Monday, December 4, 2017

Booze, Women, and Movies

It's almost as if Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley lives in my closet when he inferred that the 0.2 percent of U.S. residents who benefit from repealing the estate tax are more worthy than the poor who spend all of their money on "booze or women or movies." By living in my closet, I mean never interacting with real, ordinary people.

The last two years have been challenging for me. I am 50 years old. This is currently my second bout of unemployment; I have been out of work since June. I no longer have any available savings. I have a recurring health issue that makes me short of breath and tired. I have spent the last six months trying to start a mindfulness facilitation consulting business. I had hoped to teach maybe two or three days a week. Nothing has come from the myriad of phone calls I have made or emails I have sent.

Now, I'm looking for a paying gig. I guess I could work retail. I could go back into teaching. For that, I'll need my transcripts (five schools) which are not free. So far, I've been flatly rejected for two jobs, both retail.

Unlike the poor people that Senator Grassley knows, I spend everyday at home. I rarely leave the house; gas is expensive and I might want to buy a tea. Here's the thing, if a poor person wants to have a beer, who are we to judge? Going to a movie or a concert doesn't make a person morally deficient. It makes them alive. All too often, the poor in the United States are shamed and portrayed as unworthy of compassion or assistance.

I guess I'm lucky because my ex didn't want his son's mother to be homeless. I use his money, but the financial strain is pretty considerable. My shame is immeasurable. Most of my clothes have holes in them. I, however, make sure my son's clothes are presentable and well maintained. I won't be able to deliver baked treats to my friends during this holiday season. I surely won't be purchasing gifts for anyone other than my son.  All of my magazine subscriptions will expire. I cannot afford to give to charity. I worked part of the year as a contract employee and I have no idea how I will pay my FICA contribution in April. This is not what I want. But, go ahead America, keep fooling yourself into thinking that the poor are lazy and immoral.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

My Life As an Immigrant

I fully understand that it is expensive to travel.  I am not currently in a position to be able to afford more than a very short road trip - about one day is my financial limit. From what I can tell, about 46 percent of all American citizens have a passport. An American cannot travel to Canada with out a passport, at least not fly into Canada. 

America is considered the most powerful and wealthiest country on the planet and yet a full 54 percent of its citizens cannot currently visit another country. Even worse that that, it looks like only 25 percent of Americans can speak a language other than English. Both of these statistics are bad for a number of reasons.

Travel can allow a person to see the world through different eyes. Someone can see that there are different ways to do things. A different way to prepare a meal.  A different way to consume a meal. A different way to ride public transit.  A different way to handle healthcare or parental leave. Face it, if the only measuring stick you have is the one you have had your whole life, you're not likely to see change as a positive. Same with language. If you have never learned a second language, you have no idea how difficult it can be for people who move to the US from a non-English speaking country.

I majored in French. All through high school, I aced my French classes - all As. I studied French all the time. I continued that academic success in college. The real test was going to be going to Paris for a semester. Emotionally, I wasn't ready for that adventure, but that is a story for another time. For now, let's focus on language and my shiny grades.

Those grades helped, but I was exhausted during my six weeks in Paris.  I spent tons of energy trying to determine if I was using the proper conjugation of verbs. Answering the phone was a nightmare.  I never touched the phone, because I had no visual cues to help guide me through the conversation.

Also, I was now living just outside one of the most famous cities in the world, trying to navigate public transit for the first time in my life (note to parents, please help your child learn how to figure out buses or subways, if possible). I didn't have my bedroom, my bed, my regular food.  Nothing was the same. I chose to be in Paris, but I was homesick.

The summer after my trip to Paris, I studied in Quebec City. Emotionally, I was better prepared.  The language still caused me headaches.  The Quebec accent is vastly different than the Parisian accent, so I didn't understand my professor for about two weeks. This program had a strict "pas d'anglais" (no English) policy. However, when my classmates and I left campus, we spoke English.  Why?  Once again, speaking a language that is not your native tongue is exhausting at first.

I have friends who have lived for a few years in other countries.  They craved to speak English and to eat American food.  Why?  Because those things are familiar and we miss home when we are not there.

Since 2002, I have lived in Canada, just across the river from my hometown area of Detroit.  For most of that time, I worked in the US, so I traveled home on a daily basis.  Just the same, I miss living in the States. I miss familiar places and being physically close to my dearest friends. I still celebrate Thanksgiving in November (along with the Canadian one in October).  I don't drink double-doubles or iced caps from Tim Horton's. I still say 'z' and not zed. I would rather gauge out my own eyes than become a Maple Leafs fan and forsake the Red Wings. But, here I am. I love the healthcare system that saved my life and didn't drive me into bankruptcy.  I'm not afraid of new places and I think the same can be said of the large majority of people who voluntarily leave their nations of origin. It's hard work and I hope that most Americans can recognize that before my home truly becomes Fortress America

Monday, July 3, 2017

Is the Time Right?

Now that the U.S. has elected its first (and I hope last) reality television President, perhaps the publishing world is now ready for my novel. Is that how it works?

My book is about a teacher whose school is the subject of a new reality show.  It doesn't go well and the damage caused is long-lasting.  That probably isn't really shocking to people. Just the same, there are dozens of similar shows on television and each of them have some sort of following.  Many of those watchers even believe that the shows are real, unscripted.

With Donald Trump in office, has the time come for my book to be relevant?  Characters in the book behave cruelly to each other, just like the President has done. The school has to deal with the policies that have been pursued by the current Secretary of Education, when she was a private, wealthy donor, though she isn't mentioned. On a weekly basis, people tune in to follow the drama, as if real people aren't on the screen. People retweet the President's rants and insults, like it's a game.

There is only one way to find out, start sending it out to agents and publishers.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Thanks to the On This Day feature on Facebook, I realize that I officially left teaching two years ago, today. In the two years that have followed, I had a job and then lost it (still  for unknown reasons).  I have lost all but $300 and avoided homelessness by moving in with my ex.  I had an emergency blood transfusion. I have gained about 25 pounds (an estimate because scales make me cry). I have contemplated suicide. I am still out of work.

Would I do anything differently?


As a matter of fact, I would do everything exactly the same, even knowing that I would be sitting here, unemployed for eight months.

I have a solid goal in my life and I would not have found that goal if I hadn't been through varying degrees of hell in the last two years.

I have found that I really do have friends who will stick by me and offer me support and love.

I have found peace.

If I had stayed in teaching, none of that would have been possible.  If I hadn't lost my job, I wouldn't have taken steps toward a goal that will truly fulfill me.

So, thank you to all of the bullshit that has come my way. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Give Love

My plan for this evening was to go to gym, as I have done for five days out of the last seven. Today was even going to be a double exercise day because I had done some yoga this morning.  My plans changed because of two, unrelated events: President Obama's speech about gun control and the suicide of a former Hamtramck High School student.

Today, President Obama announced an executive order to address gun violence in the United States.  I was most interested in the investment of $500 million dollars to improve access to mental health care. According to the Center for Disease Control, 41,149 Americans committed suicide in 2013. Of those 41,149 deaths, 21,175 deaths were attributed to guns. Guns contribute to 51 percent of all suicides in America. Clearly, the U.S. needs a serious wake-up call about mental illness and how access to guns allows too many people to kill themselves.

Earlier today, I heard about the suicide death of a Hamtramck High School graduate.  This young man, whom I did not know, used a gun to end his life. From what I can tell, he was only 19 years old, maybe 20. A former student wrote about the death on his Facebook wall and a comment was made to the effect that people often hide depression, so not to be judged by others.  I know that I try hard to hide any truly dark emotions so not to frighten people away, as I have experienced. From what I can tell, this hiding is probably more prevalent among men, that women. While women are twice as likely as men to experience depression and three times more likely to attempt suicide, men are four times more likely to actually kill themselves.  Of the 41,149 suicide deaths, 79 percent of those are men. That is 32,507 men. Of that number, 51 percent were caused by a firearm.  A little simple math tells us that 16,578 men in 2013 killed themselves with a gun.  This sounds like a crisis, most acutely a men's health crisis.

Why do so many people suffer?  Why are 79 percent of all U.S. suicide deaths men?  I suspect it is because people (in general) and men (in particular) do not want to be seen as weak.  During his speech today, President Obama shed tears when he spoke about the children killed at Sandy Hook.  Of course, his opposition mocked him, as if he shouldn't feel saddened by the thought of those slaughtered children.

People who have suffered from depression readily admit that talking about depression makes them feel weak.  I remember a principal I had (red-headed female) who mocked a fellow teacher who was suffering from depression.  I knew about the situation because I was the union rep. for the building and therefore in a position to know about this person's struggles.  The principal said to me that this teacher needed to get over it because everyone gets blue from time to time. That stunned me.  This is from a conversation on a FB wall earlier, someone wrote,

"I don't want to burden anyone with my nonsense. And though I don't know how anyone else feels, I think I can understand why someone would hide it from others. I didn't want to be called a wuss or told how weak I was and I damn for sure didn't want to push my problems onto anyone else, because the chance of being lonely for being 'crazy' or something."
I get that because I have been there, but I think it's doubly hard for many men because they are supposed to be "strong" and tears are for women. This is the malarkey I heard growing up. Movies, music, television - real men don't cry.

It's time for real conversations and true concern and empathy for others.  It's time for LOVE. As David Bowie sings in his collaboration with Queen, "Love's such an old-fashioned word/And love dares you to care for/The people living on the edge of the night/And love dares you to change our way of/Caring about ourselves.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Beamish's 2015 Sountrack

My son has really blossomed this year.  While, he is still innocent in many ways, he is also beginning to understand that the world is a complex place that is not black and white. He's in a beautiful place right now: happy, empathetic, generous.

As he has broaden his horizon, he has discovered music of his own that he likes.  Because he is who he is, finding a song he likes means that he will sing it endlessly.  I'm okay with that because I like Imagine Dragons.

No end-of-year soundtrack for Beamish would be complete without something about Minecraft.  There are a number of Minecraft parody songs, so I'll just choose one.  Einie, mennie, minie, moe...

Finally, 2015 was the year in which my son discovered racism.  At school, he experienced a micro-aggression that other kids handled.  He had no idea what had just happened to him. Then, on a computer game he likes to play,, he encountered the n-bomb.   We have had many discussions since both of these events.  We have talked about racist and bigoted terms about other groups of people, though not all of them - yet.  For this seminal event, this Depeche Mode song seems appropriate.

Visit tomorrow to see my musical take on the virtual world.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Soundtrack for 2015 - Friends

On my road to recovery over the last two years, my friends have been an invaluable lifeline. I admit that during 2014, I was more likely to push people away, while during 2015, I craved companionship.

While my social calendar didn't overflowth, I did enjoy many wonderful times with great people.  First, I have to acknowledge my Squeeze family.  Despite their distance from me, I have come love them as if they were just next door.  For them, our favorite band.

Next, I've been shy about sharing my troubles.  It helps me feel less isolated and I hope it helps others who suffer from depression to feel less lonely and ashamed. Because I have been so open about my struggles, I have written a few FB posts that are alarming.  I'm pretty sure that at least one or two were accurate reflections of my suicidal state of mind, especially after I lost my job and was feeling ill due to a still-undetected bleeding ulcer.  Many people, including people I had only met a few times really comforted me.  People texted me.  One person wanted me to send her a message every couple of hours, just to make sure I was still on this mortal coil.  Who knows why near strangers reached out to me, but they did.  I can't thank them enough.

Finally, it took me halfway through 2015 to let go of the anger and disappointment I felt toward the former teaching colleagues who bailed on my in my sickness.  I'm glad to say that there are those who are still in my life and that is what is most important.  To those who left, I say

 Come back tomorrow when I will put the world of my Beamish boy into song