Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Catholic Church Opposes Ice Bucket Challenge . . .


The Catholic Church is one of, if not my biggest, pet peeve. This time I have a new reason to be flipping my lid. For maybe the first time in a very long time, ALS is getting a lot of attention and significant donations (42 million) are being made to fund research and medication. So what does the Catholic Church do, specifically the Archdiocese of Cincinnati? They come out against the Ice Bucket Challenge, which the biggest cause for hope and life that people afflicted with ALS have had in our lifetime. Only 30,000 people suffer from this disease in this country. That means it is not profitable for pharmaceutical companies or researchers to find cures or drugs for this small population. Without help, these thirty thousand people will deteriorate physically until they are in a vegetative state and die. No hope, no cure, no nothing . . . until now. But the church wants to put an end to this.

You may want to know why the Church would take such a stand? It’s urging all members of the church and telling principals of Catholic schools to stop students from taking the challenge. It seems part of the research being done for this disease uses embryonic stem cells and that goes against church doctrine. It’s not moral according to the Church. The ALS Association isn’t considered pro-life because of the type of research they fund. But the research they are doing is for the purpose of saving existing lives and ending suffering. They are trying to save the lives of mothers, fathers, young men and women that are their sons and daughters. ALS is a fatal disease that causes years of suffering. How is trying to end that disease, by whatever scientific means possible, not pro-life? How long will it take for other dioceses to jump on board and try to put an end to the hope all these people and their families have had for a brief few days? It’s unconscionable plain and simple.

ALS patients need a cure and these donations may well bring about one or at least get them closer to one. The Catholic Church has too much say over what we do or don’t do. They want to tell us what movies we can watch; whether or not we can use birth control; how much money we should put in the collection plate; who to vote for; and now what charity or causes we can donate our money to! Meanwhile, they have their own set of problems that they need to focus on. Priests are still abusing children. Victims of prior abuse are still suffering the effects of that abuse. They have a long history of immorality within the church and plenty of documents that they have hidden away or destroyed. How about they turn their attention internally and leave the daily living of our lives to us. We were given free will and a conscience to guide our actions and that is exactly what we should all do. I don’t think the Church, with it’s long history of immorality, should be counseling anyone about anything.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Mother's Worry Is Black and White

Amadou Diallo Died February, 1999 

Last night I woke myself up, tossing and turning, and suddenly found tears streaming down my face. The picture of Michael Brown, the teenager killed in Ferguson, flashed in my mind. Unarmed and killed with his hands in the air by the very police who swore to protect the citizens of that city. He was going to start college the next day. Then more tears. I’ve been reading a lot about what happened in Ferguson, Missouri and it’s affected me deeply. I think back to Trayvon Martin, who was hunted down in Florida by vigilante, George Zimmerman, after coming back home with snacks he bought. He was walking through his own apartment complex, but he looked suspicious because he was wearing a hoodie in the rain. I recently read about John Crawford, the 22 year old black man who was shot and killed by police in a Walmart in Dayton, Ohio, for holding a toy gun. He was on the phone with the mother of his two children at the time. She heard the shots and his cries. And then there is Eric Garner, the man who was placed in a chokehold in Staten Island and died moments later. His crime? He wasn’t doing anything when the police went up to him. He did have a rap sheet and pending cases for selling illegal cigarettes. Illegal cigarettes have been sold on the streets of New York since I was a kid. My mother would buy a six month supply when the truck came up our block. It’s nothing new. Garner was not armed. He weighed over 300 pounds. He had asthma. Police say he resisted arrest. How much resisting could he do against four officers? Maybe he was resisting arrest or maybe he was resisting harassment. How far could this man have gone if they left him alone while they found a less forceful and legal way to arrest him? He even said, “I can’t breathe,“ six times. It fell on deaf ears. Now this man, the father of six children, is dead, killed by an officer with a record of falsely arresting and abusing people.

All this was swirling around in my mind. It wasn’t because I can relate to the black experience. I don’t know what it is like to be black in America. I only know what I have read and heard of the injustice and inequality, of the racism and hatred that still exists today. I never quite understood that black men, sons and fathers, could be shot and killed in cold blood, by police officers, for doing nothing. The first time I can remember being stricken by a similar story was back in 1999. A 23 year old immigrant from Guinea, named Amadou Diallo, was shot outside his apartment in the Bronx. He was mistaken for a rapist in the area at the time. Four police officers were involved. A frightened Diallo reached for his wallet to show them his identity and, as he did, forty-one shots were fired, 19 of them hitting the unarmed young man. His parents came to claim the body. The officers were acquitted. I was stunned by the outcome and never forgot it.

And, in between 1999 and now I learned that this is the “way” it is. Black mothers and all mothers who have black sons, have to worry about their sons being murdered for doing nothing at all. In America. They can be gunned down for wearing a hoodie, for reaching for a wallet, for carrying a toy gun, for selling illegal cigarettes . . . for just about anything. They can even be shot with their hands in the air. And their grieving mothers cannot even be sure of getting justice for their sons because they were killed by police officers who were “doing their jobs” to uphold the law and protect citizens. How do you live with that?

While I was tossing and turning and trying to go back to sleep, my mind wouldn’t let me. I kept thinking of all the mothers who lost their beloved sons. I thought of their lifetime of worrying that something like this could happen . . .and then it does. I understand the worry of a mother. I have two girls I worry about all the time. I worry when they are out driving, when they are sick, if they have to be in a parking lot late at night. As mothers, we all worry about our kids. When you have a child you will worry about them from the moment of conception to the last breath you take. You want the best for them. You want them to be healthy and happy in life. It’s unconditional love in it’s purest form. I worry about everything, but I never felt the need to worry that my girls would be shot and killed by the police for doing nothing. I can’t even begin to imagine having that kind of worry. No mother should have that kind of worry. My heart goes out to all the mothers, those who have lost their sons and those who have to worry it can happen to their sons, just because of the color of their skin. I pray for justice, I pray for peace, I pray for the America that should be, the one where everyone is respected and treated equally as stated in our Constitution. I pray for every mother who has a black son, that she will someday have one less thing to worry about.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Turning Sixty . . .


In less than a week I will be turning 60 years old. It doesn’t seem to bother me. “It’s just a number. You’re as old as you feel. Sixty is the new 40!,” are the wise adages we have created to help us feel better about getting older. But I don’t feel the need to soften the blow. At 50, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t expect to hit sixty. So, you better believe I am damn well happy about being able to celebrate this birthday, sharing it with my family and having a nice piece of cake.

Sixty years can feel like a long time or as though they went by in the blink of an eye, depending who you talk to. For me, the years went by pretty fast, even though I am living a fairly boring life. There was very little excitement to speak of, just the normal, every day challenges to deal with. I can probably sum up my whole life as: I was born, graduated college, married, raised two daughters, and you can fill in the blah, blah, blahs yourself. I lived the life I envisioned, the life I wanted to live. I can’t complain. I have been very blessed. I do the things I want to do, the things that make me happy. I don’t care what most people think of me, just those I am closest to. I have learned from my own experiences and those of others. I have given and taken advice. I have known the heartache and grief of loss. I have known the joy of love and happiness. I have acquired wisdom. It’s been a good life and I don’t dread turning 60 for one minute.

However, I can’t speak for all my body parts. Some of them are having a bit of a hard time dealing with the changes of this past decade. My eyeglasses need to be “tweaked” a little more often than they used to. Making the font larger on the computer seems to help them feel they as though they are as sharp as ever. The past year, my left ankle gets swollen every day. It needs a little pampering and elevation. I don’t want my right ankle to feel bad because I am favoring the left, so I put both my feet up during the day to keep them happy. My muscles, if you can call them that, ache with every little thing I attempt to do. If I carry a little shopping home from the store, my arms ache. If I bend to do a little cleaning, then my back aches. If I walk around the park for exercise, then my legs ache. It seems like my muscles have taken early retirement and forgot to send me a memo. My stomach, which has been fine digesting whatever I liked in the past, has decided to become much more finicky. Everything seems to upset it. For example, though I have been a meat eater all my life, but beef and pork have become difficult for me to digest. My stomach prefers chicken and fish now. Salads are great, except my stomach doesn’t like any kind of vinaigrette dressing and immediately acts up. Too much of anything upsets it: too much junk food, too much candy, too much fiber, too much fruit . . . it doesn’t matter if the items are good or bad for me, my stomach will only tolerate so much of it. Ironically however, that hasn’t stopped me from gaining weight or having high cholesterol. Hearing and memory diminish greatly with age. This is really difficult to adjust to because most of us need to remember the things we hear, that is, if we hear them in the first place. When my husband tells me something and then has to repeat it, I don’t know if I forgot what he said or didn’t hear it in the first place. To save face, I tell him he never said it. Sometimes I say something and repeat it five minutes later because I forgot I said it. It’s not always something that bears repeating either. Thank God my husband has the patience of a saint. I still have all my teeth, but some of them have become very sensitive to cold things. No one has tampered with these teeth that I have had all my life. The fillings are all the original ones I got as a kid. So why are my teeth causing me problems now? Maybe they don’t want to be left out? It could be peer pressure from the other body parts or maybe they just want some attention? Who knows? As for the rest of the body parts, they still work pretty well for now. I’ll have to reassess my situation a year from now and see if I have any more setbacks.

Last week I went to the salon to get my hair cut and colored. My hair is vain and still wants to look 40. While I was there, an older woman started chatting with me and asking me all kinds of questions. I am an open book so I volunteered the answers and then some. She asked me about my family and I told her I was 29 when I got married and have been married 31 years with had two daughters. Then we got to talking about my parents and how they were first cousins and had an arranged marriage. She said, “but they loved each other right?” I immediately answered with a drawn out and emphatic, “No.” To which she burst out laughing at my honesty. Then she asks, “How old are you?” I answer, “Sixty.” She almost falls out of her chair with disbelief and tells me it can’t be. I tell her I just told you I was 29 when I married and I am married 31 years, the numbers don’t lie. Then she tells me never to tell anyone my age because I look 40 and don’t have a wrinkle on my face. I think to myself, looks can be deceiving, as my other body parts would attest to. As I leave, she wants to know when I am coming in for my next appointment so she can meet me there and chat some more.

The next thing on my agenda is looking into taking a college class on creative writing, maybe even this fall. I love to write, but my imagination needs to be resuscitated, if it isn’t totally dead. We’ll see what happens with that adventure. If it doesn’t work out, I always have blogging.