June Gloom

It’s June,
So one would assume,
The weather would be pleasant,
And warmer still than clement May.
But then Ms. Gloom comes to stay.
Always with her clouds and rain,
And you sigh and mutter, not again.
No point in moaning or in asking why.
Just wait inside the house till warm July.

Pray on, Everyone.

Pray on, everyone.
As they prey on everyone.
Ask God to make it all okay,
While they’re ripping their own flesh away.
Because God had told them what to do.
The very same God you’re praying to,
To ask for comfort and help from Him.
Should He listen to you or to them?

Are you not entertained: Donald Trump’s Greatest Hits

That everything Donald Trump said during his election campaign was lies, empty campaign promises and spin, certainly comes as no surprise to the two-thirds of Americans and about 99% of non-Americans who woke up on the ninth of November to the horrifying news that a grossly under-qualified, emotionally unstable, ridiculously quaffed man-baby had just been elected President of the United States. Whether or not the Russians had anything to do with it is currently being investigated, but that’s not what I’m concerned about at the moment.

Most people understand that about 95% of what politicians say on the stump is complete bullshit, and he sure shoveled a lot of it during his concert tour of a campaign. Donald Trump knew nothing then about being president, and he shows absolutely no inclination for learning the nuances of the job now. His last job was in the entertainment industry, and we the people so love to be entertained. We love to be deceived under the right circumstances. Election campaign theater is always popular because we know we are being shown what we want to see and being told what we want to hear in big beautiful grandiose lies, the more outrageous, the better.

And there were some doozies. “The system is totally rigged” was on the charts for several months, although it didn’t do as well as the break out single from the album of the same name, “Make America Great Again.” And of course we all remember the old crowd favorite, “LOCK HER UP!” chanted enthusiastically at rallies. After a series of scandals and gaffes, during which the song “Grab ‘Em By the Pussy” landed him in hot water with fans, he released the number one hit single, “Drain the Swamp” and his popularity soared once again.

And then when it was all over, and still flush from victory, Trump continued to hold rallies. Being president was harder than he thought, but he was good at stirring up the crowd, so why not just keep right on campaigning? When it was rightly pointed out to him that, in fact, he had won, he clarified that these rallies were for his reelection campaign.

In 2020.

If Donald Trump had his way his entire presidency would be one long endless campaign. He’d delegate the being president stuff to other people, while he would hold rally after rally, in city after city, feeling the heat from the lights on his fake bronzed skin, his ego swelling from the roar of the crowd. That’s how he would Make America Great Again. By gracing the country with himself. And his adoring fans would eat it up. They wouldn’t care, and they do not care, that every word coming out of his bleached anus mouth is a lie. He actually told them, to their collective faces, that his greatest hits were nothing more than campaign rhetoric. That he didn’t seriously mean that he would lock up Hillary Clinton. He didn’t even like the phrase, “Drain the Swamp” until the crowd went wild the first time he said it. He used to repeat often how unfair and rigged the system was. Now he doesn’t mind because he won.

Donald Trump once said that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and he wouldn’t lose any support. He meant it, and it’s true. He told a stadium full of people at a victory rally that he didn’t mean a word of what he said. He told it to them in a totally dismissive way, like he doesn’t give a shit what they think. And his adoring fans were not only okay with that, they seemed inexplicably to love him even more because of it.

After all, he’s the Donald. He’s their guy. They know he’s a scumbag, but they don’t care. He’s their scumbag.

Go Fuck Yourself Anytime: Paul Ryan and the House GOP

Well, they finally went and did it, didn’t they? After talking shit about Obamacare and making over sixty symbolic attempts to repeal it over the past seven years, the House of Representatives just barely managed to pass a huge kidney stone* called the American Health Care Act. Americans are either celebrating or shitting in their pants, literally and/or metaphorically depending on whether they have a pre-existing condition.

Unlike the abortive attempt to put forth a version of the AHCA bill back in March, this time they managed to persuade/bribe enough GOP members of Congress to vote for the bill by promising to put their pet issues in future bills. They set up the President with his favorite craft activity (calling people and pretending to make deals with them), before sending him out for a play-date at one of his rallies. Then after they put him down for his afternoon nap, they got down to the business of finally getting rid of President Obama’s signature health care law and thus his entire legacy once and for all.

And, oh yeah, replacing it.

Donald Trump once said in a TV interview that the repeal and replace plan would be a lot better than Obamacare, a lot less expensive, and that it would cover everyone. Afterward in Congress, crickets chirped for a few seconds. There was a collective gasp and repetition of, “oh my god, what the fuck did he just say” and then finally they they started pissing themselves with laughter over how precious little Donny was for saying something so unbelievably cute. Later on, he did learn that health care stuff was really, really hard, didn’t he?

Congress had been pretend-trying to repeal Obamacare ever since it was signed into law in 2010. Of course they weren’t serious about it. If they really wanted to they would have done it, but instead they kept making attempts in order to reassure their constituents that they were working, like, so hard on it. However, now the pressure was on. They had to actually do something. They weren’t really concerned with what was in the replacement plan. If they were they would have bothered to discuss it for longer than three hours. Or to have it scored. Or to read it.

One of the nicer things about Obamacare was that it made it illegal for insurance companies to charge exorbitant rates for people with pre-existing conditions. The AHCA is not concerned about providing actual health care for actual sick people, and thus it allows the insurance industry to go right back to charging the most money or even flat out denying coverage to the people who need it the most. They have also added a few interesting new pre-existing conditions to the list. There are very few people who have not suffered at least one of the many ailments listed, but nevertheless, according to the GOP we’re all scumbags. Those of us who have had or do have one of these conditions is sick because we’ve obviously made very poor lifestyle choices, and therefore we don’t deserve any treatment for being such bad people.

Those of us undeserving of health care can be denied coverage for any of the following pre-existing conditions:

AIDS/HIV, acid reflux, acne, ADD, addiction, Alzheimer’s/dementia, anemia, aneurysm, angioplasty, anorexia, anxiety, arrhythmia, arthritis, asthma, atrial fibrillation, autism, bariatric surgery, basal cell carcinoma, bipolar disorder, blood clot, breast cancer, bulimia, bypass surgery, celiac disease, cerebral aneurysm, cerebral embolism, cerebral palsy, cerebral thrombosis, cervical cancer, colon cancer, colon polyps, congestive heart failure, COPD, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, DMD, depression, diabetes, disabilities, Down syndrome, eating disorder, enlarged prostate, epilepsy, glaucoma, gout, heart disease, heart murmur, heartburn, hemophilia, hepatitis C, herpes, high cholesterol, hypertension, hysterectomy, kidney disease, kidney stones*, kidney transplant, leukemia, lung cancer, lupus, lymphoma, mental health issues, migraines, MS, muscular dystrophy, narcolepsy, nasal polyps, obesity, OCD, organ transplant, osteoporosis, pacemaker, panic disorder, paralysis, paraplegia, Parkinson’s disease, pregnancy, restless leg syndrome, schizophrenia, seasonal affective disorder, seizures, sickle cell disease, skin cancer, sleep apnea, sleep disorders, stent, stroke, thyroid issues, tooth disease, tuberculosis, ulcers.

Notice how breast cancer, cervical cancer, hysterectomy, and pregnancy are on the list and erectile dysfunction, testicular cancer, and prostate cancer aren’t? At this point, being born female is pretty much a pre-existing condition.

Okay guys, enlarged prostate is on the list, but all you have to do is wait for it to turn into cancer and then you can get it treated. How’s that for winning?

I’ll always be a teacher…

…just not professionally anymore.

“Miss Kitten,” one of my students said to me one day, “Can’t you just work here for the rest of your life?” Those words really sting in a bittersweet way. My god, it’s heartbreaking when I think about them. My students. My kids. I see their eager little faces, rapt with attention. Hanging on my every word. Enjoying the Miss Kitten show. Their eyes lighting up with laughter.

I was that teacher, you see. The one the kids all love. The one the kids all want as a substitute teacher.

“You’re my favorite teacher.”
“You’re the best teacher I’ve ever had.”
“You’re the coolest teacher I’ve ever had.”
“You don’t talk to us like you’re our teacher; you’re more like a friend.”

When you’re a teacher, the kids are everything. They are why you do what you do. And they are amazing, inspiring, and truly remarkable young people. Particularly the latest group of kids I had the great pleasure and privilege to teach. There are no behavioral cases among them. Even the ones who try to get away with being naughty are no match for Miss Kitten. My greatest weapon is my sense of humor and it’s been sharpened and perfected over the years.

“Shut up.” I tell a student who keeps whisper-yelling during a test and hasn’t responded to anything less direct and more polite.

“Hey, you can’t say that to me!” He responds with feigned dismay, which I know is entirely for the benefit of his classmates. Every class has its clown.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Please shut up.” I say, and the entire class erupts in laughter. You can’t out clown the master.

*sigh*

But I am tired. Sick have I become. Old and weak. Well, maybe not that old. However the sick and weak part is true. Sort of.

In January of last year I experienced a breakdown that led to me having to stop work. I was diagnosed with acute stress reaction, which was caused by a number of factors, all of them work-related. It’s very common for teachers to experience this due to the nature of teaching as a very demanding high-stress job, but usually you can transform the stress into productivity. In my 15 year career I never experienced anything like that before, what I can only describe as a kind of paralysis. I simply could not do it anymore. I had to stop working and went on sick leave. The doctor prescribed me some anti-anxiety medication and told me to get as much rest and relaxation as possible. It was incredibly hard, because I was also dealing with depression and guilt for having abandoned my students. Every day I questioned whether I was really sick. I was convinced I was faking, that this was all in my head. That I just needed to pull myself together, forget about my stupid problems and get back to work. My students needed me. I realized much later that this reaction is completely normal for highly productive people (aka: workaholics).

The medication and instructions to relax were the only treatment I received. I only found out later that usually some kind of therapy is recommended in such cases. In Sweden they have a system in place whereby if an employee is injured on the job, they are referred to a company health care service. The company is responsible for rehabilitating the injured or sick employee and for fixing the problems that caused the injury or sickness in the first place. No such assistance was forthcoming from my previous employer. They had this service available, but they elected not to refer me to them, saying I should get treatment through the local health care service. I was told that this is their prerogative. In the end I was put on paid leave because they either could not or simply would not fix the conditions that led to my breakdown. I couldn’t go back to work, so they decided to pay me for the remainder of my contract.

This arrangement seemed reasonable and fair. Eventually I started feeling like myself, ready to start teaching again, but determined to be very selective in the type of school at which I wanted to work. I wanted to work at an international school, so I applied at all three of the international schools in the area. I got interviews at two of them, and was eventually hired. It was only a part-time position, which was perfect because I was in no way ready to jump back into a full-time position after my breakdown.

The school was wonderful. The students were, as a previously described, amazing young people, and my colleagues were fantastic. It was an international staff, reflecting the profile of the school. Yet, even though the work was satisfying and rewarding, after a few weeks the symptoms started creeping back. My employers were well aware of my previous breakdown. I informed them during my interview, and they were not at all surprised, knowing full well how common it is for teachers to suffer such breakdowns. They were very reassuring and supportive.

During my initial interview, they gave me a tour of the school. It was a small building but there was an atmosphere of positivity and happy looking students working on projects everywhere. However, there was something very unusual about this school and that was the location of the Home Economics classroom. This was the position I was interviewing for. There was, in fact, no Home Ec classroom at all. There were four kitchen units set up, oddly enough, in a busy hallway. I’d never seen anything like this before. The practical Home Ec lessons were taught in an area that was completely exposed. I would find out later how just how impractical it was to teach in that space.

However, at first, it was kind of exhilarating. Home Ec lessons are usually very lively, smelly, and noisy. I was used to teaching Home Ec so all the chaos didn’t really bother me. We were reminded on several occasions to try and keep the noise level down, since there were other classrooms nearby. We were also located right in front of the principal’s office, and just around the corner from the assistant principal’s office, as well as student toilets, staff toilets, and the staff lounge. This meant that colleagues were walking through the area constantly. Students weren’t supposed to go in there during practical lessons and were instructed to use different toilets when lessons were taking place. Our solution to prevent students from walking through there was to place traffic cones at the entrances to the hallway. The older students knew to keep out, but the younger ones frequently walked right past the traffic cones and right through a lesson. It was also normal for a colleague to walk through the hallway during a lesson, pushing a large cart of iPads or laptops, and forcing me and students to move out of the way. In addition, when lessons were happening, we were very entertaining. Students and colleagues alike tended to stand just outside of the hallway and watch the show.

It sounds completely crazy, and it was. However that was simply how Home Ec lessons were taught at this school. I actually enjoyed it. The exposed situation made it really exciting. At least at first. After a while, however, it made it increasingly difficult. I had no control whatsoever over that area, even though I was responsible for it. On the days when there was no Home Ec, the hallway was used by other teachers. The kitchen counters were used to place computers and books, pretty much anything. Each kitchen was equipped with a set of utensils, dishes, and cookware, and these were constantly being removed when I wasn’t there. At least once every lesson, I would have to hunt round the staff kitchen for a missing whisk or a skillet or something that was definitely there before, but which had since disappeared. No one seemed to understand or respect that that hallway was, in fact, my workspace. To them, it was just another public area.

Eventually it became unbearable. My anxiety level increased and I started having panic attacks. I couldn’t stop thinking about work. I obsessed about those kitchens, and the state they would be in the next time I had a lesson. Before each lesson I would have to spend time putting them back in order, checking that each kitchen was fully equipped, tracking down items that were missing, removing books or other items that had been left on the kitchen counters, make sure we had enough clean dishtowels and start a load of laundry if we didn’t, empty the dishwashers from the previous lesson, check to make sure we received all of our grocery delivery, and whether it had been put away, anticipate a trip to the grocery store in case anything hadn’t been delivered (a regular occurrence). It was a lot of responsibility for one person, and too much for me.

During lessons, I had to supervise up to four groups of students working in the kitchens, while attempting to minimize disruption from other students and colleagues walking through the area, as well as trying to keep the noise level down so as not to disturb other ongoing lessons. In other words, we (the students and I) had to accommodate everyone, but no one would accommodate us. I still enjoyed the practical lessons very much, but after a while, the conditions made it almost impossible to maintain a proper classroom environment. I’m usually a very effective teacher who has no problem with classroom management, but under these conditions, I had no control and ownership over the environment and this made it extremely difficult to have control and ownership over the class.

I know I’m making it sound like it was complete chaos, but it wasn’t actually that bad. The worst thing about it was the psychological toll it took on me. After this experience, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to get out of teaching, for my own sanity. It’s time for another career. What that will be, I have no idea, but after fifteen years I’m pretty sure my time as a professional teacher is over. I don’t make this decision lightly. I always promised myself that I would keep working until it was no longer “fun,” that I would quit before I turned into one of those totally burnt out and bitter teachers, who obviously hates their job but keeps on working out of spite or lack of ambition.

The kids deserve better than that and I won’t let that happen. Who knows what the future holds…

I’m All Out of Eggs

To be sung to the tune of, “I’m All Out of Love” by Air Supply. 

I’m all out of eggs,
I’m so lost without you.
There’s nothing to make.
Oh, what will I do?
I’m all out of eggs
And the bread is all moldy.
The bacon is gone,
And the corn flakes are soggy.
I’m all out of eggs,
Won’t somebody save me?
Oh, what would I do,
For some biscuits and gravy?
The oatmeal has bugs.
Can’t have any porridge.
I’m even eat that.
Though, I think it’s horrid. 
I’m all out of eggs,
And I’m so very hungry.
Oh, fuck it, let’s go,
Get an Egg McMuffin, again. 

The Statue of Bigotry

Picture it now, the colossal statue that Trump is going to erect of himself, with an arm outstretched and a palm facing east, his other arm clutching an executive order that reads:

Get back, wretched refuse,
To your teeming shore.
You are not wanted anymore.
Go back, wretched refuse,
To your lives of fear.
You are no longer welcome here.
You wanted refuge, I suppose.
But now the Golden Door is closed.
I lift no lamp to guide you to my land.
I lift only my tiny little hand.

Countless

From the crumbling, bullet-ridden houses,
Full of countless childhood pictures,
They fled.
From the smoldering cities,
Heavy with the smoke of countless fires,
They fled.
From the dust of countless broken buildings,
They fled.
Into the dust of the desert,
With countless broken people,
They fled.
Their countless dead,
And all their possessions,
Left behind.
In the fire.
In the dust.
Across the world, across the sea,
They fled,
For countless weeks,
They waited and hoped and prayed,
Their struggles, countless.
The horrors they’d witnessed, countless.
And then…
When they finally got there,
They were told,
That no one would help them.
That they were not wanted.
That they, the countless,
Did not count.

Always Forward

Time keeps moving forward,
Always forward, measuring change.
Moving energy and matter through space.
Artificially divided into intervals,
We call by different names.
Seasons and seconds.
Hours and eras.
We order our linear lives in this way.
For we too are matter and energy,
Constantly being moved forward by time.
Our form is sentient, observant,
Aware that it’s being moved.
Fearing the moment when awareness ends.
Naming that moment, death.
Matter is neither created, nor destroyed.
So we won’t be literally be gone,
When we’re dead.
We’ll no longer be in the same sentient form,
But we’ll still be here.
Our matter, our energy,
Still being pulled along,
Always forward, by time.

A Day in the Life of an Expat

I read the news today. Oh boy.

On Wednesday, November 9th, 2016, I awoke in the five o’ clock hour and just lay there in a half-asleep state, my brain still feeling the effects of the sleeping pill I had taken before going to bed. I use them only rarely now, when I know it will be impossible to shut my brain off in order to fall sleep. This was one of those nights. The day before was the 2016 presidential election back in my home country, the USA. In Sweden we are several time zones ahead, so when I finally pulled my groggy ass out of bed at six AM, it was still going on. The polls had closed but they were counting up the votes. I went to sleep the night before feeling relatively confident that Hillary Clinton would win, hopefully with a sizable landslide. Of course she would win. Everybody said she would. They had totally dismissed Donald Trump’s chances and were already talking about her presidency in the present tense. When she wins, they said, the cult of personality started by Donald Trump and its zealous adherents will still be around, and they will be very pissed off and very loud. She will have to figure out how to deal with them and heal the country. This was the constant narrative being repeated during the final weeks leading up to the election.

But then, the totally unexpected happened, was still happening as a matter of fact, as I opened up Facebook fully anticipating the messages of triumph and joy from my American friends. However, those weren’t the messages I saw. Instead, I saw a lot of updates written in full caps, about the shock and despair and horror they were feeling. Wait a minute…

Thus began the Five Stages of Grief.

Denial:

My husband made us coffee as I sat there reading those updates, not fully comprehending what I was seeing. “Uh…so it looks like Trump won,” I reported. The words hit me like a sledgehammer. My heart was pounding in my chest, like I had just finished running a marathon. At first I actually thought this had to be a joke, that my friends were mistaken. Or they were trolling. I mean, there’s no possible way that Donald Trump could be the next president of the United States. Right? That’s just ludicrous.

“Whaaaat?!?” His response was undoubtedly being repeated around the world.

I should have been getting ready for work, but at that moment all I could do was sit there, ignoring my coffee and trying to figure out what had just happened, because it hadn’t really happened.

Bargaining:

After all, they were still counting up the votes and neither candidate had reached the 270 vote threshold in order to win. He was ahead but there was still hope. There was still time. It hadn’t happened yet. Hillary could still win. And she was AHEAD in the popular vote! But Trump had taken North Carolina and Ohio and…Florida. They said that if Trump took Florida then he would win. It was well and truly over.

Depression:

I somehow managed to shower and dress myself and board a train to take me into the city to work. I sat there on the train feeling completely numb. I no longer wanted to look at Facebook. The updates and articles being posted were just too goddamned depressing. I needed to try and focus on the day ahead of me, on my students. I teach Home Economics at an international school in Växjö, Sweden, and I went over the things that needed to be done. The ninth graders would be baking little meat pies and spinach-feta pies and I had to make sure I bought Quorn crumbles for the vegetarian students so they could substitute those for the ground beef in the meat pie. The sixth graders were making candy apples and caramel popcorn, and I was wondering where I put the Popsicle sticks.

I had to switch to a bus when I got to the train station in Växjö. It was a minus four (24 Fahrenheit) freezing cold morning, as November mornings in Sweden typically are. The bus was late, and as I stood there on the totally exposed bus platform, for fifteen minutes, then twenty, and then twenty five minutes, I watched bus after bus which wasn’t my bus drive by. I thought about jumping in front of one of them. I didn’t want to live on this planet anymore. Nothing made sense. Donald Trump had won the election. He had done every single thing wrong, lost all three debates, committeed gaffe after gaffe, and got caught doing and saying things that would have been deal breakers for literally any other candidate. And yet, he won. Hate had won. Sexism had won. Racism had won. Bigotry had won. Islamophobia had won. Xenophobia had won. Anti-Intellectualism had won. Stupidity had won. The Ugly American had won.

By the time the bus finally arrived, I couldn’t feel my toes, so instead of throwing myself under it, I boarded it and felt its delicious warmth surrounding my body.

Anger:

I eventually got to work. Groceries were bought and I welcomed the distraction of lively practical lessons. Every now and then, an American colleague would ask me, “So, are you a proud American?” in a can-you-believe-this-shit-is-happening kind of way. Swedish colleagues would ask me how I felt about the election, and I would tell them that it hadn’t really sunk in yet. Right before my last lesson, there was some kind of minor drama involving two students’ lockers. They both started chattering at me in rapid Swedish and I couldn’t really understand what they were saying. At that moment, I couldn’t have cared less, and I told them so. “I don’t care.” I was fighting back tears at this point. If I get an email from a parent informing me that they didn’t appreciate me telling their kid that I didn’t care about their problem, then I would apologize and tell them that Donald Trump had just been elected president and I was barely holding it together emotionally. And they would totally understand.

There was a staff meeting directly after my last lesson, but I decided to skip it. It was almost miraculous that I managed to show up to work at all. Throughout the day, a various times I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “WHAT IS HAPPENING????” As I sat on the bus on the way home, it finally sunk in. This was reality. And the tears finally came.

Acceptance:

For some reason, my left ankle was killing me all day. I must have taken a bad step and twisted it. I limped through my lessons and when I got home, my husband took a look at it and said it was all swollen and bruised, like it was sprained. I have no idea what happened. I certainly do not remember spraining my ankle. But I must have. Nothing to do now but deal with it.