Well, shit. 

Today was a massive waste of time. It’s so odd how things can go from totally perfect to totally fucked up in the space of 10 hours. 

Yesterday, The Husband and I took two of our granddaughters to Erie (henceforth known as The Big City for purposes of telling the story). They’re at critical ages right now: Cam is 13 and a newly-hatched teenager (though she has almost always been older than she seems, which is both a blessing and a curse and a kind of prerequisite for a child who grows up with a parent in the military) and Abygail is nearly 11. They are genuinely good girls and not just because this Nana says so; the best thing about being a grandparent is that you have the unique ability and opportunity to see your spawns’ spawns objectively, and yet you can leave all manner of the consequences of disobedience mostly to their parents, who have the final say in that sort of thing. Those jokes about “What happens at Grandma’s stays at Grandma’s” and “If Mommy says no and Daddy says no, ask Grandma” might be true in other families, but in ours, we really do attempt to stay out of the decisions about the rearing of the grandkids. Oh, we will offer up advice if asked, but just as I made a promise to my kids that I would never be That Kind of Mother-in-Law to their spouses, I have tried to be the kind of grandparent who isn’t meddlesome. I trust them to raise their children and I think it shows in our relationship. 

So, we took the girls to The Big City because things have been very busy for their mom and dad; there are two little brothers, one with some ongoing medical issues that cause a lot of stress and worry, and the other begins kindergarten this Fall. Mom is also just entering her second trimester of pregnancy (grandchild #13, y’all) and Dad is the newly-minted General Manager at our medical cannabis dispensary, a field that is ever-changing, evolving, and definitely growing. Life has been hectic for them and finding the time and the energy to shuttle two girls to try on school clothes was going to be hard for them. The Husband suggested, a couple of weeks ago, that our girls were so good and so deserving  of a splurge that we should offer to take on that task for their parents.

 Now, do not get me started on the emotional churn that suggestion put me into;  The Husband is not their biological grandfather, but nothing about that matters even the slightest. He has been in my life for 20 years and we’ll be marking 15 years of marriage on Wednesday, so he has been essentially it  for as long as all the grands have been alive. Someday, I will tell the tale of the first marriage that gave me the gift of my five, fabulous children. Trust me for now in my assurance to you that they were the only good thing that came of that union.  Anyway, that The Husband came up with this idea before I had even a thought about it is important stuff. He has never tried to insinuate himself into my kids’ lives or be The Father, choosing instead to be a source of solid, unwavering, unquestionable reliability. Whereas the biological person is/was a never-ending source of disappointment and complete unreliability (as well as unlimited embarassment and quite possibly the sickest, evilest person I know) and who demanded a price for every, single thing he ever did for his children, The Husband  only asks for respect, and never audibly. His actions deserve it, and while they may have been the typical teenagers who took some things for granted at times, as adults, they are grateful and mature enough to maintain that respect. Along with that respect has come love and trust. It is the one thing I always wanted for my children: that they know that unwavering, steadfast devotion from not just one, but two parents. And the grands? They deserve to just bask in our love for them. 

We had a blast in The Big City; contrary to popular belief, school clothes shopping does not need to incite the desire to slit one’s throat. As we stood in line at the checkout of one store, an exasperated father took three small children in hand and uttered a terse, “We’ll be in the car” to his wife and stomped past us, exclaiming “Whoever came up with the idea of school clothes shopping should be shot.” I raised my eyebrows at The Husband and wondered just what had been so terrible for this guy that he wished death upon the first parent who had ever decided that their kid needed a whole, new wardrobe for the school year. I mean, is there an alternative? Kids grow, and fast. Buying clothes kind of comes with the territory. The buying of the clothes never drove me insane; the  budgeting did. And he didn’t stick around for the grand total, which might have driven him over the edge. No, sitting in a hot car with whining kids was preferable to that. Whatever, dude. You know, having kids is not a requirement in this life, but you chose the path; now you get to stand in long lines in stores to buy their school clothes and must-have gifts for birthdays and Christmas. I have to wonder if he had been buying stuff for himself if he would have been so impatient. 

After the stores had been combed and money spent, two exhausted girls did not want to roam the entire Mall in search of whatever it is girls like to look for; they wanted to veg in the car and see Lake Erie. They were entranced by some of the huge, mansion-like homes and buildings in the city, so we took them to some lake shore neighborhoods so they could exclaim, “People really live like this?!?”   Yeah, girls, they do, and if Nana and Grandpa ever win the lottery, so will we. Then, we dipped our toes into the lake. 

The water was really warm.

As I stood, looking out at the horizon, I thought that this day could not have turned out more perfect. This was truly the stuff; the memory-making stuff. I was happy, they were happy, and the man I married had been spontaneously enveloped in hugs in the middle of a store from two granddaughters who were ecstatic that he had come up with this little adventure just for them. It was glue, that display of affection; up until then, I know they were still in the process of really knowing him. Most of their lives had been lived apart from us, on military bases. I am just naturally more hands-on, though when they were babies and home for visits, he diapered, rocked, and held them, too. I didn’t need this for me; I needed it for them and for him. And it was a watershed moment. If I could have made tears, they would have leaked all over my face and then I’d have had some ‘splaining  to do. 

Tears, though. The lack thereof contributed to the tone of this  overall waste of a day. It also refocused me on my inability to be who I wish I could be; a contributing member of society. I have not worked for 15 months now, because of these eyes. That there is no diagnosis except dry eye syndrome is frustrating. No, it’s not terminal. It sounds silly, doesn’t it, that dry eyes could limit a person the way it has me. It has, though, in a dozen little ways that, if taken as a whole, is pretty debilitating. 

My eyes are cloudy first thing in the morning and I have to put warm compresses on them in order to be able to see. 

They ache in that tired, I’ve been up for 18 hours way, all the time. 

There are whole days when they feel like they have sand in them. Those are the bad days, because those are the days when I invariably succumb and rub them, scratching my corneas. 

I need to re-wet them with drops an average of four times an hour, every hour, which makes me a slave to a little, white bottle. How I hate that bottle. 

I am light-sensitive and sensitive to moving air. I wear sunglasses that cover my glasses even inside when it’s bad. I keep the house dim for that reason. 

My depth-perception has gone the way of my tears: it’s just not there anymore. 

It is impossible for an optometrist to write me an RX for glasses. They get as close as they can, but not exact. 

The fact that I must add drops to my eyes every fifteen minutes or so makes finding any sort of employment difficult. Is there a job where an employer is going to put up with me sticking my fingers into my eyes? Most people shudder and say, “Eewww.”

These pissholes in the snow make me wonder why I even exist. My neck? The pain of degenerative disc disease and that bullshit has been a part of my life for 52 years. I grew up living with it. Give me that pain any day of the week over these bullshit fucking eyes. Depression? I attempt to kick its ass every day.  I mostly succeed, but then things like these eyes, a broken cell phone,  a little argument with The Husband over what I should do about these eyes, and the pressing issues of home ownership of a never-ending suckhole of money that a 160 year-old house is gives Depression a sliver of light through an unlocked door and then I am thinking, “What purpose do I serve except to be a drain on everyone?” And then the thoughts come in through the door and I don’t want them, but I do take comfort in them because I know them and their objective: to make it all stop. There would be no more eye bullshit. No more anger and worry over a broken cell phone. No more trying to figure out how to afford home repairs on one income because of the eye bullshit. No more guilt because we’re a one income house and I am not contributing and that makes me feel like a piece of garbage after almost 40 years of busting my ass in one job or another so that I could always contribute. No more wishing I had a condition that would be covered by disability even though the very idea of that rises the bile in my throat in this, the country where people who don’t pull their own weight are reviled. 

Just like that, Depression gets through the door and begins trying to convince me that the pain of life is curable. It brings up every mistake, every hurt, every critical error I have ever commited that resulted in pain for someone else and I try to cover my ears but it all comes from within. And it hurts.  And I sit, in my solitude, and make mental lists over and over to persuade myself that this too, shall pass. It’s hard, though, when you’re alone. It’s hard when the last thing you ever want to do is hurt anyone but that’s all you seem to do, just by existing. I mean, aren’t we all really expendable? It’s just a matter of time before we have to leave this world. Life is a terminal disease.

So I am asking myself tonight, how did a perfect day with three people I adore so much fold itself over and then open up to this day where I am reminded, once again, that I’m growing tired of Depression and the fight? My dark passenger, to borrow from Dexter Morgan,  exhausts me.  The debris that is thrown into my path slows down my escape from Depression’s grip. 

I need to find a way to be worthy of escape from Depression’s clutches. I’m open to suggestions.  I’m hoping to wake up in the morning and smell kitty breath and taste coffee and to think, ” Oh, thankfully that’s past.” I know, in my heart, that I am blessed. I know, in my heart, that I have people who love me. I know, in my heart, that couples have stupid arguments and cell phones break and houses need new roofs and I know, in my heart, that I don’t want to feel like a useless drain on everyone else. 

My head, though. My fucking head. I don’t want or need pity. I don’t want or need anyone to say they are there for me. What I want and need is to get out of my own head. I’ve written this to illustrate to myself that even when the darkness overtakes me, I can send up flares for  me to see. This is Depression. This is the ugliness that is me in the throes of It. 

Maybe tomorrow, it will seem extreme. Tonight, nothing really matters. 

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The shit has hit the elliptical.

I know that lately, I’ve been very serious here. I mean, it’s hard to ignore the fact that my country is a dumpster fire, and that so many systems in place seem to be failing us: healthcare, justice, government, education – the whole gamut. It’s dangerous to get groceries, and not because when you see the total, your blood pressure skyrockets into stroke territory, or you wonder if maybe you might need to resort to a life of crime just to be able to eat. Situational awareness means identifying every, single angry, young, white male you see in public and wondering if he just published his manifesto calling for the white race to rise up to defeat the brown man or published a kill list of every girl who refused to fuck him, and is now grabbing a frozen burrito for sustenance before he straps on and mows down a bunch of innocent people doing the same thing you are: just living their lives.

There! In my roundabout, socially-conscious way of reminding you that I do not think any of this is okay and asking why have we not taken to the streets, I got to it. Life. That’s the subject here. And I’m going to attempt to do it in a light-hearted way. Because shit has been on the heavy side.

Literally, shit has been on the heavy side. On Monday morning, I came down with what can only be characterized as the END OF DAYS FOR MY COLON. I had risen at butt-crack of dawn o’clock to feed my starving cats, who routinely choose the largest of them to sit on my chest and just stare at my face while the littlest nuzzles my closed eyes and meows plaintively. All was well then, and I settled back down for a couple of additional hours of rest.

Something wicked this way comes.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re dreaming about something, and throughout the dream, you realize that your stomach is very, very upset. We all know that horrible feeling that comes before an explosive outburst either at the North entry/exit or at the Southern exit (or entry, if that’s your jam, although it needs to be established right here that mine is exclusively Exit Only and yes OF COURSE, I am experienced in the ways of butthole pleasures, and no, I don’t find them horrific; just too much work and I don’t think pleasure should ever feel like work) or that perfect storm: both. You’re trying to sleep but you know that as soon as you open your eyes, it will be a race to the bathroom/kitchen sink/garbage can; the distance versus need will be quickly deduced by your sleep-muddied, pain-filled, cramping legs and you will lurch to that destination, praying that you won’t be surprised by both exits as you grip the sink or clutch the toilet bowl and your guts evacuate the premises. Sometimes you know the whole building is going to be evacuated and you have time to grab some kind of catch-all to hold on your lap once you reach the commode: an empty bowl, your purse, a potted plant, or maybe you’re one of those perfect, always fucking prepared people who have a decorative puke bucket sitting beside their toilet that matches the shower curtain beautifully. By the way? Fuck you, you Pinterest-loving cow. You make the rest of us look like Neanderthals and we’re just tired of it.

A cow found on Pinterest; not to be mistaken for a Pinterest-loving cow.

This was me, Monday morning. In my particular evacuation situation, the fire was most decidely sending the evacuation to the South exit, though I began to wish for a Northern one as the stomach cramps continued, and continued, and continued. Many desperate words of bargaining were uttered that day; I lacked the strength to actually shove my fingers down my throat. Throughout the day, I lay, prone, on the couch, hoping for a reprieve and trying desperately to consume a Powerade. The Male Sibling Unit had walked down to the store for me and purchased two of the sports drinks, then quickly deposited them in the fridge before getting the hell out of Dodge. He is not good in a crisis and I wanted to minimize his exposure. The only thing worse than having the stomach flu is if The Male Sibling Unit gets the stomach flu. He will stand in the doorway of his room and whimper and whoop: “Uh, uh, uh!” Then he will go into the bathroom and stand over the toilet, crying, “No, no, no. I donwantto.” And then barf all over the toilet and floor. Do not ask me to describe the horrors of a double-exit situation. Hazmat must be called, and then there are months of counseling.

The husband went to the store and got me some chicken ramen and ginger ale when he got up for work, per my request. I drank some broth and took two sips of the ginger ale, thinking “Maybe yes?”

“Definitely no,” My stomach replied. I tried sleeping that night, but my stomach wasn’t having it. I began to wonder if this was an ulcer starting, because my consumption of pain meds has been high lately, and I have resorted to Nsaids and aspirin, which are big no-nos due to my peptic ulcer disease. What can I say? When you hurt, you hurt. I’d done it sparingly, but maybe I’d fucked up. I texted the husband, who was working, and asked him to bring me home some Prevacid. When he arrived home Tuesday morning, I was a mess. He said, “If you need to go to the ER” and I ripped his lips off and threw them into the corner as I clawed desperately at the pill box. He resisted kissing my forehead (no lips) and retreated to sleep. I took two pills and fell into a merciful 3 hours of unconsciousness. When I awoke, it was a little calmer down South, and so I began to try and drink the Powerade I had begun consuming the day before but still had not yet gotten to the halfway mark. The trips to the bathroom continued, and with every mouthful of liquid, I would be wracked with new cramps. My entire gut was being assaulted by one of those old-fashioned wringer washers.

I cried. I contorted. I rocked. I bargained with my large intestine and offered it gifts. Then, I passed out. About 90 minutes later, I awoke mid-spasm, convinced that I had stopped breathing. My heart was beating so hard at this point that it felt like I had ran a 5k. The only problem with that? There was no sweat. None. I’ve worked in healthcare; I know the signs of dehydration. I had them in spades. For one, lucid moment, I thought, “Bitch? You’re in serious trouble.” Then the delusions took over and I thought I could call 911 and then somehow meet them at the door, which was locked. That way I wouldn’t bother anyone in my family, although the ambulance might wake up the neighbors, but fuck them, anyway. Then, I thought, maybe I could ride it out until the husband arrived home at about 8 :30am? That was only about 8 hours. My delusional brain, who for once was acting in my best interest, brought forth the idea that people who get too dehydrated go into cardiac arrest.

This brings me to another relevant subject: cardiac health. You know what one of the biggest symptoms of heart attack in women is? It’s not the clutching of the chest and staggering around dramatically, calling out “Olivia! I’m coming, Olivia!”

It’s flu-like symptoms.

Yeah, it did cross my mind throughout the two days of hell. I have the family history; by my age, my mother was well on her way to a congestive heart failure diagnosis, which was official before she was 60. She was already a Type 2 diabetic. I have none of these things, but menopause has inflicted upon me the gift that keeps on giving (pounds, specifically): a metabolism at a near-standstill. Menopause can go stand over there with Perfect Pinterest cow and the neighbors, because fuck you, Menopause. In short, I need to get off my fluffy ass and defluff, and now. That perfectly good, gym-quality elliptical I found, discarded, at the side of the road by my son’s apartment in early May and dragged uphill and have yet to actually use judges me every day. And I say fuck you, elliptical, as I think about how clever I was to make little deep-fried cheesecakes ahead of time and stock them into the freezer. I’m gonna have to eat those words and not the cheesecake.

So anyway, for those two days, that thought – maybe I’m having a cardiac event – played on repeat in the back of my mind. In my usual, procrastinating way (a quality I save only for myself and not others, because I still operate under the misguided belief that somehow the health of everyone else – even a Facebook friend I may have never even met – is more important than my own) I pushed down that fear. Until it began to use a hammer to knock down the door that I had closed it behind. I had another moment of clarity: “Get a hold of husband” and I was delusional enough to forget exactly how. I hurriedly sent off a text to him, knowing he might not get it for some time, and cried a little, and then remembered the refrigerator magnet. On it was a contact number for him in case of emergency. I staggered out to get it and then back to lay on the bed, wondering which extension was better, because there were two. It is humorous me now to recall this with perfect clarity. Thanks, brain, for showing me just how ridiculous I am. Oh, and fuck you, too. Finally, I chose the first, dialed, squeaked his name to the person who answered the phone, and waited. When he got on, all I could say was, “I gotta go,” and whimpered as he assured me he’d just gotten my text and he was on his way. I thought to myself, “Well, no turning back now. If it’s a heart attack, you’re about to own it.”

Thank the merciful, suffering Christ, it wasn’t. I knew that when they took my blood pressure and hooked me up to the pulse-ox. I could calm down a bit more then, despite the fact that two midgets were at that moment using my intestine as a jump rope while a third jumped on my stomach. In football cleats.When the nurse put in an IV and started the first of three bags of fluid, and then administered anti-nausea medication intravenously before she administered my first-ever dose of dilaudid, or “Hospital Heroin” because that shit is EXACTLY like you see heroin addicts on TV after they shoot up; I felt almost serene. While these machinations were happening, I closed my eyes and listened to the music coming over the speaker in the hallway; the staff had on some Sirius XM channel that played all early 2000s rock and pop. It was both nostalgic and horrible to be laying there, held hostage by the sounds of Smash Mouth, Nickelback, Semisonic, and Sugar Ray. Before she took me to sedated heaven, “Learn To Fly” by The Foo Fighters came on, and I tried not to cry, because all I could think about was that I love them so much and it was so wonderful to hear them and know that I wasn’t going to code and never hear them again. Because that? Would be heartbreaking. I made a vow to myself then that growing older wasn’t going to kill me until I was good and ready.

Dave Grohl, I love you.

It’s been a slow climb out of gastroenteritis hell; Zofran has been my friend, along with little anti-diarrhea pills and fluids, fluids, alllllll the fluids. It has never taken me a week to recover; I blame this on Donald Trump because why the fuck not? He’s responsible for the current shitshow, so why not blame him for my shitshow?

I could have gone on a rant about people who don’t wash their fucking hands but that’s been done, hasn’t it?

Instead, I’m eyeing up that elliptical, forking my fingers from my eyes to it, silently saying, “You and me, fucker,” and checking the prices of blenders because one can’t make green smoothies without one. The next time I shit my brains out of my colon, it will be because there was too much spinach in the mixture and my flax seed measurement was off.

You and me, bitch.

Because fuck you, heart disease.

I am so tired of writing these political blogs.

“Breaking News: We have an Active Shooter.”

Just another day in the United States.

In less than a 24-hour period, 29 people are dead and 42 are injured after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Less than a week ago, 3 were killed and 13 wounded in a shooting in Gilroy, California.

This marks a year where so far, there have been at least 32 mass shootings, defined as three or more killings in a single episode, in this country.

It is only the beginning of August. We have five months to go.

Each shooter fit a certain demographic in these cases; in fact, in most of them. The American Mass Murderer is a single, young, white, male who identifies as a Conservative.

El Paso’a shooter, who looks like any, other shooter: young, white, pissed.

Conservative is perhaps too broad a characterization. A more concise, better description is that he is a Trump supporter.And oh boy, he is filled with hate. Certainly, he is twisted with mental instability and maybe even groomed by years of bullying, of being an outcast; a loner. He is probably that newish type of young male: an incel. He probably acted out in bizarre ways for months leading up to these tragedies: coveting guns, and violence, and publishing manifestos on social media, and photos of himself with guns, and Old Glory, wearing a MAGA hat.

The result of such ravings are devastating. They aren’t the bizarre rants of an angry, young adult who’s frustrated by his friends, his circumstances, or because Mommy and Daddy don’t love him enough; a continuation of the teenaged angst we all know and recognize because the rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so. (Very recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with their prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part.)

If only it were that simple.

This kind of anger and irrational thought may be borne as the result of some sort of chemical imbalance within the brain, but it certainly needs fuel with which to grow. While many angry, young people – raised by angry, older people – may agree with the vitriol spewed by a petulant, mean-spirited bully who managed to get himself elected into the highest office in the land, they don’t run out and begin shooting people. They may talk big, racist, prejudicial, bigoted talk and they may even gather at rallies to chant things like “Lock her up!” and “Send her back!” while their smug, tangerine leader eggs them on, but they don’t take it to that next horrific, final level by mowing down innocent fellow Americans.

Those young, adult, white males who carry out their Final Solutions have lots and lots of venom that has been built up within their systems by an increasingly frenzied, relentless narrative of hate coming from an unsecured cell phone, wielded by an unhinged septugenarian.

Are we going to normalize this, like we are normalizing the crazed rants, filled with divisive hate, that our Fascist leader publishes via dozens of tweets every day?Is anything about that normal? Please. Tell me why you think it is. Tell me why the things he says aren’t racist, or suggestive, or just downright inflammatory. Tell me that his words haven’t emboldened the angry, racist, young, white, male supporters of his. I’ll wait.

“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, OK? Just knock the hell … I promise you I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise.” – Trump, on Feb. 1, 2016, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

“He’s walking out with big high-fives, smiling, laughing. I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you.” – Trump later that month, in Las Vegas

“When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just seen them thrown in, rough. I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice. When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head you know, the way you put their hand over [their head]. Like, ‘Don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody, don’t hit their head.’ I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?’ ” – Trump, to Police, in 2017

“Any guy that can do a body slam, he is my type!” – Trump, at a Montana Rally for Republicans, referring to Rep. Greg Gianforte, who allegedly body slammed a reporter back when he was initially running for his congressional seat in 2017

“Even in elementary school, I was a very assertive, aggressive kid. In the second grade I actually gave a teacher a black eye — I punched my music teacher because I didn’t think he knew anything about music and I almost got expelled. I’m not proud of that but it’s clear evidence that even early on I had a tendency to stand up and make my opinions known in a very forceful way. The difference now is that I like to use my brain instead of my fists.” – Trump in The Art of the Deal, 1987

“You know what else they say about my people? The polls, they say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible,” – Trump, Sioux Falls

Explain to me how these are the words of a sane person tasked with running a country. Then tell me that the country isn’t 1940s-era Germany or North Korea or nearly any Middle Eastern country.

Tell me that this is the United States of America. Tell me that this is what we believe, and stand for, and that God wanted this man to lead our country because “he is the only one who can”.

Tell me that his words, and the hate he has whipped into a frenzy in this country, are not responsible for 32 instances of slaughter in 7 months. Sure, it was happening before he was elected, but the one difference between the sorrowful confusion of then and now is that we actually had a man in office who was PRESIDENTIAL. Who spoke with measured eloquence, with rational words meant to comfort and calm, not to incite and jeer. He may not have had the answers to the increasing violence, but he damn sure wasn’t the cause.

I would give anything to feel safe again. I would give anything to see my President and be filled with reassurance that he was competent, fair, balanced, and just. I would give anything to be proud of my country again.

I truly believe we are leaderless. And that is a terrifying, lonely feeling.

Weekend supplement, because everyone keeps saying I’m a writer.

This week, our local hospital announced that it was closing the Maternity Ward, effective October 1st. Our community was immediately vocal, expressing outrage, disbelief, and sadness. The opinions were filled with rage and confusion.

Over the past 20 years, the hospital had undergone massive renovations under the auspices of becoming more competitive and state-of-the-art. The network running the show – the names are no longer important because that network has changed too many times – had what we now know to be delusions of grandeur, but we in the community were reluctantly along for the ride, as long as our access to healthcare was not only continuous, but vastly improved.

We observed, warily, as the hospital’s health system bought out the neighborhood directly to the southeast of it, razing houses and historic buildings and re-zoning and even eliminating side streets.

For parking.

In 2007, Hamsher House, the original site of our hospital, which was built in 1917, was demolished in order to make way for 50 additional parking spaces. This building had become a school of nursing when the present-day hospital was built, then was sold to the University of Pittsburgh. Eventually, it was sold back to the hospital and used as doctors’ offices. The explanation for the demolition was chronicled in the local newspaper, and can be read here. Their reasons were perfunctory and typical for a big, corporate monster chewing up and spitting out obstacles. “Out with the old; in with the new.”

The original Bradford Hospital and Maternity, courtesy of The Bradford Landmark Society. Notice “maternity”?

The Hamsher House nameplate being removed. Out with the old, in with a dinky little conglomeration of shrubbery.

That 72×18-foot garden? Basically a bunch of shrubbery and perennials off to the side of what is now the hospital’s main entrance. With a bench. My garden in front of my house, while certainly not upscale, is more interesting to visit.

Harry Potter cat will read to you in my garden. The hospital’s “garden” doesn’t offer such perks.

We continued to ingest the press releases and ribbon-cuttings and announcements of new specialists moving into the area to provide us with closer options, instead of the realities many semi-rural and rural communities face: if you need specialized care, you’re going to have to travel to the big city. In our case, it was always Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland, or Pittsburgh. Some are 100 miles away; some 200. That’s quite a trek for anybody, and when you’re sick? Being able to get your chemotherapy 5 or 10 or 15 minutes’ distance from home is a major improvement on a 2-hour drive to Buffalo.

For a very short-lived time, all seemed good. The hospital was beautifully renovated and whole wings added on. It became a massive, steel and glass puzzle to navigate, but that’s the price we pay for progress, right? In 2012, I had a heart catheterization there in our state-of-the-art cath lab. Just a few, short years before, I would have been “sent out”. It was so comforting to be five minutes away from home for a procedure that petrified the fuck out of me.

Then, suddenly, the gears began grinding; softly at first, then a little louder. Doctors began leaving for “other opportunities.” There were rumors of unrest between the hospital’s network and those doctors. Then, our health system was changing. It was announced that our hospital would be consolidating – partnering, so to speak – with a hospital 25 miles away, across the Pennsylvania border, in New York. I chronicle that in the following piece, which I wrote on Friday, when the news that our hospital was now going to cease delivering babies, broke. The hospital’s official statement can be read here, if you’re interested in their mealy-mouthed explanation, citing declining births and such.

I know that many, many rural areas are watching this very same scenario happen. We aren’t unique, or special. But in a country that has given carte-blanche to insurance companies, essentially allowing them to maintain a chokehold on patients as consumers, and not with compassion and the very tenets that the Hippocratic Oath spells out, when are we going to insist that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, ALL-FUCKING-READY?

Our healthcare system is broken, and yet we are allowing a certain demographic in this country to continue to hand over power to the 1%. It’s business as usual for them; they don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies; they just know how to capitalize on an industry. Yes, that’s right: healthcare is an industry. Every time you get sick, or a family member does, a corporate CEO gets gets his wings. In this case, it’s a lear jet.

So, without further ado, here is my editorial, if you will. Call it my shot over the healthcare business’s bow. It caused a little stir in this sleepy little town, and I submitted it to the local newspaper after private and public messages to do so, daring that conservative publication to print me. “You’re a writer,” one person said, “and we need your voice!”

Consider this my roar.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

FOLLOW THE MONEY. This was less than 3 years ago.

Years of mismanagement by CEOs and a hospital that tried to grow too big for the area it served has been culminating in a facility that ships its patients out, rather than keeping them, when a condition proves just a tad bit complicated. Every day, we in Bradford hear the whirr of rotating wings as the medivac helicopter lands to whisk a patient off to Buffalo, to Erie, or to Pittsburgh. The ambulance services work overtime to transport patients who aren’t stable enough for the air transport, or in inclement weather. This adds up to massive profits for those services, since a medivac transport costs as much as $40k and ambulance transport – even from your house to the hospital – has skyrocketed in cost. This is healthcare as a business, people, and it isn’t progressive, or more advanced, or state-of-the-art. It is services gouging the consumer; the injured, sick, stressed consumer. It is big insurance business. It is criminal.

When my mother was rushed to the hospital that last time, almost 7 years ago, it was decided that her developing pneumonia required treatment at a “more skilled” facility 100 miles away. More skilled? What, exactly, was this behemoth hospital we were at, with its many wings, departments, and skilled staff?

This community had watched as houses were razed to create parking lots for 3 blocks. We had watched as “advanced, state-of-the-art systems” and testing machinery and whole wings of advanced care (the Cardiac Suite, for one) were brought in, and new specialists joined the staff. We saw outpatient services open all over town, from a lab downtown to hospital-contracted physicians’ offices. Historic buildings were torn down to add on to an older hospital, creating a maze of hallways and more than a little confusion. Whereas at one time, you walked through the front doors to a lobby and took a elevator to the floor you needed for whatever reason, be it tests or to visit someone, NOW you had to enter through a DIFFERENT lobby and access a different set of elevators depending on your destination. The front became the back; the back became the place where you could go left, to one set of elevators that couldn’t take you to the area of the hospital you needed; that one was down the hall on your right, winding along another hallway, and to your left.

Confusing? Yes. But progress! It was going to make our hospital a cutting-edge center of diagnostics, of surgeries, of specialized care. Progress! That’s the line we were fed. Healthcare professionals rejoiced at the idea of being involved in something so exciting. We, the public, weighed our discomfort at a new, confusing system and thought, “At least we’ll get the best care here.”

Then? The specialists began to leave town, citing a myriad of reasons. The cardiologist you began treatment with would leave and a new one would come and you’d have to establish a new relationship; then HE would leave, too. Then? An unexpected merger with a nearby New York State hospital. Staff was either moved or let go to allow for the staff in the New York hospital to work here, or vise-versa. There were rumors of salary cuts. Whole jobs were disappeared. There were layoffs. A laundry list of predictive events began occuring: transporting patients out; sending patients to other facilities for tests or treatments; rumors of executives making money hand over fist while the quality of care suffered overall. Who cared if that shiny, expensive lobby had marbel floors and welcoming seating and a patient concierge service and a boutique-level gift shop? We wanted to be cared for; to be made well again.

My mother was to be moved to Erie for her pneumonia. Her blood oxygen levels were hovering at 90-92%. They were rapidly stabilizing just being in the ER. The decision was made to move her, and we left ahead of her to get there as quickly as we could, to meet her there. While enroute, about an hour into the trip, I was called and notified that they had “wanted to medivac (never discussed while we were at the hospital), but the visibility was poor due to rain.” Instead, they were loading her into the ambulance when “suddenly” her blood oxygen bottomed out and they had to intubate.

While I would never, ever suggest that BRMC killed my mother, I do believe that the decision to move her was a mistake, and contributed to her lightning-fast decline over two days. Intubating her then – I believe because the stress of the move caused her stats to drop – almost certainly signed her death certificate. She went on life support and never came off; that is, until I had to make that decision for her. Sure, she had amazing care in Erie, but they were fighting a battle that was exacerbated by poor decision-making at home. Despite their advanced care and superlative staff of rns, specialists, and hospitalists, my mother was doomed to never leave that hospital at the moment OUR hospital chose to send her there. She might have died anyway, sure. But she would have done that here, at home, where we could be with her ’round the clock. Empathetic care cannot ever be downplayed. Now, she is gone, and the massive bills incurred just over 2 days seem like blasphemous footnotes to me.

Today, the news was announced that we would be losing our Maternity/Women’s health wing. It will close its doors on October 1st. This is an enormous, tragic blow to this community. After October 1st, there will no longer be any babies born in Bradford. Their parents will have to drive 25, 45, or more miles away to give birth. This seems inexplicable to me; two of my deliveries were there, my hysterectomy was performed there, and five of my grandchildren were born there. We have been very fortunate in this semi-rural community to have had the ability to have our children in a hospital just 2-10 minutes from home. I know other communities have not been that lucky. I can’t even imagine the added stress and worry that expectant mothers will encounter knowing that the hospital they’ll need to get to for delivery is, at a minimum, 30 minutes away. 30 minutes is a crucial amount of time, and things can change very quickly when you’re bringing a tiny human into the world. Let us not even begin to contemplate the many reasons why infant mortality rates are high in a country that should be number one in healthy, viable births; this kind of scenario likely contributes.

The news, though, is devastating to the community and to the truly excellent staff, and further demoralizes an area that can’t take much more. Something HAS to give, and while I will not point fingers at the current administration in DC – because the wheels that would bring us to this conclusion began turning more than a decade ago – I will point out that nothing will be fixed while tycoons and their special interests run this country. We deserve so much better. Don’t we?

My dad was cooler than yours.

This week, the first trailer for the movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was released. Set in 1993, it is the true story of a writer’s odyssey, of sorts, as he did a piece about Fred Rogers, the creator and eponymous hero of millions of children for his show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Of course, Tom Hanks is playing Fred Rogers. Who else would dare? Who else is everyman, able to seamlessly zip into a character and become that character without fail? Who else is worthy to go to the ultimate land of Make-Believe and pretend to be a man so universally loved and cherished in the hearts of young and old? It had to be Hanks. You can watch the trailer here.

My eyes were massive gobs of wetness about 15 seconds in, when Mr. Hanks began to sing the song that inspired the title of this movie. If you know about my eyes and how few, actual tears I can make, this was somewhat of a major event for me. Suddenly, I was 3 again.

And BOOM. Tom Hanks becomes Mister Rogers.

I’ve told this story before, to a select number of people. They no doubt felt really sorry for me when I did, but that can’t be helped, I suppose. When people hear something particularly sad or completely pathetic, their empathetic hearts respond.

So, yeah; when I was a little girl, I thought Fred Rogers was my father.

Yep. This guy. The Mister Rogers of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

I wasn’t a stupid child; my mother and grandmother constantly challenged my little brain with knowledge. I was enrolled in preschool at age 2, because of my neck condition and the need to have physical therapy weekly from the month I was born in 1967. Preschool was a “perk” of being a patient of Shriners Hospital and Crippled Children. Crippled Children was a part of the Easter Seals program and the victim of the time when political correctness was not yet a thing. If the image that name conjures is that of a bunch of kids in wheelchairs, assorted body braces, and other walking aids gimping it across a field to a finish line and the arms of their proud parents (and then having cake) that was pretty accurate. We were always being set up for photo ops at events we were invited to, be it an amusement park trip, a circus, or Luncheon With Santa. It is now properly-titled CARE For Children, and has really branched out in providing services not just for the physically impaired child, but for the mentally impaired as well. You can check out their website here, if you want. It meant what it said; we were a group of children in the county who suffered from varied birth defects – from my particular defect called acute torticollis, to various other maladies involving the spine, limb malformations, club and flat feet, cleft palates – and we were treated by doctors who traveled to Bradford from Erie, diagnosing and working with the two pediatricians in the area. Trips to Shriners Hospital weren’t uncommon for those who needed procedures; I was a lucky one, receiving all my treatment right at the Crippled Children Clinic, located in an old building that once served as the hospital’s laundry facility. We were always “going to clinic” and I both abhorred and loved it, because my therapist, Mrs. Smith, was the nicest lady ever.

My memory of the place is dim, yet will never leave me; it was dark, antiseptic, and dilapidated, with very long, cavernous hallways that echoed with the cries of children in pain. Wooden benches lined those halls, where we would sit as we awaited our appointments. The doors had frosted glass and would open and close with hollow, metallic sounds that constantly reverberated through those yawning catacombs. Perhaps they weren’t as big as I recall, but I was tiny when I visited them the most; an infant and then a toddler. Everything is massive when you are small.

My condition, acute torticollis, is difficult to explain. The actual name is Congenital Muscular Torticollis, or CMT. No one knows how it forms; it could be genetic, or the way I lay in my mother’s womb, or there could have been trauma somehow. If you want to read about the fuckery of this condition in scientific jargon, check out this link. I still suffer from acute bouts of stiffness, pain, and limited mobility. My cerebrospinal MRI is a diagram of horror.

In any event, the SCM (sternocleidomastoid) muscle in my neck was shortened and in spasm, causing my head to tilt to the left side and drawing my chin to my shoulder. In my case, it was so severe that it was noticed immediately, and my pediatrician (bless you, Dr. Silverstein) referred me to Crippled Children right away. There are other physical characteristics of this condition, including the oh-so -attractive -sounding facial asymmetry (one side of my face is a teensy bit smaller than the other) and inability to turn one’s head. There was no way I was going to hold my head up or be able to turn it, so the decision was made to start physical therapy right away. I would have to be seen a minimum of once a week to stretch my neck until I was a year old, and then frequently throughout my preschool years until it was decided that they had adequately given me a future with more mobility. My future mobility would always be in question, because nobody knows when a recurrence of spasm will happen. How I sleep, what position my neck is in, a sneeze, and even stepping onto uneven ground can set off “the neck”. I have always been told “You could lose mobility at any time,” and so I have simply lived with the episodes, hoping for relief each time it happens.

I don’t remember all of the excruciating neck-stretching therapies; my mother recalled that I was in pain all the time because the doctors were racing a clock that said that if they didn’t lengthen and develop strength in my SCM before I was a year old, I would likely never have it. She abhorred the use of a pacifier and yet, it was the only thing that comforted me (until I was 4 years old, which literally means I sucked it up) and she and my grandmother did the best they could to keep my neck muscles strengthening at home. I can only imagine the stress they were under; in nearly every photo of me as a baby, I’m either tearful or bawling. The smiles would come later, but I always looked like I might burst into tears at any given time. I could not have been much of a bundle of joy.

Enter preschool, and with that, trained preschool teachers/physical therapists who worked all of our muscle groups, including our brains. During the day, I was being challenged at preschool; in the mid-to-late afternoons, my butt was parked in front of the television to watch Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Zoom. It’s no wonder that I could read and write before I was 4; tying my shoes was a breeze and I remember entering Kindergarten and being amazed at the kids who couldn’t do any of those things. I was smart, sure, but I had been given a head start that lots of really poor kids don’t get, due to my birth defect. You Christians would say that The Lord Giveth and He Taketh Away; I say thanks, Mom, for taking advantage of every opportunity given. I may have been a welfare baby eating government cheese, but I was well-educated.

Anyway, enter my “dad.” Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood followed Sesame Street. Don’t ask me why I got it into my head that he was my dad; I just did. I was perhaps 2-3 when this thought formulated. I didn’t spend much time with other kids at this point, so most of my knowledge of the nuclear family came from brief observations while out in the public and by watching television. I never called him Daddy, nor did I tell anyone who I thought he was; he just was to me. This guy came through a door every day at the same time and he talked to me as if I was the most precious person in the world to him. That he was on tv was not important; I still thought that the music I heard on the radio in the kitchen and in the car was being performed live at some amazing place called The Radio Station. Santa also visited The Radio Station every night from 4:00pm – 4:30pm during the frenzied few weeks before Christmas, too. The REAL Santa, that is.

It never occurred to me to question why my dad was on the television; I just knew that he was, and that he was very important. Some kids got their daddies at home every night, but my dad was so busy, this was how he did it. It was like a secret he and I shared, and I kept him hidden inside my tender, baby heart. I truly believed that he was coming through that television to speak to me and me alone. That my mother never spoke of him except to say “It’s time for Mister Rogers!” didn’t concern me. When you spend lots and lots of time waiting for doctors and laying on examination tables, you become adept at using your imagination to stave off fear or boredom. The Land of Make-Believe was just another mindscape for me.

There was such a magic about and around Fred Rogers, though, wasn’t there? He spoke directly to the children in his audience. He had an uncanny knack for being engaging and thoroughly engaging them with his easy mannerisms; he was the strongest, and gentlest, and most trusted male figure in my life. Even my uncles carried about them presences that left me slightly on edge and wary. I’d seen them spank my cousins and heard them raise their voices in anger; my dad never, ever did that. My dad in the land of Make-Believe was so much better than that. That he couldn’t possibly – because he was on tv – never, ever occurred to me. I lived my life trying to be good, because if I didn’t behave, he would find out. And I knew that I couldn’t stand it if I ever saw disappointment in his kind eyes.

The fact that my dad was only “with” me for 30 minutes a day was troubling to me, but I tried to rationalize as only a toddler/preschooler can; he was just Very Busy in the way my grandma was Very Busy fitting up lighters at the Zippo plant every day. It was like when Mommy was Very Busy doing housework, and so I must busy myself with my toys and my record player and not give her any trouble. I knew that I must make the best use of the time. I sat, my eyes never leaving the screen, as he talked to me about being kind, accepting and respecting everyone, and being as helpful and loving as possible. I learned about different jobs, about different countries, about how my feelings were as important as anyone else’s, and about how special I was to him. He sang, he talked to Daniel, and Lady Elaine , and X. I knew that the Land of Make-Believe was just play, but I’m not sure I ever grasped that the puppets weren’t real. They were just people he talked to, and part of our cherished circle. Through those 30 minute visits, I learned so much about sincerity, generosity, forgiveness, and honesty. He never disguised the fact that the world was a big, scary place; he just understood how to explain things perfectly, in ways that a preschooler grasped.

The worst part of my day, back then, was at the end of every visit, when my dad in the Land of Make-Believe would put his work shoes on again and remove his sweater, changing back into his coat. Tears would stream down my face and I would desperately try to memorize his face while he sang “It’s Such A Good Feeling”, and when he would tell me that there was nobody like me in the world but me, I would feel my heart break in two. I would plead with his image on the screen, “Please don’t go. Please, just stay.” I remember, as clearly as if it was yesterday, how that felt. Many nights, I would run into my bedroom and crawl up onto my bed, sobbing with a heartache searingly genuine, convinced that tomorrow couldn’t come fast enough. Tomorrow, I would see him again and everything would be alright. Tomorrow, I would tell him just how much I missed him when he was away.

I’ll be back, when the day is new/and I’ll have more ideas for you/you’ll have things you’ll want to talk about/I will, too.

And then, tomorrow would come and I would just be so happy to see him again that I would forget how his departure had broken my heart the night before when he went away, and that he would have to go again tonight. Every night was a sort of screwed-up, preschooler’s version of Groundhog Day that ended with me, a sobbing heap on my bed or with my face turned inward to face the back of the couch while I wished for him to magically reappear, saying he had more time tonight. Then it would be dinnertime, and then bath time, and I might drift off to sleep, thinking about the things I needed to tell my dad from the Land of Make -Believe tomorrow.

I don’t know when I realized that Fred Rogers wasn’t my dad; it was probably around the time I turned 4 and I was going to Head Start. I was a little more mature and beginning to understand things like television and how music was on records – like mine at home – and that deejays played them at the radio station, and that Santa had helpers who pretended to be him while he was busy at the North Pole. I know that I felt terribly silly and that by the time I was 5, I avoided “baby shows” like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Now? It was all about Gilligan’s Island, The Partridge Family, and The Brady Bunch. These were the innocent years, before Emergency! fascinated me with fire and car crashes and human suffering; before Kolchak: The Night Stalker captivated me with various creatures of the night; and before Alice Cooper terrified thrilled me with a performance of “Unfinished Sweet” on The Smothers Brothers variety show in 1973. Fred Rogers would have perhaps been perplexed by me, his “daughter”, and my fascination with vampires and demons and things that went bump in the night. I like to think he would have sat down with me and watched, waiting to ask me how I felt about what we’d watched together until after the show was over. I don’t think he would have rushed me to a psychiatrist. I think he would have recognized that I was just a kid who was fascinated with scary things. I’d faced a few when I was little; this was just a natural progression. I don’t think there was a judgmental bone in his body.

I don’t need to psychoanalyze why I filled the role of father with Fred Rogers. He was the most solid, steady man in my life at that point. I used to be embarrassed by this, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that having a make-believe father who was the king of make-believe and making children aware that they were important even though they were small, was much better than what my reality could have been. Fred Rogers was the best dad in the world.

I know that I will cry when I see this movie, and I am absolutely fine with that. My dad from the Land of Make-Believe taught me, and all the millions of kids who tuned in to share 30 minutes a day with him, that it is okay to cry.

Thank you, Mister Rogers, for making a little girl’s painful, lonely world so much brighter with your gentle smile and your easy ways. Thank you for coaxing out the empath in her, and praising her individuality. I wish that I could have told you: There was no one in the world quite…like…you.

Of racism, white nationalism, and why can’t HE go back to his country of origin?

This year, for Mother’s Day, my daughter bought me an Ancestry DNA kit.

This was not so much to question my Irish roots as to solidify them, and to find out what, if anything else, lurked within my family lineage. I’ve always suspected (feared, maybe) that there was something else mixed up in my family tree that is decidedly not Celtic. As a child, my olive skin, darkest brown-black straight-as-an-! hair, and slightly upturned at the outer-corner, deepest, darkest, black eyes moved people to exclaim “Aren’t you just the cutest Asian girl!” I don’t see it, but that’s perception for you. As I matured, and my high, prominent cheekbones emerged, I was asked, more than once, “Excuse me, but are you an Indian?” Not Indian as in chicken tikka masala and all that spicy goodness, Bollywood, and revering cows as religious deities, but as in Native American.

I always responded with a resounding and somewhat defiant, “I am Irish.” I’ve always been proud of that fact, as fiercely as I am proud of my kids. It’s been the one constant belief I’ve held since I was young enough to ask, “Where do we come from? I’m proud of the Irish story; of stubborn pride, of revolting against tyranny, of the ability to turn a yarn and tell a joke while simultaneously drinking (a dozen) pints. I’m proud of the fierce love of the motherland and the emotional pull I get whenever I see pictures or watch footage. Someday, I will stand on that Emerald Isle and feel the force of all my ancestors rushing up from the earth to infuse my soul.

But the eyes. The hair. The skin that always looks just a tad tanned and browns in summer like a breaded, chicken cutlet. Where did those attributes come from? Of course, I know the history: the British Isles were stormed by many different armies bent on overthrowing its people and controlling it. The Norsemen, the Romans, et al. They raped, they pillaged; some settled and integrated with the native people. Ireland and Scotland bore the brunt of these invasions, and the resulting dark hair and complexion could very well be explained by that. I would shrug my shoulders, thinking that there lurked, somewhere deep in the past, an emigrated, olive-skinned person who mingled his or her genetics with that of my Celt ancestors. I was okay with that belief.

But beliefs are sometimes challenged, and it’s healthy to question them. Therefore, I spit in a tube, packaged it up in the provided box, and mailed it off to Ancestry and then tried to forget about it as the 4-6 weeks of testing and processing commenced. I don’t know what I’m worried about, I thought. I’m Irish enough and nothing can take that away. So what if maybe I’m a little Mongolian or Roman? That might be cool.

I had opted for text messages advising me of my test’s progress, so for the first couple of weeks, I received texts reading

Thank you for registering your kit

and

We have received your test and are processing it

and

Your DNA has been extracted and is being analyzed at this time.

As I settled in to wait the remaining 2-4 weeks, imagine my surprise when, 3 weeks and 3 days after I’d been notified that my test was commencing, it was complete, and my results were waiting!

I was suddenly terrified. I texted my daughter. “The DNA results are in.” She responded almost immediately with, “OMG! I can’t wait! Tell me when you’ve read them!” She and her two brothers did have a stake in this, since 50% of mine would be theirs. The great news is that only one of them will need to take the test in order to form a full picture of their shared heritage. Since they’ve all given their father the boot and consider The Husband, their stepfather, “Dad”, they aren’t too concerned with that. I’ve heard more than a few vows of, “I’m you, Momto know that whatever the other 50% is, it’s not that important to them.

I was sitting in my garden with a cup of coffee, so I figured “No time like the present” and clicked the link. After a couple of screens, I came to my analysis.

Surprise, surpise! I’m “Irish as fuck”, as the daughter declared, but more pointedly, I’m a Celt, through-and-through. 62% of my heritage goes back to counties Leinster and Munster in Ireland. I am OVERJOYED at Munster, because I’m nocturnally me, of course, and because I always wanted to be a Munster growing up.

The other 38% is dispersed between Scotland, Wales, and England, with County Wicklow in Ireland highlighted, as well. The map bore heavily on the Scottish side, which made total sense. Many years ago, there was a cousin doing genealogy on my mother’s side and she discovered evidence of “a smidge” of Scots-Irish.

Just a smidge? A smidge from Edinburgh to the Highlands, to be exact. The Welsh was a surprise, but not much, because we’re a broody bunch, the Barrs, and the idea that my kin once wandered the Moors, searching for Wuthering Heights, seems somehow appropriate.

All in all, I spent a couple of weeks fanatically fleshing out my family tree and discovering cousins I never knew I had. Specifically, I am tied by genetics to 887 other Ancestry members, which widens my circle quite a bit. Can you imagine that family reunion? We’d need to rent Rhode Island. And take out stock in Guinness.

Now, so many things make sense. My fierce pull to the Atlantic Ocean that wars with my “love at first sight” of the Colorado Rockies; my people came from both an island and lived in the Highlands.

My belief system, very much pagan, with a lot of witchcraft thrown in, harkens back to a people who took the earth’s gifts seriously and were drawn to mystical practices. This conflicts with my love of the ritualistic pageantry of the Roman Catholic Church, but my people were of course baptised into the faith, so it makes sense that I would feel so strongly about one, and so bewitched by the other. My Catholic guilt doesn’t necessarily stem from the Church’s shaming of its members, but by my blood.

I love who I am.

I love that I come from such pragmatic people. While I haven’t gotten far enough back to discover exactly why my Scottish ancestors came to America, I do know that my Irish ancestors came over during the potato blight, as Leinster and Munster Counties were heavily affected by the famine. I’m a third generation Irish American on my father’s side, and it’s looking like I’m Scottish American at least 4 or 5 generations back on my mother’s side. It has really made me think about heritage, and leaving one’s home. I also started The Husband’s family tree, too, and we’re going to get his DNA tested. His family is even “newer” American than mine, with he and his brother being second generation Italian and Slovakian.

In every case, our ancestors came from countries embroiled in troubles, with famine and political unrest and poverty. They knew that, while it might not be easy at first, America was a land of opportunity, where hard work would make their dreams come true. They didn’t dream of untold riches; all they wanted was a safe, warm place to call their own and to lay foundations on which they could build a future for their children. They wanted to worship their God freely, to teach valuable lessons to their kids, and to lay out a future for them that would not include freezing and starving in the dead of winter. They weren’t asking for a handout; they were asking to work for their fair share.

And work, they did; in factories, metal works, delivery companies, and on farms. They dug graves and took care of cemetaries, learned electrical trades, and most of the men joined the military to fight for their country. (One of my great-aunts served, too. Aunt Beryl was an exotic specimen to me the single time I met her. She gifted me with a little, bejeweled, leather purse and realistic toy alligators, because she lived in Florida and she had traveled the world. I thought her to be a superhero of Captain Marvel proportions.) They helped to build this still-young nation and they established themselves as respected American citizens.

Aunt Beryl, right. Patriot. Veteran. Alligator-tamer.

Why is it so hard for some to believe that the refugees at our Southern border aren’t thinking in the same way? Back when my ancestors were emigrating, they had to raise (back then) exorbitant sums for sea passage on ships that were crowded, vermin-infested, and where disease spread like wildfire. Recall the “coffin ships” that bore so many Irish to their deaths because they were shoddily built? It wasn’t exactly a safe, cushy ocean voyage aboard a cruise ship to the shining land of opportunity. One needed to be really desperate to willingly embark on such an uncertain journey, many with their young children.

When they arrived, it wasn’t to a comfortable house or apartment, a job, and cupboards filled with food. It was usually to a dirty, crowded rooming house or to stay with relatives, where 20 people would crowd into a two-room apartment with a bathroom shared by the entire floor of tenants. They would find work in factories, where they would work 16 hour days for a pittance, and be spit upon on the street and told to “go back where you came from, you dirty dago/dumb mick/sneaky kike.”

Come to think of it, why would anyone want to come here? Because things haven’t changed, have they? Only the color of the skin, the language, and the entry point have changed. The racist attitudes, the prejudiced rhetoric, and the startling bigotry are one and the same as that of a younger America. For a while, it seemed we had moved past it, but most of us were aware that it had never truly abdicated this land. Those of us with certain immigrant roots that weren’t that far back were raised with the knowledge that our people were looked down upon because of the country they originated from and the accents they spoke with. We bore that shame and that defiance; the fury within us teeming, railing against an Establishment that held our people (us) down. We tried to be just a little kinder to new citizens, and to understand their plight. However, when you live in the slice of Americana that I live in, you become very aware of the undercurrent of anger, exasperation, and intolerance that seethes just underneath the surface whenever the subject of immigration comes up. The snide comments in break rooms and in community groups about interlopers who must be bringing illegal drugs into our communities because they have brown skin; they’re obviously just here for the “free handouts” of welfare and food stamps and health insurance. They don’t “speak our language” so therefore, they don’t belong. They’re dirty, they’re gang members, they bring filth and bugs and crime. They’re stealing our jobs.

Give me a fucking break.

Those “proud Americans” who speak this way have found their patron saint in Donald Trump, who took it a step farther on Sunday when he tweeted that four American, freshman, female Congresswomen of color should “go back to their countries of origin”. He painted them as hateful women who detest America and who are Communists who embrace terrorists. He might as well have called them traitorous, treasonous interlopers who schemed to get into Congress just to tear down the very foundations that America stands upon.

Except, isn’t that an apt description of him? Who buddies with anti-American thugs and has taken advantage of every, single loophole afforded him in order to seem powerful? If you are one of the ones who doubt that (and honestly, why are you reading my blog if you are, because this is Anti-Trump country) then I will submit EXHIBIT A,B,C, an informative, fully-sourced article about how far back this sleazy, corrupt con man has cozied up to Russians who are hell-bent on destroying America.

I found a poem today. It sums up, perfectly, why anyone would desire to leave their homeland for the unwelcome uncertainties of America. It says it better than I ever could. It practically weeps with the tears of those who embark on the perilous journey north, where they are separated from their children and thrown into cages. Don’t call them concentration camps, some people say. Well, what else are they?

Home

~ by Poet Laureate and Activist Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well.

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.

Happy Treason Day seems about right.

I’m taking a moment to analyze my feelings without emotion or preference. Would I be upset at any other President holding a soiree on the National Mall on the 4th of July?

Wait. I don’t think I need to analyze my answer. That answer is no. I would not be upset at any other President holding a soiree on the Mall for the 4th of July because no other President would hold a soiree on the Mall for the 4th of July. No other President would decide to divert millions of dollars to another event when there is already an event in place.

Am I confident about this conclusion? Yes, I am. There are already soirees and celebrations aplenty on this day in Washington DC. There always have been. A Capitol Fourth is a big draw, and PBS televises it every year. The fireworks over the Mall are a long-standing crowd pleaser. These events have deep roots and always draw a massive crowd, as both residents of DC and visitors enjoy.

This display on the National Mall must not be mistaken for what it truly is: a concession. Trump wanted a military parade. Congress, in its endless string of stupid flagellations in accedence to the President’s demands, first said sure, and then it didn’t happen. But Trump is like a spoiled, little rich child who wants a pony NOW, and he means to get it. This is how he’s getting it, building upon the very apparent manifesto he harbors within to be “King” and to usher in fascism.

He got his tanks, his pomp, his circumstance, and it will all play out as he thanks himself for attempting to hold the country hostage and force us to praise the Almighty Donald. Later on, there will be attacks at the “fake news” and “corrupt media” for refusing to air his Ode to Himself, and praise for the essentially state-run news channel, Fox.

People are comfortable in their traditions, be it having parties at home or traveling somewhere to celebrate the day the 13 colonies affirmed that they were independent of Great Britain and began the process of creating a nation where

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

We are no longer that nation, in the spirit of which it was intended. Donald Trump has poked the beast that lay, hiding, in the shadow of shame; the beast that resides within the hearts and minds of certain American citizens who defiantly hold onto “This is MY country!” and forget that it is their country because someone came to this land under the protection, and in belief, of those reverent words. Those who blazed a path before us did so by ruthlessly taking the land from those who came before them; who began existence here; and then built the colossus on the backs of slaves, be they African or indentured. I’m not going to single out the United States as the single-most horrible evildoer in this, because other societies have and will do the same things. It is the very nature of the beast to “conquer” that which it feels threatened by, wants to possess, or simply abhors.

The difference, however, between your average (“woke”) beast and the beasts Trump prodded with all of his verbal sticks is that the average one realizes that all of those violent, unfair, inhumane acts of this country’s past belong precisely there: in the past.

And yet, the Southern Border.

Forgive me if I think that the last thing this country needs is another party. For those of you protesting, saying, “But this is not who we are”, I want to say to you that

Here comes the rain

You know, with the way the world is today, I am amazed that I am not more depressed.

There. I said the “D” word again. I hate saying the “D” word. That word, for me, conjures up immediate bleakness; it’s like throwing a wet blanket onto a fire, which reduces the fire to a smoldering, sooty mess. I hate it so much, I would willingly make a deal, with whomever could assure me that said deal would be successful, to use the word cunt in a full sentence at least 10 times a day IF depression would go away. I don’t love the word cunt and use it rarely. It’s always been reserved for the worst of the worst: when “fucking nasty-ass piece of shit” or “Bitchface McFuckityburger” just won’t suffice. You really need to do some deeply, nefariously awful stuff in order to authentically own that word, or title. I save it for the most genuinely cunty people I encounter. It’s such a jarring, offensive word that even my spell check tries to change it to count, county, or country when I type it.

But there it is. I wouldn’t need to be British to comfortably adopt it into everyday speak in order to get this fucking Depression monkey off my fucking back.

If only it was that simple.

I also understand that, while the state of the world is truly awful, and my country has descended into Total Shitshow Status, I cannot lay the blame solely at the feet (see what I did there?) of one person or entity. No, The Orange Buttfart of a Diarrhetic Orangutan isn’t to blame for all that is wrong with this country (or cunty) even if I’d love for that to be so. He saw an “in” and he took it. He exploited the attitudes of all the racists, bigots, and prejudicial people in this land and gave them what they need in order to survive: validity. A voice. Oxygen, as it were.

He didn’t do it because he agrees with them – historically speaking, he has been all over the map when it comes to the things he supports or believes and if it would make him money he would claim that there is actually a purple octopus-like creature living in a loch in Scotland who is the true God – but because he saw the fastest way to line his coffers and stroke his ego. Again, historically speaking, he has never been a success at either, but he is just smart enough, the way a con artist is, to project a false image of prosperity and confidence. And our dumb and dumber society, comprised of haves and have-nots, desperately wants to believe that this guy is the original Richie Rich. That certainly makes more sense than to admit that he’s essentially selling them empty bottles of air instead of a piece of the action.

No, he isn’t to blame. He is but a symptom. And can you blame a cunt for seeing an opportunity and running with it?

Wow. Using the word cunt at least 10 times a day is a lot easier than it sounded. I am nothing if not a tremendously purposeful individual when challenged.

Depression, though. Why won’t it go away? I cock-block it with medication. I use my shields to protect me when it assaults.

Daily affirmations.

Music.

Encouragement from others.

Cats.

This blog.

Still, all it takes is a situation to hit me, like a wet blanket, and there I go, turning into a steaming, soggy, sooty mess. I know the signs, and even as a situation is occurring, I know that the eventuality is that I’ll once again descend into the tarry pit of hopelessness. I have tools I can, and do, use to try and hold onto the edge so I don’t slide, but sometimes a situation is so slippery, it pulls me down anyway.

The situation is not appropriate for me to write about, because it isn’t happening to me personally. I don’t have the right to divulge someone else’s pain, and I won’t. I also understand on an intellectual level that the situation isn’t affecting my day-to-day life, nor is it my right or responsibility to try and fix it. My life is still wonderfully blessed, with the simple kinds of pleasures and accommodations and little details that make one aware that they are, indeed, a lucky fucker. I know this just as surely as I know that there is presently a cat lazing on my shoulder, purring and nuzzling my mouth occasionally with kisses. (Be jealous of this kind of psychotherapy, because it is life-affirming, soft, and the kisses may smell faintly of fish but they are genuine.)

Just tell that to my heart, though.

Tell my heart that the situation will play out, and the actual, affected parties will figure out a conclusion. That the conclusion might bring happiness, but that it might bring sadness. The conclusion is not mine to own; it is mine to react to, when it occurs. And how I will react matters. I can wallow in the depths of depression over it, or I can simply respond with love, empathy, and support. I am stubbornly tapping the latter three into the holes where my responses are needed, but it is like fitting a square peg into a star-shaped hole. (Why use the cliché round when you can have a star?) It just feels like they don’t fit. Still, I persist. Because it is the only thing I can do. The situation will resolve and how I was during will define how I am to be after.

It all makes me very, very tired.

I’m sorry that I have to be vague, but the one thing that I will never do is tell someone else’s story. Being an empath is a remarkable gift that the universe bequeaths to some of us, but it is also a source of extreme exhaustion. I love that I feel others so deeply, but I don’t love that it takes something from me. I love to be able to listen, to advise, and to just be a source of support for others, but that is not something I have in reserves for myself.

Being an empath is a lonely existence, and empaths are prone to depression because of the barrage of just feeling all the things and all the things of everyone else.

It takes a toll. And so, I tuck myself away in a figurative ball, as solitary as possible, and wait for my limbs to infuse with energy and my mind to uncloud from the fog of emotions.

It doesn’t alleviate the depression, though, and often opens the gates to let it in more easily. Once again, I am blindsided by its vitriolic tendency to just consume everything in its path, leaving me breathless, thinking “These are its lying, fucking lies” but unable to believe that they aren’t true. You can tell me, every, single day that Depression lies to me; I believe you. But, I believe Depression, too. All it takes is one teensy, tiny kernel of truth within a lie and I’m captive, thinking once again that everything – EVERYTHING – is my fault. The insidiousness of Depression is that it is a shapeshifter inasmuch as it is a familiar.

One of these days, I fear that it will appear as my Executioner.

And so….and so. I write. I put on the mask of normalcy and throw on the cloak of invisibility and I push through. I force my brain to work through the webs and to seek out that one thought, moment, or deed that slays the dragon once more and leaves me standing in the rubble, looking at the sunrise. As long as I have reasons to fight, I know that I will see the light again.

Take that, ya cunt.

Vampires I have known, or NEW NEIGHBOR ALERT

I have been chronicling my observances of my newish neighbors on social media lately, and it’s become something of a sensation.

In covertly watching them, I have entertained the thought that they may be vampires, and listed my reasoning thusly. Being supernaturally-inclined myself, one has a feel for such things, you know?

Our house has rentals on either side of it, and we get to see many different types of people. The newish neighbors are living in the basement apartment to the left of us. It is a tiny, one bedroom place with maybe three windows. Since it is a basement apartment, very little sunlight penetrates, giving it a tomb-like feel.

It is a perfect abode for a vampire.

I know very little about this couple, who moved in stealthily and with very little in the way of possessions save a few pieces of furniture and some trash bags of stuff. (No coffins were brought in, but since I am not awake all night, it is possible that they could have at some point.)

So, I have set this up in journal-like form, although it is not nearly as detailed as Jonathan Harker’s account was when writing to his dear Wilhelmina while he was held captive by Count Dracula.

Perhaps some of my readers have had interactions with the undead. If so, I welcome your input, and I hope you enjoy.

**********

So, we have new neighbors in the little apartment next door, underneath the main house. They’re an older couple – I think. You know how sometimes, you can’t tell if a person is maybe 30, or 40, or 50, or 60+….because that’s how old they look? Hard life, bad genes, who knows? Anyway, they sit outside on the stairs in the mornings, coughing and smoking. (Might be why they have an ambiguous age issue 🤔)

They are at least old enough to have grown children because one of them drives them everywhere and she appears to have dentures. This does not help me to figure out how old they are.

A short while ago, she brought them back from shopping, I assume, and there was a dude who was helping them with their bags. He, too, could be 30-40-50. I’m beginning to wonder if we have nosferatu inhabiting this apartment and they require the blood of the innocents to regenerate.

This guy helping them was carrying things up and down the stairs to the apartment and at one point, he dropped a bag and tried to catch it as it fell. He was unsuccessful, so before it hit the ground, he kicked it in frustration. It landed close to the porch. I hope it was not fragile. He continued to bring bags from the car, occasionally kicking this bag but never retrieving it. Finally, some other woman exited the car, she with a Karen-who-wants-to-speak-with-the-manager haircut, and picked up the bruised and battered bag. She placed it on the porch. They departed.

There, it sits, on the porch. I feel almost sorry for it. I also realize that I am nuts.

**********

Sitting in my garden with coffee and a piece of apple danish, watching as my solar dark fairy world comes to life. The bag I felt so sorry for is no longer on the neighbor’s porch.

I hope someone gave it a good home.

😉

**********

The toothless daughter of the Nosferatu couple next door is back, bringing with her two shady dudes who won’t make eye contact with me. Now I know they are the undead because they know that if you look a witch right in the eye, she will decipher your true intentions and then work a spell to bind you. 😏

No bags of unknown contents were harmed today, but some lawn chairs that my mother had back in the 70s were retrieved from the nosferatu lair and carted away in their Chevy Suburban with six different body colors. A Suburban IS large enough to hold at least one coffin. 🤔

I’m onto these undead. 😉

***********

The Nosferatu actively engaged with the sun a short while ago, sitting on the stoop of the porch while they smoked. I guess they shouldn’t have given those vintage lawn chairs to the toothless female spawn and her undead minions. They seemed to tolerate it well, but it IS overcast. Perhaps this is indicative of their age, which I could surmise as being ancient: thus, they can tolerate some rays.

I was treated to the male Nosferatu coughing wetly for about 3 minutes before he spit something out. Probably a coagulated blood clot from his last feeding, although I didn’t dare to look. I didn’t have my protective eye coverings on so that I could mask my witch eyes, which have been known to turn a nosferatu into dust. Not mine, of course, but in ancient times, allegedly.

Suddenly, the nosferatu spawn from yesterday – Karen and her I-want-to-speak-to-your-manager hair

and the bag-kicking scoundrel, accompanied by squealing grand-spawn (they kept shouting “Grandma! Grandma!” from the car so that’s how I knew they were grands) parked precariously in front of my car and they all tumbled out. I pretended to be asleep in my garden so they would not suspect that I was collecting intelligence on them.

The kids commenced to dance around and squawk while scoundrel stood, sullenly, grunting at the blood clot nosferatu and the two females stood, each talking on their phones. Then, the kids went out back after the youngest was told, “Quit eatin’ the grass! Some dog’s probably pissed there.” Small male spawn said, plainly, “But I’m hungry.” Instead of getting him a snack, he was sent to play out back, where there are any number of rodents or snakes to gnaw on. See? Undead.

Soon enough, Karen and her hair headed to the car, making some comment about “not hitting this car when I park” and I was ALL EARS. She saw me sit up and I think she jumped a little, certainly because she was afraid that I would fork my fingers at her and hiss. Nervously, she stammered, “I’m always so careful parking because I don’t want to hit this car. Is it yours?” I nodded, and deadpanned, “I certainly do appreciate you not hitting it, because it’s new and I’d be very unhappy.” She understood my meaning (I have a wooden stake at the ready for you, Karen with the hair nosferatu, and NO MANAGER is on duty) and hurried to her car. The scoundrel followed, and the nosferatu elders had to yell to the kids to come up from hunting for their afternoon snack because “Your mom’s in the car and she’s leaving.” I don’t know what they would have done had they not been alerted; turned into bats at sundown and flown home?

Then, a dark SUV pulled up and the nosferatu elders got in. I imagine they’re going to hunt their next victims. I’ll be listening for the tell-tale return, which will be heralded by the hacking rattle as they have their last smoke of the night out on their steps.

Should have kept those ancient chairs.

**********

The Nosferatu may not be Nosferatu. It is possible that they might be some sort of “good” Nosferatu, but after this morning, I think they may just be ordinary people with nocturnal habits (see: me) who have a toothless daughter and goony minions, a son with anger issues who takes them out on innocent, unassuming bags of merchandise while his wife, Karen with the I-want-to speak-to-a-manager hair tries not to hit cars when she parks.

My sweet boy, Lucifer, slipped outside last night sometime and I was out early to call for him. I had little fear; when one of my dumbasses, who never go out, manage to find themselves out there, they are always drawn to the back yard, under the house, or under the stairs leading to the Nosferatu Lair. I began my search first on the far side of the house, and then the other, nearer the blood sucking cave of doom. I called to him, and he returned a frightened meow. Now, to ascertain where it came from.

“Loo-See-Furrrrr.….Satanas, where are you?” He cried again. Just then, the Nosferatu’s door opened and for a moment, I wondered if my little Satan Kitty had been lured within. The female Nosferatu appeared and asked, mildly, “Are you lookin’ for a kitty?” I answered, “Yeah, he got out last night, bright orange, with a collar.”

How I feel when one of my babies is in danger.

She nodded. “My husband said he was sleepin’ up on the steps, early this morning.”

Was she warning me, in an ominous Nosferatu code, that he might have become breakfast had the male Nosferatu been so inclined?

I continued to speak to her, explaining that he had meowed and wasn’t far, because he would only go around the house if he managed to escape. At this point, the male Nosferatu emerged, and I saw that he had gotten a haircut and looked very normal. Upon closer inspection, she, too, appeared normal.

Now, I am not jumping to conclusions here; I know that they could just be deflecting suspicion by appearing to be human, so as to throw me off their scent. (Actually, Nosferatu have no scent, being fastidiously clean. At least, that’s what Bram Stoker and Anne Rice say. Anne and I have exchanged messages and emails before, so I know she would concur.)

But then, the female exclaimed, “Oh, doesn’t he ever go out?” The male commented, “He was up on the stairs this morning, sleeping. When he saw me, he went down under the house.” Whereas the female has almost a “down-home” way of speaking, the male is more articulate and cultivated in the way he speaks. Neither raised their voices or seemed the least bit alarmed at having a witch nearly at their door. Dare I say they seemed helpful?

“No, he has never been out,” I replied to the female, and she began to fuss worriedly. “Oh my gosh, I hope he didn’t get near the road!” she exclaimed. I assured her I had heard him. As I called to him again, he began to answer me, sounding frantic. It was coming from the other side of the house but I couldn’t see him, so I thanked the Nosferatu and made my way over there.

Lucifer appeared on my path in front of me, crying fearfully, and then retreated underneath the back deck. I called to him again, softly, and he emerged, this time not crying out of fear, but meowing in an accusatory tone, as if to say, “You let me stay out ALL NIGHT and I was SCARED.” As I scooped up my big, 10 lbs of traumatized kitten, for he is not quite a year old, I answered his outrage. “Who told you going outside was a brilliant idea?”

Now, I am left with uncertainty. The Nosferatu could be diverting my suspicion, of course. Vampires don’t get to live hundreds of years by being fast and loose with their true identities. They did appear to not mind the morning sun at all, which could just mean that they are extremely ancient and that sun no longer affects them. Or, they could just be an older couple with some strange kids who have had bad luck and now live in a teeny, tiny little apartment with maybe three windows total, in the basement of a house. Also, note my horoscope this morning:

Hi Lori,

There’s an entertaining mystery for you to solve today. Luckily, you will get some helpful, exciting clues early on in the day. Someone who you don’t usually take very seriously will say something that strikes you as a deep truth. This confuses you a bit-it looks like you’ll have to revise your opinion of them! Old dogs can indeed learn new tricks, and this includes you! Give a person a second chance and they’ll give you another important clue. Something will suddenly start making sense.

The Nosferatu angle is STILL much more entertaining.