Anger Issues

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SparksFromACombustibleMind wrote a great blog, “I Tried… I Failed”

and while I would have replied directly to her, I could not commiserate as comments were shut off.

Today, I, too, spent many frustrating periods trying to get things done via phone, broken websites, etc., so I feel her pain and extreme frustration.

But, my inability to respond directly opened up a good opportunity that I was already working on regarding a spoken word / poetry piece that one of my cousins posted from an anonymous Englishman, who I’ve since tracked down via You Tube as Chris McGlade, also known as the Northern Monkey or Redcar comedian.  This piece is entitled, “The Right To Hate”, and I’ll try and provide a decent translation of his words for anyone who may struggle with his accent.

Don’t let his title put you off, because he has some valuable points to make about inequality, if you can get beyond your own internal biases.  (and, let’s face it, we all have biases to embrace or reject, whether we believe we do or not).

The author has a very strong point to make about stifling speech through the choice of less-preferred words on sensitive subjects, and I submit to you that – if we prevent people from working through these topics verbally because of the words they choose to express their honest feelings – then we’ll never make any progress on addressing the underlying issues.

Here, then, is my translation of his essay:

You tell me what I can’t say

You censor what I can

You say I’m offensive because I believe my eyes

And I say I see a woman, not a man

You call me thick and racist for not wanting to be a part of a rich man’s club in Europe with no soul, or guts, or heart

You throw at me the slave trade

You tell me my 2 year old grandson is to blame

You point your branding, accusing, intolerant fingers, and tell me to hang my head in shame

I’m free to have opinions, as long as they fall in line with yours

I can fly my banners high and proud, as long as you support that cause

You have to be right all the time,
Yours is the only way

I have to like the things you like,
be they black, trans, left, or gay

It makes no difference if I tell you I’m not the things for which you accuse 

For, once you’ve made up your closed up minds, I’m always going to lose

I have black friends, “So?  You’re still a racist!”

”Homophobic?“  But I’ve shared beds with gay men…

“I’m an anti-Semite”?  But the Rothchild’s really do influence the dollar, pound and yen.

You sip your Pinot Grigio in trendy bars down in the smoke, looking down your noses with loathsome contempt  at 33 million working class folk

Well, I’ve come to this old blast furnace to tell you that you have had your time

Because the winds of change are blowing and bells of freedom soon will chime 

Because my class, my fucking class,

Are waking up and stirring, and we’re going to peacefully attack

We’re going to breech those PC walls of segregation that have divided gay, straight, white and black

I’ve got no malice in my heart

I don’t judge people on their sex or creed or race, 

I don’t even speak ill of absolute cunts behind their backs

Not even the bloke who murdered me Dad

I just tell ‘em to their face

So, to all you branded Liberals who won’t allow debate, 

I hate no man or woman, I just want the right to hate

I want the right to hate like I want the right to love

I just want to dislike what I want to dislike and be able to vocalize it broth

I’m not responsible for slavery

And I’m not taking any blame

Because the white privilege built on black slavery you say that I enjoy,

Well, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Oprah Winfrey, Rhianna, Floyd Meriweather, Alicia Keyes, Jamie Foxx, et al, all enjoyed the same

Beyonce spent 87 million on a house, just through shaking that ass

While me and our lass sit at home lamenting over ways to pay the fucking gas

And I don’t see too much white privilege that lets Eastern Europeans or wounded soldiers live in cardboard boxes

Why do black lives matter and liberals fail to see

Not all white folks live in stately homes, chasing fucking foxes

And I’m not homophobic, transphobic or anything phobic as I don’t fear race or sex or gender

I just won’t bow down to your PC

Don’t confuse my use of slang with racism or bigotry

Don’t confuse my rejection of your shite with spite

Don’t naturally assume that I’m thick or racist because I’m Northern Working Class

I’m not

I’m articulate, sharp and bright, and I will not walk a minefield every time I open my mouth to speak

And I will not apologize for things I’ve glibly said, or spoken tongue-in-cheek

So, shape up or ship off with your fucking madness because I aim to bring you down

I aim to bring working class people together, Muslim, Christian, White, and Brown

I’m going to bring those Globalist’s walls of Jericho crashing around your brainwashed, Liberal feet

And I’m going to blow my loving, inclusive, un-PC fanfare, and your Communist, Fascist, Capitalist, Socialist, Left, Right, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Christian, Black, White, Gay, Straight, Male, Female, Leave, Remain, North, South divides I will defeat

You’ve divided us and conquered us for way too long

You’ve taken the piss out of us, and you’ve laughed and shared the benefits at the top

Well, I’ve come to this “Northern, Working-Class Shrine” of my hometown of Redcar to tell ya

It’s time for your shit to fucking stop

 

Covid-19 and Personal Liberty

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If anyone doesn’t know the story of Typhoid Mary, a woman twice jailed for her asymptomatic transferring of the disease, typhoid, to over 50 people on multiple occasions, I recommend you look at the wiki page.

While there were also asymptomatic men who also willfully carried and transmitted the disease despite being warned that they were infection points, to this day it is only Mary Mallon, single woman and belligerent Irish Immigrant who was held for years without any regard to her personal liberty.

Tony Labella, a man, also caused at least five (5) deaths, while infecting a total of 122 people, but he was never jailed or quarantined against his will.

It is with this particular resolution in mind (i.e., the woman went to jail, while the man was left free to earn a living, and to continue to infect people) that I read the “Thoughts and Theories” blog by PCGuyIV, who argues that preventing people from earning a living is equal to government control.

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As long as we’re not locking up the current band of misfits carrying weapons to peaceful protests, and as long as we’re not sure of the origins of the virus, as well as how it actually transmits, I submit that we are nowhere near the government controlling our destiny.  As far as I am aware, we’re releasing convicted felons so that they can hopefully not lose their lives in tight confinement, and we are not leaving arrested people (for whatever charges) incarcerated as the risk of catching the virus is more serious than someone losing their lives if it is preventable.

Yes, we have converted many jobs to digital, able-to-work-anywhere opportunities.  Or, so it seems from my home county of Silicon Valley.

Yes, we have left the most vulnerable among us – the minimum wage workers – with little option but to continue to work on the front lines, the illegal aliens and migrant workers picking our crops – facing an angry and unruly public with little or no personal health protective gear, or health insurance, and with few options but to risk working or be fired.

It is with the current drama from “Let ’em Die!” Donald that a variety of Americans and Immigrants and Visitors are creating chaos as it’s clear what is the truth – people are dying – but it’s also clear that armed people are willing to kill anyone who argues with their disbelief system.  This crazy Neandertholic belief that might-equals-right is endorsed by the current President – who lost 1 Billion Dollars in assets during the first weeks of the shutdown –  and who believes that socializing and earning a living is more important than protecting individual lives, the lives of their family and friends, and the lives of complete strangers with whom we share this earth.

While I started this blog on May 24th, I never posted it as other events took center stage.

However, it’s a little over a month later, and I’ve started playing board games outdoors on Friday and Saturday evenings, with masks, and via social distancing at a picnic table outdoors.

I’ve also broken quarantine by traveling to the next county, with its more relaxed rules, to get a haircut.

And, as of today, I have also (thankfully) seen my houseguest off to a short vacation with her family, knowing that she brought a bacterial pneumonia home with her when she saw them in February.  A greater risk of dying is worth getting her out of my house for a bit.

The good news is that she’s been approved for subsidized senior housing in Silicon Valley, but the bad news is that we don’t know when she’ll actually get her unit (she’s #21 on the waiting list).

So, win some or lose some – I’m taking some risks because the status quo just cannot be maintained.  I know better, but life is not without risks.

 

 

 

Reprieve

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I try to be a decent person.

I try not to unfairly judge others.

But…  !

When you are a guest in my (admittedly) ramshackle home, is it too much to ask that you NOT get on my nerves while you’re here ?!!!  To not run up my bills or fill my time with now-necessary repairs ?  I don’t think so…

I am so ready for the upcoming (and however brief) reprieve while the houseguest goes on vacation, that you would not believe how ready I am.

Just trying to get my butt in gear to start the day and repair the cabinet door that the houseguest pulled off its hinges…

Why do I say she did it vs. blaming it on wear and tear?  After all, the cabinet doors on the vanity’s in both bathrooms are equally dilapidated…

Well, I blame her because she’s about 5” taller than me, refuses to use a step stool (because she’s not tall enough to reach things on the top shelf without being on her tip toes while hanging off the door for balance…) so, I hope you catch my drift.

And, because it’s the door on one of the cabinets she uses.

Plus, like any good senager, the cabinet broke itself vs. her having the adult sense to let me know she broke it.  “Oh, did you notice the cabinet is broken?” was yesterday’s oh-so-innocent question.  I wouldn’t care if she said, “It broke while I was using it…”, or, “What’s it going to take to fix that cabinet, I broke it yesterday…”  Nope.  Like any good teenager, my senior houseguest takes no responsibility for anything, yet goes out of her way to NOT do what I specifically  asked her to do in order to not physically stress my dilapidated housing.  So…

Cause + Effect = Blame

Adding to my aggravation, I just walked into my bathroom to find she went out of her way to get on my nerves while she’s gone.  You see, she’s a tweaker.  Everything must be rigidly maintained, to her standards, or she tweaks it.

In this case, she hates the set up of my main bathroom and re-arranges the angle of this stupid sign every time she uses the bathroom.

It must rigidly face the front, to match the shelf upon which it rests, versus resting at an angle, to be more welcoming, in my point of view.

So, I just reset it and will enjoy the reprieve from our petty little territory games while she’s on vacation with her family, and I’ll have the time to work on my home at my own pace.  Score 1 for me !

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Saintly Beings…

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Without going into a condemnation of any particular religion or faith, I do want to talk about people and their belief that they are sanctified by their God for a particular mission.

I was lightly brushed by faith-beyond-reason way back in 1996 culminating in my going to work on Friday, September 13th, while many others had decided to skip work, and all because a co-worker’s God had decided I was a “lamb” sent to him to be one of his faithful.

The engineer was a nice guy.  A new father. He started hearing voices.  Shaved his head.  And he left strange voicemails for people at work, wanting to share with them his role as a Prophet, and their role as had been revealed to him.

Unnerving.

We reported him to management, and kept working that week while they hired security for the staff, and staged an intervention.  I worked all week, trying not to over-react, and hoping that this once rational man would accept the mental health services offered.  When his voicemails increased in frequency and urgency, citing his last day at work, September 13, 1996, and his desperate need to talk to me, I left him a (hopefully kind) voicemail telling him he was scaring me and advising him to get or accept the help being offered, and I also decided to go to work that day while many of my friends played hookey.

Going to work may have been stupid, however, I’m not one to back down.  A black sheep my entire life, there are just some points where I cannot do the prudent thing as I risk losing myself.  So,…

I’m not a “lamb” of God or anything else, and the use of “lamb” in his messages to me made me feel like a sacrifice waiting to happen.  I took steps to protect myself, regardless of which of my coworkers were amused or outright laughing at me.

So, I tell you all that to tell you this…  people don’t always show you their crazy.  But, when they do, LISTEN !

People in love with their faith are fine – it’s not my place to even pretend I have any answers, never mind ALL the answers.  People are programmed with their family’s or society’s faith from birth onward, before logic has a chance to kick in.  And, in my experience, all challenges to logic disconnects in the catechism are discouraged, as the true heart “believes”, regardless of the challenging questions or lack of supporting, logical evidence in front of their eyes.  In troubled times, people look for surety and certainty in their lives to help them calm their fears.  I get it.

But…  when the certainty you’re grabbing onto includes a couple who believe they were destined to be together…  having been life partners in prior lives, on prior Edens… when their faith calls them to label everyone of conventional importance in their lives as “zombies”, evil people who have been taken over by Satanic forces… and the bodies start piling up…  bodies of relatives AND children…  at what point do the people around them stop drinking the kool-aid and use the rational parts of their minds?

In this particular mind-blowing example, the body count as we know it includes:

– Former spouse, Tammy Daybell, wife of Chad Daybell (murdered?  TBD)
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– Former spouse, Charles Vallow (killed by 4-times married Lori Cox Lagioia Ryan Vallow’s brother, Alex Cox)
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– Chad and Lori then begin being seen together as  a couple

– Alex Cox, Lori Cox Lagioia Ryan Vallow’s brother (newly married, one of the cult’s key members, killed by “misadventure” or suicide – the gossip mavens are still undecided, and I don’t believe the official’s have ruled, yet)
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– Joseph Ryan, Lori Cox Lagioia Ryan Vallow’s prior husband and father to Tylee Ryan (Lori’s missing daughter) dies of a heart attack which is now being ruled as “suspicious”.
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– Brandon Boudreaux, husband to Lori Cox Lagioia Ryan Vallow’s niece, Melani, driven off the road (another Daybell-linked attempted murder?) after the niece becomes another Chad Daybell follower…

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– Tylee Ryan, elder child, missing since a September trip to the Grand Canyon which included Uncle Alex Cox…  and whose body was recently found on the Chad Daybell property in Arizona

– JJ Vallow, youngest son, and also missing since a September trip to the Grand Canyon which included Uncle Alex Cox…  and whose body was also recently found on the Chad Daybell property in Arizona.  After officials followed cell phone pings on Uncle Alex’s phone to a mysterious 2am, 2-hour visit to Chad Daybell’s property.  Burying the bodies, perhaps, of his niece and nephew?

At any rate, you get the idea that everyone near Lori Cox Lagioia Ryan Vallow Daybell was either a follower or a victim.

But… !

BUT… !

Anything but a catalyst to the untimely demise of so many people; mostly HER family.

Chad Daybell has been out on parole since his extradited return from Hawaii, after Lori’s children had been missing for months, and after he and Lori were married while on the run.

While poor, little, helpless Lori Cox Lagioia Ryan Vallow Daybell sits in jail after also being extradited from Hawaii…

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(Sarcasm intended).

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And:


So, I happened to catch an episode of DATELINE NBC last night.  And, I had to tell you the backstory in the rare event that you might not be familiar with these events and ever-enlarging net of players.

Puhleeze tell me that Lori Cox Lagioia Ryan Vallow Daybell, the person with the most bodies on the line, is NOT going to get off with a poor, helpless, fragile little woman defense !

I get it, if you feel you’re on a sacred mission from God.  I was raised Roman Catholic, so I understand the suspension of logic and mental gymnastics that may be programmed into people before their brains are mature and that occurs with the truly faithful.

I understand the dichotomies involved in being both ‘of the faith’ and boxing those thoughts away in a room of their own in order to embrace logic and function in the world where others may not have the same faith.

But…  Just as I didn’t understand the Reverend Jim Jones cult, and the suicide of all of his followers; nor the David Koresh cult with the multiple wives and children, and the government’s attack that resulted in the subsequent loss of life; nor the bombing of the MOVE cult in Philadelphia that killed so many of John Africa’s followers;  I don’t understand how the Chad and Lori Daybell murder spree cult could get a toehold on the plausibility scale of so many different people in their circle of friends and family, who (from the news coverage) appear to be seeing Lori as an innocent, a dupe.

I don’t care if they were friends or were related as I, too, grew up with a very charismatic father who was able to inspire insanity in the otherwise normal and rational of people.  (Separate story, too time-consuming to detail here),

As we’re sitting in our homes listening to folks discuss a belief in a “mission” from their God, as reasons why they were friends and why they listened to these stories with suspended disbelief, I just have to shake my head.

Where were or are their individual meters of plausibility or backbones?

Where were or are their individual ethics and lines that they will NOT cross?

As I listen to the Lori Cox Lagioia Ryan Vallow Daybell friends and family talk about their concern for the two children, as well as how charismatic Lori is, it always circles back to everyone being clueless about the kidss and Lori being “so nice”.

While I can excuse her one surviving adult son, 24 year old college student Colby Lagioia, for his mixed feelings and confusion about whether or not his mother contributed to the death of his half siblings (like I said, charismatic father, so I have a first-hand exposure to some of the deprogramming he may have to go through in order to untangle his own mixed emotions as he builds his own life and matures), I have no such excuses for the rest of the adult family and friends’ suspension of disbelief.

Certainly not enough to blindly ignore the pattern of dead bodies connected to some messiah complex which appears to be a part of branching off into a new version of their religion / now cult.

I am just not able to deny reality to that level, even if their particular branch of faith counts  women as second class citizens, and allows some branches to discard their children, especially young men, if the existence of those children results in competition of the wishes of The Prophet or leader.

I hope to their God that she is not allowed to escape judgement for her actions in contributing to the death of her children.  Lori Cox Lagioia Ryan Vallow Daybell is just as guilty of the murder of her children, and possibly the murders of her former husbands and brother, as whoever actually accomplished the deeds.

If anyone cannot see that the “Saintly” beings, Lori, Chad, etc., are in it up to their eyeballs, then they need their sanity checked.

This is not an episode of the 60’s TV show, “Batman”, and Lori is no misunderstood “girl”, who is not responsible for her actions, or lack of actions, for protecting her children and other connections.

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Your gov’t, NOT at work…

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I am not a big fan of phones.

I am not a big fan of government incompetence.

But, when the US Government takes down it’s social security f’ing website EVERY DAY when operators aren’t working “to assist you” between the hours of 8:30am and 5:30pm, it DEFEATS the whole purpose for having a website at all.

Seriously, if your website isn’t up 98% of the time, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, why the heck have one at all?  Just to keep up with the Jones for the “appearance” of capability?  Sheesh !

Add into the problem the fact that one simply trying to access the website off-hours, after getting the, “we’re closed for maintenance, please contact us between the hours of …” has their account locked up on the first try (not the third) is RIDICULOUS !

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and

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sets me up for aggravation before I’ve even begun to talk to anyone.

Finally got on the phone during the government’s “business” hours, only to find that I can wait on hold for 35 minutes, or they will call me back in an hour and a half.  Um… No.  I guess I’ll wait on hold until 35 minutes pass and hope for the best (it’s been 22 minutes on hold at this point).

While I would normally play games on my tablet to help the hours go by waiting on hold, I use Voice Over IP (Internet based calls, or VoIP), so that option is off the table, too.

It’s a good thing that I don’t have any kind of expectations for dealing with the government any time soon…

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Unloved. Narcissistic. Whatever…

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A while back I had to write a friend a letter.  It was full of things that I couldn’t simply say.  I couldn’t say them, because she wouldn’t hear me.  Wouldn’t.

So, just like when I write this blog, I emptied all the crap that was between my ears into the letter way back in March or April, (maybe even as far back as Christmas, as time is running together at this point).  Anyway, I polished and edited it within an inch of its content, and mailed it off.

I started by saying, “I love you…”

I ended by saying, “I love you…”

In the middle, though, there were a whole bunch of buts.  And pleas for her to knock it off.  Plus reminders that I loved her no matter what, but that her inability to “hear” others when they said “enough” was driving me crazy.  That friend has tried to circle back to the topics that I don’t want to talk about – mainly her refusal to give in and accept that I won’t change my mind on a topic and we will have to agree to disagree, but need to move on to a new topic.

I am going to be 60 this Fall.  Never thought to make it to that age.  Still not sure of what to do with myself now that I’m almost-60-going-on-12 on a good day.  But here we are.  In the middle of a pandemic.  Some of us are freaking out.  Some of us are peeved.  Some of us are feeling unloved.  Some of us are in our heads way too much.

Whatever it is, it’s bringing out the worst in most of us.

I spent most of last week running back and forth with driver errands to help me stay busy and make the shelter-in-place time go faster.

Another friend, one who is 83 and in the assisted living center and cannot leave the building nor have visitors was feeling particularly badly.  Certain she was unloved.  Certain she had done something wrong to be considered an evil person and locked up, I spent most of the visits trying to talk her off the ledge as she wasn’t allowed to leave her facility and was determined to do so.  Dementia is a heart breaking disease.

Multiple calls from her before a visit, which I answered and reminded her that I couldn’t come in the building and would stop by her window after I dropped things off, and yet still she tried to meet me at the door and leave the building to go with me.  Tears when she was yelled at by the Administration staff of her facility, and more tears when I put up my hands to stop her and stepped back from her.

Tears when I visited at her window, and she was crying because she thought I should have been there sooner than I was, and she was so frustrated at being confined to her room.

Tears because she wanted to give me something, and missed me when I came to her window and called her on the phone, because she’d forgotten I was coming and was out in the private courtyard, enjoying the sun and fresh air.

So, I tell you all that to tell you this.  People are EX-HAUS-TING.  As much as we love them and want to help them be their best selves, you’ve got to keep yourself separated from their constant demands or they will make you crazy.  Or, crazier.

My younger friend is dealing with many issues as she approaches her middle 50’s, but the most problematic one is her need to swallow whole the attention of anyone in her realm.  I tried to get her to understand boundaries when I wrote that letter earlier this year.  While I have gotten her to understand that her salesperson’s persistence isn’t going to change my opinion as boundaries aren’t up for negotiation, she still tries to circle back.

Last week was a particularly bad time for her because she’s trying to negotiate a deal at her current contract position, and doesn’t like the facts.

Fact 1)  When you accept a position, you also accept that rate of pay until the contract comes up for renewal, or a year has passed.  You made the best deal possible, so you live with it unless you’re willing to renegotiate due to misrepresentation, and willing to walk when you don’t get a fair or reasonable response.  Renegotiating in the middle of a pandemic, when they have cut your billable hours down to 20 per week, is possible but not recommended.

Fact 2)  Having your hours cut does impact your ability to live on the rate of pay you negotiated.  Again, though, see Fact 1) before being impetuous.

Fact 3)  You can’t always get what you want, but if you try real hard, sometimes you’ll get what you need.  Life just works out that way.

So, her contract is up for renewal at the end of June, and she tried an end-run around her agency (that I told her NOT to do, as you’re only as good as the agency’s clients, and you don’t want to burn an agency relationship).  The old agency that she would prefer to work with dangled a $2.50 an hour raise to her, but didn’t bother to read that employment contract she’d signed for this job.  That contract said that she couldn’t work for the client the agency assigned her to for one (1) year from date of departure on any assignment without first clearing it with them.  That’s a HUGE sign that they won’t take kindly to her changing agencies in order to get better pay and benefits, but she ignored that language in her contract, and the old agency never bothered to read her contract until last week, blowing up her negotiations-in-progress.

So not my problem.  Especially when she’s just venting and not hearing me when I tell her that she needs to suck it up.

Anyway, those two things were going on, plus the houseguest’s arm surgery and interview to (maybe? hopefully?) get a place of her own in subsidized, disabled and elderly, housing.

My patience was at a very low level, so I began ducking my friend’s calls from Friday onward as I’d had it, my energy was sapped, and I was itching like nobody’s business from all the bug bites I got while fishing.  (By the way, I advise anyone who plays the stock market to buy Gold Bond itch cream shares, as well as Benadryl.  If other people are like me and hiding in the woods and open spaces to get through this pandemic, those are two of the chief products that should see a huge surge in demand this Summer).

Anyway, I tell you all that to tell you this.  I was reading SparksFromACombustibleMind’s blog, Monday Peeve, and I had to laugh.  Her response to the self-help guru fans was very similar to mine.  My younger friend spends so much time inhaling every self-help book under the sun, yet she fails to put any of those suggestions into practice.  By this time she KNOWS what she needs to do to address her issues (constancy and reasonable expectations management being just some of them), so trying to get me to read the book isn’t going to happen as I just don’t see things the same way she does.

So, I tell you all that to tell you this.  I just finished a tear-jerker of a book about the Tennessee Children’s Society or Home, which was a fictionalized account of real happenings.

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And I just want to tell everyone who is feeling unloved and unwanted and unappreciated to go read that book and concentrate on the lead character, “Rill” or “May” (as she was later renamed), and figure out a way to heal yourself and go on with life.

People are going to break your heart.

People and circumstances are going to not live up to expectations.

Whatever it is that’s driving you crazy, nobody else can fix or change.  It’s always up to you.  What I enjoyed about this particular book is that it reminds us that we have choices in life, and it’s what we do with the no-win scenario that makes a life worth living.  Being a survivor isn’t pretty, but sitting in a corner and obsessing over things that you cannot change isn’t practical, either.

I love my friends.  I’ll be there in whatever way I can, in sickness and in health, just like the friendship vows state, but I can’t let myself be sucked into drama that I cannot change.

Yes, I’m just selfish that way.

Accepting what is (when our mind isn’t playing tricks on us due to dementia), is one of the hardest things that we all must adjust to in order to make progress in life.  The sooner we get on with it, the happier we will each be.

I don’t have any better advice than that.  No ponzi schemes for making money off others unhappiness.  As I would say to my Las Vegas Auntie (and she would go crazy, as she loves a good fight), “It is what it is.”

 

 

 

Sean Dietrich

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My wife and I are at a blueberry farm located in the middle of nowhere. My wife wears a sunhat. I am wearing a third-degree sunburn.

There are acres of blueberries stretching toward the treeline. The bushes are loaded with beautiful purple berries that are—this is a well-known fact—explosively high in fiber.

Blueberries are a big part of life in South Alabama. My wife is from Brewton, the “Blueberry Capital of Alabama.” It’s your quintessential small town, with a cute mainstreet, historic homes, and 1,228 nearby churches.

Brewton is the kind of place that dedicates entire holidays to the humble blueberry. They have the Alabama Blueberry Festival, complete with a car show, arts and crafts, and music. And of course they have the Blueberry Drop. The Blueberry Drop is a New Year’s Eve event where instead of dropping a big ball like they do in Times Square, they drop a giant blueberry behind the Church’s Chicken.

When I first met my wife, we spent a lot of time picking blueberries. One summer, a local farmer got several volunteers from our little church to pick blueberries for a three-day weekend. I was an adult “chaperone” for the youth group blueberry squad.

Now, let me say upfront that the last thing you want to do is chaperone a youth group for a weekend in rural Alabama. It’s misery.

When youth-group kids reach a certain age, all they do is run around pinching each other’s hindparts and smuggling unfiltered Camels. And at night—at least this was true for the boys—they would sit around a campfire and hold scientific discussions about human anatomy using slang words only.

I remember when the farmer warned the youth group that blueberries were a VERY high-fiber fruit, and not to eat too many of them. The boys ignored this and ate their weight in blueberries. The next morning, these boys spent a lot of private time in the woods having moments of deep spiritual reflection.

I was in my early 20s back then, which seems like a lifetime ago.

Anyway, today I’m picking berries like a maniac. I’m filling my bucket one berry at a time. And I’m almost feeling human again. For the past 90 days I’ve been cooped up, quarantining, social distancing, and losing my mind. Sometimes I think I’ve lost my inspiration altogether.

But standing in this countryside, my wife beside me, a breeze whipping around me, I feel like a person again.

My wife says, “Remember the last time we were here?” She speaks with a mouthful of berries.

As it happens, I do remember the last time. It was one summer day about 15 years ago, my wife and I were having a miserable year. We had both lost our jobs. We were hemorrhaging money and didn’t know where our next paycheck would come from.

Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, that was the same period the doctor found a lump in my wife’s breast.

It was on one random weekend that my wife suggested we forget about doctors and pick blueberries. I thought this was a horrible idea, but I agreed.

We did a lot of holding hands that day. Some crying. And a lot of eating. But it was good therapy, and after a marathon of picking berries we were on our way home when my wife declared that she wanted pizza.

“Pizza?” I was thinking. We didn’t have enough money to buy Chiclets, let alone dinner. Even so, I looked at this woman, her bare feet on my dashboard, and I marveled at how short life can be. I wanted to tell her it was going to be okay, but I didn’t know whether I’d be lying.

We pulled over at a Pizza Hut. My wife ordered a pizza buffet for one person. I ordered tap water. When nobody was watching, we shared our pizza. This is of course expressly against the rules, but at least we said grace first.

Before we left, I crammed 19 slices of pizza into my wife’s purse and ran like the wind. This is also against the rules.

In the following weeks, my wife and I were sick with worry over what the doctor would say about her lump. But it was weird. Because also during that time, we had so many blueberries that we didn’t know what to do with them. We ate pies, cobblers, pancakes, muffins, and blueberry ice cream until our kidneys were permanently purple.

I will never forget the morning when the doctor said my wife’s mass was benign. My wife and I cried for a full hour in the parking lot. And do you know what we did a few days afterward?

We drove to this little U-pick blueberry farm. I felt like I’d been reborn that day. I didn’t care if I ever had a steady paycheck again, as long as I had my pizza-thieving partner beside me.

Finally, I am done picking for the day.

After several hours of filling buckets, I am on my way back to the car. I pass a young couple in the parking area. They are wearing straw sunhats, carrying buckets. They are eating blueberries by the fistful. I overhear their conversation. I can tell they are newlyweds.

And I can’t help but wonder if they know how surprising life will be. I wonder if they know how many curveballs this world will throw at them. I wonder if they know how beautiful they are.

Above all, I wonder if they understand how truly high in fiber these blueberries are.

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Note:  not my writing.
Reposted from facebook, where Sean posts his thoughts regularly.  I wanted any non-fb people to be able to sample his wonderful storytelling, if they so wished.

Mind fillers

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While I won’t take an audiobook out into the woods (never be vulnerable, with your hearing pre-occupied, when out and about on your own).  Doesn’t matter if it’s city streets, or the woods.  When out and about, pay attention to your surroundings !  People be crazy, and while most are good, somebody’s always looking for a potential victim.

So, I tell you all that to tell you this – I revisited my favorite trilogy about dragon lizards and their people this week, and (not having read the books since the late 70’s, when they first came out), I was struck by how much time had moved on.  The writing was still excellent, the voices of the characters still engaging, but society’s mores and restrictions have changed so much that it felt more like reading “Little Women” or “Little Men” vs. futuristic science fiction.

With the ongoing civil unrest and riots / looting, on top of the pandemic, I needed something to fill the always-distracted back of my brain in order to keep my emotional balance.

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I usually play audiobooks in the car when going from place to place.  So, after finishing the above harmless series full of subversive plots about woman’s equality desiring an equal chance at opportunity, and how we are both sabotaged and aided by well-meaning folks who like the status quo and see no reason to change because they have no experience with passive repression or overt discrimination, never mind the nasty folks who benefit from keeping the status quo, plus mean girls who desire nothing more than a socially-advantaged marriage…  So, I was in a good place to start something new.  I chose these 3:

Could NOT make it through the first few chapters of “All Adults Here”, so we’ll see if I try it again when I’m in a better frame of mind.

Could NOT put down “Before we were yours”, as it was told with a matter-of-fact winsomeness that made it compelling.  Very much had the same effect as the film,  “Fried Green Tomatoes” had on me.  Lovely tear-jerker.

And I’m starting, “Where the Crawdads Sing” as soon as I get my butt energized and out of bed.  (I’ve been up and had my meds, but this is one of those vampire days when I’m freezing and have headed back to bed to sleep the sunlight hours away).  It’s mildly cool today, in the 70’s and otherwise comfortable, yet I’m huddled under my covers trying to get warm and shake the chill in my frozen feet.

Old age and infirmity – it’s not for sissies !

Whatever you’re doing, I hope you have a good day.

 

Itchy

Yes, it was worth it !

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I am lying in bed, “Sweet Home Alabama” playing quietly on the TV for the 9,000th time, and instead of trying to get to sleep, I’m trying to write a blog.  On WordPress.  On my tablet.

WordPress hates my tablet, so if this isn’t a recipe for frustration and disaster, nothing is.  But, I digress.  I’m itchy and easily distractible.  It’s easy for the itch of the bug bites to distract me.

This week had lots of highs and lows, and aggravations from the lawyer about yet more audits on my disability supplemental salary, blah, blah, blah.  The latest dispute is their claim that they overpaid me by $16 a month (once they FINALLY gave in and paid against my supplemental insurance policy), and visions of being forced to pay back THEIR error, plus interest or other such nonsense backdated four years, has me sweating with yet more anxiety.

Since I’m already sweating over purchasing an AC unit (it was 105 degrees last week, and it got to 103 earlier this week, so an air conditioner was vital for my health), even if it was worth it, I’m still frightened about the eventual utilities bill I’ll receive…  anyway, the point is that I was already very hot under the collar the last couple of weeks.  Add in the ongoing aggravations of the pandemic restrictions, and it doesn’t take much to tip the apple cart off balance.

I did not need to hear from the ERISA lawyer to add to my stress.

Even if they pushed back with a reasoned argument based on California law…  Yes, that $1,000 fee I pay them every month for troubleshooting is worth it, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy having to need their ongoing services.

So, in order to try and stay healthy and work off my stress, I’ve been walking.  Mostly after 5pm when the Valley breeze finally kicks up (our temperatures can fluctuate 40-odd degrees in a day due to a desert-like microclimate).

My feet are swollen up like balloons, as tends to happen in the high heat with COPD.  My diabetes medicine has a tendency to dehydrate, keeping me close to the bathroom as I’m guzzling water and cranberry juice like a drunken sailor on shore leave…  You know, it’s always something even before I venture into the great outdoors.

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If I’m lucky, I can get in 10,000 steps and not run into a coyote or bobcat.

If I’m not lucky, I spend the entire walk looking for any likely tree to hide behind while addressing my inability to go longer than 45 minutes to an hour without having to pee.

In these days of newspaper headlines about perverts around every corner, it’s scary to think of dropping trou and exposing one’s tender bits to the passing eyes of every Tom, Dick or Harry simply because the portapotties, located only at the trailheads, are also closed…  How that closure of a very necessary outhouse prevents Corona-19 contamination I’ll never know, but the short story is that I am NOT part camel, and when Nature calls I answer pronto or suffer the toddler-like consequences.  No, I am not packing a spare set of clothes in my backpack.

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So, as part of my wanderings this past week, carting my fishing rod, Corn kernel bait, jacket, snacks, bottled water, bug netting head covering, etc., etc., etc., I’ve also taken to carrying a small LL Bean folding table (because I can sit on it when tired or while fishing), and it’s MUCH, much lighter than an actual chair for being able to lug it around and not add to my fatigue while still being practical for its intended use.

We’re talking major, white-trash-on-parade, tenderfoot excursion.  With all the detritus that comes with dealing with old age’s demands, too.

Anyway, I tell you all that to tell you this… I may look like an old lady, but I feel like a kid again.  Including being covered in bug bites from my explorations !

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It was very much worth it, though, as the bug bites directly correlate to my catching a fish (and possibly seeing a beaver at its den) for the first time in almost 20 years (19 years and 9 months, to be exact) I caught a fish ! Seriously !  It’s only a common carp, maybe 12 to 14 inches long and 2-3 pounds, but it is worth every minute of itching !

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(and, yes, I’m a catch and release kind of woman – no wasting a life for me).  Bites and all, I can’t wait to go again !