Monday, June 25, 2007

THE DAN RODRICKS COLUMN/KIM MARTIN'S FAREWELL LETTER TO BALTIMORE CITY

The following is an excerpt from Kim Martin's:

" Farewell to Baltimore city"

"It's as if there's been some weird turn." Three weeks after moving into Charles Village "I woke up on Sunday morning at 6 a.m. to discover a man in my back bedroom stealing my computer and camera. That shook us up pretty good, but we decided to batten down the hatches (bar the windows, install the alarm system) and try to make a go of it. The winter passed fairly uneventfully except for the rats, and used condoms and needles I constantly find outside my back gate.

About a month ago I heard screaming at the back window and opened it up to witness a man stabbing a woman in broad daylight. I screamed at him to stop, called 911 and ran down to help her. I have never seen anything like this in my life and have lived in a variety of urban settings, including Miami, D.C.. and New York City.

Two weeks later we came home from Target across 28th Street to find it blocked by fire engines, ambos, and police cars. That was the scene of the fatal shooting of a cab driver.

(Martin says the city has issued her a series of parking and other citations, one of them for putting her trash out too early)

"Between the overzealous regulation of minor offenses by citizens you should be happy to have in your city and the criminal activity that is completely out of control, we have no choice" "I am not naive, nor paranoid. Just a single working mom hoping my daugher is not touched by the violence that is overwhelming this town."

Please try to understand what life is like here for the average citizen in your pursuit of the mayoral office this fall. If nothing changes, I can't see why anyone would want to stick around to see what happens next."

(My comment. Kim is one of the lucky ones.  I also hope I can get out before it's too late)

"HECTOR FROM HONDURAS"

In the past 2 years since I've returned to Baltimore, virtually the only new friends and acquaintances I've made are either from another city or another country. In my experience Baltimoreans are extremely cold people who rarely make eye contact. Ironically, the only people in the last 2 weeks who have spoken to me (short of cashiers) were from outside of the U.S.! Since I'm carless I'm even more aware of who does and does not want to connect.

This true story happened on Saturday. I was sitting in front of the cafe when a Latino man happened by. He happened by twice in about a 30 minute period. Each time I smiled and since he did make eye contact he smiled back. The second time he happened by, he was walking and reading which is something that I rarely see anyone do. When I asked him the following question, I fully knew that he might not understand English. With this in mind, I paraphrase for you our approximately 4 hour encounter.

Keep this in mind as you read the story. He doesn't understand written or spoken English, I can't understand his Honduran Spanish, and I speak only VERY, VERY BROKEN SPANISH at best!

E=Elana

H=Hector

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

E-"What are you reading?"

H-"What?"

E-"Habla ingles?"

(do you speak english?)

H-"No!"

E-"Que es el libro?

(what is the name of your book?)

H-He hands me the book.

E-"Ahhh!" "Su regulationes por su trabajar!" "Lee ingles?"

(aaah, your employee handbook! you read english?)



H-No lee ingles!

E=No lee ingles? Su amigo ayudate?

(You don't read English, I assume someone is helping you with the book?)

H-"Si"

Hector and I get acquainted, albeit painstakingly with our language barrier. He has a wife and 4 children back in Honduras. I think he has only been in Baltimore for one month.

E-"Tu quieres para me ayadate por su libro?"

(do you want me to help you with the book?)

H-"Si!"

E-I take my notebook out and tell Hector,

"Yo tengo cuaderno and pluma, un minuto"

(I do have a notebook and a pen, one moment.)

I look at his handbook and realize two things. My Spanish isn't decent enough to communicate this entire book to him. As our meeting goes on, I realize that the way he'll learn his job duties is by word of mouth. There are many other latinos working with him, and many Hondurans. I also think to myself: "Latinos make excellent employees and are usually living hand to mouth, he doesn't need to know about the retirement plan!" I tell him as best as I can, that I can help with the book but he should get other help too.

It was pretty fun going through the book with him and intuiting what would matter to him. . I figure hell get paid under the table.

The drug policy is at least 3 paragraphs long. I take my pen and start writing in his book. Right above the page about drugs, I wrote: "POR FAVOR, NO USA DROGAS!" (PLEASE DON'T USE DRUGS!)

We both laughed. In the section about direct deposit I had one heck of a time figuring out how to translate this into Spanish. I strongly doubted that he'd want it. I was right. He told me that as each paycheck arrives, he will wire most of it back to Honduras to his family!

I knew he wouldn't be late to work, so I didn't bother trying to explain the POLICY ON TARDINESS. There was a section about RELIGIOUS HOLIDAYS so I asked him:

E-USTED ES CATOLICO?

(are you catholic?)

H-No

E-Si tu necesitas tiempo por iglesia diga su jefe.

(If you need time off for holidays, just ask your boss.)

There was a section on how he is not supposed to speak Spanish with the customers! I thought that was comical, and wrote in his book: HABLA INGLES CON SUS CLIENTES! We laughed at that too, as we both know that that is impossible!

As we went through the handbook, I told him that I have taught English in the past. I wrote stuff out in my notebook such as MY NAME IS HECTOR/ME LLAMO HECTOR and asked him to repeat it. We did this off and on for the next few hours, incorporating a walk through Homeland, one of the wealthiest Baltimore city neighborhoods.

As we walked through Homeland I would say stuff like:

ELLA LE GUSTA A TRABAJAR EN SU JARDIN. And I would ask him to repeat my English;

" SHE LIKES TO WORK IN THE GARDEN."

He retaught me the word for rabbit as we saw a rabbit and birds and bugs and such. I sang to him one of my favorite commercials explaining to him that it was about a flea collar for pets. I described perros and gatos singing. (dogs and cats singing) and then broke out in English song. Then I translated it into broken Spanish. (I do not remember what he said the word for bugs is but lets just pretend for a moment that he said the word was "bogas")

I began to sing: (p.s. do you know this commercial?)

THERE AIN'T NO BUGS ON ME

THERE AIN'T NO BUGS ON ME

THERE MIGHT BE BUGS ON SOME OF YOU MUGS BUT THERE AIN'T NO BUGS ON ME!

THEN I SANG IN SPANISH!

HAY NO BOGAS EN MI

HAY NO BOGAS EN MI

TAL VEZ HAY BOGAS EN ALGUNAS DU SUS ANIMALES

PERO

HAY NO BOGAS EN MI!

(HE LOVED THE SONG)

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

As we were sitting by the pond, he said:

ESTE ES LA VIDA!

(THIS IS THE LIFE!)

A little girl of about 5 came over to say hi to us and motioned to an 85 year old STATUE of a little girl who was green and wearing a grape leaf hat. (on Clearspring avenue, do you know which one I mean?) The little girl said to us that she helped keep the statue warm in the winter by putting a scarf and hat on it. We chatted about how old the statue might be and the fact that I saw her dancing earlier. I told her I also love to dance. I asked her if she lives nearby and she said no. I said I don't live near here either, and my friend is from another country called Honduras. She said:

I LOVE THAT COUNTRY!

I told her mom that her daughter says she "loves Honduras!"

YOU'VE BEEN IN HONDURAS?! the mom asked the daughter.

Anyhow, Hector and I continued our field trip/English lesson. We stopped for coffee and I showed him the bookstore.

I always come home by dark since I have no car and Balto. is so dangerous. It's a little after dark and I tell him good night.

H-TU NO INVITA ME EN SU APARTMENTO?

(You aren't going to invite me into your apartment?)

E-"No"

H-PORQUE NO?

(WHY NOT?)

E-PORQUE TO QUIERES A BEBE Mi!

(BECAUSE YOU WILL WANT TO DRINK ME!)

WE LAUGH!

E-CORRECTA

e-PORQUE Tu QUIERES A BESA ME!

(Because you will want to kiss me)

H-PORQUE ES UN PROBLEMA? PORQUE CASI?

(Why is that a problem, because I am married?

E-Si. Y porque yo tengo eticos!

(yes and because i have strong ethics)

He doesn't understand what I mean.

E-PORQUE TENGA MORALES LARGAS!

(Because I have big morals!)

H-aaah. (He's a little dissapointed. Perhaps he thought a North American woman would be a little looser?!)

E-BUENAS NOCHES HECTOR! ADIOS!

H-BUENAS NOCHES ELENA!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

SHOULD I SANITIZE MY BLOGSITE?

and make it palatable? Or should I tell the ugly truth about poverty in Urban America? I'm going to be as honest as possible. I believe the reason why there aren't more memoirs out there by people who are/were homeless is because they're working every minute for their survival. It's nearly impossible to put a book together under these circumstances. But, I have a funny feeling, that I have a best seller in me.

DESPERATE FOR SHELTER/PART 2 (11/11/95)

At Eric's* place:

It's noon. What a day this was. I didn't go out until 1-1:30 because I was trying to make emergency arrangements to get out of here before I get evicted using Eric's* landline.   I did find something short term.

I left my "room" after an 18 hour stint because I was starving. Eric was in a good mood thank god because it was his Sabbath. So he apologized for the way he has been treating me and says he'll be better by Monday. He says he hopes I still live here then.

I contacted a progressive church that I don't attend and told the pastor I was desperate for a safe place to live. It took her a few days of research but she found a member of the church named Debbie* who will put me up for 200 a month. Unfortunately, Debbie lives within city limits in Hampden.
Mandy told the pastor at the church that she'd put me up again when he called her for a reference.

I'm practically paralyzed by all of this stress. Good night. Tonight and today was 68 and sunny in the morning, showers and high winds in the afternoon, tornadoes, then a snowstorm at night! I'm thankful that I'm warm, but I feel like a prisoner.

11/14/95

Debbie comes to get me, Eric sees the whole thing happening, we tell him nothing, I grab as much of my stuff as possible while he questions us, we hurry and leave for her place in Hampden.

11/15/95

1:30 a.m.

Yesterday I did nothing BUT commute. I had to go to Eric's to return his mother's clothing. I took the route 27 bus  from Hampden to Rogers Station then on to the Owings Mills Metro Station. That was a long, cold wet wait but the ride itself was pleasant as we went through Mt. Washington, Cross Keys, then on to Rogers Station.

As we began to approach Rogers Station it became less pleasant. The people who ride public transit for the most part are poor and look miserable. Baltimore is even more depressing then Lafayette, just like Sheryl feared might be the case. (Sheryl was my neighbor in Laf. and warned me against coming to Baltimore for a "better life")

What's the point in applying for work as a social worker right now, I can't even barely even think straight.   I'll have to job hunt while I'm staying here at Debbie's, since she will be expecting me to show a real effort to get back on my feet.

Today, I sat on the ground (there are no chairs) in the Owings Mills Subway Station waiting for my friend Mandy to pick me up. I heard one of the passengers telling her friend that she carries an umbrella solely as a weapon. Then at Rogers Station a man comes up to another man who was sitting next to me and says: "DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE "YO GIRL" THAT WAS STABBED AND RAPED AND HAD HER EYEBALLS POPPED OUT OVER ON BELVEDERE?"

"YEAH, IT WAS A 19 YEAR OLD WHITE BOY WHO DID THAT TO HER!" (author's note: after 10 years of using b-more's public transit, i believe the loud reference to "white boy" is an attempt to make me feel intimidated) The man went on to say that the wife of the murdered man has filed assault charges against the white boy.

NEGATIVE! CRIME, CRIME, CRIME! It's brought up within the first 5 minutes of every conversation I've ever been in since I've arrived in Baltimore. I'm thinking more and more seriously all of the time about trying to move back to Australia.

THERE HAVE GOT TO BE PLACES OUT THERE THAT AREN'T SPIRITUALLY DEAD!

WHERE?!

Life is such a  DRAG!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

DESPERATE FOR SHELTER (11/7/95)

Brief introduction for reader follows:

My friend Mandy agreed to let me stay at her place a night or two in Randallstown. (Baltimore) According to the following journal entries (memory can be inperfect so thank goodness for journals) I was aggressively job and shelter hunting congruently.   I had little to no money.

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

I answered an ad on a bulletin board at a health food store posted by a senior citizen. His name is Eric*, is Jewish and keeps kosher.   The ad stated that he is seeking a companion in lieu of free rent.
Shortly after I moved in with him he told me that he cyber stalks women!  My, how comforting!

Here are the journal entries from that period.

11/7/95

I'm staying with Eric and I do not feel safe.  It had been a pretty good day but by nightfall severe anxiety is setting in.  I had gone in the morning to the Village Market with Eric. Of course that's very stressful as my interactions with him always are.
In V.M. we had agreed that he would not call me by name and we would shop seperately so that no-one would think we were a couple.(certainly more important to me then to him)   But when he wanted my attention, he said: "psst., psst!"

He got angry with me when I suggested he spend a quarter to call his own house to pick up a message from me.  So I  had to give him the quarter! He said to me yesterday that he'd take me anywhere that I want to go (he has a car, and I'm "disabled" without one) if I would rake leaves for him. Initially he said that if he took me somewhere that I'd have to take him out to vegetarian restaurants however many times he wanted! I said that I didn't like that idea too much.

He said that I could use any of his late mother's clothes while I lived here and that no money is every to be exchanged. 

  As he's dropping me off at the subway station he says (with the famous wagging finger): "You're just like a Jew, you don't listen!"

 I replied: "I'm not your wife or your child."

  He has been telling me repeatedly that "where would you be if I didn't rescue you. Look at everything I'm doing for you. I'm providing everything for you!"
Around 8 p.m. later on "at home" I was in the bathroom. I heard a really loud bang so I got out of my relaxing bath to ask him the noise was. He replied: "Nothing!" Ever since that time I've felt tremendous anxiety because I knew that it involved anger towards me and I was right.

Around 9:30 p.m. he called through my bedroom door in an increasingly louder voice. "Elana, are you sleeping?" I wasn't so I got out of bed and opened the door. He was pissed off at me because he claims that I ignored a "call waiting!" He had a feature on the phone that showed him that I ignored it. So, he was pissed at me and lectured me over it. He said: I'm also mad about lots of other things. (God, I need my paycheck so I can decide where to run to next.) I can either look into the ad that I saw at Village Market or I can have Andy (in Indiana) look into something temporary, some kind of sublease out there for me.

MOVE BACK TO INDIANA?

pros

u.u. church
my friends
slightly easier to get around if I can get ride (useless public transit)
performers coffeehouse
i know my way around
can get caseworker job in Indianapolis?

cons

weather
few jobs
maybe no one will rent to me because of my homeless past


(authors note-these pro/con lists are highly prevalent throughout all of my journals, I am in constant brainstorm/problem solving mode)

11/10/95

Yesterday, after another sleepless night, I escaped at 10:30 a.m. to go with my acquaintance Jack* to "wherever." I recently met Jack at Fresh Fields and we really don't know each other well yet. He's about 27 years old.   We ended up going to Towsontowne Mall  then taking a drive to Lancaster, PA.

Compatible we're not. He doesn't know how to relate to anybody. He kept changing the radio channels constantly and never went into any shops with me or anything. But my biggest problem is that I have no inner peace because I have no idea what stunt Eric is going to pull next. It's pretty scary.

This morning around 10 a.m. it sounded like Eric  was destroying the house! I was scared to come out of my room. I finally came out and overheard him screaming into the phone:

"I'M VERY SICK. MENTALLY. I'M GOING TO END UP IN SPRING GROVE THE REST OF MY LIFE!" (a mental hospital) When he saw me he said: "We have alot of things we need to discuss" He went into all sorts of unnecessary detail that I can't do anything about.   Much more than I wanted to hear. Said that we might get evicted by the end of the weekend. Wants me to have my room spotless by sundown. (sounds like a song title: spotless at sundown!) God, I'd like to just be out of Eric's today, but I don't have my paycheck yet.

It's 3:00 and I'd like to get away to the intentional community, Heathcote,  but I'm not packed and I haven't reached the visitor coordinator yet.

I called one of the numbers that was on the bulletin board at Village market and because I'm so desperate for safe shelter they decided to meet me. The ad was for the possibility of living with a woman with dementia. (again, I'm desperate, this isn't a choice, per se) They really grilled me about the last 2 years. Why am I so transient? she asked with a strong air of judgement.

Why can't people just let me get on with my life and move forward, I wonder? What am I going to do?
I'd like to get some financial stability before moving to a cooperative community but I just can't get ahead!

What is a living wage?

There seems to be an awful lot of disagreement about that question. As I write this I think of the perfect person to pose this question to. Who better than financial expert Suzy Orman? For those of you who don't know her she is a financial columnist who specializes in helping women manage money.

I've spent the last 14 years thinking worrying and obsessing about money almost constantly. You do that when there is never enough. I've also read many columns and books on the subject of money. But the greatest teacher I have found, is life experience.

I was a social work major. It took me 10 years and 5 colleges to receive a bachelors degree! I started at age 20 and finished one month before my 30 birthday. ( My student loans are in default) I sure did learn alot! But here's what they never bothered to tell me (I started out as an education major) if you're single, you'll never be able to survive on a social worker's salary. Perhaps you're having doubts about this assertion?

When I was working as a job coach in 98, I was making 19k a year before taxes. After taxes I earned 2/3 of that. I was working about 60 hours a week, and what that boiled down to was that I was making about the minimum wage. I would have liked to have rented a one bedroom apt. in Columbia, Maryland, to lessen my commute. Forget it. I couldn't touch a 1 b.r. apt. in Columbia on 19k a year!

A popular rule of thumb for managing money is: "don't pay more than 25% of your monthly income in rent or housing costs." With just that information, let's say I want that 1 b.r. apt. in Columbia. I'm thinking they go for about 900 to 1000 a month, especially in the lower crime areas. So, I need to earn 4,000 dollars a month just to qualify for the apt. 4x12=48,000 a year minimum! This doesn't even account for the fact that i want a newer and better car, I want to save money, and I want to be able to afford vacations. Look through the paper, I'll bet (I'm not claiming to be an expert) that no more than 30% of the advertised jobs pay a living wage.

With this in mind, I write my memoir. I've had 80 addresses. I took any kind of shelter I could find because I never earned enough to maintain housing, and phone and car in a safe neighborhood. My next piece is an excerpt from my 1995 journal on one of the places I was forced to take shelter in Randallstown.

Is George Dub-ya right? George Dub-ya once said to America's poor women: "if you want to get out of the poverty trap, then you'll just have to get married!" Was he right?!

I'm looking forward to your feedback as always!

All political viewpoints welcome.

Monday, June 18, 2007

GETTING THERE in Baltimore

I wanted to board the #8 proceeding  south at 5:15 p.m. The first bus passes me right by even though I can clearly see there are plenty of seats.  There is a good chance the driver did not pick me up because I am "minority white."  10 minutes later another bus comes by and the driver does stop. Riders are standing in a probited area in front of the yellow line, even though there are seats available! 

  Not only is it a federal offense,to ride in front of the yellow line,  but it's very common and very dangerous. I refuse to ride in front of the yellow line. I am forced to push my way past people so I can get past the yellow line. I take the risk of infuriating people, but I know darn well there is room back there, but that people usually refuse to move back, and the driver doesn't enforce it.

After about 8 blocks I find a seat. Remarkably, a black and a white woman are talking with one another and they aren't fighting with each other. I quickly psychoanalyze why this must be. Perhaps because it's rush hour? More working people, more open to behaving civilly. It's the usual thing, complaining about how horrid our system is assuming that the grqass is greener on the other side/in other cities. 

As they complained, I said: "Well, our lives are passing us by, if we want a better life we are going to have to leave Baltimore!"

lady a-"I can't leave, my family is here and I'm sick."

me-"I'm also in the category of "can't" leave because "situation bad", but as long as I'm alive, I'm going to work like hell for a better life and that means getting out of here."

She buries her head in her book.

Some believe that a true activist sticks around and tries to make a problem better. But I know that Baltimore isn't going to be a liveable place in my lifetime, and I desperately need something something better. It's just not worth fighting for a better life here, the odds of it happening are just too slim.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE "INTELLIGENT"?

Who is the most intelligent? The kids that get into the expensive private universities? I did not come from a home that valued intellectual pursuits!. There were no books in my home growing up, and my parents discouraged academic pursuit. (yes, I know my parents are weird)

Here's why I give you this background. I never thought of myself as particularly intelligent before the age of 30 because I was never told by my family that I was.

Here's a fun anecdote, I think. I was telling my friend Alan that I had never thought of myself as particularly intelligent. Then, I began to notice. Regardless of which university library I use I watch the same thing happen over and over again. Students sit down at a computer, don't see an image and try out another computer. (I'm not technically savvy at all!) I'll watch 6 students (even at hopkins) try out the computer, then leave and try another one.

Well, I decided to find out if these computers really are "broken" I troubleshoot for 3 minutes, and the computer is working! This happens in 99% of all cases. I no longer feel intimidated or convinced that college students, doctors, grad students are more intelligent than I am!

And for all of the people who tell me that they aren't "college material" but they'd like to go, I say: "the heck you aren't! is this something that you want? then most likely, you can achieve it! go for your dream!"





(IF I HEAR ONE MORE ADULT SAY "LIE-BERRY" I THINK I'M GOING TO SCREAM, BUT THAT'S ANOTHER STORY!)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

living with chronic pain

If you wish to learn more about fibromyalgia and lyme- I recommend the following websites:

http://www.ilads.org/ (i have advanced lyme disease, I'm receiving no treatment)

and

http://www.fmaware.org/

This is the website for an excellent magazine entitled:" Fibromyalgia Aware"

Many people with Fibromyalgia have asked me, "can you win a disability case with Fibromyalgia?" The answer is a resounding yes. The real-ness of this devastating disease is becoming gradually more recognized with every passing year.

"Blog site and eventual autobiography"

I've  been giving alot of thought to what similarities and differences there will be between my blog site and my eventual memoir.  These are potential chapter titles and theme titles in blog and book.



1. "getting there" (my experiences with public transportation)

2."Public Housing Antics" is obviously every aspect of living in public housing.

3. "Bureaucratic Nightmare" 

4. "The Greatest Crime" (living in fear)

5. "The Quest for a living wage"

6. "Workplace Antics"

7. "Don't Postpone Joy" Tangible things I try to do to bring some semblance of joy to my life.

8. "Health Challenges"


So, now you get the idea of what to expect from me. I will attempt to stick to themes in my blog titles so you can read what you want to read.

An example of what I can put in a book, that can't be posted real time on blog would be legal antics or violent crimes I've survived, as well as open cases in the court regarding my being a victim of more then one violent crime.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"Are you working?"

It happens almost every day. Someone asks me if I work.  I've always hated the question, but it's a natural one in our society to help others learn more about us, hopefully. The reason I hate the question so much is because whatever I may be doing to make money at any given time isn't going to give the asker much info. on who i really am!  Another reason I hate the question is because, all I ever do is work regardless of whether or not I am making any money!

Just assume that I AM WORKING! If I respond, "well, I'm unemployed" I'd strongly prefer that you NOT unleash a barrage of advice!  Chances are you haven't thought of anything that I haven't already tried!  But thanks anyway!

Monday, June 11, 2007

"Getting There"



I spend anywhere from 2 to 6 hours a day commuting which "becomes" my day.

When I went to see Barbara Ehrenreich talk about her book: "Nickel and Dimed" one of the people in the audience asked her the following question, "Why didn't you use public transportation to do your experiment?"

Barbara replied: "Because then my book would have been only about public transportation!"

She hit the nail on the head.

About 3 years ago, I decided that I would have a chapter in my book entitled: GETTING THERE. A few months ago, a new column popped up in the Baltimore Sun entitled: GETTING THERE! His focus is private transportation, but I thought: "hey, that's my title!"

So for those of you who want to read about my daily transportation trevails, please see:

"GETTING THERE!"

THE VISIT (PART 3 Red rose, yellow rose)

E-can you tell me anything about YOUR  father?

N-He died really young.

E-Hit by a truck, right?

N-Yes, I don't remember much about him (i think this is what she said, or she might have said, "well, it's too painful to talk about", i don't recall her exact answer, but i couldn't glean much information on this either way)

E-And your sister? (I didn't know her, she died around the time I was 3 y.o.)

N-She was a beautiful person. I was devastated by her early death at 38.

E-How did she die?

N-Of a brain aneurysm.

E-Wow

N-You know, I vowed that with the way my mother treated me that I wasn't going to be that way. It paid off, my son Warren and I are very close!

E-How often does he come here to visit?

N-Everyday!

N-Are you still singing, doing musical theatre?

E-I haven't been, but I hope to get back into it.

N-You have such a beautiful voice. I saw you sing in some show, but I don't remember which.

E-You saw me when I sang and danced in "Hair" at Catonsville Community College. (I know she was there, but I didn't see her and she left before I could see her)

N-And I might have seen you in Gimme Shelter productions singing too, but I'm not sure.

N-You know, when you were a child you ALWAYS talked about how badly you wanted to meet your birthmother.

E-What age did I start doing that? (wow, i don't remember that)

N-I don't know, maybe age 8.

N-Helen resented you for wanting to find your birthmother, she couldn't forgive you.

E-She never told me that. She never dialogued with me about anything. I just knew she was angry and wasn't going to help me find Marcene. When I did finally find Marcene, I couldn't tell Helen how the visit went because I knew she didn't care.

N-It's only natural for an adoptee to want to know their roots.

E-And it doesn't mean that the adoptee is trying to find a "better" set of parents!

(I've made 3 requests for something to put the flowers in, to no avail) The last request the nurse said: "It is not our job to provide vases!"

N. said: THE NURSE SAID THAT?!

E: She sure did!

N: Are they lilacs?

E:(I LOVE lilacs) No, they are some bouquet of purple and yellow flowers.

N: N. takes a whiff, but i suspect they won't have much scent.

E: I tried to get you a red rose for love and a yellow rose for friendship, but the grocery store wouldn't allow me to build a bouquet.

N: Smiles.

E: Would you like me to move them so you can see them?

N: Well, (about having no vase!) if they're going to die, then let them die right here on my dinner tray where I can see them!

E:(she seems touched by the flowers!)

E: I should probably head for the bus. Would you like me to visit you again?

N: Anytime honey, anytime.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

YELLOW ROSE FOR FRIENDSHIP/A RED ROSE FOR LOVE (part 2)

E=ELANA

N=MY AUNT

I can't remember what my icebreaker question was, once she realized who I was! I came right home and made an outline (since I don't have a home computer) to try to include the key things that happened in the first visit. So here is an approximation of our visit!

E-I ran into your daughter in law at the bus stop and she told me you were here. I asked her if I could visit you and she highly encouraged me!

N-Yes, she tells me she runs into you.

E-You know, you are in photo of me as a newborn, right after my parents adopted me. Do you remember much about that period? (I don't want to push Aunt N. at all, because we are virtual strangers)

N-I remember alot. I remember that I had to write a reference letter for your mother Helen, saying that she'd "be a good mother." If it weren't for that letter I wrote, she would never have been given you! (wow so it's Noonie's fault!) I figured Helen would be as good a mother as any!

E-But you know that she never wanted  to adopt me.

N-Who told you that?

E-Arnie did. Said that she only agreed to adopt me because she was afraid arnie would leave her if she didn't. told arnie that "if you ever try to leave me, you will never see Elana again" Helen never wanted to adopt!

N-Have you seen Helen?

E-She's hiding. She doesn't want me to know where she is!

N-You never had a mother figure did you?

E-No, I didn't. (I'm surprised N. is such a good listener. Most elderly people I meet are very self centered and only talk about themselves, N. is very interested in my life)

E-Aun't Noonie,  what was your childhood like?

N-I don't remember much about mine, do you remember yours?

E-Not much, not much at all.

E-How about your relationship with your mother? (my grandmother, also a stranger)

N-Very bad, very strained. I could never please her.

E-Sounds familiar, that's exactly what it was like to have Helen as a mother, it seemed I was never enough for her.

E-How about my father, Arnold? What was your relationship with him like? (my father was very verbally and emotionally abusive)

N-  "Arnie was a real brat!" I wish I could say something good about him, but I have no good memories.

E-I don't have good memories either. Will you tell me specifics?

N-Well, when I was 13, I was listening to my favorite album, an opera/aria. Arnie came into my bedroom, pulled the album off of the record player, smashed it and left the room. I cried myself to sleep.

E-I'm immediately reminded of a similar situation that happened with my mother helen, but i don't want the focus back on me, so I try to listen.

N-I was certain it was the last copy of the record, which made it even more heartbreaking. I turned on the radio, and there it was, being played on the radio.

E-"There is a god!" (i quip)

N-"well, I don't know about God but there is another copy of the record!"

E-That's a funny response, I think. Aunt N. is probably an atheist like me!

E-Any other memories of Arnie?

N-Well, I was in my early 20's with a baby, (Warren) living with Arnie and my mother Sarah. I had a date that I was really excited about. He arrived at the door and Arnie answered. He said to my date: "My mother is not a babysitter" and proceeded to slam the door in the man's  face! (this is heartbreaking,  I now realize that my father was abusive his whole life)

E-That's such a painful thing that he did! When I was 25, I was forced to move back in  with my parents briefly. One day, my father said: "Your bedroom is a mess, get out of my house, I never want to see you again!"

N-Arnie told me that you were a slob.

E-(this response surprises me, i wasn't a slob, but either way that wasn't the point of the story that I told her, obviously!) Well, he says that maybe, but that wasn't really the point of the story, the point is that he said he never wanted to see me again!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

YELLOW ROSE FOR FRIENDSHIP, RED ROSE FOR LOVE (part 1, the visit)

I've been estranged from my family for 17 years, but even when I did live with my parents, I didn't feel a part of a family. It's true that it was the adoptive family, but that really wasn't why I didn't feel a part of a family. It was because my parents were not "there", not available. They clothed, fed, and sheltered me and for the most part that is where their responsibilities ended.

I haven't seen my parents (us adoptees just say "parents" when we are referring to the family that we grew up in) in 17 years. My father did die during that period. But we can't afford to be bitter, there's no time to be bitter and it serves no purpose.

I occasionally run into extended "family" at bus stops or at the mall. Once or twice a year as of late I've been running into my cousin. She tells me a little bit about what is going on in her family, when I run into her. She is J., she is my late father's niece thru marriage. Well, the long and the short of it is that I haven't seen my aunt N. since 1981. Not because we're mad at each other, but because she is a stranger to me. She is my father's sister, and is 87 years old. I remember a little bit about her. Loud, abrasive, scratchy voice, chain smoker, who hugged me too hard and made promises that she never kept. Nonetheless, I saw so little of her that I consider a stranger. But when J. told me that L. is not in long term nursing care, I thought of "the photos".


There is a photo of aunt Noonie in my nursery at my new adoptive home.  There is another photo of her at my high school graduation party. And that, I decided is reason enough to visit her a the nursing home! She's in some photos!  (I don't really know her in that I can't remember seeing her more than a handful of times in my entire life.
On Monday, I went by the nursing home and they said she was currently in the  hospital.  I attempted unsuccessfully to walk there since I have no car.

On Wednesday of this week, I took the bus to the nursing home,  with a significant amount of trepidation. In the entrance to the nursing home sits the gift shop. I looked around for a potential gift,  but nothing "spoke to me." I needed a gift that would take the place of the fact that I don't have words for this situation.   She could throw her arms wide open upon seeing me or "slam the proverbial door in my face!" I walked out and too the mall, hoping for more alternatives.
I need A YELLOW ROSE FOR FRIENDSHIP, AND A RED ROSE FOR LOVE. I looked around the Giant food store.   There was no option for purchasing single flowers or even roses. I settled for a bouquet of pretty purple flowers with a touch of yellowthen walked back to the nursing home. With great caution, I walked toward her room.

 When I saw that she was sleeping, I asked a nurse in the hallway, how Noonie,  would feel about being awoken. (I'm a nervous wreck.) The nurse said, "She won't mind at all!" I walk into her room, sit in the guest chair, and gently CRINKLE THE CELOPHANE that covers the purple flowers, hoping that the sound will gently awaken her. It does!

She's still half asleep but, I said: "Hi Noonie,  do you know who I am?" She shook her head yes. "Are you up for a visit?" She shook her head no. I place the flowers on her dresser, and leave the room, having no idea what to do next. Everytime I have to leave the nursing home, my doubts about attempting the visit again grow greater and greater.

I seek out a nurse who I hope might be compassionate. I explain that my Aunt hasn't seen me in 26 years, and I have no idea how to approach this problem. The nurse suggested that I come back at meal time, and the nursing home will give me a guest tray so I can eat with her. Yet again, I am forced to walk over to the mall, and wait an eternity until the home's dinner hour.

At 5:25 on the nose I walk back but Noonie is still asleep. I ask a nurse what's going on. She yells down the hall at me: "WHAT'S WRONG, WHY CAN'T YOU WAKE HER!" I thought, this loud nurse is not sensitive, and I am not going to enter into negotiations with her. I stop another nurse in the hall, and she tells me to wait in the waiting room, she will come and get me at 6:15 p.m. and we will walk down the hall together to Noonie for dinner.

I pray that this nurse will have the skills to help me ease into this awkward situation.

NURSE: "WAKE UP LIL! SHE YELLS. YOU BEEN SLEEPING ALL DAY! NOW TALK TO YOUR GUEST!"

e.-(OMG!)

My aunt scrunches up her nose at the command! and says nothing! I sit down and eat the longest meal of my life, trying to interpret her expressions and figure out how to proceed.

E-How's the food here? I ask.

Aunt N.-It's o.k.

I spend the next 20 minutes in silence. She can't get her creamer open, I ask if I can help.

Aunt N.-"No, I got it"

I'm thinking. Is she mad because I didn't go to my father's funeral? Does she want me to leave? Oyyy. What a mistake this was. As soon as I finish eating, I'm leaving. Finally, I address the elephant in the room.

E-"Do you want me to leave?" I ask.

Aunt N- "I don't care"   "WHO ARE YOU, ANYWAY?!"

E-OMG, she doesn't know who I am!. "I'm Arnie's daughter, your niece!"

Aunt N-"I thought you might be, she smiled! but I wasn't sure!"

(part 2 comes later)

Sunday, June 3, 2007

"SOCIETY HAS GONE TO THE DOGS!"

This is something I've been thinking about for years! And many of you know that I closely follow Oprah. So after I began writing this piece I saw that Oprah was also doing a show on the subject.  She prefaced it by saying: "This show goes out to all of you dogs!"

So, my piece today is literally about most American's obsession with owning dogs! Our dog culture has greatly contributed to lowering my quality of life. And some might argue, many people's quality of life.  There are more and more cases in the news of innocent bystanders who are mauled and even killed by dogs.

Someone bought me a dog when I was 6 years old that I did not request. Sadly, it became evident in no time that my mother resented my chihuahua. She'd kick him and yell at him. And for me, it most certainly couldn't replace a sibling. I'm sure I came to love Speedy, but let me emphasize that giving people pets as gifts that they did not ask for is a very bad idea. Please know how that animal is going to be treated before transferring it into a home.  I am extremely allergic to nearly every breed of dogs as are many others, another good reason to not give animals as gifts if you don't know the person's situation.

At this point in my life, I'd like to live out in a rural area with so much land that I'll never have to hear another dog bark again! Here are the reasons why I choose not to live with dogs or near dogs.

1. Most every address I've ever lived at was infested with fleas due to pets that used to live there.
2. The insects that are attracted to the animals increase the chances of humans incurring diseases.
3. Most everywhere I've lived in my adult life I've had to listen to non stop 24/7 dog barking. I find it maddening to say the very least.


4. Roommates dogs who I came to love, sometimes turned on me in anger. The one in Mt. Washington,  (Baltimore) appeared to have develop some sort of brain disease. It would charge me daily. I'd have to slam my bedroom door fast so as not to get bitten. The dog attacked my mover on my move out day and my mover was forced to kick the dog in the face. When I told my landlords that I had a right to a safe place to live they said: "We are not going to guarantee you that our dog won't bite you."

5. I should be able to move freely about in public places without the worry of "dogs sniffing my ass or worse".
6. I (and every other citizen for that matter) should be able to safely walk in any Baltimore city or county neighborhood without fear that a loose dog will attack them. (Happens all of the time, despite leash laws)


7. I should be able to dine outdoors without a patron tying their dog next to my table, where I either have to worry about the barking or worry about the dog coming into my space.

I agree with Oprah one hundred percent. With proper love, training and guidance, owners greatly increase their chances that their dog or dogs will be well received. For comparison sake, I just said to the man next to me about the wrestling children here in the library, "it's the parent's fault, not the kids!"

Saturday, June 2, 2007

"Theories on the subject of suicide"

I called up the chatline and I asked people to share their theories on the topic of suicide with me. Here were some of the replies:

1. suicide is a cop out
2. "god" gave you the gift of life and you should receive it gladly (this theory assumes we all believe in god)
3. if you commit suicide you will go to hell
4. suicide is selfish
5. suicide is a permanent fix to a temporary problem

One of the men on the chatline made an attempt, was caught in the middle and his life was saved. Another man is a widower whose wife commited suicide 2 years ago.

My thoughts on the topic:

I don't think it's selfish. If a person's pain whether that be physical or emotional far outweighs their joy of living, then I think suicide is  a logical choice. My friend sherry commited suicide in '03. By no means was I her best friend, but I was the only person who knew she had been considering it.

I have no religious background from childhood so I come at this issue as a self proclaimed humanist and atheist.   I think if a person really wants to die they'll "do it right" the first time. I think assisted suicide is one dignified solution.

Antidepressants. Do they work? I don't think they can change a very bad situation. All they can accomplish at best, is to flatline your moods. I don't know if they actually prevent people from commiting suicide, although one claim about the drug lithium is that it does prevent suicides.  I don't know.......................