Family

People are Stupid. Love, Mom

Rodin at The Met

Every home, every family unit, has their own rules–what’s out of bounds to say or do, particularly when there are children in that unit.  For us, the absolute no-go was stupid. We never used the word to or about our kids, nope, not even kidding around, and there was a no-tolerance policy regarding them using the word about themselves, each other, or anyone else.

You won’t be surprised to learn that in our home, cursing (English, Spanish, or sorry to say, Spanglish) was not automatically against the rules. Yes, we wanted them to understand some words (ie, curse words) were offensive to some people, and wholly inappropriate in some settings, but we never pretended shock or offense on our own behalf.  Everyone’s got their own things, right? We were also ok with movies or video games that had some cursing/sexy scenes (no, I’m not talking about when they were toddlers here), but graphic violence was out. I don’t know if he remembers, but at the age of six my oldest, already reasonably well versed in museums and the nude art to be found on display, was traumatized when he was at a friend’s house and they had a sculpture from this biblical scene:

Judith with the Head of Holofernes, ca. 1530, Cranach

So, we tried to teach the kids that words are powerful and important, to be explored yet respected, but violence and harm to others was never, ever ok. For whatever reason, the idea that certain words were not to be used in certain settings, or in front of certain people, was more easily learned for the English curses than the Spanish ones. I may have told the following story before, if so and you’ve read it, sorry, I’ve been running Mrs Fringe a long time.

When Art Child was five, we experienced her first hospitalization, and after approximately 8,000,000 days in the PICU, she was doing much better and the team was deciding whether she could be discharged or sent to a step-down room. Her main nurse argued with the resident on the unit not to remove her IV yet in case bloodwork was needed for the decision (if you’re unfamiliar with this stuff, if the IV is in place they don’t have to do another “stick”, they can draw blood right from it), the resident insisted she remove the IV. Needless to say after it was removed the team said one last blood draw was required. I was pissed, the nurse was pissed. The resident said she’d do the draw herself so we didn’t have to wait for the phlebotomy team, and the girl was furious. She was a passionate kiddo to begin with, very verbal, and so she cursed the resident. Resident chuckled, “it’s ok, you can call me a dodo head, I’ve been called worse.” Nice, right? She was trying to atone, but clearly confused by the fact that the (Latina) nurse and I weren’t chuckling, we were downright cracking up. Because the girl hadn’t called her a dodo head, she called her a toto head (see the earlier apology for my home’s Spanish/English mixing). Toto is Spanish slang for–so as not to offend anyone’s delicate sensibilities–girly bits.

She didn’t, however, call her stupid.

But, well, here we are, living in a time where misogyny, racial slurs and racist ideas/ideals are not only considered acceptable by the White House, but these ignorant slurs and ideas are being used to create racist policies. So no, the fact that our so-called President used the term shithole neither surprises nor offends me; but that it was used in reference to large swaths of the world, millions and millions of people because they have brown or black skin, offends me greatly. He knows what he meant, his supporters know what he meant. That shit isn’t a dog whistle it’s a shrieking tornado alarm, heard across the world.  This isn’t cursing, this is verbal violence.

His millions of supporters? And if you’re one who hasn’t jumped on the bandwagon to use slurs yourself, but are remaining silent, shrugging it off, you’re one of them–are stupid. Not merely stupid for spouting, believing, and/or accepting ignorant nonsense, but stupid because odds are you’re next. He didn’t say, “why can’t we have more immigrants from China, from Argentina, from Italy, from Israel, Japan, from Ireland, from Poland?” No. He said, “why can’t we have more immigrants from Norway?”  I haven’t met too many people from Norway and I’ve never been. The few I have met were only here temporarily for work or on vacation. I’m sure they’re a lovely people across the board, god knows I’d love their health care and if I had their social safety net I wouldn’t want to emigrate anywhere else, either. Norway. Whiter than white. Think about that, and think about who and how many ethnic groups are not part of that Aryan wet dream. It doesn’t matter who you voted for, if you’re American, odds are you/your ancestors are not all part of that purity test. I’ve been saying this for over two years now; it will not stop on it’s own. Ignorance feeds ignorance, and hatred feeds hatred. Once you say it’s ok to slander, take away rights, human dignity, to hate one group, it’s going to be ok to strip rights from the next group, and the next. And if you’re a woman, well, it doesn’t matter what your ethnic background is, if this continues unchecked and the GOP doesn’t find an actual ethics compass we’re fucked regardless.

For most of us, those of us born without millions of dollars at our disposal and/or the protection of aristocracy (real or implied) life is hard, and we face hardships that cannot be avoided. Some find their homes and communities lost to hurricanes or earthquakes, their life savings and opportunities stolen by corrupt officials, their loved ones and countries torn apart by wars, the victims of hundreds of years of systemic oppression; or some find themselves the victims of smaller, personal yet still devastating effects of catastrophic illness for themselves, or their children fighting incurable diseases, or an industry gone belly up so they can’t find a job that allows them to support themselves or their families, or the victims of random, violent crimes. These are the suck of life, things that are generally out of our control, yet we have the responsibilities inherent in figuring out how to make it through, or how to make it easier for our loved ones to make it through. But this? The position America is in now? This was in our control, and to some degree, it still is. This was a choice. A choice to make it harder, dangerous, impossible for millions and millions of human beings, a choice that purposefully ignored and distorted this concept of “other.”

So yeah, people aren’t just hateful, or racist, or toto heads. People are stupid.

How Do You Measure a Year?

 

Seemed appropriate to keep the tree both small and bare this year.

Am I the only one who considers the soundtrack of Rent to be Christmas music? Seems more apt than ever this year, when marginalized people across America have been told they don’t count, and laws and policies are being put in place to ensure this. Like, yanno, women. And brown people. And poor people. And young people. And old people.  And the middle class. And the LGBTQ community. I’m not sure how all these people add up to a minority, but hey, math was never my strong point.

I hope everyone is finding some peace this season as we head into the new year. 2017 was one dumpster fire after another, wasn’t it? Plain old ugly. I’d like to believe 2018 will be different, but I’m not seeing anything to indicate that will be the case. Hell, as I was sitting and listening to Rent, I saw this bit in the news. Who needs to address HIV/AIDS? It isn’t like it impacts everyone, or matters for people to have access to healthcare. Yeah, I’m not expecting any miracles this year.

I’m not about beauty. Sure, I appreciate the look of a rose, but they make me sneeze, make my eyes water in ugly ways. I don’t like pretty poetry, don’t write beautiful characters, I can’t help it. It’s my nature to look at a scene–real or imagined–and be captured by what happened to create it; what went wrong, what’s about to go wrong, and find the scars and stretch marks we carry on the inside and out to be more interesting than a straight nose or flawless complexion.

I’ve always been about small moments, firmly believe these are what make a life; good, bad, or indifferent. A couple of weeks back, Art Child and I went to the Columbus Circle holiday market. We go every year, all kinds of local (and not so local) artists, artisans, and crafts. This year we weren’t shopping so much as just looking. This year more than ever the plan for gifts was about practicality and needs over anything else. It was freezing the day we went, and I wasn’t dressed for it because outdoor shopping hadn’t been the plan, so mostly I was breathing into the neck of my coat, trying to keep warm while hurrying the girl along. I paid attention to exactly one booth. I’m sure I must have seen them before, but this year it overrode the cold and made me stop. Peacebomb jewelry. Aluminum shrapnel from bombs dropped in Laos fifty years ago–by America during the Vietnam War, recast into bits of hope, bits of reclaiming what is ugly and destructive and turning them into beauty. I loved this.


Apparently I loved it so much Husband remembered. I can say without guilt or hesitation I didn’t ask or hint for him to go and get me something from them. Number 1, they’re out of budget. Number 2, we’re supposed to be focusing on the practical. I was so shocked, these were so the perfect gift to close this shitbomb of a year…it’s possible I scared our kids–I cried. I don’t think I’ve ever cried upon opening a gift before, and wouldn’t imagine ever doing so for any reason, but there you have it. Yes, I was surprised that Husband would remember me telling him about this organization and these artists. Yes, I was completely touched that he went down to the booths, searched out this one, and chose not only to purchase something from them, but a pair of earrings I would definitely choose for myself, but also something more. Dangling hope on hooks.

Not hope of magic rescue, or turning back the clock or turning over the election. That ship has sailed, and the damage is too real; ensconced in our government, new laws and overturning of regulations, sitting on judge’s benches for lifetime appointments. Frightening and most damaging of all, the realization and illustration of how vulnerable our democracy and democratic norms are. But hope that someday my children, your children, our collective grandchildren, will dig up these bombs and craft something beautiful out of them.

Happy Holidays, everyone. Whatever you do or don’t celebrate, I’m wishing all small moments of peace and hope in the New Year.

Can We Not? aka Too Soon

Want pretty? Have a flower.

As the ugliness that is our country’s new day to day grows more gruesome I find myself spending more time cruising Twitter. Maybe it’s the opportunity to ingest the day’s horrors in nibbles, I don’t know.

Last night I read the news about John McCain being diagnosed with a brain tumor. I’m sorry to hear this, for him and his family. I don’t like his politics, was horrified by and still believe he opened the door to our current administration by choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008.  I lost whatever respect I might have had left when he got on board to support 45 despite knowing he was unqualified and being publicly disrespected by him (which in turn disparaged all our veterans and troops); supporting and voting for his extremist and unqualified nominees while purporting to be a moderate. He’s still a human being facing a painful and difficult path, and I don’t have it in me to actively wish anyone harm.

That said, I was surfing a little while ago and a Tweet popped up in my feed, imploring us not to politicize McCain’s cancer. Really?  Maybe if I was a saint, or at least more highly evolved, I could agree with this. I understand the sentiment behind it, and it certainly sounds reasonable in 140 characters or less. Maybe if I wasn’t spending every fucking minute of every fucking day worrying about Art Child and Husband, what can/will happen if 45 and the GOP (of which McCain is a member) have their way with health care.

I’m sorry, but the reality is this is political.  John McCain is a political figure, by choice–and a powerful one, whose voice is influential and whose votes have had an impact on all of us.  He’s now got an aggressive type of brain cancer, a tumor known as a glioblastoma that is likely to have a poor outcome regardless of treatment and health insurance. I wish him the best possible outcome because he’s a human being, and I am, too.  Because he has good health insurance and because he’s a senator he does have treatment options (and will regardless of how/what the Senate decides for the rest of us), and if the worst occurs, those options will include excellent palliative care and a measure of dignity.   That’s political, and it will remain so until and unless we all have the same excellent and affordable healthcare with appropriate support and funding for science, research, and medical advances.

I’ve been quiet on the blog because I understand how very boring it is to my readers to hear me rant repeatedly about health care– why it’s important for all and why it’s personal for me.  So many personal stories going around the various news outlets and social media platforms, my story is no more or less meaningful than anyone else’s, and I’ve already shared what I’m willing to.

And honestly, I’m uncomfortable with the way these stories have been shared recently, the stress on photos of beautiful children who need their healthcare, Grandma in a coma lying in a hospital bed paid for by Medicaid who’s being told she should just get a job.  Is this supposed to show the cutest kiddos deserve treatment?  What if kiddo X isn’t considered beautiful by all who see them?  Or are the effective photos the ones that show the kiddos with the most tubes, the most pills?  What about kiddos with invisible disorders? I understand these photos are meant to personalize the potential impact of these proposed health care regulations.  I just don’t believe that isn’t already understood by the GOP.  They know how many will be hurt, and in how many ways, they know how many will die–they don’t care. How easy it is for these photos of beautiful (because yes, I believe they are all beautiful) children to be coopted by people who don’t care about any child’s plight, with flat-earthers (boy was I shocked to find out this is a real thing) posting ignorant, disgustingly callous comments or hurtful memes.

Maybe this is yet another example of how slow-witted I can be, or what a downright bitch I am, but I don’t see how Senator McCain’s medical needs are sacred while those of my family, my loved ones, and the millions of others in this country who need to keep their health insurance are political. I can wish him well while reminding him and his peers their votes, words, and actions are actively harming the rest of us.

Magical Thinking

Reality or Magical–What do you see?

Yes, it’s been a while.  Again.  First I was working on a post that’s still sitting in my drafts folder because I couldn’t beat the words into sense, and then life.  Blah blah, medical mayhem, lots of waiting rooms and doctor’s offices, suffice it to say I’m pretty sure any vision test I take from this point forward is null and void– I’ve seen so many while sitting with my girl, I’ve got every chart memorized. Thank you, my fellow Dems/Liberals for being diligent and insisting on being heard about how disastrous the proposed health care bill was, and thank you, GOP, for being in such a mess that you’ve had to put your we-want-you-to-suffer-painfully plans on hold so I can keep doing this.

And oh yes, I’m writing again.  A secret unless you a) read this blog post or b) follow my twitter feed (which you should, because on the thrice annual occasion that I remember to log on, I retweet with the best of them).  It might be more accurate to say I’m rewriting, because this isn’t a glittery new project, this is the rusty old wreck I tabled a few years back that I’ve already talked about reworking.  I figure I *might* be able to use half of what was there, and overall I don’t yet know if I’m taking something that was meh and making it better, or taking something that was meh and puking weird and unidentifiable bits of acid all over it.

Takes a bit of magical thinking to write a novel, regardless of genre.  More than a bit if you’re writing with an eye towards publication.  If you’re looking at trade publishing (as in–not self-publishing) I’m pretty sure the odds are 843,000,000,000 to one.  A couple of years back I blogged about the need for big brass ones in order to believe this could be done.  Despite regular polishing of my metaphorical testicles, here I am, still one of the unwashed and unpublished wannabe novelists.  Clearly, in addition to working diligently on the MIP (Mess in Progress, since I’m still unsure if I can call it a Work in Progress) the answer is to sprinkle some eye of newt into my word cauldron, maybe wave a bit of sage, and wear my very pointiest hat.

Whatever we’re wishing for, I think most of us engage in a bit of magical thinking.  Like, say, this woman.  This is a hell of a story, an excellent snapshot of why supporting 45 and his merry band of fascists was a bad idea.  She’s an American citizen married to a not-quite-undocumented Mexican immigrant.  She voted for our current regime, because she thought they only meant they would deport the “bad ones.”  Her husband wasn’t in hiding, checked in with ICE when he was supposed to, gainfully employed, paid taxes, legit, provisional Social Security number.  Needless to say he is currently in jail awaiting deportation because ‘Murica.  I’ve seen a lot of people comment on this story, some gleeful at her comeuppance, some who feel sorry for her.  Me? Shrug. I take no pleasure in what has to be a painful and terrifying experience for her husband and their children, but I don’t feel sorry for her.  He was very clear about his beliefs and vision, started his whole damned campaign with racial slurs about Mexican immigrants. This is an example of dangerous magical thinking; belief that no one can see you behind a clear shower curtain, that it’s ok and safe to wish harm on others; ok to strip rights, dignity, even humanity because other.

There were never any real plans offered by this President and his administration regarding how they would make things great. The closest they came to concrete plans involved who they were going to vilify, and how he could do whatever he wanted while keeping his supporters and increasing his net worth.  His net worth, not yours.  I’ve said this many times already, once you say it’s okay to dehumanize this group and that group, it’s a guarantee that more groups will be added to that list, and yours will surely be added sooner or later.  I hope no one reading this is surprised and hurt to discover this, but 45 and his cronies don’t see you as a human being.  You were a vote. If you voted for him, he’s done with you, if you didn’t, you never existed in the first place. Let’s go back to that disastrous bill, HurryUpandDieCare.  This is from a meeting on Thursday night, with a no holds barred attempts to squeeze votes out of those who thought it was still too generous a plan.  “Forget about the little shit.”  The little shit is you, me, and the woman from Indiana whose husband is sitting jail.

A little magical thinking might carry me through months of work on this MIP, enough to (hopefully) craft a cohesive and interesting story, maybe adding the tears of a baby dragon will get me through the querying process. It won’t get me published. Magical thinking got 45 and company into office, it won’t make them responsible, compassionate, or skilled–and it surely won’t protect us from the damage.

One of Those Days

Byron and Ramiro, by John Sonsini, 2008

Byron and Ramiro, by John Sonsini, 2008

Yesterday was just another one of those days.  You know the ones. Where you sit in kiddo’s specialologist’s office and they’re telling you news you don’t want to hear and their voice gets all tinny and small and you feel all tinny and small but part of your brain Must Keep Up Appearances so it engages your mouth and you try to sound like a Reasonable Adult Human Being by asking the right questions and taking notes as they tell you about two other specialologists that must now be added to The List of necessary ologists for said kiddo even though their words feel like a spray of pellets shooting holes in your tin self. Yeah, one of those days.

I haven’t actually read any news articles or watched any clips since leaving for the doctor yesterday.  This morning I scanned the headlines, and I didn’t miss much. Just another day with this administration, apparently gearing up to declare war on Iran, Mexico, China, and Australia (?!).  And, needless to say, continuing the war on the American People, specifically Democrats, women, people of color, Muslims, the wrong types of Christians, children, those who live in poverty, unions and union members, and anyone who mistakenly thinks Holocaust Remembrance Day and Black History Month aren’t about our Fearless Tweeter.  Did I miss anyone? I’m sure I did.

The other day I blogged about us, who “us” is, and the need to stop pretending that the supporters of our administration and these new policies aren’t part of us.  Indulge me today, while I talk about the GOP for the same reasons, just for a second. They aren’t going to save me, you, or anyone other than their own hides and bank accounts. Reasonable Republicans.  I believe that used to be a thing, much as I might have disagreed with them.  Now they don’t exist, not those in office, anyway.  Sure, a few make some noises here and there, statements mumbling disagreement, but ultimately, they’re staying right in line with our everything old is new again White Supremacist sanctioned policies.  Noises and mumbles don’t amount to more than a fart in a breeze when two of the horrific Cabinet picks were forced through despite the Democratic Senators’ boycott.  When there’s any one of them willing to support that horrific choice for Secretary of Education.  Thinkofthechildren my eye. When they ignore shady ties to Russia to clear Tillerson. When they support a well documented racist for Attorney General. When they quietly allow the firing of an acting Attorney General for putting the People and the Constitution above the administration. When they don’t say a word about the many active conflicts of interest. When suddenly Putin is someone to be admired, a role model. When legal and peaceful dissent and freedom of the press are overtly threatened.

What’s already occurred and occurring is horrific. I don’t have to read every word of every article every day to know this.  But I don’t get to ignore what’s going on in the country and world around me.  We may want to pretend we can just keep our heads down and it won’t effect us, but it does and will, in ways large and small.  Like imported goods being taxed so high we can’t afford fresh fruits and vegetables. Like losing healthcare. Like losing doctors to bans and deportations. Like losing research scientists for the same reasons. Like losing public schools. Like losing special education rights completely. Like more job losses because of hiring freezes, tech companies going to friendlier countries.  Like losing the right to practice whatever religion you choose. Or not. Like losing the right to vote because of increased gerrymandering. Like losing the right to choose, including situations of rape, the mother’s life at risk, and non-viable pregnancies.  Like losing the gains made in legalizing medical marijuana.  Like losing LGBTQ rights. Like losing all of our damned Allies in the world we share because they’ve been insulted and dismissed.  These are just a few of the very real, potential losses for all of us, without even looking at the more dramatic and yet suddenly also possible scenarios. The only question we have now is will this shitshow result in disaster or complete annihilation.

So, stop. Stop waiting for these imaginary ethical Republican senators and congresspeople to step up. I used to believe the next specialologist would have The Answer, maybe even The Solution, to my girl’s ever-increasing medical needs, but it became necessary to face reality and stop getting my hopes too high.  Still necessary to treat each issue as it arises, even necessary to hold a bit of hope in my back pocket, but for the sake of sanity and reasonable functioning, blind faith that everything will be ok and will go back to “normal” shortly is foolish.  As foolish as expecting the GOP to step up, or thinking our country hasn’t been fundamentally, irrevocably damaged.

Do the Right–Wrong!

Because what else would have been the perfect gift for Mrs Fringe on Inauguration Day, 2017?

Because what else would have been the perfect gift for Mrs Fringe on Inauguration Day, 2017? Thank you!

I’ve had this thought circling in my head for the past few weeks.  I talked about it a bit with Nerd Child before he went back to school last week, and today it seemed appropriate for musing on the blog after 1 full week of Trump & Co in office.  Yeah, I know, this isn’t a mom-blog and I already talk an awful lot about my kiddos, but bear with me, please.

Husband and I have always tried to do our best.  We knew that wouldn’t always work out as intended, but still, parenting is a commitment we take seriously.  A commitment to our children, but also a commitment to society.  We do our best, and hopefully offer decent, kind, well-adjusted human beings who care about others, themselves (raising saints and martyrs was never our goal), and the world at large.  How’s that for overblown navel gazing?  And yeah, we want success for them. Success doesn’t have to mean a job making a bazillion dollars a year on Wall Street, but for us it means that in addition to doing something they feel good about, we wanted them to understand it’s important to be able to pay your bills, and do better than we have, a little more comfort, maybe even own a house.

But have we screwed them in the process?  I’m looking around, taking stock of the past week, who’s taken office, been nominated, being confirmed despite (because of) no experience, no compassion, conflicts of interest galore and long documented overt racism; running the country, deciding to rip apart the social contract we’ve been building and trying to improve for over two hundred years….  Sure, greed, corporations, and selfishness have long been valued in our society.  It isn’t brand new, the results of this election didn’t come from nowhere, regardless of how many want to pretend it has.  There has also long been room for success from those who actually want to contribute, work with others.

Remember?  One of the first things we all teach all children is the importance of sharing, waiting our turn.  Husband and I taught our kiddos to do the right thing because it’s right, not because they might get in trouble, not even because of an afterlife.  But because this life matters, and every life of every person matters.  Trite but true, at the end of the day, can you look in the mirror? This week has shown us a whole different world.  At first I typed new. A new world.  It isn’t though, is it?

Today happens to be International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  And today, Nikki Haley, the new US ambassador to the United Nations,  addressed the UN and said, “for those who don’t have our backs, we’re taking names.” Trump is signing executive orders to begin building That Ridiculous Wall (the one that still makes  zero sense), still discussing a registry for Muslims, will restrict incoming Muslim immigrants (unless they’re from Muslim countries his companies do business with), and is denying entry to Syrian refugees.  No, not new at all.   No wonder they’re so enamored of that fascist “America First” slogan.

And by the way, in case you’re thinking all of this is being done in a (misguided) attempt to actually protect American citizens, ha!  This is the sneak-peak proof that this administration and the GOP couldn’t care less how many citizens are left without adequate healthcare in this country.  Why let people know they still have a few days left to sign up for a year’s worth of care? Sure the ads were already in place and paid for, but, well, fuck ’em. I can’t address the beginning of the dismantling of women’s rights and health care in this country.  Not yet.

So yes, in with all the other worries and panicking I’m doing about medicine and health care and civil rights and ohmygodhehasthefuckingnuclearcodes, I’m worrying about my kiddos; if they are prepared for this next page in American history, where might makes right and sharing their cookies is a notion as quaint and outdated as teaching them to use a quill.

Much of me is overwhelmed right now, certain we have said goodbye to American freedoms, the true American values of equality, justice, social mobility, education, progress, and democracy. We haven’t always hit those marks, and there’s no question and no excuse– our “equality” hasn’t  been equal, but we have had gotten better.  Now I have to believe we didn’t do them a disservice when we taught our kids they have to be able to look in the mirror, and I have to hope the mirrors they look into are true and clear.

 

 

All the Best People Are

Me, as drawn by Art Child about 4 years ago, age 11

Why yes, that is my avatar

It’s funny, isn’t it?  The small things that catch hold in your mind when something big and bad is going on.  Maybe it’s a defense mechanism, to avoid the brain shutting down completely.  Kind of like the grotesque show that begins today, Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017.  For the past few weeks I’ve been alternating between reading every newspaper article I can and shutting down the laptop and zoning out with Netflix. I’m sure I don’t have to detail how I was losing my shit, reading and watching clips from the Betsy DeVos hearing.  I think the democratic senators did a great job, demonstrating through their questions, how wholly unfit and inappropriate she is for Education Secretary.  I also think it doesn’t matter.  She, and the rest of the Billionaire Club, will be approved, because all prior rules of engagement, like knowledge, qualifications, and at least a pretense of ethics have been suspended for the foreseeable future.

A couple of days ago a friend posted a picture on Facebook, a piece of art from a popular artist promoting women’s rights and being offered for download.  What caught me wasn’t the art, it was the comment (not from my friend) that artists should keep their political views to themselves.  Oh my.  So terribly, woefully ignorant, a perfect case-in-point to what has gone wrong in America.  Art is political.  It makes you feel, it makes you see, it makes you connect, it makes you understand.  Doesn’t matter if we’re talking about visual art, poetry, prose, music, or performance.  All art is political.  And art is what endures.

img_9110

My home is not what some would think of when they imagine a family of artists.  The apartment is perfectly ordinary.  Look at the sketch above, Art Child drew it about four years ago, one of her very first pieces after she began, magically, miraculously, to draw.  That’s me in the sketch, perfectly ordinary.  We struggle with bills, we struggle with chronic and debilitating health issues, we struggle with the bits and bobs of life.  And we each love music and art and poetry and food and theater and literature, each with our own draws and, if I may be so bold, talents. Husband hears distinctions and nuances in music that are an entirely different dimension than I hear.  He can turn anything into a drum and create an irresistible beat.  Man Child creates art through food, and when he’s on a stage, it’s truly captivating.  The math he loves, “pure math,” incomprehensible to me, is another language, music in its own right, a language that has no borders of origin.  Nerd Child is a musician, a director, an orator.  Listening to him on his guitar makes me want to dance and weep at the same time.  He creates new worlds we all want to live in as he directs, and when he speaks, people listen. Art Child has developed her skills and talent, creating charcoal sketches and paintings that leave not just me, but others, strangers, talking about her work long after they’ve seen it.

Me? I write. I did write.  I tried to write.  Characters that are so everyday they’re more than a bit off, think you’re going to yawn and end with an oh! Settings that begin next door and then twist into the what the fuck.  My favorite “genre” is magical realism.  Not for escape, but for exploring the difficult and often ugly realities through the fantastical. Perfectly ordinary.

I am afraid of what’s to come tomorrow, next month, next year.  I’m a woman, on the downside of middle age, a self-proclaimed sort-of feminist, unsuccessful, a big and nasty mouth with a latino family.  By definition, not who our new administration wants to see or hear from.  We are ordinary people, caught in what looks to be an extraordinary time.  I don’t expect to become the next Salman Rushdie. I’m neither brilliant nor brave enough.  Let’s be honest, at 40,000 years old, dreams of acclaim and awards are long gone, but in those moments where I let myself dream, I still dream of being able to earn a dollar from my fiction.  Not because of the dollar, but because of the validation, because it would tell me I did, in fact, have an impact and speak someone’s truth other than my own. It is my belief that it is our obligation to continue to use our chosen mediums to explore and document what is happening, how it happened, why we are here.  Now is the time to be political. Create.

Hush

Conflicted Slippers

Conflicted Slippers

I don’t think I ever owned a pair of slippers before, but this Christmas, I requested and received these.  Nice, right?  Damn, these are comfy, cozy, and all kinds of aaah.

With the country seemingly on the verge of implosion by capitalism-run-amok, and rising uncertainties about, well, everything, the little things are feeling very important.  Small kindnesses, small comforts.  And then, three days ago, even these ridiculous looking fluffs took on another meaning.  Trump, PEOTUS, tweeted a thanks to Linda Bean for what appears to be a questionable donation, and of course, telling everyone to support LL Bean. ’cause that’s totally what the President should be doing, right? Good grief, is there no respite from this bullshit–even in the privacy of my home, in my goddamned pajamas?  No, no there isn’t.

Which brings me to my point.  This week, as promised, the GOP took their first steps towards repealing the Affordable Care Act.  Oh yeah, they also began clearing the path for future cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.   Needless to say, I and many of my friends have been freaking out.  No, this wasn’t a surprise to any of us.  This is *exactly* what the GOP and Trump said they were going to do.  That doesn’t make it any less horrific, terrifying, and downright immoral.  And it isn’t just us, this “small”  percentage (14%, last I saw) of families who have a child with medical needs.  It’s everyone who has a preexisting condition, might ever develop cancer or other catastrophic illness, might have a serious accident, use birth control, or, yanno, would like to be able (legally and financially) to make decisions for our health–even if we’re women.

It’s true, I’ve seen a few posts and comments here and there from people who voted for Trump who are surprised and unhappy.  Why yes, the ACA is the actual name for Obamacare, so you just voted to cut your own healthcare.  You’d have known this if you read full articles and didn’t rely on memes and rally soundbites as the sole source of your information.  Why yes, the Medicaid you were able to get because of Medicaid Expansion, part of the ACA.  Why yes, your young adult child is able to stay on your health insurance until the age of 26 because of the ACA.  Why yes, you were suddenly able to get health insurance you could afford despite preexisting conditions because of the ACA.  Why yes, you/your child will continue to be insured and receive life-saving treatments that can carry a sticker price of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year because of the ACA–because yes, with the old “lifetime caps,” there were many who exhausted their lifetime benefits within 5-10 years of treatment.  I would like a law that says people who voted for Trump and GOP lawmakers cannot identify as pro-life, they must identify as pro-birth, because they’re happy to watch all those babies die after they’re born.

Oh, I’m sorry, did you believe Trump and the GOP when they said they’d keep the parts you liked?  I can only quote our PEOTUS, “Lies.” That shit was magical thinking, not a binding pledge. But many comments I’ve seen and heard from those on the opposite side of the political spectrum aren’t expressing surprise or outrage.  Quite the opposite, they’re still celebrating, “the swamp is being drained.”  Yes, and as it’s drained it’s being refilled with the raw sewage of unprecedented conflicts of interest, overt greed, racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, possible treason, and plain old hatred of the less fortunate.

Most of the comments I’ve seen and heard are the ones that prompted this post.  They’re the ones that say, “relax.  Being upset doesn’t help. Wait and see, nothing has happened yet.”  Oddly enough these are the comments I’ve heard the most because I’m hearing them from both sides. It’s true, being upset doesn’t actually solve anything.  Very logical, thank you, Spock.  Guess what? Neither does burying your head in the sand.  I’m no political pundit, but I’m pretty sure that philosophy/methodology is what got us here.  You know what else?  As the parent of a child with medical needs, the wife of someone with preexisting conditions, I don’t get to step away from this or wait and see, because those medical needs are every. fucking. day. and things are indeed happening.

The ACA is certainly not perfect, and there are people who have been faced with premiums that are unsustainable long term.  Seems to me logic would say fix it, don’t set that shit on fire. Our social contract is rapidly becoming a social disease.

Goodbye, 2016

Fuzzy flush for a fuzzy year

Fuzzy flush for a fuzzy year

There’ve been years where I couldn’t wait to rip off the last page of the calendar. Despite the many days of suckage in 2016, this wasn’t one of those years.  I know, I know, the past couple of weeks the news and social media feeds have been filled with headlines and posts of people desperate to say goodbye and start fresh.  Not me.  I’m afraid of 2017.  There, I said it.

I swear I can’t remember the first half of 2016, pretty sure my memories are on the tracks along with a smashed Cheetos bag and someone’s lost hair extension under the 6 train. The second half? I swung from funk to anger to disbelief and back again.

Too dramatic?  Maybe. I have several good friends who are optimists, they live their lives on hope and faith that love conquers all.  Beautiful, isn’t it?  You could say Mrs Fringe is a pessimist, but I believe I’m a realist. And realistically speaking, if you are a woman, a person of color, Muslim, LGBTQ, an immigrant, a Dreamer, an educator, differently abled, parent to someone who is differently abled, a journalist, a senior citizen/will be a senior citizen who needs both Social Security and Medicare, or a free thinker, there is much to be–well ok, if you’re insistent on being less dramatic than I–if not fearful, at least wary of.

New Year’s isn’t like birthdays, we aren’t supposed to make wishes, we’re supposed to make resolutions.  Resolve to be kinder, more thoughtful, more efficient, disciplined, stronger, faster, better.  Shall I resolve to be the Bionic Woman, then?  (If you’re too young to be familiar with the Bionic Woman, take my word for it, she was cool, a 1970s sci-fi tv character.)  So when I hear people talking about wait-and-see, it won’t be so bad, I hear it with my bionic ear as magical thinking, wishes on a trick birthday candle.  I’m not worried about The End of the World, nuclear style.  Come on, I live in New York, everyone’s favorite target (and as a special bonus, the city our President-Elect and family won’t leave); if there’s an all out nuclear war, I’ll be the first to go, vaporized before the page telling me to watch out for mushroom clouds can load.  No time for angst.

I’ve been rereading all my old favorite dystopian novels–along with some new ones–and they have certain themes in common, whether the trigger was an economic collapse, totalitarianism,or plague.  Despair, violence, governmental overreach, hunger, talk about the necessity of good shoes. For the long walk to find others. And don’t give me any parables about crying because you had no shoes until you met a man who had no feet.  We don’t live in the garden of Eden, and I’m too old for barefoot and pregnant. I need shoes. We need shoes.  Good ones, without cracks in the soles, that don’t make you cry when you have ’em on for more than twenty minutes.

I’ve also spent some time rereading old posts. Sure, Mrs Fringe was always meant to be honest, somewhat bitter and definitely salty, but also funny. I think I stopped laughing about a year ago.  For a lot of reasons, both personal and greater, many but not all of them detailed here over the past year, there’s been less funny, more general horror.  And nausea.  The other night I made a DD (Disastrous Dinner, trademark pending).  Completely unsalvageable, suffice it say the overpriced short ribs couldn’t even be added to the doggie gumbo, and the polenta had more than a mild resemblance to the poo found in a newborn’s diaper. I happened to turn towards Nerd Child as he took his first and only bite.  The expression on his face? I laughed for twenty minutes straight. For some people, when things suck, they need to cry.  Others need to surround themselves with beauty, chant affirmations, or pretend the only things that matter are the things they can control.  With that DD, I remembered, I need to laugh (and overuse commas).  It’s my way through.

So while I want to believe all will find their measure of peace, love, and laughter this year, I’m not wishing or resolving.  I’m going to laugh when I can, I’m going to speak out when I need to, and yes, I’m checking my shoes.

Raise The Stakes

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When you write fiction, once you get past the technical/grammar/POV aspects, there aren’t a whole lot of rules. Guidelines, but those are flexible, boiling down to if you write well enough, if the story is riveting, you can “get away with” practically anything.  There’s one bit of wisdom that I believe is a rule: raise the stakes. What’s the worst thing that could happen to your protagonist, the biggest muck they could make of the situation in front of them? Make that happen.

I remember, about a thousand years ago, the catchphrase in the pop psychology/self-help section of the bookstore was, “we write our own scripts.”  Positive, empowering, offering the idea that we control what happens in our individual worlds. Imagine it for a second, with a laptop, a 99 cent Bic, or a pencil found in a goodie bag, we control it all.

Except we don’t.  Sure we control how we respond to events in our lives, and many situations are the result of choices we make, but sometimes not. Some of these situations are the result of other people’s choices–say, being faced with terror of potential loss of health care and special ed services for a medical needs kiddo because other voters decided tax cuts and a pro life stance were more important than social services, social justice, and the needs of children and adults who’ve already been born.

The holiday season is always a bit tricky for those who deal with chronic medical needs.  Those yucky viruses that are a nuisance for all can get complicated, more serious, and last longer than they do for the average healthy person.  We’re quite used to medical mayhem here in Fringeland.  It always sucks, but you do get used to the reality of a shifting normal, not necessarily expecting but being prepared for potential complications and unpleasant surprises. Or so you think.  Because sometimes you go to Dr Pediatrician who sends you to Dr Specialologist who sends you back to Dr Pediatrician who sends you immediately to another Dr Specialologist who sees and diagnoses something completely unexpected, that may or may not have an underlying cause, but regardless, threatens the vision of kiddo. The vision. Both eyes. Of kiddo whose all-things-good come from the visual.

Yeah, sometimes shit just happens, and it feels like some sadistic fucking wizard behind the curtain is writing a manuscript where you and yours are featured, and (s)he’s snickering at they keyboard because they figured out how to raise. the. stakes. for the next few chapters. If I were writing this manuscript, this novel (remember–by definition, a novel is fiction) and wanted to raise the stakes for an already challenged artist? No hesitation, I’d threaten vision. If I actually could control this, could write my own script? Absolutely, I’d get my butt back in the chair, at the keyboard, and write for twenty-two hours a day. But this isn’t a novel, and I sure as shit didn’t write this manuscript.

I may skip decorating the tree, and let the crying sap be my holiday statement.