar, because I would like to try a Firewhisky… even though I am very particular about whisky and scotch. Peat moss makes me gag, because the nose is what I call “Band-Aids,” or at least the smell when you used to have to open the old tins. So, my particular advice is to stay away from Islay. I am the type person that will try anything once, but in this case it did not work out in my favor.

And it’s not like I didn’t try the best of the best. My friend David bought me a shot of The Balvenie, so if you’re going to try peat flavored whisky, I started at the top. It just wasn’t my thing. I would rather have a Diet Coke.

I’m excited about going to the park(s), and will definitely bring my Chuy’s “Expecto Burrito” t-shirt. Speaking of which, my dad got me a gift certificate for Chuy’s for Christmas, and though I did have two meals, I spent most of it on t-shirts, because their design team is so fabulous. One has the fish with Walter White’s hat and sunglasses and says “Heisenchuy.” One says “Super Tex-Mex Brothers,” and is a recreation of Super Mario Brothers in 8-bit for the original NES.

Before I go, I want to get a pair of cargo pants, because even though they’re not in fashion anymore, I would prefer it to carrying a bag through the park, and my stuff would be kept safe with snaps and buttons on the pockets. I may also activate my old iPhone 5c(heap) for the trip, because my Samsung is *huge.* I’d look like I had a tumor. Actually, perhaps I’ll get them today because they’d be handy for the march on Saturday as well. If, God forbid, I get arrested, I’ll at least be comfortable while I’m waiting for my buds to bail me out. I can’t imagine that with 200-400 thousand people that it would happen, but stranger things have happened, and strange things tend to happen to me. I’m also planning on going to the Metro station to fill up my card so I won’t have to wait in line for the machines. The tourists alone, oy vey.

I really want to write more because we haven’t talked in a while, but I need to get moving. Possibly more later- we shall see.

Love you miss you mean it. 🙂

The Art of Prayer

When I was in middle school, we got the call on the Saturday before a holiday that my mother’s father had died. My mother had a children’s choir program the next morning, so there was no way we could take off for Lone Star immediately, about a five and a half hour drive from Houston if you’re going the speed limit…….. My mother, instead of calling everyone and postponing the program (which everyone would have understood), got up like a champ and conducted the hell out of that program. It is one of the times that I remember her as a true hero, because she was able to put away her grief for a few hours, an impossible feat, and get it handled….. literally the Olivia Pope of choir directors.

I wish I could remember more specific details, like what the program entailed and whether my sister was a soloist (I think she was, actually, and that might have gone into her decision as well). But the take-home message is just how much my mother worked with grace under fire. Unlike my mother, my grandfather did not die suddenly. He’d been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, the aggressive kind where it started with his throat muscles and worked down so that he could not eat without a feeding tube. Because of this, my grief was tempered, because I had a long time to process the situation… unlike my mother, who we learned from her autopsy that it was indeed an embolism that blew in her leg which killed her almost instantly.

Our family friend, Suzanne Wales, came to the funeral and played the piano, and accompanied me as I played Amazing Grace on my trumpet. As usual, I was calm during crisis with an immense delayed reaction. Perhaps I take after my mother more than I thought.

These memories are why I am praying for my choir director today. She has made the decision to show up and conduct despite receiving the news that her father died. Grace under fire just as my mother was all those years ago. We have bonded over losing our mothers recently, and knowing her is painful and cathartic. The only time I ever really cry at church anymore is when she is playing a piano solo, because she sounds so similar to my mother that it gets me every time.

Praying for her is my way of letting art flow through me, whether it’s hers, mine, or ours as a collective choir. There is nothing in the world that would keep me from church today, because I know her pain. I have seen it with my own eyes. I can only hope that my love for her shines in them, because on days like this, it’s important for her to see it. She has supported me beyond measure as I sing through my own grief and pain. Now it’s my turn to return that favor.

Please join me in prayer, all over the world, because the art of prayer is the thread of humanity that runs through us all, the art that sustains us through good wishes for others in their distress. I know I have felt all sorts of energy from the rest of the globe, from the UK to Australia to Romania to Africa to Scandinavia. All I ask today is that you send it her way, too.

Amen.
#prayingonthespaces

Politics and the Cool Kids’ Table

I didn’t fall asleep until about 0400 because I made the mistake of watching Snowden at 2100. I thought I didn’t care about privacy because I didn’t have any, anyway (I’ve had a wallet stolen and Dana accidentally gave my passport to Goodwill). However, this was beyond my wildest dreams in terms of the power of the NSA/CIA/DIA/etc. As you can tell by the time of this posting [Editor’s Note: I started writing at 0830.], it didn’t take long before I woke back up just as freaked. If there’s anything that the movie points out, it’s that just because something is ruled illegal doesn’t mean that the intelligence community won’t do it, anyway. I’m not worried about access to my Facebook account- it’s all public, anyway. But access to every e-mail I’ve ever written, my phone, and my web cams on both my laptop and desktop? I am doing my best to remain in chill mode, because I have been sure since the Internet became mainstream that I didn’t have private information anymore. I just had information. But there’s one scene where the NSA is watching a Muslim woman and she starts to take off her clothes and they don’t not watch, because they’ve activated her web cam from their SCIF (Secure Contained Information Facility). The scariest part is that this could be dramatization for a movie, or it could be exactly the type behavior that Snowden was trying to highlight. The things that Snowden told the public were being fought internally, and nothing changed. I can’t necessarily support “telling family secrets,” and I can’t decide if I am better off for having seen the movie or not.

Because it’s Oliver Stone, there are real news clips mixed in with the dramatization, and I can’t recommend it highly enough as a good movie. I can promise that the issues it presents are complicated and there’s no easy answer. I have friends on both sides of the aisle, those that think he’s a traitor and a hero. I don’t know what the hell to think. I am able to see both sides of the equation, and just how involved the dialogue must be. Thus, my sleep last night was mostly reduced to sneezing and my eyes closed for a second. Who knows if I am a third or fourth connection to someone that deserves to be watched? How would I even know? I am glad that I am taking anti-anxiety medication, because even if I can’t turn off my brain about this, I’m not having any physical reactions to it. When the credits rolled, though, I was nauseous. By then, my medication had worn off and I couldn’t take any more until this morning. I have to be really careful with the clonazepam, because overuse tends to cause addiction and that is the last rabbit hole I need in my life. It would be easy to accomplish given the amount of stress and grief I’ve been under lately. Even with my mother dying, I still managed to get my savings to last until recently, because I greatly underestimated the time it would take me to get a job. Being a freelancer helps, but it’s not enough. The best I’m doing is expanding my network in hopes of meeting someone that can point me in the right direction.

It’s the same in terms of working for the church as a volunteer. It may also lead to something paid because on the social communications committee, I’m meeting other people who do what I do, which for the church is responsible, measured responses and in my own life, whoring my dirty laundry for money (explain your job badly). But the thing is, I don’t write for anyone else but me. If money comes from it, it’s a blessing, but it is not in any way necessary. Although I have to say that my favorite donation came from a woman who said you must have custom fonts. At the time, my reaction was you get me. You really, really get me. 😛

This is because any money that comes through goes right to WordPress.com and professional development. So far, I’ve been able to upgrade to the pro version of WordPress and get a subscription to LinuxJobber.com. Speaking of which, I need to create a CentOS virtual machine… more of a reminder to myself than telling you about it. That’s just an added bonus to hold me accountable. Although, wait. I don’t have to install anything on my local hard drive, because I can get a free VM in the cloud thanks to LinuxJobber and Amazon Web Services. It would just be nice to be able to learn stuff when I’m offline. It doesn’t happen often, but if my internet goes down, I’m not SOL, either.

This won’t make a lot of sense to non-computer people, but my computer has this inane thing where access to the extensions that make it possible to run a 64-bit guest operating system are soft-coded into the BIOS, and I Googled it, and there should be a BIOS update that fixes it, but so far, all of the BIOS updates I’ve downloaded haven’t included that one feature I really need. However, my computer is fast enough and has enough RAM that I can run a 32-bit guest operating system, and I have. Right now I’m running Windows 10 and can’t decide if I want to dual boot or just install VirtualBox. I had to switch back to Windows when my wireless adapter didn’t work natively in Linux and I have to install the Windows XP driver to get it to work, which reduces my download speeds to absolute shit. In order to properly use my internet connection in Linux, I have to tether my Android, which comes with two problems. The first is that I can’t use file transfer and tethering at the same time. The second is that there’s a large chance I could burn out my phone battery from keeping it plugged in so long. My laptop is fully capable of running multiple operating systems with VirtualBox, but I took it to the church so they wouldn’t have to provide a computer for me, and I got a refurbished desktop for Christmas, which is why I had to add USB wireless in the first place. Overall, I am extremely happy with it. Windows 10 doesn’t suck, and I’ve missed Fallout 3. The second is that the browser plugins are just better… I can use any browser for anything, which is important because I switch between Chrome and Firefox *a lot.*

It is shameful for me to admit this. It really is. However, if I upgrade to the Anniversary edition of Windows, I can install BASH, which won’t mean anything to you except that I’ll have a linux shell inside a Windows environment, and can run all the applications I’ve come to know and love that don’t make an open source Windows version. The easiest solution would be to take my desktop to the church and bring my laptop home, but my desktop is much, much faster than my laptop and has 3x the RAM. Plus, in Linux, my printer works perfectly, but the scanner won’t work over wireless… and I think it is lazy and pointless to buy a printer cable.

The entire reason I got an Android was to work in Linux natively, and I am surprised that the one feature that doesn’t work in Windows that does work in Linux is the media transfer protocol. Nine times out of ten, when I plug it in, it won’t even show up as a drive so I can’t drag and drop my music and videos. Regardless, it has a lot of features that my iPhone wouldn’t even touch, like having a fingerprint reader that allows me to log into my phone, Bank of America, and LastPass. I feel that feature alone was worth the price, even though I didn’t pay it… it was a Christmas present, too. Although it was a deep discount to get a refurbished one and take it to AT&T rather than upgrading my phone there. It’s not the latest and greatest phone, but it is to me. The fact that iPhones do not have an expansion slot is crazy. Mine is 128 GB so that it will last for a while. I use Handbrake to convert my movies to Android size, and I have a habit of using a LARGE amount of space for podcasts so that I don’t have to stream them in the car. Handbrake is invaluable because it backs up encrypted DVDs and Blu-Rays, although I do not have a Blu-Ray drive in my desktop. Perhaps that is one of the next orders of business, but first is a TV card so that I can run my cable through Kodi and record my shows onto my 3TB external drive. Thank GOD it comes in a Windows version that is identical to the Linux version, because I would be lost without it. It doesn’t have plugins for Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu, but there are so many video addons I do use, and here’s a list:

  • ABC Family (Freeform)
  • Crackler
  • TED Talks
  • Syfy
  • Travel Channel
  • Geek & Sundry
  • Linux Gamecast
  • This Week in Tech
  • PBS
  • PBS Kids (even at 39, still addicted to WordGirl)
  • WABC
  • WCBS
  • WNBC
  • YouTube

There are also programs called “Scrapers” that will download the subtitles and movie posters for my movies, which makes the interface beautiful. The OTA channel plugins often post shows before Hulu, because they’re recorded live. I also really, really love the PBS plugin, because my favorite show in the entire world is Frontline. Second to that is Mercy Street, because most of it takes place in my old hood, Alexandria, VA… and if there is a third, it’s American Experience. With the Travel Channel plugin, I have access to No Reservations. The last episode I watched was Finland, because my favorite episode of NR is Iceland, where Tony basically bitches the entire time about the cold/food and it is seriously entertaining.

I was looking forward to more of that, but as it turns out, he liked Finland much better. I would totally move there in a heartbeat if I wasn’t tired of moving and I know I would be gobsmacked by the weather- considering even though it was a lot warmer in Portland, the constantly grey skies undid me. After ten years, it was time to come home, whether it was Houston or DC. I do like their approaches to education, health care, a living wage whether you have a job or not, and the fact that if I got pregnant, my baby could live in a cardboard box. Also, there’s one train that serves beer and wine so you can have one on your train ride home. What’s not to love except for the soul-crushing weather?

Plus, Linux was invented in Finland. How can I not love that? Although ironically, Linus Torvalds lives in Portland now.

In other news, I am meeting an old, old friend at SBUX this afternoon. She was in my 7th and 8th grade classes at Clifton, and now works as a journalist here. I’m excited because she introduced me to an organization working to mobilize Montgomery County in terms of calling Congressmen and just generally trying to decide what we’re going to do over the next 2-4 years. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Midterms are going to be exciting. The hardest part we face is that this area went blue, so in some ways, we are preaching to the choir.

If this organization is non-partisan, just trying to combat injustice rather than being a mouthpiece for the Democratic party, I want to include Matt and Christ Church to it… because this was not a typical election. Even some Republicans are terrified, because this is not about a Republican administration, but decency and humanity. I don’t think we’d be this outraged had someone like Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush won. They have their issues, but they have two things going for them. The first is that they are not batshit crazy. The second is that I doubt either would have turned the country into a theocracy, because gay marriage and abortion were settled by the Supreme Court, and I doubt either one would try to overturn those cases.

I agree with President Obama, though. If the Republicans can come up with a solution to health care that is actually better than the ACA, I will personally support it. I believe that chance is less than zero, though, and perhaps by a large margin. I am grateful that I am covered by state Medicaid, and even though that may be affected, too, it stands a better chance of existing than the federal Affordabe Care Act. Nicknaming it “Obamacare” is both excellent and terrible. It reminds people that POTUS was responsible for passing legislation that truly helped a lot of people… and mobilized Republicans to paint Obama as the anti-Christ for changing the way health care is handled in this country. Before I applied for Medicaid, I got a federal stipend of $250, which made my insurance 37 cents a month. I can easily afford it, but the truth is that Maryland’s Medicaid program provides so much more coverage for free. There’s no deductible, my doctor’s appointments are free, and my medication costs are reduced to a dollar a bottle. Any insurance I’ve ever gotten through work has never been that good. If, God forbid, I have to have surgery or something, I will not have to file for bankruptsy in the process due to co-pays. With surgery and major illnesses such as cancer or an autoimmune disease, co-pays go up to thousands of dollars.

I am a huge fan of single-payer, because it takes away the Golden Handcuffs. No one is stuck in a job they hate because COBRA is ridiculously expensive. Also, when I was working for Marylhurst University, because Dana and I weren’t married her insurance had to be taken out of my salary at full price, which was $600 a month. I gladly paid it because she needed it, but it was still a huge pain in the ass when my straight coworkers paid a tenth of that to add a dependent. Alert Logic was on point. I was able to add Dana, and even though it was taxable income, it was also a tenth of the price at MU.

Single-payer would have saved us a ton of money, although I am sure that’s been changed since national gay marriage is a thing…. for now. Right now, it pays to be single, because if I get a job, not adding a dependent will make my health insurance either free or greatly subsidized.

I am terrified of a Republican president and a Republican Congress all at once. There are no checks and balances on repealing the progress that has been made over the last eight years, and I’m glad that President Obama is remaining in DC until Sasha graduates, because it will enable him to campaign on a huge platform for the midterms.

I am also greatly disappointed that Merrick Garland and President Obama will not become Supreme Court justices, because especially with Obama, as a Constitutional Law professor, it’s a job he might have enjoyed even more than being President. I’m not sure that he even wanted to be nominated, but at the same time, I don’t think it is any less true that he would have made an incredible “Supreme.”

I’m also incredibly disappointed that Ben Carson is such an idiot, because I think it would be interesting at this time in our lives to have an MD in The White House. But Carson seems to have gotten his medical degree from Bob’s College of Medicine & BBQ Pit. If Tiffany Anthony ever had any interest in becoming President, I’d vote for her in a heartbeat (see what I did there?). It also wouldn’t hurt to have a doctor on the Supreme Court… because there are no qualifications for being a Justice. It is traditional for them to be lawyers, but that’s just precedent. Anyone can be appointed if they make it through the vetting process, because in the Constitution, they are literally just Nine Guys in Robes (thanks to Ken Wall for that description). I’m not even sure that you have to have any degrees if you are smart enough.

It’s interesting to think of me getting a government job right now, because I am sure I would be a part of the rebellion that is starting as we speak, especially if I was a White Hat hacker, able to discover vulnerabilities and find SQL injections, rootkits, etc. Rootkits are of the devil, because you can actually overwrite memory as they’re working, so you can’t even see the running process. I am just not a math and science brain. I can teach someone how to use a computer and offer incredible tech support, but I am not the type person to whom programming/reverse engineering comes easily. However, maybe that wouldn’t matter in this administration. If Trump is any indication, I am qualified for any job. Any of them.

If I had aspirations in that area, it would be to work for “No Such Agency,” the only government institution that cares enough to listen. #tshirtwisdom I’ve seen it in two places. The first is the gift shop near Old Ebbitt Grill, and the second is at the Spy Museum. Especially after watching Snowden, it may go on my birthday list.

I do have a CIA baseball cap because my great uncle was a badass hero before I was born. However, I don’t wear it a lot because even though it’s just a tourist gimmick, I’ve noticed that other people look at me suspiciously, as if the CIA actually advertises. The rules for being in the intelligence community are roughly the same as Fight Club. The second is that it is black, and gathers all kinds of dust bunnies and dog hair, and I haven’t managed to get it clean in years.

And on that note, it’s time to get ready to meet “Ace.” I’m looking forward to sitting at the “cool kids’ table.” I finally think I’m worthy of it… and to be honest, it is exciting to think about my future in social justice rather than the grief that is threatening to undo me every single day. My mother would be so proud.

#beastmode engaged.

Grey Skies, White Roofs

first_snow_2017There’s really nothing better than waking up to the first snow of the season. It’s still exciting, you know, before it gets dirty, repetitive, and repetitive. The picture is through my window on the second floor, and I’m sure it would look better without the screen… I’m just not dumb enough to go outside without bundling up until I look like a queen-sized bed. I hear that if I don’t do that, I’ll eventually acclimate to the cold. I tried that in Oregon. It did not work.

I actually do have enough layers to make myself comfortable if I decide to venture out, but for right now, I am comfortable at my desk, just watching what may come. Capital Weather Gang  (they have a great Twitter feed, BTW) is predicting that it’s not over yet, but I’ll be surprised if we get the same unholy dump we got last year. In some areas, it was between a foot and 18 inches. I, however, have been known to be wrong. When I first moved to DC in April of 2015, there were still small patches of snow on the ground. It may not be that the first snow is heinous, but another storm to be determined later. That’s the thing about living on the east coast- it gets just as hot as Houston in the summer, but our winters last a lot longer.

I do a fair amount of complaining about the cold, but the truth is that I prefer it. I can always put on more layers, but in 100 degree heat, I’d have to be indecent before I was comfortable. But hey, no tan lines. #smallblessings

Right now I am listening to dogs barking with absolute delight as they play in the fluff… or at least, the big dogs are happy (Lincoln is a pit bull, Daisy is a BBD [Basic Black Dog, about 40lbs]. We have two Pomeranians (Sadie and Pixie) who are Just. Not. Impressed. I am imagining that their inner monologue runs thusly…. Peeing in the snow is FROWNED UPON IN THIS ESTABLISHMENT. I don’t blame them. I shiver violently just taking off my layers to get in the shower.

Because of this, I don’t shower that often. The winter is drying to my skin, so it’s not like it’s necessary, anyway. I guarantee that I am not doing any sweating, and I rarely put product in my hair because it’s so cold I have to wear a hat.

Sometimes I wear my Rice baseball cap, but most of the time I look like a hippy douche with one of those knit hats that look like it should have come with a bottle of patchouli oil and some sandalwood soap (not that there’s anything wrong with that…. chill, Portland).

As for bundling up, I’m set in terms of groceries, so the biggest decision I have to make today is what movie I’m going to watch, holding my soda with gloves on because it’s cold enough. If I get industrious, I may go out and take pictures… but that would involve putting on real pants, so don’t hold your breath. My electric blanket is heating up, and once I get under it, an Act of God wouldn’t get me to move.

Perhaps I’ll take pictures when I’m required to leave the house, like walking to choir practice. In the time it takes to scrape the windshield and get the defroster working, I could be there already.

Tomorrow’s service centers around the baptism of Christ, wading in the water… however, Christ never mentioned what to do if the water was frozen…. walk on top of it, I guess.