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Monday, March 23, 2015

Quit Day


I have been smoking, on and off, since the age of seventeen. I quit when I was pregnant, I don't smoke in the house, or in public, or in the car, and if we go somewhere for the day, I don't take cigarettes with me. But here in Tiny Town, I'm bored. There are no jobs, or museums, the mall is pretty pathetic, and given our only income at the moment is my $100 or so a month from writing, we can't really afford to go to the movies. So, I smoke.

Today is my quit day. I just had my last cigarette, and I am committed to doing this. Many of my friends have quit the same way I plan to-cold turkey. The patch hurts my skin, my TMJ makes the gum impossible, those lozenges burn the inside of my mouth, and Chantrix is contraindicated for people who have struggled with suicidal ideation. Thus, it's just sheer willpower. I have a plan, though.

Every time I want a cigarette, I will perform fifteen situps, and have a glass of water. Or kiss my husband. I am buying sugar-free candies later today, to help with the oral thing, and stocking up on fruits and veggies. The one thing I can't do is eat an entire pound cake, or a bag of chips, to fill the smoking void. We will go for walks, and if spring ever arrives, there's canoeing, gardening, biking, more walking, and sitting out by the lake.

I promised myself when I stopped wanting to die, I would quit smoking. It turned out that promise was harder to keep than I thought. Cigarettes are insanely addictive, and, in my opinion, harder to stop using than heroin. You can't walk into a grocery store and ask for a pack of heroin.

The next three days, from what I've read, are going to be...interesting. Odds are, I will be coughing up shit that looks like the La Brea Tarpits, I may have SOME MOOD SWINGS, and my son has been warned not to upset Mom until at least Thursday. Tomorrow, I may take my husband to the craft store an hour away, and buy a needlepoint project. Or I may write fifty articles between now and Friday, just to keep my hands busy.

All I know is I want to stop smoking. I want to live a very long life with the man I love, watch our son graduate from college, retire in the Cities, volunteer at a women's health clinic, and enjoy the rest of my time on this planet. I don't want to get my next physical, and be told I have a spot on my lung. I don't want to die early.

Keep your fingers crossed, send good thoughts, hold me close in your hearts. Here we go.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A death in the family


Carolyn Runnenburger Hasek died this past Thursday. Carolyn was my dad's cousin, and I called her Aunt Carolyn. Her children-Laura, Charles, David, Sarah, and Brian-were a huge part of my childhood, along with my other cousins, Steven and Beth. I spent almost every summer in Missouri, and my cousins and I were practically inseparable. That was then.

Now, I haven't spoken to any of these people since my grandfather's funeral over ten years ago. My dad says he (Grandpa Brock) was the glue, and when he died, the Harrisonville Runnenburgers had no need for us anymore. We still get Christmas cards from Carol (Beth and Steven's mother), and Beth and I are connected on Facebook, but I don't know how to get in contact with Carolyn's kids, something I tried to do when I learned of Carolyn's death. The only phone number available for Laura has been disconnected, and her brother, Brian, has a political page on Facebook, but he has not responded to the message I sent. Because, at least according to my dad, we don't exist to them.

When my mom died, not one of my cousins reached out to me to express their condolences. People I had spent so much of my childhood with didn't lift a finger to try and contact me, or my father. The reason? Well, we have our theories, and one fact: Carolyn's family refuses to speak to Carol's family, and vice versa. And since we won't "pick a side," we are persona non grata to Carolyn's family. It's the Hatfields and the McCoys, just without the violence.

This makes me incredibly sad. I know from experience that you have to forgive, especially when it comes to family. I forgave my mother, and she forgave me. I forgave my grandfather for constantly comparing me to my cousin Laura, and always making sure I knew she was better than I was. My dad forgave his mom for saying, after he married my mother, that he should have married someone more like Carolyn Hasek. Both sides of our family have some extremely mean, toxic individuals, who dress themselves up as somehow better than the rest of us, as I'm sure most families do. People who consider others as less-than, who disagree on everything from politics to religion to child-rearing to what color the sky is today. But as family, especially when someone dies, one hopes those pious folks could set aside their sanctimony, and embrace the "black sheep."

Aunt Carolyn's graveside service is today. Her tombstone is in the shape of a cruise ship. She died alone in a house that, according to my dad and his cousin Mike, was filled with stuff. Carolyn was a hoarder, and rumor has it her children refused to let her grandkids come over because the house was too dangerous. Carolyn struggled with addiction and alcoholism for most of her adult life, as did my grandmother, her twin sister, their mother, and other relatives.

I have good memories of Aunt Carolyn, probably because once I grew up, I never went back to Harrisonville. As a child, the dysfunction, the hate, and the addiction didn't affect me-I didn't know anything about the darkness that ran through my family. Age brought knowledge, and combined with my grandfather's worship of my cousin Laura, I just didn't have it in me anymore. I was pregnant, out of wedlock, when my Aunt Emily died (my grandmother's twin sister), and my grandmother told me not to come to the funeral. She wasn't ashamed of me, she just knew that Carolyn's kids, my cousins, would judge me, and she loved me so fiercely, she wanted to protect me from that.

No one is perfect, least of all family. We see the foibles, the blemishes, the shadows, and we know the secrets. But when a person, a loved one, dies, it is incredibly sad to realize those connections I held so dear as a child are gone. Carolyn's family does not acknowledge my father or myself anymore, none of them have ever met my son or my husband. And they never will. That is not my choice, it's theirs.

The morale of all of it? There isn't one. I wish there was, I wish I had some sage words to impart about unconditional love, but I don't. I cried when I learned Aunt Carolyn had passed. My tears were not for the present, they were for the past. These people helped me without knowing I even needed help as a child. They offered me respite from a homelife that was fairly awful. I thank them for that, and I thank Aunt Carolyn for being a part of my summers in Missouri.

Some day, we will travel to Harrisonville, and Marshall, and Arrow Rock, and Lee's Summit, so I can show my son our family history. And I guarantee you that when we make that trip, not one member of the Runnenburger or Hasek families will have anything to do with us.

That is what I mourn today.


Friday, March 13, 2015

Rudy Giuliani wants President Obama to be more like Bill Cosby


Rudy Giuliani is a wealthy man. Wealthy enough to hire someone to assist him with his public speaking. This person's job would be to stand behind the former mayor and, every time Giuliani starts a sentence with "I know this is a terrible thing to say, but," or "I probably shouldn't say this, but," slap Giuliani as hard as possible on the back of the head. Really whack him. Because Rudy Giuliani's filter from his brain to his mouth seems to have disappeared, and he desperately needs someone to stop him from talking.

We all remember Giuliani's "Obama doesn't love America" comments, comments he doubled down on when questioned by media. The conservative base-formerly the fringe-loved it, because they believe the same thing. President Obama, with his exotic name, and his slightly liberal leanings, combined with the right-wing propaganda spewed over the airwaves every hour on the hour, has created the myth that the president is not patriotic. Giuliani and other conservatives frequently point to President Obama's "otherness" to further divide the country, a ploy that is working quite effectively. All you need do is peruse the comment section of any article published online with a political subject to discover the rabid hatred of the president, and the left.

Conservatives pundits and politicians also enjoy pointing out President Obama's race, and using it to blame him for anything black people do. Giuliani jumped on this bandwagon Thursday morning during an interview on AM970 radio. The host asked Giuliani about the shootings of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and a violent brawl at a Brooklyn McDonald's. Giuliani responded:
It all starts at the top. It’s the tone that’s set by the President.
Then he stated President Obama should be more like Bill Cosby:
I hate to mention it because of what happened afterwards, but (he should be saying) the kinds of stuff Bill Cosby used to say. (source)
Now, I don't know about you, but I prefer a president who hasn't been accused of drugging and sexually assaulting over two dozen women.

The "kinds of stuff" to which Giuliani is referring are comments Cosby used to make about young black men in America. During a 2004 meeting commemorating the 50th anniversary of Brown v Board of Education, Mr. Cosby said:
They’re standing on the corner and they can’t speak English. I can’t even talk the way these people talk: ‘Why you ain’t,’ ‘Where you is.’ . . . And I blamed the kids until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk. . . . Everybody knows it’s important to speak English except these knuckleheads. . . . You can’t be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!
Cosby also blamed the mass incarceration of black men not on racism, but on pound cake theft:
These are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake and then we run out and we are outraged, [saying] ‘The cops shouldn’t have shot him.’ What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand? (source)
That's what Rudy Giuliani wants President Obama to say. He wants our first African-American president to denigrate and insult the black community. Giuliani, and other conservatives, want the president to downplay the racism attached to statistics on black men in prison, and blame "Ebonics" and pound cake.

About that fight in the Brooklyn McDonald's. According to police, the 15-year-old victim started the brawl, but was attacked by four other teens, some of whom are connected to the Young Savages, a violent "crew that operates out of Crown Heights." Not one person in that McDonald's tried to stop the fight, including adults who were present. The victim and her family are refusing to cooperate with authorities out of fear of retribution.

Now you tell me how that's President Obama's fault. And which part. The gang? The apathetic patrons who looked on as four teenage girls beat the living hell out of a 15-year-old? Oh, perhaps Giuliani is referring to black-on-black crime again, because white teenagers are never, ever violent, and there are no white gangs. Is Giuliani blaming President Obama for the apathy of those patrons who simply stood around? Would Giuliani have stepped in? Having been a teenage girl, I can attest to their viciousness, and their cruelty. I would wager that if someone had tried to break up that fight, more people would be injured. There were other teens cheering on the attackers; is that President Obama's fault?

As for the shooting in Ferguson, Giuliani can't blame that on anyone except the shooter(s). Conservatives tried to blame President Obama when two police officers were killed in New York earlier this year, even though the shooter tried to kill his ex-girlfriend before traveling to New York City, and murdering Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. President Obama Tweeted a personal message about the Ferguson shooting, writing:
Violence against police is unacceptable. Our prayers are with the officers in MO. Path to justice is one all of us must travel together.
Eric Holder called the shootings "inexcusable and repugnant," adding:
This was not someone trying to bring healing to Ferguson. This was a damn punk, a punk, who was trying to sow discord. (source)
Michael Brown's family released a statement Thursday:
We reject any kind of violence directed towards members of law enforcement. It cannot and will not be tolerated.
President Obama states violence against police is "unacceptable." Eric Holder calls the shooting "inexcusable and repugnant." Michael Brown's family condemns the shooting. But to conservatives like Rudy Giuliani, this isn't enough. President Obama needs to insult the African-American community the way Bill Cosby did. He should talk only about black-on-black crime, one of Giuliani's favorite subjects, and ignore racism against African-Americans, because we have a black president, and racism no longer exists. Except in an Oklahoma frat house. And the Klan. And Univision. And the internet. Mainstream media. Law enforcement. Hollywood.

Blaming President Obama for everything has become so popular, folks on the left use it sarcastically. Burned your toast? "Thanks Obama." Flat tire? "Thanks Obama." Zit in the middle of your forehead? "Thanks Obama." We use it in jest, while conservatives use it as fact. It's all his fault, whatever it is.

And the cat just threw up under the dining room table. Thanks, Obama.