Sunday, July 17, 2022


 I wish I had always been who I am instead of who I tried to be.

I wish I had a mini van because the girls would fit better than they do in a car.

I wish the supreme court was made up of progressive women in a rainbow of skin tones.

I wish that when my daughter told me I was a feminist I’d realized she was right.

Mostly I wish I could express boundaries in a healthy manner rather than tolerating bullshit and trying to Be Nice and Please People before going all duck and run when I max out on being kicked around.

Oh. And I wish to leave New England again, but I haven’t decided where for just yet.



Tuesday, August 10, 2021

I think this is what the kiddies call a cluster f&^k.

I remember the first time I heard that phrase. B came home from college with a t-shirt he adored but had gotten a grease stain on - dead center, very obvious. For a fastidious boy, unacceptable. It had a logo and the words 'Greco Roman Cluster Fuck' on it. The phrase appealed to me. I kept it.

The other day my indigestion (you'd have to go way back here to get that reference...) asked if it was ok if he outed me as agnostic. I told him it was fine. Although I am not advertising, and I am not aggressively promoting anti-religion I have come to a solid and comfortable place of anti-religion in my personal life. 

I think I have always been in a state of reasonable unbelief. But at the same time guilt ridden and struggling to be "faithful" to a 2,000 year old book written by a bunch of white guys. I'm over it. 

The beginning of the end was subtle. The mother died, so the need for a structured system of belief to make sense of the anguish of life diminished. No need for a rigid structure to make sense of the world around me that felt like endlessly slipping sand. One of the last things my father and I discussed more deeply was his failure to read the christian bible through at some point in his life. By that point I was on round 2 I think, beginning in Genesis and going through to Revelation. He was impressed with that accomplishment. At that point I was still forcing belief but it was getting harder.

Two things struck home and ended the charade for good. First, Marcus Borg. Non-literal biblical interpretation makes the most - the ONLY sense. Allegory, metaphor, moral lessons. Jesus speaks endlessly in metaphor. The biblical stories work if they are moral lessons, not literal fact. Not "seven days or bust, the earth is only 6,000 years old, science isn't real" nonsense. And if it isn't literal, and there's other texts that easily pre-date it, then you're really up against it to prove that your one book is the only right one. And you are really seriously arrogant. Second, the moment when I bought a book that explained how to explain away all the inconsistencies in the book. If you need a book to explain all the things that don't make sense...if you need apologetics to explain away everything sensical, rational, logical, touchable, REAL then there has to be a problem with the system. Possibly with the foundation. Probably white guys.

Maybe three things. Hospice, though purely anecdotal. I watched a lot of people die. The most tormented were usually the most faithful. OK, four things. Feminism. Although I have denied, struggled against, resisted with siren call of feminism I simply cannot get away from "...the radical notion" that, as Marie Shear said, "...women are people". Any tome that tries to tell me otherwise is going to have an uphill battle, because I am damn sick a tired of believing that I am chattel or a second class citizen, obliged to submit to a man just because he has a dick and somehow managed to twist history to his benefit.

So there you have it. 

And it feels really good to say all that out loud. But it feels really really bad to know that I should have gotten here DECADES ago. Talk about guilt. (sorry, kids....maturity is the radical notion that parents are people).

So here's my cluster fuck. Gaining credibility when you've proven yourself to be an idiot is hard. Eating crow is hard. Moving forward when you can't fix what's done is hard.

I do this thing I love now. I give natural history museum tours or I fill up a minivan with native wildlife and I travel hither and yon talking about adaptations, evolution, earth history, facts. And you know what? The truth is that the science is so amazing, so incredibly and endlessly fascinating...I love it so much. I feel like - like hospice, it's a thing I was always meant to do. 

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.