Monday, November 30, 2009
I'm on You Tube:
Also, please learn more about the IMD Exclusion: (Institutes for Mental Diseases). The report I linked to is very technical in nature, but basically it explains that when Medicaid and Medicare were created in the 1960's, people in mental institutions were excluded from coverage. The states, primarily looking for ways to cut costs, let their mentally ill patients out into the community under the guise of civil liberties. Released into the community, they were then covered by Medicaid and the feds helped pick up the costs.
However, the community support for these individuals was not, nor is it yet to be, available to the degree required for people like Paul.
The result: Hundreds of thousands of mentally ill people are now homeless or incarcerated - or like my brother Paul, languish in god-awful adult "homes". This is not what I would call honoring a person's civil liberties.
Since money is the only thing people care about these days, think about the costs to our local police and emergency rooms...then try to realize that these people are suffering needlessly...then remember that they are someone's brother, sister, son, daughter, aunt, uncle, cousin, or friend.
Please contact your representatives and urge them to support H.R. 619, sponsored by Rep. Eddie Johnson [D-TX30]. This would repeal the IMD Exclusion.
We have already passed insurance parity for the mentally ill. Now we need to put the final nail in the coffin that is discrimination against the mentally ill by eliminating the IMD Exclusion.
For more information go to the Treatment Advocacy Center website:
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I was a teenager during the ‘70s. During that time, we saw the rise of the glam rockers, including David Bowie. Wearing make up went to the extreme with Kiss. So when I noticed my teenage son was wearing make up, I really didn’t think too much about it. One morning I noticed that he had smudges under his eyes. I asked him if he was wearing make up and when he said yes, I said, “Well, wash your face before you go to bed because it’s all smudged.” What was I going to do, freak out about a little make up?
When I related this conversation to my friends at work, they said, “but he was wearing make up!” I replied, “So what? David Bowie wore make up? What difference does it make?” For more background on why this didn’t faze me, I am married to an audio engineer. When we met, he was a sound man for a very popular rock band in a college town in
Not long after I noticed the make up, two of my son’s friends were at our house and they sat me down and told me that not only was my son wearing make up but he was trying to look feminine. I had noticed that he was wearing his hair in funny ways – multiple ponytails or one big ponytail on top of his head, but as far as I was concerned, it fit the two criteria I had about hair; it was clean and it was out of his eyes. I had told him that I didn’t care if he dyed it purple, grew it down to his ass, or wore a mohawk (this was in the days before the “fauwhawk”). All I cared about was that it was clean and that when I talked to him I could make eye contact. But his friends also told me that he had bought make up kits and – wait for it – nail polish!
So, I asked my son about it. He admitted to purchasing the make up and nail polish, so what? I really didn’t have an answer for that. He was a good student; he didn’t do drugs and he didn’t get into trouble. So what? I agreed with him.
Not long after that, he started buying the most god awful clothes from Goodwill and the Salvation Army. Again, if that was going to be his form of rebellion, it really didn’t bother me, except his sense of taste was atrocious. He later admitted to me that he did it on purpose to annoy people.
I did notice, however, that he was buying women’s clothing – pantsuits, sweaters, etc. Then one day he showed me what he was going to wear to school the next day. They were having “skirt day” at school so he had on a long black skirt and a turtle neck sweater. He borrowed the skirt from his girl friend. I joked around with him about his nice ass and he accused me of sexual harassment. I said, “Well, if you are going to dress like a woman, get used to it.”
All the while, I was updating my friends on the evolution that was my son’s looks. They grew increasingly alarmed and astonished that I would put up with it. “What am I going to do? Tell him he can’t wear make up and women’s clothes? He would just hide it from me. Don’t you remember what it was like to be a teenager?” were my standard replies.
I was still concerned about how he would deal with the backlash at school, but he was one test shy of becoming a black belt in Tai Kwon Do so I wasn’t that worried. He obviously had the mental steel to stand up to it as well. He told me, “I am comfortable with my own sexuality; I want those homophobes to be uncomfortable with theirs.” Did that mean he was gay? I never came out and asked him. His girlfriend was at our house all of the time and they seemed sincere. I called my sister to ask her about it. She also happens to be a Lesbian, so of course she was the subject matter expert to whom I would turn. She told me that many men who cross dress are heterosexual. But it really didn’t matter to me if he was gay. My only worry was that our society was still very hard on gays and lesbians – that and I only had one other child from whom I could get grandchildren.
One day he went to school wearing a skirt, a striped polo shirt and black sneakers. I told him, “Those shoes do not go with that outfit, but I have some sandals that might fit you.” If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? Luckily, my feet are so big (women’s size 10 ½) that he and I could actually share shoes, at that point in time anyway. He declined my offer and went to school as he was. Another day, and unfortunately I didn’t see it for myself, he came home from school wearing a black mini-skirt and fishnet stockings (imagine his black leg hairs sticking out of the fishnet!). My husband works at home and when he saw my son walk in the door, he said, “What the FUCK are you wearing!” Up until that point, he was silent on the whole matter. He quickly said, “Never mind”, and that was that.
So on it went. At one point he told me, “By the end of next year I want to be a fully blown transvestite.” Okay…..I still kept my composure. I loved my son and would accept him for who he his no matter what that would turn out to be. My friends at work were another matter. They couldn’t understand how I could be so calm about it. I have to admit that on the inside I was a little nervous, but he was just following the non-conformist attitudes I had brought him up with, to the extreme perhaps, but that was of my own doing.
The climax of all of this happened months and months after this whole transformation began. One day he was wearing pink parachute pants that he borrowed from his girlfriend and some shirt that didn’t match. My husband commented that his nail polish didn’t go with his outfit. I chimed in that I had some that might go with it, would he like to try it? He declined and I said, “Well, if you want to dress like a girl, you should learn to coordinate your outfits”, or something to that affect. He replied that he did not want to dress like a girl. That did it. I said, “You told me that by the end of next year, you wanted to be a fully blown transvestite!” He yelled back, “I was just trying to freak you out and it didn’t work!” Ha! Yes! Imagine me clenching my fist and pulling in my elbow.
Not that I was glad, per se, that he wasn’t a transvestite. I was just glad that I kept my cool while he tried my patience. I really think that the key to dealing with rebellious teenagers is to not sweat the small stuff. That is why I had the hair rule. That is why I didn’t care about the make up and the clothes. I guess everyone has to draw their own line to define “small”. I am obviously more liberal than some of my friends.
The epilogue to my story is that on graduation day, he was sent home to change because they had a rule against wearing shorts underneath his robes. I told him that he should have changed into a skirt because they didn’t have a rule about that!
So, thank you David Bowie. You have no idea how you helped me deal with the trials of teenagers.
The police would not comment any further, except to say that they found a spider wrapped in a dish towel, crushed underneath her body. She was lying in front of her open dishwasher.
The medical examiner found bruising on her shins, knees, and her right thigh, hip and buttock. He speculated that while doing the dishes, Ms. Wells saw the spider and decided to trap it and take it outside. She must have forgotten she had opened the dishwasher and ran right into it. Unfortunately, the couple had a roast the previous evening and she had placed the carving fork with the tines facing upwards in the utensil rack. When she fell into the dishwasher, she must have landed on the carving fork, then fell to the floor which caused all of the bruising.
“It’s all my fault”, said her husband of 27-years, "I have repeatedly told her not to kill spiders. To think that this would ultimately lead to her own death is unfathomable. I’m devastated.”
Police are still investigating, but they are confident that this was just a tragic accident.
OK, so obviously I didn't kill myself. There was no carving fork in the dishwasher, I eventually went to bed, and the police weren't called. However, everything else about the accident was true, except that I have no idea where the spider went. I ran into the dishwasher at full speed and bounced off of it, with my left side scraping the door before slamming into the floor on my hands and knees. The bruises are turning a lovely shade of purple and green.
Damn spider! Next time I'll just kill it.
Monday, November 16, 2009
I didn’t have much time to assess the situation before it all happened. It looked like he had just climbed through my second story window; I found out later he had been in the house for a while. I didn’t know where my sister and her friends were; I found out later they had gone out to watch the thunderstorms. In the flat lands of
I had gone to bed early because I had to work the next morning. My waitress uniform was hanging up, ready to go. I was working my way through community college. My sister Grace and my two other roommates were grad students and had teaching assistant positions to subsidize their living expenses. One of Grace’s best friends from
The four of us had just rented a house together. The houses in the neighborhood were run down and the rent was low, which is a draw for college students like us. I got the smallest room at the top of the stairs and was given a break on the rent. We had put some sweat equity into the house; painting and doing some minor repairs before we moved in just days before. We didn’t even have our phone hooked up yet.
Before I could get myself fully aware of what was happening, he was on top of me and had my arms pinned above my head, holding my wrists. I was very glad I had my underpants on. He would have to get them off before he could rape me. He started to put his mouth on my breasts, but he still had his gun in one hand. He put it down and that is when all hell broke loose.
I really don’t know what made me do it. I was always a tomboy. I was on the swim team and was pretty strong. I had a friend in high school who wrote in my yearbook that he always liked me even though I could beat him up. I was also brought up in an age of female empowerment. I was not going to go down without a fight.
Before I could think about the possibility of dying I grabbed for the gun, but he wrestled it from me. He put it to my forehead and pulled the trigger. The gun went off and I was momentarily stunned. Then I put my hand up and felt where he had fired the gun. I realized that I hadn’t been shot. The gun either wasn’t loaded or it jammed, or it was a starting pistol like they used in my swim meets. My forehead stung like I had a bad burn, which I did.
Then I got angry.
I starting punching and clawing at him, screaming every vile word I could think of. I basically went berserk on they guy. I guess he figured it wasn’t worth it so he got up, put his pants back on and left the room. I had won! I got up, turned on the light and put my bathrobe on. Moments later, he came back in the room saying he forgot something. It must have been the stuff he had gathered and put by my window.
I have no idea why, people tell me the adrenalin had worn off and that I was in shock, but I started to help the guy! I had dreams for months afterward that instead, I picked up a swimming trophy from my dresser and hit him over the head with it, sending him tumbling down the stairs, breaking his neck. I also had dreams that I shot an intruder, explaining to him that that I was killing him because of the other guy – sorry. But no, in reality I was helping the guy, but he must have been as flustered as I was. He left without taking anything except the tip money from my dresser.
So there I was, alone in the house with no phone and no idea where my sister and her friends were. I was afraid to go outside to get help, so I turned on every light in the house, got the biggest knife from the kitchen and waited for my sister and her friends to come home. It seemed like hours before anyone got there. When they did, someone rushed out to phone the police and my sister stayed with me. When the police got there, they were pretty impressed with me for fighting him off. I was just thankful to be alive. The possibility that it could have easily gone the other way was already sinking in.
I was taken to the hospital where they performed their usual rape kit screening. Even though I wasn’t raped, he had left behind certain evidence on my underpants and perhaps on my body and under my fingernails. The police bagged my sheets and my underwear.
I never set foot in that house again. I stayed with my boyfriend until we found another house to rent. Whoever did this gave us all another very good reason not to come back. When my sister and her friends were out running errands the next day, they found a machete stuck in the middle of the living room coffee table when they got back. The machete had been left in the house when we moved in and my roommate Jon decided to keep it, but he had put it in the very back of his very large closet. This means that whoever did this, found it and made a point of letting us know he found it. We got the message loud and clear. Grace and her friends packed all of my things for me that day and everyone cleared out.
The only physical injury to me was the nasty burn on my forehead which, thanks to vitamin E oil, left no visible scar. The mental injuries left scars that have taken a lifetime to dissipate. I am not even sure they are all gone, even after 31 years. My writing this is proof, I suppose, that those scars run pretty deep. I can only imagine what it is like for the unlucky ones, the ones that didn’t fight off and beat up their attackers.
The manager of the restaurant where I worked read about what happened to me in the paper. Instead of sympathy, I got a lecture about leaving my window open in a neighborhood like that. I couldn’t believe it. I was in my own bed, in my own house, in the middle of the night and somehow it was my fault. I can only imagine what it is like for women who are date raped. Did the man have no sense of decency? Thankfully, he was the only one that uttered such stupidity, to my face anyway.
A couple of years ago, I was telling my then 19-year old sons how vitamin E helped heal a bad burn on my forehead, backing up a recommendation Greg had made to Roy about using vitamin E oil to help Roy’s gums heal from oral surgery. When they asked about how I got the burn I decided to tell them the whole story. They were just a year older than I was when it happened. If I could live through it at their age, they might as well know about it.
When I finished the story,
Even though this has always nagged at me, it was due to my own personal disappointment and shame that I possibly let him get away. Given the recent news regarding a rapist who escaped prosecution because his 14-year old victim refused to testify, allowing him to go on to rape other women and children, I now realize my attacker also may have gone on to hurt other women. He may have even used a loaded gun the next time – if there was a next time.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
This past St. Patrick’s day, I was at a fancy Italian restaurant for a business dinner. I had the Corned Beef and Cabbage special, of course. The next night, we went to the same restaurant, as it is my boss’s favorite restaurant in the area. We had the same waiter as the night before, and when he read the specials it seemed like he never stopped looking at me. It was a little hard to tell, though, because one of his eyes seemed to look in a slightly different direction from the other. However, everyone at the table made the same comment after he left, “Was that guy staring at you the whole time?”
The year before, my family celebrated our last St. Patrick’s Day with Paul. He died six weeks later. It was the last time all ten of us siblings were together. I think that somehow, through this waiter, Paul was saying hello and reminding me not to forget about him. Like I ever could.
Friday, November 13, 2009
You know the old saying, “I need a vacation from my vacation”? Well, this was taken to the extreme in the summer of 2004 when I took a long distance trip with my husband and our 17-year old twin sons. We drove to the
First of all, let me just defend myself by explaining what led up to my eruption. I am Irish. Regardless of the SPF level and how often I apply and reapply the sun block, I can never escape extended exposure to the sun without burning something. My nose got it on this trip and by the time we left, it was on its third peel. Another affliction of mine is fever blisters. I don’t get them that often, but this time I had the mother of all fever blisters.
So as we headed back to
About 20 minutes after we left, in the middle of Podunk
Greg only managed to shove the gum wrapper further up his nose when he tried to get it out on his own, causing his nose to bleed. On top of that, he was covering for his attacker by trying to be quite about it. Those two have always been united in one thing - even when they were locked in mortal combat with each other - to never let Mom know what they are doing. My husband I and were clueless to what was happening behind our backs, until they started laughing. For some reason, they thought the fact that blood was spurting out of Greg's nose was funny.
Now, I have always tried not to use a certain word when I yelled at them in the past. However, they were now 17 – would be 18 in a few months – and I was not in a very good mood to start out with, to say the least. So, I quickly turned into a Mother Clucker.
“What the CLUCK were you thinking?! What are you, CLUCKING three years old?! You CLUCKING morons!” They couldn't help themselves and laughed louder. This just made it worse. “You think this is CLUCKING funny?!” I'm sure you can tell by now that the actual word I used only rhymed with CLUCK.
I yelled to my husband, “Stop the car! Stop the car!” I was reaching under my seat for the first-aid kit, intent on getting a pair of tweezers to extricate the foreign object from my son’s nose. Instead, he tried to tell me where the napkins were. “I know where the napkins are! Stop the car!” I yelled. He held tight, and kept driving. I think he knew that in my state, I should not attempt such a delicate operation.
“Great, we’re in the middle of CLUCKING nowhere! We’ll have to find a hospital. I’ll be so CLUCKING embarrassed! What the CLUCK were you thinking?!” Cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck, cluuuuuck!
I could just picture myself trying to explain how my son had gotten into this situation and how the nurses and doctors would burst into laughter. Luckily, Greg eventually got it out himself and we continued on our way. I tried to calm down, wishing we were the sort to bring alcohol on trips such as these.
Periodically, my sons would start laughing again. They took pleasure in seeing me so discomposed. This would just get me going all over again. “You think this was funny?! What are you, CLUCKING nuts?!” I am normally a fun loving person who likes a joke, but there is a time and place for everything. That was not the time, nor the place.
Luckily, I can also see the humor in things…eventually. A few days later, I overheard the story told by my sons to their friends. They did a great impression of me. It has now become one of my favorite stories and when I get to a certain point; I fold up my arms and flap my wings while I cluck away.