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Team McUseless Again

[Important background information:  One of the Olds and I greet each other by shouting “HI” followed by the person’s name as LOUDLY AS POSSIBLE EVERY SINGLE TIME ONE OF US COMES INTO A ROOM. IT IS FUNNY. Ish. Was probably funnier when we had only been doing it for like two days instead of a month, but, whatever. The purpose of the game is to scare and/or annoy one another; anyone else [i.e., the other Old] in the general area who is annoyed is a bonus.]
Time: This morning
Place: Living room
Players: Olds,  me
Old #1: I need to speak to the two of you about something.

(Old #2 and I exchange glances of trepidation)

Me: What?  I’m sure it’s Dad’s fault, not mine.

Old #1: No, it is BOTH of you.  It is about your noise level.

Old #2 [shouting even tho is 5 feet away]: WHAT??  WHAT DID YOU SAY ABOUT NOISE??? WHAT???

Me: [laugh laugh laugh]

Old #2: [laugh laugh laugh]

Old #2 and me: [laugh laugh laugh] WHAT?? WHAT??  WHAT DO YOU MEAN?!?! [laughs]


Me: What yelling?

Old #2: We don’t yell. What are you talking about?

Me: Last night? I wasn’t even up here.

2: No, she wasn’t

Me: Except that one time

2: Oh right,when I asked you to put the dog out.

Me: Maybe that was the yelling?

2: I don’t think so. Why would I raise my voice? I was right in the same room.

Me: I know.  We’re not deaf. Maybe mom is just too sensitive. And the dog could hear us.

2: I have no idea what your mother is talking about.
Me: Me either. What were we even saying?

1: [can barely speak bc totally suffused with fury] when. you. say. HI. It is TOO. LOUD.

2, Me: [confused, innocent, wide eyed looks] What? Huh? We can’t say hi now?
1: [no words. pure anger. shoulders and ears level with one another]
Me: I just don’t know how us, speaking in normal voices, could bother you all the way upstairs! [nods from #2] I know! Did you have your c-pap on?

1: [barely forced out] nooooo. maybe not.

Me: Oh! Well then! See!!  No WONDER you woke up!

2: That isn’t OUR fault!


2: You weren’t sleeping soundly then! Actually, you weren’t even REALLY asleep yet!

Me: Right!!! Also, the noise of it wasn’t covering up other sounds; usually the machine running blocks out noise!

2: True! So, if the machine wasn’t running, and you weren’t even asleep, then, why are you making us feel so bad??
Me: Also, it isn’t my fault that you sleep with the door open!

2: No, why should we be punished for that?

[neglecting to remember that he doesn’t close it either]

Me: AND: did you turn the fan on? Sometimes you forget to turn the fan on, and then, with the door open and no c-pap on, well—I just can’t see how this can possibly be our fault!

2: You could have turned on the fan!  Yes!

Me: Also, you could have gotten the one from Laura’s room AND turned that one on, couldn’t you?
2: Exactly! Two fans would have solved this whole issue!
Me: Did you have the fan on or not???

1: no. i didn’t. [white with rage. no visible neck. hair seems floaty as though might be standing oddly away from scalp]


[continuing on in this manner shouting over each other in a fearsome crescendo]
Old #1: never. mind.
Me, Old 2 exchange satisfied looks, nod, praise dog for jumping on Old 1, and ask Old 1 when she’s going to make us some more damn coffee.

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Filed under home life, olds

Shaming, past and present

This morning, the governor of my state signed a bill into law that makes it legal for Indiana businesses to refuse services to certain classes of citizens.

Well.  Technically, this was already legal, because there are no federal or state protections for sexual orientation.  But, now that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is Indiana law, the state has officially endorsed the idea that a business owner can refuse service to an individual who, in the business owner’s eyes, represents a threat to that business owner’s religion.  And that the business owner will be able to use “religious freedom” as an accepted defense in the courtroom.  That’s a big deal.

Those of us who live here know this law exists so that Indiana businesses can now legally deny service to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the name of God.  The Indiana GOP is furious than they cannot uphold the same sex marriage ban anymore–and, with all these homoseckshuls gittin’ hitched, by gum, they might want to have weddings and flowers and cakes and such!  God forbid that finally allowing people their civil rights might improve the economy or anything.  Well. You go, Mike Pence and your fellow whiny manbabies in the statehouse.   You’ve made sure that won’t be happening here any time soon.  There are certainly other groups who can and will be affected by this law.  But the legislature has made no secret of who is the real target here.

This is a shameful day in the history of this state, where we already have more than our fair share of history that deserves shaming.  Back in the 1920s and 1930s, the bigots who controlled our state legislature wore hoods and sheets.  Today’s bigots don’t wear their beds in public.  They’re perfectly happy to show their faces and their crosses while they practice their hatred.  I’m not sure which is worse.

For those of you scrolling down to the comment section to tell me something about #NOTALLCHRISTIANS  or some other nonsense, save yourself the trouble.  If you are a Christian, and you are not standing up with your cross and speaking out against hatred, unconditionally and publicly, then you are part of the problem,  no matter how enlightened you feel you are.

The ball is in your court now.  You need to go speak to your Christian brothers and sisters who believe in hatred, and ask them what the hell is wrong with them.  You need to take your evangelism and your prosthelytizing and turn them inwards, on your own faith community, and you need to fix yourselves.  Don’t waste one second explaining to me about all the different kinds of Christians out there, because I’m quite aware.  Leave me alone and go talk to your co-religionists, because this is your problem, and the rest of us will be over here trying to survive while you pray it out.

Christians are not the only religious people who need to examine their own beliefs, however.  All religion have blind spots, some worse than others.

Sometimes there is right and there is wrong and there is no middle ground.  To continually search for a way to stand with the right while refusing to stand against the wrong is a fool’s game with no end.  You do not have to agree with everyone in the world at the same time, because that is insanity.  A religion that tells its adherents that they must do this is a religion doomed to failure. By presenting every viewpoint as equally valid, such a religion ignores everything that is known and true about humanity, folds over on itself, and becomes meaningless.

Sometimes, like it or not, you have to pick a side.

I have been accused of seeing the world only in black and white and not shades of grey.  Usually, people who tell me this are much less concerned with right and wrong, and much more concerned with not making waves.  To them, “shades of grey” means, “Keep the peace! Keep the peace! Who cares at what price– just for God’s sake, DON’T ROCK THE BOAT!”

These are people who think that steadying the boat on a sea of prejudice to keep the goodwill of bigots is apparently more important than standing up for what is right.

Do not be fooled into assuming that the only people who do this are conservative, or Christian, or members of the Indiana GOP.

The staff of my [former] Unitarian Universalist church did the same thing recently, when they decided that it was okay to use homophobic and sexist materials from an evangelical Christian organization for teen programming.

The minister and other staff who chose this material made it very clear that they intended to change the materials and only use what was “relevant” for us, “leaving out” the bigotry.  I was not satisfied with this explanation for many reasons.   They also joined a “cohort” of other churches using this material. Membership in the cohort costs several thousand dollars.

By doing so, our church is now financially supporting institutionalized homophobia.  The organization that produces these materials specifically states that openly gay people will not be hired, and if they are found to be gay after working there, they can be fired. The organization has many other oppressive beliefs.  But this one should have been enough to give any reasonable person pause.

I did believe that the church staff would not purposely teach homophobia and sexism to our teenagers.  However, I did not know how much I could trust people who not only chose this material, but who lied to co workers and congregation members about it.  The more I found out, the more horrified I was.  This church is now publicly, officially affiliated with a program that openly espouses homophobia in its materials and on its website and in its policies.

Plus, it did not matter how much the church “changed” these materials.  Would the church take materials that said that black or brown people were inferior, say “oh we are leaving out the racism so no biggie!” and then expect that people would be okay with paying money to use them? Why was I attending a church where I would even need to use a comparison like that to explain something?
Why was–is–it ok to ask LGBTQ people to be “patient” and to put up with blatant disregard for their humanity in the name of  tolerance for the intolerant?

I came to understand that the religious freedom of bigots had become more important to my church than supporting and affirming the worth and dignity of every LGBTQ person in our own congregation.

I wrote a letter of complaint to our minister about our church being affiliated with and financially supporting an openly homophobic institution. Nothing happened, except that I was told to step back.  I waited for two months to see if the church would rethink their decision.  They didn’t.  I told other people about the situation.  Uproar on the part of the clergy, staff, and many congregants ensued.  Not because people were upset to realize that our church was using these materials and supporting homophobia in word and deed even if they were not teaching it.

No.  Most people were–and are–upset with me for daring to suggest that this was wrong.  They were, and are, upset with me for taking a stand for what is right, but they are even more upset with me for taking a stand against what is wrong.  You cannot be both right and wrong in this situation.  By choosing the right,  I stood against the wrong.  This was unacceptable.

They were, and are, upset that I refused to back down and that I still haven’t.

It should be clear that I will not do so in the future, either.

I was told in no uncertain terms that I was the one who was intolerant, and that I was wrong.  It was not acceptable for me to notice and draw attention to homophobia, because this meant that I was not assuming “people’s best intentions”. Even though “people” had made a terrible, embarrassing mistake that they refused to undo out of pride and ignorance, I was in the wrong because I refused to pat these people on the head and apologize for noticing their giant clusterfuck.  I was even more wrong for daring to insist that they fix it.

I was so wrong, in fact, that I was told this from the pulpit in a fiery, angry sermon.  The kind of sermon you might expect at a fire and brimstone kind of evangelical Christian church–but nothing like anything you would ever, ever associate with a Unitarian Universalist church.  Well.  That’s what I thought.  Then, it happened to me and a friend.  We were called out from the pulpit.  We were accused of “Christian bashing” among other things.

The message from the pulpit was clear: “Get out”.

And it was underlined by the standing ovation that the congregation gave at the end.

This minister is someone I admired for many, many years.  In the three years I’ve been a member of the church, she became a trusted and much loved friend as well as a minister.  I respected her completely and felt that her integrity and her generous and loving soul were what made our church the amazing place that it is.

To be told to get out by someone like that in front of everyone you know is pretty terrifying.  It isn’t very loving.  And it certainly isn’t very tolerant.
What it mostly is, though, is heartbreaking. Imagine the worst time your heart has ever been broken.  Then, imagine that the place that just broke your heart like that is also the place that in many ways, saved your life.  And that brought you back among the living when you thought that you would never be among them again.

That is the kind of heartbreak that I felt that day.  That I still feel.

My beliefs were no longer acceptable to my church, because I refused to go along with the support of a homophobic organization.  I would not be able to continue attending church, teaching religious education, or taking part in church activities, unless I shut up.  Without my silence, I would become an acceptable, even necessary casualty.

I have become one.

It was and is more important for this church to keep its public affiliation with a homophobic institution than it is to listen to its own congregants.   The church has doubled and tripled down, and they continue to do so.  Since I am no longer welcome there, and since most people will just go along and not rock the boat, the controversy will die down.  Indeed, it is doing so already.

And soon, no one will remember anything except that cool sermon that time that got a standing ovation.  People will conveniently forget, if they ever knew, that what they applauded was the shunning of at least two [formerly] treasured members of the church community, who dared to say that perhaps our church should not stand together and be counted with an institution that believes that LGBTQ people are less than human and who do not deserve equal rights.

The reason I am bringing this up, on today of all days, is because today is a day when I wish I still had my former beloved church community.

Today is a day when the world has become a crueler and harsher place, with hatred no longer afraid to lurk in the shadows.  Today is a day when I almost wish that I had shut up, that I stifled my views, and that I’d just decided to let it go.

But, you see, if I’d done that, I wouldn’t have any right to be outraged and revolted by the actions of the Indiana government today.  To accept hate in one situation, and to denounce it in another, based on personal convenience, both negates the denouncement and encourages further acceptance of the unacceptable.

So, today, when so many of my former fellow UUs are furious about and disgusted by the signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in our state, I wonder:  How are they  able to reconcile that pain and anger over this blatant injustice with their simultaneous acceptance of their church’s public affiliation with an institution that has the exact same belief system that produced this legislation?

Sometimes, rocking the boat is the only possible response to a situation, even if you risk drowning in the process.

I am still breathing.


Filed under politics, religion

Team McUseless

Sometimes, when I am bored and there is no one around for me to torment, I have to resort to texting my sister annoying questions.


I do this because I know it infuriates her, and that amuses me.

The reason it infuriates her is because it reminds her of when one of the Olds had knee replacement surgery. The Kneeless Old had (k)needed a (k)new knee for some time, but kept putting it off. Finally, the Kneeful Old and I convinced her that it was time. She could barely walk without extreme pain, and all of her constant complaining and negativity was starting to get on our nerves. Plus, she was having trouble getting around well enough to do all of our errands, and eventually, I had to start going with her to do them. I did not move home to spend my days picking up prescriptions and dry cleaning and purchasing groceries, for Christ’s sake, and I told her so.

Her reply seemed unduly harsh, so I will not reproduce it here.

The prospect of having to rely on me and worse, the Kneeful Old, finally proved to be even more terrifying than the thought of surgery, and so she scheduled it with her surgeon.

It was at that point that the Kneeful Old and I had a sobering realization. Who would be taking care of the Kneeless Old’s normal duties while she was recovering? It would be at least 4 weeks, and possibly 8, until her new knee would be functional enough for her to resume her responsibilities. We asked her what we were supposed to do during that time. Once again, her reply seemed more pointed than the situation required, and contained some words that I had not realized were in her vocabulary.

Yes, she was facing a surgery where basically her lower leg would be almost completely detached, secured only by some skin and a couple of strands of muscle fiber. She would have to remain in the hospital for at least three days, and then would have to spend a week to ten days in a nursing home recovering, while learning to walk again and undergoing physical therapy. Then, when she came home, her activity would be very limited for another couple of weeks, and she would not be able to drive for at least 6 weeks. This all sounded a little stressful, at least for her.

More stressful than that, however, was the idea that the Kneeful Old and I would be left to shift for ourselves for at least a week, and would then be expected to care for the New Knee Old as well.

This meant that for the week she was in the nursing home, we would be left alone in the house with no method of obtaining or preparing food. There was no one to collect spoons, or to make them clean again. The Kneeful Old would surely run out of clean clothes, especially considering that he believes if he wears something for two hours, that it must be washed again before putting it on for another two hours.
Someone would have to remember to let the second floor dog out, and to supply her with food twice a day.
There would be no way to make coffee, since once the water compartment in the Keurig was empty, we would not be able to fill it again. Which probably wouldn’t matter, since when we left our dirty coffee cups in the sink, they would not reappear, clean, in the cupboard.

It was a problem.

Worse, was that when the New Knee Old got home, we would be expected to not only continue living in this slipshod manner, but we would have to add caring for her to our packed schedules. And, unlike those of us who were satisfied to subsist on cereal (until the milk ran out), cold cuts, peanut butter eaten from a spoon, and ice cream, she would require something akin to actual meals with nutritional content, and would probably also insist that these meals be COOKED.
After a short conference during which the Kneeful  Old and I assessed our skills and found them lacking or non-existent, we could come up with only one solution.  There was no way we could handle all of this and stick to our busy work schedules. We work from home, but people do not understand that this means that you never leave the office.  You simply work constantly, until someone reminds you to take a break and eat something before you pass out from sheer industriousness. The kind of dedication we had to our daily tasks simply would not permit us to do justice to the Newly Knee’d Old in her time of need. Also, there was no cable outlet in the room she would be staying in, and we would not be able to watch Criminal Minds in there.

Someone else would have to take over.  Someone who could cook.  Someone who knew how to put water in the Keurig.  Someone who would go to the food store and purchase food.  Someone who would be willing to watch soap operas with the New Knee Old in a non-judgmental and non-ridiculing way. And we knew just the right person for this job.

My sister needed to come and do all of these things so that the Kneeful Old could remain in his office adding to his spoon hoard, and so that I could retreat to my studio and maintain my strict napping and Criminal Minds watching schedules.

We knew that if we asked her, though, that she would think of many unnecessary and inconvenient questions, like “How is it possible for two adults who are not even Republicans to be so incredibly selfish and inconsiderate?” and “Are you serious?” as well as “What the hell is wrong with you assholes?”

So we came up with a cunning plan. We would simply have to appear as helpless and incompetent as possible, and text her lots of idiotic questions while sounding as sincere and stupid as we could, and she would end up so disgusted with us that she would rush home and take over.

It worked perfectly.

Within two days, she appeared, told us to get the hell out of her way and not to speak to her, and fixed everything. That night there was cooked food that included vegetables and protein, and it was served on real plates and not paper ones or eaten directly from containers.
By the next day, we could even take showers again, because now there were clean towels and we had already used all of the paper towels when the real ones ran out.  Plus, the newly knee’d Old could come home and not run the risk of getting a terrible infection, because my sister knew how to clean the bathroom and put clean cloth things on the beds—sheets, she called them! I knew they had a specific name! Plus, we could cut back on our nap schedules, since we could now have coffee again because my sister knew how to put water in the Keurig.

The Kneeful Old and I had to put up with certain indignities like being referred to only as “Team McUseless” and several other unprintable names. Since neither of us have the ability to feel shame, we had to remind each other to look suitably chastened every so often. For the first few days, my sister insisted that we help with tasks that she felt were consistent with our abilities, such as bringing pitchers of ice water upstairs to New Knee Old or taking meal trays back down stairs.  Sometimes, she also thought she should be able to sleep, and this meant that we might have to actually sit in the room with the New Knee Old and talk to her and stuff. Luckily, I remembered that I had three seasons of Criminal Minds on DVD, so this was almost bearable, even though they were bad hair seasons for Dr. Reid.

So, things settled into a kind of routine. The New Knee Old was recovering nicely. My sister was secretly delighted to have two people to boss around, and knew that she was earning endless points towards Number One* status. And the Kneeful Old and I were able to maintain our normal schedules while performing the absolute minimum of help possible. Naturally, this could not last.

In order to make things more fun,  the Kneeful Old and I started keeping a running tally of who did what, and obviously we began to assign certain tasks point values.
Bringing water upstairs: 5 points.
Helping New Knee Old change her bandage: 30 points.
Putting a load of laundry in the dryer: 10 points
Helping New Knee Old bathe: 1000 points.
And so on.
It became fairly involved, and it was becoming difficult for us to keep track of who had how many points.

There was a dry erase board in the New Knee Old’s sickroom. This was where my sister was keeping track of how much water the New Knee Old drank, what exercises she was supposed to do when, and some other stuff that had to do with pain medication that had to be carefully doled out or something.

The Kneeful Old and I realized that we needed some kind of easily updatable score keeping method. Like a dry erase board. So we erased all of the boring charts my sister had carefully created, and replaced her neat, clear handwriting with our wild scrawls.

It wasn’t just the fact that we were keeping score, or even that we erased her charts that caused my sister to ban the Kneeful Old and me from being in her presence during the rest of her visit.  What sealed our fate was when she realized that we were not competing for the most points, but that the winner was the person who earned the fewest points.


Of course I won.
* I have two siblings. I am the oldest, then my brother, and then my sister. We continually jockey for the positions of Number One, Number Two, and Loser. Living with the Olds should earn me constant Number One status, but sadly, it does not.

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Filed under home life, olds