Thursday, May 28, 2009

We'll be back.

Doesn't matter how the courts ruled on Tuesday. We will be back.

Doesn't matter that this was a setback for equality. We will be back.

Doesn't matter if people think they are speaking for the Almighty. That's up to the Almighty. And we will be back.

Doesn't matter if we are sad, mad or want do something bad. We'll be back.

I asked Del and Phyllis once about marriage in their lifetimes. They both thought it would never happen in their lifetimes. But look what happened.

We know how to get up, we know how to help each other get up. In our time, with our families, communities, friends and allies, we will all be back.

Until the day comes when we can just sit down and be equal citizens, we will be back.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

For the Love of a Lhasa

A week ago today I had to say goodbye to one of the family, our lhasa apso, Chula. We had her for 13 years from New Mexico to California, crisscrossing until we got to what we thought was our forever home. It was Chula's forever home as long as she was with us.

She was the first dog and she opened my heart to a way of loving I never thought possible. It was love at first sight. Jo had her in the car when she came to get me at the Albuquerque airport from another trip. When I held her in my arms and looked in her face I knew there would never be another time in my life without a dog.

Now I slowly move through each day without that dog. I wait for her high pitched bark to tell me I have done something wrong, like closed the bedroom door with her on the other side. That was one amazing trait about lhasas, the incredible loyalty. Chula always wanted to be near one of us. If that meant in the yard, in the garage, sitting on the couch, that's where she wanted to be too.

I so miss her warm body next to mine while laying in bed while I read, Talking to her about her day and what she did while I was at work. What did her and her sisters do that day. Then she would loudly remind me that it was time for food or if the water bowl was low or if she wanted a walk.

It's so quiet around here now without her voice, her personality guiding the pace of the family. I sit, waiting, for some sign that she is ok without us. That she is taken care of were ever she is now. Maybe that she can take care of us now as we weep over our loss, the loss of a very much loved lhasa named Chula.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Judy and Karen sitting in a tree in two countries

J & K sitting in two trees and two countries

My friend Judy left the country this week for Canada. Spring in Canada seems to make sense, the land is coming alive, new horizons, the Aurora Borealis is making appearances all over the northern hemisphere and there are still Canadian teams in the hunt for the Cup, eh?

Judy didn't go north for any of those reasons. She had to go to Canada to see the love of her life, Karen, a British citizen. Judy is a US citizen living in San Jose. Karen has all the correct paperwork, the passport, the visa, everything necessary for the visit. Thanks to our antiquated immigration system that doesn't recognize same sex bi-national couples, Judy went to Canada to meet Karen because a British citizen can fly into Canada with virtually no problem and enter the United States with, hopefully no problems

Here again with our old, broken system, they have to find a country which will allow them to live their lives together in peace, not hurting anyone and just wanting to grow old together. If they lived here in the U.S. they would have to pull up stakes every six months and relocate out of the country when Karen's visa ran out. I know lots of people who like living like that but these two would like to have a choice and not be ordered to live like that. Judy has mentioned more than once to me that she does not know where she and Karen will be for Christmas this year.

There is a chance their situation and thousands of other bi-national couples will get some relief. Locally, Congressman Mike Honda, D-San Jose, is co-sponsoring a bill (HR 1024), Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), along with Congressman Luis Gutierrez from Chicago to be included as part of immigration reform this year.

If Karen and Judy were a man and a woman I wouldn't even be writing about this. I mean really, man meets woman from England. Man falls in love with woman. She comes across the pond, loves it here in the Bay area. Has her own business, visas, always obeys the laws about when to stay and when to go. Man says lets get married, they say "I do." She turns out to be a wonderful singer, becomes an overnight sensation. Wait, wrong story.

The reality is they can get married in Canada but once they cross the border they get unmarried immediately. Say they are not in one of those areas that recognize marriage, like say Iowa. If something happens to them in Minnesota, there are no guarantees that they can even see each other if one is hospitalized. Is that right thing to do? Would any person have denied Phyllis the right to visit Del when she was dying?

So here it is, a broken system that doesn't recognize that people change, times have changed, situations have changed and some of us just want to live our lives with the person we love. We don't want to corrupt your children or encourage them to marry their own princess or prince but wouldn't that be swell if they found someone to love and who loved them like a prince and or princess?

Judy and Karen treat each other like princesses because Karen is from England and she knows royalty. But also because they have had to live long periods of time away from each other. Our government told them they had to live apart. So their time together is very precious.

Maybe if all of us treated our time together and our own princes and princesses so preciously then the thought of everyone being equal and all couples having the right to marry wouldn't be so scary after all.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

An open letter to Governor Schwarzenegger from an unemployed California

Dear Governor:

I hope you or someone will take a moment of time to read my letter here about my experiences with EDD. I know you are trying hard to get this economy corrected while also managing the multitude of problems within the state of California: the air we breathe,this flu, the ocean on our coasts, the redwoods, the homelessness, the budget, the prisons. It's a very long list

Unfortunately for me, I am one of those 2.2 million unemployed Californians, Governor. I have tried really hard to find a job but just like all the others out there, we continue to hope that something out there exists that will pay us enough to pay our bills and have something left over for food. We are all looking with not much luck. Some have even given up, lost

I turned to EDD for unemployment the first weekend after losing my job. Putting those forms online was brilliant. No waiting in lines, getting everything submitted correctly from the homey confines of one's house or library or even the EDD office with help all around really is quite helpful. What happened after that was anything but helpful.

My next contact from EDD was a letter which assigns me a telephone interview with an "interviewer" who will ask me questions about why I am no longer working at my former job. The letter has these questions listed on the back. It also has the time and date for this interview. I am warned that if I cannot make this interview I must contact EDD and reschedule. If I do not do so I will automatically be rejected for benefits. Very strict, very precise language as to the consequences for my not making this appointment.

But what, if any, consequences are there for EDD not showing up for the appointment? That's right, they never called. They didn't call Thursday or Friday either. I was literally on house arrest for all the rest of that week waiting for a call from an interviewer. No call ever came. Governor, is this any way to run a business?

In the meantime, I tried calling in to EDD. Anyone who has ever tried this knows what a battle this is. It takes literally over four minutes of pressing key pads to get to the end of the line and guess what happens? They literally hang up on you! The system is overloaded and they can't take your call so they just say hang up and say try again, click. Why on earth doesn't this system do that at the beginning of the call instead of making you hang on and go through all the bells and voices only to find out there is no one to help at the end? Click, no luck this time. Try again. It's not like being unemployed isn't frustrating enough but have to go through all this, too, is just down right aggravating.

I have also sent emails through the EDD site and that page says EDD has three days to answer my email. What this all says to me is that there are not enough people working there at EDD to serve the vast numbers of unemployed in California. How would a business that depends on good service survive if they had to only answer their email in three days? Not very well, I would imagine. In those three days they would have found somewhere else to go.

Because I sent my initial email on Wednesday I did not get a response until Sat with a phone number to call until Saturday. Of course that office was closed on a Saturday. I called first thing Monday morning and talked to a man who was not a trained interviewer but would ask me questions and pass his notes on to a trained interviewer who would then make a decision. So I was not interviewed by a trained staff, I don't know what his position was but he clearly did not have any idea of labor law. I had to explain to him the difference between hourly and exempt positions which is critical to my case. There were other issues that he did not understand and I had to spend a considerable amount of my interview time educating him about all manner of issues. Again, Governor, having enough staff, trained staff aleviates this problem and gives everyone a level playing.

Needless to say, I was turned down for unemployment. I am completing my appeal to be in the mail this week, well ahead of my 20 day deadline. However, I am concerned how long the appeal will take. My friend went through the whole process. He was terminated in October, appealed in November and his appeal wasn't heard until March. That is a six month process. It occurred even before the incredibly high unemployment California is experiencing now.

It is also my understanding that local Assembly and Senate offices are swamped with the same requests, helping get people through this process. Why? Because the EDD offices are so understaffed that if anyone's case falls outside a very small definition of qualifying for unemployment then we are denied what we have paid into and have to do the work to get our unemployment insurance. Again, more staffing and full training, if for only for temporary staffing, up to a year, helps us out here struggling, can you please find a way to help? The flu will pass faster than this recession but the recession will leave more disaster in its wake.

Thank you for listening. I assure you many lives hang in the balance these days. We need you as our advocate now more than ever.

Your constituent,

The unemployed but trying to be hopeful,

Gloria Nieto

I am still not recovered from the Sharks spectacular crash and burn in the first round of the playoffs so no mention of the Stanley Cup here. Can't even think about another season yet.

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