Monday, June 30, 2008

as the cursor blinks



this whole blog thing can drive you batshit crazy. especially when you are staring at the empty white box and the cursor, which just blinks, and blinks, and blinks, like it's taunting you. write something you idiot. i don't have all day. and i feel a certain obligation to post at least a few times a week because hey, i don't wanna get an email from my pal Dawn at MDI that simply says: "slacker." and i like how it feels when i've scrapped around my brain and tapped away long enough to get something worth clicking "publish post" for.

i've been coming up empty lately. maybe my brain is fried. maybe those creative juices (love that phrase) are dryin' up. i thought of writing about music, and how my tastes are all over the place depending on my mood, or my destination point, or the weather, or who i'm keeping company with. ya know, when i'm driving to shapleigh, The Place Where I Did Crazy Things As An Out-of-Control Teenager, i just have to listen to classic rock. it's the blimp, frank, it's the blimp. led zeppelin and the police and pink floyd and rush. or if i'm home and it's raining and gloomy outside, it's gotta be something that's snazzy jazzy, like billie holiday. or if it's a road trip with the posse, well we must listen to chick bands, chick bands, chick bands (the Matriarch will only allow one male singer per hour, unless he's gay, at which point he has a free pass.) or on the rare occasion that i am not sleeping alone, and hence, not sleeping, (oh how rare, how very, very rare....) mazzy star or maybe joan armatrading. or darien brahm's 'wicked.' over and over. and over again. and then...oops. sorry. mind was wandering. another symptom of writer's block. failure to focus on subject matter at hand.

i was gonna write about that, but eh. you can see where it was going.

then i thought about filling everyone in on my saturday visit to shapleigh, and how amazingly well my mom is doing, (please pause now and knock on the nearest piece of wood) and of the truly fun day i had with the family. and about how we decided that this christmas we aren't buying each other gifts, but instead we're going to make homemade care packages for the patients on the sixth floor at maine med, and how that will require darlene to be a bit of a domestic goddess and do things like sew, and bake cookies. and about how that elicited a hearty laugh from corey, mchottie and the matriarch at breakfast yesterday. i mean really, they all damn near spit out their coffee at the thought of me with an apron on, or a needle and thread in my hand. ouch. i mean butches can bake, right dawn?

but no. i came up short on that one too.

mr. macrum explored the sometimes obsessive behavior of bloggers on the fantastic Lost in the Bozone...about how he spends a lot of time away from his blog thinking about what he wants to put in his blog. in essence, he wrote a brilliant post about what happens when you've got nothing to write about. yeah. sure. go ahead and show off, big guy. i see how you are.

you're not gonna get that kinda brilliance from me. at least not today. the most profound thing i can think of to say is that writer's block sucks man. that's all i've got.

ladies and gentleman, the well is dry.
stay. tuned.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

here's hoping that i am one of little dust

from eat pray love, by liz gilbert
-----------------------------------

...Most of humanity, he [Buddha] said, have eyes that are so caked shut with the dust of deception that they will never see the truth, no matter who tries to help them. A few others are so naturally clear-eyed and calm already that they need no instruction or assistance whatsoever. But then there are those whose eyes are just slightly caked with dust, and who might, with the help of the right master, be taught to see more clearly someday. The Buddha decided that he would become a teacher for the benefit of that minority--"for those of little dust."

I clearly hope that I am one of these mid-level dust-caked people, but I don't know. I only know that I have been driven to find inner peace with methods that might seem a bit drastic for the general populace...I don't know that I have much of a choice, though. I have searched frantically for contentment for so many years in so many ways, and all these acquisitions and accomplishments--they run you down in the end. Life, if you keep chasing it so hard, will drive you to death. Time--when pursued like a bandit--will behave like one; always remaining one county or one room ahead of you, changing its name and hair color to elude you, slipping out the back door of the motel just as you're banging through the lobby with your newest search warrant, leaving only a burning cigarette in the ashtray to taunt you. At some point you have to stop because it won't. You have to admit you can't catch it. That you're not supposed to catch it. At some point...you gotta let go and sit still and allow contentment to come to you.

Letting go, of course, is a scary enterprise for those of us who believe that the world revolves only because it has a handle on the top of it which we personally turn, and that if we drop this handle for even a moment, well--that would be the end of the universe. But try dropping it. This is the message that I'm getting. Sit quietly for now and cease your relentless participation. Watch what happens. The birds do not crash dead out of the sky in mid-flight, after all. The trees do not wither and die, the rivers do not run red with blood. Life continues to go on...

...I hear this argument and it appeals to me. I believe in it, intellectually. I really do. But then I wonder--with all my restless yearning, with all my hyped-up fervor and with this stupidly hungry nature of mine--what should I do with my energy, instead?

That answer arrives, too:

Look for God, suggests my Guru. Look for God like a man with his head on fire looks for water.

---------------------------------------

Friday, June 27, 2008

speaking of billie...

carmen mcrae was a jazz goddess too.
and her version of good morning heartache was utterly delicious.

sigh.



you love the thunder

there are few things that make me happier than watching, listening to, touching, smelling and breathing a thunderstorm. we just had a damn good one in portland-town, and i sat out on the porch and let it all soak into me...bright splashes of lightning, loud claps of thunder, pounding rain, and a lovely cool breeze brushing my skin, brushing right through me. and while the fireworks and sound effects are fading away, there is still a nice steady rain falling outside (i know, i know...we've had more than our fair share of rain lately, but what can i say? i. heart. weather.)

i've had a crazy month...and tonight is the first night in a good long time when i have absolutely nothing at all to do. i tore through my apartment earlier (it had been horrifically neglected over the past six weeks but it's starting to look and feel like home again). now i've lit some candles, i've got billie holiday crooning in the background, and i am content. it feels good to breathe...to be in my own quiet space. i've been craving it, needing it desperately.

and yet, i will feel a tinge of loneliness later...right after the dinner is cooked and eaten, dishes washed and put away. right before night falls. so it goes, the constant pushing and pulling of heart vs. head, of savoring my solitude even as those little pangs of emptiness pierce through me.

all in all though, for tonight, life is just simply sweet.

crushing

Thursday, June 26, 2008

another reason to love san francisco

an apt dedication i think.

read on:

Reagan has his highways. Lincoln has his memorial. Washington has the capital, and a state, too. But President George W. Bush may soon be the sole president to have a memorial named after him that you can contribute to from the bathroom.

From the Department of Damned-With-Faint-Praise, a group going by the regal-sounding name of the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco is planning to ask voters here to change the name of a prize-winning water-treatment plant on the shoreline to the George W. Bush Sewage Plant.

The plan - hatched, naturally, in a bar - would place a vote on the November ballot to provide "an appropriate honor for a truly unique president."


click here for more, from the International Herald Tribune.

today's rant, aka my kingdom for a dose of medicine

so my little "stimulus" check arrived a few days ago in the mail...um, gee, thanks george. my contribution to boosting the economy? using a healthy portion of the check to help pay for my mom's release from maine med. yeah.

she needs to receive IV antibiotics every six hours for at least the next twelve days. to keep her alive. to get her healthy. ironically, medicare would cover another twelve day stay in the hospital at $1000 a day (and where she could potentially pick up another infection), but would only cover a portion of the cost for home health care. my mom and dad would have to come up with $65, a DAY, in order to get this handy dandy little IV pump that would allow us to administer the drug from home. Right. for my mom and dad, $65 might as well be $6500. either way, they are going to come up short.

my dad was a blue collar worker his whole life. translation: no pension after retirement. my mom fared a little better and earned a tiny pension when she retired. they blew through that in four years on luxuries like food, heating oil, and medicine. so now they live on their little social security checks, and their combined income for the month is less than $2000. you don't have to be a mathematical genius to figure out that sure, they could cover the eight hundred bucks for my mom's treatment, as long as they don't mind fasting for two weeks. um, yeah.

add that to the fact that the company which provides the IV pump and all its fixin's requires full payment on the day of delivery, and you can see the quandry. so my sister and i are covering the cost, although we had to fight my parents tooth-and-nail to do it. let's just say my parents are very, very reluctant to ask for and accept help of any kind. i get that. i grew up poor, and have spent most of my adult life living paycheck to paycheck, and when you have very little, you develop a strange sense of pride about making it on your own and not asking for help. it's kind of an unspoken code, and my parents taught it to me well. yes indeed. getting them to accept our help was an exercise in patience, to say the least. my mom cried a lot, my dad sighed a lot...but getting her home and swallowing their pride won out, eventually.

so anyway...yesterday we spent most of the day working this out with my parents, getting handy lessons about how to run her IV at home, and then waiting around the hospital for the green light to wheel my mom outta there. last night, for the first time in fourteen days, everyone in the Huntress family Slept In Their Own Beds. and so it goes...we are hoping and praying that THIS time is the LAST time we have to rush my mom to the emergency room. we figured out that since her surgery on May 9th, she has spent 33 days in the hospital, and we're ready to put this chapter behind us, once and for all.

i cannot begin to imagine what the hospital bills for 33 days are going to look like. i'm sure my parents will be responsible for some of it, and i honest-to-god don't know how they will ever pay the piper. this health care crisis thang makes me bat-shit crazy. and now that i've experienced it first-hand, i may never shut up about it. when my parents were working, (and relatively healthy), they paid for their health insurance through their employer. now they are retired, and aging, and needing health coverage in an almost desperate way. they picked up medicare, and those tiny little social security checks are $200 lighter every month so that they can pay for it. and it still isn't enough, so they pay another $100 a month for supplemental insurance. and guess what...that isn't enough either.

it's insanity. all of it. what would they do if they didn't have family to help them through this?

which brings up my latest cause of insomnia. i am worried about the bazillion people who don't have family to help them. i've seen enough of those people over the last two months...i've walked past plenty of hospital rooms that are always dark and quiet, a patient alone, the space empty of visitors. how do people get the care they deserve if they are completely on their own? i can only come up with two answers, and i hate them both. they don't get the care, and they suffer and eventually die. or they get the care, can't pay the bills, the insurance companies come after them, and they lose everything. it's disgusting. it's criminal.

i don't know how to fix this. i suspect single-payer health care might be the way, but until we have something other than overpaid idiots in Washington, it ain't gonna happen. and yeah, the baby boomers are starting to flood the doors of hospitals, people like my parents are having to make decisions between heating oil and prescription drugs, and if we don't do something quickly, we are going to see a collapse, a disaster, of biblical proportions.

i should probably rent SICKO and get really wound up, but i don't think i have the heart to watch it. i don't even need to, really, because i've seen it unfold, in living color, to a sweet little couple from shapleigh who just want to spend the rest of their lives watching the grass grow in their back yard. they've earned it. they deserve it.

so anyway. thanks for stimulus check george.

what a crock.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

two by anne sexton

Young

A thousand doors ago
when I was a lonely kid
in a big house with four
garages and it was summer
as long as I could remember,
I lay on the lawn at night,
clover wrinkling over me,
the wise stars bedding over me,
my mother's window a funnel
of yellow heat running out,
my father's window, half shut,
an eye where sleepers pass,
and the boards of the house
were smooth and white as wax
and probably a million leaves
sailed on their strange stalks
as the crickets ticked together
and I, in my brand new body,
which was not a woman's yet,
told the stars my questions
and thought God could really see
the heat and the painted light,
elbows, knees, dreams, goodnight.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Welcome Morning

There is joy in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle that
heats my coffee each morning,
in the spoon and the chair that cry
"hello there, Anne" each morning,
in the godhead of the table that
I set my silver, plate, cup upon each morning.

All this is God, right here in my pea-green house
each morning and I mean, though often forget,
to give thanks, to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing as the holy birds
at the kitchen window peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The Joy that isn't shared, I've heard, dies young.

Monday, June 23, 2008

she had a good day

and so my mother finds her way through another extended stay in the hospital...we are now on day ten of her third stint at maine medical, waiting for answers that seem to take their sweet time coming. in some ways, she seems better than at any other time since her surgery almost two months ago, and so we hang onto that as an anchor, as a beacon of hope. the last three days have been relatively good ones. she has smiled. she has laughed out loud. her appetite seems to have returned, at least a little bit. she is doing everything imagineable to improve her strength, which means lap after lap (after lap, after lap), of pushing her walker around the sixth floor, with her IV tree (and my dad) following faithfully behind her.

last night i sent my sister a text message shortly after my dad and i arrived home from visiting my mom (he is staying with me in portland, which is a blog entry or two in and of itself). my text message: we watched an old lucille ball movie with mom, laughed our butts off and tucked her in at 8. I think she was asleep the minute we kissed her goodnight. She had a good day.

my sister replied: thank god, finally a happy day. funny how a happy day has a whole new meaning now.

"funny how a happy day has a whole new meaning now." that tiny little sentence has been stuck inside my head ever since i read it last night. the bare-bone truth of it is just...remarkable. for my family, happy days are now defined by very. simple. things. the sound of my mother's laughter. the warmth i feel, all the way down to my toes, when she smiles. or when i watch her eat a bird-sized meal and actually enjoy it. a game of cribbage from her bedside. a walk around the hospital wing.

two months ago, i never would have imagined that these tiny little moments would feel like extraordinary gifts. it's amazing how our perspectives have changed in that short period of time. we have watched my mother walk through fire, literally, with fevers that burned through the night. we have watched her navigate the fragile lines between life and death, and do it with a sense of grace and courage that is breathtaking. she has become our heroine, our angel, a living example of the power of the human spirit, and of love, and of dignity.

so yeah. her laughter, her smile, her ability to put one foot in front of the other...such simple things amid the world's complexities. yet for us...they are miracles more profound than the mind can comprehend, and that only the heart may know.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

p-r-i-d-e

i took a break from all-things medical last night and did the dyke march thang in portland. in spite of some seriously threatening rain clouds i was amazed to see so. many. people hanging at congress square for the pre-march rally. and loved that we stretched halfway down congress street for the march to monument square.

after last year's rally, dyke march committee members and others (including me) received a series of borderline-threatening emails from CCL members that this march "would not be tolerated." lady bug's as-usual brilliant response: the CCL was absolutely right. it is not "tolerated" in Portland. At all.

yeah. you tolerate a cold, or the flu, or bad weather, or a snarky cousin.

the city of portland embraces, accepts, and celebrates with us, and last night they did it in spades. as hundreds of dykes marched down congress street, crowds gathering on the sidewalks cheered and yelled out support. restaurants emptied and customers waved and clapped. passing cars, once they figured out what all the ruckus was about, beeped and honked in celebration.

it's pride weekend baby and i'm gonna wear out a path between deering oaks and maine medical. (i even told my mom i may organize a mini-pride parade down the halls of the sixth floor, which elicited a rare but beautiful smile from her.) we have so much to celebrate and it goes far, far beyond our relief that the latest attempt to push us back into the closet has failed in such a poetically collosal way. we would have had a fabulous time either way, guaranteed.

that said, lezbe honest. it's sure gonna make this weekend taste even sweeter for us.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

untitled

This month you carried me late and heavy
in your belly and finally near Tuesday
midnight you gave me light and life. The season
Kore returns to Demeter, and now you suffer
and I cannot save you though I burn with dreams.

...in my childhood we float, your sweet
husky voice singing about the crescent
moon, with two horns sharp and bright we would
climb into like a boat and row away
and see, you sang, where the pretty moon goes.

In the land where the moon hides, mothers
and daughters hold each other tenderly.
There is no male law at five o'clock.
Our sameness and our difference do not clash
metal on metal but we celebrate and learn...

marge piercy
excerpt from crescent moon like a canoe

Sunday, June 15, 2008

neverending

my mom has been at southern maine med since friday...we are hoping to transfer her to maine med in portland today.

...

Friday, June 13, 2008

strong is what we make each other

random thoughts after a wickedly busy week that has left me both inspired and exhausted...

we kicked serious butt out in the field on tuesday. 125 motivated and dedicated volunteers. 8 counties. 35 polling places. more supportive, pro-LGBT ID's from a single day's action in our organization's 25-year history. the mountain of work leading up to primary day paid off in an astounding way...we were nearly flawless. i was so proud of our volunteers, so many of them digging deep and putting themselves in situations that were far outside of their comfort zones. it is never, ever easy as a queer person to have someone look you in the eyes and tell you they don't believe in protecting your humanity. yet so many in our community were willing to stand inside of that incredibly vulnerable place. that kind of courage moves and inspires me like nothing else can. it's what motivates me every single day.

the diversity of our volunteers on tuesday was just awesome. an 81-year-old man in cumberland county sat for almost 12 hours at the polls, taking only a short break in mid-afternoon to attend a senior citizen's luncheon. oh, and his replacement for those few hours? his lovely wife. nice. we had young people from civil rights teams and GSA's setting up tables at polling places, others canvassing the busy streets of portland. in hancock county, 19 of the 24 volunteers were straight allies...in windham, all of them were. stunning.

M. flew in to help for a week, and her amazing energy and organizing skills brought our work to a whole different level. what i love most about her is her tireless dedication to building our community, a community she just loves with her whole heart, and to empowering the people within in it. for her, it has little to do with politics and almost everything to do with our humanity. she motivates me in ways that no one else can and and having another opportunity to work beside her is an absolute gift for me. she is just an extraordinary human being with a profound and lovely soul and spirit, something i've always known and was just reminded of, in big and beautiful ways, over the past seven days. and our little trip to acadia yesterday was just the perfect way to end her visit...an incredible memory that will sit in my heart forever. she leaves today and damn if i don't miss her already. sigh.

at the root of all of this...i just adore and respect and admire the people i work with, from my amazing boss and my colleagues at EQME, to the phone bankers and canvassers and polling place tablers and data entry gurus and cookie bakers extraordinnaire. and on and on and on. it just blows my mind that all across this state on tuesday, in little places like etna and frankfort and ellsworth and rockport, in bigger places like sanford and scarborough and saco, more than 100 beautiful and brave people were all asking the same question...do you believe in equality for LGBT people? thousands of people said yes i do. thousands. in one single day.

why anyone would believe they could stop this amazing swell of humanity in its most beautiful form just confounds me. let them try. we are out of our closets forever and we aren't going back inside. right will win, and wrong will lose. and i am learning, day in, day out, that we are not standing alone. that most of the world has opened their arms, their hearts, to us. they are standing with us and embracing us, supporting us and loving us.

i keep hearing marge piercy's voice in my head. Lightning stuns. In rain, the clouds disperse. Only water of connection remains, flowing through us. Strong is what we make each other. oh this journey, it ain't gonna be easy. the work will be hard and the days will be long and sometimes we will feel like all is lost. we will need so. many. more people to push themselves to places they never imagined they would go. But we will get to the other side of this, and when we do, our strength, our community, our humanity, will be lifted in ways we have never seen before.

bring it.

Monday, June 09, 2008

my disappearing act...

...is due to circumstances beyond my control.

Like my niece's graduation from high school.

And the mountain of work on my desk from my chronic absence in May.

Which, by the way, is a mountain I am utterly ignoring while still putting in fifteen hour work days--weekend and all---to get ready for our biggest. action. ever. on primary day.

have faith.
i'll return.

after i sleep for about 3 days...beginning, beautifully, on Friday the 13th.

stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

cautiously optimistic

my mom is home again, at long last. she has a huge battle ahead of her as she continues to fight a number of persistent infections, but hopefully she can wage most of this battle in Shapleigh. It has been such an emotional rollercoaster ride for her and my family, and i think because of those gargantuan ups and downs, our new motto is "The Huntress Family: Cautiously Optimistic." My dad has joked that the legislature has reconvened for an emergency bill to change "Murphy's Law" to "Huntress Law." If you don't have a sense of humor about such things, you will lose your mind, and my family has a very healthy dose of humor. It has kept us going on more than one occasion.

The nursing staff that took such amazing care of my mom has awarded me "honorary nurse" status which will at least give me a decent discount at the Maine Med cafeteria. My mom's room was a revolving door of visits as every one of those nurses made an appearance when they learned she was going home, and they each gave her tearful, happy embraces. They have become our heroines, our salvation, our family, in so many ways. As much as I love these women at the hospital, I am hoping to never see them again, unless it's in the outside world. In that case, I will wrap my arms around every one of them like a long lost friend.

So life goes on...my mom will travel twice a day for the next 7 weeks to Southern Maine Med for critical IV antibiotics that will keep her alive and make her stronger. She will have her blood tested every other day because these same medications that will destroy this infection can also destroy other things...like liver function...so she must be constantly monitored. She will use a walker for months until her back heals completely. And we won't truly know if all of this has been worth it until that healing is complete. She has decidedly less pain than before the surgery, so yeah, we are...um...cautiously optimistic.

Tucked inside the long and excruciating days and nights of the past month are some wonderful vignettes filled with humor, love, friendship, compassion. It has certainly been a life-changing experience and I can honestly say, I will never be the same, nor will my mother, my father, or my sister. And while I would do anything...ANYTHING...to erase the last 30 days for my mom, this time has strengthened the core of our family in incredible, lasting ways. As my friend Michael would say, 'you guys are like love on steroids.' indeed.

I have never ever felt so much love and support from the world of people around me. Emails and phone calls and visits from friends have been like my own IV, pumping hope and comfort through my veins. When I attended the Maine Democratic Convention on Saturday, every single person who came up to me began the conversation with "how is your mom." Some of these people I barely knew (hell, some of them i was meeting for the first time)...yet *they* knew about this crisis and were kind and generous and gentle with their questions. It was incredible. It has been like this everywhere I go, people reaching out with encouragement and well-wishes, and to say I am grateful is just a ridiculous understatement. My family has been on the receiving end of thoughts and prayers from so. many. people. and i am certain this has contributed to my mother's healing. there just isn't any doubt about it.

It is hard to be cynical about humanity in moments like this. It seems to me that most people, when tested, rise to the occasion in a beautiful way, and I have lately seen the human spirit soar.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

love. him.

i took a much-needed break from the hospital yesterday and spent the day in Augusta at the Maine Democratic Convention. i was lucky enough to be standing about 3 feet away from my guy, Ethan Strimling, as he delivered one of the. most. powerful. speeches I have ever heard.

check it out and get inspired.