Signs of Life: Mental Health, Guns, Storms and just… Why?

Standard

Signs of Life #1.

My first serious watercolor pencil painting, but also a statement for 2012.

With all the DEATH, where are the Signs of Life?  Signs of Life #1

Traditionally, this is the time to run through the highlights of the past year. Vacations, accomplishments, major milestones, etc. We’ve had those. Nuri graduated from Law School and officially got engaged. Yeah! We went on vacation on Emerald Isle with Brian’s extended family. My own little version of Hell. Kat graduated from college and unofficially got engaged! Yes! Andy bought his own house. Dang! Nik got his first professional photography job. Huzzah! My Dad is doing great and is our new dog Disa’s enthusiastic walker and caretaker.

Obama got re-elected!!

My family’s Signs of Life.

None of us have been direct victims of the disasters of 2012. Drought, Hurricane Sandy, 5 horrendous mass shootings, Republicans. (OOpps, that just slipped in…) None of us got Lyme Disease, flu, had a heart attack, broke bones, killed in war. We have roofs over our heads, make enough money to pay for food and transportation. Nik had major surgery on his jaw and it went extremely well. We’ve managed to hold off Chuck the cat’s cancer for almost a year with 3 successful surgeries.

We have been so incredibly lucky.

On the other hand, some of us are in rough situations like millions of our fellow citizens. Two members of my family have no medical insurance. One is disabled. One has no job and one only has a part-time job. One depends on Food Stamps and Medicaid. Two can’t afford the physical and mental healthcare they need. Our family income has been steadily decreasing over the last 4 years, so my hubby and I can’t help the kids the way we’d like. My father has had to help with Nik’s medical bills.

We’re all still alive in our own homes.

Which is more than many families can say. So many have been hit by one of the series of man-made tragedies that characterized most of 2012.

Drought, Hurricane Sandy, 5 horrendous mass shootings, Republicans.

Global warming. Drought. A new Dust Bowl?

Hurricane Sandy. Global warming. Rising sea levels. Greedy developers and people in denial building densely on fragile barrier islands and wetlands, subsidized by Federal Flood Insurance and mortgage deductions for 2nd homes. Many insisting on rebuilding, lulled by false reassurances from pseudoscientists paid by the global warming denial lobby. Loss of life SO minimal in comparison to Typhons hitting the Philipines and monsoons in Bangladesh, but trust Americans to feel whiny and sorry for themselves.

Republicans. Pfff…. IQ-challenged toadying Tea Party minions without an original thought among 12 of them. Their fear & lie-soaked divisive campaign polarized the nation in a way not seen since the Civil War. I’ve wasted enough words on them.

This past Friday, there was the most horrific mass murder in  my memory in the United States.  I say “in the United States” because mass casualties regularly occur around the world at the hands of our government, religious fanatics, rogue regimes and greedy corporations. Even in the US, deranged killers have shot more people at one time.

For months, we’ve been hearing about a shooting in the parking lot, in a movie theater, in an emergency room, in family homes, in houses of worship. Never was it time to “talk about gun control”. The US has the highest rate of violent gun crimes in the developed world. Mindblowingly high. Our elected officials have no interest in tackling the issue. By the time I heard about the guy in the hockey mask shooting Christmas shoppers in a mall, I was getting “death-by-semi-automatic-assault-rifle-toting madman” fatigue.

But then came the children.

20 six and seven-year-olds and 6 brave adults trying to save them.

The media feeding frenzy started as soon as one of them picked up a disturbance at the school on the police scanner. “School shooting” I heard. Yawn. Another crazy high school kid. “Elementary school shooting” Ears perked, but, eh, probably a guy shooting his wife in the parking lot. “Teachers shot and unknown number of student casualties” Got my attention.  “Sandy Hook. kindergarten rooms. unknown number of children killed. SWAT team. Shooter dead”. Oh. My. God.  He’s shot the babies!

You never want to see these at your kid’s school:

121214081343-31-newtown-1214-horizontal-gallery

121214060522-20-newtown-1214-horizontal-gallery

And you certainly don’t want to see this:

121215035033-02-newtown-1215-horizontal-gallery

So in their wisdom, the media are now providing us with headlines like:

“Mental health care in U.S. questioned amid another tragedy” ,

dealing with the mental health aspect of the Sandy Hill school shootings, pleas to not blame autism, and

“What Drives Suicidal Mass Killers”

from the NY Times, a thoughtful article detailing the convergence of factors that often lead a very sick young man like this one  to commit atrocities. Boy, no one’s ever suggested better mental health care might prevent a mass shooting, eh, VA Tech??

However, most articles focused on the gun control aspects, in about a 1:6 ratio (just a loose estimated ratio based on 5 major news sites):

“Has life in America gone insane?” ,

“Put reason back in America’s gun debate”

and one of the most important:

“Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?” ,

from the NY Times, includes this salient information:

Other countries offer a road map. In Australia in 1996, a mass killing of 35 people galvanized the nation’s conservative prime minister to ban certain rapid-fire long guns. The “national firearms agreement,” as it was known, led to the buyback of 650,000 guns and to tighter rules for licensing and safe storage of those remaining in public hands.

The law did not end gun ownership in Australia. It reduced the number of firearms in private hands by one-fifth, and they were the kinds most likely to be used in mass shootings.

In the 18 years before the law, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings — but not one in the 14 years after the law took full effect. The murder rate with firearms has dropped by more than 40 percent, according to data compiled by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, and the suicide rate with firearms has dropped by more than half.

Or we can look north to Canada. It now requires a 28-day waiting period to buy a handgun, and it imposes a clever safeguard: gun buyers should have the support of two people vouching for them.

Most of the standard crazies came out of the closet:

Despite the report that Rupert Murdoch Wants Stricter Gun Laws After Newtown (he was Australian, after all), Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News “Doesn’t Get the Memo” and “David Clark, the executive producer in charge of Fox’s weekend coverage, gave producers instructions not to talk about gun-control policy on air. “This network is not going there,”” If you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist in the FOX universe, which lets you know they’ve stalled at the developmental stage before object permanence.

Cynicism runs rampant:

“Sorry, But Don’t Expect Any Change After Newtown”

“[America is] a country in which citizens own roughly 200 million guns, roughly one third of the entire planet’s supply. Ownership is allowed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution, even though a 10-year-old would interpret that the right to bear arms was directly connected to the forming of a militia. The Second Amendment is not as much a legal right to bear arms as it is a psychological crutch for our great American narrative of toughness. Don’t expect great change.”

Might it be different this time? President Obama vows to see that this never happens again a priority. NYC Mayor Bloomberg has pledged to use as much of his fortune as it takes to change laws. Even previously rabidly pro-gun lawmakers are unabashedly admitting no one actually needs a semi-automatic assault rifle.

Maybe they’ve heard. Maybe they’ll listen. Maybe they’ll do something. Maybe the things they’ll do will actually make a difference.

Stranger things have happened.

A Tree Grows cartoon fuzzy

In my picture “A Tree Grows” (cartoonized Version),

roots of a stunted, neglected tree reach through broken sidewalk toward the sun.

Hotlinking is Bad…

Standard

A hard lesson I learned by doing the wrong thing – most of the first several posts on my blog contained images linked directly to sites, mostly in Europe.  Very graphics heavy, they were. Now the graphics have almost completely disappeared due to moving servers, removal of images, whatever. After the first couple years, they started posting notices NOT to hotlink… I did eventually get the message, but not before I’d already filled bunches of posts with the hotlinked gifs. My bad.

I get to cry, and, if I care enough, go back and reconstitute the graphics in my blog entries.

So here is my dilemma – Is it worth my time? Would more people actually look at those entries? Is it worth it for the 6 of you who regularly check for my occasional spasms of blogging? Or do I do this solely for MY artistic satisfaction – which turns out to be the main reason I write this blog, anyway, given my broad readership base (OK, so maybe only one or 2 of you are broad. Get over it…)

Think think think.

(Momentary distraction by the 1980s Peter, Paul and Mary concert playing now in place of Antiques Road Show – how many weeks can they let this “festival” go on? I’m one who would gladly pay them to shorten the frickin’ things!!!)

I have reached a conclusion drawn on enlightened self-interest. It will be an appropriate discipline for my sins of the past to go back and do the things RIGHT. Not to mention a good example for the teenager I’m supposed to be teaching :D

It was Time for a Change…

Standard

Wait! It’s not PURPLE! So how can it be my blog?

I got very tired of the ribbons in my last WP theme covering my gravatar and anything else they pleased. The default font was wonky and made my sidebar look like pulled taffy.

I saw custom design and name your own domain packages, thought about site hosting, and looked at most of the fonts on type kit. Am I going to start a stand-alone eCommerce extravaganza to sell Nik’s photos and my junk? Do I want to spend hours messing with CSS and shopping carts and lay-out strategies? Am I going to waste money buying into the custom design “make all your own fancy fonts” thing?

No. Yawn. Next…

I’m more interested in saving money for a new travel adventure. Wanna go on another trip.  Or 2. Or more! Rome was just the beginning…

Have new doggeh to love on, too. Disa, the beautiful Finnish Lapphund who has blessed our lives!

I know the day is looming nearer when I’ll have to get all serious about my online sales again. Nik needs business experience and exposure for his art. I need to sell the vintage junk, uh, lovelies overflowing my house. Creativity must occur. Creativity must occur.

Creativity.

Creativity…

AHHKKK!                       PZZZTTTT….

That was the sound of my brain shorting out.

We sprang forward today. There’s one less hour in the day and it’s almost gone…

So in the interest of time and abating a bit of my frustration, there’s a new theme. Pretty paisley, unadorned by any tweaks, headers or customizations.

And I still missed the end of the day. It’s tomorrow already…

Here are some more pics of Disa… Enjoy!

All Your Allergies are Belong to Me!

Standard

Some things in my life are just WRONG.

My newest wrong things:

Risking my life to go grocery shopping. Risking my life to eat in a restaurant. Risking my life to eat.

These are in addition to a few other major wrongs already in place:

Risking my life if I every need medication for severe pain. Having allergies to almost all drugs in several major therapeutic classifications. Being desperately allergic to two of the main components of my Korean friends & Won-Buddhist priests’ diet.  Never knowing from one day to the next if I will be able to function due to uncertainty of energy  and pain levels. Being so responsive to changes in weather I’d have been burned at the stake as a weather witch in less enlightened times. Paying for increased activity or hill climbing with yet more pain.

 I want to whine…

However, in an attempt to keep things in perspective, I want to go through positive ways I’ve been able to deal with my older issues…   (my ex-therapist would be SO proud)

I, of course, will continue to deal with all this wrongness, and even figure out how to turn even my current frustrations into something helpful for someone. Plus, I have a lovely sister-in-law whose food allergies are much, much worse than mine, so I have a great appreciation of how much worse things could be…

My physical therapist Joe   has taught me an enormous amount about controlling my pain levels. I no longer work,  which gives me much more flexibility to not leave the house on certain days if all the lows converge. My house angel, Lorraine, comes in 2-3 days a week to do the basic housework I simply can’t do, thus allowing us to have a clean kitchen, clean clothes, clean sheets and clean bathrooms!  I stopped selling on-line because I was overwhelmed with stuff and time obligations.

Changing my diet over the last year has allowed me to lose almost 60 pounds and increase my general energy level. Lorraine has helped me get rid of a huge amount of accumulated “stuff” and has organized a lot of what I’m keeping. My fabric room is functional and we can actually allow people to sleep in one spare bedroom. Much of my parent’s boxes have been unpacked and sorted, so plenty of room has been opened up in the garage.  We adopted a smaller dog so I can walk her without causing myself significant pain. ( wonderful beautiful Disa is another story).

My biggest challenge over the last year was planning and getting into shape for my European vacation.  I did it. Spent 5 weeks in Italy and Paris with a 15 yo boy, my Nik… and totally survived.

Decided to put my foot down and buy an artificial Christmas tree , so I could spend my limited energy making ornaments   & decorations.   All my kids were home over the holidays and we had lots of fun.

Hey! Those are significant positives!

I don’t feel like whining nearly as much. So I won’t. I’ll just tell the story of my new wrongnesses – which, unfortunately, seem to have resulted from my positivenesses!

Early in July,  I decided to go gluten free, in addition to other changes I’d made in my diet earlier in the year, which included giving up red meat. Nuri has Celiac Disease; odds are I have some sort of related gene. Within 2 weeks, I noticed my brain was clearer & I was remembering things I’d had problems with most of my life (names, mostly). Yay! Goodness!!

BUT I also started having reactions associated with grocery stores –  Costco and Whole Foods. If I spent much time in the bakery section, I’d start to itch.  One day, I spent a bunch of time looking at the wine, which is in the bakery section of Costco for some reason that evades me… I started itching. It starts at the tip of my nose, moves to my ears, eyes – and this day, by the time I was finished shopping, my feet itched. Now, I’m familiar with this reaction –  it happens when I’m around rodent urine proteins or cooking seaweed. (yeah, more  “interesting” allergies). Noooo!  Wrongness!

A little detective work, a little time – I’m allergic to wheat & gluten. Allergic. That’s not celiac disease. That’s “eat it and my tongue swells, my throat closes & swallowing &  breathing become problems” allergic.  Also pecans. Why Pecans, for heaven’s sake?  Diphenhydramine is my friend.

I’ve become so sensitive to even cross-contamination, my tongue starts burning with the first bite. Lovely.

I noticed it was MUCH easier to eat in Italy and France without having a reaction to something. Even though Nik and I ate out almost every day, I only had reactions a couple of times – and that was when I didn’t ask specifically about things being gluten free (teach me to make assumptions).  I figured it was because things were prepared fresher and on a more individual basis. Ham & chicken were OK for me, as was any type of fish. I didn’t think about a much more important factor in European food until I started to have reactions to meat when I returned home.

Meat. Damn. I don’t eat that much meat, anyway. It was nice, though, to be able to eat some of my mother-in-law’s roast or turkey when we go to visit – it makes her happy! More experimentation. Not able to eat meat from American grain-fed mammals. No farm-raised fish. No grain fed chicken. Eggs only from vegetarian free-range chickens fed organic  non-GMO feed. Hmmm… A few other weirdnesses popped up, but all lead me to the same conclusion…

It’s not just the stupid dwarf  “super-wheat” that I’m allergic to. It’s some part of the protein coded for in Genetically Modified Organisms.

What???? Who’s ever heard of THAT? Turns out, a lot more people than you’d think.

Guess the Europeans got it right when they banned GMOs.

So for now, I’ll stick to prosciutto from Italy, my favorite French preserves, pasture-raised, grass (and coconut) fed beasts, wild-caught fish – and only organic, non-GMO gluten-free products.  I usually carry food with me so I rarely eat out and have been able to restrict my diet to things I know won’t kill me. (boring!) Greek yogurt and gluten-free steel-cut oats are my friends!

Meanwhile, all your allergies are belong to me!

 

All illustrations are by me, the great and awesome Dragonmum. Creative Commons will eat you if you steal them!!

Found an Old Friend! Hope she finds me back…

Standard

Have been trying to get in touch with one of my old college roommates – Susan Elaine Dardes. She’s not on facebook, and keeps a pretty low profile on the web – at least under her professional name.  Finally figured out where she lives, works, who she’s married to (which I won’t go into because it’s no one’s business) and one of her passions. I hope she’s doing well…

She’s hugely supportive of the Buck’s County, PA group fighting domestic violence. Since I really wanted to see how she was doing, I managed to find a picture; she keeps a very low profile! Here is her taken in Nov. 2011 with other A Woman’s Place people:

Susan’s the one with the purple feather boa – That’s my girl!!!

So, Susan, if you (or your hubby) read this, know that your incredibly disorganized, somewhat deranged college roomie would love to hear from you – you can comment here or message me on facebook!

I’m still hunting down Joy and Lori to get back in contact with them. Ok, I guess Martha, Deb or Lisa (all of whom are fb buddies) might know, but I like to do things the hard way!!

 

No! No! Bad SOPA! Bad PIPA! No! No!

Standard

I’ve censored the following, in protest of a bill that gives any corporation and the US government the power to censor the internet–a bill that could pass THIS WEEK. To see the uncensored text, and to stop internet censorship, visit: http://americancensorship.org/posts/45811/uncensor

I am SO ███████ ████ ██████ who don’t ████ ██████████ how the ████████ █████ ████ the █████ to ███████, and, ██████, █████, a █████-████ ██████ ████ has ██████ the █████ and ██████ █████████ ███████. The Big $ has ██████ our ██████████; our so-██████ ███████████████ are too ██████ and too ██████ to ████ ████ ████ ██████ ████ are █████ to the ███████ ██████ in the US and ██████ the █████.█████ all the █████████ who are ████ █████████████ ██████ for ████ ████ – do ████████ you ████ to do, █████ of ████████, to ████ ███████ █████ █████████ are ██████ out of ██████ and ████████ by ███████████, ████████, ██████ █████ ██████!!

Uncensor This

Swans & Kings & 3-D Hornets, OH My! (Part I: Swans)

Standard

I’m in the midst of movie overload. I can’t remember the last time I saw 3 movies in the theater in the space of 5 weeks. That 2 of them were “grown-up” movies is just a bonus. So this post is the first of a 3-part series.

Hubby dragged me, with some friends from work, to see “The Black Swan”.  I knew nothing about it except there was a ballerina, a white swan & a black swan. Not a movie I’d have chosen on my own. Didn’t know I was in for a wild ride…

What a psychotic movie! Don’t get me wrong. This may be the most perfectly crafted movie I have ever seen. Nothing was left to chance. I plan to watch it 2 or 3 more times (after it comes out on Netflix), just to catch all the details I missed the first time. One hint – watch the earrings…

No spoilers, although that’s sooo tempting! They’ve been very guarded in what images they’ve allowed out, for good reason. This movie is a visual feast, with sparse, concise dialog. It should translate extremely well into almost any language.

If you haven’t seen it, there’s no way for me to describe the impact of being dragged down a psychotic black hole with a brilliant, unstable, (understatement there!) anorexic dancer. All I can say is, when I walked out of the theater, I was glad for the icy air; it helped me re-orient myself to the here & now.

If you have PTSD, psychosis, anorexia, or an aversion to lesbians or blood – don’t see this movie! It is exquisitely crafted & delivers itself perfectly. Maybe too perfectly? Go judge for yourself, but only if you have a very, very firm grip on your ego!!

Art: Dragonmum