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The End of the Decade from Heck.

This was, by far, the worst decade of my life. It really didn’t get worse than this.

It started in 2010 when my best friend lost his job.

In 2011, I lost mine and BFF went to California for a contract position.

I couldn’t find a new job that would allow me to live in NJ so I had to sell my house and move.

In 2013, I found a house in Pittsburgh, put an offer on it and that very week, my daughter became seriously ill and was in and out of the hospital for a year.

In that year, I ran out of COBRA that kept her in the hospital and had to find a new policy. In either case, it was costing me over $1000/month. Without a steady full time job, I sped through my savings quickly.

I was unable to get a new full time job with benefits until the end of 2015. It was entry level. In the meantime, I cobbled together part time, contract and temporary jobs working for some of the meanest people on the planet. My background *should* have gotten me a better job but when you have to go thru resume screening apps and HR departments can not understand why a STEM professional can’t find even the most menial job, life becomes very difficult.

It didn’t matter. I was laid off in 2017. Last hired, no seniority, still training. That was about the time I was supposed to get a follow up mammogram.

Through a friend, I quickly got a new job but had to wait 3 months for health insurance to kick in. It didn’t matter. My Mammograms were the furthest thing from my mind. Having a steady income became my first priority.

I’m still grinding away at an entry level position in a new industry with dwindling hopes that I will ever get a job more suited to my abilities or will be able to make up the money I’ve lost in the past decade.

Then my mom got sick and died. But not before she disinherited me for the one time in my life that I raised my voice to her in 2011. (No swearing involved.)

The week she died, I was scheduled for biopsies, two small surgeries and an uncertain future of my own. I didn’t make it to her bedside in time and I asked others not to tell her about my diagnosis thinking that if she had a heart, she’d feel bad about it while she was dying. And if she didn’t, she’d leave something behind for me that would trouble me the rest of my life.

It was the latter.

I got there after she died and had to leave before her funeral so I could get a port-a-Cath installed for chemo. Time was of the essence that week.

I thought my sister and brother would be more understanding of my experience with her, that I won’t go into here but that they are well aware of, and would correct the injustice of the will that deprived me of the money my father left us. They weren’t and they didn’t.

I thought this kind of thing only happened to people who did bad and evil things to their families. They told destructive lies or stole things or asked for money they never intended to repay or were unrepentant drug addicts or alcoholics or physically hurt someone or were carelessly irresponsible or sadistic or were serial killers. Nope, all I had to do was refuse to cooperate with my abuser and “cannot heave my heart into my mouth”. You can be hard working, smart, and nice and as unselfish as humanly possible. But some people can nurse an inexplicable lifelong grudge to the grave.

Call me Cordelia.

I’m very lucky that I had my favorite Republican to see me through it all. He was an unexpected godsend. And BFF sent me socks at each stage of my treatment to keep my morale up.

Work has been difficult. FMLA doesn’t work. I’ll leave it at that. I’m grateful that my employer provides good health insurance benefits. I’m not so happy that I couldn’t feel comfortable taking even one sick day during the whole ordeal and that using my vacation days for my surgery was preferable than trying to navigate through the Byzantine rules around short term disability. It was unnecessarily stressful to someone facing a serious illness with no financial backup. No one should go through that.

The last year also short circuited my opportunities to get a better internal position. I didn’t think it would be fair to my new supervisor if I wasn’t feeling on top of my game.

But anyway, I’m getting better. I heal very well. I can barely see my scar. I’ll get a new boob next year. My energy reached a nadir right around the solstice but it’s getting better every day, like the return of the sun.

I am so sick of the last decade. I’m poorer, missing some parts and have not so much family anymore. What I have learned is just how relentless and cruel a narcissist can be and how they can spin a web of lies if you try to escape.

I know true kindness as well. It’s like a life preserver.

All I’m asking for the next decade is a little let up from the series of unfortunate events. Oh, and a week long vacation at the beach that doesn’t feature a hurricane. It’s scheduled for May because we couldn’t take the chance. I’d prefer June or July. That would have been possible before the disinheritance. Now, it seems like an impossibly expensive dream.

I’ll be gone for a couple of days starting today for a too short respite at an undisclosed location (it’s not a beach or in a warm location but I will take it. Gratefully.) It feels way too late in coming and will have to carry me over until May. Two days. I managed to get two days away from endless responsibility and a house full of issues I can’t afford to fix and a decade of bad juju. I just hope I’m not in an accident on the way there. It could still happen.

I won’t be checking in. I’m sure you’ll understand. But I’ll probably glance at Twitter a couple times a day to watch Trump freaking out. Maybe someone will negotiate a deal for him with Nancy to just go away. A girl can dream. But knowing narcissists as I do, he’s going to make us all miserable before he goes and will probably leave a nasty legacy after he leaves that will make us want to vomit.

Thanks to all of you so much for being with me for the last decade. You are the best people.

Good bye to bad stuff.

Happy New Year!

Biden subpoena.

Open mouth, insert foot.

I don’t understand why Biden decided to get involved here or make a public statement at all. What was the point?

The impeachment is about what Trump did in violation of his oath. It’s all about Trump’s actions. Did he or did he not offer an official act or something of value to Ukraine in exchange for campaign assistance? Did he obstruct Congress from determining the same? That’s it. End of story.

Ok, you want to talk about motive? Here it is: Trump wanted to win next year’s election by any means necessary.

There. Done.

This is not about Joe Biden. Joe Biden or Hunter Biden are Macguffins. To Trump getting Biden to testify before Congress would be like scoring the Maltese Falcon. Divinely to be wished but wholly irrelevant to the plot.

But sure, let’s Biden drag himself into the controversy. Let him admit that maybe Hunter being on the board of an energy company in Ukraine don’t look too good. We have seen that the media does not do a very good job of differentiating between degrees of badness. Where Hunter’s indiscretions might rate a 3 on the spectrum, Trump is already up to 11. That will make no difference. We will see the likes of John Dickerson and Anderson Cooper sadly admitting that Hunter’s impurity leaves a bad taste in their mouths.

Does Biden REALLY want to go thru that?? I mean, I don’t have a problem with it if he wants to tank his candidacy. I wasn’t planning to vote for anyone with a Y chromosome in the primaries anyway and if I absolutely had to, I’d go with Julian Castro. But Trump and his crazy Senate droogs will go all Doug Collins on him and the loud drawly yelling and screaming over nothing will make an impeachment trial into a circus.

The only way this would work is if Biden could bravely and calmly go to the Senate and make the point that HE isn’t on trial, TRUMP is. The distinction might be lost on the audience if he can’t stop hitting himself.

Jeez, don’t leave him near sharp objects.

Where I respectfully disagree with almost everything Vox writes about The Rise of Skywalker.

I saw the last Star Wars movie tonight. It only took 40 years.

I liked it. There is completion. It makes sense. The issue of Rey’s parentage is important and integral to the entire theme of the Star Wars Trilogy of Trilogies.

I did NOT like The Last Jedi, which is the movie that preceded this one. Vox has a lot to say on the comparison of The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker and I’m not onboard with their take on why the last movie was a failure with fans. To be honest, I’m stunned that critics loved it.

It’s not because I’m a canonical Star Wars fan that is maniacally determined to maintain purity. No. I actually liked how women were portrayed in The Last Jedi. They came into their own. Even the special effects were amazing. I loved the hall of mirrors effect with Rey and the race at the end where trails of blood red dust streamed behind the vehicles was spectacular.

But I didn’t like the ensemble after ensemble, sub plot after sub plot structure of the movie. It diluted the central theme of the entire series. That theme was how does a person with great power choose between darkness and light? Is it a matter of genetics? Which genetics? Or is nurture more important? With Rey, it’s difficult to say since she was abandoned in a harsh desert environment on a back of beyond planet at a very young age. She had no loving aunt and uncle to help her. She had no one.

So, what was it about Rey that prevented her from going to the dark side? And what made Ben Skywalker Solo abandon the light?

Well, The Rise of Skywalker had to wrap that all up in a satisfying conclusion but the central explorations of the two main characters should have happened in The Last Jedi and they didn’t. There were just a lot of silly little diversions that seemed to serve little more purpose than driving action scenes. The material that might have been fleshed out, specifically, the force immanent in the child slaves, was sacrificed to keep the momentum of the movie. The romance between Kelly Tran’s character and John Boyega’s seemed forced as well. The whole movie consisted of movie plots in and of themselves that didn’t get fleshed out while the central story was relegated to equal status and buried under a million other things.

The new characters were good enough to deserve their own movies in a Star Wars spin off. That’s where all that action, adventure and new themes should have taken place.

The movie was too crowded. It reminded me of one of George RR Martin’s later Game of Thrones volumes that seemed to include way too many characters doing way too many things and sometimes duplicating themselves. It needed a better editor.

In the last movie, the better editor, JJ Abrams, comes back to tidy things up. It was a thankless job. Like I said, the deep dive into Kylo Ren and Rey’s psyches got ditched in The Last Jedi so there really isn’t a solid resolution to Rey’s turn to the light. It’s almost as if the dark side never tempted her at all. She’s almost too good to be true.

In any case, the end tied up loose ends, gave satisfying deaths to several characters, and finished the series where we started it all 40 years ago – at sunset on Tatooine.

It was worth the wait.

Joy to the World

Last Sunday, I went to the Christmas Pops concert performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Mendelssohn Choir, Santa Claus, bell ringers, broadway singers and other performers.

There was a giant Christmas tree in the foyer of Heinz Hall decked with yards of gold and red ribbon and equally giant ornaments.

The audience was dressed in festive attire. Little children wore red velvet dresses and dress pants.

We all sang Joy to the World and Silent Night.

And all of this for a man that no one has seen for 2000 years.

I was tired, in part due to accumulation of stress, treatment and surgery that I knew in advance would catch up to me during the holidays. It sometimes takes months to recover from this. My mind was occupied by a thousand chores yet to do. And in that moment of fatigue, I felt the strange stirrings of anti-Christmas sentiment.

Now, THIS, oh best beloveds, was definitely not like me. I always look forward to Christmas, even if it has been forced in the last several years. I grew up without a Christmas, raised as I was with a Jehovah’s Witness mother whose hatred for the holiday seemed pathological. She out Grinched the Grinch. When it came to Christmas, it went beyond religion because she seemed delighted to use her religion’s anti-Christmas sentiment as a way to torment others.

I grew up witnessing Christmas as enjoyed by others. During Christmas holiday, we would visit my relatives in Pittsburgh where my feelings were not spared by seeing the mounds of gifts around my cousins’ Christmas trees. My grandmother always had a little gift for me. But I can count on one hand all of the Christmases where I was a participant and not just an observer. Those few instances were at my grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve where, forgotten by my mother who was visiting her own family, I went to midnight mass with my grandparents and aunt and had a feast in the wee hours of the morning.

The house smelled of deliciousness as I sleepily watched little gold angels strike a bell with their wands as they chased each other around a circle floating on a candle fueled current. The next day, it was on to another cousin’s house, watching them play with their new toys among piles of wrapping paper and ribbons under a tall bedecked tree while their parents, none of them wealthy by a long shot, smiled and laughed.

I used to wonder what I had done during the year to deserve this misery of always watching others enjoy their childhoods while I was required to disconnect from the worldliness of it all. People, don’t do this to your kids. Christmas lasts long into January at school and listening to other kids’ go on and on about hoards of gifts while I had nothing to contribute was pure torture. It made me question what was going on in the heart of the parent who swore that all this abnegation was to save me from eternal damnation. That was one of my first clues that something definitely wasn’t right.

I promised myself when I was a child to NEVER let my own kids go through that and that I would Christmas well and give them whatever their hearts desired because it was wonderful to watch them loving every minute.

But last Sunday, it just seemed like a lot of work for the birthday of someone no one had met for 2000 years.

Then I wondered why we went to so much effort. Why the gilded art and gorgeous music? Hasn’t this been a festive time of year since before Jesus? Weren’t there wise men and women that predated him? Hasn’t there been feasting and decorations at the same time of the year for millennia?

Now some Christians would say that it’s meaningless without Christ. And others would say Jesus would be outraged by the genuine outpouring of good will, generosity and merriment and will smite us all at Armageddon.

Neither is right.

The whole point of Christmas is to remind us that we are all children of the universe as the Desiderata would say. No less than the trees or the stars. We have a right to be here.

Everyday is an opportunity to wake up and experience that right and witness creation and our place in the vast universe filled with wonder and delight.

The joy in the world is the point. The earth stops tilting on its axis briefly and holds its breath until it begins its turn towards the sun. The sun the giver of life to all of us stardust. The stardust the product of gases. The gases, light and motion rushing forth from beyond space and time to some infinite destination.

And we get to witness it all and celebrate the light and warmth with all around us like the sparrow that passes through the mead hall. Or concert hall.

The Joy to the World is You.

Now Dash Away, Dash Away, Dash Away All!!

It’s that time. Is everybody excited?

Don’t throw that pillow at me. There are things to do. Get it done by the afternoon and you can Party the rest of the night.

Let’s Get This Party Started!!

Happy Solstice!

The sun,–the bright sun, that brings back, not light alone, but new life, and hope, and freshness to man–burst upon the crowded city in clear and radiant glory. Through costly-coloured glass and paper-mended window, through cathedral dome and rotten crevice, it shed its equal ray.

Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist