Kitchen Fire: Everything is Fine…

Earlier this month, the house I’m living in had a fire. Let me start off by saying, everyone is ok and the house is still livable.

It happened in the kitchen, after a burner under a pot of oil was accidentally left on. It could, and does happen to anyone. We were sitting in our basement apartment when the sudden bang of a breaker going off alerted us to the fact that something was wrong. Cale went upstairs to check and what ultimately must have been less than a minute later, I heard him yell fire. I followed upstairs just in time to basically see him running with a flaming pot of oil out the front door. Looking at the kitchen, I saw darkness and the reflection of flames as I run back down the stairs to grab CJ and run out the back door. Once she was safe, I ran back in to beat out the fire with a cloth and douse any remaining embers.

We had the fire out before the firefighters got there, and they got there quite quickly! Cale had a relatively mild (especially considering!) burn on his hand from the heat of the flames as grabbed the pot. It wasn’t until writing this post that we both realized that the burn on his hand was on top where the flame rolled over the skin as he ran. Apparently despite the fact that the contents of the pot were on FIRE, the handle managed to stay cool enough not to burn…THAT IS A FUCKING WELL DESIGNED POT DAMN IT!

Did you know that smoke from a house fire leaves behind what looks like blackened cobwebs? They’re called smoke webs.

Most of the kitchen is ok, though despite that, some effects of the fire are visible throughout the house. The stove is gone, as is the stove fan, and cabinets above and below will have to be replaced. Insurance had to be called, and we’ve been told that the next few weeks will see workmen coming and going to take care of all the various things that need to be taken care of. The thought that keeps circulating among all of us who live here is that it could have been so much worse. Cale and I both had to get checked out by paramedics, and while our vitals were all ok, I can still feel the irritation of the smoke in the back of my throat.

For all that this fire had a less tragic ending, it’s brought back a lot of thoughts and feelings related to losing my home to a fire back in 2011. What is it with years that end in 1?

I’ve been in a heightened state of anxiety since it happened, which hasn’t been particularly gentle with my Crohn’s.

I can’t help thinking of all the similarities between the two fires. In both cases the fires started in the kitchen, in the case of the house that burned down, it was my neighbour’s kitchen, but still.

Both times when it happened, I was a student in my winter semester.

Both times, it started in a kitchen, though in the case of the house in Hull, it was my neighbor’s kitchen.

Both times, it was someone else’s actions that had such an effect on me.

Both times I was in a place I nominally moved to for my education, in a place far away from my family.

In a sense, the first fire acted to mark my transition from broke college student, to actually living in poverty. It taught me the meaning of housing insecurity, as in an instant I found myself homeless and having lost everything. This after years of moving yearly, in the transient student tradition, sparked an obsession with finding myself a safe nest; a hearth to call home. A goal, in truth, I am still working towards.

I didn’t just lose my house, I lose all sorts of mementos, keepsakes, and basically everything I owned up to that point. The sentimental loss hit hard of course, but another reality was facing the prospect of having to replace everything all at once. It’s something I’ve faced again after having to move again and having to give up most of what I owned. You find yourself looking for something, not knowing whether you have it, lost it, or whether it’s gone.

With this most recent fire, the actual loss sustained personally by me was relatively minor. Some food lost. Possibly some kitchen item or two. The owners lost more, what with part of the kitchen now needing to be rebuilt, and the oven needing replacing. Insurance has been remarkable co-operative and helpful. And yet, there is a part of me that is still somehow waiting for this to end with me homeless again. I know logically that it shouldn’t. I know that I haven’t done anything wrong, in fact it wasn’t even me in the kitchen. I’ve been doing my best to help take some of the work off of the home owner’s shoulders – helping with phone calls, meeting people as they come by throughout the day. But still the worry, the fear, exists and I can’t seem to make it go away.

It’s all messing with my head. My focus is shot, of course at the best possible time with everything coming due. I’m working on trying to control my anxiety, but it’s also been like dominoes. My ADHD, my anxiety, my depression, they’ve all decided to make themselves felt this week, which of course displeases my spine and stomach who start to feel left out.

Still, I was prepared for this in some way. I knew it would be rough the moment I saw the smoke. I’m processing and trying to take the time to process and come to terms with everything. I’m trying not to repeat the mistake of last time and pretending everything was ok when it wasn’t, but I’m also taking hope in the fact that I’ve survived worse. This is fine…

Kitchen Fire: Everything is Fine…
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Some Weather: 3 of ?

So we finally have power! But no water yet. There are several burst pipes in our complex and we have to wait until plumbers can safely arrive to the apartments.

The snow and ice are finally starting to melt. I hope we don’t have more freezing temperatures. I booked us a hotel for the night so we can shower. Not being able to feel clean is horrible. We are safe in the hotel and have had dinner as well. I’ve showered and feel so much better. Of course I’ll feel even better once I’m able to shower at home but for now I’m satisfied.

The hotel is very nice so far and super convenient! We have a kitchenette which should come in handy.

View from hotel

Being at the warming center and not being able to bathe for a week reminded me a lot of my times at the homeless shelters. It was a weird feeling. Back then I felt helpless and hopeless. But this time, even though it brought back old feelings, I also felt happy. I felt that way because I knew I had a home to go to, even if it was freezing ay the time.

It made me reflect and appreciate what I have and what I’ve gained. It reminded me of what we’ve overcome. And I’m grateful and finally not hungry.

Some Weather: 3 of ?

Some Weather: 2 of ?

It’s Thursday the 18th at 4:30AM. We’re home now. But earlier today my family and I went to a warming center.

It’s in a church and the staff were very nice and welcoming. There was homemade food and lots of snacks and drink.

Again Im setting to write chronologically but my mind feels fragmented. I can’t sleep and I’m so cold still.

We were able to charge up our phones and back up battery. Another family was there and they were very friendly.

Maybe out of the five staff, 2 were wearing masks. The cold from the past few days has been wreaking havoc on my body. I think I’ve also been close to hyperthermia.

Very few of the other families were wearing masks. TJ was set up on an air mattress but they had a hard time sleeping. Their 5 equally friendly dogs were with them.

I was on a cot. I spent about three hours on it. Tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable. It wasn’t very warm by then. But it wasn’t as bad as home. My back and neck are so stiff. I realized, do they even make things like this for the disabled?

One of the staff came in and asked if he could lead us all in a prayer. I whispered to Vall to just bow their head. I reminded them not to say we’re atheists. We bowed our heads. Because old habits die hard when the prayer was over I repeated amen and did the sign of the cross. That was amusing.

I can’t keep writing. My fingers are colder than ice.

We drove back home slowly because lying in that cot was going to cause me more harm than good.

My stomach continues to grumble.

Some Weather: 2 of ?

Some Weather: #1 of ?

Well, I figured I would start writing again but I didn’t think it would be about a winter storm in Texas. Like I mentioned in a previous post, TJ and I moved to Texas not too long ago.

I wanted to write chronologically but I’m going to listen to my body. My stomach is currently audibly grumbling. We finally had hot food a few hours ago after almost three days without. We’ve been eating snacks. We have food but it is perishable.

Once the power was cut, the water stopped. I think the pipes froze. We kept the faucets open as per guidance to prevent burst pipes but alas…

I take about 14 medications a day and haven’t been able to take them regularly because I need to take them with food. The snacks we have are running low. We (slowly) drove around yesterday looking for food. No luck.

Today we called around for hotels but they’re price gouging, or not accepting pets. My cat is part of the family. If he isn’t welcomed then neither are we.

This morning I woke up so stiff, I could barely walk. Chronic pain and cold weather? Not a joke. My wife and daughter were in the car, warming up and charging their phones. NOTE: we are able to do this because we’re in our complex’s parking lot. DO NOT do this if you are in your own garage or similar confined space. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be lethal.

We have a fire place but being from the projects in NYC I don’t know how to work them and I don’t know if it’s even safe to have it on.

My cat, who is usually very aloof, is sleeping on my lap. I’m currently under two big blankets and have a scarf wrapped around my head and socks on my feet. I’m still cold. My stomach continues to grumble.

We finally were able to get flashlights and so tonight should be easier. We’ve been using our phones but not much because we want to try to conserve battery.

I saw some Northern jackasses think it’s funny that -sorry, stomach again- Texas is cold and powerless.

You hate the politicians, not all its people.

When you make jokes like that you aren’t hurting Ted Cruz. You’re hurting poor people and BIPOC who are suffering the most right now.

Anyway, my daughter TJ just called me from the warming center. They don’t want to come back home. And I don’t blame them. Not having water causes sanitation issues. For example, we have two bathrooms and the apartment stinks because we haven’t been able to flush.

Because we have no water we can’t shower and because we have no power we can’t boil water either.

Things are miserable. But I know they could be worse. But just because other people have it worse than I do does not mean any of us should suffer.

As of this writing, at 6:32PM central time Wednesday February 17th 2021, we have been without power for about 55 plus hours. We are expecting more winter precipitation. We should finally hit close to 60 degrees on Friday. But can we last that long? Me and my family? Yes. It’ll be hard. I will continue to complain but yes we will live.

Our homeless and more vulnerable neighbors? I don’t know but I am not optimistic. And given the way local and state government have handled any if this so far, well, they don’t inspire confidence in me.

Check in on your neighbors. Donate food and money when you can. If you have special skills for this type of weather volunteer if possible. Let’s try to help each other.

I’ll keep updating and hoping this is all over soon.

It’s so cold in the apartment my color change mug is red! It’s normally white.

Some Weather: #1 of ?

Help My Family Become Whole

Hello readers, Sunflower Punk here.

In the past I’ve written about my life with domestic violence and life after that. I have not updated in a while due to life and disability being JUST THE WORST.

But in the past 6 months things have gotten so much better! I moved! Yup, I left NYC for the South and I gotta say I kinda love it here. I’m much happier and less stressed. 

I also got married. It’ll be 6 months soon. My wife is amazing. She’s just everything I could ever hope for and more. As an Atheist this is silly, but I call her my miracle. Cheesy but true. Before her I didn’t think love like this could exist. Kind, patient, loving, SAFE.

But it is possible. And I’m so grateful. TJ is thriving and doing better than they had in a while.

The reason I’m writing this is to ask for your help. My wife would love to adopt TJ. TJ would love for my wife to be their new second parent.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m disabled and I worry that one day I will not be able to properly take care of TJ. My wife helps with all that she can but when she’s taken TJ to appointments because I was ill, they called me to verify that my wife could make decisions on my behalf. If something were to happen to me, legally my wife wouldn’t have any rights. I fear TJ would end up in the system or with their biological father.

I have written about Jekyll before (see links above) so I won’t rehash it. While he is willing to sign the paperwork necessary for this process to continue he is insisting we do it all through court. He could just go get some papers signed in front of a notary but I guess he just doesn’t trust it.

So here we are. I’m asking for your help in covering attorney and adoption fees. All the relevant information is in this link to the Gofundme.

If you are able to help financially, please do. If you are not, sharing the fundraiser helps a lot too.

Thank you for your time and for reading my posts. I hope that now that I’m in a better place (in every sense of the phrase) I can come back to writing more regularly for Mandesty and general social justice posts.

Much love and peace to y’all. Stay safe out there.

Sunflower Punk aka Alex R.

Ohana means family. And family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.

Help My Family Become Whole

Mandesty: Olden Fashion Edition

So last post we discussed American history by rightfully shaming George “I am a slut” Washington. At a friend’s suggestion, today we’re discussing codpieces.

Codpieces (from the Middle English word “cod” which means scrotum) are coverings in the crotch of trousers. That sounds fine on it’s own but did you know that some knights had them made into their armor?

A jockstrap is similar but it’s usually reinforced to protect a person’s precious stones. The above could be explained the same way but why the curve? I think it’s only there to show off their other lance.

Just…why

Why is the Monopoly dude’s face on the last one?!

Ultimately, I’m glad that this “trend” isn’t as popular anymore. Can you imagine President Biden posing for his official portrait wearing one of those?

Several rock and metal artists use “artistic” codpieces

Mandesty: Olden Fashion Edition

Mandesty: American History Edition

Thanks to my friend ED who alerted me to this one historical portrait of our first president. George Washington was known for his wooden teeth, being a racist and I guess also being president as I mentioned.

But did we know that he was also a slut? Obviously he didn’t know that his “dick bulge” would be memefied. But he of course must have known his penis was visible in those sinful pantaloons? Is this where Bill Clinton got his inspiration from? Shameful!

He was just waving it around like America waves around freedom. Just shoving it in people’s faces not caring who gets killed.

Just as shameful is the person who painted this. Can you imagine just standing there cock a-breeze and you just keep painting? Obviously the painter is just as perverted.

This is the history we must teach our children so we may not repeat the sins of the past.
This is why we continue to fight for Mandesty. Please join me in this fight.

Mandesty: American History Edition

What do creepy old men and the NYPD have in common?

Cn: street harassment, creepy behavior, pedophilia

They’re both useless, unnecessary, and just the worst.

So the playgrounds in NYC are finally reopened. And since I had my nieces and nephews (henceforth referred to as niephlings) for the weekend, I decided to take them and my daughter to the playground.

Now this playground is also a park but the areas are clearly defined. There is a policy in place that adults are not allowed in the playground without children.

My niephlings range from ages 7-3. My daughter is 10. So mami joined us to help out. It was a warm day and the playground was not crowded so it was perfect to keep social distancing protocols. While the smaller children played on the baby slide the two oldest (my daughter TJ and niece V) ran around the playground. I noticed a man who seemed to be by himself staring at the kids, particularly the girls, and smiling. I kept my eye on him.

Eventually TJ and V went to the swings. And the man moved to the seats in front of the swings. After a little while TJ tells mami that they feel uncomfortable because the man kept staring at them and their cousin. I asked V and she also said she felt uneasy. While keeping an eye on the other kids (they were close by to be safe) I went and stood by my girls. Mami stood next to the man.

We both watched him. He kept smiling. If you’re a woman or non-man, you can trust your gut about this sort of thing. It wasn’t just a kindly old man smile. It was creepy.

Finally mami asks him what he was staring at. He says he could stare at whoever he wanted. So mami starts to tear into him. I come along and he asks me, “right? I can stare and smile all I want?”. No, I replied. Especially not at little girls. I was getting shaky and told him I would rearrange his face if he kept it up. He told me to bring it on! The audacity? It only gets worse.

So we’re yelling at each other. He keeps insisting he can stare at whoever he wants. He actually mansplained sight to us! He says the cops would prove him right. Now I’m not a fan of cops, much less the NYPD and this encounter didn’t help. The man calls 911 and the cops eventually show up.

Mami and I explained to them what happened. They went and talked to him. They were with him for about 10 minutes. They come back and say he wasn’t breaking any laws. That since the playground is also a park, they cannot move him. I mean, it’s really convenient, you know? The police sure do know when to use force and when to not. But whatever. This post isn’t about police brutality. Although we DID talk about how useless the police were to us and about the whole organization at large.

They asked him to move and he refused. He said he had a long walk so he was tired and he wasn’t going to move.

So, he has a long walk and rather than sit in the benches at the entrance he walks his ass all the way into the playground. Make it make sense. And to refuse to move when he’s been told he made people, especially children, uncomfortable is just even more audacious.

The cops told us we could stay in the park but not speak to the man or we could move to another area. So this man’s pants feels are more important than my children’s right to safety. One cop told us not to let this man ruin our fun.

We went home. Once home I called the parks department and filed a report. I explained and they told me that the man was NOT supposed to be in playground area, regardless of it also being a park. So, the cops just didn’t want to do their job? I’m shocked. /sarcasm

This is not the first time my daughter has been creeped on and I know it won’t be the last. Creepy, predatory behavior is something my daughter and my nieces will have to endure. What did this teach my nephews? That they, as men, can do and say and sit and stare and make people uncomfortable at the least, but it’s ok? My daughter and nieces are just supposed to deal with it?

This is rape culture. It’s a culture that tells women and non men we just have to take creepy behavior. It’s a culture that doesn’t respect children. It’s a culture that tells you to trust your instincts but then chastises for doing just that.

I spoke to my niephlings, especially V and my daughter and we discussed what happened and how they felt. I told them they did the right thing by saying something.

Oh and by the way, since I was so shaky, the man had the nerve to laugh and tell me not to be nervous. The audacity of this jackass, not to mention the entitlement.

I hope he has a heart attack. We have a term in Puerto Rico for creepy old men, viejo verde. And he’s definitely green as hell.

Creepy old man

What do creepy old men and the NYPD have in common?

To the Members of Parliament of the House of Commons of Canada:

To the Members of Parliament of the House of Commons of Canada:

MP Jagmeet Singh taught us something about Canada this week.

For anyone who hadn’t heard about it: In response to growing global concern about systemic racism, especially with regards to policing, including mounting global protests on the Issue, Member of Parliament and PoC Jagmeet Singh proposed a motion addressing systemic racism in the RCMP.

The RCMP or Royal Canadian Mounted Police (and no they don’t ALL ride horses) is akin to the FBI. They are the Federal policing agency, though in provinces like BC which doesn’t have it’s own Provincial police force they may also provide additional policing services.
Mr. Singh’s proposal would recognize that racism exists in the RCMP, would review their funding, as well as demand their reports regarding the use of force. Mr. Singh brought up that just in the last short while many Indigenous people had been the victims of violence at the hands of RCMP officers.

That racism exists in the RCMP is not really a new revelation. Some of us remember the Starlight Tours, where Indigenous peoples in Canada were left to freeze to death by the police. Some of us remember the findings of various commissions and reports that consistently pointed out issues with racism within the ranks of the RCMP and especially in their dealings with Indigenous communities.

Mr. Singh’s proposal was met with a single consenting vote, from the leader of the Bloq Quebecois. The Bloq has had a long racist history. They are among those who have proposed laws restricting access to public spaces and government services to people who wear religious garb like a head scarf. They’re basically conservatives with a Quebec accent.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh then proceeded to call Alain Therrien a racist.

I believe this to have been a calculated decision on Mr. Singh’s part. I think he was teaching us a VERY IMPORTANT lesson that we need to make sure we pay attention to.

In the last few weeks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a knee in acknowledgement of the protests and in support of Black Lives Matters. A big gesture in support of Civil Rights, but a gesture nonetheless.

As Prime Minister, Trudeau has the podium and the influence to make big changes in Canada. But he won’t even do the work of calling out and rooting out racism from within his own House. He won’t address the fact that white people are overwhelmingly over-represented among the members of Parliament and the Senate. More than one MP currently sitting in Government have shown support or given dog-whistles to white supremacist organizations. Our Oh-So-Brave Prime Minister won’t even call a racist, a racist.

Canadians like to pretend that racism doesn’t happen here. We loudly brag about the fact that the Underground Railroad led here to Canada, where we have no history of slavery.  We like to pretend that when racism does happen, then those who are its victim can be confident of support.

So here we have a Member of Parliament for whom Racism is not a theoretical problem. This Man of Colour spoke a truth everyone already knew, calling the one person to object to saying that there is racism in the RCMP, a racist. Here was a person who knows what it is to be a victim of racism saying out loud “this person is a racist.”

And as I’m sure he fully expected when he chose to speak the truth: He was Punished for it. Meanwhile, the person being racist, faced no consequence, not even an acknowledgement from other members of the house that yes, he is in fact a racist.

The truth of the matter is that in Canada, it is still worse to call someone a racist than to actually be a racist. That calling attention to racism when you are a person of colour, is to invite punishment. While a white man takes a knee and receives praise, a Brown man stands for the truth and is silenced by the same people demanding praise for their anti-racism. We are being shown right now what systemic racism looks like, what it acts like.

Jagmeet Singh took a stand against racism. I will not give my vote or support to anyone who doesn’t choose to stand with him in this moment.

Sincerely,

Ania Bula

To the Members of Parliament of the House of Commons of Canada:

Dobranoc Babciu

I received a phone call early this morning from my father: his mother Lidia Bula née Pardon, my beloved grandmother, had passed away at the age of 91.

This has been especially hard on my Father. Around 30 years ago, when I was just a toddler, he lost his father Andrzej to a surprise heart attack. At the time, my father’s immigration status in Canada was still under application, meaning he couldn’t leave the country without risking not being granted re-entry. With a wife and new daughter here in Canada with him, it was a risk he couldn’t take. He had to miss his father’s funeral and the chance to see his face one final time.

Now 30 years later he loses his mother, and circumstances again steal from him the opportunity to say good-bye. Mine too for that matter.

Continue reading “Dobranoc Babciu”

Dobranoc Babciu