No More Empty Fortune Cookies!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Living in Sin

"It's hard being married
and living in sin.
It's hard to determine
just which state I am in"    
-Janis Ian

I get so confused about my marital status when I fill out forms. I never know if I should mark "married" or "single". The Wifester and I got married, as most of you know, in Canada in 2007. We have a marriage license. But when I filled out the financial aid forms for The Cleveland Clinic, they marked me as single, because the state of Ohio does not recognize our marriage. When I applied for SSDI, they asked me if I was married. I said yes, then explained I am married to a woman, with a marriage license from Ontario, Canada. They called me single, until they decided that they need to base payment eligibility off of income, in which case they considered The Wifester's income. I don't think it's fair that they can call me single for the purposes of denying my eligibility for "family services" but call me married for the purposes of counting her income against me in determining how much money I need or am eligible to receive.

Then there's the passports.
Oh boy, there's another one. The US Federal Government doesn't recognize our marriage. So to them we are each single. At least 19 other countries do recognize our marriage, and register us as either "married" or "domestic partners". But it is up to us to fill in the form. If we mark "single" to accommodate our home country, then Canada can say we have falsified our documents. If we say "married", are we going to have trouble getting back into the US because to them we've falsified our passports, should we ever get to travel again?

I'll tell you one thing. It ain't easy being gay. But I sure wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Freelance ≠ Free Time

When you go freelance and begin to work for yourself, especially when that work is home-based, people assume that means you really have all the time in the world to piddle around and do whatever "little favor" they may ask of you. They think you have nothing in the world to do each day. They assume you are bored out of your mind and in need of some chore or task from them to keep you occupied.

I've actually been told, "Well, you're stuck in that house all day with nothing to do..."
Nothing to do?

I have web sites to test links on, content to write, designs to keep fresh.
I have blogs to write for other people and research to do on topics for said blogs...
I have proposals to write.
I have site stats to analyze and then make nice and pretty charts and graphs for, to be sent to my clients for their own info and convenience.
I have to advertise myself and drum up business, marketing to be done.
Then there's the invoices to keep track of. Who's all paid up, who needs a reminder? Who do I need to pay? Oh, the billing, it's such a pain in my rear.

On top of that, I have a house to keep clean.
I have to find the time to walk, since I can't drive, to the grocery store, and the drug store (and don't forget the beer store!) when needed.
I have to walk the dogs every day.
I have laundry to keep up, and dinners to plan and fix.
Stuck with nothing to do.
I wish.

Another popular assumption that people make when you go freelance and begin working from home is that you really no longer work. Period.
I've noticed that most people have stopped asking me how work is going. I notice at parties how people will ask The Wifester about her job, and then promptly move right along to the next topic without ever asking me how my work is. And that's fine. My work stays mostly the same. I usually don't have a whole lot to say about it, and what I do have to say is not something that people who don't do this job would understand much of.

"Fortune Cookies, how's your work going?"
"Eh, Fine. Oh! But the other day I changed a header from 99FFCC to 99FFFF, and threw the whole site out of balance. I spent hours redesigning it before settling on FFFFCC with CCFFFF borders."
It's not exactly engrossing conversation. I get it.
But my point is, we who work from home, we who work for ourselves and retired our punch cards and office cubicles, we do still work. We do, dammit!

Sure, I don't make as much money now. And my 401K is a giant jar filled with loose change. And nope, I don't have health insurance or paid sick days or vacation days. And yes, it's true that I only work part time now, but the fact of the matter is, I still work. I take pride in the job I do for my clients, and they appreciate my service as well. I can't keep up with a 9-5 routine anymore, at least my eyes can't. But that doesn't mean I've completely rolled over. I'm here, at home, busy working as much as my sight allows.

So the next time someone tells you they are freelance, or that they work from home, think twice before you assume that they have all the free time in the world to run your errands for you. Think twice before you assume that they have nothing to do.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Operation: Explore Cleveland

Yesterday The Wifester and I loaded the pups into the car and headed out to explore this great city. Our house only has one window unit a/c, and we haven't worked another one into our budget yet. Needless to say, with record high temps, our house gets HOT during the middle part of the day. It's good this way, it gets us out more than if it were nice and cool and comfy, where we'd end up sitting on the sofa watching a movie or something. I love how we get out and do so much more these days.

I think a lot of that has to do with her getting away from the hell hole of a job that kept her exhausted and beaten down, physically and mentally. Losing that job and getting away from that tyrant of a boss was the best thing that ever happened to her, to us.

But back to our day-
We had fun. And the pups finally got to feel some cool air on their faces, which stopped the incessant panting, panting, panting that was making the house smell boldly of dog breath. There are many foul smells that can ruin a home, and dog breath is surely near the top of that list.

We rode no more than 3 miles before we found a new park that neither of us knew existed. See what happens when you take that yet unexplored street?  And what a park we found! Oh, the grass was a bit tall, and there was more litter than I usually find at Cleveland area parks, but the view of the city was phenomenal.

photo by Macey Biddlecombe ©2012

I love exploring, and I love discovering hidden gems. 
How about you? Have you explored your city lately? What have you found that you never knew was there? 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Unsung Heroes

Memorial Day has become a day of barbecues, beer, and swimming pools. We've extended a weekend and given ourselves yet another excuse to party and have a great time, but have we forgotten what Memorial Day is really about? How often do we actually stop and think about all the men, women, animals...everyone who has fought and served our country? Many of which have given the ultimate sacrifice.

And maybe we do stop to think about the soldier...but how many of us think about the truly unsung heroes? Most soldiers are happy to go into combat. That is what separates them from the rest of us. They may be afraid to die, but they know deep within themselves that this is the job they signed up for, and they feel a true duty to their country, their countrymen and women to be there on the front lines to protect us. Sometimes they chose to go into service hoping they will never see wartime, but electing that service as the most promising option to advance their education or career...Sometimes they are coerced by family or friends to make that choice, but always it is a choice.

Not so for the truly unsung heroes.

Dogs, horses, even dolphins are chosen to serve our country, and more and more are losing their lives for us. Worse yet, they survive and are traumatized by the horrors of war. They live with fear, anxiety, depression. They have PTSD, only these poor creatures didn't get a choice that was fair. They didn't know that doing their job, obeying their commands, would place them in such harm's way. They only want to please their human counterparts. They don't get the option of choosing to place their lives on the line in combat situations. We take it upon ourselves to choose them. This Memorial Day, think about all the creatures of this planet who have given so much of themselves in order to preserve your freedom to grill burgers and drink beer by the pool.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Of Blind Girls and Dog Poo

Though I'm likely never to forget that Memorable Memorial Day of 2008, each year I try to put it behind me a little more and a little more. Today I need to prepare the yard for the Wifester to cut the grass, and in an instant I am taken back to those horrible memories.
But almost as horrific as that day, that scene, is the realization that I, the "blind girl", have the duty of going into the yard to scoop the dog poop. And mind you, we have a new upstairs neighbor who also has a lab mix, Daisy. So my job is to locate, extract, and dispose of the pooh of three quite large dogs, all while doing my best to avoid stepping in any of it. If I keep my head down and my eyes on the ground, I can see my feet, but not both at the same time, so that window is pretty small. Or rather the window of opportunity for a smelly disaster is quite large. Either way, it is not a job I am eager to embark upon. Hence my presence here, with you instead. Oh, I tell myself that I am waiting on the coffee to kick in, but the truth is I am, simply and honestly, procrastinating.
Don't get me wrong, I love being in the yard. I love to garden and till and plant...but the minefield that is our yard is treacherous to navigate, even for a fully sighted person. Still, the job must be done, and since I apparently can not, nor do I want to be trusted with the task of mowing the yard, especially after what I saw on that Memorable Memorial Day, I suppose my contribution is limited to me putting my big girl panties on and heading outside to scoop the poop. Besides, I do have the Cadillac of poop scoopers. 

See. Isn't that nice? My hands get to stay clean. Hopefully, if I'm very, very careful, so will my feet.

What's on your agenda today? Yard work? Barbecue? Both?

Friday, May 25, 2012

The In Between Place

Learning to adjust to my vision loss is an ongoing process. I have found that using the blasted white cane given to me by the National Federation of the Blind has been quite useful, as much as I hate to admit it. I really try to overlook the sideways glances I get when I'm walking down the street with it. I realize most people are simply curious. I always was before I began to experience this thing, this retinitis pigmentosa, this  slow but certain death of my sight.
I always thought I was just clumsy. Everyone did. My nickname as a kid was "Fumble butt". I wondered how everyone else seemed to get in and out of movie theaters without holding on to the hand rails and searching, searching for each step. I can't count the times I tripped and fell or nearly fell in a movie theater.
I remember as a kid my mother would tell us to be home at dark. I was always home long before my brother or neighbors considered it dark. 
I remember struggling to take notes in the classroom when the teacher had turned down the lights in order to use the overhead projector. (Yes, I'm that old. I remember overhead projectors.) I never knew how everyone else had notes that were neatly written, in the lines, and cohesive. Mine were scribbled, traipsing along, going over and under and back over the lines of my wide ruled paper, often trailing off to one corner or another. I could never see those lines to guide my pen. 
But I digress...

The cane. 
Before I truly understood what being "partially sighted" meant, I saw people with their canes and assumed, wrongly, but assumed that they were completely blind. I wondered if they could see anything at all.
Light? Shadows?
Was it pitch black in their world? Was it all white?
I wondered.

As my field of vision gets ever narrower and as my world, at least the world I see, closes in and gets smaller, yet smaller, I find myself in this strange place. Not quite blind, and not quite sighted.
I land somewhere in between. And that seems somehow apropos. I've always landed somewhere in between. Not all white, not all brown. Not all girly-girl, not all tomboy. A few popular friends, a few outsider friends. I never completely fit in in any one place. And honestly, I've always felt a bit more comfortable in that in between place. It's what I know. It's comfortable. I can indulge both sides of my personality there. I can lean left and then right, and always land somewhere in the middle, on what for me is solid ground. 

The cane has fallen right in step with me in that in between place. Some days my eyes are strained, clouded by a thick gray or sometimes white-ish film that veils the world from me. Some days they are showered with "floaters" that make it quite difficult to determine if I'm looking at something real, something there in the world in front of me, or just an imaginary nothingness that my eyes and brain have colluded have produced. Some days my eyes are clear, and I seem to see just fine, until I realize that I only see through a peep hole, while the rest of you are looking through a bay window. Always, though, my eyes see bright, swirly, spirally lights that pulsate from their centers, enlarge, and then recede.
It is because of all of these things that I choose to use the cane. Not because I can't see anything, but because I see differently. Some days I feel confident and choose not to use the cane. Other days, I make no doubt about it, I need it.

I'm finding my footing now in this new and ever changing In Between Place, both figuratively and literally. And I look forward to an ever changing world ahead of me. I know I will miss some things, but I also know I will learn new things, and isn't that what it's all about? Learning and growing, avoiding being stagnant...At least, that's what I think it's all about. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The C Word

When did people stop calling it "The Big C", or "The C Word", and just start saying it, "Cancer"? I remember my parents and grandparents in the kitchen in hushed voices saying, "Did you hear? Shirley's got the Big C. It came back..."
I wondered if she was taking classes and not doing very well. I was young, and I was wrong, at least about the school part.
I recently found out that two of my cousins have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
One is my Tia Anita's daughter, the other is my Auntie Maggie's. My friend lost his wife last year after a very short, dramatically short battle with pancreatic cancer. It was only a couple of weeks after her diagnosis before she lost her battle. She was young, and left behind two young daughters. I hate that for their family. Hate it.
Then again, I don't know whether that was a blessing or just another one of life's cruel twists of fate. I suppose it was a little bit of both.
I watched my aunt die slowly, painfully, mercilessly from cancer. She was deluded by the morphine, overwhelmed with pain, and frightened.
It took that woman two years to pass. Two years of bed baths, tubes, needles, nurses...
Two years of my uncle tending to her dutifully. Two years of her children and family watching her suffer day after day, after day...
Cancer. She doesn't care who you are, how old or young you are, how much money you do or don't have to spend fighting her. She pays no attention to how kind and generous you've been in your life. Karma is not in her vocabulary. She'd just as soon pick you as anyone else on this planet.
No rhyme. No reason.
Cancer is an equal opportunity bitch.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Muchas Gracias, Tia-Nita!

There's something wonderful that happens when I talk to my Tia Anita, or as I called her when I was a kid, "Tia-Nita"- at the end of each conversation I get to hear, "te quiero mi hija".
It never fails to fill me with the warm fuzzies. I don't know why hearing it in Spanish makes so much of a difference. Maybe it reminds me of being young, with aunts and uncles aplenty, surrounding me with love. Hearing them all speak in Spanish with one another always made me feel like I was being granted access to a secret society. One that was forbidden in my house. 

"You look white, so you never have to tell anyone that you are half Mexican. They'll just make fun of you." I remember my mother saying to me. "Always check the box that says White-Non Hispanic", she'd tell me on the first day of school. She was and continues to be, I don't want to say ashamed, but I can't think of a better word for it...I guess that's it, she was ashamed of her heritage, her ethnicity. 
I would ask her how to say one word or another in Spanish, and she'd always say, "Oh, I don't know. Ask your Auntie Maggie or your Tia-Nita next time you see her. Eventually, I learned to just go directly to my Grandma. She was always happy to teach me Spanish. She was quite disappointed that I knew so little of it, and often spoke to me wholly in Spanish and then asked me to tell her what she'd said. Mom hated that game. 

I wonder when it started for her. Was she embarrassed of her own skin color as a child in school? Was she picked on, teased? She grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I have seen her yearbooks. She was beautiful, seemingly popular, and above all, she seemed to have a good number of Hispanic class mates. I can't imagine that self-loathing came from those years. 

Maybe it started after she married my father. 
I remember going to a family reunion for his side of the family. I wondered why I had never met so many of  his aunts, uncles, and cousins. I remember a man coming toward us saying, "Well, there's ole' Jimbo with his half breed kids!" And I remember another man, apparently a minister at a rural Baptist church telling my dad he should visit his church, but he warned, "You shouldn't bring that spick wife of yours. They won't let her kind in." I think we left the reunion right after that. 
It's funny how things like that stick in your head, but I think if that stayed with me the way it has, what effect did it have on my poor mother? 

I wonder how those men would feel if I met them today, and introduced my wife to them? 
I wonder how, after experiencing those situations in their own lives, my parents could treat their own daughter's partner with such disdain, without even taking the time to get to know her.
I wonder if they'll ever come around. 

I don't know the answers, and I don't know if I'll ever know them. But I do know that I have found a place within myself that is proud to be half-Mexican and half-German. Proud to be a lesbian. Proud to be exactly who I am. And maybe, just maybe, my Tia Anita reminds me of that place within myself, and reminds me that I am a part of that secret society that my own mother was so frightened by. And for that I say, Muchas Gracias, Tia-Nita!  

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Bad Ex

This blog is like that bad ex you can't get out of your head. Every now and then you bump into each other and sparks fly again. Before you know it you've jumped in, head first, and are starting to think, "Yeah! This time I'll make it work!"  Eventually, you each recess back into the shadows of the forgotten until the next chance encounter.
I can't help it, I still hold out hope for this place, this thing, this blog.
Hope that I'll find what I'm looking for through it.
Hope that we'll improve each other.
Hope that you'll enjoy coming here.
And that's all any of us are looking for in this life, right? Hope.
I've lived my life filled with hope, and I've lived my life utterly and completely hopeless. And now I'm cycling back to hopefulness.
I don't really know where this blog is going, but it's been with me a long time now, and like myself, I think it has a pretty good way to go yet. I think we'll try to keep each other company for the next leg of the journey. Are you in?