The Torture of Our ‘Safety Net’

I’ve known a woman (I’ll call her B), who has worked a good part of her life as caregiver.   She has no living family, she does not own a car.  She usually lives where she works, often on the overnight shift to serve the needs of a patient.

One gig was caring for a women confined to a wheelchair in an advanced stage of a degenerative disease.  B noticed the women on day shift spent more time on their phone and watching TVs than the spent caring for the patient. She reported her concerns about the quality of care;  the company that had assigned her promptly fired her.

She got another job with a facility that houses people with mental illness.  Soon enough, her employer became verbally abusive in virtually every interaction, withheld her paychecks on a whim, and did not provide the house with sufficient food. Her stress level skyrocketed, as did her blood pressure.  She suffered what was probably minor strokes on two occasions.  The most recent one, on Christmas Eve, put her in the intensive care for a couple of days.  She was diagnosed with kidney disease  Her vision began deteriorating and is now about 80% reduced.  When she returned to work, her boss harangued her about missing days and accused her of lying about being in the hospital.  He fired her, then allowed her to stay, then fired her again, with two weeks’ notice. He refuses to give her last paycheck until she leaves.

il_570xN.1193079674_d4bnB has been on the phone every day looking for shelter space, of which the county has precious little. She applied for Med-Cal and now has coverage, but only with certain providers.  Her doctor ordered a CT scan. But she can’t get that without lab work, and she can’t get that without an appointment. “And the scheduler just left for the day.” More calls to people who cannot or will not help in the way their job title suggests they might.

A homeless services group wanted her to come in for ‘training’ before she got on the list for a shelter space. She might be eligible for hotel vouchers from Social Services, but that’s not assured.  Call Social Services and you hear the message “We are experiencing heavy call volume, please call back later” – ALL day. She will have to get there without a car, money, or much ability to see, and hope she finds what she needs.

She not a drug abuser or chronically homeless, but now she’s disabled. She will be homeless in two days.

She’s caught up in a trifecta of fuckups among systems we pay our taxes to support.  How did so much inefficiency and dismissiveness take over?

Truth is, many of us are a paycheck or two from the street – a hell I would not wish on anyone. None of this uncertainty would be necessary if the State’s considerable wealth were fairly distributed by forward-thinking people.  Yeah – how naive!  But those of us who want to live in a more just and compassionate world must find ways to help untangle our social ‘safety net.’

More coming…

Baffling sights, aural delights, and notable encounters of 2018

Navigating life is a daunting challenge most of the time, to say nothing of the considerable regular effort required to behave like a competent, contributory human being.

I do not have a television, having abandoned the device and the medium ten years ago in an effort to firewall my thinking, to improve my experience of a day.  Avoiding the mawkish, trite, corporate free-for-all of advertising relieves me of some anxiety.  If I feel a need to escape, I watch movies without commercials.

Without the clutter of factoids about shootings and disasters, money- or sex-related scandals, political embarrassments and rumors delivered by TV news, which is sandwiched among depressingly un-nuanced dramatic shows and unfunny comedies, I’m able, on more occasions, to be more attuned to observing and listening to the lives and life around me. It’s never boring.

Oakland, California where I live:

Plagued by a volatile racial divide. Some days it cools and softens with the balm of open relaxed conversations or random acts of humanity.

Too many people wandering across busy streets against the light and with no fear.  Suicide by random passer-by.  John George, the psychiatric facility where adults experiencing severe and disabling mental illnesses may commit themselves or be committed, has patients sleeping on mats on the floor in a dorm, unsheltered from each other, medicated but unhealed.

The upcoming Women’s March, spending an obscene amount of money on an events that is unlikely to produce any timely or tangible assistance to swelling ranks of women on the margins of our community,  where domestic violence shelters are always full, too many women have not completed high school, do not know how to use computers, and virtually stagger through their days under the burden of traumas rooted in their poverty.

The City’s infested with the cheap scooters that expose riders without helmets to head injuries and pedestrians without warning to vehicular assault.

The losing battle in West Oakland against graffiti and random trash piles. Not much sense that this is a neighborhood worth valuing. We need to change that.

On the plus side:

white unbrella fungi on tree CU
photo by David Lent

The Yuba River still flows with enormous power; a hike in the forest in the riot of furry mosses and spritely fungi and elegant ferns and nude oaks that have lain down rugged brown carpets on ochre clay – that resets a weary soul.

Women’s issues steadily are gaining traction in the public conversation, suggesting more action to correct the inequities and predations on women that are inherent in our society.


I’ve discovered the amazing music of Jessica La Rel  

ODI Dance Kenya   

Sol Development

JAX (Haiti)

WCI and I survived and rebooted after soul-busting betrayals by trusted women.  New strong allies are arriving with reassuring regularity.

Several extraordinary women I know through Oakland Women’s Center have become wonderful friends.  I cherish my connection with them. Black and white women have more than they usually realize to offer each other.

My next book is coming out in January:  Trouble Ahead:  Dangerous Missions with Desperate People

3D-coverIt’s a compilation of journals – commentary from my numerous missions in East Africa and the birth stories of Women’s Centers International.

Publication announcement to come.

After the holiday slack-off, I’ll be ready again to advance WCI in serving the women who need it most.

Liget…And Howl We Do It

Here’s  a new concept in human emotion:  liget.

The term comes from a story on Invisibilia (NPR) about a couple who visited a remote tribe in the Philippines. “Liget” is the tribe’s word for a kind of distress combining rage and sadness.

Liget may well express the emotions women often feel and seldom understand or discuss.  It’s that galling sense of having little value, of putting up with a lot of shit from society in general, most men in particular, and other women on occasions of betrayal.

Liget is the word I needed for Howl We Do It, my nascent campaign to develop unity in protesting and changing the inequities and violence directed against women.

Screen Shot 2018-10-31 at 11.26.14 AM

Here’s how the pros do it

If you want to keep informed on the Howl We Do It movement, please email me at


Thou Shall Not Congeal


It forages among our unexpressed thoughts, nibbles away our best energy, like termites tunneling in a foundation. The free-floating dis-ease can fulminate from symptom to crippling malady, depending on how plugged in you’ve made yourself.

Our culture distributes anxiety most insidiously and perniciously through television, through the medium’s endless barrage of titillating headlines, shocking images, and random data. To watch a sports or news broadcast is to be pulled and twisted into a brain-fuck netherworld.

When I gave up watching TV seven years ago, I actually experienced a sort of withdrawal. I realized, with no small regret, that TV had succeeded in hollowing-out of my initiative.

I believe it’s a fundamental human tendency to be a lazy ass, snack-munching bubblehead. We can indulge this occasionally. However, once we find regular comfort in sucking the tit of the toxic media sow, we full-on spiral down into sinning against our singular talent. We congeal.

Congealing produces splendid results in cooking and terraforming, but not so much with human souls. From our media, we learn to believe the messages delivered in slick seductive commercials about how we (especially women) should look, and how we can be good little consumers of gadgets and goodies that ultimately do not and cannot make us happy.

The trick is never to congeal – to keep rearranging our inputs and outputs to serve a grander purpose

Furry VW Beetle– our unique purpose.  Each of us is honored with one.


Title X – Looming evisceration of women’s body rights

Title X, enacted in1970, is the only federal program specifically dedicated to supporting the delivery of family planning care.

Administered by the HHS Office of Population Affairs (OPA), and funded at $260 million for Fiscal Year 2019, the program serves over 4 million low-income, uninsured, and underserved clients.

Nearly 4,000 clinics nationwide received Title X funding in 2016, including specialized family planning clinics such as Planned Parenthood centers, community health centers, state health departments, as well as school-based, faith-based, and other nonprofit organizations.

The Trump Administration has issued new proposed regulations for the federal Title X family planning program that would make significant changes to the program and to the types of providers that qualify for funding. These proposed regulations would:

  • Block the availability of federal funds to family planning providers like Planned Parenthood that also o er abortion services;
  • Curtail counseling and referrals to abortion services by Title X funded providers;
  • Eliminate current requirements that Title X sites o er a broad range of medically approved family planning methods and non-directive pregnancy options counseling that includes information about prenatal care/delivery, adoption, and abortion; and
  • Direct new funds to faith-based and other organizations that promote fertility awareness and abstinence as methods of family planning.
  • Sites that do not o er abortion services may still qualify for Title X funds, but may decide not to participate because of concerns about clinical standards of care, medical liability, and burdensome administrative requirements.

Screen Shot 2018-07-05 at 5.16.31 PMIf fully implemented, the proposed changes to Title X would shrink the network of participating providers and have major repercussions for low-income women across the country that rely on them for their family planning care.

Find more details at