How to Support Writers in a Post-Trump Era

If you care about progressive voices—in local newspapers, on websites, anywhere–start commenting with YOUR progressive voices. Be loud. Be frequent. Drown out the hate. Check the aggression. Every time you read something you like, fill the comments section with love and herald the person who wrote it.

The trolls may be few but they are loud and they are mean. Do not ignore this. Do not turn away. Combat this. Start reviewing the comments via our newspapers, websites etc and click through.

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Please please please say something-anything! Progressive writers put themselves on the front lines of bullying to say something meaningful and real in this fucked up world. Please please please don’t expect us to stand alone.

Never let bullying go unchecked. Never let a strong voice go without support. Now more than ever, be vocal and be fierce. Every time. Every single moment. Do not miss an opportunity to be the voice of reason and to lift someone up. Now, more than ever, SAY SOMETHING!

My Top 20 Favorite Albums

My Top 20 Favorite albums:

(In no particular order and with a few addendums.)

 

Ophelia by Natalie Merchant

The Stranger by Billy Joel

Little Earth Quakes by Tori Amos

Falling Fast Awake by Joshua Macrae

Various Positions by Leonard Cohen

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie

ZiggyStardust

Faith by George Michael

The Concert in Central Park by Simon and Garfunkel

Closing Time by Tom Waits

Kid A by Radiohead

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The Story by Brandi Carlile

All the Way by MaMuse

Ani Difranco’s entire discography.  (I couldn’t pick just one. #sorrynotsorry)

Hallelujah World by Jacob Golden

The Trainspotting Soundtrack

The Joshua Tree by U2

Graceland by Paul Simon

Graceland_cover_-_Paul_Simon

Bird on a Wire: The Songs of Leonard Cohen by Perla Batella (This is a cover album but what Perla Batella does with the music merits its own mention. Unbelievable.)

Live in London 1976 by John Denver (But with a caveat that I‘m adding the song “For You” which is not on this album.)

The Free to Be You and Me Soundtrack (Because I grew up with it and because I didn’t have anything else with Michael Jackson on it and because it’s perfect. Mel Brooks, Harry Belafonte, Carol Channing, Diana Ross, Alan Alda, Marlo Thomas, Roberta Flack and more.  I mean, c’mon.)

Weight

I’m the fattest I have ever been.  Or, more precisely, I am four pounds lighter than the fattest I have ever been because I started dieting nine days ago.

There is something about dieting that makes me feel hyper-sensitive about the way I look.  It’s as though, through the act of dieting, I am constantly acknowledging that I am unhappy with my body and current appearance.  It’s something that I am constantly fighting.

My weight has fluctuated my entire life.  I was a chubby kid in middle school, skinny in high school, and then chubby again in college.  I weighed 185 pounds when I was 25 years old and then lost 60 pounds to weigh 125 by my 26th birthday.  I gained most of that back, then lost it again, then gained it back again, this time with several extra pounds.

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I am generally a very happy person and my current body mass isn’t something that depresses me. I have friends who love me. I feel fairly healthy and strong. I have a very happy and healthy relationship with my partner. I enjoy outdoor activities and like to go hiking. But right now I feel really uncomfortable in my body.  I enjoyed running when it was something that didn’t hurt my knees.  I miss being able to wear skirts and dresses without my thighs rubbing uncomfortably together.

I’ve learned to be happy at the weight I’m at.  It has taken a lot of practice but I’ve decided to love the body I live in because it is the only one I have. And because, when I look back on all the times I was unhappy with my weight or appearance, I find that now, when I look at pictures or think about it, I was completely beautiful.

If I could go back and tell my past-self one thing it would be to feel happy in my body—no matter what size.  Because even at my fittest and strongest, I was still miserable and critical.  I never felt beautiful in high school, even though I was.  I never felt pretty in my 20s, even though I was quite stunning.

Most women are incredibly critical of themselves. We receive messages almost from birth.  We are always too fat, too thin, too old, too young, too pale, too dark, or too something. When I was in high school and weighed 115 pounds I used to think I was “fat”.  Even when I was running 7 miles each day to train to climb Mt. Whitney, I never thought my body was good enough.

This is the first time that I have started a diet at a time when I actually think my body is beautiful.  It has taken constant vigilance on my part to not fall into the trap of hating myself because I am “over-weight” or not at a standard of beauty that society expects from me.  I have to constantly remind myself that I am dieting for myself and not to conform to something.

I just want to feel comfortable in my own skin again. And I want to love myself on the journey.

Dance Magic Dance

A part of me died tonight.  It took me by surprise. I had no idea how much I loved David Bowie until tonight when I found him gone.

David Bowie was the first person who ever made me feel like I had an identifiable sexuality or a specific gender identity. I will never forget the first time I watched Labyrinth and I will never forget how it made me feel. In hindsight, this is odd, because I’m a queer woman and, as a pre-pubescent teen in 1986 watching Labyrinth, it was really confusing to watch Jareth, The Goblin King, and his codpiece, and to think thoughts about something that I was fully too young to understand.

In the next few hours and days, there will be several news outlets and magazines that eulogize David Bowie.  They will talk about his incredible vocal capability.  And they will be right.  They will talk about his trend-setting fashion.  And they will be right.  There might be a few publications that mention Ziggy Stardust and the incredible bravery and ultimately revolutionary persona that David Bowie offered in that moment.  And hopefully they will understand how unbelievable he was, and how far ahead of his time he was in that moment.  But probably not.  In all likelihood Ziggy Stardust will be mentioned as a song on an album and not as a movement.

David Bowie was so sexy in his own right and so far ahead of his time in gender fluidity that it’s hard to look back on his career and pinpoint the moment when he became a symbol rather than an icon.  His sincerity met the expanse of his career and his genuine approach to artistry was so authentic that few people noticed the movement.  David Bowie will likely be remembered as an incredible songwriter and a beautiful popstar.

David Bowie positioned himself with such integrity that his death snuck up on us and his legacy might go without notice in the mainstream.

For me, he was my first love.  He was my first real crush.  And, as I got older, and started to understand a little better, I came to understand that he was my first real hero.

For me, and for many people like me, David Bowie wasn’t simply an incredible singer and song-writer.  He was a revolutionary who took gender non-conformity to new levels when gender non-conformity didn’t yet have a term.  He shook the world with his alter-ego in a way that will never be taken back.  He lived his life so extraordinarily that when he died tonight he took two very real people with him.

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Good night David Bowie.  And sweet dreams Ziggy Stardust.

We will never forget you.  Either of you.  And the people who knew you will ever forget your music.

I will miss you forever.  And I will never forget your advice:

Dance magic dance.

 

2015

2016

2015 was a happy and mostly uneventful year for my wife and I.  We enjoyed time with friends and family, though we would have liked to have had more of it.  There were a few births, a few weddings, and, for us, only a couple, and mostly distant deaths.

A couple of my old friends and I got together at the end of December to bake cookies and recount the year.  As I described 2015, I felt thankful that my worst moment was entirely trivial.  When asked to name my worst moment, I sheepishly listed a fight about the Christmas tree that my wife and I had had that week. It was stupid and unnecessary but it felt particularly important and awful at the time. (We had to move the tree because we flooded the tree stand and we needed to mop up the water.  It resulted in broken ornaments. It felt horrible but, ultimately, it was really dumb.)  We got over it.

This year, my best friend’s father and step-mother died within two weeks of each other in November. They visited in the fall and they were gone two months later.

I know that 20 years from now, if I were given the chance to relive a single year of my life, 2015 would probably be a very good choice, not for any overt joy, but rather, for the distinct lack of sorrow.

In 2015, my wife and I didn’t make a lot of money.  We paid the bills and never overdrew our checking account.  We didn’t get to travel to Europe or take any long vacations.  There were fun weekend excursions and a couple of really beautiful camping trips.  We didn’t get any new pets or have any children.  But none of our pets or loved ones had any major medical emergencies this year.

We didn’t get to do everything we wanted to this year.  We didn’t get to see every person we love.  But we got to do a hell of a lot.  And we got to hug a lot of people.  And I’m pretty sure that everyone whom we love knows that we love them, even if only in some small way.  And so, if I could choose to do 2015 over, I would.

As I look toward 2016, I have high hopes for a more exciting year but I feel very cautious about having high hopes.  I’d like to have a job that’s both meaningful and makes enough money to put away something towards savings. I’d like to plan a trip to Spain, something I’ve been dreaming of. My wife and I currently share a single car and our car is over 10 years old.  We’d like to get a newer, more reliable car.  I’d like to spend time with family and I’d like to make more time for friends.

But mostly, more than anything, I just want the people I love to be safe, happy, and healthy.

Being Honest About the Holidays

The holidays make normal people crazy.  And the holidays make crazy people worse.  

In my last blog, I posted this really cute, touchy-feely piece with advice for the holidays.  I told folks not to worry too much. I said that holiday meals aren’t a big deal. I said that hosting holiday gatherings can be easy.  It was a very sweet blog.  It was also very bad advice.

My grandmother, Dottie Morasch, was known for her execution of the holidays. She was not known for her patience or her kind demeanor.  She wasn’t known for a great singing voice or for giving great advice.  My grandmother was known for being proper, for being impeccably dressed, and for throwing one hell of a party.  

Dottie Morasch left nothing to chance. She loved to throw a party and she loved to throw a party under one single condition: it had to be perfect. My grandmother loved to host at Christmas time. She had total control over the meal. Everyone had to dress up–the men and boys wore ties and the women and girls wore dresses.

The family had to send my grandmother our Christmas gifts ahead of time so that she could wrap them in the appropriate colors that would match her party’s theme, usually gold, white, and silver.

gifts

The holidays can be a very big challenge, even for balanced, and well-meaning people. I don’t usually think of myself as a perfectionist but I know I’m a bit like my grandmother, especially when it comes to the holidays.  I love throwing one hell of a party.  

I made quince pie filling from scratch last week.  For the recipe, I went to a specialty store and bought cardamom pods and anise stars. It took six hours to boil the filling down to the right color and consistency.  And that was just the beginning.

For Christmas this year, I’m feeding my wife and our shared family.  There will be nine of us.  I have known about the number of guests for at least a month.  And, for at least a month, I have been making notes in a spreadsheet using Google Docs.  I first outlined the dishes I had planned then broke them down by ingredients. After that, I broke the ingredients into a shopping list with stores.  Then I broke the ingredients into store by department.  Then I broke down the dishes by ingredients and then meal prep by day and time.  For the past four days I have been cooking and for the weeks before that, I have been thinking about cooking.

But before all of that, I sent my family a survey about what they might want to eat. (If only my grandmother had access to modern, digital tools.)  You can take the survey here.

My family voted on ham.  I’ve never made a ham before but I wanted to make sure our Christmas ham was grass-fed and humanely-raised. (No factory farms.) Last week, I met a local farmer in the parking lot of a church to buy a grass-fed, humanely-raised, locally-grown ham. And I bought locally-prepared mustard to go with the ham. I’ve watched about two hours of cooking shows and advice about how to cook a ham.  I feel semi-prepared.

My grandmother, before me, browsed cookbooks.  She pulled off every meal perfectly.

Tonight, after prepping and preparing every side-dish and appetizer, chopping garnishes, and preparing sauces for tomorrow, I finally took time to set the table.  It made me miss my Grandma.

My cousins and I joke that, “Our grandmother was Martha Stewart before Martha Stewart existed.”  And she was.  To a fault.  Every Christmas, she directed my grandfather to decorate the house in white lights, all running in the same direction.  Her Christmas tree never had family heirlooms or ornaments made by her grandchildren. It was tediously decorated in matching ribbons and complimenting colors.  She served dinner on fine China with fine silver. The kids always sat at a separate table.

I can’t remember a single gift my grandmother gave me but I can remember what most of the Christmases looked like.  Every year, it was nothing short of gorgeous.

Two nights ago, I laid awake in my bed thinking about whether or not the threading in my Christmas tablecloth was “too silver”.  I thought about and weighed several decor options and planned my set-up.  Finally I decided that I would take my silver candle holders from the mantle and set them on the table to tie the whole thing together.  I fell soundly asleep after that.

When I awoke the next morning, I thought to myself, “WTF? Why did I think any of that was suddenly important?”  I like to decorate and have a festive time but I’m not totally hell-bent on making the table-settings match.  And then I thought about my grandmother and I was thankful for her perfectionism.  

Whether we are visited by those who came before us, or whether we inherit a certain quality of former loved ones, those particular spirits or habits tend to visit us strongly over the holidays, especially when we are expecting other loved ones.  

Tonight, I set the table in honor of my Grandmother, Dottie Morasch.  She wasn’t always my favorite person but she did a lot of things right. She always made Christmas beautiful. She always made the holidays feel special.  She let my grandfather put up with her for more than 60 years. She made my every celebration feel special.  

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Dorothy “Dottie” Ferry Morasch loved a good party and she loved the Christmas season.  I can still hear the sound of her voice singing “Frosty the Snowman” dancing around her house, decorating, and getting ready for guests.  

As I decorated my holiday table this year, I couldn’t get my grandmother out of my head.  

Dottie Morasch died the day after Christmas on December 26th, 2010.  By anyone’s account, she was an incredible pain in the ass.  For those that loved her, they would say that she was certainly a pain in the ass. They would also say she was elegant, interesting, artistic, and delightful.  I miss her very much.

Love the people around you.  That’s all you can do for now.  (The alternative is worse.)

Hosting for the Holidays

I love trying new recipes during the holidays.  It’s the only time of year I look up recipe suggestions or watch cooking how-to videos.  (I’m generally an independent cook who likes to do my own thing.)

I recently tried a fun new recipe via Pinterest. It didn’t turn out as planned.

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There are several reasons why there are so many successful blogs on the web dedicated to “Pinterest Fails.”  Pinterest is where good ideas, thoughtful recipes, and practiced crafts go to be destroyed.

I’m making Christmas dinner this year. It will be my 20th or so major holiday meal. If I have any quick wisdom to share with other people from hosting several holiday gatherings in the past, I offer these two gems. One: Never try a new recipe for the first time in front of a crowd. Two: If you plan to have a crowd, don’t count on your modern plumbing to work reliably on any major holiday—have several gallons of water on standby just in case.

I’m not sure why I have had several plumbing mishaps on holidays—pipes bursting, pipes freezing, toilets clogging—but it has taught me the value of water during the holidays.  (Think dish-washing, meal prep, showers, and extra people using the toilet.)  It’s a smart idea to always keep a few extra gallons of water on hand during the holidays, just in case.  Maybe it gets used for your cousin’s truck’s leaky radiator.  Maybe your pipes freeze and you need it to boil potatoes or have it for drinking water.  Whatever the reason, having extra water, rather than no water, is always the better scenario.

As for the recipe thing?  Let me demonstrate using visuals.

Tonight I attempted a quaint recipe that I thought might be fun as a little extra treat for dessert.  It was supposed to look like this:

cookiecups

If you are interested in attempting this recipe, you can find the recipe here.

Here’s what my version looked like:

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I was so close.  Luckily we had some vanilla ice cream in the house and I could lie to myself.  I pretended that this was an ice cream topping, that I had meant for the cookie to crumble.

I said in my last post that the holidays can be stressful.  I meant it.  To go further, the holidays are particularly difficult for the crazy people who love their family enough to have all of them over and make an attempt to serve a meal.

These are my tips:

Don’t make dinner a big deal.  If you are hosting, read a few cooking suggestions and “turkey tips” or “ham tips” but don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to overdo it.  If you are cooking a turkey, a ham, or a roast for the first time, just go for it.  You’ll figure it out. Watch a couple of Food Network Episodes or google some advice and then do your best.  After the main dish, use standby recipes for the side dishes. Macaroni and mashed potatoes are fine. I’m planning to make StoveTop Stuffing to serve at my Christmas Dinner. Christmas Dinner is not the event at which to attempt “Toasted Sweet Potato Meringue” or “Mushroom Encrusted Fois Gras“.  Those dishes are hard enough to spell.  No one should have to make them for their family during the holidays.

Ask the people arriving to bring either an appetizer, a dessert, a drink, or all of the above.  You agreed to make dinner on Christmas Day but we all know such a promise can lead to lunch before and dessert after.  Don’t fall into that trap.  If guests plan to arrive during the lunch hour for dinner, they should brings snacks.  Further, if folks want sweets after you present them with your culinary masterpiece, they should provide them.  You are dealing with the main event.  If someone wants pie after, they can provide the pie.  If your family isn’t known for pot lucking it, have a gallon of vanilla ice cream on hand and make no apologies when you set it on the table with a few bowls and spoons.

Give your guests enough to do that they are not sitting in your kitchen while you are trying to cook.  Arrange an outdoor activity or set out a puzzle.  You will have your hands full.  Keep your guests distracted.

Provide drinks.  If you have several soda drinkers in the family, have soda on hand.  If your uncles drink beer, grab a 12-pack.  Have wine for the wine drinkers and sparkling cider for the kids.  If possible, put out a pitcher of water or iced tea.  It’s a small touch but it makes people feel at ease and festive. And hopefully they won’t bother you about hydration.

Above all, enjoy every single moment.  If you are hosting this year, your place is the Grand Central Station of holiday activity.  Think of the new and wonderful.  Maybe there’s a baby celebrating a first or second holiday.  Also, think of the old and cherished.  What if this is someone’s last Christmas?  Behold every moment.

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Nothing is going to be perfect.  Maybe your brother brings a new girlfriend and she’s a vegan and refuses everything except salad.  Or maybe the kids in the family hate everything green, red, and orange and only eat mashed potatoes.  Maybe you’re hosting because you know that no one else in the family can afford it.  And maybe there aren’t a lot of gifts this year.  Or maybe there are a few gifts but they aren’t what anybody wanted.

There are a lot of ways to approach a holiday. Most of us expect too much. Or hope too deeply. We expect too much from ourselves and we expect too much from those around us.

If nothing else, be with your family and friends.  Burn the dinner, forget the dessert, forego the wine, and buy no presents.  If you are hosting and you completely screw up everything about hosting for the holidays no one will remember that you screwed up.  They will only remember that they were together and that you made it happen.

Hold onto that as you burn a batch of cookies.

 

Enter Winter

Putting the garden to bed for the winter is like saying goodbye to a friend.

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We had frost last week and I brought in the last of the tomatoes and peppers. I tried not to notice then how desolate everything was starting to look. The garden had been carpeted with various layers of leaves over the last month.  My potted plants have suffered through a scurry of squirrels digging for food.  The thyme planted in the cracks of the stone patio shed leaves and turned into tiny bare gangles between each square.  The cherry trees have lost most of their leaves and the remaining leaves are yellow or brown.  All of the flowers have died back.  I gave in yesterday and went out into the garden to collect the tomato cages and retrieve the last of the garden tools.

It may snow tomorrow.  I said goodnight to my garden until spring.  I pulled up all the remaining plants and piled them in the compost.  I collected the potted plants and turned the birdbath sideways and laid it on the ground.  With the exception of a few leaves of chard and a couple of cabbages, nothing is growing.

Winter is my least favorite season.  (Though, to be fair, after this past summer and the oppressive drought, the cool weather and rain has been welcome.)  I often find myself despairing in the winter, hiding away from the cold and making myself feel isolated and lonely.  I don’t prefer darkness and I’d rather be warm than cold.  I’d rather be planting flowers or pruning roses than snowshoeing.  I’d rather watch grass grow than stare at a warm fire.  I’m not a fan of the winter holidays.

My parents divorced when I was a kid and I learned early on that the holidays were an exercise in mitigating disappointment.  If I spent Thanksgiving with one side of the family, the other was mad that I didn’t spend it with them.  Christmas involved a lot of driving around and very specific scheduling, all of which resulted in not enough time spent with any particular part of the family.  Dreading the holidays has become a hard habit to break.

Years ago my grandfather told me that the years go by faster as you get older.  He was right.  I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is less than one week away.  I can’t believe that the holiday season is here.  I have tried to resist Christmas music for as long as possible.  Though, honestly, I’ve been singing holiday music every Monday since September because I joined the local choir.  I finally gave up today and let my wife get out the record player.

I’m looking forward to the holiday season this year.  It should be fun, if not, interesting.  For Thanksgiving, my wife and I are hosting our mothers and we are going out to eat lunch.  For dessert, I ordered two pies from two different locally-owned bakeries and we will likely spend the evening playing cards or making a puzzle while completely high on sugar.

For Christmas, my wife and I are hosting my mother and my wife’s entire family.  There will be 10-13 of us depending on RSVPs. It is going to be a challenge.  For one thing, we live in a tiny two-bedroom apartment with no living room.  Thankfully our friend has agreed to let us and some of our family members sleep in her house while she is away.  Planning for the holidays is always hard and trying to accommodate everyone—either for sleeping or for expectations—can be very trying.

If I’ve learned anything after 34 Thanksgivings and Christmases, it’s that you can’t please everyone.  All you can do is hope for the best and hide yourself a piece of pie in case you have to lock yourself in a closet for a little while.

Happy holidays.

Too Many Dead Children

 

I am a left-wing, liberal, lesbian feminist and it took me a long time to come to the conclusion that guns, in some cases, are useful tools.

I grew up in the suburbs and then lived in the city during my early adulthood.  Guns never made any sense to me growing up and I used to believe that they should be outright banned.  Now that I live in the foothills, I have a different perspective on guns.

bear

I have had more than one friend come home to a bear in the house and I have, unfortunately, had friends who have had to put down suffering livestock after a Mountain Lion attack.  I have friends and family members who hunt and who are responsible gun users.  I’m not a vegetarian and I think venison is delightful.

All of that said, I’m at a place now where I would rather have my friends attacked by bears, have livestock suffer, and never eat game again if it means that I no longer have to hear about another fucking school shooting for as long as I live.

cheese and guns

I hear all the time the excuse that “we need guns for self-protection.” I never hear any stories about guns successfully thwarting an armed attacker unless that armed attacker has already killed several people using a gun before the “rescuing gun” got involved.  And oddly, the gun that is used to thwart the attacker is usually the attacker’s own gun, not the gun of some gun-toting hero who saves the day.  Isn’t it time we all just admit the truth?  The gun thing in this country is totally fucked up and it is killing our children on an incredibly regular basis.

We cannot, in any real way, adhere to the idea that guns are somehow a necessary part of our culture and sustainability.  It’s bullshit.

The truth is that guns are used on a regular basis in the hands of usually young, white men to indiscriminately kill innocent people targeted in crowds of people in public places.  This is the reality.  This is what is happening.  It is happening often enough and with such frequency that we as a society can no longer deny its reality and consistency.

Since the Columbine Shooting in 1999, more than 300 people have died at the hands of a gunman in a mass shooting event and hundreds more were injured.

There is no town, no community, no place in America that is safe as long as we continue to allow a small group of people dictate the gun laws in this country, laws that continually put arms in the hands of people who use them to kill en masse innocent human beings.  At some point, we have to say no more.  At some point, we have to demand that things should be different. At some point, we have to demand that our law makers sign on whole heartedly to gun control.  At some point, things have to change.

That point could have been July 14th, 1966 when eight student nurses were held at gun point and then ultimately stabbed to death in Chicago, Illinois.  That point could have been April 20th, 1999 when two troubled Columbine High School students shot twelve students and a teacher on the high school campus, injuring 21 others and then ending their own lives.  That point could have been December 20th 2012 when a young man opened fire at an elementary school in Connecticut, killing 20 children and six teachers and then shot himself.  That point could have been nine days ago after a student at Umpqua Community College shot and killed nine students and injured nine others before taking his own life.

How much is too much?

All of it is too much.  We are past the point of too much.  There are no more red flags.  There are no more warnings.  Each and every one of these incidents have been too much.

But maybe mass shootings aren’t enough to move a person to action. Maybe there are people who still think guns are a useful tool for self-defense. According to the Journal of Trauma, published nearly 20 years ago for the National Control for Injury Prevention & Control, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Rather than being used for self-defense, guns in the home are 22 times more likely to be involved in accidental shootings, homicides, or suicide attempts. For every one time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were 4 unintentional shootings, 7 criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.”

It is time to call this what it is and it is time to name the problem.  Mass shootings in America are an epidemic and guns are the problem.  It is time to take some action towards remedy.  The fact is that guns kill people.  And it is further true that people kill people with guns.

We need to make a change.  We need to do something different.  There has to be a better way.

Call your Congressperson: (212) 224-3121.

 

 

It’s About Money

It is 2015. I’m 35 years old. I have a college education. I don’t have children. I don’t have student loan debt. I am employed. I have a partner who is employed and we share in the household income. We rent an apartment. We have one car. We do not go out a lot. We do not have credit card payments. With the exception of shoes, a few items of clothing, a few gifts for friends and family, and food, we have not bought anything new in over two years. We struggle with money every single day.

My entire generation is struggling with money. All of us struggle with money. We are struggling in significant and incredible ways. If my generation is being honest, we will probably struggle with money for the rest of our lives. And, if I’m being honest, everyone I know is struggling with money, regardless of generation.

house2015

In 2005, back when I was married to a different person, I bought a house with my husband. We were both college graduates from parents of college graduates. We both earned reasonable and steady incomes. Our mortgage payment was about 30% of our income. It was something that we could reasonably afford. We did what every other person our age had done at the time. We got a mortgage that was an 80-20 split. 80% of our mortgage was a part of one loan with one set of terms and 20% of our mortgage qualified as our down payment and came with a completely different set of terms, something shady and delectable to the financial industry. By 2007, our mortgage payments ballooned to over 60% of our income, partly because the payments went up, and partly because our income went down. By 2008, our home had been foreclosed on. It was quick and dirty. For reasons mostly unrelated, my husband and I divorced the same year.

By 2010, I was renting an apartment and beginning a new relationship with the person I now know is the person that I will spend my life with. When we met, I was working at the same job that I worked at in 2005, when I had bought my house. By 2010, my income hadn’t changed much from the day I had started with the agency. It had gone up in 2008 but then there were lay-offs and cut backs and my income had fallen back down to its 2005 level. It was still reasonable but healthcare costs had gone up significantly, along with insurance costs, and food costs, and utilities. I was struggling to make ends meet when they told us that our agency would be cut by about 50% and that there would be significant layoffs.

My partner and I decided to move closer to her work. The commute was significant and gas prices were still at record-breaking levels. I would take the layoff and receive unemployment benefits while I looked for a job in our new location. We moved 50 miles to the north and tried to make a new life.

My unemployment benefits ran out in 2012, a full two years before I found a job.

 

There were two years between my unemployment benefits running out and finding a job and those two years were the worst two years of my life.

It’s hard to admit defeat.

It’s hard for middle class people to address poverty because we think that we are too good for poverty. I thought that I was too good for poverty.

My partner and I lived below the poverty level for two years and we pretended to everyone that all was well. We never let on. We didn’t tell our friends and family. We didn’t tell anyone that we had to go to the food bank to pick up food. We didn’t tell anyone that I had to work for our landlord in order make rent. We didn’t tell anyone that the garden in our back yard was actually a significant food source. We didn’t use our heater for an entire winter because we couldn’t afford the bill for propane. These just aren’t the things you want to share.

We are better off these days. But not by much. We pay our bills most of the time. Sometimes we can even put a few dollars into savings.

 

A friend of mine went into her bank today. She is 40-something and one of the most interesting and brilliant people I know. She is a writer and someone I constantly admire. She is paid to write articles that I wish I could write. When I think about my life in five years, I think of her.

She has been struggling with money. Today, she told her friends, “The teller at the bank could tell that I am a lady who lives by my wits and she was not amused.” A friend asked, “Did you cross the funny/outgoing–rude/crazy line?” My friend replied, “No. I was just being poor in public.”

 

My car died today. It’s a good car but it is ten years old and has been acting up. Today, after finishing a cup of tea and getting ready for work, I went to start my car. The engine wouldn’t turn over. The engine made a rraerrr-irrrr sound and then nothing. I tried to have my neighbor jump start my car but it didn’t help. Ultimately, I had to have the car towed from my driveway to the mechanic.

I don’t have the money to fix the car. Well, more accurately, I have the money to fix the car but it was money that my partner and I had been saving to go on a long-awaited camping trip this weekend, a trip that we booked in May and is likely no longer a possibility. I also don’t have money for a new car. I don’t have money saved for a down payment and my partner and I do not have the credit scores to buy a car and make payments at a reasonable rate. The car is our single, shared family vehicle.

My partner and I have been squirrelling away money these past few months because the non-profit organization that I work for is about to lose a significant grant that helps to fund the organization. I know that my salary will have to be cut in order to maintain the financial health of the organization. I love non-profit work and I know the drill. I have been trying to prepare in the interim.

My partner and I have been trying to save at least three months of expenses so that we can have time to prepare for the next step. We know what it’s like to have no money and it sucks. We are hoping to avoid that.

 

I am sick and tired of being poor. Everyone I know is sick and tired of being poor.

According to articles published by The Atlantic and Business Insider, “Millions of America’s young people are really struggling financially. Around 30 percent are living with their parents, and many others are coping with stagnant wages, underemployment, and sky-high rent.” This article addresses the struggles that people of my generation face but it fails to make note of how many financial sacrifices the parents of my generation have had to make in order to accommodate the failed promises of American Society that their children were afforded. Our economic instability is not simply affecting our recent college graduates. Our failed economic structure is equally effecting the parents and grandparents who are trying to help generations X, Y, and beyond.

 

According to every American myth I know, according to the dogma laid out by the American dream, me, and people like me, should be financially well-off. I went to college before getting married. I got married before buying a house. I bought a house before considering children. I did all the right things.

But all of that dissolved in the financial crisis of 2008, a financial crisis that was orchestrated and intentional with no apologies and no criminal indictments from America’s financial or legal community. I didn’t have children and I lost the house. I lost the house and I lost the marriage. My college degree can’t get me a job.

Isn’t it time to just say it? Can’t we just say it? Shouldn’t we just be honest with each other?

I’ll say it.

The American Dream is dead. The American Middle Class is nothing but a fallacy. We no longer have an American Middle Class.

 

The American Dream is dead but not in the way that people who engage in politics would like to use the phrase. It’s not about State’s Rights, or Gun Rights, or Libertarianism. It’s not about taxes or representation. The American Dream is dead because the American middle class no longer exists.

The American middle class can’t make their mortgage payments. The American middle class can’t put their kids through college without borrowing large sums of money from financial institutions. The American middle class cannot provide for their families without going through the door of American finance. The American middle class has been captured by the finance industry and it is suffering in unprecedented ways.

The entire world is suffering from American finance.

At least the people in countries like Greece and Iceland know what happened to them. They know that they have been screwed. They know that they were completely and totally fucked by the worldwide financial industry. The people of United States of America still have no idea.

The people of America are suffering. I am suffering. It’s about money. It’s money. The people of America are suffering because there is an incredible difference between the people that have money and the people who are struggling to make ends meet.

I have credentials. I should be able to get a job that pays well. I should be able to own a home. I should have reasonable health insurance costs.

I have a degree from UC Davis.

I have no money. I have a car that needs repair. I have a job that can’t pay me. I’m the American Middle class.

It’s about money.