Portrait of a loser

My father was a loser.

At the age of 18, Henry Paul LoGuercio was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he was quickly transformed from the valedictorian of his military high school, student body president, and master of five languages into a soldier. Because of his academic success in military school, he was immediately made a 2nd Lieutenant in charge of a unit of soldiers.

They were shipped out in the midst of World War II, landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day in Normandy, France. Jumping off the ship and sloshing through the waves in full military gear, my father and his unit stormed the beach amid a hail of German bullets. Those who survived charged ahead and took refuge in a barn.

My father never spoke of his military service, other than to tell me what happened next: German war planes overhead strafed the building. He could hear the ackackack of the bullets whizzing through the ceiling and all around him. When he looked up, all around him were dead and dying soldiers. Right next to him was a dead soldier with his face completely blown off.

Miraculously, not one bullet had grazed my father. However, there were dual strips of bullet holes alongside where he’d lain. He was rescued by other American soldiers in a complete state of shock. Master of five languages? He was unable to speak or even say his own name. He was taken to an army hospital where he was “rehabilitated.” He had to be taught to write again. My grandmother showed me a little note he’d managed to scrawl from his hospital bed in something more like chicken scratch than letters. It said, “Hi Mom and Pop, Everything here is swell. Love, Henry.” He was released to his parents six months later, with basically a “Sucks to be you” salute and a shove out the door. He suffered for the remainder of his life from “shell shock,” which we now call PTSD.

My father managed to make something of his life, and chose to go into medicine. He said he’d seen enough death, and wanted to devote himself to saving lives. He became an outstanding osteopath and surgeon. However, the PTSD haunted him… a shadow that never left his side, never let him forget the horrors he’d witnessed—in an era where we didn’t have war movies to desensitize us to the horrors of the battlefield. The first death and carnage he witnessed was not on a movie screen. It was bleeding at his side. When he was 18.

PTSD was a constant presence, which he attempted to chase away with alcohol. More and more and more, but the demons just laughed. At that time, the U.S. Army didn’t recognize “shell shock” as a disability. He was on his own to figure it out, discharged with a “Hey, sucks to be you, have a great life.” He never got a Purple Heart. From that point on, as far as the Veterans Administration was concerned, he was “Henry Who?”

Ultimately, alcohol and PTSD eroded my dad’s ability to function as a physician any longer. His hands began shaking. He was unable to do surgery with shaking hands, and unable to get malpractice insurance because of that. Unable to work, he rapidly downspiraled into out of control alcoholism, PTSD, and paranoia. In November 1977, he had a massive brain aneurysm, and was in a coma for nearly two months. He eventually woke up, paralyzed on one side, most of his intellectual capacity destroyed. He had become a shell, filled only with sadness and loss. Yet, he lingered on like that until 2003, when he died alone the day after Christmas in a convalescent hospital, apparently suffering another stroke in the middle of the night. Or, maybe he’d finally just had enough of this life.

When it became time to plan his funeral, the local Veterans of Foreign Wars group discovered that my dad was a WWII veteran because one of them was married to the woman who ran the local flower shop, where I’d ordered the roses for his casket. The VFW wanted to give my dad military honors upon his burial.

As friends and family carried my father’s casket to the open grave, there were several VFW members there in full uniform, rifles at the ready. He was given a rifle salute, and “Taps” was the only song that played. When they were done, their quartermaster presented me with an American flag, neatly and tightly wrapped into a triangle, and told me he appreciated my father’s service.

After all those years, and from veterans who never even knew him, he was still their brother in arms, and they wouldn’t let him be laid to rest without acknowledging his service. What a bunch of losers, to care for a sucker like that.

I’ll tell you one thing: There was more patriotism and courage in one hair follicle on any of those veterans’ heads, or on my dad’s, than there is in the entire character of our President. When called to serve this country, they didn’t fake bone spurs, likely because they weren’t amongst the rich and privileged who can slide out of service with a purchased note from the family doctor.

There are men and women just like that, right now, fighting to protect our country’s interests all over the world, who put their lives on the line for our country every single day, and who will selflessly charge into battle to save this country and defend our Constitution. And, they are led by a Commander in Chief who views them as “losers” and “suckers,” and who says if they are captured in battle, don’t deserve to be saved because they’d allowed themselves to be caught. He has less respect or concern for them than the dirt under his heel.

I have been a professional writer for going on 30 years, and I do not have the words within me to fully express my fury and outrage at what Donald Trump has said about the members of our miltary. His words in the Atlantic Monthly story this week are corroborated by his denigration of a genuine military hero, John McCain, as well as his lack of interest in doing anything when it was recently revealed that Russia had funded attacks on American soldiers in Afganistan.

He DOES NOT CARE about our service members. Or us.

HE.

DOES.

NOT.

CARE.

How about you? Do you care about them? If you do, then VOTE this November, and save our military members and our entire country from this soulless sociopath who doesn’t give a shit about anyone but himself.

Trump is an enemy of the state. He should be treated as such.

‘Yay,’ I whispered loudly, ‘my book is here!’

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This is me, holding the first copy of my first book for the first time!

Imagine, if you will, that your lifelong dream has just come true! You’ve been anticipating the Big Day, and it arrives, the dream is born… and you can’t really tell anyone.

Well, you can, technically, but it would just be… rude? Insensitive? Tone deaf?

Whatever adjective you choose, let me just tell you, tooting your own horn, however quietly, makes an oogie, sniggly feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Here’s the thing: My very first book was officially published today, June 8, 2020: “The Elements of Horse Spirit — The Magical Bond Between Humans and Horses.”

“Yay,” I exclaim in a loudish whisper… sort of on the level of a “psssst…”

How are you supposed to celebrate something in times like these? It was one thing when we were just dealing with coronavirus and Murder Hornets, but right now, the only thing on everyone’s radar is the murder of George Floyd, and the broad and wide wake of pain and protest that followed. As well it should beNo other topic should take precedence at this moment because racism is the fabric of this country, and it’s damn well long past time we did something about it.

And yet, other things in life are quietly happening on the sidelines that deserve celebration… graduations, weddings, new babies. And also, lifelong dreams coming true, like finally being able to say, “I am an author!” Sitting at home and writing was literally all I ever really wanted to do, I mean, other than become a country western superstar, and Debbylou Harris I ain’t. But I became an author, finally, the Queen of the Late Bloomers, and my first book is finally here!!!

Ummm… ugh.

Shining a light on my milestone in the midst of the larger societal picture sort of feels like standing up in the middle of a funeral and yelling, “I got a pony!!!”

What an asshole.

Gulp.

And yet, I can’t just let the book drift away unnoticed either. I’m sorta supposed to be a partner in making this book a success. My publisher, Llewellyn Worldwide, has even featured me and my book in their inaugural LunaCon  author talk week, planned June 12-18, and on Tuesday, June 16, from 10:15-10:45 p.m. (Pacific Time), I will make my very first public debut as a published author! Wow! (Yes, you can attend: sign up for LunaCon here.) I am right in there with so many authors I’ve admired for years, and it’s a little intimidating and I hope I don’t choke, but I’ll do my best to bring my enthusiasm for the healing power of Horse Spirit to all the attendees.

I’m really excited about moving to the “adult table” of the writing world (everything I’ve written prior was on newsprint, and that goes straight into the recycling bin), and had COVID-19 not reconfigured all of our lives indefinitely, I’d be doing book-signings all over the place. I even was all prepared to face my flying fear, because flying around is something real authors do, and despite my dread of flying, I was gonna do it. I even bought new luggage a couple months ago, that didn’t need to be held together with a bungie cord, and here we are — stuck in Ironyland. Faced the fear, got the luggage, have a reason to do it and… not possible. Oh well, the supersized suitcase makes a lovely rack for all my clothes I’m too lazy to hang up and put away.

How can you not chuckle, a little, at my amazingly bad timing: First, not able to do the book signings I’d always imagined and, second, not really feeling wonderful about celebrating my book at all. Oh well, I’ll bumble along as best I can. I presented my predicament to my wonderful Llewellyn editor, Heather, and she sympathized and made a great suggestion: Share something helpful and healing from the book, because everyone needs that right now. Perfect!

This is an extremely condensed version of a tiny bit of what is in my book, but here are a couple things you can do to ease your mind and soul in the midst of the one-two punch of a pandemic and the tides of social unrest that bring change:

~  Consider all the qualities of Horse Spirit: Strength, courage, swiftness, grace, honesty, power, determination, beauty. Gather images of horses, or things associated with horses, wear horse symbols, collect them, and let them serve as prompts… invite the qualities of Horse to come into your life and carry you through whatever is troubling you.

~  Consider spending time with horses, even if you don’t have a lot of experience. You could volunteer at an equine-assisted therapy center, and not only be near some kind, loving horses, but also help some people who really need it. These centers are all over the place, and offer treatment for everything from autism to spinal injuries. Spending time with such big, gentle, spiritual creatures is grounding and nurturing.

If you have access to a horse, spending time with one simply as a companion, just walking and grazing, teaches you to “be here now” — you’ll learn to only focus on what you’re aware of with your five senses in that moment, rather than swirling in your head around all your worries. It’s really okay to take a breather from everything that erodes your serenity for just a little while. Trust me, all your problems and concerns will be right where you left them when you go back home.

So, there are a couple eensy, teensy morsels from my book, in which there is much more detail on these two topics and more, but you can use these two right now. Just find some horses, even online in videos, and watch them. Slow your breathing down… just watch. See if you don’t feel calmer for that little bit of time. Horses are our oldest spiritual allies, They’ve moved humankind forward through the centuries, and they’ll do the same for us now, on a metaphysical level.

I could go on and on about the wonderfulness of horses, but hey — I already did, and it’s in my book, which you can order on Amazon or directly from Llewelleyn right here. If I may be so bold, I’ll venture to say that it might be the kind of book that soothes your soul right about now. And since we’re all stuck at home, you’ll even have time to read it!

“So, yay, today my book was born!” I whisper loudly. I hope you enjoy it. I hope it brings you peace and whimsy and fascination and new ideas. May the Horse be with you!

(Programming note: This book is not appropriate for children, and is Pagan in its perspective.)

Screen Shot 2020-06-08 at 12.30.39 PM

See that date? My book was born today!

 

Black voices matter too — #BVM

It give me hope that white folks are speaking out against racism and police brutality, and marching and hollering and protesting alongside black folks. This is a good thing. But being silent would also be a good thing.

Lemme ‘splain:

Whitesplaining.

I know we mean well. We really do. But our good intentions sometimes end up drowning out black voices. And, when our mouths are open, our ears are closed. As I said in my last column, we need to shut our privileged white mouths and listen. Even when the message is harsh.

No rebuttals, no rationalizations, no “but but but…”

Shut up and listen. And let the words sink in.

I was tested yesterday to see if I really will practice what I preach, when a friend emailed a New York Times opinion piece by Chad Sanders, and lemme tell ya… this one pinched.

Shut up and listen, anyway, Debra.

In his column, he says, “Many white people I know are spilling over with guilt and overzealous attempts to offer sympathy.” Sanders side-steps this because it isn’t the point. What white people need isn’t the point. What black people need is. While Sanders is simply trying to exist in the midst of this turmoil, he’s getting this from his white friends:

But brazen as ever, white people who have my phone number are finding a way to drain my time and energy. Some are friends, others old co-workers and acquaintances I’ve intentionally released from my life for the sake of my peace of mind. Every few days I receive a bunch of texts like this one, from last week:

“Hi friend. I just wanted to reach out and let you know I love you and so deeply appreciate you in my life and your stories in the world. And I’m so sorry. This country is deeply broken and sick and racist. I’m sorry. I think I’m tired; meanwhile I’m sleeping in my Snuggie of white privilege. I love you and I’m here to fight and be useful in any way I can be. **Heart emojis**

Almost every message ends with seven oppressive words — “Don’t feel like you need to respond.””

What he says next is extraordinary: “Not only are these people using me as a waste bin for guilt and shame, but they’re also instructing me on what not to feel, silencing me in the process.”

Their own guilt and shame. In other words, underneath it all, the messages ultimately relieve the sender’s feelings of white guilt and shame. They aren’t really meant for the receiver’s benefit. They’re meant for the sender’s.

Don’t start your “but but but” now. Let the man finish:

Not only are these people using me as a waste bin for guilt and shame, but they’re also instructing me on what not to feel, silencing me in the process. In an unusually honest admission of power imbalance, the texter is informing me I don’t have to respond. (Gee, thanks.) This implies that whether or not I do respond — and I usually don’t — the transaction is complete because their message has been conveyed. The texter can sleep more soundly in their ‘Snuggie of white privilege’.”

#ShutUpAndListen.

Yeah, it’s harsh. And no, it’s not being understanding of our needs. And we white folks need to stop expecting that black understanding of our needs is reasonable. We also need to stop speaking for black people. They’re quite capable of speaking their own minds and thoughts and feelings.

#ShutUpAndListen

Sanders’ column got me thinking about that “black square” social media protest last week. Many people started using a black square as their profile photo, or just made a black square the post of the day. I felt a little uneasy about it, so I started visiting my black friends’ Facebook pages to see if they were doing it. Not one was. I took my cue from them. The black square seemed just like what Sanders described: a Snuggie of white privilege. I read several comments from black folks saying that this black square day was yet another instance of their voices being silenced right when their voices needed to be heard the most.

know people meant well. I know they felt like it was a show of support. Your heart can be in the right place even as your brain is out in left field. We can mean well even as we are actually hurting others.

So, my own little sometimes-in-left-field brain got to thinkin’. There are many black voices that my ears perk up and listen to, Barack and Michelle Obama at the top of that list. But there are others, and I want to shine a light on these in particular:

~  Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson.

~  Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, Eddie Glaude Jr.

~  MSNBC host of AM Joy, Joy Reid.

~  Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart.

~  “Late Night with Seth Myers” writer Amber Ruffin.

~  New York Times columnist Charles Blow.

There are many more, but I wanted to keep the list tight because too many names, and it waters everything down. It’s harder to stand out in a sea of people, and I want them to stand out because these particular voices resonate with me. Deeply. When I shut up and listen to these people, without forming excuses or rebuttals in my mind, just take in what they are saying or writing, let it sink into my soul, I discover that my perception changes. My understanding increases. Try it. Turn down the volume on your own thoughts and just listen, and take it in. And… share their message. BUT! Share it without comment. They don’t need a white thumbs up for validation. They are already valid.

As these thoughts were tumbling around in my mind, another one drifted in: Not only do Black Lives Matter, but Black Voices also matter. And, it gave me an idea, yes it did. I want to start a #BlackVoicesMatter, and here are the simple rules: Share a black person’s post or column or video, one that really touches your heart or brightens your mind. But, with no comment other than #BlackVoicesMatter and #ShutUpAndListen.

That’s it. No white mouths moving. Only black.

And here’s another important lane to stay in: Should you feel moved to comment on someone else’s post of a black voice, it has to be an affirmation of that message: “I hear your pain.” “I understand your point.” “I recognize the injustice.” Make it about their message, not about whether or not you agree.

We white folks could learn a hell of a lot more with our ears — and minds — open, and with our mouths closed. Besides creating external change, by protesting all forms of racism, we can also create internal change by turning off our own “Snuggies of white privilege” and listening.

Which black voices touch, brighten, and enlighten you? Celebrate them! Cast their voices wherever you can! Because #BlackVoicesMatter too.

(I created a Black Voices Matter Facebook page, for posting blogs, columns, videos of black voices only. You are welcome to visit it, and post.)

 

Shut your privileged white mouth and listen

I don’t perceive myself as racist. Quite the opposite. I try really hard not to be. But sometimes, my privileged white foot steps in some shit. And there I am, doing my best to scrape it off.

I stepped in it on Facebook recently, while singing the praises of U.S. Representative Val Demings, who I’m hoping against hope will be Joe Biden’s running mate. In the midst of the burst of pain, anger, and outrage in this country over the murder of George Floyd, Demings wrote a brave and passionate op-ed in the Washington Post, in which she boldly confronted her fellow police officers about yet another abhorrent killing of a black man by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25. Yes, “fellow” officers. You see, not only is Demings a Congresswoman, she was a police officer for 27 years, part of which she spent as police chief.

Oh, yeah, she is all that and the bag of proverbial chips.

I discovered her during the impeachment trials. She blew me away. I listened to her speak and thought, “Who is THIS, and why isn’t she a contender for Biden’s runningmate? Well, now, apparently she is on his short list, and all my fingers and toes are crossed that Uncle Joe will recognize that Demings’ foot is the one that will fit his Cinderella slipper. Her perfect foot is in both camps: the black community and law enforcement! She is so uniquely qualified for this moment in time, and I will be over the moon to support BidenDemings2020.

Demings is one of those people who, when she speaks, your ears perk up. Your brain pays attention. Her voice rings like a bell. She has that je-ne-sais-quoi that makes her stand out in a sea of blah blah blah. In my Facebook post, I summarized her as: Smart. Experienced. Articulate.

Boom.

There it is.

“Articulate.”

Did you know that describing a black person as “articulate” is an insult? I certainly didn’t.

Heyyyyy…. what’s this stinky stuff on my shoe???

First, I was excoriated by an indignant white guy, which only pissed me off because there seems to be an overabundance of white people speaking on behalf of black people without their consent. “Whitesplaining.” So arrogant.

We went a few rounds after he proceeded to pelt me with belittling “Jane, you ignorant slut” insults. I insisted that not in my wildest imagination was I insulting Demings in any way, and pointed out to him that he didn’t have a problem with me describing her as “smart” or “experienced.” Following his logic, would these not also be backhanded slaps that insinuate blacks aren’t smart or experienced?

But he then produced a piercing story by Lynette Clemetson, a black woman, explaining that the history of this word is a back-handed slap to insinuate that blacks speak sloppily, and one who speaks eloquently is a bit of a unicorn. Which, of course, is just nuts. People still believe that sort of crap in this day and age? Why can’t I call an articulate black woman articulate, just like I would an articulate white woman? It doesn’t make any sense to me!

I wrestled with my immediate instinct to fight this issue to the death, because dammit, insulting Demings was the furthest thing from my mind, and let’s face it: She really is articulate, and I meant that from my heart. I want her to be our next vice-president, and first female president after that! I love this woman!

But there it was. From someone with personal experience. Someone who knows firsthand.

Me being me, I was ready to keep on slugging and prove my self-righteous point, and verbally take this guy down (he knows not with whom he deals!), but then I reread the story. Clemetson was/is spot on. And, despite my intense urge to prove I was right, which fuels most of my tooth-and-claw debates on and off Facebook… I pumped the brakes.

Hmmm.

Although another privileged white person chastising me for being another privileged white person just grates me the wrong way — the milk calling the sugar white — I realized that wasn’t the point. Clemetson’s story, and the history she revealed, were the point. I let it sink in. Turns out (brace yourself), I was wrong. Rather than argue, I decided to concede. I apologized, said I had no idea I was using an unkind word, and replaced the word in the post on the spot.

And then, another comment popped up in the thread, from a lady named Sylvia:

I am a 71 year old Black woman so I speak from years of experience. Whenever we’ve been told we are articulate, it means we don’t talk “black”, whatever that means. It’s like being asked if we’re educators just because we know how to properly use nouns and verbs. Long story short, it is most definitely not a compliment. I hope this explanation helps.

I was so touched by her gentleness and patience with my white privilege ineptitude, despite the fact that white folks, even well-meaning ones, don’t deserve any gentleness or patience from a black person, and yet… she extended that to me anyway. That really touched me. And impressed me deeply. This was my response to her:

Thank you for explaining this. I had NO IDEA.
The post has been updated.

This tiny exchange gave me a huge epiphany. Besides writing, I’m a massage therapist. I’ve had my own practice for 20 years. In the course of that practice, I’ve had a couple clients with fibromyalgia. They made no sense to me! So extremely sensitive! One of them yelped, “too deep!” when I first placed my hands on her back. I was only spreading the oil! I consulted with her physician, who explained that the nerves of a fibromyalgia patient interpret touch as pain. It doesn’t matter that I think my touch is light — all that matters is their experience of pain. It’s not my place to judge, it’s my place to accept their experience and adjust my approach accordingly.

Believe their pain. It’s so simple!

This prompted me think about the pain black people experience every single day — the pain that white people don’t know about because they never experience it. This utter cluelessness is the definition of “white privilege.” And thinking about fibromyalgia pain really snapped things into focus.

We need to believe people about their pain. When black people say “that hurts,” we privileged white folks need to believe them. Even if it doesn’t hurt us, even if we didn’t intend for it to hurt, even if we don’t understand why it hurts — we need to shut our mouths, nod our heads, listen, and acknowledge it. Particularly if we caused it. Our own understanding of that pain is irrelevant.

I don’t have fibromyalgia.

I’m not black.

I don’t understand either pain.

But I accept it.

And should a black person inform me about my pain, I’ll shut my mouth and simply listen. And if I caused that pain, I’ll take responsibility, apologize, and make a correction.

Will you?

 

Cornered…

The breadbasket has been in one corner on our kitchen counter forever. You have to reach over a bunch of olive oil and vinegar bottles to get some bread. Sometimes the bottles almost get knocked over if you don’t have quick reflexes. 

Two days ago… the husband of this household did not have quick reflexes. 

*clink*

*crash*

A ceramic cup lost its life, taken out by a tipped bottle of avocado oil. 

He: &$@%#£¥murfuckin&$}*?|>!!! 👹
WHY DO THESE GODDAM BOTTLES HAVE TO BE IN FRONT OF THE BREAD BASKET👹
WHAT DO WE EVEN NEED AVOCADO OIL FOR? 
?&@€€}€{~>$@!!!! 👹

Wellsir, I thought about that for two days. 

Why IS the breadbasket there?
Why ARE the bottles there? 

And we need avocado oil because: DUH. 
🥑

As for the other two questions, the only answer I could produce is “Because they have always been there.” Not for any sort of planning but because I put them there once about 20 years ago and never re-evaluated that. And there they stayed.

Programming note: You can easily learn to reach over the bottles without calamity if you have a vagina. 

The one who reached over them most recently did not. 

And now… an innocent cup is dead. 

DEAD. 

*sadness*

😔

So thia morning, I examined our kitchen countertop clusterfuck. 🤔

And ever so slowly… as if whispered to me from the divine realm by some sleepy-eyed chubby-cheeked cherub… it dawned on me…

What if. 
What IF. 
WHAT IF!!!

What if… you moved the bread basket… to the OTHER corner!!!

Mind. 
BLOWN. 
🤯

And so… ever so thoughtfully, as if rearranging the wires on an explosive device… I moved the breadbasket to – get this – the OTHER corner. 

Only the bottles occupy the other corner now. 

Alone. 

It’s as if I’ve just swallowed the Red Pill. 

🐇

Three Courageous things we can change right now

“The Serenity Prayer” has been drifting in and out of my mind ever since this whole coronavirus nightmare began. It’s the mantra of all 12-Steppers, and a reminder that not everything is under our control. When we feel compelled to take control of a situation, or person, we repeat this prayer in our minds as sort of a psychological reset button:

God, grant me the Serenity

to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

and Wisdom to know the difference.

A lot of people focus on the Serenity part of this, and stop right there. Some move on to embrace “Courage.” But it’s “Wisdom” that’s actually the key, because how do you know if you need Serenity or Courage if you haven’t used your Wisdom to figure out if the best course of action is acceptance or change? The entire concept of this mantra rests upon Wisdom.

As it pertains to coronavirus/Covid-19, it doesn’t take a lot of Wisdom to figure out that until a vaccine and a cure are found, this microscopic monster is completely out of our control. No point in wasting any Courage on fighting the virus itself. That’s up to the doctors and scientists. All the rest of us can do is focus our Courage on sheltering in place, wearing masks and gloves in public, amping up our hand-washing routines, maintaining social distance, and avoiding unnecessary errands. These are things we can change. The rest of it? This virus has a clear non-discrimination policy: It doesn’t care about your race or religion or age or income — anyone and everyone could be the next victim. Other than taking the precautions you can, the rest is all up to Lady Luck.

Maybe that’s where the Serenity (if there’s any to be found) comes in: We change what we can and hope for the best, because all the worry and anxiety and dread in the world will have zero impact on luck.

Zero.

All that said, it’s pretty much impossible to consider the proliferation of this pandemic in the U.S. without considering the one who enabled it: Donald Trump. First, he declared coronavirus to be a liberal hoax. Then, he downplayed it as something that would magically disappear in April (more than 30,000 dead in the U.S. and counting as of today). Next, he attempted to relabel the virus as the “Chinese Virus,” and paint the Chinese at fault (thereby providing a convenient enemy). The ultimate transgression occurred this week when he canceled U.S. funding for the World Health Organization, blaming the WHO for not taking charge of this virus (redirecting blame for its spread in the U.S. away from himself.) Right when the WHO needs our funding the most!

Trump squandered an entire month in the early days of this pandemic, as well as any opportunity we had of preventing its spread. Of course he denies all that, and seems to be utterly unaware that videotape exists.

Sadly, because the Republican Senate refused to give Trump the impeachment he so richly deserves and remove him from office, we’re now in the midst of one of our country’s biggest crises, completely devoid of a stable, mature hand at the helm. It’s the worst case scenario, in 365 degrees. We’re stuck with an infantile, sociopathic megalomaniac in charge, and all I can say about that is thank Goddess for state governors. At least there are some adults in the room.

I can’t be rid of Covid-19 or Trump soon enough. I’m not sure which will ultimately cause the most carnage. While all we can do is wait for an end to coronavirus, as for Trump, we can do something about that. The tick-tick-tick of his clock running out is the ambient background in my mind.  Sadly, we have to muddle through until November before we can jettison the worst President in U.S. history.

Thanks, Republicans.

The notion of a landslide loss in November has Trump worried. So worried, in fact, that I’m certain that his motivation for recently refusing a coronavirus relief bill if it included funding for the U.S. Postal Service is because mail-in ballots will contribute to his downfall. He’s mentioned them as “corrupt” multiple times, even though five states do mail-in voting exclusively, without incident, and ironically, even though he votes by mail himself. Mail-in paper ballots are almost impossible to hack electronically, so there’s  no room for remote manipulators to flip every other Democratic vote to the Republican side. Bottom line, Trump realizes that he can’t win if he can’t cheat. He doesn’t care what he destroys as long as he gets to call himself a winner.

What a loser.

How does all this tie in to the Serenity Prayer? I put my Wisdom to work, to help me recognize the things I could change that actually required no Courage at all: I contributed to Joe Biden’s campaign, because he’s our only hope of getting rid of Trump, and I bought two books of Forever stamps to funnel funds to the U.S. Postal Service. Just to be saucy, I did a third thing: I contributed to Amy McGrath’s campaign for the Kentucky Senate. She stands a good chance of ousting longtime incumbent Mitch McConnell.

McConnell is the main reason that the impeachment didn’t culminate in the removal of Trump from office. He sets the tone of this morally bankrupt Republican Senate, which blocks any and all liberal or progressive efforts just on principle, regardless of value or benefit to the public. If you think about it, McConnell is even worse than Trump because he knows better, he knows the Constitution, and he knows how government is supposed to work. But he’s willing to abandon all that, and all of us, as well as his oath of office, just to cling to the coattails of a shallow, self-serving imbecile.

When we #DumpTrump in November, it will be icing on the cake to #DitchMitch as well. Many of us will do so using mail-in ballots because we can’t let a nasty virus prevent us from exercising our Constitutional right to vote. And we’ll need those stamps to do so!

While the end of the virus is still not within sight, the end of this presidency is. Until then, stay home and stay Serene, my friends.

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Rebooted reboot

I know, I know, I know…

I popped back in from outer space on January 1, all ready to reboot this blog and get back to opining about all sorts of things about which no one asked my opinion, and then… *crickets*

So, a funny thing happened on the way to that reboot. Not “haha” funny, but unusual and highly distracting. I realize that “highly distracting” means almost nothing coming from someone who darts off after the first “Squirrel!” but this time, I think these things will qualify even for those with the most steadfast spans of attention.

I was waiting to really get going on blogging again until my book cover was done and I could swing down that path. Because yes, people, Squirrel or no, I did manage to complete my first book last year and all in all, I am pretty damn pleased with it and myself.

To kick off my celebration of finally accomplishing something, I attended the annual Pagan convention, Pantheacon, in mid-February and went to Llewellyn Worldwide’s author gathering, and saw my book cover for the first time! What a surprise, and what a peak experience that was! I was over the moon. So yes, “The Elements of Horse Spirit — The Magical Bond Between Humans and Horses” is happening, my friends! I have photographic evidence, and also heard that it went to press two weeks ago. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon right now! How cool is THAT!

I returned from Pantheacon all set to shine a spotlight on the next leg of my life’s journey and got slammed with an unexpected surprise. After many years of relentless arm pain and restriction, it turns out I had not only a bone spur under the end of my collarbone, digging right into the nerve that runs to the deltoid muscle, but also two rotator cuff tears — one partial, and one a full thickness tear, the latter of which being the truly troublesome part.

After consulting with a surgeon, a specialist, and my own dear doc, the opinion was unanimous: The rotator cuff must be repaired before the severed ends scar over because at that point, it will no longer be repairable. At that point, I’d be looking at a shoulder replacement. And ANY replacement of ANY body part weirds me the hell out, so that was incentive enough to make my decision easy.

In February, the surgeon gave me a window of six months to repair the damage. Initially, I wanted to do what all good journalists do, and push that surgery out to the last possible moment… let all that good old deadline energy propel me through. However, both the specialist and my doc said, “Do it NOW.” I have to wonder if both of them knew that coronavirus was heading our way, and if I stalled, there’d be a good chance my surgery would be denied as “non essential” during the midst of this pandemic. Thankfully, whether foresight or conservative medical opinion, I did as they said, and had my shoulder repaired on March 3.

I went in for surgery, and the world was relatively normal, albeit caution about hand-washing and being aware of activities that might spread the virus was floating around. I came out of surgery, and the entire world turned upside down. Within one week, the shelter-in-place orders went into effect in California and we were all thrust into a new, unfamiliar reality. And possibly not a temporary one. We will likely be living this way until a vaccine is found, and that could take as long as 18 months, so, well… maybe invest in a bidet because that’s a LOT of toilet paper that we don’t have, my friends.

What does this all have to do with your alleged writing reboot, Debra? Jeez, get ON with it.

Well, it’s this: I imagined that even though I had to wear a bulky arm sling 24-7 for the entire first month, I’d still be able to write. I imagined wrong. Sitting at the computer with that thing on required uncomfortable contortions that made focusing on writing pretty much impossible, and my hand and arm were as weak as a newborn kitten. Beyond the physical discomfort, I discovered that following general anesthesia, plus extreme sleep deprivation due to the sling and only being able to sleep (or attempt it, rather) in a recliner, I’d lost my words as if someone locked the room in my brain where they all are. Locked out! I struggled to find the exact word I was trying to say, and to even finish a sentence. For someone who lives in a world of words, this was most unsettling. I said a lot of things like, “I need to go get that thing to do that… thing… ” and sometimes I’d hear a sentence come out of my mouth and my ears would detect that I didn’t use the words I’d intended to. That was upsetting all by itself.

And then the coronavirus tsunami washed over us all.

It didn’t take long before my good old pal Anxiety roared back into my life, further paralyzing my ability to write anything longer than a snarky Facebook post. What irony, right? Suddenly I’m gifted with endless time to write, and between physical discomfort and psychological anguish over our impending collective doom… I’m unable to write a damn thing. And so… I gave up on writing for the rest of March, and on into early April, until I could get the sling off. Just completely furloughed my brain and decided that epic hours spent playing Candy Crush and watching reruns of The Office was forgivable under the circumstances. “Just heal,” I told myself. “That’s all you need to do.” And so, the days wore on, just an endless cycle of changing from P.M. pajamas to A.M. pajamas and back again.

Until this morning. Today is the first time in nearly six weeks that I’ve been able to sit at a keyboard and use both hands without pain, AND have enough psychological bandwidth to write something reasonably coherent. Milestone, people! Yes, the whole coronavirus thing is running like a ticker tape through the back of my brain, but as I said… this is now our reality. I must teach myself to write again in spite of it, because this is where we’re stuck, and this is where we’ll stay. Thank Goddess it’s totally comfy to write in PJs, which ironically was always my ultimate dream. Somehow, I didn’t quite imagine it this way, but this is what it is.

And here we are, all the way to the end of a column! Hopefully my writing Muse has been kickstarted! This may not be my best work, but hey — it’s SOME work, and that’s more than I’ve done since January. It may contain typos because my post-surgery anxiety-saturated brain is still struggling a bit, so apologies in advance. But hopefully, my reboot is officially rebooted! Now if we just could go awhile without anything else funny happening. (Note to the Universe: No more surprises, please. Enough’s enough. You’ve made your point: Control is all an illusion. We get it. Don’t be a dick and hammer it home. Nobody likes a dick.)

Me, seeing the cover of my book for the first time at Llewellyn Worldwide’s authors party at Pantheacon in February 2020!

 

 

Knocking down the cobwebs

Pffft… pffft… pfffffffft….

Dang, there are cobwebs all over this place, aren’t there! Dust everywhere you look! I’m almost ashamed to admit that I haven’t made a single post since last May.

Almost.

Because it wasn’t simple garden variety laziness or lack of organization or—squirrel!!! (this time)… I had a super good reason: I spent most of last spring and summer working on my first book, “Elements of Horse Spirit – How Horses and Humans Heal Each Other,” to be published by Llewellyn Worldwide in June 2020! Yes! I finally achieved the one milestone I always wanted: to write at home, with neither boss nor employees, and preferably in pajama pants all day long! Cocktails by 4 p.m.! The dream is alive!

The reality of that lifelong dream, however, is that I wrote this book on a fast-track, suggesting an absolutely preposterous timeline (two months for the first draft), and then set out to meet it. And I did. But it wasn’t done there… revisions and editing followed, and the book wasn’t done done until Labor Day, and that’s not quite true either, because the manuscript has moved on to another editor, and within the next couple months, the draft copy will be proofread and copy-edited yet once again, until it goes to press in March.

It was an incredible amount of work, and I’m beyond thrilled that this is finally happening (I turned 60 last year, so I’ve taken “late bloomer” to the next level), but the upswing of all that work is that I squeezed all the words out of my brain. Nothing left but a chalky, haggard husk, except a few TV theme songs rolling around in the dusty corners. Nothing left but an endless loop of “... love is all around no need to waste it…” But, yeah, temporary cognitive depletion notwithstanding, it looks like I am, in fact, going to make it after all! Somebody get me a beret to toss in the middle of town square!

Why am I feeling a splooge of confidence about that? Well, Llewellyn has given me the green light to start on my second book, which will be especially for the Pagan-curious, and those interested in a little guidebook about discovering their feral side and exploring the Pagan world; a Pagan preschool primer of sorts.

Yes, Pagan. In fact, both books are of the Pagan slant, which may or may not come as a shock to some. Those who recognize my Pagan core, recognize my Pagan core. The rest just assume I’m some old tree-hugging, whale-loving hippie who owns too much silver jewelry with weird looking symbols, and has a bad tarot addiction. After many, many years of (badly) hiding my true Pagan self, and with print journalism far in my rearview mirror, I can finally be completely congruent. Whew. It feels great to exhale.

Why did I pretty much stay in the broom closet all that time? Simple: Paganism didn’t pay the bills.

And yes, it’s true: I am just done with journalism. For multiple reasons. That ship hasn’t just sailed, it’s hit a coral reef, ripped its belly open, and sunk to the bottom of the sea, where happy little seahorses and clownfish and crabs are repurposing it into a sweet little underwater condo.

Honestly, it was never my goal to be a journalist or an editor anyway, and I was never particularly interested in newspapers either. It’s just what happened while I was busy making other plans.

Oh, life… you are such a scamp!

All that said, I did have a passion for writing opinion, and that was the hardest piece to release, but here we are, a year and a half later, and I can count all the columns (I suppose I should more appropriately say “blog posts” now) that I’ve written on one hand in that span of time, and I just don’t really care. I sort of lost interest in the whole opinion gig. I went internal, shared my opinion on social media here and there, but even that has become a bit “meh” to me. I’ve realized, in retrospect, that I never succeeded in changing people’s minds, let alone the world, but holy crap, did I try. I became very accustomed to a 360-degree “fists up” mentality all the time, and became quite the verbal scrapper over the years. Yes, kitty had claws, and she wasn’t afraid to use them. But the more time that elapsed between my official last column and the present moment, the less interest I had in continuing the constant shit-disturbing. War, even in words… huh – what is it good for? Absolutely nuthin’.

Except endless arguments and flaming social media threads that ultimately accomplish even less.

Evidence: Hillary did not win in 2016. And Kellyanne is still talking.

And so, I sat on the banks and let the endless river of potential column topics just float on past (and wow, did the current occupant of the White House float plenty of jetsam downstream). Some looked mighty tempting, but all in all… I just let it drift on by and got reacquainted with myself instead. I didn’t even produce a pithy column on turning 60, as I had when I turned 40 and 50 because… does it really matter? It’s a number. It’s also a lot of judgment. Are we done with “OK, Boomer” yet? That’s about as five minutes ago as “five minutes ago.”

Other than the joints in my hands having some pesky arthritis from all that tapping on a keyboard for nearly 30 years, what’s the point obsessing over that number? Is 60 all that different from 59? (Here’s a short story on that: No.) Besides, it’s not about the time you’ve spent on earth as much as it is about how you spend the time that’s left. And what’s left is pure gold, and must be spent wisely. I’m not squandering it on tempest-in-a-teapot mudslinging anymore, whether in print or online. It’s just sad and tired, and does nothing to improve anything. I’ve lost the urge to prove that I’m right. It’s good enough that I know that for myself. All of y’all will have to figure it out for yourselves.

All that said, I’ll try to do a better job of blogging (good Goddess that sounds so weird and wrong… it’s like a new haircut… I guess I’ll get used to it) here and there. I’ll aim to do a better job of dusting and knocking the cobwebs down from time to time. (Disclaimer: I’m a shitty housekeeper.)

Anyway, onward to a new year, a new decade, and a new trajectory!

 

 

 

They spit on the grave of every soldier

On Memorial Day, hopefully, we pause to remember those who gave their lives in service to our country. Some died in the process of that ultimate gift, others returned home broken and battered. All of them put their country before their own goals and ambitions, and personal gain. All of them will have little American flags flying over their graves on Monday, my father amongst them.

There is no greater sacrifice than to give your life for the greater good of all. In our country, for the military, this has meant to do your duty with honor in your heart, knowing that standing up for the Rule of Law and our Constitution is the ultimate responsibility, even to the point of risking your own life.

I must ask, when all the politicians mouth words of praise for fallen soldiers on Memorial Day, wearing their obligatory lapel American flag pins and giving “heartfelt” speeches, how they go home and sleep at night if they aren’t pushing hard for impeachment of the most corrupt, dishonest, unbalanced President in U.S. history?

I have listened to news program after news program, talk show after talk show, and every discussion of impeachment revolves around the calculation of how such a move will affect the 2020 elections. Every time I hear it, I could launch from my chair in flabbergasted disbelief. When you distill this conversation down to its essence, these politicians are completely focused on their own personal gain and re-election than on the Constitution they swore to uphold.

Just like this President who unabashedly puts his own self-interest above every single thing that happens in this country, when you think about it, every politician who talks about the effect impeachment would have on the 2020 election rather than doing what is right is essentially doing the same thing: What’s in it for me, and to hell with the country.

I ask again: How do you people sleep at night? Have you no honor? No shame? No integrity?

The definition of a sociopath is one who walks through life doing whatever he wants with absolutely no concern or empathy for anyone he harms. Walking over people is how he operates in the world. Clearly, our President fits this description. However, I suspect that a lot of politicians fit this description as well, based upon their drive to protect themselves and their jobs above all else.

Sociopaths can be very convincing and charming when it serves their own needs. They’ll lie to your face without blinking if it means you’ll vote for them. If you voted for someone who now balks at impeachment, sorry, my friend — you’ve been duped by a sociopath.

Having sworn to uphold the Constitution and now flagrantly not doing that by refusing to impeach a President who so clearly deserves impeachment, many times over, means that these politicians are as guilty as he. Theoretically, there could be a clean sweep through Congress if all those who swore to uphold the Constitution and now will not were held up to the Rule of Law. To add irony to insult, these politicians make decisions that affect the lives of every member of our Armed Forces.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi week stated this week that the President is involved in a cover-up and has obstructed justice; “is” and “has.” Not might have. And yet, she drags her heels when it comes to holding him accountable. When stating that these are “impeachable offenses,” she nearly chokes on the words. And why won’t she push harder, and respond to the demands of the far-left freshman Democratic representatives? Because her only calculation is how it will effect the 2020 election.

I admire Nancy Pelosi, but I am hugely disappointed in her choice to put ambition ahead of country. Hugely.

Sometimes you are called to put your own needs aside and do what is best for the greater good of all. Sometimes you dedicate yourself to your country and the Constitution it stands for, because that is the right thing to do. People who feel this why will have little American flags fluttering over their graves on Memorial Day. And every politician that will not set his or her own needs aside and serve their country first spits on those graves.

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Photo by History.com

End abortion by ending unplanned pregnancy

That sound you hear is the collective orgasm of Right Wing self-righteousness now that abortion is illegal in Alabama, and more states are poised to fall like dominoes to propel women back to the days of back alleys and coat hangers.

Would it be horrid of me to wish an incestuous unplanned pregnancy on the 12-year-old of every Radical Religious Right Winger who is declaring this a victory for Pro-Lifers? Well, probably. Maybe karma has less of a conscience than me.

You go, karma!

Although women absolutely have the right to control their own bodies, the Pro-Lifers have one valid point: Once a fetus is viable outside the womb, having an abortion is unacceptable unless the mother’s life is at risk. “I was here first” is still the checkmate move. That said, most women suspect they’re pregnant after one missed period. Maybe two. If you’ve missed three, and it’s unplanned, and you haven’t started the process of doing something about it, well, my sympathies swing to the unborn child. If it can survive outside the womb, it’s a baby and not a fetus. Unless you’re 12, and were impregnated upon your first sexual experience before you ever even had a period. Now we’re talking about something else entirely. It would be child abuse to force a 12-year-old to give birth. This is why we can’t have black and white laws. We need to have the room to consider each situation independently.

I’ll give this one to the Pro-Lifers: Late term abortion is murder. It’s heinous. Crushing the skull of a fully formed, viable fetus and vacuuming its brains out is unfathomably cruel and gruesome. We wouldn’t do that to a dog. At some point in gestation, a fetus’ right to exist supercedes the woman’s right to choose. If you’re in your third trimester, you need to let nature finish its job. Sorry, you don’t get to go merrily along for seven months and then play the “oops” card. Unless you’re 12. And then, we’re really in a bind. It’ll take a lot of hand-wringing to work this one out.

Abortion isn’t a black and white issue, but Pro-Lifers and Pro-Choicers refuse to see it as anything but. Neither side is capable of rational, intelligent discussion about abortion, only ranting and raving, waving picket signs and shouting each other down. They cancel each other out, like a positive and a negative, and add up to zero.

Pro-Choicers’ have zero empathy for the fetus. It’s not just a lump of flesh, people. I know. I’ve had two of them inside me. It kicks, it rolls, it hiccups, it sucks its thumb. It’s alive. Trust me, the first time that “lump” drop-kicks your spleen, you know it’s got a mind of its own. And, more importantly, a life. Once a fetus becomes viable, removing it from the womb isn’t “abortion,” it’s “murder.” Pro-Choicers must concede to respect life before the umbilical cord is cut, or they have no credibility.

Before you Pro-Lifers get all “Amen, sister!” on me, temper your enthusiasm. The “Pro-Life” label is a misnomer. There’s nothing remotely “pro life” about your position. Mom’s single, unemployed, and can’t feed another mouth? She should’ve thought about that before she uncrossed her legs! Mom’s only 14? Well, the little slut was old enough to have sex, wasn’t she! Her 40-year-old uncle fathered the child while raping her? Tough. But, hey Mom, Jesus loves you! Good luck in the Food Stamp line! God bless!

Fucking hypocrites.

Life doesn’t end at birth. A single mother can’t feed a child on “Jesus loves you.” The pregnant woman’s body and life will be drastically changed forever. The father, however, can simply walk away, and live to impregnate another day. Where’s the Pro-Lifers’ obsession and angst about THAT? Until the Pro-Lifers respect life after the umbilical cord is cut, help pay to support all those unwanted children for 18 years apiece, and hold fathers equally accountable, they also have no credibility.

SO, both sides have credibility issues, as well as empathy issues. How about all of y’all shut up for three minutes and let all five of us who are left have a crack at a sane discussion about abortion.

First, viability and semantics. Currently, 22 weeks is a make-it-or-break stage of gestation. Prior to that, survival outside the womb is unlikely. To be safe, let’s round down to 20 weeks. That’s five months — more than enough time to decide to end a pregnancy. After five months, the fetus is viable. Now it’s a baby, and killing it is murder. At that point, the right to exist outweighs the right to choose. But if that pregnancy threatens the mother’s life, and a caesarian is impossible, the mother’s life comes first. Possession is nine-tenths of the law, particularly when it’s your own body.

This is where the Pro-Lifers fall flat on their self-righteous faces. They’re against abortion. But they’re just as avidly against birth control. You want to end abortion? End unplanned pregnancy. Abortion isn’t the issue. It’s the symptom of the real problem: unplanned pregnancy. Stop the unplanned pregnancy, and you stop the abortions. Can I get an “Amen, Sister,” Pro-Lifers? Or does your desire to also end premarital sex weigh more than your desire to end abortion? Because if you even have to hesitate to answer that question, do not embarrass yourself one moment further by mouthing a word against abortion.

Before all the Pro-Choicers get all “You go, girl!” on me, may I point out that with choice comes responsibility. Abortion isn’t birth control. Birth control prevents pregnancy. Abortion doesn’t. Pro-Choice should also mean: Choose to take birth control pills until you want a baby. Period.

And what if, despite employing every means possible, sperm still meets egg? There are home pregnancy tests that detect pregnancy within one week of conception. One week! And if you can’t afford one, go to Planned Parenthood. And if you decide to terminate the pregnancy, do it now. To wait for months is irresponsible. And, at some point, yes, it is murder.

And, while we’re busy laying the entire burden of unplanned pregnancy on women, what about the men? Why do only women shoulder the full burden? Those guys who are all, “Oh, baby, baby, baby” at the heat of passion should have to accept the baby baby baby that results from it. It takes two to make the fetus — it should take two to kill it too.

Pass a law that the fathers must stand beside the doctor with their eyelids pried open “Clockwork Orange” style, and watch as the woman’s cervix is pried open and the fetus is vacuumed out in bloody bits and pieces? It should be mandatory that whatever the women endures, the man must witness. Maybe be required to scoop up all the bloody, gooey sheets and body parts, and walk them to the hazardous waste disposal, vomiting all the way.

So, I bet you’re scratching your head trying to figure out if I’m Pro-Life or Pro-Choice. I’m neither. Or both. I believe unplanned pregnancies are a tragedy, and abortions even more so, and we should be heaving free contraceptives at any and all females in an effort to prevent them. We need contraception we can implant in girls before their periods begin and remove when they’re ready to make a mature decision about having a child.

In a logical world, Pro-Lifers would be funneling money into Planned Parenthood, not plotting to blow clinic up. It’s called PLANNED Parenthood, you dolts, not Abortions-R-Us. If you did the most miniscule amount of research, you’d discover that Planned Parenthood prevents far, far more unwanted pregnancies than it terminates. In real estate, it’s “location, location, location.” To end abortion, it’s “prevention, prevention, prevention.”

Ah, but there’s not really logic in this discussion, because it’s not just pregnancy that the Radical Religious Right is obsessed with. It’s sex itself. Specifically, contraception. There are some in the RRR who don’t believe women should enjoy sex unless it’s a byproduct of getting pregnant. Abolishing abortion and making access to birth control difficult is the first step to gaining control of womens’ bodies. What we have going on now in the U.S. is far beyond Pro-Life. It’s the first salvo in an all-out war on women’s rights.

Ladies! There are people out there, right at this moment, regrouping and working on laws to govern what you can and can’t do with your own uterus and your own vagina! Before it became a television series, Margaret Atwood’s masterpiece novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” was a futuristic dying world, wherein a woman’s role in society is whittled down to becoming nothing more than “a uterus on legs.” I suspect that Atwood intended her novel to be a warning, not a how-to manual.

Oh, yeah. It’s on.

We women are the voting majority in this country and if we don’t wise up and wield that power, we’re going to lose that too, along with everything our mothers and grandmothers fought for. We’re the frog in that pot of water with the heat rising so slowly, we’ll eventually boil to death from our inability to perceive the change in temperature.

And girfriends, it’s getting’ hot in here.