Loving Wins… Again

I wholeheartedly believe in freedom and fairness and the separation of church and state. When I learned that the Supreme Court said marriage could not be denied to couples based on their gender, I was thrilled. Much of the rhetoric against allowing it is based in religion, and, in this country, typically the Judeo-Christian one.

In the 1967 case Loving vs. Virginia, a mixed-race couple sued the state of Virginia to accept as valid their out-of-state marriage. When they came back to Virginia, the state imposed criminal penalties on both husband and wife. The couple sued for the right to be married and live in the state of Virginia without criminal penalty. The state’s argument was that the law was valid because the punishment applied to both parties equally. The state of Virginia wanted the ends to justify the means, ignoring the fact that the criminal penalties were not the basis for their enactment of the law. Something else was, and that something else was racial discrimination. Thankfully, the Supreme Court saw through this and ruled you cannot keep the races from intermarrying.

In the last 25 years, states began passing laws that banned members of the same sex from marrying, enacting into law the definition of marriage as being between men and women only. Some states did more than that, creating constitutional amendments to further enshroud it in the law and insulate it from legal threats. I remember feeling anxiety as those laws were passed. It seemed wrong to me to enact laws for the purpose of denying rights to a segment of the population based on some people’s religious and personal beliefs. Passing laws can be done for many reasons, but to do it to deny others rights held by some members of society seems wrongheaded and unconstitutional to me.

In the last 5 years, I was glad to see challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and state laws against marriage equality struck down. It seemed that the surge of right-leaning laws against marriage equality were giving way, and I was thrilled. Watching, waiting for the day that the issue would go up to the Supreme Court, and hoping, crossing fingers, that they would vote the same way as they did in 1967, and terrified that they wouldn’t. But come to the Supreme Court it did.

And now comes to the effort by some to refuse to marry same sex couples because of their religious beliefs. This all sounds well and good…if you work in a church. If you do not work in a church, then your rights end where mine begin. I feel the same way about pharmacists who do not want to give birth control or Plan B to women because it violates their religious beliefs. I feel the same way about abortion providers forced to give false information to women seeking abortions because some people in the state feel that abortion is wrong, beliefs fueled by their religious beliefs.

To me, religious freedom is about going to the church you want, praying to the god you want, marrying the person you want that shares your beliefs, abstaining from sex if you want, eschewing sexual relations with members of the same sex, not using birth control, and not having abortions because the god you choose to believe says not to. Religious freedom is about being able to do all these things and not have the government come into your house in the middle of the night and kill you because you believe something different than the official, goverment-sanctioned religion.

And there is no officially sanctioned religion in America. None. It is not Christianity, despite the howling of many people who claim that it is. It is not. You have to educate yourself to know that The Treaty of Tripoli in 1797 starts Article 11 with the declaration:

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion…

Our Founding Fathers wrote that. Enacting laws based on the Christian religion is not what our Founding Fathers wanted. When someone promotes a law that is based on their religious beliefs, they are trying to encode religion into our laws. They see it as justice, but I see it as an imposition. Religious freedom does not mean you get to impose your beliefs on me (and vice versa).

But here’s the thing: If doing your job with the public will force you to do something against your religious beliefs that you sincerely do not want to do, then I suggest that you quit your job and go find work in a church. There you will find people who believe the same things that you do who will not force you to do what you do not want. There you will be safe because you will not be encountering anyone who doesn’t share your beliefs.

For the rest of us out in the world, we want to choose the partner we want to love and marry, have and raise children or not in the number that we want, use birth control and the morning after pills, and have access to abortion. We want those things, we will get those things, and we will have those things. It may come a little at a time or all at once, but it will come.

Freedom to love and marry who we want – to be who we are – will come to all.

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A Brief Trip to Montauk, NY

I have been itching to go on a vacation, but I would settle for a day at the beach. Turns out that Wednesday and today were the best days of the week. My sister M and her family were there for a family vacation, and I thought it might be fun to go out there for an overnight. Went online, found a place on discount, and booked a room with two double beds to share with my Mom.

We stopped first at The Big Duck in Flanders, NY before stopping at The Hampton Maid for breakfast to pause  before making the rest of the trip. After checking in, we settled at the hotel. In the room was an oil painting with a cat. I knew then that we’d come to the right place.

After unpacking, we took a short walk to the beach, but a passing storm made waves over three feet. We walked a bit into town, but it was too hot for my mom. At the hotel, I settled at the pool with a book and my mom rested at the hotel.

For dinner, my sis, Mom, & I went to Gosman’s restaurant for seafood. In years past, my dad and mom loved to get shrimp in a basket from there. We went in tribute. I got the dinner equivalent of fried shrimp, Mom got the seafood platter with fried clam strips, fried shrimp, and friend flounder, and sis got the fluke. After, we shopped at a cute boutique with good prices called Fish City. I scored a dress and a seashell necklace charm. My mother got sandals.

When my mom and I awoke this morning, we both felt like we’d slept hard and yet poorly at the same time. We drove a few blocks into town to have breakfast at Mr. John’s Pancake House. Best pancakes ever! After we finished packing, we took a short drive to the Montauk lighthouse. First, we walked down to the beach by the snack bar. The smell of the sea air, the crashing of the waves on the shore, the sunny and cloudless sky, the cool breeze, and the boats dotting the horizon made it so peaceful. We walked back and forth a bit, collecting interesting rocks. I lay down on a rock and closed my eyes.

Afterwards, I went up 137 stairs to the top of the lighthouse while my mom waited for me to come back down. The stairs were distinct from each other, and I had to look down a bit while getting used to the climb. My left hand held the rope railing, while my right grabbed a step and I leaned inwards. I felt like I was crawling up the lighthouse steps. The views going up to the landing, from up top, and all around the grounds were breathtaking.

We met my sis and her family in Amagansett for snacks at Jack’s Coffee Shop. After saying good-byes, my mom and I walked up and down the street trying to find a place to eat. We saw sis leaving as I tried to call to ask if they wanted to eat lunch with us. Then the five of us walked up and down together to see what we wanted. When nothing called to us, we went to Bostwick’s Chowder House in East Hampton. Best decision ever! Lobster fritters, fish and lobster tacos, fried fish & chips, and arugula salad were had by all. All delicious.

We all said our good-byes. Again. Then me and my mom drove home.

The moral of this story is this: if you’re ever way out east on Long Island, go to Mr. John’s Pancake House in Montauk and Bostwick’s Chowder House in East Hampton for food. You will not be disappointed.

The Power of Saying No…. and Yes

The Power of No

After taking my mom out for errands and eating lunch at home, I decided to pack up and head to Long Beach for the afternoon. I put up my umbrella and spent a couple of hours re-reading The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. I’m a huge fan of fantasy stories, especially ones involving heroic children. Pullman weaves a thick plot with delicious prose.

I chose to bring this book with me for something light to enjoy as I listened to the waves crashing on the shore. I have been ignoring The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon for over a week. I read the introduction and first couple of chapters. He realistically portrays what a major depressive episode feels like in such gripping detail. I have had moderate depression at times, and I found myself emotionally and physically identifying with each episode. By the time I closed the book, I felt as if my chronic body pain had gotten worse.

I turned around and binge-read two of my favorite manga series, Magic Touch by Izume Tsubaki and High School Debut by Kazune Kawahara. I needed desperately to counteract the pain and suffering I ingested by overdosing on innocent Japanese high school romance stories. I then read The Ghost of My Father by Scott Berkun. I kept eyeing Solomon’s novel as I debated whether or not to pick it up again.

On my way home from the beach, I decided that I would not continue with Solomon’s book. The book is several hundred pages long, and I could barely get through 100 without being in pain. Why continue? I really do not like to give up on a book. I have done it a handful of times, twice with books by David Foster Wallace and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. I really wanted to like these authors and their stories, but I could not. I reluctantly gave them up.

And it with reluctance that I made the decision, but I felt so much better afterwards. I am not in a classroom. I do not have a test coming up for which I must read this book. I am not doing my psychology thesis where I need this book as one of the resources that I use. As an adult, we get to choose how we spend our time. And I decided not to spend my time continuing to read a book that began to make me physically ill. One day, if I am ever in significantly less pain and I am still interested, I may go back and read it. That time, unfortunately, is not the present day.

The Power of Yes

Before I left, I had been thinking how I wished I lived much, much closer to the beach. My hometown is nice enough for a suburban, residential neighborhood, but it really isn’t my style. I am only here to be close to my elderly mother who has lived in this two-family home since 1963.

To get home by the best route possible, I used Google Maps. The route it gave me was the route I used to take, until it showed me an alternate route through Oceanside and into Long Beach. I greatly prefer the newer route, and I was bummed that it wasn’t the faster route.

As I passed through a long stretch of road before getting onto the Southern State Parkway, I thought how much I did not like the route, and then I caught myself: I cannot afford to be thinking how I don’t like where I am or what route I am driving. I need to enjoy my life as it is in the here and now. I noticed the canopy of dark leaves from the thick stretch of trees that lined the road. The beauty of it made me smile, and then I was back on the road again in more ways than one.

Teeth Whitening Horror Show

WARNING: If you do not like to read about dental work or pain, then you probably want to skip this post.

Before my Zoom teeth whitening appointment, I realized that I did not really know what was going to be happening to my teeth. Was it a gel? Was it laser? I briefly looked at the Zoom website. The information was general, and I could not find step-by-step information. When I got there, Sarah was ready for me. I told her that, when I’m afraid of something, I try to ignore it as long as possible instead of educating myself on what’s going to happen to me. I don’t want to be afraid, but by avoiding information, I make things worse for myself. Deep down, I think that, if I know what will happen, that I will obsess about it, and I imagine that to be worse than what I do to myself: bury myself in ignorance, avoidance, and worry.

Sarah sat me down in a chair and explained what would happen. First, a mouth guard would be inserted and my mouth packed with gauze to soak up the saliva. Next, a barrier gel would be applied to the gums and roots of the teeth to buffer them from the whitening gel. After the gel was brushed onto my teeth, an ultraviolet lamp would be positioned over my mouth and turned on for 15 minute sessions. Between each session, the old whitening gel would be removed and a new layer would be applied before putting the lamp back in position. The final steps before starting the whitening was to place a cloth barrier around the mouth and to give me a pair of orange plastic glasses to protect my eyes from the ultraviolet radiation. Sarah told me that, during the whitening procedure, I might experience a tingling in my teeth as “tiny, electric shocks”. I said, “Whoa!” That sounded kind of scary to me, but I felt more a sense of surprise than fear. Sarah asked me what Pandora station I wanted to listen to, and I asked for something relaxing. She chose a spa music station, and I started to relax.

I felt lightly apprehensive through the first session, anticipating a pain that did not come. My teeth did start to feel increasingly tingly throughout the next hour, but it felt more like my mouth was becoming minty. There was no mint taste, just the feeling of minty tingling on my teeth. Towards the end of the first whitening session, I told Sarah through my mouthguard that I thought one of my lower left teeth felt sensitive. Sarah reapplied the barrier gel in that area, and we proceeded with the second round of gel and lamp. The four 15-minute sessions passed faster than I thought they would. When Sarah handed me a mirror to look at my teeth, I felt like I was looking into someone else’s mouth. My teeth were considerably brighter with a slightly uneven coloration to them. Sarah told me that they would continue to whiten over the next 24 hours, so this wasn’t even the final shade. I would have to go back in a few days to get a color match for my crown.

After Sarah took out the gauze and mouthguard, she asked me to sit up and rinse. That’s when I felt my first shoot of pain in one of the lower right teeth. I told Sarah about it, and she said I could apply the topical pain relief gel to the inside of the upper and lower teeth guards if I wanted before I left. I wavered, but decided to wait. She packed up samples of toothpaste and gave me my Zoom supplies – the mouth guards, the pre-filled topical pain relief syringe, and a booster syringe of the whitening gel that I could use in a few days to brighten my teeth even more or in a few months.

When I brought my stuff up to the front desk to pay for my teeth whitening, Mina asked me how I was doing. I told her that I was feeling some tingles of pain in my teeth, and I wasn’t sure whether I should put the topical gel in the trays now before I leave or wait. Without asking, Mina used her headset to ask Sarah to come to the front. I told Mina that I was having trouble deciding what to do because the pain was causing a stress response for me. She told me not to worry as she took my credit card. I felt pain flash in a tooth on the top right. I asked if they had Advil that I could take. Mina deftly used her headset to ask another technician to bring me Advil. Within 30 seconds, I was taking Advil and signing my credit slip. Sarah set up the topical pain relief gel in the teeth guards for me. I put them in, hoping they would help. Before I left, Mina told me to call them if I continued to experience pain. I mentally worried about whether they would even be open later for me to call. Mina and Sarah told me to take more Advil before I went to bed that evening and that I would be feeling better by tomorrow.

If I hadn’t known that I was in my dentist’s office, I would have thought that I was in a spa given the level of service I received there. In addition to the great dental care I get there, this level of service is the kind of place I need, given my sensitive teeth and my fears about dentistry. When I go back for my crown, I’m going to use my last Ativan pill to chill me out so that I don’t start crying hysterically before any work is done like I did the last time. Studies have shown the repeated exposure to pain sensitizes – not desensitizes – a person to feeling pain more acutely in the future. With my history, I am screwed.

On the ride home and for hours afterwards, my teeth spiked with pain of varying intensity levels and length of time. Around 7:30pm, the pain spread throughout my upper and lower teeth. The pain did not abate, unlike the first few hours where I had some rest in between flashes of pain. The lower teeth had the most intense pain. I felt like my gums and teeth were on fire. The Advil I had taken in the office at 4pm had worn off. I figured that the next 24 hours were going to be the worst. At 8pm, I took more Advil. About 20 minutes later, my dentist called me on his cell phone from Citi Field, the Mets new baseball stadium, to ask me how I was doing. I told him how I was feeling, and he told me to alternate two Advil and two Tylenol every two hours. I asked him if I should take some of the Tylenol 3 that he had given me for my temporary crown. He said he didn’t think it was necessary. I didn’t argue with him. I could take the medicine if I felt I needed it. Mentally, I decided to take 1 regular Tylenol and one Tylenol 3. I knew I would need the codeine to help me sleep. I just had to wait until 10pm until I could take the Tylenol.

I went downstairs around 9:30pm to retrieve my cat Norman. While talking to my Mom, the pain along the bottom teeth started getting so bad that I could barely pay attention to what she was saying. I decided to excuse myself to go upstairs to write. I knew that, if I told her why I wanted to go, she would be intensely worried until I could assure her that the pain was all gone. When I inadvertently clenched my jaw today, sharp spikes of pain reverberated everywhere. I had to fight against my own instinct to clench. It was not easy. I automatically closed my eyes in response and wrapped my lips inwards around my teeth guards, waiting for it to pass.

Surprisingly, I fell asleep pretty normally, but was up at 12:15am. I took Advil and fell asleep. I awoke at 3:15pm, took Advil, and went to sleep. Up at 5:20am and took Tylenol & Tylenol 3. The pain had already began to subside from excruciating to bad. Went back to sleep. Up at 7am for thyroid meds. Up at 8am for my daily Gabapentin & more Advil. I slept until 10am, and then dragged myself out of bed. My mother called me to check on me. When I told her I was feeling better, she asked whether I would ever do it again. I told her yes, I would, but next time I would either ask for stronger pain meds or try a different method that did not result in so much pain. Clearly, brushing with Prevident, a prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste for the past month, did nothing to help. Because the pain had died down from excruciating, I switched to two regular Tylenol. I kept to the every 2 hour schedule until around 4pm. I felt I could space it out to 4 hours between doses, which is much more normal. When bedtime came again, I took a Tylenol 3 with a regular Tylenol to ensure I slept well for a second night. By the time I woke up this morning, I was feeling much better. Unfortunately, a storm front moved into the area and, with it, an terrible headache. Compared to the pain I’d been through after my teeth whitening, two Advil were more than enough to deal with it.

Now that it’s two days later, my teeth don’t seem all that much lighter. They definitely are, but I think I’ve already adjusted to seeing this new color. The only way I know that it worked is because the temporary crown that was put in is a much darker color. Before the whitening, it matched. Tomorrow I go to get a final color match, and then the crown will be made. I get to go back to get that done. I am so not thrilled.

The Terrible No-Good Day for Public Interactions

Was Mercury in retrograde in the third house (House of Communication) yesterday? I’m not much into that astrology junk. But when difficulties arise multiple times on the same day for the same day, I start wondering.

Sunday morning, we took my mother to our favorite diner in New Hyde Park for a belated Mother’s Day morning breakfast. This diner serves delicious banana nut pancakes that keep us coming back, despite the fact that they serve us “breakfast syrup” in containers instead of a bottle we can pour. The pancakes do not disappoint.

After getting our meals, the waitress left us alone until we were done. Not once did she come by to ask us if everything was ok, if we needed anything else, or if we wanted more coffee. I had to flag down one of the men who bus the tables in order to get more coffee. We’ve had this waitress before, and I do not like her. She never smiles or seems to be happy to be there, and she only gives us bare minimum service so I gave her bare minimum tip: 15%. Maybe that’s all she cares to make, but it upsets me. I like friendly service, and I am willing to tip handily. My standard is 20% and, if someone makes me happy in the least, I’m likely to tip 25%. I don’t have a problem rewarding those who serve me good food and good service. It ruins my meal because I’m thinking of their poor attitude instead of being happy that I’m there.

Later, my husband and I went to Long Beach for the first beach day of 2015. We parked and then went to booth to pay. Just as we arrived, a group of kids arrived. Since we didn’t have our money out, I let them go while we searched for cash. I asked the booth girl if they had multiple day passes and she told me they only sold day passes. After I got the two tickets, we had to arrange things. Someone else approached the booth girl and asked a question that seemed like the same question I asked. I heard booth girl tell beachgoer to walk 4 blocks and get it there.

After a break in the line appeared, I asked booth girl what she had told the girl to go buy. Using slightly different terms, she told me the answer – that I could buy a 10 visit pass. I felt annoyed. I tried to explain that that is what I had been asking and that when someone asks if you have multi-visit passes, you tell them where to buy them, not that you just don’t sell them at your location.

Booth girl looks at me like I have two heads. I realize I am starting to raise my voice and other beachgoers are looking at me. Booth girl does not apologize. She just looks at me like I have two heads. I asked my husband, “Am I an alien speaking a foreign language?” I debated asking for a refund and going to buy the pass. Hubby deferred to me. Feeling unsure of what to do, I decided to just go ahead, and have them stamp the two passes I bought so we can get to the beach.

The day is hot and, surprisingly, the ocean water isn’t too cold. The weather isn’t hot enough for me to want to spend a lot of time in the ocean, but it’s just nice to be sitting around. We read and eat watermelon while people frolic in the water as waves crash on the shore. When we leave, booth girl is still there. I purposely don’t look at her, as I just want to go go home and get us to our favorite watering hole. I feel emotional, and I just want to go where I can depend on the people.

We drop our beach stuff at the house, feed kitties, and walk to our bar. I am excited to eat their signature nachos that contain roasted corn, roasted brussel sprouts, and chicken, all covered in yummy cheese. We also ordered the raw tuna tacos that also have sliced avocado drizzled with a light, spicy sauce.

The nachos come, but with significantly less food on them than we normally get. One section of the chips is dry with nothing on it. The raw tuna and avocado are thick cut. I eat one of the three, but it’s not like what I’ve had there. Our waitress takes a picture and sends it to the owner who comps the tacos. We decide to try the lobster deviled eggs. We’ve had these before. They are delicious.

When our barkeep brings the eggs out, she tells us that the chef in the kitchen is from their recently-closed restaurant. Although he was trained, the food is just not coming out right. She had to stop him from putting mayo on the lobster and trying to serve it. Instead, we got egg white with huge lumps of lobster on top covered in some kind of sauce. The deviled part of the egg is nowhere to be seen. After one bite, I give up. I let hubby eat the rest. The drinks made by the barkeep more than make up for the food disappointment.

Even though I had people and food challenges, the pancakes, the ocean, and great drinks more than made up for it.

Managing Depression

Today is 89 days straight in which I have written at least one page of writing every day. The chain remains unbroken.

In the last week, however, I have noticed negative thoughts creeping in. The act of daily writing has largely staved off these thoughts for the past 3 months. The fact that I am doing what I want to do creatively gives my mood an enormous lift.

So why have the old thoughts been creeping in? Thoughts like, “What’s the point of writing? You’ll never be any good. You’ll never make any money from it. You’ll die alone and unknown and no one other than family and friends will ever know you lived. Just give up.” Deep inside, I considered it. I felt my resolve wavering along with the tree outside my window.

I used to want to find the answer. What was the trigger? Why am I feeling this way? Now, I say to myself, Who knows? I try to find ways to keep going. Maybe it was the anticipation of my hitting a milestone (90 days of writing). You can find out the exact reason all you want and, sometimes, it just doesn’t help.  You can’t go back and change the cause. All you’re left with is dealing with your mood and feelings in the present.

All my posts here get redirected to Twitter get redirected to my Facebook page. On that page, a friend suggested I read the memoir, “The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression” by Andrew Solomon. His first chapter, entitled Depression, talks about what it is and, more importantly, how it felt to him.

As I read his descriptions, I felt myself becoming increasingly morose and unhappy. The painful feelings and sense of oppression made me feel as if I had a two-ton weight pressing down onto my shoulders that would not quit until it ground me into the ground. I felt more pain, too, and it made me wonder if all this fibromyalgia pain is depression pain instead.

After running an errand to find seed beads and coffee, I settled into my writing place at Argo Tea on 26th St. and 7th Ave. I opened my memoir file and began writing, but felt like it would be too hard. So I decided to start reading about memoir writing instead.

I found a great article “How to Write a Memoir” by Scott Berkun and ordered it from the library. Reading his article about how hard it is to write a memoir, that it takes a lot of times that only you can invest, and that you have to write for your own reasons – not to make money. I think that was the lift that I needed.

Then I wrote this post a day early. I have been trying to spread out my writing – Blog writing on Mondays and Thursdays; memoir writing on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. But today I knew I needed to write this today. Tomorrow couldn’t wait. This post is beyond blog writing.

Just for today, this post is about getting to writing again.

A Two-Pronged Call for Memoir Suggestions

As you may know, I am in the midst of writing a memoir regarding how my many and/or severe illnesses affected my life. As part of my research, I have been reading them as well to get an idea of the kinds that are selling and have sold.

To date I have read the following:

From my local library, I requested

Out of all the ones I have read, only Dying to Be Me is a memoir written around an illness and how it affected the author’s life.

From my readers, I would like to hear from you on any of the following:

  • Your recommendations on medical/illness memoirs;
  • Your recommendations for the last memoir you read and why you liked it;
  • Your suggestions for things you’d want me to cover in writing my medical memoir.

Thank you!