Sunday, April 18, 2021

Dear Sarah Palin

I have recently been listening to Barack Obama’s A Promised Land on Audible, read by the author. In a couple of places he refers to the “Obama Death Panel” rumors that according to Wikipedia and a quick google search were initiated by you in 2009. As a quick reminder, I give you this quote from your facebook post dated August 7, 2009: “The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.” 

Each time he mentioned these alleged death panels I found myself crying, needing to stop listening, to step away from the book for a bit. I am a slow learner, so it’s taken me a few years (ok, a decade-ish) to piece together a timeline that leads back to your Facebook post. 

I am not certain why you chose to perpetuate these lies, but I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know that your words had a very direct consequence in my life and on the lives of others in my family and my community.

My mother was born in 1943 in western Massachusetts, the child of a staunchly Republican Anglo-Saxon family. It would not surprise me in the least to discover that members of my mother’s family were involved with the local KKK. Yes, we have local white supremacist groups. One would think that with cows and tobacco and maple syrup, they would have been too busy to organize around fear of anyone not white and Christian, but they made the time. 

Move over, Gerber Baby
At some point during my mother’s earliest years, she was traumatized in ways that left her scarred for life, and as a result she was plagued by mental illness from her adolescence until her premature death in 2011. She was, in many ways, a product of her generation - raised in a culture steeped in white supremacy, with air raid drills, “duck and cover” in her sibling’s classrooms, the all too white corpses of Jews in Nazi hands (although anti-Semitic by upbringing, that particular set of “those people” looked too much like her to be ignored)…toss in a child predator or two, and it’s a recipe for mental health disaster. And so it was with her. 

Pris as a teenager

But she was a productive member of society. She birthed and reared a daughter (who went on to have two children of her own, author three knitting books, become a bleeding-heart liberal, and work against everything her mother believed she stood for). She worked hard, tirelessly it seemed, sometimes as many as 80 hours a week. She was a loving (and possibly I might argue excessively) doting grandmother to her own grandchildren, her great-granddaughter, and the children of anyone with whom she came into close contact. “The Nana”. It was probably her most beloved role. She gave when she could, what she could, to those she cared for. She had at her core a soft heart, although at times she was very clearly what she had been reared to be - a paranoid, defensive politically conservative racist. 

Nana with her great-granddaughter, and the author

Her life was not an easy one. Mental illness is relentless. Underfunded, under diagnosed, under treated and deeply misunderstood. Sometimes loops would play in her mind, driving her behavior, spinning her out into paranoia. She attempted suicide more than once. She engaged in self-abuse with razor blades, and was treated with a range of pharmaceuticals and talk therapy, including a 20+ year relationship with one shrink characterized by so much transference it would have made an exceptional case study for someone. 

Nana rolling eggs in the grass in happier times

It was into this damaged and struggling mind that a thought was delivered in 2009, first made public by you in your Facebook post, then picked up and amplified by conservative media and legislators. “They”, Obama and his …evil henchpersons? Death squad? Who the hell did you think was coming?…were coming for grandma. Grandma, and all the kids with Down Syndrome and, by inference, all the other white people deemed unfit in the new world order. 

My aunt could not stop whispering it, primed for fear and hate as she was by her own childhood, marked by the paranoia of WWII. And my mother could not stop listening, clenching her round white hands, looking at me with her brown child eyes, just this side of a sob as she whispered “They will get rid of me first, Melissa. I am useless, and a burden. It will be like the Jews all over again, only they will be coming for ME.”

Sometimes it takes me a while to put things together, time-wise. I would like to think that this is because I exist out of the temporal, so time lacks meaning because it has no beginning and no end. Really it just means I am slow on the uptake. Summer of 2009. Remember that, it’s important.

I struggled to convince her that this wasn’t real. That it was a lie, that it did not reflect what I knew of HR3200, not that I had read the whole thing mind you, but as a result of this nonsense I had read the section alleged to contain this infamous death panel crap - and it was indeed crap. All I saw was good. Exactly the kind of thing my mother, had she not been filled with conspiracy theories and paranoia, would have championed - a change in payment systems that would allow physicians to be compensated for having important end of life discussions with their patients, rather than a brief “you have this, and it’s terminal, and there’s nothing I can do. Goodbye”.

She did not believe me, and began to plan accordingly. 

At first she asked me to draw up all of her insulin on hand into a few syringes, or maybe I could get her a bigger syringe and she could just use one, in case she passed out before getting to inject the remainder. 

I declined. I encouraged her to reach out to her doctor for help. I encouraged her to make contact with the mental health professional she had been referred to after the death of her own psychologist. I called her doctor myself and reported her suicidal ideation, her various plans. I let the carers at the assisted living facility where she resided know. Both contacted her, she denied her plans, dismissed me to them as having “misunderstood her", and on we struggled.

Months passed, and the plan changed with the seasons, my attempts to change the course she had set were undeterred both within the system and without. Maybe an overdose of narcotics or anti-anxiety medication would work? I told her she didn’t have enough on hand to be lethal. Maybe she could stop taking her insulin and over-eat or starve herself to death? I told her how painful that would be. 

Every day she was fearful. Some days I chided her for being paranoid. Some days I reminded her of her great-granddaughter, then living in Texas with her parents on a military base. I reminded her of her grandchildren, grown but still present. None of them, she said, needed her. They had me, after all, and would be fine. She didn’t want to be here any more. She didn’t want someone else controlling the manner of her demise. She wanted to control it herself. The idea of a death panel was imbedded. Impossible to shift. 

I tried the medical route again, reaching out to her primary care physician to let them know that regardless of what she claimed, she did indeed have a plan to end her own life, although it shifted sometimes daily. Once during an emergency room visit I let the staff know that she had suicidal ideation, and a plan (or, depending on the day, many plans)… They called in a psychologist who interviewed her - and once again she dismissed me as having misunderstood her. In the hall, the woman told me she believed me, but that if my mother would not talk, she couldn’t make her. I was advised that she was, on paper anyway, competent. Any attempt I made to intervene legally would very likely fail and I risked destroying whatever warped relationship we had remaining. She was, in short, too good at gaming the system. 

She verbally contracted with her physician and with me to replace the Prozac she was on with another anti-depressant. Maybe, it was thought, a change in her medication regimen would snap her brain chemistry out of whatever hole it had fallen into. Maybe then we could get her into some kind of a place where she could get the help she so desperately needed.

At the end of her Prozac taper sometime in 2010, she was presented with a prescription for a new antidepressant - I don’t remember which, and really it is irrelevant, because she simply refused to take it. That, and all of her other meds except Premarin. No insulin. No anti-depressants. No Neurontin for the painful diabetic neuralgia. Nothing. 

She confided in me that although this plan was not her first choice, it would have to do if she wanted to avoid the Obama Death Panels. And I was to be consoled, she insisted, by her $25,000 life insurance policy. $25,000. She valued her life that cheaply. 

I won’t go into the details of her ultimate demise - it was a fiasco, a horrible mess to witness, that ultimately ended in November of 2011 when she died, much less peacefully than she might have desired. 

And this is where I put things together in a time line that somehow leads back to you, Sarah. Not that you are the only cause, not the you are the prime suspect in a death that took the universe 68 years to accomplish, but that you were a cause. 

Your words, your lies, amplified by divisive politics and a media unbalanced by the impending repeal of the fairness doctrine, had very direct consequences for very real people. My mother is dead. I watched her kill herself slowly. Her granddaughter watched. Her grandson watched. Her friends, her family…they all had to watch this unnecessary story play out before their eyes all because you allowed ignorance and fear to rule your mind and your tongue. 

Like I said, I do not hold you personally responsible for my mother’s death. Clearly she was unbalanced, and struggled against the demons of mental illness for all of her adult life. Something, I am sure, would ultimately have triggered her to end her life…there is a percentage of mental illness that ends in suicide, and the probability that she would be in that number was always pretty real in my world. 

But I do hold you, and everyone who amplified you, accountable for your words and the impact they have in the mind of the susceptible - the poor, the ignorant, the fearful, the damaged. You weren’t, as it were, the shooter. But you did sell the gun, with no background check. 

Nana in a box, with the ironic distribution device

And I thought you should know.

Nana's Last Beach Trip

Thursday, February 11, 2021

That Moment

I never wanted a cell phone, a computer, or the internet. I never even wanted cable TV. I remember when my ex bought our first vcr. Didn't want that either. I remember every step along the way the same way I remember the compromises I made about food...I wanted to be vegan. No one else did. So I gave in, made the deal to keep the peace.

What I should have done was pack my shit and my kids and go find like-minded people in the woods, but then I probably would have become a dangerous conspiracy theorist with lots of guns. 


So now it's the plant based revolution online, and Brittany Kaiser's book Targeted, and the Center for Humane Technology...and still this tiny computer in my hand (and an iPad so handy for painting off of, and a MacBook to write museum articles, and the cloud to store my photos.)

Is it too late to throw my phone in the river? Too late to go back to paper and pens?

Probably. There has to be a middle ground in which I'm not feeding the data machine, and the data machine isn't controlling me.

How did we get here? 9/11? Patriot act, hand over any stitch of privacy we ever thought we had...and we nearly landed ourselves in the same fascist setting that killed millions of Jews? Or did it begin long before that?

And we aren't out of the woods by a long shot. 

Just how many choices have I made in the last two decades that were really and truly my own? Specifically the last ten years...I feel like they've been stolen.

Choices. Delusional belief that we are actually free. 

We're not. We've been sold to psy-ops. We just have to figure out how to buy ourselves back. How hard can that be. Right? 

Friday, February 05, 2021


 I've gone off the socials again and I'm glad of it. Once a week to check Facebook. 

Meantime I'm finding things to help me understand the socials and the deep polarization that I have believed for ages is other words I believe that fundamentally we have more in common than not, and we need to find a way back to that. And we need to get off devices (but shit I'm writing this on my iPhone, so...)

I've recently digested The Social Dilemma and The Great Hack on Netflix as well as a podcast called Your Undivided Attention. All have been beneficial and scary. Is this a dystopia, and if so how do we course correct? Is democracy under assault, dying, and what do we want the future to look like? How do we navigate a world full of conspiracy theories aimed at exploiting every human weakness and fear that we have?

Then I paint some from this Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings book or knit in an attempt to sooth my brain. Lianna is concerned about the excessive number of "mini paintings" I'm producing in the way that only a five year old can be. "You have enough of these mini paintings, omie. There's a lot of them. Why are you making these mini paintings?" I give her a canvas and a brush periodically and wish I had these resources when my kids were small, both the physical and emotional ones. 

I'm learning that I don't like abstract. The impressionist one wasn't as hard as I thought once I got rolling but it wasn't by favorite. I'm getting better at sketching with pencil and with paint. 

I'm ever aware of and grateful for the space to play with all of this. I still worry about Gene working so I can I play. But at the same time, if he doesn't then my stuff would fall apart - Rachel can have a safe place for the child while she's working, museum volunteering, art...they'd all be mostly eliminated. Does unpaid labor have value, the endless question and internal battle. That and imposter syndrome. Fun fun. 

The goal : make a painting that is art from my brain, and sell it to someone not friends or family. For five minutes it'll make me feel like I can paint. Then I can go back to feeling like a fraud. (Insert lol emojis here). 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Patriotic Post

 or maybe just a happy one.

For the first time in four years I feel like I can take a breath. The flag, songs, and the ridiculous pomp of this nation don't make me nauseous any more. Instead they fill my eyes with tears of joy and hope. 

I've gone off the socials hopefully for ever...I'll still I suppose have to check in maybe once a week to post pictures, maybe sell some ornaments and check on museum volunteer group stuff or whatever, but I'm really, really looking forward to a return to real life. The last time I walked away from Facebook was so soothing and joyful and I was so happy with that decision until I got conned back on for museum things.

I'm done with the artificial world. 

And 46 is my new favorite number.

Grace. Class. Dignity. Respect for truth. Honor. Science. 

400,000 lives, trillions of dollars, enough hate sown to last a lifetime. We will rise up and reject it all. We have to.

For now I'm planning a trip to DC, a thing I haven't wanted to do in four years. Give me a vaccine, a return of Amtrak services, and a small budget, and I'm heading down. Because this is my country. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

They Say March is Cruel

Oh, November 13, here we are again. Such a bitch. Am I sad my mommy is dead? Or am I sad that my mommy was a largely untreated mentally ill woman who never should have had a child of her own? Or am I angry at the world because apparently 47% of the population of the United States is...but I digress.

Maybe this last four years watching delusion spread faster than the flu has been really hard for me, especially this last year, as I watch insanity take over a nation and I realize the line between sanity and not is as fragile as it ever was, and perhaps more so. 

I've spent most of my life trying to find solid ground, a place where things make sense, a place that's real. Where the emperor is naked, and everyone TELLS HIM SO. A place where the earth doesn't shift under your feet on an hourly basis because the person you are most supposed to trust in life - your MOTHER, for christsake - gaslights you so often that you aren't sure the sky really IS blue after all. 

I spent most of my life watching my mother lose battles within her own mind, with my small self being (frankly) repeatedly victimized and traumatized by her failure to see truth, sense and reason. So this is a hard year, because I see all around me strong signs that 47% of us crazy as my mother. 


Not sorry. 

That's my take. You'll cash out your "Christian" virtue and morality, dump democracy, turn your back on the world and your fellow countrypersons because...they want to grow, progress, evolve? And you want to cling to crazy debunked lies dreamed up by some person/s you've never met named after a fictional string-pulling, button-pushing, god-like Sci fi character. I'm sorry man. That's just nuts. And your nutty conspiracy theories about death panels helped kill that crazy old woman. And more people have died and will die as a result of all this. 

Some people get scared and buy guns and develop (and cling to) elaborate conspiracy theories with no evidence to support them, while blindly ignoring the facts that are staring them in the face. Some people buy into untruths with no supporting reality and...kill themselves over it, or kill others. 

But maybe we all do that in our own way, just with less loss of life. My reality is another's delusion. My delusion is someone's reality. Existential crisis in 3....2....

So here we are again, November 13, you bitch. She's still dead. Her legacy clearly is not. And I'm not sure, but I'm beginning to think it may be contagious. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Ode to a Toilet Brush

In 1980-something, probably 84 or so, I procured a Rubbermaid toilet brush in a little peach tippy front holder, peach being at that time my favorite color, along with dusty rose and aqua, but I digress. 

That little brush and tippy front holder have moved with me ever since. Across states, across towns, through marriage, childbearing, divorce, remarriage, child rearing it was my faithful and predictable partner in toilet bowl cleanliness. One toilet or three in the same house, it never once let me down.

In 2018 we packed me, the pets and most of the house into a uhaul and relocated from NC back here to the frozen tundra that is "home". The brush did not come with me, but I promised it that we would meet again soon. Duty called it to remain in  NC where it could support Gene while the house was on the market. I bought a brush (with an incorporated plunger and holder, very fancy!) at Target just to get by. It felt disloyal, but the choices were limited and I liked the plunger feature a lot.

When the last day came and Gene packed himself and the sparse remains of his Mooresville housekeeping into the car he made a slight error in judgement - two really, that he will probably never finish paying for. So busy being angry that the big extension ladder wouldn't stay on the roof of his car, he left behind two critical items that to him, as the person who has not done most of the cooking and cleaning for the last 30+ years, had no value : my basketville gigantic heavy duty wooden clothes drying rack, 1980's era toilet brush in it's little (fading) peach tippy front holder. 

Today I am grieving as I head to Amazon to buy a decent toilet brush. THIRTY PLUS YEARS. THIRTY PLUS YEARS and still working great! But this fancy ass two year old piece of crap? The bristles are breaking and fraying, and my heart breaks with the firm knowledge that those kids that bought my house probably chucked that PERFECTLY GOOD toilet brush in it's faded tippy front holder into the big Mooresville trash pick up bin on their Very. First. Day.

Friday, May 08, 2020

Weak Lungs

Yesterday I went out and did a bit more than my normal in terms of erranding...Met up with Jacinda at Upinngil to hand off masks and look at flour, dropped the Prius off for spring tire swapping, then decided - while waiting for my tire swap, and since I had a mask on already anyway - to walk to Dollar General (who I know has cheap dried beans), and to Aubuchon because we have no hoe (and no idea where the damn thing went), and I needed a length of stovepipe to make a squirrel baffle for my bird feeder post ala Grampa Dan (we used to have matching ones back in the day that he engineered and we built separately). I saw a lot of people unmasked outside, and a lot with masks in their cars. Now, if you put the masks on the people out for a walk, and told the people in their cars that they don't need them while driving...but I digress.
I went into Cumberlands (touch free!) and peed but bought nothing, because buying is touching and consuming and I have no interest in consuming anything I didn't make myself yet. The surreal "new normal" was simultaneously off-putting and comforting, with doors held wide open and caution tape roped up and an employee serving drinks across a barricade of wheeled Rubbermaid carts instead of the usual melee. The long lines of cars at both Dunkin' Donuts on Federal confirmed my decision to give up coffee - which at 8 weeks "clean" is a nice pat on the back. The last thing I need right now is caffeine withdrawal when the coffee market collapses. I've had that. It wasn't pretty. Tea it is.
At Dollar General I was surprised to see all the dried beans gone but 8 pounds, and I bought them all. People were respectfully distant, employees look fearfully at customers which leads me to believe they get a lot of shit in the course of a day. Why not - after all they're essential(expendable) workers.
At Aubuchon there were 4 employees at registers because although it was only Wednesday this is Random Sunday in May weekend coming up, and that always stimulates the buying up of anything floral or bird or garden related. There's not a lot, let me tell you. No giant racks of plants. All I needed was a hoe and stove pipe, as physically distant and as quickly as possible, thank you very much.
So I got what I needed - one garden variety garden hoe, and one 6"x24" galvanized stove pipe section, and headed for the check-out.
The floors are marked with 6' spacing, which some people understand and others do not. How obtuse you need to be to not see a giant blue X marked every 6' with giant blue arrows indicating direction of traffic flow is beyond me. Situational awareness is dead.
After I checked out and was heading for the door, I overheard a blue-collar redneck type turn to his equally blue-collar redneck buddy and say "I don't know why I have to wear this. I mean, it isn't protecting me, you know? I mean. It's isn't."
And I snapped back "NO. It's protecting ME." and walked out the door into the sun, not waiting for a reply.
They just don't get it. And as I was walking back to Tire Warehouse I got to thinking about how and why they don't get it...and there's so many layers of why and so much information floating around that's misleading and conflicting...and I ...I just want people to understand. I know - I could just feel it - that when I walked away part of what went through his white male macho head was "Who the fuck are you??"
So, for you, sir, let me try and explain who I am:
I am your mother. I am your children's mother. I am your grandmother, your children's grandmother, your wife's mother, your beloved Auntie who you need to visit more but never have time because of the kids and the wife and work and all the excuses.
I am your kid's teacher, the receptionist at your utility company who cuts you a break on the bill because you're out of work. I am the doctor who tells you to stop eating crap and get some exercise, and the lady at the bank who deposits your unemployment check when the ATM stops working.
I am the nurse who will set up the iPad so you can see your wife and kids in the ICU if you "get it bad".
We are unable, it seems, to see past ourselves. This has been a failing of our culture for decades, this failure to teach responsibility to others. I know I failed with my own kids, and it looks like everyone else did as well. I recently stated that White Jesus had become a convenient wrap to hide our insecurity and fear and paranoia. I stand by that.
My parents used to worry about my "weak lungs". My father worried that he'd passed pulmonary HTN onto me (there are early indications that it's true). I've got auto-immune disease and an abnormally low white count with no diagnosis behind it other than "...some more auto-immune things, and we will know which one when more symptoms develop". I've got unresolved issues with a family member that I hope to resolve at least a little before I die. (Mommy loves you, you rotten little hedgehog/porcupine/turtle thing).
I'm not working because the actions and movements of other people are unknown to me and out of my control. I'm not going to the museum because the actions of other staff and volunteers are unknown to me and out of my control. I'm not seeing or spending time with my grandchildren because their movements and those of their parents are out of my control and...not known to me. All of these people are like this guy at Aubuchon - "Why? Why do I have to wear this thing? Why do I have to stand 6 feet away? This is AMERIKA, GOD DAMN IT, and it's my RIGHT to kill other people with a virus I don't know I am carrying!"
I shop for food once every two to three weeks, and with Misfits Market (hallelujah! organic produce at my door! use code COOKWME-KH3CIF for 25% of your first box!) that may be eliminated, so I'll pretty much be here. I limit my interactions with the world as much as possible. We don't order take out because I don't know if the people prepping the food are masked, gloved, and disease free. I've had to cancel progress on repairing a badly injured wrist for the foreseeable future.
So when I get angry about people not staying home, and people's because I'm scared.
I'm scared that I will get it and end up on a vent drowning in my own secretions because someone out there didn't wash their hands, and thought wearing a mask was unfair to them personally. I'm scared that I won't see my kids or grandkids again in person to talk or hug or say I'm sorry or I am not sorry or come here so I can slap you. I'm scared that this is my new normal, and even when the rest of you are out and about I'll be here waiting for some magical herd immunity number that never comes, or that comes at a cost I don't want to pay - like the lives of the people I love. That is the biggest fear.
I’m also angry. I’m angry because the science is really clear on how these pandemics start, on how our treatment of animals used to feed us creates the perfect environment for the development of killer diseases, and yet in our greed for the flesh of other living things and corporate greed for selling them to us, we do nothing to change that. The answers are so easy that they've been deemed "too easy", and are therefore discarded.
Frustrated feelings today. I dislike the word "can't" because of it's negativity and limiting effect on individuals. I choose to say "I choose to" or "I choose not to".
I choose not to go to work. I choose not to go to the museum. I choose not to see my grandchildren in person. I choose not to walk the 3.5 mile loop I've walked (or run) a thousand times before. I choose not to go out, get take out, shop more than is necessary.
The reasons for why I choose those things is where I get caught up; self-absorbed and self-pitying.
Choice implies desire.
I don't want to choose these things. Presented with options, I'm choosing the ones that best ensure my survival, or keep me safe. Safety isn't a thing that usually factors into my choices on a personal level. I've never been this intimated by an unseen thing. I'm taking it seriously, I've ordered inhalers, I'm eating every antioxidant that gets near my face, I'm actively strengthening respiratory accessory muscles, I'm doing deep breathing...
And all this when for all intents and purposes I'm HEALTHY. If you met me on the street or if you know me well...I may look paranoid, extreme, overly cautious...because nothing about me in person says "Oooo, high risk..."
So all this talk about re-opening...who's looking out for the people who look healthy, aren't necessarily - but don't have my privilege? The people who will be fired if they choose to put their life ahead of a dollar?
I know a lot of people who are high risk who are going on business as usual...I don't have that gene. I'm not one for running into burning buildings. I've got things I want to do. Survive is at the top of the list. But man is it hard to stick to that plan.
I've never been particularly good at sacrifice. That's not why I'm still here. I'm here because I'm selfish, and a survivor, from my follicles to my toe nails. Right now survival means shrinking my life to this tiny fragment of "normal". The longer this goes on the more guilty and heartsick I feel. I'm like...a strange sort of conscientious objector, choosing to stay home while other people better and braver than I risk death in my place. And it is HARD, man. Really hard. Because the thing that could take me out - I mean for real take me out - is a tiny thing no one can see. I don't know if the guy before me at the gas pump left it behind. I don't know if a patient's family got sick of quarantine and went visiting then licked a door knob I may later touch without knowing. I don't know if that unmasked kid at the Home Depot was partying with friends all weekend before offering to help me load lumber into my Prius. So yeah, some of that is "living in fear", but if everyone believed science and took this shit seriously...I could relax, have less fear, and more reasonably assumption that people CARE about my life - about anyone's life beyond their own - enough to wash their hands and put on a fucking mask. And who am I? Go back up and read the list. I am anyone. I am everyone. I am you, you are me, we are all ONE. Jesus tried to tell them that, but their heads are way too far up their asses to see it.
It knocks your cavalier socks right off, reading descriptions of COVID-19 deaths, and knowing...what you know. Fearlessness, it turns out, has limits. So fuck yeah I am scared. If I wasn't I would be a fool. God - whatever that is - gave me a brain and I use it without apology.
Today....I'm grateful for paint and pencils, and produce.

Also, don't worry about Murder Wasps. They've been in the US for a few years now. It isn't great news, but it also was just a smoke screen some PR person probably threw out there to grab the media (squirrel!).