Grateful?

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I am not enamored of people who tell me to be grateful for what I have every day because if those people came and lived with me for, oh, three months, they would probably be stark raving mad after 90 days. What my mother and I go through to live a semi-normal life is exhausting mentally and physically. I’m right now thinking back over the year for things that make me feel gratitude. Here we go.

  • I’ve made new real friends this year, both online and IRL. I’m going to meet one online friend in person, hopefully next week, because we realized we live about 20 minutes apart.
  • I’m still freelancing, so I’m still working. Freelancing is feast or famine. I’m in a famine period right now, but based on the last couple of years, I believe my work will pick up again after the New Year.
  • My mom. Boy, my mom. We butt heads hard as I assume more authority over the household, but she’s still Mom, giving me hell. I would worry if she stopped giving me hell. We have spent many hours talking out old issues. May we not have to do that next year, may we put the past in the past is my prayer.
  • Speaking of prayer, I have fully accepted that my spiritual place is in the pagan world, in the traditions of my ancestors from Scotland and Ireland.
  • I’ve come to terms with my father’s abuse of me as a child and his death. I’m re-embracing my Native American heritage that came to me through both of his parents.
  • I’m actually reading the books I buy. I know that sounds bizarre for a writer, but I wasn’t allowed to read when I was married unless my ex-husband was at work. So fuck him, I read whenever I want now, whatever I want, whenever I want.
  • I’ve worked very hard not just on gardening this year, but also on creating a wild space like I had at my house on Long Island, and I did it. Well, not really, Mother Nature did it. She gave me a place outside that I can go and be at peace. I care for that place, I protect it, and I feed the wild creatures that inhabit the trees and bushes. It’s a place to go even in winter, when the garden is sleeping.
  • I gained the courage to be a political activist even in this miserable town. I gained the courage to be a political activist online even if it turns people off. Like so many others, I got a gut-punch this year that rearranged my priorities.
  • My cats are healthy. Kumo, my oldest cat, doesn’t have congestive heart failure after all. He’s developed a condition that makes it difficult to digest dry food. All he needed was a vet visit and a switch to wet food.
  • I have some hope of getting health insurance starting in January.
  • I’m beating my insomnia, which is a big deal because it started a little over five years ago. I could go to bed and fall asleep right now if I wanted to.
  • My cousin’s daughter who was born premature with severe physical disabilities is learning to speak and swallow. That wasn’t in the prognosis. It’s kind of a miracle. I put that last because I knew writing about her would make me tear up.

And I live in a house, imperfect, but a house, and we can pay our bills. Last year we got severely financially messed up, but people online came through for us, and we’ve been paying it forward this year.

Damn. I have way more to be grateful for than I thought.

-Robin

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Good Morning! Let the stress begin!

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Let’s not and say we did.

We had a few “decorative” signs and pieces of embroidery in our kitchen that shouted THERE WILL BE STRESS! THIS IS A HOUSE OF STRESS! in various cutesy sentiments. One I took down last night, a framed crewel embroidery, featured a cannon firing the words GOD GRANT ME PATIENCE RIGHT NOW!

That’s not nice to have in your subconscious every time you go in your kitchen.

I took them down and replaced them with one that conveys a comforting sentiment (and has a cat on it!) and another rather intriguing piece of old needlework that someone in the family framed. When I first saw it up close, I thought it was just a framed piece of old tatting. I had to look at it from a distance to make out the word. It’s not for sale, and I don’t have the pattern, but if you’re experienced at needlework, you could surely make your own version, and if you don’t sew, you could paint or stencil it onto an old board and use twine to hang it.

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— Robin

My Great-Grandmother’s Mirror

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In packing up my aunt’s personal belongings before her house is sold, my mother and I came across a very precious item. My mother was overwhelmed because of who it had belonged to and how long it had been since she last saw it. I was a bit stunned that we found it. I’ll say why in a moment.

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This is a mirror that hung in my great-grandmother’s house.

I never had the good fortune to meet my great-grandmother because she died of pancreatic cancer in 1956, when my mother was eight. Even the coldest older members of our family almost break down when asked about her. Grandmother was sweet, grandmother was quiet, grandmother was always working, grandmother always had her head down.

Well, with the jackass she married–and I’ve heard plenty about HIM–I don’t doubt she kept her head down.

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I was told that she made her wedding dress. Then she became a farmer’s wife. She lived in a tumbledown farmhouse and had seven daughters and a son. They all lived, even my grandmother who had diphtheria as a kindergartener.

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After all the children were born, my great-grandfather sold this property and moved the family into a nice “modern” house. And that is where my mother remembers seeing the mirror.

The mirror is rounded, dim, and distorted, but you can still see yourself in it. The first time I looked into it, I had an unsettling sensation. My great-grandmother looked into that mirror. It doesn’t seem to be the style of mirror a woman would have in her bedroom. Did it hang in the hallway, near the front door? Did my great-grandmother stop, look into it, and adjust her hat before she went out? Did my great-grandfather pause before it, take a comb from his pocket, and run it through his hair? Did she wish for something prettier, more stylish? Where did she get the mirror?

These are things I will never know. I’m going to add sturdy hardware to the back and hang it over our sideboard, and then I will always be drawn to look down that dim tunnel, and wonder.

Edit: I forgot to explain why I was so shocked that we found the mirror. My grandmother, even though she was the second-oldest child and the oldest girl, she got almost none of her mother’s belongings. Sadly, a couple of her younger sisters cleaned out the house before my grandmother got there. All she had (and we still have) was an old bottle with a cork, a foot-long hatpin, and a rhinestone brooch. We had no idea she had the mirror. She must have kept it put away, and my aunt found it after her death.

Family members can turn greedy and do things you wouldn’t expect after a death, especially the death of someone like my great-grandmother who held a very large extended family together. My grandmother loved her sisters, but at the same time, she carried the hurt of being left out of the dividing up of her mother’s things for her entire life. We live in my grandparents’ house. I suppose bringing the mirror home made me feel that my grandmother knows somehow and it made her happy.

The Wind and the Lion

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Apparently March is coming in like a lion this year. We had a thunderstorm last night. Now the wind is roaring around my house. I feel it to my right through the drafty old windows. I think I’ll need extra blankets tonight.

This blustering wind reminds me of fairy tales. “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down.” Those were real concerns for people in sod or stone houses with thatched-roofs.

I think that it’s good to feel something like what our long-ago ancestors felt, sitting by the fire with their livestock. We’ve forgotten how hard day to day survival was a thousand years ago. We’ve forgotten how hard day to day survival was 100 years ago. I’m 44. In a farmhouse on a lonely country highway, my great-grandmother built up the fire, and took an extra quilt to the children all in the same bed, and my great-grandfather, maybe, maybe he sat in a straight-backed chair with his shotgun across his knees because you never knew what might come out of that roaring night.

You never know.

Get Over It

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I did.

I got over caring about the opinions of people who can’t comprehend that to some of us, money is not everything.

I got over expecting people to change. I’ve accepted that some people in my life are good people with bad habits. I’ve also accepted that some people are just bad people who will always drag down others, and I’ve excised them from my life.

I got over feeling that I need to live up to the standards of people who don’t share my values and have no respect for me.

I got over feeling that my life and life experiences are less valuable than those of other people.

I got over feeling that something was wrong with me for being single and liking it.

I got over taunts from so-called adults about my cats and my hobbies.

I got over wasting energy on people who think that caring for an aging parent at home is a waste of my life.

I got over trying to fit into a faith where I do not belong.

I got over trying to apply all the rules to my books when I realize I was fucking up my voice in an attempt to write to the trend.

I got over the societal pressure to forgive those who haven’t asked for forgiveness or tried to make amends or even admitted wrongdoing. I don’t need to forgive them to “heal.” I have mental and physical scars that are never going to heal. I am brave enough to live with them instead of mouthing words of forgiveness that evoke no feeling in me.

I did forgive the people who comprehended the pain caused by their actions.

I learned to set boundaries. That was hard because I thought I was already doing it. I wasn’t. I also got over my fear of “authority” figures who expect me to be the one who always gives, gives in, accepts atrocious behavior for the sake of appearances. This fucking state. This fucking town. This fucking multi-generational sickness that says smile and keep the peace.

I’ve always been taught not to make waves. Some situations require making waves and being firm and unyielding. And those are skills we’re all going to need for the foreseeable future: don’t be afraid of upsetting people by demanding your legal rights, your familial rights, your right to be treated like a human being and not just a customer/account number.

I’m so very tired of seeing awful advice about forgiveness dispensed by people who just make up bullshit for a living. I’ve tossed out self-help books and unfollowed motivational authors whose advice has not one damn thing to do with our reality. Now, the impossible standards they set just piss me off.

Honestly, if you’ve found a way to survive and cope and somehow thrive in this new world, I applaud you.

I got over taking things for granted. The things I’ve trusted in my whole life are crumbling by the day. I learned the difference between quality time and wasted time. I learned that spiritual rituals help me when I’m anxious and confused and give me back a sense of control that’s been trod into the muck over the last several months.

I learned that there are some opportunities you should take even if you’re unsure because if you don’t, you’ll regret it later.

My wish is to somehow bring all my friends back together like we were a year ago because what has divided us is a living lie.

I’ve had some brutal life experiences the last two months, and I don’t wish them on anyone. I hope you can “get over” the things that are holding you back and put yourself first, unapologetically.

I want us to be united because that’s the only way we can take control and create our best future.

Anti-Vaxxer? Let me tell you a story.

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The name of this story is Diphtheria.

My grandmother contracted diphtheria in 1919 at the age of 5.

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Diphtheria causes a membrane to form in the throat. This membrane will cause a child to choke to death if not removed. My great-grandmother and her sisters took turns sitting at my grandmother’s bedside and physically removing the membrane from her throat as it formed and reformed and reformed. My grandmother was unconscious or semi-conscious from the high fever during this process and all the days and nights it took for the worst of the disease to run its course.

My grandmother survived, but she was so weak from the lengthy illness and side effects that she missed an entire year of school. And although she graduated from high school, married, had four children, helped raise me and my sisters when my mother had to work twelve hour shifts for years, made all her clothes, her children’s clothes, her drapes, baked and intricately decorated wedding cakes as a home business, gardened, taught me how to crochet and how to make slaw the way that her mother had made it . . . there was always something slightly off about her. She had to take OTC sedative “tonics” back in the days when those were still available. She got into irrational moods. I will go so far as to say she had episodes of paranoia, and these are things I remember from when she was in her early 60s. She never suffered from Alzheimer’s or dementia, oddly. But she always had “spells” and I believe these spells may have been the result of “mild” brain damage caused by the high fever that accompanies diphtheria.

My grandmother got lucky. Even with the care provided by my great-grandmother and her sisters, my grandmother could have died.

Do you really want to take that chance with your child’s life? Do you want your child to survive a devastating illness that could be avoided with vaccines but suffer disabling side effects? Do you want to sit by your child’s hospital bed while they suffer through diphtheria and you pray that they don’t choke to death due to your stupidity? Your willful stupidity, as a friend of mine said earlier tonight when we were discussing my grandmother’s bout with diphtheria?

I don’t believe that you have the right to play games with your child’s life. I sure as HELL don’t believe you have the right to play games with the lives of other people’s children. Because if your child gets diphtheria or whooping cough, they can spread it to children too young for the vaccines or children who can’t get the vaccines for various medical reasons, including allergies. See, there are parents who WANT to vaccinate their children but can’t because of things like allergies to the vaccines and if you can vaccinate your child and you don’t, well, if the kid who sits in the desk in front of them at school dies, I think that’s partially circumstances and partially your fault. I don’t care if that pisses you off. If you’re going to get in the anti-vaxxer clown car, you’re going to have to own ALL the repercussions.

I looked this up once and I could look it up again but I’m not going to because I don’t feel like it because I’m too pissed off at your criminal stupidity. I believe that the diphtheria vaccine was introduced in 1920, a year after my grandmother got sick.

Her parents didn’t have the choice, the option to vaccinate their children.

You do.

The End.

Fight for Social Security and Medicare

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No person with any humanity or empathy would advocate for “phasing out” Medicare and Social Security. But that is what Donald Trump and Paul Ryan intend to do.

My mother can’t live without Social Security and Medicare. A lot of other people I know can’t, either. Or Medicaid. That doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve to live.

My mother worked from the time she was a teenager until she was 62. She chose to retire from the police department early because the city was starting to pressure people close to retirement to leave. She decided to “go out gracefully,” as she put it. She went without health insurance until she turned 65 and enrolled in Medicare.

Two years ago, she had MOHS surgery to remove an invasive skin cancer on her lip. She would be dead now if not for Medicare.

Does anyone really think that she isn’t “entitled” to the health insurance fund that she paid into her entire adult working life? Does anyone think that ANYONE who is dependent on Medicare doesn’t deserve to live because they can’t afford private insurance?

Yeah. Everyone who voted for Trump.

Without Social Security, she wouldn’t be able to pay her bills. So should she stop paying her utility bills and sit in a dark, cold house? Or stop paying her mortgage and move into the homeless shelter? Because she has no family left to take her in. My job as a freelance writer is feast or famine. I also have the jobs of managing her finances and healthcare now. I’m alone in this. Again, we have no family to help. Right now, I’m trying to figure out why the water bill went up $100 AFTER I paid $157 for a plumber last month. Right now, I’m trying to figure out why the electric bill went up $100 after the weather got chilly and we stopped using the AC.

My mother “splurged” this month and got her car inspected, paid for the tag renewal, and paid the yearly county vehicle tax (which is so much BS, paying taxes every year on a car that’s bought and paid for.) Now she won’t get an expensive ticket. Wow. How irresponsible.

How does it economically benefit anyone to have a 68-year-old woman living in the homeless shelter, relying entirely on this very poor county’s meager benefits, instead of living in her own home, paying her mortgage and taxes, and staying healthy? Anyone who thinks having her sick and homeless improves anything is flat-out stupid, or unspeakably evil. Because taking away Medicare and Social Security would kill my mother and a lot of other people.

Then there’s my friend on Twitter who won’t get her meds without Medicare and might very well die.

Then there’s my neighbor and her four children who won’t have a home or healthcare without Medicaid.

Then there are all the people who will be unable to obtain insurance if Obamacare is dismantled. In a way, I’m glad I fall into the Obamacare gap because I’ve gotten used to half-functioning while sick. I can’t imagine what it must be like for someone who finally got insurance a couple of years ago and is now looking at being uninsured again.

Again, the old, the sick, the disabled, the poor are being treated as just obstructions by a few wealthy men who have never done an honest day’s work in their lives. The world would be a poorer place without my mother, my neighbor who will drop whatever she’s doing and help my mother, and my friend on Twitter. I can’t say that the world would be a poorer place if Trump Tower had never been built. I can’t say that the world would be a poorer place if Paul Ryan had never become Speaker of the House and led the opposition against everything President Obama ever tried to do to the point of shutting down the government and putting people out of work out of nothing but prejudice and pique.

So I’m going to start making calls next week, and sending emails, and I’m going to tell some elected officials about my mom and my friend and my neighbor. It would be so great if you would write down a few things about people you know personally who are receiving Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and/or Obamacare and call and write your reps, too.

Thank you.