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Mother’s Day Weekend 2018 was a big deal for me. First, there was the annual Greenbelt Green Man Festival but it wasn’t the reason why it was a big deal for me. Just a few days before the festival I decided to ditch both my Droid Ultra smartphone and Verizon. My five-year-old smartphone was literally on its last legs. The camera feature had died first (which was why I ended up using the Canon PowerShot camera for photography and videography) but the last few months I had to deal with a phone that constantly kept on crashing and rebooting. This even happened when I was on the phone with someone.

And then there was Verizon, who was increasingly price-gouging me. It got to the point where it started to charge me $125 per month for just the cell phone. I asked someone at Verizon what can I do to lower my cell phone bill and I was told to just get one of those pay-as-you-go phones. The downside is that I wouldn’t be able to transfer my current phone number to that pay-as-you-go phone so I would’ve had to deal with the hassle of telling all of my friends, family, and various business associates that I have a new phone number.

I settled on Consumer Cellular, with monthly plans starting at $25 per month. So far I’ve been very pleased with that company. As for my new phone, it’s actually a used phone that I got from a friend of mine but it’s new to me. (LOL!) It’s a Samsung Galaxy J3. It’s not exactly the top-of-the-line phone but it’s good enough for my purposes.

The Greenbelt Green Man Festival was the first place where I tried the camera part of my new smartphone. This selfie I took is officially the first photo I’ve ever taken with my new smartphone camera.

My Selfie at the Greenbelt Green Man Festival

This video, featuring the band Kiva and a bunch of people dancing is officially the first video I shot with my new smartphone.

On the first day of the Greenbelt Green Man Festival I took a bunch of shots of the festival itself. There were a couple of people playing with hand puppets shaped like a cricket and a praying mantis.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival.

The theme for this year’s Greenbelt Green Man Festival was soil, which was reflected in the official t-shirts that were for sale.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

There was a local beekeeper who showed off his beehive.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

There was a hands-on activity where people of all ages were encouraged to build their own fairy garden.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

There was a community art event where people were encouraged to paint on a canvas that was shaped like a peace sign.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

There was a small pool with rubber ducks that kids could play with.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

There were plenty of handcrafted items made by local artisans on sale at that festival throughout the weekend.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

The Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

The Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

Some people offered their services, such as Gwen Vaccaro, who runs her own spa known as Pleasant Touch.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival.

Some people staffed information booths that promoted local environmental organizations and local environmental issues.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

The Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

The Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

There were musical acts who performed throughout the entire two-day festival.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

A local Girl Scout Troop did a food and toiletry drive for a local homeless shelter on the first day of the festival.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

People basically hung out with each other and had a good time.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

The Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

May 12 was also Scratch Day. The Greenbelt Makerspace had put out a bunch of laptops in anticipation of people coming in and try their hand at coding in Scratch. However, the festival was simultaneously being held right outside its doors so very few people took advantage of this opportunity.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 12, 2018

The second day of the festival was not only Mother’s Day but it was also the first day of the new season of the Greenbelt Farmers Market (which had been on its usual winter hiatus). A new Lebanese restaurant was in the process of opening its doors but there was still more work to be done in the restaurant before it could be properly opened to the general pubic. The restaurant decided to offer Lebanese Zaatar bread on a carryout basis, which I found to be very tasty.)

The Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

The Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

The Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

The biggest downer about the second day of the festival was the rain, which resulted in fewer people at the festival.

The Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

Many people opted to go indoors instead. Some of them went to the Greenbelt Makerspace.

The Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

The Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

Many of the performing acts moved indoors to the New Deal Cafe where they were still able to perform despite the rain.

The Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

The band Global Warming performed its indoor set.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

Here’s a short video I shot of this band in action.

I shot some more footage of the band Tower Green, whose set officially closed the Greenbelt Green Man Festival.

The one thing about getting a new phone with a working camera is that I was able to play with an app for the first time in 2018. I took a photo of Hatsune Miku at the very end of the festival when a truck had arrived to take down the stage.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

Here is what I purchased at this year’s Greenbelt Green Man Festival. I purchased this nice vegan cupcake that I ate soon after I took these photos.

The Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

The Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

I purchased this bar of jasmine soap from Acorn & Clover.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

I was also given a free soap sample by Acorn & Clover.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

Last, but not least, I purchased another bar of soap from Mystic Water Soap.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival, May 13, 2018

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Fathers' Day

Forgive me for writing something difficult on Father’s Day but there are times when one must speak up even at times when people are supposed to be celebrating.

I’m sure you heard all about the horror of children of immigrants being forcibly separated from their parents and herded into detention facilities, including officials seizing a baby from her own mother while she was being breastfed. These headlines say it all about what’s currently happening:

US child migrants: 2,000 separated from families in six weeks.

Trump suggests separation of families at border is a negotiating tool.

Abuse of immigrant children alleged in documents examined by Chicago law students.

A former Walmart is now housing migrant children. Here’s what it’s like inside.

Taking children from their parents is a form of state terror.

I have a Facebook friend who admitted that she took on Donald Trump whenever he made his latest outrageous tweet on Twitter and she ended up being blocked by him as a result. (A judge has since ruled that as being unconstitutional but that’s another story altogether.) As for me, I haven’t bothered with attacking Donald Trump mainly because I view his tweets as typical of his penchant for screaming “LOOK AT ME! I AM AN ATTENTION WHORE!” and I just didn’t want to feed his ego by paying attention to them. Until recently.

Yesterday I made a series of tweets aimed directly at President Donald Trump for the very first time. I did this in response to that awful tweet he made where he blamed the Democrats for separating children from their families (never mind the fact that Republicans currently control both houses of Congress as well as the White House and none of the current elected Republicans in Congress have raised any kind of objections to this type of systematic child abuse by the Trump Administration).

Here is my multi-part rebuttal tweet aimed squarely at Donald Trump’s Twitter account.

So far I haven’t received much blowback from those Trump/Make American Great Again supporters and I think it’s because so many people have tweeted their outrage directly at his tweet. It is horrible because he is engaged in what I would call state-sanctioned child abuse. In addition, he is blaming others for this policy that HE AND HIS ADMINISTRATION HAVE CREATED AND IMPLEMENTED. Only a true Trump believer or a total idiot (and there are times when I think that they are one and the same) would actually believe Trump’s tweet.

While I was silent on Trump’s previous ugly tweets (which are too many to reproduce here since it would literally take me several weeks to get all the ones he made since he took office last year), I just couldn’t sit back and let him get away with this. I don’t care if I’m giving him what he wants (more attention), someone needs to take a moral stand and not only say that this is wrong but separating children from their parents is a crime against humanity. We need to stand up and denounce this or else Trump and his gang will gradually start targeting others whom they arbitrarily deem as not being American enough.

It doesn’t help that the Republicans who currently control Congress are sitting by and doing nothing. This is so different from what happened during the Watergate scandal when an earlier generation of Republican lawmakers decided to put country ahead of party and pressured Richard Nixon to resign his presidency.

This non-action by these Republicans is the main reason why Americans of good conscience should go to the polls this November and vote them out of office. If they can’t do the minimum amount of work necessary to uphold the Constitution and stand up to Donald Trump’s excesses, then they deserve to lose their jobs.

The reason why Adolf Hitler and his gang of thugs were able to implement the Final Solution was because many Germans just remained silent and went about their lives.

While you are celebrating Father’s Day today, think about the fathers who can’t see their own children because government officials decided to take them away. (Of course you should think about the mothers as well but I’m only emphasizing fathers since it is Father’s Day.)

All I know is that this incident is yet another reason why I’m glad I sold that talking Donald Trump action figure on eBay soon after he was elected. I don’t think I would even be able to look at that doll—let alone touch it—if I still owned it now.

When I grew up and used to hear about the slavery or the Holocaust in school, other kids would say that they would never had sit idly by while injustice is happening if they had been around at the time. Well guess what? This is one of those times where you have the opportunity to put your money where your mouth is and NOT sit idly by while injustice is happening. You have a choice—either ignore what’s going on now or speak out against this both online and in real life. If you choose the former, you’ll end up having a future generation of kids in a school history class say, “Gee I would have never kept silent while the government took children away from their parents for no real reason unlike all of those other Americans who just looked the other way.”

If you’re a Donald Trump supporter who doesn’t like to read my posts criticizing him, please do me a favor and stop reading this blog. I refuse to stand silently by while watching he and his family destroy this country for their own power-hungry greedy selfish financial gain and nothing you say will ever change my mind. At this point the only way I’ll ever change my mind and become a Trump supporter would be if some doctor performed a total lobotomy on me to the point where I’m unable to remember ever opposing Trump followed by being brainwashed with the Trump propaganda that’s frequently shown on Fox News.

I’ll end this rant with this famous quote by Pastor Martin Niemöller, which inspired me to take on Donald Trump’s Twitter account yesterday. Pastor Niemöller was initially a supporter of Adolf Hitler until after Hitler took power and he became so disillusioned by him that he became one of Hitler’s most prominent critics. He ended up in a concentration camp as a result and he became a Holocaust survivor. For many years he would say this at various public events:

“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionists.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

In a society Donald Trump/Make America Great Again supporters, do the opposite of Martin Niemöller and speak up for those who are being abused by the Trump Administration before it’s too late and they start coming for you.

20+ before and after pictures showing how the world has changed over time.

There’s no scientific basis for race—It’s a made-up label.

How American racism influenced Hitler.

This artist was offered a full-time job after someone on the Internet properly credited their work.

A few reporters for USA Today read every one of the 3,517 Facebook ads from 2016 that were connected to Russia. They found that vast majority of the ads focused on inflaming racial tensions.

A profile of Diamond and Silk, two African American sisters and political entrepreneurs who are also avid Trump supporters.

Elsie de Wolfe was the American Marie Antoinette of pre-war Paris.

Unpaid internships favor the wealthy.

Mad magazine’s clout may have faded but its ethos matters more than ever before.

Hear the actual voices of enslaved black people recorded from the 1800s.

Black activist jailed for his Facebook posts speaks out about secret FBI surveillance.

Do we really need to understand Trump supporters?

Stephen Shore on why young photographers need to start with film.

In Europe they actually fine and jail misbehaving CEOs. Why can’t we?

Taking children from their parents is a form of state terror.

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Ramadan

I had a pretty busy day. In the morning I went to one of the trainings and town hall meeting for the Poor People’s Campaign in the morning. In the afternoon I decided to go to Third Eye Comics in Annapolis, since that day was also Free Comic Book Day nationwide. (If all that weren’t enough, it was also Cinco de Mayo. I ended up eating tacos at home that I made myself using ingredients that I purchased from Aldi. I learned a long time ago that it’s total folly to attempt to eat in any kind of Mexican/Hispanic/Latino restaurant on Cinco de Mayo.)

So after checking out the Poor People’s Campaign, I drove to Annapolis. I arrived at Third Eye Comics only to find that parking was harder to find than usual. I ended up parking a few blocks away in an office park, which had some nice wall murals.

The next photo shows how crowded that store was. The next photo shows the line to the checkout counter.

I saw these vintage Atari video game cartridges on sale. I remember when Atari originally came out but I never owned one mainly because I was in college at the time and money was a bit tight at the time. It never bothered me that I never owed an Atari because my college (the University of Maryland) had plenty of arcade games on campus and some of the local off-campus fast food places also had arcade games.

I saw a few other interesting things on sale at Third Eye Comics.

I came across a whole aisle full of the ever-popular Funko Pop! statues. I found one new trend: Funko Pops based on real dead rock stars like Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead and Joey Ramone of The Ramones.

There were plenty of Funko Pops based on comic book and video game characters such as Rocket Raccoon, Mega Man, Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent, Wonder Woman, Batman, Batwoman, and Batgirl.

I also found an actual WTF t-shirt and a special edition of the Monopoly game board based on the latest Jurassic Park movie called Jurassic World.

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Ramadan

Before I got my current day job doing administrative work for the executor of his late aunt’s estate, I had done some volunteer work as an assistant facilitator for the Takoma Park, Maryland chapter of Girls Who Code, a nationwide organization that is dedicated to encourage girls to become comfortable with technology so they will feel emboldened to enter computer science and other STEM related fields as women. This chapter met two afternoons a week after school in the computer lab at the Takoma Park Public Library (that’s the one that’s located on the Maryland side of town—there’s another Takoma Park Public Library that’s located on the Washington, DC side and is part of the DC Public Library system).

I ended up having to drop out when I had a serious car problem earlier this year (the brakes died and I couldn’t afford to get them repaired immediately) followed by getting my current day job. I helped with editing this video about what the girls did during their time with Girls Who Code. (Other people had shot video footage and photos.)

The video that I edited was shown during the graduation ceremony that was held last week. Unfortunately I had to miss it because of my day job but the ceremony was initially live-streamed over the Internet and it’s now archived on YouTube.

I recently wrote a new article on LinkedIn Pulse about my experience with Girls Who Code called “How I’ve Personally Seen Girls Who Code Change Lives,” which you can read right here.

Ramadan

A look at the digital ruins of a forgotten future called Second Life.

U.S. mints coins for Donald Trump-Kim Jong Un summit that might not happen.

Fewer tourists are coming to the U.S. and experts say that it’s largely Trump’s fault.

Barbie “Shero” doll with a hijab honors Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad.

Martin Luther King may have been killed by a Memphis police officer, not James Earl Ray.

How white Americans used lynchings to terrorize and control black people.

Laminated jewelry crafted from vintage books by Jeremy May.

A look at the guerrilla grafting movement—secretly grafting fruit-bearing trees onto ornamental city trees in order to feed the poor.

A Princeton sociologist spent 8 years asking rural Americans why they are so pissed off. Hint: It’s not about the economy.

The surprising secret to aging well.

New York City has genetically distinct “uptown” and “downtown” rats.

Why the DNC is fighting WikiLeaks and not Wall Street.

How Australia all but ended gun violence.

83,500 vintage sewing patterns put into online database from Vogue, McCall’s, Butterick, and Simplicity.

Stunning images of pagan costumes worn at winter celebrations around the world.

Watch the illustrated version of “Alice’s Restaurant,” Arlo Guthrie’s Thanksgiving Counterculture Classic.

The bots that are changing politics.

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Ramadan

This week there have been two major well-loved celebrities who committed suicide within a few days of each other. Earlier this week handbag designer Kate Spade was found dead while this morning culinary celebrity Anthony Bourdain had also taken his own life. Both had very successful careers that made them wealthy and both had left behind children who will grow up without one of their parents due to suicide.

I was very familiar with Kate Spade (I used to see her products on sale in some of the more upscale malls) but I never owned any of her handbags. I saw a portion of one of Anthony Bourdain’s shows once or twice but I wasn’t a regular viewer mainly because he used to eat strange foods (such as raw seal eye) and I was a bit on the squeamish side.

These two suicides led to a sudden outpouring on social media where people began to post openly about suicide in an effort to raise awareness. This morning I wrote a multi-part tweet on Twitter about the topic but I wanted to expand on it in this blog post because it gets pretty frustrating dealing with Twitter’s limitations.

Hearing about the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade have evoked memories for me and it’s not only about the previous suicides of famous people like Chris Cornell.

When I was around six or seven years old I was at a family get-together on my father’s side of the family where I saw my Great-Uncle Jack. About two or three months after that event my family learned that Great-Uncle Jack had jumped from the window of his apartment located in a tall building in Baltimore. Years later my mother mentioned that she had heard that he had grown despondent about the death of his wife just a few years earlier. (Apparently they had been married a long time when she passed away.) She had heard that he had set up a little shrine in his apartment devoted to his late wife and some relatives thought that he was getting too obsessed about her death.

What my mother said about Great-Uncle Jack was the only time that anyone in the family had ever discussed his death aside from the suicide itself. Most of my father’s relatives kept Great-Uncle Jack’s suicide hush-hush as if they felt deeply ashamed that he had opted to end his own life. I didn’t dare speak up about Great-Uncle Jack to any of my father’s side of the family because I knew that someone would have yelled at me to shut up about Great-Uncle Jack. I ended up not knowing Great-Uncle Jack because I was so young when he killed himself. I don’t know what his personality was like or what his likes or dislikes were. Hell, I don’t even know when he was born or how old he was when he killed himself. To me he is a total stranger whose one memory of him at a family event is hazy at best.

As for me, I didn’t even mention Great-Uncle Jack’s suicide as an adult until just a few months ago when I made a reaction video to one of Logan Paul’s videos (which I’ll get to in a bit). Even then I only mentioned his death briefly. For this post I decided to be a bit more open about Great-Uncle Jack’s suicide mainly because I really believe that it’s imperative that we raise suicide awareness and how the suicide of a friend or relative can affect his/her survivors. I initially thought about the ramifications about opening up about Great-Uncle Jack’s death until I realized that his suicide had happened decades ago. Most of the people who were the most directly affected by Great-Uncle Jack’s suicide are either now deceased (such as my father) or they are over the age of 85 and they are probably less affected by that suicide then they once were.

My father’s side of the family was touched by suicide yet again a few years later. I was 12 when another relative on my father’s side of the family attempted suicide not once, but twice just a few months apart. Luckily this relative survived both attempts and he got the professional help he needed. He eventually pulled himself together and has decided against attempting suicide ever again. I can’t really write too much about him because he is still alive and well and he has long since put his past behind him. I’m proud that he has decided that suicide wasn’t the solution for him and he is now focused on living his life.

Two years ago a man whom I only knew as the moderator of a Yahoo! group that focused on our neighborhood committed suicide.

The saddest suicide story that affected me happened just last year. As I wrote in this blog post, my late aunt babysat a boy named Ben from the time he was a baby until he was in middle school. His father committed suicide soon after my aunt started babysitting him so he grew up without ever knowing his father. I used to see Ben from time to time when I visited my aunt, uncle, and cousins. On the surface he seemed to be an average boy with an impish grin who seemed okay despite being forced to grow up knowing that his father committed suicide. I last saw Ben at my aunt’s funeral when he was in high school. I lost contact with Ben until I learned that he committed suicide himself, thus following in his father’s tragic footsteps. He was only 43 years old.

I felt this incredible sadness when I learned about Ben’s death but there was one other emotion I felt that I didn’t write about last year because I just couldn’t handle writing about it at the time. I was angry at Ben for what he did. I saw the Facebook photos of my cousins, Ben’s mother, and Ben’s brothers after they returned from Ben’s funeral. I thought about Ben’s mother who, just years earlier, had to bury her husband because he committed suicide. As a senior citizen, Ben’s mother had to deal with losing her son to suicide and help bury him as well. I can’t even begin to imagine how she must have felt. I also thought about Ben’s two older brothers who had to deal with losing both a father AND a brother to suicide.

On top of that, Ben left a daughter behind. Judging from the few photos posted of her on Facebook, it looks like the girl was somewhere between 5-9 years old when Ben killed himself. Ben had to grow up knowing that he didn’t have a father because his father killed himself. It seems so inconceivable to me that he would perpetrate the same thing on his own daughter so she is now condemned to grow up fatherless while knowing that her own father killed himself. I just don’t get why he would do the same thing to that poor girl that his father did to him—take himself permanently out of the picture through suicide.

So, yes, I was angry at Ben for inflicting the same agony on his family that his father inflicted on him and his family years earlier. I’m not proud that I was angry but that was an emotion that I felt along with the general sadness that he killed himself. But then I began to think more and I realized that Ben must have been in some kind of severe emotional pain in order for him to conclude that killing himself was the only option. I don’t know if Ben tried to seek professional help for his problems or if he had a relative or friend who tried to help him. I don’t know if Ben tried to reach out for help or not. I don’t know if someone tried to reach out to Ben. I hadn’t seen Ben or his family in a very long time so there are parts of his story that I simply don’t know.

Those suicides in my life are the main reasons why I was so infuriated by Logan Paul’s tasteless Suicide Forest video earlier this year. Logan Paul had disrespected that poor man’s friends and family at a moment when they were dealing with their sudden loss. Plus that video came out shortly before the one-year anniversary of Ben’s suicide. I was so offended by that video and YouTube’s poor handling of the matter that I made my own video about it.

Granted Logan Paul subsequently made a very moving suicide awareness video that was very heartfelt and emotional but, unfortunately, it was little more than a cheap publicity stunt. Soon afterwards he reverted back to being a douchebag while YouTube seems to favor their little golden boy moneymaker by turning a blind eye to his antics.

As for me, I have a confession to make. There were times when I had suicidal thoughts myself. I initially had them in the eighth grade when I was bullied really badly and one of the bullies was especially obsessed with making my life miserable. I ended up not doing anything about those thoughts and that psychopathic bully eventually left my school the following year.

There was a time when I actually attempted a kind of a suicide where you intentionally do something that will get someone else to kill you. One example of this is known as suicide by cop. When I was a sophomore in high school there was an incident where three young girls (two of whom were sisters while the third was a friend of theirs) between the ages 8-10 were found brutally murdered in the woods. I wrote about these murders last year so you can go there is you want the full story. In any case the police immediately began a manhunt for the person who killed those girls.

It would be three days before someone was apprehended. In the meantime the person was on the loose. Even though the murders took place about three miles from my own neighborhood, my parents and grandmother (my mother’s mother who lived with us) began to irrationally think that I would be next. I walked to school in the last five years of my public school career because the school I attended were within walking distance. They began to forbid me from taking a popular well-traveled short cut through some woods in order to reach the high school. Never mind the fact that the woods in question weren’t very thick. (I recall that the backyards of some of the houses in my neighborhood used to abut the edge of the woods along that traveled path.)

I grew up as an only child who was constantly being watched by the three adults I lived with. They constantly were on the lookout for when I would screw up and they would pounce on the next opportunity that I made any kind of mistake no matter how minor. My parents were extremely strict and overprotective of me when I was growing up—they were helicopter parents long before that became a hip trendy yuppie thing. The fact that many of the kids ostracized me because they thought I was “retarded” only exacerbated the situation so I couldn’t go to—let’s say—a friend’s house and chill out if living with my parents got too much for me.

On top of that it was only two years earlier when I faced that psychotic middle school bully from hell and I still had some mental scars from that. (Fortunately she was long gone by the time the murders happened.)

I secretly took that shortcut anyway because I was mentally in a dark place regarding the kids in school calling me “retarded” and having parents who were so strict that I used to secretly envy the kids whose parents used to give them very little attention and supervision. At the time I felt that the person would do me a big favor if he would kill me just like he killed those girls.

In any case I never faced the killer and the police apprehended him. He pleaded guilty and he committed suicide just a few years later.

My life really improved when I went to the University of Maryland at College Park and I encountered people who were willing to be friends with me. It helped that they didn’t attend the same schools I did so they didn’t have any kind of preconceived notions about me.

Those suicidal thoughts came back when my husband suddenly ran away from home in late 2011. Here was my situation. I had hip replacement surgery in 2008 and my husband was very loving and attentive the entire time. He was my champion who cheered me on as I underwent physical therapy. When I fell twice in early 2011 (with both falls being about a week apart), my hip replacement was knocked out of alignment. I had to undergo hip revision surgery to knock the hip replacement back into alignment. Once again my husband took charge of my recovery. He stayed home and took care of me while I was recovering from surgery. He would make errands to buy food and needed prescription medications. He arranged to have friends drive me to physical therapy when he had to go back to work. He was incredibly loving and attentive towards me.

To go from that to suddenly deciding that he wanted a divorce out of the blue was devastating to me. He never once told me that he was the least bit unhappy yet he left behind a note telling me that I was the reason why he had to leave home. Worse, my friends told me that he had left me for a friend with mental health problems so severe that she has an experimental pacemaker in her brain and she qualified for SSI disability.

Overnight he went from being my best friend whom I would trust with my life to being my own worst enemy who has shown nothing but contempt for me. It was almost like he had really secretly hated me all those years but he hid that from me and pretended that he still “loved” me but once he left me he really let it all out about how much he really despised me. It would be like encountering a sudden blizzard that dumped 20 feet of snow on a hot summer day.

To make matters worse, he refused to talk to me in person or on the phone yet he would send emails and texts demanding that I adhere to this separation schedule that existed only in his head because, I later learned, he felt a need to get a divorce and marry this other woman by a certain date. (Why he felt the need to have this schedule, I’ll never know. Many of our longtime friends were just as shocked by my husband marrying this severely mentally ill person just two months after our divorce was final as I was.) If I balked at following this schedule or asked him to move more slowly, he would threaten to sue me. I later learned that what he did to me was cyberbullying.

And that’s not to mention that there is some dispute as to whether it’s even ethical for him to have any kind of a sexual relationship with a very mentally ill woman and if what he did makes him a sexual predator at best (and maybe even a rapist at worse) but I’ve already explored that question at length here and here.

So I had suicidal thoughts but I ended not making any suicide attempts. What happened? Well I had people around me who were concerned about me. People in my Unitarian Universalist church were the ones who initially reached out to me. Then I was referred to a support group to people who are separated or divorced and I started going to those meetings. I had other friends who also reached out to me. Long story short, I didn’t attempt suicide because I had surrounded myself with people who cared about me and were willing to do whatever they could to help me.

The big irony is that I’m writing this blog post on a day that would’ve been my wedding anniversary had my husband not left me and got a divorce.

Earlier this year I had a financial crisis stemming from my husband cutting off of alimony while only being able to land a job with part-time hours. I went even deeper into debt and I began to worry about being homeless and lose everything I had ever owned. I thought about suicide but I ended up not going through with it because I signed up with a local group that provides emergency crisis care and I’m currently going through the eight-week program. I also recently had a friend move in with me so we can split expenses.

I think the biggest motivation I had for not committing suicide was my ex-husband. Given the contempt he has shown for me over the last few years, I now seriously doubt that he had ever loved me to begin with. (As to why he would even marry someone whom he didn’t love to begin with, I can’t explain.) I knew that if I had taken my own life, I would be doing what he probably would have wanted for me (to be dead). I just didn’t want to give him the satisfaction that I killed myself.

I’m not fully out of the woods yet but I’m glad that I didn’t kill myself.

I just want to say that if you feel like committing suicide yourself, please call a suicide hotline or talk with a trusted friend or relative first. I know first-hand how a suicide can have lasting effects on those who knew that person, including feelings of guilt and shame. If you are in the U.S., contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you are in the U.K., contact the Samaritans at 116 123 or jo@samaritans.org. If you are in Australia, contact Lifeline at 13 11 14. For other countries, visit the Befrienders Worldwide site to find a helpline that’s nearest you.

Remember you are not alone and you don’t have to be alone. There is help available for you.

Ramadan

Budweiser’s new beer is based on George Washington’s handwritten recipe.

Suhad al-Khateeb, the first female communist elected in Iraq’s holiest city, calls for social justice.

How Amazon is holding Seattle hostage.

A look at why babies in medieval paintings look like middle-aged men.

Between financial troubles, lawsuits, and trailer park brawls, has the alt-right peaked?

New NRA President Oliver North once worked with cocaine traffickers to arm terrorists.

Working for free is not an opportunity, it is an imposition.

How American racism influenced Hitler.

Yes, there are worker-friendly alternatives to Walmart. Here are four good ones.

The Internet Archive “liberates” books published between 1923 and 1941 and will put 10,000 digitized books online.

Almost all violent extremists share one thing: their gender.

What it’s like to work in the sex industry in the wake of #MeToo.

These tiles turn your walls into a giant Lego playground.

An open letter that every LGBTQ+ person needs to read.

A presidential historian speaks out about Donald Trump.

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Ramadan

Once again I took part in the Changing Focus Yard Sale, which was held on the grounds of the Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church in Crofton, Maryland. Like the previous times I attended, I collected money from people who wanted to buy the used items that were donated from the members of Changing Focus (which is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people deal with being separated, divorced, and widowed). In-between handling the money and interacting with the customers, I took these photos of a few choice items that were on sale this time around.

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 28, 2018

This porcelain doll looked like the late Princess Diana having an incredibly bad hair day while wearing a dress that looked a couple of sizes too big for her.

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 28, 2018

These two Victorian-style dolls were snapped up about a minute or two after I took this shot.

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 28, 2018

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 28, 2018

The weather was warm and gorgeous outside. It was the perfect day to hold a yard sale. The flowers were at their peak bloom as well.

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 28, 2018

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 28, 2018

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 28, 2018

These kids were playing under one of the flowering trees while their parents shopped at the yard sale.

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 28, 2018

This is definitely the epitome of kitsch: a porcelain Avon Lady figurine dressed in Victorian-style clothes.

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 28, 2018

There were plenty of other things on sale that were definitely kitschy.

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 28, 2018

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 28, 2018

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 28, 2018

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 28, 2018

Most of the time I participate in these yard sales, I come across at least one item that belongs in a museum. This time it was a film cartridge for the Kodak Pocket Instamatic camera (which was my first camera I ever owned—this post I wrote over two years ago has photos I shot with that camera when I was trying to earn a photography badge in Girl Scouts). What’s even more amazing is that this film was still in its original foil cover, which has never been opened.

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 28, 2018

Here’s another view of the wrapped Kodak film cartridge that has the words “Open at Cut.” (There’s a little cut along the center seam where one is supposed to rip in order to open the package.)

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 28, 2018

I don’t know if anyone bought it. I have no way of knowing if that film would be usable since it was probably manufactured during the Pocket Instamatic’s 1970s heyday. When I was doing a quick Google search about the Pocket Instamatic, I came across this website that was not only selling vintage Pocket Instamatic cameras but it was also selling newly manufactured 110 film cartridges just for that camera. (Which proves that there’s a market for just about anything these days.)

But that wasn’t the only Kodak film product I saw on sale that day. There was also a Kodak 35mm camera gift box set that was definitely for those who miss the days of shooting with 35mm film.

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 28, 2018

I saw a vintage Soviet Union sports pendant (note the hammer and sickle in the center).

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 28, 2018

The Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church has a labyrinth on its property. A young boy was walking along the labyrinth while his father was watching the child while sitting on a bench on the far left side of the photograph.

Changing Focus Yard Sale, April 28, 2018

At one point I went indoors where I checked out the Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church’s used book sale.

Book Sale, Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church, April 28, 2018

Book Sale, Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church, April 28, 2018

I saw boxes full of vintage Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mystery series.

Book Sale, Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church, April 28, 2018

Book Sale, Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church, April 28, 2018

The church sold more than just used books. They had boxes full of VHS tapes. (I saw people actually browsing and buying them.)

Book Sale, Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church, April 28, 2018

I purchased two books at the used book sale. One was Dan Brown’s Inferno, which is another novel in the historical series featuring Robert Langdon. (I had previously read Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, and The Lost Symbol.)

Book Sale at the Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church, April 28, 2018

I also found this book on puppet making, which I bought on impulse. (It only cost $1.)

Book Sale at the Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church, April 28, 2018

Both the yard sale and the used book sale were scheduled to coincide with the Festival on the Green, which is usually held on the grounds of the Crofton Country Club that’s located next door to the Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church. The festival had all kinds of handcrafted goods made by local artisans while providing entertainment (some of which included people dressed in costumes). I browsed through the various tables but I ended up not buying anything because money was very tight for me.

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Many of the items on sale were displayed with the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday in mind.

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

 

This year is also an election year with the midterm elections coming up in Maryland. There were plenty of political candidate signs on display.

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

Festival on the Green, April 28, 2018

This event was the first time I ever shot a video at the Festival on the Green. There was a woman who wore fox ears and a fox tail who was playing the ukulele and singing “Hickory Dickory Dock.”

All in all it was a pretty glorious day. I learned that Changing Focus managed to raise $1,600 from that yard sale. Sweet!

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Ramadan

As someone who used to admire Roseanne Barr and was a faithful viewer of her 1990s sitcom, I am not getting much pleasure from her sudden downfall today. For those of you who haven’t been checking out the news, here’s the basic gist. Roseanne Barr used to champion the working class and the downtrodden (especially the LGBTQ community) on her old TV show and in her comedy routines. At one point she unsuccessfully attempted to get the Green Party nomination for president.

Ever since Donald Trump decided to run for public office then was elected to the presidency, Roseanne began to declare herself a Trump supporter and, before you know it, she began to champion every single alt-right conspiracy theory that was out there (especially the notorious and now-discredited Pizzagate) on Twitter. She would frequently retweet people like Alex Jones, who spewed crazy conspiracy theories.

This year ABC decided to revive her sitcom, Roseanne, which would feature all of the original cast members of that 1990s sitcom. The show would feature Roseanne’s character being a Trump supporter, just like Barr is in real life. There were plenty of people who were less-than-thrilled by this and the show got mixed reviews ranging from mediocre to awful. But the show was a big hit despite the reviews. (For the record, I didn’t watch her new series mainly because I had become so alienated by her blind loyalty to Donald Trump and her championing crazy alt-right conspiracy theories that I couldn’t even gather enough enthusiasm to watch her new show.)

Meanwhile Roseanne Barr kept up with her offstage antics, such as accusing teenage Parkland school shooting survivor David Hogg of being a Nazi on Twitter.

But today the shit really hit the fan. Roseanne made a tweet saying that one of President Obama’s former aides, Valerie Jarrett, was the child of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Planet of the Apes film. The fact that Jarrett was born in Iran to African American parents only made it worse. Roseanne deleted the tweet and issued an apology by saying that it was a bad joke but the damage was done. Roseanne’s revived show was cancelled by ABC. The reruns of her original 1990s sitcom were pulled from the Paramount Network, TV Land, and CMT. She even got dropped by her own talent agency.

While I feel sorry for the other actors and crew who lost their jobs (and their residuals from the old sitcom), Roseanne gets zero sympathy from me. She should’ve known better that to make that ape comparison with an African American. I used to faithfully watch her show in the 1990’s because she stood up for working folks of all races (her old sitcom had working class African American characters who were portrayed in a positive light) and LGBTQ in an era when both groups were either ignored or, in the case of the latter, discriminated against. I was such a fan that I watched her series until midway through the ninth season when that show began to get too weird for my tastes. I also watched a few of Roseanne’s specials on HBO because I could relate to her and her humor.

Here is why Roseanne Barr resonated so much with me. I grew up in Glen Burnie, Maryland, which was a mix of lower middle class and working class. There were no mansions or upscale stores like Saks Fifth Avenue where I grew up. My family encountered financial struggles at times, especially with the inflation periods of the 1970s, that were similar to what Roseanne’s sitcom family went through. I had high school classmates who married young just like Roseanne’s eldest sitcom daughter did. I had other classmates who joined the military immediately after high school in an effort to escape to a different life. (I remember the military recruiters who used to set up tables in my high school cafeteria a few times a year so the students can talk to them during lunch period.) I knew people in my Unitarian Universalist congregation who came out as LGBTQ in an era when doing so could adversely affect their lives in many ways. (This was in the 1980s and 1990s when AIDS was prevalent and there was a conservative backlash to the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s.) Roseanne bravely featured LGBTQ characters in a positive sympathetic light in her sitcom back when it wasn’t the trendy thing to do. I am a woman with a less-than-perfectly shaped body while Roseanne became a major star despite being obese at times and she remained a star without having a perfect 10 body. I definitely identified with Roseanne Barr. I even followed her on Twitter at one point.

All that changed when Trump entered politics and she became his biggest celebrity supporter. She totally changed—for the worst. Late last year I decided to unfollow her on Twitter because I felt so alienated from her and the alt-right conspiracy garbage she was tweeting on a regular basis.

It’s just like what Shepard Smith of Fox News said, “Racism is not funny and Roseanne Barr is a racist.” The biggest irony is that the 1990s Roseanne would have gone full social justice warrior mode on the 2018 Roseanne. As for me, I’m done with her.

Fuck you, Roseanne Barr.

Bye, Felicia!

UPDATE (June 1, 2018): Roseanne initially blamed Ambien for her unfunny racist joke tweet aimed at Valerie Jarrett, which prompted this classy response from the drug’s manufacturer.

Oh, SNAP! Whoever at Sanofi came up with that tweet deserves a raise. When the Ambient defense failed to take hold, Roseanne Barr started to blame Michelle Obama for her series getting canned.

Bitch, please! If Roseanne really wants to find out who is to blame for her current predicament, she should just stand in front of a mirror and she’ll get her answer. By the way, I read this blog post from a woman who once worked as Roseanne’s stand-in for three years on the original 1990s sitcom and, boy, does she have a story to tell!

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