Louder, for the people in the back

Up and down this road I go
Skippin’ and dodgin’
From a 44

Facebook is often an echo chamber; because you can curate the list of who hears what you have to say, you naturally tend to start silencing, ignoring, or blocking people who have differing ideals than you. The last… I dunno, eight months? Longer? I’ve seen a lot of posts about “if you believe ___ , unfriend me now” but also “hey, I welcome my friends with different ideas, just because you believe ____ doesn’t mean you are suddenly dead to me.” And you know what? I would love to be in the second camp. I would love to say that I welcome differing views with open arms – because a lot of the time, I do. I love my friends whose parents are immigrants and who teach me amazing, flavorful recipes I might not come across in standard US fare. Who tell me stories about their culture, about growing up differently than me, about living in different countries. I will suck down anything you want to tell me about living differently than what I grew up with, like a starving vampire. I want to know what the weather is like in other countries, what you grow in your gardens, what side of the road you drive on (and how weird it felt to you if you ever went somewhere that drove on the other side of the road), how you treat your elderly and your children and what values you hold dear that have been passed down from generations before. What your lullabies and your fairy tales are. What your holiday rituals are like. But Facebook, and this blog, are my virtual living rooms. And if you walk into my living room and shit on the floor, Imma show you the door. You offer me reasoned arguments backed up by facts? Fine. You come in and shit on my friends, attack them for something they haven’t said, or spread misinformation either deliberately to poke “the libs” or because you’re too lazy or uneducated to do your own research? There’s the door. You want to start a legitimate conversation because you feel like there’s something you don’t know, or don’t understand? Please, bring your questions and thoughts. You want to start a fight? There’s the door.

10:03 on a Tuesday morning
In the fall of an American dream
A man is doing what he knows is right
On flight 93
He loved his mom and he loved his dad
He loved his home and he loved his man
But on that bloody Tuesday morning
He died an American

Black lives matter
Diversity makes us stronger
Feminism is for everyone
I am unapologetic
I curse… a fucking lot
Kindness matters
Love is love
No human is illegal
Not all men, but definitely that fucking guy
Science is real
Trans women are women (and trans men are men)
Tu lucha es mi lucha
Protest and Insurrection are two different things
Wear a fucking mask

Now you cannot change this
You can’t erase this
You can’t pretend this is not the truth

This time that we’re living in right now, after almost a full year of fighting about wearing a mask, fighting about black lives mattering, fighting about who should be leading the country… we’re seeing division now that hasn’t been seen on this level since the Civil War. Yes, Vietnam and the civil unrest of the late 50s through early 70s divided a lot of people as well – times have always been crazy, and have always divided families. But with technology now, it’s easier to yell into the void, easier to yell from your pulpit, easier to attack people you don’t know because you don’t have to do it face to face, easier to get your fifteen minutes of fame. It’s also easier to spread fear, disinformation, lies, and accusations.

Even though he could not marry
Or teach your children in our schools
Because who he wants to love
Is breaking your Gods’ rules
He stood up on a Tuesday morning
In the terror he was brave
And he made his choice
And without a doubt
A hundred lives he must have saved

Yesterday on my Facebook page, I had to say the following. The original commenter, who was trying to say that it was totally fine that protesters (his word, not mine, as I would have said insurrectionists) breaching the Capitol was fine because “the liberal left” had already burned DC to the ground in June, deleted his comment. That means my reply also disappeared, but not before I got a screencap. So here it is.

A riot incited by lies fed to people by their leader is not comparable whatsoever to protests because black and brown people are being killed in the streets, walking home from grocery stores, or are out jogging.
On one hand we have people being marginalized and murdered for simply existing.
On the other hand, we have a rich white man who doesn’t want to give up his power, and so is manipulating the truth in order to incite violence.
That’s about as equally comparable to saying we should go ahead and eat these poisoned apples, because I saw some oranges at the grocery store six months ago that had a spot of mold on them.
This is not about the blame game. This is not about “it’s okay to do this because some other people already did that”.
The people on Flight 93, in 2001, did not willingly crash their plane into the ground to save the Capitol, so that a bunch of Nazis could take it over twenty years later.

(WordPress wants me to write a citation here, so… — Lorena Haldeman, Facebook, 01/08/21, 9:08 AM)

And the things you might take for granted
Your inalienable rights
Some might chose to deny him
Even though he gave his life
Can you live with yourself in the land of the free
And make him less of a hero than the other three
Well it might begin to change ya
In a field in Pennsylvania

To wrap up: you are entitled to your opinion, even if it’s wrong. You’re even entitled to think that I am wrong. It saddens me that I think the cracks in our society are too deep now to be repaired – I’m never going to think that racism and insurrection with a goal of continuing white supremacy is right, and you’re probably not ever going to think that whatever your belief is, is wrong. We’re never going to agree. If we can listen to each other, that would be lovely. But if not? If all you want to do is bait me, try to get me to lash out in anger? Pff. I was raised by a writer and an abusive alcoholic. Bring it. Words are my superpower. Defending the marginalized is a fire that burns in me that only feeds my soul as you try to stoke the flames. I can cut through misinformation, I can back up my arguments with facts, I can link to those facts using multiple different resources. I can do all that without giving you what you want, which is me showing fear or backing down. Come on. Let’s roll.

Stand up America
Hear the bell now as it tolls
Wake up America
It’s Tuesday morning
Come on let’s roll

— Jon Craig Taylor / Melissa L Etheridge; Tuesday Morning

When loss sneaks in and makes a home in your heart

I want to make sweeping statements like, “the first time you lose someone you love, it teaches you how to lose everyone else” or “the first time you lose someone you love, you learn what to do and not do the next time.” But I don’t necessarily mean “everyone” – because everyone deals with things in different ways. What I face, you might hide from. What I consider heavy, you might not consider picking up at all. So what I really mean is, specifically, losing people in the past has taught me what kind of person I want to be when faced with losing people in the future.

Death – well, any kind of crisis, actually, because I’ve seen this happen around weddings and big moves/job changes as well – brings out the best and the worst in people. As if… wherever they’re already headed, wherever their spirit is pointed, it suddenly gets laser-focused and directed a thousand percent tighter and harder. Busy people get busier. Bossy people get bossier. People prone to depression get more depressed. People who deflect and sublimate behave as if nothing is wrong. Helpers help even more. People who already make everything about them are annoyingly amplified, and people who prefer to stay in the background and help become both more valuable but also less seen.

Are any of these things better than the other? Well, of course. I mean, who wants even more bossy, self-centered people sucking the energy out of a room when they’re not really the person going through it?! But we all deal with different things in different ways, and to me it seems like one of life’s many repeating lessons to learn is how to deal with how people deal with things.

Losing my dad, and losing Bill, taught me a lot (most of the posts I’ve written about those particular journeys can be found in the Souvenirs category, where I write the hard stuff). Losing my grandparents taught me some as well, but honestly, I was so young that the first few lessons didn’t stick as well as they should. So, thanks, I guess, life, for the repeats?

What did I learn?

I learned I wanted to be the person who showed up. Lots of people say “oh, that’s terrible, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help” and then they disappear, waiting for the person in crisis to reach out. Pro tip: what is more helpful than “let me know what I can do” is being specific. People in the midst of crisis, if you ask them what needs to be done, are going to think “everything. Everything needs to be done.” When in crisis, it’s too hard to delegate. There’s just too much. Offer specific help. Offer to pick up groceries, to bring cooked/frozen food over, to walk dogs, to clean cat boxes, to take dry-cleaning or do laundry. Offer to do yard work, or clean, or take kids to a movie or the park, or take the car in for repairs. Whatever your specialty is, whatever you’re good at doing, offer that. Specifics are better than general offers of help.

So. Loss, stress, and crisis have revealed to me that I want to be the person who shows up. I want to be the person who doesn’t have any regrets about things unsaid. I want to be the person who waded hip deep into the river of love and not just stuck her toes in the shallows. I want to be the person who makes whatever it is – the loss, the grief, the transition, the hard time – easier for the people involved to carry it all.

But is it really a want? Do I “want” to be that way? Because sometimes it feels more as if … I can’t NOT be that way. This is the way I am, I know my true nature, I can’t go against it without hurting myself, and I have no desire to put myself through the pain of trying to be someone I’m not.

So I help. I support. I do dishes and I put laundry in the dryer and I take the trash and recycling out. I bring groceries and I cook food and I run errands. I’m here if people want to talk and I’m here if they’re not ready to. I watch, and pay attention to what people need and try to give them that. I listen. I hear. I see. I love. I show up.

Well, *that* wrecked my head

Warning: this is a sad story about a sad animal and spoilers, it didn’t live. If that sort of thing shatters your heart into a million pieces like it does mine, you’re not going to want to read this post. Come back in a few days. You’re welcome!

Also, this is a long one — WordPress no longer tells me my word count at the bottom of the screen (this new update, ugh, y’all) but even *I* think it’s long and I’m only halfway done writing it as I come back to put in this warning — and I have to do this in one post otherwise I’ll never finish telling you about it).

Let me tell you a little something about living in the country. I may have at one point in my life wanted to be a Bright Lights Big City girl, but at heart, I was raised by hippies and I’m a borderline hermit and I’m not entirely convinced that I won’t one day find need of a commune/compound when the revolution comes…. so I like to live in the country. Also the stars out here on clear nights are legit breathtaking, yo.

Now, I used to live in the country when I was younger, so when That Poor Man and I were looking for a place, I had some rules. You know I am all about rules (mostly so I can break them — know your enemy, amirite?!). \

A dirt or limerock road was OK, but it must be a county-owned road. I have spent enough time listening to my dad argue with neighbors about who lives closer to the paved road so doesn’t have to pay as much as people who live at the end, for grading, or people who have teenagers who drive fast so the dirt blows away faster, so they should have to pay more, and so on. In short, I have no patience to discuss/argue with neighbors about getting together to chip in to get a road graded. Thou Shalt Liveth on a County-Owned Road.

There must be mail delivery — USPS at the very least, preferably also UPS and FedEx. I don’t hate Post Office boxes, I just know what it’s like to not get to one in a week when you get a lot of mail. And I do run an online business, and both ship and get things shipped constantly. Let’s make this as easy on me as possible. Thou Shalt Have Mail Delivery.

There must be Internet. I run an online business. That’s not negotiable. Thou Shalt Haveth the Intertubes.

Those were the big three… but I also had one more, one that is both easy because I know what will happen if I don’t adhere to it, but also hard, because I love animals. Thou Shalt Not Feedeth the Strays. People love to dump animals in the country. Country Folk also don’t truck much with things like fences and leash laws. So sometimes it’s a stray, dumped, and sometimes it’s Bob’s Dog From Over The Way, but whichever — just don’t feed the strays.

I know what you are all thinking — “don’t you have, like, a hundred stray Studio Cats???” and yes, yes I do. Because someone else out here started feeding them, but was feeding them outside, which meant that the outside cat food was also drawing a metric ton of raccoons and other wildlife interested in a free buffet. So I took over the feeding duties, inside. Where we have control over who’s roaming the property looking for food.

Occasionally I see stray dogs out here. On average, about once a week. There’s a big black dog who either lives in the area or follows the trash pickup schedule because he only shows up on trash day. There’s another smaller black dog who has a yellow friend. I’ve seen a reddish/brown one around a few times. Tim will run them off, if he’s home, but I just usually ignore them. I have to. If I get involved….? Well. Is that some foreshadowing or what?!

There are a couple of times when it’s a dog I’ve never seen before, that I’ll take a picture and post on the Word of Mouth group “hey, are you missing this dog?” and kind of leave it at that. One time there was a super, SUPER friendly pitty who jumped over the fence to feel safe, but Tim took her to the pound and got her scanned, and we found her owner through a microchip. But for the most part? IGNORE. Post something if I can’t ignore.

Which is what I did a couple of weeks ago — there was what looked like a sick, maybe arthritic or maybe diseased because it was also drooling as well as sort of… listing to one side… dog in the front yard. It’s one I’d never seen before, so I took it’s picture and posted online. “Hey, are you missing this dog? It seems ill and drooling and I didn’t want to get close because hey I’ve read Cujo, but if it’s yours….?” and then I got back to work and started getting packages ready for the day and went to the post office and stuff.

I was constantly getting pinged online, my phone going off like fireworks, with people saying “find that dog!” and “that poor thing!” and “did it have a collar” and all. But, y’all. I can’t. I can’t get involved. I am all or nothing. If I get involved a little bit? I’m all in. I don’t just …. dip a toe into the “I’ll save you” pond, I dive in headfirst and forget my scuba gear. So… I kind of looked for it, halfheartedly, as I drove to and from the post office. Didn’t see it. Posted online that I looked again but didn’t see it. Went back to work.

But I couldn’t work. I couldn’t stop thinking about what someone had said, that sometimes dogs drool when they’re dehydrated, maybe I could at least tempt it with some water and get it to the pound? And someone thought it looked like someone’s dog that they’d posted about like a month ago that it was missing. So….. Maybe? So… against my better judgement…. I walked off in the woods in the direction I’d seen it going. I walked around for ten, fifteen minutes… maybe twenty, tops. Didn’t see it. OK, I’m off the hook. Right? I mean, I tried? But it wasn’t around?

Except when I got back up to the house… dammed if it wasn’t sitting right there, in the shade, between my front porch and the far corner of the house. Looking at me. Not wagging. Not really interested in anything. It looked listless. It looked… broken. Ready to die. Well, shit.

So I went inside and found a couple extra big bowls and filled one with water and one with dog food and walked about and mumbled sweet “who’s a good boys” and whatnot and see if he’d let me approach and put food and water down for him. He did. He hardly looked at me. He hardly looked at the food. He looked at the water and touched it with his nose, which was caked with either snot or grass (or both). Then he laid his head on top of the food like a pillow, and closed his eyes. Didn’t eat or drink. Just… sat.

So suddenly I’m doing everything at once. I’m trying to get him to stand up so I can get a leash on him and lead him into the back yard. I’m texting the woman who someone put me in touch with who thinks it might be her dog. I’m texting Tim pictures (pictures that I won’t show here, pictures that show even more than this one how fucking emaciated this dog was) and asking his opinion on chasing it off vs trying to take it somewhere to get it scanned for a microchip (his answer? “holy shit, give that dog some food”… and he’s more hardhearted towards strays than I am). I’m calling my vet to ask if I can bring it in to see if it’s micro-chipped (hilariously, the girl at the front desk had been following the Facebook Word of Mouth group thread and knew exactly why I was calling). I’m also asking them if they do euthanasias because, y’all, this dog did not look well. I wasn’t sure it would live through the night, and wasn’t sure that putting it down wasn’t the kindest thing to do for it.

So, the lady who thought it maybe, hopefully, might be her dog, she couldn’t tell from the pictures but he’d been missing a month… showed up. Now, here’s where I walk a really fine line between being a trusting person who loves people who love animals, and being a super-suspicious trust-no-one paranoid person who will take something to the darkest, worst place as fast as possible… I figured there were five possible outcomes…. (1) It wouldn’t be her dog (2) it would be her dog and she would take it home (3) it would be her dog but she would be so horrified at its state that she would lie and say it wasn’t her dog (4) it would’t be her dog but she’d feel so bad for it she’d take it home and nurse it back to health or (5) she was some sort of bait-finder for a dog fighting ring and it wouldn’t be her dog, if she was even really missing a dog, but she would take it to be bait in a dog fight (I KNOW I KNOW WHO GOES THERE FIRST, RIGHT? MY BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIN!).

By this time I had gotten the poor thing into the back yard and it had crawled under our back porch to be in the shade. So I warned her that what she was about to see was heartbreaking at the least if you loved dogs, and would be deeply, deeply upsetting to her if it was her dog. Well, it wasn’t her dog, and I could tell she wasn’t lying, and while she seemed concerned for it she didn’t, like, burst out into tears or anything so I was 100% sure she wasn’t lying. Not her dog. But she did stick around for a little while and talk to it while I went back and forth on my phone between the vet and Tim and Facebook.

Someone on Facebook was like, hey, you should give Roland Senior Dog Rescue a shout – they are in Melrose, not too far away from you, and they might be able to help. I didn’t want to just… push this dog off and make it someone else’s problem — Tim and I had decided at this point that we’d keep it overnight, let it sleep in the yard and try more things to try to get him to eat, and would take him to the vet in the morning and get him scanned and see if there was anything more wrong with him than just starvation (like that caked nose bothered me, and his general listless attitude — but maybe he’d been eating grass, and was just tired and hungry?).

So I contacted them through Facebook, had a little while of some back-and-forth, and he came out with his son to look at the dog. Honestly I wasn’t sure how old this dog was. If you’d asked the first time I saw it at a distance I would have pegged him at somewhere around Methuselah. But now knowing that he was starving to death, not arthritic…. He could be anywhere from five to fifteen.

He got there, and we talked in the front yard for a little bit before I took him into the back yard to see the dog. He also wasn’t sure if they’d be able to help the dog… they do only take care of seniors, after all, so if he wasn’t old….? And they exist pretty much on donations, so, it’s not like they have a lot to spread around. Which I totally get. I’ve done rescue work, I’ve fostered dogs for a rescue organization before. It really does take a village. You can’t just… rescue animals because you love them. You need the financial backing of a billionaire. Especially if any of those animals need medical attention. Which I was pretty sure this dog did.

His son crawled under the deck and tried to engage the dog with sweet talk, or tempt him with some chew treats. The dog seemed a little interested in him, if not the food, so I took that as a good sign. He was able to coax the dog out into the light and… the man who runs the rescue took one look at how emaciated this dog was and said he didn’t care how young or old the dog was, he couldn’t let a dog live like that. So we got the dog back around to the front yard and into the back of the station wagon… where the son crawled into the back as well to comfort the dog as they drove. I tell ya, I don’t need to know anything else about those two men — everything I need to know about them and their hearts was right there. At one point he asked his son, “normally I’d put a new dog in quarantine, but” and before he could finish the kid, about 15 or so, said, “this dog needs to sleep in my room. If he dies tonight, he needs to know he’s not alone.” OH MY HEART.

They posted on their Facebook page about him (naming him Nick Charles from the book “The Thin Man”), and I kept in touch with them over messages, for the next… I guess it was three days? The first day they hooked him up to an IV for fluids, and antibiotics because he seemed to have a respiratory infection – as evidenced by the green crusty snot caking his nose. The last three nights before I found him had all been below 30 degrees. I’m not surprised he was sick. So he looked a little more alert, but he still wasn’t interested in food.

The next day they took him to a vet to get him scanned – no microchip. He was malnourished, dehydrated (although better after spending the night hooked up to an IV), had that upper respiratory infection, and … had a mass around his spleen and stomach that they couldn’t really tell what it was. They’d run some tests. He still didn’t eat that day.

He didn’t eat the next day, either. Test results weren’t back yet about the mass.

He died the next morning.

While I appreciate everyone on Facebook, people I know and people I don’t know, telling me that I did everything I could, telling me that I got the dog to the right people who could give him medical attention that I couldn’t, telling me that I did more than a lot of people would… I still feel like I failed that dog. People failed that dog. Someone either dumped him or lost him and didn’t look for him or didn’t have the money for whatever medical problem he had or… whatever. I don’t know. I don’t care about the who’s and the why’s. I am just haunted by a him out there, in sub-freezing temperatures, sick and hungry and alone.

I could write about a hundred more paragraphs about feeling sadness for the death of this dog vs. feeling hatred for someone who would dump an old sick dog vs. feeling sorry for someone if they loved the dog but knew it was sick and didn’t have money for medical attention vs. all the fifty thousand things you could feel about this situation.

Not to get all gothy/emo, but… I choose sadness. I choose to feel terrible that an animal suffered like that, because that cracks my heart open and that’s how the light gets in. Seeing injustice makes me want to fight harder for those who are marginalized — animal or human. It makes me want to snorgle my pets just a little bit more. It makes me want to go out and love some more. After I get my head and heart back together from this, because, y’all… it wrecked me. I was a mess for a few days, AND I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW THAT DOG FOR MORE THAN A COUPLE OF HOURS. This is why I can’t feed the strays. I am all or nothing. Many times more all than nothing.