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photo by Sheri Dixon

Monday, July 9, 2018

And Miles to go Before We Sleep

Exhausting.

It's exhausting being a compassionate, thinking, left-of-liberal American right now.

The 2016 election plunged us off of the Cliffs of Despair and every time we think we've hit the bottom; every time our current administration and its maniacal followers do something that we think is surely the worst they have to throw at us and the rest of the world...we just keep falling.

It's bottomless and constant and exhausting.

It's not about "Hillary losing". It was never about Hillary losing. It's about what "won". Not just "who" won. It's the decimation of the moral compass of the soul of our nation in the form of hatred and cruelty and ignorance that's absolutely dazzling...wrapped up in a package filled with excrement and vomit and labeled "patriotism with an extra-large side of Jesus" even though Jesus would be horrified at its contents.

Being here, behind the Pine Curtain; a historically regressive enclave even inside the merging intersections of "Old South" and "Texas", it's palpable and stench-filled. This clawing, gnawing, snarling vortex that has been so threatened and aghast at anything progressive at all that's happened in our nation in the last...100 years.

Civil Rights
Women's Rights
Any type of "socialistic-leaning big-government program"

They want to repeal all of it. All of it.
And they're giddy with the scent of blood; they can see it within their grasp.

Racists are emboldened and violence is on the rise.
We can't even pretend to be a civilized nation anymore.
Oh, sure, most of us have flush toilets and clean bath water every day or so, and there's a Walmart and McDonald's on every corner, but most of us are one paycheck away from disaster...and falling.

Our children are getting shot in school on a weekly basis.
Our people are dying of preventable things for lack of access to healthcare.
We have the highest maternal mortality in the industrialized world.

And our current administration's idea of "fixing it" is to make everything better for those who already own most of the marbles. Less regulation, less taxes on corporations, blow it all open for "the private sector" to "do its magic". Trickle Down has been disproven for almost 40 years but *now* it's going to work? The only things they are willing to give to "the rest of us" are things that will not affect them one bit-
-a stupid wall to "keep out the illegals"
-repealing women's rights in the name of Jesus
-slashing "socialistic government programs"...that their base either already relies on or will rely on but because it's "socialism" it's got to go!

On a global scale, our nation is aligning itself with people our fathers and grandfathers DIED fighting. Dictators, Nazis (real actual ones), human rights' violators of all stripes, while shunning nations who have been our allies for generations.

So, I'm exhausted and I'm disgusted and many days I'm ready to, if not desert this festering febrile clinically-insane nation as a whole...at least uproot from this rotting regressive pocket of it. Shake the red dust of East Texas off of our shoes and head to the Pacific Northwest where people aren't so...awful. When we visited the Olympic Rainforest four years ago, I knew instantly. I knew that someday we'd move there and be able to relax mentally.

Don't get me wrong. Individual East Texans are wonderful, generous, caring people and I love quite a number of them after a quarter of a century here. But as a group? En masse? They keep re-electing Louie Gohmert. That's really all the clarification you need.

Why do we stay?

Our farm is here. Our log cabin that we build ourselves in the middle of the most perfect little East Texas Pineywoods forest you could imagine, with a hill and wetlands and two creeks and huge trees. That's a big thing. Home.

My job is here. I love it and it's important to the community of East Texas as well as the livelihood for now upwards of 20 people. So that's a big thing. I'm positioning a number of staff members to take the reins when I retire in 4 years so it can continue to grow and thrive.

Some days four years seems an eternity and I want to go *now*. Right now. Just...get the hell out of here before we suffocate in racism and incivility and MAGA hats and "Trump that Cunt" bumper stickers.

But.

We can't go yet. Because the next few years will be a long, drawn-out extension of what we're seeing happen now, we can't go yet. Even if we can. Even if we want to. We can't.

Because here's the thing. I'm a little old white lady who is reasonably middle-class and who is mostly fearless. There are a lot of people here in East Texas who are none of the above and no matter how inconvenienced I am by the steamroller of regression, the worst it will do to me is piss me off.

We need to stay because if we can help even one person who is marginalized, even one person who is affected negatively, even one person who will suffer at the hands of all this "making America great again", we have to do it.

We need to stay because someone who is white, and in a "management position", and looks like every other little old white lady in East Texas has to say, "NO. That's wrong. I do not agree with that and here's why..." Because otherwise, with no one opposing them, they will think it's right.


But some days it's a mighty weight. Some days I should be doing something productive and I just can't. Yesterday was one of those days. So I get on Trulia and browse...browse my "someday" and drink in the coolness of the rainforest on my computer screen; remembering the sight and sound of it from four years ago.

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep.
 And miles to go before I sleep."

6.5 acres on the west side of Lake Cushman. Lakefront. Insert log cabin *here*







Friday, April 6, 2018

If the Shoe Fits

Yanno, in all the movies where the hero has cancer and he battles it valiantly with his loving family at his side and he beats it?

Not the one where he dies a heroic and beautiful meaningful death. Those suck.

The other one. The one where the doctor smiles and says, "Your scan came back negative. Have a nice life" and everyone hugs everyone while they cry and cry and cry and the movie fades out and the music plays thru the credits and you just know that they resume normal life and live happily ever after. That one.

I'd like to say that's how all cancer-beating stories end, but I'd be lying.

Because we were that family and continue to be that family every year when they scan his head and say, "Mr. Dixon, there is nothing of note in your head" and we all laugh and laugh and go home.

But.

What they didn't tell us was the other shoe that may drop.

That shoe that was me finding Ward's teeth around the house like some weird bizarro-world tooth fairy shit because they would just fall out of his mouth and he'd just...set it right here. Or there. Or over there. And the doctor said, "Oh, yeah. That radiation never stops working and it's now eating away his jaw. Let's do some major dental surgery and fit him with dentures so he doesn't break his own jaw chewing oatmeal."

That was a few years ago.

Or the shoe that was Ward fighting his way back from not knowing who I was or where we lived or how to read and who weighed a horrifying Auschwitz-like 130 pounds back in 2010 when he was in the hospital for 6 weeks and almost died. Fighting like hell mentally and physically so he made it back to about 90% of pre-surgery Ward. That shoe was a real bastard.

Or the shoe that was Ward starting to get a little fuzzy and forgetful in 2013 so we went back to the neurologist at MD Anderson and they did a brain scan and did cognitive testing and said, "There are some deficits. We believe they were caused by the radiation (that never stops working) and the hours and hours of general anesthetic he's undergone. It's not Alzheimers but it may progress the same and it'll look the same from the outside."

Well, he's "progressed" very little since then. It's been almost not noticeable and totally manageable since then.

Then yet another shoe, in the form of the pneumonia he came down with over Thanksgiving weekend this past fall. He almost died (he needs to stop doing that) and was rendered unconscious and on a ventilator for 3 days in ICU to keep him alive. He was hooked up to *twelve* IV pumps.

Well, that plumb flattened him out, physically and mentally.

Physically, he fought back again. Mentally, it was harder. It was a goddamned struggle and continues to be one.

The therapist locally did some very surface testing and said, "He needs to be under the care of a neurologist." So we went back to the one we had seen in 2013...since she had all his last results.

They re-did the scan and re-did the three hours of cognitive testing.

The doctor saw us today. There was no laughing. The additional 3 days of anesthetic and the physical insult of the pneumonia took a terrible toll.

While *most* of his mental functions are normal to above-normal, his memory is severely impaired; both short term and long term. His test results, as far as memory, are those of someone with "moderately severe Alzheimers".

The report from the PET scan says the changes in his brain, while problematic and definitely serious, aren't exactly typical of Alzheimers, and that they still think it was caused by all the shit he's been through, but he needs to be under the care of someone who does strictly dementia care- the neuro doctor at MD Anderson is used to looking at tumors and saying, "Yep. That's gotta go" and getting it gone.

She had tears in her eyes as she said, "I'd like to say we can help him here, but we are not set up for that. He needs someone who specializes in dementia. I'm sorry" and she handed us the contact information for Baylor and UT departments of neuro-dementia studies.

So...one more damn thing.

It's not right. My Knight in Shining Armor has been thru cancer, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, AND he's married to me. Hasn't he suffered enough???

My family is sick to death of "the other shoe".

No wonder we all go barefoot 99% of the time.



Sunday, February 18, 2018

Where Did These Kids Come From?

In the wake of the latest school shooting...there will be another one next week because now, in the US, that's how we roll...people (specifically conservative gun enthusiasts) are saying the FBI is at fault for a young man being able to walk into a school and shoot up students and teachers.

I know plenty of gun nuts who regularly spew hatred of Muslims and gays and black people and politicians and immigrants and liberals and even say...shoot at targets of actual people *cough* Obama *cough* and have upwards of 20 guns and literal tons of ammo, while believing that their puny arsenal can take on the US Army and ANY MINUTE NOW, ISIS will drop from the trees in rural bum-fuck East Texas and kick in their doors to rape their dogs and take their wimmen.

Guess that's enough to arrest someone now, right, gun nuts?

Because if you wanna talk "slippery slope", detaining and arresting someone because they "might" do something, or because they "said" they're "thinking" about doing something is a good way to start that slippery slope.

Do kids who shoot up schools send out about a million warning signs? Damn skippy they do.

Know who sees those first and every single subsequent signs?

You do. You do. You do. You do.

Because they're never *ever* the kids of liberal gun-hating parents. Ever.

They're *your* goddamn kids. Yours.

And you know that they're twitchy and have anger issues and should not be armed. You've known it since they started walking and talking. Lord knows you've tried your best to beat it out of them; to make them fine upstanding citizens. You've done all you know how. You tell them every single day not to be such an asshole or they'll get *another* ass-whoopin'.

You have guns. Lots of them. You probably even gave that kid his first gun- as a sign that you believe he's grown up and responsible and expecting him to fill those worthy shoes.

Your guns are not locked up. Who locks up guns? How are you supposed to drop that gang-banger who leaps thru an open window at 1am to steal your big screen TV and vintage collection of beef jerky?

And now another one of *your* kids has killed again. Pretty much every day school is in session in the US, there is an incident involving a gun. They don't all end in death, but guns are there.

Arm the teachers! That'll fix it. Expect those teachers to point a gun at your child and shoot him in the head if needed!

Some brave Texas schools have already done it and post signs around the perimeter- "This school has armed teachers who will protect our children using whatever force necessary". Wow. What a brave thing! So smart. How high is that school's liability insurance, now? Are they taking that money away from lunches, or art classes, or raising school taxes for everyone in the district? I mean...you can't take away from the football program. There are limits.

But right now...this minute...this time...

You're blaming the FBI for "dropping the ball". You're blaming the police and the school for "dropping the ball".

Those entities of creeping government over-reach that you rail about every day- that they'd "better not come sniffing around expecting to take *my guns* by god or I'll go down shooting their sorry asses! Cold, dead hands, baby!"

You made these little monsters who are shooting up our schools.

They've watched you and listen to you and just like kids everywhere, they emulate and admire...you.

"What's happened in the last 30 years that our society has come to this? Kids every day shooting up their fellow students and teachers in school, for fuck's sake? Must be the video games, the Ritalin, the liberal "everyone gets an award" upbringing, the lack of GOD in schools...it's a damn shame."

What happened?

30 years of shifting the role of guns as hunting tools into guns as "home protection" tools happened. That gun in the back window of every pickup in a rural high school 30 years ago was used to shoot squirrels. The AR-15(s) in your home get used for target practice...aiming at human-shaped targets.

30 years of stockpiling weapons and ammo because "the liberals are going to ban them all!"

30 years of a deep and growing distrust of the American government like it's some amorphous entity instead of a group of people *we* vote into office and can just as easily vote out.

30 years of the middle class losing ground while the tippy top get richer and richer. It sucks and it's not fair and it makes for a desperate exhausting and angry existence where the only thing you have control over anymore is how many goddamn guns you have and you feel you have done *one* thing in a manly manner- you've protected your family...if you can keep the goddamn liberals away.

30 years of dying of preventable things because health care in this nation is so expensive...but that's how life is, right? It's not fair. Don't talk to us about socialistic commie universal health care. We die free!

30 years of (for the first time in America's history) the younger generation knowing they will make less money and die younger than the previous one. That it's going to be hard or impossible to go to college after high school so hard or impossible to make enough to live on working one job. So 30 years of telling yourselves that college ain't that important anyway- it's a liberal cesspool.

Who made the school shooters? You did.

Don't get me wrong. Liberals fuck up just as badly as parents. Kids of "liberals" have mental illness, too. The only difference? Ready access to firearms.

They do kill themselves at a horrifying rate- the capitalist patriarchy is a fucking meat grinder and we're tits deep in it. They take pills. They hang themselves. They wrap their cars around trees.

But it's your kids who reach a breaking point that you watch every single day as it builds and builds and in between punishing them for being assholes, you think, "Sure he's pissed off. I'm pissed off, too. He's young and hot-headed. He'll grow out of it."

And one day your kid grabs an AR-15 out of the closet and a few handguns out of the drawer, and they take them to school...