God gives us life, and He takes it away.  What those who have never been in the position this woman is, or many others with debilitating diseases, do not realize is that sometimes our lives are taken from us bit by bit.  It is that particular situation, not young people in good health with lives ahead of them going through a rough spot, that I address.


We disabled watch those who love us working to take care of us until they are exhausted. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  We watch their financial sacrifices, and watch their enjoyment of life drain from their tired eyes.  The more and more dependent we get on them, the more we think "they could have a better life without me."  We love them and want that for them, especially if they are also getting older, feeling arthritis, experiencing heart disease, depression or other health concerns of their own.  


Ever thought God also gives us the will to continue or the courage to die?  The choice to keep fighting beyond physical, mental, spiritual exhaustion, or the courage to free one's loved one's from debt, struggle and the same kind of exhaustion? It just might be cruel to deny this woman the peace she seeks for herself. 


I speak as one whose life has eroded from beneath her feet for decades. My career.  My dreams of motherhood.  The respect of people who knew me but not my disease.  Suffered the contempt of people who do not know me and do not know my disease; managing to find the love within myself that made it impossible to wish they suffer this one day.


I still fight to make the most of every day, , to find, create, as much joy and laughter to buoy my own heart and those of others,  to do as much as I can for myself, for others, for the world, for love.  I admit that I am growing increasingly less willing to fight as my abilities continue to erode, as  it becomes increasingly difficult to make even the tiniest of dreams come true, and most of all, as I see the stress my beloved husband undergoes every day.  I die by breaths, but the amount of time I can hang on, long after I can do nothing for myself or others, stupefies me.   


I am not there yet.  Yet I see my future, with all its pain, and I do not wish that on my husband.  Some day I will be where Marie is, and anyone who stands in my way does not know the first thing about loving others as we love ourselves.  


My prayer is that Marie and the Irish courts find the wisdom to break free of medieval views on death and suicide.  I'm amazed that any Christian who looks to heaven can willingly insist that someone with no will to live any longer MUST suffer and make suffering for the ones they love until some "critical" body part wears out. 


I could not say I love anyone that  I made endure suffering: physical, emotional, mental.  If you think you can confront God and say "I kept her from killing herself so you could decide when," don't be surprised if He says "I loved her enough to let her decide when she could stand no more, and you didn't love her enough to let her go."  Cause the God I believe in would say just that.  I hope the Irish courts know that God.
 
 
A few days ago, we watched Les Miserables.  As I had both times I saw the stage production, I cried from almost the opening scene.  I had heard from people I knew that the movie did not compare to the stage production. I have other friends who swear both betray the book  Perhaps the fact I saw the stage play nearly 25 years ago, and read the book about 45 years ago left me free to appreciate the simple reality that each medium -- print, stage, and film -- offers its own opportunities to shine and to make a lasting impression.  


To me the book and stage play emphasized the themes of freedom and justice more than any other theme.  The film, to me focused more on redemption, forgiveness, change versus stasis, and love, with freedom and justice in the background.


One of the things that struck me as particularly poignant was Javert's stubborn persistence that "a man such as you does not change," despite being confronted repeatedly by the evidence that Valjean's new persona was a different man than the hardened con Javert insists upon seeing. In the end, Javert opts for suicide rather than change his opinion or methods.  Ironically, while I think most Americans would have applauded the French Revolution and the move to freedom, and while Javert represents the repressive, unjust Monarchy, he reminded me of many conservatives I know who simply seem unable to accept change or to reach out to someone they see as inferior or lost, as the Bishop did to Valjean in the beginning of the movie.

I have also watched a couple of other movies lately, which I recommend with the caveat that if you hate subtitles and don't understand French or Spanish, you may find these films tedious.  


The first of these is "De rouille et d'os" a French film with the English title of  "Rust and Bone.."   This film explores the relationships between a man, his son, his sister's family, and a woman the man meets.  There are some powerful lessons regarding the distinction between chronological and emotional maturity, about perseverance, and about the impact of kindness and of thoughtlessness.  We ran it in Spanish with 


The second was a movie I have seen before Sea Inside ("Mar Adentro").  Somehow, watching it closely after the first two I have discussed, I saw things I missed the first time around.  As a disabled person, though not now nearly as severely, I found myself relating to some of the main character's attitudes and positions to a greater degree than I did the first time I saw it.


Seen in close proximity, these three films set me to ruminating on what love really is and is not, from the love of God, to parental love, to romantic love, to platonic love.  That love can grow from platonic love, that tragedy or a glimpse inside someone's mind can spark it, as well as a glance,.  I was also confronted by the concept of self-love and forgiveness, shame and se;f-protection.  


I recommend them all.  I'd like to own them all.  I would also recommend, although it was not conscious this time, that when dealing with drama films, it's worth viewing several with the same issues in succession.  Some how the themes just get amplified.
 
 
When life boots me out of this world, and my life flashes before me on my way out the door, which days, which moments will be highlighted?  I'm pretty sure that yesterday afternoon will be one of them.


My brother usually comes by our house every other Saturday to pick up the bills, whatever items we have picked up on sale for him (diet sodas, energy bars, cereal, etc), pet the kitties he left with us, dig through his files that are still here, and see how we're doing.  On Wednesday, he emailed me that he was leaving for Austin and would be there the rest of the week, mentioning that his knees were hurting unusually badly.  So Saturday, my very considerate husband suggested that he drop everything off because my brother was probably wanting to stay home after being out of town.  So I called and made the offer.  "ACCEPTED" J. said joyously. Then I decided I'd go along, because I wanted to see my brother's face and get my hug.  I also wanted to wish my sister-in-law Happy Birthday and give her the chocolate bar we bought her at ALDI.  No matter that her birthday is Monday the 15th.


When we arrived, my amazing sister-in-law was crouched in her front bed weeding.  When we arrived, she went to the door to call to my brother, who came out and sat on the stoop with me. The four of us talked about quotidian stuff.  How the acorns that fall on the lawn never seem to sprout, but every one that falls in our flower beds sprouts.  Somehow we started doing little things in the yard.  The guys raked the rest of the lawn.  I pulled some oaks out of the bed nearest me while my sister in law worked on the other side of the porch.  Then my husband and SIL were bagging the leaves while my brother and I talked about his trip to Austin, where he stayed and reminisced about my first apartment there.  Then while we all talked about my step nephew's little fender bender -- as my brother put it, it would really have been minor except for what he hit, a brand new Lamborghini-- my husband started pulling baby oaks to my left, my SIL on my brother's right, while my brother kept calling the two of them "baby oak killers."


Yesterday was the first truly casual visit to their house.  No holiday dinner, no birthday celebration, just Saturday chores.  We spent a couple of hours there, just being family together.  Then we left, stopping at the local Trader Joe's to see what they have and the prices. Way too crowded at that hour, but we did pick up a candy mint and a pineapple mint we didn't have.  I think I'll call and find out when they have the least traffic before I go back.


All in all, it was for me a wonderful, casual, relaxed day that I will put in my memory box with the childhood family beach days, and family road trips, summer evenings with family while the adults talked, and we kids ran about chasing fireflies and tossing stones in the air to see the bats swoop in after what they thought were big juicy bugs. Days spent surrounded by those we love, doing nothing but being together.
 
 
Hump Day. Grey, drizzly, Chilly.  Not a good day to weed -- too muddy, and too joint-aching.  We watched The Life of Pi. So what's the agenda after that on a day like this one?  Why we made the rounds of the garden shops, of course!  First stop Condon (yes, it ends in an "n" ) Gardens.  They had their gates closed.  Next we went by Joshua's, which was open, but we decided to bypass it today.  Headed to Heights Plant Farm, where we picked up a couple of bat faced cupheas.  Now this is neither edible nor native to Texas (native of Mexico)  but gosh darn it, they are so cute!  The little red flowers with their purple accents do look like tiny little bat faces with big red ears.  Then we headed over to Buchanan's where I had a $10 birthday certificate on a purchase of $20 or more.  Ended up spending about $16 for a Copper Canyon daisy, a salvia greggii, a salvia coccinea, a frogfruit, a Homestead purple verbena, and a plant I have now forgotten what it is but I know it will bloom purple. :)  And what's for dinner on a night like tonight?  Chili cheese dogs and fries. :)


So, ok,  I'm not thinking very deeply today, or I'm not sharing my deepest thoughts today.  I spent this morning reading science news stories.  Hydroelectric project in the Amazonian forest, displacing native peoples, flooding who knows how many acres of trees.  I'll give you one guess what my deepest thought
 
 
There is a naturalized Romanian-born handyman who works for me. Well, technically he works at my house, and my brother chose him and pays him.  He has been here now about half his life, arriving at the age of 26.  He has done everything from hang new doors and screen doors, to plumbing repairs, to replace 65 year old sheetrock, paint, rewire the house, and redo my bathroom.  I like him, but he also annoys the crap out of  me.  

He's a Nazi at heart, loves everything German, and votes Republican.  He's racist, sexist, and his work habits are completely unprofessional.  On his asset list is that the work itself is excellent.  I have told him repeatedly that no self-respecting Republican would  continue his employment.  Why? he shows up whenever he wants, puts his World Soccer Cup qualifying games, football games, basketball games, and general farting around ahead of his work.  We started the bathroom tear-down in mid-July of last year, and there is at least another week's work to be done.  He called yesterday and said he would be here at 7 pm and work until about 10..  He showed up at 7:40 pm, let around 9:41.  Put on a second coat of paint, bitching about the brand the whole time.  It dries too quickly.  You see we chose the brand of paint, because we could get it for $20/gallon.

He shows up later and later every day he comes.  Used to come about three and stay until about 8 pm.  Then it was 5 and stay until about 10.  Lately, he has been showing up at 6 or 7 and staying until 1 or 2 am.  When we said something about it, he said "IF I come then you're asleep, and I have to wait 30 minutes to get into the house." Well if you would call and say you were on your way, we would be up.  Yes, we often have to take naps, because we get up and get going about 11 am AT THE LATEST, and by 3 or 4 pm, we are tired.  I have lupus.  My husband has heart disease..

This whole project started for two reasons. First, the bathroom cabinetry, was falling apart, not surprising after 65 years, assorted plumbing leaks.over the years, and being cheap plywood to begin with.  The second reason was needing to make it more handicapped friendly.  

He started the project with the notion that he was designing it.  I would tell him what I wanted, and he would argue that I didn't want that.  I had found some cobalt blue I wanted.  He shows up with some mottled light blue/dark blue/white/gray crap that cost more then what I had chosen.  We argued about that.  I ended up giving in because I was tired of arguing.  I hate it. Totally destroys the look I wanted, which was the effect of rising up out of the ocean into the sky.  

I had bought the cabinetry at IKEA on sale.  Everything, sink cabinet, tall cabinet, two mirrored medicine chests, additional sink cabinet I planned to use as a vanity, sink for around $300.  He bitched about the sink, because the hole for the faucet was on the side.  "Who buys a sink like this?  It's too small and the hole is in the wrong place. What do you know about plumbing?" I told him that THIS sink puts the faucet on the toilet side of the sink, which is handy for me.  "Nah, nah, you don't need the faucet over there."   I asked him point blank if he was handicapped, what did he know about being handicapped?  The other thing I liked about that cabinet and sink was that it was only 10" deep, which would give us more maneuvering room.  A week or two later, he comes in and announces he has now seen a few sinks like mine.  Seems they are the newest thing in Europe.  DUH!  Guess I know something after all.  

Then I decided that instead of just widening the doorway, I would have no doorway.  "You gotta have a door!"  I said master baths in many of the newer homes were not closed off.  He argued with me about that, until  I showed him a few photos on the web.  Comes in a week or so later  "Heh,  I talked to one of my friends back in Europe.  He says they are building bathrooms like that over there now." That of course made it ok, because anything European is good.  America sucks.

He argued with me about the grab bars.  I wanted 9" at the shower entrance.  He thought I should have 18".  I didn't want the shower half filled with grab bars, which would get in the way.  So he goes out and buys 18" for those places, and where I wanted an 18" on the back wall, he buys a 24" one.  The ones I wanted cost about $40, and he spent almost $80.  Then I said I wanted a shower slider bar, and I showed him AN EXAMPLE of the KIND of thing I wanted.  It happened to be a Hansgrohe model.  So he goes and tells my brother I want a $500 shower system, and I get this angry phone call about "why do you always want the top model?" When he calmed down, I explained that I didn't mean I wanted THAT shower, THAT brand, I wanted a set up LIKE that, with the slide bar.  Since I had shown that picture, I had found one for about $60 that provided the same facility.  I also wanted to put shower mounts on the back slider bar and the one at the left side of the entrance.  "They don't make those," says my know it all handyman.  So I showed him online that they were available from the local home improvements store.  "Oh those are cheap plastic.  You don't want those!" 

So it comes time to put an edge on the tile.  I had chosen from the two he brought me the silver one, in keeping with the brushed nickel trim and bath fixtures.  So what does he show up with the day he's going to lay tile?  Cheap white plastic.  "The other costs five times as much." he says.  Now he starts worrying about cost.  Heck, if he had gotten the grab bars I wanted, he'd have had the money for that!

When he walks in the door he yells "Obama, Obama." He hates Obama, has often expressed the hope that someone will "shoot the son of a bitch n*****." If we have the television on, he talks over it.  God forbid we are watching Rachel Maddow  "that ugly stupid lesbian bitch."   Yeah, she has a BA from Stanford, and a PhD in Political Science from Oxford, where she was a Rhodes scholar.  You have a Romanian high school degree and she's stupid. Riiiiiight.

Last night he was on a tear about Beyonce and her husband being in Cuba, that "commie nation." I guess he isn't incensed about the scientists visiting Cuba to study the wildlife in the Zapata area, or the state department officials who visit the Cuban culture.  Beyonce and her husband visited Cuban children in art and dance schools, visited a World Heritage site, and dined in a privately owned restaurant, an innovation in Cuba.  Then he bitched that she lip-synced the National Anthem at Obama's inauguration.  My response is a yawn.  I'm guessing Beyonce and Jay-Z will change Cubans much more than Cuba will change them. Ironic, too that since Cuba modified their travel prohibitions to the US recently, Cuban "commies"can visit the US more easily than Americans can visit Cuba, despite our greater freedoms.  

He asked my husband "Has she EVER cooked for you?" He said "Of course, when she was younger and healthier." in an amazed tone of voice.  "She's a good cook, but she just can't do it any more."  Last night, I told this handyman that when Ron and I finished working in the side yard last evening, he had to bring the car around because I could not walk the 100' to the door.  The idiot says to me, after having seen me have trouble standing up at least 100 times, "Maybe you need to get more exercise."  I said "The doctor thinks I need 2 knees replacements and 2 hip replacements.  The only kind of exercise I can do is swimming.  Do you see a pool here?"  He knows that sometimes I require a wheelchair.  So he says, "I don't understand why you can't walk more." I said "My disease attacks the cartilege in my joints. It hurts me to walk sometimes, really really hurts, because the bones are grinding on the bones." He asks how my muscles attach then.  I said "It's the cartilage cushion inside the joints, between the top of my leg bone and the hip socket.  My God, I can lay down to sleep on my side and wake up with a dislocated shoulder!" 

He hates Jewish people, Hispanics, Blacks, and women unless he finds them sexually attractive (and purty he ain't). He told me that despite my college degree, two Master's programs and PhD program, I don't know anything because I "haven't worked in so long." Totally overlooking the idea that I can still READ about anything and everything I ever studied, and do.  I guess my brother and sister-in-law will suddenly become stupid on their way home from the office on their last days before retiring!

We said he has no respect for us, and he said "I never said that." We said "You didn't have to SAY it.  You show it in everything you do and everything you do say." 

What puzzles me is why this atheist man who believes abortion is nobody's business but the woman's, her doctor, and the man (if he is involved in her life meaningfully), believes nobody needs an assault weapon and gun owners should be registered and screened for mental illness, and talks about how stupid Americans are, and admits he is here only because Germany wouldn't let him in, votes Republican.  It's not like he has money, either.  He's pretty much living hand to mouth, and as far as I know, my brother and his wife are his only clients.  He respects money and people who make a lot of it.  He does not respect us.  He orders my husband to clean the toilet before he returns it to the bathroom. Now, the toilet should have been cleaned and protected when it was removed.  In stead he put out the back window dirty beneath a tree 9 months ago.  He throws stuff out the bathroom window, on the street side of the house, has trash all over the front porch.  Not one single job he has done here has been truly completed.  From the front door needing one of those things that keep it from slamming, to the unpainted brace in the other bathroom (needed he said in case I leaned on it, but really, to support the counter top he chose and put on it) to no latch or handle on the back door screen (which means I cannot open from the outside myself because my arthritic fingers can't grasp the narrow ledge to pull it open.)

Ironically, I know Mexican undocumented immigrants who could have done the bathroom just as well,and had it done in 3 weeks tops, charged less, and would not have argued with me about it all.  My bathroom, whatever you want, you are the boss.  It's my house.  Even more ironically, there is something lovable about him, despite his emotional maturity of about 13. I cannot for the life of me figure out what it is.  Except maybe that there's something kind of like a puppy who always wants to be loved My sister-in-law joked that it was almost over, and I could get my Girl Scout badge in Surviving M.  She said she has 5 of them.  
 
 
In general, I find volunteerism to be a good thing.  Our armed forces run on it.  Schools, libraries, museums can do more because of volunteers.  People in hospitals get magazines, flowers, blood,  and sometimes organs because of people who volunteer. Disasters are mitigated by the Red Cross volunteers who pass out water, erect shelters, bring clothing, and comfort.  I recommend that every person volunteer at least once in their lifetime.  There is a special sense of fulfillment when the person you are helping  smiles, pushes back from the table and pats their belly, otherwise indicates that their need is relieved.


There is another sort of volunteerism that occurs in the garden.  Sometimes it is delightful, as yesterday when I discovered a hardy little pansy volunteer from the prior year, nestled among this year's nasturtiums.  Tears filled my eyes when I saw the foot tall volunteer pine from a cone off one the trees we had to cut down a couple of years ago.  Nestled up against the stump of its momma, it survived mowings and drought to make itself tall enough to be noticed this year.


Sometimes it's annoying, like the 100 sq feet of my yard that is covered with volunteers from an airplane plant that I brought home from Dallas over 20 years ago in a hanging basket.  At sometime, that basket fell to the ground, from wind or the branch breaking, or animal activity and it went unnoticed until we saw all its offspring covering that corner of the yard.  It's actually pretty, but it is neither a native plant nor edible.  So now, I am in the process of digging those babies up and putting them in pots to be offered for sale at our next yard sale.


Finally, there is the ugly, dangerous kind of volunteering.  The volunteering of information about other people.  I have at least one neighbor who will volunteer to almost anyone everything she knows about another neighbor.  It's called gossip, and the last time she bent my ear about someone I didn't even know, she offered information about their daily routine that, had I been a robber, I would have known exactly when to break into their house.  Now her purpose, of course, is to get information out of the listener about them that she can pass onto others.  I have purposely fed her false information to see how long it would take to work its way through the neighborhood network back to me.  Three weeks, and I hardly talk to any of my neighbors!  When new neighbors move in, I usually volunteer to them that she's a gossip.  Across the street, two doors down, there is a sign "Sale Pending" I hope it's it is the nice young couple who inquired about it a couple of months back, when it was being gutted.  To me it's the Reasoners' house, because that's who lived there when I was growing up.  None of the people who lived in it since stayed very long.  Whoever it is, I can bet my neighbor, who never walks for exercise, will be at their door volunteering information about all the other people on our block, including me, within days.  I might volunteer them an airplane plant!