Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Smiling through the rain...

This past Monday, we saw Chris' new oncologist. Dr. Mmeka was kind, comforting, and warm. And we had the added bonus of our original MacMillan nurse, Mary Anne, being there as she is now a senior nurse specialist with MacMillan. Chris starts chemo next Wednesday, the 6th, not far from 3 years since he last started chemo.

We also had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Catherine Todd, one of the doctors at the Highland Hospice. She and Janette (our MacMillan nurse) stopped by yesterday so Catherine could meet us and find out more about us. Like everyone else we have met, she was warm and kind and appreciated not only the sadness of our situation, but the insanity that is Chris' sense of humour. (I have a feeling Janette may have prepared her for us.)

Chris will start on steroids tomorrow to try to bring down the swelling in his liver that is giving him a great deal of discomfort. Hopefully, once the steroids bring down the swelling and the chemo starts, he will begin to feel better. He is amazing - he is maintaining his humour and a certain level of what may be called irreverence. While he certainly has his down moments, he is trying so hard to be positive and I admire him for it. He does his best to keep me smiling. That being said, we know when we need to just hold each other and cry.

The rain I refer to in the title isn't just the rain (sleet, snow, hail, and wind) that presents itself on the other side of our windows. It refers to my tears. As I said to a friend, I have good days and bad days, but never one without tears. Nighttime is the worst - I put my head down on my pillow and my mind wanders to thoughts of sadness, to the thought of saying a final goodbye. And the reality of my life without my very best friend. The cancer is turning our lives upside down, but Chris, bless him, is doing his best to turn it into a carnival ride. From thoughts of staging his last moments like a Renaissance painting to imagining crazy ways to scatter his ashes, if it's dark humour, Chris is there. 

A wonderful portrait of Chris taken by Catherine, who is one of the only
people allowed to touch Chris' camera!

For those who have never had the opportunity to meet my incredible husband, he is simply one of the kindest, most loving people ever. I count my blessings everyday that we found each other. He fills my heart with so much love and joy - as he does the hearts of everyone in his life. Caroline and family came down this past weekend and Catherine was rarely far from his side. She is aware of what is going on and, I dare say, she may be the one who will feel the most sadness when the time comes. She loves her Abba so much, and he loves her. And watching them together now is the most bittersweet experience I've known. 

We will make it through this very tough journey that will end with a loss I can't begin to even process. Chris will make it the best it can be with his love, his courage, and his humour. I love him so much. Now Chris is more than just my husband, my lover, my soulmate, my best friend - now he is my hero, too.


Friday, November 17, 2017

The sunshine eludes us...

We met with the surgeon on November 8. The news was and is not good. Chris' cancer is terminal. Even as I type those words, they seem to be unreal. I can't get my head around this. At the same time, I am often overwhelmed by such incredible sadness. We will rally and keep our ridiculous senses of humour and get the most out of the time left (18 months to 3 years). Because of Chris' other health issues, surgical resection of the liver wasn't possible. Not only the health issues, but within the span of six months, not one, not two, but four lesions appeared in his liver. Two in the right lobe, two in the left. As the liver is a regenerative organ, trying to keep up is going to be difficult. But Chris has opted for palliative chemotherapy (keeping the cancer growing at a slower rate); the other option was doing nothing at all, which would have resulted in a life span of 12 to 18 months. Now we await our first appointment with the oncologist on November 27th. Thank goodness we have things to distract us until then. Callie and her family are coming to visit on the 25th, staying overnight, and then Lucy and Olly will arrive on the next Friday for the weekend. Of course, by then we will have seen the oncologist. Hopefully, the chemo will also provide some pain relief. Chris is in a great deal of discomfort right now. The liver is swollen and causing pain across his upper abdomen. Our GP has prescribed Oramorph and codeine. Chris tried putting off taking these heavier duty painkillers, but has had to introduce them into his daily schedule - such is the pain he is experiencing.

Chris has made it very clear that he wants to spend the time left enjoying his life. He wants to fill his days with love and laughter, and I will do the best I can, but I have moments of sheer emotional agony. My insomnia seems to be better, but I think it because my mind is working overtime, more than usual, and I am exhausted by the end of the day. On Tuesday, I saw the CBT counselor. She stated this was going to be a very difficult time and there is no easy to deal with it. I knew that before she told me. I have good days and bad, just as Chris has. And our family is being so wonderful. Callie made the decision to be frank with Catherine and Catherine's first reaction was to voice sadness that Alice won't have clear memories of Abba. Dear, sweet child. This is going to be so difficult for her. She loves her Abba so much. Hell, we all love him so much. How can this be happening?

I have been retreating into my studio to spend time creating, with Chris' encouragement. It brings me distraction and a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. We are going to work on streamlining the studio more so a bed can fit into the room, in case we need more sleeping space for family. It is going to be a challenge, but we will get it down to taking up a manageable amount of space.

That's our news. I am still looking for the silver lining, but it is eluding me at this point. Not sure I will find it, to be honest. Chris is my husband, my best friend, my soul mate - I can't imagine living without him. This is going to be so hard...

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Looking for the sun...





This past Sunday night, I spent my usual time watching the results show of "Strictly Come Dancing." I don't normally listen to the song from the special guest, but this week's special guest was the glorious Gregory Porter. Oh, how I love his voice. So, I watched, and I'm so glad I did. The orchestra played a familiar intro, and he sang in his deep, rich voice...

Smile tho' your heart is aching
Smile even tho' it's breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
You'll get by.

Smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through 
For you

Hide every trace of sadness
Light up your face with gladness
Although a tear 
May be ever so near

Smile, you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile.

(If you'd like to hear Gregory Porter sing this classic Charlie Chaplin song, here's the link: https://youtu.be/A6Iv45Ls_xA)

It unleashed the tears. I cried and cried and felt such a release of anxiety, tension, and supreme sadness.

You see, on October 3, we got a phone call we were not expecting. It was the nurse specialist from the colo-rectal unit at the hospital, reporting back on Chris' most recent scan. As she said, it was not the news any of us anticipated. In fact, the last time we saw her, she had remarked on how well Chris was looking. All that being said, Chris has been experiencing some real discomfort in his abdomen and said he hadn't been feeling "right." So, perhaps he anticipated the call. After, he said he wasn't entirely surprised.

The news was that the latest scan showed some lesions on Chris' liver. They were going to schedule him for two additional scans. One would be an MRI at Raigmore in Inverness and the other would be a CAT/PET scan in Aberdeen. With the NHS, you can gauge how serious the situation is by the speed with which specialty appointments are made. The scans were both scheduled within 48 hours of that phone call.

After we received the news, I went into "deer in the headlights" mode. Normally, I am pretty good about this sort of thing. I take in the available information, weigh up what I know and what I don't know. and move forward with a sense of purpose. But I couldn't, not with this news. It was far too scary. And I was, and continue to be, scared to death. Both scans have now been completed and we await the appointment with our yet-to-be-met consultant. One thing of which we have no doubt from what we've been told - the cancer is back.

On Sunday night, as Gregory Porter sang those lyrics - lyrics I have known all my life - I felt as if I needed to really pay attention to what was being conveyed. Smiling was and is the last thing I feel I should do or want to do. But if I don't smile, if I don't try to find that bit of sunshine coming through the clouds, then the cancer has already claimed a victory of sorts. And I won't let that happen. For every moment I spend fearing the worse, I am missing one more moment with Chris, with the man I love more than anything in the world. As I said to a friend back home, it took me 50 years to find him; I'm not going to give up on him - on us - that easily.

The cancer is back for round 2. Okay, fine, we'll take it on again. And I believe with every ounce of my body that we will fight and we will win again. We have our families, our friends, those people we love who love us, supporting us and backing us with their support and prayers. We won't give up...

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Catching up...

I can't believe how much I've allowed this blog to be forgotten. It's not that life hasn't been, well, interesting since Christmas of 2016. But how do you put into words concerns and fears without sounding like you are whining. But worry was very much a part of the beginning of 2017.

I had a cancer scare after Christmas. It terrified me. Having witnessed the cancer struggles of my first husband and Chris, I was even more aware of how fearful a possible cancer diagnosis can be. But, fortunately, some very minor surgery and a biopsy proved that my fear was unfounded. I am still dealing with chronic fatigue, but at least the cancer scare is a thing of the past.

Chris has been doing really well. We saw his colorectal nurse yesterday, and he was given a wonderful assessment. She said how well he looked, she allayed his fears regarding what will be, no doubt, life-long inconveniences that have resulted from the surgery. But, we were told that he will have just two more scans and follow-ups, along with a colonoscopy, and then he will be discharged from their care. His bout with cancer with be truly over. We are so, so grateful for the amazing care he has received from the colorectal team at Raigmore Hospital and from our GPs. Chris has also been discharged from ongoing care from the stroke specialists. His stroke experience continues to impact his life, as he suffers from what is called sequelae of stroke. This means that he suffers from ongoing effects, such as fatigue, muscle weakness/numbness, migraines, balance and speech issues. However, as his cardiac health (or lack thereof) requires the same medications that would be prescribed in the hopes of preventing future strokes, there is really nothing more the neurological team can do for him. So, he is no longer being seen with any regularity.

Chris' cardiological health continues to be of concern. His medications are pretty much controlling his angina, but it comes when he exerts himself beyond a certain level. The cardiologists are happy with how his medications are controlling things, but stents are still a very probably option at some point in the future. After all, his level of blockage in the cardiac arteries is not lessened by his meds. He takes blood thinners and medications for hypertension. But, all in all, he is doing possibly better than one might expect.

Of course, the most wonderful news of the past 8 months is the birth of our new granddaughter, Alice Elspeth Borland, who was born just last week on July 6. Alice is a beautiful little girl and we are totally besotted. Catherine adores her new baby sister. We spent a lovely day with them yesterday and ended up with the added bonus of Catherine coming home with us to spend a week. She is at an age now where she can help us rather than need us to do things for her - between the two of us, Chris and I barely equal one fully functioning adult, so it would have been harder if she were younger. But as she is nearly 8 now (where has the time gone?), she is a delight to have around as she is pretty much completely independent when it comes to self-care. And she takes care of us, too.

I am so grateful to have my wonderful family. Callie and I are so close, and I love knowing that my daughter is also one of my dearest friends. We are also looking forward to the wedding of Chris's daughter Lucy next spring. And, of course, Olly and his wife Natt are enjoying their life in Exeter. Everyone is happy and healthy. What more could we ask for?





Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A beautiful and relaxing Christmas - looking forward to a positive New Year!

We had a lovely Christmas this year. In fact, it was the nicest Christmas we've had in a very long time. This year, there were no family deaths preceding, no mysterious or prolonged illnesses, no life-threatening symptoms yet to be diagnosed. It was a Christmas of beauty and quiet.

Chris was very excited about decorating this year. As Callie so accurately pointed out, "Someone's been looking at Pinterest." Of course, we also have our subscription to Country Living, so we get magazines full of beautiful interior ideas. And so, on the 17th, we decorated the house. I made a wreath for the kitchen and Chris found a perfect little pine branch to place over the door to the living room. Some primitive art ornaments and some birch bark snowflakes gave it the perfect touch and it has to be one of my favourite decorations. Of course, next year we will have to find another branch, as this little one won't last once we take it down as it has become very brittle. But what a lovely little touch it added.

Back in November, I found the perfect lighting source for the kitchen/diner. Back in the States, I always included some sort of lit tree for lighting in the dining room and I've wanted the same here. I found a beautiful grouping of pre-lit "birch trees" at John Lewis and knew that I had to get it for the dining area. Not just for Christmas (as it was listed as a Christmas decoration), but for the entire year. We placed the wreath that I decorated with white ornaments and pine cones behind it. It looks beautiful and I am so pleased to have found this grouping. I had plans to hang a bright red glass bead garland from the trees for Christmas, but, alas, Gracie made that impossible. Far too much temptation for our little girl. (It's bad enough that she is constantly taking the little pinecones out of the glass bowl in the living room!) For Christmas dinner, the table was set with my Spode Christmas Tree dinner set, Spode Christmas Tree placemats, cream napkins with holly napkin rings. The kitchen looked so festive and we were so happy to sit and spend time we each other and then with Callie and family in such a relaxing and beautiful setting.

Of course, the star of the show was our Christmas tree. We decided to carry the white theme through to the living room, and, for the first time since we've been back in Scotland, we decided to invest in some pretty ornaments. Before, we had bought plastic balls in plastic tubes, so hadn't really put any thought into the decorating of the tree. I have some ornaments from my parents' house, enough to give me that sense of family and wonderful Christmas memories. Chris found a wonderful tree "stand" that is a white-washing wicker basket sort of thing. It is amazing what you can find when you search the internet. We found a lovely one for a fraction of the price of those listed in the magazines. (The postman was getting a good workout delivering our pre-Christmas packages!) For next year's Christmas, I would like to add some additional strings of lights and some more silver glass bead garlands. But, overall, I must say that I think our tree is just beautiful. 

Living in northwest Scotland can bring challenges when it comes to the weather this time of year, and 2016 was no different. We were subjected to not one, but two, named storms (Barbara and Connor) that brought with them hail, sleet, and strong gale-force winds. We got through it with only one roof tile as a casualty. And, fortunately, the weather did not create a journey that was too difficult for Callie, Stuart, and Catherine.


This year, we decided to do the new "tradition" of the Christmas Eve box. I collected some pajamas, a chocolate robin, a panda cuddly toy (Catherine's favourite thing in the whole world), and some pencils and a sketch pad. We found a perfect little box, and I set about creating something really magical. Using my best lettering skills, I "addressed" the box to Catherine and then used a handmade stencil, spray glue, and glitter to create handprints of the elves who packed the box. I even had the elves sign the box ("Packed by: Twinkle, Snowflake, and Bell"). When the time came after dark on Christmas Eve, I executed my best dramatic gasp and asked if anyone else had heard the sound of our back door opening and closing. We sent Chris to investigate and he called for Catherine to come and see. Oh my goodness - the look of amazement on her face was the most wonderful thing in the world. And she proclaimed that she would never, ever throw out the box because it had the elves' handprints on it! (The picture here shows not only the box and Catherine, but Catherine's gappy mouth. She is missing the front four teeth on the top. How she managed to eat Christmas dinner is beyond me! But she did.)

It was a lovely Christmas full of laughter and smiles and hugs and love. And that's all Christmas ever needs to be. Just time with those we love. I couldn't have asked for a better Christmas.

And I am looking positively at the year ahead. There is little to nothing I can about the state of the world, other than making charitable contributions to help all those displaced by war and climate change. To become hardened and bitter would do me no good at all. After months of near depression about the state of American politics, I've decided to let it go. That doesn't mean I don't care or won't do all I can to make sure that the world continues to care for those in need and to be as inclusive as possible, it's just that I know my being brought down by it all serves no one. So, I am going to start the new year with a song in my heart and positivity abounding. My business is going to step up a notch in 2017, with my (hopefully) securing more stockists outside this immediate area. I am working at making designs using new techniques that I am enjoying very much. And Chris' health is better and I needn't feel quite so anxious about him. My year ahead will include a much-needed trip to Sussex in the late spring to visit Chris' mother and see his family. We shall practice that journey with shorter journeys between now and then, slowly increasing our time on the road to the time necessary to make comfortable and do-able journeys on our way south. And, also in May, a dear friend from the States will be visiting and I can't wait for that!


I'm going to be me again. I am going to be positive and happy and obnoxiously upbeat. And if you don't like it, well, I still think there are bright sides and silver linings to everything and nothing will convince me otherwise. And, of course, 2017 is going to bring our family the great blessing of a new baby. Callie had a scan done privately the week before Christmas and it revealed a perfect little one, wiggling about with visible legs and arms. A good strong heartbeat and so much movement has given us all cause to relax a little. Of course, we won't be completely relaxed until Callie is a little farther along (she is coming to the end of the first trimester now). But, hopefully come July, a new baby will join us. And we can't wait. 

So, this is the first of the many positive and happy posts that will follow. I will try to include more images of Scotland in the year to come, as well. And more posts about places we visit and people we meet as we get out and about a little more this year than we have for the past three years! Time to emerge from this lovely little house and get back to seeing more of this beautiful country. It's been years since we've been to Plockton and more than a year since our last visit to Skye. And the trip north along the coast is waiting for us, too.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

One last political post…

Yesterday, the Electoral College did the unthinkable. Against the wishes of a majority of the voters, despite the interference of Putin and his goons, and in complete opposition to the ideals of the United States of America, the Electoral College rubber-stamped the greatest travesty in the history of the American presidency. On January 20, 2017, a misogynist, xenophobe, white supremacist, con man, sexual predator, and demagogue will take the Oath of Office. And what will happen after that is anyone’s guess.

Donald J. Trump will never be my president.

Since Trump’s victories in the primary and being named the Republican candidate, I’ve been so depressed.  And I’ve wondered why. I’ve been disappointed politically in the past. I’m a Democrat, so that goes without saying. But there was and is something more about this. And this morning, as I sat in the shower, the water doing its best to calm me, it suddenly dawned on me why this whole thing has depressed me so and why it continues to do so…and why I am so angry.

Everything I was taught as a child, every truth I’ve adhered to as an adult, and for nearly 61 years, is being challenged. Number one rules were not to lie, not to cheat, and not to steal. And yet, this January, someone who is champion of these sins is going to become President of the United States. When did this happen? When did we turn everything upside down and inside out.

And it’s not just on a national level, it’s everywhere. Years ago, when I was back in the States, I was slandered in such a way as to lose the opportunity to interview for a job I desperately needed. Someone I barely knew decided to go to one of the higher ups in this organisation and lied about my physically attacking her because she had been offered a job for which I had interviewed. I was more qualified and had better references and a better understanding of the individuals this office would assist. The other woman got the job because she was good friends with the assistant director. I was even told that the director was determined to offer me the job, but instead acquiesced to her assistant's plea to place this far less qualified individual in the job. This sort of favouritism has been around forever and it happens. But what I found so horrendous was the slanderous lie told by this other woman. A woman who was supposed to adhere to an honour code. And when, at last, I was given an audience with the president of the organisation, there was sympathy, but nothing more. To this day, I am horrified by what happened; horrified that such a lie was allowed to be told without challenge. When did lying become so casually acceptable? For surely, no one lies better than our soon-to-be commander-in-chief.

The president-elect not only is known for lying - bascially, if his lips are moving, he's lying - but is known for doing and bragging about doing terrible things. This is a man who brags about not paying bills in their entirety, brags about sexually assaulting women, brags about getting what he wants when he wants, and brags about his perceived wealth. He has placed in his cabinet individuals who are painfully unqualified. He has appointed known bigots and misogynists as his closest advisors. His daughter, who is inextricably part of his business empire, will take on the duties of First Lady. There has already been evidence that she is auctioning off "pay for play." He threatens those who question him. And not only does he threaten them, but his surrogates threaten them as well. Just this past week, Kellyanne Conway referred to his critics as “trolls” and “bitches.” What the hell?

Maybe I led a sheltered life as a child. My family was a happy one. We never wanted for anything. We weren’t rich by any means, but we had the riches of love, intelligence, and compassion. We were taught to care about the feelings of others, to explore and learn and grow, to give back, and to love and respect. I can’t and won’t believe we were the exceptions to the rule. And all I can do now is pray that, at some point, those who have lost themselves in greed and corruption will remember the simple tenets they were taught by their parents and teachers. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” was the mantra we were all taught. It was and is a good mantra.

Where do we go from here? I don’t know. I don’t know how we are going to claw back from the downward spiral that is at our feet. And it isn’t just in the US, it is around the world. The selfish liars appear to be in charge in most countries, burying their noses in the trough that feeds them more money than a person could spend in a lifetime. People who see their own agenda as being more important than the fair and good life they should be helping provide to those they are reputed to represent. Here in the UK, those in charge are trying to destroy the National Health Service, schools, the safety nets that are in place to help those in need. While the MPs argue and mock each other in Parliament, families are being turned out onto the streets and must go to food banks to keep themselves and their children fed. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they back energy plans that poison the Earth for the extra pounds that find their ways into their accounts from those who destroy the land. It is all so very, very wrong and, to me, so very obviously wrong. And yet, people just sit back and say what will be will be. No! It shouldn’t be that way; it should never ever be that way. We have to appeal to the better angels within all of us.

In the 1960s, social and political movements made progress in changing the way the government did things. The non-violent (at least on the part of the protesters) of the Civil Rights and anti-war movements made enough noise to make the government sit up and take notice – and make changes. These were good changes. But now, we see ourselves spinning backwards. How much longer until a woman’s right to determine what she does and doesn’t do with her own body is abandoned? How much longer until the discrimination against those of colour or non-Christian religions is officially recognised as acceptable? How long until Jim Crow is resurrected? How long before the press is stifled and silenced? We need to wake up and end this nightmare.

There are organisations that support the rights of individuals and organisations that fight to make life just and fair. If nothing else, we can support these organisations with our time and money. If you have the ability, take part in sit-ins and marches. Do what you can, do all that you can. I pray that before I die, the world becomes a kinder and better place. I want to leave this world knowing that my children, grandchildren, and their children after them can grow up in a world that rewards kindness and compassion. I want that for all the children of the world. A world that does not condone those who lie, cheat, and steal, a world where that behaviour is no longer overlooked or simply ignored. We owe this to ourselves and to the generations that follow.

Organisations that need your help:

American Civil Liberties Union: www.aclu.org
Planned Parenthood: www.plannedparenthood.org
Southern Poverty Law Center: www.splcenter.org
The Audra Lorde Project: www.alp.org
Border Angels: www.borderangels.org
The Center for Reproductive Rights: www.reproductiverights.org
Council on American-Islamic Relations: www.cair.org
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: www.naacp.org
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network: www.rainn.org
The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights: www.theyoungcenter.org


In the UK (I am not familiar with organisations here in the UK – please comment with suggestions for other organisations in need of help and support):

Global Justice Now: www.globaljustice.org.uk
The Centre for Social Justice: www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk
The Fawcett Society: www.fawcettsociety.org.uk
The Muslim Council for Britain: www.mcb.org.uk

Thank you to Linda Joyce Crowder for sending the following UK numbers:
Domestic Violence Hotline: 0808 2000 247
Mind 0300 123 3393
Age UK 0800 169 6565

International organisations:

Equality Now: www.equalitynow.org
White Helmets (Syrian Civil Defense): www.whitehelmets.org
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders: www.msf.org
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement: www.icrc.org

There are so many more reputable and life-saving organisations. Give where you can and let’s all work toward a better world.







Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Worried.

Lately, I’ve been feeling very tense and upset and a bit depressed. Of course, we’ve gone through so much over the past two to three years. I suppose I have every right to feel the way I do. But here’s the thing, I’m not depressed about our lives here. Yes, we aren’t in the best of health, but we are living in a country that helps us and in a community where we have friends who honest to God care about us. And that is a wonderful, wonderful thing. My life, here in Aultbea, with the husband I love more than anything, and close enough to my daughter and granddaughter, with phone calls to my stepkids and my mother-in-law, it’s all pretty much good. Pain is horrible, but I’ve gotten used to it and Chris’ meds are finally balancing out so he’s feeling a little less horrible (although the residual dizziness and other complications from the strokes can be, shall we say, challenging).

What has me sad and angry and worried is what is happening back in the States. Today we got the news of yet another unarmed black man being gunned down and killed by police officers who, no doubt, will go on paid leave until they can cook up some sort of excuse.  Today I read of yet another occasion of Trump rallying his “basket of deplorables” to keep up the blind hatred and aggression. Today, I am just tired of it. Tired of trying to make sense out of a situation that makes no sense at all – never can and never will. And I find myself actually contemplating the change in my life that I’ve thought about over the years – voluntarily severing my ties with the US and becoming a British citizen. No dual citizenship, just British. No more identifying myself as American. Why? Because I am ashamed. Ashamed of what my country is becoming. Ashamed of the unfulfilled greatness that the country could be. I am sick and tired of the bigotry and ignorance of what is real and what is being spoonfed to the vacuous by media outlets who lie, spin, and happily depart from reality in order to drive their own agenda. How the hell did this happen? Seriously, how did it happen?

When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, I couldn’t have been prouder of my country. To have witnessed, during my lifetime, a country go from its own institutionalized apartheid to having an African American president was something for which I felt Americans could justifiably claim to be the most progressive, tolerant people in the world. But that wasn’t to be. Too many small-minded closeted bigots collectively lost their shit when President Obama took his oath of office. They festered until the hate brimmed over the edge – filling “patriotic” forums with garbage about the first family, about Democrats, about progressives, about liberals. The few and far between trolls of the internet appeared to become the rule rather the exception. And people I knew who I thought were bright and kind and fair showed signs of intolerance that surprised me and ultimately broke my heart.

Soon it will be time for Americans to vote in another presidential election. This time, we have the option of creating history once more by electing the first woman president of the United States. It should be an easy win – but it won’t be. The reason I say it should be an easy win is because we have a candidate for president who is possibly more qualified for the position than anyone who has come before her. Hillary Rodham Clinton has spent her entire life as the champion of working families, of children, of women. She has spent her life trying to find justice and equality for those so often forgotten by big governments and corporate America. But she is a woman and because she is so focused, so determined, so incredibly intelligent, she scares the shit out of most people. And so they have created a witch hunt perpetuated by lies and rumours that can be categorically refuted, desperately trying to hang something on her to make her “unfit” for office. So they can call her a traitor and a liar. And I suppose, we should just shake our heads and realise that this is what modern day politics has become – little substance and just offense, offense, offense. They accuse of her heinous crimes, forgetting that she has been rubbing the Washington old boys' network wrong for years and if they could have pinned anything on her, they would have! Non-partisan think tanks have named her as one of the most honest candidates in this election cycle. But, like all female pioneers before her, she has to be so much more than perfect for anyone to not be critical of her. If it weren't so serious, it would be laughable. Because of who and what her opponent is. This should be an easy win...

But here’s the crazy thing – her opponent is the most unfit, unqualified, most dishonest, horrible excuse for a human being that has drawn breath. And I am completely serious when I say that. Find me ANYTHING about this man that is honourable. He has lied about giving money to charities, he has lied about his own success, he ignores whatever he doesn’t like and engages in something that is so far beyond hyperbole, it is impossible to even try to define him. He has broken laws and regulations, he has bribed and cajoled, he has alleged ties to organised crime and unsavoury world leaders. There is nothing that is exemplary about him. He has been labeled – accurately – as a xenophobe, a homophobe, a misogynist, a bigot, a draft dodger, a con man, a liar, a narcissist, etc., etc., etc. And every single one of those labels is absolutely, undeniably true. Donald Trump is the worst of the worst. He is making himself and the US a laughing stock to anyone who sees clearly that the emperor has no clothes. But the media fawn all over him – not sure why, as he says only horrible things about them. But it is shocking. The fact that approximately 40 percent of Americans polled like him distresses me so much. Because, like it or not, it means that deep down inside, those people are all that he is, or at least support all that he is. When has horrible behaviour become respectable? Become tolerable? Become acceptable?

A rapist is given a short sentence because he was a great swimmer and going to prison might “damage” him. A professional football player convicted of rape is nominated for the Hall of Fame, while another football player who chose the peaceful protest of not standing during the National Anthem is on the receiving end of threats and hatred. White, privileged people are insulted by the term “Black Lives Matter,” not realising that you only say something like that when the opposite is the living truth. “Black Lives Matter” because there is so little indication that they do. And yet, we sit on the sidelines and tsk, tsk and forget the next day that a family somewhere has been robbed of its son, brother, husband, father.

A like-minded friend and I were exchanging our thoughts on Facebook when she posted the line from “Network” – “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” And that’s how I feel. I am so angry, I can hardly begin to put it into words. I’m not sure my words here are even going to make sense to anyone but me. But I know how I feel. I feel cheated and lied to, I feel as if I have to defend my right to call out a liar as a liar, a true human walking and talking piece of excrement for what he is.

The whole world is watching, America. They want to see what you are going to do in November. Do you continue to move forward, or do you take thousands of giant steps backward into a time that was not pleasant for anyone other than rich white men? A time of back-alley abortions, a time of prejudice and segregation, a time of isolationism and exclusive nationalism. Your decision. I pray that my faith in you will prove worthwhile. I know I will be casting my vote from abroad. And instead of saying God bless America, I am going to say God have mercy on America.

Oh, one other thing. I may not live in the US, but I am an American. I have my US passport, I vote in American elections and I fucking well care about what happens back home. So don't for one second tell me I don't know what it is really like back in the States. The things I've referred to here are facts, not opinions. They are undeniable and real...and shameful. And I'm not saying things in Great Britain are perfect. We have our own political freak shows going on, but I know that America is capable of taking a long, honest look at itself and it has the strength to make changes where changes need to be made. It has been said that all great nations rise and fall. Don't let the US fall. Don't allow the world to fall victim to a petulant man-child who could, upon being baited, press the red button and destroy us all. Please don't let that happen...