The History of Why

Apr 9, 2014

Deadened, Not Dead

Sometimes all that it takes to remember that this is not all there is is a random little event, something practically beneath my notice.

Today's contribution to the maintenance of my sanity has been made by: my own curiosity, Google, and Nelson Algren. Mr. Algren has been a regular supporter of my effort not to go screaming bat-fuck crazy, although, as One of Those Insanely Talented People Who Are Not Me, he has just as often acted as a goad and a reminder of how many million miles I still have to walk before I can get -anywhere- at all. But today, after reading a couple of his essays for the n-hundredth time without knowing for sure about whom he was speaking, I looked up "Alfred Kazin" and "Norman Podhoretz", each of whom had been referred to in one of the essays I'd read. I also, because I'd been re-reading that as well, Googled "Toni Morrison Beloved analysis".

Well, I learned that Norman Podhoretz is one of those neo-con clowns whose opinions boil in the same stew-pot as the Fox-News hack claque; so I shrugged him off, which seems fair, as it's no more nor less than what he'd do for me. Besides, what made me look him up was something Algren quoted, which is too long to reproduce here but which gave me an important insight even before I typed his name into a search box: The man can't write. I mean, the excerpt Algren quoted? Should have been taken out back and shot, then given a decent burial in an unmarked grave at midnight. (Having said that, I suppose I'm now duty-bound to include the quote in this post; after all, you can't just go around giving a man's excerpts the firing squad and then not let the spectators hear the reason why. As if there were any spectators; but that's another story. Writing this blog, or mostly anything else, I've dispensed with the fiction that people are actually reading it; but back to Podhoretz.)

"What then are the reasons for the connection between the study of literature and the contempt for success? The noblest of them is undoubtedly that the study of literature encourages a great respect for activity which is its own reward (whereas the ethos of success encourages activity for the sake of extrinsic reward) and a great respect for the thing-in-itself (as opposed to the ethos of success which encourages a nihistically reproductive preoccupation with the 'cash value' of all things). To acquire even a small measure of independent judgement is to understand that 'successful' does not necessarily mean 'good' and that 'good' does not necessarily mean 'successful'. From there it is but a short step in the world to the ardent conclusion that the two can never go together, particularly in America and particularly in the arts." (Making It, Norman Podhoretz. Bantam Books, 1969)

So...yeah. That's Podhoretz. No wonder Algren didn't like him.  I can only imagine he'd feel more strongly so today.

Then there was Kazin; Googling him led only to some boringness, so I Googled "Alfred Kazin Nelson Algren" and was rewarded richly. That search led me here, which was mildly interesting; more interesting, though, was a link to Seven Stories Press.

It's been a while since I've been able to do any serious book-shopping. I mean, I pick up whatever's at the thrift store for $2, or at the second-hand bookstore in Orland; but I remember when I used to just go hunting through Amazon.com by topic, or read through the Daedalus catalog for hours. Some of my best memories are from when the Quality Paperback Book Club was just starting, back when they advertised in Utne Reader and Harpers', and most of their nonfiction was super left-leaning. I'd buy STACKS of books back then. And then the summer JP and I got together (twenty years ago this summer, and just someone ASK me what kind of meltdown I'm having about THAT) when I went through the Niles Barnes and Noble fiction section in alphabetical order, trying to seduce him via books. I'd spend whole mornings there, finding books I'd pass to him when I was finished with them. I didn't make it too far through the alphabet--I was only somewhere in the C's, if I remember correctly, when we got found out and I had to leave my husband, and from then on the money was tight and then there was that nasty little heroin habit we both embarked upon not too long after....I still have some of those books.

My point is: I'd forgotten how good it feels, to look at a selection of books and to see myself represented there. It made me realize that someday I won't be in this situation: won't be in this basement, tripping over CR (who, yes, I do love dearly) and his insistence on Fox News, Mancow, every right-wing asshat he can find--all watched in the name of so-called "opposing views" which, I've begun to suspect, he doesn't much oppose at all. I'm in favor of knowing what the other side is saying, don' t get me wrong, but I don't feel the need to immerse myself in their brand of hate, nor to accept their hypocrisy, their lies, their rhetorical excesses and unchecked spin--nor do I enjoy having to explain, excuse, or apologize for any similar lapses on the part of the people who share my views. Someday I will be in a place where, when he turns on O'Reilly or Hannity, I'll be able to go into another room and read a book--maybe even a book about women's rights, or something multicultural--and not feel like a stranger in a strange land.

I've gone on and on here about Podhoretz and Kazin, and haven't even touched on "Beloved", which search led me to a really awful place; but that's going to have to wait for a little while. Right now I'm just grateful for a momentary glimpse into a future where my real self is still alive. Right now, that's good enough. 

Apr 8, 2014

Quiet

Nothing seems worth saying.

I used to write to explore my mind, to vent about things that bothered me, to take the things that hurt me and put them on the outside, where they weren't so harmful.

Except they never seem to stay there, lately. No matter how much of this hurt and fear and shame and discouragement I put on the outside, the next morning when I wake up there's still every bit as much hurt and fear and shame and discouragement as there was the day before. And who wants to read the same thing over and over? Who wants to read another word about what it's like not to have a job, or to have an unreliable car with 120,000 miles on it, or a bank account that can't even survive a misguided splurge at the grocery store much less a catastrophe of any size?? Who wants to hear any more about my twenty-year-old grief, or about how unbearable it feels sometimes to think about what might have been??  "Hate to break it to you," CR said this morning, "but some of us? Had GOOD experiences in the 1990's. And like to think about them!!" Well, he's got a point. Not everybody has my weird baggage. There are people who, when they put $20.00 of gas in their tank, don't have to look away from the pump when the display gets to about $19.85 and then wait for the thunk that means they've reached $20.00, because if they see $19.91...$19.92....$19.93...it just makes them think about people who are gone--themselves included. Sometimes I think that's the person I miss most: me.

I want to write. Mainly I want to write because it may literally be the only thing I've got that I can sell. If I was ten years younger or 150 pounds lighter I'd consider other options, but there's a minimal market out there for hookers in the "old and fat" categories, or at least that's what I'm told. And from everything I'm seeing here, I've come to the conclusion that I am otherwise unemployable. I don't know WHY that is, exactly; other than the gap in my resume, there's not much to indicate that I'd be a bad hire. But all I ever get are those bullcrap outsourced recruitment calls--you know, the ones that Caller ID lists as "Texas Call" or "Ohio Call" but when you answer them, the "recruiter" has an accent that's less Houston than Hyderabad, less Toledo than Tamil Nadu--and can't tell you a single thing about the job other than what the script tells them. I have responded to every one of them, even though I could tell after the fifth or sixth one that nothing was ever going to come of them; I have yet to be surprised.

But, I've told myself all through my life, I'll always have a backup plan. I can always write.

Except I really, really can't. I have nothing to say that feels even remotely worth saying. "Write what you know," people say, and I realize exactly how little that is. There is nothing I know about that hasn't been done already, better than I could do it; there really isn't anything I even -know- enough to write on. Somewhere along the line, something happened to me and the little kid who was supposed to do great things, the high-school student who was in the top 1%, the college student who had all the ideas and energy and motivation and potential...became THIS. I have Facebook friends from my grade school class, people who anyone would have sworn would have grown up to be just an average, normal hardworking person--who are now college professors, have families, are accountants, live in houses, have kids going off to college. The people from my high school, at least, I never EXPECTED to do better than--at least with them, it's less shocking to find myself at the bottom of the barrel in every possible metric. But it sucks not to even be able to console myself with that old saw that people use to comfort smart kids when they get teased--"Just think, when you get older, you'll be able to look at those kids who teased you and see how THEIR lives turned out, and you'll be so much better off than they are..." Yeah, well, that didn't exactly pan out the way we hoped it would, now did it. We can toss that one down the same hole as "They're only teasing you because they're jealous" and "Oh, those boys are picking on you because they LIKE you." (At least I had the good sense to disbelieve THOSE two even at the time.)

It is pretty damn bleak here, is my point, I guess. And who the hell wants to read about THAT? I don't even want to WRITE it.

Hell, I don't even want to LIVE it.

Mar 25, 2014

IHNJ

Still here.
Still unemployed.
Still living in Mom's basement with CR and the cats.
Still broke, desperate, scared, tired, angry, did I mention scared? Getting bitter, frustrated, discouraged.

I try to look past the current mess I'm in, and think ahead to some pleasant future...and I can't. Because every future involves having somewhere to live, and in order to live somewhere, you have to be able to pay for it, and right now I can't pay for a damn thing because I have no job. "I have no job" has become the major internal rebuke of my life, the ugly thought around every corner, blocking every possibility or plan. IHNJ.

Then I think about what will happen when I -have- a job. THAT thought is scarier yet, because once I have a job, I have to KEEP it. I never want to go through this again in my entire life. I never again want someone else to be able to decide whether or not I will have the ability to support myself and my family. I look up the people from my old job--my asshole boss; the bitch who decided I was "acting strangely" and instead of handling it with me, went straight to my boss's boss, resulting in my firing; the HR person to whom I'd already explained what was going on, both in the office and outside, that was making my performance subpar--the HR person who never took any steps to help me address ANY of the issues, even the ones that it was her JOB to help with...I look up those people. THEY still have their jobs. THEY can still support their families. I can't. THEY haven't had three years of upheaval; THEY still have their homes; when THEIR car starts acting up, THEY don't get so scared they throw up. THEY have choices I don't have.

And yes, I know: I made my share of mistakes. I mishandled some things. I take responsibility for my many, many failures. But there are parts of this situation about which I am NOT completely wrong. There were things that happened where OTHER people were wrong too. In some cases, those people did things which made it much harder for me to do my job correctly--and persisted in doing those things even when I -asked- for changes to be made. I should have done better, true enough, and I take responsibility for that. But THEY should have done better too, and yet THEY still have their jobs, while I do not.

I am not a crazy person. I am not the sort of person who broods and broods about wrongs perpetrated against me; I do not feel like the world has wronged me, or that I must have revenge, or anything like that.

But I'm starting to understand the people who DO feel that way.

Jan 27, 2014

Just Another Day

Is it normal to be scared all the time?

Like, of EVERYTHING?

I wonder how many people are just like me: trying to do the best they can. but starting and finishing every new day having to convince themselves that they're not bad people, not useless drags on the people they love and the world around them. That their beliefs are sound, that they're not misguided or stupid or deluded; that they are taking all the responsibility they need to take, doing all the things they need to do, and that their continued failure is more despite their best efforts than because of their innate weakness.

Every. Damn. Day.

This is not the life I want, certainly not the life I planned; I know I've made some dumb mistakes in my life but those things aren't the reasons I'm here. I'm here because I have no job, because I got fired, because I have sleep apnea, because I sought treatment too late, because its symptoms affected my job performance. And despite the fact that I turned in the letter from my doctor, I was fired because I hadn't "suggested any modifications". Modifications?? The only modification I needed was a little fucking SLACK, a little compassion and time to get used to the CPAP. (I'd had the machine less than a week when they canned me. Once they fired me I stopped trying; what was the point?) And that's to say NOTHING of the hostile work environment I was in. People were allowed to laugh at me, make rude comments, make it harder for me to do my job--and that's leaving out the whole issue I was having OUTSIDE of the apnea symptoms, which was that I was asking for tools I needed to do my job adequately and was told that I could not have them. HR knew this. I had talked to HR about it. They'd done nothing. What do you do when you say to HR "I have asked many times for a written procedure documenting the steps I need to take to complete this complicated process which is changed at least twice a month, and each time I have asked., my request has been ignored, brushed off, or openly mocked" and nothing happens?

And of course, every time I tell this story I pick myself apart even more. I should have done this differently. I should have said that instead. I should have kissed the other one's ass. I didn't bend enough. I was too much ME, which--every time I have had trouble in a job, or at school, or with life--I have been told is the main core of the problem. ME. I don't fit in enough. I'm too fat. I don't wear the right things, the right clothes or shoes or hairdo or jewelry or makeup. I don't keep all my opinions to myself, or hide my personality, or negate my personal history. I insist on being who I am, instead of who my mother says I should have been. And that's why I still don't have a job, in her opinion....she doesn't know why, EXACTLY, of course, but it's surely got something to do with the fact that I'm ME. If I was doing things right, I'd have a job by now, because that's what happens when you do everything right, isn't it? You're rewarded. Nevermind that for every ONE job opening in this country, there are THREE people competing for that job...and that's just raw numbers, not even taking into account the type of job, or the location, or anything. If I was doing things right--if I was losing weight, sleeping during normal hours, not driving my husband to work, not drinking so much Pepsi, whatever--I would have a job, and all those other people be damned.

"I don't mean to make your life miserable," she says, every time she tells me how miserable I'm making her life--how much money my existence is costing her, how much stress it causes her for CR and the cats to be here instead of just me, how worried she is that I'll never get a job--"I know it's hard on you," she says. "But it's hard on me, too." As if I've ever claimed it was otherwise; as if I had ever, at any time since approximately 1998, minimized her feelings about ANYTHING. I have so much guilt left over from the early- and mid-1990's, I almost never STOP thinking about how much I've inconvenienced her. Every conversation is thick with unspoken accusations. Her friends have kids who can make it on their own. Her friends have spare money that they can use to go on vacations, to plays, to dinner parties. She doesn't, because she has a daughter who's made mistakes. (Nevermind that she's made more money mistakes than I have; I'm not the one who has TWICE left investments in the hands of "experts" while the market tanked. I'm not the one who divested herself of an investment rather than use liquid cash, which she had at the time, to pay back a loan my first husband and I had taken from HIS mother--a loan which was more HIS responsibility than mine--and who then watched the value of that investment go through the roof. She blames me for that decision, even though it was at her insistence that WE pay that loan, and her decision not to consult anyone about the wisdom of liquidating that investment. Because the loan was nominally mine, all these things are my fault. There are many, many things like this--bad decisions she made, usually without consulting anyone (or consulting questionable "experts", whose aims were more self-serving)--some related to me, others not. But when she talks about her financial situation--incidentally, still better than at least 75% of the country--she puts the blame squarely on my head. I am the one who cannot handle money. I am the cause of my mother's financial woes, the reason her golden years are laced with money worries. I am reminded of this fact every single day, and of how much I owe her, and how hard it is on her that I don't have a job.

Because it's not hard on my husband that I don't have a job, that he has to work at a job which pays peanuts, which has not even the REMOTEST link to what he wants to do with his life, which abuses his work ethic--all while living in a basement in a house he's not allowed to leave by the front door, where he can't play his music or have a few drinks on a weekend night because my mother doesn't approve. It's not hard on HIM at ALL. And it's certainly not hard on me to feel like a failure, to feel like I've let everybody down. It's quite comfortable for me to wonder if I'll ever be employable again, at my age; it doesn't cause me the slightest upset to have it implied that all my problems would go away completely, if only I was more.....not myself.

Even reading this, I feel worse about myself--there she goes again, I hear the little crowd-voice inside me saying, dodging responsibility, making her problems everyone else's fault, blaming her mother for her OWN failures. She always said I'd blame her for everything, and once again I'm living up to her worst expectations of me. I'm not blaming her for my failures, though--more for my inability to stop thinking about them, to concentrate on what I need to do next...

...whatever that is.

Jan 22, 2014

Chaos

My head is an exceptionally noisy place.

My old college roomie Butterfly and I had a name for the phenomenon of having a brain that just won't shut up: 7-Eleven Brain, after the convenience store. Open 24 hours and the lights never go off. You close your eyes and the brain keeps churning out things to do, things to think about, things that need to be changed. Now. Now Now Now Now Now. No, not later; NOW. Did you not hear me?
I have that with my eyes open, though.

Living here at Mom's is a balancing act, to say the very least. Mom's main focus is Gladys, get a job. Gladys, get a job. Are you getting a job? Why aren't you getting a job? What are you doing that's making you not have a job? Has anyone called? Why not? Because This Can't Go On Forever.

That's the refrain: This Can't Go On Forever. And yes, I entirely understand that. I understand that even though she has money coming in, that's HER money. I'm fine with that. When I have money coming in, I will gladly give her a huge portion of it. But right now, I do not have money coming in.

I would gladly do something else for money than computers. I have many ideas. The bakery idea, for one; some craft stuff I could make and sell. My writing. Freelance computer repair, or training senior citizens who want to learn how to deal with the Internet. I have thought of all of these, and for the most part, I see how I could make any or all of them work, to a greater or lesser degree. But all of them require some sort of initial investment, even a small one.

My biggest obstacle, though, is this:
Gladys, get a job. Why don't you have a job yet? You need a job, you know. You need to get going. You need to be looking for a job. And when you get a job, you need to get up early, go to bed early, wear makeup, cut your hair, stop drinking so much Pepsi, stop eating junk food, stop talking so loud, try to fit in, don't tell anyone about yourself.....

Don't roll your eyes. I know you don't like to hear it, but that's how work IS. You have to do what they tell you to do and don't ask questions and don't express opinions and it doesn't MATTER if you don't like getting dressed up--it's time to act like a grownup. That's just how it is.

Is it any wonder that the thought of stepping into another office job gives me an anxiety attack?

CR--mind you, my HUSBAND, the person who is most affected by my unemployment--the one who is living in a basement in a house where he's not allowed to use the front door and has to sneak in and out becaise otherwise the neighbors might see him, and working sometimes 13 consecutive days at a job he hates, where his talents are completely unused and his amazing work ethic is entirely unappreciated--CR doesn't even grumble about my joblessness. We've had, I think, maybe one or two arguments about it in all the time I've been out of work. My HUSBAND doesn't complain. He understands my loathing of offices and office politics and all the petty bullshit; understands that I'm moving away from the notion of An Office Job and looking for something nontraditional, something more with my writing, maybe.

My husband understands all that. My mother? Does not. At all. To her, a job is An Office Job, and that is what I am supposed to have, and that is all that she will accept.

And so along with all the ideas in my mind---all the creativity I'm trying to find something to do with, all the logic and plans I'm trying to marshal into something I can ACT on--all mixed up with that, I have the loud, insistent clamor of GUILT GUILT GUILT. Guilt that I'm dragging my mother down. Guilt that I'm dragging CR down. Guilt that I can't get a fucking JOB like a fucking PERSON, so we can get out of my mother's basement and move into an apartment where he can play his music and smoke a cigarette and drink on the weekends and go outside for some fresh air--all of which have been restricted or prohibited by my mother. Guilt that I'm causing Mom stress, guilt that I'm causing CR stress, guilt that I'm not doing enough of anything for anyone. Guilt that I'm 43 years old and my life has amounted to almost nothing, and I don't even really know how or why. I can count a couple of mistakes I made, sure--but even if I count my first marriage and heroin and my house and every penny I spent on the "wrong" things or the "wrong" people...None of those things are even really MY regrets; I mean, if I had it to do over again I wouldn't want to hurt my first husband, or hell--even my first boyfriend--I wouldn't have chosen the guy I eventually ended up marrying over Boyfriend #1 because he "needed" me more. I wouldn't have cheated on Husband #1. I would have found another way for JP and I to be together, and I would have protected him better.

But here's the thing: with those exceptions, I don't REGRET any of those experiences on my own account; I learned something from each of them, and even if I wish some of them had turned out differently, they're not really -regrets-, per se. And they're MINE, more importantly, and I'm tired of having to justify my actions even to myself in the middle of the night. I have enough going on in my life, enough to sort out, without having other peoples' voices adding to the cacophony.

Jan 17, 2014

Dear Golden Corral

Dear Golden Corral:

The 1970's are past, my friends.

Here in 2014, where I'm writing from, restaurants have this thing they do, see...it's called a "web site". I'd try to explain what they're about, but that would take longer than I've got here, so I'll give you the basics. You turn on your computer...yeah, people all have them now...and you type in "goldencorral.com" (you'll have to look up what the .com part is about) and it brings up a big picture of your ad, or your restaurant, or whatever.

Someone did get you guys this far, I'll concede. But whoever it was, he missed the boat entirely.

See, something -else- people generally want to see on this newfangled "web site" doodad is information. For example....Though the guy who got your website up did manage to show a list of where the restaurants are located, he totally failed to add basic information about stuff like "hours". Though I'm pretty sure they had "hours" back in the '70's, just in case you're in need of a refresher: that means "times when the restaurant is open".

And clearly, your web guy has got his fingers in several other aspects of your business as well. For example, though he -did- manage to list the phone numbers of your various locations, someone must not have told him about something people use now on their phone lines. Answering machines" or--as they're more commonly called nowadays--"voice mail" are pretty much standard here in the 21st century. Most businesses have something called an "outgoing message" where a recorded voice tells you a list of things you can find out by pushing certain buttons on your phone....things like--you guessed it!--those elusive "hours".

So, yeah. Since I can't seem to find out when you're open, I think I'll go somewhere else for dinner. Let me know when your technology catches up to the times....even if those times are the 1990's.

Kindly go to hell,
--Gladys

Jan 14, 2014

OMFG!!!

Long ago, in a different era, Blogger put a lovely little button on the top of their pages. "Next Blog >>", it said, and if you clicked it, you would be taken to a blog that was randomly chosen from their world. I remember seeing blogs in other languages, blogs from other cities, blogs about parenting, blogs about beer, blogs about random teenagers' boring lives, blogs about people struggling with diseases, blogs about news, blogs about pets. I added quite a few of them to my blogroll, back then, and met some interesting writers.

I just spent twenty minutes clicking "next blog".

You know what I got?

Blogs about running.
Running, and running, and running.
You know something I really, really don't care about, not one tiny little iota?

Running.

Yes, I know. My life is not that interesting, and I'm sure it can be said that almost no one is interested in my cats, my depression, my mother issues, my joblessness, all those mundane little things. I understand that.

But I did not just encounter, via clicking "Next Blog" EIGHTEEN CONSECUTIVE BLOGS about any of those things. I -DID- encounter eighteen consecutive blogs about RUNNING.

This is what kills me: They're all the same blog, over and over, by different people. "Well, I was training for the Footbuster 5K, but had to drop out when my third metatarsal developed a splinter wart and dystonic acalcula..." "Maybe I'll be back in shape for the Moms and Monsters Marathon in January, when we run uphill through the snow, but only if I wear my Boltastic FootGripper Uphill-Snow-Running Training Slippers and eat kale every Thursday....." "I'm so disappointed that I ran 45 nanometers shorter today, and it took eight seconds less, but then again there was a headwind and I had a migraine...."

I think my life is boring. But it's not as boring as THAT.

I have Facebook friends, in my real-life non-super-seecrit identity, who are runners. They do the same thing. I've had to put some of them on "silence" because I really, honestly, comprehensively DO. NOT. EFFING. CARE. about every time you squeeze into spandex, strap on a pair of shoes that cost more than my entire wardrobe, and start slappin' your dogs down on the pavement. I don't care about how far you go, about how long it took, about how fast you went. I don't care about your muscle mass vs. your body fat, and I certainly-to-HELL do not care about the implicit judgements made about me when you go on and on about people who eat meat, or fast food, or drink soda. Just. Don't. Wanna. Hear It.

The hell of it is, I am not against running. I mean, it's totally not my cup of tea--gee, ya think?--but it's one of those things that people do, and seem to enjoy, that I don't get. People read "Twilight" and watch "Game of Thrones", too, and I don't get all up-in-arms about either of THOSE things. (Well....okay, maybe about "Twilight". But that's just because I could write rings around Stephanie Meyer on a bad day, and she's a millionaire and I live in my mom's basement and I'm just as jealous as the day is long, okay?? But that's....normal, isn't it? Isn't it?) But the runners....it's their ENTIRE DISCOURSE. They blog nothing, post nothing, tweet nothing, that isn't running-related.  They're obsessed. And damn it, I'm not against obsessions, either....

It just seems to me about as exciting as compulsively cataloging one's pocket lint, is all.

And it's made "Next Blog" a sad, sad walk indeed.

Cabin Fever

Winter is getting on everyone's nerves here, including mine.

Mom is finally back to being able to drive; she was at the doctor today and he said that the bones in her foot hadn't healed very well, but that at her age it was pretty much the best she could hope for. She still has a little bit of pain, and I'm fairly sure she probably will for some time, especially since the doctor in the E.R.apparently missed the fact that the bone had chipped, not just cracked.

The main part of her social life involves going to funerals, anyway. Like most Irish-descended ladies of her age, she reads the obituaries every day; a few days after Christmas she counted 164 death notices. Since Thanksgiving, she's lost two friends, a cousin, a nephew, and a handful of acquaintances and friends of friends. Another cousin is in the ICU in Wisconsin, and nearly everyone else, it seems, is dealing with illnesses ranging from colds to cancer. It's not been a good start to the year for the people in Mom's age bracket.

CR, at least, is mostly healthier than he's been. That scare last year (he ended up in the emergency room after a new-patient appointment with the first doctor he's had insurance for in years, ended with the doctor calling ahead to tell them that he was sending a patient with "extremely" high blood pressure. It wasn't news--he had high blood pressure 12 years ago before he left for Indiana--but he'd done nothing to control it. The E.R. doc in his case gave him meds to bring his pressure down, but inexplicably failed to give him a diuretic to remove some of the fluid he was retaining; consequently, the next night he was rushed to a different hospital by ambulance when he couldn't breathe. The doctors there told him his lungs were full of fluid, and the primary-care doc who'd sent him to the first E.R. told him he had probably been carrying about 25 pounds of water weight alone...) ...anyway, that scare last year seems to have knocked him SOMEWHAT onto the right path as far as taking care of himself. After that problem was controlled, they tested his sugar and found out he has diabetes--no surprise, really, considering the amount of Mountain Dew he was putting away on an average work day.  He's got prescriptions for everything, and for the most part he's trying to work on the food end of things....though he has his moments of total backsliding and recidivism, particularly in the area of candy (he's conceived an attachment to Starburst Gummi Bursts, which aren't bad in small doses but en masse, are mouthpuckeringly sour and alarming. Plus they squirt in your mouth, which is just....inappropriate.) But if his physical health is better, his mindset is less-than-optimal. As whose wouldn't be, I ask myself--he's living in his mother-in-law's basement, not allowed to show his face unless he sneaks out the back door like a dirty secret; because his wife is entirely incapable of finding or keeping a gainful job, he's stuck putting up with that and any other indignities his mother-in-law chooses to inflict, all while working 40 hours a week at a job he despises and making payments on a series of loans the M-I-L has been kind enough to extend for car repairs. The great joys of his life are the occasional trip up to the north side of Chicago to rummage through the used vinyl at a vanishingly-small handful of record stores.

I can't say I'm in tip-top shape myself. Physically, I'm the healthiest, most able-bodied individual on the premises--an alarming proposition at best. But emotionally, well....

As grateful as I am for the roof over my head, the constant interaction with Mom is making me insane; pretty much true to form, she's focused on everything that's wrong with me, and almost never sees anything positive, even on the rare occasions that -I- do. And it's not as though there's nothing positive to see. I'm far from a ball of fire, by anybody's standards, but I sure as hell kept this place going from mid-November onward. For six weeks, while the broken foot healed on one leg and the sprained knee healed on the other, Mom could barely walk; during that time, I did the grocery shopping, the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, any driving that needed to be done--making sure she got to any doctors' appointments and lab appointments, running errands, the whole deal--all the little things that had to be done. I got Thanksgiving dinner singlehandedly; actually, if we're going to be completely accurate, I got TWO Thanksgiving dinners singlehandedly, since CR didn't want to deal with the whole "family dinner" trope, and even though I wanted him to have a good holiday,  I wanted my usual turkey dinner as well. Also, no matter how mutually bonkers we drive each other, I -do- appreciate my mother, and Mom deserved a nice Thanksgiving. It wasn't -her- fault she'd jacked up her entire lower body in one fell swoop. So I made turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes and corn and cranberry sauce, dinner rolls from scratch, and apple pie for Dinner #1. For Dinner #2, for CR, I made ham and cornbread dressing and peach cobbler from scratch, along with more mashed and gravy, all the veg, and the dinner rolls Everyone ate like kings, especially me, but all that prep and cooking took a full 16 hours and knocked me the hell out. My right hand--the carpal-tunnel hand--was swollen to double-size after all the peeling and chopping and mashing and what-not. It was two days before I could even make a fist.

And that was just Thanksgiving. There was all the Christmas prep to be done--all the decorations and the tree to be hauled upstairs and assembled, furniture moved around, the tree to be decorated. Mom at least took care of the tree-decorating part of things; she was able by then to walk around with a hard-soled walking shoe and an Ace bandage, so she hung all the ornaments and everything. And in between Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years' and the snow and the cold, there was the everyday routine of coffee and breakfast and the morning paper, dishes and housework and the rest...and those were just Mom's routines, nevermind doing things for CR. He needed to eat when he got home in the morning, and needed laundry done and groceries procured

At least I've gotten CR driving himself to and from work most nights. Mom claims I was just being overindulgent to drive him, but I can see why she would think so; I make it a point not to tell Mom certain things about him, one of which is that he's a HIGHLY nervous driver; another, that he's directionally-challenged to an astonishing degree. For the first couple of weeks he drove, I kept my cell-phone handy til I got a text saying he was at work, or a call telling me he was parked in the alley and I could come take the car around to the front of the house. (Mom is EXTREMELY serious about this neighbors-can't-see-him thing. It galls us both to pieces, but again: her house.) And for those first couple of weeks, I would faithfully get the call: "I'm at a hundred and something Street and Somewhere Else Road. I just passed So and So Restaurant...where do I go from here?" He's sheepish about it, but the way I see it, we all have our blind spots, and the best thing to do is just to work around them as best we can. He has strengths that offset my weaknesses, is my view, and if the hardest part of my marriage turns out to be keeping my husband from getting lost, then I'm a lucky woman indeed. My mom would no doubt be contemptuous of this particular issue--in fact, on the infrequent occasions she's overheard me giving him directions over the phone, she's given me the "really??" look, disbelieving that there are people who haven't got a firm grasp on the Chicago street-grid system as it extends its sporadic way into the suburbs. Mom is contemptuous of lots of things, really; if SHE can do something, then--as she sees it--EVERYONE should be able to do it; and if she doesn't know something--for instance, every single pop-culture-related answer in any crossword puzzle EVER--then it's garbage, not worth knowing. "Who CARES about this stuff?" she'll snap, when I finish the stubborn final corner of the Tribune's puzzle with Simpsons' convenience-store owner "APU" or net beginning "HTTP". It's the same contempt she flung at me years ago, when I would try to tell her something about the music I listened to or the things I read. "I don't care," she'd say. Years later, when we were constantly at war, she would tell me "I don't understand why you block me out of your life. You never listen to my opinion...you 'yes' me to death and you do just what you want...." She still tells me those things, as a matter of fact.  The difference is, unlike when I was in my 20's, now I've developed the ability to swallow down my anger and smile. I've developed, for example, the skill of ignoring her hypocrisy; though the things that interest me are trivial, not worth listening to, not worth understanding, somehow I'm expected to listen to twenty- and thirty-minute discourses on her church, the people at her church, what the priest said at Mass this morning and what her friend said about what the priest said; what was in her prayer-book this morning, what the Cardinal said about birth control, about abortion, about homosexuality, about women in the clergy, about abusive priests. She goes on and on about these things, knowing that I no longer believe in the teachings of her church, knowing that I disagree with nearly every position ever espoused by any Pope before this current one. She puts these things before me as a challenge, practically daring me to take the bait and defend my most deeply-held beliefs.  This is the difference between my twenty-something self and my forty-something self: I have learned not to oblige.

It's a skill that comes in handy with CR, as well. When he's in a cantankerous mood, which encompasses most work days from 6PM til he leaves at 10, and many other times depending on what's happening in the world, he will do the same sort of thing: start making comments in direct contrast to my most-cherished values, circling for an attack. It's often my first inkling that something's bothering him; he'll say something outlandish about "the gays" or "the liberals", or puke out some Fox-News bullcrap we both know he doesn't truly believe. (If he mentions Kurt Cobain or heroin, I know I'm in for a long morning.) If I don't respond, he'll prod a little more, knowing that eventually I'm bound to react.  If I thought for a moment that he really believed one-tenth of what he says at times like these, I'd very seriously question my decisions; as it is, we have talked at calm and tranquil moments about what he really DOES believe, and about why he plays this aggravating button-pushing game. Mostly it's his only way of venting; when something's really tearing him apart, he's got to get a hook in somehow so he can let it out. I've learned how best to handle it--let him run, let him say whatever outlandish nonsense he wants to say, and respond as neutrally as possible--then walk away for half an hour. Inevitably, he calms down, apologizes, and reveals whatever is really wrong. And inevitably, he admits: that's not really what he thinks. (The only issue where we really differ is about homosexuality; while he's in favor of marriage equality and doesn't believe anyone should be discriminated against because of what they do in the bedroom, when pressed he has to admit: he thinks homosexuality is wrong, disgusting, against the law of God. Coming from the environment in which he was raised, I'm not surprised at his religious scruples against it; and based on his experience in prison, I can see why he's got a visceral reaction against it. I've told him many times that I don't agree with him, nor do I give validity to his arguments, but that we're adults and we can agree to disagree. He's one of the few people I know who can disagree profoundly with an idea, yet still fight for the rights of those who live by that idea.)

And all of this forbearance and agreeing-to-disagree, swallowing my anger and trying not to let my buttons be pushed--all of this is very improving, and I suppose I should take some sort of happiness from that...oh, wonderful me, I'm such an adult, such a tolerant, benign, compassionate person. On the outside, at least. On the inside I feel like a fraud--an angry, guilty, furious, silenced fraud. On the inside I miss the person I was when I was with JP; I miss the person who wasn't afraid to say what she thought. And it's not really "afraid" I feel now, when I shake my head and tuck my perfectly well-reasoned points back into whatever part of my belly they've crawled from; it's not fear, so much as resignation. Futility. Exhaustion, maybe. There's just no point in repeating the same things over and over and over. I know what I believe; I've explained it as best I can to the people who matter to me. Whether or not they agree is not within my control--nor should it be, I know that, but I miss not having to defend or explain my deepest, most precious things. I miss JP, who knew what I meant. I miss a simpler time and the simpler person that I was--a time when I knew what was right, and because it was right I didn't have to make allowances--didn't have to agree that yes, sometimes the people on MSNBC are just as biased as the motherfuckers on Fox "News"; or that yes, the people who believe the same things I believe are sometimes just as unreasonable as the people who believe in the things I despise. I'm tired of having to constantly qualify my anger at the things that make me angry by having to preemptively acknowledge that yes, I know that my side makes them just as angry as their side makes me.  It wears me out.I don't hear THAT side acknowledging anything about how WE feel; or rather, if they do, it's only to laugh at us for having opinions.

I miss peace and quiet, compassion and idealism. I miss a world where people like Hannity and Megyn Kelly and the Tea Party were seen for who they are, and not held up as some ideal to aspire to, some perfect American in contrast to the people who believe what I believe. I'm tired of being on the wrong side, tired of being mocked; tired of reading comment sections and finding only mockery.

Mostly, though, I'm just tired of the way things are--of waking up every day knowing it's going to be more or less a repeat of the day before, and no big break in sight. I'm tired of knowing that the only thing I can do that will get me out of this rut, the only chance I have at a career, is to write--but I have nothing to say that anyone would want to read. After all--this is the most I've written in ages, and it amounts to a whole lot of whining and complaining. Who the hell wants to read that? And that's what I've got. Real ideas? Not a one. And until I can change that, I'm stuck here...here in this house, in this neighborhood, in this rut, in this world.

It's not an encouraging state of affairs, I can tell you that.

Jan 11, 2014

Really, Now.

We started off the year with a blizzard.

That was followed by several days of blinding, paralyzing cold with wind-chills that can only be described as "ass-shattering". Included among these days, here in the 'Topia, were three days of Total Automotive Chaos, where both Mom's car and our car were inoperative for substantial chunks of time. (Mom needs a new battery; I apparently flooded my spark plugs and drained my battery's charge while trying to get our car started. I am skeptical at best of the diagnosis on my car, but after having the plugs replaced and a couple of other things dealt with, I can't deny that our gas mileage has improved dramatically.)

Now, because the temps have risen and it's raining instead of snowing, the small crack in the foundation in the laundry room, here in Mom's basement, has begun to gurgle forth its payload of icy water, which runs in neat little rivulets out from beneath the 50-year-old Whirlpool chest freezer, toward the floor drain. Or at least, the little rivulets WOULD be neat, if they hadn't been blocked by an assortment of plastic bins, chairs, and other water-impervious objects which diverted the runoff into all sorts of unwanted directions. So--upon finding the evidence of seepage, which was precipitated by the Great 6-PM-on-a-Work-Night Question ("Honey, do I have any clean clothes to wear to work tonight?" Um, gee, honey, I dunno....you're the one wearing them, so you should know whether or not you have any clean ones, dontcha think? But I love my husband, truly I do. No matter what trivial crap we might ever quibble about, we are solid on the big things; he has patiently put up with my joblessness while going every night to a job he hates, where his talents are squandered and his work-ethic is abused and exploited...and he makes me smile more than anyone else in my life right now.)

Anyhow, upon finding the evidence of seepage, I had to move all the plastic totes, Space Bags, chairs, and the rest, and go into Mop and Squeegee mode. I have now run two generations of cleaning rags and towels through the washer and dryer, having rendered them completely sodden in an effort to stave off the rivulets of water and/or direct them to the floor-drain. I have squeegeed and mopped the floor of the laundry room til I could practically eat off of it; and fortunately, the rain seems to have nearly stopped.

Of course, since the City of Chicago only plowed ten feet down our block, leaving the plowed snow in a large berm directly on our side of the storm sewer, the street in front of the house is already a curb-deep pond now beginning to creep up to the sidewalk of the parkway. Tomorrow morning's task: take the improvised ice chopping tool....at least, I -think- it was improvised as an ice-chopping tool; it's a hoe blade directly on the end of a long handle, like a paint-scraper for a giant...anyway, take the ice-chopper and hack through the giant snowdrift serving as a dam holding water into our parking spaces.

I am getting tired of being the only work-eligible individual in the house--Mom's broken foot is still healing, and her sprained knee still hurts from time to time, and besides she's in her mid-80's and had open-heart surgery less than 18 months ago, and my husband--besides being treated for insanely high blood pressure and diabetes, and being completely out of shape--is ALSO not allowed outside the house, in case the neighbors might see him, or see us together, because Scary Black Man. So any outside work--grocery-hauling, snow shoveling, garbage hauling, dealing with AAA or the tow truck guys in the -50 wind chills--falls to me, and any kind of heavy indoor labor ends up on my plate also.  My mom gets on my case every couple of days about how badly I need a full-time job--an assertion with which I'll agree, if only from a financial standpoint--but I don't think she quite realizes exactly how much I contribute around here, even if you only count the things I do that DON'T pertain to CR.

All of which is to say, I am entirely ready for spring to come, or at least, for the long boring slog of February and March to begin. This excitement is for the birds.

Jan 8, 2014

Oh, Winter.

A January Carol, by Gladys:

(To the tune of "Jingle Bells")

Effing car
Effing car
Effing car won't start
Gas line froze
Car won't start
Effing piece of cra-AP!

Effing car
Effing cold
Stupid piece of rust
You've got ice in your gas line
Why don't you just piss off.

_____________

So there's a New Years' resolution shot straight to hell, but I can be forgiven for my neglect of my blogging duties for a day or two thanks to the miserable, ass-shattering cold and the total uncooperation of nearly every single entity in my life, both animate and inanimate.

Saturday: Gladys makes stock-up run to all four major grocery stores and PetSmart. Returns home as snow reaches about 2 inches, lugs 11000 bags of groceries and multiple cases of soda (bought en masse to receive the best deal) into the house, singlehandedly. (Because CR isn't allowed out front of the house, you see, because the neighbors might see him.)

Sunday: Lulled by temperatures remaining in the teens til nightfall, Gladys stays in the house and neglects to start the car.

Monday, late morning: Gladys goes out to start and clean the cars. (Mom's car has already been cleaned once, as she went to church, but the Crapmobile is still snowed in.) Crapmobile refuses to start. Gladys writes down detailed instructions on which order to connect the jumper cables--the only part of "how to jump a car" she does not know. So begins the most frustrating hour in recent memory. (Because CR can't help, see, because CR isn't allowed out front of the house because the neighbors might see him.) Accordingly, Gladys turns Mom's car around...pops the hood...and is immediately stymied, because BOTH hood latches are frozen. Swearing ensues, followed by a warm-up-in-the-house break. Finally, the latches are opened, by main force. And then...Every time the clamp is connected to the terminal on the Crapmobile, it pops off because the terminal is so small, the clamp is so big, and the cables are circa 1960, plastic, and frozen into inflexible sticks. Several rounds of swearing, broken by brief intervals of screaming and repeated warming breaks, follow. Finally, after about thirty minutes of this diversion, Gladys waves the white flag, goes in the house, and makes a deal with Mom to be added to her AAA account as an additional car. Once that is accomplished, Gladys spends roughly three hours trying to get through to AAA road service for a jumpstart.

At 3:50 PM, Gladys is told that the truck will arrive sometime before 11:50 PM. The truck arrives at 11:15, whereupon the driver attempts to jump the car, with no success. "You've got ice in your gas line," he reports. The only cure for this is to allow the gas line to thaw, then get the water out via either additives or manually.

This information is duly conveyed to CR, who promptly freaks out, claiming that these drivers don't know what they're talking about, there's something worse wrong with the car, the sky is falling, etc. Upon being reassured that anything that is wrong will probably be resolved by the passage of time, and that anything else will be taken care of, and that in the meantime his transportation to work is assured since we still have Mom's car, he refuses to be comforted and spends the rest of the night worrying.

Tuesday, 10 AM: Gladys asks her mother, who has cancelled a couple of appointments on account of the cold, if she can take the GOOD car to run an errand she'd otherwise planned for tomorrow. Upon being given permission, she steps outside, inserts the key in the GOOD car, and is greeted with.....nothing. The battery is nearly flat. AAA, after another hour of waiting, gives a 12-hour window, and CR is supposed to be at work tonight at 11. Gladys, thinking only of saving herself from a crabby fit, calls a local garage, who miraculously comes out and jumps the car within 5 hours. Throughout the afternoon, Mom is tasked with remote-starting the car from the house to make sure it's still running, which it does. CR is conveyed to work--albeit in a foul temper, since he's not allowed to smoke in Mom's car and he didn't get his last cigarette because he was "rushed" out of the house, by Mom informing him that the car was out back waiting for him...

Can I just say that acting as the intermediary between these two is going to be the fucking death of me?? Because neither of them is terribly reasonable, when their blood is up, and of course that's the main time they NEED an intermediary. And they are so...completely....opposite, that if I stepped back--the sensible thing to do, I know--one of them would be likely to say something irretrievably wrong to the other, and there goes my whole situation right out the window.  I see both sides of this argument--believe me, living with an 84-year-old helicopter parent is approximately the most insanity-inducing circumstance I can imagine--but the fact remains, SHE'S LETTING US BOTH STAY HERE, and SHE'S LETTING US USE HER CAR. That trumps pretty much everything else, no matter how much I totally empathise with CR about how maddening it is to deal with most of her habits and views. I love my mother dearly, but we are not meant to live in the same place; we drive each other bonkers, and I completely acknowledge that the insanity is entirely bidirectional. But like nobody is allowed to torment one's kid brother but oneself, no one gets to complain about Mom's quirks but me. And vice versa.

Tomorrow I'm getting our car towed to the garage (free tow within 5 miles, which is great because it's 5 BLOCKS from here) and having them thaw and flush the gas line. Not going through THIS again, boys and girls. Not on your LIFE.



Jan 6, 2014

Long Time Gone

Back in the heydays of "The Story of Why", I remember getting comments all the time, and lots of referrals from other blogs. It's strange to be back and see how barren the landscape has become; clearly I've got to expand my horizons of reading and commenting, if I'm going to get any kind of decent dialogue going here.

So....who's been reading anything interesting lately??


Jan 5, 2014

Snow

Artwork, in lieu of words, since words alone are pretty redundant.

Jan 4, 2014

Pizza

Unsolicited and Unsubstantiated Opinion of the Week:

Beggars has the best pizza in the entire Chicago metro area.

That is all.

Comment Boards Are Scary

I am attempting to formulate an answer to a question which has been plaguing me for some time.

Why, exactly, would a media outlet or content aggregator allow comments of a certain caliber to be posted on sites that bear their trademark?

Yahoo is one of the worst offenders, of course, but "legitimate" news sources are just as bad. (Chicago Tribune news department, I am looking SO squarely at you right now.)

Example: Someone is killed within the city of Chicago, generally a young non-Caucasian from the South or West Sides. Invariably, among the legitimate statements of condolence to the family, outrage at the violence, and dismay at the lack of resolution...invariably, and often in the main, the trolls come out to frolic. Racial epithets, often couched in eccentric spellings, abound; every cliche and stereotype available to a narrow mind is trotted out, dusted off, and given a spin around the block. And the hatred--individual hatred, over and above the stereotypes and n-words--is palpable.

Thing is, the people written about in these news stories are not theoretical constructs; they are human beings. They have families and friends, including family and friends who are able to read the very message boards on which these hate-filled comments are being made. Regardless of what you believe about the social and economic factors of life in Chicago and whether or not you believe they influence crime, would you want to read hate-filled speculations about your loved one, if he or she was the victim of homicide? Especially from people who don't know you, or your loved one, personally, but who are speaking from the safe anonymity of a pseudonym, from behind a keyboard??

But trolls will be trolls; maybe someday they'll wink out of existence in a cloud of their own idiocy. Until that day comes, though, I believe the owners of the comment forums should take the lead and moderate their comment boards, aggressively if need be. And in situations where actual human beings could conceivably be affected--for example, in the story of a homicide victim--it would be in everyone's best interests, I believe, if no comment boards were made available. Any benefit of allowing comments is, in those cases, wildly outweighed by its drawbacks.

Which doesn't, I hope, preclude the search for an Ultimate Anti-Troll Blaster Destructo Ray. Because frankly, I would TOTALLY pay to watch THAT do its work.

Jan 3, 2014

Jan 2, 2014

Big Move

Fortunately, Blogger has a lovely little redirect feature, or you would not currently be reading my announcement that Gladystopia has moved!

If, for reasons neither of us might want to explore, you have bookmarked http://the-story-of-why.blogspot.com, please change that bookmark to:

http://www.gladystopia.com

The new home is part of my renewed committment to this blog, which I have neglected for far too long. Please leave a comment and a link to your own blog, if I haven't already got you on my blogroll. (I purged my blogroll today....wow. Lots of attrition. Also, for some reason, lots of blogs now in Russian.)

It's good to be back....now, if only I felt like I had something to say. Maybe that comes later.

 

Jan 1, 2014

Someone's Worst Nightmare

I've heard, like most of you, the story about little Jahi McMath, the girl who was declared brain-dead after a "routine" tonsillectomy. This is one of those stories that just eats me alive, for a lot of reasons. For one, I've known quite a few people whose lives have been hanging by a thread at one time or another. An old boss's husband went in to have his gallbladder removed and ended up spending six months in a coma; a friend of my mom's once joined her daughter as they made plans to "pull the plug" on the daughter's husband, after being told by the doctors that there was no chance he'd come back from the coma his cancer had driven him into. A few days later he awoke, and he lived a near-normal life--working, playing hockey with his sons, everything--for nearly two more years. Neither of these men was expected to live; both of them could easily have been removed from life support.

But they weren't, and they each came back from that brink. Each of them was given that opportunity, because their families decided to continue sustaining and treating them throughout the duration of their comas.

Jahi McMath's family wants doctors to continue to provide treatment, even though there is a vanishingly small chance of even the slightest signs of recovery. She's not coming back, the doctors say; "brain death" is the term they use. Actually, they use other terms as well, according to some of the news stories: they refer to her as "the body" and "the deceased", and I'm sure it's all calculated to ram home their judgement: Jahi McMath is not coming back. But her family wants to hold on to their hope, and who can blame them? They took a bright little 13-year-old girl to the hospital, just to have her tonsils out, and they walked into every family's worst nightmare.

Unlike her family, Children's Hospital of Oakland aren't hanging on to hope. The Powers that Be want to remove Jahi from life support. Most families could put an end to that debate with just a word; most families can demand that their family member be kept alive by artificial means, if that's what they want, at least long enough to give them a chance to accept the inevitable loss of their loved one. But Jahi's family is at the mercy of Children's Hospital, because Jahi's family is on Medicaid, which won't cover the long-term care she would need; not only that, the doctors at Children's actively refuse to do the surgeries Jahi would need before she could be transferred to ANY long-term care facility (tracheostomy, gastric-tube placement, etc) because they claim it's unethical to perform surgery on a "dead body".

Putting aside the questions of life and death--when does life end? what qualifies as "death"?--I have a greater concern.

When I went onto healthcare.gov, to see what I would end up with if I signed up for the Affordable Care Act's subsidies on their insurance exchange, I was informed that due to our low income, CR and I would quite likely be eligible for Medicaid. Now, mind you, I suppported Obama, and I support the theory behind the Affordable Care Act. It's kinda hard NOT to support: who but the most heartless or cynical could reject the notion that it's good for each and every American to have access to quality health care that won't send them into bankruptcy? I realize there is plenty of room for debate regarding the best way to bring this greater good about, but for the most part I have placed myself squarely in the camp of "Defend Obamacare at all costs", and placed any of my own qualms off to the side.

But the Jahi McMath case got me thinking. According to early reports, a large number of the people who logged onto healthcare.gov to apply for health insurance via the exchanges have been steered toward Medicaid. That's not an ideal set of circumstances by any means; by definition, Medicaid is going to be the form of coverage that's most costly to the government, and consequently to the taxpayers. But even leaving THAT aside:

It sounds, from this case, as though we are moving toward a model in which hospitals have the authority to look at a patient like Jahi McMath, and say "This is a patient whose prognosis, in our opinion, is exceptionally dire. If the patient's family was able to pay for the treatment they are requesting, we would provide that treatment despite our opinion of its probable efficacy. However, since the patient's family is relying on Medicaid, we refuse to provide the treatment they are requesting." 

Wasn't this exactly the sort of situation the Affordable Care Act was designed to eradicate--a situation where a family's financial means becomes the determining factor when treatment decisions are being made?  And worse... Refusal to treat Jahi McMath is paramount to issuing her death warrant, even if the doctors have concluded that she is "already dead". Yet there have been quite a number of documented cases where people have returned from persistent vegetative states, and no one can explaiin how or why. And even if these decisions are confined to the people who almost certainly, as Children's Hospital of Oakland has said of Jahi, "aren't going to come back"...where do we draw the line? Do we then stop treating Medicaid patients with terminal cancer? Or babies born with nearly no chance of survival? What makes those peoples' lives more expendable?

If the Affordable Care Act means that more people will be on Medicaid, does that mean that more people's treatment will be decided outside their family and their own doctors?

And--and this is the question that troubles me the most--Isn't that perilously close, even just in theory, to the whole notion of "death boards"--you know, the "ridiculous" notion that we've scoffed at for the past three years, every time some Tea Party stalwart or Fox News mouthpiece brought it up?? Is this yet ANOTHER thing I'm going to have to concede to my Obama-hating friends and relatives? Because frankly, I'm getting a little tired of eating crow.

I really want to keep supporting Obamacare, but every time I turn around I'm forced to confront some new discrepancy between the theory and the practice. From here, that's just an annoyance; from the position of Jahi McMath's mother, for example, it's something infinitely worse.

Dec 30, 2013

Paradox

I have realized that the reason I haven't been posting is that I feel I have nothing to say that anyone would want to read.

I decided to write a post about this concern.

After yattering on for a while, I discovered I was boring even MYSELF.

I have really, REALLY got to work on being more concise, it seems.

Nevertheless, I have made a resolution re: writing, which I will not detail here for fear of jinxing myself; however, I plan to uphold it, and maybe I'll come up with a good topic that won't bore my readers to death.

Nov 1, 2013

A Small Light...

It may be a light at the end of the tunnel, or it may be an approaching express train, but as of last week I have a part-time job. It's half-technical, half-sales, for a roofing and siding business. It pays not-very-much-at-all; it's not for many hours; and I question the integrity of the owners (some stuff I read online about the company does not instill me with confidence.) BUT: It is a job, and in a month or two I can slap it onto the top lines of my resume and stop looking like "hi, I've been out of work for three years so please pay no attention to my qualifications, skills, or accomplishments and just toss this into the circular file".

I really wish I was more excited, but....meh. Then again, I haven't yet gotten my first check, so....

Oct 25, 2013

Catching Up

In the interest of being interesting, or if not that, at least thorough, I thought I might take the time to  back up and explain a little bit of what's been going on lately in my little world.

A brief history of the past five-and-a-half years:

  • August 2008: After an absence of almost seven years, my ex-husband CR calls me out of the blue to make amends for the awfulness that was our prior relationship.
  • April 2009: CR finally (well, sorta-finally) breaks it off with his girlfriend, the woman he'd left me for back in May of 2002.
  • October 2009: CR and I spend a weekend together.
  • April 2010: CR spends two weeks at my apartment.
  • July 2010: CR moves back to Chicago and moves in with me.
  • October 2010: I lose my job. This now makes two of us unemployed.
  • May 2012: After living on unemployment and the remains of my old 401K, we finally hit the end-point. Despite our best efforts, CR and I are forced to move out of the apartment and go our separate ways. He goes to stay with his sister and her family; I move in with my mom.
  • June 2012: CR and I are married, without my mother's knowledge; his sister and brother-in-law are witnesses.
  • July 2012: CR gets a temp job as a machine operator in a factory. Pay is crappy; benefits will come if and when he's hired in permanently.
  • September 2012: CR informs me that his sister and their family are moving to Michigan and he has nowhere to go. I beg my friend Debbi, who has a house, a husband, and a toddler daughter, to rent him their spare room. She agrees, though moving-in day becomes a fraught, troubled nightmare of "you said you'd" and "yeah, but you said" between Deb and Steve (her husband) and I. This will become a VERY common theme.
  • October-November 2012: My mom undergoes scheduled non-emergency heart surgery (valve repair) and spends several months recovering while my aunt Em from my dad's side of the family stays with us (ostensibly to help...aunt Em is a wonderful lady, but a nurse she ain't.) We also have a hired caregiver, who is awesome. As "unemployed daughter", I take care of much of the running-around and grunt work--as it should be. Mom recovers pretty well, although the surgery doesn't improve her symptoms quite as much as we hoped.
  • January 2013: Not long after CR's benefits kick in, I am rushed to the hospital at 5 AM with excruciating abdominal pain, the culmination of several episodes that had begun in November. By 11 AM I am in surgery, where doctors remove my necrotic right ovary and fallopian tube.  Turns out that when you have a 20cm x 20cm x 10cm cyst on your ovary, sometimes it flips over under its own weight, cuts off its own blood supply, and subsequently starts to die off. (If those numbers don't mean anything to you: 20 cm = not quite 8 inches. So: 8" x 8" x 4"...no wonder I felt bloated.)
  • February 2013: The day before I am released from the hospital, my mother answers the phone in my hospital room and is perplexed by the billing office's question about my "insurance". After all--I'm unemployed; I have no insurance. Two days later, as she drives me to another appointment, she finally asks the right combination of questions and elicits the truth: CR and I are married.  She does not take it well; however, to her credit, she does not throw me out, either.
  • March 2013: CR is taken by ambulance to the hospital when, after several weeks of steadily-increasing difficulty, he is almost completely unable to breathe. Doctors diagnose him with EXTREMELY high blood pressure, which had caused his lungs to fill up with fluid. He begins taking medication and seeing the doctor regularly for the first time in his life.
  • April 2013: Steve, Deb's husband, informs CR that they need their spare room back, because Steve's son from a previous relationship needs a room to himself when he stays there two nights a month. (Subsequently, Deb lets slip that Steve really just wants to change the room into a man-cave where he can play his precious video games.) CR is given less than two weeks to find a new place to live. He has no savings.
  • May 2013: After ridiculous amounts of begging, pleading, promising, and every other possible mode of convincing, my mother agrees that CR can stay with us...temporarily, for no more than two months, and providing that we do everything within human possibility to ensure that the neighbors do not see him, EVER. This includes making him enter and leave the house through the back door, after performring due diligence to make sure no neighbors are outside. The agreement is also contingent on our continued efforts to find him somewhere else to live as soon as possible.
  • August 2013: Two months are up. There is no new living situation on the horizon, and even if there was, there's no money for him to pay more rent than he pays here. Mom handles the situation pretty well, not counting some moderate-to-severe nagging.
  • September 2013: After three years of medium-to-strenuously-agonized searching, I am offered a wonderful job in my field: downtown, good pay, definitely within my range of abilities. The offer is contingent on a background check and a credit check. While I am preparing for my return to the workforce, Auntie Em calls us from California and announces that she's coming to town for a couple of weeks for a reunion, and that she will be staying with us. After a few hours of freaking out, Mom concludes that the only way to handle the situation is to tell her the truth; accordingly, a few nights later I call my aunt and explain that I've been married for over a year to an African-American man. Predictably, Auntie Em takes the news calmly and without a flinch, instead offering us congratulations and expressing a devout wish to meet my new husband. Unfortunately, while celebrating this victory, another one is snatched away; my job offer is rescinded due to my poor credit report. (Seriously: of COURSE I have awful credit! I've been out of work for THREE YEARS! What would you EXPECT me to have????) Adding insult to injury: two of the most problematic entries are errors, but since I cannot prove them by the expected start date, there's nothing I can do about it.
  • October 2013: My aunt comes to town and is very normal re: CR and I, even taking into account our gross introversion and upside-down schedule. Since she's experienced this from me before, the fact that I've married someone just like me fails to astonish her. Even Mom has to admit that things went fairly well.

And that's where we are, basically.  Well, mostly. There's a lot more, of course; the usual slush and bubble of my rat-infested emotional life, glugging along mucilaginously just under the surface...but in terms of "what's been going on?" ....well, that's what's been going on.

Oct 21, 2013

Probably Not The Last Thing I'm Going To Say About...

...the Affordable Healthcare Act:

Even I, a three-years-unemployed low-end information technology professional, know that you don't roll out an entire nationwide, supposedly-mission-critical website without testing the hell out of it first.

I'm not sure, but I'm thinking that simply by the transitive property, this makes me smart enough to run the country--no?

Oct 20, 2013

What Just Happened Here??

So if you've never been here before, welcome. Glad to have you.

If you're one of my few remaining long-time readers, though, you're probably wondering what's with the major changes. (Of course, there's an excellent chance that you're wondering nothing of the sort, that my natural egotism is once again running rampant as I assume, wrongly as usual, that anyone out there gives a good damn about this blog or anything else related to a random stranger on the internet.) In the highly-unlikely case that you ARE curious, here are a few answers to questions no one has yet asked.

1. Why the name change?

Well, this blog has been around for a long time now, and....

2. You know what? Screw the name change--first question is, are you actually gonna keep this thing up and running now? Because frankly, we've heard a lot of promises about "oh, I'm gonna post more often now" and "no, really, I mean it" and then >poof< six or eight months have gone by with not a word. You can't expect to have loyal readers when you're not a loyal blogger, you know.

Yeah, I know. :::sigh::: Listen, not to throw myself a pity party here, but....It's been kinda rough being Gladys recently. I'm still--STILL!!!! after THREE FREAKING YEARS!!!--out of work; Mom's been really awesome, but there are limits; and every night CR drags himself off to work at a job he hates, a job which doesn't even pay peanuts, it pays peanut SHELLS...well, it's not how I'm used to running my railroad, here, is what I'm sayin'. And here's the thing:

Every day, I remind myself: there's a fairly easy way out of this swamp: write something. Finish the book. And every day, I don't do it. Every day, I sit down at the computer and...nothing. A great big sense of "what the hell's the point?" and "why would anyone want to read anything I've got to say" and all the rest of it.

When I was 21, I could power past that. When I was 21, I didn't care; if someone didn't want to read what I was writing, that was just fine with me. When I was 21 the world didn't feel so mean.

At 43, the world seems mean as hell.

But right now, no matter how I feel about it, no matter how many big ugly slimy creatures with teeth get dredged up from the bottom of my murky little interior river, I don't feel like I have much choice, anymore. My skill set is kinda limited; writing is the one thing I know I can do.....which is why it's so damn scary to do it.

All of which is to say: Yeah, I'm gonna do my damndest to keep up this blog. Actually, I plan to do a little more than that, really; the name change and the remodel are part of the plan.

3. Okay, then....So, why the name change?

Mostly I just got tired of the old name, and wanted to go with something a little different.

4. Fair enough. But where are all the old posts???

Why would you want to read those?? ...Okay, you know what, nevermind. They're here. I decided it was time for a fresh start--especially since so much of what I said about nearly everything or everybody over the past ten years of my life has turned out to be, to one degree or another, comprehensively wrong. I thought it might be a good idea to make it a bit more difficult to find some of my less-charitable moments. Not that I plan on being unerringly charitable from here on out; that would be unlike me, though I'm working on it....it's just, when you find out that for ten years, you've been ENTIRELY wrong about two people who are now a huge part of your life, you're inclined to bury those errors as deep as possible. And by "you" I mean "me".

5. Anything else you have to say for yourself?

More than anyone can imagine.. But that's why I'm reviving this blog, see? There's plenty more where this came from.