Endurance, Part II


I wrote another post on this issue, that derailed into a whole other topic, Endurance, so I’m starting again to try and formulate my thoughts around end of life issues, love and caregiving.

I was lucky enough to find some wonderful men and caring lovers to spend my time with, despite my health issues and mental health baggage relating to those struggles.  The picture above really reminds me of a wonderfully kind man who made a huge difference in my life, despite our 18 year age difference and his struggle to remain independent as COPD took its toll on his life.

He is one of those decisions that will always be a, “favorite mistake”.  I knew I was wrong to date him.  I knew I wasn’t strong enough to be there for him at the end.  Yet, I followed my heart and not my head and enjoyed him for awhile before deciding that I’d reached a plateau in our journey and could go no further.

Dale Bowers, my SwampFox (his love of WWII miliary manouvers because his ID at the website where we found each other) had beautiful blue eyes and white hair.  Somewhat similar to the painting above.  Compelling and courtly, in an aging, Paul Newman-esque kind of way.  He appreciated me and made me feel wonderful.  Although I deserted him in the end, I will always hope that he remembered me kindly, despite our parting and despite our inability to come to terms with his COPD caregiving needs at the end.  To tell you about Dale, though, I have to first tell you some more background:

I was a refurbished child, used to the pointing and the stares when people would see my scarred body in a bathing suit.  Even as a young child, I knew my body was not my own but was property that others felt they had input into controlling in terms of appearance, desirability, womanhood, sexuality.

As a young child, I was told that my body belonged to God, and to my family, and that truly obedient daughters only remained worthwhile, with a future ahead of them including a husband and children, by remaining virgins.

Nothing was ever said to point out that my refurbished body didn’t fit into the mold society and my family had established.  Whether I was a virgin or not was irrelevant, because I knew from a very young age (probably about 5, when my younger brother died shortly after birth) that I *never* wanted to be pregnant and never wanted a child.  While it wasn’t until later than I understood the genetics of my refurbished body, and learned about women’s lib, my young heart was crammed with religious dogma that has been impossible to shed.  I would never be an “ideal” of womanly virtue and appearance.  Instead, I had to deal with public ridicule because my Mother so desperately wanted me to be like other kids and fit in, to wear a bikini, to date a nice young man, to get married and have kids, and to forget about my refurbished body.

Mother and Child EOL

Being female, though, I’d already been yelled at for cutting my hair (my “crowning glory”) when I was going in for more surgery at 9 years old and didn’t want the hassle of its upkeep while the hormones were running amok and my only option for cleanliness was a sponge bath.  Any practical comeback I had about my childhood, during my childhood, was rejected as irrelevant.

When I refused to wear a fashionable bikini on my 7 year old flat-chested body with its bisecting chest scar fully-exposed, my Mother refused to understand my obstinacy because she never heard the comments.  Never understood how cruel children and adults can be for pointing out flaws in another’s appearance.  She saw it as stubborn obstinance, and rejection of a gift.  I saw it as putting lipstick on a pig.  Not fun for me or the pig.

As a young child and young woman, I understood that every person around me felt it was their right to tell me what I was doing wrong, how I failed as a woman simply through my existence and lack of a sexually appealing demeanor.   Too many people in my personal business for me to endure.  Too many people with a vote in my life when they had zero stake in the outcome.

At a certain point, I shut down the sexual side of my personality because it was too painful to find out what I thought and felt when society as a whole was in turmoil, my parents were divorcing due to a variety of personal respect, integrity, finances, and sexual issues, and I knew that my future would not be that of my mother or my sister because of my refurbished reality.

I knew what it was like to feel puppy love.  To play doctor.  To have a crush.  But, I could not deal with the sexual politics around my choices, my reality, and my fragile emotions.


I could not cope with the slings and arrows of “normal” emotions for aging, sexuality and growing maturity, as everyone was in my business, and I wasn’t strong enough to endure the conversation about my hopes and dreams, the teasing, the putdowns.

Having seen myself treated like a second class citizen because of a private matter (my body image and my health), I went into hiding and the topic was shelved.

Except it wasn’t.  Everyone then decided that I must be a lesbian because I never married.  No thought was given to a women’s role in society and my choice not to reproduce.  No thought was given to society’s expectations and my inability to make the cut for having the perfect body.  Instead, my family and loved ones decided that I must be gay because I didn’t talk about having a boyfriend or wanting children.  And I wasn’t strong enough to correct them, because their speculations made me wonder if my silent sex drive did mean that I *was* a closeted lesbian.

Headcase, much?

The breaking point came for me in 1983, on a trip to Alaska, at 22, when my 14 year old sister (lovely, blonde, socially adept), offered to “give up” the young man who was interested in her while we were vacationing with relatives.  He was about my age – way too old her for – but she was playing bartender at my Uncle’s bar.  Much was made by my Uncle about his “duty” to protect my sister from this guy’s advances, and it was painful to watch her being laughed about as property and a “good girl” while being mortified to have to watch anyone interfering in her business.  We do that all the time to young people – but especially young women on the cusp of sexual curiosity and burgeoning.  We imply or outright state that there will be consequences from someone else if you mess with her.  It’s still beyond me to articulate what that does to me for setting expectations of entitlement for being cosseted and protected – again, not states that were my reality.

As a woman growing up in an all-woman household after the desertion of my father and the departure of my older brother, that lack of a man was both keenly felt in an extended sense of vulnerability, as well as greatly resented.  So many gender-bias issues and conflicting social signals were going through my brain about who I was “supposed” to be, vs. who I actually was, that I was silent most of the time.

Tongue-tied with still maturing thoughts and self-doubts.

To this day, I don’t know if her offer was an inexpert call for help to get him off her own back, a true wish for me to feel male attention, or charity for her inept older sister.

Whatever it was, the reality was that he liked her and I was never going to be an acceptable substitute.  And, I was offended that she’d even consider that I’d take her leavings, or poach on her territory.  (Yes, we really were that barbaric way back when).  For me, it was about us NOT being interchangeable.  I was thrilled and pleased for her, while also worrying that she was way too young to be going out with anyone, never mind someone who was a virtual stranger while we were on vacation.

As much as I will always love my Baby Sis for offering to step aside, I was heartbroken that she didn’t understand the dynamics of the situation to see that she was insulting me / hurting me / whatever, and that he was a living human being that I wasn’t ready to deal with on her behalf or my own.  I didn’t see us as interchangeable, and some part of me was very sad that she was not liberated enough to know her own worth, and the worth of the young man.


If she’d said, “He’s bothering me”, I would have had my liberated self all over him like white on rice.  I understood about standing up for her and having her back.  But, she didn’t ask for help in a way I understood, if that’s what she was trying to do, so I will never know if I failed her.

Instead, I took yet another wrong turn in familial relationships, and I’ll never be able to go back and fix it.  Whatever she meant by her offer, it’s too late to ask.  Whatever she needed from me, it’s too late to try and figure out.

I have always failed her, frustrated her, abandoned her.  I know that I’ve always had her back and want whatever she desires for herself, but she’s never understood that.  I will always be Melanie to her Scarlett.


But, I tell you all that to tell you this.  Enduring the loss of family relationships is one of the hardest things one goes through as they mature.

These people are in your heart your entire life, even if you never see them again.

As you get to the end of your life and your weighing your life-long decisions and their pros and cons, sibling rivalry still rears its ugly head and you’re once again a teenage, clueless and struggling to find words to leave love in your wake vs. silence and anger.

Dale Bowers was a healing, lovely interlude in my life.  I will always be happy that I met him, and that he cared for me as deeply as I did for him.  Even though I chose personal survival and abandonment in refusing to accompany him right up to the end.  I just wasn’t strong enough to endure that COPD journey a second time.

My decision to come back to CA from MA after our Mother died has had a major influence on the anger my sister feels with me.  But, I needed Dale and my own experiences away from the supervision of my family in order to continue to grow and be who I’m going to be / was meant to be.

We’ll never know if she’s so very angry now for me because I’ve said that I’m in the final stages of life (and she hates that), or if the piling up of hurt feelings is just too much for her to handle.  Whatever it is, we both endure the lives we’ve chosen to the best of our abilities.  I will always be happy that I chose life and came back to my separate peace in CA vs. staying home and being front and center with the subsequent family drama.


What Dreams May Come - endurance

A friend of mine is struggling with being a caregiver for her aging parents.  She’s made some tough choices in life that have left her trapped financially, and she’s got some mental health issues regarding drinking that have impacted her physical health.

A year or so ago, two of her siblings ganged up on her when she was being evicted from her rooming situation (long story – she was a personal caregiver, making maybe $12 an hour, but unable to afford rent out here in Silicon Valley as she had / has a drinking problem, and can’t manage a budget to save her life).  She was in a rooming situation where she paid $600 a month in rent to someone who was vulnerable with diabetes and other issues keeping her wheelchair bound, and it was not a healthy situation for either individual.

The siblings thought that moving to the boonies to care for their aging parents was a great option, as she’d fallen again and broken her arm (or leg – it was always something) and was again out of work.  No work = no income in the USA, so she was between a rock and a hard place.

Anyway, I advised against moving in with the parents (Mom was fighting stage 4 breast cancer, Dad appeared to be in the early stages of dementia).  Another sibling with a meth addiction issue was also living in the parent’s home as he was going through treatment, and these two black sheep of the family have a hard time getting along as the other one is always “more spoiled” or treated better by the remaining members of the family.

Flash forward, and Mom’s cancer has gotten worse.  Dad’s dementia has gotten worse.  The meth-addicted brother seems to be keeping off the toots and holding down a regular job.  (I still think they are both functional-whatevers regarding their substance of choice, but it’s not my business to burst anybody’s bubble).

This friend has been without an income for well over a year.  She has been without a regular job, and is resentful of the fact that she’s “sacrificing” her life to care for her aging parents, and is in desperate need of respite care.

Preferably in Hawaii or someplace exotic.

Preferably with money being no object.

I love this sister of a friend.  I, too, have tried to help her only to understand that the clear thinking has to come from her.  I can’t keep her from drinking.  I can’t keep her from making short-sighted choices.  I can’t keep her from feeling resentful of others having an easier life than she expected.

So, I’m doing what I can to not be sucked into the drama, while knowing that we all have our own battles of endurance when it comes to life, love, and end of life choices.

No answers here.  I just needed to get that off my chest.  It hurts to see someone doing this to themselves, and society thinking that it’s ok because self-sacrifice is a woman’s role.  A Christian’s role.  A daughter’s role.

Money, money, money, mon-eee

♪♫ Money♪♫ by Pink Floyd is on my brain because I *finally* did my 2014 and 2015 taxes.

Taxes - anything but

I have put off this evil moment for 2+ weeks (while also trying to buy a new home – and one has to have their taxes done if they are delinquent, or the home purchase won’t go through).  It’s not enough that the law says that I don’t have to do my taxes when I’m owed a refund for up to three (3) years from the annual filing date, before I risk losing that money.  Nope, Big Brother must have proof that one has done their taxes AND gotten the IRS’s confirmation that there are no outstanding liens, before one can finish the qualification process for a pre-approved loan.

Let me tell you, there was none of this extra rigamarole last year when I was pre-approved to buy a home and backed out at the last minute.  None.

But, as with all things that worry me, money is at the top of my procrastination list.

It’s not enough that I know I overpaid by $150 each pay period (Federal and State portions) so that I would never have to write the dreaded tax payment check on top of the paycheck deductions.

It’s not enough that I have a history of getting back enough money to take a wonderful trip each year.

I still dread doing my taxes “in case” I made an error.  In case it turns out that I’m going to owe them money.

So, I’m a bonafide member of the “I hate paying taxes” brigade, even though I understand my duties and obligations, and agree that it’s an important part of meeting one’s civic duties.

Neck locked up tight.  Shoulders aching.  I got both tax returns done and over to the CPA last night, and finished my loan paperwork with a 4506-T form allowing my taxes to be verified by a third party to ensure that I’m not delinquent.

I should have managed to shake this neck pain by about Tuesday of next week.

Not sure why taxes drive me so crazy – I have a good history of meeting my obligations and being prepared.  But, it just makes me sing that lovely Pink Floyd song and do anything but process them in a timely manner.

So, now that those are done, we’ll see what happens next to stress me out.  Luckily, it’s supposed to get cooler out here, so I’ll be hopeful that my sleeping and stress levels will improve in this battle to get everything done before I move.

♪♫ Money♪♫

Money, get away

Get a good job with good pay and you’re okay
Money, it’s a gas
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash
New car, caviar, four star daydream
Think I’ll buy me a football team

Money, get back
I’m all right Jack keep your hands off of my stack
Money, it’s a hit
Don’t give me that do goody good bullshit
I’m in the high-fidelity first class traveling set
And I think I need a Lear jet

Money, it’s a crime
Share it fairly but don’t take a slice of my pie
Money, so they say
Is the root of all evil today
But if you ask for a raise it’s no surprise
That they’re giving none away
Away, away, way
(Away, away, away, away)




(my future home – LOL – this is an image from the ant invasion movie, “THEM”)

I am having a really difficult problem getting my body to accept what my brain says is best for us.  As an example, I am sitting here blogging (trying to release my stress) when I should be completing paperwork for my 401K loan, as well as the mortgage proof of eligibility paperwork, too.

My neck and shoulders hurt.  My eyes are tired.  I need a nap. You know – the usual when dealing with COPD and it’s related complications for day to day living.

Earlier this week, I got up my courage and got the Seller to agree to handle the tent-style fumigation (something I’m deathly afraid of happening after I’m the owner, as I’ve already been through two (2) previous gas leaks with tent-style fumigations causing explosions, and I’ll have to live with natural gas in the unit until I can replace the home – presuming I live long enough to win my lawsuit against my former employer).

History_Calls_Explosion   chi-3-injured-in-apparent-gas-explosion-in-pil-001

So, the Seller’s picking up about $1,500 of unexpected costs due to termites, and she’s also handling the park inspection prior to the sale (phew!).  There’s still a lot that needs to be improved with this home, but the paperwork is killing me for procrastination on getting it done.

I know I can do it, I just need to step away from this keyboard and actually get the work done.

Then, my little money pit will be mine – all mine.  And, maybe – just maybe – my body aches and pains will ease so that I’ll stop punishing myself for something that I know is the best thing for me to do…

Is it any wonder I’m stressed out?

Must run.  Apparently, I’m not following instructions to worship at the feet of the Goddess.  Katie just killed her battery operated squeaky mouse by dumping it into her water dish to get my attention.  Don’t need a fire in THIS unit before I move out – time to trash the mouse.


Pushed too far

Happy Bastille Day !

(I’ll wait while you read all about the French Revolution, and the peasants revolting against the ruling party by letting the prisoners out of jail – the Bastille).  Yes, it’s going to be one of “those” posts.

Pushed too far

Today’s rant (because you knew there would be one) is about my money-grubbing landlord.  Still hoping to make it out of here before the annual “inspection”.  I say inspection with quotes, because every time he shows up, he does damage.

Damage that I have to spend time fixing, because he also doesn’t believe in treating others with respect, or in fixing the damage he causes, never mind providing actual maintenance of our apartment community.

Today’s griping session involves trash bins and rent increases.

Our landlord just increased our rent by $140 per household per month, or an increase of $2,500 per month, and approximately $30,000 per year of new profit.  Wouldn’t you like to be able to give yourself a $30k raise every year?  It’s like dealing with politicians, it’s so predictable.

I’ve lived here 4 years – this is my 3rd increase (as it happens ever year).  No way can you convince me that the landlord has seen his expenses go up by $90k in 3 years.  No way.

So, the landlord’s rent increase, combined with his downsizing of the dumpsters (again) when we’re already recycling almost everything that’s not nailed down, is pushing me over the edge.  And that’s before one considers that I’m dealing with the normal recycling / salvation army / goodwill / trash decisions that go along with paring back as part of moving.

So, I sent an anonymous email (with a newly created account) to City code enforcement in the hope that I don’t get kicked out before I close escrow, and to try and ensure that I leave this place better than I found it.  Not much better, but somewhat.  To recap:

We have 18 apartment units. We have 1 dumpster.  It used to be a 3 yard unit.  Then it was downsized to a 2-yard unit.

Dumpster Sizing

Assuming (based on my own efforts to recycle) that the average household generates between 1-2 13-gallon bags of trash per week (average of 24 gallons total), x 18 households, we have a collective garbage capacity need of approximately 432 gallons of refuse per week.

We also generate an average of two (2) 13-gallon bags per week in reycling, so we’re already doing everything we can to be good citizens and avoid the landfill.  Six (6) recycling units = approximately 300 gallons of capacity.

Keep that number in mind – 300 gallons of recycling capacity is already fully used, and involves six (6) 50-gallon blue recycling bins.

Thereafter, if we use the national standard of 3 pounds of garbage per day, x 7 days, you can see that the average person generates 21 pounds of garbage per week (vs. gallons or vs. households).  If you calculate that 3 pounds as if it were gallons (because there’s no way to deal with density on a 1:1 ratio for gallons vs. pounds with something as complex as garbage, which comes in all shapes and sizes), that would equal 378 gallons per week for the complex.

With the selection of three (3) 50-gallon containers for 18 apartment households, we have a total capacity of 150 gallons.  It’s just not going to work to support our trash needs.

Garbage Bins

While I will have one of each for my own home once I move:

(1) recycling

(1) compost

(1) garbage

This downsizing of garbage bins to save money by my current landlord is crazy.  Especially when he just gave us a rent increase.  So, I’ll contacted code enforcement (anonymously), and we’ll see if that gives us any relief.

It’s the picky little crap that drives us the craziest.

Yes, I’m being chickensh*t in doing this anonymously, but it’s better than doing nothing. I hope.



In searching my heart over the last couple of weeks of violence and my civic duty, I’ve broken this blog into two parts – the local impact:  Jury Duty Civic Obligations. to this other blog, which will address cowardice and our nation’s seeming depravity as we go backwards in time to embrace social barriers that are out of step with the civil rights and equality I was raised to believe was possible, if only we would believe.  If only we would fight for each other vs. against each other.

Don’t get me wrong – I grew up in a tiny bedroom community outside of Boston in the 1960’s and 70’s.  It was a sleepy community, isolated from the “big city” evils of Boston by about 20 miles.  That 20 miles normally takes about 20 minutes or so to traverse, and the farther away from the city one got, the further back in time my suburban community appeared to inhabit.

USA or Die

I’d never seen a black person until I went into Boston for mental health assessments once I was in the first grade.  Ditto an Asian person.  They were novel and interesting, but not something to hate.  I just had no context, so I enjoyed their exoticness when contrasted to my whitebread world.

Although I spent most of the first 5 years of my life in and out of Mass General Hospital for surgeries, and in and out of Melrose-Wakefield Hospital for pneumonia and complications, I just didn’t see people obviously different from me.

Our whiteness was so very white, that I could tell you:

– who was Italian

– who was German

– who was Jewish

– who was Protestant

– who was Catholic, etc., etc, etc.

Even in our whiteness, we needed to find things to be divided about in order to keep some sort of crazy pecking order in place.

To this day, I can look at Irish, Scots, French and English folks and tell you who is likely to be of which ancestry based on hairlines, cheekbones, height, coloring and manners.  Silly, but xenophobia ran deep in my training, and the emphasis was on knowing these things so that one did not give offense by presuming that someone was the same as me when – to the educated eye – clearly they were not.

So, as I was struggling to get along in school (hated it), and dealing with truancy, I was shuffled in and out of Boston and exposed to a bigger world than many of my friends and neighbors.

Dealing with violence every day as my big mouth got me into trouble with my peers, many of whom where raised to answer with their fists, befuddled me.  (I was raised to use my words, and say what I believed was true, regardless of the consequences.  If I used my fists, it conceded that my intellect was overwhelmed and while I might win the battle, I absolutely lost the war.  Needless to say, my interactions with my actual peers was a molotov cocktail of exposure to each other, and the subsequent violence was triggered by the smallest of petty grievances).

I could have ended up like many of my peers, fearful of the world, and worried by every change on the horizon:

Fearful Neighbors

Instead, I learned to hate the cowardice of crowds.  The cowardice of violence in some protests.  The cowardice of provocateurs.

Fergussion Protestors vs.  Anonymous

If you can only protest in large groups, you may be a coward.

If you can only protest with your face covered, you may be a coward.

If you can only protest with a beer or weapon in your hand, you may be an anarchist, as well as a coward.  Seattle Woman

Violence changes nothing.

While I am not a pacifist – I will hit back if you touch me (I was taught not to start the fight, but absolutely to finish it) – I keep wondering where my peaceful 60’s and 70’s protestors went.

Does everyone need more weed to help them remember the peace and love part of orderly, civic discourse?

Where are my ebony and ivory, side by side, trying to find peace and equality in this world?  I know they aren’t covering their faces and wading into a shouting match with others, flipping cars and looting while damaging property and cheering each other on to bigger outrageous acts of vandalism.

Black and White

I know we as a nation, as humans, are better than the violence that’s being portrayed in the media.  We are not the cowards we see around us, the violent and murdering thugs that seem to think that violence does anything to balance the scales of the status quo.

We are not the clueless young women who seem to think that they can threaten others with impunity, and be protected from retaliation because of our gender.

We are not the clueless young men who seem to think that a bully dog and a big weapon will make them able to don the white hat of justice regardless of the damage they inflict for fun along the way.

As I close the evening, tired and worn out, grateful to have escaped my civic duty, I’m wondering where my Paladin may be.  Who is left to stand up and fight the good fight just because it’s the right thing to do?



Jury Duty Civic Obligations.

Bias.  It exists.  I willingly exercise it regularly in order to try and stay safe from harm.

But, that bias ran headlong into my desire to serve my civic obligations, vs. my desire to escape from a rigged system that long ago lost interest for me.  Protest as I might.  Study the issues as I might, I believe on many levels that the system is rigged, and that’s a whole other level of sadness and disenfranchisement.

While I try and be kind, I do sit in judgement of others.  All the time.  I assess them for threat value, as in, “If they decided to hurt me, could I take them?”, as well as, “Will they hurt me?  How happy / pre-occupied with life do they (these complete strangers) appear to be today?”

I realize that this is a holdover of my fight or flight instinct from being regularly beat up as a child by my peers, but 35-odd years after my last attack, when does this instinct shut off?

When ? ? ?

At any rate, I’m usually very aware of assessing the “threat” value of the people around, but especially when in a crowd of people.  Not pretty, but absolutely my reality.

As we’re going through the latest racial violence and related protests about which lives matter most, my radar is on heightened alert as America is busy losing its collective mind.

In my situation, I looked at the young man on trial last Wednesday morning, his suit too big and ill fitting, his skin pale from more than a year spent in jail awaiting trial, his hair shorn horribly close to his head.  His attitude bored, as if he was inured to his surroundings and the serious reason that made him the accused.

Timothy Anthony Guerra    Denis Meshchyshyn

While I wasn’t able to look at the details of the case on Wednesday, when I was selected for Jury Duty, they sent me away with a summary of the accused, and that fact that we would be hearing a criminal case.  No one mentioned that it was a murder trial.  No one mentioned anything about the case beyond a glossy summary.

Today, released from Jury Duty, I looked into the trial and I am thankful that I was excused from service.

Two wasted lives.

One alive and one dead, but both effectively dead because of a moment of anger on behalf of Timothy Guerra, and a moment of indifference on behalf of Denis Meshchyshyn.

I tell you all of that to tell you this – I don’t believe in woo-woo things for myself.  I know they exist in the world for others, but I’m a very logical and fact-based person.  I know that people can lose their minds in a heartbeat, if the provocation is sufficient.

But, I also know that there are steps leading up to the “inevitable” event that each of us takes which – if handled differently – would have resulted in a different outcome for everyone involved.

In my black and white world of fuzzy logic and grey zones, it’s clear that Denis Meshchyshyn would be alive tonight if not for the fact that Timothy Guerra had a knife on him, and used it.

In my book, there are zero mitigating circumstances for Timothy Guerra.  Actions have consequences, and both 19 year old men don’t have a chance to “do over” the events that went down that evening.

Denis Meshchyshyn cannot get up and walk away from his grave, so the only amount of sentence that would interest me is 80 years to life in jail for Timothy Guerra.

When I sat in that court room on Wednesday, not knowing a thing about the defendant, the accused, my subconscious was saying to me, “Punk.  He’s a punk.  Look at his body language.”

In my case, it wasn’t ESP or intuition or a woo-woo moment, instead, it was my survival instinct looking at him and washing my hands.

Clearly, I know nothing more than what I was able to find out about the case today, now that the restriction was lifted from me, as a prospective juror, to not do my own investigation or research.  No trial has yet been held.  No verdict has yet been rendered.

But, my bias was showing, and I can’t feel regret for being thankful that my COPD got me dismissed from jury duty in the long run.