Well, I did not burst into flame

Nor was I cooked and eaten by hungry people.  What I was asked how our Black lives matter meeting went, that was my response. One and one half days have passed and I am still alive.  We have begun the trip and are fairly civilized. The group includes people who are fairly active in matters of racial justice and me. For me, racial justice lately has been the ability to earn a living without fear of eviction and having the same benefits as my co-workers. For people who don’t know, being a peer support specialist is my fourth or fifth career and it is the one the has lasted the longest. I have been a librarian, a cooperative developer, a grant writer and a day care worker. Since those other careers faded away, one can conclude that either I was not especially skilled or I am better suited for what I am doing now. These jobs sometimes paid decent money but unfortunately did not last more than a few years.

Peer support has often been a low paying career in which I had to fight to earn a living wage. I am wearing the first pair of glasses ever bought with company provided vision benefits. Either my previous jobs didn’t have vision benefits or I didn’t use them. Making my life matter meant a lot of pain and struggle to survive. There was also a lot of acting out and fairly embarrassing behavior that ruined relationships. My current life is the most stable I have felt for a long time.

I now feel as though I have something to offer such as the value of my experience. I know what it means to feel ashamed that you need to depend on your family for support well into adulthood. I know about having your payroll check bounce. I know what bad and good employers are like. These are all things I bring to the struggle to making black lives matter in Milwaukee. I was the only African-American at the table for our first meeting at the First Unitarian Society, a situation I hope to change. I hope to venture out and become a part of some of the struggles my fellow members have been involved with and make a difference. I will share my vision, now that it is clear what I can see.

Making the announcement



In another step towards changing over from being an ad hoc “cabal” to a formal committee I asked for and received the names and contact information of the people who have been a part of the group. I was pleasantly surprised that there were about a dozen people. This is a testimony to Mary’s organizational skills. While she may seem like one of those flaky white liberals just running around doing thins, the fact is she helped create some pretty impressive events. The question is, what to do with all of the energy that she has helped create? Where does it go?

I will be busy sending out an email informing people of the changeover and and finding a date for our first meeting. Next week I will be attending the my first meeting of the social justice council as the chair of the new black lives committee. Once more into the breach.

Things I did not know about my mother

Detail of Quilt block of a flower in applique ...
Detail of Quilt block of a flower in applique and reverse applique (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Foundation piecing. English paper piecing. Quilt.
Foundation piecing. English paper piecing. Quilt. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I called home a few minutes ago to my a request about a holiday gift that would have meaning. None of the junk that they push in the ads that began when I was visiting at Thanksgiving would make any difference. And then I thought about the quilt that had been on the bed when I visited and mentioned it to my sweetheart. Having heard a dozen stories about my mother, she exclaimed, is there anything your mother couldn’t do?


Not much, apparently. Today, she fired up the snow blower and went up and down the street clearing snow. Then she drove to the drug store to pick up medication for her and my sister. My sister told me that mom gets these bits of fabric that had sewn together by her grandmother and makes them into a quilt. she is very much her grandmother’s child. She was one of those who would be sitting and listening to her grandmother how to do certain things and then she set out to do them. My mother is very small; she was barely 5 feet one inches tall when I was younger and she shrank due to osteoporosis. Because of her small size, she was useful working in the defense plant crawling into the cockpit of fighter planes during World War 2.


Another job that I never knew about was driving a cab part-time after we had moved into our house. My mother has also worked in every area of nursing imaginable.


So I am hoping I will look up in a couple of weeks and find a big box from the post office filled with my mother’s love and a quilt that began way before I was born. I will use the quilt to sleep under with the woman I love and that will be this christmas.






who will be the mouser in the family

Emma und Paul auf der Heizung
Emma und Paul auf der Heizung (Photo credit: thosch66)


In every household there is at least one person who is assigned to rid the place of cridders. The might include mice, spiders, snakes critters and ants. Things that might lessen the enjoyment of one’s home. Oddly the same system applies to offices. Someone will catch these pests while one or more are hiding under their desks or barricaded in the bathroom.


At our office there is a tall woman named Earlene who is about 6 feet tall and men enjoy it as she towers over them. But when it comes to spiders, yours truly has to rescue her from distress. I imagine she consumes energy drinks at home and takes self defense classes. If only the spiders knew.


When I was growing up my mother would kill the occasional pest that dared to enter our home. It would be dispatched with a work boot or a broom. Word traveled fast around the mouse world that we meant business.


But it was a different story with local hippies Emma and Tim. One day I visited them looking for humus and sex and wouldn’t you know there was their cat Fidel carrying a trophy: a small mouse. Well,  Emma bounded across the room to try and save the mouse.


Little did Emma know I had worked out a deal with Fidel that I would pretend to release the mouse only to returnwith it. The mouse went on to it’s just desserts and I earned the undying gratitude of Fidel. To this day, I have a good relationship with cats. When you have tasty mice, cats will purr. It’s all part of natural selection.


The first computer mouse held by Engelbart sho...
The first computer mouse held by Engelbart showing the wheels that directly contact the working surface (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


English: Female Mouse Spider, Missulena bradle...
English: Female Mouse Spider, Missulena bradleyi. Taken in Swifts Creek, Victoria, Australia in July 2007. Specimen is approx 25 mm in size. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




The new asylums

The second story in the Pro Publica series on the best reporting on mental health in prison was called The New Asylums. It examined the dilemma facing corrections official in Ohio, considered a model for treatment of mentally ill prisoners. People like me who work in mental health know that the prisons prove most of the mental health care in America.The New Asylums followed a group of prisoners up and down the mental health ladder.

One salient fact is that due to conduct violations n prison, it is common to serve far longer than the stated prison terms mandated by the courts. thus, one could be imprisoned for many years on relatively minor crimes due to behavior issues related to one’s state of mental health.

Do not expect a lot of person first language in the video. Most of the men who were interviewed had a diagnosis of schizophrenia.  They were labeled as “schizophrenics in the narration. iIt was jarring to view often articulate men talking about their hopes for recovery juxtaposed with pictures of them being being tackled by squads of SWAT type guards trained to enforce rules. An angry, naked man attempts to resist authority and receives the full force of the prison authority.He may face the same terror up and down the corrections system resisting less restrictive prison environments and going all the way up to maximum security. There was also a hospital attached to the prison when mentally ill prisoners were referred to help them with conduct adjustment.

People would be offered supports that helped clear their minds enough to be able to transfer them back to the general population. All of them men eventually were granted parole and every single one returned shortly afterward for another violation. Will the circle be unbroken? One man facing parole said that he hoped to be locked up for the rest of his life because the thought of living in a less restrictive environment terrified him.

What do you feel about this cycle of temporary recovery, stabilization, breakdown and re-incarceration? write your responses below.


Middle child syndrome not so much

Apparently there is something called middle child syndrome and issues of birth order that were supposed to have affected me and my siblings. Oldest siblings are supposed to be bossy, which mine is; many US presidents and other famous people like actor Julia Roberts were middle children; the last born is indulged and spoiled.

However I thought that certain other factors such gender, the era and the city in which we were born played far more important roles in our lives. We were part of the baby boom generation in Buffalo which was deeply segregated. But here is where gender steps in because both of my sisters have lupus, an auto-immune deficiency in which their bodies began attacking them when they should have been in the prime of their lives. My older sister had married her high school sweetheart and had two children.She was very active in skiing and work until the lupus  forced her to apply for disability. Although the disease has not killed her, it is very expensive, requiring many different medications. Her success in her later years has come through guiding her sons into manhood and becoming a grandmother.

Gender was very important for me and my younger brother as we were the facing the draft and the Vietnam War. As the older of the two, I had an advantage in that I had a gift for writing and when I applied myself, I was a good student. I also was in an era when college was relatively inexpensive. So even though I had setbacks while struggling with mental illness I was able to survive the military, finish school and start a professional career. It was necessary to leave Buffalo when I did in 1980 as the city began a long and painful economic decline. Many of my friends also left.

My writing has helped me enter several different careers including my present one as a peer support specialist. I have seen a few generations of actual and pretend nephews. And I have satisfaction from seeing them struggle with many of the same things that I experienced.

My younger brother was not as fortunate. He had a learning disability that was undiagnosed. We discovered much too late that he could barely read or write, a gift of the school system that simply passed him along. His mental illness was too powerful to overcome combined with the effects of drug use. He was struggling at a time when I was also at risk. Ultimately I had to save myself. Our mother told him to go into the military which was the natural place for saving young black men or killing them. Just before his scheduled enlistment he drowned under mysterious circumstances.

My younger sister was the baby and has 3 children of her own. One of her children, a son, has lupus. She was thew only one of us to move south. While my older sister and I have always been able to count on Mom, our younger sister has always struggled with her. As a result she was cut off several year ago. She drives a school bus. It’s very likely that her mental illness is an underlying factor.

So, to me, life has not been any crystal staircase. We have all been affected by race, mental illness, segregation and the era in which we grew up. Our mother’s ability to provide for us was a strong protective factor. She passed along a strong work ethic. I’m glad that we were spaced a number of years apart but I honestly don’t think that being the second of four was that important.

At this stage my ability to communicate, my writing, my interest in people and my good health are the most important factors. But I would be interested in hearing from others about how they feel birth order affected them.