The Not So Secret Secrets to a Happy Marriage

By M. Jane Letty

700 words/3 minute read

What’s the secret to a happy marriage? The simple answer is there is no secret. It’s no secret when two people greet every joy as though expected and meet every challenge as a storm that will pass…if you let them. It’s no secret that dancing in the kitchen to the songs of first dates to the Mr. & Mrs. to the sound of little feet to creaky bones, blesses the home. It’s no secret to keeping a piece of paper, be it a certificate of marriage or legal tender, from ever coming between the two. It’s no secret how the shiny rings exchanged get scratched and worn remain a perfect circle, however misshapen it may become. It’s no secret God blesses the moments of doubt with the same weight as the days of no worries. It’s no secret that saying, “I love you.” every day adds up to cancel any debt “I’m sorry.” may have imposed. Forgive the mortal sins with the same strength you do minor slights. It’s no secret that if you blink, you won’t miss a minute but, you will look back and be amazed at how long it took, yet how quickly you arrived.

It’s no secret. Tell anyone who asks, “What’s the secret to a happy marriage?” the answer is in the question–have a “Happy Marriage”. Make every moment count in your favor, not against. Ignore the temptation to indulge in the drunkenness of misery. Be a sanctuary unto each other. Create an oasis from the outside world. Don’t complain or harass one another. Instead, appeal to one another to team up and tackle problems. Let the years behind you be the wind at your backs while reaching out toward the days ahead and hold hands. There will be storms. Weather them, together. Bask in the brilliance after, together. If a storm or flood or fire or wind knocks everything down around you, pick up only the pieces that survived. Leave the rest behind, but not each other. If it burns, you don’t need it to keep you warm. You have each other. That’s all that matters. Smile when you see the other the way you did the first time your heart said, “That’s the one!” Thank God, every day and for everything. Those laugh lines are the same as tree rings, the time it takes is evidence of growth. Don’t keep them a secret. Share how you both arrived so that others will have hope to make the journey, too.  

And, if none of these secret-no-secrets result in a happy marriage after an honest effort has been made, let go…gently and with love. It’s no secret, but it takes wisdom to learn that marriage is about becoming the best version of yourself with and for the other person. Sadly, sometimes becoming the best version of one’s self leads to discovering you bring out the worst in one another. I’m not excusing divorce, but what marriage isn’t about is being miserable together. 

It’s no secret the secret to a happy marriage is like a sculpture of two people who learned to love the other not more than they love themselves, but not loving the other…less.

*Thank you for reading! My husband and I celebrated our 27th year of marriage, yesterday. This essay was posted on my Facebook page to celebrate our 25th year of marriage, revisited. I’m sharing it because there’s a sub-narrative building that concerns me of marriage not being necessary. It’s not about being necessary. It’s about choosing to make a commitment to another person based on a spectrum of beliefs, religious or romantic. However, I find the reason some are attempting to disparage this tradition worrisome and as a form of religious persecution as a way of backdoor dehumanization. It also takes faith and work to build a happy marriage. Trophy not included. While I hope and pray those who are too young or broken or both who don’t find value in the tradition of marriage one day mature or repair, let love and faith be. These are virtues that might not be appreciated, now, but likely will be later. It takes nothing away from one way or the other to respect the differences freedom affords.

Johnny’s Appleseed

By M. Jane Letty

NJEA put out a statement May 28, 2020. My response, below their remarks.

NJEA: “Like so many Americans, we have experienced waves of emotion this week following the brutal murder of yet another African-American man, George Floyd. It is impossible to see the video of him being strangled under the knee of a police officer in broad daylight on a public street and not be disgusted, horrified, angry, sad, and determined to work even harder to oppose and overcome racial injustice in our society.

MJL: Like so many Americans, we have experienced waves of astonishment this week following the brazen hostility toward approximately 686,665 for the act of four—1, with 3 bystander—Police Officers in a state far and away from New Jersey. Yet, here we are, with a “statement” from one of the most corrupt organizations, the NJEA (New Jersey Education Association). The arrogance of this statement is stunning in its duplicity. This is nothing more than a STRIKE NEGOTIATION TACTIC, on the backs of our children…because the backs of the fine, upstanding law enforcement members of our community was just a steppingstone.

It is impossible for a reasonable parent and/or taxpayer in New Jersey to see this for what it is not to be disgusted, horrified, angry, sad, and determined to vote even harder to oppose and overcome educational extortion in our school system, after reading this assumption that their warped views are widely held. Do not be fooled, they wrote this with the same aggression and disdain they harbor against our children. It should outrage every single one of us that through this tragic circumstance we all find ourselves in with a hysterical and inflated (very bad) flu season, a roaring economy halted, shuttered opportunities, wide-spread civil unrest, all happening during an election year.

It should also come as no surprise. This is what Leftist operatives disguised as dues-paying teachers have been teaching for generations. Quietly laying Marxist-eggs that have seemingly hatched all at once, voraciously devouring American values, defacing historical, military, and religious monuments or public property, violently attacking authority figures such as police officers and senior citizens. All, literally at our expense. But, this is what teachers and their union offer. Unbelievable. Now, with this statement, they expect us to fold ourselves over a barrel so they can beat us with our own belts. This “statement” might appeal to some small population of former students of these teachers or those who are part of this scam. But, to the rest of us—the majority of us–this is the kind of statement that should be a declaration of war. This statement is threat to the very health and well-being of every child, wholly.

NJEA: “And the greatest scandal is not just how brutal and horrific that murder was, but how commonplace and unsurprising racist violence like that is in America. This nation was founded on a white supremacist ideology that used genocide and slavery to oppress indigenous people and loot their land. It was built by kidnapping and enslaving African people to work that stolen land under the most inhumane and cruel conditions imaginable. And it is not in the past. That history traces through five centuries of atrocities to today. George Floyd’s murder is despicable, but it is tragically unexceptional. That cannot be allowed to continue unchallenged.

MJL: And the greatest scandal is not just how brutal and horrific the refusal to educate our children is, but how commonplace and unsurprising radicalized the violence these teachers have revealed themselves to be across America. This nation, they would have you believe with this statement, was “founded on white supremacy” all while openly admitting they, themselves are doing exactly what they accuse through their deranged ideology that is using intellectual-genocide and knowledge-slavery to oppress indebted-through-taxation people to loot their children’s education.

The (other) greatest scandal of this statement is, NJEA is making clear to the teachers who do not comply are no longer welcome. They are being covertly dismissed from your child’s classroom so to make room for Marxist-trained teachers who will do great harm, willingly and with no conscience.

NJEA: “As educators, we bear a great responsibility for shaping society. We have the unique privilege of working with children and young people as they are forming their values and world view. We also have the great responsibility of responding with compassion, courage and conviction as they witness history in real time, as they have been this past week. And more importantly yet, we have a duty and responsibility to work for a better, fairer and more just world for our students to inherit from us.

MJL: As educators, they’ve exploited the great responsibility parents extended. That’s abuse of authority. This statement, alone, under better government, would be grounds for sanctions prior to dismissal. But, they’ve dug in pretty deep over the decades…generations. It won’t be easy to exterminate this infestation.

They actually believe they’ve got you, and by proxy your children, at their mercy. And, if you buck their system or decide to use this crisis they’ve created as an opportunity to take back your rightful place as the parent by not returning them and instead opting for private school or homeschool, they will label you as a racist. That’s right—this statement is calling you a racist if you don’t agree with them or have an opposing view by recognizing the actions of a few bad cops does not mean “ACAB” or go along with their dehumanization of police officers or…white people.

And, if you find that insulting and offensive, they will step up existing practices of torture toward any child who either resists “white guilt” injections through humiliation tactics in class, ostracization and these teachers will look the other way while your child is physically abused by those who will attack them on command. If you don’t believe me, call the NJEA or the principal at your child’s school and ask them their intentions. If they don’t answer or you feel the thud in your gut that something isn’t right about this, satisfy your curiosity of what a day at school will be for your child by turning on the news. Better yet, if you are blessed enough to know a police officer or his/her spouse, ask them what life has been like for their children since this pseudo-campaign for Joe Biden was unleashed. They’ll tell you, it’s been a nightmare. Before this, they were considered friends of the community, their children were treated like human beings. Now, through a statement like this, they’ve been dehumanized, deemed racist, shunned and betrayed.

The bully is the teacher and the union, NJEA, is condoning it with a statement like this. There’s an adage about when people tell you who they are the first time, believe them. They’ve been telling us this for decades. So have many parents who’ve been fighting this infestation…and we could sure use your help, now. We did what we had to do for our own children. We’re willing to help you fight to save your children, now. You must gather and demand of your districts to strip tenure and eliminate unions. You must fill every school board meeting and protest until they agree to do what your tax dollars were sold to you as paying for because it’s not what you think it was and this is your proof. This is also your only chance. After this, if you let it pass by, you will live to regret it.  

Their fear is palpable because they may very well lose the “required by law” exposure of children to these radical-extremist view of the society and destruction of values they claim to be honored to bend, distort the shape of YOUR CHILDREN’S MINDS.

Teachers DO NOT have a duty to “work for a better, fairer and more just world for our students to inherit from us.” Also, notice they don’t refer to YOUR CHILDREN, they use “our students” as if they are the authority…over you, the parent. But, back to their “duty”. They have a “duty” to teach your children according to a static curriculum what they need to learn to develop a knowledge of language arts, arithmetic, history (unrevised to suit an ideology/philosophy), biology, time/task management skills and physical ed. That’s it. Nothing more or beyond what you, the parent, are aware of or allow.

Instead, what this statement is portending is they are the arbiter of the way your child’s “world view” will be to serve their agenda, to drive their narrative, and they’re daring you to say otherwise.

NJEA: “NJEA has long taken that duty very seriously and we have consciously made it a core part of our mission to advocate for members, students and public schools. In recent years, we have pushed hard for the full implementation of the Amistad Curriculum in our schools so that the horror of the trans-Atlantic slave trade is never forgotten, glossed over or disregarded. We have worked to create a new program called the Amistad Journey to help educators experience some of the important historical sites related to slavery and gain a deeper appreciation for the ways that evil institution shaped and still shapes our society. And we have committed to providing anti-racist training to NJEA staff and leaders to help infuse anti-racism as a fundamental value throughout all the work our union does.

MJL: “We’ve long-suspected the NJEAs “core mission” has always been to dismantle the curriculum they’ve failed to provide by ignoring it and doing as they saw fit, unauthorized and in direct defiance of you, the parent.

Instead of extending themselves as partners in the effort toward returning things to normal as possible for you—their ultimate authority—and your children, your ultimate responsibility, they’ve decided this is the most perfect moment to STRIKE. Part of their “negotiation tactics” is to dare you to push back on the damage of a curriculum they’ve been indoctrinating without your presence at board meetings and with your consent through deception during election seasons.

According to an Education Week article, “A teacher strike—an organized refusal to work that can cause public schools to close indefinitely—can throw a school, district, or even an entire state into turmoil.”

Additionally, here’s the “curriculum” that’s caused a lot of the problems you might’ve been having with your children and many of us were able to prevent until they circumvented it or wore you down. The evidence we’re all witnessing, nightly, on television or when engaging young adults who’ve been affected, (damaged by).

https://sites.rowan.edu/sjicr/centers-programs/multicultural/Initiatives/amistad.html

http://njamistadcurriculum.net/

This “curriculum” is garbage. Absolute garbage. You have a right to request a copy of your child’s curriculum and, given this statement, you should. The above links are just a little snapshot, which might explain some of the illiteracy and confusion your children or their friends or the one’s you see rioting, doing “Rock Your Shit” (if you don’t buy in on “Black Lives Matter” Tik Tok videos exhibit. It will do nothing to give your child the opportunities that are merit-based. It’s also low-effort, which is another thing NJEA teachers favor. They don’t have to put any effort into teaching history. They can just set the timer and in twenty years, your world will look like our collective world does, today. The only difference, if you’re lucky and your child survives the devastating reality of having been duped, your children might end up epic failures like the one’s put out by the very teachers who subscribe to this statement and this indoctrination-fueled curriculum.

New Jersey ranks high on the education scale, but low on opportunity. Much of this is because Real Estate and Taxes dictate revenue. If the schools are touted as “excellent” people buy Real Estate and pay the extortion-level taxes to live where they believe their children will get a good education. That racket has been going on since the 70s. Now, the priority is to give free education, (primary and higher) healthcare, housing, etc., to minorities and illegal aliens in an effort to establish their agenda, remain in power, and “level” the field…while mowing down YOUR CHILD’s intellectual and educational rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Since they didn’t teach your children, and you’re going to have to accept you might not have been paying attention in this “class war”, instead of owning up to their failure they would rather lower the standards and pull your children down so other’s don’t feel they must compete or perform better.

Personal experience, to prove to you I am speaking from the perspective of a parent who recognized this for what it was early in its inception. As a young mother, I noticed my child’s 2nd grade reading book was “color-coded”, not grade-level, and it appeared very low level knowing my child’s reading ability. I requested a meeting after the teacher refused to answer my written inquiry of what grade-level was “red”. She resisted answering in the meeting until I said that if I didn’t get an answer I would take it up with the school board at the next meeting and air other concerns, not only my own, but would bring other parents…and the media. Also, that if brought to it, I would make it a hobby to write articles. Lots and lots of articles about all things wrong with this “great school district”. Yes, there is so much more behind this, but that’s for a future essay and not on topic. I just wanted you to know how long they’ve been at this game.)

The answer came up like a barbed-wire hairball. Red was the lowest reading level for the class and was being used so not to make those who struggled, feel bad. I was furious. Furious enough to take it to the school board and demand a review of this policy. I also had my child independently evaluated for the correct level and demanded it be provided. It was, but they managed to throw the weight of authority over me by threatening social services intervention or “special ed”. I opted the path of least resistance until I could secure a better footing, was like a hawk with my child in the system until removal and intermittently homeschooled when they tripped the wire of the perimeter I’d set for them. (I also removed my children when the health courses started toward normalizing deviance. As you can see, they won that battle, but not with my children. It was my child’s choice to remain in school, the state has broad powers and I did not want to see my child fall victim for my stubbornness to conform. All worked out, very well, but it was a dog-fight the entire way.)

NJEA: “But we know that much, much more is needed. This week, NJEA will be announcing creation of a member-centered initiative explicitly devoted to doing anti-racist work in our classrooms, our communities and our union. All members wishing to engage in that work will be welcomed and encouraged to join. It is not enough to express our disgust and point to our past efforts.  We must take assertive action to identify, acknowledge and break down oppressive racist systems that harm our members, stifle our students and corrode our communities.

MJL: This is Marxism disguised as public education. Marxism can easily be summed up, as follows: “—it matters less if you are right than if you are first to cross-pollinate.” Karl Marx confirms this deduction in this way: “Just as it is not religion which creates man, but man who creates religion, so it is not the constitution which creates the people, but the people which creates the constitution.” Marx’s ideology was so broad stroking for such a limited division of just two classes, but culturally, for the time and in a timeless sense, has become both the alpha and the omega for those who wish to define and confine the masses. Nearly every culture relies upon a “tier” system measured by a “have vs. have not” yardstick. If Marxism is to be considered “the god that failed”, it does what any venture does—it runs up its debts, files bankruptcy, dumps it devotees, reinvents itself under a new name for a tired cause, and riles up a new base, trying to push an agenda that might feel good, at first, but makes no sense and epically fails in the end. Lather, rinse, repeat.  

Karl Marx was a hustler.

NJEA: “We must let our decisive, unapologetic action speak more loudly than any statement can.

MJL: You’re in for a “family dog in a dog-fight with rabid Marxist-trained pit bulls” battle. I don’t envy you and pray you’re up to it. You will have to get “up to it”—and fast. These teachers and their unions are out for blood and they’re using this “virus” to their advantage. It won’t be easy, but your children will thank you for fighting for them against this raid on their education and, possibly their survival. Not every child will survive this assault. Many will find it unbearable. If law enforcement morale is low, just imagine a child being deemed a racist K-12 or so twisted by this diabolical plan they decide they can’t tolerate another day.

The NJEA and the teachers joining this scam are using this mult-faceted crisis in our state and nation to have a strike for more money, easier workload, better-than-yours benefits, but above all—to drive a narrative and push an agenda. One they’ve been loyal to for decades. They’re demanding more money, installing BLM’s agenda, and a defunding of the police. What does that have to do with the education of your children? As to the money, they didn’t have to hope for unemployment to get you through the lockdown. Taxpayers paid their tenure-secured, union-sanctioned jobs. They’re getting paid while they do this ‘strike’ at our expense. But, this statement of theirs is a grotesque union tactic to enter negotiation talks. Nothing less or more. You and your children mean nothing to them with a statement like this. And, you’re racist scum if you disagree. You MUST fight them back, put them in their place, now, or perish.

Not every teacher is as I’ve described above. Sadly, the position NJEA has taken is to generalize by assuming their view is shared and they’ve generalized. So, my response was a mirror for impact. There are many who do care and do teach, and they are to be praised and recognized. We were fortunate to be able to count on one hand those who are/were the exception, not the rule. Sadly, they are also falling victim to “cancel culture” and the Marxist agenda. Reach out to them and let them know you appreciate them, support them. This response is not in any way directed toward them. It is directed at the enemy of your children and the future they seek to destroy for us all…unapologetically.

Resource(s):

NJEA’s statement

Marxism disguised as public educationHow to comply with NJ homeschool laws

American DREAMcatcher

By M. Jane Letty

“What is more disorienting to one’s security than a crisis? What crisis could they roll out that would get them to agree to endure hardships while also keeping them at bay to buy enough time to insulate themselves from the masses?”

~M. Jane Letty, Essayist

We’ve been here before with former Vice President and third-time presidential candidate, Joe Biden. But, just as with anything else the Democrats do, especially this Democrat, the “O’Biden Bama Democrat”,  they’re glossing over their culpability and turning the DC Swamp into a sheet of glass just in time for election season. All politicians are equal. Some politicians are more equal than others. The April 2020 Atlantic article, in its true nature, romanticizes Biden’s return to save the country from economic ruins by speed-rating him for the low-info voter: “He oversaw the 2009 economic recovery for Barack Obama. If he wins the presidency, his first task will be to perform an encore on an even more daunting scale.”

Wait. Was there an economic recovery in 2009? If so, the middle-class missed it while they were still reeling from the last “encore” by the same name, but from the senate. The only “Encore” the middle-class was still depending upon from 2000 through 2009 was (still) struggling over how to evenly divide the frozen Salisbury steaks to feed their families while splitting pills and beating back the wolves at the door. But, no worries. Obamacare and foreclosure would be the “hope and change” that would ruin their appetite, weaken their resolve so they couldn’t fight back in 2016. That’s why they’ve yet to recover from the 2016 election of President Donald J. Trump. For all their treachery and smugness, they grossly underestimated the silent majority, then and since. Fortunately and unfortunately, history repeats itself. 

In January of that year, the month Obama took office, the country lost some 800,000 jobs, as unemployment edged toward 8 percent. That capped the worst three months of jobs numbers since defense factories ceased operating at the end of World War II. The stimulus that Obama proposed was a mix of tax cuts, tax credits for business, aid to state and local governments, an expansion of food stamps, and a raft of infrastructure programs.  (from “What Biden Learned the Last Time the World Stopped”The Atlantic)

Written as a Sociology assignment shortly after the 2016 presidential election, enlightenment and developments I could not cover inside the confines of my course, compelled me to revisit when I read the aforementioned article.   

I encourage reading “The Global Economy and the Priviledged Class” by Robert Perrucci and Earl Wysong. It’s a long, but important piece to read not only because my summary argument (below) pairs with it, both in context and annotations, but because the paper sheds light on a great deal of misinformation and lack of an appreciation for the middle-class. I chose to publish this paper for those curious enough to seek a better understanding of what happened to the middle-class and why restoring this class is so critical to the survival of our American culture beyond just the economy. The plight of the middle-class is something the mainstream media, privileged and political class, globalist elite, and their “pets” or offspring do not want exposed. They are, however, all in for continuing to exploit in pursuit of celebrity status, political power, and world dominance—specifically, cripple America so it can crawl on its knees like every other country. Regardless of political leaning, we should all care about what these entities are attempting to do, again. Why? Because the middle-class is the majority, no matter what the headlines or broadcasts say. 

Exploitation of future generations by the political class and global elites of the late 90s and early 2000s has paid off for them in one sense, while in another, coming back to haunt them. And, after the spectacle they’ve made of themselves of late, the entire country is experiencing what the middle-class endured twenty years ago when these same DC Swamp Creatures and assorted government officials gutted them…twice before. Many were just babies, literally, those who are erecting mini-Clown Worlds, burning and looting businesses, hating “Whitey” and frothing at the CHOPs to Defund the Police while trashing law enforcement while not realizing the “joke” is on them. How so? The politicians that incited this generation to destroy its future economic security won’t be around to be held accountable by the time they realize what they’ve done. At least those of us who’ve endured the global initiative, the Obamanation, and the loser party of 2016’s pitch-fit are alive and well to call them out for it. We won’t have to go in search of “Who made this big mess?” or discover we had a great economy and destroyed it because some NWO demagogue sounded the shepherd’s horn of rapid sheep with a belly full of BB’s. Twenty year’s from now, they might realize they were used by the likes of Biden, Sanders, Pelosi, Obama, Schumer, Clinton, etc., to vicariously act out what they started in the 70s and the same politicians will be dead and gone and won’t have to pay for the meal the same way Alinsky never did.  They’re even doing to the police, today, what they did to the Vietnam Vets when they returned home. 


Globalization, for all its promised benefits, was a calculated risk at the expense of the working class. The globalist elite and the privileged class knew it wouldn’t be an easy sell to the America people. So, they did what ghouls do—they raided every source of security until it gutted them, leaving behind only the ruins, cadavers of a once thriving lifeblood of the economy. They are vultures in every sense and moved on from one roadkill to the next. There is no distinction of Party. Both parties took part in the gutting of the middle class and sold out America to the globalist initiative. Not all, but frighteningly too many. 

There seems to be a disconnect and lack of empathy for those who had their hard-earned socio-economic security covertly outsourced, only to be met with an astonishment that when presented with the opportunity to restore our economy and reverse economic policies designed to favor globalism, erased is—once again—being demonized for fighting back. Now we see those who gutted the middle-class are regretting it and, trotting the globe to lament anywhere and everywhere except where they destroyed. To Nobel prize-winning global economist, Paul Krugman’s credit, at least he didn’t soil where he eats for his mea culpa. Krugman Admits He and Mainstream Economists Got Globalization Wrong, by Tom Ozimek

So, here we are…again. With the same cast of vultures in character, except for President Donald J. Trump. No one could imagine what’s happening right now, except those who designed it. But, that’s a future essay already in draft and isn’t nearly as polite as this one. I’m offering the following paper to highlight how far we’d come from where we were when we were taken down by the same marauders. We rose from the ashes, once, then twice. We’ll rise from these ashes again, too. If there’s anything about the way a loser resigns itself to the loss, it’s how they go out–burning every bridge in their wake. And, now that they’ve been exposed for what they are we will never again give them the benefit of doubt. 

Here’s the paper as it was submitted to a Somali-refugee-turned-Marxist-professor. I was the only Conservative and GenXer in a cohort of late-Millennials, the Progressive type. More than once, a paper I wrote was pulled. Once, I was told my papers and writing style was considered politically aggressive. We both know the only reason she shaved two-points from my 4.0 GPA was because she could. When she thanked me for expressing a consistent ideology throughout the course, I told her to keep the change. 

*The last paragraph came full circle twice in one week with economist Paul Krugman’s resurfacing offering a new-old doomsday prediction and SCOTUS punting on DACA. It’ll also show just how long Democrats  and Republicans have been using that issue as a legislative bargaining chip and how relieved they were when SCOTUS whiffed. The old playbook, it appears, has been dusted off, repurposed, and passed along as some sort of torch to an indoctrinated, radicalized, frothed up version of Flying Monkeys. It’s also what inspired me to release this paper once and for all. If not now, when? 


The Global Economy and the Privileged Class

Sociology Assignment/January 2017

The visual sense of this weighty argument for how The Global Economy and the Privileged Class gutted the middle class, (emphasis, mine) which I dispassionately watched the movie, Capitalism: A Love Story by Michael Moore was course required viewing. It’s the only reason I endured it for a second time. Once was enough when it came out in theaters, ironically in 2009. Clearly, I don’t share Moore’s view of America or the one that’s being presented is a distortion. His obsession to inject a bastardized Marxist haves vs. have nots existence I find repulsive and antithetical to the America that those like him love to hate and hate to love, which would’ve been covered had we not intentionally skipped the chapter on politics and the economy. Instead, we’re covering this in a chapter on global stratification. But, I digress.

Growing up in the 70s and 80s, I vaguely recall the fear and insecurity of the time. As a young child, I do remember being frightened by shadows on the wall and the relief of learning it was just my imagination. There was a security in being able to push back on the trick my mind was playing with a reality that all was well. After reading this article, I could imagine the working class seeing similar shadows as the workforce began to thin out, the media spin—although much less sophisticated back then—was touting the great benefit of going global would be for America. Without a face or name, fear and insecurity were the monsters the working class were led to believe were just shadows on the walls. Looking back, the shadows were pretty scary.  Like good citizens, they went back to sleep, believing the American Dream was safe and secure so long as they didn’t question their government, paid their taxes, obeyed the rule of law, and focused on the bright future a post-WWII afforded them. Every day they woke up and went to work, giving 110%, never realizing for all their faith and loyalty they were becoming disposable. The working class could not have known what the corporate class knew, and the emerging privileged class knew it—Economics. While the working class toiled away in manufacturing, corporate leaders grew increasing resentful of how much loyalty and dedication cost. Another growing resentment of the globalist elite was the (once) protective shield unions provided the working class. Post-war strength and economic stability seemed to embolden the working class, so that wouldn’t be effective. What is more disorienting to one’s security than a crisis? What crisis could they roll out that would get them to agree to endure hardships while also keeping them at bay to buy enough time to insulate themselves from the masses? 

The 70s and 80s were primed for a crisis because most people felt reassured and comfortable they could depend on the companies they had devoted time and energy into and from their efforts, established themselves safe from poverty through savings, mortgages, pensions. Without warning, they would find themselves “dumped from the middle-class” by the tens of thousands (1) by what can also be described as “hothouse reapers” or, more commonly known as Human Resources (2). At one time, unions worked to protect the worker from unfair and unsafe working conditions. But, not long after the clandestine restructuring of the classes from a three-class system to a two-tier system, the unions also abandoned the very people they pledged loyalty. Another blow to the working class. As far as the privileged class was concerned, “Lifetime employment was out and lifetime employability was the goal”. (3) The privileged class needed to somehow get out of paying for the future they promised and the middle class earned—the middle class was aging and healthcare costs were on the rise, the pensions were impressive on paper, but not worth the pulp-emulsion they were printed on, and the appeal of “going global” was better than having a displaced worker “going postal”. 

With no safety net and unable to confront the corporate sector, the working class was broken and desperate to believe anything—especially that their employers, fellow Americans, fellow human being, couldn’t possibly be the cause of the destruction of the “American Dream”. But, they were…and they did. True to a shape-shifter’s form, they deceived the working class by convincing them that a global economy would somehow restore them and tricked them into believing what’s good for the company—globally—would be good for them…and the world. A global economy sounded like what the privileged class hoped it would—sharing prosperity, goods in/goods out. To the working class, all of those things sounded like work and work sounded like relief from the shock of the hardship of being D-listed—displacement. 

It was a Pet Rock

After demonizing the working class by holding them responsible for economic loss by being “selfish” to want to hold on to the American Dream, the privileged class had another Trojan Horse—they would leave the working class to pay the taxes they, themselves, no longer had to pay since they outsourced to countries that would produce the same products for less wages and inferior quality. Not only did the privileged class secure themselves and increase profits by abandoning the working class, leaving them with the tax burden for goods, they also took rebates and subsidies. (15, 16) This was adding insult to injury as the working class continued to suffer displacement. It almost seemed as if the privileged class felt entitled to do this after having to pay the majority of taxes prior to the concept of a global economy. 

To quote from Moore’s movie, “Evil can’t be regulated.” struck a cord. But even to my tin ear, I believe Karma can be exacted. And, it will. It’s now just a matter of time…the kind that ticks and ticks and ticks. Despite positive sanctions through praise at eliminating waste, those who leveled the working class, with a stunning surgical precision, “the waste management” would find themselves at the mercy of the merciless—the protected privileged class. Even the white collar human resources and administrative personnel who participated in the firing of hundreds of thousands of workers were disposable to the privileged class. They would find themselves on the receiving end of what they were doling out. (24) It’s difficult to imagine which was worse—having the rug pulled out from under yourself or having the rug you were pulling out from others pulled out from under yourself. But, what the working class didn’t understand, the terminators comprehended. It was a very dangerous gamble on the part of the protected privileged class, but they rolled the dice anyway.

Eventually, the workers who wrote the pink slips were being issued one. Unbelievably, some were called upon to replace positions they had been discharged from, but as agency. Agency was corporate’s remedy for staffing US plants and offices with labor they had no obligation to invest in. This sub-class of the working class would cause a rift in an already hurting work force and further the ideology domination of corporate elitists to desensitize the worker. To discourage the working class from seeking redress through unionizing, corporate kept the number of core workers below union qualifying numbers, so they created a “foster-worker” through temporary agency workers and just for good measure, to drive home the message that nothing is a given, no matter how hard you work or how skilled you are, the contingent worker was an option if you didn’t fit their need or bucked their internal system. The core worker enjoyed what the working class once was told they could depend upon—fair wages, work/life balance, benefits. Some with a pension, but mostly not. The temporary/agency worker was a second-class worker, hired to take on tasks the core either disliked or disconnected themselves from, while the contingent worker was truly disposable. While the contingent worker was replaced by the independent contractor, it is still the least desirable of the working classes unless you had an entrepreneurial spirit. Make no mistake, they’ll come to crush that as well. Vultures leave no meat on the bones. 

The war on class had yet to be won, but the battle “waged” on; as far as the privileged class was concerned, the white-collar handlers and “terminators” had done their job…and served their purpose. Now that they secured their financial interests and positions for their offspring or network operatives, the focus turned to power. In their minds, what good is all that financial security without absolute power? They also needed that power to prevent regulatory disruption, media humiliation or exposure through the courts. So, on the backs of the working class, the corporate elite and the protected privileged class invested in their future security; they gobbled up media networks to control the narrative, paid lobbyists to integrate their agenda; backed political parties that would seat judges who would rule in their favor. Although far less glamourous than being labeled a ‘gang’, the only thing that separates them is instead of initiating members, they indoctrinate. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know is no longer a euphemism for success—it’s a canon of ethics for the unscrupulous. 

The single most frightening paragraph in this paper for me was the last one. The fear that the corporate and political elite have morphed and no longer hold an allegiance to their fellow American is not a shadow of a tree on the wall. It’s the monster. But, if you listen very carefully and not give away your position, you can hear in the distance, the American Dream revving up and the army of a class revival. At some point, what the elite feared the most will happen. They will fall from grace, run out of money, and the power of the people will take back the rest through hard work and at the polls. The movement might have started out global, but its roots are in our backyards. (36)

Business leaders in the 1970s and 1980s justified the massive plant closings and flight to developing countries by first crippling the American working class, then had the audacity to claim doing so was a natural progression. “The progress of an economy such as America’s from the agricultural to manufacturing to services is a natural change. The move from an industrial society toward a postindustrial service economy has been one of the greatest changes to affect the developed world since the Industrial Revolution.”(4)

Corporate downsizing created a protected privileged class and an insecure working class. It also carved out a labor sector that would work on the cheap-cheap, not complain for fear of deportation, and they could exploit their idea of the American Dream. Simultaneously, exchange mobility took place while corporate downsizing was occurring and the security blanket of the middle-class American was being ripped off by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Orin Hatch (R-Utah) in the passing of the DREAM Act. As many displaced American workers (800,000) were losing their dream while as many (800,000) undocumented workers were realizing theirs. 

Just as I started this revisited essay with “We’ve been here before…”, I also close. 

###

Thank you for reading. Your feedback, (below citations) is important and welcome. 


Citations for revisit of assignment:

A. Robert Perrucci and Earl Wysong , “The Global Economy and the Priviledged Class”; www.benjaminjameswaddell.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Perryccu_Global_Economy.pdf

B. Ozimek, Tom. “Krugman Admits He and Mainstream Economists Got Globalization Wrong,” October 27, 2019. https://www.theepochtimes.com/krugman-admits-he-and-mainstream-economists-got-globalization-wrong_3128925.html?fbclid=IwAR0LtR5DLtnHSGp6qJLgrkyEX4KJ2uSncagoSZXEyd08z-R0GS9n6-A6XCY.

Citations for Sociology Assignment: 

1. Office of Technology Assessment, Technology and Structural Unemployment Washington, D.C.: Congress of the United States, 1986; Thomas S. Moore, The Disposable Work Force New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1996.

2. Joel Bleifuss, “The Terminators,” In These Times, March 4, 1996, 12–13.

3. Sheryl Wu Dunn, “When Lifetime Jobs Die Prematurely: Downsizing Comes to Japan, Fraying Old Workplace Ties,” New York Times, June 12, 1996. 4. John Miller and Ramon Castellblanch, “Does Manufacturing Matter?” Dollars and Sense, October 1988

4. John Miller and Ramon Castellblanch, “Does Manufacturing Matter?” Dollars and Sense, October 1988.

15. Richard J. Barnet and John Cavanagh, Global Dreams: Imperial Corporations and the New World Order New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.

16. Robert S. McIntyre, “Testimony on Corporate Welfare,” U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Budget, June 30, 1999. On the Internet at http://www. ctj.org/html/corpwelf.htm visited June 25, 2001.

24. Ann Monroe, “Getting Rid of the Gray,” Mother Jones, July-August 1996, 29

THE YEAR OF THE RAT: MADE IN THE USA

An opinion essay, wrapped in a fable, based on actual events.

By M. Jane Letty 

It was the Year of the Snake when I was living in The Netherlands. One morning, while listening to the raindrops ticking at the window mitigate, I decided to get dressed and catch a train to Rotterdam for the day. After a long walk along the worn cobble-lined streets, in and out of bookstores, art galleries, floral shops along the canal, I’d wandered a little farther than I realized. It’s true, the road less travelled leads to enlightenment. 

Sometimes, as in this case, it would take twenty years to arrive. 

The aromas of (still) the best coffee I’ve ever had and one of my favorite dishes, Thai Peanut Chicken, with its perfectly balanced nutty sweet and pungent heat lured me into a sidewalk coffeehouse. Arriving at the same time, was the handsome part of a metro-beautiful couple who opened the door for me. “Dank je wel.” I said, smiling as I floated in. Dining alone had become a newfound pleasure of mine where I could read or write, or people watch in peace and no pressure for engaging conversation. Listening, too, is an art. Any one of them, a perfect blind date for a lost soul in search of itself.

Nonetheless, a delightful conversation ensued with the same couple now seated next to me. Since I spoke little Dutch, they were kind enough to help me place my order. We laughed about how my being misguided by the scent of Thai Peanut Chicken gave me away after a perfectly delivered “thank you” at the door, but correct about the coffee.  After enjoying a token compliment over tiny cups of coffee, they extended an impromptu invitation to be a third wheel for the 2001 Chinese New Year celebration nearby. I was a stranger in a strange land, flying solo, and graciously accepted. 

The sound of the merriments travelled the blocks away we were from before we turned the corner. Once there, the diverse mix of locals and other tourists enveloped us, amid a rippling sea of gilt-vector sinography on red silk draping the pristine and brightly lit storefronts flanked by Spring couplets invoking prosperity; beating drums of hide and metal, keeping time with the bamboo flutes delicately landing along notes on looping scales of nine and twelve like a game of hopscotch; glowing red paper lanterns with tassels dangled along the Paifang

Although this Chinatown’s version was remarkable, it wasn’t too different from those I’d attended in Philadelphia. I was so sure it would be. Still, I was not disappointed. Or, maybe everything was different and a little better after a cup of Rotterdam’s coffee

Nostalgia dictates a recalling of a strangely thick combination of the aerosolized scents of fabric starch released by the elaborately costumed dancing lions, whiffs of freshly cut flowers showing off their pops of color in ornate porcelain vases, plumes of spent gunpower from firecrackers liberated from their muted-red casings scattered along the sidewalks, authentic Chinese foods—the Thai Peanut Chicken—and the transmittable excitement. The familiarity of the unintentionally impolite shove and bumpery of people in a hurry to get somewhere or nowhere was much like NYC at any hour. Stopping for a moment, the bustle swallowed me whole. I was admiring the artfully painted paper dragons bouncing on sticks held by leaders to follow them. That’s where I’d lost sight of my hosts-by-acquaintance. Fortunately, the crush carried me to the front-row of the roped-off section for the main attraction. I was enchanted by the costume’s elaborate detail and flickering mechanisms pairing with the choreography. Two men underneath were stomping about like playful lions, eagerly anticipating the customary offering of a shredded cabbage placed in its mouth by the proprietor. 

That’s when I saw it. 

Had I blinked, I might’ve missed seeing the sleight of hand mechanism behind decades of corruption, respectively, Chinese New Year and US nursing homes have in common—perfected.

Did you see it, too? 

If not, that’s okay. You will…I promise

What these two completely unrelated cultures have in common, that would overlap, I would later learn no matter where I worked as a nurse. I’m retired, now. However, I was a writer while living abroad and before I became a nurse. The two professions share a similar appreciation of subtle details. Nurses constantly assess their patients for signs to get ahead of potential complications. Same is true for us writers with the walk-abouts, looking for out of sequence events, crouching tigers, saving them for later as story-seeds. 

It is now the Year of the Rat. Twenty years later. I’d returned to New Jersey shortly after what I saw during my time abroad. It haunted me, what I saw, but I didn’t know why until a few year’s later…and for a few year’s after. To offset the contempt I had for the process and the dis-ease it caused, I mocked it for being suspicious enough to be wrong, but standard practice enough to fly under the radar. 

Then, it all came together and all at once. 

One morning, while listening to the drip…drip…drip of Governor Andrew Cuomo, (D-NY) torture anyone interested in pertinent updates on how New York’s Democrat leadership was mangling their response to the second worst event to happen to them since 9/11—enlightenment arrived. 

It was a not-so-cheap(shot), Made in China virus-import that had infected the entire world. Elected officials had allowed NY to get hit exceptionally hard. It’s sad to see, really. Their leadership did the people of NY no favors when it mattered most. Made all the worse by their ignorance and arrogance, further complicated by their hatred of all-things President Trump—at the expense of their own constituents and beyond. (Even my own governor, Phil Murphy, whom I am not a fan of, would later temporarily set aside politics in the interest of my fellow New Jerseyans, asking only for pandemic-related funding assistance, not legacy budget woes. All other things Governor Murphy I ideologically reject, but especially his failure to protect NJ’s senior citizens and Veterans targeted, and once again forgotten, from the ravaging effects of COVID-19.) 


“The order was horrifying, but not unusual. A number of blue states, including New York and California, had issued similar orders. But New Jersey had nearly half its deaths occur in nursing homes. Horrifying scenes, such as 18 bodies stacked in one nursing home facility waiting for pickup or the 53 veterans who died at the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home in Paramus, would soon fill the news.

As of now, 16,000 deaths have happened in nursing homes nationwide. That’s 1 in 4.”   ~ Daniel Greenfield, for Frontpage Mag 


I’ve worked as a nurse, (full-time and agency) in many for-profit long-term care facilities, exclusively nightshift. It’s the shift you worked if you wanted to avoid workplace politics, which I did. But a selective ignorance about government politics is costly when the issues that matter most fail to perform. There’s a punishing price to pay. This time, for their contributions to society, our senior citizen population would pay twice as much, twice as hard, with their very livesfor the wide-spread ignorance of many and the rapacious arrogance of a powerful few. 

The Baby Boomer and Silent Generation, hospitalized or warehoused in many of Cuomo’s state-regulated nursing homes, were cruelly designated of no significance or consequence, politically, to him in four damning words: “…it’s not our job.” 

Yet, was it New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s job to announce a protective order for people over 70 honoring his own mother, Matilda Cuomo, to officially remind all citizens to think of their mothers to abide by the restrictions? 

Maybe if that job is being a ghoul. To justify his sadistic braggadocio, he deflected those facilities are for-profit as if to say New York doesn’t profit from nursing homes. It does profit through property and payroll taxes, and, one other way. It’s not exactly profit, but the state does benefit…bigly.

Cuomo also seems pretty stoked about the possibility of Robert “F-Trump” Di Nero in an upcoming movie about his role during the pandemic. An aside to the absurdity, while people are sick and/or dying, lives and livelihoods are in jeopardy, children are bewildered, economy is brittle, our social norms are fractured, yet those who’ve failed us the most are glib about how to exploit our pain by making a movie about it. 

But, I digress.  

As a coping mechanism, many seniors may seek the sanctuary of long-term memories as a way of dealing with the stress being imposed on them. The psychological impact on our senior citizens, the most affected generation of this pandemic, is of significant burden to them for a multitude of reasons. Among them, invoking stories about what happened to their own parent’s and grandparent’s, and anxiety over how the stories of what happened to them will be told to, and affect, their grandchildren


“ In WWI, Germany released 5,730 cylinders of chlorine gas across a four-mile stretch of no-man’s-land into the Allied lines during the Second Battle of Ypres in April, 1915. Thus the birth of chemical warfare. Britain replied in kind, releasing cylinders of chlorine gas during the Battle of Loos the following summer, and  Germany upped the horror in July, 1917, delivering artillery shells filled with dichlor-ethyl-sulphide or “mustard gas” just prior to the Third Battle of Ypres.

Chlorine gas attacked the airways. Severe respiratory swelling and inflammation killed many instantly and the rest struggled to nearby casualty clearing stations with acute congestion of the lungs, pneumonia, and blindness. Soldiers who had inhaled the most gas arrived with heavy discharge of a frothy yellow fluid from their noses and mouths as they drowned in their own secretions. For the rest, partial suffocation persisted for days, and long-term survivors had permanent lung damage, chronic bronchitis, and occasionally heart failure. Mustard gas burned the skin and respiratory tract, stripping the mucous membrane off the bronchial tubes and causing violent inflammation of the eyes.  Victims were left in excruciating pain and utterly helpless.” Paul E. Stepansky, Ph.D.


“Vietnam was and always will be their war, just as World War II belonged to their parents, and World War I to their grandparents. The war stories of older generations—stories about mustard gas, Guadalcanal, or the liberation of little French towns—have little meaning for those who came of age during Vietnam.”

~ Lawrence M. Baskir and William A. Strauss/The Walking Wounded (1978)


We can only hope this catastrophic, completely avoidable outcome, is an epiphany for those who failed our senior citizens to do the right thing and resign their positions in shame. Nonetheless, neither the nursing home administrator’s or elected official’s past failings of how they dismissed and neglected decades of poor quality and inadequate staffing before this health crisis—or Cuomo’s ghoulish delight of a starring role in a story that isn’t his to tell—is not what this essay is about.

It’s about something else. 

Something worse if you can imagine…

Let’s get after it, shall we? 

Once a year, without fail, two things happen at every for-profit nursing home: Corporate visit and State Survey. Both events are red carpet-style spectacles. Corporate gives advance notice, while the State Survey gives none. Occasionally, a neighboring facility hits the silent alarm and faxes over a hit list of violations the state is targeting. Otherwise, it’s a spot inspection. Or, as I’m about to reveal, a mafia-style shakedown. No one does mafia-style shakedown’s like NYC. 

No one.

Except, maybe…China.  

Do you see it, now? 

We’re getting closer.

The last time I was on-duty during a State Survey at a nursing home was not long after Obamacare was imposed. Disgusted and burned out, I moved on to correctional nursing, where I learned the spirit-crushing reality that prisoners have a right to demand better healthcare than our far more-deserving elderly under the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution. 

I expect some may wince at that remark. To clarify, I’m not saying prisoners deserve less care; only that they have a constitutional right to demand better care—and they get it on demand or they call their public defense attorney and sue the medical provider and the jail or prison. I know this, having won a CEPA whistleblower settlement based on 8A violations with respect to wide-spread CMS fraud committed by government contractors, institutions, and public defenders—also at taxpayer expense. 

Unlike senior citizens in nursing homes who get what they get and if they don’t like it, they don’t have a constitutional right they can assert or a lawyer who’s paid by the taxpayer to sue the facility—and most facilities have a disclaimer requiring arbitration hearings that take longer to be heard than some patients have to live.


Prisoners have a right under the Eighth Amendment to receive adequate health care during their incarceration. The prison population, however, possesses significantly poorer health than the general population. Because disease does not discriminate, the effects of prisoners’ poor health extend beyond prison walls. ~ Prison Fellowship


Many nursing home and hospice residents are elderly, frail or have cognitive difficulties. Often, they fit all three categories. Buried in Genesis Healthcare nursing home and hospice contracts was a clause that says patients cannot sue if they are injured or killed by poor care. Instead, any claims must be submitted to arbitration with no jury and with strict secrecy provisions.” (Elite Lawyer Management, 09/03/2017)


For either occasion, Administrator’s summon the stage-setters: over-night janitors are called in to polish the previously dull floors beyond the reception lobby, housekeeping to wash windows and buff chrome fixtures, maintenance workers to make long-requested repairs, landscapers to trim the dead away from shrubs and plant pops of aesthetic color, and for a few weeks, the facility looks every bit as nice as the lobby—as it should, but it doesn’t. A florist delivers a welcoming bouquet of fresh flowers, in a pretty-but-plastic vase of course, for the reception desk and sprays of floral arrangements grace the nurses stations. The activities department places silk flower centerpieces atop clean, crisp linens draping the tables in the main dining room, and everything looks and smells and feels like a place one might find those precious waning years, golden

To be fair, not every nursing home is as morose as the one I’m describing. There are some that do their best to provide care and work very hard, even some that look less like corporate atriums and more like…home. But, it should disturb us all to know far too few homes for our senior citizens are authentically well-kept, well-run, fully staffed, and don’t need a corporate visit or state survey for a reason to dress to impress. 

For-profit nursing homes are exactly that, for profit. The established problem is the CMS funding they get isn’t always applied where it’s intended or needed most—patient care through investing more on adequate and quality staffing and less on upper management salaries and a fancy reception lobby. 

After the nursing home has been spruced up and the facility that warned us State Survey Teams wrapped up, it’s our turn on the rack: They usually arrive at 5 a.m. To access most facilities at that hour requires a Supervisor to unlock the door for the State’s dispatched survey team to cross the threshold and enter. While they wait under the archway, the delicious aromas of sausage or bacon and real eggs or pancakes, and coffee—the good kind—surrounds them. The team leader tapes to each side of the glass double doors a sign, at eye-level, on hot-pink paper to notify visitors the annual state survey was in progress. 

Most of these survey’s last about a week and conclude with must less fanfare. A meeting is then called by management to review with staff what violations the facility can expect to be cited and what they expected us to do to correct them. Some staff get written up, other’s a verbal reprimand. The shift supervisors hold in-services, specific to the citations, everyone was mandated to participate. Usually, it’s just to sign a paper that would be used to prove to the State we were educated. After a few years, I started to realize the citations had a reoccurring theme, which I later learned, were the same violations as the year before…and year’s before. Like ordering the same thing every visit from a local Chinese take-out menu. 


I, however, was on the inside: viewing from a perspective many inspectors do not get to see. When nursing homes are surprised with an inspection, somehow understaffing is no longer an issue. On these occasions, the administration calls in all PRN nurses and many off duty nurses in order to possess a full staff. For these few short days, the issues associated with understaffing are resolved, but the rest of the year these issues continue just as strongly as ever. Even if these issues are discovered, state inspectors usually just warrant a fine to the nursing home. 

Many nurses become discouraged because “not only are these nurses faced with the dissatisfaction of not being able to properly care for the residents, they also must bear the heavy burden of knowing that they may be held personally liable when they walk into work and realize that they are one of too few employees working their shift” (Miranda, 2005). In a working environment like this one, sufficient workers are a must, but the facilities are unable to provide for their employees, which ultimately harms the residents

~ By Maura Fisher for Artifacts/ A Journal of Undergraduate Writing


My co-nurse arrived shortly after me for that shift. She misread the unusual preening of our normally dismal unit, now pristine and brightly lit, amid a sea of floral scrub tops worn by the added, (agency) staff on the assignment sheet.  

“Is Corporate coming?”, she asked as she set down her coffee and bookbag behind the nurses’ station.  

Mockingly, I announced, waving a little piece of paper, “Nope. It’s Chinese New Year!” I returned to checking my medcart, per the Supervisor’s hit-list to prepare it for pre-Survey inspection. 

After years of watching this annual event, it was my code for State Survey Teams making their rounds. That shift functioned the best it had all a year, after our shift assisted into the comfort of their $600-$800 per day beds, all the sleepy-eyed patient’s that were sitting in the dayroom, (to make sure they were not disturbed—or disruptive—during survey) when we arrived; a.m. med pass ran on time; no one fell; no one was left lying in urine-soaked briefs until one of only two CNAs or a Nurse could respond to their call light; everyone who was scheduled for a bi-weekly shower was showered; snacks were provided; and, for that one night, everything was as it should always be—every night. 

On our way to clock-out—on time—the staffing coordinator stepped in our path and aggressively bartered with us to work the open shifts through the survey in exchange for time off after they left. Implying, if we didn’t, she would remember. We still declined. After our tours, we always went to the local coffee shop to kvetch about management or brag about our families. After ordering our over-roasted coffees, standing there in our scrubs, the barista asked us if we were nurses. Ever the affable one, my wing-nurse gave me a shot with her elbow and cheerfully replied, “Yes, we are!” 

Taking our seats, she asked me why I called State Survey Chinese New Year. I wanted to be careful how I told her. She wasn’t broken by what an industry nursing had become, and she had at least as many years ahead of her in the field as I had behind me. Our facility had the lion’s share of Vietnam War Veterans. Without hesitation, and with the confidence of knowing they would help her forge ahead in our Obamacare War, given the metaphoric parallels of The Bush and what us nurses call The Weeds. I wanted to tell her the truth, but not in a way that might disconnect her calling.


The Bush

“If you were a Grunt or an artillery forward observer or just unlucky, you humped the Bush. The “Bush,” had many forms, variations and aspects. The Bush stays with you always. A sight, smell, sound or sense can bring the personal images from the internal vault file to be reviewed, reminded and re-posted but never forgotten.

The Bush is incredible boredom, huge adrenalin rush, exaltation, exhaustion. Loneliness. The Bush is the Bush.

The Bush is always waiting. It has different times. Different faces. Different places. Always the same.

The Bush is not seeing enough.

The Bush is seeing too much.

The Bush is ugly and beautiful at the same time.

The Bush is what sticks in your mind when you take your last extraction ride.

The Bush is forever.”  ~ Fred Childs for Charlie Company


Since my coffee was bitter enough, I began to tell her of the great excitement and preparation I witnessed; the Chinatown storefronts, pristine and brightly lit, as was our facility’s grounds and entrance; the eminence of the Paifang, no different from facility archways; red Spring couplets invoking the same favor as the fluorescent-pink State Survey in progress notices flanking the doors; describing the welcoming sight of flowers in pretty vases; the comforting, appealing aromas of delicious food—the good kind; comparing the bustling crush of the crowd to the increased nurse to patient ratio; likening the painted paper dragon’s bouncing lead to our Supervisor unlocking the doors for the survey team; and, finally, the dancing lions crossing over the threshold for their…token exchange for protection

Every member of the State Survey Team is Made, or an Associate tags along as trainees for the survey, making their bones, sent to visit the nursing homes by the Regulatory Mafia, having sworn to the Oath of Obamacare. The citations for looping variations of the same nine or twelve or more violations. Some are small enough, going unnoticed by audit or large enough to add up to a steady revenue collected per facility that can be dipped into without too many questions, or not at all depending on the policy at arms.  

That’s when she saw it…too. 

I searched her astonished expression when I told her what I saw. And with her rapt attention, I nervously laughed, because I felt every bit the rat Joe Velachi or like a Bull in a China shoppe breaking every one of the 5 Simple Rules just by telling the story.


As a Made Man you must follow 5 simple rules, these rules are as follows:

1. Be loyal to members of the organization. Do not interfere with each other’s interest. Do not be an informer.

2. Be rational. Be a member of the team. Don’t engage in battle if you can’t win. The directive extends to personal life.

3. Be a man of honor. Respect womanhood and your elders.

4. Be a stand-up guy. Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut. Don’t sell out.The ‘stand-up guy’ shows courage and ‘heart.’ He does not whine or complain in the face of adversity, including punishment, because ‘If you can’t pay, don’t play.’

5. Have class. Be independent. Know your way around the world. 

                                                                                               ~ National Crime Syndicate 


Just as it was then, it is now. At present, there are approximately 15,640 nursing homes in the US. If the average per violation fine is between $6,087 (PR) and $120,277 (MD) and the total sum averages between $28,761 (NH) and $11,462,556 (PA), that’s a pretty tidy sum, no? A total number of deficiencies cited at each facility and their corresponding take is an obnoxious tolling one can’t refuse. There’s a penalty if you do. 

President Trump’s moratorium on collection of these penalties wreaked havoc on many state budgets. Some, like NY, NJ, PA, were left scrambling to make up for the loss of revenue. Just as with any fine from any regulating body, that money doesn’t go to the victims—it goes to that government’s treasury for appropriation.

When I heard something alarming and telling in the tone of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s voice during one of his daily briefings, it all fit neatly. Not quite Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, the scene where the character takes offense at being questioned, but it was enough for me to make the connection. An escalating panic telegraphing a fever-pitch when he publicly threatened not only New York’s nursing homes, but every nursing home in the nation, (if they’re also working this racket): “You’ll be out of business if you’re not providing your staff with the right equipment. You’re out of business. That we can do,” he said of for-profit nursing homes under the revenue generating state regulations. All of his maneuvering and angling, hand wringing and ranting about the 6.7-billion-dollar hole he couldn’t fill because, “Revenues just stopped.” Cuomo has shown on more than one occasion, if he owns you, you owe him. In that threat he was busting them at the knees. All those years of tolerating the survey team visits and kowtowing to them to reduce the number of citations and paying the penalties to come down to this, a threat that if they don’t stop complaining to the media or demanding emergency PPE assistance or refusing to admit post/infected patients, he had the power to put them out of business. 

According to an enlightening NPRarticle and chart, “Federal records show that the average fine dropped to $28,405 under the current administration, down from $41,260 in 2016, President Obama’s final year in office.” However, the NPR article doesn’t mention the average fine is per facility. President Trump did slash the way fines and penalties were assessed, removing the excessive nature of them…by half. That’s a lot of state revenue lost.


In New York, they referred to Silver and Skelos as part of the “three men in a room” that cut the major deals in state politics, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo being the third. 

Joseph Percoco, a top aide to the governor, and Alain Kalayeros, a former university president entrusted by Cuomo to oversee his signature economic development programs, were both convicted last year as well. 

Notably, New York did not rely on the racketeering statutes to make its cases,…  

                                                                              ~  Mark Brown (November 29, 2019)


Also, according to the same NPR article, “Since President Trump took office, the administration has heeded complaints from the nursing home industry about zealous oversight. It granted facilities an 18-month moratorium from being penalized for violating eight new health and safety rules. It also revoked an Obama-era rule barring the facilities from pre-emptively requiring residents to submit to arbitration to settle disputes rather than go to court.” 

Translated, specific to NY, Cuomo’s meltdowns and thrashing of the nursing homes goes much deeper than and long before the pandemic. Many of those same facilities that found themselves in trouble when the pandemic hit, had a moratorium from paying penalties. In Cuomo’s estimation, these for-profit nursing homes had not been paying their dues since March 2019 and didn’t have to under that moratorium for another six-months at the height of this ordeal. Likely, they won’t have money for fines for the upcoming budget projections going forward. 

What incentive left was there to help these for-profit nursing homes for Cuomo? 

None. Absolutely none.  

But, it gets worse when you consider a nursing home patient is transferred out to hospital and treated or deceased related under a COVID-19 diagnosis billing code, many requiring ventilator treatment, there’s a significant increase in fees charged, (see chart below). When a nursing home patient is readmitted to a for-profit facility—especially requiring skilled nursing care—there’s a significant increase in new fees charged and paid in full through Medicare. It’s treated as a new patient.

Cuomo found a way to make up for his budget losses, at least in part. 

And, not be insensitive to those who lost loved ones, but if while in hospital as much was done for them as could be, there was someone else who could occupy that bed that would provide both the hospital and the for-profit facility new money—whether or not they survived, there’s a 20% add-on reimbursement through CARES Act 1. As far as Cuomo was concerned, a term loosely applied, he’s generating revenue with sand in his fists and the reimbursement trains running every 20 days. One of the reasons, I suspect, he didn’t send them to the USNS Comfort, Javitz Center, or Samaritan’s Purse is money and the discovery not all patient’s that were hospitalized, (and billed) under a COVID-19 diagnosis were actually infected with the virus or some other identifiers wouldn’t match. 

That’s fraud. 

Big fraud on possibly a RICO scale. 


“The first 20 days in the facility will be paid for in full by Medicare and days 21-100 will be subject to a co-pay, which can be covered by supplemental Medicare insurance (i.e. Medigap coverage) or other private health insurance.  If the individual is no longer progressing and/or maintaining their skill level with therapy or rehabilitation, their Medicare coverage will end and another payment source will be required.” 

                                                                               ~ Genser Dubow Genser & Cona LLP


To truly appreciate the token exchange for protection program, to which I’m referring, there’s a breakdown of every nursing home in the nation offering a total of deficiencies, fines, etc., and the option of viewing a single state’s amounts they owe. Those fines/penalties are just revenue that become appropriations, which they use to fill holes in their budgets. Governor Cuomo’s not the only one in government to rob Peter to pay Paul. It happens all the time, but state’s like NY, NJ, IL, CA seem to be struggling, significantly, during this pandemic by comparison to other states, which NY appears to have no idea other states are also in an economic shock of their own. 

But, NY unusually so.  

There’s an incentive to fine/penalize nursing homes. Not only to fill coffers, but also possibly coffins


For deaths after January 1, 2020, New York taxes estates of more than $5,850,000, which means that even if your estate isn’t large enough to owe federal estate tax (which currently exempts estates up to $11.58 million in value), it may still owe an estate tax to the State of New York. 

By law, a licensed funeral director must oversee the final disposition of a body in New York. For example, local registrars will only issue a burial or removal permit to a “funeral director or undertaker.” (See New York Public Health Law § 4140 (2018).)

You must arrange cremation through a funeral director, who will obtain the required permits. If the crematory does not have a licensed funeral director on its staff, you must arrange for a funeral director to be present to receive the body when it is delivered. (New York Public Health Law § 4145 (2018).) ~ NOLO


Joseph Antioco, funeral director at Schafer Funeral Home: “They are putting COVID on a lot of death certificates because people who are going to their hospital or any kind of respiratory distress, respiratory problems, pneumonia, the flu — the flu-like symptoms lead into the COVID-19. So, you know, it’s hard for them to put their finger on it … To me, all you’re doing is padding the statistics. You’re putting people on that have COVID-19 even if they didn’t have it. You’re making the death rate for New York City a lot higher than it should be …” ~  Hank Berrien for The Daily Wire



Funding Medicaid and hospitals

Cuomo in January was looking to trim $2.5 billion of the state’s $6 billion budget gap by cutting spending for Medicaid, the health insurance for the poor and disabled in New York that is used by about 20% of the state’s population and has ballooned to more than $60 billion a year.

But now that task is more complicated as more New Yorkers head to Medicaid because of job losses and as hospitals struggle to keep up with the influx of coronavirus patients.

Moreoever, Cuomo wanted to make counties, including New York City, pay for any Medicaid cost increases that exceed 3% each year.

Yet Congress passed a package earlier this month that linked $6.7 billion in federal aid for Medicaid to not moving costs onto local governments in New York — a deal Cuomo has refused to take. ~ By Joseph Spector / Gannett New York / Times Telegram


A common definition for the idiom, “in the red” means losing money, no money, or overdrawing your account at the bank and is thought to come from the feelings of stress and anxiousness and the physical symptoms they cause such as elevated blood pressure and often anger or danger. New York’s budget is in fiscal distress, desaturating money at an alarming rate before this happened. Cuomo believes those who left NY for low/no states like Florida, betrayed him—personally—referring to them as having “moved to die.” Cuomo also believes the federal government should fill budget holes for many reasons, far too many to mention. His wrath toward the nursing homes is just a symptom of a much larger problem. Tragically, they weren’t paying the dancing lion’s sent to collect his tokens for protection through regulatory fines, which is why he felt no obligation to help them with PPE and imposed the mandate that killed and infected senior citizens.  

The Chinese have a token system, too. According to Hermann Rohr’s article: Many dissatisfied Chinese claim: “Nowadays, some people use this tradition to bribe officials.” They apparently give them large sums of cash inside a red envelope or send antique or valuable things to their son’s and daughter’s weddings. If so, benefiting an important person by giving them a red envelope filled with cash is becoming a legal way of bribing officials in China. 

You’ll be out of business if you’re not providing your staff with the right equipment. You’re out of business. That we can do,” he said of state regulations. ~  New York Post 

“Certainly Xi Jinping seems to consider it bribery — it’s one small part of his anti-corruption campaign.” 

“Many patients give them money and if you don’t give [money], they’ll remember you,” Dr. Holmes told the ABC. ~ Christina Zhou and Bang Xiao

Ironically, the printing on the red envelopes, a traditional method of giving money, they’re called…vectors.

You see it now, too. And, it can’t be unseen…

Thank you for reading. Feedback is always encouraged and welcome. ~M. Jane Letty

© 2020 M. Jane Letty/Media Ferret, et. al. All rights reserved. 

Invisible Snitches

All tyrannies rule through fraud and force, but once the fraud is exposed, they must rely exclusively on force.

~George Orwell

M. Jane Letty/Media Ferret:3 minute read

Feature Article/Non-Fiction/Current Events

Originally, I’d drafted a piece to highlight the message of hope NYC must’ve felt at the sight of the USNS Comfort rolling into port in response to calls for medical reinforcement. Another feature of that piece I’d hoped to share was the subtle message the names of these ships and the locations where they were sent to revealed: Comfort to NYC, because after 9/11 surely the scenes once again dominating the city must’ve been distressing; Mercy to LA, as a gesture to encourage a cease fire of warring ideologies in a time of crisis, which appears to have been graciously embraced by CA Governor Gavin Newsom. However, while it may appear coughing up a barb-wire would’ve been easier for NY Governor Cuomo than it was to thank President Trump, New Yorker’s have this thing about yielding to another. They just do. But, that bizarre Orwellian-style lighting of the Empire State Building in alarming red and watchtower spotlight, although intended as a tribute to healthcare workers, cancelled out much needed reassurance of calm and tone-deaf.  

Speaking of tone-deaf…

A segment airing on the tv about how many families were coping while confined to their homes in the hope of flattening the curve was interrupted by a press briefing from Democrat Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti that compelled me to scrap the original piece so to call attention to his alarming message:

“If any non-essential businesses continue to operate in violation of the stay at home order, we’re going to act to enforce the safer at home order and ensure their compliance,” Garcetti said. “You know the old expression about snitches. Well, in this case, snitches get rewards.”

Garcetti’s office has already sent the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to 144 of the more than 500 non-essential businesses that failed to follow his order. Of those, four have been sent to the city attorney’s office for misdemeanor charges.

The mayor’s team encouraged residents to submit business violations here, on the city website. It’s unclear what the so-called “rewards” will be (if anything). ~Beth Baumann, TownHall

To be fair, I searched for a similar call to the public as aggressive about domestic violence, child and/or elder abuse—finding none. Despite Garcetti’s March 16, 2020 media briefing offering a message to mitigate common stressors of domestic violence and child/elder abuse, (rental deferments, utility and food security, etc.,) his tone-deafness was astounding. Echoing the Democrat motto, “Never Let A Crisis Go To Waste” in his next media briefing April 3, 2020, Garcetti did not address those who are not Safer at Home. No mention April is National Child Abuse Awareness Prevention month, either. No creation of an Ambassadorship for neighbors reporting suspected or witnessed abuse with the ease—and convenience—of the online Complaint Intake Form for Alleged Businesses in Violation of the Safer at Home Order, encouraging an historically repugnant culture of neighbor against neighbor. Why not an Executive Order increasing the penalties, such as making ANY substantiated complaint of domestic violence, child or elder abuse to include a charge of unlawful restraint?

Perhaps in his euphoria at the chance to let his inner-tyrant out, he didn’t consider how reassuring a recorded PSA to air periodically letting victims know, despite the health crisis, to call 911 and law enforcement will still respond could make all the difference to let them know help is available. Or, how effective a warning-style PSA would give the first-time abuser an opportunity to refrain or the threat of a few years in prison to curb routine abusers.

It’s estimated there are 74 million children in the United States. Of that, 7.5 million reports of child abuse are received, annually. The aging population, Baby Boomers and the waning Greatest Generation present another dynamic but is no less worth considering their vulnerability during this health crisis. They’re also at risk of being abused on top of potentially falling ill or dying.  Until 28 days ago, many of them had the sanctuary of being in school or the absence of their (now unemployed) abuser’s presence. Can you just imagine what kind of hell it must be for a child to be in quarantine with no escape or temporary relief? Abuse is a brutal act that often results in injury requiring medical attention. It is unlikely the abuser will risk catching COVID-19 to seek medical attention for their victim at a local emergency room. Of the more insidious abuses, the psychological damage of not only the primary abuse, but is compounded when held captive as a secondary abuse.  

Domestic Violence encompasses child, spouse, elder. Abuse inflicted on anyone in another’s care or in a relationship, while in a domestic environment, in the eyes of the law, it’s domestic violence. Unfortunately, the political class has fomented mistrust and hatred toward law enforcement in some communities. As a result, victims may not seek or could be prevented from reaching out to police. This national crisis, while it provides the best opportunity for abusers to take full advantage of the resources being diverted, it also presents those of us who might be the only protection they have to keep our eyes peeled, our ears open, and our heart’s receptive to the call to help our neighbor, instead of “snitching” on them for far less important purposes.  If you see, suspect, or are a victim of abuse, please call 911. Your snitches could save someone stitches.

This wasn’t an easy topic to read, but I appreciate that you took the time and, you’ll help someone if given an opportunity. After the nation, (and world) recovers and norms resume, please bear in mind that what we don’t see might come to light. We’ll never completely end domestic, child/elder abuse. But, let’s be good stewards. Due to the nature of this topic and the urgency of awareness, I’m asking that you please share this article as it offers invaluable contact information, below, someone you might not know needed. Or, reach out to your elected officials and encourage them to air a PSA or extend their concern during press briefings. Thank you for reading…and for caring. The topics going forward won’t be a PSA, I promise. Nor will I ask you to share them. As both an adult survivor of child abuse and a (retired) long-term care and correctional nurse, it’s personal.  As always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged. ~MJL

***

IMPORTANT RESOURCES:

ProCPR provides training to public health and safety professionals who are mandated to report suspected child abuse and/or neglect or enforce laws as warranted. Even the description of the video is direct: “Gain knowledge on how to recognize true abuse and neglect to help protect the innocent. Neglect can be a failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, supervision, and medical attention. Physical abuse is a non-accidental physical injury. It can be an intentional act of physical abuse. Sexual abuse is any illegal sexual activity such as rape, fondling, child prostitution, child pornography, incest, etc.”

The American SPCC (Society of Positive Care of Children) offered the most linear and comprehensive statistics, which I encourage you to explore. The statistics listed are presented in a straightforward manner, which I found helpful to appreciate the gravity of this issue without the tendency to look away.

NPT Reports covers the other side of the life cycle, the elderly. The video and description: “It is estimated that one in ten adults over the age of 60 is a victim. But the truth is we don’t know for certain how many older adults are suffering from abuse. In “Aging Matters: Abuse & Exploitation”, Nashville Public Television explores the issues behind elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.”    

Another worthwhile video to watch, is an AWARD WINNING Short Film on Domestic Violence – SCOPE OF PRACTICE by BeWILdered Media Productions. Described as “Scope of Practice is about a newly hired EMT who decides to risk his life and career to take a stand against a local hometown hero who is abusing his wife.” Although it might come across as a Lifetime Movie Channel drama, it isn’t. What is does offer is a very profoundly disturbing crossing over the threshold and invites the viewer behind those doors where the privacy of domestic abuse thrives.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline has been a reliable and steady resource for victims over 20 years. Below, they offer some COVID-19 specific information.  

               Here’s how COVID-19 could uniquely impact intimate partner violence survivors:

  • Abusive partners may withhold necessary items, such as hand sanitizer or disinfectants.
  • Abusive partners may share misinformation about the pandemic to control or frighten survivors, or to prevent them from seeking appropriate medical attention if they have symptoms.
  • Abusive partners may withhold insurance cards, threaten to cancel insurance, or prevent survivors from seeking medical attention if they need it.
  • Programs that serve survivors may be significantly impacted –- shelters may be full or may even stop intakes altogether. Survivors may also fear entering shelter because of being in close quarters with groups of people.
  • Survivors who are older or have chronic heart or lung conditions may be at increased risk in public places where they would typically get support, like shelters, counseling centers, or courthouses.
  • Travel restrictions may impact a survivor’s escape or safety plan – it may not be safe for them to use public transportation or to fly.
  • An abusive partner may feel more justified and escalate their isolation tactics.

Here’s what our Advocates have heard from some survivors reaching out:

  • “A chatter mentioned that the abuser was using the virus as a scare tactic to keep the survivor away from their kids.”
  • A chatter said the abuser was using COVID-19 as a scare tactic so that they would not visit family.”
  • “A health professional still living with their abuser called and said they were physically abused that night because their abuser was sure they were trying to infect them with COVID-19.

© 2020 Media Ferret, et. al. All rights reserved.

A Spiritual Apex

See the source image

M. Jane Letty: Narrative Essay: 8 minute read

Forgive me, I haven’t posted for months. Like many writer’s, I’m never satisfied with my work and will sit on something while starting something else until I circle back and find I’ve run out of excuses not to set it free. The following is such a piece, just like the last time. That work was a creative nonfiction I’d written year’s earlier as a college essay about a painfully dark and angry period in my life. Revising it with time and distance, and then setting it free was more than liberating. So much, that I’m contemplating taking it down and letting it fade into the past, where it belongs. While I’ve joked about how someone might interpret it after I die, I know no one will come close to deciphering what I so guardedly expressed—the punishing shame of anger, the regret of allowing it to deny others of light, the suspension of joy but not the pendulum swing of time lost. What did come of it was what any writer hopes—to intellectually move with their readers. Much has happened since then, including reconnecting with and making new friends who’ve brought much of the joy, light, and levity I’d privately ached to feel once again after an extended period of self-isolation, long before it became mandatory. For the reclusive writer, the quarantine hasn’t changed anything for us. Except maybe the motivation to be more productive with one’s writing. It’s a paradox, to be sure.

All seemed to be in that perfect balance of an organized chaos, secure in our routines, hoping for the best and never expecting the worst to happen. Then, a few weeks ago, the whole world got sick. The whole world! Unlike when I was working as a nurse, we’d see a slow rolling of cases, this was different. It spread, quickly. Too quickly, and in real time on news reports and online sources giving graphics and graphic details of a nascent pandemic. My nursing experience in long-term care was mild compared to the infectious disease control protocols I’d learned as a correctional nurse. This was—is—the worst-case scenario many prepare for, but a false sense of security appears to have caught us all off-guard. Of course, I believe that was the plan all along. I, too, was hopeful it would be over in time for Easter. And, if it was just an average run-of-the-mill virus, it would be. With each new report, it’s becoming quite evident there’s more to this virus than meets both the eye and the expectations, which is covered in the alternate blog. COVID-19, coronavirus, Wuhan Flu, whatever you want to call it, it has left in its wake much deserved suspicion, destruction of an economic recovery many thought impossible, public health concerns, loss of many lives, and disruptions of routines and social norms that we’re learning we took for granted.

But, that’s not what this blog is about. After today, we can all go back to trying to figure it out and be hopeful it will abate soon, if only to return to life as we knew it, maybe in a new way, and to prevent further loss of life. Also, to find out how, why, and from where it originated, (China). This draft has been sitting in my Word-bin for a few weeks. In the spirit of today, I’d like to share a very personal conversation I had with God leading up to Easter.

For all the world’s present chaos, frustration with the imposition of restrictive policies, fear and uncertainty, let it not cast any doubt that God so loved us that He gave His only Son so that we might be blessed with an opportunity every day, but especially today, this one day a year to remember His sacrifice, appreciate Jesus’ suffering and celebrate His resurrection. He is Risen! embodies both the most brutal journey and the greatest gift to all who believe. It is the gentlest holiday for a most brutal act. Blessed are those who find the meaning of the purpose of Lazarus stone wasn’t as a barrier, but instead was an entrance in search of Him after an imposed separation.

A few weeks ago, when this virus first hit, a dear friend and I were exchanging messages about the biology of the virus, (we’re both retired nurses—he was Army, I was Correctional). Then, the topic of how forgiveness might play a role in helping to make sense of it all came up. He brought it up without knowing I, too, was wondering the same thing. Not only for the health crisis, but the broken connection opposing views has manifested. We’ve sort of become the other’s virtual spiritual advisor. He’s an active member of his church, while I am not. (At the most broken time of my life, my church and its people contributed to the betrayal I mentioned in my essay, The Gnashing Garden, and again in a paragraph below. He doesn’t mind my darkness or judge me for my resistance to attending church, which I am grateful for and his generosity to share spiritual conversation.)  For his part, my friend has had a very challenging year. And, as I’ve come to know him, he’s like most men—they don’t always come right out and say where it hurts. Instead, they sort it out in a mental garage, clanging around, trying to fix it on their own. One of the many things I admire about him is when he’s trying to “fix it” he turns to a carpenter’s Son. Ironically, my friend’s name is Matthew. I’m not prone to tossing out scripture for scripture’s sake. In fact, when other’s do it it makes me suspicious of their motives, feels very judgmental and I’ve found they’re more lost than I am, even on my worst day. *wink* But for my friend, his name is fitting with the scripture. Or, is the scripture fitting for his name?

As our exchange continued, we touched on the topic of what the chaos of COVID-19 was presenting in the world—our own and in the broad sense. Was there a message, perhaps even a cure for the secondary affect of the virus on humanity? I believe we’re at an apex of our own. A spiritual apex. He agreed. We closed on that note. It was far too late, even for us, for such a deep topic. We didn’t pick it up again because he was celebrating the birth of a new grandchild and I was deep-sixing into the story mapping of the biological weapon-like mechanism of COVID-19. But knowing him, and he knows me, we both reflected on it long after. I left him with an article on forgiveness I was reading just before we engaged.

For the record, I’m not a very forgiving person. I used to be and to a fault. I’m not angry or bitter, (any more) nor stingy with forgiveness for the casual offenses. But, like many, I’ve had some betrayals that made me cold and rigid at times. It’s a coping mechanism. Behind it, though, I pray for God’s guidance to soften me, once again, and to not rely more on that coping mechanism so much because it means less reliance on Him. He knows my kintsukuroi heart. ((I’ve said many times, even God reads my stuff!)) So, there’s no hiding anything from Him.

I can’t be sure, but I think I might’ve surprised God before the exchange with Matt that night. I hadn’t asked Him about forgiveness in quite some time, but I was curious as to what might it take to cure this worldwide virus in the spiritual sense; the blind rage, the divisions, the pain and oppressive, crowded loneliness of mistrust born of the realization that among us there are those who do not share, let alone respect the boundaries of our values. More than that, the disrespect of His instruction and willful breaking of His Commandments, seemingly cruel in taunting of our faith as a means of justifying their lacking, brought forth tears of profound sadness and a familiar anger. I don’t generally bother God with trivial matters. Preferring to exhaust resources available on my own so that when I do bother Him, I’m prepared to show my work. For my journey, I’ve learned there are people who need His attention more than me. I know my way home to Him, having run away once before. Okay, maybe more than once. Of great concern to me, the celebrating of abortions; ghoulish, blanket acceptance of infanticide, especially the impatience of some even on Good Friday; striking out at one another with pejoratives simply for a difference of opinion or beliefs, of which I am also guilty; the mocking of God and the diminishing of the importance of religion in our lives was particularly distressing—and angering. And, while I don’t agree with those who don’t share my values, I was fair when considering they don’t see the issues through the same lens. I try to, at the very least, to recognize their reasons for their position in a way that doesn’t close off the possibility of a greater understanding of what leads some to support abortion, infanticide, or rejection of God. To be candid, my purpose isn’t entirely altruistic. Part of it to provide distance for my own sake, the other is to allow for an opening so to be accessible should they embark upon a sometimes lonely journey on their way to Him. So, with that in mind, I asked “What will it take to heal…the world?”

He responded without hesitation or requiring the usual amount of effort He has come to expect of me.

Forgiveness.

And, true to my nature, I bristled. He knows I’m stubborn…and still a little angry deep down inside. After a betrayal so crushing twenty years ago, and having spent much of those years in a constant state of simmering rage at the audacity and source of that betrayal, (my own mother) I lost some of myself in that shattering. In order to make the journey back so to be a loving wife to a good man, mother to a wonderful son, and a better friend to those whose friendship I cherish, some of the way I once was—naïve and trusting—had to be hardened. To be forgiving is to be soft. To be soft, again, is to be vulnerable and that’s where I bristled.  It’s been a long journey, but I still have landings I can’t stick no matter how fast I run up to them, and I lock up just before the leap. He knows I’ll either learn to trust again to clear them…or not. But, so long as I still love with a pure heart, give generously and take humbly, and see Him and His many blessings through clear eyes, He doesn’t force me to fly with a clipped wing just to please Him. If I choose to crawl, walk, or skip to my lou my darlin’ the entire way, even if I could just as easily fly, that’s the choice I’ve made with the options He provides. And, He loves me…anyway. Forgives me, always.

But He also knows if I’m asking about forgiveness, then I must be open to His wisdom…even if just a little. And, if I’m asking about healing the whole world, then I need His help. So, I explored the concept of forgiveness with Him. I was reminded of the time I hurt someone I love very much answered my question, “How can you ever forgive me?” He said, “Who am I not to forgive?”

The long-short of it, so not to bore anyone with my ramblings of my personal Winter, fear of being vulnerable, or my unorthodox musings with God, I asked Him if forgiveness meant I had to embrace those whom I’ve found impossible to tolerate ideologically, the ones who are radical or casual have become so frustrating for me on many levels. (A mutual sentiment made painfully obvious through some hurtful, undeserving names like Nazi or accusations of being racist. Of course, it doesn’t help that in response, baby killer or Communist is no better. Proving two wrongs can never make a right.) But spiritually, the radical ones whose views and actions I find dangerous and the casual ones, cowardly for not drawing a distinction between the absurdity of the radical and the way they used to be—civilly opposite. How can we hope to begin to forgive one another? It’s like pushing a string.  

I asked Him, once again, because He left me to ponder the gravity of what I really wanted to know—what was His cure for the world. It’s not every day someone asks God how to save the world—His world. But, the world has the chance every day to save ourselves from ourselves.

“Must forgiveness mean embracing them?”  

No.

Forgiveness can be given or received without request or permission, without a word, even by only a gesture from within to be sent outward to find reception, anonymously. Forgiveness for our differences does not mean we agree. It merely means an end to the violent force against one to another to surrender their position. It can be given, freely, without clubbing or demanding the other believe what you believe and it’s not an acceptance of opposing values. It just means forgiving the other for falling short of expectations and no longer demanding accountability for their actions, but instead forgiving them for doing that which they know not what they do. It means we stop crucifying one another on a cross that neither of us is worthy to be nailed to, nor do we have the authority to nail. That while we may not break bread together, we must not offer vinegar to quench their thirst—or our own.

Did you know, according to scripture, the cross Jesus was crucified on was approximately 7 to 9 feet tall? The entire cross, which he was forced to carry after having been scourged, beaten, and cruelly mocked, is said to have weighed in excess of 300 pounds. He carried the weight not only of the cross, he bore the burden of the weight of the world and all of our sins—along a path known as the “way of suffering”, and for approximately 650 yards. But, what I really want to call attention to is the patibulum, (cross bar) that Jesus’ arms were outstretched and nailed to was likely 5 to 6 feet long. The same distance we are required to be apart from one another, today, but especially on Easter Sunday. Also, how ironic the virus’ name is corona. It means crown, much like the one of thorns worn by Jesus in his darkest hour.

That’s what the sacrifice was made for in the first place—to save us this burden, to bridge our spiritual distance, to forgive us for doing that which we do not know. Each of us, no matter how spiritually full or vacant, we will never know the limitlessness of such forgiveness—we’re not supposed to know the limit.

An apex is a limit…

See the source image

Thank you for reading. No matter your view, your feedback is welcome and encouraged. For those whose Passover has concluded or those celebrating Easter, God bless. Be well. ~MJL

The Gnashing Garden

By M. Jane Letty

Drawing back the curtain from a long-neglected window, the weight of the fabric felt heavy and vulnerable. I hesitated to open it, the way one might just before ripping off a bandage. Except, this time, finding the wound was worse than the removal of its covering. Much worse. How long had it been festering, I wondered. My personal Winter was a long, solitary confinement, and for a moment, I felt it thawing. Welcoming this, I walked into the kitchen cupboard, pulled a bandana from the linen drawer, and secured it around my hair. Filling a bucket with warm water and soap to wash the windows, starting with this one. I justified my mission: if this was the only window I washed, it was some small measure toward tracing back to where we’d left off, hoping it might shed some light on where we lost hold of one another.

Our new neighbors had cut down the tall oak trees that once diffused the sunlight that was now screaming in, once I opened the curtain. Even this made me feel angry and ashamed. Our old neighbors were a retired quiet, except when their grandchildren would come over for a swim. Nothing ever changed, it was quiet, and I liked it that way. In retrospect, that quiet only delayed the inevitable—this impulse to dismantle this wall of resentment I’d built around us.

*****

Along the windowsill, everything was as I’d left it just as it was before furiously snapping closed the curtains a few years ago. That’s the insidious nature of anger. It breaks the harmonic balance of time without stopping the pendulum swing.  Clinging to a thin, faded red silk ribbon, the hand-painted bird ornament we’d bought at the gift shop to remember our visit to Longwood Gardens for our twentieth wedding anniversary, and the miniature alabaster urn containing a small amount of the ashes of my first born’s first born—the baby who courageously fought, hoping against hope, to win the battle for life, but lost to a fifteen-minute war. Laying upon the ledge, a glass suncatcher from my son, must’ve fallen. It was broken, prophetically, in half where it read, “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today. ~John Wooden”.

The accumulation of dust floating and sparkling through the air seemed to dance around, gleefully at their release. I was more determined than enthused by this task. I was still angry—at everything and everyone. Cradling the hanging ornament in my hands, I recalled how happy we were to have made it. We’d beat the odds others stacked against us…and there were some very odd odds. Proof of my neglect left behind after removing the urn made me scowl. The thickness of the dust, I imagined, was mocking me for the time it had been waiting for me to get over myself. And, I wished I had been as careful to live the message than I was at removing the broken glass tchotchke. I missed being happy, trusting, and naïve. This anger crept in without my realizing. Some of the things seemed so petty, like the noises or sunlight. Other things, justifiable by any reasonable standard. Surely, under all this gripping conflict was my peace.

I’m not sure how long I made circles with the soapy sponge on the window, but it was enough to work up quite a lather. Dropping the rinsing cloth into the water and back to the window, my second challenge appeared. Apparently, anger and sorrow grow from the ground up, choking out the sunlight and feeding off the rain; restricting the movement of air and stunting growth of new, well-meaning attempts by my husband to join him in our backyard. The realization that I’d closed the curtain on more than just this window, the evidence was a crushing scene. The grape and ivy leaves that had taken over the patio camouflaged the teeth of gripping vines. I wondered as they gnashed on my apprehension, could they also see me? In my state of determination to once and for all dethatch my garden of grief and rage, the late summer breeze that made the leaves sway confused me.  Were they laughing at the audacity of my attempt or applauding my approach to pardon them?  Did they know I was coming for them after I finished washing this window? Ready to tear them from the hold they had on the structure of the pavilion where so many fond memories of our peace and tranquility; our laughter and tears and easy, long conversations over coffee or wine; romantic dinners for two…or three if you include our canine chaperone; the pleasant company of friends had become dormant. From where I stood, I could see there was much more work to be done than I was prepared to take on. But, if I didn’t go through with my mission, surely the vines would see it as a victory. Pulling out a chair, I sat there to procrastinate while sizing up my opponent—my crippling, punishing anger. In that confrontation, confusion of why my husband would let both my anger and our sanctuary get so overgrown? My thawing heart answered, lonesomeness.

*****

My husband had this adorable habit of planting small shrubs and trees without realizing how big they would grow. The backyard was once a lush garden, an oasis if you will, of every green on the spectrum with delightful pops of hot pink, daring red coral, and playful blue flower orchestras. Our favorite—the dinner plate-sized Dahlias! The white ones were enormous, more like charger plates, and the bumblebees resting upon them would get drunk on pollen-laced mead, then sleep off their buzz. Our tomato garden, the vines so very pregnant with juicy, deep orange fruit that I would spend entire Sundays turning into red gravy from an old family recipe. Or, the one’s my husband would excitedly slice open with a paring knife, shower with too-much salt and devour over the kitchen sink. He would sink his teeth into it and slurp at the juice that didn’t pool into the palm of his hand or drip through his fingers, which he would lick clean and with abandon. Watching him made me blush and, curiously jealous of…a tomato. He never saw the want in my eyes, only disapproval of having used too much salt to hide my embarrassment for what I was thinking.

What was I thinking? Initially, intimacy with him was a challenge for me. I was so sure I could unleash a tiger in the bedroom. Maybe, I considered, the women before me didn’t enjoy sex or felt as comfortable in their own skin as I did? Maybe he thought passionate, playful sex was…dirty? Nope! That wasn’t it. This proved to become a disappointment for me. Many times, I would make small, polite attempts to resolve our distances. My impassioned pleas of some, any, playful tension throughout the day or a little more kissing or petting, was always met with a rejection that only made matters worse—for me. After a while, a few short years into our marriage, I’d resigned myself to the sad truth that maybe good love and great sex aren’t as symbiotic as the experts claim. Eventually, I convinced myself I needed good love more than great sex. I couldn’t reconcile why my desire to lovingly express and a willingness to show him how to please me was received as a strike against him, especially the matter of the time I would take, never quite being able to reach confirmation of his success. That gave way to illusory praise and eventually, avoidance altogether. After a few years, I simply stopped trying and shut down. Somehow that seemed to make it easier for us both—with me, no longer trying and him, no longer feeling threatened. He didn’t seem bothered that I no longer meticulously did my hair or make up the way I once did or notice that I’d stopped wearing pretty slips or nightgowns to bed. Although, once, I did wake up one morning to find him looking at me, caressing one of my breasts that was peeking out from the unbuttoned flannel pajama top. My startled reaction didn’t help. And, I wish I hadn’t asked him what he was doing, and instead took his hand in mine and pressed it against me and wrapping myself around him to draw him closer. But, by then, I’d already tamped down my fires and my fields of desire had become a wasteland. I was numb…and angry. It’s not that he wasn’t, or isn’t, loving. In fact, quite the opposite. He’s very sweet, attentive, gentle, and…exasperatingly platonic.

Occasionally, when the urge was too strong, and with enough wine, I began to feel so long as I was accommodating and responsive, it would get better or I would adjust, or that he would hold me and kiss me the way he did—once. It was exactly one time. And, I’ve ached for him to pull me into his arms and pour into me that way, again…and ever since. Instead, each time, in what should’ve been the afterglow, I would make up some excuse to slip out of bed, sometimes unnoticed, to go downstairs to cry, for us both. I loved him as much, then, as I do now.  I was angry and crying at the destructiveness this hollowness in an otherwise abundance of happiness had created. When my anger set in, my frustration fit neatly within that hollow. It seemed so cruel, to be angry at him for not meeting my expectations. But it also seemed only fair, since he stubbornly, or reflexively denied them…even those abated in kind.

Recalling that one-time he kissed me like he was going to lose me, he already had. It was on the eve I’d asked for and was granted, a separation—the last time we sat under the pavilion in the backyard. Even that, he did with love. He begged me not to leave him, but by then I was long gone. It truly was, a seven-year-itch. It’s not that that kiss didn’t give me pause. It did. But I was starving for affection, broken by a betrayal that he seemed to let beat me, psychologically, and…I was angry. I was angry at everything and everyone. And, fair or not, I was furious with him for denying me the joy of intimacy and stripping from me a womanliness that was my identity. Even I didn’t recognize myself and the numbness was driving me mad. At that point, I honestly believed the life I’d always wanted; a good man, a happy home, raising a family, the charmed life of the mundane, was killing me.

In the six months I was free, I’d discovered my world was small, but it was mine and the gardens I once lovingly tended, was struggling to survive. The gripping vines of anger and resentment and the seductive tendrils of my selfish desires, I imagined, were choking them out, so I returned. I was still very, very angry but, several pounds lighter, much wiser than before, and no worse for the wear. And, whatever my fix offered, it was an amatory madness, which only left me hollower…and angrier. We’ve never spoken about my time away, and he’s never made any attempt to explore what left me so empty. We agreed to meet the greater good, the children. Once the brittleness of our reunion softened, we returned to the exact place we were, except my anger was quiet. And, there it is…the epicenter of my anger, but not my rage. I can see, now, the stalk on this one is at the core of everything and sure to be thick and deeply rooted and will likely leave a hole the size of my fist behind. Now that I’ve discovered it, it would be pulled—first. It’s very pretty, but poisonous. Yet, the only regret I have is that my actions harmed others, emotionally. Returning did prove to be the right thing to do, everyone seemed…happy. I was atoning for having hurt them for something that was beyond their control, but not happy. I don’t regret what I learned about myself or how humbling it is to love and be loved beyond sex. To appreciate those sweet, but ordinary moments. The weightlessness of the gravity of belonging to someone. Many times, it would feel like a beautiful heart shaped locket…other times, a millstone.

*****

It was no secret, but an inside joke, that I was a myth-like creature, a Medusa when it came to anything requiring water. My husband still teases me whenever we visit a garden center. At the risk of a swift, playful kick, he would corral me with his arms to walk behind him so the plants, hoping to be adopted, wouldn’t see me tagging along. Once, he said he thought he heard them shrieking as we approached the display. It’s true! I’ve been known to kill a plant sitting next to a sink. But he has the green thumb and I, his ardent admirer.

Shortly after learning we were expecting our son, I tried to grow a tomato garden just to prove I wasn’t entirely awful, and I loved doing something with him that he seemed to love doing. And, to be near him in some way. After spending the entire day turning the earth upside down, mounding the soil and planting the seeds, I was eager to show him what I’d done. When he pulled into the driveway, I excitedly walked toward him, took his thickly calloused hand, and guided him over to see. Smiling, he praised me for my efforts and told me to wait there. He returned with a camera and took a picture. I needed him to hook up the hose, which he did, and together we watered the garden. A week of watching and waiting and watering later, on a Sunday, I was so happy to see the plants spring up—overnight! He was in the garage, so I tapped on the window and excitedly waved him to come to see. That’s when he told me, just so I wouldn’t sound silly telling others of this impressive, overnight growth. While I was making dinner, the night before, he planted tomato seedlings so I wouldn’t be discouraged because I was so excited but naïve. I’d planted the seeds too late in the season. It was the sweetest thing, I thought. Come to think of it, how many other times has he done something similar, just to make me happy…that I missed while being so angry?

I wondered back to the beginning, hoping to find the exact moment, trying to untangle those vines that seemed to have choked out the sunlight. Over frothy coffee, for hours we would sit on the porch of my duplex apartment about a mile away from our future life-nest, and dream about all the plans we had to make our house a home. Once, we even walked from my side of town to the other just to look at it, to feel a little closer to the life we were eager to build—together.  All he and I wanted was what any young couple in love wants—to make a life together. A happy life. But, no, the miserable can’t allow that. They won’t allow it. When you marry someone, don’t make the mistake of marrying their family. Easier said than done. Just like the invasive, burrowing vines of the ivy, with those deceptively wispy-teeth that sink into the mortar of what we’d built—by hand, with love—any attempt to remove them is risky. I took that risk, not knowing it would cause the whole damn thing to tumble! That we would never be the same, again. I blame myself, mostly. I’m angry at him, too. Angry that he’s not as angry as I am—about everything lost in the rubble. Could it be that what was recovered, the foundation, was good enough for him? That, somehow, if the foundation survived then we, too, survived? As for me, naïve or not, I wanted every brick accounted for and restored to their original standing. In vain, I searched for that lightness, that sanctuary between a husband and wife. Finding, instead, the shelter of my anger and resentment a strange comfort. But, why? What is it about being so angry, makes it comfortable for me? And, what is it about not being angry, so important to him?

*****

The Real Estate agent’s eagerness to sell us the house was no match for our enthusiasm to buy. This haunts us, still. It was a fixer-upper, we knew that going in. It was on the desirable side of town—better elementary school, more space between neighbors, and quiet. We were eager to landscape and garden, but first, we had to tear out the over-growth of trees and the heirloom Azalea bushes given as Mother’s Day gifts by the previous owner’s children and grandchildren. He wanted to pull the ivy by the tubers, but I insisted they stay because I thought it offered a romantic charm along the brick chimney and the wall near the patio. Moments after pleading my case for its clemency, I was startled by a tendril that he’d let go of moments earlier. It sprung free of the tangle he’d made and whipped at the back of my neck. As it swung up and down, as if waving at me to come closer. So, I did. I reached in and wrapped my hand around its base and gently pulled along its length, that’s when I felt its teeth and, as I pulled, something scraped the top of my left hand, like a paper cut, only deeper. I thought that was a strange way of thanking me for saving it. I still bear the scar and, once in a while…it itches, but I ignore it and it goes away. That summer, while at the shore, I reread a copy of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman that was on the bookshelf of the house we rented. I thought nothing more of it…until now.  

Recalling how we would sit for hours, scouring through seed and plant catalogs, clipping the images and pasting them to the poster board with the to-scale plan we’d drawn up, was a comfort as I sit here letting fond memories ease the pain of having missed out on so much. The fun we had finding gardening books and the scouring the stacks of too many magazines and, of course, Farmer’s Almanac. We’d spent weekends, endless weekends, thatching the lawn from straw to fresh blades, turning soil, seeding, watering, laying licorice mulch and stacking slate. For our first wedding anniversary, I bought a dwarf Japanese Maple and paid our paperboy $20 to carry it from my trunk to the house.  We had no idea, years later, we would find ourselves taking down a one-hundred-year-old Elm tree—all shade lost—as well as our shade-loving landscape.

It was Memorial Day weekend when we moved in and the mornings were still cool and pleasant with spring lingering on, offering new and sweetly scented breezes on its way toward resigning itself to the task of introducing summer. Our constant movement from the truck to the house, then room to room, up the stairs, down the stairs and unpacking, the heat and humidity was creeping in and we both agreed we had too much stuff. Boxes full of dishes and what my dad called tchotchkes being hastily unpacked, and furniture arranged and rearranged until we fell into bed. A bed, only hours earlier, we’d wrestled up the stairs, after getting stuck for two hours.

Our first Sunday in our new home was delightful! My husband is to this day, an early riser. I am not. But that morning I couldn’t help but wake to the melodies sung by new birds, the sheer curtains dancing to it with the soft wind, the sunlight was a brilliant yellow blending with the green of the grass and trees. Not the icy blue white of the winter glare or the orange autumn hue. It was such a beautiful morning to be in love. Reaching for him, I found his absence an obvious invitation to join him on our new porch. Sliding to the edge of the bed, I stretched my arms upward, with my hands in my long brown hair. As it tumbled down on my back and shoulders, I loved the sensation of it licking my bare back just before wrapping it and piling it on top of my head.  I walked to the closet to slip into my black silk robe and headed down the stairs. With each step down, the red dragon design on the back was trailing behind.

The aroma of bacon and toast filled the air. He had set the table for breakfast and in a little blue glass vase, were some daffodils that had popped up. I watched him from this very window, pulling weeds while licking orange marmalade I wiped off the edge of the butter knife with my finger. Pouring into two mugs, to bring with me to join him outside, I noticed the coffee smelled better, too. Maybe it was because it wasn’t that frothy coffee, we’d somehow convinced ourselves wasn’t so bad? Fools! Freshly ground, percolated coffee beans in the morning is far superior to the microwaved water and freeze-dried dreck we still love to indulge ourselves with occasionally. Especially when we reminisce about our old somedays, that have graduated to remember when’s.  

I returned the ornaments and urn, the glue was still drying on the glass suncatcher, I tossed the heavy room-darkening curtain into the trash can. Tempted to cancel my plans to rip down the vines, I stood over the sink and began to cry while pouring my dirty tears down the drain. Fighting the urge to resign myself of not having the courage to step out back and reclaim what we’d earned. Surely what it had become wasn’t what we deserved. If not now, it was going to be never—and I knew it. Opening the back door, I stepped out on the deck and noticed a row of a dozen five-gallon arborvitae that hadn’t been there, before, but had been asking for over the years. Then, movement in the tangled vines I’d been staring at for the last couple of hours, frightened me at first. Before I could turn around and go back inside, a figure emerged. A tall, broad-shouldered, familiar figure with a friendly smile and twinkling blue eyes, the only contrast among the green, was standing amid the wiry mess of vines he’d already downed, with his boot on their necks.  Holding trimming sheers in one hand and handing me a pair of gardening gloves in the other, which he would later tell me over a cup of frothy coffee and a box of tissues, he’d been saving for me, for us, hoping I’d come around…someday.

*****

Several years have passed, content in the charmed life of the mundane, none the richer and no worse for the wear, politely chaste as before, and the backyard is once again, a lush garden…an oasis, if you will. Most of the small trees and shrubs have grown as much as they will or pruned to keep from becoming overgrown, again. The shades of every green and the pops of color, are still a delightful conversation starter. Except, we’re very careful around the topic of the ivy. He tends the gardens and is sure to keep it from returning by cutting away any new growth along the fence.

We’d been careful to keep the ground barren where the ivy once took over. Except for the honeysuckle vine that appeared out of nowhere, surviving the aggressive herbicidal treatments to the soil to keep anything from growing in a space of about the size of a shirt box. I’d first noticed it early-Spring, while washing windows. By summer, its glorious two-lipped blossoms and deep scarlet red trumpets dripping with sweet nectar, whose taste would linger in my mouth for hours after, was mine alone to keep. The scent would find me wherever I was, whether inside the house or out. Sometimes, its smoky cologne waking me in the morning or, throughout the day it would seek me out, compelling me to close my eyes and breathe in the nimble bliss it offered, making me giggle as though sharing a secret only we knew. My husband was preparing to destroy it when I stopped him. I told him I loved it and how the scent of it made me happy. He said it had no scent, but agreed to let me keep it, warning me to not let it take over—like the ivy—and that it might not survive winter. Although a hardy plant, I thought it was remarkable it survived at all in that soil, under the shadow of the bush. No matter. It was thriving, proof of it in its show of strong, but supple vines that seemed to and its mere presence inspired a sense of calm, inner peace, and I was no longer angry.

In fact, every day since, I feel restored, softer, and at times, giddy. No longer haunted by a loitering anger and, finally, free of the solitary confinement of past defeats. In this release from captivity, I’m as happy now, as I was once angry. Still quiet, though, if a bit light-footed to keep above it where the air is thin, but easy enough to breathe. But, no one seems to really notice, save for the occasional interest in what I’m smiling about or where I go when caught daydreaming. There is a caveat, but I’ve already considered the risk and learned how to care for my l. sempervirens, well, so it continues to curlicue just along the trellis or, occasionally, my pinky finger. For the gift it gave to me, my peace, I pledged each Spring, to peel away the Winter burlap to aerate its soil, and nourish its new growth with the blossoms that gently fell in its retreat to Autumn, which I stored in a music box on my nightstand. Patiently, I would wait for it to please my every sense with a color guard display in the Summer, as many as it was willing to offer, before nature, or if I could no longer nurture—whichever came first.

Semper means “always” and viren means “brave”.  For its courage to pull off me, a brutal and perpetual winter, I would see it through its own winters; vowing to keep it warm and nourished…and loved, in this life and the next. I hoped, even prayed, for the alluring mystique of honeysuckle to seek me again by scent before sight so that I might know this peace once more, but sooner. All this joy, came in a glance, at first…then, a tendril that gently curled around my finger, reviving sensations where I’d grown numb from when I reached down to pull it…it tugged back. 

###

Preamble

Essays about the creeping vine-like thoughts and clinging moments that sink their teeth into the mortar of my mind’s walls. Before the invasive roots of madness take over, here’s a record of the ascension to give it purpose, meaning, and an indelible haunt. They will be in no particular order, there won’t be any particular theme. Just random climbing expressions, arguments, some old college papers, (some political or related to study); current events opinions, (also, some political or related to interest); letters (sent and yet/never to be sent) that turned into essays, or markers along this journey for you to scale with me and, hopefully, be moved. If unapologetic, explicit topics of a literary bent, with some humor to balance those humbling experiences of life’s gains and losses through raw topics about courage of thought and intimacy of mind is your thing, great!

Welcome. I’m glad you’re here. Enjoy! ~M. Jane Letty

%d bloggers like this: