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.
If you have been reading my blog, or any of my pages, or my Facebook page, you know that I have SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythmatosis).   What you may not realize is that this is primarily "a woman's disease," as 90% of the patients are women.  Most of them are 15 -45, the childbearing years.  For some enlightening information about pregnancy and lupus, please read this study in Japan about pregnancy outcomes and lupus  .

Women of color, across the board have higher rates than white women.  I once had a former Texas benefits evaluator tell me that "lupus is a made up disease by people who are too lazy to work."  To me, it was clear he was referring to Black women.  Black women have higher death rates from breast and cervical cancer, higher rates of STD's and teen pregnancies, higher infant mortanlity.  SOURCE:  Debunking the myth.  Black women, Hispanic women, Native American women all have higher rates of lupus.  Black women have more severe outcomes more often.  Poor women without health insurance have a harder time getting the help they need to treat lupus.  SOURCE:  Lupus Fact sheet

For some information about lupus symptoms in general, please read this article about two lupus patients.  

My diagnosis was originally made by a gynecologist to whom I had gone for a simple pap smear.  At the time, I had health insurance.  I no longer have health insurance, and my best option for pap smears is Planned Parenthood.  Read one woman's story about not affording to go anywhere but Planned Parenthood.    

Please make yourself aware of two FACTS:
1.  NOT ONE TAXPAYER DOLLAR GOES TO ABORTION.  That has been prohibited since the 1970s.
2.  Abortions are only 3% of their services  FACT SHEET HERE

Finally, let's talk about SOCIAL SECURITY and Disability and Social Security Supplemental Income.  I worked from age 15 until about 40.  I've been fighting to get SSDI so I can get Medicare to cover my lupus medications.  First they told me I ought to be able to work (in 1995) because I am educated.  Know many employers who want employees who fall asleep on the job, or who miss work frequently because they cannot drag themselves out of bed and stay awake long enough to bathe, dress, and get to work?  Or who catch the flu and the miss weeks because the immunosuppressant drugs they take for lupus don't fight the flu well and leave them with bronchitism pneumonia and a lupus flare in which their joints swell and cause agonizing pain?  If so, please send those employers my way!  I'd love to work, use my brain again for pay.  Of course, it has to be low stress and pretty free of deadlines, because stress makes my lupus worse, and I never know which day I'm going to wake up and be unable to stay awake -- which makes it difficult to meet those deadlines.  See this blog for another person's perspective.

The next time I applied for SSI/SSDI  they told me my $3000+ savings account made me ineligible for  SSI and I no longer had enough qualifying quarters for SSDI.  I appealled and they told me I wasn't disabled!  NOIT DISABLED?  I cannot shop without either my husband pushing me in the wheelchair or an electric cart.  Some days my knees hurt so badly the 8' from my bed to the toilet  has me in tears.    I cannot stand in lines for more than 30 seconds without the knees and hips begging me to sit down. That's not disabled?

Now their story is that we cannot prove I was disabled WHILE I STILL HAD ENOUGH QUALIFYING QUARTERS.  THEY have the 1995 records with the doctors names, but OOPS  I can no longer get those records because the doctors who made the disagnosis, and who treated me, destroyed the records 10 years after my last visit.  I'm SURE those records are in the SS records;  they just demand that I produce them, knowing I can't.  

So now I'm still 5 years too young for SS and Medicare.  What if they raise the retirement age?  First how will we tap into our retirement accounts without penalty to pay for medical expenses?  I will NEVER see my SS money that I paid into the system all those years I worked (sometimes at 2-3 jobs at a time!).  I WILL NOT LIVE LONG ENOUGH!

Let me repeat that  I WILL NOT LIVE LONG ENOUGH!  I can no longer take Methotrexate because my platelet levels drop too low and I am in danger of bleeding to death internally.  The prednisone I have been on for over a year now will, according to my rheumatologist "take five years off your life."  It also induced Type II diabetes, which is implicated in heart disease, even if I didn't have the extra clotting factor from lupus.   The Hydorxychloroquine (Plaquanil) no longer controls the disease by itself.  I also cannot take aspirin, NSAIDs like ibuprofen.  So I take ginger and turmeric for the constant pain.  Some days it works, some days it doesn't work so well.  I need Ben Lysta, according to my rheumatologist, but she's not going to administer it.  It's about $2000-$3000 a pop.  I think it's once a month.  I tried to get onto a drug trial, but the diagnoses (both of which I think are wrong) the county hospital gave me of non-alcoholic cirrhosis and heart failure keep me out of the trial.  I need a liver biopsy to rule out the cirrhosis, and an echocarcdogram for the heart failure.

My only hope is Obama's health care plan, because I could not be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.  If I cannot afford the private health insurance or the high risk pool insurance, I could, as I understand it, get Medicare without having to be on SS, SSI, or SSDI.  So think twice before you pull the lever for someone who wants to repeal Obamacare;  that lever pull will be a death sentence for me and many others with my illness or others like it.  Of course, it you want to be a good, compassionate Christian, you can send me money at PayPal to help with my medical expenses. Leave a comment on this website and I'll send you my email.  They are. or would, if I were seeing the doctors I need to see and taking the meds I need to take run from $3000 in a good year for routine meds and visits and tests to upwards of $24,000 if I had to be hospitalized.  My brother is currently supporting us and paying our medical expenses.  He's nearing retirement age.  He spent years paying for our mother's needs because her SS didn't cover the utilities, food, out of pocket medical expenses.  Now he has us, and his own family.

SO please look into your heart and see if you want to pull my plug by voting to kill "Obamacare
There's this rather spooky thing that happens to me.  Maybe it happens to other people as well, but nobody has ever mentioned it to me.  I have an innovative idea, and almost as soon as I voice it to anyone, someone else comes along and does it.  When I was younger, I quickly stopped telling anyone about my ideas, thinking that the people I was telling them to were passing them on.  However, I quickly reached an age where the likelihood that the person implementing my ideas had any contact with the person I told was inversely proportional to the physical distance between the person implementing the idea and myself.   Moreover, the only person I say these things to now is my husband,, and I'm sure he isn't telling anyone.  Sometimes I'm not even sure he really listened, so how could he repeat what his brain never took in?

 Then I reflect on God moving in mysterious ways.  What's wrong with me now is physical.  I don't have the energy or physical strength to implement most of my ideas.  The latest idea I had, some months ago, concerned the "urban food deserts" in Houston. These are areas in which access to fresh produce is limited or non-existent.  Residents reliant on bus services to get about, particularly the disabled and elderly, are hard pressed to make the journey to the stores which offer good fresh produce.m  I said "What if some grocery store had a big truck that could roll up to a community center or  deserted strip center, drop its sides and offer fres\h produce?"  Now, while it's not a grocery store doing it (yet)  Houston's Recipe for Success, founded in 2005 by Grace and Bob Cavnar to provide nutrition education, fight childhood obesity, and encourage long term health has instituted exactly such a program and hopes to be serving up fresh produce by the end of the year.

Perhaps my speaking about my ideas, putting them into the Ether, or Cosmos, are directed by God to the hearts of those with the energy and strength to implement them?  Maybe it's a coincidence, but it has happened so often, that the statistician in me  has to wonder why coincidences with a small probability keep happening over and over.  Could it be that this is a form of prayer?  Perhaps many were trying to come up with a way to get good food to the people in these under-served areas, and my thought went into God's inbox, and God looked around and said "Gracie! Bob!  Listen up...here's your next task in the pursuit of your goal!"  I don't know, but I am thrilled that the idea is going forward and wish to support it every way I can.  They need money, kitchen items for their cooking classes.  They take donations but are also selling a cookbook aimed at kids with healthy recipes. along with T-Shirts, hats, and other items. They have a wish list, and I happen to have Bed Bath & Beyond coupons available that I won't use.  So if you are moved to give them a gift, contact me by the form on my coupons page or message me on FB.  I'll get them to you one way or another.

Fresh produce vans will roll into Houston's 'food deserts'By Allan Turner, Houston ChronicleUpdated 10:29 p.m., Sunday, February 5, 2012 (interestingly, this photograph was taken at the school my mother and brother went to,  although I think perhaps it's been remodelled or updated or even rebuilt since then.  My grandparents house is now gone; it would be about the middle of the southbound feeder for Hwy 288 at Wentworth.)

Thanks to Gracie and Bob for starting this service, to Allen Turner for writing about it, to Councilman Stephen Costello for championing solutions, and to H.E.B. for opening Joe V's in undererved areas
Dear Representative Ragan

,I am a tolerant person.  My Christian upbringing taught me to love my neighbor -- nothing in the Bible says he or she has to be like me in any way before I do.  I would like to ask you to seriuously consider an idea I have.Your response to Mitchell Gilbert's email to you prompted this email.http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/01/26/did-you-know-your-genitalia-determines-your-sexual-orientation-this-and-other-amazing-revelations-from-republican-lawmaker-in-tennessee/ 

First, there is NOTHING "loving" or Christian about bullying.  I am and always have been straight, but I was bullied in middle school and high school because I was tall, broad shouldered, chubby and a bookworm with excellent grades.  People whispered that I was a lesbian because I didn't spend all my waking hours flirting with the guys and gossiping with other girls about the guys and shopping and doing my hair and nails.   I didn't bat my eyelashes at them and tell them how big and strong and smart they were.  I knew I couldn't compete with the cheerleaders and drill squad, so I just didn't try.  I was also still mourning the loss of my father 5 years before, longing to have a "steady" and terrified of rejection.  Sports bored me, as did guys who talked about them all the time.   Fact was, the boys in my school were mostly not smart enough to interest me even if they had been looking at me. 

 I have never known any feelings of being attracted to a woman sexually.  I have female friends I love deeply, but there's nothing sexual about it.  

My sophomore year in HS, I met a guy a year ahead of me.  He was extremely popular, good looking, friendly, charming, intelligent, and he liked me.  I got my first kiss from him.  He told all the popular kids to invite me to their parties. (I was too young to date yet because I had skipped over 1st grade).  When I arrived, he'd rush over, hug me and introduce me to anyone I didn't know, telling them how smart I was and how witty.   [edited to remove some too personal data about someone else]  Always the gentleman.  No groping, no pressure for anything but to be there and have fun.  He came by my house almost every day to talk, do his homework while I did mine, sometimes eating dinner.  I loved him simply because he was loving to me.  That was 1967.   We had one date to a movie in August 1968.  In August of 1969, just before he left for college, he told me he was gay. 

What he did for me was build my self-confidence, make me feel beautiful and lovable.  That's the greatest gift any man can give a woman. 43 years later, we are still friends who can say anything to each other.  He has been with the same man longer than I have been married, which is going on 23 years.  However, in his professional life, he still has to pretend to be straight because he lives in the Deep South.  

For the first time this year, he began speaking out about bullying of gay kids.  What set him off was the suicide of Jeffrey Fehr.

Your response indicated that you know about trans-gendered people (you may call them hermaphrodites).  Do you know how they come to be the way they are in terms of genitalia?  It's not genes, Rep. Ragan, it's the flow of hormones through the placenta during gestation, during the development of the genitalia.  Think of it like mixing paint -- the right amount of blue and amount of white, and you get a soft baby blue.   The right amount of red and white, and you a soft baby pink.  All developing fetii require some testosterone and some estrogen.  What happens during the development to create someone with both genitalia is that the amounts  get out of proportion and maybe the timing is wrong too -- that is, from my understanding of these things in "normal" development, the estrogen and testosterone flow into the placenta at different times, not at the same time. I'm not a doctor or biologist however, so I may be misunderstanding what I read on that score or mis-remembering it.  At any rate, something goes wrong with the mix, and instead of blue or pink you get lavender (both kinds of genitalia).  I know someone born this way, and as an infant they made her into a "woman."  She is currently a lesbian. 

 I might point out, though, by your apparent definition of what makes a person like men or women is their genitalia.  Logically, that would make these people bisexual.  They have both gender's genitalia so they should be able to have sex with men or women.Or perhaps you would say that if they have breasts they should not have sex with women because that's homosexual?  If they also have a penis (and these are usually non-functional) they should not have sex with men, because that would be homosexual?  Celibacy doesn't work for most people.  We have seen that with priests.  Why would you say it should work for people who have one genitalia but find themselves attracted to people with the same genitalia? 

 Human beings crave emotional connections, except perhaps sociopaths.With that desire for emotional intimacy comes a desire for touch by the beloved.  

Before I make my final points, I'd like to address your comments about "feelings,"  what most of us would call attraction.  Surely you don't expect us to believe that "feelings" didn't play a part in the woman you chose to marry?  I can promise you that if I didn't have "feelings" both emotional and sexual toward my husband, I would not be married to HIM.  I'd lay dollars to doughnuts, you would say the same thing about your wife. 

 I have no idea why my friend from high school has an attraction to men, but I have a speculation, based on the science of how people with both kinds of genitalia come to be. Now I've read the research, and the jury's out on what makes someone gay or lesbian.  One thing they do seem to have established is that the structure  and chemical flows in the brains of gay men are more like those of women, and the structure & flows in the brain of lesbians are more like those of men.  My theory is that perhaps the hormonal flow through the placenta has an error in the mix, not as severe an error as to cause both kinds of genitalia to develop, but "off" enough that the development results in the body of one gender but the brain chemisty of the other gender.  To return to our paint analogy, perhaps you get mauve or periwinkle  -- a kind of "bluey pink" or "pinkish blue" pastel.  Something to think about.

Children are fragile emotionally.  Bullying is never OK.  Moreover, haranguing doesn't make people change:   it doesn't make them lose weight, or start exercising, or gain self-confidence, or become straight.  It CAN make them sink to such despair that they kill themselves.  Why would you think that it's OK to do it out of religious convictions?  It is abuse of another human being, and NOT what God commanded of us.  You took exception to Mitchell Gilbert's words to you.  He was angry and he harangued you.  

What I do know is this:  God made all of us, and He commanded us to love one another as ourselves.  I am angry too.  Over my lifetime, I have lost a couple of good friends, a boyfriend, a couple of co-workers and neighbors, and a precious student (I was a teacher) to suicide.  Know this.  If I had a gay or lesbian child, and we lived in Tennessee, and this bill passes, and my child killed himself or herself after being bullied by other kids under the protection of your bill, I would hold you morally responsible and seek a wrongful death conviction for you and the kids who did the bullying.  Haranguing, even on religious grounds, is emotional abuse of another human being and it is wrong.  It is wrong in the eyes of God as per the Second Commandment, and it is wrong from a human rights perspective.  It is wrong for the US and its reputation for protecting the rights of all Americans, the guarantee in our Declaration of the inalienable rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." 

 I will be praying that you reach a deep enough understanding of the Second Commandment to withdraw this bill and end bullying and emotional abuse of anyone.  God works in truly mysterious ways, Rep Ragan.  Consider that perhaps God created gay people to bring you to a deeper understanding of what loving others is and is not.  I don't know what your religious upbringing is, but I was taught in Sunday School that none of us can conceive of the mind of God, and that His mercy is available to anyone He chooses to bestow it upon.  From where I sit, you are presuming to know the mind of God.  Wouldn't it be ironic if He admits my beloved gay friend to heaven and you end up in hell for this bill?  It could happen. It's God's place to judge each and every one of us.  So I do not judge your righteousness.  I merely offer you a perspective to think about.  God be with you.

Anne Nelson