Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Eight years ago Obama became the first black American president. And lots of people hated him. Really, really hated him. He was called Satan, Hitler, and likened to all sorts of different animals. And everything he did, good or bad, the people who hated him opposed. Everything. Even when it benefited them.

Example: President Obama wanted the U.S. to have universal healthcare that was affordable and accessible to all citizens. And even though many people wanted that, too, they didn't want it to be put in place while Obama was president. Which didn't stop them from having health insurance of one type or another through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). There was another word flying around which Obama haters were really, really glad they didn't get. It was called Obamacare. They wanted nothing to do with that. Thank goodness out lawmakers had the decency to bypass Obamacare and put in place the ACA. Somehow the haters didn't get the memo that Obamacare WAS the Affordable Care Act which allowed them to procure health insurance through healthcare.gov.

And so when Mr. Trump promised to repeal Obamacare, the haters were really happy because, well, they hated Obama and Obamacare. So repealing was a really great thing. Except it wasn't because what they didn't notice because they were too busy hating Obama, was that repealing Obamacare meant that they would lose their health insurance purchased because of the Affordable Care Act which was THE SAME THING as Obamacare. They missed the memo. Because they were so wrapped up in hating a person. And now they'll be without insurance because they voted for the man who would take it away. Because they asked for it. Because they didn't recognize that what they wanted was also what they hated.

It didn't matter what Obama did during his 8-year presidency. He could help old ladies cross the street. Deplorable. He could create a cure for cancer. Despicable. He could bring end poverty and hunger and bring about world peace. Evil Incarnate.

I'm not saying he was a perfect president or person. I'm not saying he didn't make mistakes. I'm not saying I agree with every policy or decision he made. I AM saying, among those that hated him, he could not win. Ever.

And now it is my opportunity to be one who opposes our current president. And no matter how much I despise the way he treats and talks about women and minorities, no matter how many lies he repeats in his attempts to gaslight the people he leads, no matter how narcissistic and horrible he appears to me, I do not want to become one of the people who cannot see beyond the miasma of hate. I don't want to be one of them.

It's not an easy thing because I feel incredibly hurt. I am shocked and dismayed that our current president was caught on tape discussing how he can get away with sexually assaulting women because he has money and he's "famous." I'm sick that he labels people based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. I hate his objectifying of women. I am afraid of his dishonesty and clear belief that anything he does is right and that he is above the laws of the land. In short, it would be a logical step for me to oppose him simply because he exists.

But that would make me one of those people. I don't want to be that.

The conflict is painful. I want to dig in and resist. I want to fantasize about his removal from office. I want to time travel into a place where he is no longer rearing his foolish head as he pretends to govern. But I need to move away from the feelings and see clearly what is happening. If it is good and healthy for my country, I need to support it, regardless of origin. If it is destructive, I need to stand with those who will help our country move toward the solution which will reinstate equilibrium and rebuild what will, inevitably, be lost.

I need to be me. I sort of feel that the freedom to be me has been taken away, and I have become reactive and resentful. Those things feel foreign. They feel uncomfortable. They feel dark.

Still, I'm not ready yet to say, "Okay, Mr. Trump, I'm willing to give you a chance." That will come later. Right now, I need to be angry and afraid. And, honestly, I don't know how long I will stay in that place. Because I'm not just angry at and afraid of our current president. I feel those same things in an even greater degree toward the constituents who elected him, some of whom are my family and friends. They elected a sexual predator to be my leader. Mine. The person who was sexually abused and/or raped by three different people before the age of 12. That's revolting.

So it's difficult not to feel like I'm once again a victim. I'm not, but the feeling persists. There are days now when I hate all men on principle. And then I weep because that's not who I am. And I'm surrounded by men who love me and treat me with respect. Men who will stand by me when I need solidarity, comfort me when I'm sad, and laugh with me when I need someone to lighten my load. Men with whom I have share discoveries and conversations and hugs and confidences. And in spite of all that, there are still days when I cannot bear all the emotions which war within me. Because of an election. Because of a man I despise who reminds me of past abuses and is now my president.

But one day I will triumph over all this. I will not be a hater. I will not spend my time looking for reasons to be angry or feel downtrodden. I will find ways to love my life and the people in it. I will stand in defiance when my rights are threatened by those in power, and in support when, within our government, there is goodness and positivity. I will not allow myself to become so bitter and angry that I cannot see what is before my face. I will not be so blinded by hate that I cannot see the reality that one thing, called by two different names, is still one thing. I will not be them.

It's going to take time. Maybe a lot of time. Maybe four whole years.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Home Buyers

We've been looking for a house since June of last year. There have been several complications that have kept us from finding what we need. However, at this point, our lease is up in about two months. We need a house.

Did I mention I hate house hunting?

Still, the thought of being in a place that is not a two-bedroom apartment is extremely appealing.

And it's Christmas. Did I mention I love Christmas?

And my kids are coming on Friday. Did I mention I adore my kids?

And, oddly, even though I've visited Utah at Christmastime every year for the past decade, the people I have visited have never visited me at Christmas. So Danny, whom my family adopted about 10 years ago, came to visit on Saturday and said, "I didn't know you guys decorate for Christmas." I laughed because why wouldn't I. But then I realized, I don't really talk about the things I do for Christmas.

This year the decorations are small and inexpensive. A Dollar Store star perches at the top of our tiny tree. All the traditional ones are packed in boxes in our storage unit. But it's still Christmas. I'll still bake and sing and celebrate.

And next year we'll be in a house. That's more scary than I want to think about. Home ownership is not something I long for. But I do long to leave our current living condition. Must be time for me to grow up.

So tomorrow, bright and early, I'm going to look at houses. Lots of them. And I might find the one I've been searching for. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election 2016

I want to weigh in on this. I start comments on Facebook, only to delete them. I try to say something aloud, then quickly bite back the words. So I will say this here, in my space, and hope I will not feel, ever, that I have to defend it.

We elected a person who fills me with dread, revulsion, and rage. People told me he was better than Hilary Clinton. She was a security risk to the country, they said. She did something illegal (but they don't know exactly what it was - only that it involved email), then tried to cover it up, they said. She kills babies, they said.

And I am trying to understand how this measures up against a man whom I have seen threaten people with physical harm. I have heard him say words that exclude members of other races, religions, and sexual orientations. I have watched a video of him describing how he humiliates, objectifies, and uses women. He has threatened to close our country to immigration when he, himself, is the son of immigrants. He has discussed his desire for nuclear proliferation. In my mind, these things add up to security risks to our country, illegal actions, and, yes, the killing of babies...and people of all ages.

Perhaps I am too literal.

The truth of all this is that while the man, himself, causes me severe anxiety because of his support of rape culture, bigotry, chauvinism, etc., he was chosen, selected by my fellow citizens. And that is even scarier than the existence of our new president. People like him are real. They take the forms of bullies, abusers, rapists, and oppressors. They are narcissists and gaslighters. They believe they are right, always, and if they say something that is incorrect often enough, people will believe them. This election upholds everything such people have assumed about the general population.

And after Donald Trump is gone, the people and organizations who elected and supported him will still be here. The bullies will continue bullying. The abusers will not cease to abuse. The liars will continue to tell the same untruths repeatedly in an effort to deceive those who hearken to thier words. Those who made this happen are not going away.

So I am here, in this place, making a plan to survive the next four years. That I will survive is a certainty.

But I would love to, somehow, turn the tide that is driving the citizens of this country to believe that deception and denial can somehow become viable social rhetoric.

I would like them to understand that in treating women as objects, supporting rape culture, denying them equal pay for equal work, and forcing them to live in a society which treats them as second class citizens, we are shooting ourselves in the foot economically, socially, and emotionally. As long as women are sexual statistics, we cannot thrive.

I would be ecstatic if the general population did not feel the need to blame people of color or different countries for the problems we encounter here, but rather than blame, seek solutions, especially those that would require us to work with the very people who have been blamed in the past.

I want us to get a grip, become sane, and stop looking to extremist thought and action to bail us out of whatever situation is causing us distress. Because it doesn't work. Not ever. No one is completely moderate, but I'll settle for mostly moderate with a healthy dose of lucidity and logic.

No walls. No threats. No alienation.

We are called the UNITED States. We can be united alone as we ignore global situations and destroy diplomatic ties with our international neighbors. Or we can be united with them as we search for cooperative ways to solve problems and live on our shared planet.

I find it difficult to believe that my opinion is currently shared by a minority of our society. It is abhorrent that a man who publicly attempts to shame women, who is absolutely careless about their social treatment, and who would punish them for making decisions about their own bodies, is now representing the country of which I am a citizen. And yes, for me, it really is about the implicit and explicit treatment of women above all else. That is not to say that I'm dismissing the fears within the communities of minorities, immigrants, and LGBT citizens. I share those fears. But as a woman who has experienced discrimination, sexual harassment, abuse, and rape, those are the things that speak loudly to me right now.

So my hope is that those of us who are thinking clearly, the ones who understand that having a man with a toddler mentality leading our country is a bad thing, can come together. My hope is that we can serve our 4-year sentence with grace and dignity while relentlessly doing what is necessary to build bridges, reconstruct common decency, and stand firmly for what is right. Because it is right to want people from all walks of life to enjoy the same rights as those born with a silver spoon in their mouths. It is right to welcome people who have lost their homes due to terror and war. It is right to work to help the poor and needy, to mourn with those who mourn, to comfort those in need of comfort.

And no matter how many times our current president might make statements that disagree with what I have just said, it is still right. I do not have to say it repeatedly to make it so.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

What was I thinking?

Today it hit me: I'm in Utah, in a two-bedroom apartment with three other adults, looking for a job I will probably hate.

What have I done?

A two-bedroom apartment. My father-in-law enjoys his own room. Aaron and I are sharing with Alex. We're looking for houses. There are all sorts of stipulations:
1. Father-in-law doesn't want anything other than a single-family home.
2. Aaron wants a huge garage or workshop.
3. I just want us to all have our own bedrooms.

Practical considerations, however, are that Del needs a bedroom and bathroom on the main floor and as few as possible stairs to navigate when entering/exiting the home. That's not an easy thing to find. So the hunt continues. And I so hate looking for homes.

I'm applying for jobs. It requires me to explain what I do to make money. This is complicated. I work lots of part-time jobs. And I make money. And I'm leaving those to get a different job because:
1. I need to have benefits and a steady money stream. Even though I make good money now, there are times when work is less abundant. That's not a good thing when no one else is bringing money into our home.
2. I really, REALLY, need to get out of the house. Trying to work with my father-in-law underfoot is going to make me lose my mind. It's time for me to leave.

But the truth is, I left so much behind me. And today I miss my kids and my colleagues and the ability to be by myself.

And I need a hug. A big, long one.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Ghost of Christmas Present

When the layoffs came to Aaron's work in May of this year, we were not surprised. The corporation that owned the school had been in the news for at least 14 months. Their fraudulent dealings and misuse of Federal education funds, and falsified data had been reported nationally for months. In October of last year the school was sold to a nonprofit organization. The new organization met with personnel, stating that they "had no plans to lay off employees."

But we knew. The fraudulent corporation had made the decision to fire all recruiters for the school in 2011. By the fall of 2013 the student body had dropped more than 80%. It's not really good business practice to hire a large number of instructors for very few students.

So we were prepared. And when the news came in May, Aaron felt confident that he would find a job in a couple of months and all would be well.

And now it is nearing the end of November. No job. No scheduled interviews. No responses to the many, many applications he has submitted. For awhile there were interviews that ended in no job offers. Aaron's last interview was two weeks ago. Now there is nothing.

Alex is worried about Christmas. He, too, was out of work for about nine months, and now, even though he is employed and looking at the possibility of a very good new job, he's behind on many of his bills and has little money to spare.

Natalie, too, is struggling. Her job pays so little that she would be unable to support herself if she were not living at home. She's seeking employment elsewhere, also with little luck.

Chris has had financial ups and downs in the past six months, as well. Currently, he's employed and liking his job, but the time period when he was between jobs was recent. January will bring financial relief, but November and December will bring little wiggle room in his budget.

So we had a family meeting. And we talked about what it would mean to not give generous gifts at Christmas time. Alex thinks we should just postpone Christmas until May. Natalie is mostly silent. Chris says he doesn't care.

I have money put away for stockings (something the kids say is very important - and as adults, the tradition has been that everyone contributes). I have budgeted enough for a gift or two for Aaron and the kids. It doesn't feel like a big deal to me, but I've never been one who cares about lots of gifts. I have personal reasons for this.

It doesn't feel tragic to me that gifts will be sparse this year. I told my kids that the day is coming - quickly - when we won't have Christmas together anymore. So this year is important to me. We're all here. We plan to spend time celebrating during the month of December. We'll have our "What would Jesus eat" meal on Christmas Eve. We'll make pastries and Christmas cookies. We'll play games and sing and make Aaron crazy with the continuous stream of Christmas music in our usually silent home. We'll tell silly jokes and make blanket forts and read books even though we're all grown up. We'll probably watch a Christmas movie or two.

And while I would give every child of mine every item on their Christmas list, were I financially able, that's not what I would remember in the months after Christmas anyway. I'll be remembering that I have had the privilege to raise three of the finest human beings I've ever met. I'll be glad that they still think it's cool to spend time with Mom, and they make time to do that - not just at Christmas, but throughout the year. I'll be remembering that regardless of what is happening in the world, there is a small corner of Peace on Earth in my home, and that each of my children harbors love for all God's children. Their love allows for different beliefs and traditions and accepts that disagreement is a springboard for learning. In short, I don't really care about the stuff that comes in pretty packages. My children - the people they have become - are gift enough.

Having said that, I recognize the difference between Chrismas as a 20-something person and Christmas as a 40-something person. So I'm trying to think of ways to make this not just an enjoyable Christmas, but one that is memorable in ways that are different from those that are traditional. And in the meantime, I would love it if Aaron's Christmas surprises included a new job. I'm guessing that won't come from Santa. I stopped believing in him many years ago.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

House of Cards

My life, for as long as I can remember, has been structured by people. I think that's probably a normal thing for many. Parents and siblings are constructs from whom we derive, even under the worst of circumstances, a sense of belonging and identity. As we grow older, we incorporate others into that structural framework - people who remind us who we are, or who support our ideas or beliefs. Sometimes we don't even realize we've added them to the system until they're no longer there.

My experience has been that I randomly add people for no distinct reason and neither intimacy nor longevity in our relationship dictates that addition. Something happens when we meet and in my mind that person becomes a permanent fixture. This realization became annoyingly obvious to me this year when two of my clients passed away.

The first was a man who was my neighbor when I was growing up. I saw him at least weekly in church, and spoke with him frequently. He would shake my hand and smile, remembering my name and asking a brief question about things that might be happening in my life. He was just younger than my grandfather. His wife enthusiastically sang in the choir with a very wide vibrato that begged for imitation by my sisters and I when we believed no one was listening. I liked my neighbor. I loved his wife. They created a predictable, dependable, structural element as I grew into adulthood.

The second was a woman I met occasionally, but never for very long. My dad and I took care of some estate planning for her parents, and she became a client through our interaction with them. I first met her after her mother's funeral. She remembered me as a young girl, though I had no recollection of meeting her. She called me beautiful and hugged me. Not really a typical client response, but this lady was not typical in much of anything. She was lovely and capable and accepted people into her life with cordiality and delight. Following our meeting that day, I had many opportunities to speak with her as she sought tax-related financial advice, or checked in on my parents as they endured cancer and other difficulties.

This year both of these clients became cancer victims. I received a phone call from the son of the man I had known most of my life. The tax documents were late because of his father's death. He assumed I had been told. I hadn't been. The funeral was past. The documents for the final tax return would come shortly. I expressed my condolences to the son. Then I ended the phone call and cried a little bit. I would never shake that man's hand again, or see his smile, or answer a question while wondering how he found time to be concerned about me and my life. That realization was coupled with the knowledge that it had been a long time since I had heard his wife sing. She lives still, but has dementia. Probably she doesn't know me anymore.

My second client passed away this month after a five-year battle with brain cancer. As they removed portions of her brain to control tumor growth, she fought to remember names and events. She didn't forget me, though. She told me she was grateful for my help-- that she felt she could trust me. There was feuding amongst she and her siblings. She would mention some of the disagreements to me with a brief, cryptic statement, then laugh and say, "You don't want to hear about our childish squabbles. Some adults never quite grow up, you know." Then she would move on to talk about something she loved or that brought her joy. I've still not quite accepted the reality that I won't be speaking with her on the phone anymore.

My life feels out of balance as people exit mortality. These are people that made me feel life was sane when everything else felt crazy and unstable. They weren't part of my every day existence. They were just there. I knew they were there. The fact that they were there without my having to check in with them, made life feel calm and predictable. And now they're not there anymore.

At some point, most of those people of my father's generation and older will go away. Some who are younger will exit this life, as well. I know it happens. I've experienced it multiple times. But there is a part of me that wishes things might stay the same - that I'll go back to that old church building where I grew up and find my friend waiting to shake my hand, or speaking in church, or just waving as he passes my house in his old pickup truck. Or maybe I'll go to the office next week and there will be a message from my client - she has a question - she's spoken to my father - but she'd really like to talk with me, as well - might I call her, please?

It won't happen. I'm going to miss them.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Happy Sunday!

Today I sat with my children and said this:

At church today, you will hear things that will feel upsetting and wrong. You'll want to respond in kind. I'm asking you to think about these things:
1. With the Supreme Court legalization of gay marriage, there are many good, wonderful people who feel vulnerable and afraid.
2. Those feelings, whether or not you agree with them, are valid, and often motivate those people to say unkind, defensive, or inflammatory things.
3. Your job is to be kind. It's okay to say if you agree or disagree, but always be kind.

This led to a conversation that was good, but also brought up several points that I am sharing here.

The first is that I keep hearing from people of my faith that Armageddon is coming and this is the first step. It makes me wonder why they feel the need to state that. If you read the Bible and believe it, Armageddon has been on its way for more than a century. Nothing has changed. Gay marriage, I do not believe, is a catalyst of that. I believe it will come about because of true wickedness, the root of which will be because people become unforgiving, hateful, and selfish. Weak arguments have been posed to me indicating that gay marriage is the embodiment of those things. I disagree.

The second point was that fear is an indication of lack of faith. If one truly believes that we were sent here by God to learn and to grow, and that He maintains a hand in our lives, AND that he is ultimately omnipotent, then one must concede that He's aware of what's going on. His plan, whatever that may be, will not be thwarted by any decisions made by a tiny Supreme Court in one country on His Earth, and who are we to say that that Supreme Court decision was not a part of God's ultimate plan. We don't know. And while our church has deeply held beliefs about marriage and family, if God is, indeed, omnipotent, it seems a good idea to throw our lot in with Him and allow Him to determine the rights and wrongs of the issue. Also, to allow His voice to be heard and not ours. We are not God's mouthpiece. We are his children.

The third point is that we've not been asked to be strident or ugly but instead, to love one another. People keep forgetting that. Or they remember with reservations or conditions. So I will simply conclude this post with the words of a brother I have never met, but love and respect deeply because he speaks as my heart would:

No issue brings out so much hatred from so many Catholics [or Mormons] as homosexuality. Even after over 25 years as a Jesuit, the level of hatred around homosexuality is nearly unbelievable to me, especially when I think of all of the wonderful LGBT friends I have.

The Catholic [or Mormon] church must do a much better job of teaching what the Catechism [or Church leaders] says: that we should treat our LGBT brothers and sisters with "respect, sensitivity and compassion." But God wants more. God wants us to love. And not a twisted, crabbed, narrow tolerance, which often comes in the guise of condemnations, instructions and admonitions that try to masquerade as love, but actual love.

Love means: getting to know LGBT men and women, spending time with them, listening to them, being challenged by them, hoping the best for them, and wanting them to be a part of your lives, every bit as much as straight friends are part of your lives.

Love first. Everything else later. In fact, everything else is meaningless without love.
                         ---Fr. James Martin, SJ