So…

…I’m not in the hospital, and I’m not shirking my deadline. I’m temporarily without internet on my computer so this update is happening via phone, which is not conductive to verbosity. I do have a blog ready, I just can’t post it. Instead I sit on my couch and watch my husband play Red Dead Redemption 2 while thumb-typing this update, that is really nothing more than me holding myself accountable.

So stop reading this. Go do something with your day. I’ll get back to you soon, I promise.

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Poetic Justice

In the past few months I have been submitting a lot of my poems to various small presses and the like, hoping to find homes for them.  I have had some successes (see Potatoes) as well as a steady stream of rejections.  I have also been working on developing a small book of poetry.  Poetry is my first true love when if comes to writing, as I love the way you can express something in this form.

This past week the Pushcart nominations came out, which is a prize for poets featured in small presses.  A few writers I follow on Twitter were nominated, and I am thrilled for them.  I always thought when I was younger that poetry was dying, but I see a resurgence now that I am trying to publish that bolsters me and shows me how wrong I had been.  To be nominated for a Pushcart would be an honor that I hope one day to achieve and the poets that are up for it deserve it.  Except one.

Of course, she’s not nominated anymore.

Shortly after people shared their joy at being nominated, Twitter turned sour when poet Rachel McKibben’s tweeted that stanzas of a poem she had written were lifted by another poet, and that poem was nominated for a Pushcart prize.  The poet (who I will not name because she doesn’t deserve it) even had her reimagination of McKibben’s words tattooed on her arm.  The poet wrote to McKibben to tell her of the infringement, using words like “lift” and “paraphrase” as though they don’t also mean “steal.”  It then came out that McKibben is not the only poet she has lifted from; there are at least two others.  Since this news broke, the poet in question has been dropped by every press she was associated with.

When I was younger, I had a poetry community on Blurty, an old blogging platform.  There were a good number of people in the community, and we posted our poetry for sharing and workshopping.  One day a poet contacted me and said my poem was on another blog with another name.  I immediately contacted the person, threatened legal action (though I’m sure I had no recourse) and they took it down, but never wrote back to me.  I wondered then how many people they had stolen from.  I’m flattered, really, but I also want to fight you.

I had a friend once who liked poetry and always wanted to read mine.  Then one day I asked if I could read some of hers.  She had hand-copied at least two poems into her notebook and signed her name on them that I had read in Teen magazine when they had a poetry page.  One I even had cut out of the magazine and put in a scrapbook, so I was able to verify that she had in fact copied it, word for word.  I never lent her my book again after that.

Plagiarism is not a joke.  You don’t get to take something just because you like it, or because it resonates with you.  Changing it a little is not making it your own.  Writers have a job to do and when you steal our words, you steal our purpose.  If you can’t write your own material, you’re not a writer, you’re an impostor, and there is no room for that in what we do.

I don’t know what possessed this poet to do what she did.  I don’t know why someone stole my poem, or why my friend thought copying others work made it her own.  I don’t understand this because I was born a writer, I’m not someone who wants to be one.  I have no choice.  It’s in my blood, just like theater (which has been nipping at my heels lately, but that’s a whole other blog post) and gardening and loving my family.  I can choose whether or not I write but if I don’t, it gnaws at me like the need for a cigarette, gripping me until I give in.  I am constantly terrified of plagiarism.  Hell, I’m even afraid I’ll write something original that is too close to someone else’s originality.  I never want my words stolen; every writer deserves the credit for what they pen.  It is unfortunate that there are people out there that don’t understand that.  Create your own art; don’t steal from someone else.

 

Monday, Wednesday, Whatever.

I impose a Monday deadline on myself because when I was younger, I never did my homework on time.  I spent a great many afternoons in 6th grade sitting in detention and finishing my science labs.  It only got worse as I got older.  It wasn’t until my fateful year at college that I learned to work with deadlines, and I try to impose them on myself to keep my life in order.  I am a procrastinator from way back, and it’s difficult to change one’s stripes, so I am always trying.  Thus, I imposed a deadline for my blog.  Every Monday, I will post something, whether profound or not, just something so I can hold myself accountable.  However, deadlines are made to be broken.

I have written this before.  I have also written the same excuse for this broken deadline, because it is always the same excuse…it is difficult to write with an IV in one’s arm, or as the case was Monday, one’s foot.

I don’t like to write about getting sick because I have a lot of emotions attached to it, mostly anger and rage.  Mostly failure.  Like, I know I did nothing to end up in the hospital on Monday morning.  I took my pills.  I followed my diet.  And yet my stomach rebelled, as it is wont to do, and landed me back at good old Mercy hospital.

First, there’s the waiting room, which has at best lasted thirty seconds and at worst lasted eight hours.  We were somewhere in the middle on this one.  Then there’s triage, where they try to find a vein, fail miserably, give up and put me in a room.  They send another nurse, the “vein whisperer,” if you will, and she pulls out all the stops.  Still, nothing, and they go to the foot.  Finally, they’re taking blood.  Finally, I can get some meds.  Compazine and Zofran and Ativan and Morphine…and then there is sleep.

I wake up and they tell me I can’t leave, my blood sugar is too high, because of course diabetes wants to come out and play, too.  They will keep me overnight for observation, which sounds simple but means I probably won’t be out until at least supper time.  I wake up in the night in pain, more morphine; I wake up nauseated, more Zofran.  Someone brings a breakfast I don’t touch.  Someone takes my blood.  Someone else brings fresh water, and that tastes remarkable.  My blood sugar is normal again, and if I eat, they’ll take out my IV.  I do as I’m told between sleeps.

Eventually a doctor comes around the same time as my lunch tray and tells me I can go home if I eat soup a little soupier than that they just gave me.  I wait longer for food.  I eat, I don’t throw up, so I call my nurse and tell her I want to go home.  I wait.  Three hours later, she takes the IV out of my foot, tests my blood sugar, and sends me on my way.

This is a short visit.  This isn’t the nine days I spent in June, and it doesn’t feel like October when I went back three times in a week.  This is just one day that throws me off by a century.  I wake up this morning with pain in my stomach and a faulty gag reflex and run to the bathroom, terrified that we will be going back for round two.  I take my meds and pray they stay down.  I eat a cracker.  I wait.  Eventually the pain subsides and I don’t feel the urge to puke, so I eat another cracker.  I wait.

There’s a lot of waiting.

Now, I sit at my desk which is downright buried under stuff, because of course the house looks like four child-sized tornados went through it.  Cleanup is also the thing I do on Mondays, right after posting my blog, and it is the thing I will be doing this Wednesday, despite my body being tired from retching and my brain foggy from medications.  I have to do it though, because I need that normalcy in my life.  I need that to hold onto when I lose a day, or three, to a broken gut.

Quit Your Boss

I was talking with a friend the other night about his job.  He loves his job, and has been with the company for a couple of years, but lately he is feeling like it’s time to move on.  Not because there’s no room for advancement, or because the pay is bad, or because he wants to try a different career.  He is tired of the way he is treated by his supervisors.  Mostly this comes from their disregard for the work he does, but in some instances, he has been downright bullied by them.  He works in a male-dominated field, and there is a good deal of “boys will be boys” behavior in his workplace.  Sometimes he can joke with the best of them, but other times lines are crossed and if he points it out, he’s the cry baby of the bunch.  I know my friend wants to keep his job, which he does take great pride in, but is finding it difficult to look forward to being harassed on a daily basis.  This story only cements my long-held belief that we do not quit our jobs, we quit our bosses.

I had a job I loved.  I spent every free moment either working or learning about the job.  I gave up my nights, my weekends, and almost all of my social life because I loved this job.  None of that phased me.  And I worked with great people!  How could it ever go sour?

It did, of course, and it was because of my boss.

For six months, I was straight up dicked around.  I will not go into details, as I respect the company and community I used to work for, but suffice it to say that there were many broken promises, a good deal of hostile behavior, and an unrealistic workload placed on me by my supervisor that made my job unbearable.  I walked out during a crucial moment, which I have always regretted, not for my former boss’ sake but for the people I was working with.  However, I realized then that as much as I loved my job, I was starting to resent it because of my boss.  I was tired of being taken for granted, of being the punching bag when something went wrong, of being left out of decisions I was told I would be a part of.  In the end, he believed I quit over a pay dispute, which is laughable.  I never cared what I was paid, I only cared that I was respected.

I had another boss once that created a hostile work environment.  I remember being warned about her on my first day, but I wasn’t too worried as she was not my immediate supervisor.  My co-workers were literally scared of her.  One day I saw her berate a teacher’s aide in front of a class because she didn’t approve of the skirt the woman was wearing.  It didnt necessarily break her instated dress code (which was an unrealistic expectation for people who play on the floor all day,) she just didn’t like it.  The woman ended up in tears.  I took this as a sign, and I was right.

The only time this woman ever spoke to me was to fire me.  My supervisor had gone to the hospital, and she took the opportunity to clean house.  She gave me no reason, just escorted me out of the building like a criminal.  The man in charge of hiring and firing looked at me with sympathy in his eyes, and I got the distinct impression from him that this was not something he expected.  I later heard that this woman fired several aides and other employees without giving any reasons, and one woman contacted me about writing a letter to the agency about it.  I didn’t, as I had already found another position and was happy to be out of the micro-hell she had created.  I had liked that job, but if that was the boss I was working with, I was glad to be gone.

People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses.  Most of us find some kind of peace in the work we do, even if it’s not what we planned on doing with our lives.  Most people have a work ethic and a desire to go out and make money, and can find little pleasures in what they accomplish.  Sometimes though, you end up with someone in charge of you who either should never be given such a position of authority, or is incapable of human social interactions, or just plain doesn’t know what they are doing.  Sometimes you recognize that, and work becomes more of a chore than it was before.  It becomes something grueling and unbearable, and every day you wake up less excited than you were the day prior.  Being underappreciated at work takes a toll on people, until one day they just up and quit, often leaving a baffled boss in their wake.  The supervisor will assume something like “he can’t handle the job” or “she wants more money” and never realize that it’s THEIR fault you left, that they are the reason the workplace has become hostile, and that they are only going to continue to bleed workers until they recognize the problem lies within.

People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses.

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To mom or not to mom, that is the question.

I awoke today to the sounds of arguing coming from the front of the house.  Given that it’s Monday it took a minute to realize that these noises were not coming from the neighbors or outside but from the several tiny children who have taken up residence in my living room.  As I type, they are watching YouTube videos and eating breakfast, and I am unable to concentrate on blogging because I am in mom-mode.

I think about people who are full time mothers and that sort of thing blows my mind.  I love kids.  I have worked with kids my entire life, and my kiddos are the apples of my eye, but full time, every day parenting eludes me.  I’m 35, and still do not feel ready to have a child and honestly, I don’t think I ever will.  I have never had the desire to procreate, even when I was a kid playing with my dolls.  Barbie was always a jet-setting career girl to me, never barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen.  Maybe it was the way that motherhood was portrayed to me-why would one want to spend their days cooking and cleaning for ungrateful small humans who constantly need you to cook and clean for them?  No thank you.  I will be the first to admit that I am too selfish for all that.  Perhaps it was thirteen years as an only child.  I think about Bernie, who is probably as close as I will get to fully raising a human being.  In her case, mission accomplished.  However, she was a fairly easy-going tyke, and did not present the challenges that, say, the kiddos do.  Four kids are a lot, and for that alone their mother is a saint.

Of course, I adore them.  I often tell K that I feel in love with her before her father, which is true.  She was only one when I met her, and I knew I loved her months before I knew I loved Mark.  M is growing into this amazing young man, who surprises me whenever I see him with some new knowledge or story.  L is our resident comic, and probably the most genuine boy I’ve ever met.  E is tough as nails and always willing to lend a hand.  They are all so different and so alike and so wonderful, and I am sure that being a parent is rewarding, and this knowledge combined makes me think that maybe, someday…

No.

See, I start to imagine a world with a baby but that becomes a world with a toddler, then a child, then a teenager, and that’s a little different.  I’m still not sure that life is for me, and I’m not willing to give it a shot unless I’m sure.  I don’t stand alone in this.  Many women I know have chosen not to have kids, from reasons ranging from medical issues to concern for the planet’s population.  It really doesn’t matter why you don’t have kids, but people need to stop shaming those that don’t.  I recently told Mark that I am asked more if I have kids than any other question, and he was shocked.  He rarely gets asked about his kids, and when he does it’s usually by women who have them.  I am asked how many kids I have before I am asked what I do for a living.  It is assumed, since I am a woman in her 30s, that I have children.  I have seen people react with great surprise when they learn I do not.

What’s worse is asking why.  People ask WHY we don’t have kids.  Like it’s unheard of to decide you’re not suited to that lifestyle.  Or worse, what if you have a medical reason for not having children?  How dare strangers ask you about that?  I have actually had women tell me that as a female, it is our responsibility to procreate.  That is as offensive to the woman who can’t have a baby as it is to the woman who doesn’t want one.  Sometimes I wonder if the women who get all up in arms about me not being a mother really wanted to be one in the first place.  It all has a very “misery loves company” kind of vibe, and you don’t get to pull me down with your mistakes, lady.

In conclusion, parenthood isn’t for me.  Step-parenthood, I’m pretty good at.  I just never really wanted to create a child, I guess.  I like to take care of the kids I work with.  I like to take care of the kiddos.  I liked taking care of Bernie.  Still, I have no desire to procreate.  And as the years keep passing, I don’t think that desire will manifest itself.

So today I will make a cup of tea and clean the house, and it will be nice because for once I won’t be doing it alone, and I will appreciate the kiddos for their love and help and every way they brighten my day.  But I will also spend time by myself, because that’s how I recharge, and I will update my blog and go about my life, because I don’t have some small and helpless being to attend to.  I don’t really care if other women think I am less than them because of it, because they don’t know my life.  The decisions we make should be our own, and no one should tell us how to live our lives

Car Talk

I have a terrible history with automobiles.  My first car was a Ford Explorer that I loved, and named Betsey.  She didn’t seem to love me much, and gave me problems from day one.  She liked to do things like break down in the middle of Oak St. during rush hour or develop a constant ticking noise every time I accelerated.  I had my first totally-my-fault crash in her, and ended up selling her to some fool for 400 bucks.  He was well aware of everything that was wrong with her, but was certain he could fix her.  I doubted this, but now when I see the occasional blue Explorer on the road, I wonder if it’s Betsey given another life.

After Betsey came a Buick named George.  George was a tough old guy, who had no qualms about being born in the 90s, and got me from point A to point B every time.  Once, he needed his battery jumped, and that was it.  I maintain that George would still be on the road today, had I not hydroplaned off the 400 and crashed him into a guardrail.  Like I said, I have terrible luck with automobiles.

It was fine though, because that’s about the time the kiddos became fixtures in my life, and they were out-growing the backseat of a sedan.  I got Cricket, a red minivan that had no hubcaps but otherwise ran nicely and was fairly priced.  Or so I thought.  Maybe a week into owning her, she started falling apart.  I had originally named her Scarlett, but changed it to Cricket after the character from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  If you’re unfamiliar, this character becomes a progressively bigger mess as the series develops.  The van was very similar in that respect.  Still, she was running, so I was happy.  Then I had eye surgery and couldn’t drive for a couple weeks, and when I went to start her up…nothing.  I scrapped her for 300 bucks and bought the kids Christmas presents.

We went without a car for a long time, then one day my Aunt Cathy surprises us with her minivan (named Cathy, of course.)  She was getting a new car and didn’t need it anymore.  This was a miracle to us.  That miracle only lasted so long, though, as we were t-boned one Memorial Day weekend.   I took the money from the insurance and bought Natasha, a Chevy Uplander that handled great, for a while.  Over our two years together, she started acting up, and one thing begat another until suddenly the mechanic was telling us the frame is bent and the muffler is broken and the door needs a part, etc.  Which brings us to another miracle, named Marty.

Marty is an old man of a minivan, born in the year 2000.  However, according to my mechanic, he is in pretty decent shape.  He comes from my grandfather, who stopped driving recently and just happened to have an unused minivan sitting in his driveway when mine crapped out.  Poppa took excellent care of the car, and thank god that he did.  I am so grateful that I have wheels, I can’t even express it.  Without a car, I can’t work.  I can’t take the kids places.  I can’t get to the doctor.  I don’t have the freedom I need to not feel so trapped all the time by my depression.  It’s a big deal.

I am looking forward to the new adventures that we will have in Marty.  Where will he take us this summer, when the kids are hot and sweaty and we’re looking for a swimming hole?  Where will Mark and I journey?  Will we take a trip?  We probably could.  Will this be the van we take camping, like we intend to next year?  Hoe many adventures can you fit into one car?

I had adventures in all my cars.  Betsey took me to my first date with Mark.  George took me across state to meet his mother.  Cricket took us out the country in the middle of the night to show the kids the stars.  Cathy…well she wasn’t around long enough, really, but Natasha moved me into my apartment and schlepped everything to and from the wedding.  I’m excited to see where Marty leads us.  I’m sure the adventure will be a great one.

Or, it will start falling apart in a week, because that’s my luck.  Knock on wood, man.

 

Update, two weeks later:  Marty is dead.  I can’t say I’m all that surprised.  Looks like we will be hoofing it from here on out.

Get Up and Vote

Some people’s favorite holiday is Christmas.  My sister’s is Halloween, because that’s also her birthday, which I feel is a holiday in its own right.  I like both of these, but I also really love Election Day.

The midterms are the second-best version of this holiday. I don’t get to make my maps and do electoral math, but I do listen to my Election Day playlist on Spotify and hang out on the sofa with my local and national news anchors all night.  Some people think my love of Election Day is strange, but there’s something about all of us getting together to do a thing that really gets to me.  It makes me feel like community really is global, or at least national, and even if we are disagreeing, we are coming together for a moment to make a decision.

There is a lot of disagreement these days.  A fraction of the country has embraced hate and violence, and some of us find that unacceptable.  I have always, ALWAYS told people to vote no matter what, to cast your ballot whether it’s red or blue.  These days, however, I want to tell Republican voters to stay home.  More so, I want to ask them why?  Why are you so afraid to face the truth?  Why are you sticking to your guns?  Why are you so ashamed?  I have so many questions and the answers I’ve been given just don’t add up.

But I can’t lump all Republicans into one group, because every group has a normal faction and a crazy one.  There are regular Republicans and crazy Republicans, and they are two vastly different breeds.  I want regular Republicans to vote.  They, however, are less likely to get out there than the crazies are.  But no one is more of a sleeper on Election Day than the Democrat.

C’mon guys!  Republicans ALWAYS vote, and we only pick and choose our elections.  We didn’t show up for Hillary the way we showed up for Obama, and if we had we wouldn’t be in this godawful mess right now.  Get off your ass and vote!

You too, Republican.  I mean it’s your duty.  I may disagree but I can’t tell you not to do your job.

(Actually, the GOP in WNY has done me a great service with their attack ads this year.  I had no idea who some of these people were until you started telling me to hate them and their socialized healthcare.  Now I know who I’m rooting for.  Thanks Chris Collins!)

I am really hopeful that the Dems sweep the whole thing though I am also prepared for the possibility that they won’t, because I refuse to be caught off guard by an election ever again.  I am a liberal democrat, and I don’t shy away from that title like some would expect, because right now the Democratic party is the only one that isn’t locking children in cages or colluding with Russia.  I disliked Dubya, but I tolerated him and still respected the office of the President, as well as most Republicans.  These days, it’s really hard.  These days I see grown men throwing temper tantrums, which is something I absolutely abhor.

So please vote.  Do it for yourself, you family, the kid down the street.  Do it to save a life, because that’s what this one is about.  I’m voting blue because I lost my Medicaid this year.  I have thousands of dollars of medical bills and prescriptions a month.  I’m voting like my life depends on it, because it does.

I hope you do, too.

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