My Reserve Nerve

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHave you heard the phrase before, ‘you are on my last nerve’? Most people have, it is a common expression, at least in the circles I run in. These days I am beyond my last nerve all wore out, it is blinking and causing the top of my head to tingle in anticipation of the next stomping. Yes, I am beyond my last good nerve, I have nary a single good nerve left. This is why there are folks about, hanging in the peripheral of my world who have now stepped into the region of MY RESERVE NERVE.

I only have one Reserve Nerve and I think it important I maintain this one in tiptop condition, doing so will prevent me from doing anything stupid or ugly. There are so many reasons I might do stupid, mean, unnecessarily ugly things right now; things that could have either short or long-term effect on my ability to earn a living in fact. I must watch my temper and my mouth; however, it is hard so very, very, very hard.

Before I go any further with my rage against the machine, let me first tell you a little about my real life self and the real life world I live in.

The Short and Not so Sweet

I work in a very specialized part of the IT world called ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning). For twenty-two years, I have been working with the SAP product, though I have worked with all the others.

For sixteen years I have worked as a Program and Project Manager, this is even more specialized than simply working within IT.

Since 2008, I have been independent with my own LLC and have rarely been without work for more than 30 days unless it was by choice.

The above being said not to stroke my ego, truly. I simply wanted to establish a baseline for why my Reserve Nerve is on active standby.

My Last Nerve Gone

In 1999, the market blew up with the fear all the computers would stop (remember the millennial clock). All the greatest minds ran to Congress and said we need to expand the H1B program, there aren’t enough qualified Americans to fill the IT demands in the market. This wasn’t true then, it isn’t true now.

So Now to My Last Good NerveNerve Ending 1

I made a decision at the beginning of the year I wanted to change my life; well actually, I simply wanted a life. Part of this change was a career transition. I wanted off the road, out of airplanes and airports and chasing contracts; I want a ‘real’ job with normal hours, a real paycheck and benefits. Yes, working independently has its perks, but not enough anymore. I will tell you it hasn’t been easy, obviously since nearly four months in, I haven’t gotten close and I am beginning to panic. One of the reasons of course is employers are leery of people like me, people who have spent so many years in consulting, people who have been independent for as many years as I have; they think we won’t make the transition. The other reason? Well that goes to a little problem called getting through the RECRUITER.

Anyone know the rules of the H1B? In brief, for a company to qualify to bring a temporary worker into the US on an H1B they must have done the following:

  • Attempted to hire within the US first and be able to prove there are no qualified candidates.
  • A temporary H1B is issued for highly qualified (must have a university degree) in a scarce skill, these include; Engineering, IT, Science and Math

That is the short list. Given the above, tell me why nine (9) out of ten (10) recruiters do not speak English as a first language and have no manners at all? Here are a couple of my favorites over the past week, just to give you a taste.


 

Me: Hello this is Valentine

Caller: Speak to Logar

Me: This is Valentine, may I help you?

Caller: Logar, I looking for a MM Lead saw your profile on Dice.

Me: Well then, you might have noted I am a Program Manager not a functional lead. I don’t think I can help you.

Caller: You don’t want this then? Click.


 

Me: Hello, this is Valentine

Caller: Yes, yes speak to Logar is he in?

Me: This is Valentine Logar, he is a she.

Caller: Oh, sorry. Looking for a Project Manager knowing FICO and Development.

Me: Are you looking for a Project Manager that has managed these aspects of a project or one that also does this work.

Caller: No, my client wants the project manager to do the work and manage the project part time. Good rate, all-inclusive $55 an hour.

Me: I am sorry I can’t help you.

Caller: What is your rate?

Me: It is more than that; however, I can’t help you I am not looking for a project at this time.


 

Caller: Looking for Valentine Logar

Me: This is she

Caller: Looking for Program Manager, long-term project in Detroit.

Me: Send me the specification let me look at them.

Caller: First must establish your credentials, is that okay.

Me: What do you need to know?

Caller: What is your rate?

Me: $85 per hour plus expenses or all-inclusive $120 per hour

Caller: Might be too high I will see. I can get cheaper from India. Are you US Citizen?

Me: No Texas

Caller: Oh, do you have the right to work anywhere in US?


 

My Reserve Nerve is All I Have Left

Nerve Ending 2If you don’t know, an all-inclusive rate means they expect you to pay your own travel costs. This is fine if you live in the same city the project is, otherwise just no. Yes, they really will just hang up if you say NO. Yes, they really will tell you straight up they can get someone cheaper from India.

I am stupefied by the entire process right now. I do have a few good recruiters, truly I do. The number of calls and e-mails I get daily from random out-of-the-blue, don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground though, well my Reserve Nerve is on active duty. My level of frustration is on high alert, especially as I find myself at the point where I know I will have to consider contracts as a interim solution while I look to make the desired transition.

I am nothing if not flexible! I don’t know why, but it truly does seem to be getting worse out here.

Served Grown Up Please

LVal_Web_smallMy friend Red and I talk often, truthfully nearly every day. Through this recent tsunami, that has been my life I found I have no nearby support system. This has been eye opening; it has also made it very difficult.

Red gets a great deal of credit for pulling me through the worst of it, she dug in and kicked me a few times. There have been a couple of others though along the way, the interesting thing about these others?

My Friends in the Tsunami

  • They are women I have known close too if not more than thirty years, they have been close friends and intertwined with my life in meaningful and happy ways for all that time.
  • They are both in the midst of divorces from long-term partners.
  • Like me, they did not expect to be in this position this late in life.

Where am I going you might ask and so you should. I have been thinking about the position I and others are in at this stage of our lives, the odds are not with us according to all reports. I have been reading blogs by women, some younger and some my age who have been through the devastation of divorce after a long marriage and what it means to be single again. I have been thinking specifically about what it means to me, my life and my future and what I want for myself someday, maybe, perhaps and if I am fortunate.

I Want A Grown Assed Man

I have spent my entire life, every single relationship being the caretaker and provider. Begging for what I need and rarely if ever getting even one quarter of it, then calling myself satisfied. Enough, it is self-defeating and leads to misery. I am no longer willing to settle, not ever again. I don’t want to be anyone else’s second choice, booty call, meal ticket or anything else. Done with all of it, maybe I ask for too much, maybe the dream isn’t out there, nonetheless…..

I Want a Grown Assed Man and This is What He Looks Likemystery-man

He isn’t afraid of who I have been or where I have been; in fact, he is interested in my history, all of it. He wouldn’t think of condemning me for bad choices I have made because he has made some of his own.

He doesn’t shrink from the hard stuff, his own or mine. He knows life sucks sometimes and he isn’t afraid of it. He is grown; he has taken a few beatings and cried a few tears. He isn’t ashamed of it and he can bear up under the tears I might shed in the dark of night or the grey of dawn when I think there is no one there to hear me sobbing. He understands pain.

He wouldn’t think to slut shame me for what was done too me. He wouldn’t ever think to blame me for my past or take advantage of me because I have one.

He is a gentleman; he has manners not just the ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ type of manners but real manners. He knows how to behave in both public and private and it is innate to his person, rather than showmanship.

He makes plans with me and for me; he is respectful of my time and his own. More than this, he thinks ahead and thinks of more than himself and his own desires. He listens carefully to things I love and seeks opportunities for us to do them together. Even when something isn’t high on his list of ‘shit I most want to do in life’, whether it is the opera, the ballet or going to a Lyle Lovett concert, he makes concessions because he is a grown assed man.

He never fails to flirt, with me! Damn, this is important. A simple touch, a cuddle, a kiss on the back of the neck, a meeting of the eyes across the dinner table anything and all the things that send that message he wants me and finds me desirable. Stop looking at your phone for five minutes, pay attention.

He doesn’t think compromise is a four-letter word. It isn’t. Really, see ten letters C O M P R O M I S E; I counted three times just to be certain. He doesn’t beat his chest and say, ‘Me Man, You Woman’, and stomp out of the room as soon as the word compromise is introduced into any discussion, instead he seeks opportunities to balance our relationship and make it easier for us to move forward.

He traces my battle scars with the tips of his fingers in the night, knowing they are an intimate part of my being he loves them for their presence on my skin and my soul.

He never hides me away in the dark; he is not embarrassed by me or his choice of me. He takes my hand and proudly displays me as his partner no matter what anyone might have to say, he defends me in the face of condemnation.

He is not afraid of debate; he welcomes it when it is necessary and never fights dirty. Whether it is politics, religion or whose turn it is to do the dishes, he will always remember I am his partner and he loves me. He is never petulant or childish in a fight, never uses silence or past hurts to win.

He dances with me! Whether in the living room, the bedroom or at a dinner club; he dances with me. He takes me in his arms and dances me around the room. He knows how to hold me and take my breath away when he moves me. He knows how to make me feel beautiful.

He likes himself, is comfortable in his skin and doesn’t need outside affirmation of his manhood. I am enough for him. He doesn’t have to prove his manhood through Neanderthal means. He doesn’t beat his chest when asked to help with household duties, he would never think to say, ‘that is woman’s work, do it yourself or get a maid.’

He knows making love is more than wagging his appendage and hopping on! Nothing more to say on this one.

He is interested in more than himself, he is interested in the world. He reads, he explores and he is willing to try new things; at least once. His mind is a sponge that happily seeks opportunities to absorb new experiences.

He is engaged and active, whether in a single cause or broadly across many intertwined causes. He is at least putting something ahead of himself.

He has his own money. Yes, I went here I had too. I don’t care whether he has the same amount, more or less only that it is his own. I care that sometimes someone else pays, for the theater, the first class plane ticket, the groceries, the clothes, the phone bill, the luxury items. I care that someone besides me cares the bills get paid not just assumes because they always have they always will.

Finally, he loves me exactly as I am doesn’t want to subtract anything from me, doesn’t resent anything about me except I am late coming to his life, doesn’t condemn me or ridicule me, doesn’t want me changed, thinks I am sexy from the inside out and wants to see me naked from the inside out. Will sit in the waiting room when I am having surgery, not asked to be called when I am ready to go home. Will hang out with me when I am getting my next tattoo, not tell me they will divorce me if I get another.

jpgI Want A Grown Assed Man

I bet my list could be longer, I am certain of it. Red says they are Extinct. I don’t believe her, I think they exist and we simply haven’t allowed ourselves to be loved by the right man. I am holding on to hope. Lately I have been posting snippets on Facebook as I think of them, these were two from the past couple of weeks.

What I want….Breakfast in bed (just coffee would be good), phone calls in the middle of the day (for no reason at all), trips to the garden center, window shopping, spontaneous road trips just to take pictures….oh damn I want someone just like me. Oh well, guess I will have to do.

 

I want to be seen for just me, liked for just me, be wrapped in arms because I deserve it, walked with, taken out for drinks and a movie, danced with in my living room. I want to play cards and billiards, I want to laugh, I want someone to like the skin I am in without wanting to change it. Damn, I just want that.

I was inspired by this: http://www.xojane.com/sex/grown-ass-men

I realize, I want to be loved for me. I will continue to write about the mystery man I hope is out there, not today and not soon because I am not there, I am hurt right now and feel terribly unlovable and unpretty. But someday I want someone to feel me, my sharp edges, my history, my future and love all of it. I want someone to feel this and say this to me some day.

Justice for Sale

NewJusticeWe were handed a stunning blow as citizens of the United States of America, SCOTUS said our voices were less than those of great wealth, less than the voices of anonymous corporations, less than the voices of those who were able buy our once great Republic. On 1-January-2010, the people of the United States of America were told in no uncertain terms, our voices would count for less and our nation would change to accommodate the will of whose money could buy seats at the table.

We stomped our feet. We complained. We talked among ourselves and pointed our fingers at those we knew were behind the scenes pulling the strings. We rung our hands and cried, ‘woe is us, what now?’

We Blinked

We allowed what we knew was an ethically and morally challenged court to remain seated and continue to hear cases that would change the course of this nation. We watched as case after case went before what we knew were politically motivated justices, in bed with politicians, PACS and lobbyists (in some cases literally in bed with them every night) and we did nothing. Well nothing isn’t entirely true, is it? We whined, we created cute memes and posted them on Facebook hoping they would go viral, we had battles of wits with our opponents on the other side of the divide, we wrote scathing blogs and we wrung our hands. Nevertheless, in fact, we did absolutely not one blessed thing to change the tide.

Meanwhile, ALEC, Heritage Foundation, American Crossroads, American Family, Citizen United, Freedom Watch, Family Research Council, John Birch and Freedom Works; naming just a few of the big ones intent on undermining your and my way of life and our opportunity at the American Dream, have worked hard to get every challenge heard in the highest courts in the land. Their stooges, like Shaun McCutcheon, do their bidding, becoming the face of our diminished democratic processes, the focus of our ire. Meanwhile those truly holding the purse strings gleefully sit back, observing the destruction and plotting the next strike against the Republic.

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Hand Wringing and Weeping

The truth is we could be doing more if we weren’t so stuck on the idea we can do nothing. If our backbone weren’t so weak, so gelatinous we could be demanding the same loyalty of our elected officials with our confirmed moneyed speech the 1% demand of theirs. Rather than hanging our heads and wringing our hands, we should remember we ‘own’ our elected officials; we are the people who stand in line to pull the lever and put them in the position to direct or misdirect our lives through their actions in office. This is true whether they are Red, Blue, Green or Purple. This is a true statement whether they believe it or not. Those officials, from the President of the United States down to the lowest Dog Catcher are beholden to you and I for their seat at the table, they represent us not the special interests who would see our Democratic Republic become something other than a nation for and by the people.

Roberts Court

These are not elected officials

What’s Wrong with this Picture?

Consider the problems of this court and then ask yourself does it makes sense.

Justice Scalia, who regularly and publicly castigates the President of the United State, speaks at Conservative forums without shame and shows extreme bias in his questioning from the bench. This is a man who makes no bones about his position and uses that position to do great harm.

“Can’t scare me,” he told a reporter who got on line with audience members to ask a question. “I have life tenure.” Justice Antonin Scalia, Medford, MA Tufts University 10/20131220px-Antonin_Scalia,_SCOTUS_photo_portrait

Next, let’s take a peek under the robe of Clarence Thomas (shudder) and his wife Virginia. Nominated to the bench by George H. Bush in 1991, Justice Thomas was tainted before he was sworn in. Despite the testimony of Anita Hill regarding his sexual harassment, despite the witnesses waiting to testify who were never called Clarence Thomas was passed onto the Supreme Court and continues to serve, for Life. He never asks a question, he also never recuses himself from any case. Prior to his time on the highest court of the land, he represented Monsanto for four years, thereafter moved back into the political arena.

220px-Clarence_Thomas_official_SCOTUS_portraitWhile Justice Thomas has many questionable ethics it is truly who he lays down with every night that should make us all cringe. Not because she is simply mean, but because she has used her association with him to further her own political agenda and they have both benefited by his seat on the bench. A short synopsis of Ginny’s connections:

  • 1985 – 1989 Attorney for US Chamber of Commerce, one of her efforts included advocacy against the Family Leave Act. She was considered highly successful within certain circles because of her personal commitment and passion.
  • 1991,  Legislative Affairs Office of the United States Department of Labor, during this time she argued strong against equal pay for equal work, specifically to close the gender gap. Thereafter she went to work for Congressman Dick Armey ( R ), as a policy analyst until 2009. Though her time in this role raised conflict of interest challenges for her husband during his confirmation hearings.
  • 2000, our Ginny found her calling with the Heritage Foundation a Right Wing Think Tank and lobbying group. Ginny Thomas was at the forefront of the effort to gather and submit resumes for the Bush administration,
    In her glory, Ginny Thomas

    In her glory, Ginny Thomas

    during the time the Supreme Court was deciding Bush-v-Gore. Can you say Conflict of Interest? Many did.

  •  2009, finally Clarence must have had enough Ginny opened her own shop though it went through a couple of make-overs before settling into its current operation, Liberty Consulting, Inc. With strong ties to the Tea Party and no shame in selling her connections in ‘high places’, she is a frequent guest on Fox, including Hannity and others. In addition to her ‘consulting’ company our Ginny is a member of Groundswell2.

Should I say it one more time? Can you spell Conflict of Interest? Yet, he continues to sit on the bench.

I have to ask again, what is wrong with SCOTUS? We have always sought to have ‘our’ guy, meaning the President in office when a Justice retires so we can balance the court in our favor. There isn’t anything unusual in this strategy. Sometimes we win; sometimes we lose and the court shifts slightly. However, currently we have a court so blatant in their disregard for their position as one of the branches of Government, the arbiter of final Constitutional interpretation that slight shift is wreaking our democratic process. The Robert’s court has aligned themselves with the Right Wing of the Legislative Branch and sold our Republic a Bill of Goods with no Return and no Refund policy. Worse, they make no bones of their agenda, with their choice of cases or their questions from the bench.

It is Time to Stop our Hand Wringing and Bitching

A Supreme Court Justice can be impeached; their jobs are not for life. They can be removed if it can be shown they have not acted according to their oaths of office. Article III of the US Constitution says the following:

“The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior…”

These are not elected officials, they do nonetheless serve at our pleasure, they are public servants. This means despite their obvious disdain, they are the people’s servants. It is time for a groundswell of our own, it is time to stand up and demand a change. Not just in Congress, but throughout this corrupt system, including here in the courts even this, the highest court of our nation.

It is time.

1 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/02/antonin-scalia-government-shutdown_n_4033524.html

2 http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/07/groundswell-right-wing-strategy-group-members-photos?slide=7

For Donor tag 1: http://www.opensecrets.org/overview/

The entire Federal Law on Campaign Finance: http://www.fec.gov/law/feca/feca.pdf

The 2013-2014 Limits on Campaign Contributions: http://www.fec.gov/pages/brochures/biennial.shtml

Top group donations by Party: http://www.opensecrets.org/overview/topcontribs.php

Top individual donations with partisan bent: http://www.opensecrets.org/overview/topindivs.php

Heartbreak at START

my.operaLast Thursday was Victim Impact with young people in the START (Short Term Residential Treatment) program. This where juveniles land when all else fails, when probation conditions have been broken and less intensive interventions are not working. START is the last stop before full on detention in one of Texas’ lock-down facilities is ordered. The program is 90 days, includes peer-to-peer counseling, one-on-one counseling, group counseling, educational resources, parent inclusion and of course Victim Impact.

I have been doing Victim Impact for years now; you would think it would get easier to tell the story, it doesn’t. You would think it wouldn’t hurt so much; you would be wrong. Some days it is worse than others, there are days when my calendar pops up to remind, ready myself to make the drive to whatever facility I am speaking and my heart clenches, my eyes tear up and I think to myself, “what if I just call and cancel, say I am ill or have had a fatal accident.” I never do though, not once in all these years, no matter how much I didn’t want to stand up and tell the story.

Last week, was one of those days. I didn’t want to stand up and talk. I didn’t want to talk about what happened to my family. I didn’t want to talk about the three young men who ruined their own lives. Last week, I simply didn’t want to do any of it. Last week I found myself hard pressed to find compassion in my soul, the one thing I need when I look into the faces of these young people and tell my story.

Sixteen young men and one young woman marched single file into the room and took their seats. If I had to guess their ages, they were between fourteen and sixteen. None older than sixteen, none younger than thirteen, I have seen them younger but I have never seen them older. These are hard young people; they have seen the world through the prism of indifference, anger, hunger, bad schools, racism, drugs, violence, the foster care system and a host of other things most of us can never imagine, not in our wildest and worst nightmares. This program, it is their last shot before they are permanently marked as unsalvageable and outside of societies care.

Image Tradenewswire.net

Image Tradenewswire.net

Despite the admonishment to sit up straight, they slouched down in their seats staring at their own or my feet. There was a rumble through the introductions; my audience clearly did not want to be in this small cramped room to hear what I had to say. Well, honestly, the feeling was mutual but nevertheless here we all were and we were going to get through this together.

When you look at me what do you see?

Every time I start the same, it breaks the ice and helps me understand how far in the process each group is. Their answers rarely differ much, though sometimes we have some fun. This group, they were more observant than most:

  • Scars, you have had a hard life.
  • Tattoos, a few were showing despite being mostly covered by sleeves and pants.
    • ‘You’re OG aren’t you?’
  • Lots of piercings.
  • You thick (said quietly until I made him speak up) then there was lots of laughter.
  • You dress good.
    • I said well and got blank stares, so I explained.
  • You white.
  • You hard but you smile.
  • You seem like you smart.

That was the list. There were a few more, mostly about my clothes, my hair, my eye color. The list is so they can think about it as I talk and so I can reference it when I am done, so I can make my own list.

The story is always the same; it doesn’t change how could it? Slowly their attention begins to shift from the floor to me. This also isn’t unusual; I am a good storyteller able to speak to them in a language they understand with characters they might have known. The protagonists could be them, the victim not a hero but someone they can see. I don’t hold them for ransom keeping the spotlight all to myself instead I allow discussion throughout.

We talk, I answer their questions; some are silly. Yes, it does hurt to be shot. Some are not silly and I have answered this one more than once, No, I do not regret offering to help a young man I thought was in trouble, though the outcome was something terrible. Some questions are hard though I am asked every single time I speak; No, I do not hate Black people, no I am not afraid of Black men young or old, no I do not even hate my offenders.

Then I was asked a question that broke my heart.

“Do you ever wish you hadn’t lived, with all the pain you have suffered since then; do you ever wish you hadn’t survived?”

The question stunned me. I looked into the eyes of this young man, he couldn’t have been more than fifteen, his eyes held such pain. My heart cracked a little bit as I tried to draw air into my lungs and search for the right answer to give. The real answer was, ‘yes, in the early days sometimes I did wish that.’ This though was my answer.

‘No, I don’t regret living. I don’t even regret the pain; it reminds me I am alive. If I hadn’t lived, I would have missed all the joys in my life. Like seeing, my sons marry and holding my grandchildren, like falling in love, more than once. If I hadn’t lived, I wouldn’t have known what it meant to be stronger than I ever knew was possible, overcoming more than I thought possible, learning to walk again and the great joy of going dancing again for the very first time. No, I don’t regret living.’

In that moment, I felt my compassion finally bloom.

I stared at that young man, but at all the young people in the room. I told them again, they had great worth; they were worth more than they believed and they could choose to be more. I told them again I believed and that was why, even when I didn’t want to, I got there and I stood up and talked to them. They asked how I climbed out of where I started from; I told them I read books. They asked what books, I gave them reading lists. I don’t lie to them, I tell them truth about my life, where I came from and what I did that I was really one of them at one time, ‘A real OG.’

Two hours and some change later, I gave them my list:

  • Mother
  • Grandmother
  • Sister
  • Aunt
  • Friend

When they can see a stranger on the street, see instead of ‘other’ they are the same, then they will begin to understand empathy and compassion. By the end though, that is what they saw in me. They didn’t care I wouldn’t tell them my race or ethnic heritage, only that I told them it wasn’t important. They didn’t care that I wouldn’t tell them my religion, only that it informed me.

In my hour-long drive home, I couldn’t stop thinking of some of these young people, the ones who might make it and those who likely wouldn’t. The ones who fronted to look hard but asked questions that told a different story. I weep, for them and for us. We fail them, each time we cut back on education and services, when a young person says to me his only option is to commit crimes if he and his siblings are going to eat that day, I weep. When a young man hangs his head and repeats my story of delinquency, foster care and running away, holding his head in his hands; I know it is his story. I weep. When a young man begs for a reading list because his school isn’t serving him, hungry for knowledge and way out, I weep.

Argicles.businessinsider Image

Argicles.businessinsider Image

 

So should we all weep. But when a young man asks if I sometimes wish I hadn’t survived, then my heart breaks because no fifteen year old child should know that much pain. Ever.

 

Victim Impact the Series: http://valentinelogar.com/category/series-victim-impact/

The Story: http://valentinelogar.com/category/series-crime-and-punishment/

The Commons Revisited

I want to return to one of my favorite political / philosophical places on the map, The Commons. When I first wrote about The Commons, back prior to the second election of our current president it was with some hopefulness ( backstory). Truthfully, most Americans do not refer to the Public Sector, the services and systems provided by government as The Commons. Since January 1981, we have as a nation, been on a mission to destroy The Commons and our memory of how they serve us.

How did we get so damned mean?

Do you ever ask yourself this question when listening to news reports, watching a debate on the floor of Congress or reading the latest memes posted from either side of the ideological debate? I know I do. It seems both sides have sunk to new lows, specializing in simple nastiness and personal attacks rather than solving problems. We cloak it in humor, we laugh at political satire and even excuse those who attack our ideological enemies with terms of gender, race, ethnicity where if these terms were turned on us we would scream bloody murder and demand immediate retribution.

What in the Hell is wrong with us anyway?

As a nation, as a people we cling to our notions and ideologies neither side willing to listen or move from their platforms. The problem is both sides have moved both sides have slid further toward the right, leaving the nation and The Commons in peril of ultimate destruction. We have become a nation of sound bites, ignorance, misinformation and political distractions. We fly willy-nilly off the handle at the slings and arrows thrown by irrelevant talking heads and ignore what is important, critical even to our lives as citizens. We fail as citizens to understand what is important for our future and the future of our nation, focusing instead on immediate gratification as if playing a video game.

The Commons, Safety Nets and the Fall of a Nation

Do you wonder what is the Commons? Many do, they haven’t really heard of The Commons, truthfully many think all the services they receive are simply there, free of charge and might be better if they weren’t, free that is. With this in the back of our mind, let’s consider what are commonly thought of as The Commons:

  • Public Safety – Police, Fire and Rescue
  • Public Transportation – Roads, including local, state and interstate and lest we forget bridges, of which many are considered close to failure.[i]  We also shouldn’t forget in here, the ports, river ways, airways, the list truly does go on.
  • Public Health-  including Free Clinics, Hospitals, Research, the FDA and the EPA to name just a few of the services we receive in the name of our health and well-being.
  • Public Parks – preservation of our wild areas
  • Public Education – from pre-school all the way through university in some states.
  • National Security – Military and that great huge spy apparatus we have and all too often decry.

These are just a few, the list could continue, for pages and pages if truth were to be told.

Then there are the safety nets, no I am not talking about those nets we pay for throughout our working lives but instead the ones we have in place for the weakest of our society:

  • Medicaid (Healthcare, but only one part of the whole)
  • Aid for Women, Infants and dependent children (WIC)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP (aka: Food Stamps)
  • Housing Assistance to families
  • Temporary Assistance to Families in Need, TANF (aka: Welfare)
  • Pell Grants
  • Child Nutrition or School Lunches
  • Head Start and Child Care
  • Job Training
  • Unemployment supplements
  • Energy Assistance (LIHeap)
  • Lifeline (aka: Obama Phone), funny about this one, it was actually started in 1997 but somehow has been attached to our current POTUS.

In their entirety, these programs make up less than fifty percent (50%) of the entire budget, think about that for a moment, ponder it. All the supports, both Common Good and Safety Nets excepting National Defense, make up less than half the expenditure of the federal government. One must ask where does the rest of our money go, why don’t we have a more stable economy and better infrastructure. What are all these fiscally responsible, conservative members of our federal government doing with the trillions of dollars they collect from us and borrow from others? It is a good question, worth asking, isn’t it?

2014 Federal spending chart

Damned Mean and Getting Meaner by the Day

Is it indifference or cynicism that has taken us down this road, allowing us to not see the suffering before us, to not care when a child is hungry or an entire neighborhood falls victim to blight. How do we turn a blind eye as our schools, once the pride of our neighborhoods fall into disrepair, our children once the ‘best and brightest’ are no longer able to read, write or do simple math upon graduation from High School? Why do we find it better to make excuses as our nation drops in every category measuring national success and citizen happiness?

We beat our chests as if illiteracy makes us superior and ignorance of simple science will advance us as a nation. Our failure to advance within the global economy isn’t accidental; we are the only nation with a classification of ‘working poor’, we seem to be damned proud of having added designation, while ripping all security from tenuous hold on hearth and home. A once proud middle class, slips further adrift, families shuffled into parking garages, tent cities and shelters; no longer too proud to beg.

So long as we can point and say, ‘not like us’, we happily run to the polls and pull that lever for the guy who looks most like ‘us’ then wonder why we are losing our jobs, our homes, our cars, our access to healthcare. When we do and there is nothing there to help us when we fall, we still look to the other guy, the inner city guy, the immigrant, the fatherless child, the unmarried mother; we blame them for our fate and cry foul. We look to the guy we elected, we beg and plead and remind them of their promise to, ‘stop those lazy folks sucking on the public tit, not like us hard working folks just like them’. It is only then we might realize we aren’t any different; we also need help but do we get mad at those ‘just like us’ folks we elected who have screwed us into the dirt of our rented land? Hell no, we get madder still at the ‘not like us’ folks suffering right beside us they’re still ‘not like us’ and we are still going to find a way to make them worse off and we are still going to find a way to elect those that are ‘just like us’.

Do we learn though, do we find common ground? No instead, we continue to put the charlatans with their hands out taking money and spinning the wheel to find the next target to focus our ire upon. We would rather put money into the greedy, grasping hands of those who could feed, educate and rebuild this nation with nothing more than the interest paid on the welfare checks they receive from our tax dollars. But we are mean, so long as we have a target we are happy to remain mean, happy to point to the other guy, the guy that isn’t us, that looks different from us and blame them for our misfortune, for our failure to thrive for the failure of The Commons to lift us up from our misfortune.

 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. Matthew 25:45

[i] http://www.asce.org/failuretoact/

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/03/10-poverty-myths-busted

http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/year_spending_2014USbf_15bs2n_000201101220#usgs302

 

When I was Twenty-One

So young so dumb

So young so dumb

Elyse at Fifty Four and a Half asked a series of questions I nearly didn’t answer, despite promising I would. When I began answering them, I realized it was hard looking back. History, even our own sometimes causes us to assess who we are today, not always with a forgiving eye. Nevertheless, I promised and so I sat down and wrote. I hope some of you will also, if you do, please link back to Elyse’s original and mine if you like. Here are Elyse’s original questions:

What were your plans and dreams at 21? Are they different from the dreams you had at 31? At 41? Did you make any decisions at 21 that you would change if you could? Did you want to have children when you were 21? Would you change anything?

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

It was 1978, can you imagine it was thirty-six years ago and I was just a baby in terms of the world. In 1978, I was twenty-one years old and already I felt I had lived one thousand years; my soul was battered, my heart broken and I was without any real direction at all. I was truly a mess by the time I was twenty-one, I had survived though and I was standing something many had predicted I would not be doing. By 1978, I had survived being a street child, I ran away from foster care barely past my fifteenth birthday and hitch hiked across country more than once.

Saying Good Bye

Saying Good Bye

By 1978, I had survived my first husband who I was married to by Texas common law. He was violent to the point of nearly killing me twice in two and half years. His violence painted ribbons of blood on my body, left me with scars that will never fade, left me without a uterus and with only one ovary before my sixteenth birthday. I thought he was all I deserved, I didn’t know better. He kept me safe from the streets, from worse. Finally I ran, with nothing but my life I was still only seventeen.

By 1978, I had married (legally) my first ‘real’ and ‘true’ love and lost him through my own pride and his stupidity (he went to prison). I didn’t know how to trust his love for me; looking back, I realize he did see me truly and love me despite my battle weariness, my luggage. He didn’t know how to fix what was broken inside of me. I ultimately ran, again. Loving me wasn’t enough to hold me, certainly not through his incarceration. Loving me wasn’t enough to fix what was broken. Although we would remain married for five years, we only lived together for two, we talked, we wrote long letters; I would not return to the marriage though I returned long enough to say good-bye when he was released.

By 1978, I had returned to my father’s house for a short time during his recovery from multiple heart attacks and by-pass surgery. Originally it was to be a short stint that would ‘help’ us both, it turned into nearly two years during which time we reconnected and fought through many of our most bitter feelings. Despite some of our ugly fights, I remained a mystery to my father for nearly two more decades. This is one of my greatest regrets we missed so much.

The only one I didn't marry

The only one I didn’t marry

By 1978, I was without direction in my life. I had no understanding of who I was or should be. I knew where I had been and didn’t think I could escape my past, didn’t believe I had value in the world beyond, the world of ‘normal’. It was a terrible place I lived in my head. How do I answer those questions? Did I have dreams? Yes, I did but I don’t think they were the dreams of normal twenty-one year old women of the time. My dreams were more nightmares, too often waking me screaming at night in a cold sweat with fear palpable as if spread by a fog machine. At twenty-one I already mourned the future I thought I would never have and chased the early grave I dreamed of too many nights.

How much had changed by thirty-one, fascinating what a decade, a short ten years can do. Though I was still searching for ‘true love’ and parts of myself in the ether, I had begun the long process of repairing my broken psyche. I had my first hard fought college degree; I had another short-lived marriage under my belt by now and had begun another much longer marriage that would produce some spectacular outcomes despite eventually ending in divorce. I had two young sons, something I thought I would never have. I had a wife-in-law who would eventually become one of my dearest friends. I had the beginnings of a successful career and the foundations of friendships that continue to this day. I had also by this time met my biological parents and siblings, relationships I value to this day and meetings that helped me tie up questions I had all my life about who I was and why I was so different from everyone else in my family.

By the time I was forty-one, so much had changed in my life again. My world had been rocked back by violence with my kidnapping-carjacking and ultimately the shooting that left me for dead and ultimately disabled. That same incident left my ‘normal’ family shaken to its foundation and unable to recover though we would struggle to maintain a façade of normalcy for several more years, my socially acceptable husband ultimately followed his demons back into the bottle and away from his children and the stability of marriage. That divorce cost his children and me, but all of us including their other mother found our way back together to what is our new normal, our family is odd to the outside world, two ex-wives working and loving together but for us, we work.

My babies

My babies

I wanted children, yes of course I did. I married my forth husband because he was ‘normal’ and I believed he would provide the best opportunity for me to adopt. It was part of our agreement, part of personal vows. He lied. He had a history he didn’t tell me about, he would never be able to adopt. By the time he was forced to tell the truth I was so enmeshed in the lives of his children, so in love with them, I could not imagine walking away and starting over, a part of me always hated him for that lie. One day when my sons were teenagers my oldest said to me he thought his parents had children so I would have children, I always wondered if that might not be true.

I made decisions throughout my life I sometimes wish I could change, forks in the road I wonder if I had only taken the more heavily trod would I have been better off. Even as I think this though, even as I consider the alternative path, the person I might be had I chosen differently I think, ‘no, I am this person and I am not bad as I am.’

I wouldn’t change a thing.

From 1978, the memories pour back.

Jumping in Delicately

I have been absent lately, from my own space and yours. It is has been a tough time, I haven’t made a secret of it have I? That being said and the fact that I have shared mostly the harder parts of the past three months versus the small victories, well it hasn’t been all bad and it hasn’t been a complete and utter disaster, every day and without relief.

Yes, I really have gotten out of bed on occasion. Though I must admit, I do love my bed.

Thanks to the wonderful advice and information found at Lessons From the End of a Marriage, I have started to build up some stamina, a toolbox suggestion came from this particular posting and I am working on my own this week. I realized after reading the post and checking in at the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory that I was high up there (438), not just in the past year, in the past 90 days. Wow, that was an eye opening; guess it is time too really take steps to align my attitude with my true needs and take care of myself.

No, I haven’t found the RIGHT job yet, however, I am committed too not run scared from my plan to stop consulting, stop traveling and reinvent my career and myself. Don’t believe for an instant I am not scared, I am petrified; still I am going to pursue this change for my own good, for my health spiritually, mentally and physically. For my financial health (and so I don’t panic) I may have to modify, I may need to take on short-term contracts, but that is something I can do easily I think.

All this being said, let’s talk about some wonderful things. Things I did for myself and things that have entered my life.

First, isn’t he handsome?

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Yes, he is the newest addition to my family, born Thursday, 13 March 2014. I was there, at the hospital this time. Unlike when his big brother was born, I was there. I realized how special it was to be able to be part of momentous family events, rather than off somewhere else because of work. What a blessing this was. I am so excited with Chase Lee, he is beautiful and his big brother is happy to have a new brother. Yes, for all you who take exception, Painted (Inked) Grandma’s are the BOMB, and I say this with the very best meaning.

Last month Red from Momma Money Matters came for a visit. As most of you know, Red is one of my nearest and dearest and her visit was lifesaving, truly. We didn’t do much, a few shopping trips, a trip to the ballet, a couple of dinners out. Mostly we sat and talked sipped wine and talked. The biggest and most important thing Red did was demand my presence in life, require me to get out of bed every morning and move. I needed that more than anything else at that point. What most people don’t know is I have spent so much time on the road I don’t have a social network of friends here, where I live.

One other thing I did while Red was visiting was have new professional photographs taken. My original intention was simply to have headshots done to update my profile on job-hunting sites such as LinkedIn and elsewhere. With Red in town I expanded that to include her for our business cards and banners at RedmundPro and anywhere else we might choose to use them. But then, with her encouragement, I expanded one more time and had new ‘fun’ and personal pictures taken of just me, being well not quite me but maybe the me I hope to be sometime in the future.  This is the result:

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The photographer is Christ Hanna of Posture Studios, he does a great job and this is the second time he has made me look beautiful (when I was feeling less than). Personally, I think he does a wonderful job and looking through his portfolio, well it is eye-popping to say the least. I am not his usual subject, so I am in awe just how marvelous he made me look. The first time he photographed me the results made me cry (happy tears), it was a low point and I was stunned into speechlessness.

If you are in the Dallas metroplex and want wonderful photos of yourself or someone else I would highly recommend you consider Christ, he is wonderfully talented. I have already engaged him to take the first formal pictures of my lovely grandson; I am more than certain he will do marvelously. With a wedding coming up (youngest son) I intend to hire him again in the near future.

Finally, on a slightly more personal note I am sure will find hysterically funny. I want to relay I am not dead; I might be slightly socially awkward. For many years, I have had two modes of being, the married Val and the business Val. I do not know how to respond to anyone flirting with me other than to ignore and think they are full of it. Blatant showing interest in me whether simply to get in my bed or otherwise, tends to go right over my head. In fact, I truly do not recognize it, I am oblivious; truthfully, I can’t imagine why anyone would.

So what you should find funny, while Red was on her mission of mercy she yanked my chain; twice no less. Yes, men actually flirted with me, attempted to gain my attention and I was utterly unaware. Handsome men paid attention and I was unconscious. Probably I should not admit any of this, what does it say about me? Well, married Val still exists in my heart and brain; I suppose that is what it really says. Somewhere there is someone else, somewhere there is the other me the one who knows how to flirt back, who knows how to ride a bike, who knows how to be less socially awkward. Somewhere inside of me is that woman, maybe someday in the future she will emerge with some encouragement and enough opportunities and reminders.

Thanks to Red and Christ, at least I know now I still look half way wonderful on a good day (Thank you).

riding a bike

Transitions and Assessments

VictoriousWhen we mourn, it is for our loss; no matter the loss, we mourn a change to our circumstance. The degree of our mourning, the style of our mourning, how we grieve it is deeply personal. No other person can tell us whether our mourning is too great or not great enough, too short or long, appropriate or inappropriate considering the specific loss we have experienced. Whether we are heartless, or instead whether we feel too deeply our loss. Grief is very personal, expressed in both public and private it remains nonetheless a very personal expression.

Oh, I know there have been countless studies and pragmatically I understand the stages of grief, truly, I do. I also understand I have been hit with perhaps too many things all in a very short space of time and I haven’t processed one thing before being punched in the head by another. Rationally, I ‘get’ that I am not working through the stages of grief in the manner people expect, or showing the outward signs of grief for the individual losses in the manner others expect of me. I also know this makes people uncomfortable.

I can’t help their discomfort.

I can’t even particularly gather the energy to care about their discomfort.

In fact, I do not consider their discomfort as relevant to what is needful for me, for my life, for my future. This week I have done some soul searching, I have done some foot stomping, I have done some staring in the mirror and asking myself some hard questions.

  • What do I want?
  • What is important to me?
  • What do I need?
  • What are my core values?
  • How do I want to live the rest of my life?

These were important questions for me to ask and answer. I don’t know that I have fully answered all of them to my satisfaction; I have started though. This morning I woke to a comment on my previous post (Not Strong) filled with malice and written purely with the intent to hurt. I considered simply sending it to Spam rather than answering and perhaps I should have, but I allowed it to stand and I answered with exactly the anger I felt, perhaps the anger I needed for others who have treated me without care, compassion, empathy or respect.  I found though, this comment simply pushed me over the edge and so I let it stand.

I saw this quote today and it struck me;

“Do what you feel in your heart is right, for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” Eleanor Roosevelt

This is the truth, isn’t it? This is part of the answer to all of my questions, the first steps toward moving forward. Not fearfully, not ashamed of my failure but instead proud of my success. I shouldn’t hide who I am, dim my light or attempt to fill the bucket of other people’s expectations, I have been doing this my entire life and it did not make me joyful, it did not create a happy home, nor did it make me want to get out of bed and gladly go to work every morning. What fulfilling everyone else’s expectations did to me was slowly kill my soul. When I allowed people to speak to me as if my humanity was not worthy of respect, without saying “No”, whether from a family member, a loved one, a friend or an employer or even a stranger in cyber space; what it did was diminish me in my own eyes.

Is the sadness over? No, probably not. It has been less than three months. In this short period, I have lost a beloved husband, I am unemployed and I have lost a mother no matter the relationship. These are all very difficult losses and hard to process, especially on top of each other the way they have been. The reality is, I have a right to feel sad, I have a right to be pissed off; I have the right to feel any damned way I want to feel. This is hard, there is no other way to say it but this is hard.

Hopefully, I will have more good days than bad days. I keep looking for silver linings, I truly do. I have had a number of decent prospects and am committed to finding the ‘right’ job not just any job that is one of the answers. Life transitions are difficult, I know that.

As to the rest, I hope those of you who read and hang with me, who offer your support and advice will continue to do so. I know, I haven’t been my normal self. I will get back there.

Not Strong

1343863240_3320_fearIt is all I can do not to stay in bed all day every day. That seems to be the safest and most secure place in the entire world, my bed. I do not want to get up, for anything but a fresh cup of coffee and now and then some instant soup. Once a week I strip the sheets, replacing them with clean linens. I have a king sized bed, covered in pillows. I sleep on one small part, the furthest away from the door. It takes me less than two minutes to make the bed in the morning because I barely move in my sleep, barely wrinkle the bed covers.

It is all I can do not to stay in my bed all day every day.

I am on the brink of throwing my hands in the air and giving in, giving up. Just saying fuck it all, why bother.

It has been seventy-six days since my husband, the one I called Dearly Beloved walked away from our marriage without a backward glance or a good-bye. It may be more but that is how long it has been for me.

It has been fifty-eight days since I have had an income. I will admit this is my choice, but who knew it would be so difficult to find another contract. Who knew, certainly not me or I might have chosen differently. I might have chosen to continue to be miserable, bullied and treated disrespectfully for the privilege of a paycheck.

At my age, perhaps that is the best I can hope for, the market certainly seems to be telling me I have no real value and my experience is not worth a damn.

It is all I can do not to stay in bed all day, every day. Some days, I give in and I do.

I am becoming what I do not want to be, what I fight hard not to be, what I never wanted to be.

Bitter.lonely-old-woman

Angry.

Uninspired.

A recluse.

I am unable to find my way out of this fog. Every ‘no’ feels like a nail pounded into my body sending me deeper into hiding, into my self imposed and designed hermitage. My fear is overwhelming, some days I wander through my home and wonder, when will I lose it? When will I lose everything I have worked for my entire life? While I was busy taking care of everyone else, making certain everyone had what they thought they needed, what they wanted and then throwing it back in my face as not enough; now, when will I lose what is left?

I can’t breathe.

I am so tired of people telling me I am strong. Yes, I get it I am strong enough to have survived all the world has thrown at me. I have picked myself up and slogged through the quagmire. I have done that, often I have done it without help from any damned person who was supposed to be there for me. I did it without getting hardhearted and mean-spirited, for the most part. At least I think this is true. I have to be honest though, the next person who tells me I am strong, I will get through this I am liable to throw them to the ground and kick them till they take it back.

Does anyone understand I am not strong? I am what the world made me, but I am not strong. I am just me, weak, tired, afraid and alone. I could win an Oscar for the front I put up, making certain everyone around me sees what they expect to see and gets what they need. I have only one question…….

When is it my turn? When will someone step up to take care of me?

Okay, that was two. After all these years though, aren’t they fair?

I can’t breathe and I am afraid.

Untethered

DP821347First Mother – biological mother gave birth to me and gave me up for adoption at birth. Still living, my friend.

Second Mother – adopted me at three days old, raised me maybe even raised me to the best of her ability. Mostly estranged for thirty years.

Third Mother – father’s second wife, my aunt, heart mother, mentor and guide, passed four years ago.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

This past week I sat vigil as my second mother let go of this life, with me by her bedside were those who had known her for decades. Women, who had been her friends, her pseudo daughters and who loved her, who knew her, as I did not. They saw a different woman than the one I knew. These women, they also saw me in a different light, knew me only through her and did not welcome my presence. But present I was, not because I wanted to be there but because I needed to be there for my brother and maybe even for myself.

It was strange to hear their stories of this woman who I knew mostly from my childhood. I did not recognize her. There were times I wanted to scream, “You didn’t know.”

I sat vigil. As she lay in that hospital bed, never waking. As I sat, after everyone else left for the night I watched, I remembered and I wondered. I wondered how she could have been so different, shown such a different my.operaface to them and even to my brother than to me. I remembered the tumultuous years of my early teens before I ran away. I remembered the hurt, the hurtful words of childhood. I remembered the loneliness. As I remembered, I kept going back to wondering how she could have been so very different as a mother to me, than she was a friend to these women or even a mother to my brother who hadn’t yet arrived.

Two of the women who were closest to her had known her since they were young teens; their mother had been her friend, when she passed my mother stepped in as a pseudo Aunt. She has known them for thirty-five years. She has spent holidays, vacations, birthdays with them. She has celebrated weddings sitting in the seat of honor, births of children; she has mourned losses, consoled them through divorces and other of lives ups and downs. In their eyes they were losing a ‘second mother’, they are losing a lifeline. The older of the two let me know I had treated her unkindly, that she did not deserve my selfish disregard. Both shared her judgment but she was the only one to voice it, albeit kindly.

This was one of the times my teeth nearly cracked from not saying what was in my heart and on my tongue. As her words flowed, it was all I could do not to respond with venom. I chose not to respond, not to defend, not to try to change hearts and minds. Honestly? Who cares, my own brother who knows at least part of the truth insists I am wrong for not reconciling with my mother.

As I sat vigil, I try to see it from the viewpoint of others. I try to understand their perspective and see things through their eyes. It is nearly impossible for me to reconcile the two ends of the spectrum. Perhaps it is because I have always had such a simple standard;

Untitled

My second mother passed from this world on Monday morning. My brother hadn’t arrived. Once again, I had to deliver the news a parent was dead. He is angry with me I think, I do not feel this death the way he feels it. I do not feel untethered by her passing as I did by the death of our shared father and my beloved heart mother. I fear only with the passing of this mother I will lose him, my beloved baby brother.

wb0115s-th

For the past ten years, when this mother needed something I have been the one to provide it. Whenever and whatever my brother asked of me, I stepped forward and gave; whether it was to move her from her apartment to assisted living, pay for care, talk to providers; I did what he asked of me. I didn’t do it because I believed I owed it, I did it for love of my brother. Now, I think our last connection is broken, because he doesn’t understand me or my hurt I might lose him, this sense of impending loss breaks me.

So I sat vigil. Then I delivered the news of her passing, I held him as he wept at the airport. Then I watched as my brother pulled himself together to act as executor of her estate. We talked and I agreed the women who had been her friends and her companions should be gifted with any of her personal items, I asked only for two things;

  1. Two pen and ink architectural drawings that match a set I already have.
  2. Family pictures from when we were children.

Clearly, others had been more closely aligned and more dearly loved. I will never agree with my brother or them that it was my filial duty to forget, forgive or reconcile our estrangement. At every opportunity, even in adulthood where she might have reached over the chasm, she made a clear choice I was not important and this is what I reconciled to, her choice.

But I sat vigil. She was not alone, she did not pass without human touch and there was not a lack of compassion, not for her or for those who loved her. My second mother was nearly ninety-four; she lived a full and rich life on her terms. I am not untethered in her passing but wonder if I am losing more than the last vestige of my childhood.

The story of my second family is told in Broken Chains: http://valentinelogar.com/category/series-broken-chains/

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