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photo by Sheri Dixon

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Just a Matter of Time

The very last baby I'll ever have is taller than I am by almost a head.

I've trained myself to startle only on the inside when he walks tall into a room, when his voice carries deeply through the house, when I'm hanging blue jeans on the line that are longer than mine and every inch as long as his over six foot tall dad's.

And I know it's just a matter of time.

Everything changes. Everyone leaves.

That's neither good nor bad; it's the way of life. And growth. And death. And birth.

I have the luxury of being able to spend time alone every week with those I love, those I consider Family.

The days with my son start with lunch out where the Boy who's less than 6 months beyond "Kid's Menu" age devours enough for a family of four...plus dessert. And there's not a spare ounce of flesh on him. We had a helluva time finding blue jeans that were long enough and slim-waisted enough.

Then we go to his guitar lesson followed by his swim lesson- one 20 miles east of our house and one 20 miles west of our house which makes for a pretty hefty commute.

I love the commute.

The Boy talks constantly about politics, philosophy, science, science and more science. If a football were to come crashing through our windshield, he'd be able to tell how fast it had been going according to the hole and shatter pattern and possibly the height and weight of the person who had thrown it from the angle it hit, but he'd be hard pressed to figure out what the projectile itself was.

He's always been that way. Not a book worm or a nerd- he attained 2nd degree 4th level black belt in Tae Kwon Do before switching to swimming like a dolphin at the community pool, and you can find him outside on his bike, barefooted, shirtless and looking to blow shit up at any given hour of the day or night but spectator sports are not his thing.

He took the TV out of his room in order to have more room on his desk for his computer. He's not a game player- he's an information junkie.

We recently got him his own cell phone since he's now 'running with his herd' a fair amount of the time instead of always being with one of us and that's as it should be.

He's growing up.

And growing away.

Not (yet) a wrenching, gut-lacerating generational severing, this is subtle and silent and gentle but firmly permanent.

On Tuesday the car was filled with silence.

I glanced over at the Boy.

He was staring down at his phone in consternation.

He'd been stuck that way through much of lunch and on the way to guitar.

I know he emails and texts his herd members, and I knew one of the apps on the phone was giving him fits, so I just let it go.

For about the 30 seconds I'm capable of.

"Son? What's wrong?"

*Silence*

"Hey- you OK?"

*More Silence*

"Are you pissed off, depressed about something or distracted?"

"Distracted".

(Interesting immediate answer from someone who's ... distracted).

And distracted he remained (with a few outbursts of pretty impressive profanity which I figured were preferable to him hurling the phone out the window even if he could tell me the velocity of the device as it hit the pavement) all the way to swimming.

Which left me time to think.

My family knows the dangers of that, and yet they continue to allow it. They obviously have very poor survival instincts.

So I thought about the Boy as an infant, like mothers are wont to do. And I thought of him as a toddler, and a little boy and a pre-teen and now as a teenager- how he is so funny and smart and kind just like his dad, how you know you'll have to make an effort to keep a straight face when he starts an explanation of something he did or didn't do with a serious nod of his head and an even more serious, "Look..." and it won't matter how outlandish the words are that follow, there's no being angry at this kid because he almost never does or avoids something out of spite, or anger, or sloth and he's never considered lying to save his face or his ass or any other body part.

As we drove under an overpass on the way home the car was still quiet, except for me when I said, "Hey! Did you see that?"

His gaze came up from his phone imperceptibly. "What?"

"The birds! those barn swallows or cliff swifts or whatever they are! Hundreds of 'em!" His mom gets pretty excited about stuff like that.

No. He hadn't seen 'em.

So I turned the car around and we circled back. His eyes rolled just a wee bit- the boys are used to unscheduled stops to look at weird shit.

I pulled to a stop almost right under the overpass and there they were. Hundreds of 'em.

We watched the birds launch out of their mud nests that were glued impossibly onto the vertical surfaces of the bridge. As soon as they were clear of the nests they were gone and as soon as they returned to the nest they disappeared inside. That fast. That often. Feeding babies is serious work.

"How are the nests staying up there?" asked Mr. Science.

"Bird spit" answered Mom the All-knowing.

After a few more moments of bird-watching, I put the car into gear, figuring the Boy would be wanting to get back to his own thing- his phone and his apps and his thoughts that do not include being a boy anymore since he's not. He's a young man.

"Wait!"

*Sound of car being shifted back into park*

"Lets watch them for a little while longer, OK Mom?"

"Of course. I just figured you had better things to do than watch a bunch of birds flying in and out of bird spit and mud nests under the overpass".

"Look..."

And my mother's heart sang.












Saturday, May 25, 2013

And the Sermon Today Is...

I spent an hour in church today.

Oh, don't worry; not THAT kind of church.

My church.

The Church of Eternal Change.

It's down a path that's hidden so well even I can't find it on the first pass. The boys have offered to trim it up some, but I told 'em, "Don't you dare!"

To get to the church proper takes navigating a steep leaf-covered slope, but there's a tree covered in poison ivy on one side and a holly tree covered in spiny leaves on the other side to hang on to, and if you still slip on the leaves, the needle-sharp nuts of the sweet gum tree overhead will slow you down some. Texas. Gotta love it.

And I do.

I love the soft even clearing betwixt the slope and the creek. Most of the creek lines are stark and abrupt; steep slope and then creek with no gentleness in between, the creeks cut directly down about 20 feet from the rest of the property and weave a path seemingly mapped out by drunken lightning.

But this one spot is different.

It's different from the rest of the creek lines and it's different from any other place I've ever been.

It's mine.

Let me rephrase that. I'm its. I belong to the place- the place belongs to no one.

I felt it the first time I set eyes on this place- from the road and peering beyond the locked gate. I knew it was back here.

My church.

The clearing is grasses and leaves and poison ivy but also ferns and mosses and stands of inland sea oats. The clearing is never mowed but never tall and overgrown.

There are pines and sweet gums and dogwoods and hollies. Oaks and cedars and elms. Mimosas and honeysuckles and Virginia creepers. Prickly pear cactus peer over the top of the bank, shy of the water.

The creek itself is shallow and narrow, but spring fed and ice cold all year round, no matter how tiny drought may render it. During violent storms it rises to about 2 ft deep and widens to about 6 ft across, whirling and twirling whitecaps and detritus in a brief episode of channeling the Mighty Colorado that lasts all of about 24 hours before it magically returns to normal.

It's not really a creek at all. It's a 'branch'.

When we bought the place, I was telling the man at the feed store about it and he knew right where our new place was. Said that there used to be a natural swimming hole (where my clearing is now?) back years ago that all the area kids knew about since it stayed freezing cold even in a Texas August when everything including giant Lake Palestine is peed-in bathwater warm.

I asked what the name of the creek was.

He told me it was Deadman's Branch.

I thought 6 year old Alec was going to faint straight away.

All the way home, he wanted to know why. "Why is it named 'DEADman's Branch??? Is there a hanging tree there? Who died there? Will there be ghosts? I don't want to move there. Give it back. I'm not moving there!"

I called Billy at the feed store and thanked him for scaring the bejeebus out of my son.

I asked him why the creek is called Deadman's Branch.

Billy laughed solid for seemingly an hour before he could catch his breath enough to explain, "It's not DEADman's Branch, it's Dedmon's Branch- it starts one road over in a spring on old Mr. Dedmon's place".

And there's a tree. It's a pine like hundreds of other pines on our place and millions of other pines in East Texas. Not the biggest pine or in any way distinctive. But it's where I sit. I sit on the ground with my bare toes rooted in the pine needles and leaves on the soil and my back straight up against my tree. When the wind blows I can feel her creaking and swaying behind me.

The church is ever changing. Depending on the season, the weather, the time of day, the recent rainfall, whatever life is ebbing or flowing, winging, hopping, climbing or swimming at that particular moment I'm never alone. The congregation is ever-present and ever-celebrating.

Always I can pull energy out of the air, up from the earth, through my ears and eyes and nose and always I can release all the pent-up shit that accumulates in an artificial society beating to a mechanical clock and I can see it waft into the air, float on down the creek, terminate in the ground like electricity.

I ask and I promise.

I ask for patience and strength and I promise to care for this planet and those people who cross my path.

It's a prayer but not a prayer.

I'm not visualizing 'anyone' to pray to because I don't have to.

I'm part of the cycle; the everlasting change. I'm here for but a moment and I'm no better than any other tiny speck on this earth.

Mother Nature is benevolently cruel, filled with disinterested drama and indifferent passion. All of us are born, live, die and are recycled over and over and over again (whether or not you believe in souls, our physical beings are only organic matter after all) and that's not depressing to me, it's a comfort.

There's nothing evil about it and nothing dismal. We may be insignificant but we're none of us pointless.

I can access the energy around me because we ARE energy- everything we do, every person we meet, every word we say has meaning and makes a difference.

I will make a difference because we all make a difference and the only question is will my tiny spark help others or hold them back?

The congregation today consisted of about half a dozen dragonflies darting over the water, dancing and landing and messaging each other with their wings. We were serenaded by frogs and birds and thunder in the distance.

I spend a fair amount of time in church letting go of worry, of fear. All the 'what ifs' normal American adults have plus our own family's personalized list that includes cancer and the many losses that come with that large and small, life-changing and trivial.

I hadn't been to church in a few weeks- we've been too often to Houston and the rest of the time I spent trying to catch up at home and at work and I had a huge shoulder-load of left-over fear and worry that I couldn't completely shake off even after breathing deeply and watching the dragonflies and listening to the water splashing over the rocks, the birds and frogs calling from the trees, feeling the soil under my feet and my tree strong and warm against my back.

Today's sermon was brought to me by a jumping spider who insisted on crawling on me. I'd shoo him off my left leg and he'd appear on my right leg. I gently knocked him off my right leg and he was there on my left arm. I set my right hand down on the rock next to my tree and he had beaten me to it, glaring at me with multiple eyes through bushy multiple eyebrows.

"Sure, you're huge next to me but I'm not afraid of you. The worst you can do is squish me. You'll have to do better than THAT to scare me".

Amen.

(Welcome to church- press "HD" and "full screen" for the best view of the dragonflies...)











Thursday, May 23, 2013

Exhale. Unclench. Smile.

"No cancer. Mr. Dixon? Good to see you. Nice shirt."

Dr. Hanna smiles to his entourage as he examines Ward who is wearing a Hawaiian print shirt, as always.

"Mr. Dixon always has the most fabulous shirts".

Then he sits down next to me and says, "So. How long has it been since he's had cancer?"

Seven years.

Which is outstanding. There's no good reason for me to be twitchy about cancer- they've scanned him every six months and every six months Dr. Hanna strides into the room and says, "No cancer. Mr. Dixon? Good to see you. Nice shirt".

In fact, two years ago Dr. Hanna recommended that we go to yearly scans. Ward was for it.

I couldn't do it.

Two years ago I agreed to nine months. Within three months there was a lump on Ward's eyelid- which freaked us out just a little because that's where the cancer started on his other eye- the eye that isn't there anymore along with a good portion of that side of his face. It turned out to be nothing, but I quickly retreated back to the security of scans every six months.

Because I'm superstitious and neurotic and always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Take Tuesday.

Ward had had his PET scan on Monday and when he went in for his ultrasound Tuesday morning he came out grinning. "The doctor looked at the ultrasound and said 'no biopsy needed- it's nothing'. So...it's nothing".

We were both thrilled. In celebration we got breakfast at the little cafe in hospital, sat out on the patio and fed the birds right next to the 'DO NOT FEED THE BIRDS' sign.

But there was a check to our happiness, a caution, a little voice that told us we hadn't seen Dr. Hanna yet, hadn't heard "No cancer. Mr. Dixon? Good to see you. Nice shirt" yet and because this was our life we're talking about here the odds were very high that Dr. Hanna would walk in and say, "Mr. Dixon? The lump in question is nothing- no worries. But there's this spot here...and here...and over here that are cause for concern. Nothing a massive dose of poisons won't kill tho; I'll set you up with that department ASAP. Nice shirt- see you soon".

So we withheld our full-out happy-dance.

Dr. Hanna is still sitting next to me, reassuring smile, kind eyes. "Do we want to go to yearly scans yet? I know it's been very difficult- but all his troubles have been from healing complications, not cancer".

I tried.

I tried to say, "YES- yearly scans are fine. I'm totally over that whole scared-shitless-about-cancer-killing-my-beloved-husband thing. I'm cool with that".

But I couldn't.

Our eyes were locked.

Finally I blinked and said..."Nine months".

Dr. Hanna laughed and said to his PA, "OK. Set Mr. Dixon up for an MRI and chest X-ray in nine months- we'll see you then".

But now we're home and it's had some time to sink in.

More importantly, I've had time to exhale. To unclench. To smile.

I've just called Dr. Hanna's office to ask them to move the next check-up to 12 months...a whole year.

***BUT***

Only if it's a PET scan- nose to toes and checking every cell like this last time. Not 'just' an MRI of the head/neck and a chest x-ray.

I mean, I may have exhaled, unclenched and smiled; but I'm still the same ol' superstitious neurotic.

What was that sound? That wasn't a shoe dropping, was it?




Saturday, May 18, 2013

Back Into the Vortex

Hopefully nothing.

It's nothing.

It has to be nothing.

The lump under Ward's arm is nothing.

We're going to Houston just to verify the very nothingness of the lump.

Should be easy. Straightforward. Stuff they do every single day at a CANCER hospital where most of the patients are not only from out of town, but out of state and some from out of country.

Schedule shit in an orderly fashion and a timely manner.

See? Easy.

But it's not. I had a helluva frustrating morning yesterday just getting things ironed out, not on my end- I've arranged for work and home and fixed our incredibly complex schedules to accommodate for being gone Sunday afternoon through Tuesday evening.

And I thought that just this once (out of say 4 dozen times in the last 7 years) we had a schedule that had fallen together seamlessly. Because it should be easy.

The dermatologist found a lump and notified Ward's primary care physician in the Head and Neck center because that's where his original cancer was- on his head. So that's who scans him every 6 months to be sure it doesn't come back.

The Head and Neck physician said, "Yikes. Lets do a PET scan, an ultrasound and a biopsy to be sure it's nothing. I'll order it and see you after all that is done to tell you it's nothing".

So they scheduled. Both the PET scan and ultrasound appointments on the internet patient site said "PET scan/ultrasound/Head and Neck". I called Head and Neck to be sure they were not taking images of the head and neck because the lump isn't there. It's in a lymph node on his side.

After five requests for verification, finally someone told me, "Yes- it just says Head and Neck because that's the department who ordered it". Fine. Makes sense.

Here's our incredibly simple schedule-

Drive down Sunday.

PET scan Monday at 6am

Ultrasound w/needle biopsy Tuesday 6am

See the Dr. and be told, "It's nothing- go home". Tuesday 9am

Go home.


Yesterday (Friday) we got the calls from PET and Ultrasound to tell us what meds Ward can take and what he can eat/drink before the scans.

PET scan department said, "We'll be done by 8:30 and you take your morning meds at 9- don't do anything differently but be sure no carbs starting Sunday morning because you're diabetic and if your sugar is too high we can't scan. And nothing to eat or drink after midnight Sunday night."

Cool.

Ultrasound department said, "Nothing to eat or drink after midnight Monday night and withhold coumadin for three days prior."

*Wait. What? I told her no one told us about the coumadin withhold.

"Well, I'm telling you now". (said in a sort of snotty tone)

"So you need to get with your cardio doctor to see what he wants to do- he may want to bridge with lovenox injections the days he's off coumadin".

This was Friday at 11:45 am. And I was just supposed to magically conjure up Ward's cardiologist (whose office, like many offices is officially open till 5pm on Fridays but who really clear out starting at noon and are literal ghost towns by 3pm) and ask him about coumadin withhold, and who may or may not order lovenox which is something a lot of pharmacies don't keep on hand.

Awesome.

I called the cardiologist and talked to the nurse who needed to get ahold of the doctor for further orders. Regarding the lovely advance warning, her only comment was, "That's just crazy". No shit.

'Round about 1pm the ultrasound department called back. Seems they had been sent Ward's chart by mistake. They were the Neurological Ultrasound, which is different from General Ultrasound. I don't know and I don't care. She said they had contacted Head and Neck and that they were putting in for an appointment in General Ultrasound.

I asked her if the coumadin withhold would still be important for General Ultrasound and she didn't know.

She said, "All I know is that they put in for a General Ultrasound of Mr. Dixon's head and neck, just like we were going to do."

*Wait. What? After I explained (amazingly calmly) that we don't WANT Mr. Dixon's head and neck ultrasounded because that's NOT WHERE THE LUMP is, she gave me the number for General Ultrasound and told me to call Head and Neck to be sure they had the orders right.

So I called General Ultrasound and they said, "Golly- it says head and neck- I'll call to be sure".

So I messaged Head and Neck and asked them "What the hell?"

I checked the internet patient site and they had scheduled the General Ultrasound with fine needle biopsy for

Tuesday 2pm

I called General Ultrasound and told them that Dr. H is good, but not so good that he can see the results of a scan and biopsy FIVE HOURS BEFORE THEY'RE DONE.

"Ohhhhhh...no one told me that- they just said schedule for sometime Tuesday".

Why the HELL would you see the doctor BEFORE the scans???

(I actually tried to do this correctly- using italics instead of capital letters, but it slows me down so deal with it)

She said, "We're totally booked Monday and early Tuesday- did you try calling the department who sent the order to the wrong ultrasound office?"

Yes. Yes I did. And they sent it to you, my little pumpkinhead- and it's so not OUR fault that it got messed up. It costs us a minimum of $500 every time we go down there with hotel and gas and food and we're doing this THIS week in ONE shot, and you're the scheduler so you need to make it so.

I was much nicer on the phone. I only swore a blue streak after hanging up. The schnauzer is still trembling.

She made it so.

I asked about the coumadin withhold and it's just a general ultrasound- no limitations at all- eating, drinking, medications...none. Sweet. New ultrasound/biopsy is 7:30 Tuesday. And what area are they ultrasounding, pray tell?

Left side lymph node something or other under the arm. OUTSTANDING.

The lady from Head and Neck called me regarding the message I'd sent and she pulled up the order and verified that yes- the PET scan is of Left side lymph node something or other under the arm. FABULOUS.

The nurse from the cardiologist called to give me coumadin withhold instructions and I said thank you very much but we don't need to do that- they sent his orders to the wrong department. "Crazy" she said. No shit.

So we're straightened out I think.

Here's what slays me and has slain me for seven years.

This is the best cancer hospital in the country and one of the top two in the world.

Cancer is all they do.

Out of town patients is a high percentage of what they do.

They're so specialized the schedulers do NOTHING but schedule, and each department has multiple schedulers.

How can this be so messed up so consistently? Honestly, Ward's case is NOT difficult- surely not any more difficult than anyone else there- this is the place people go who are too difficult for 'regular' hospitals. And yet, MOST of the time there is something that needs adjusting on our schedules- not to accommodate our time constraints, but just to make a damn bit of sense...like doing scans and blood work before seeing the doctor.

Why do *I*, a little old lady who barely made it through high school, have to watch every damn thing they do?

What happens to people (and there are many people who fit this description) who figure, "They know what they're doing- I'll just follow the schedule"?

How many die who don't need to? Just because no one is watching the details and by the time everything is straightened out it's too late?

This bothers me more than a little. You may have noticed.

I guess I should just be happy when they tell us, "It's nothing- go home till July when we do your regularly scheduled 6 month scans".

I'm sure that's what other people do.

And I will be happy- deliriously joyfully thankfully happy, because right now I'm almost paralyzed with the fear of the "What ifs?" I will hug the stuffing out of my husband and come home and hug the stuffing out of my son, and return to the laughably labled 'normal' of our lives. Till next time.

But this sort of consistently shoddy scheduling crap still bugs the shit out of me and never ever goes away.

It sits on my brain- a tiny living smudge of discontent, poking at me with needles of doubt perched next to the razor-legged spider of fear weaving her web of uncontrollable things that stick to our family over and over again.





Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Of Puppies and Babies and Snuggles in Bed

"You want to put him all the way BACK THERE? How can you even THINK that?" my husband said accusingly.

We had just had our child- a darling bouncing boy of 8 pounds 4 ounces. He was born right...there. On our bed. With 2 midwives in attendance, just hours previously.

Now, we'd planned where the nursery would be- in the room behind the kitchen that was my older son's room when they visited. We'd borrowed a crib from Ward's brother and set it up with all new brightly colored safari animal sheets and whatnot. Where the baby was going to be sleeping was not a surprise.

Until the baby was born.

I've always been a proponent of the Family Bed- keeping babies close when sleeping. My first husband was not so much, and for the most part, Americans in general are not in favor of 'that sort of falderal'.

So my two older kids had their own rooms and cribs, because
a) I hadn't grown old and confident enough yet to say, "Shut up. The babies are coming to bed with us and if you don't like it, lemme show you to the sofa".
b) Their rooms were literally 3 steps away from ours.

I never let them cry themselves to sleep and spent hours rocking them and patting little rear ends till they dozed off.

Because our old Victorian Texas house was bigger and more rambling than our postage stamp ranch up north, the new baby would be...12 steps away.

And Ward was OK with that. This was going to be his first child, and he was pushing 50 years old. I was 40, and this was my 3rd.

I figured if anyone would need some 'space' from the new alien in our lives, it would be Ward.

Until the baby was born.

"You want to put him all the way BACK THERE? How can you even THINK that?"

and the baby moved into our bed.

The theory goes that you cannot sleep with the baby because tending to the baby's every whimper will cause him to be clingy and you must encourage independence.

Really. We're talking about a person who is unable to walk or talk, and hasn't figured out how to use their opposable thumbs or car keys. Also toothless. Just how damn independent do you want this larval human to be?

The theory goes that co-sleeping is dangerous and you could crush that tiny child...maybe that's what happens to some of the SIDS babies...

Actually, co-sleeping babies have a lower rate of SIDS deaths- something about being as close as possible to their former environs and hearing/feeling breathing and heartbeats and the ever constant shifting of mom's body reminds the little person to breathe and shift on their own.

Also- unless you go to bed stone drunk, you're not going to crush your child. Most people who have small pets sleep with their pets on the bed (doesn't matter if you admit it or not, you do). Now, raise your hand if you fit that category- sleeping with small pets.

Good. Now keep them in the air if you've ever crushed one to death.

That's what I thought.

The theory is that if you sleep with your child(ren) in bed with you, you'll never have sex again.

Stop it- you're a parent now- you're never having sex again anyway.

Just kidding. But you already know you need to be more...creative and opportunistic than pre-parenthood.

Remember high school? (Hope my mom doesn't read this...)

The theory is that if the kids are sleeping in your bed at age three, they'll still be there at age thirty-three.

Our boy graduated from our bed to a cot in our room at about eight. That was about two years longer than I'd figured on, but to be fair, right after his sixth birthday, the doctors started slicing, dicing and re-arranging his dad, so I cut some slack.

At ten he was in his own room.

The two people who gave me the most shit about "he'll be in your bed forever" themselves were in their parent's bed till they were 12 and 14, respectively. So they can just kiss my ass. My 'clingy spoiled baby' beat them both.

Here's the thing.

In most cultures, the Family Bed is not the exception- it's the norm. Every culture knows that babies who are secure in knowing that their parents are right...HERE will be more confident and independent. What the hell do we teach our babies when we let them 'cry it out' or threaten them with punishment for LEAVING THEIR BEDS when they're scared?

How is "You need to learn that mommy and daddy will be back for you...when we're damn good and ready" in any form reassuring?

I've worked around animals my whole life. Worked for veterinarians for over half my life.

If someone were to call me and say, "My dog is fixin' to have puppies and here's my plan- I'm going to just put them with the mother dog to eat a few times a day and let her clean them up- otherwise they'll be in a box in the other room...because she needs her sleep and the pups need to learn independence" I'd call the law on them for animal neglect and/or cruelty.

Because they're BABIES for cripes sake and babies need to be pretty much attached to their mom.

Get it?

My kids are all confident, capable, brilliant human beings...mostly in spite of me instead of because of me.

But I like to think whatever form of 'attachment parenting' I practiced did some good.

Now, don't even get me started about the barbaric practice of circumcision...



Sunday, May 5, 2013

"Oh, You're a _____, So You Must Be a ______!"

Labels. Gotta love 'em.

Why am I so hard for people to figure out? I'm not a stereotype, I'm not a cartoon character, I don't fall easily into one single category of anything. But I'm also nothing special, except to those who love me, and that's A-OK by me.

Specialness is way over-rated.

Lemme give you a 'fer instance'.

We home school.

In order for our little homeschool co-op to hold weekly meetings in a suitably sized facility, we had to prove we have liability insurance. Homeschool groups can get liability insurance from the TX homeschool legal defense group IF your group has 10 active members of the legal defense group. We had 9.

So we joined up- paid our $75 and became members.

So we could have our co-op.

Our group's name is Denton Area Secular Homeschoolers. DASH. Heavy on the secular. Oh, sure we meet in a church building, but it's the Universal Unitarian church so here in TX that doesn't really count.

Since joining the legal defense group, I get emails and the monthly magazine, and every last bit of all correspondence has to do with the difficulties and tribulations of being CHRISTIAN homeschoolers in a sinful and SECULAR world.

Seriously. Not one stinking word about how the secular homeschoolers are viewed by the Christian homeschool community. Hippies, communists, gays, multi-racial families, single parent households, scientists...Not that any of those descriptions are incorrect, mind you- but they're all said either the same way you'd say, "trailer trash" or in hushed tones as though to utter the words aloud would be to invoke the demons of evolution.

I'd say that us secular homeschoolers were being persecuted, but the Christians have got that word's dance card plumb filled up.

Here's another one.

Gun control.

I believe in it. Strongly, loudly and proudly. Absofuckinglutely there should be restrictions on who owns 'em, requirements to show mental stability and proficiency, and outright bans on anything that's manufactured with the sole purpose of killing a lot of people in the blink of an eye. Because if you need an AR with a 100-round clip to hunt a deer you really should starve to death.

Do I think all guns need to be confiscated? Am I prone to the vapors if anyone suggests that my family be armed?

Nope. Between the 3 of us we have 6 guns. Ward has his dad's shotgun and 357 Magnum, Alec has a .22 rifle and an antique Mauser Joe gave him and I've got 2 Ruger .22 handguns that are tools used to dispatch injured livestock and kill snakes who have been proven guilty of poultry-napping (eggs or babies).

One more for fun.

"Those welfare families".

There's a really clever little thing going around the interwebs that says something like, "Since I have to support a welfare family, the least they can do is send me a photo I can put up on my fridge".

Awesome clever. And people repeat it and wink and agree with it and look at me like, "I know, right? Can I get an AMEN?"

Because they know that we're good hard-working white folk who have been employed most or all of our adult lives.

But to their shock, I just ask 'em if they want a color photo or black and white and I'll get it right to 'em.

Because here's the lineup of people who live here on our place-
Me- working full time and have been since I was 16. I'm 53.

Ward- worked full time since he got out of college till cancer, heart disease and diabetes all got together and started dismantling him piece by piece with the help of MD Anderson. He's now on SS Disability. He's 61.

Alec- gets a check every month because his dad's on SS Disability.

Joe- worked full time and then retired at 65. He gets social security and his Veteran's check for losing his hearing blowing shit up in the name of Uncle Sam. He's 70.

Edna- worked her entire life from age 13 on. Retired at 65 and gets her social security check (less than $900) to live on...period. She's 93.

So four. Four out of five of us is receiving a 'government check'.

That makes us an official "welfare family".

When I lay that out, people are really embarrassed and say, "Hey- I wasn't talking about YOU GUYS" and that gives me an opportunity to point out that then they are obviously hella-racist. Of course they deny it.

Politically?

I grew up conservative Republican and the majority of my family are still there. I evolved once I moved down here and became first a poor single woman and then the wife of a man with terrible money-sucking medical issues.

Briefly identified Democrat till I realized they have become what conservative Republicans used to be before conservative Republicans turned all batshit crazy.

Did I vote for Obama (twice)? Yep.

Do I hate some of his policies? With a white-hot hatred.

The ACA did not go far enough- there needed to be a public option to cut the stranglehold the insurance companies have on the patients. The bankers responsible for the '08 crash need to be IN PRISON. The drone program is beyond vile.

No, I shouldn't have voted for Romney- that would've been much much worse.

No, I shouldn't have just sat out the elections because there wasn't a perfect candidate- life isn't about waiting for the perfect One, it's about compromise and being willing to take small steps forward rather than giant leaps backwards.

Living in the Red droplet of confederate blood beating strong in the heart of East Texas, people will spit out at me, "Yer one o' them liberal Democrats, ain'tcha?" and I diffuse that neatly by telling them I am NOT a liberal Democrat- I'm so far to the left of that I can't even see liberal Democrats in my rear view mirror.

Religiously?

Raised Lutheran (ALC, not Missouri synod- we were allowed to sing and dance and...smile) but started questioning in high school, boomeranged back into the fold during my first marriage's death throes in an attempt to 'be the helpmeet god wanted me to be' for my alcoholic abusive husband and finally said "Screw this. I'm living my life in a moral, joyful and GOD-FREE way from now on" and have been much more at peace ever since. Life is actually MORE precious and glorious now than it was when I was a 'believer' instead of the dark maw of despair the church wants you to think it is for us 'heatherns'.

Like I said- I'm nothing special. I'd wager that MOST people are like me- not so easily put into boxes and neatly categorized.

None of us are 100% one thing, through and through.

And I try to remember that in my dealings with Tea Partiers and Conservative Republicans and Fundamental Christians.

I mostly succeed in seeing the humanity through the labels.

But do they?




Thursday, May 2, 2013

Seen Out of the Corner of My Eye

"No Unauthorized Camping"

The sign is posted with authority.

Seen out of the corner of my eye while we drove past it, it didn't register for a minute what it said.

"No Unauthorized Camping"

It made me laugh even as it angered me.

Were we in Galveston driving along the beach, where pitching a tent would be so tempting and romantic?

Nope.

Were we at a wayside stop between here and Houston- tree-filled and picnic-tabled and peaceful?

Nope.

"No Unauthorized Camping"

was posted, bolted actually to the underside of a highway overpass in the guts of Houston.

It was funny because that's the absolute last place anyone would want to pitch a tent, build a campfire, sing songs, tell a few ghost stories and eat 'em some s'mores.

And it was infuriating because I know damn well that those who posted the sign know that.

They're not worried about campers of a Davy Crockett boy scout sort.

They're talking about homeless people.

People without homes

jobs

money

resources

friends

safety nets of any sort

People who are hopeless.

People who would actually look at the endless cacophony and exhaust-filled open maw of a dirt-blown highway underpass and think

"This offers shelter".

Gather their meager belongings and their almost invisible self and take shelter someplace even the pigeons won't roost.

Because it's better than nothing.

Better than being out in the wind or the rain or the beating relentless sun of a Texas summer.

"No Unauthorized Camping"

tries very hard to downplay the reality of homeless people in Houston- the 4th largest city in the USA.

"We have no indigent person problem- we have a CAMPER problem- they just need a reminder to go somewhere else to camp. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. LOOK! Culture and Art and Science! SHINY"!"

"No Unauthorized Camping"

bolted to the cement wall in harsh black and white, is a constant reminder for those huddled against the vertical supports of the highway overpass feeling every shudder of every vehicle pulsing through the concrete like the breathing of the monster city that they can't escape, but can't quite completely live in either.

Breathe in

"All these cars? They're on their way home"

Breathe out

"You don't have a car. Or a home"

Open eyes and there's the sign.

"No Unauthorized Camping"

"Ha. And you don't even have a fucking tent."









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