Día de los Muertos

This was written 10-28-18 at a 500-word Snatch in Second Life. It was written in 30 min. I’m challenging myself to write more… it is working!

I was always under the impression that Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, was a Mexican Halloween. That was until I moved to the Frontera de Mexico, the border town of El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juárez being right across the Rio Grande River.

River isn’t an accurate description. It was mostly waist-high water, slick with oil and roiling with trash and human waste. In other places, it was gross puddles of muck that stuck to people’s legs as they crossed into the United States illegally.

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My clients, my midwifery clients, would wade through the Rio Grande to come to their prenatal appointments, or to us at the birth center in the throes of labor. We would shower and scrub them of the horrific leavings before putting them in their clean private room to have their American babies.

It was during long autumn labors that I learned what the real meaning of Día de los Muertos was. It has nothing to do with fear, scariness or the ravages of death. Instead, the holiday is a beautiful time of remembrance of the loved ones in their family that have since passed on. I learned about the ofrenda, the altar of marigolds and candles, holding the photos of the family tree, always standing guard over the spiritual health of the house’s inhabitants.

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My Spanish was still fairly new and primarily obstetric in nature, so the other, more fluent midwives, would translate the newer words for me. At that time, 99% of my days were in Spanish, it pervading even my dreams and sleep-talking. I love Spanish. I am thankful to be fluent finally. Except with engineering Spanish, that would be a challenge still.

Anyway, Día de los Muertos.

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As an atheist, I gave up the idea of a heaven and hell long ago, but an Afterlife? Now that is something different entirely.

I believed (still believe) that, after someone is gone, if they are remembered by anyone alive, they are in “The Afterlife.” It was challenging to articulate that for a very long time, but when Día de los Muertos came into my life, it became clear that I had not invented such a belief, but an entire culture had done the thought a million times better!

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And even though I am a Cuban American, not a cell of Mexican blood in me, I embrace the Day of the Dead holiday… belief… for my own. I have been told it is Cultural Appropriation, that I need to find the Cuban or Swedish holidays of my own DNA… but I sat at the feet of abuelas, the oldest women of the families, as they told me about their own families, the ofrendas of remembrance and I have been doused with Mexican blood, lots and lots of it, doesn’t that count for some alternative christening into the Mexican world?

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It’s my own head game I know. I know darn well it is Cultural Appropriation, but this is one I am clinging to.

Here’s to everyone’s beautiful afterlife. ¡A linda vida futura!

Who Is “45”?

“45” is what I call POTUS, the 45th president of the United States, that horrid man who squats in the White House tweeting (LYING) about random topics to divert our attention from the fucked up bullshit he does that will, PLEASE GODDESS, get him impeached.

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Pick a Cause, Any Cause

(For some amazingly strange reason, this post cannot be formatted correctly, no matter if I work in WYSIWYG or HTML; I have tried for 2 days to fix it, to no avail. I apologize for the bizarre lack of paragraph breaks/doubling of paragraph breaks.)

I have a theory (that has surely already been discussed in other places) that the new administration has an entire strategy to create as much turmoil as possible, knowing there would be protests (because the Women’s March on Washington was planned well in advance of the Inauguration), then seeing even more protests with each Executive Order, their idea took on greater and greater maniacal glee.

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artist, Darwin Leon, Chaos After The News

Piling On of Causes

Suddenly, there are causes to the left, causes to the right, causes above, below, front and center. People are flooding into the streets to protest the lack of women’s rights, Muslims being banned from our borders and white supremecists wanting to speak at colleges.

There are even more protests, not pounding the pavement, but striking the keyboard or dialing the phone. Some, like the scientists, have found even more creative ways of protesting bans, denials and dissolutions. And others are crazed by the potential nominees for various posts in the administration or losing their Obamacare, incessantly calling & emailing their representatives to voice their opinions.

 Folks who have never protested a thing in their lives are making signs and finding their way to join hoards of others who have also never found themselves in a mass of protesters.
An aside: In a piece about an ACT UP workshop, this really important point was made:
You learn activism by doing it, they said. One of the main obstacles to activism is the idea that you have to be an expert to do it —

Spinning Plates

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artist, Jessica Joy – Finding Peace Amongst the Chaos

Because there are so many causes to fight, it can be challenging to protest everything one feels strongly about. Surely, the administration is having a field day cheering that fact.

I see people in my own life swirling around, grasping at causes willy-nilly, protesting 1 one day and another, 2 days later. This frenetic energy cannot possibly be maintained. Speaking up, living in crisis mode, changing one’s life patterns, even for a short time can exhaust someone, causing Outrage Fatigue.

Madison Wilburs says it perfectly in “On Outrage Fatigue“:

Every morning, we wake up to a fresh Trumpian outrage, as the orange one’s fat little thumbs have tapped out the latest vitriol via Twitter before we lift our weary heads off of the keyboards we fell asleep on because we were up past midnight planning how to block his Cabinet, or save ACA, or get to Burr and Tillis, or, respond to Russian hacking. Is it any wonder that some of us are experiencing outrage fatigue?

As the Day of His Ascendence (formerly known as Inauguration Day) approaches, the more the sense of impending doom and inevitability grows. After the election, outrage and disbelief propelled many into passionate, but ultimately quixotic pursuits. Flipping the electors. The Jill Stein recount. As those prospects faded away, and the names and hideous bios of Trump’s Cabinet appointees came out, many geared up to protest and block that odious pack of cronies, capitalists, and cranks from running the country. Lists of committees were drawn up, scripts written, action plans mobilized. The GOP then ganged up on ACA, as Trump fanned the flames. No, no, protest that! many online cried. Russian allegations exploded; Trump kept tweeting. Crooked media! Overrated Streep! All-talk John Lewis!

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Outrage Fatigue

As sure as I am sitting here, the White House and even much of Congress are devising ways to wreak havoc on America and betting “libtards” will be out en masse protesting within a couple of hours. They are counting on it. So far, we are not disappointing them.
But with the passage of time, people become numb and mute, collapsing with exhaustion, creating  an open, wide and clear, path for the “president’s” coup to complete itself. (And I do believe we are in the middle of a coup!)
Long-time protesters each speak about outrage fatigue, previously called burnout, in their stories. ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) movement and even the LGBT(QAI+) (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual, Intersex, etc.) all find themselves teaching younger generations how to avoid the outrage fatigue that comes with long battles, ones we are surely just beginning with this “president.”
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What I Can Do!

I have Bipolar Disorder and struggle with depression and must be hyper-vigilant to not become overwhelmed with sadness and pain, something that’s been quite a challenge the last 6 months or so, increasing each day. I’m also physically disabled, unable to go out into the streets to protest.

But I can write.

Since the Inauguration, I have been sitting back and pondering… considering what cause resonated most with me, which one I would be most effective battling.

What bubbled to the top was Censorship.
As a writer/blogger, I’ve been censored several times, from Blogger slamming my blog shut for having nude women (giving birth and breastfeeding!) to my midwifery licensing organization strong-arming me to “edit” one of the most important blog posts I’ve ever written. (I did and deleted the original, something that still brings tears 9 years later.)
Government censorship has always made me crazy, but it’s been over there… you know, in other countries.
Until this “president” brought it front and center in the United States.
I could enumerate so many examples, but the loudest and most obnoxious recently came from “president steve bannon” when, on January 26, 2017, in the New York Times, he said:
“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while….”
You can imagine the response.
From shock to hysterical laughter, CNN’s Jake Tapper gave the best answer of all; an emphatic, “NO.”

My Strategy to Avoid Outrage Fatigue

I have chosen to focus on that one strength of mine… writing… and the topic that most resonates… Censorship.

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This way, I will be able to pace myself. During the couple of weeks with this new strategy, I’m finding myself able to see-and-toss the non-censorship posts, news pieces and videos, but am seeing, quickly and clearly, the pieces that relate to me specifically. This prevents news overload, which pulls me down towards depression. It is, sometimes, challenging to ignore the information on the periphery, but as I do, I find myself more and more at peace.
By focusing on my life-long writing skills as my major protesting mechanism, I am able to keep my interest level high and will have long-term focus on the censorship issue.

Many Hands…

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Guan Yin (觀世音菩薩), the Chinese Bodhisattva/Goddess of Compassion, Mercy and Kindness. I have “known” Guan Yin for about 3 decades working in birth, she is the Goddess who overlooks childbirth. When I remembered her “thousand arms” (in some depictions), she was the perfect representation of how I visualize the community (protestors/protectors around the USA) working to save our country’s liberties & laws… with compassion, mercy and kindness… for, and with, each other.
One last strategy is for me to connect with other writers, especially those who focus on censorship. Companionship fosters support and support can manifest in many ways including encouragement, reminders of the mission at hand and backing each other up when conflict gets nasty.
I’m hoping that as I send this out over the airwaves, it will find other like-minded people, but especially writers. I could use the support and suspect you could, too.
LET’S WRITE!

Touching Base

This is a bullet point list of my life at the moment.

  • I am distraught over the “Zero Tolerance” bullshit happening. I know those women. I caught those babies when I worked in border towns. I know in a visceral way what those women feel like in my arms and those babies in my hands. Did you know the kids in the “shelters” are not allowed to be held? The siblings are not permitted to hug each other? That “policy” is to keep abuse from happening. But what of the extreme violence of abandonment? I can barely breathe sometimes I am so upset.

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  • I was sick for so long and we finally… FINALLY… figured out it was a Biliary Obstruction in my liver. I should have had my gallbladder out 10 years before it was taken out, so that is where the obstruction began. Taking the gallbladder out did not end the abdominal pain, in fact, it got worse. Then the itching began and I was scratching my back with scissors, deciding to go to the hospital for help when I had blood from my back on my bed sheets. The itching was the most unbelievable in the world. It is easy to see why people kill themselves when their liver is failing and the itching is relentless. My liver labs were not terrible. Until they were. My urine turned to rust color with each itching episode, then when the color lightened, itching would go away. I dashed back to the liver doctor when my Alk Phos was 1085 (39-117 is normal range), my AST was 76 (range 0-40) and my ALT  was 116 (0-32 range) and they did several imagine tests, finding the obstruction in my liver. We began looking at surgery to remove the blockage and then, one day, I went from feeling like shit to feeling normal… for the first time in MANY years. My labs normalized. The imaging showed the blockage had cleared on its own! And I continue pain-free in my gut. Pee is clear. No itching. I thought I was near death and had a DNR. I have rescinded the DNR.
  • Work is going really well. I am getting better and better with guidance from friends there, one of whom is the busiest there. She has taken me under her wing, showing me shortcuts to promo work and how to garner more clients. I am having a wonderful time still, and my love for what I do seems to shine through to the folks that call/cam/email/text and now Second Life.
  • Work has moved into Second Life. How I missed SL for all these years (it is 14 years old) is beyond me. SL is the most fun I have had online in a couple of decades. I am learning as fast as I can, but the learning curve was steep for me because I have never played video games ever in my life. SL is NOT a video game, per se, but a Virtual World. If you are in SL, email me and I will tell you who my non-work Alt is (NavelgazingWriter@Gmail.com).
  • My HgbA1c went from 7.0 to 8.3 in one 3-month period. I was doing my insulin incorrectly (not pushing the insulin in slowly and leaving the needle in for 15 seconds or so afterwards) and since I changed, I have had no BG over 140, even post-prandial! I’ve had several low BGs (the lowest was a scary 40!)

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  • So I lowered the Lantus down 4 points, then 2 more points and my fastings are always under 100 and my pre-eating checks are equally as low. I am giddy excited to see my next HgbA1c.
  • I am really fat. As fat as I was before the gastric bypass in 2001. I am just resigned to being fat.
  • My teeth are falling out of my head and I look like a hillbilly, so do not want to go anywhere I don’t have to lest I have to talk.
  • One of the most beautiful experiences in my entire life occurred when Meghann brought the grandbabies to Orlando to visit hillbilly grandma. Gabriella read to me.

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GABRIELLA READ TO ME!

  • Meghann took me to Epcot (during Flower & Garden Festival!) and I went even looking like a hillbilly. I had a flippin’ BLAST with my baby and grandbabies.

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  • I live with a childhood friend (who I consider my sister) and her husband (also a childhood friend and brother-in-law) and 2 of their kids, both of whom I was with the moment they were born. What started with the flu ended up making my brother-in-law very ill on February 14th and he died on May 24th unexpectedly. Out household and family are coping, but we miss him terribly.

 

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  • My blog life is in limbo at the moment. I am moving some of this blog to another host, but think I am going to just move the Food Stuff over and give it a new name. I miss writing my thoughts here. I wrote an amazing piece on that stupid giuliani person when he talked about Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) and had to put it in my work blog because I didn’t have another place to put it. It should be seen by more people!

Well, that is it in a few bullet points. I miss y’all lots and thanks for those that have contacted me asking if I am still here and alright. Thank you for that. It is for you that I want to write more.

“Make a choice. Speak up. Unsubscribe.”

Jarrett Hill wrote an OpEd piece called “White People, It’s Time to Use Your Privilege, Whether You Believe You Have It or Not,” for NBCBLK September 24, 2017.

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Writer, Reporter – Jarrett Hill

It began:

“A message for white people:

“I know how jarring it may be to hear a non-white person, or maybe anyone, even say the words “white people,” as it can take on a pejorative connotation. That’s fine. This isn’t always comfortable to have to say, but that doesn’t make it any less true, necessary, or timely.”

The challenge is for white people (myself included) to stand UP, (and kneel DOWN), speak UP and stop being complicit in the systematic and so-deeply-ingrained-whites-don’t-even-see-it-anymore prejudice and hate against People of Color.

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“Sorry, but not sorry, you’re going to have to take a side. And yes, you have to do it now.”

The United States has always had a divide between races. But now, with the dotard “president,” it has become a chasm, one that grows more visible and wider with each new tweet. White people just cannot keep their… OUR… mouths shut anymore. We have kept silent and turned our backs for far too many decades.

Stand alone if need be

Blacks are being killed by the police nearly every day. Latinx are being confiscated from their homes, from schools, their places of employment and even in hospitals and churches. Muslims are accused of violence simply because of their religion… one many of us do not understand (myself included), but the harassment and death threats are just not what the United States was founded to represent. All of this in order to fulfill the dotard’s horrific ideas… and plans… to rid the country of anyone not white.

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“It’s very likely, and understandable if you feel this is unfair, this is inconvenient, it’s frustrating, it’s difficult, it’s embarrassing, it’s going to alienate you from people you know, love, work with, watch the game with.”

Too fucking bad. SPEAK UP! Speak for those who get killed when they open their mouths, receive death threats when they kneel at a football game (exercising their First Amendment exquisitely). We whites cannot leave Black & Brown people hanging out there alone anymore.

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I read an article yesterday (that I cannot find again for anything) where a Black Medical Resident was leaving work after a more-than-30-hour shift in the Emergency Room and a white man in a car started screaming the N-word at him, over and over again. He added some other racist epithets, but mostly it was the N-word. He said the white man was laughing so hard at his hilarity the doctor thought he would have to give him aid when he finally collapsed in hysteria.

While that part is gross enough, the part that was the most offensive to him (and me) is the whites in the parking lot who said NOTHING.

Bystander guilt 7

NOTHING.

He said they skittered away, trying not to get involved.

What the holy fuck, white people!

SAY SOMETHING! SCREAM BACK! 

Yeah, I know… they might have a gun. If they do, they do. You are supporting/protecting/showing love for another human being that is in the line of fire. If you believe in a God, He will surely reward you for speaking up.

“That’s privilege. Someone once said, “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” This is a taste of equality.”

It’s tough to say something when we are so used to just walking on. We cannot just walk by anymore.

WE CANNOT IGNORE THE ISSUE ANYMORE.

WE HAVE TO SPEAK UP!

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OPEN YOUR MOUTHS, WHITE FOLKS!

SCREAM when others simply cannot or are hoarse from doing so.

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artist: Annie Owens

ENOUGH.

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One of my heroes… Colin Kaepernick.

 

The Tarnishing of Trump

I have this vision of the Oval Office having “FUCK FUCK SHIT FUCK”s bouncing off the walls like molecules pinging in boiling water.

It is not uncommon for that now-golden-hued room to hear expletives, but I’m betting that as the days unroll with the word “Russia” in each sentence, the “Shit, fuck, damn’s” have been accelerating and getting progressively louder. (And amusing side note: When searching “trump White House expletives,” the suggestions at the bottom of the page all had Bannon’s name in them. Hilarious… and expected.)

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For 100 days, I cried and wrung my hands in terror that someone in the White House would accidentally (or on purpose) hit The Red Button and our world would be annihilated.

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During those first 100 days, with every stroke of the president’s pen that removed women and children’s rights, that signed away our natural resources so the rich could get richer, that created enormous doses of xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, ordering the confiscation and deportation of people struggling to stay alive and on and on and on… and with every bizarre cabinet appointment, my heart broke and despair settled in.

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I was directed by my doctors to stop watching the news because all it did was submerge me deeper into depression. I was joined by millions of others who had the new PTSD diagnosis called President Trump Stress Disorder, our nation’s leader now holding the distinction of being the first president to have an anxiety disorder named after him.

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Will Durst says in President Trump Stress Disorder (Baxter Bulletin):

An epidemic is sweeping the nation, causing sufferers to experience feelings of hopeless doom, certain annihilation and cataclysmic collapse. It’s an existential plague manifesting itself by enveloping the stricken in a black cloud of despairing suicidal thoughts. The malady that is striking down innocent citizens left and lefter is … the Presidency of Donald J. Trump. It is literally making people sick.

>100 Days

But now, with the variety of Russian headlines intertwined with you all in that Oval Office, I am glued to the TV, the real news, (what you call the “fake news,”) and I sit on the edge of my seat waiting for the next delicious morsel of information.

And I am no longer depressed.

It is no longer Opposite Day in America.

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Instead of my being unable to sleep, now it is your turn to toss and turn all night, worrying about your futures. I, on the other hand, am finally able to sleep soundly.

And every morning since Day 100, I wake up smiling again.

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Immigrant Birthing in El Paso

I wrote about my introduction to working with immigrants in ICE Burns: My Early Doula Clients. In 1990-1991, I volunteered as a doula at a Planned Parenthood Prenatal Program in San Diego, California.

El Paso, Texas

When I moved back to Orlando in 1993, I stopped for 3 months at Casa de Nacimiento, a birth center (now closed) in El Paso, Texas. 99.9% of the clients coming through Casa were immigrant women from Mexico, usually Ciudad Juárez. My Spanish, school-acquired, then practiced with the doula clients in San Diego, became second-nature in El Paso.

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While Casa gave me an amazing education and taught me many skills, there are lingering worries about being a White person using the immigrant women as practice specimens… a reverse voluntourism experience. I will write about these feelings separately; they are deep and complicated.

I was not as woke about the White Savior Complex as I am now, so merely tried to be the best student midwife I could be. I loved these women and their families. I loved talking to them, learning about their Mexican lives (which were slightly different than the Mexicans’ experiences in San Diego). I purposefully kept my heart open, wanting to be a positive birth worker for the women coming and going through the center’s doors. Those 3 months in El Paso remain some of my most wondrous life memories. While most people despise the city, I found it alive with culture and magic.

Rio Grande

Getting from Ciudad Juárez to El Paso for prenatal appointments was often a hit or miss experience for the birth center’s clients depending on which officer was patrolling the border bridge that day.

It had not been easy: The visa that allowed her to cross back and forth between Mexico and the U.S. is expensive, and she had had to prove she had money in the bank and a reason to return to Mexico to be granted it. The lines at the border between Juarez and El Paso can take hours, and border agents are said to sometimes tear up the visas of women who are noticeably pregnant. Some women end up giving birth on the bridge between Juarez and El Paso because of delays….”

When the border was closed to even those with visas, the pregnant and laboring women, with their families, trudged through the Rio Grande River… day and night… to cross into the United States. They often walked miles to reach the birth center.

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Crossing the Rio Grande was bad enough, but the water was/is disgustingly polluted. American maquiladoras rose on Mexican soil years ago as a way to bypass manufacturing regulations implemented in the United States. With so little oversight, the maquiladoras also freely dump their waste, including poisonous chemicals, directly into the river… the same one laboring women were walking through. On several occasions, we would give a river-soaked woman a shower before she felt clean enough to have her midwifery appointment or birth her baby.

I remember one visit down to the edge of the river to help a nursing mom up the slope, the surface of the water had an oil (or gasoline) slick on it as well as scum like this:

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All because Border Patrol would feel holier-than-thou and not let people over the bridge even with valid visas.

Disgusting.

Borders

I’ve not been to El Paso or Ciudad Juárez since 2002, but the border topic, with #45 in power, has a new focus.

Just this week, on February 22, 2017, the Washington Post wrote “Anxiety over Trump stems flood of Mexican shoppers to El Paso,” ending the piece with:

A U.S. border agent checking documents remarked at the lack of cars.

“People are scared,” he said, as he took this reporter’s and a photographer’s passports.

Of what?

“Of our president,” he said, before sending us on our way.

Yes, those of us who have a positive history with immigrants in border towns are, most assuredly, very, very scared.

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Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Washington Post