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Blackgirlinmaine…no more??

11 Mar

The first time I saw Maine, I was a Mama Bear armed and ready to go into battle. My ex-husband had decided not to send my son back after a holiday visit and after several months of trying to work through the legalities of the situation, I couldn’t take anymore. I had to see my son, I didn’t know at that point the changes that lie ahead but all I knew was that I needed to set my eyes on my son and make sure he was okay. At that point in time my ex-husband and I had a less than pleasant relationship made worse by his refusal to send my son back. No one wanted me to go to Maine, but a Mama Bear separated from her cub is not to be fucked with…no one and nothing was going to stop me. Not the fact that Maine was a white rural state, not the fact that my ex was living in a little town in Western Maine, not the fact that I had never been here. Nothing.

Mind you in making my preparations to go to Maine for the first time 14 years ago, I realized that Maine was a different beast. I hopped on a flight from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to this day that was probably the smallest plane I had ever been on. Looking back I remember thinking oh shit, as I looked around on the flight and saw that I was the only person of color on the plane. Yet my seatmate was a chatty middle aged woman, who gave me her number if I ever found myself in need of help while in Maine as during the course of the flight I shared why I was going to Maine. I admit in my heart I was considering taking my son back, legal battle be damned…my seatmate was a mother and though I did not articulate my true thoughts I suspect she knew what I was planning. I also remember thinking people here seemed pretty friendly.

The flight landed and walking into the Portland Jetport I remember thinking, this is an airport? Coming from Chicago, the airport in Portland looked like starter airport….I didn’t have much time to think as I was immediately greeted by my driver. See, at that point in life I had never even behind the wheel of a car and with over 50 miles separating me from my son I had to hire a limousine service to get me to my destination. I won’t go into every detail but I remember that first night thinking I had never seen such dark roads and looking up at the sky thinking what the fuck are those shiny things? Silly city girl…they were stars but rare are the sight of stars in Chicago. So many firsts.

At the end of that first visit, I didn’t steal away with my son since having gotten a lay of the land I realized it was much harder than I had planned but I did meet some of the friendliest humans I had ever known possible. So when the legal battle got to the point that winning meant emotionally hurting my son and also bankrupting me, I realized that moving to Maine was simply a better option.

My relationship to Maine has  been tenuous at times. I didn’t exactly move here because I wanted to, I moved here because I had to. Sure no one put a gun to my head but not moving was simply not an option. I never planned to settle down and buy a house but after the first couple of years realized this was not a great place to be a renter. While its easy to set a goal and say you will only stay in a place a certain amount of time its hard to avoid getting on with the business of living while you are in that space.

However I woke up this morning and realized that for the first time in a long time, I miss city living. Oh I love nature now, I love having my own house, and I love the sense of community. But my city bones are ready to be stretched! I am not sure what brought this about; I suspect it was triggered by the sudden closure of my favorite non chain coffeehouse in my area. I am tired of having to make hair appointments weeks in advance because there is a limited supply of places to go and the list goes on. There is also the realization that being a Black woman in a white space is challenging. My recent dental experiences have reminded me of that especially when someone I know told me they went to the same oral surgeon I went to and had a far better experience.

Of course now the Spousal Unit and I are not as young as we used to be and there is something to be said for stability. I shared my thoughts this morning with my husband that perhaps it is time to consider our options and he did remind me of how traumatic this move was at the time, I can’t say I had forgotten but I am open to the possibilities. The downside of course is that being homeowners it’s not so easy to pick up and move and living in a one hundred plus year old home that still needs work is not exactly going to fly off the shelf.

I don’t know what the future holds, perhaps more weekend trips to Boston and New York, both places where I have friends and connections. Perhaps such getaways will reduce my longing for city life. Or is it simply time to start working on the exit strategy? I admit when I do the pro and con list there are strong reasons for staying put in Maine as well as strong reasons for leaving. Decisions such as this almost make me long for the days of childhood when the big decisions got made for me. Oh well…I will keep you posted!



Dentist gone wrong and I put ya on blast

8 Mar

I rarely use my writing as a way to put assholes on blast, at least once a year someone will call me and tell me about some injustice generally racial that has happened in our fair state and ask me to write about it for my regular writing gig at the Phoenix. I rarely do because stories have to have wide appeal and not be one sided but today I am going to break with my own way of doing things to put someone on full blast.

If you follow me on Twitter you may know that yesterday I had a dental appointment, if you are a regular reader, you can read this post to refresh your memory but long story short, there was a root tip left from my wisdom tooth that was pulled years ago that had started to abscess. If you know anything about abscesses they are not something to play with. Which is why when the general dentist I went told me it needed to be pulled and that he had to refer me to an oral surgeon, I didn’t argue or try to shop around. There is also the pesky fact that since I lack dental insurance and need to pay for all this out of my own pocket without benefit of insurance I really was not in a position to go and get second and third opinions. That’s basically $100-200 a pop just to be told you need to have the tooth removed. Now I did ask the general dentist if the guy he was referring me to was good, he assured me that he was.

I won’t lie I was hesitant, since I don’t exactly have a long term relationship with this general dentist and in the two times I have been to his office, each time I was charged more than the quoted price. Guess I get the uninsured special which is more than what insured patients get.

Look, I will be the first to tell you I have a complex relationship with dentists, I was well into my teens the first time I ever went to a dentist and that first visit was at a free clinic that resembled a torture chamber. This free clinic was also the place that told me at 16-17 I had hepatitis, the kind you get from drug use and or sex….they were wrong but not before they loaded me up on a shit load of drugs. Drugs that at one point had me damn near hallucinating.

I learned early on in life that when it comes to healthcare in this country you get what you pay for. By the time I was on my own with good dental insurance, my teeth were a mess. Thankfully I started going to this dentist who is what I lovingly call a dental God. My old dentist, who is also an oral surgeon, he did crazy amounts of work on my teeth and got me over my dental phobia, in fact he was so good that when I knew we were moving to Maine I was truly sad about losing him as my dentist. He worked through my phobia issues treating me as a human, if I said I was in pain, he stopped and addressed the issue never belittling me or making me feel crazy. Yes, he was expensive but it was money well spent.

Well yesterday’s experience was hellish; the oral surgeon I went to was a chap by the name of Mark Britten. Prior to the appointment I tried getting additional information but despite the fact this is 2011 this chap has no website, even by Maine standards that’s a tad strange. Instead that lack of website was a sign of things to come. I was totally calm until I arrived at the office and was taken to the room….this room looked like it had not been upgraded since the late 1970’s. Nothing in there said oral surgeon in 2011, when Dr. Britten came in, he looked like the guy in a horror movie ready to pull your teeth with pliers and a blow torch. I wish I could say I was kidding. I started by explaining that I am an anxious patient and if that was okay with him, he told me “I will give you Novocain and then you will hear scraping and feel pressure” I admit part of me wanted to get up but knowing that this fragment was causing an infection I felt like as a grown up I needed to make a wise decision and get it out after all how bad could this be?

Sometimes the first thought you have is actually the best, I should have left at that point before he started anything. Well I get the Novocain shot, and 7 minutes later he starts working and I am feeling a lot more than pressure I am feeling naked pain, agonizing pain, feeling like someone is in my mouth with pliers yanking. I cry out and he stops, I explain and he says you can’t be feeling pain its just pressure. Mind you I have given birth two times, once without benefit of drugs I know pain, this was pain on that level but in my mouth. Dr. Britten proceeds to tell me that he pulls 20-30 teeth a day and if he hadn’t stopped we would be done… that supposed to make me feel good? I won’t go through every detail but will say by the point he offered to just stop my guns were already open and bloody. I was in tears, I started having flashbacks to a date I had many years ago that went wrong where I was almost sexually assaulted. I felt my body and mind breaking apart in that chair…I prayed, I did deep breaths and I finally sent a text message to my husband who came to the office and demanded to be brought into my room. (The hubster was less than a mile away hanging out with kidlet at the library hence his speedy arrival)

By the time the Spousal Unit arrived it was clear that Dr. Britten had wished he had never laid eyes on my Black ass, but the Spousal Unit who in real life is a medical writer/editor spoke quietly to the dentist and explained that he needed to take me serious and some white guy medical babble that I swear had an impact. (the fact that Britten took my husband’s words seriously could be a post all its own…got privilege?) Next thing I knew Britten was back in my mouth this time far gentler and actually got the tooth out without the extreme pain of earlier and nope he had not given me another dose of Novocain. It took him longer than his usual but I can’t help thinking that had he started off being gentle after I explained how I am this situation would not have escalated.

I am still processing this whole experience but am already planning on contacting the folks who license this man as well as lodging a complaint with the local dental society. I also have no intention of going back to the dentist who referred me to this jackass. If that is their idea of good, I would hate to see what constitutes bad but sending me to a guy whose personality was lacking with not one iota of patience and antiquated equipment is not my idea of a good surgeon.

This whole dentist experience has me seriously thinking either I need to plan a week long vacation back to Chicago to see my old dentist for the other $2000 worth of work I need or maybe I need to go to Mexico as many Americans are now doing for dental care. Maine is a state that has a shortage of dentists, it’s not so bad where I am but the situation is grave in more rural parts of the state. It’s not uncommon to see people with teeth in bad shape with clearly rotting teeth, at least not for me though this may be a side effect of the work I do. Granted I worked with a similar population in Chicago and rarely saw teeth in such bad shapes. I do think the side effect of having a lack of dentists is that the ones who are here have almost a God complex at least the ones I have encountered and it’s really not cute. At the end of the day I have the right to be treated with dignity and compassion. I won’t let this stop me from taking care of my teeth but I will be a lot more discerning about who works on my mouth and trust my instincts.

When the dentist finished he just walked out the room and didn’t speak to me nor did he come back instead having the assistant give me the follow up instructions.

American Nightmare…tales from Carlin

7 Mar

Lately it may seem that I have been so absorbed in my own personal world that I have been oblivious to the happenings in the world…after all I haven’t done much blogging about world happenings. Today’s post is one that I have been thinking about but until today I just didn’t have the time to put it to paper (or monitor). Yet as I deal with the increasing stressors in my own life and think about how many of them are tied to scarcity, I realized what I am facing is just one sliver of the crazy pie we are being fed against our will.

If you have never seen George Carlin’s American Dream clip, take 3 minutes and check it out. In the bible in the book of Ezekiel 33, reference is made to a watchman who “when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people” well readers in many ways I think foul mouth comic Carlin was probably one of our many watchmen. In his way Carlin told us about the “owners” of this country but I will be damned if many of us just thought this was some hilarious shit being spouted by an old guy.

Well folks, now that we are being told that the country is broke and sacrifices have to be made, it’s awfully funny that everyman/every-woman is being asked to make those sacrifices. In Wisconsin folks are fighting for the right to bargain, in Detroit we are being told half the schools will be closed and classrooms will swell to perhaps as much as 60 kids per class. White guys are feeling like minorities and the madness grows.

Yet as a collective aside from those brave souls in Wisconsin, most of us are sitting back passively struggling to maintain the illusion that all is well when for most of us we know we are living a lie. I think about the fact that in the years since I have started blogging how many real life friends I have had tell me casually how they too are struggling, yet on the surface all looks fine. (So many struggling with basic survival, even down to having to visit local food pantries yet on the surface you would never suspect they had become those people) But because to talk honestly and openly about money in this culture is frowned upon most of us never do it…actually I have found being a big mouth about money and lack thereof has served me well. After all I never would have found out several years ago I was the least paid person on a team of folks despite having the most experience.

Nope, rather than coming together and having unity as a people we would rather maintain illusions and dreams that are nothing more than nightmares and worse case turn on one another. A few days ago when I read the piece about white oppression and the white’s only scholarship; as a Black woman, my first response was a knee jerk reaction rooted in race. Folks this is about more than race, the fact is in America race and color on some levels is so last millennium…the only fucking color that matters is green as in money. If you are part of the ruling class that holds most of the wealth, no one gives a rat’s ass about your race or ethnicity.

However we are too immature to realize that. Instead we can go ahead and see racial tensions flare up as we are all focused on what we see as racism and how whites are not aware of their privilege. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of white folks don’t realize how good the have it compared to people of color. But this is frankly a diversion from the larger issues which are that wages in this country are stagnant, yet the cost of survival has risen and not kept pace. During the real estate boom, sure many folks made boneheaded decisions and used their homes as ATM’s to fund ridiculous shit. But the fact remains that at a time when healthcare cost increased and wages did not keep pace, plenty of people used their homes as ATM’s to supplement what they weren’t earning. Plenty of folks used and are still using credit cards to make ends meet because their wages don’t pay enough plain and simple. Yet we think all is well.

Instead of getting mad and questioning why it is that families can have two college educated wage earners yet still need help for insurance costs because jobs either don’t offer it because we have been sold a bogus dream about being contractors and selling ourselves…very nice scam by the way since its harder to access health insurance and save for retirement when you are a contractor. Or the price is no longer affordable because compared to our grandparents we earn less when adjusted to real dollars. I had a job a few years ago where I had a co-worker struggling to stay insured with our company plan that was costing him $700 a month!

This morning I found myself thinking about how my grandparents who were first generation middle class blacks who worked union factory jobs with high school educations had enough money every year for a yearly vacation to Jamaica or some other fancy locale (fancy for the 60’s and 70’s). These same grandparents had a house with a reasonable mortgage, saved for retirement and had a comfortable middle class life.  Yet now their grandkids (that would be my brother and I who both hold masters degrees) scrape to get by…its already been proven that most likely Gen X probably won’t have it as good as our Baby Boomer parents. Obviously there are exceptions since I know my parents didn’t have it so good but as Black hippies that was more a personal choice rather than a reflection of society.

Nope, the owners of this country are delighted that the masses are fighting, average white guys are mad because they think the Black folks got it good. We got folks who think the school teachers have it good…how dare teachers who already on average are not paid proportional to what they actually do (don’t give me that shit either that they have summers off) are mad because we want to cut into their retirement and health benefits. Hell, even doctors have to adjust to their corporate overlords as this piece in the NY Times talks about.

It’s no coincident that it seems like we have more kids and adults on psychotropic meds (sorta interesting how drugs can advertise too on TV, so you know what drug to ask your doc for), turns out a psychiatrist who wants to get paid is little more than a well educated line worker these days slotting folks into 15 minute segments trying to get the right combination of drugs in that brief period of time…drugs that affect folks minds. This school year I have had several kids at my center who have been put on heavy duty meds and the side affects are heartbreaking. Sadly these are kids whose parents have little in terms of financial resources so if Doc Feel Good says little Johnnie needs XYZ drugs with no actual talk therapy even if the parents wanted to protest lack of access to healthcare with choices and money to pay out of pocket leaves them at the mercy of a guy who only has 15 minutes with their kid. Time is money and if doing your job in a compassionate and honest manner dings your finances, well you have to make a choice.

However all is not lost, the fact that the protesters in Wisconsin are still out there and the Democratic legislators are still in hiding does speak to the quiet fact that many of us are fed the fuck up. The fact that more and more of us are realizing we are not alone in this struggle bodes well for the potential of some real change happening. Not that hope and change Obama used to get us fired up but the type of hope and change that will make the overseers sit up and take notice; after all they need us to work so they can keep getting rich. So it would be in their best interest to break us off a bigger slice of the pie.

Change be good!

4 Mar

It’s Friday! Can I just tell you how happy that makes me despite knowing that Monday I have to go and have a little oral surgery…blah. Oh and the good doc called this afternoon and told me despite a good mammogram, I am being referred to a boobie specialist. Ugh…don’t get me wrong obviously if there is an issue I want to find it but I was happy thinking I was done and maybe my girls just liked hurting for no good reason. Oh well, that is part of life, the good, the bad and the ugly.

This has been an interesting week for me, yesterday marked the 7th anniversary of my Mom’s untimely and unexpected passing. On the one hand it still seems like yesterday though I no longer grab the phone to call her but at the same time so much has happened since she passed. Generally around this anniversary I go into myself to just find that peaceful moment. However as I have been dealing with so much and so much angst around wanting to make changes in my life, I am taking it as a sign that for two nights in a row I dreamed about my mother.

Look, I am not a super woo woo person but there were some spiritual dimensions that were opened to me when she died. I will just say that when she appears in my dreams, I sit up and take notice. The fact that I need to make some changes to get to what I am calling that happy place is crystal clear. I think I have a plan but I also know that sometimes what we plan is not where we are being led. Right now I take it day by day.

All that to say that while I am not sure what will happen as far as the larger plans I have; there are some areas where I can make change and well that it is here. I admit I am not the greatest blog writer as I intentionally write in a free form fashion. However I do write in other places, in fact belatedly I found out this week that I received an award from the New England Press Association for my writing on racial/diversity issues. I write a monthly column on diversity for the Portland Phoenix and I have written for a few other publications.

As I was sitting back just enjoying a piece of good news this week, it hit me that I have a voice here and that perhaps its time to step up my game. So in coming days this blog will be revamped, I am moving from using free wordpress to hosting my own blog. (wish me luck, I am not a techie) I will be honest and say yes I am looking to see if I can earn a few extra shekels (trying to figure the best way to do that since I hate when blogs are loaded with ads so have no fear whatever I do won’t be too tacky). I have no illusions that I am about to become the next Dooce or anyone like that but in these interesting economic times, any thing extra is gravy. Also I want to do a better job of showcasing my work in general and get the word out that hey I am available to with groups on issues related to diversity.

So hopefully I won’t scare any of y’all off with these changes but I am pretty excited. Happy weekend!

Time is gone and I was a bad mommy

2 Mar

As a modern woman I have always liked the idea that I could have it all…a family complete with kids, loving partner, work that fulfilled me, you get the picture. Yet in the past several days I have been grappling with a low level malaise and sudden realization that at least for me (I refuse to speak for anyone else) that simply is not possible. Now I am grappling with the idea of how do I achieve balance if it is not possible to have it all? The truth is I don’t know. Yet I do know that time is not unlimited, while in today’s world 40 is the new 20 and we see 65 or so as young. The hard truth remains that none of us know how much time we will have on this planet in these bodies. We like to think that if we do XYZ that there will always be time later to do ABC, but as I learned firsthand 7 years ago, life turns on a dime and one day you are here and the next minute you are gone. Tomorrow will mark 7 years since my Mom’s untimely death, 4 days after turning 50. In many ways her death is directly responsible for my daughter being here now, I realized that one can not put off for tomorrow in order to accomplish today.

Yet I have a confession to make…in many ways I am not a good mother. Oh, I am here but often times I am not present. I should know better after all I effectively missed a great deal of my son’s childhood as I was striving for more. I was a mere 19 when he was born and instead of reveling in his childhood, I spent the first several years locked in a custody war. Later on, listening to bad advice, I allowed him to live with his father assuming that my ex would tire of being a full time Daddy and that he would send him back and that we would have more time together. That never happened and we never did get that time. Oh, I did eventually move to Maine to be involved but as always I thought I had more time. Within 6 months of the move to Maine, I started graduate school effectively juggling work, school, marriage and parenthood…looking back I don’t think it worked and it wasn’t worth it.

See, my son is all grown up now, half way through his first year of college and while despite the stresses and challenges we faced, we are close but part of my soul knows I missed out on a lot. Time that I will never get back. Oh, I do meaningful work, I have spent the past 15 years working with those most in need, originally women breaking free of addictions and prostitution and now for the past two and a half years as head of an agency that works with low income families. That’s great but the cost to my family has been too much. Through my meditation practice of late I am realizing that I spend a lot of time not being present and living in the moment. Instead one eye is always checking for the emails that never stop coming in, truth is the nature of my work there is always someone in need, a fire to put out. I do my job and do it well but it comes at the expense of my family and mostly my daughter. I realized this the other day as I did something I have not done in years; I went the entire day not turning on my cell phone. I was present for the entire day and it was a good thing.

Lately I find myself daydreaming about quitting my job, oh I have a plan for the future and I am working on it but really it will take a few years before I make a full transition into life coaching. I find myself wondering do I have a few years to spend being only half present with my family. My girl is most likely my last child for a number of reasons, so this is it…do I want another child who only gets half a mommy? Oh, I have no intentions of becoming a stay at home mom that is not for me…I tried for the first year of the girl’s life. Also being married to a freelance writer/editor we need the second income but lately I find myself thinking I need work that requires less of me. I am passionate about the unfortunate but now I need to spend some passion on my own family.

Time is the one thing that when we use it we don’t always get a do-over and more importantly ultimately none of knows just how much time we really have. So all I can do is be present in these moments and enjoy the time now.

PS: Hey, if you know of any part time gigs for a writer/non-profit administrator/adjunct instructor holla at a sista! If you have serious leads I am open to hearing them, feel free to email me.

Queen of the Mamas…just an average Jane or not?

26 Feb

I swear I do not hate so called Mommy bloggers but after a week that not only found me needing oral surgery (seems a piece of my wisdom tooth that was removed 10 years ago was still left in my gum and decided to abscess…so my next stop is an oral surgeon) to add to that fun I was on pins and needles waiting to learn if my breast discomfort was the big C (its not). So I need to go light and lively for a bit here. Gee, this was a vacation week too; nothing says vacation like health issues!

So last night found me taking a break from my more serious reading of spiritual matters and cozying up with Ree Drummond’s new literary gem (smirk…cough) The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. Now for those not in the know, Drummond is better known in the blogosphere as The Pioneer Woman. I must admit I am not a big fan of her blog, to be honest it’s too busy for my taste but last year I stumbled on her cookbook at the library and after trying a few recipes the Spousal Unit bought me my very own copy. So when I heard The Pioneer Woman had a book coming out, I figured if it was available at the library I would check it out…wouldn’t ya know, my library had it and I checked out.

To be honest this book is the perfect book for reading when you have eaten too much spicy food combined with chocolate, topped off with red wine and your ass is in need of the toilet for a while. Oh you know what I am talking about. When you have a case of the bubble guts and you know aren’t leaving the bathroom any time soon. When bubble guts strikes you need something to read to pass the time and The Pioneer Woman’s love story is just the book.

Look, in all honesty it’s a sweet little story, she was a big city gal (though if you are born and raised in OK and spend 4 years in LA, not sure that really makes you a city girl. Anymore than my 8 years in Maine makes me a Mainer) who fell in love with a cowboy, it was love at first sight and now they live on their little ranch with their 4 kids living happily ever after. Problem is that in Drummond’s decision to protect her family’s privacy she leaves a lot out of the book, in fact a quick Google search this afternoon revealed that her cowboy affectionately known as the Marlboro Man is really a very wealthy rancher and in fact his family is well known. Now like I said earlier I have never been a big fan of her blog but between her cookbook and the most recent book, she tries to give off an air that she is just like you and me. Just regular old Jane, problem is anyone with any type of intellectual curiosity can quickly figure out that she is not quite what she pretends to be.

This leads me to the bigger issue of Mommy bloggers and the more well known such as Dooce and Katie Allison Granju (note: I really like Katie’s blog and the fact that she has been so open in sharing about her son’s drug addiction and death makes her pretty damn real to me). In fact I just read this piece in the NY Times, Motherlode section talking about the Mommy bloggers. Look, I realize that people are only going to show us what they want to see, but the truth is at a certain point it starts to feel like what much of the bigger and well known Mommy bloggers show us is not real. After all, yes they are Mommies like the rest of us but some of these women are earning some serious cheddar, report’s put Dooce’s salary at $30-50K a month! Um…she makes more in a fucking month than I make in a year, nope we aren’t alike at all.

I don’t have issues with folks getting paid to blog, shit I wish I could but I am too lazy to take the next steps or rather with my full plate I simply can’t fit it in. Yet I firmly believe when you get to the point you are earning a living doing it, it will change the nature of what you share. I know if I were earning that type of bread, I might not be as inclined to bitch and moan about crazy parents, bills, you get the drift. Instead I would go out of my way to share the good shit in hopes that it makes you feel good. After all if you feel good, you might come back thus I get to earn more scratch. The thing is the authenticity of sharing the momma experience is lost and the blog is simply a means to earn money and get your brand out there.

I have said it before and I will say it again, the fact that there is a severe shortage (dare we say almost a lack) of women of color represented in the high earning Momma blogs also sets my radar off. When the fuck are our stories going to be worth sharing? What about low income Mommas? Most of the blogosphere’s top earning Mommies already had a foot in the middle class door.

Anyway, just my quarterly bitch fest on the lack of diversity within the top earners in the Mommy sphere of blogland.

Teeth are optional in the USA

22 Feb

Warning I am in a pissy mood…so if you aren’t in a pissy mood, feel free to catch me some other day. I woke up Sunday morning, still reeling from the great relocate Dad to Maine project that ended abruptly and without resolution. After all my Dad leaving while it’s nice in the short run to have my house back still doesn’t solve any of the problems that we/me was hoping to solve. While lying in my bed letting the thoughts run through my mind, I realized that my mouth didn’t quite feel right, not quite pain but definitely uncomfortable. So I ran to the bathroom and grabbed a mirror and flashlight to look in my mouth and sure enough noticed that my back gums seemed inflamed. Initially I didn’t worry too much but by Monday morning, it was clear whatever the issue was, needed the care of a dentist.

Uh-oh…like millions of Americans I don’t have dental insurance. Shit, I was only just at the dentist in November and while my visit did reveal a few things that needed to be done, the truth is I simply didn’t have all the money at once to pay and explained that I would need to do the work one procedure at a time spread out over time. The office staff and dentist said they understood but the vibe I got was that to be honest they didn’t get it. Oh, the very helpful office lady told me I could apply for credit via Care Credit to finance my dental work. Yeah that was real helpful. Considering that we are still digging out from the 18 months of unemployment I had back in 07-08 and the Spousal Unit’s decreased client load, our credit has more holes that a hunk of Swiss Cheese and I already knew that Care Credit wasn’t an option because they turned me down a few days before I went in for my exam. I had sorta sensed I was going to need a bit of work and was trying to be proactive but I didn’t share this with the office manager. Instead I smiled sweetly and said, I will be in touch.

The treatment plan has been sitting on my desk in the inbox since November and I have been trying to work the various procedures into our budget…eh, it’s been a mixed bag. Oh I only need a few fillings which alone aren’t too bad but I also need a new crown which with a whopping price tag of $1034 simply is not going to happen until after houses taxes and insurance are paid in a few weeks and the tax man gets his money on April 15. I was pretty okay with waiting until this new issue came up.

Well yesterday after waking up in great discomfort…who am I kidding, shit I barely slept. I realized fuck let me call the dentist. Turns out the dental office was closed for President’s Day so I left a message and after an hour decided to call their emergency number. The on call dentist called me back and while gracious enough to call in a prescription for antibiotics was adamant that I needed to come in this week. No, shit Sherlock! By the way what is it with these people speaking to folks like you are all of two years old?

Nope, the real fun started this morning when the office staff called me back to schedule that appointment and I brought up the matter of what was this little visit going to cost. I guess they aren’t used to folks asking that question but this is already the office that charged me more than I was quoted earlier for a visit and didn’t include the cleaning I was told would be included. So I will admit I am already on the fence about them, but since this is all coming out of pocket the idea of starting with yet another dentist and paying yet another couple hundred for an initial visit doesn’t make sense to my wallet.

While on the phone the office gal stressed that depending on what the good dentist finds when I go in later today they will have to get started today. I calmly explained that while I understood, I was concerned with matters of paying for this emergency work…I could hear the blank face look through the phone. I do have a few hundred that I can use today but the truth is if the good doc tells me whatever work he needs to do exceeds my ability to pay, either we need to look for a cheaper option (extraction) or I will have to delay this a week or so until I have some more money. As I nicely told the lady I can’t manufacture money…I suspect there is a notation in my file now that reads bitchy patient.

However this whole situation got me to thinking about the millions of folks that have dental issues who really lack the ability to pay at any point. While I don’t have a great deal of funds, I know I can move some stuff around and more importantly once I get a few things off my financial plate, it will free up some cash but some people are in situations where there is never enough money to do that…ever.  Based off some of my Google searching that seems to be a lot of people. I was on one site where people were looking for home made remedies for dealing with dental abscesses. Yikes! One of my former staff folks had really bad teeth, broken teeth, missing teeth and at one point an abscess but in the two years he worked for me he never went to a dentist. Why? Because he couldn’t afford it. I remember when the abscess got bad he went to the ER for treatment. I wish I could say he was an isolated case but in my line of work I see plenty of people who are in this shape, even in my center I have some teens that have bad dental issues.

People who don’t know better often say well can’t folks go to a sliding scale clinic? Good luck with that one. I know in my state, it takes months to get an appointment and frankly these appointments are never conducive to folks who work. Ask me how I know? Yep, I tried that last summer before breaking down and saying fuck it, I’ll just have to deal with full dental prices. In many states adults on Medicaid are not covered for dental care unless it’s a major medical emergency. So by the time you have teeth rotting out of your head and you have multiple abscesses then you can see a dentist and at that point you are saying bye bye teeth. Its extraction for you! You didn’t need those teeth, eat mashed potatoes and oatmeal.

So is it better for kids? Depends. Due to low reimbursement rates many dentists just pass on accepting Medicaid patients even with the tykes or the wait is so long…well you get the picture. The not so funny thing is the fact that good oral health is needed for overall health yet we live in a nation that does not make that connection as more and more employers simply don’t offer dental insurance. For many families struggling to survive, teeth and dental health are seen as expendable in the family budget and who the hell can blame them. If dental cleanings and exams average $135 (what we pay for my kid) to $200 (what I pay) and you have 2-3 kids plus the adults, that’s a lot of extra cheddar. That says nothing for if cavities are discovered or heaven forbid more work is needed. To the few Americans that are more or less still financially solvent that may not be a big deal but to many it is, if the choice is the mortgage or dental work…most folks will take the mortgage. Can’t live in them teeth.

Yet the issues with dental care in this country and make no mistake it is an issue, after all remember this case. Kid in the US of A died due to a lack of access to dental care. The issues with access to dental care are simply part of the other things that are broken in our system. We the people at some point have gotten confused; we have all started buying into a dream that is just that…a fucking dream. Instead of demanding that we all have access to good schools, good healthcare, etc we instead see it as moral issue and spin it as those without are simply lazy bastards. We see the folks who will still take a stand as leeches on the system, maybe what we need to do is examine ourselves after all in these turbulent times, our fate can change with the wind. As for me, fingers crossed the dental issue is minor or else I might have to put on my Spanx and look for some side work if ya catch my drift.

Why I support Planned Parenthood

19 Feb

This past week has been a fucking head trip…no, seriously. For readers that follow me on Twitter you know my world has been spinning off its fucking axis. Right now I am trying to just process everything but the short of it is that my Dad is back in Chicago. At some point I will do a post mortem on the blog but right now I just need to process everything.

However it seems that while I have been dealing with family drama, the world has just been going mad. What the fuck is up in Wisconsin? Dear Lawd, we have the governor sending state troopers out to look for Democratic legislatures who are hiding out.

We got the Republicans deciding that Planned Parenthood should get no funding…which is really the point of today’s post. By the way all you Democrats, Independents and whoever else sat out the midterm elections; y’all need to shut the fuck up. See, even when you don’t vote you are indeed voting and now we are seeing our country going ass backwards. But that too is another post.

My relationship to access to health care has always been tenuous at best. I got married and pregnant at 18, as you can imagine I didn’t exactly have health insurance so I had to avail myself to Medicaid which was interesting to say the least. Frankly having Medicaid in my experiences has always been seen as a sign that you deserve lousy medical care after all you are poor and well poor bodies especially poor brown bodies apparently don’t deserve adequate and respectful care when it comes to their bodies. At least that is how most providers treat Medicaid recipients in my experience.

Yet since coming of age there has always been one place I can count on to get my annual exams, birth control, etc and know that I will be treated well. That place is Planned Parenthood. I have used Planned Parenthood in different states and have always been treated well. Back in my 20’s when I needed birth control yet lacked insurance I could get birth control. When I thought I had a lump in my breast, I was seen in a timely fashion and treated with dignity.

I always find it interesting how many folks seem to only equate Planned Parenthood with abortions which yes they do provide and some how only see them as providers of abortions which is patently false. Yet even if that was all they provided, abortion is still a legal procedure and the reasons that women choose abortion are varied. Perhaps some women have been irresponsible, yet we also live in a time that demonizes women who have babies and then need assistance in the form of social services. Well hot damn, women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. On the other hand do we not believe in this country that people have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness? If that is the case, then don’t worry what others are doing with their bodies and specifically their wombs…it’s none of your business.

That said until all women have access to good, affordable and respectful services then we will continue to need places like Planned Parenthood. Call me a fool but with states axing services that might mean even the meager services offered via Medicaid will no longer be available and all the more reason that women need access to places like Planned Parenthood. Then there are women who for whatever reason may not be completely broke but simply don’t have a health care provider for their gynecological needs. That pretty much sums up my current situation. I had a lovely midwife who delivered my daughter who decided to retire not long after I have birth so for the past several years I have been trying to find a health care provider I like and trust who I can also afford since I am paying out of pocket. That pretty much means Planned Parenthood since it’s actually down the street from my office, affordable and I actually like them which is more than I can say of a few providers I have had in recent years.

Maybe its because I am a Black woman and maybe its because my Mom died relatively early and started having health issues at approximately the same age I am now but I take addressing my health needs very seriously. After all the stats don’t exactly suggest that Black women in my age demographic are as healthy as they can be yet in order to be healthy there has to be access to services and services that are culturally sensitive which is another piece that I have always liked about Planned Parenthood.

Anyway this current issue hit close to home and I really felt the need to add my voice to chorus of voices rising up over this issue.

When a phone was just a phone

15 Feb

I suspect that the bulk of my readers are old enough to remember a time when every home had a land-line telephone, when call waiting was a new and exciting feature and when cellular phones first arrived on the scene. Back in about 1993 I had a job working for a market research firm that did work for the movie industry. In some ways it was a glamorous job especially because when we were in the field, we were given a cell phone to use to report our findings back to the office. Ahhhh, my first time using a cell phone and it was unbelievable, big, clunky and in a bag. If memory serves me correctly the connection and sound quality wasn’t great but damn we were talking on a mobile phone!

A few short years later in about 1996 or so I recall getting my own cellular phone and it seemed so sleek compared to my earlier experiences. I think it might have been a bronze colored Nokia, I remember how neat it was to call someone just for the hell of it. Of course my poor husband was still walking around with beeper back then, granted pay phones were still fairly plentiful so normally if I paged him he could call me back within 20 minutes or so.

I think back now what seems to me just a few short years ago when I moved up to the Motorola Razr and how cool that phone seemed, not only could I make calls but dammit I could take pictures and send a simple text message! However back in 2009 I made the leap to a Smartphone at that time getting a Blackberry because they were hot. Oh it was love at first sight, my goodness I had a gadget that was pretty much a computer that I could put in my bag!! I was hooked.

But technology is steadily progressing and not even a year after getting that Blackberry, it started feeling dated compared to my son’s Droid and my other friend’s i Phones, but I am loyal. Besides I hate having to start all over and trying to be frugal I figured I would just stick with my trusty old Blackberry. Yeah, sometimes she gave me a hard time and of course there was the issue of the track ball that occasionally got stuck making it hard to use the damn thing.

Yet all good things must come to an end and about two weeks ago, the poor track ball got stuck and none of my usual tricks worked. I realized old Bessie the Blackberry was going to have to be replaced when I couldn’t access my address book and payroll needed to be called in. I didn’t think my staff would be too happy about not getting paid because I couldn’t get the number of the person I needed to call.

So at the beginning of a large snow storm, the Spousal Unit and I braved the snow to go to the local Verizon shop to see if Bessie could be repaired or for a simple replacement. Upon getting to the store the staff announced that Bessie was no more…her ball had gone off the track one last time. I had known that might be the case so I was fully prepared to get another Blackberry since they are economical also I like… no need a keyboard. Since gaining possession of an iPad during the holidays I have learned there are limits as far as me and touch screens especially when doing work related stuff.

Well the handy dandy staff showed me the Droid Pro, the latest Droid apparently designed to entice faithful Blackberry users…the holdouts clinging to the candy bar design and the keyboard yet who want more out of their gadgets. Fuck it, I said. Turns out it was upgrade time so they offered me a deal (yo, remember when they used to give us free phones every 2 years for being faithful customers?) so I walked out the door with my pockets $160 lighter and a fucking beast in my bag.

Let me tell you it’s two weeks later and I still don’t know what the fuck I am doing with this thing, someone told me they were Tivo’ing with their Droid…I’m like hey how the hell can I assign ringtones to select folks so I know when to answer the phone? Don’t get me wrong, I have decided to keep the phone and while I agree with elder boy that the navigation system is lovely, lately I find myself longing for the days when a phone was a phone. Nowadays you must have apps to maximize your enjoyment of your gadgets…all I want is a simple internet connection, email and a phone.

For some reason I am remembering Star Trek…space the final frontier. Lately it feels like phones are the final frontier.

How class can impact rites of passage

12 Feb

I rarely cover similar subjects in back to back posts, yet I read this piece from a Tumblr blog (I must be honest, not sure I quite get the Tumblr thing) and it really resonated with me. In fact I am extremely happy that the author tackles just how deeply the class we were raised in impacts us even when we are no longer a member of that class. It always amazes me in America how we say folks can move up the class ladder and how so many people refer to themselves as being middle class. Yet in a nation where the gap between the haves and the have-nots is almost an ocean these days, I think most of us are living in a class cloud where fear of being at the bottom keeps us hanging on to the middle when the fact is we are much closer to the bottom than we would like to admit. However that is another discussion for another day.

No, it was reading this piece that hit home to me something I have really struggled with and the fact that while I have blamed the situation on other issues the roots of my dilemma are very much based in money and in class.

I don’t drive. Once again I have said it and it’s embarrassing after all I am an almost 40 year old woman, college educated, fairly professional gig, and all that jazz but driving? Basically it’s gotta be life or death for me to drive. People who know me ask why I don’t drive. Well part of it is driving makes me anxious, no not just a little nervous, a lot of nervous. The type of nervous where mistakes can be made, and frankly I have no wish to kill myself or others due to being nervous.

Often people ask, was I always this way? Well, that’s where my humble roots play a role. In many communities in the US kids start learning to drive at 15 and at 16 get licenses. (Granted with graduated licensing I know that is not exactly how it happens now but that’s what it was like eons ago) At 15 my high school offered the written knowledge of how to drive as part of my physical education classes but the actual behind the wheel piece was not taught at my school and basically parents had to pay for it. My folks didn’t have the few hundreds required for me to take the behind the wheel classes and if memory serves me correctly we had no car at that time so I never learned.

I worked after school but my money was used to pay for my clothing and for my lunch money and bus fare back and forth to school (I went to high school clear on the other side of Chicago, having won admittance in one of the top academic programs in Chicago at that time). So being 16 as you can imagine I wasn’t exactly earning enough to handle my expenses that I was responsible for and saving to take driving lessons. Then there was the realization that since I had no car to drive there was no rush to learn to drive.

Long story short I went from age 16-30 with the idea of driving never crossing my mind in any serious way. I mean yeah there were a few times when a car would have been nice, it was sometimes inconvenient raising a kid in Chicago always taking buses and trains but I most certainly wasn’t alone. A lot of the reasons were rooted in lack of resources, having become a mother at 19; I didn’t exactly have a lot of spare cash lying around to afford the cost of driving lessons. Then there was the issue of actually buying a car and upkeep, it simply was not in my budget. Hell, even taking time to get lessons would have been a resource juggling act since I would have needed someone to watch my son so that I could to take lessons. Even when I started earning decent money, I just chose to live in neighborhoods that were easily accessible to public transit and things I needed and wanted.

Nope, it was the Maine move that brought the matter to the forefront. Granted my plan had been to live in Portland, Maine’s largest city where I figured I would be able to get by until I mastered this driving thing. (Yeah, dumb me didn’t bother to learn before moving 1100 miles away…figured being a 30 yo newbie it would be easier to learn in a small state) As fate would have it I landed a job less than 3 weeks after moving to Maine therefore giving me no time to get a handle on the driving thing. That first year in Maine was a real juggling act as my job required travel at times and the Spousal Unit thank goodness to his flexible schedule was able to assist me but it was hard.

I figured after a year or so I would learn and while I did the truth is learning to drive as an adult is hard and while I can do it, my own anxiety gets in the way now. I often think had I learned as a teenager it would have been better. One of the instructors I worked with explained that in many ways it’s harder for adults to get it because by a certain age you realize that shit…driving is serious business and if you fuck up it can have grave consequences. Whereas teenagers are fearless, this frankly can also be a bad thing.

Anyway in thinking about my driving issues and pondering how lack of resources can get in the way of folks learning how to drive actually made me think of many of my current clients and clients I have had over the years. Most of them don’t drive which for most low income folks especially in a rural state greatly limits ones opportunities. In my area we are fortunate to have public transit but it’s costly. A one way ride to Portland from my area (by car a 20 minute ride tops) is $5 that means a round trip is $10. As a result I have a lot of kids in my after school program who have never been to Portland or who rarely get to the beach despite the fact they live mere miles away from the beach. In Chicago it was poor minorities who rarely traveled around the city because they too had a lack of resources granted public transit back in my hometown is far more affordable.

It means that when lower income folks have cars they are almost always jalopies that are on their last leg, which pretty much describes every car my dad, had when I was growing up. Though in our case having access to good public transit did not limit me but at times it was a minor inconvenience.

Yet like the tumblr poster, even so called rites of passage are not always accessible to those who hail from the working and lower classes. Those of us who are able to emerge from that background and move up due to education are often still struggling with the residual effects of our childhood.

PS: People often ask me how I get around, well I bought a house in a very walk able area and even my office is less than a mile from my house. I utilize public transit and the Spousal Unit due to working from home is often able to help me out when I need to go further. One thing I do not do is ask others for rides since this is my shit with that said with the girl in grammar school now I am realizing I have to work on this issue. I need to get comfortable enough where driving is not this emotional and anxiety roller coaster and I am setting some goals and plans in place to get there.