Tag Archives: Recovery

New Book Launch Announcement!

LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS, BOOK LAUNCH INFO: JUNE 2. ARTWALK FRIDAY evening in Brattleboro Vermont. 6-7pm at the Hooker Dunham Theatre and Gallery. Or call the gallery for a privately arranged tour. Or contact pam for further information and a tour of the gallery. Any group of disabled individuals or those who cannot make it to the gallery for the show (it is not not not “accessible”) _ i will provide a reading/ talk and books for sale to any group who can get me there  to speak to them, providing  transportation to make it possible for me to meet with them. All entirely free of charge. 

 

Don’t worry, be happy!

Recently a friend wrote to me that she was exhausted with worry about whether the future would work out as she wanted it to. She has many concerns and young sons to generate a lot of worries, so i sympathize completely. Nevertheless, this is what i wrote to her and more…

Remember that there are plenty of futures out there and we have absolutely no way of knowing which one will come to us as the present, not until it is the present. So you can spend your time worrying in the present about a future you cannot change by worrying about it (can you?) or you can choose to ENJOY THE FUTURE now by assuming that it will all work out beautifully. That means of course, that freed from worrying about a disastrous outcome, you will enjoy the present, too. Yes, it is possible that what comes will bring disaster, but that pain will be of its time and place alone. You won’t have spent all the weeks and months leading up to it also in pain, dreading what your worry could not possibly change. If disaster does happen, but you spent all that time anticipating the best possible outcome, then guess what? You enjoyed your life, and if disaster happens you can say, well, so this is disaster, but i did not waste my life in fear, worrying myself sick anticipating it. No, no, i enjoyed every minute of a different future that may not have happened, but i lived life to the fullest. Now, life changed but i don’t regret a thing!

I believe that people who can enjoy the best future imaginable also build resilience to the worst future that becomes present in their lives, and in a feedback loop they end up never facing the worst outcome, because in the simple process of facing it, and facing it down, they have already begun to overcome it. But they could not do this without learning the skills of enjoying the best possible future now, instead of worrying. This is how they have become resilient and their resilience feeds back and makes them even stronger when like everyone else, challenges do come their way.

You can do it. You can stop worrying today. You can stop that flow of tormenting thoughts that say xyz is going to happen to ruin everything. How? Not by stopping them but by replacing them with daydreams that are far easier and better. You know how some teachers used to scold the class daydreamer and tell him or her to come back to reality and Stop daydreaming?! Well, i am going to say the opposite: when you are worrying yourself sick, start day dreaming instead, start fantasizing about the dreamiest most glorious future you can give yourself, and then goddam it, give it to yourself! I mean this. Start believing that that future is real and think about you would act and be “if you really knew this” it would change you, wouldn’t it? Well…be that future, enjoy that future as if you know right here and now that it will be on your plate at such and such a time…i promise you, you will enjoy your present so much more than you ever did worrying! And who knows, instead of Not paying the mortgage on time (your worry) you just might end up buying a boat as well as owning your home free and clear (your fantasy)…but even if not, you have not lost anything but your misery. And that, my friend, is a very good thing to lose.

Love,

Pam

TRUMP’S THRONE on Ebay

TRUMP THRONE "A MISTAKE? ERRR, NOT AT ALL, IT IS JUST YOUR THRONE, SIR!"
TRUMP THRONE
“A MISTAKE? ERRR, NOT AT ALL, IT IS JUST YOUR THRONE, SIR!”

You can view and bid on this on Ebay now, here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/-/302192985982?

Please tell anyone who might be interested in an historic sculpture? Thank you!

Constitutional TP
Article II of the constitution flushed into rhe royal loo…

 

THIS IS COMPLETE AND UTTER BS!!

Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2015). The range of conditions includes depression, which the CDC estimates will soon become the second leading cause of disability in the world

Folks, below this I post part of Hillary Clinton’s grand Mental Health Care plan, not because I believe in it, but because I want you all to see what our next president has in store for us. And because I hope you noted what the last thirty years have wrought in DAMAGES. Yes, after all the miracul0us advances of SSRI’s and SRI’s and adjunctive atypical anti-psychotics added to these so-called miracle anti-depressants. OOOooh, we have gotten so much healthier on our miracle pills.YES! We have gotten so much better that we now, get this, commit suicide at a rate 24% HIGHER than we did in 1999, In fact we kill ourselves at our highest rate in 30 years.

Well, I am sorry, people, but this is fucking BULLSHIT, just bullshit. You don’t believe me? Okay, i am used to that. No one ever believes me. So go ahead and read what dear Hillary posted in her Mental Health Care Plan below, from the National Institute of Mental Health. Those are not my numbers but right from the NIMH. So let’s go ahead, take our happy pills and tell ourselves we feel better, go right ahead, but what do we do when another buddy kills herself or himself despite the sweet help of his or her neighborhood pusher, er, psychiatrist???

Well, don’t tell me they did not warn us: ANTI- DEPRESSANTS DO NOT WORK THEY KILL. And it is posted very clearly right there, above.

Okay. Being forwarned is only part of the battle, we have to listen and we have to act.

Sorry for being so strident, I am really sorry.

I AM JUST SO ANGRY, SO FUCKING ANGRY AT THE LOUSY BASTARDS THAT DID THIS TO ALL OF US.

Go ahead and discount me, I do not care. But look at the statistic I posted above and ignore the implications at your peril.

______________________

 

Hillary CLinton’s MENTAL HEALTH CARE PLAN

Federal Support for Suicide Prevention

Suicides, which are usually fueled by mental illness, are rising among numerous population groups, from adolescents and college students[11] to veterans[12] and older adults.[13] The overall rate of suicide increased by 24 percent between 1999 and 2014, and is now at its highest level in 30 years.[14] Over 40,000 Americans die of suicide every year, making it the tenth-leading cause of death nationally.[15] As the former director of NIMH, Dr. Tom Insel, often notes, suicides have 11 victims: the person who dies, and at least 10 people close to them who will never be the same. Hillary believes that suicide is a critical issue that she will prioritize as president. She will:

  • Create a national initiative around suicide prevention across the lifespan that is headed by the Surgeon General: As president, Hillary will move toward the goal of “Zero Suicide” that has been promoted by the Department of Health and Human Services. She will direct all relevant federal agencies, including HHS, the VA, and the Department of Education, to research and develop plans for suicide prevention in their respective settings, and create a cross-government initiative headed by the Surgeon General to coordinate these efforts. She will also launch a citizen input and feedback mechanism, to enable outside groups to comment on agency recommendations, and explore how we can harness technology to reach out to people who need support.
  • Encourage evidence-based suicide prevention and mental health programs in high schools. In 2013, a survey of high school students revealed that 17 percent considered attempting suicide in the last year, with 8 percent actually attempting it. The suicide rate among American Indian/Alaska Native adolescents is even higher, at 1.5 times the national average. There are effective ways to respond. It is critical that school districts emphasize evidence-based mental health education, so that students, teachers, and school nurses are aware of the warning signs and risk factors of mental illness and how to address them. The Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention, released by four leading mental health organizations, includes concrete recommendations that school districts can follow. Hillary will direct the Department of Education to emphasize mental health literacy in middle and high schools and will work with regional and national PTA, school counselor associations, and associations of secondary school principals to encourage school districts to adopt this model policy.
  • Provide federal support for suicide prevention on college campuses. Hillary believes that every college campus should have a comprehensive strategy to prevent suicide, including counseling, training for personnel, and policies that enable students to take leave for mental health Such multi-layered approaches have a proven track record of decreasing suicides. For instance, the Air Force launched an initiative in 1996 that brought together multiple intervention programs and reduced the suicide rate among Air Force personnel by nearly a third in under a decade. Groups such as the Jed Foundation, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, and Active Minds have created frameworks around suicide prevention tailored for colleges and universities. Hillary will dramatically increase funding for campus suicide prevention, investing up to $50 million per year to provide a pathway for the country’s nearly 5,000 colleges – whether private or public, two-year or four-year – to implement these frameworks on behalf of students.
  • Partner with colleges and researchers to ensure that students of color and LGBT students are receiving adequate mental health coverage. Evidence suggests that the psychological needs of students of color are disproportionately unmet, impeding their ability to adapt to college life. LGBT students face added burdens as well, with gay youth being four times more likely than their straight peers to attempt suicide. Hillary will direct the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to work with universities, researchers and community programs to determine how best to meet and respond to the challenges these students face and to provide specialized counseling.

 

 

A poem plus art.

Edited on July 29, 2016 and reposted.

The poem below is the introduction to my third book, and my second book of poems, this time with art, which should be published in the spring of 2017 by Sundog Poetry and Green Writers Press, both Vermont publishers.  Wowee!!! I am thrilled. Tamra Higgins of Sundog has generously said that she wants to make sure that I have an art show and reading at the time of the book launching. Moreover  I believe that Sydney Lea, Vermont’s wonderful former poet laureate, who had agreed to write the forward for it when it was still going to be published by CKP will still do so for the new publishers. I feel especially blessed!!!

I am very much a novice watercolorist and these are two beginning paintings.

imageJ

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TO THE READER

who may be sitting as I am
in a green recliner with a cup of tea
staring out through the porch
to a darkened streetlamp outside the diner,
with a book in her lap, mine, I hope
the only one I feel I should have to mention
if I mention a book in a poem I write;
to the reader, the nitpicker, the one
who may be wondering why
on p. 47 there are two ands, one
right after another, and whose fault that is;
and to the reader, who may be tired
after a long ride home on the bus
after dark and a meal not worth mentioning
who picks up my book but finds his eyes
closing before he has opened the cover,
I say: Forgive me
I am only a writer sitting in a green recliner
with a cup of tea, I can’t explain
those two ands or the mysterious
streetlamp or warm the feet of a tired
reader in his bed. I can only put music on
and tell him stories to make movies
turn in his head, to let him wake
with the sudden understanding that poetry
may be all it takes to make a life—
well, my life at any rate, and maybe his,
and maybe the nitpicker’s and yours, too,
staring through the porch to the streetlamp
where what happens so mysteriously is poetry—
and the whole night is wrapped
in the words spoken by two strangers
meeting there, or not spoken, which is poetry too,
and all of us who listen are waiting
for the music of what is to happen.

Rutland PICU art

These are the latest fractured portraits and artpieces i have done at Rutland Regional Medical Center’s PICU. The portraits are not meant to be recognizably anyone, unless of course,  they are. The set of small oil pastels were just experiments. The last picture is a gouache painting, about 22″ by 36″. The others are about half that size and in colored pencil.

 

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Art from Rutland Regional Medical Center PICU

waiting for meds at PICU
waiting for meds at PICU
Sad self portrait done in mirror after restraint chair incident
Sad self portrait done in mirror after restraint chair incident

 

 

(Sorry but my last post about their use of the restraint chair was very unexpectedly deleted…i still have the draft and can find the emailed comments, but i dunno that i have the heart to repost it unless someone requests it…)

Fractured Portrait of Lene
Fractured Portrait of Lene

 

I’m still here…

So sorry to every one for disappearing so unexpectedly. I was sent to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Emergency Room on December 31, 2015, largely because MRR was short on staff, and there i was brutalized for 6 days before Rutland Regional Medical Center took me in, on their state hospital PICU unit.

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In the ER not only did they restrain me as i have depicted, but they injected me with 15mg of Haldol and much more over the course of those 6 days, despite my advanced directive, signed by four people and notarized, that explicitly states that under no circumstances am i to be given Haldol!

 

The ER doctor admitted that he violated, knowingly, my advanced directive.  Due to facebook supporters calling the local newpaper in outrage, the newspaper called not the hospital–that would have violated my privacy, so they claimed, even though i had alerted the paper myself to their treatment of me! No, the newspaper, the Brattleboro Reformer, called my twin sister, Carolyn Spiro MD and asked her if this treatment of me, her sister, and her twin, was proper, and her amswer was, Absolutely!!!!

 

So you see where she stands on the issue of the torture of both psychiatric patients and her own twin sister! I have had nothing to do with her for years because of this.

 

Meanwhile, i have many many good words to say about the Rutland Regional Medical Center PICU but i don’t have enough time on my iPad tonight to say them all. So i will just end with this other artwork. I hope tomorrow i can tell you more about RRMC where they are trying, in a very small constricted place, to do things right, at least in terms of seclusion and restraints.

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Radio Show about Schizophrenia

Leonard Lopate Show on Divided Minds (2005)

https://www.wnyc.org/radio/#/ondemand/51446

Hi everyone, i hope you will enjoy hearing this show, despite the fact that it was recorded several years ago. I plan to update you all on my progress since then and about M–V— in Brattleboro, where i live now. But it may take some time to get that organized and myself in gear. So in the meantime,  i found this older radio broadcast that most of you likely have never heard, being out of the NYC area at that time.

For myself, it has been nice to hear my twin sister’s voice and her sounding so very kind and sweet to me. I have not felt that from her or about her in such a long time…and i dunno whether it is me and just a perception, or a real thing. But i wish i had her back in my life in some way that could work for both of us without either jealousy or anything that threatened either of us. (I mean jealousy on her part, not on mine…)

Anyhow, i hope to write a longer and more uptodate post soon, but thank you all for sticking out my long absence and waiting for my return.

Love

Pam

Ps this table below was made from cardboard and fabric and paper and glue….largely because we have only beds in our rooms and i needed somewhere to store some of my things. So the table hides a small storage compartment under its removable top.

Cloth mache table made by pamela spiro wagner
Cloth mache table made by pamela spiro wagner

Toltec Wisdom (and a Little of My Own!)

Despair on Park Bench
Despair on Park Bench

Sometimes you never know who it is that has a disabling mental “illness,” not even when they are right in front of you. Not every person who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, for instance, looks like it or pushes a shopping cart laden with household “extranea” down the street, homeless, filthy, and laughing wildly to themselves…Not that this is so terrible either, frankly. We should all not be so quick to judge. And no, we should not judge even this notion of the homeless-shopping-cart-person as “bad” or “wrong” — not until we know the person and understand what he or she wants from life and his or her history. I am not saying that anyone should freeze to death from exposure, or suffer from hunger or from any unwanted basic deprivation, only that no one understands the life conditions of another until you talk with them and come to know that person…

Too many people make assumptions that are wrong and/or erroneous based only on what they want and are comfortable with, not on what the other person needs and wants. Believe me, I know, having been there way more often than I wish and experienced it from that “other side.” Far too many times have people claimed to be “helping me” and have only hurt me! It is not that I think they were badly intentioned, so much as that they were only thinking about how they felt or would feel. They were not being truly empathic, not giving an inch or a nanosecond to trying to think about how I, personally, did feel nor for that matter asking me what I might want or need at that moment.

I want to remind people to remember that “ASSUME makes an ASS out of U and Me..” so instead of assuming anything about another person, especially someone who has an apparent mental “illness” or someone who at any rate seems somehow “different” from the people who are familiar to you, ask them questions…Find out what they want and what makes them comfortable!

As Toltec spiritual advisor Don Miguel Ruiz tells us in THE FOUR AGREEMENTS, which is the best book of its sort I have ever read, you can and should ask any question you want to, so long as you are honestly prepared to accept the answer.

By the way, the Second Agreement, in his book, an Agreement I find so fundamentally important, is Do Not Take Anything Personally. By taking things personally — that way danger and disappointment and all distress lies. Truly this is so. People are all in their own little bubbles, taking their own lives personally and frankly, think about that! We are only on the periphery of everyone else’s thinking and living, and in a very real way they cannot ever know us as we know ourselves, they can only know us through the lens of their own lives, their own bubbles. This revelation can be freeing if you let it…

That is why we should not take anything personally — because other people are too busy doing the same thing and not seeing us as we are, but only as adjuncts to their lives and thinking. If we truly knew and accepted this, we would be free from a great deal of angst and upset. But of course this is a very difficult thing to do…to free ourselves of the notion that we are as important in others lives as we are in our own. No, they are the important actors on their own stage, we are not. We really need to get over thinking that we are prima donnas in everyone’s drama as well as our own…Is not our own life enough? I should think so. Who would want to star in more than one drama at a time?

So You Thought Your Genes or Drugs Cause Drug Addiction? Read This and Think Again

 
Johann Hari Headshot

FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST:

The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think

By Johann Hari

It is now one hundred years since drugs were first banned — and all through this long century of waging war on drugs, we have been told a story about addiction by our teachers and by our governments. This story is so deeply ingrained in our minds that we take it for granted. It seems obvious. It seems manifestly true. Until I set off three and a half years ago on a 30,000-mile journey for my new book, Chasing The Scream: The First And Last Days of the War on Drugs, to figure out what is really driving the drug war, I believed it too. But what I learned on the road is that almost everything we have been told about addiction is wrong — and there is a very different story waiting for us, if only we are ready to hear it.

If we truly absorb this new story, we will have to change a lot more than the drug war. We will have to change ourselves.

I learned it from an extraordinary mixture of people I met on my travels. From the surviving friends of Billie Holiday, who helped me to learn how the founder of the war on drugs stalked and helped to kill her. From a Jewish doctor who was smuggled out of the Budapest ghetto as a baby, only to unlock the secrets of addiction as a grown man. From a transsexual crack dealer in Brooklyn who was conceived when his mother, a crack-addict, was raped by his father, an NYPD officer. From a man who was kept at the bottom of a well for two years by a torturing dictatorship, only to emerge to be elected President of Uruguay and to begin the last days of the war on drugs.

I had a quite personal reason to set out for these answers. One of my earliest memories as a kid is trying to wake up one of my relatives, and not being able to. Ever since then, I have been turning over the essential mystery of addiction in my mind — what causes some people to become fixated on a drug or a behavior until they can’t stop? How do we help those people to come back to us? As I got older, another of my close relatives developed a cocaine addiction, and I fell into a relationship with a heroin addict. I guess addiction felt like home to me.

If you had asked me what causes drug addiction at the start, I would have looked at you as if you were an idiot, and said: “Drugs. Duh.” It’s not difficult to grasp. I thought I had seen it in my own life. We can all explain it. Imagine if you and I and the next twenty people to pass us on the street take a really potent drug for twenty days. There are strong chemical hooks in these drugs, so if we stopped on day twenty-one, our bodies would need the chemical. We would have a ferocious craving. We would be addicted. That’s what addiction means.

One of the ways this theory was first established is through rat experiments — ones that were injected into the American psyche in the 1980s, in a famous advert by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. You may remember it. The experiment is simple. Put a rat in a cage, alone, with two water bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time you run this experiment, the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water, and keep coming back for more and more, until it kills itself.

The advert explains: “Only one drug is so addictive, nine out of ten laboratory rats will use it. And use it. And use it. Until dead. It’s called cocaine. And it can do the same thing to you.”

But in the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexandernoticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?

In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.

The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.

At first, I thought this was merely a quirk of rats, until I discovered that there was — at the same time as the Rat Park experiment — a helpful human equivalent taking place. It was called the Vietnam War. Time magazine reported using heroin was “as common as chewing gum” among U.S. soldiers, and there is solid evidence to back this up: some 20 percent of U.S. soldiers had become addicted to heroin there, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Many people were understandably terrified; they believed a huge number of addicts were about to head home when the war ended.

But in fact some 95 percent of the addicted soldiers — according to the same study — simply stopped. Very few had rehab. They shifted from a terrifying cage back to a pleasant one, so didn’t want the drug any more.

Professor Alexander argues this discovery is a profound challenge both to the right-wing view that addiction is a moral failing caused by too much hedonistic partying, and the liberal view that addiction is a disease taking place in a chemically hijacked brain. In fact, he argues, addiction is an adaptation. It’s not you. It’s your cage.

After the first phase of Rat Park, Professor Alexander then took this test further. He reran the early experiments, where the rats were left alone, and became compulsive users of the drug. He let them use for fifty-seven days — if anything can hook you, it’s that. Then he took them out of isolation, and placed them in Rat Park. He wanted to know, if you fall into that state of addiction, is your brain hijacked, so you can’t recover? Do the drugs take you over? What happened is — again — striking. The rats seemed to have a few twitches of withdrawal, but they soon stopped their heavy use, and went back to having a normal life. The good cage saved them. (The full references to all the studies I am discussing are in the book.)

When I first learned about this, I was puzzled. How can this be? This new theory is such a radical assault on what we have been told that it felt like it could not be true. But the more scientists I interviewed, and the more I looked at their studies, the more I discovered things that don’t seem to make sense — unless you take account of this new approach.

Here’s one example of an experiment that is happening all around you, and may well happen to you one day. If you get run over today and you break your hip, you will probably be given diamorphine, the medical name for heroin. In the hospital around you, there will be plenty of people also given heroin for long periods, for pain relief. The heroin you will get from the doctor will have a much higher purity and potency than the heroin being used by street-addicts, who have to buy from criminals who adulterate it. So if the old theory of addiction is right — it’s the drugs that cause it; they make your body need them — then it’s obvious what should happen. Loads of people should leave the hospital and try to score smack on the streets to meet their habit.

But here’s the strange thing: It virtually never happens. As the Canadian doctor Gabor Mate was the first to explain to me, medical users just stop, despite months of use. The same drug, used for the same length of time, turns street-users into desperate addicts and leaves medical patients unaffected.

If you still believe — as I used to — that addiction is caused by chemical hooks, this makes no sense. But if you believe Bruce Alexander’s theory, the picture falls into place. The street-addict is like the rats in the first cage, isolated, alone, with only one source of solace to turn to. The medical patient is like the rats in the second cage. She is going home to a life where she is surrounded by the people she loves. The drug is the same, but the environment is different.

This gives us an insight that goes much deeper than the need to understand addicts. Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It’s how we get our satisfaction. If we can’t connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find — the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about ‘addiction’ altogether, and instead call it ‘bonding.’ A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn’t bond as fully with anything else.

So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.

When I learned all this, I found it slowly persuading me, but I still couldn’t shake off a nagging doubt. Are these scientists saying chemical hooks make no difference? It was explained to me — you can become addicted to gambling, and nobody thinks you inject a pack of cards into your veins. You can have all the addiction, and none of the chemical hooks. I went to a Gamblers’ Anonymous meeting in Las Vegas (with the permission of everyone present, who knew I was there to observe) and they were as plainly addicted as the cocaine and heroin addicts I have known in my life. Yet there are no chemical hooks on a craps table.

But still, surely, I asked, there is some role for the chemicals? It turns out there is an experiment which gives us the answer to this in quite precise terms, which I learned about in Richard DeGrandpre’s book The Cult of Pharmacology.

Everyone agrees cigarette smoking is one of the most addictive processes around. The chemical hooks in tobacco come from a drug inside it called nicotine. So when nicotine patches were developed in the early 1990s, there was a huge surge of optimism — cigarette smokers could get all of their chemical hooks, without the other filthy (and deadly) effects of cigarette smoking. They would be freed.

But the Office of the Surgeon General has found that just 17.7 percent of cigarette smokers are able to stop using nicotine patches. That’s not nothing. If the chemicals drive 17.7 percent of addiction, as this shows, that’s still millions of lives ruined globally. But what it reveals again is that the story we have been taught about The Cause of Addiction lying with chemical hooks is, in fact, real, but only a minor part of a much bigger picture.

This has huge implications for the one-hundred-year-old war on drugs. This massive war — which, as I saw, kills people from the malls of Mexico to the streets of Liverpool — is based on the claim that we need to physically eradicate a whole array of chemicals because they hijack people’s brains and cause addiction. But if drugs aren’t the driver of addiction — if, in fact, it is disconnection that drives addiction — then this makes no sense.

Ironically, the war on drugs actually increases all those larger drivers of addiction. For example, I went to a prison in Arizona — ‘Tent City’ — where inmates are detained in tiny stone isolation cages (‘The Hole’) for weeks and weeks on end to punish them for drug use. It is as close to a human recreation of the cages that guaranteed deadly addiction in rats as I can imagine. And when those prisoners get out, they will be unemployable because of their criminal record — guaranteeing they with be cut off even more. I watched this playing out in the human stories I met across the world.

There is an alternative. You can build a system that is designed to help drug addicts to reconnect with the world — and so leave behind their addictions.

This isn’t theoretical. It is happening. I have seen it. Nearly fifteen years ago, Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in Europe, with 1 percent of the population addicted to heroin. They had tried a drug war, and the problem just kept getting worse. So they decided to do something radically different. They resolved to decriminalize all drugs, and transfer all the money they used to spend on arresting and jailing drug addicts, and spend it instead on reconnecting them — to their own feelings, and to the wider society. The most crucial step is to get them secure housing, and subsidized jobs so they have a purpose in life, and something to get out of bed for. I watched as they are helped, in warm and welcoming clinics, to learn how to reconnect with their feelings, after years of trauma and stunning them into silence with drugs.

One example I learned about was a group of addicts who were given a loan to set up a removals firm. Suddenly, they were a group, all bonded to each other, and to the society, and responsible for each other’s care.

The results of all this are now in. An independent study by the British Journal of Criminology found that since total decriminalization, addiction has fallen, and injecting drug use is down by 50 percent. I’ll repeat that: injecting drug use is down by 50 percent. Decriminalization has been such a manifest success that very few people in Portugal want to go back to the old system. The main campaigner against the decriminalization back in 2000 was Joao Figueira, the country’s top drug cop. He offered all the dire warnings that we would expect from the Daily Mail or Fox News. But when we sat together in Lisbon, he told me that everything he predicted had not come to pass — and he now hopes the whole world will follow Portugal’s example.

This isn’t only relevant to the addicts I love. It is relevant to all of us, because it forces us to think differently about ourselves. Human beings are bonding animals. We need to connect and love. The wisest sentence of the twentieth century was E.M. Forster’s — “only connect.” But we have created an environment and a culture that cut us off from connection, or offer only the parody of it offered by the Internet. The rise of addiction is a symptom of a deeper sickness in the way we live — constantly directing our gaze towards the next shiny object we should buy, rather than the human beings all around us.

The writer George Monbiot has called this “the age of loneliness.” We have created human societies where it is easier for people to become cut off from all human connections than ever before. Bruce Alexander — the creator of Rat Park — told me that for too long, we have talked exclusively about individual recovery from addiction. We need now to talk about social recovery — how we all recover, together, from the sickness of isolation that is sinking on us like a thick fog.

But this new evidence isn’t just a challenge to us politically. It doesn’t just force us to change our minds. It forces us to change our hearts.

Loving an addict is really hard. When I looked at the addicts I love, it was always tempting to follow the tough love advice doled out by reality shows like Intervention — tell the addict to shape up, or cut them off. Their message is that an addict who won’t stop should be shunned. It’s the logic of the drug war, imported into our private lives. But in fact, I learned, that will only deepen their addiction — and you may lose them altogether. I came home determined to tie the addicts in my life closer to me than ever — to let them know I love them unconditionally, whether they stop, or whether they can’t.

When I returned from my long journey, I looked at my ex-boyfriend, in withdrawal, trembling on my spare bed, and I thought about him differently. For a century now, we have been singing war songs about addicts. It occurred to me as I wiped his brow, we should have been singing love songs to them all along.

 

 

The full story of Johann Hari’s journey — told through the stories of the people he met — can be read in Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, published by Bloomsbury. The book has been praised by everyone from Elton John to Glenn Greenwald to Naomi Klein. You can buy it at all good bookstores and read more at www.chasingthescream.com.

Johann Hari will be talking about his book at 7pm at Politics and Prose in Washington DC on the 29th of January, at lunchtime at the 92nd Street Y in New York City on the 30th January, and in the evening at Red Emma’s in Baltimore on the 4th February.

The full references and sources for all the information cited in this article can be found in the book’s extensive end-notes.

If you would like more updates on the book and this issue, you can like the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/chasingthescream

Don’t Worry, Be Happy, and Dance, Cry, Hum along!

 

If this doesn’t make you happy, I am very sorry…I myself despite a massive migraine and fears of vascular bleeds found mysefl directing a virtual orchestra in the midst of my pain and by the end, PooF! magically it was GONE! Miracle of miracles!

8D

Photos of Vermont Cottage, and of the Artist, Herself

I thought I would post a few pictures of where I have been living these past few weeks, both how it was this past summer and what it looks like now. And me, too. Since most of you likely have no idea what I look like unless you have read DIVIDED MINDS and of course those photos, the most recent in them, was the author photo taken some ten years ago in 2004.

Carriage House Kitchen area summer 2014
Carriage House Kitchen area summer 2014

summer 2014

Dining/arts area of carriage house Summer 2014
Dining/arts area of carriage house Summer 2014

The above photo is the cottage kitchen area and dining/arts area as they were this summer, before I brought all my stuff up here. It was much less cluttered then and lighter! Below photo is the dining and “arts” area where Lydia and I did our artwork and where most of Dr Geuss was made…

The next photo is from the summer, me holding the brown paper beginnings of Dr Geuss (actually this was when Lucy Goosey was rather far along…(trust me! ) Nevertheless if you look hard enough you will see that I am just holding the wings on — I have not yet figured out how to secure them.

Pam with Lucy Goose  (Dr Geuss-to-be)
Pam with Lucy Goose (Dr Geuss-to-be)

As it turned out what I decided to do was to drill a hole through each wing, after Lydia and I painted them, a hole right through a painted dot, then a hole into the body (I think we decided to drill maybe three holes per side about a quarter inch in diameter. ) I sawed chopsticks from supper the night before into little dowel pieces maybe 2 inches long, then I pushed the chopstick dowels into these holes, along with glue, thereby attaching the wings permanently to the body. I thought it was a rather ingenious if not elegant solution to the problem, especially as glue and papier mache solution itself was not going to hold them in the position I wanted.

The only other way I had solved this sort of problem before had been in the out-held arm of Dr John Jumoke. Then I just “smooshed” and actually used Plaster of Paris, which I would not do again. Gypsum (P of P) would just have added weight to the held out wings of the goose, which would not have been good, nor for a sculpture that by its very nature needed to be easy to move.

Anyhow when I was done, I was very pleased when I offered it, through Cyndi my therapist to the Human Services Department in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom (St Johnsbury) and they were nice enough to accept it.

This was not a given. Hartford’s Children’s Hospital had refused two sculptures on the pretext that they were a “fire hazard” even though for the two days they were on display there apparently they were wildly popular.

Pam with Dr Geuss in NEK Human Services Dept -- Children's Area

Well to finish out this saga, the photo of me with Dr GEuss above is in the children’s department where it started out, but apparently the kids wanted to “ride” it so instead my therapist there who is artistic herself made a lovely table for it, and they put it out in the front reception area for everyone to see. I was thrilled to see this when I came back and first arrived there for an appointment from The Care Bed.

Mt Harmony Farm Carriage House 2014 Summer
Mt Harmony Farm Carriage House 2014 Summer

The building (above) is the carriage house (or cottage) I live in, as it was last summer. The sooty part of the wall is from the pellet stove, which I am using now in the winter with great satisfaction. But even though it was nearly 0°F last night I still prefer to bundle up in clothing than to use a lot of pellets or keep the house too warm and get a headache! So I keep the stove at “1” rarely even a “2” and have not yet even turned on the upstairs electric heat…On the left, behind the bent door, is the “garage” where the farm and snow clearing equipment are kept…

This next photo is one I snapped not at all by accident of the white donkey, who looked to me just like a unicorn peering from behind the trees! I love this picture because it captures the magic of the past summer and why I fell in love with the NEK and Sheffield and this farm and its owners, Marc and Steffi, and VERMONT!!!!

Unicorn Heres loooking at you

I can’t recall if I posted these next few on Wagblog or only on FB but here is the farm after our first snowfall a week ago (actually it was not at all our first at all, only the first big one I was present for). We had a foot of snow at Thanksgiving again and more last night on top of this apparently unnamed “mountain”!

Snow in November at Mt Harmony Farm!
Snow in November at Mt Harmony Farm!
Mt Harmony Sheep in Snow November 2014
Mt Harmony Sheep in Snow November 2014
Farmhouse and sunrise on snow in Vermont 2014
Farmhouse and sunrise on snow in Vermont 2014

Finally a few photos of Wag herself in her new Vermont digs, doing her “thang.”

Pam at table drawing a small sketch before she starts painting

Pam Wagner Nov, 2104

(below)

Pam dressed to the nines and pretending to paint for the camera…In reality I never change out of my grungy gray tee shirt and jeans, and would never paint in such good clothing!

The Artist, dressed to nines and pretending to paint for the camera!
The Artist, dressed to nines and pretending to paint for the camera!
Pam Wagner with new 6" square oil painting based on Don Miguel Ruiz book, THE FIFTH AGREEMENT
Pam Wagner with new 6″ square oil painting based on Don Miguel Ruiz book, THE FIFTH AGREEMENT

Pam displaying results of her oil painting adventures, a picture based on a a very short book that means more to her than almost any other, THE FOUR AGREEMENTS by Don Miguel Ruiz and his newest, written with his son, THE FIFTH AGREEMENT…

Painting is “Sometimes a Dreamer has a New Dream”

In Recliner, reading about artist, Alice Neel
In Recliner, reading about artist, Alice Neel

Above is Pam in recliner in Vermont cottage, reading about one of her favorites artists, Alice Neel…

Pam, drawing in  recliner
Pam, drawing in recl

Drawing in recliner

Cooking up a storm with T=day leftovers, nov 2014
Cooking up a storm with T=day leftovers, nov 2014

(Above) Kitchen area in winter time….Pam W cooking, late at night in November, 2014

You can see that since I came back from the summer it has gotten a lot more crowded….I brought as much as I could pack into a 14 foot truck and gave everything else away. Which was a lot. I donated ALL my furniture to FreeCyclers, including my bed and my recliner. ALL my books went to a teacher at the Cheshire Correctional Institute or their library, except a few precious ones, including the Alice Neel volume. And most of my other items except for art supplies and art work, and cold weather clothing and a few expensive items I knew I would not want to have to purchase anew. But most of my things had been bought at thrift store to begin with and many years ago to boot, so it would have cost more to lug them with me to Vermont than to buy them again, used, once I got settled there.

All the furniture that you see was there when I got here and belongs to the owners, Marc and Steffi. Of all that you see, only the artwork on the walls, and the easel, and the white floor three-bulb lamp are mine…

Frankly I would love to “downsize” even more than this, but do not know how (except for clothing, which is all used and while I like what I have I NEVER wear it)…I have used nearly everything I brought with me, and if I have not, it is only because Marc and Steffi have something here. However, when I go somewhere else, which may NOT be fully furnished, I know I will be glad that I did not toss everything in a fit of pique with “stuff”.

Sorry about this mundane post. I needed to make these photos for my mom, who is experiencing dementia and may not even quite know where I am. I did make taped phone calls that go out to her every night at the same time, telling her that I love her and am moving to Vermont, but I have not been able to contact her “in person” otherwise, since I cannot call her and she is no longer able to do email . So I will write her a letter and enclose these photos. I figured why not also show them to my readers…(and I hope not bore them to tears at the same time!!!

8D

Love,

pam

Papier Mache Art and Recovery: An Update on Thanksgiving 2014

I wrote some or most of this in 2009 but I want to rewrite and update it..

Art, capital A, saved my life. It did more than that. Art gave me a new life, new hope, and something to get up for in the morning. It’s not that I’ve stopped writing. But I had been writing in a vacuum for a long time and needed an outlet for my creative urges that involved more than just my brain. Oh sure, writing involves the hands, too. But not in the way I mean. What I needed was, well, what do I mean? In some sense I needed more activity, if only because my poor brain shuts down and goes to sleep whenever I read, and it simply capitulates to narcolepsy whenever I am sedentary. I have indeed tried standing up while reading and writing, but this doesn’t work for someone whose feet swell very easily. And I find that standing up is just more distracting than anything.

But also  I felt an intense to make things, create objects or works of art that could be seen and touched and even smelled and if scratched or thrown to the ground, heard. I had no idea in 2009 that in 2014 I might even write a couple of rap songs before I succumbed to the impulse to retreat into self-imposed total mutism. If I were VIncent Van Gogh, I might even want to taste my art, but I will try to stick to real culinary arts when that urge overtakes me as I do not at the present time wish to be poisoned by cadmium red etc. Nevertheless, despite my lifelong love for words, I still wanted to create something physical, not just an imagined  or recalled world in words, however long-lasting.

I have always needed to work with my hands. I once wrote a poem called Hand Hunger which some silly psychoanalytic candidate insisted was sexual rather than seeing the references for what they clearly were, to making and creating and building with the hands, to MANUAL LABOR and not to — (sheesh!) masturbation! I mean, how stupid and dim can you get?

Anyhow, I needed to make something or do some sort of craft or artwork. Fearing/Knowing that I could not do “real art,” (YASS,that was ME only a few years ago, telling myself that I could never paint a face! Listen up all ye who think YOU can not  do art!) that I was not the stuff of which true artists are made, I always gravitated towards the crafty side of things. (But pray tell, what stuff is that, Pamela?)

So even when I – on a manic whim – dove into sculpture, creating that llama-in-a-day, Dolly the Llama,

Dolly the Llama at show

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the result was mostly folk art, which is to say, unsophisticated, rustic, and at best a craft-like work. Sure, I was pretty proud that I’d made a lifesize animal that actually stood up firmly on its own four legs. But with a deli-container-head (underneath the papier mache) and huge mailing tube body, scarcely concealed, big enough to have once held a large amateur telescope, it didn’t look much like a llama. In fact, the result was not much more than that tube covered with a few layers of paper and glue, and all of it painted red. Nevertheless, I was happy enough with “Dolly the llama.” I have to confess though that it took me a entire year after the psychosis and mania were treated to finish her. Her saddle blanket have fooled many into tugging at the finge to see if it is real or not. a trompe-l’oeil — eye fooling — success that pleased me no end.

But a year-in-the-making was too much time to complete a craft or artwork, even a life-size llama. I came to dread the work by the time I got to applying the last few strokes of paint. You really need more drive than that to do art, but I didn’t seem to be able to sustain the energy or enthusiasm for much of anything. in fact, I’m not at all sure how I managed to write even my part of the book DIVIDED MINDS given those obstacles.

Then, during my hospitalization in 2007 it seems one obstacle was overcome: on Abilify plus the Abilify-tempering Geodon I suddenly had both energy and stamina* (see bottom of post for a later 2014 discussion of this). Or perhaps it is simply that the medications enabled a “well me” to come out, someone who could sustain an artistic effort, even if it was for the very first time. Given a different life I would have been doing this sort of thing all along had I known it was possible, had I had that kind of stamina… But I didn’t think about this, no, for me there was no looking back.

What I did not know at the time I wrote those words back in 2009, or at least  the connection I was unable to make, was that I had actually been on that same antipsychotic drug combination for a several years before this sudden transformation. But in late 2007, however, a small vascular malformation in my frontal lobe hemorrhaged. This was a small bleed, to be sure, but I later felt and some doctors have also agreed this was not impossible, that the timing was such that the bleed itself might in some sense have been responsible for the sudden production of Decorated Betsy

Decorated Betsy: Lifesize Papier Mache

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and as my new-found compulsion to do art as well as the felt inability to stop…

 

Since that time I have jokingly said, “Well, a little brain damage (in the right place) never hurt anyone.” Of course, that is indeed only a joke. because brain damage almost always DOES hurt people. But in this case it seems to have wrought a miracle in my life.

 

 

Over the years since Dec 2007,  I have created many pieces, large and small, from bowls to two large tortoises and two geese, even a  “crazy fruit” bowl. Also a large seated man, a child detachable from her hassock (not quite finished) and several small birds. My female sculpture, the Decorated Betsy, even won a NAMI national contest on creativity and mental illness. But why tell you about them. I will upload a few photos instead.

I am going to try to show you them chronologically, but without the  many bowls I have made along with way, except for a few that are particularly special to me. Note that all the sculptures incuding a few that are not shown here, have been donated to someone or some organization, However if anyone is interested in purchasing a new sculpture, I  do accept commissions.

This is the Dream Tortoise, otherwise known as Yurtle the Turtle, which is about 3 feet in diameter. It was my second animal, but my first turtle.

 

DreamTlooking up

The prescription that this brightly clad psychiatrist holds in his hand reads: Dr John Jumoke, Rx: Art, Poetry, Music.  I thought, well, that  is one shrink even I wouldn’t mind seeing!

Psychiatrist Dr John Jumoke with Rx for Art, Poetry and Music
Psychiatrist Dr John Jumoke with Rx for Art, Poetry and Music

 

Trudy, papier mache child seated on paper mache hassock
Trudy, papier mache child seated on paper mache hassock, donated along with Dr Jumoke to Otis Library in Norwich CT.

 

Crazy Fruit Bowl with Mini-Melon
Crazy Papier Mache Fruit Bowl with Mini-Melon

 

Papier Mache Goose for Ruth
Papier Mache “Herr Goose” commissioned by Ruth S, one of my favorite artists and mentors.

 

Herr Goose after revisitation for repairs...Click on the photo to make a close up and you will notice neck "feathers and the difference it makes with old fully decorated version.
Herr Goose after revisitation for repairs…Click on the photo to make a close up and you will notice neck “feathers and the difference between this and the no-gold fully decorated version.

 

African Queen of Paranoia, without the large gold cascading earrings that I made for her but which catch the light too much to photographed.
African Queen of Paranoia, finally photographed with the large gold cascading earrings that I also made for her. Reminiscent, so i have been told, of the bust of Nefertiti…

 

African Queen of Paranoia (reminiscent of Nefertiti)
African Queen of Paranoia (reminiscent of Nefertiti) You can see that this resemblance was purely accidental, The bust was mostly an exercise in balance!

 

 

 

Papier Mache Bowl, painted with  slimemold motif and papier mache apple
Papier Mache Bowl, painted with “slimemold fruiting bodies and plasmodium” motif, also papier mache apple

 

Bird in Cage - Papier mach by Pamela Spiro  Wagner
“Standish” Bird in Cage for Tim – Papier mache by Pamela Spiro Wagner
Wading BIrd
Wading BIrd-given to Joyce Kamenitz, MD. Paper bird painted with nail polish, made by Pamela Spiro Wagner, placed on cellophane covered mirror with stones and soil mixed with polyurethane and glued to mirror.

 

papie-mache bird in tree banches made for sister by pamela spiro wagner,
Papier mache hummingbird bird in tree branches made for sister, Martha, by pamela spiro wagner,

 

Dr Geuss:  large Papier Mache Goose  made for the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont's Human Services
Dr Geuss: large papier mache goose made for the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont’s Human Services Approximately 3 feet tall

 

Tim with Papier Mache Turtle I made for him
Finaly, my dear friend and art collector, Tim with papier mache Turtle I made for him (so you can get an  idea of the size) Turtle’s head is large but the photo was also taken at angle so it looks larger…Notice copper sneakers, two of them with laces!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*As for Abiilify and Geodon “causing” my stamina and better endurance? I dunno what to say? I have little social stamina even now. But I stopped the Geodon almost as soon as I restarted it. I just feared taking any drug that prolongs the QT interval, one, and isn[t  even approved in Europe for heaven’s sake! Why is that? I can think of two reasons. One is that it is NOT effective at all, not even enough for them to fake-believe it, or two, it is too dangerous for the Europeans even to subject their mentally ill to it.  There may be other reasons why the European Union declined to approve Ziprasidone, but I cannot think of any other obvious reasons.

 

As for the Abilify, well, I have taken it, more or less, since I was in Care Bed, largely because they got me onto it and I am scared, frankly to stop it…And yet, I do have to “get myself” to take it each and every day, stop myself from simply removing it from the slot in the pill tray that it is in…I should. slowly, but I am afraid, I confess. My therapist at the Northeast Kingdom Human Services told me yesterday that I came extremely close to having been forced into the hospital this month…and she is worried about me if I do not take the fricking drug. But I do not believe it does a danged thing for me, nothing bad either, nothing bad that tis obvious at any rate…But what will it do down the road, and what was that stuff going on with my mouth when I was OFF it??? I want to know but I know no one will tell me or even test me for TD, because they do not want to KNOW…They do not want toi know if the  drug is causing brain damage because of the consequences of their KNOWLEDGE both from me and for them.

FUCK THEM and FUCK ME. I don’t know what to do. Everyone has an opinion and everyone has a different opinion and because I do NOT TRUST MYSELF to know myself or my needs, I listen to everyone at least temporarily. I listen to everyone! But I cannot trust what anyone, any one single person tells me, because I do not actually trust any single person to know a goddam thing about it OR to tell me the fucking truth. That  is the problem. Even Nancy, the APRN, who admitted that the drugs were imperfect and very broad targeting, etc seemed to be too enthusiastic for them, rather than trying to find a way NOT to use them. But that may have been because I myself raised a stink about their having taken a WHOLE bottle of expensive pills (GEODON) from my bags at CARE BED and not returned them to me,…I did not like that one bit.

i mean, I am not going to overdose or sell the meds, but I want what I came in with, and they are MY pills, goddam it! Wh=at right does ANY one have to take them from me! So i partly agreed to the Geodon just to get my bottle of pills back, only then it turned out that they wanted to give me a weekly tray so I would try to be compliant …so I did not get the entire bottle only a week’s worth which I frankly am not even taking.

 

I do not want to take any pills except for what I FEEL in my soul I need! I NEED 1) methylphenidate, or I cannot stay awake to do anything, esp not to drive any farther than 10 minutes  away, if even that. I start yawning about 15 minutes after I wake up…You may think this is a bad drug for someone with a propensity for psychosis but having narcolelpsy is NOT my fault…I cannot stay awake for the life of me. And that was true well before I ever took any other drug. 2) I need topiramate because I really fear seizures, and because if it just reduces my headaches by one a week, it is worth it. I take severall vitamins in larger than usual  but not mega-doses. I take a very small dose of a thyroid medication also, which I would not want to stop…Do I NEED Abilify or Geodon? Some people who have known me for  years and in and out of hospitals say “Yes, absolutely!” some others say, No, not if you reduce the dose very very slowly..”

 

I do not have ANY inkling myself, none at all, but I want to believe NOT…I do not feel that these drugs do a thing at all frankly. Except bad things, especially in the case of Geodon. I do not usually like it when people tell me what to do, but I wish wish wish in this case that SOMEONE with influence would indeed tell me what to do. Precisely..and convince me. But no one is in that position, not any more. I am just alone and fucked…My therapist practically said, no she DID say: f you end up in the hospital it will be no one’s fault but your own, because you won[ take the Abilify….What sort of thing is that to tell me??? Should I just accept that and be quiet or what? Is she right? I didn’t like it one bit. I felt utterly abandoned and scolded and also basically told, well, you heard! It WILL BE YOUR FAULT! YOU TAKE THOSE PILLS OR WE BLAME YOU!!!!

 

Enough of this shit…I should, I suppose, have written something about my gratitude for this lovely holiday, the original one that presaged a wholesale slaughter of our good “Indian” buds we had over for the first T-day…ha ha ha.  And how grateful I am for this wonderful country that treats everyone “equally” and with compassion and kindness (justice? Oh well, we need not mention JUSTICE, need we?Justice goes without saying, don’t it???) Ha ha ha, of course if you are melanin-challenged you might not agree that justice nor social compassion…But some folks in MO, and a certain MO town these past few days and nights have come to a different understanding about such things.

 

Okay enough for the “holy-day” chatter from me for now.

 

Gotta go pace the driveway.