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So Cal, Lake L.A. and Down Below

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Southern California is a great place to spend your 20’s, even if you’re in the high Mojave desert, a world away from Hollywood, Malibu, Venice Beach, and Beverly Hills, but in the same county. People were able to live with a small town feeling and, at the same time, be in the hub of a wheel of fun with spokes radiating to San Diega, Tijuana, Las Vegas, Santa Barbara, and so much more.

In 1986, after moving over a thousand miles from my hometown to the land of Joshua trees, sight unseen, figuring I could live anywhere for a year, I was excited to see things like the Hollywood sign, Santa Monica pier and Rodeo Drive.

When I received my first month’s teaching paycheck, I was so excited – it was over a thousand dollars! I’d been making minimum wage as an aide at a residential rehab center for adolescents back home. I felt rich, and there were all these great places to go and things to do! After three weeks, with seven more days before my second paycheck, I had $7 left in the bank. I freaked out. How the hell did that happen? I was definitely on a steep learning curve.

With a roommate I’d just met and literally scores of young teachers recruited from states near and far to serve the handful of school districts with exploding populations spread out across the desert, there was always a group of people ready for the next adventure, usually down the 14 freeway, past the Vazquez Rocks, to “down below.” The first time someone asked if I wanted to go down below, I probably said something like, “Well, I’m not really set to go to Australia just now.” “Down below” is the way residents of the high desert refer to anywhere in the greater Los Angeles area.

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Just as “down below” doesn’t immediately bring to mind Southern California, Lake L.A. doesn’t accurately reflect the environs of my school district. Apparently there had been a manmade Lake L.A., but, funny thing, it dried up in the Mojave Desert; not before the developer sold some waterfront homes, though, right on the lake! The water disappeared but the houses remained. A small community took root.

In the spring, my roommate wondered if it would be okay if a friend of his from back home stayed with us while he interviewed for teaching positions. Sure, I said. Besides which I felt more like I was being told than asked.

This new guy bugged the crap out of me before we even got out of LAX. He talked a mile a minute, thought he was funny, which I didn’t want to admit, and didn’t seem all that appreciative. Of course, knowing how little my roommate communicated the big picture to me, I could imagine that he hadn’t filled the new guy in on minor details, like the fact that I did not want him to live with us. I told my roommate his friend had 2 or 3 weeks to figure his shit out – and then I wanted him gone. Doubt very much the new guy ever got that message.

So, I tried to make it clear. Man, I could be such a bitch back in my early 20’s. Nonverbal communication – all in. I was silently giving him the finger every chance I got. He didn’t get it. Or pretended not to notice.

Over time, he kinda grew on me, I’m not gonna lie. When a group of about 30 teachers and staff from my district went on a weekend adventure to Catalina Island, my roommates were on board. The building attraction between my unwanted roommate and I found expression sweetly, romantically but definitely rated PG that weekend. Not long after, the annoying extra roommate became my live-in boyfriend, just like that.

Where is this?

Here I am in a new place. The travel itinerary for the last year, 12 months – not calendar, has been one of exploring roadside attractions I had visited previously or those in which I certainly had no interest.

Severe, suicidal depression was the first stop. I am so familiar with depression, I was sure it would be a short walk through. Instead, I went deep into the caves, experiencing things I’d not seen previously.

About the time I noticed the spelunking had really increased my chronic illness, fibromyalgia, we all got on the coronavirus ride. Then outrage exploded when another BLACK MAN WAS KILLED by Chauvin’ knee on GEORGE FLOYD’S neck for minutes, as Mr. Floyd and onlookersbegged for his life, pleading with Chauvin to let George breathe.

Well, we’re still on the COVID ride, still no meaningful reckoning with the racial injustices suffered by our fellow Americans, met instead with chemical spray and a president’s plan to dominate protestors. We have no idea when this wicked rollercoaster will slow, much less stop.

Now, as the end of this election approaches, just one week from tomorrow, the rollercoaster cars are trudging slowly to the peak of tension and anticipation. It feels as though time is suspended and we’ve caught air…… I’m afraid of what happens when we land.

Hope This Finds You Well

In recent weeks, both of my young adult sons have, separately, encouraged me to begin walking regularly, sure that’s all I need to feel better. I agree with them that walking routinely would be helpful and it is a goal, but it’s not the cure. If I’m having a good day, I can handle stairs occasionally throughout the day, all the way into the evening. A couple of 15-20 minute chore sessions are tolerable. If I’m feeling so-so, two or three trips on stairs is all I’ve got and housework is hit or miss. Unfortunately, I’m frequently unable to ascend or descend even once. On such a day, I look around at all the chores need to be done and hope I can get to them tomorrow.

I know my sons are encouraging me out of love. I also realize they’re just now really tuning into the chronicity of my pain and other fibromyalgia symptoms. Based on my personal experience, I’ll continue with my stretching exercises, getting outside in our yard most days, and completing chores as able. If I took off on a walk by myself, I’m afraid I might not make it home!

Life

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Life in the Days of COVID

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The beautiful colors of autumn are beginning to show themselves, oblivious to the pathogen affecting everyone on the planet, whether the inhabitants accept or ignore reality. The confluence of a deadly pandemic, ineffective handling of said contagion, and the state of social unrest here in the USA has resulted in a season of uncertainty and distress unlike any we’ve endured in my lifetime. I am making a point of appreciating those bright oranges, yellows, and reds that confirm the continued rhythms of life, reminding me the earth will continue to rotate on its axis as it orbits the sun.

Human-sized Web

I was trying to think of a witty bon mot for the title, but I couldn’t think of one; so, instead, I used ‘bon mot’ in the first sentence.

Feeling like we are all, nationally and locally, caught in a web. It began last winter and has slowly wrapped around us. The first, barely visible to us, was silk made of coronavirus. We could feel the thicker lines in the spring when most of us stayed home. We marched and cried out, in spite of the early obstacles, to say Black Lives Matter, but as the summer set in we turned here and there, not united, tangling ourselves in the sustained uncertainty. We split. Everything became political, and the web stretched.

“Will you walk into my parlour?” said the spider to the fly.

Who is the spider and who is the fly? How do we get out of this?

March On

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We take to the streets
Showing up shutting down 
We cry JUSTICE EQUALITY 
For EVERYONE now

March on in the Bronx,
Cleveland, Orlando
Kenosha, Louisville
Staten Island, Georgia, LA

March on to call out racism 
March on to say ENOUGH
March on to say Black Lives Matter 
Peaceful, loud, pissed off, undone

All the noise keeps us from thinking
Social media keeps us stirred up
Fires, COVID and a political season
Keep hope, keep love, and try, try, try
To keep your wellness and reason
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The Fall of 2020

The new decade beginning gave me hope. Mostly what I longed for was an uneventful year. Over the past few years, my husband’s sister passed from ALS at age 50, and my dad went in for outpatient surgery but didn’t make it out of the ICU. In 2019, specifically, someone very close to me suffered a mental health crisis. On the heels of that situation, I had my worst dive into depression ever, resulting in coming very close to suicide. (I’ve written about this in “My History with Depression” and my earliest posts.) You can see why beginning a new year, a new decade, felt like an opportunity to breathe.

2020 started calmly enough. I was focused on trying to get through work days and recovering on days off. Not sure when I first heard about the coronavirus, but at the end of February my husband and I celebrated our anniversary on a little out of town weekend and nothing had yet been changed due to the virus.

As we waded into 2020, Australia was burning (again) and there was a flurry of gossip and shock (shock!) when we learned Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were going rogue. The impeachment of Trump took up much of the domestic newsfeed, and the death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter made headlines. We heard inconsistent messages about coronavirus and COVID throughout February.

It all became very clear in March. The NBA and the NHL suspended their schedules. The stock market reacted badly to the realities beginning to sink in for us all. People were getting nervous.

Personally, the beach vacation planned around my niece’s wedding in May was canceled. I’d so looked forward to seeing my niece get married, and then we were staying in a beachfront room for a week. The last time my husband and I had a week-long vacation with time at the beach, we were accompanied by our sons, a two-year-old and a six-month-old. They are now 21 and 22.

So, for a few months, things were unsettled. The future was unknown and the information changed daily. In the midst of this, we all watched George Floyd murdered by a cop casually, hand in pocket, his knee on George Floyd’s neck for seven minutes and 46 seconds. (Originally the length of time given was eight minutes and 46 seconds, but in June authorities revised it, saying they had been mistaken.) The tinderbox of uncertainty was lit by the rage of good people after watching ANOTHER Black person killed by police.

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Millions of people around the world took to the streets in protest of racial injustice. France, Australia, South Africa, Ireland, Senegal, and more. Marches took place in over 2,000 cities and towns. People of all sorts joined together, mostly masked and mostly peaceful.

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At the same time, the virus spread from asymptomatic people to vulnerable populations and through family get-togethers. Young folks got sicker than we thought they would. The death toll rose. And Trump politicized everything.

Communities around the nation grappled with when and how to reopen. The federal government put out clear, appropriate guidelines to follow in order to open safely. It seemed no sooner had the coronavirus taskforce published a step by step reopening plan than Trump started tweeting for people to “liberate” their states.

Here we are. It’s officially fall. Our nation is a patchwork of regions, some with increases in cases and some decreasing. Some governors rushed opening to curry favor with Trump. We’ve seen case counts and deaths soar in those states as a result. It is clear and undeniable – Republicans are putting party and power over people’s lives, literally.

If anyone had any shred of hope left that Trump would ever try to get his arms around the issues we face, it was itself shredded in late September. His taxes, which he has hidden like a rat with a NY slice, showed the world what most had known for years; the emperor has no clothes, not even in his closet. The curtain rose, revealing his yearslong masquerade as a successful businessman. Days later, a presidential debate laid bare the historic choice we have this fall of 2020.

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Trump chaos or Biden calm.

Do you want four more years of lies, insults, mismanagement, egotism, and chaos? Trump was once asked, “Doesn’t this wear you out, all the chaos, the storm all around you?” Trump answered, “I am the storm.”

I choose to vote for a professional, experienced team that acknowledges the demand from the majority of Americans to tear up systemic racism by the roots and can also provide a broad, structured, sensible approach to the pandemic still raging. I am so excited to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

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Why Doesn’t Trump WantUsToWearMasks?

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What are your expectations of the federal government in a pandemic? Back when we heard the first mentions of a virus coming, who did you imagine would lead us through this historic crisis? Just as I wasn’t able to envision the daily doings of a President Trump or his administration following his election in 2016, I couldn’t anticipate how Trump would approach the deadly challenge.

There was no expectation of competence, on my part, based on his lack of engagement with anything other than his TV and his golf clubs. Empathy would be absent from any Trump plan, but I thought reducing the number of deaths would, obviously, be in everyone’s best interest, His immediate response was to wave it off, purposefully minimizing the threat to us.

Governor Andrew Cuomo became the leader we needed. Yes, there was much confusion and learning on the job in early days, and I knew I could tune in to the governor of New York for facts, information, updates, and a sense that someone was trying to wrap their arms around this sharp, tangled knot of coronavirus, lost jobs, PPE, ventilators, ICU capacity, unpaid rents, and advice for decreasing the odds that our families get sick.

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Eventually, Dr. Fauci arrived on the scene, and I felt like we had a straight shooter to guide our country through the medical landscape. For whatever reason, Dr. Birx always seemed more like Trump’s mouthpiece than Dr. Fauci. The advice regarding masks changed as scientists and doctors learned more about transmission.

Eventually, Trump saw himself as a war time president and took center stage daily, receiving his badly needed dose of attention. Unable to bathe himself in the adoration of a packed arena of his followers, having all eyes on him at the microphone would have to do, for a couple weeks, at which point the wheels fell off because he began giving medical advice. Once announcements had to be made urging people not to inject themselves with bleach, the glory days were over.

Moving on, Trump pivoted to opening the country, regardless of whether or not it was warranted by regional medical circumstances. Guidelines had been issued by the coronavirus taskforce about what benchmarks communities or states should meet as they move through phased reopening. They made sense. Then, Trump started campaigning against his own administration’s policies. He mocked people for wearing masks and continued to lie about the medical facts we all desperately needed.

Trump’s own voice on the Woodward tapes revealed to us that he wasn’t confused about differing virus information and recommendations. He knew and spoke very clearly about “deadly stuff” that spreads through the air “so easy, you just breathe it.” He is still lying. He now insists on frequently saying we’re rounding a corner, although I’m pretty sure what’s waiting for us round the next corner is more devastation.

Dr. Redfield, head of the CDC, spoke passionately regarding the efficacy of wearing masks, aligning with what we’ve heard from Dr. Fauci. We know, now, the USPS wanted to give masks to each household to help people protect themselves and each other early on, but the administration blocked it. Trump says Joe Biden must have issues because he wears a mask. He berates reporters who choose to keep masks on during briefings. He still says not everyone agrees that masks help!

While casting doubt on the need for masks, he has encouraged large gatherings of his supporters and it doesn’t seem to give him pause in the least that most are not donning face coverings. Trump urges schools to open in-person and shames universities to get their football teams out on the field. All of this with no concern for the life and death repercussions of his bullying.

All of this makes me wonder, WHY DOESN’T TRUMP WANT US TO WEAR MASKS???

Really, one simple, cost-effective choice that would help us to put a serious dent in this vicious virus that is already mutating. Citizens of other countries have united in efforts to wear masks to contain the spread. There are continued flares they have to address but not the prolonged, consistent, high rate of deaths.

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Does Trump want us to die? What’s in that for him? We can no longer accept he doesn’t know what he’s doing, which was bad enough. He does things intentionally, strategically based on whatever is in his own best interest. So, again, what’s in it for Trump to increase the number of deaths? Schoolchildren, teachers, football players, college students, and rally attendees. I can’t fathom how he recklessly disregards all of these lives, but that’s true of many, many things he says and does.

Last night, at a rally in Ohio, Trump claimed again, falsely, that people under 18 are not getting sick, urging schools to open. Of the people who’ve contracted the virus through recently opened schools, half have been students and half teachers/staff.

On September 20, 2020, Donald J. Trump said, “It affects virtually nobody. It’s an amazing thing.” He gave himself an A+ for his response to the pandemic.

Today, September 21, 2020, the United States of America reached a death toll of more than 200,000. We may reach 400,000 by Christmas.

200,000 American lives and counting.

Antisocial Media

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Oh, these crazy days. Alone at home the majority of my hours, in those early days I passed much time on Facebook. In the past, my mom has complained about politics on FB and I have relatives who support Trump, so I stayed apolitical for the most part.

Thinking my mom was off FB, because she mentioned one day she didn’t know how long it had been since she was on it, I felt a little freer to express my views as we encountered a pandemic and racial tensions. A couple cousins of mine reacted forcefully with their opinions, which was fine. I started to think twice about what to post. I posted things with whom I thought everyone would naturally agree, but no such luck. Everything became politicized and then one cousin took it to far and I felt attacked by him. I private messaged, “Fu*k you” to him, and posted I was taking a leave of absence from FB.

Because I’d spent time on that platform occasionally throughout my days, I expected to really miss it. Not only did I not miss it, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. Granted, I did pretty much just move from FB to Twitter, after checking in to see what was happening. So many like-minded people I don’t know, a community of folks who share energy, concern, and current events.

Initially, I felt bathed in the warmth and heart of thousands who believe we’re not on the right path, who believe we can come together to battle both the pandemic and racial injustice, who want to unite in order to lift all of us but especially those struggling to feed their families or waiting for their medications to come in the mail.

As we near the election, however, people who completely disagree with me and are not ever going to change their minds now seek out posts that indicate support for Joe Biden and say terrible things. I don’t know if I’ve ever reported a concern to Twitter, maybe once. Today, I had to report three different people who referred to me as a pedophile! I think this is part of the QAnon cult; I don’t know what else to call it.

For those of you who have sense enough to avoid all the noise online, as you consider your vote for president, I have seen the ugliness Trump’s twisted idea of leadership brings. He said, “I wasn’t lying. I was leading.” He thinks leadership is just looking like a leader, confident and calm. I am voting for Joe Biden because I prefer a president who can calmly tell me the TRUTH and confidently lay out the plan for moving through a crisis.