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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Five years ago this week

Mom and me

Five years ago this week, I flew out to Virginia to take care of my mother. She was recovering from surgery and my dad needed me to help around the condo. My tasks included emptying a drain attached to my mom's stomach and helping her record the fluid on a notepad, finding a home health care worker to take my place when I went home and getting Mom to eat. 

My dad picked me up at Dulles. He didn't really tell me anything new, just that Mom was tired and not eating. I had no idea what I would see when we walked through the front door. She was sitting in the kitchen in her wheelchair, no makeup, hair not done. Her face had a yellow cast to it, like a jaundiced infant. She was so thin. The word that entered my mind was gaunt, she was gaunt. Her normally bright blue eyes were dull and almost lifeless. 

No one prepared me for this. My father didn't warn me, my mother didn't warn me, no one told me she was dying. No one told me it was time, that she was so tired, that trying to make her eat would be more difficult than nailing Jello to a tree. So I tried. A dietitian came for a visit bringing protein shakes in chocolate and vanilla. My mom drank one and a half that day, but never again. We gave her Ensure, which she wouldn't drink. Scrambled eggs went into the trash. 

And every morning, my father went to work, leaving me there with Mom. I don't blame him; I think he was in denial as much as I was. She had a lift chair in the bedroom-she couldn't sleep in their bed anymore-and when she would take one of her many naps, I would tiptoe into the room to make sure she was still breathing. When I saw her chest move up and down, I would tiptoe back out into the kitchen to cry.

One evening, my dad and I went to Whole Foods. We probably spent more time out than we should have, just walking around chatting and looking at people who were still vibrant and filled with life. When we got home, my mom was in her bathroom. She'd had an accident on her way to the toilet. My dad took his overcoat off and we cleaned her up. While we were wiping and drying, my mother said something like "This is how you know people love you." My heart broke into pieces because she really believed that-the only way she knew we loved her is we were cleaning shit off her body. All the other times, she wasn't so sure.

I left a day early. Not out of grief or exhaustion, although I was tired down to my molecules. I left because on my next to last night, my father was wheeling Mom into the bedroom and she told him to hurry-she was going to throw up. She hadn't had anything to eat in two days, and I immediately ran to the phone and called her doctor. She had nothing in her system except pain medication and a little milk, she felt like vomiting and frankly, I thought a doctor should know what the hell was going on. That was the wrong thing to do, evidenced by the reaction of both my parents. 

The last time I saw my mother, I lied to her. She wanted to know why I was going home early, and I told her I'd found the home health care worker, so it was time for me to leave. She didn't believe me, but the one thing my mother and I always had between us was the ability to ignore when the other was not telling the truth. Her eyes were sad but she smiled at me, that skeletal face still tinged with yellow.

I never spoke to her again. Two weeks later, it was over. On November 14th, she left her pain and sorrow and anguish behind. Mine was just beginning.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Love and Hate



Fifteen years ago today, October 12th, a family had to watch their son die. Matthew Shepard slipped away surrounded by people who loved him, cherished him and would miss him forever. And since that day, Matthew's parents have shared the love they had, and still have for their son, with the world.

There is a fine line between love and hate, according to an old adage. In the case of Matthew Shepard, that line is less of a line and more of a chasm. His murder changed the way many view hate crimes, even inspiring the Matthew Shepard Act, a bill signed into law by President Obama. Dennis and Judy Shepard founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation and shared the story of their son's life and death with millions. Judy Shepard longs for the day when we don't have a separate LGBT community; when we are simply all part of one loving, equal community.

That's the love. The love of a mother and father who still struggle with the loss of their son. The love they receive every day, but especially this day, from allies and advocates and just regular folks all over the world. Candles are lit, prayers are sent upwards, eyes are closed in reverence of the memory of Matthew Shepard.

On the other side of the chasm is the hate. It's palatable, tangible, dark and odious. There's the book, written by a "journalist" with a history of poor reporting now being used by the far right as "proof" that hate crimes against LGBT aren't really hate crimes. We have Rep. Virginia Foxx who, in front of Judy Shepard, called Matthew's death a "hoax." And most recently, we have Sandy Rios.

Ms. Rios, speaking at the Values Voter Summit Friday, called the characterization of Matthew Shepard's murder as a hate crime "a total fraud." She went on to say Matthew was being using for "propaganda" by the LGBT community and their allies. Rios also promoted the "ex-gay movement," claiming September was "ex-gay  month," and that ex-gays are "everywhere." There were none in the audience, apparently, nor did anyone raise their hand when Rios asked if anyone knew an ex-gay. But they're everywhere.

What's actually everywhere are people who are going to boycott the United States Post Office because in 2014, they are introducing a Harvey Milk stamp. What's really all over the country are people who in their hearts agree with Westboro Baptist Church. But combating them are people like Dennis and Judy Shepard, Steve and Josh Snyder-Hill, Colby Melvin and his fiance, Brandon Brown, Kathy Griffin, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia DeRossi, George Takei and even not-so-famous bloggers like me.

We fight because we're sick and tired of the lies and the hate and the violence. Homosexuality is not a sin any more than cutting your hair or wearing polyester or planting corn next to barley is a sin. It is not a sin for two adults who love each other to to do that. I've often said, if you don't like gay marriage, then don't get gay married. And stop attacking in any and every single way the LGBT community. Matthew Shepard's death was a hate crime, and all the blustering and lying on the right can't change that.

Put yourself in Dennis and Judy Shepard's shoes. Fifteen years ago, your son faded from your life because of hate and violence. In those fifteen years, you have seen amazing and wonderful movement forward for the LGBT community and you have seen the worst kind of derision from those who thrive on ignorance. People like Sandy Rios who use the murder of Matthew Shepard to attack the very community who mourns him. People like former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who compared gay sex to bestiality. People like Bryan Fischer who tells his listeners all the Nazi storm troopers were gay men, because gay men are so "vicious."

What's vicious are the lies and the violence and the hate leveled at men, women and teenagers who just want to live in a world where it's okay to be themselves. The LGBT community are not the monsters. To see the monsters, people like Sandy Rios only have to look in the mirror.




Friday, October 11, 2013

The Bachmann Diaries: What the heck is Twerking?

Image from Google


Dear Diary,

I don't ever watch Saturday Night Live because it's on too late and Marcus told me it's demonic. From what I understand, it's a comedy show with music and skits that used to be funny. But last week, they decided to attack the brave, truthful and Christian members of the Republican Congress for Obummer's shutdown.

Diary, the American people understand what we're doing. We sort of understand what we're doing, but this is really all about respect. That colored Barack Obama has no respect for the Tea Party, this country or white people. He is a race baiter and a gangsta thug. And he's turning America into France.

This "skit" was horrible. I watched it on the You Tube. Some girl named Marley dressed like a WHORE pretended to be me while writhing around in what looked like a Chanel blazer. Obviously, not me because I would never wear that dark a color-it would clash with my beautiful eyes. WE didn't shut down the government and I really wish people would stop blaming us for this. All we want is for Americans to have to pay out the nose for health insurance so we can keep getting those donations. What is so bad about paying $1,000 a month for health insurance? Everyone can afford that.

Did you know that poor people here in America are scamming the system? When we see pictures of poor people in other countries, they're living in tents or cardboard boxes, eating out of dumpsters. Here? Here they live in apartments and have air conditioners and heat and no one has to eat out of a dumpster. This is how I know those people aren't really poor.

Oh we hear of families living in their car or something, but I don't believe that. My dear friend, John Stossel interviewed "poor" people who were waiting in line for their welfare or free food or their Obamaphone and they all had televisions and cars and video game systems and internet. How is that poor? My mother was poor. Taking gold fillings out of corpses in the cemetery down the road from our house so I could buy shoes. And we have never taken a dime of money we didn't deserve from the government.

Marcus was shocked by that Marley person. He did laugh when the ugly little man pretending to be John Boehner kissed a man's chest (EW), only because Speaker Boehner is so masculine he would never do that. He and Marcus have so much in common-they are both really manly and they both like scotch. Although between you and me, Diary, Speaker Boehner likes scotch  A LOT more than Marcus does. And vodka. Gin. He rinses his mouth with peppermint schnapps in the morning. I asked him about that, and he told me schnapps actually has less alcohol in it than Scope. Who knew?

I still need to find out what "Twerking" is. I hope it's an exercise program, and since the congressional gym is still open, maybe I can start "Twerking" out! Oh that was funny! Well, I have to get to a super secret meeting at the Capitol. I wish I could tell you what it's about, but you know how hush hush we high-ranking Intelligence people have to be!

Love-Queen Michele, Ruler of Godlandia xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

(Thank you, Jennifer Rao for the inspiration)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

No death benefits for military families thanks to the GOP shutdown

Image from Huffington Post


NBC News posted an article Tuesday morning about five service members killed in Afghanistan over the weekend. The story was featured on the Today show, but the point was not the five young, dead Americans, as tragic as that is. No, what this piece highlighted was how the families of those five dead Americans would not be receiving death benefits.

Thirty six hours after the death of a service member, funds are transferred to the family in order to help pay for funeral costs and cover immediate living expenses until survivor benefits kick in. And thanks to the Tea Party wing of the Republican party, five families who are living a nightmare will not get that help.

Over the past few weeks we have seen Republican politicians "break down barricades" for WWII veterans, American flags shoved into their lapel pockets. We have heard a Republican congressman attack a park ranger for doing her job, only to flee when confronted by an American citizen. We have heard the Tea Party's mouthpiece-Fox "News"-call the closing of the government everything from a "slimdown" to the "Obama Shutdown."

Keep in mind, these are the same people who festoon themselves with our flag in the form of shirts, hats, pants, jackets, ties and belts. They have "Support the Troops!" yellow ribbons on their cars. Even as they refuse to reopen the government, they use our service members and veterans as props to promote their false patriotism.

These are the same people who voted against The Zadroga Act. Paul Ryan voted against it twice, yet every September 11th, he makes certain he's on camera, proving to the Tea Party how much he "loves" America. And the Tea Party believes him. They believe every single Tea Party Republican who sings the National Anthem at the top of their lungs, all the while denying our service members job assistance, health care and most recently, food stamps.

The Tea Party does not love America. They do not support our troops. If Michele Bachmann and Paul Ryan and John Boehner and Mike Lee and Louie Gohmert really want to prove how much they love our service members, they'll dip into their investment funds, withdraw $100,000 and send it to each of those five families. Putting their money where their flags are, so to speak.

George McGovern said "I'm fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in." Let's update that for the Tea Party. We're fed up to the ears with false patriots dreaming up ways to harm our service members while pretending to honor them.

RIP Lance Corporal Jeremiah Collins, 19, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1st Lt. Jennifer Moreno, 25, of San Diego; Sgt. Patrick Hawkins, 25, of Carlisle, Pa.; Sgt. Joseph Peters, 24, of Springfield, Mo.; and Pfc. Cody Patterson, 24, of Philomath, Ore. who died on October 6th. I'm sorry your deaths mean so little to so many. They mean a great deal to me.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Justin Bieber and the Turkey and Stuffing-scented candle


Image from Huffington Post


Wednesday morning, a headline at NBC.com caught my eye. Given the fact that a group of terrorists are holding our country hostage because Americans shouldn't have better access to health insurance, one would think that every single news story here would be well, that. But the gosh darn "liberal media" struck again.

It seems that Justin Bieber went to the Great Wall of China. He didn't piss on it or spit off it (as far as anyone knows), he was carried up it by his bodyguards. As of 11:00 AM, this is also a headline at CBS, Huffington Post, the LA Times and USA Today. A Fox affiliate included the word "minions" just for good measure.

I also discovered today that Yankee Candle has rolled out their holiday scents, including a Turkey and Stuffing candle for those of us who want a house that smells like sage and burning poultry. Truthfully, I have no idea how it smells-their website does not come with a Scratch-and-Sniff option, so perhaps I'm being unfair. They could have come up with a better name, though. 

In America, our attention span is about the same as that of a goldfish. We like shiny things, we enjoy being distracted, we aren't too keen on bad, icky things. And ooh boy, this government shutdown is a very bad and icky thing. But if you're not directly affected by it, well, what's the big deal, let's sniff weird candles and marvel at grown men whose job it is to carry a pop star to the top of the Great Wall of China.

The NIH announced the shutdown may affect cancer treatment for children, FDA food inspections are suspended, most of the EPA's 17,000 employees have been or will be sent home, TANF payments could be affected, Head Start programs are closed and no new funds will be available for WIC programs until the government reopens.

But according to Bill Kristol, churches can step in and take care of all the people who have no food. Hopefully those churches also have formula and a really big place for all the kids who've been tossed out of Head Start to hang out for the next few days/weeks. 

It's not just about people who can't visit the Statue of Liberty. It's not just about closed national parks. It's about the most vulnerable people in America being forced into an even more frightening situation by this shutdown. 

So while a turkey-scented candle is pretty bizarre and Justin Bieber being carried up the Great Wall of China is a sure sign that he's a giant douche, we have kids with cancer who might not receive necessary medication and/or treatment, we have families who may not get enough food and we have a faction of the GOP hellbent on our destruction. 

Maybe it's just me, but I think that's pretty important.