Dear Trump supporters, I understand why you voted for him, but can you understand why I’m angry?

Dear Trump supporters,

I understand why you voted for Trump. I live in a rural area and work in one of the poorest counties in California, a county with no jobs, substandard housing and dirt roads. This is the kind of place Obama’s promises never reached. The people here are angry, and wanted to send a clear, loud message to Washington DC.

I understand, but can you try to understand why I’m angry?

My daughter has severe disabilities and is one of those people Trump mocked while campaigning. She is a woman who depends on government services for her survival. She lives with me and I depend on services to take care of her. Without the support of Social Security, MediCare and In Home Support Services, I would be forced to put my child in an institution. I thank my government every day for the help my family receives. Trump wants to take that help away.

My husband is a cancer survivor. “Obamacare” saved him and our family. Without subsidized health care and the changes in health care law, he probably would have died and I know our family would be bankrupt. So again, thank you government. I know it is not a perfect plan, but it saved my family. Trump wants to take that away too.

I am a rape survivor. Many women have accused Trump of sexual assault and rape. He brags about it, and now, a sexual predator will be president. What message does that send to women in our country? Our voices and our bodies don’t matter. Men can abuse us and we are powerless to stop it.

Trump is racist. He openly hates Mexicans and Muslims. He thinks black people should shut up about racist cops. And his win of the presidency sends a message to other racists that it’s okay to write swastikas on walls and beat up immigrants.

Many of the people I love are gay, lesbian and transgender. Will they now be denied legal protection to work and live peacefully? Will families be destroyed?

Again, I understand why you voted for Trump, and I know a lot of you aren’t racist or misogynist. But in voting for him, you told people who are racist and misogynist that it’s okay.

You can be the biggest bigot in town and  people will still respect you. Hell, they might even elect you president.

Bias at the Country Club

Recently I attended a beautiful wedding at the Silverado Country Club in the Napa Valley. The ceremony was held under the Oak trees near the golf course and the bride was gorgeous. Everyone was beautiful and happy and wearing their best. In my hand-me-down designer dress and borrowed designer shoes I looked like just another well heeled member of the club. No one could tell the only thing new was my undies, right?

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When I first arrived at the country club, I parked my old Honda next to BMW’s and Mercedes Benz and walked to the front door of the mansion/club house. Walking across the green lawn toward the tall front doors I felt several people staring at me. What, haven’t you ever seen a woman in flip flops and a “Drama Queen” apron? The staff directed me to the suit where the bride and her entourage were getting ready. As mom’s best friend, my job was to keep mom calm and hand her tissues as needed. I watched the bride and her bridesmaids be transformed by an army of professional stylists. Amidst the chaos, the bride sat happy and serene, completely in control of everything. Amazing this was the same girl I met when she was 13 and surly.

Sipping expensive champagne, I kept my apron on so I wouldn’t spill anything on my hand-me-down dress and felt utterly out of my element. What the hell was I doing there surrounded by such wealth? Their jewelry was real and their shoes cost more than my monthly grocery budget. Everyone was staring at me, looking down their noses, aware my necklace was from Cost-Plus.

Or were they?

Were these smiling women really treating me like “the help”? Or was I so insecure being in a world I couldn’t dream of affording I assumed they disliked me? Did I dislike them?

Actually, every single person there was kind and considerate. When I ran out of champagne three bridesmaids asked if I needed more. The bride and her new husband were happy to see me. Everyone from the staff to the wealthiest guest was genuinely thoughtful and interesting. Not a single person treated me with contempt. And I liked everyone I met.

I walked in to the Silverado Country club assuming I didn’t fit in and would be ignored. I decided before I arrived that the people would be rude and I’d have nothing in common. Instead I met interesting people who were there because they loved the bride and groom. Just like me. We cheered and toasted and laughed and told stories together. The only one who thought I wasn’t good enough to be there was me.

 

An Introvert at Burning Man

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Dust storms. Non-stop music thumping inside my ears. Flashing, glowing, throbbing neon lights. So much light I can’t see the stars, even though we’re in the high desert where the skies should be black and clear. Hot sunlight bouncing off the white playa and slapping my eyes. The press of sweating, laughing, talking, dancing people all around me. Black Rock City: the city that beats Vegas in an insomnia contest.

What the hell am I doing here?

I came to Burning Man for the art and to see friends. The city is art, a temporary but living work of creative power. 70,000 people come together to build a city out of imagination and hard work. And then after a week, the city vanishes. There is nothing like it anywhere, and I wanted to walk the streets and experience all that raw creativity for myself. Maybe I’d take a little bit back with me.

But the constant press of noise and activity exhausted me. I longed for silence in a place where silence had been driven away. People come to Black Rock City to party and my desire for solitude was ridiculous. My camp mates were dear friends and I loved being with them, but I needed a little bit of calm. So I hunted for it.

On my first night, I found quiet at a saki bar. It was still filled with noisy partiers, but there’s something about warm saki on a chilly desert night that felt peaceful. The servers were cheerful and the other patrons relaxed. We were there to take a break from the chaos for a minute. A smiling Buddha statue above the bar gazed across the rollicking playa. It was the perfect stop to begin my plunge into the City.

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Throughout the city there are small, almost hidden, places of quiet. Not solitude, but quiet. I discovered tea houses where people could hide from the sun and wash the taste of dust from their mouths. A steam bath where you could  replenish your dried out skin. A wine bar in the back of a camp that served Pinot Noir under an awning covered in cooling tapestries. Small pieces of art scattered upon the playa that were just as beautiful as the larger installations, but attracted fewer people.

And then there was the Temple. It was always packed with people , but felt comforting. People spoke quietly, meditated, cried, and shared their grief. All along the walls and altars were tokens of love for people who had died. I stood with a crowd and silently cried, feeling the weight of a thousand broken hearts. But the weight didn’t crush me. Crying with everyone else felt less tragic than crying all alone in my room at home. We all grieve. We all struggle. The Temple is where we can give that grief away and find compassion.

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Of course I made a pilgrimage to Medusa. I kissed her metal lips and thanked her for her inspiration. I sprinkled her with a little water, more precious than perfume in the desert, and asked for her continued help as I rebuilt my struggling press. She shot fire from her snake hair. I wonder if that was a blessing or a curse?

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On the night “The Man Burned,” I chose to watch the spectacle from the third story of a camp a mile from the action. Standing on the platform surrounded by friends with the wind blowing dust across my face, I felt happy. Below us, the crush of 50,000 people pushed against the fires and filled the playa with beautiful chaos. I didn’t need to be down in it.

That’s the secret to surviving Burning Man as an introvert. Black Rock City is mainly built for and by extroverts. It stimulates every sense and pushes it to the extreme. Your skin will burn and crack, your eyes will sting, your ears will throb and your heart beat will triple. Your emotions will be manipulated and you’ll want to scream from joy and overexcitement all at once. Extroverts drop after a couple of days, completely exhausted. Introverts may want to drop after a few hours. My advice is to embrace your need for quiet and seek it. Stay out of the middle of the parties and crowds. The entire place is one giant party. Sipping tea in camp while watching a thousand bicycles race by is perfectly acceptable. When you’re ready, join the parade. Then jump out again.

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The city has a strange magic. I’ve found exactly what I needed when I needed it. On one night after walking miles with friends exploring art, I became bone weary. Introverts know the kind of tired I’m talking about. It’s not a physical exhaustion, it’s spiritual. I said goodnight to my friends who were planning to party til sunrise and hiked back to my camp. While dodging racing bicycles, I passed one camp and I heard the beginnings of “Dark  Side of the Moon.” The camp was quiet with a few people lounging or sleeping on couches. One couch was in a quiet corner and I sat down. I listened to the low music and looked out across the open playa where art cars cruised and people danced. Lights blinked and strobed against the blackness and I saw flames break the dark like lightning. I suspect the others in the camp were high while listening to Pink Floyd. I didn’t have to be. That’s a great thing about being an introvert: I don’t need drugs to get high. The beauty of the city and the soft music was all I needed.

 

 

Fire and Flood in the Places I Love

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image via CNN.com

Louisiana. So much water… a luxury to this drought weary California girl who spent a week there visiting the in-laws. I swam in their pool and then took long, hot, guilt free showers. It rained every day and I cheered every time. Even when the thunder and lightning chased us inside, I grinned watching buckets of rain overrun gutters and trenches.

We left the day before the flooding started. If I had known, I wouldn’t have cheered so much when it rained. Right now a large portion of the state is flooding after historic heavy rains. One more flood. One more lost home.

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photo via ABC10 news

In Lake County right now, the town of Lower Lake is burning because of the Clayton Fire. I grew up in Lake County and still love that impoverished, isolated, rural county. My heart is broken for the thousands who are hiding out in shelters, not knowing if they have a home to go back to. Last year Middletown caught fire and most of Cobb Mountain burned. Thousands were homeless. The county was just starting to recover, and now this.

The air in Louisiana smells like green grass and moss. Water drips from tree branches even when the sun shines. The ground stays damp and when I walked on my mother-in-law’s back lawn my feet got drenched in muddy water.

In California, the air tastes like matches. The ground is so thirsty, when I walk in my back yard dust rises with every step. This was a good year for rain, but it wasn’t enough to make up for 5 years of drought.

Whatever water gods there might be, send some of that Louisiana rain to Lake County.

No more luxurious showers; I bathe with my feet in my daughter’s tepid bath water while I quickly rinse off with the shower nozzle. I dream of Spanish moss and dragon flies and damp air.

Do people in Louisiana dream of hard earth and dust storms?

 

Just when you think your career is over…

…something unexpected can happen.

Several years ago, I was injured by a student while teaching. It was an accident, but it left me unable to go back to work. I lost my job, had shoulder surgery, spent three years dealing with Worker’s Comp Insurance, and wondered if I would ever teach again. I teach Orientation and Mobility to visually impaired children and adults. With a certification and a Master’s degree, I am qualified to teach people with vision loss how to travel safely and remain as independent as possible. But with a permanent injury, it looked like my career was over.

Slowly, the pain of my injury improved. It would never go away, but I had learned to manage it and had regained much of the muscle strength I’d lost while recovering. I taught visually impaired adults as a contractor through a non-profit, and although I missed teaching kids, the work felt good. But as the deadline for my certification renewal approached I wondered if I should find a new career. Would getting an MSW be a good idea? Or add another certification to my current one? If I was going to only work with adults, would becoming a Rehab therapist pay better? I even thought I’d go back to school and get my MFA. If I had to double my student loan debt, why not do it pursuing something I loved? There were no jobs locally, so I would have to move and start all over somewhere else, probably out of State.

Then one day, I saw an on line add for an Orientation and Mobility teacher at a school district close to my home. I applied and they called me back that day. It’s a rural community and my combination of skills was perfect for their needs. It was only part time, so that was perfect for me. It felt like a gift. I didn’t have to move, or change careers, or go deeper into debt. Here I thought those three years of grad school to get an O and M Master’s and Credential was a waste of money and time when actually the right job was next door.

Life is funny that way. You can spend hours hunting for answers, but most of the time if you just wait and listen, the answers come to you. You may be convinced your best days are behind you and the future has nothing to offer, but life can surprise you if you let it.

Unfortunately, I do need to renew my certification. It’s due in two weeks. I still have 15 CEU’s to earn. Ugh! If you’ve wondered why I haven’t been writing, it’s because for the last two months I’ve been glued to my computer taking on line courses to earn Continuing Education Units. I decided to renew a little late.

This is another lesson; wait for the answers, but be prepared when they come.

Not the only Mito Kid in the world

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My daughter Rhia and I spent the last four days in Seattle at the Mitochondrial Disease Medical Conference. Hundreds of people with mitochondrial disease, their family, parents, doctors and researchers gathered at the SeaTac Hilton Double Tree Hotel to discuss potential treatments, research breakthrough’s and symptom management. The conference travels from the East to the West coast. This year it was only a two hour flight from our home, so my daughter and I decided to go.

The main goal for us was to meet other young people and kids with the disease. Rhia was convinced she was the only person in the world with Mitochondrial disease. There is no one else like her who uses a wheelchair because her legs are “too lazy” to walk (her words). No one else is deaf-blind and no one else has hands that shake.

Rhia quickly learned she isn’t the only girl on the planet. At the conference, she met a girl who uses a wheelchair because she too gets too tired to walk far and tends to shake when fatigued. We met a young man who has the same doctor as Rhia and has dealt with all the same tests and procedures. We met a young woman with thick glasses who struggles with seizures while trying to go to college. A young man who used to play sports but now spends more time in bed than on the field. We met teenagers and young adults from all over the US who battle mitochondrial disease every day just to have some kind of self-actualized life.

No one else is deaf-blind, though. I spent most of my time interpreting sign language so Rhia could understand what people were saying. It was a challenge to help Rhia become included in the group. They could all talk about their frustrations and joys, and they shared their experiences freely, supporting each other as best they could. As a deaf-bind person, Rhia is a rarity within a rare group. But everyone worked hard to include Rhia in the group. Whether she could understand their spoken words or not, she was still one of them. In time, Rhia warmed up and made two connections which could develop into friendships. Unfortunately they  live in different states, but if they can figure out how to stay in touch, the three could really help each other not feel so isolated.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend many of the workshops on mitochondrial disease treatment and management, so I missed a lot of the information. But Rhia and I achieved our goal: connecting to other people with “mito” and understanding Rhia is not all alone. At times it was hard for me to step back from being mom and just facilitate communication. The stories people shared about their anger and grief coping with mitochondrial disease were heart wrenching. These kids should be enjoying high school and planning for college, not managing symptoms of a degenerative disease. Rhia said she hated her “lazy legs” and wished she could walk. She was tired of hurting herself all the time. The others nodded, understanding her anger. Reminding myself that I was here to support Rhia’s communication needs, I kept my tears in check.

At the end of the conference we were both exhausted and ready to be home. Two days later I’m still trying to regain my energy. The trip was challenging physically and emotionally, but worth it. We’ll definitely go again.

Thank you UMDF for providing this community and helping us cope with Mito. It’s not easy, but together, we can do it.

For the UnMothered Children

  Mother’s Day. Bah! Humbug!

Mother’s Day raises old ghosts.  Those childhood ghosts crash into my bedroom and make me feel like I’m eight years old again and all alone in the dark. It doesn’t matter I am actually 49 and able to take care of myself. The specter of abandonment wanders out of my closet and won’t leave me alone.

There’s no need to explain or share details about my childhood. Those who experienced something similar know how it feels to grow up lost. My childhood doesn’t come close to what other’s coped with, but it left me scarred regardless. It left me with a deep hunger nothing can satisfy. I long for safety, security, and the knowledge my mom will be there no matter what. I accept it wasn’t her fault, but that can’t change the feeling. I’m a mom now, and my daughter has grownup knowing she is completely, unconditionally loved. But my sadness won’t go away.

The sadness gets stronger every Mother’s Day. But This year will be different. Instead of mourning what I never had, I will celebrate what I did. 

I mothered myself.

I grew up troubled but still believed in myself. I was afraid, but kept trying. I learned and grew stronger and trusted despite how many times I was shown I shouldn’t. I taught myself that I matter. I found ways to feel more secure. I made a million mistakes but learned from every one. I never gave up on myself.

Which is what we want from our moms, right?

So this is for all the motherless children. For all who mothered themselves and fell down and kept trying and never gave up. For the ones who think no one will love them. The ones who became parents and figured out how to raise those children. 

Buy yourself some flowers. You are wonderful.

 Happy Mother’s Day to us all.