Saturday, October 25, 2008

Seen

Smoke hangs in the air
Earthbound fading cloud
The smoker is gone

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Blog Action Day--one day late

Some events in my life yesterday put it out of my head (and I'll write more about this soon), but interestingly it ties into an online discussion I ended up on so I'm just going to post that here. It also ties into something I want to post on, and hopefully will this weekend.

The subject was poverty. I'm afraid I don't offer solutions here, just my place in it, and the words of a high school friend I recently reconnected with.


The country has been "socialist" since the 1930's. Social Security, Medicare and other such programs are all socialist and FDR was hailed as a hero for implementing them when the country was in crisis. George W. Bush has just pushed through the Nationalization of the banks to prevent such crisis.

That said, I do understand the fear that your hard-earned cash is going to be given to the undeserving poor, but in this country right now there is such a divide between the rich and middle-class that every middle class family is inches away from falling through the cracks.

I have a scenario for you. When I was a child, my father opened a book-store. In the late 70's the county was in a recession and it failed even though my father did everything right. Because of his anti-socialist beliefs, he refused help from anyone, ended up living alone in a one room apt., barely able to afford his medicines and died, well, younger than I think he should have.

I spent my teenage years in a variety of socialist programs which allowed me medicines and healthcare and glasses, but not my mother who ended up briefly homeless when I went off to college--college made possible both because I worked very hard, but also because of more government programs and private charity. If, God forbid, someone should lose a business, or otherwise slip off of the path of what conservatives like to think of as the "right" way, whether that means, being laid off by a company that goes out of business, or taking too much credit to get your business started, will these anti-socialists refuse a helping hand?

Other examples of slipping off the path, "making other choices"--debilitating illness including depression, sudden death of a caregiver, sudden divorce, change in the industry for which you were trained, natural disaster such as Katrina, injury in the military.. I could go on. Obama has never pushed for this kind of pure Marxian Socialism that people seem to be implying, any more than conservatives are actually for the pure Adam Smith capitalism which would not give tax breaks to big business or provide tax loopholes for the wealthy.

(From my friend) ...on the "socialism" issue... I was raised by two pretty strong Republican parents, and I agree that there are problems with the Social Security and Medicare and Welfare programs, but those problems have to do with the government's ability to run the programs effectively... not with the fact that these programs exist at all.

In fact, I would be homeless if not for Social Security. See, I did everything "right". I went to school, went to college, even got a master's degree and was headed out into the world of big business to make my mark. Then something happened that no one planned for... I was diagnosed with MS. They don't know what causes MS, so it wasn't like I could even blame something about my lifestyle or genetics on this. BOOM. It just happened. Life totally changed.Less than a year after I was diagnosed I lost my eyesight. Completely. For 3 months. I lost my job. I was completely on my own, but for the help of my parents and the grace of God. I am virtually unemployable because of MS, and most certainly not full-time employable. My body shuts down if I try to work 40 hours a week (and I know this because for 3 months I tried, and I ended up in the hospital).

A lot of the time I can't walk on my own... I either need a walker or a wheelchair. Sometimes I am not strong enough to use either and I'm more or less immobilized. The bad part is, these attacks of MS are totally random, unannounced, and can happen at any time. I might wake up tomorrow and be blind again. There is no way to know.So, without Social Security what would be my fate? Without parents who could take care of me (which I thankfully have, but a lot of people in my position do not), what would be my fate?Further, a lot of people don't realize this, but once you get into the "system", you are income controlled. Now while this has good intentions (to keep people who can make enough money to support themselves from taking advantage of the system), it is not managed well. I get $700 a month from Social Security. Can you live on $700 a month? But if I try to earn extra income (above what they allow), they will stop sending me even that much. It is kind of the same with welfare and other programs... it is easy to get "stuck" in the system when you have the potential of getting out. I don't, but there are those who do... and while they are good programs they just aren't run or managed very well when the "stuck in the system" garbage is the case.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bike Riding 101

Ten years ago I learned to drive (I renewed my license this year). It took me years and many learner's permits--the written was easy, the fear, not so much. When I got my license, in those far off days before social media made notifying everyone too easy--I sent out a mass email. I also joked that I would learn to ride a bike by 35.

Well, 10 years later I have learned to ride a bike! Missing my deadline by a few years, but I won't hold that against myself. Like learning to drive, it only happened when I paid someone to teach me, despite kind efforts by dear friends. And like driving (and granted, I haven't done that much of it yet) I find I enjoy it very much. I love driving (traffic notwithstanding) and cannot fathom now why I resisted for so long. I still have some of the same fears--the fear more of injuring others, rather than the fear of injuring myself, but I do my best not to ever put myself of others in danger.

With biking, I was more afraid of personal injury--after all, I'm unlikely to kill anyone on a bike, but it has been known that people have accidentally killed themselves. I was also afraid that I would not actually like it, and why waste the effort when I wouldn't continue, or would find it hard on my knees, etc. And after those failed attempts with friends last year, I was seriously contemplating buying an adult tricycle, but my husband pointed out that I wouldn't want to ride it. He bikes and (don't laugh) Hyde bikes, and friends bike and it just seemed stupid that I couldn't, but at the same time I thought that I must be the only adult in the world who wasn't shoved down a driveway on a bike by their parents. And then I saw in the catalogue from the Cambridge Center for Adult Ed., Adult Bike Riding $100. Well, it seemed a sign, and I have $100 now, so I signed up before I could talk myself out of it, and once I had paid I was committed.

The first weekend was rained out, but last weekend I was there with 6 other grown-ups. I wasn't the oldest, and I wasn't the youngest, and I wasn't the best, but neither was I the worst. The instructors were old hippy's (it was outside Davis Square, after all) and very kind and encouraging. I have to say, I recommend their method wholeheartedly. We went to a playground with a gentle slope from one edge to the other and we started at the top with no pedals, seats lowered to where our feet could rest flat on the ground. And at first we just coasted, knowing we could put our feet down, following the "nose" of the bike and learning that turning into the fall really will stop you from falling. After, and at our own pace, we had mastered that, then you tried it with one foot on a pedal. At the very end of last week's session, I managed to get both feet on the pedals and actually turn the wheels for a few feet. I thought about posting then, but I wanted to wait until I really had steered and pedalled and ridden a bike. I knew then that it would happen, something that I wasn't sure of at the beginning of that class, but I wanted to feel what it was like before I said--yes, I can now ride a bike.

So today, we started again, at our own pace and after a few false starts (and a lot of dramatic bruises on my calves--don't ask), I was peddling in laps around the playground. A few laps more and I was able to change gears and keep in (almost) a straight line. This last is important because next week we go to the bike path--with other people. Other people who know how to ride. I couldn't quite manage to take a hand off of the handlebars or stand up on the pedals yet, but I'm not that concerned about that. I also couldn't show my husband when we went to look at bikes in the sporting goods store, as I wasn't wearing good shoes, but I have no doubt now that all of that will come in time.

Most importantly, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed when I felt in control--coasting down hill with the wind in my face, motion but not motion. I could see the pleasure in just biking out and on your own. I also feel that physical things might not be beyond me, or too hard or something I just don't have a knack for.