The End Of A Long Saga.

I don’t remember when we first started talking about selling our house. That house was supposed to be our “Forever Home” – we were going to fix it up (like we did our old house) and have maybe one or two more kids in it. But my last miscarriage made us decide maybe we’d had too many losses and we were sick of trying, and we started putting our time and money into doing endurance training and E showed every indication that he’d be getting out of Alabama AS FAST AS POSSIBLE upon college graduation. All of these things meant we had to accept the house was not going to be our “Forever Home” like we had planned. I think we finally had that discussion about 3 years ago.

Long story short? We finally closed yesterday. We no longer own a home.

This has been such a weird stretch of months. I’ve been dealing with a lot of new anxiety following the election in November and then the home sale and 2+ months of delays and now my aunt has died during the month that is ALWAYS terrible because it’s the month my Dad spent in hospice and – OH YEAH – my kid graduates from college in May and he’s trying to find a way to live/work in NYC immediately afterwards. So, you know, he won’t be a weekend drive away any longer. And I’m not sure I’m okay with that.

I’m not sure I’m okay with any of it.

I plan on life settling back down this weekend. I’m driving to Knoxville (again) today for the funeral services for my aunt and then driving back to Alabama (again) on Thursday and THEN! Then I can finally get my shit together and maybe shake off this funk. There’s always the post-vacation funk but add that to the funeral-funk and Month Of Grief funk on top of the Political Anxiety Funk and HOLY SHIT, I HAVE A LOT OF FUNK AND NOT AT ALL THE GOOD KIND.

Sidenote: Speaking of the good kind of funk, I saw George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars back in 1995/1996 at Montevallo. It hit me that it was in the same theatre where I just watched E do his stuff a few weeks ago. THAT WAS A VERY SURREAL REALIZATION.

So here’s to being free of a mortgage for a little while. And free of cleaning my home. And free of worrying about all of the things that come with all of that nonsense. After the last “delay” of the closing Donnie said, “I don’t want to every buy or sell another house ever again.”

AND I KINDA AGREE.

The only thing keeping us from staying in this apartment forever is the fact that A) We’re sick of walking the dog and B) Nikki would really like to sleep in a room with a door.

So we’ll pay off our student loans (Yes. We still have student loans.) and then we’ll start looking for a MUCH SMALLER home. One that we could actually maintain with our current level of time and money. I’ll avoid travel for a little while (I HATE TRAVELING. I HAVE BEEN DOING SO MUCH OF IT.) and get my schedule back on track.

No mortgage. We’re going to sit on that a bit.

Watch For Falling Rock

My aunt (“the nun” is how I refer to her often, because I have a lot of aunts) was a regular reader of this blog. One of my “token” Aunt Marie stories that I tell is that I would forget she was a reader until she would email me about something I had written here. Once, when I wrote about taking your family to a Pride Parade, she emailed me a quick sentence saying it was lovely and she was going to send it to friends with children. When you are in the middle of several large Catholic families and the nun validates something you wrote about gay pride? It does wonders for making you feel like your gay family is accepted.

I have many memories of road trips with Aunt Marie. I’m not entirely sure if it’s because she would go hiking and camping with us often, or if it’s because she was in our car for 30+ days when we went cross-country camping in 1989. Either way – it is her that I remember teaching us the road games like Finding the ABCs on signs or keeping lists of states on license plates. She also taught us songs (Like “Doe, a deer…a female deer…” which I didn’t know was from a movie until later in life.) and other ways to pass the time in the car.

I also hear her voice in the car at night explaining to me how the “BRIGHTS” setting on headlights worked and she casually said something like, “You want to make sure you turn them off when another car approaches so you don’t blind the driver.” Which – of course – I took very literally and spent a long time – even into driving age – flinching when I would look at a car with their brights still on…fearing losing my eyesight.

But specifically, something I’ve been thinking about a lot this weekend, is her telling me one story when we were weaving on a mountain road and had just seen a “Watch For Falling Rock” sign. I don’t remember the specific details of the story, it was a long time ago. But the general gist was that an American Indian Father had posted those signs after he lost his son: “Falling Rock”. There was a story of how the son got lost, which I don’t remember, but I remember she told the story with a “Legend says that…” air to it that made it feel mysterious. It was as if these signs, and her sharing the story, inducted me into some sort of folklore and I now also shouldered some of the responsibility for looking for this lost son.

Sister Marie Moore, my “Aunt, The Nun,” died peacefully Saturday night after complications from a stroke 2 weeks ago. I was able to visit her Friday and Saturday afternoon and say my goodbyes. I had also visited her several months ago when she was in the hospital following a heart surgery and that visit was good as her health was improving. I’m very glad I made that trip now, it gave me a recent memory of her to cling to when she was unresponsive this weekend.

I could write for days and not list all of her professional or personal achievements and accolades. I couldn’t begin to list the lives touched or souls counseled. To say she lived a “life of service” is an understatement. I read one article written about her in 1967 that mentioned her “14-hour work days” like it was just what you came to expect from her. And up until her heart surgery this last fall, she was probably still working that hard.

Just know she was amazing and she will be missed. I’ll be heading back to Knoxville for services again as soon as I know when they are. We had a great trip to Asheville which I’ll tell you about later, but today I wanted to pay tribute to Sister Marie Moore. She is the standard by which I hold everyone who every says they’re praying for me. She carried her prayer list around with her when she would visit patients in the hospital and if they were sleeping or unresponsive she would sit and pray for them, and then pull out her list and pray for those people as well. She didn’t say, “You’re in my prayers…” casually like I feel many do. She meant your name would be on her lips and delivered to God’s ears as long as she felt you needed it.

One more story:

In 2011 I went to her 60th anniversary celebration of when she took her vows. The priest at her church – a new church in Knoxville – told the story that he would get up and go to the rectory in the early days of the new buildings and Marie would be standing on a ladder and painting trim. Or working in the flower beds. SHE WAS 78. And she was working her ass off to get that church open and ready for business.

She did not mess around.

Love you, Aunt Marie. I’m sad you won’t get to hear about my trip to Asheville, but I also know a life where you couldn’t work would not be a life you enjoyed, so I truly believe your soul is at peace now.

A Real Vacation.

We’re leaving tomorrow for Asheville, North Carolina to enjoy our first ever Spring Break trip. We’ve never used Spring Break for a vacation before but we decided we needed a getaway and we found a cabin in the mountains and we leave tomorrow and come back Friday. We have no concrete plans while we’re there, although we’d like to hike some, tour the New Belgium brewery, and go to Biltmore. But truthfully? We’re taking our D&D character sheets and planning on just spending some good quality time together away from the world.

If I can pull off a huge day today of “catching up” (I’m so behind at work right now) then I’m hoping to make sure my email inboxes are empty in the morning and then not checking again for an entire week. I’m going to take Facebook and Twitter off of my phone and just use Instagram to share pictures from our trip. I can keep up with people on Instagram without getting sucked into the world of politics or local drama. I’m going to read the Washington Post app every morning and listen to the NPR morning news roundup. But beyond that? I’m not keeping up with ANYTHING. I’m going to take my laptop just so I can write about our adventures if I want/need to, and so I’ll have it IN CASE I’m needed.

I’m going to read. Hopefully everything in this stack!

I’m going to walk and sit in the hammock and bundle up in the cold mountain air and drink coffee on the porch and maybe light a fire (I’m a bit phobic when it comes to fires) and just cuddle up with everyone and soak up time together and love. And hopefully just recharge because the state of the world has had me frazzled and I just can’t shake the blues permanently. Time in the sun, time with my friends, time with my family, I get small reprieves but the general feeling of dread just taints everything and I really want to just escape. I know some say, “Don’t even check the news!” but I have never EVERY just NOT checked the news, I have to at least know what made the NPR roundup in the morning, or what made the Washington Post. I can’t hide from the world entirely, not in it’s current state. But I will limit it to the morning coffee.

(If you don’t know this, I check the news/twitter every time I go to the bathroom during the day. I can’t walk down the hall to the toilet without checking in with my news sources on Twitter to see the latest comments on healthcare or immigration bans, etc. I’m connected that that ALL DAY because I PEE A LOT, GUYS.)

Anyway. It will hopefully be fun and hopefully I can shake this funk. I have a lot to do today to “prepare” so that I can truly relax and I hope I can get it all done. In the meantime, if you need me? I’ll be on instagram. I might write here if we have any fun adventures to tell you about, but I also might not. We’ll see how I feel!

Have a great week, everyone. Here’s to friendship guiding us through the darkness.

I was wrong.

A new lesson I’m trying to teach the kids is the skill and the ability in admitting you are wrong. I’ve come to realize in myself, and in others, that it’s an underserved portion of child-raising. And yet – YET – how many conflicts could be managed if someone would just admit they were wrong?

I think about this in terms of my own political beliefs and relationships. I think about past friendships and relationships and my part in the failure of them. That one is hard because the disintegration of important bonds is easier to accept if someone else can be blamed. I think about how I once fell for the “Welfare Queen” depiction of government assistance. How I once looked at the fact that more black men (by proportion) were in prison as simply an indicator of criminal status. Never once looking into the racist system that brought them there. I think about how I have changed my language and do not use the word “retarded” casually anymore. I think about all of the times I’ve had to say, “Sorry,” in personal conflict.

And I wonder how or why I learned it at all? And how can I make sure my kids learn the same? Because from everything to politics to interpersonal relationships I feel like life would be easier if we could sit in a moment and consider the fact: MAYBE I AM WRONG.

The best way I can imagine having learned that is that I saw my Dad do it a lot. He often discussed his own role in conflicts – whether his failed marriage or things at work. He would also apologize to us if his anger got out of hand and he yelled more than he wanted. He was very in tune with his own limitations and openly credited those limitations for failures in professional or personal relationships. He modeled the importance of owning mistakes and errors.

So I make sure to do the same for my kids. I can tell you right now at least three times in the last week where I’ve discussed my mistakes or failures with them. But they still struggle. There are times when it is SO OBVIOUS one of them is wrong and it’s like pulling teeth to admit it. “But, BUT, BUT…THEY DID THIS THING TOO!”

And that’s the crux. If you truly want to see benefits in a system or a relationship to you admitting your own failure, you HAVE to be able to admit it without accompanying blame on someone or something else.

“I was very short with you in that email, I apologize.”

is much different from,

“I was very short with you in that email because I thought you were trying to tell me to do my job.”

or,

“I was very short with you in that email because you’re usually making fun of my work and I assumed you were this time too.”

or,

“I was very short with you in that email because my kids made me crazy that morning and I had lost my patience.”

That last one is a little better because you’re owning the blame too, but still. The first one is the best. It simply says, “I was rude. I am sorry.”

That doesn’t mean the other things aren’t true, and they definitely need to be dealt with. BUT! If you really want your apology and your owning of blame to serve the purpose it serves, to create honest and open relationships, then you have to own it by itself and deal with the other things separately.

With political systems this is a little different because sometimes it helps us admit we’re wrong if we can recognize how we got there. “I’m sorry I used to assume black people were just more likely to be criminals because there were more of them in jail. I grew up in a racist system and these ideas were subconsciously programmed into me. I will work to be better.” That apology recognizes the fault and the blame which helps a little in the long run. And you’re not blaming another PERSON, you’re blaming a SYSTEM which is a little difference since that SYSTEM is what we’re trying to fix.

BUT STILL. Owning of error is something I’m good at (not great, just good) and something I wish others would be better at.

I think of this partly in the political climate and I get frustrated how rarely we see/hear politicians and legislative officials admit they were wrong about something. I loved when President Obama finally publicly supported Gay Marriage because he admitted he was wrong and attributed his daughters and their friends for showing him that. But he didn’t do it often, none of them do. Even if they’re looking at proof they were wrong and it’s black & white – STILL – it’s such a career killer they won’t do it.

Not only is it important to be able to admit we’re wrong, it’s important to recognize in most conflicts (except where there is emotional or physical abuse at play and someone is using a position of power to create the conflict) both sides carry fault. I see it in grown-up conflicts all the time, people have a hard time stepping back and saying: Okay. This part? This part is ALL ME.

Instead we want to say, “YEAH BUT THEY SAID THIS OTHER THING!”

So I work with my kids on it every day almost. I do it by making sure they see/hear me owning mistakes and I do it by forcing them to recognize their own. When they issue an apology I remind them that, “I’m sorry, but…” is not a sufficient apology. If you have to say, “but…” after it then YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG.

If there is a, “but…” you want to address you figure out how to do that separate from your apology. We work on ways to bring up general conflicts at separate times so that they don’t taint our apologies.

Do you have any ways you work on the same concepts with your kids? Do you see it causing problems in your life as an adult? Whether at work, in politics, or with personal relationships?

Morality and Poverty

There’s a lot of states trying to past regulations on SNAP benefit usage and I keep seeing some support for it so I posted this on Facebook yesterday:

This is your reminder that many SNAP recipients do not have easy ways to access “real” grocery stores, so gas stations and convenience stores are their only options. Maybe they don’t have a car, maybe public transportation is limited, maybe they live in a food desert. For these poor members of our community, gas station food may be their only option outside of going without. Let’s not forget that fact when we wax poetic about how potato chips and candy bars should not be allowed with the SNAP program.

(This doesn’t even touch on the fact that I don’t think it’s our job to be the moral police for the poor. But that’s another rant for another day.)

I’d like to follow-thru on my other rant.

This seems to be relevant as there have been some implications that people could afford healthcare if they didn’t buy things like iPhones. Now, of course, that was easily shot down when people pointed out that smartphones (and iPhones can be “affordable” depending on your contract, not everyone using an iPhone paid $600 for it) are the only way many people have to access online systems because they can’t afford computers or WiFi. Libraries are not accessible to everyone and CERTAINLY do not have forgiving hours of operation. So that tends to remind people that iPhones are no luxury items.

But it reminded me how much I need to rant about how it seems local governments are – more and more – trying to become the morality police for their poorest constituents. Whether it’s by policing whether or not they can smoke anywhere on the grounds of public housing or whether or not they should be allowed to buy steak with SNAP benefits. Everywhere you turn people are trying to use poverty as an excuse to enforce moral judgement on what people should and should not be spending their money and/or benefits on.

I see it when people post snarkily about the lady using WIC vouchers who was talking about just getting her nails done. Or when someone says, “I have to stick to a budget and can’t afford the nicest cut of meat and that person on SNAP just bought enough for her whole family!” We somehow see poor people and assume we have the right to judge the way they spend their money. Never considering that maybe the girl on SNAP just lost her job and she’s trying to keep up her appearances while she goes out on interviews.

I mean, in the grand scheme of where your taxes go, SNAP benefits are a very small portion of it. So trying to act like we’re “allowed” to police it because it’s “our” tax money is silly. We spend much more of our tax money on defense but we let the military decide how to spend that money. Therefore, we should leave the “policing” up to the people who WORK with recipients like social workers and leave investigation up the USDA. And if you’re using the “but we pay!” logic, then you should be judging whether or not old people eat fast food since you pay for their Medicaid or whether or not Joe Fireman buys an XBox since you pay his income or whether or not Mrs. Public School teacher gets her nails done since you pay her salary. I mean, we ONLY use this logic for the people who get the LEAST amount of our tax money.

It’s because they’re poor. And in some way “less than” us.

Breaking it down to that more general level, I just don’t get the idea that person A gets to judge the way person B spends their money simply because they make more? I mean. If person B works at McDonalds and person A works at an Ad agency, is there a valid reason why one gets paid more? Is it because the skill level? So then Person A gets to judge Person B because they have better skills? But what if it’s because they grew up in a family that could afford to send them to college? Then we’re saying the Person A gets to judge Person B because their parents had good jobs.

Do you see?

If we really try to break down the “why” of financial status and then assign moral judgement positions based on those standards the ground is super shaky because we’re basically rewarding class levels with power of morality and that is NOT the society I want to live in.

Why don’t we just not judge. And we leave it up to the USDA to monitor the food stamp program. And recognize that no amounts of cuts or increases in that small program are really going to affect middle-class households in the slightest. Maybe we consider the fact that being poor SUCKS. I mean, it REALLY SUCKS. I’ve said it time and time again, I couldn’t quit smoking until I had a stable income because SMOKING HELPED ME COPE. I also smoked pot regularly when I was poor, but haven’t had the desire since. Being poor is a struggle and if things like iPhones and steak for birthdays make you feel more normal? Then you take it where you can.

I just struggle to understand the WHY. Why are we driven to police poor people? I know people often use the excuse “to help the children” but truthfully, the best way to help kids is to dump money into free lunch and free breakfast programs. For many kids those are the only meals they get. Telling their parents they can’t buy potato chips just means they feel a little more isolated and left out when their classmates are eating Doritos by the bag in their homes. No one polices how I feed my kids. Did I earn that freedom just because I grew up in a home that encouraged me to get a college degree? I’m allowed to feed my kids pizza bites (which they eat regularly) and potato chips just because my husband learned how to program in college? I just really struggle if we get down to the nitty gritty – WHY? WHY? WHY?

But economic moral judgement has always sat wrong with me. I’ve mentioned before my theory about how when you’re poor, you live your life on the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid. You don’t feel safe. You have no esteem. You challenge to feel like you belong. Therefore you’re never able to reach the higher level of self-actualization. I didn’t think outside of my struggle when I was poor. I didn’t think about how to better myself or to improve my life. I was too worried about whether or not I was going to have to choose between the phone bill and the utility bill. So why do I want to FORCE poor people to try to live the BEST VERSIONS OF THEMSELVES when they’re not even living in a safe and secure environment?

I guess there’s not real order to this blog post. Hence why I called it a “rant” – I just really struggle when we break down the “But it’s taxpayer money!” argument why we feel the need to police the poor. Can we just do what we can to help ease the pain in their lives and recognize that helps our community as a whole?

Being poor sucks. More than I even remember and I used to live it. And I wasn’t even close to as poor as you could be. I had a safety net of my middle class family who would take me in if I couldn’t make it. People who come from lines of generational poverty don’t even have that. My safety net gave me the confidence to work through college because I knew another side existed. But if I hadn’t been raised in a middle class household, I might not have even bothered.

*sigh*

/end rant.