Heart of Darkness: Not the Conrad Novel

Before I begin this latest blog rant, I want to reply to a question I received about my recommendations, which I write about at the end of each post.

I do provide links to news stories, products, movies, TV shows, etc that I recommend.  I do this so you can find them easily.  I have never, ever been paid to do this, nor do I receive any compensation for it. In fact, it hadn’t even entered my mind until someone emailed me to ask.

So, no, if you click on those links they won’t do anything but take you to a site related to whatever it is I am recommending. And if a link is broken, please feel free to tell me so I can delete it and/or put up a new one.

Right.  I think it’s obvious to my Facebook friends that I am in a fairly bad mood these days.  It’s because I am so tired of waiting for people to grow up or shut up.

Ever since Trump announced his candidacy, and continuing to this very day, a certain percentage of people have decided that all their little resentments that have built up through the years can now be fully expressed everywhere, and often.  Even if they didn’t vote for Trump and think that he’s an ignorant narcissist.

Some of the same prejudiced remarks Trumpites and Trump himself and incidentally most Republicans and some Democrats and definitely 3rd party people express are now leaking out amongst people who claim to be free of that kind of hate.

“People should lose their benefits because they voted Trump in”.   This assumes that most people who voted for Trump are poor.  As I pointed out in a previous blog post, the average salary of the average Trump supporter is $72,000.   These are not poor people, not by a long shot.

“The Republicans now will make poor people work instead of getting benefits.”  This is just plain stupid.  There has been a work requirement for people under 55 who are not out of work due to a disability for a long time.

Of course, I suppose they could be talking about single mothers with children, the oft-used target of mean and ignorant people everywhere.  I thought that way of thinking went out with the “welfare queen” crap that died out years ago.

People who I never would have thought would harbor such erroneous and hateful thinking have been surprising me at a fairly constant rate since I have gotten into checking Facebook again.  Some of them I just unfriended.  Others I just accused of being mean-spirited.

Finally, I just posted a status that called them all dickheads.

Look, how many of these people ever had to rely on social programs?  How many of them are white and male?  Why, especially now that we have an incompetent president-elect who has surrounded himself by barely-humans whose main delight in life is dismantling every entitlement program there is, are the attacks on the poor and people of color increasing?

Almost as bad are the “progressives” who feel the need to apologize to indigenous and other people while at the same time attempting to hijack the same peoples’ movements because they think they “know better”.

Or they think they need absolution for their guilt, which is a hell of a lot easier than looking inward at their own shit and being aware of how their privilege plays out in American society – which they do nothing about.

These are the same people who run “non-violent protest training” (can you see me rolling my eyes?), or who finance their “activism” so they can make claims, such as one white male environmentalist did, that they are the leadership of the battle over the pipeline at Standing Rock.  Oh, PLEASE.

Even on “Giving Tuesday”, when I posted a plea on Facebook for people to do just ONE kind act for someone who really needed it, I got 2 “likes” and a comment from a friend (who is also on disability) who told me to “not hold my breath” waiting for people to respond.

No one – not one person – related a kindness they had performed.  Uh, except for me, because I took my EBT card and bought *gasp* holiday candy to give out to others on the bus – because in this area, everyone who rides the bus is poor.  Wasn’t much but it was what I could do.

I state that not to brag, but to point out that NO ONE ELSE reported making any attempt to do something nice for someone else.

Thank you, you know who you are, for doing something nice for me.  Which I am still enjoying to this day.

Instead, there were the usual snarky remarks about poor people (but none about Black Lives Matter, because I unfriended everyone who would post “Blue Lives Matter, Too!” and other clueless remarks long ago), even wishes that we all would lose our benefits, and other equally repugnant thoughts.

There were – and still are – dire warnings about how this new administration is going to screw everyone over.  They’re right, the warnings are mostly accurate.  And I have no problem with people pouring out into the streets to protest Trump and his policies.  I think that’s a good thing.

But let’s not make a cottage industry about it, ok?  Why in hell does anyone need “training” for a demonstration (which probably at some point includes passing the hat)?  I was 14 when I was a marshall at a demonstration, which meant I (and many others) walked along the sides of the demonstration and told people to stop agitating.  IT’S EASY.  NO TRAINING REQUIRED.

I even saw a post from someone who insisted she needed training to make a banner!  What??? Get a sheet, get poster paint, write your slogan.  Again, something I did often as a teenager, no training required.

Does anyone doubt that people charge for trainings or t shirts or banners or whatever?  Or at the very least decide they need entertainment at a demonstration, of all places?  That’s rather self-centered and besides the point, don’t you think?

The exception in the past would probably be the first Earth Day, but that wasn’t promoted as a demonstration.

My point is this: try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, really do it.  Really think about what his/her life is like day-to-day, life that I continually try to illustrate for y’all so you can truly understand what it’s like to be poor and ill.

I am trying to grab you by the shirt collar and pull you up to force you to look, to see, to notice. Not so you can feel guilty and/or ask for forgiveness, but so you can DO SOMETHING.  It can be a small something, or a large something, I don’t care.  It just has to mean something to someone else, to make a dent in the horror of existence that is poverty/illness/bigotry.

You can empower others instead of trying to lead, especially if the struggle is not yours.  Even if you justify your attitude by saying something pithy like, “Clean water is everyone’s struggle”, you need to look inside yourself and ask yourself why you think indigenous people are incapable of leading their own struggle.  Hint: it’s a form of racism, sorry to break it to you.

Because if you cannot look inward, if you cannot examine your motives/attitudes, you are more of a hindrance than a help.  You are not only getting in your own way, in terms of personal growth, you’re getting in other peoples’ ways without even being aware of it.

My main work as a therapist was to promote awareness of self.  It’s really not even hard or painful, it’s just change.   It takes practice, every day.  But it becomes a part of you, like driving a car or other “automatic” behavior.

Then you can pass that skill on to others, by example or even by pushing a bit.  In that way, there eventually comes a cultural/political shift – you know, like the one that enabled President Obama to be elected twice.

But make no mistake, it wasn’t enough of a cultural/political shift so we could celebrate the demise of racism.  Oh no, the latest election should have taught you that, if you weren’t already aware that we don’t live in a “post-racial” world.

It was movement in the right direction.  Just treating people as if they are human, recognizing suffering and trying to relieve it when you can, and at the very least not causing further harm.

You know, acting like a caring, intelligent adult.  Easy.

Today’s weird news isn’t really weird, but I like Grumpy Cat, so…from the website SeattlePi, Grumpy Cat’s Top 10 Pet Peeves:

http://www.seattlepi.com/entertainment/article/Grumpy-Cat-counts-down-to-the-new-year-with-top-10632403.php

Today’s recommendation is for something you probably already watch: the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC.  I like her because she does her research, explains things in historical context, and often knows things no one else does (or at least she knows them first).

Be good.  Be kind.   “Life is real only then, when I am.” – Gurdjieff  (ask)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make No Mistake: This Was Never About Jobs

Brief health update: I am being tested – for the 3rd time – for pheochromocytoma, which is an adrenal gland tumor, and also being tested for carcinoid syndrome, which is a tumor ‘somewhere’. The endocrinologist thinks the tests will be negative, judging from my past test results, but he wants to make sure because my symptoms indicate one of those two diseases. He told me as I left that he might have to send me to Pittsburgh, which is the default answer for doctors here when they don’t know what’s wrong with you.  I can’t go to Pittsburgh, as I have no way to get there nor money for a plane or train (plus taxi, plus motel, etc).

At this point I would just be happy if they found a way to control the symptoms.  This illness has completely derailed my life.

Anyway, on to the subject at hand: the election.

I was dismayed that Trump won, and I was very disappointed that the Democrats didn’t get the turnout they should have.  I should mention, I live smack dab in the middle of “Trump country”, which is Central Pennsylvania.  The polling place I voted at had very long lines, and that should have been the first clue that Clinton wouldn’t win – my polling place never has a line, usually.

I also noticed a lot of apparent first-time voters, judging by how many people needed to have their hands held as they were walked through the process of using a voting machine.  No further comment on that.

So…Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but lost in the electoral college.  This is the 2nd time in 16 years that this has happened to a Democrat running for president.  But since she won the popular vote, this indicates – at least to me – that Trump doesn’t exactly have an overwhelming mandate from the American people.

Now, I have been watching news shows all through this election and beyond, and I have to say I disagree with the general consensus that Trump won because people have “economic anxiety” and that we “have to listen to them”.

No.  And no.

I live amongst the people who voted this guy into office.  I have heard their views – unwillingly, mostly – on the bus, on the senior van, in the hospital, in the shops, and so on.  Not one of them ever mentioned jobs when they went on their “I love Trump” rants.

They mentioned getting back to “the way things were, when no one was politically correct”. The translation?  “When I could be disrespectful and mean to anyone not like me, and no one would challenge me.”

They mentioned “taking our country back.”  Translation?  “I don’t want all these brown and black folks in my neighborhood/town, and I certainly don’t want to have to look at them or interact with them.”  Similar to that is “I don’t want these thugs coming to live here from Philadelphia, selling their drugs.”  Translation?  “African-Americans who live in this area are thugs and drug dealers, and are responsible for the drug epidemic.”

Never mind that the heroin problem here is multi-generational.  I worked as a drug and alcohol counselor and most of the heroin addicts I treated got the habit from parents, grandparents, cousins, etc – in other words, this heroin problem has been around for many, many years.

But it’s just another thing to blame on minorities, another justification for racist thought.  That is never acceptable, no matter what form it takes.

Not one time did anyone mention jobs, except as an afterthought about when this area had a lot of factories.  It was part of the landscape, not the central reason these people are so angry.

The closest I heard to anything like that was at a talk some man gave about his life as a machinist for Slinky.  He mentioned that he had seen machinery jobs leaving this area for many years, but he still told his kids that they should be machinists, too, and not be “lazy, like those kids who do programming.”

As far as I am concerned, if he saw the writing on the wall and still steered his kids towards being machinists instead of learning marketable skills (like a good parent would), then that’s on him.  He has some hang-up about certain skills and certainly about higher education, and his stubbornness hurt his kids.  It’s his fault.

No one in this area thinks Trump – or anyone else – can bring back the factories that dotted the landscape in Central PA.  That ship sailed long ago, in the 1970s.   The owners of the means of production decided they could make more money overseas, it’s as simple as that.  They weren’t and aren’t going to come back just because people want them to.

The people here know that.  A lot of them, too, are retired military people who have never worked a production job in their lives.  And the average Trump supporter pulls down $72,000 per year (“Trump Voters Earn a Lot More Than You Might Think”, Josh Hatner, USA Today online, 5/5/2016).

These are not poor folks.  They own houses, and cars, and bitch about how much they have to pay for Medicare (which is based on their income, so I really don’t feel sorry for them).  They are comfortable in their little world and they resent non-white people moving into the area.

They complain about “having to be politically correct” even as they say hateful things when other white people are around (I hate that, their assumption that because someone is white they will agree with whatever bigoted shit they care to spout – and I make that reaction clear to whomever tries that with me).

They don’t even want to discuss race or gender, because then they would have to examine their own racist and sexist viewpoints…and let’s face it, they don’t want to do that because it makes them feel uncomfortable.

Luckily, they feel, someone came along who would say all the stuff they were thinking, and now he’s president!  Now they have carte blanche to be as ugly and horrible to others as they want to be, and it’s ok because Trump got elected.

In some ways, as much as people get on the news shows and express disgust with Trump’s and his supporters’ racist/sexist/xenophobic/lgbt-hating ideas, backward and wrongheaded ideas have now been normalized.  This is what bugs me about people, liberals all, who keep insisting that Trump supporters are not bigoted, and we need to “understand them.”

Most progressives already do understand these people.  It’s why we won’t stand to let them get away with anything – not their rhetoric, or certainly not their hateful actions.  What liberals like Michael Moore – who, to me, is just a blowhard even if I agree with some things he says – want us to do is pander to bigots and racists.

They want us to “reassure” these hateful people that they are not under attack.  I won’t, and I can’t, do that.

They are under attack for a reason.  Well, for several reasons, actually.  Their viewpoints that they hold represent:

Racism

Sexism

Xenophobia

Anti-Semitism

Anti-LGBT

And on and on.  These ideas, this yearning to return to a time when only straight, white men were listened to, and everyone else was either vilified or ignored, are not compatible with the values our country is supposed to stand for.

Just Make It Stop

Brief health note: I have an appointment with an endocrinologist on November 15.  Hopefully, we can get to the cause of the flushing and labile blood pressure.  And since I have changed my diet, I haven’t felt nauseated and have managed to stay out of the hospital for 3 weeks.

Today I was going to write about how silly/weird/dangerous Trump is making America look to the rest of the world, then I was going to write about the polls in various states regarding the presidential election.  Serious stuff.

But my heart just wasn’t in any of it.

I am sick of hearing and reading about politics.  I am ready for the election to just.be.over.

I mentioned possibly not watching the third and final debate when I last blogged – and I didn’t.  I did try to watch the Alfred E. Smith dinner, but I didn’t watch for long…it was painful.

This dinner, which is televised every time it is on, has always been a funny and light break from the political debates of the day.  I usually watch it and laugh.  It is a non-partisan dinner held by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York to raise money for their charities.

But this year, Donald Trump, ever the out-of-step doofus, either didn’t understand the point of the speeches, or just decided he was going to use the dinner as a platform for his vitriol against Hillary Clinton (I tend to think the latter), and he got booed for it.

Booed.  I think that’s a first for the event.

It wasn’t that his jokes were bad – though they were – it’s that he had so few of them.  He did throw his wife Melania under the bus, making a joke about how she copied the First Lady’s speech.  But self-deprecating humor?  Nowhere to be seen.

At one point he compared himself to Jesus, stating he (Trump) also worked for his dad as a carpenter.  For 3 weeks.  Charming.

I couldn’t watch any more of it.  I am just so sick of the sound of Trump’s voice, and of the poisonous lies that come out of his mouth.  He has no sense of humor unless you count his making fun of people who are other-abled and his insulting “pet names” he has for anyone he doesn’t like as “humor”.

Trump brings down every venue he’s in.  Unless, of course, you are a hate-filled misogynist who enjoys laughing at other peoples’ expense, and thinks name-calling is funny.

One person I do like listening to is Elizabeth Warren.  She has such high energy, and such an obvious affection for Hillary and women in this country in general, that it’s always a treat for me to watch her.

She took Trump’s remark about Hillary being a “nasty woman” and embraced it for all of us. Specifically, she stated

“Get this, Donald.  Nasty women are tough.  Nasty women are smart.  And nasty women vote.  And, on November 8, we nasty women are going to march our nasty feet to cast our nasty votes to get you out of our lives forever.”  (“Elizabeth Warren Rallies ‘Nasty Women’ to Vote for Clinton”, Asma Khalid, NPR website, 10/24/16)

Yeah!  And all over the country, women are referring to themselves as “nasty women”.  That did pick me up for awhile.

But I am ready for the election to be over, and clearly I think that Hillary is going to win.  The latest AP poll has her leading nationally by 14 points.  I wish I could say I am surprised her lead isn’t larger, but one thing this election period has taught me is that there are far more reactionaries in this country than I had previously thought.

It’s still quite astounding to me that the GOP is running a candidate like Trump, and I wonder if there isn’t a split coming after the election between traditional conservatives and the alt right, resulting in a 3rd party.

That would obviously be a big advantage to the progressives in this country.

But for now, I wish the right would just all shut up.  They don’t have anything interesting to say, they have been insulting women and minorities for years, and if they want to fracture into a hundred different political parties it would suit me just fine.

November 8 can’t come fast enough for me.

Recommendations for this week….the new season of Longmire is on Netflix.  Great series, and worth a look.

Be good.  Be kind.   Happy Samhain!

 

 

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

domesticviolence1…and also breast cancer awareness month.  I lost a sister to breast cancer, years ago, and I would encourage all my female readers to get regular mammograms.

My focus on domestic violence is mainly because my life was almost lost to it 6 1/2 years ago, so I have first-hand knowledge of the effects it can have on someone.

The night I left my abuser, he had fallen asleep holding a tire iron.  I had no doubt that, once he woke up, he would have beaten me to death with it.  And so I tip-toed out of the house and out to my car, where I had stashed a packed bag in the trunk.

If I had not had a car, I don’t know what I would have done.  I had actually asked 2 people for help leaving (in the form of “come get me”) but both of them let me down.  They ignored my pleas and I was on my own.  Now the car is gone, due to a catastrophic engine failure, and I find myself in a different kind of dire situation due to lack of one – being able to move closer to one of my kids so they can help me in an emergency.

Very soon after, I found the apartment I still live in today, and I was able to get the 2 kittens away from my abuser by “trading” them for the computer I had left behind (the kitties have been living with me happily ever since).

The nightmares have stopped.  I feel safe in my home.  I am ok.  Kitties are happy and healthy.

But I have always thought about other people who have gone – or are going through – the same kind of abuse I did, and how there are still not many services around for them.  I think about how I would run a shelter – one that included pets and also adult children with disabilities – that could really address this problem of domestic abuse.

To have someone endure abuse, and then have to decide if he/she can leave pets behind is an additional burden placed on an already stressed-out survivor.  As far as his or her adult children go, most survivors choose to stay and not leave their child behind.  Most shelters – and this includes the one I fled to – will not allow adult children to stay in the shelter with the survivor.

This is unacceptable.  This policy prevents people from getting the help they need.

In an ideal shelter – in a shelter I envision – there wouldn’t be one house with bunk beds in each room.  It would be more like a compound, with individual units (like motel rooms) where each family and their pet(s) could stay while transitioning to permanent housing.

Counselors would be assigned to the units (maybe 1 counselor to 4 units, for example), and they would help the survivor obtain whatever was needed to help him or her start a new life – whether it be permanent housing, a job, further education, medical assistance, or other resources.

That is my vision.  Unfortunately, I am unable to move on this due to my recurring transportation and illness issues, but maybe this will spark some action from someone who is able to help.

This vision is one of the things that motivates me to continue to push to get well.  Clearly, a shelter that operated as I think it should would cost more than how they are run today, but that’s where grant writing and fundraising come into play.  It also would help to have a paying job on the side.

That’s where the motivation is for me to go back to school and either get my PhD, or find some way to get a license (licensed professional counselor).

So much to do, so little time.  But I have to get well first.  And I may have to travel out of state (or at least to Pittsburgh or Hershey) to get the medical care I need.

On Friday I will see one of my primary care physicians and see how quickly I can get an appointment with an endocrinologist.  Medicare being what it is, I can’t even try for an appointment without a referral from my pcp.  Fingers crossed that I can get an appointment soon, and that it’s in Blair County where I live.

I am a dreamer.  I am a survivor.  And right now, I can use all the help I can get.

Today’s recommendation, if you can stomach it, would be the 3rd and final presidential debate tonight at 9 PM EST.  I watched the other 2 but am not sure how much of this final one I will watch – my blood pressure is high enough, thanks.

The Saturday Night Live parody this Saturday should be quite funny, however, and no doubt we will have every channel doing post-debate analysis anyway, so if you don’t watch it live I don’t think you will miss anything.

In the meantime, here is a short clip of our president that illustrates, for me, how much I will miss him when he leaves office:

I will miss First Lady Michelle Obama, too:

Be good.  Be kind.  Take care of one another.

Blood Pressure’s Insane, Out With Whole Grain, and the Presidential Campaign

It’s been about 3 months since I last wrote in my blog.  I’ve been ill.

My blood pressure doesn’t want to come down, and the doctors will keep switching my meds until they get it under control.  And, YES, I’ve already tried meditation and all the other “natural” remedies…there seems to be some problem in my body that’s causing this and the other symptom of flushing.

The stomach problems I have been having are finally being properly addressed – I have a hiatal hernia, an inflamed esophagus, and something called gastroparesis.

Aside #1: Gastroparesis means that my digestive system is really super slow.  As in, it takes about 16-18 hours to digest a meal.  The symptoms are: feeling full after only a few bites, reflux, nausea, and sometimes vomiting.

Sometimes it is due to diabetes, but not in my case.  Mine is “idiopathic”, which means they don’t know why this is happening.

The solution to this gastroparesis is to change what and how I eat.  I am to eat 4-6 small meals a day (so far, not been able to eat that much), and I have to ditch my entire way of eating, grrrr.

My “normal” diet has included raw fruits and vegetables and food high in fiber.  Those foods aggravate my condition so…

Out with brown rice, in with white rice.  Out with whole wheat bread, in with white bread.  Out with raw fruits and vegetables, in with cooked-to-death products like applesauce and canned pears.

Basically, I have had to scuttle everything I know about a “healthy diet” and replace it with low fiber food so my stomach can get better.  That also means a lot of vegetable broth, Jello, yogurt, and other easily digested food.  Ugh!

The other symptoms I am having – high blood pressure and flushing – are still unsolved and now I have to go see an endocrinologist.  Might be a tumor somewhere, or some adrenal issue. So, the search continues.

Since July, I have been in the hospital about every 2 weeks, mostly due to the stomach issues but being kept in hospital because my blood pressure would not go down.

If the systolic number (the top number) is 180 or over, and/or the diastolic number (the bottom number) is 110 or higher, then I have to go to the hospital.  I’ve been out of the hospital a week now and so far my blood pressure hasn’t consistently gotten that high, so maybe I can finally keep out of the hospital for longer than 2 weeks.  It approaches that, and so far has been “very high”, but not a hypertensive crisis.

Aside #2: I really want to get back to my volunteer work, but have to give things time so I can make sure I can actually meet my volunteer commitment before I go back.  I need the stipend, I will admit. 

Meanwhile, as I have had a LOT of down-time, I have been watching a great deal of news, and also of course I have watched both presidential debates.

Wild, isn’t it?  I can’t recall a time when we’ve had such a dumbass like Trump running for president, and I certainly can’t recall a time when the sexism flew so freely – oh, except for the time when Hillary Clinton was first lady and had the nerve to propose a healthcare plan (that’s sarcasm).

I am convinced that much of the opposition to Hillary is due to the sexist idea that women can’t be presidents.   The reaction to her is too vitriolic and hateful to be anything else.

And, as usual, when you empower the far right to speak their minds, what you get is ugly rhetoric and hatred of anything that is, say, modern or post-1950.

Ah, the 1950s – when people “kept in their place”.  White men had the final say in everything, and everyone else was told to shut up.

To those people I say, “Shut up and crawl back under your rocks.  You can’t stop progress and, like it or not, one of the absolute best things about our country is its diversity.”

The thing that gets to me is how smug the right is.  They have those smirks on their faces as they talk about their “moral superiority”, even as their candidate confesses to sexually assaulting women because “when you’re a star, they let you do what you want” (“Trump Recorded Having Extremely Lewd Conversation About Women in 2005”, David A. Farenthold, Washington Post online, 10/8/16).

They spread lies about Hillary Clinton that are based solely on the trash that comes out of their candidate’s mouth.  If they would bother to fact-check, they would see that the liar is their candidate, not Hillary.  But…fact-checking is harder than just repeating outrageous gossip on Facebook, and apparently not as fun, either.

My sisters!!  What is wrong with you?  Did your parents not teach you critical thinking skills?

I often wonder which generation raised these idiots.  I guess maybe the one that came before mine, the ones who preferred to defend the Vietnam War and who spread fear about African-American citizens having the same rights and opportunities as white people enjoy.

That would kind of square with the “elderly vote” – Trump’s base of 70-90 year olds.  You know, my generation has been referred to as “the me generation”, but our attitudes pale next to the entitled, selfish, hateful ones of the people who came before us.

As for those who came after us, I have no idea why they are so reactionary and frightened.  I’m sure, though, dear readers, that you will be happy to comment about that on this blog.

Again, I feel it all comes down to the inability or unwillingness to take in multiple forms of information (not Breitbart or Fox News), evaluate, and form an educated opinion.  After all, it’s so much easier to react emotionally and commiserate with others of like minds than to form an independent opinion based on facts.

A cursory look at the most popular blogs and Facebook pages bear this out.

“Let’s all get hysterical!  Let’s spread fear!  We can get thousands of “likes” if we do!”

A Caution to Women Over 50: Our Symptoms are Different

I know there is a lot going on in the world right now, but today’s post will be somewhat brief because I just got out of the hospital last week.  What follows is a health update, but it is also advice for all women over 50, just to keep in the back of your minds.

Tuesday, June 29, I went for a doctor’s appointment so he could schedule an operation to remove my gallbladder.  He looked at the ultrasound and told me he would take it out next week.  Hooray!!

When I got home, I began to feel worse than usual.  I felt as if I had swallowed a bunch of acid of some kind.  Antacids didn’t help, as I couldn’t keep them down.  I couldn’t keep water or anything else down – and those of you with acid indigestion know how awful that feels when your stomach is intent on expelling copious amounts of bile.

And so it went on this way all day and all night on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday at about 11 AM I decided maybe I should call the doctor.  I was sweating and could not stop vomiting (I know, it’s gross, but I promise you I have a good reason to be specific about the symptoms).  I didn’t have any pain, but I did have a slight fever.  I figured it was just a gallbladder attack from hell.

I called my primary care physician – Dr. Wonderful.  I spoke with his nurse (that was disappointing) and she told me to call the gallbladder surgeon to ask what I should do.

So I called Dr. Kaneshiki, the excellent surgeon (I am providing his name as he is highly thought of, and if you ever need a surgeon in Pennsylvania…), and his nurse told me to go to the ER.

I texted Nancy Downstairs and woke her up, and told her I was calling an ambulance.  She said she’d drive me so 10 minutes later we were on our way to the ER at UPMC Altoona.

Thankfully, there were no other patients and they took me back and hooked me up to an EKG, took temp, bp, etc.

Tech: Um, do you normally have a fast heart rate?

I told him I didn’t and they then whisked me off to some room where a nurse was again attaching a heart monitor to me and yelling (yes she was, I am not exaggerating) “Quit moving, you’re messing up the machine”.

I wasn’t squirming or anything but it’s hard to be still when you’re sick to your stomach like that.

I said, “Maybe the lines are all over the place because it’s a heart problem?”

The nurse glared at me.  Touchy!

The ER doctor came in, barking orders at Mean Nurse for meds and such, and he put some pasty stuff on my chest.  He kept asking if I was in pain (I wasn’t).

Doctor:  Really? No pain anywhere?

Me: No.  What’s all this fuss about for a gallbladder?

Doctor: Gallbladder?  You’ve had a minor heart attack.  That’s why we drew all that blood, to look for the enzymes that indicate that.

Me: That’s going to screw up my surgery next week, I bet!

I was quite surprised.

Aside #1: Like most people, I had read things about how women’s symptoms for heart attack are different but I really didn’t internalize that information, I guess, because when I think of “heart attack”, I think of someone turning red in the face, gasping for air, and clutching his chest while stating that his arm and/or neck hurts.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I recall reading that women’s symptoms were different, but I guess maybe I didn’t pay attention.

The cardiologist came in and told me he had to do a heart catheterization on me, to see which (if any) of my arteries were blocked.  Coincidentally, he is also Nancy Downstairs’ cardiologist, so she came down to the waiting room for the cath lab to find out what was going on.

Aside #2: It really helps to have someone do that, as often they will recall things the doctor said that the patient, in her distress, won’t remember.  Our hospitals need patient advocates so that every patient can have someone in that position to assist them.  The only place I know of that has patient advocates is Minneapolis.

I was awake for the heart catheterization, which really hurts a lot.  What they do is run a catheter up the artery in your arm (or groin…fortunately he used my arm) all the way up to your heart.  They are looking to see if there are blockages or anything abnormal.

But of course me being a baby about things like that, I am just repeating “OwOwOwOw” sort of like a mantra, while the cardiologist is telling me, “But look!  You have perfectly clear arteries! That’s really good!”

Aside #3: It wasn’t my finest hour, but at least I didn’t cry or yell or get hysterical.  I did sneak a peek at my arteries and I have to admit, they did look pretty cool.  Must be all those years as a vegetarian. And now I can scratch off “wonder about the plaque in my arteries” on my list of “things I wonder about the older I get”.

Then they took me to some MRI machine, injected some dye, and looked at my neck arteries. That wasn’t too bad except in the beginning, when the tech kept getting the placement wrong, and would move me so far into the machine that it went over my head…which I alerted her to in a voice just slightly shy of full panic mode:

“No no no too far in no it’s over my head no no move it back you’re not MRI-ing my brain you know, I am going to get off this table if you don’t move back!”  Or words to that effect.

Aside #4: I was locked in closets as a child as punishment (yes, really), and have been claustrophobic ever since. No dosage of benzodiazepines works for me when I am approaching full panic mode in that situation, nor do the headphones that some places provide in an attempt to drown out the banging the machines do – they never have Tool or Alice in Chains anyway, which actually might help if I could sing along.

Apparently that test had ok results, too, because I never heard about it again.

I spent 2 nights in the hospital, under observation, and was told at discharge on Friday that I was cleared by the cardiologist for gallbladder surgery the following Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the surgery went as planned and I am now minus one gallbladder.  I feel so much better!  Of course, they have me on more meds, which I am not crazy about (1 for blood pressure, 1 for heart, 1 for the cholesterol problem I don’t have but “just in case”), but…well…doctors.

And the cause of the heart attack?  The consensus, for now, is “stress”.  Eating better and exercising will help a lot, but my main stressors are poverty-related, so I will have to do better coping with these conditions.  Transportation (length and type, I don’t mean “assholes on the bus” lol), living far from family, and not having set goals all take their toll.

Aside #5: After giving it some thought, I am going to add “being single” here to the list.  I don’t like admitting it, but I do think that I am one of these people who is happier when I am in a decent relationship.  “Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow”, or so states a Swedish proverb (ThinkExist.com).  Not everyone is like that, and I wasn’t like that for a long time, but after recovering from domestic violence I think I am ready again to share both joys and sorrows.

Anyway, to the women who read this blog, and to the men who have women in their lives…please pay attention to symptoms such as nausea/vomiting that lasts more than a day, with or without sweating.

I had very bad fatigue also, and had to stop after 2 or 3 steps on the stairs to my apartment (which is only 11 stairs up).

What I did not have was shortness of breath or chest pain.  That’s what tripped me up – I thought I had to have those 2 symptoms!  So, if you or someone you love has weird symptoms, even without chest pain or shortness of breath, go to the emergency room.  Far better to be safe than sorry.

And if you are thinking, “I can’t afford to go the the ER!” then ask yourself this: Can your loved ones afford not to have you around?  Hospital bills can be negotiated; your presence on earth cannot be.  My heartbeats were wildly unstable when I arrived at the ER, and I don’t know if I would have survived if I had just “toughed it out”.

Please just remember that when it comes to heart attacks, things are not always as they seem.

I don’t have any weirdness except for a “sort of” recommendation for a movie called “Oz the Great and Powerful”, starring James Franco.  It’s sappy, it’s happily-ever-after, it’s a morality tale, but I really liked it.  Suitable for kids over, say, 8 or so, and not nearly as scary as “The Wizard of Oz”.   I am a James Franco fan so I enjoyed seeing him in this part.

Be good.  Be kind.  Be mindful.

Lives Ended, Nearly Everyone Offended, and a Wedding Unattended

This post was written over several days, so might seem a little choppy.  I am still really sick.

On Sunday, June 12, a gunman stormed a gay nightclub and shot 102 people, killing 49 of them. He called 911 and a tv station – and even posted a Facebook message – pledging his allegiance to “ISIS” and said he was killing people because of American foreign policy in Iraq, amongst other things.  I don’t want to get into specifics because I don’t think his “message” is anything more than the hateful ravings of an extremist.

He chose “Latin Night”, and there was some suggestion that he had some problem with Latinos. One of the survivors – Patience Carter, an intern at a Philadelphia Fox TV affiliate – was told by the shooter that she was safe because he wasn’t targeting African-American people (“Patience Carter: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know”, Heavy website, Daniel S. Levine, 6/15/2016).

Other than that, no one is sure why the popular gay nightclub was selected by this creep.  His wife, who is cooperating with the FBI, has stated that she helped her husband “case” the nightclub and also Disney World, and apparently she knew what he was planning to do.

Her excuse for not telling anyone?  She was trying to talk him out of it, she says.

I think – and this is my opinion only – that she knew, she approved of what he was doing, and only after the feds traced the cell phones she and her husband used during the attack (because some self-absorbed young people, no matter how insane, have to jabber on the phone and post things online no matter what they’re doing) did she “cooperate” because she knew they had her dead-to-rights and she didn’t want to get the death penalty.

There is no excuse for not telling anyone when you know for sure that someone is going to kill another person (or 49!).  None!  Some have suggested that maybe she was afraid of him, a battered woman.  But there is no evidence of that, and let me tell you, that as a survivor of some horrific physical abuse…

…one thing – sometimes the ONLY thing – that we survivors have in common is that we are much more likely to run off and tell on the abuser if he is going to target someone else.  I don’t mean “maybe some future victim at some point”, I mean “this person is going to be hurt or killed if I don’t do something”.

Like our kids.  Like our pets.  Like someone the abuser has named to us as his target.  So I don’t buy that she knew but was too afraid to tell the police or the FBI.  I would bet others in his family knew, too.

And this guy was American.  He was born here to immigrants from Afghanistan.  What a way to pay back a country that took your parents in.

His father supports the Taliban and has run for president of Afghanistan, all from the safety of his American home.  He has bank accounts in Germany, and has solicited funds online, according to investigators.  No one seems to know how he supported his family (“Omar Mateen’s Father ‘s Bank Records Eyed, Says Source”, Newsday website, Newsday Staff, 6/16/2016).

But we don’t arrest people for how they think, or for soliciting funds online.  That’s not how our country works.  We don’t hassle people for expressing political views, usually (many on the left might disagree, and I would be one of those I guess).  Some political views.

So there wasn’t really any way to prevent this event, law enforcement says currently.  A few people have stated they told the FBI that this killer was making “radical” statements, or expressing violent ideas and plans, but so far…we hear no response from the FBI.

Of course, this all just fuels xenophobia and anti-Islamic sentiment, both of which I do not feel/think/support.  And, of course, Trump uses this to crow about how he keeps warning the American people about “Islamic terrorists”.  He would just lock everyone up, according to what they believe.

And…the House and Senate argued over 2 gun control bills – and didn’t pass either one. Conservatives made the “slippery slope” argument, and also insisted that semi-automatic assault weapons are “recreational”.

I don’t think we ought to allow anyone – besides our military – to have weapons that are designed to be used in military conflicts.  The idea that the American people have to arm themselves because their own government is going to one day declare martial law and then somehow confiscate over 3 million guns is beyond ridiculous – it’s paranoid and scary that so many people (like the NRA) actually believe this.

Aside #1: Of course, I would prefer not to have any war, ever.  I don’t like the thought of war and I pretty much oppose all of it.  WWII was the only legitimate reason for us to go to war, and I wish we had gone sooner because we might have prevented the Holocaust.  I don’t think, though, we ought to have bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Every war since WWII has been for the sake of money, and I oppose that vehemently.  Life – all life – is too precious.

These “patriots” actually think that their government is going to attack them, militarily.  And take their guns.  And put them in some kind of camps.  Because the government is their enemy.

They have survivalist organizations.  They have training camps.  They are ignorant, scary people.

You want these people defending you in bars and other public places?  You want more people to die in the crossfire because these “Muricans” feel they have to kill everyone in sight?

Their supporters are Trump, the NRA, Mitch McConnell, and others who spout their support of such lunacy – though usually they couch it in different words.  They imply, they hint, but their crazy gun-nut fans know what they mean.

Why?

When did “patriotism” come to mean “hatred of our own government”, “twisting the constitution so that only certain people have rights”, and “stockpiling assault weapons to shoot anyone I deem suspicious”?

Who lives that way?  And why do people with money and power, i.e., gun manufacturers and politicians, care what these stupid yahoos think?  Certainly they aren’t a majority; most Americans do not want people to own assault weapons (57%, according to a recent poll by CBS news; “Poll: Majority Backs Assault Weapons Ban”, The Hill website, Jessie Hellmann, 6/15/20160).

This gunman got his assault gun (AR 15) and handgun legally, even after passing background checks and some kind of psychological exam (though I can tell you, those are useless) – so “stricter” laws won’t help with this.  The weapon needs to be completely unavailable.  There’s no legitimate use for it besides killing people.

But, despite some elderly Democrats staging a sit-in at the House of Representatives until they get some bills debated and passed, nothing’s being accomplished.  It’s painful to see this group of people – older than I am – sitting on a floor that you know is causing them a lot of physical pain (“A Sit-In on the House Floor Over Gun Control”, The Atlantic website, Nora Kelly, 6/22/2016).

The House has no filibuster rules as the Senate does, so this is what the politicians came up with.  I guess, for some, it’s a throwback to the old days of protesting.

Oh well, if it works…ok.  I will support anything that gets any kind of gun control laws passed.  I am sick of the NRA and their cult of death.

In the background of all this important stuff, we have Trump reading a speech off a teleprompter – part of his “improved, more presidential” so-called change – attacking Mrs. Clinton with no proof of anything he’s said. The only difference now is he yells less.  He is still trying to blame her for everything he thinks her husband did 20 years ago, calling her “lyin’ corrupt Hillary”, blaming her for every conflict the US has gotten into, bringing up things the Republicans have tried to indict her with but can’t (after many investigations and so on), and just making things up.

MSNBC, normally a somewhat liberal channel, is gushing all over this “new Trump”, stating he now has a chance to win and so on.  Claiming that Mrs. Clinton is personally attacking him, rather than pointing out that she is merely exposing his history of failed businesses and quoting him verbatim all the evil that spews forth from his mouth.

Aside #2: It seems to me that MSNBC doesn’t really care who wins, as long as they can get entertainment value out of the candidacy (except maybe for Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes, who really do seem to care). CNN is not much better, as it seems they have nearly doubled-down on the amount of Trump surrogates they have on their shows.  Really sickening.

Let this idiot pay for his air time, like every other candidate.  Oh wait, he can’t – he only has $1 million left, because he spent much of his campaign money paying himself and his family (“Donald Trump’s Self-Funding Includes Payments to Family and His Companies”, NY Times website, Alan Rappeport, 6/21/2016).  I guess he must still be manipulating the TV press for his own purposes.

And don’t expect him to debate Mrs. Clinton, ever.  I can’t see how he can do that, because she has knowledge about the world and how the US works, and he doesn’t.  He doesn’t even seem to understand the concept of the branches of government and what each one does.  He doesn’t seem familiar with the Constitution.  He doesn’t understand foreign policy or how to treat other world leaders with respect.

She will wipe the floor with him.  Unless he somehow can negotiate to have some aide standing right next to him, passing him notes or whispering in his ear.  Or maybe he can feign having a cold…for months.  Or laryngitis, so his surrogate has to literally speak for him.  I don’t know how he’s going to get out of debating her, but he will try, because he’s stupid.

Yep, he is. He’s not intelligent, he’s not savvy, he’s not educated.

He’s just a guy who inherited a shitload of money from his daddy, who only continues to be rich because he stiffs people, defaults on loans, and pulls his money out before the businesses he mismanages fails.  He also was an obnoxious TV “star” – one of those outrageous and disgusting individuals that a certain percentage of Americans find so amusing (I have never watched any “reality” TV like that, because I find people like that aggravating).

He is free market capitalism personified.  Why anyone, especially working people, would think this guy won’t exploit anyone and anything if he became president, is beyond me.  That’s what he does.  He is in it for HIM, no one else.  He has no love for the people.

Mrs. Clinton needs to keep pointing these things out, things Trump has done to hurt people.  If she and Elizabeth Warren continue to poke his sore spots this way, they will cause him to blow up again and again, until no one can stand to listen to him whenever he opens his mouth.

Already, 70% of Americans hate him.  And still he continues to take every criticism of him – his greed, his arrogance, his hatred of the poor – and says “Oh no, that’s HER, not me!”  As if just saying that makes it true.

I am so proud of Hillary Clinton.  She keeps her cool, her humor, and she hits back and hits back hard.  I cannot wait to see what our president does to Trump!  He will eviscerate him!

And finally…the wedding.  My lovely, wonderful daughter is getting married on Friday the 24th. In Seattle.  And I can’t go, because I am sick.  I am so sad about this, I can’t even express it.  But I can’t even go 5 minutes in a car without vomiting, let alone travel for hours on a plane.

She understands, of course, because she’s that kind of person.  I am, of course, beating myself up about it and crying as I read about her wedding preparations on Facebook.  I hate living so far away and would do anything to move to Seattle to be closer to her and my grandson (who is a teenager now).

This living far from your family really sucks…and to think one of the reasons I moved here from Memphis was because I couldn’t get healthcare to get a kidney stone removed (because Tennessee chooses to not participate in either the ACA or Medicaid).  Now I am stuck here…yes, the healthcare is decent, so is the mass transit, so is the low crime rate…but I miss my kids.  I miss working, I miss having a car, and now I am missing the most important thing of all – my daughter’s wedding.

Be good.  Be kind.  Don’t move far from your family, if possible.