Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rights Are Nonpartisan

I was bullied in school. Of course I was. I was a weirdo. A freak. I preferred reading the entire encyclopedia and discussing sedimentary rock to playing hopscotch and wearing dresses. I ran around the playground barking like a dog. Why? I watched my grandmother beat the crap out of our Cocker Spaniel on a daily basis and he showed no pain. I wanted to show no pain. 

What I needed was just one kid to stand up for me and say "stop it" to the bullies. Because once one kid does it (especially a popular or at least a likable one), more will find the courage to do the same. And there are far more non-bullies than bullies, a truth we are too easily blinded from.

But that's not usually how it goes down, is it? You see, a bullied kid is more apt to be surrounded by others who look the other way due to feeling uncomfortable or fear being bullied themselves. "Not my problem." They'd say. 

All the while, they are next in line--as long as they remain silent.

My bullying experience continued until one lucky day in high school, my freshman year, a girl (a big, intimidating girl who may have been 6 feet tall) had heard a group of kids calling me names and throwing gum in my hair. I watched from afar as she approached the group. Heard a bit of yelling, saw some neck rolling, a push and a shove, and somehow, from that day forward, I was never picked on in school again. Just. Like. That. 

My guardian angel left my high school soon after that . . . don't know why or where she went, or even who she was, but I never saw her again. 

This is not a girl I would have probably bonded with or hung around with at lunch or at dances. I don't think she wanted that. We may or may not have agreed on much, but how would I know? The important thing was she recognized that I was human, that I mattered. That's all I needed to help me move through a time in my life that was painful enough.

Did I deserve to go to school without having to worry about if I were going to be beat up while walking home, or who would be waiting for me around the corner to spit on me or punch me in the back of the head? Of course I did. And so did every other student in my school and ALL schools. Just as every citizen of this country and every being on this planet and beyond deserves to have the same rights, equally. Not just the ones you or I agree with. 

Our rights are our rights and RIGHTS ARE NONPARTISAN. If some of us lose them, we ALL lose them

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me.

-Martin Niemoller, 
Protestant pastor who spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

Think of this when you see a community other than the one(s) you directly relate to fighting for their rights. Turning the other way may stall the bullies, but it will never stop them. Speak up.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Always Opt to Be A Badass

Wearing the label we've been given, many of us tend to feel oppressed and "wish" to fit in. Do you not realize those who have been oppressed in history have always been intimidating to the ones doing the oppressing? 

The introverts, the aspies, the weirdos, the loners--look at those who have come before us who were similar to us . . . Mozart, Poe, Tesla, Einstein, Dylan, Akroyd, Kaufman, Daryl Hannah, Susan Boyle, David Byrne. Read about them and be inspired! 

Drop your story of the label that oppresses and be a badass. Pick up a guitar, a pen & paper, a brush & easel, a keyboard, a book. Take on a cause--be arrested for it, make a stand, speak your mind, share the deepest depths of your heart. Be embarrassed, be mysterious, be outrageous, be unique, be quirky--be YOU. 

Those who "fit in" have never made a significant mark in history. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Saying Goodbye & Unconditional Love

"We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan . . . "
 -Irving Townsend

Said goodbye to my girl last night. "Just a dog" you say? I know not. 

When everyone, family and supposedly close friends turned their backs on me, she looked at me with love. When I was weak, she was strong. She never left my side, never lied, never manipulated, never gave a false compliment, never competed, never abused or took for granted our friendship. She was my teacher of unconditional love. She was a piece of me and always will be, though right now I feel empty. I can only rest in the thought that she is pain and cancer free. The struggle is over. 

Why do souls so good and pure occupy our world so briefly? And war addicts, criminals, ungrateful, mean people stay for so long? We have a lot to learn. Our teachers are all around us. So many locked up in shelters sleeping on concrete floors whilst the arrogant manipulators sleep on plush beds. These animals who ask for so little are our true teachers, our true friends. And of those teachers, Audrey was the best. I'll never forget her. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

She Won't Eat.

I just want her to eat. 

Something. Anything. 

Just a few years ago, I was saying the same thing about my mum. "I'll make you anything you want, Mum. Anything. Is there anything you could imagine eating?" Everything we tried, she just couldn't. And she was 88 lbs. when she died in January of 2012. 

My best friend for the past 10 years had a cancerous tumour removed in July. After several tests and stains, etc., the doctors couldn't give an exact answer as to what type of tumour it was and whether or not it was the type to spread. We hoped the removal of the tumour and supplements would do the job, as chemotherapy was not something I would put her through. 

Her normal weight fluctuates between 95 and 100. Just before the tumour was removed she had lost her appetite and she lost 20% of her body weight. Post-surgery I was able to get her weight up to 90 lbs. and then two weeks ago her appetite again was lost, she began losing weight, so I took her to get an ultrasound. 

Could the cancer have returned?

"Unfortunately, her stomach lining has thickened again and we found some nodules in her liver. Looks like the cancer has spread and there may be a new tumour in her stomach." She said. "You may want to talk to the oncologist and see what options you have to treat her. I'm really sorry for this bad news." 

Audrey, my best friend, is a Great Dane I adopted 10 years ago. She had been severely abused before I met her, and so had I. I suppose we rescued each other. When I was sat at the rescue organization looking at potential fur kids to take home with me, a couple was also there adopting a Great Dane puppy. 

"Can we see the mother?" They asked. 

And out came an extremely thin, hesitant black Mantle Great Dane who looked as if she would dart away if anyone were to stand up or perhaps sneeze. Her bones were protruding. She had scarring on her back legs. What was her story? She walked straight over to me and lay her head in my lap. I felt an instant connection, cried, then signed the paperwork and took her home a few days later. 

I had just recently lost a Great Dane puppy I had purchased from a breeder. Jude, a gorgeous Merlequin with crystal blue eyes, was 14 weeks old when he died due to a reaction to his immunizations that caused his immune system to attack itself. Jude went from vibrant, cheeky pup who enjoyed the crazies every now and again, chasing a ball, and jumping up on the sofa and peeing on it (grrrrr!!!) to a limp, lifeless puppy who couldn't even lift his head in the blink of an eye. He died within days at the vet's office despite treatment. "But I did everything right!" I thought. My partner and I at the time were completely gutted and still, years later, I can't hear The Beatle's "Hey Jude" without becoming emotional. 

Audrey came just in time and we had a lot of work to do. She was deathly afraid of men. She needed to put on weight and had an infection in her teats that needed treatment. When my partner took her for a walk the second day we had her, she escaped her leash and ran out to Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica (a very busy street) and the police had to shut it down in order for a woman who worked for a dog rescue to gently coax her and catch her. The pads on her feet were bloody and torn. She was a mess.

And then we managed to live together as best friends. She traveled with me on location when I was shooting the film Evan Almighty in Virginia. She supported me through a rough break up in which she was also separated from her "dad" and brothers, a Great Dane/Dalmatian mix named Bouj and Chihuahua, Man Lee. That was hard. It's still tough to think about.

She moved with me and healed with me in my little sanctuary in Malibu, where we lived, just the two of us, staring at the ocean and growing up together. Healing. Feeling and accepting peace. Enjoying life on our own for the first time. Hiking, walking the beach, waving to dolphins, building new friendships. 

She moved with me to Philadelphia when I moved for another job. She completely accepted my new partner as her friend and new dad. And accepted a new sister, Greta, a Coonhound from Delaware, and her brother Man Lee who came back into the picture. 

She loved and supported me through a two year bout of deep depression and the horrible death of my mum. She's never left my side.

She's become the best dog and friend I've ever met. I love her more than life. And now, here she is, thin again and won't eat. It's tearing me apart tonight. 

I'm frustrated. I'm sad. I'm angry at her for not eating. I'm angry at the still unknown cause of this disease. I don't want to lose her. I don't want her to be in pain. I don't want to lose her. 

We're trying turmeric, Essiac tea, L-Arginine, L-Glutamine, Ginger, Milk Thistle, Salmon Oil, and other alternative methods. Everyday I read something else online, run to the health store and add to our protocol. 

But she needs to eat. 

Have tried raw, organic meat of all sorts, cooked organic meat of all sorts, cooked chicken, organic canned wet food, fresh eggs from our hen, cut up veggies - she's gone from eating bits to eating nothing today but two or three bites of kibble. 

So I'm writing this blog with no other point than to let my feeling explode onto "paper" while listening to Bob Dylan and eating chocolate chip cookies in a weak effort to comfort myself, just hoping and praying she'll suddenly want to eat the house and all its contents.  

The more you love the more it hurts, I find. I don't want to let go. Not this time. Not now. 

And I'll never be ready. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Who Is Responsible?

Who is responsible for equality?

Who is responsible for creating a kind world?

Who is responsible for ending racism?

Who is responsible for teaching acceptance?

Who is responsible for peace on earth?

Who is responsible for teaching children?

Who is responsible for protecting the people?

Who is responsible for ending child abuse?

Who is responsible for war?

Who is responsible for ending slavery?

Who is responsible for ending the drought?

Who is responsible for sexism?

Who is responsible for keeping our neighborhoods safe?

Who is responsible for ending elder neglect and abuse?

Who is responsible for ending high kill animal shelters?

Who is responsible for ending animal abuse?

Who is responsible for teaching our children empathy and compassion?

Who is responsible for debt?

Who is responsible for hatred?

Who is responsible for fatal paparazzi chases?

Who is responsible for the invasion of privacy?

Who is responsible for suffering?

Who is responsible for crap television?

Who is responsible for working long, inhumane hours?

Who is responsible for deaths associated with texting while driving?

Who is responsible for ___________ too much?

Who is responsible for ___________ too little?

Who is responsible for bullying?

Who is responsible for hunger?

Who is responsible for encouraging youth?

Who is responsible for ending gun violence?

Who is responsible for slavery?

Who is responsible for fair wages?

Who is responsible for intelligence?

Who is responsible for the future?

Who is responsible for our planet?

Who is responsible for loving?

You are.

I am.  

We so often place responsibility in the hands of a very few, then blame those weak few when they don't come through with something they never personally agreed to do. We expect, then we suffer. Until you and I take responsibility for each and every concern we have in life, we cannot blame anyone but ourselves—not the President (a man), not the police (men and women), not the government (more flawed men and women, just like you and me), not teachers, not schools, not the media, not social programs. 

What we buy, what we agree to (whether in word or in action), how we spend (or waste) our time, and how we act and react are our votes toward a world we are creating. Our votes. Our choices. Our power. Our world. 

We must stop putting our own power in the hands of those who cannot be trusted with it.  

We must be the change we wish to see in the world. 

We mustn't add to the current paradigm with our own ignorance and archaic thinking that no longer serves us or the rest of humanity.

We must stand up, together, and not ask for, but create a different world. 

We must stop asking permission. 

We must start with ourselves.   

We must stop complaining. Complaining is for the powerless. 

United we stand, divided we fall. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Thoughts on Gun Violence

I happen to live in an area where it isn't uncommon to come across a bear, coyote, mountain lion, or the occasional aggressive off leash dog. Because of the drought in California, many of these wild animals are hanging round closer to people. Because I walk dogs in areas where these creatures are in fact common, I'm looking into purchasing pepper spray or bear spray, for a "just-in-case" scenario—I want to protect the dogs, myself, and the wild creature as well from being injured or killed.

As I'm searching for the best pepper spray with the longest range, I find myself questioning (in the midst of all the recent gun violence on the news), why humans don't often feel this way about one another—protecting ourselves and the life of the other person (who may or may not wish to do harm)? Why do people feel they have to shoot another dead when protecting their homes, their stores, their material possessions, their communities?

Why not use a non-violent method on a person who is resisting arrest, running off with a stolen item, breaking into your home, or attempting to steal your car? Shouldn't we simply aim to disable the person just enough to put him or her in hand cuffs if they are resisting so they can be questioned, and go through the legal process? Isn't that how it should be, for police and for citizens?

The news out of Ferguson, Missouri has had my head spinning in every direction the entire week. I've been at a loss for words (which I admit is rare), not because it is shocking (this type of hatred and violence goes on all the time and is rarely, if ever, covered by mainstream media), not because I don't have an opinion on it (quite contrary, indeed). It is because the issues surrounding it go so much deeper than the surface that one must walk through each stage of grief to even fathom the injustice. And with each step deeper a new injustice is revealed and more grief is walked through. It is a race issue, for sure. Don't say it's not. But more than that—much more than that—it is a HUMAN issue. A societal issue. That young 18-year-old boy, Michael Brown, was OUR little brother. Our big brother. Our son. Our student. Our teacher. Whether or not he stole something (no matter the cost) it was not anyone's duty, right, nor responsibility to take his life from him and from his family and loved ones. And a box of cigars was in no way more valuable than his life.

When I was 16 years old, I walked into a drug store alone, picked up a tiny lipstick and pulled my hand up into the long sleeve of my oversized coat. "I wonder if there are cameras," I thought. After making the most animated of faces (to convince the "cameras" I was not finding what I was looking for so was leaving the store "empty handed"), scared as I'd ever been I walked out the door with that tiny lipstick in my sleeve. Was I caught? No. Have I ever stolen again? No way! That feeling was enough for me to not ever want to do it again. I still think about it and feel terribly guilty. Funny thing is, I don't even like lipstick. Never have. Imagine if I had been shot because of stealing. Who would have been taught the lesson? Is a box of cigars, a flat screen TV, or even a car worth more than a life? Any life?

I've asked people who are pro-gun why they would find the need to have them. The most common answer is to protect their home and family members. Makes sense. Could this not be accomplished with non-lethal force? "How about when the other person has a gun. What to do then?" you ask. Excellent point, but is more guns the answer? Couldn't bear spray with a 30-40 foot reach be a better option than taking a life and having to live with that the rest of your own?

Where is the logic in believing material things are worth more than a human life? Is it when we ceased being citizens and unknowingly agreed to be considered merely consumers? When did we begin to believe taking another's life is acceptable—that death is the only way to justice? Is death punishment? Is death a punishment when the moment one dies all is over for them but their families and loved ones suffer horrendously? Does this teach a lesson or does it simply manifest violence? If someone shot and killed my little brother because he lifted a box of cigars, you'd better believe there would be violence—there would be a lot of very angry people. And yet, he would be dead, unable to learn a lesson. There is no lesson in killing another, other than the fact that like me with the lipstick, you'll think about it the rest of your life and (hopefully) never want to do it again. Who deserves to die and what gives us, other humans with our own flaws, authority to kill?

Could you live with yourself after shooting another dead, even if that person *intended* to harm you? I surely couldn't. We've got people wanting to proudly carry their weapons through stores to brag about their rights to bear arms, and yet, who needs to be shot dead in a store other than a person bearing arms irresponsibly and aggressively? Some people believe we need more guns. In schools even. And yet, I can hike on my own in the wilderness and be approached by a 600 lb. bear (who would rather enjoy having me or my dogs as dinner) and feel confident going out there being armed with nothing more than a $10 can of spray . . . seriously. I live. The bear lives. No violence. 

Beyond race, beyond economics, beyond gender, beyond social status is a beating heart, a person born kind, a flawed human being just like you and me. How can we get to the bottom of these plaguing issues and repair them from the ground up rather than haphazardly patching them? How can we re-humanize ourselves? 

I don't know the answer, but I do know it is up to us to create change. We cannot rely on "them", the few we call "leaders", to make these changes. It must begin in our communities, one neighbor, one hug, one conversation, one kind act at a time. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Volunteering for Oppression: A Rant

If anyone can name the artist of this cartoon, please share. I'd love to give credit!
We're angry. We're furious. "They've" taken our money, our jobs, our rights. "They've" built their warehouse store in our town and screwed the economy. Since "they've" been in office, so much has gone wrong. We're being lied to. We're being robbed. We're sick of "the right" and their preposterous opinions and we're sick of "the left" and their love for higher taxes.

We're powerless, but we should stomp our feet anyway and get angry and blame each other. This is what the news media would like for us to believe. But, what's really going on?

Behind every label (liberal, conservative, 1%, 99%, neurotypical, neurodiverse, straight, gay, introvert, extrovert, etc.) is a human being with a heart, with feelings, with a family, with health concerns, with dreams, with abilities, with disabilities, with goals, with something to teach and something to learn, something to give and something to gain. But when a label is slapped onto a group of our brothers and sisters, our connection with them collapses—unless, of course, we also fit that label. It collapses because we take that one person with his or her thoughts, feelings, experiences, life stories, scars, talents, and weaknesses and group them with many, which gives the illusion of a threat—you know, that feeling one gets when walking alone down an alleyway passing a group of "others" who from the outside don't appear to relate. And the reaction is to seek and find a label that fits so as not to be bullied by the other label. And the grand illusion of separateness becomes a reality. Crips and Bloods. Democrats and Republicans. Red and Blue. Gay and Straight. Rather than seeing each other as humans that deserve fairness and equal rights, we view each other as a a label, devoid of human-ness, devoid of spirit, devoid of love. And we accept it. It's easier to buy "meat" in a pretty package in a brightly lit market than to eat a piece of a cow you saw killed in a slaughter house. Connection is always lost in the "other" label. 

Remember Aesop's fable,  The Four Oxen and the Lion? 
A Lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.
Would love to give credit to artist. Please share!

The moral of the story: United we stand, divided we fall.

We cannot be divided individually—there are far too many of us, and boy, how confusing that would be for those who require putting us into categories in order to sell to us (remember, we are no longer considered "citizens" but instead "consumers"). But we can easily be divided into groups, separated, and pitted against each other like dogs in a dog fight, while the minority who we believe to be in power place bets and prosper over our blood, sweat, and tears. Fighting dogs have been trained all their lives to hate each other, yet the ones they should be hating are their abusers and those who put them in the ring to begin with. They are the same, having the same needs—food, water, shelter, and love. And any of those dogs could easily scare the hell out of all the people betting around the ring by bonding and turning against their abusers. But they don't. How are we any different? 

The good news is "they" (those who we perceive to have power) are the minority and WE (the people, all people) are the MAJORITY. Think about it for a minute. Seriously. My little town of 7,558 people outnumbers congress by 7,023! And as far as corporations go, there are only 10 major corporations in America that seemingly control everything we buy. For now. Until we wake up.

Indeed, we may all have differing opinions, beliefs, and goals in life. It's true. But I bet if we looked each other in the eyes, barring all labels, and discussed basic human rights and needs, there is a lot more we, the people, can agree upon, versus disagree. Just like those bloodied dogs in the ring.

We all want jobs. We all want to enjoy the fruits of our labor. We all want safe, affordable housing. We all want good health. We all want to love who we want to love how we want to love. We all want community. We all want privacy. We all want food and water. We all want kindness. 

We must awaken to the fact that "they" (the people perceived to be in power) cannot exist without us. Corporate executives and elected officials are in parasitic positions—benefiting only at the expense of our life energy. Yet time and again and on a daily basis we hand over our power to them, then complain and raise our fists in the air citing injustice, when we volunteered to be oppressed by buying that thing, eating that food, complaining only on social networking sites, and keeping our real voices down, and fighting with our neighbors over the labels slapped onto us like we're stuck sitting on the discounted shelves of a Wal-Mart. We scream "they" and at that moment become their victims. 

And back to work we go. 

We're taught to believe in this false paradigm since grade school so it just might take some work to convince us of the fact that we, as the people, have the power. We are the majority. Your neighbor hanging his American flag each morning is not your uptight, conservative enemy; he wants fairness, safety, and love, just as you do. Your neighbor sporting the Tibetan prayer flags and burning incense is not your dirty hippie liberal enemy; she wants fairness, freedom, and community just as you do. The gay couple down the road adopting their first child is not your enemy; they want safety, education, and love for their child, just as you do. The autistic woman walking to the bus stop is not so strange; she wants to make a living and experience kindness, just as you do. 

It's time to take back our power, one penny, one decision, one kind, loving act at a time. Our actions are our votes. We must find the sameness, not the differences, in our neighbors. Stop playing victim and realize the truth: your voice as well as your neighbor's counts and every action we take together is more powerful than any political or corporate agenda could ever be. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

*Tough As Nails

Photo credit: Black Heart Creatives
I've never been clear as to how she found out the state of our living situation, but she did, and she, my temporary savior, came to pull me out of the circus tent that evening.

Aunt Norma was certainly a tough disciplinarian, but I didn't mind. Strict rules felt safe. She brushed my hair and put it into a ponytail, which I loved as it was out of my face—I never like the irritating, scratchy feel of hair on my cheeks. It drove me crazy. We had dinner at the same time each night. It felt like someone was looking out for me and I didn't mind her telling me I had to be in the house before the street lights went on and I had to stay in the yard. 

She had children of her own, my twin cousins Natalie and Nicole. They were quite young at the time, not much older than three, making this arrangement for me a temporary one; her hands were full. 

For my brief stay, I certainly felt loved and cared for but still my heart sunk. I missed Mum. I worried about her. I missed Tony. I felt a constant sickness in my stomach and chest, and had a hard time eating without feeling like it would come back up, though I forced it with my mind to stay down as I didn't want to get in trouble for wasting food. I fought tears as I realized no one would be there to look after my mother. Who was going to make sure she was up for work on time, eating dinner, and breathing? Would I ever see my brother again?

Aunt Norma didn't like when I barked, so I ceased doing it around her. She didn't need to be protected anyway. Tough as nails, she was. 

Mum sounded as if she were very angry with Aunt Norma that night, but I couldn't understand why. I was obviously an obstacle in her new relationship with Bill and surely Lynn the prostitute had loftier things to do than to dress me up in her leather and spikes on a Tuesday morning. 

Excerpt from Chapter Fifteen: Changes | Everything's Hunky Dory: A Memoir

Sunday, May 11, 2014

It Is Mother's Day.

Mum, each day that passed since you've been gone I learn a little more, I grow a little more, I accept a little more. I'm coming to understand you as I can now see you in me. I love you and miss you more than I could ever say. I cannot say "Happy Mother's Day", because that would be a lie, and you know well I've never been a good liar. So instead I'll just acknowledge it for what it is, and say, "Today is Mother's Day. I'm thinking of you today and everyday. Wish you were here for Breakfast with The Beatles." 

Love and miss you Mum. 

Blackbird, fly. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Good Intention? Autism Awareness vs. Acceptance

I happened upon a video today posted by a well-known autism "support" website. The video was titled Army of Autism Awareness Angels Flash Mob - World Autism Awareness Day 2012. I knew when I clicked on it that "Flash Mob" and "Autism" couldn't necessarily mesh well, but I was willing to take the risk. Hey—I was bored. And it had been shared 21,582 times, so it must be worth it. Right?

Oh my. 

Let me begin by saying I am confident this group of people were very well intentioned and must have incredibly loving hearts to coordinate such a large scale event. It was quite impressive.

With so any people. 

In such a public place. 

With so many bright lights. 

With such incredibly loud, obnoxious music. 

[Closing eyes and covering ears, hoping for Scotty to beam me up . . . ]

If this group of people in the video were "aware" at all about autism and one of its main ingredients, sensory sensitivities, they would have realized this was an incredibly ridiculous spectacle. Sensory overload, at its finest. 

A crowded mall with its bright, buzzing, florescent lighting, crowds of people, strong perfume, and a different genre of music playing in each store passed has the potential to push anyone (on or off the spectrum) into a full blown meltdown. Then you add the crowd, dancing, jumping, woo-hooing, and clapping next to an ESCALATOR (am I the only one that still gets a fright from these beastly things?) — I'd need an escape plan - pronto. They put children (not sure if they were autistic or not) in the middle of a circle and danced around them, clapping and woo-hooing (I'd have been on the floor at this point covering my ears, hoping anyone, the most evil of serpents even, would pull me through the floor to get some quiet in his warm bowels). And the grand finale: a group of hot, young girls ride down the escalator in tiny red t-shirts, short shorts, and high heels (seriously) holding small signs displaying the words "Army of Autism Awareness Angels". Did anyone even see the signs? Likely not, with the red colored shirts (which everyone knows the brain cannot NOT see the color red) - oh, and the hot girls, naturally. 

This event would get a 10 in my book . . . if it were a demonstration of what causes an autistic to meltdown and isolate from the rest of society. A 10 if it were a demonstration to parents as to why their daughter is screaming and covering her ears, or why their son is hiding in the clothes rack in Macy's and won't come out.  

Being "aware" that autism exists isn't helping anyone, nor is it even necessary. I think we've down-right saturated the media with knowing the word "autism". Even the label itself isn't really helping anyone as every autistic is different and it certainly isn't helping when the actual difficulties the autistic is having aren't even being considered (such as the numerous non-verbal children who consistently displayed head-banging behavior before finally being diagnosed with severe ear infections; or the kid who screams incessantly while covering his ears in Costco because the florescent lights are buzzing and blinking creating a sensory tornado in his brain and body). 

Children and adults, verbal and non-verbal alike, are often drugged, set aside, and not considered when it comes to our own feelings, wants, needs, and desires. Silly when something like a baseball cap in Costco does wonders (it does for me). Earplugs-brilliant. 

Einstein (who many believe today would be diagnosed as being somewhere on the autism spectrum) didn't speak until he was four. In fact, mathematics historian Otto Neugebauer once told a rather charming, inspiring story about young Einstein. 
As he was a late talker, his parents were worried. At last, at the supper table one night, he broke his silence to say, "The soup is too hot." 
Greatly relieved, his parents asked why he had never said a word before.  
Albert replied, "Because up to now everything was in order."
Imagine if young Albert had been institutionalized, drugged, or simply not listened to?  

Imagine a group of people decided to do a flash mob for "poor people awareness". Imagine them paying to have hundreds of t-shirts made to advertise the event, handing out food and drinks for the dancers, and holding the event in a place like Beverly Hills, California (not a very poor-friendly place). And imagine Victoria's Secrets models walking out in lingerie (nice to look at but inappropriate!) holding hand written "Army of Angels for the Poor" signs above their heads. How is any of this helping the poor? All the money and energy spent getting t-shirts made, food prepared, and money to pay the models could have easily gone to feeding or housing the poor. But no one asked the poor what would help. And we're all quite aware that the poor exist. Capishe?

As good intentioned as these folks must have been, I don't think they realized at the time the contrast of their actions to what they were trying to raise awareness for. It is my hope that Autism Acceptance is the message more widely spread. It is my hope that all people, as good hearted as we often are, take more time to listen, to understand, to learn from one another. I'd much prefer someone take an interest in me as a person rather than spread the word about my overgeneralized label. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Truth About Gurus

"Guru" chasers and "spiritual teacher" seekers: you know how amazing it feels when you meet someone for the first time and he or she says something that you would have liked to have said, or that you'd always wanted to say? Your heart beats a bit faster, your eyes twinkle, your smile cannot be hidden and you may even sigh with relief. "Finally, someone I can believe in." You then sort of bond for life. A mirrored thought, feeling, or belief creates a heartfelt connection — a friendship is born. 

"Gurus" are tricky in this way, as they know how to use this method effectively, to their advantage. The difference between a Guru and a friend is, the Guru has created a distance between you and them. Money, power, authority, fame. 

The words spoken by these "teachers" is truth already living within YOU, which is why you get that super buzzing or blissful feeling when they seem to be speaking "the truth," falsely mirroring a real connection. I'm not saying another can't help bring your truth out. But real connection is a thing to seek, with another being on your same level that you owe NOTHING to — no money, no power, no authority nor submission. Just love and a MUTUAL admiration and respect. 

Whether this being to connect with is your God, your dog, a friend, or all of the above, it's up to you in the end.

I'm glad my dogs don't expect me to pay to learn from them—I'd be in debt up to my ears. Though I wouldn't put it past them to be conniving little sinister bastards. 

Perhaps they are planning $5,000 retreats and creating secret mantras now . . . ?


Monday, February 17, 2014

I Don't Hate Cancer.

StampingCancerOut Etsy Store | F*ck Cancer Guitar Pick
I don't hate cancer. 

Yes, cancer was the effect that ripped my mum away from me forever in 2012 and I hate that fact, but I still don't hate cancer. No. I hate what caused the cancer. 

I'm not a medical professional, but from what I understand, we all carry cancer cells in our bodies. However, the strength (or weakness) of our individual immune systems determine whether or not those cells thrive, survive, and multiply. 

"Isn't cancer inherited?" you might ask. I certainly did. According to The American Cancer Society, "Only about 5% to 10% of all cancers are inherited - resulting directly from gene defects (called mutations) inherited from a parent." So, in my mind, it is fair to say most cancers have known causes. Now, I have a few friends and family members who have been diagnosed with cancer and survived, and one who died of cancer complications, who seemingly did everything right. In this piece, my focus is on cancers with known causes and risk factors . Why do we hate it so?

I hear it said all the time, see it posted on social media sites, see it printed on T-shirts and bumperstickers - "F*%@ Cancer!", as if cancer is always an invincible beast that mercilessly strikes random people for dead. Cancerzilla. Is that what we believe about 5% to 10% of cancers? Or do we simply prefer to believe that about all cancers?  

What about the signs posted all around us, on cigarette boxes, on buildings, in medical journals, on food and beverage containers, in the news? What about all the warnings, encouraging us to limit our time in the sun, to limit our sugar intake (cancer thrives on sugar, you know), to eat properly, to avoid alcohol? It's not often I hear hateful speech and "F" words being directed toward these cancer causing agents. Well, perhaps cigarette smoke - but usually it's not the cancer causing factor people complain about, it's the inconvenience to their senses. 

So, I'm puzzled. We openly hate the effect of cancer but not the causes. 

But . . . isn't the cause the one thing we can do something about?

If you've read my blog or excerpts from my book, Everything's Hunky Dory: A Memoir, you'll know my mum, Donn Shy, was diagnosed with cancer and died not three months later (for more on this, read my previous blog entry titled "What Causes This Type of Cancer?". The day she went in for surgery, her surgeon, after operating on Mum for a short while, informed my grandfather, Mum's husband, and I, that her cancer was not ovarian cancer as they'd first suspected, but a horrid form of stomach cancer. It had spread and the prognosis did not look good. She also told us the particular type of stomach cancer Mum had was caused by alcohol and tobacco use. 
She drank beer daily and smoked every day since she was in her teens. I later found out from the oncologist, Mum's diet (consisting of mostly highly processed foods) also contributed. Corn chips, fast-food, ramen - you name it. 

She ignored all the signs. 

I feel I should mention, a sore spot for me is when I see people "toast" my mum on Facebook, saying things like, "I'm having this cold one for you Donn! Hope you're partying it up in Heaven!" when that very alcohol was her poison. If mum died of ricin intake, would people post online "I'm having this bit of ricin on a cracker for you Donn! Rest in peace!"? I surely hope not.

It's easier for us to "hate" the thing we have no power over (late stage cancer) as opposed to change the things we can. We want to drink. We want to smoke. We want to eat groceries from the middle aisles of the market and then raise our fists against cancer when it hits, as if it came out of nowhere, as it it weren't an invited guest. Like a drunk that gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, then dies in an accident. We could say "I hate death!" but death is inevitable. We could say "I hate car accidents!" but what will that do? Knowing the cause, though, could help us to make better decisions in the future. 

"Hate". It's so final. So devoid of love, of connection. So full of inaction. If I've ever felt so strongly about someone that the word hate has crossed my mind as a seemingly viable option, I've always been able to make a better choice - as in either fix the problem by resolving it, or if the person was detrimental to my well being, I'd simply say goodbye. So, after attempting to save my mum's life by researching a no-cancer diet and lifestyle, rather than raising my fist in the air with a hate for cancer, I made some big changes in my own life. I said goodbye to most processed foods (oh did I love my sugar cereals!!!), hello to local veggies, hello to growing my own food, hello to regular check-ups. I give myself extra time at the airport in order to opt out of walking through the radiation emitting machine. Many of my life choices the past few years began with the knowledge of the causes of cancer. 

I don't drink alcohol, I've never smoked, I stopped eating meat in 2007. Might I still get cancer? Yes. But I know I've made a grand effort at taking responsibility for my own health and worked toward a strong immune system. And if I receive a cancer diagnosis, I will not hate the cancer, but instead, see the cause (whether it was of my own doing or not) and understand it, and do my best to heal myself, if it's not too late. I'm sure I'll cry, and wish for better outcomes, and perhaps wish it weren't happening to me, but hate? There's no time for hate. 

I am in no way attempting to simplify that which is cancer. As I said before, I am certainly no medical professional. I'm just curious as to why no one ever discusses hating the causes but only the effect. Now to really confuse things, not everyone gets cancer by eating processed foods or smoking or drinking or even sun bathing. Perhaps this is the reason no one wants to blame these causes - because it's not black and white. But why not take these factors into consideration? If you hate cancer so much, are you taking precautions? It's like entering into a close relationship with someone you know to be a liar. You can *hope* he/she won't lie to you, and he/she might not. But if they do, hating them, even though you knew their character from the get-go, seems kind of silly, no?

Hating cancer cannot cure cancer. Talking of hating cancer does nothing. Having awareness of the causes and making changes can, possibly. This is where we can take back our power and put it to good use. 

When in history has hate ever generated progress?

Friday, January 10, 2014

*Modern Love

Prior to her performances, I would observe her pre-show nerves while she was evolving into the glamorous rock star. I imagined it must have been a scary thing to go out into a crowd of young people and pretend to be someone else when you had a hard enough time just being you. Or maybe not. 

She seemed to vibrate as she skipped through the house, smoking those tall brown More cigarettes in the red and gold box, one after the other, closely followed by a waft of grey smoke: her ghostly entourage. The apartment filled with the overwhelming chemical scent of Aqua Net Extra Hold hairspray and the distinctive sounds of Mark Garson on the piano playing Bowie’s Aladdin Sane. I’d sit on the floor just outside the bathroom’s open door, silent, as I loved taking in all of her smells and feeling the sporadic bursts of warmth from the hairdryer embrace me, burning the familiar scent of my mother into my mind forever.

On this particular night, her stage was the middle of a roller-skating rink, and she dressed in a cream colored suit, a thin tie covered in Japanese characters, her hair short and feathered on top, and the hit song “Modern Love” was blaring over the loud speakers. Mum was David Bowie.

Excerpt from chapter fifteen | changes | Everything's Hunky Dory: A Memoir