An Open Letter to My White Friends

Let me start this off by saying that I cherish each and every one of you, whether I’ve just met you recently or have known you for a long time (some since childhood). You wouldn’t be my friend if we didn’t have one thing in common: a respect for life in all its myriad shapes, sizes, and colors. Not just human life, but life in all aspects.

Let me also preface this by saying that while this is addressed to all my white friends, you are all going to read it differently. Some of you are going to take it personally. If you do think I am talking directly to or about you, that is of course your choice, but I ask that you take a moment to think about why your defense mechanisms immediately went up.

Some of you (those that at least pay attention on social media) may have noticed a slight shift in me lately. I’m still the same old me – loving, kind and compassionate. Goofy. Possibly too involved with my dogs. But I’m also not the same. I’m angry, and no longer willing to stand aside when I see injustice done to others, especially to people of color. I’m speaking out, yelling out in fact and I know it’s uncomfortable. I’m facing my own racist tendencies (and all white people have them – don’t deny it – if you’re white, you have benefitted from a racist system and that’s just how it is in this world) and doing what I can do be ANTI-racist. I’m not doing it perfectly, as I’m not a perfect person. I’ve probably pissed a lot of you off in some way or another. But I will not apologize for being on this journey of self-reflection and growth into a better person for ALL people, especially the BIPOC in my life and my community.

Some of you have shown support to me during this journey and I thank you for it. Others, it is obvious you have no clue that it’s even happening. I realize not everyone uses social media the same way – some prefer theirs to be carefully curated to show only the good stuff. I use mine to communicate honestly to my many friends around the world, in full honesty, what’s going on in my life. That again is your choice. It’s also your choice to retreat from it all – to turn off social media or the TV news and pretend like none of the unrest in our country is happening; that black people aren’t being gunned down by police for ridiculous reasons. But BIPOC cannot turn off the color of their skin when they walk out their doors like they can turn off the TV.  You have a privilege that they do not have. You are not literally faced with the choice of going out into the world and possibly not going home that day because of the color of your skin.

My liberal progressive, or liberal moderate friends, so often I wonder – where are you? I know in your hearts you support the movement I’m a part of. I think, “Well…they must! I mean, I’ve seen the ‘Black Lives Matter’ stuff they posted”. I’ve seen you at the safe protests. Where are they? Where’s the outrage at what’s happening in the city they live in? At the police brutalizing young people and teenagers (and their disabled friend – me) during a peaceful protest and protecting white supremacist counter protesters that came from out of town to torment us?  

I recognize that everyone has a different way of managing anxiety. This entire year has been an exercise in learning how to manage your anxiety. I manage mine by funneling it into action. If I see something that causes me anxiety, or anger, I try to DO something to alleviate it, if I can. I turn that bad anxiety into good. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away because it’s still going to be there the next time I turn on the TV or social media. I can’t ignore what’s going on if I care about the people in my life and community. I realize that not everyone manages their stress and anxiety the same way but hiding from reality isn’t (IMO) helping anyone. I’m not even sure it’s helping you since the cause still exists when you come back to reality. Remember that I am the friend that says the hard things others won’t say to you, not the things you want to hear.

To those white acquaintances that tend to be more of a middle of the road/conservative bent (and I do have a few)…well, I don’t really know what to say to you. I see your posts and cannot for the life of me understand your logic. I can’t understand how you rescue animals, would give the shirt off your back for a dog and yet swallow the propaganda from the right-based media hook, line and sinker. You cry about some boy murdered (and his murderer caught) but kids in cages at the border are somehow ignored.  All lives matter but they won’t matter until Black Lives Matter and the black child in your home KNOWS THAT. They know that, they hear the things you say and they are ingesting the hurtful, hateful things and will be telling it all to their therapist when they grow up. I pray for them.

I was once respectful of police and the difficult job they have but after seeing up close and personal how they cherry pick which laws to enforce, or make them up as they go along, I’m pretty well done with respecting police until the whole system is reformed. Our military troops overseas have more rules of engagement with foreign terrorists and what they can do during a WAR than our police do with our own citizens. I’m finished with excuses. “Stop resisting”, or “just comply” will be met with more resistance. This country, may I remind you, was BUILT on resistance. Resistance of authoritarian regimes is the hallmark of freedom. And police forces engaging in unlawful arrests of peaceful protesters is an authoritarian regime, violation of the First Amendment and I wouldn’t be a good American Citizen if I didn’t RESIST. Change comes from within. There needs to be sweeping change, alleged criminals deserve their day in court, ALIVE.

And as of right now, I am a “criminal”. I have been charged with two misdemeanors.  Me. The honor-roll, Dean’s List, top of the class, never did anything wrong, creator of the longest-running pagan festival on Long Island, had a song written about her, been quoted I-don’t-know-how-many-times-by-how-many-people, helped run a well-respected rescue, goody-two-shoes.

I’ll end this here: Again – we wouldn’t be associating with each other if we didn’t share something in common. Some of you I’ve known my entire life and you’ve known me since I was a goofy kid in pigtails and braces. Some of you grew up with me, watched me grow from a shy Christian kid who loved animals and wanted to be a vet into a rather strange pagan woman who loves animals (some things never change) and is pretty outspoken. Some of you are associates only know through rescue activities or some other thing we’ve done together. If you see yourself in what I’ve written here, good or bad or in between…know that I write this with love in my heart. I am trying to understand myself and my new journey and where I fit in this new world that is building around me. And perhaps, where you fit in that journey with me.

Mexican Standoff

I’ve apparently had a Mexican standoff going on in my home for the past couple of days, and I wasn’t even aware that the parties involved had any beef with each other. This does not bode well for the admittedly slightly uneasy equilibrium of my household.

Per Wikipedia, “A Mexican standoff is a confrontation in which no strategy exists that allows any party to achieve victory.[1][2] Any party initiating aggression might trigger their own demise. At the same time, the parties are unable to extricate themselves from the situation without suffering a loss. As a result, all participants need to maintain the strategic tension, which remains unresolved until some outside event makes it possible to resolve it.”

Outside event. That doesn’t sound promising.

The Parties:

In this corner we have Cocoa:

That “thing” hanging there is extra skin. It happens when you lose 10+ pounds. That’s like a human losing 100 lbs!

Cocoa is a 14 year old blue and fawn Chihuahua I adopted two years ago after her human went into hospice care. She was once 26 lbs! That’s why you see that extra skin hanging there — she’s now a svelte 13-14 lbs (she’s a large framed chi to begin with, and should really be closer to 10-12 lbs but the extra skin weighs a bit). I fixed her color dilution alopecia problems, her busted thyroid and she’s thriving now. She got used to being in a household with my two larger dogs as well.

Taken while I was doing her nails. Just chillin’

She’s pretty chill, and mostly just doesn’t care much about anything except feeding time. She’s still very much an obese dog in a thinner dogs body. (This is not about body-shaming, obesity in pets is NOT COOL. It’s dangerous, it’s abusive, FIGHT ME.) Anyway — she’s chill.

And in this corner, it’s Smokey.

At the Animal League of Birmingham’s Next Hot Dog Contest. He placed 2nd in the “Sassiest Senior” category. I thought he was pretty dapper in his hat. Only had him for 2 mos at this point.

Smokey also came to me when his person was in hospice, last year. He’s now 16 years old and he’s quite the feisty old fellow. He was also an only dog, very loved, and is used to be spoiled rotten. He HATES Joker, 11 year old pit bull, who tolerates it with his usual grace and aplomb (he looks upon these chis like they’re puppies, and puppies can do no wrong). After a year in my home, we’ve mostly worked out the kinks with Smokey – he’s got a few weird issues but he’s really a charmer and quite lovable, once you get to know him. And, he’s 16 years old. I mean…dude. You should SEE him tear around the house, jump up into the chair, it’s amazing.

He acts much younger than his 16 years. Don’t let that silver face fool you.

For the past year and a bit, they’ve gotten along. They weren’t **friends** but, you know, they hanged.

Old eyes, staring out at you.

They dealt with being in the stroller together.

I’m pretty sure someone had food.

They did the Santa Claus thing.

At our local pharmacy. Yes, they let me bring my littles in with me, all the time.

 So believe me when I say to you that when I heard growling from behind me last night, I paid it no mind. I thought it was Smokey growling at Joker again. I continued doing my work, knowing that Joker would just go to the other side of the couch. But then the growling continued, and I realized it was a different pitch, not the usual “smokey” pitch. (Hence his name, he sounds like he’s been smoking too many cigars and drinking too much whiskey. Raspy, harsh, the dude’s an old jazz man from N’awlin’s down on his luck, looking for a place to hang his hat in his golden years…that’s my imaginary backstory for him.)

I look behind me, and see Cocoa and Smokey: Cocoa is sitting on the pillow with the heating pad, ears set back, clearly saying, “This is MY spot.” Smokey is standing sideways to her, at an angle, ears up, trying to get her to move. Anyone who studies dog behavior can see that this is clear aggression, he is trying to force her to either share or move completely. Cocoa’s lip is curled and she is snarling and growling, and her whole body is tensed. I’ve never seen her this mad. I’ve never seen Smokey want that pillow that much either.

“WHAT IS GOING ON?!” I thunder. They stop and look at me. I settle Cocoa down, bring Smokey onto his *preferred* seating (my lap) and go back to work, thinking that was odd but it’s over now.

Then at dinner time, the usual juggling of the dinner dishes, watching over Smokey so he can finish in peace and neither Joker nor Cocoa will push him away before he’s finished (there is a fourth dog, who has NO PLAY in this at all, smart girl). I’m cleaning up, and from the hall, more little growling. Again: the standoff. Smokey is hassling Cocoa again. Usually at mealtimes it’s the other way around. He’s all up her butt, sniffing at her like he’s “interested” in her. What the…. and she snaps at him and lumbers off.

Now, you might be saying to yourselves – so what, chihuahuas arguing, big deal.

IT IS A BIG DEAL! THEY’RE OLD!

Cocoa, with her past weight issues has major arthritis and while she walks and runs, it’s not without problems. She has a “hitch in her giddy-up” so to speak. Her teeth are better since she’s eating raw but they’re not great. She’s not fast. Her eyesight is fading, and quickly. Smokey also has arthritis, has fast-growing cataracts and while he ACTS like he’s a young man, he’s not. His teeth are perfect but c’mon…an old Chihuahua battle? Really?

Over….what? I have no idea what’s going on between these two. And just this morning, it started again over on the couch. I snagged Smokey and am writing this with him snugged against me in the chair so Cocoa can lie peacefully on the pillow. She didn’t want to sit with me while HE had the pillow earlier. *rolls eyes*

Clearly, they’re going to need to work this out without hurting each other. I can’t afford the vet bills if they do. I never in a million years thought I would have to separate my ELDERLY CHIHUAHUAS when I left the house to avoid bloodshed. But just in case, Cocoa and Joker in one room; Smokey and Gypsy Kale (the good one) in another.

Because that “outside event” part of the Mexican standoff? They’re both old, but in good health. I’m not looking for either one to kick it anytime soon. In a house full of senior dogs, death isn’t an option we look FORWARD to.

 

Clean Your Room

Today is cleaning day and I normally start my cleaning in the living room, but today I started in my bedroom. I needed to clear off my dresser, which had accumulated a lot of clutter — papers that needed to be tossed or filed, unmatched socks that never found their partner, broken bits and pieces of flotsam and jetsam — I couldn’t take it anymore. So my bedroom was my focus and in my mind I heard my mother from my childhood telling me to, “Clean your room!!”

As adults, our homes take on our personalities, but our bedrooms are our sanctuaries (at least in my case it is – and in many of friends it also seems to be the case). The public spaces are nicely decorated, they speak of our likes and tastes, what we want to say to the world. But our bedrooms are where we keep ourselves to ourselves. I clean for other people sometimes, and I notice the difference between the rooms. I see the little trinkets people keep in their bedrooms, the stuffed animals from their childhoods they keep in a corner; the mementos and photos; the parts of themselves that they don’t share with the rest of the world.

As I’m cleaning my bedroom, these thoughts go through my head and I start to notice what I keep in my bedroom. What parts of me am I keeping to myself? My home is a shotgun apartment; people have to travel through my bedroom to get to the kitchen or to the back of the house and backyard. My bedroom is partially on display, although I finally have a door installed (it took 4 years for my landlord to do it, previously I had a curtain to keep the AC in one room).

I also wonder, does keeping your bedroom tidy or not say anything about how you see yourself? Regardless of how the rest of your home is kept. If your bedroom is who you are … and you see yourself as messy or neat (or ALLOW yourself to get into a state when you don’t really like it to be that way, as I did), what does that mean to your psychological well-being? Hmmm.. I know there are studies done on this but, I should get back to cleaning my room. Or the mom-voice in my head will start yelling at me.

Turn the Page

When I was a kid I used to think that the world was a book being read by a God, (or maybe He was writing it) and when the day ended, He’d turned the page. I was raised Methodist so at the time, God was “He”. Now I’m pagan so God is “They, She, He, Them, the great unknowable IT” but for this post’s sake, if I refer to God, I’ll just use “He” because I’m referring back to that idea I had as a child. 

It’s a quaint idea, and sometimes I think nostalgically about it. How God would be writing His book of the world, all the things He had going on. All the lives, all the activity, all the dreams of all the people. It had to be a big book, I’d imagine.  So many characters! (This was me around….10? 12? I don’t remember what age exactly but it’s obviously an age where I was having more existential thoughts, before I was questioning whether God was a male God and my place in the Church but I was apparently looking at the world with eyes that wondered about how things really worked in the greater scheme of things. By 14, I was confirmed in the church and definitely not feeling it.  By 16 I was most definitely NOT Christian and considered myself agnostic but not really because I was tapped by *something* I’d come to recognize as a pagan Goddess a few years later. Save that for later posts.) 

I do remember lying in bed at night, thinking about how God would be writing his book and at midnight, as a new day would begin, he would “turn the page” for a new day to begin. A brand new page, white and clean, waiting to be filled with all the things that would happen. Some stories would continue, some would end. Maybe an entire chapter was over (like a war would be ending that day, time for a new chapter.) I’m not sure how I remedied everything for everyone around the world in my mind but I know I wasn’t just thinking of this as MY life — I considered this as a Big Book of Life for everyone, even if they didn’t worship this particular God  — it was an all-inclusive thing, not part of religion. It was the Book of Life, the Book of the World.  

I remembered this the other day, these simple quiet thoughts of a child who still considered the world (and God in His many forms) a pretty nice place. Even though this child grew up during the Cold War, did nuclear bomb drills and lived with the knowledge that a great part of her family was killed simply for existing (one side European Jews exterminated; the other side Jews exterminated during the Russian pogroms. We won’t talk about the Romanov relations because that’s a story for another blog post.) I was, and still am in many ways, a peaceful child , who looked upon the world with compassion and wonder.

And now 40 years later my world is repeating so many of the same things that I was told about – there are numbers on the arms of immigrants in camps — in America, not in Germany. Our political “leaders” are speaking in terms recalling another Cold War if not an actual World War in so many ways. The child I once was recalls that simple way of looking at each day and wonders…

… when will this particular chapter end so a much nicer one can begin. And can the author please stop repeating themselves?

Turn the Page.

Write Here!

I really am just going to start writing here. REALLY. (Part of this is due to The Bloggess’ post, part of it is me.) I don’t know why I don’t do it, preferring to just post snippets on Facebook instead of truly writing out what’s going on in a format that might actually, I don’t know….help? Especially since I write not for anyone else but for ME.  And maybe that’s why I don’t do it — because seeing my words out on a page, putting them down and pressing “publish” means they’re *out there* .

My mother always told me, “Never put into writing what you don’t mind seeing published in the New York Times,” and so I’ve always had this bit of a block against actually blogging or journaling my real feelings. I’ll talk endlessly about what’s going on AROUND me. If you read back through the few posts on this blog, or my public Facebook posts, you’ll see a pattern of “so this happened” and thoughts on the political climate and what I think about what’s going on in the world. But rarely do I talk about ME. I rarely share with the outside world (or, in the case of even friends-locked posts on Facebook) what’s going on inside my head. That kind of information gets tightly filtered, if shared at all. I play it so close to the vest that NO ONE knew how bad things were with me before my suicide attempt. I just don’t talk about it. 

I understand what my mother was getting at, especially in this digital age (though, this was WAY before it. She died in 1989. Maybe I’ll get into that. It’s part of my crazy.) Writing things down and sending it means it can be printed for all to see. You don’t put your private stuff out there to be used against you. I’m pretty sure this was just part of her paranoia, her own bipolar mania — or whatever damage HER mother did to her — and she passed it on to me. So now I have this odd “block” about writing in a blog because hitting send sends it out into the ether makes it permanent. The internet is permanent. It’s not even anonymous — as much as people think they’re hiding behind their screen names. I don’t ever use my full real name online but I’m sure if anyone wanted to figure out who I was, they could. 

But now, I’m past where anyone could use it against me. What could they do? I’m already disabled and on disability. I already live under the poverty line and struggle to get by. I’ve already had a person in authority over me use my words against me, use my mental illness against because I TALKED ABOUT IT.  And I’m OVER IT. 

I made my entire suicide experience and aftermath public on my Facebook page, in the hopes that if someone happened upon it, it might help that ONE person with their decision. And every time I open up and speak freely about what’s happening with me, more people say things like “me too” and “thank you, I needed to hear this” than “shut up” or “you’re crazy, stay away from me.” And writing it out helps me too. It helps to see it out and if I hit that “publish” button…maybe it’ll help someone else. Or not. Because I’m pretty sure no one reads this. And that’s OK. Because blogging again is going to exercise my brain and muscles that need to be worked. 

The fog needs to be lifted and it’s probably going to take some manual labor to lift it. Ain’t gonna be some wind coming by to blow it away. So here I am. I’m gonna blog again. Often. I’m even going to set some Alexa notification or alarm thingie to poke me to do it because I really am SO GOOD at making promises to myself and breaking them. It’s what I’m best at. 

Is there more than one way to skin a squirrel?

IMG_1518

I have no idea. I’ve never done it before today. I’ve seen it done in movies, most notably “Winter’s Bone” where Jennifer Lawrence teaches her younger siblings how to do it – and quite graphically – so I followed what she did. Why? Because my dog killed one. But wait, I’m jumping ahead of myself, let me back up.

Yesterday, I let my big dogs out in the backyard. Shortly afterward I heard an unusual commotion, so I ran out to see Joker, my pit bull, at the side fence and Gypsy, my mutt running around upset. Panthera, the neighbor dog was also making a lot more noise than usual at this one junction in the fence. Then I notice that Joker is bleeding from his snout. Gypsy also has blood on her. THEN, I see the squirrel in between the fence and the tree that has grown around it. A-ha. I start to check Joker’s wounds and get him cleaned up, trying to determine whether he was punctured by chain link or squirrel and said squirrel shakily scurries up the tree with some major wounds of his own to tend to. Gypsy is fine, the blood isn’t hers.  Both dogs got a bath while the foster puppies cried outside the bathroom.

Oh yeah, foster puppies. They want to know why they can’t do everything the big dogs do. BECAUSE YOU’RE PUPPIES and only here for the week. Thank Gods.

Later that night, I have to kill a GIANT SPIDER IN MY KITCHEN. I have arachnophobia. It was awful. And the size of a spoon. OMG.

This morning I let everyone out, and everyone but Gypsy came back in. She’s focused on the squirrels. Fine. A couple of hours later I open the door to take laundry out to dry and look to see my garden shoes are covered in drops of fresh blood. The same garden shoes I’d worn the day before, hosed off all the mud and left to dry on the steps. WHOSE BLOOD IS THIS???? Gypsy isn’t bleeding. But why are flies all over her? WHAT? I start looking for the squirrel, it HAS to be the squirrel. Joker and Gypsy are now digging at another part of the fence by the alley. So I open the gate and go out into the alley and then I see it, covered in flies but not dead yet. Oh dear gods. All dogs go back inside but Gypsy. This is her kill. She has to finish what she started.  I put her on a leash and take her to it.

And this is where I discover that Gypsy most likely ISN’T the killer of the animals I’ve found dead in my yard. She’s likely the one that catches them, but Joker is most likely the finisher. I had to encourage her to finish, to kill, to strike the killing blow. I didn’t want the squirrel to suffer for however long it was going to take for it to die — I wanted her to do what a dog does: swiftly break a neck/back/skull — whatever.  And then I remembered what my neighbor said happened while I was on vacation. The dogs had caught one of the feral cats and killed it. He tried to get them off of it, and Gypsy let go as soon as he yelled out, but Joker was the one that held on and mauled until it was dead. Joker isn’t as fast or agile, he can’t jump as high (nor climb a tree the way Gypsy does). But they do team up and hunt as a pack (they ARE dogs) and I’ve watched Gypsy lead the hunt. So she catches, and he kills. Makes sense. She is the gentler of the two but has the stronger prey instinct — she enjoys the chase part, but once that is over, she’s lost interest.

AND NO ONE wanted it after I skinned it, either. My raw fed dogs turned their noses up to fresh meat. Fresh, bloody, warm squirrel meat. Now that’s just rude. Ungrateful beasts. So I had to put the body parts (and it’s parts. Skin, organs, ripped apart limbs…I offered all pieces to five dogs, puppies included and no one wanted any part of it – although the puppies licked up some of the blood) in some bags and store it in my chest freezer until next garbage pickup because rotting squirrel in Alabama heat is just stinky grossness.

AND THEN I HAD TO KILL A GIANT COCKROACH.

Can I be done being Madame Death now? Please?

 

Morning Battles

I lie on my side, cradling the fragile little being I love

To protect her from the battle going on behind me.

Listening to the noise, cringing as they clash

Hoping they don’t hit me, or her.

But if they come close, I’m here to protect her from harm

My strong body will shield her.

It’s quieting down. They’re slowing the attacks.

One by one, the aggressors are retreating

Each one lies back down, panting, chests heaving with effort

The puppy has been appeased. The dogs are ready to go back to sleep.

And my old fragile chihuahua has been protected from the morning melee.

I agree, Pix. It’s way too early for this shit.

Do to Live

I got out today.

I forced myself past the pain. Past the desire to stay in bed and wallow. I pushed against it.

The abyss beckoned, said, “Stay here. It’s more comfortable”. (Such a lie. It’s not easier to stay in the dark with you. That is the lie you tell me to make me a slave to your whims. )

I got up, shut out the agony, closed it off as best I could. No, you will not get me today. I’m going. I am going to live today.

Out I went. Out into the world, into society. Which tells me I’m not good enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not thin enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m NOT ENOUGH. Or maybe it’s me telling myself that. Either way, the abyss is always there telling me not to go out there, it’s scary and horrible and safer to stay home in the darkness.

No, I went into the world. Just for a brief moment, I went into the light.

I’m holding onto that small pinprick of light. For the next time the abyss beckons and lies to me, “Stay here with me in the darkness, it’s easier than going out there. Nobody wants you out there, but I want you here.” No. I have this… I went into the light and kept some of it. I have that. I DID that.

And I’ll do it again. You just wait.