Helping Others to Help Themselves

Monday, August 3, 2020

The memorial plaque at our local library
The memorial plaque at our local library
July 31, 2013 was the worst day of my life. It was the worst day of my life because that was the day the Police Department came to our home to tell us that our precious daughter Moe had died of suicide at the age of 22.

Moe died of uncontrolled mental illness. She experienced severe depression, and was under a doctor's care for her condition. But we lost her anyway, leaving a Moe-shaped hole in my heart that nothing is able to fill.

Every day I mourn her loss in this world, and I would give everything to have her here with us again. But I can't do that, so instead I choose to perform service projects in her memory such as being a good ally to the LGBTQ+ community, and donating money to institutions she cared about, like our local library foundation.

And I also support AFSP's mission in helping people who are at risk overcome their lack of hope and help those who have been affected by suicide.

This is the fourth year I've been up to participating in this event personally, but this will be the seventh year the Maureen's Marchers team is hitting the road in my baby girl's name on the annual Out of the Darkness Denver Metro Experience. The money raised in this event will go to fighting suicide and supporting AFSP's goal to reduce the suicide rate 20% by 2025. This goal is especially challenging in our current situation, where people are feeling isolated, anxious and uncertain of what the future will bring.

The danger of suicide is especially high within the LGBTQ+ community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth aged 15 to 24 and the third leading cause of death among youth aged 10 to 14. Among youth who identify as sexual minorities, the likelihood of death by suicide has been estimated to be two to seven times greater than the likelihood of death by suicide among heterosexual youth. These kids need help, and it's up to us to provide it in any way we can.

Please help us honor our lost, beloved Moe-Moe and consider donating to the AFSP. All donations are 100% tax deductible and benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), funding research, education, advocacy, and support for those affected by suicide. The AFSP is a Charity Navigator 4 star charity, and they spend 83.6% of their total budget on program expenses.

You can donate to the AFSP by clicking on the donation badge on the right, or you can go directly to my fundraising page. This year I'm offering incentives for donations at the $50, $100, $200, and $500 range, including hand-knitted items in the colors of your choice to keep you warm this winter. 

"When you are sorrowful look again at your own heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight." ~ Khalil Gibron

Thank you for your support!




On the 7th Anniversary of Your Death

Friday, July 31, 2020

I'm really struggling this year. 

The times when I feel I just can't accept the reality of your death are more frequent this year, and right now I literally cannot remember a time when I wasn't grieving for you, and for myself. I want to crawl out of my own skin at the unfairness of it, at the grief that permeates every aspect of my life, at the pain of missing you every minute of every day. I can't stop crying, and this is the first time since the year following your death that I had to take time off work because I couldn't function at a high enough level to fake it through the day. 

The constant ache that represents your passing, along with the current state of the union and the isolation resulting from the COVID pandemic has pushed me into a full-blown depressive episode. I'm not sleeping, I can't concentrate, my aphasia is back. My desire to do anything, no matter how small, is nonexistent. 

I just don't understand. Why? Why couldn't you have come to someone, anyone, who loved you to tell them how bad you felt, how hopeless? Why couldn't you let us help you to find a way out of the darkness? When you weren't sick, I know you knew how much I loved you, how I would have done anything, LITERALLY ANYTHING, to save you, to defend you, including giving up my own life to save yours. Why didn't you tell me? 

I know depression lies, it lies like a motherfucker, and I know it was lying to you. I know you felt you were weak, that you just couldn't cut it as an adult, and I know you felt you were out of options. And I know that none of those things were true. I know that with the appropriate help, you could have gotten better, and lived your life as you were meant to live it, making the world better with your intellect, your passion, your drive. But depression robbed you of that future, robbed the world of your gifts, and robbed me of a daughter for whom I would have stormed the gates of hell armed with nothing more than my love for you and the ferocity that comes with being a mama bear. 

And I am so fucking angry. I'm angry that you were the one who had to struggle with mental illness to the point where your despair overtook you. I'm angry that you died alone and scared in an anonymous hotel room with a bag over your head, without those who loved you to comfort you and reassure you of our love. I'm angry that you didn't come to the end of a long, long life with your own family and friends surrounding you, celebrating a life well-lived, and a legacy anyone would be proud to have. I'm angry that I didn't see your pain, and your hopelessness, and your inability to see the truth about yourself and your own struggle. And I'm angry, so angry, that of all the families in the all world, losing a child to suicide is something that happened to us.

But I'm still not angry at you. I understand in my heart how much pain your were in, how hard you fought to hang on for the sake of those who loved you, how you just couldn't bear living anymore. Every day, my heart breaks for you in your final, hopeless days, knowing now what I didn't see then, and my heart breaks for me, robbed of my chance to save my baby girl from herself in the darkest days of her life. I know these things, and I know that the grief that is losing someone you love to mental illness is an equal opportunity tragedy, that every family and any family is at risk. 

But I still rail at the unfairness of it all. 

It's unfair that you're gone from my life, from the lives of everyone who loved you. It's unfair that you'll never know romantic love, the experience of sharing decades of your life with someone who is on your side, no matter what. It's unfair that you'll never know the love, the joy, the crushing responsibility, the pride that is parenthood. It's unfair that you'll never find your life's work, or have the chance to dedicate your life to a vocation, or experience the pride that comes from being at the top of your field. It's unfair that I'll never meet your partner, your children, your grandchildren. It's unfair that I'll never be whole again, that I will spend the rest of my life being broken by the grief that is the result of your illness. 

I love you. I'll love you every day for the rest of my life, with a grief so crushing that some days it takes my breath away and narrows my world to a tiny dot of pain that burns with the heat of a thousand suns. 

I miss you. I miss you so much sometimes I feel like it's killing me by inches. My baby girl, who I couldn't save, and whose loss I can't accept. 

What the Fuck, America?

Monday, July 27, 2020


Recently I swore off Facebook until after the election is over. Depending on the outcome, and how people react to that outcome, I may stay off there forever.

I have very complicated feelings about politics in America right now for a variety of reasons. Like most Americans, I'm on edge due to the continuing pandemic restrictions (even though I agree with them 100%). This time of year is very tough for me, due to the proximity of the anniversary of my daughter's death. And I've now completely lost my patience with 45, his supporters, and his lickspittle hacks.

Seriously, I just don’t get it. At all. How can people not see where this is going? Are they stupid? Willfully ignorant? So enamored of the criminal in the White House they think he can do no wrong?

The most recent egregious abuse of power is occurring in - surprise, surprise - cities with Democratic leadership. I'm sure everyone by now knows that 45 has deployed his tRumpTroopers to "quell unrest" in these cities, against the wishes of the state and local government. They're using rubber bullets, tear gas (currently illegal in armed conflict with other countries, per the Geneva convention, but apparently okey-dokey against your own citizens), pepper spray, batons, and currently the pièce de résistance, hooding people, kidnapping them off the street, and taking them to an "undisclosed location." Yes, I said "kidnap." These people are taken into custody by federal officers without identification, they're not read their rights under Miranda vs. Arizona, and not charged. What do you call it?

There is a not insignificant portion of Americans who think this turn of events is just dandy, thank you very much. If they don't want to have chemical weapons used against them, then stay off the streets! If they don't want to be beaten, kidnapped, and terrorized, then they should just agree to stop protesting against...the abuse of power by law enforcement. Oh, the irony.

Of course, I strongly suspect their reactions would be very different if it was a Democratic President pulling this stunt against cities with Republican leadership. Like, say...white gun "enthusiasts" conducting an armed protest against a capital building, for example. But the tRumpTroopers are nowhere to be seen when that happens. And that's just dandy, thank you very much!

Here's the thing about these shenanigans. As a liberal, I would be horrified if any president, regardless of political affiliation, engaged in such an abuse of power. Why? Because this is a common move of regimes engaged in the process of fascism. Fascism isn't a belief system or a political opinion. It's a process of normalizing what would have been considered unthinkable. And in order to do this, it uses five strategies to get to the end result:
And then, finally, calling for law and order solutions to self-inflicted problems (tRumpTroopers in liberal cities).

The pattern is clear. So clear. And yet, people continue to believe the far right whackadoo news reports. They'll keep on believing them, until, as the poem by Martin Niemoller says, "Then they came for me."

Four years ago I had a deep and abiding anger over a minority of this country's population electing such a terrible human being. If he wins again, I just don’t know how I’m going to feel about his supporters. There’s just no excuse for not seeing him for who he is at this point, and supporting him means you support a fascist regime for the U.S., as well as a truly horrible person with limited mental capacity and no concern for anything other than his own ego.  

Supporting fascist regimes is not why I chose to don the uniform of this country those many years ago, and it’s getting harder and harder not to take other people’s politics personally. If they think that megalomaniac is the best choice for our country, then what else do they believe?

I believe that American politics are based on compromise. Americans of good conscience can disagree about the role of government in our lives. In fact, the Republic is built on this dynamic, which in the past, has kept us from moving too far in one direction or the other. Sometimes the Republicans win, and sometimes the Democrats win. It's the nature of the beast, the nature of American politics.

However, it's not about politics or policy anymore, and it’s not about Republicans and Democrats. It's about morals and values. Americans of good conscience should not disagree about whether or not it's appropriate for the President's Gestapo to hood and kidnap people off the street and take them to undisclosed locations without due process or mirandizing them. Americans of good conscience should not disagree about whether or not it's appropriate for our head of state to tell 20,000 verifiable lies about public matters in 3.5 years. Americans of good conscience should not disagree about whether or not it's acceptable for our President to abrogate the Constitution whenever he damn well feels like it. Americans should at least have a common dedication to the rule of law and a representative democracy.

But we don't.

Instead we find a large percentage of our country willingly sliding into fascism on the back of a cult of personality, white fragility, victimhood, nationalism, fear and bigotry. And there is no compromise when the choice is our representative democracy on the one hand and a totalitarian, fascist regime on the other.  There is only the side of the patriots, and the side of the fascists.

How has it come to this? What the fuck, America?

________

Also: Here's an interesting read from the UCF's resident Historian, Dr. David. Because punching Nazis is always the right thing to do. 

The Price of Courage

Tuesday, April 7, 2020
So yesterday the acting Secretary of the Navy, a sniveling, obsequious little toad named Thomas Modly addressed the crew of the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT regarding his decision to relieve their commanding officer, Captain Brett Crozier. Captain Crozier sacrificed his career by attempting to protect the sailors under his command from a poorly handled COVID-19 breakout on his ship.
This particular drama is one that gets under my skin in a very personal way.
When I was undergoing initiation as a Navy Chief Petty Officer, one of the things that I learned was real Navy Chiefs look after their sailors, no matter the personal consequence. And another thing that real Navy Chiefs do is train their junior officers to behave in the same fashion. We do this because it's our job. We do this because it's honorable. And we do this because that's what moral courage looks like, and it's what we aspire to.
I was... irked...when Captain Crozier was relieved of his command for attempting to care for his sailors the only way he knew how. Partly because I knew that if the Navy's senior leadership team had been doing their damn job instead of cowering in fear of the President, the Captain's actions would not have been necessary. And partly because Captain Crozier is exactly the kind of Naval officer I would have followed willingly, into the jaws of death and beyond, and the Navy can ill afford to lose him to these publicity shenanigans.
Back to the toad, Secretary Modly. During his address to the crew said their Captain was either "too naive or too stupid" to be in command. This is the same Captain, mind you, who received a standing ovation from his crew when departing his command for the last time. The Secretary then went on to say the Captain committed a "betrayal" and created a "big controversy" in Washington by disseminating his warning so widely among Navy officials.
Translation: When I was sitting on my hands worrying if the brat in the White House would fire me, you chose to publicly embarrass me by actually asking senior Naval leadership to DO SOMETHING about the clear and present danger to your crew's health. How dare you!
Was Captain Crozier naive? I seriously doubt it. Let's make no mistake, here - Captain Crozier knew EXACTLY what would happen to him when he sent this letter. He knew, and he sacrificed his career anyway. There is no way he will ever regain a sea-going command - once you've made your bosses look like ineffectual choads they are not going to assign you to a command position again, and for senior officers, this is career suicide. He knew the outcome, and he acted anyway, displaying the moral courage that all Naval leaders aspire to. He walked the walk, and lost his career because of it. 
Was Captain Crozier stupid to embarrass and jump his chain of command for what he considered to be a lack of effective action on their part to protect his sailors? I guess it depends on what you value. If the only thing you care about is the forward progression of your career, the well-being of others be damned, then yes, he was stupid. But if you care about your honor, your mission, your responsibility to the sailors under your command, then he made a profoundly courageous decision, and a smart one, too. The Navy moved with alacrity to protect and test his sailors after he informed senior leadership of the problem and started the "big controversy." This was the outcome he desired, and his decision led to this outcome.  
Another thing I learned as a Navy Chief was that you are responsible for the outcome of your decisions, regardless of what you intended. Did your decision result in your ship winning a battle? Did it result in vanquishing the enemy? Did it result in the quick action of senior leadership to protect your crew in the face of a clear and present danger? Then it was the right decision. Captain Crozier achieved his objective by this measure, and really - it's the only measure that counts.
So, as a former Senior Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy and United States Naval Reserve, I have one thing to say to Secretary Modly.
Fuck you. Fuck you sideways. Captain Crozier's sailors would follow him into the mouth of Hell after what he did for them. And they'd just as soon shove you off the fantail while underway for your reaction. You fired him for the crime of exposing your incompetence, because you lack the moral courage to stand up to the President and do the right thing, in spite of the fact that his own chain of command recommended against his relief. And perhaps that is the "right" decision for a senior political leader to take when a member of their staff doesn't cover for them. But perhaps a better idea is for you to go back to being a junior officer where you can be appropriately schooled by the Goat Locker on your responsibilities and the real meaning of leadership. Or perhaps you can relieve yourself of your own position, since the Captain's actions were a direct response to your non-action and you apparently shit your pants every time the President glances in your direction.
In January of 2021, I would like to suggest Captain Brett Crozier be appointed as the Secretary of the Navy, because I think we all know who behaved with morality and courage, here.

ETA: Acting Secretary Modly resigned from his post this afternoon after the full transcript of his remarks to the TR crew were made public. After reading the transcript, I realized he was an even bigger knob than I thought, and that's saying something.

Snoozing...On a Sunday Afternoon (With apologies to The Rascals)

Monday, April 6, 2020

During these times of isolation, social media is more important than ever. It's a way for us to share a joke, feel connected, and keep in touch with our friends and family. It gives an avenue to recognize the courage and efforts of those who risk the most to keep our population healthy and happy, namely the medical establishment and people who work in the supply chain. It's a way to share ideas, tips, and recipes while we're all stuck at home.

Unfortunately, it's also a place where people are completely unembarrassed to display their ignorance, nastiness, and general assholery, now more than ever.

Enter Facebook's lovely feature called "Snooze."

This feature allows you to put people in a 30 day time out when their social media presence in your life is just too much. It hides their posts for 30 days, and when it expires, you can then see their content once again, giving you the opportunity to either snooze them again, remove them forever, or read what they post.

I love this feature, and until this pandemic is over, I'm going to be using it with reckless abandon. RECKLESS ABANDON, Y'ALL.

  • You believe 45 has suddenly decided to suspend his pathological need to lie about every fucking thing specifically for this emergency? SNOOZE!
  • You think your high school diploma makes you as qualified as an epidemiologist to discuss how far the disease will spread, and how fast? SNOOZE!
  • You believe that this entire thing - including the U.S.'s lack of sufficient medical supplies and the federal government's late response - is the fault of a President who has been out of office for over three years? SNOOZE!
  • You believe you know more than an infectious disease specialist who has literally spent their entire adult life studying and preparing for this specific emergency? SNOOZE!
  • You think our current President knows more about disease vectors, effective preventative measures, epidemiology, and hospital usage statistics than those who have made the study of such things their life's work? SNOOZE! 
  • You hypocritically attempt to take people to task for criticizing the federal government's response because it's "mean-spirited," but then run right out and post personal attacks and other nastiness on a daily basis? SNOOZE!
  • You are thoroughly convinced your belief in conspiracy theories that would make Chuck Norris blush makes you a qualified intelligence analyst? SNOOZE! 

SNOOZE! SNOOZE! SNOOZE!

I started snoozing yesterday, and today my feed is already less tainted by the Dunning-Kruger Effect and other forms of hypertension-inducing dumbassery. SNOOZE!

All Hail the Heroes

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

So. Coronavirus. Here we are, sitting on the couch, binging on Netflix, and hoarding dry goods. For the general population who is able to work from home, the sacrifice barely registers on the annoyance scale, let alone reaches the community efforts required for many of history's worst calamities.*

Reputable experts in infectious disease have assured us that this epidemic will get worse before it gets better, and that people should be prepared to shelter in place for at least another 30 days (or longer), depending on which expert you listen to. Please note I said expert, not the third bullshitter from the left or some media personality who thinks their presence in front of a camera suddenly makes them a qualified epidemiologist. This is a science based problem, and we should be listening to scientists.

Ahem. Sorry about that digression. I'm a little irked by the misinformation being spread about for political, selfish, or economic reasons.

ANYWAY.

The purpose of this post is to point out that we, as a society, owe a debt of gratitude to some unsung heroes in our midst. Not the medical professionals, although their professionalism in dealing with this crisis has been exemplary and selfless.

No, I'm talking about the supply chain. You know, the process that everyone takes for granted. The process that moves goods from one place to another, and then distributes it to retail establishments so we can buy SpaghettiOs and sausage, toilet paper and tampons, beans and broccoli. It starts at the source - farms and manufacturing plants, and then moves these goods to distribution centers who then move it to retail stores.

These people are working their asses off. They can't keep up with demand, and with people acting like selfish knobs with their hoarding and other dumbassery, their lives are pretty sucky right now. They're trying to meet the demands of their companies, even though they have families of their own, people they need to take of in this crisis, and doing so puts their own health and the health of their families at risk. And they're doing this so that people can buy their groceries and other goods they need on a daily basis.

And what do they get for their trouble? They get shouted at. They get called names. They get their companies failing to recognize their efforts with extra pay and additional safety measures. They get bupkis. And that's just not right.

These people are the unsung heroes of this crisis. They deserve our thanks, our gratitude, and to be treated with courtesy and respect, especially given their current working conditions. So when the grocery store employee tells you there are limits on how much you can buy of a certain item, the correct answer is, "I wasn't aware of that, thank you so much for letting me know," not a public rant about your rights or how much more YOU need a bag of rice rather than your neighbor.

Don't be a tool, y'all. We're in this together, and if everyone makes an effort to follow expert advice and take care of each other, we'll come through it that much quicker. Allow this crisis to bring out the best in us, and not the worst. Take care of your neighbors. Thank the supply chain heroes who bring you your essentials, taking a chance of getting sick to do so. Be kind.


*Yes, I know people who work in the service industry are struggling, and many small businesses need immediate help. I feel for them, I do, especially since members of my circle fall into both categories. But that's a blog post for another day.

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Beware the flying vector

He's coming for you.
Every time I write about coronavirus, in my head I hear COVID-19, but my fingers type CORVID-19. I know I'm not the only one who does this, and I find it pretty amusing. Clearly my affinity for crows is getting the better of my subconscious mind.

What is wrong with people? 

I just don't get people. Why are they hoarding paper products and stocking up on ammo? This isn't Doomsday Preppers. It's an epidemic that can be managed if we pay respectful attention to facts, follow the advice of those who have expertise in this area, and don't act like a bunch of selfish knobs. Speaking of selfish knobs, while all these hoarders were buying up all the TP in the store, did they remember to pick up a few things for their neighbors who are at higher risk of dying if they contract COVID-19, or are they just lining the shelves of their basement? I think we all know the answer. If we can all manage to be cautious and decent to one another, this entire thing will end sooner rather than later, with no one needing to lead armed raids to steal their neighbors' toilet paper.

Speaking of cautious

There's an excellent article in the Washington Post today that includes simulations about how fast the virus spreads, why quarantines don't work, and how social isolation is the best way to combat the spread of the epidemic. The bottom line is this: If you're not someone who provides or is in the supply chain of critical services to the population such as food, water, power, healthcare, or emergency services, stay home. It won't kill us to cook our meals at home for the duration, use available technology to stay in touch with loved ones, and telecommute if our employers have the infrastructure to support it. Everyone has to go out for supplies periodically, but other than that, don't go places where you might infect or get infected by other people. Is it a huge bummer, especially during Spring break? Yes. Yes, it is. We've already cancelled two trips as a result of the epidemic, and the rest of our Spring/Summer travel plans don't look too good, either. But my desire to lounge at a resort or visit a National Park doesn't matter one bit when the health and safety of everyone is at stake. Again, don't be a selfish knob.

Charity begins at home

Speaking of cooking our meals at home, there are now thousands of people all over the country who are unemployed for the duration. I'm speaking, of course, of those who work in the food service or hospitality industries in states where those establishments have been closed by order of their state or federal authorities. Many of these folks are living under the poverty line anyway, and being out of work for some period of time is going to be devastating. The Smart Son is in this position, and while the Smart Man and I are prepared to help him if necessary, not everyone has the safety net of well-off parents. We'll be donating the money we're saving from not eating out (which we tend to do a lot) to a local food bank or other charities who provide help to this demographic for the duration. It's the least we can do, given our own circumstances and how little we'll be affected by the epidemic. Please - join us if you're able.

This is not about politics

You all know I'm a big ole flaming liberal, but here's the thing - this epidemic, and our response to this epidemic, is not about politics. It's about everyone doing their best to ensure the risk to our entire population is reduced as much as possible. That absolutely starts with our elected leaders who have to make the tough decisions about how we, as a people, respond to this crisis. But I am not going to ignore recommendations from the federal government because our current President is a vapid piece of shit. Nor do I expect my conservative neighbors to ignore recommendations from our Governor because he's gay and liberal. I am going to take it on faith that everyone involved has the best interest of the American people at heart, and not use the crisis as a means to tear down (or build up) politicians. There will plenty of time for a post-mortem once the danger is passed.