30
Aug
20

so tell me, did you, did you do, did you do all you could?

Nothing changes because we want it to, but only when we act.

But when you’re in the middle of a pandemic, and you’re not a scientist, what actions are available to you? I can wear my mask and avoid gatherings (oh how I miss people!) and take my temperature and check my pulse oxygen and take my D3 and my kelp supplements and paint my house and water my tomatoes. But those all just seem like waiting “things,” not doing “things.”

And what can I possibly add to everything that’s been said already? We have more time to notice things, we spend less money on gas and restaurants, less time driving around to this place or that. I actually was thinking it might be a good time to get and train a puppy for when our older dog is gone to keep our younger dog company, but how do you socialize a puppy when you can’t get within 6 feet of anyone? And while I’m grateful I don’t have young or school age children at home that I have to try to educate, entertain, and appease, what happens to all of those young and school age children out there who are missing out on these important socializations of school and play dates and learning how to share a sandbox or take turns on a swing at the playground?

Only Daughter lost almost half of her freshman year in college and will lose at least half of her sophomore year (still “going,” but it’s all remote/online) – the best time of your life in some really important ways. Every new class filled with new people to meet from a myriad of cultures and backgrounds, friendships to be made over textbooks and index cards and endless cups of coffee in the cafeteria. If I drive onto campus for something, it’s like a dystopian novel – abandoned, eerie.

I’ve heard it said that it’s like we’re living through the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, the race riots of the 1960s, and the Depression simultaneously. It’s not wrong. I would add the landscapes of Divergent, the disconnect between government and the people in The Hunger Games,and I Am Legend, without the zombies.

may-you-live-in-interesting-times

And while I know how lucky I am – I had MORE work this summer because of Covid, Husband’s job is secure unless one of the largest universities in our state closes down (not an impossibility I guess given the CANCELLATION OF FALL FOOTBALL [don’t get me started on the ludicrous dependence of a university budget on football ticket sales]), we have enough tomatoes in our garden to feed an army for at least a month, our children so far are healthy and housed and fed – I can’t help but instinctively pair that with grief for all the people who aren’t so lucky.

Now I recognize that a sign of mental health and stability is the ability to hold two conflicting ideas in your head at the same time. And I find myself consistently split 50/50 between gratitude and grief.

Why does this have to be so horrible? Why are so many people so angry? Why can’t we come together and recognize that, for what will hopefully be the only time in our history or future, we are all

In. this. together.

The divisiveness with which we in the U.S. are facing this is no surprise, really, given the baby man/menace who is in office and all of the spineless twits who care more about their hold on power than their duty to the Constitution and people they swore to protect. (And if you ask me, I’ll tell you what I really think.) But are we really so hopeless as a species that we need one leader to tell us what to do? (I’m asking this rhetorically, since the answer is Obviously Yes.)

We used to learn about our responsibilities as members of a society; I remember even in my children’s school days posters in hallways about civility and decency and sympathy and gratitude. And I’m old, but not THAT old, so it wasn’t THAT long ago. What’s happened to that? The end of everyone basically watching and reading the same news sources

the internet ruined everything

The availability of niche information markets that allows us to seek out and believe only whatever fringe theories–and I facetiously include mine in that distinction, as many others might, since I get my news from such liberal “dishrags” as the New York Times and the Washington Post–we are predisposed to believe? But it seems like so much more than that; willful ignorance, so precious to so many, so cultivated.

fox news

We’ve all been taught not to talk about money, religion, or politics. Is that maybe not such a good idea? I mean, we are told it’s vulgar to talk about money, which just allows our colleagues to be paid less, or more, for equal work; we don’t talk about religion because it’s “sacred” somehow (pun 100% intended), but the result of that is just that we don’t understand other’s beliefs or lack thereof, and just become even more firmly entrenched in whatever brainwashing we were subject to as children.

And politics. Ah, politics. I don’t bring it up right now because if I have a friend or family member who might still, for some completely incomprehensible reason, support our “President” Chump, I will lose all love and respect for them, so it’s better off if I just stick my fingers in my ears and sing really loudly.

wise-monkey-hear-no-evil

But what about in normal times? (Since these are decidedly not normal) Why not then? Because I do actually believe that most of us want the same things: healthy food, air, water; good schools; un-potholed roads; access to health care. Is it really so impossible to talk about our different theories about how we might have those things? And how we might make sure that everyone else does as well?

And while we’re on the topic of “everyone else,” It never ceases to amaze me that there are people out in the world, people who are clean and well dressed and even polite in grocery store lines, who aren’t wearing a mask. What’s so difficult about this? We all wear shoes, and if you have AIDS and don’t tell your sexual partners and give it to them I’m pretty sure you can be charged with attempted manslaughter, or at least reckless endangerment. Hopefully you stop at stop signs and drive on your side of the road and don’t drink and drive – all things that could be argued inconvenience you in one way or the other, but are good for society, and we all recognize that, so we comply, or are ticketed or even arrested. You don’t go out with the flu or typhoid and cough on people; at least I hope you don’t. (Although I’ve had my share of parents bringing their sick children to my house for their piano lessons; one of the reasons I’m barely teaching anymore.) Wearing a mask means you recognize that you MIGHT be sick and that it would actually be infringing on everyone else’s rights to expose them, even unwittingly. Seems like a no-brainer to me. And if it’s the law, and a local sheriff declares he won’t enforce it, how does he or she still have a job? Are we that much cowards? (And while I’m speaking of cowards, how is it possible that it’s legal to carry a semi-automatic weapon into a state capitol? That just makes no sense.)

People argue that they “can’t breathe” while wearing a mask. I imagine that a mask is a lot less uncomfortable than a ventilator. I actually had someone on facebook arguing with me that it was his right to do whatever he wanted, and if he got sick, it was the medical worker’s jobs to take care of him. Zero concern about their health, their families; It. Was. Their. Job. People. Die. Every. Day. End of story. Such a lack of empathy is pathological, and not uncommon.

Alas.

People argue that at first they were told they didn’t need to wear one, and now that they do. So therefore no one knows what they’re talking about, so they won’t. That means they’re listening to the first thing, and not the second, which is ridiculous in and of itself. And this is how science works. We learn new things, and change our behaviors accordingly. People also used to think you got malaria from eating watermelons, that lightning meant that god was angry. Doctors also didn’t wash their hands before performing surgery, and when some doctors started arguing for it they were ignored, belittled, challenged.

The long-term consequences of this virus for many are certainly an argument for persistent care and consideration. Young, healthy athletes are debilitated with lung damage or myocarditis; people on ventilators for a long time suffer from all kinds of long-term physical effects of the ventilator and the drug-induced paralysis needed to have them on it. Is this really worth risking? For yourself? Your loved ones? ANYBODY ELSE ANYWHERE YOU MIGHT ENCOUNTER? If you have it and don’t know it, and someone behind you in line at the hardware store contracts it, are you going to pay their medical bills? Support their families if they die? Because if you’re not, and you’re not wearing a mask, How Dare You?

And while we’re talking about healthcare (I was, really), let’s talk about healthcare. Here’s an argument I wish someone would make: what would it save employers if we had universal healthcare? From tens of thousands to millions of dollars a year, amiright? This would free up money for better salaries, to hire more people and give them full time work. This in and of itself would seem ro make up whatever extra we would have to pay in taxes to have it. And wouldn’t it be a nice thing to know that if you or a loved one needed long-term care during a long illness, or at the end of their lives, that you wouldn’t have to choose between not providing it and bankruptcy? I realize that people have a real aversion to “give” anything away

bootstraps

part of the same argument against free college tuition [“I had to pay for it, so do you”] or food stamps, but if it’s universal, and everyone’s helping pay for it, according to their own resources, it’s not actually a giveaway. Just think how much less of your income you’d have to save for your child’s education, along with the insurance costs? It seems to me like a win-win.

Now I recognize the benefits of capitalism, and that the motivation for money often drives ingenuity and many of the things for which we are grateful. Nobody’s saying we shouldn’t make sure that this ingenuity isn’t to be rewarded. But do CEOs of health insurance companies fall into that category? Do they really need to be paid millions and millions of dollars? “Insurance” as a profit-making enterprise is, in fact, an endeavor rife with inherent conflict of interest. The point is we pay into a pool so that when people need it it’s there. If part of that pool is going towards crazy salaries and big fancy buildings THAT’S NOT WHAT WE’RE POOLING IT FOR.

And while we’re here, let’s talk about racism. In this case I’m probably not saying anything that hasn’t been said before, but I’ll say it anyway. Slavery aside, which is obviously a horrible injustice, alongside Russian serfdom, sexual trafficking and exploitation, what we as a nation did to the American Indian and what the Canadian government did to their First Nations people , the continued misogyny to varying degrees in almost every culture against women, the confiscation of passports of immigrant workers in Saudi Arabia, all belong to the same category. (The fact that black slaves were considered 3/5 of a person for census purposes, and then black MEN were granted the right to vote* long before WOMEN were [so what does that make us, 2/5? 1/5?] never ceases to get my goat, so to speak, but I digress. Again.) The treatment of people, humans, as anything less than human, is abhorrent, should be recognized as such, and every step necessary to alleviate it should be taken at once and in perpetuity.

People argue that crimes are committed by a higher percentage of blacks than whites, so therefore things like racial profiling and discrimination in sentencing and the inherent fear that drives much of police brutality is warranted. But discrimination and brutality are never warranted, never okay, and isn’t racial profiling just a form of discrimination?

Post 9/11 I was traveling with First Husband and our Three Children and we were flagged to have all of our luggage inspected, by hand, at every gate in the airport. While I thought it was ludicrous that a family a five would be considered viable candidates to possibly perpetrate terrorism on airplanes, I also recognized that I couldn’t argue that only people who looked Arabic were. And if we want to get to the root of the problem, and talk about what it would COST to alleviate racism – social support for drug addicts and single mothers, truly equal schools, proper training for police officers – wouldn’t all of this cost less than what it costs to imprison tens of thousands of people a year? I guess the problem is at this point we would have to pay for both. But what about releasing people who were non-violent? Imprisoned for selling marijuana, since it’s mostly legal now anyway? And spending the money that would cost to imprison them on job training and education instead?

bleeding heart

So many of these problems predate Chump. And I can’t really be angry at him – he’s one man, and only ever been exactly who he is. There have been no surprises here; he has behaved exactly as any thinking person would have expected him to. What really concerns me is all the people who voted for him, and continue to think he’s doing a great job so will vote for him again. What is he providing that might be found comforting? Reassurance that your own racism and misogyny are okay? That greed is good? That we should all just take what we can get and the devil can take the rest?

I guess I could take some comfort in the fact that only 19% of eligible voters voted for him in the last election. How many this time? As far as I’m concerned, 5 votes is too many, although I imagine he and his equally narcissistic spawn

trump and his spawn

could be counted on for at least that many. I would be very curious as to who Melania voted for.

I felt sorry for her at the inauguration,

I don’t any more. I think she’s not any better than the rest of them

I really don't care

So all of these thoughts are going through my mind as I go about my business – listening to piano exams, teaching my small handful of students, writing my book, painting my house, watering my tomatoes. Grief and gratitude, gratitude and grief. My Sangha holds me together on weeks I can face two more hours on Zoom; I miss my pottery class, some new friendships that were forming there. I miss the world. I’m healthy, my recent mammogram was normal, my broken ankle has healed, I have enough to eat. So many don’t. So many things to hope for, so many to mourn. All we can do is our best.

 

Wear your mask. Be kind to your neighbors. Share your tomatoes.

And Vote.

Blue.

 

No Matter Who.

 

 

* I do wish more people took their right to vote more seriously. Not just the actual voting, which would be great, but only if they’ve also taken the time to educate themselves about the issues and the relative stances thereon. The fact that Chump LOST the popular vote (a topic for another time I guess), and won with ~ 19% of Eligible Votes, is shame on us big time.

 

15
Jul
20

Dear “Mr. President”

Yes, it’s in scare quotes; not just because you are, truly, scary, but because I feel that calling someone “Mr. President” includes an implication of respect for the person, and the office.

You have none for the latter, so I have none for you.

That being said, it would seem that someone, somewhere, could at the very least call on your considerable vanity to point out that here is, in fact, the opportunity you have probably been waiting for all your life: the chance to become a legend, famous, for having changed the lives of millions if not billions of people. You are “taking advantage” of that opportunity by causing lasting and irreparable damage, not just on the actual public health of the people you are sworn to serve, but on our psyches, our futures, and our standing in the world.

So, rather, I encourage you to consider this.

There was a lot we didn’t know when all of this started, and there have been many changes and developments since then. This broadening of our knowledge would, should, alter the protocols we should follow, and gives us better and better ideas of what the future might hold given various actions and trajectories. But this is how science works — we operate based on what we know, and when what we know changes, so should we. There is no shame in this; this is how grownups deal with new information.

So here’s a chance for you to become the legend you’ve always wanted to be and save us all.

If you would:

  • protect the CDC, the WHO, and Dr. Fauci rather than undermining them,
  • wear a mask,
  • make it a federal law that everyone has to until cases fell below a certain percentage,
  • and pay people for 8 weeks if they promise to stay home except for absolute necessities like groceries and prescriptions,

we could actually be well through this by fall, or at the very least better prepared and closer to a vaccine.

And what’s the cost if we don’t? Is this really what you want your legacy to be? The unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people at your hand? This is where we’re headed, you know. And while I hate to say this*, you do have the power to change it.

It seems clear that no one has said this to you yet. At least not in a way to which you are willing to listen, so I am pleading to your vanity, your narcissism, your ego. Help us.

We need more testing, not less.

We need money invested in manufacturing more PPE to keep our health care workers safe.

We need contact tracing.

We need laws prohibiting large gatherings and going into public spaces without proper face coverings (including for not wearing them correctly), fining people who fail to comply with these laws, and firing people who refuse to enforce them.

We need leadership. We are literally struggling and dying under the lack of it right now.

As Americans we take great pride in our rights and liberties, but some of those rights and liberties come with responsibility: to take some pride in our role in and contribution to society. We wear shirts and shoes in stores, we go through the ordeal of the TSA–sometimes taking hours–to get on an airplane, we stop at stop lights and drive at least in close proximity  to the speed limit (or get ticketed and/or arrested if we don’t), and don’t smoke inside child care centers or yell “fire” in crowded movie theaters.

If we want the benefits of society: safe bridges and public roads, fire stations, hospitals, schools, grocery stores, UPS deliveries, public education; we have to be willing to pay the price. It’s a small one actually — think of people besides yourselves, and realize that what’s good for one is actually probably good for everyone.

At one time we were taught these things, the rules of civility and society, the pressure to conform to and recognize our potential impact on others and that we were all a part of something larger than ourselves. Your mantra is to “Make America Great Again” — what better way to do that than to demonstrate how we can actually step up, as a society, and beat something that is unprecedented, and, literally, bigger than the rest of us.

Time to step it up, grow a pair, and secure your place in history.

Well, that’s misleading. Your place in history is being secured. Just not sure it’s the “legend” you were hoping for.

 

*Only because you having any power at all is one of the most frightening things I’ve had to deal with in my life.

21
Jun
20

Shirley

Two of the best acting moments I’ve seen in a while were in this fascinating movie about Shirley Jackson.

Shirley

The first is by Elisabeth Moss, who may be the next Meryl Streep (she seems to be able to play just about anything)*, playing Shirley. The scene is near the end of the film, right before she chases her cheating, controlling, condescending husband out of her study (I think she throws scissors at him) — this look crosses her face, showing that she  despises him (old news) and that she’s okay with that (new news).

The second is from Odessa Young, playing the wife of an equally despicable faculty husband, as she gets into a car on her way to the next stage of her life; when she shudders, and shakes her head, as if waking herself from the dream of the past two years when she completely subordinated herself to what everybody else needed her to be and forgot who she was.

The movie is a little weird, but I get the feeling that the people being represented might fall under that same category. I thought it was generally quite fabulous, and pleasantly surprised that there was something new on that I hadn’t already seen (my husband claims we’ve “used up” Netflix.) 😀

 

*Top of the Lake is amazing; if you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading and go.

18
Mar
20

love in the time of coronavirus*

*With tribute given to Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The traditional Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times.

Maybe I shouldn’t write that, since our Cheeto-in-Chief wants to blame the Chinese for this by calling it an “Asian virus” — can’t pass up any chance to get that racism out there, amIright? Although it did originate in China, and there might have been some things they could have done about it, it’s not like we’re doing such a great job here.

Denial, anyone?

college students in Miami

Blergh.

I keep thinking maybe I’m dreaming and I’ll wake up soon.

Keep not waking up.

Have been on the lookout for good news. I am pathologically optimistic, but this one has been a challenge.

Have found some. Here, and here and here. If you have other good news sources, please post them in the comments. We all need reasons to hope!

Really disappointed that there are only 2 seasons of Fleabag. What an excellent show. I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed as much in an equal amount of time, not even during Seinfeld. But it’s also three-dimensional, dark, tender, profound. Now what to watch…. (post that in the comments, too!)

I thought maybe if I got on here and wrote about this I could find some kind of order, meaning, path forward. It is not revealing itself.

And still not waking up.

Maybe tomorrow….

 

 

 

12
Mar
20

the world gone mad

Or maybe not.

empty streets

The problem is we have no way of knowing except in retrospect.

So the best advice is probably to stay home unless you can’t, keep 6′ away from people, bow [Namaste] instead of shaking hands, use your sleeve to open doors, wash your hands. And don’t be an asshole. You don’t need 6 24-roll packages of toilet paper and 7 large bottles of hand sanitizer. Leave some for everyone else.

Here are some helpful recipes:

LEMON GINGER BREW

Peel and chop 8 ozs. of ginger root (½-1″ pieces is fine)
Scrub and juice two lemons — put juice aside.

In food processor, process the ginger and lemon peel until it’s a coarse paste. Add 6 cups of water to a large saucepan and add the paste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half (30-40 minutes)

Strain the juice off the pulp, mix in the lemon juice and ⅓ c. agave syrup, maple syrup, or honey if desired. Let cool. Store in glass bottles (if possible) and chill.

Add ¼ c. to hibiscus tea and/or 16 ozs. of fizzy water and drink throughout the day.

NATURAL COLD REMEDY (have ingredients on hand, and make and start drinking at the first sign of illness — throat tingles, scratchy eyes, etc.)

In 4 c. of water in a medium saucepan, add:
1 lemon, cut into thin slices
2″ piece of ginger root, cut into thin slices
5 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
10 whole cloves
1 T. whole coriander seed

Bring to boil and then simmer on very low (it would just barely be bubbling — we’re not trying to reduce this one) for ~15 minutes. Drain. Drink ½ c. hot with honey every 2 hours.

You can also easily make your own HAND SANITIZER:

70% rubbing alcohol
30% aloe vera gel

Shake together in one of those little travel bottles. Voilá.

 

Seems like a good time to start the next weaving project do my taxes make monkey bread read. Feeling very lucky that I do most of my work from home anyway and can hunker down, although there will still be substantial financial losses from a series of workshops I was supposed to be doing in California in a couple of weeks.

What this country really needs is

  • affordable medical care, so people who need to be tested can afford it
  • a social net that gives you a month mortgage relief and/or a couple weeks disaster pay so people can stay home
  • a president who isn’t a narcissistic, blithering idiot

[Alas.]

 

 

 

01
Apr
19

Home is where your….

We put our house on the market today. We actually bought a house in the city where Husband works (an hour away) at the end of November, but, for professional reasons, was keeping pretty quiet about it until recently. He’s been commuting that hour for 11 years, so we thought it was time.

The funny thing is, we were looking at houses on Zillow for a year, and weren’t finding much that we were really interested in. The house we ended up buying I actually saw last April, and sent the link to it in an email to Husband with just the line “This might be the house.” He didn’t reply (I think it was finals week), so I thought, “okay, it’s not the house,” and moved on. Five months later it popped up again because of a price drop. The week I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It did not seem like a good time to buy a house, but Husband did, in fact, think it was The House,* so buy it we did. (*Told ya’.)

As you can imagine, we’ve been very busy. Refinishing the floors in the new house (all oak or pine); decluttering this house; moving the decluttered clutter into the basement of the new house (where we will no longer call it “clutter,” it will, again, be “our stuff”); cleaning up this house. It’s never looked so fine. Of course, if I want to find my extra iphone power cord or my silk robe I’m going to have a hard time because there are four unlabeled boxes in the basement (actually, one of them is labeled “Surgical Stuff and Purple Things” for all you M*A*S*H fans out there) .

But that’s not why I’m writing today. Long intro, I know.

As any of you who have sold a house or bought a house or moved house know, such occasions prompt reflection. About who you were when you moved in and how that compares with who you believe yourself to be now. About the nature and joys and frustrations of fixing up a house and the sadnesses of leaving it behind. About the Christmas mornings, and hockey games watched on TV in the living room, the whispered (or not) fights in the bedroom late in the night, the first days of school and the day you finally quit the job that had been making you nuts for months. About the mornings you rush out the door with BelVita crackers and a banana in your bag because that’s all you have time for and the night you and Husband made a 3-course authentic Thai meal for just the two of you. About the childhood fevers and common colds and hysterectomy and stents and breast cancer and the healing that takes place when people who love each other take care of each other.

When I first saw this house, in May of 2007, I was at the end of a 20-year marriage; moving in with two of my children, barely able to afford the payment and the frugal life I was trying to lead. Shaky, and broke, and hopeful. I had barely any furniture, and many of the walls were an ugly color and there was so much to be done, so much to become.

A little more than a year later, the man I now call Husband (well, to you), moved in. He brought an Aga stove and his grandmother’s furniture, and we embarked on the beginning of a marriage. So much we knew, and so much we didn’t. We knew how much we loved each other, we knew what we wanted this marriage to be. We had no idea how hard any of it would be.

I look back sometimes and it feels like I scrabbled my way up a dusty, rocky mountaintop wearing ripped jeans and falling apart Keds and using just my fingernails for climbing tools, sometimes dangling by not-strong-enough fingertips, sometimes hiding behind a rock in the rain eating the last crumbling biscuit in my jacket pocket and hoping the rescue helicopter would find me soon.

But I also see a life well lived. Meals prepared together and laundry folded together and conversations late into the night. Laughing so hard over a “Shouts and Murmurs” in the New Yorker about Debussy’s La Mer, or reading “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly” to a group of friends around our dinner table and trying not to cry. Coffee brought and feet rubbed and shoulders leaned on. Dogs cuddling on the couch and Mahler blasting on the speakers. Nights in the hot tub under beautiful skies at 10˚ below. Beautiful travertine and bamboo floors installed with money I inherited from my Grandma. A bright and light-filled conservatory half paid for with money I inherited when my mom died after a five-year battle with brain cancer. Rooms Husband and I painted, sometimes more than once, and a pizza oven and patio we put in ourselves, proving that married people can work together. My daughter grew up here — she’s 18 and will go off to college soon; a force to be reckoned with, a shining light. A humble home nestled in the woods, surrounded by vinca and perennials and grass somebody should cut more often.

Every room is filled with our lives.

I would like just to take the joy with me, and to leave the emotional cobwebs and struggles of the past buried here somewhere; not in the basement, that would be haunting and weird, but maybe out in the woods, or in some kind of ceremony over the fire-pit out back. Yeah. That sounds like a really good idea.

New chapters, clean slates, fresh starts.

It is time.

 

11
Dec
18

crowd sourcing


Hey all you just sayin’ followers out there — your turn. I’m curious.

In the comments: If you could change one thing about your life what would it be, and what’s stopping you?

19
Nov
18

tick tick tick tick

As those of you who follow this blog regularly already know, I have recently been diagnosed, and am in the midst of treating, breast cancer.

Since my tumor was on my left side, they like to have you do what they call breath-hold radiation, so that your breast is as far from your heart as possible when they zap it with their cancer-killing laser rays. (I might be paraphrasing.) for what is probably obvious reasons, they actually want you in the same position every time they do this, so you have to be put into position, have a system for repeating it, and learn how to hold your breath just so.

My radiation setup appointment was last Friday. First I had to lie on what they called a bean bag (hardest bean bag I ever laid on) on a sliding table that looks a lot like it’s going into a very small MRI machine, with my arms above my head. Then they let the air out so that you end up being encased in a kind of mold (as in “cast” not as in “green fuzzy stuff that grows on old food in your refrigerator”).

Next you put on some nose pincers (piercing, ouch), put your mouth onto this scuba-like breathing contraption (have I mentioned my overly reactive gag reflex?), and a pair of goggles while they teach you how to hold your breath at 75% capacity for 30 seconds. This is actually really difficult to do. Especially around 22 seconds, when every cell in your body is yelling

BREATHE 

At first they want you to breathe normally though, which I thought was kind of funny. Because it’s every day that I’m lying on a hard “beanbag” in a cold hospital room, with a hospital gown untied and folded down around my middle, three random people standing around watching, while wearing a pair of virtual reality goggles, scuba mask, and nose pincers.

r12_627_3902_2825_w1200_h678_fmax

Like this, but she didn’t get the cool goggles.

See? Totally normal.

I do have tattoos now, albeit three tiny little dots I can barely find, and I know where they are.

It’s interesting/funny/odd/strange. The nurse who called with my biopsy results told me I had the “best possible bad news” and that “this would not be the source of [my] demise.” Except there is still an 11% chance of recurrence. And breast cancer has a funny way of coming back elsewhere and causing more problems. So even with radiation, and tamoxifen (of which I read all kinds of horror stories about side effects, which worry me greatly, especially the arthritis ones in which it doesn’t go away even after stopping the medicine — not what a pianist wants to hear!), it could still come back.

I know I’ve said this before, that it wasn’t like I thought before that I would never die and now I know I will. But now I also feel like I might be carrying around the thing that kills me, and there isn’t a whole lot I can do about it.

This is very difficult.

Like there’s a teeny tiny time bomb lurking somewhere in your body, too small to see, but when it’s really quiet, you can hear it…. tick……tick……tick…..

Let’s hope I’m wrong.

31
Oct
18

cancer, depression, and (looking for) the light at the end of the tunnel

So according to the National Cancer Institute, depression is “a comorbid disabling syndrome that affects approximately 15-25% of cancer patients.”

Also, apparently, women are more likely to experience depression than men, especially in the transitional period between pre- and post-menopause.

I can’t help but wonder what the percentages are of menopausal women with cancer. Sounds like a lot of really sad women.



I did just get my blood work back from the medical oncologist visit on Monday. At which I cried, more on that in a minute. Apparently I am post-menopausal. Who knew?


Does probably explain the subsiding of the hot flashes even though I’ve stopped HRT, the weight gain over the past couple of years, the moodiness, the lack of interest in….well, just about anything. (Phew! That was close!)

So here I sit, with a breast cancer diagnosis and the best possible prognosis. These details include:

  • Estrogen and progesterone positive—100% and 70%, respectively—which means that my good friend The Tumor, (whom I have named Bobba Fett), had every available surface covered with little seats in which estrogen could rest its weary head and on which the tumor could feed; 70% of it was also receptive to progesterone. This characteristic makes it very vulnerable to blocking those hormones in the body. And apparently it would seem that I’m almost out of them anyway, but not so much so that I won’t have to take Tamoxifen or, more likely given my hormone status, Aromatase Inhibitors, for 5-10 years. And AIs sound like a lot of fun, with side effects like joint pain, loss of bone density, weight gain (yeah, I really need that), vaginal dryness, carpal tunnel syndrome (great for a pianist), increased blood pressure, and mood swings (cuz I’m not having enough of those already).
  • HER2 negative. HER2 is a protein in some breast cancer tumors that seems to make the tumor more aggressive, both faster growing and more likely to spread. HER2 negative means no chemo.
  • Lymph nodes negative—no indication that Bobba Fett has tried to set up little colonies elsewhere in my body, although that is always held out to be possible.
  • Negative genetics for any kind of cancer that is currently identifiable through genetic testing
  • OncoDX score of 17 (out of 100)-–which means it is in the “low-risk” category for spreading, albeit still an 11% chance. Husband likes to point out that that indicates an 89% chance that it won’t spread, but somehow that’s not really where the mind goes. At least not mine.

Apprently once cancer is detected it has been in the body for many, many years; little sneaky sleeper cells lurking around with tiny little time bombs strapped to their  backs.

Bastards.

And most people think that this “best possible prognosis” would mean that I was walking on cloud 9, surround by sunshine, chirping birds, and harp music.


But I’m not.

When I posited the theory that maybe I should be to my medical oncologist earlier this week (right before the tears started) she scoffed, and said, “Pah! It’s still a prognosis, and nobody wants one of those.” The recognition of that, and a prescription for a teeny-tiny bit of Lexapro, has made a big difference.
My bullshit tolerance meter is set to zero. But maybe that’s not necessarily a bad thing (equivocation, anyone?)

But I do apologize if I’ve “yelled” at you in anyway in the past few weeks — verbally, via email, or even in my head. I sincerely hope, at some point in the not-too-distant future, that the


sign stops blinking in my head and leaves room for other things. Until then, be well, be safe, get your mammogram, and if somebody snaps at you for no apparent reason, remember, they might have something really shitty going on in their lives right now, and they’re probably really really sorry.

15
Oct
18

happy haiku

Benign were benign.
Malignancy, wide margins.
All lymph nodes are clear.

giphy1

 

 

 

12
Oct
18

waiting for margins

7D8EDE9E-0F01-4946-B72A-8F9EC47EA618

waiting for who?


Guess they’re not coming today.

I know it’s too much to ask to have a nurse available all weekend to call when pathology results are in, but how many women in how many cities around the world have to wait out long weekends when results don’t come on Fridays? There are people working at call centers for when your surgical incision breaks out in a weird red, hot rash at 6 p.m.; they have people doing MRIs on Sundays; pharmacies are even open until 10 p.m. for those last-minute broad-spectrum antibiotics.* Can’t they have a person who calls with pathology results when they come in, even if it’s a Saturday afternoon?

Blimey.

It would also be nice to know if the lymph nodes were negative.

Just sayin’.

 

*Yes, I know all of these things. No, I don’t want to talk about it further.

 

08
Oct
18

how to help

The past few weeks have been quite a ride.

giphy

I mean, I’ve always been a little (🙄) emotional, but sheesh.

CBD drops were helping, until I was told I needed to stop taking them until after the surgery.

One of my dogs ending up with, well, let’s just call it “some gastrointestinal distress” 😬 hasn’t helped.

My lumpectomy is tomorrow.

*Please know that the above cartoon in no way reflects my feelings about my husband. First of all, we don’t even own a La-Z-Boy.

And I am so grateful for all of the messages of love and support I’ve gotten from so many people. The best of which acknowledge the difficulty of the time I’m going through, and/or include specific offers of assistance.

The thing is, while well-intentioned, and appreciated as such, things like “Cancer picked the wrong woman to mess with!” or “You’ve got this! I know (!!!) you’ll be fine!” don’t really speak the truth; a truth we all know. Because cancer is a test you can’t study for, and there are lots of strong women who have lost their noble battles against it.

You want to feel like


but it actually feels more like


I do accept and treasure it all as encouragement. And it might seem odd, but it’s actually more helpful to acknowledge the randomness and lack of control over all of this. As M said to me last night in a text: Cancer isn’t pink, it sucks.


Looking forward to looking back at all this.

03
Oct
18

counting the yays

Genetics came back — testing 42 (I think) genes for possible links to known cancer predispositions.

They all came back negative.

giphy-downsized1

I’ve also been incredibly moved by the number of people who have responded to my first post about all of this, and to my message on facebook. I still kind of feel like

200w_d cancer.

But the “yays” are piling up, for which I am incredibly grateful.

02
Oct
18

screenwriting 101

Someone should write a movie scene, where a woman walks into a large room, wearing an extremely awkwardly-proportioned hospital gown (whose neck is 23” in circumference, anyway? And why are all hospital gowns designed for this person?), climbs up on a table, drapes her breasts through two openings in a plastic frame that looks a bit like a lobster trap, sticks her arm out for an IV, and then gets sent back into a large metal barrel upon which 20 dwarves bang with sledge hammers for 40 minutes.

I think this would be a very powerful scene.

They should then follow up with the same woman going to get her genetics testing lab work done and encountering a young woman in her 20s with a fantasmagoric scar on one side of her head and no hair, holding a sign declaring that this is her last radiation treatment, and beaming with joy thereto. 

Perspective anyone?

Another reminder of how grateful I should be. 

[sigh]

28
Sep
18

down the rabbit hole

So I have breast cancer.

mindblown

I know, right? Like I could have led in so much more gracefully, cushioned the blow a little for all of you.

But that’s not how it feels when you find out. Hits you more like a sucker punch in the gut.

So there it is.

I found out 9 days ago, with the whole process starting 7 days before that with a screening mammogram. The first one in 6 years, which now kind of seems like a mistake, but the surgeon actually told me it kind of worked out well, because it’s small enough and my breast tissue is dense enough it might not have shown up a year ago, in which case I might have decided every 5 years was often enough, and 4 years from now we’d be having a completely different conversation.

Please know that I’m not recommending going 6 years between mammograms. Two might be reasonable, unless there’s a family history. If I’d gone every two, we’d still have caught it when we caught it.

Anyway.

We’ve all had those moments when we realize that life will never be the same. My 5 would be:

  • the Challenger explosion (senior year in college, my best friend came and interrupted my piano practicing to tell me, I didn’t believe her at first and couldn’t believe she would make such a cruel joke);
  • 9/11 — working on a doctoral project, my now 17-year old daughter an infant in her little bouncy seat, watching the television footage of the first tower while the commentators speculated on how such an accident could happen when the 2nd plane hit;
  • the day I realized that I couldn’t stay married to my first husband and father-of-my-three-children anymore;
  • finding out my daughter, then 13, had thyroid cancer, with a tumor the size of a sweet potato; and
  • this.

I won’t bore you with the details, as they are much the same for everyone going down this road: mammogram, follow-up mammogram, 3-D mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy, and you find your life has been hijacked. A barrage of phone calls and pre-ops and appointments and blood work. They measured my head for crying out loud! (apparently there’s a link between large head size and cancer; sorry kids!)

My mind is full of platitudes, and mutually contradicting thoughts that I find myself forced to hold in my head at the same time. Principally: gratitude (it could be so much worse) + anger  (I have four sisters, and I’m the youngest of the five; why do I have to be the one to get cancer [first]?)(sorry sisters, it’s not that I’m wishing this on anyone, but it does seem to be a little unfair)(I know, I know, life’s not fair) + fear (whatifthey’rewrong, whatiftherearepositivelymphnodes, whatifitcomesback, whatifthegeneticstestmakes-mysurgeonthinkIneedtohaveadoublemastectomy, whatifwhatifwhat???). Along with those, which are probably obvious to most of you, are a whole lot more: I love my job, my job exhausts me and often involves shitty hours; my husband is the best person in the world, why does my husband chew like that; my daughter is precious and dear and what would she do if I died when she wasn’t yet in her 20s, my daughter is making me crazy with her selfishness and moodiness and shallow concerns; I want another dog, one small enough to carry around in my purse who I can take everywhere as my “comfort object,” the dog I have not peeing in the morning even after a 30 minute walk is making me crazy [Idon’thavetimeforthis]; I will eat nothing but fresh fruits and vegetables and drink green tea, I want to go to bed every night just a little bit drunk from the half bottle of wine I (used to) have with dinner.

I actually feel a little bit like, maybe for everyone else’s sake, I should just go live in a cave until it’s all over. Maybe a cave on a beach in Fiji.

fijiisland

It could actually be much worse. It’s hormone receptor positive, so very responsive to hormone blocking therapy. Which of course means I’ll be pushed into full menopause immediately, at which point I picture myself a dried up old woman who has gained another 40 pounds and lost all of her teeth. There is, of course, a chance that this scenario is a little alarmist. It’s also HER2 negative, which means I probably don’t need chemo, unless the lymph nodes are positive, which we won’t know until after surgery. It seems to be slow growing, non-aggressive (Ha! Is it just me, or does cancer in general seem kind of aggressive? I mean, what else shows up where it’s not wanted and makes you fight like hell to kick it out of your house?Lucy_Ninja

 

Does it matter that I don’t want it?

As if anyone does.

I had a dream the night after I got the call with the diagnosis. Glowing angels came with golden bowls and scooped the cancer away.

angel

I liked that.

I’ve found a couple of new friends already. Well, not really found. They were friends already. But I would call them better friends now, and I am very grateful.

One just finished her chemo, and had some wise ideas to offer. The most helpful of these was not to get too ahead of myself. Just to focus on what I need to do next, and then I can worry about what to do after that. I expressed to her at one point that I was trying really hard to stay grateful, given how much worse the news could have been, and she texted back that gratitude was overrated. I snorted with laughter. Maybe it would be clearer to say that it’s important, but probably insufficient to the task at hand. At least some of the time.

They gave me a form to fill out the day of my meeting with the surgeon and oncologists. It asked you to rate your anxiety, from 0 to 10. I bracketed the whole thing and wrote along the side “depends on the moment.”

Sheesh.

The thing that feels the worst to me is that I fear I will never feel completely carefree again. I know that I’m 53 years old, and the time for never believing I’m actually going to die is long past. But there is a line now, before which I never COMPLETELY believed I would actually die, and now I know I will. Even though it won’t be from this*. This kind of pisses me off.

And yet.

What I’m not grateful for:

  • the nurse scheduling my biopsy pushing kleenex on me and telling me and my husband how awful this is, that we’ll get through it together, what a “terrible diagnosis” (this was BEFORE my biopsy, note)
  • calling my primary care physician to set up my pre-op appointment for my lumpectomy and the scheduling woman at the desk telling me that there were no appointments available and that they usually get calls for pre-ops more than two weeks in advance (I’m so sorry my cancer didn’t give you all more notice, are you f*ing kidding me?)

What I am grateful for:

  • *that this won’t be the source of my demise–at least that’s what the nurse on the phone said
  • that my husband is my best friend, an excellent cook and lover and cuddler, that he’s willing to accept and forgive me when I’m snappish and defensive (even when I haven’t been diagnosed with cancer)
  • that my children are healthy and beautiful and independent and strong
  • that I have access to some of the best healthcare in the world, and some of the best doctors I’ve ever dealt with, especially my biopsy doctor who was also the radiologist who caught the cancer in the first mammogram
  • all of the friends who have sent me such generous and loving emails and texts and phone calls; my heart is full with their love

I do realize that some other friends will find out through this post, and I hope you will forgive me for not calling each of you personally, and understand. I find I can deal with only a couple of these conversations a day, on my best days.

Love you all.

 

 

 

13
May
18

My eyes!

uglyshirt 1uglyshirt 2

No, please, just, no.

Also, why?

 

29
Jul
17

everybody has their role

It’s interesting to me how we adopt certain roles with certain people. 

For example, if a woman in her early 50s of a certain age is wearing a bathing suit skirt at the beach, and kind of smacks her thighs, muttering something like “ugh, I hate my old lady legs,” what she wants to hear back is directly connected to to whom she is speaking.

From her best friend: “I know, right? It’s all down hill from here. Pass me another wine cooler.”

From her personal trainer: “Well let’s see what we can do about that.”

From her husband: “Your legs are beautiful. They have carried you through graduate schools and pregnancy and all over the world. You should wear every freckle and dimple and bit of wrinkled skin with pride and joy.”

And the most interesting thing is, THESE ARE MOSTLY NOT INTERCHANGEABLE. 

Just sayin’.

01
Jul
17

oops

EF sale

I guess it is marked down $55,010.

10
Jun
17

an hour and 45 minutes I can’t get back

Just watched All is Lost.

The reviews were all about how masterful Robert Redford’s acting was; how ingenious that there was an entire movie made with 3 lines of spoken “dialogue” — even though it was “monologue.”

I’ll just say this:

The story was so full of holes, it should have sunk along with the sailboat. And anybody smart enough to go out and sail across the Indian Ocean by himself should be smart enough not to start a fire in a lifeboat. “Resourceful” my heinie…

Just sayin’.

16
May
17

rofl

You won’t see it coming.

Pooh Piglet Trump

07
May
17

What?

You’ve got to be monkey-flipping kidding me.

Kind of makes you wonder if the scientists involved (all male, I’m sure) were getting a kickback from the feminine-sanitary-products industry.

Blergh.

01
May
17

fill-in-the-blank

The Trajectory of the Republican Party

In the comments below, please insert the image of what you think the GOP will present next  by which to screw us over I mean to serve the American people.

My best guess:

A mad pile of poo

26
Apr
17

I think that word doesn’t mean what you think it means

27
Mar
17

from “Bodily Harm”

That sounds about right. But in a good way. 🙂

Redamancy Lit

“Being in love was like running barefoot along a street covered with broken bottles. It was foolhardy, and if you got through it without damage it was only by sheer luck. It was like taking off your clothes at lunchtime in a bank. It let people think they knew something about you that you didn’t know about them, it gave them power over you. It made you visible, soft, penetrable; it made you ludicrous.”

– Margaret Atwood

View original post

26
Feb
17

In case you haven’t laughed yet today

NSFW

But watch it anyway. It’s hilarious.

31
Jan
17

Me, on facebook, yesterday.

https://www.facebook.com/wtfwatchofficial/videos/344218495963608/

13
Jan
17

Something lighter

For those of you tired of soap that lies.

20170113-081120.jpg

Who knew?

12
Jan
17

An interesting theory

Posed by someone who shall remain nameless. Okay it was me. Upon further thought, it seems somewhat unlikely, but have been pondering it as a possibility over the past 24 hours: That women voted for Trump because they actually don’t feel entitled to having control over their own bodies, finances, lives. That they too would welcome an opportunity to return to the good old days, when men were men and women did the dishes, couldn’t actually be “raped,” since their bodies didn’t actually belong to them, and would give birth to as many children as were “given” to them and be back in their size 4 peg-leg-jeans within 5 weeks of birth.

http://www.vintageadbrowser.com/household-ads-1950s
Still awaiting that explanation I was looking for in my last post …. Somebody? Anybody?

11
Jan
17

Inquiring minds want to know

So, as many of you can probably imagine, especially if you’ve been “here” for a while, I consider myself a pretty-far-to-the-left liberal. Certainly not a communist, and definitely a proponent of working really hard to do as much as you can for your self, your income, your family, and your society. I feel a great deal of responsibility given that I have, by comparison to the rest of the world, been given an awful lot of advantages. Never rich by the 1% standards, or even the 10% standards, but always with a roof over my head and three meals a day and sufficient clothing and access to doctors and dentists and access to a decent education–an education that extended to a doctorate degree, and which I worked very hard to pay for, and to benefit from.

I also realize that we aren’t all born on third base; some of us not even on first. That the land of every ‘man’ being created equal refers to opportunity (or at least it should) and not to advantage or privilege; and that “equal opportunity” is still just a pipe dream. And that society does better when we all do well.

As a teacher, I have witnessed some disturbing trends. Most notable is one that cropped up actually several years ago: the idea that everybody has to respect everybody else’s opinion. It doesn’t even have to be based in fact, and we’re all supposed to respect it. 

No.

I’m not even sure I agree with the right of everyone to have an opinion. If I know nothing about something, I’m doing myself and the rest of the world a favor by keeping my mouth shut about it.

If only this standard could be applied to voting. You have to pass a series of tests to get a driver’s license; why not to vote? Maybe we should have to pass a basic civics test and demonstrate our ability to recognize fact from opinion, and truth from fantasy. I recently saw a post on facebook where someone was expressing gratitude that the Republicans were on the verge of repealing Obamacare, which was, according to this person, an “absolute disaster,” and boy was he relieved that he had his insurance through the Affordable Care Act instead!!!

And while we’re at it, how about we remove the gratuitous blessing of America, and the platitudes that don’t mean anything.

Make America Great Again

Wha?

Was there something wrong with 20 million people having health care, 4.+ a little unemployment, and the fact that people could commit legally to each other no matter what their gender? Or maybe it’s the debacle of having women in control of their own bodies and reproductive choices.

Let’s all go back to the 50s? The Dark Ages? When men were men and women were women and racial minorities knew their place.

Ugh.

So here’s the thing. I’m actually curious if someone who voted for Trump could explain, in a rational and objective way, why. If you comment and say something like “He’ll make America great again.” Or “Cuz Hillary’s a liar” I’m just going to delete it. I need to understand IF there is anyone out there who thought about this rationally WHY they would choose to vote for this person.

Discuss.

03
Jan
17

Adventures

Husband, Only Daughter and I will go to Brazil for four months, leaving March 2.

I have started a new blog: https:120diasaosuldasfronteiras.wordpress.com, (120 days south of the borders), to chronicle our adventures.

I expect to continue posting here, as well, but my focus may shift a bit as I attempt to chronicle our travels, my teaching (and learning), our explorations of South American cuisine, etc. etc.

Any recommendations re: places to visit, foods to eat (or avoid), etc. would be extremely welcome!

19
Nov
16

What he said

He’s right. We as a country are trying to do something that might go against our tribal natures. And I see so much evidence of people standing together and trying to do it better. Like the adage says — if you’re going through hell, keep going. Let’s do this, together, and come out that much better on the other end.

19
Nov
16

Just keeping our options open

jobposting

 

17
Nov
16

Didn’t know this was possible.

© 2016 United Parcel Service of America, Inc. UPS, the UPS brandmark, and the color brown are trademarks of United Parcel Service of America, Inc. All rights reserved.

12
Nov
16

Is that ironic?


Except obviously not for the person writing the job postings…

11
Nov
16

Now what?

Many of us are horrified by the news of the racist attacks and brutality being visited now on people of color, gays, immigrants. What has the election of this man unleashed? We saw the videos of his rallies, and were appalled and frightened by the no-longer-latent racism, cruelty, hatred, that we heard coming out of the mouths of our fellow Americans. Donald Trump’s petulance, xenophobia, misogyny, racism, has given people permission to say things we have spent the last 50? 100? Years telling them they can’t say. And people who haven’t learned the lessons of civility, history — that there are, in fact, things that should never be said in civilized society, that there is no actual difference between you and any other person based on the color of their skin, that the world is actually safer when we work together (Alliances, people! Every good board game knows this, why don’t we?) — want to drag us back to some good old day where men were strong and women were good looking (and if not were dismissed as being unworthy of sexual harassment, #nowthereisagift #IhopeIama7) and knew their place and kept their mouths shut, and everybody they knew looked like everybody else. 

Hatreds and bigotries and horrible acts are being perpetrated, now, many like we haven’t seen in a long time. It is my hope that these are the death throes of a dying culture. We’ve spent the last eight years building — gay rights, protesting brutality against unarmed blacks, providing insurance for people who need it — and we can still fight against tearing it down. We must. People may feel they have permission to behave like animals, but they don’t. We can’t allow it. We must stand together, make sure our fellow Americans and the people in the world who are watching very closely right now, many with great fear and trepidation, that this does not represent all of us. We’re better than this. We must show it. And if we do, maybe we can actually make something good, and lasting, out of this debacle.

What to do if you see someone being harassed.

Part 2

#Warren2020



Shame on us


09
Nov
16

Random thoughts regarding the 2016 election

1. The results of this election do not reflect the feelings and opinions of everyone in this country. The majority of the people who voted, voted not for Trump. Many of those would have voted for Bernie, and I believe some who voted for Trump would have voted for Bernie given the chance. The fact remains that the majority of eligible voters in this country did not vote, and for that they should be deeply ashamed. The government can only speak for you if you speak first.

2. Hillary let us down. She failed to tap into the anger, worry, and frustration of many, and she failed to counter adequately Donald’s messages of fear, hate, and prejudice. We can blame some of that on an unwillingness or inability of some to listen, discern, parse an argument, or investigate the basis for the things they were being told or for what they believe to be true. But the fact remains that there were things she could have, should have, said, and she didn’t. I imagine Bill, Huma, might be contemplating with great regret how their own personal circumstances and mistakes might have contributed to this. I feel great sadness for them, too.

3. Both parties let us down. Everybody underestimated Trump, and none of the people who could have done more to listen and react did enough of either; or if they tried, they tried too late. People say we get the government we deserve. While I might feel this is a government I personally don’t deserve, nor anyone who voted otherwise, the fact remains that not enough people voted, too many people voted against their own interests, and the DNC made a call that we will all live to regret. Hopefully everyone learns from their mistakes and we do better next time. If only millennials had voted, we would be facing a different result today. Let’s support them in their belief in unity, fairness, decency, human rights, and religious and gender equality.

4. It’s not over until it’s over. And by this I don’t hold to some delusion that they will finally finish counting Michigan and she will win. But that Roe v. Wade is law, gay marriage is law, millions of people have had health insurance who didn’t have it before and will hopefully demand that they don’t lose it now, and there are still things that can be done to help preserve the important steps this country has taken over the past few years. Many claim that it was time for a “change” vote, even people who are interviewed and claim that things are actually going fine for them, but they think it’s time to shake things up. While this might not make a lot of sense, the tendency for “change” votes is well documented, and again, she could have made an argument about what she WOULD change — truly addressing people’s fear of economic or political disenfranchisement, for example. People want passion, conviction, something to believe in; she relied on rational arguments, and some people just don’t work that way. We might not like it, but it’s true. But we can do community service, donate to Planned Parenthood and climate science, strive for clean energy and efficient use of our own resources, and become voices for the voiceless. Of course, all of this assumes that Trump doesn’t abandon NATO and Europe to the Russians or launch us into WW3.

5. Finally, we are still, always, stronger together. Let’s find ways to embrace those who feel left out, or afraid. Let’s make sure everyone knows that this does not necessarily represent us. And let’s find ways to make it better.

26
Oct
16

The being of nothingness

In an interesting coincidence, given what I just wrote about last night, I just ran across this in the NYTimes article about Bob Dylan’s silence since having been awarded the Nobel prize:

‘Bad faith, Sartre explains in “Being and Nothingness,” is the opposite of authenticity. Bad faith becomes possible because a human being cannot simply be what he or she is, in the way that an inkwell simply is an inkwell. Rather, because we are free, we must “make ourselves what we are.” In a famous passage, Sartre uses as an example a cafe waiter who performs every part of his job a little too correctly, eagerly, unctuously. He is a waiter playing the role of waiter. But this “being what one is not” is an abdication of freedom; it involves turning oneself into an object, a role, meant for other people. To remain free, to act in good faith, is to remain the undefined, free, protean creatures we actually are, even if this is an anxious way to live.’

And am realizing that all most of us really want is to live (and be loved, respected) exactly as we are. Sure, we could get all “but let’s help make people better people,” but, actually, unless they’re your not-fully-grown children, it’s really about learning how to live with each other, not about trying to conform them into being what you think they should be.

We all just want to live authentically, and maybe, when we don’t, is when we start hurting people, or ourselves.

25
Oct
16

Letting go of s#!t is hard

Have spent a large chunk of time over the past few days cleaning up piles and papers and organizing desks and drawers and cupboards, etc.

Finding myself also in need of shedding the burden of some observations I’ve been carrying around for awhile. Feel free to forward this on to anyone for whom one or more of them seems to speak to directly. I may do the same.

A new category: You Might Not Know This, but…

For example: 

  • You might not know this, but the reason some people don’t say “hello” in a loud and cheerful voice every time they walk into the office is because a secretary in a previous office may have sent everyone an email once, pointing out how busy she is, and how distracting it was for her to have to stop work and exchange greetings with every person who walks in, and could everyone please limit their casual conversations with others perhaps to a different area of the building; so maybe they’re just trying to be considerate.
  • You might not know this, but the day you said “Hell-O” in a very pointed way, I had already said hello, very quietly, so as not to interrupt people at their work.
  • You might not know this, but misspelling or omitting names of participants in programs or brochures or during the official “thank-yous” might make them feel their contribution is insignificant, or cause them to wonder why they work so hard to be so professional and conscientious all the time when so much of what they do will be attributed to someone else, or to no one at all.
  • You might not know this, but I had decided not to charge you for the recital we performed together, but when you sent me a copy of the publicity with your name in size 36 font and your 5×7 picture and your bio and made no mention of a pianist, no less no mention of me, I realized that you did not see us as collaborators and equal contributors, but rather that you were the soloist and I was the hired help, so charging seemed like the logical thing to do.
  • You might not know this, but forbidding an active, full investment from someone with whom you are “collaborating” (in scare quotes, since, if you’re not encouraging an active, full investment, it’s not actually a collaboration at all, is it?) will not only make them feel small, but will prevent you from learning anything from them, and may actually interfere with your own goals, as chances are they have ideas worth at least considering.
  • You might not know this, but in rehearsal, when a collaborator says “we’re not together” it might mean that you actually miscounted and came in wrong, and maybe they were being polite, and considerate of your feelings. And, in case this is not obvious, firing them on facebook is kind of a shitty thing to do. 
  • You might not know this, but the look on my face at that meeting was not impatience or animosity toward you for holding the meeting, but sheer embarrassment on your behalf that other people’s actions had made the meeting necessary.
  • You might not know this, but some people may not insert themselves into conversations or invite themselves along to social gatherings because they were taught not to intrude on others’ conversations, or to invite themselves, and does not necessarily imply a lack of desire for personal interaction or connection; and it may even be possible that your lack of welcome and inclusion had as much to do with a lack of connection as anything else you might want to blame.
  • You might not know this, but it’s not appropriate to pay someone half a salary, or hire them to work 15 hours a week, and expect them to make a 100% commitment. You wouldn’t do it, I can’t for the life of me why you would expect someone else to.
  • You might not know this, but people may not agree with how you choose to do your job, share your ideas (or not), gossip, post on facebook, manage your relationships, or even how to be. But realize that, as they show you respect in allowing you to make those choices for yourself, they probably long for the same respect to be shown in return.
  • You might not know this, but allowing the person who was hired to do the job actually do the job might actually lead to more consistent and professional results than if you encourage your spouse, who has no training or expertise in the area, to express opinions and influence on how the job should be done. Likewise if you replace “spouse” with “person who writes the huge checks every year as a donation to save the organization when yet again the deficit budget fails to miraculously convert itself into a surplus.”
  • You might not know this, but calling to yell at someone about a blog post you hadn’t even read hurts the writer’s feelings tremendously, maybe even more so if the writer was advocating for someone close to you. These feelings may continue to reverberate, including creating a hesitancy to write anything at all, and a lack of trust in your fundamental relationship, which is regrettable for all concerned.
  • You might not know this, but people who feel deeply and are always striving to improve are not necessarily pessimistic, but may in fact be exceedingly optimistic, but find their optimism harder and harder to act on, given the responses this optimism has met in the past. 

I think everyone should read Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly” (New Yorker, June 14 & 21, 2010) and pick which sentence best describes them. I used to think it was “You were too injured by things that happened in the distant past for anything to be effortless in the present” but now I think it’s “I was never indifferent to the children of strangers, just frustrated by my own unrelenting optimism.” 

Tomorrow: the linen closet.
P.s. An opportunity for catharsis for you, dear readers, in the comments section: You might not know this, but…

Or maybe a sub-sub-category for parents: …the dishes don’t put themselves away, …the cupboards don’t wipe themselves, …lights don’t turn themselves off, …sometimes it’s nice to do something just because you know it needs to be done not because somebody asked you, …it’s more polite to ask if there’s anything you can do to help with dinner than to ask what is for dinner, or what time it will be served, …the laundry is not actually done by the laundry fairy, …

21
Oct
16

Human rights are human rights, not American ones

Can’t help but wonder how much credibility America might gain around the world if we extended what we consider basic human rights to everyone, not just Americans.

And held the people responsible for these atrocities accountable.

And while we’re at it, let’s end the self-aggrandizing habit of ending every political speech with “God bless America.” How about the Tiny Tim version: “God bless us every one.” Or, even better, let’s leave God out of it. Are we, or are we not, a secular society? Or maybe I should rephrase the question: Aren’t we supposed to be a secular society?

29
Aug
16

Still in the dark ages

Bikinis, Burkhinis, etc.

Just can’t figure out why it’s such a concern what women wear.

09
Aug
16

Random Thoughts

Yes, I’m still here.

Waiting till I have something to say I guess.

And now just these:

This world is not a meritocracy. It sucks, but it’s true. Discuss.

There might be something to be said about an unforeseen problem brought on by showing your children unconditional love, as in no one feels compelled to clean the house before your return after a long absence. Creating the psychological need to “earn” love might be underrated after all.

One can definitely gauge one’s fed-up-ness with the world, that is, the state of politics and the American citizenry’s unwillingnessifnotinability to actually Face the Truth, by one’s propensity to take “Cook’s Illustrated” to bed rather than the New Yorker.

Alas.

 

 

 

08
Mar
16

while we were “sleeping”

These things are happening:

First, we preach the moral high ground, but only apply our civil rights to ourselves. Isn’t part of the argument that civil rights are human rights, and should be applied to everyone?

And then we have a lot of people making a lot of money running our military “business” — and actually contributing to the people who are trying (and often succeeding) to kill our members of the military.

Meanwhile, politicians candidates the children representing the Republican party debate the relative sizes of their peni (?) while the world melts.

I could go on, but it’s too depressing.

Wake up!

01
Mar
16

somebody save us from ourselves

Will this help?

25
Jan
16

Putting things into perspective

At 3:40 in the morning on Tuesday, January 19, I was awoken by my husband calling to me from the floor. As I sat up and leaned over to respond, he got to his hands and knees and crawled over to the bed and put his head on the mattress, but seemed to be completely unable to come any further.

As he kept saying “I need to tell Sheri” (I’m Sheri) “that I fell on the floor,” over and over again, I worried that he had had a stroke.

Repeated attempts to get him to come up on to the bed failed, so I went out into the hall and called to some friends who had come in from out of town the night before to see if they could come help me. We managed to get him up on the bed, and he was able to look at me and talk and squeeze both of my hands, so I thought maybe it wasn’t a stroke after all. Then he told me that he needed to tell Sheri that he had had chest pains and while trying to take his pulse he had apparently fainted. There was blood on his lip and a split in the skin over his eyebrow, so it seemed clear that he had hit the floor pretty hard.

I called 911, gave him an aspirin per instructions, unlocked the door and turned on the porch light, and went back to sit with him and wait for the EMTs, during which time I made repeated calls (unanswered) to his cardiologist who is also a good friend.

Four people arrived — first, two firemen, who asked him some questions, had him smile and stick out his tongue (no stroke); then two EMTs with an ambulance who took a pulse, and ran a quick EKG which showed a mild arrhythmia but not enough to “require” a trip to the ER, although the EMT recommended it.

Our friends and I thought that would be a good idea, and he agreed, which kind of convinced me this was pretty serious, as he would generally resist such an idea, so off he went in the ambulance, and I followed with one of the friends in our car. The other stayed home with Second Son, StepSon, and Only Daughter.

We spent almost 6 hours in the ER while they monitored his heart rate, and took periodic blood tests for Troponin (sp?), the enzyme thrown off by the heart if there is a heart attack (all negative). He was then sent to the cardiac observation unit, so that they could do one more Troponin test and monitor things for the day.

He was allowed to move around, so we walked up and down the halls for a while, him walking his IV pole. His manner of speaking still seemed different from usual — not as different as in the first few minutes, when he didn’t seem to realize to whom he was talking, but still different — more monotone, at a slightly higher pitch. We observed people of many ages in beds, a young man in what seemed to be a 50% body cast walking (?) down the hall with crutches and family flanking him on all sides. We nodded to the resident who had come and asked him some questions already, heard rumors of the cardiologist’s impending arrival.

Six hours later (now 4:30 p.m.) the attending cardiologist, the resident, two students and nurse appeared in his room, where the doctor reported many lengthy conversations with Husband’s cardiologist friend and between the doctors at the (very excellent) hospital.

Many theories presented themselves, none with clearly obvious affirmative answers. Husband had an abnormal stress test in the fall, but only at the highest pulse rate they were willing to push him to. Perhaps a plaque had broken loose and blocked an artery, but there were no indications of heart attack and he had no physical symptoms of blockage — his pulse was good, his color was good, he wasn’t short of breath, the pain had been in his chest only, not radiating to chin, arms, shoulders, etc. Perhaps the pain had caused a vaso-vagal response, but there had been no moments of dizziness or nausea — he was conscious taking his pulse, then he was coming to on the floor. The attending’s theory was that there had been an arrhythmia, which might have caused fainting. The arrhythmia might be caused by some partial blockages, and the only way to know that for sure was to go to heart catheterization, so that was where we were going. Now.

So we went.

Thirty minutes later he’s in the cath lab, shaved and mildly sedated, and I’m in the waiting room.

For two hours.

And for one of them basically alone, as the routine procedures were over for the day, so the status board was shut off, then the woman at the desk went home. So I sat. And knitted. And texted people back who were checking in. And tried to decide if I had time to go get something to eat (had four bites of breakfast 8 hours earlier or so). And waited.

Granted, midway I did get a report from the nurse that they had placed one stent and were “trying” (?!?) to place another.

Finally he was on his way back. I went back into the pre-procedure room and waited; I could hear him talking to the nurse as they came down the hall, and he actually sounded much more like himself. When he saw me, though, there were a few tears in his eyes, and he reported on the surreal nature of undergoing a procedure on your heart while you can hear them talking about what they’re doing and what they’re going to do next and shouting orders to assistants and you can feel twinges deep within your chest as they run wires and place stents. Four were placed — one in one artery that had a 90% occlusion; three in a very complicated and zig-zaggy artery that had an 80% occlusion. There were pictures, of the before-and-after persuasion, which were fascinating; and a third artery with 70% occlusion that they left as is — he had already been in the procedure for two hours, and many doctors don’t seem to feel that stenting a 70% occlusion is a good idea.

Of course he was then admitted. As the procedure requires them to employ blood thinners, the cuts on his lip and eyebrow reopened and bled, and bled, and bled; the small contusion on his eyebrow swelled to golf-ball size proportions, and the lovely purple eye-shadow on his upper lid became a full-blown black eye. I sat by his bedside and dabbed blood from his lip for hours, and he tried valiantly to keep an ice pack on his very painfully swollen brow.

We slept, eventually, I on a marginally comfortable couch-like structure that “opens” up into a “bed.” By 6:45 a.m. the room was full of nurses changing over their shifts, and then the cardiologist and a couple different students appeared, with news that he would need a stress test, and if he “failed” they would have to go in and stent the one vessel they didn’t get to and if he passed he could go home.

And then the stress test was delayed until the next day because he had already taken his meds.

And then, a few hours later, the stress test was reinstated, because the meds don’t matter, but what? He’s eaten some of his lunch? Stop eating! Fine, a few bites don’t matter.

Stress test, wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait you can go home.

No, we don’t have results, but we have discharge orders.

So he’s home.

And then nobody sleeps. You think sleeping in a hospital is hard, but then you go home and realize that now nobody’s monitoring your heart, and there aren’t nurses a call-button away — just your wife, who slept through the whole thing in the first place until you called for her from the floor.

Not very reassuring.

And now for the point of this whole post.

Some questions.

Why do we get to live where access to this kind of medical care is available to us, just minutes from our house?

What happens to people who don’t live in such an area?

We were in the emergency room for 6 hours, and he was being treated the entire time. The friend who had come with me is from New York city, and pointed out that in NY we might not even have been seen yet.

He had state-of-the art care, within minutes of when it was needed. He needed a heart cath — there’s a doctor there ready to do the procedure within minutes. He needs a stress test, the woman with the wheel chair was in his room before I could even text his family. He needs blood thinners and a lifetime of anti-coagulants that cost $387 a month and will cost us $20 with our prescription insurance and THEY DID THIS PROCEDURE THROUGH HIS WRIST WITHOUT ANESTHESIA — he won’t even have a scar.

How can we maintain our normal work loads to continue to meet our financial obligations without losing sight of the fact that nobody gets out of this alive? That time is our most precious commodity and every single one of us might have a hell of a lot less of it than we think? That yes, life is full of frustrations and disappointments but joy and meaning and relationships are priceless so that we can should must try to overlook/let go of the former and treasure the latter?

Our friends were visiting at what might have been a most inopportune time — in the middle of a work week, while Husband suffers a cardiac “event.” But a snowstorm on the east coast meant that they were “stranded” here for a couple of days at the end of the visit as well, and we enjoyed delicious meals and great bottles of wine together, and laughed so hard last night that our stomachs hurt.

Yesterday I took our friends to a garden center with indoor greenhouses and sculptures and art installations. We walked around and took pictures of tulips and daffodils and cacti, with steamed-up windows and snow visible through them in an interesting seasonal juxtaposition. I watched a half-frozen waterfall through a window that flows to a Japanese garden and studied pieces by Rodin and Degas and Calder. I felt as I do when listening to Mozart — happiness and sadness at exactly the same time.

It all goes so much faster than most of us expect, maybe even than we would want. (I always say that the only way to slow time down is to just be really bored all the time; remember how long Sundays were when you were a child?)

We still don’t even know if the treatment resolved the cause of the problem. We might not ever know. So we live now with a lot of gratitude, and a little more apprehension, a little more care, a little more joy.

IMG_3499 IMG_3501 IMG_3504 IMG_3509 IMG_3511 IMG_3512 IMG_3513 IMG_3514 IMG_3515 IMG_3517 IMG_3518 IMG_3519 IMG_3520 IMG_3521 IMG_3523

 

Sorry the pictures aren’t better – I took them with my phone. Loved the colors though.

 

10
Nov
15

letter to Only Daughter’s teacher

Hello,

I would like to start by introducing myself. I’m “Only Daughter’s” mom, and regret that I am unable to come to conferences for the 27 1/2 minutes each semester they are offered, as those minutes fall during the hours of my job. Please don’t cause that to make you think I don’t care about my child or about her education. Exactly the opposite, in fact.

I would like also to thank you for your hard work with Only Daughter in learning her parts of speech. Despite the fact that these are, apparently, the same grammar lessons she had last year, she reports that you are “not as bad of a teacher” as the one she had last year, so I suppose that the review is worthwhile.

I can’t help but wonder whether your lessons on grammar and effective writing might not be better taught using samples of beautiful writing from actual literature, but I’m “just” a layperson who has only read something like 500 books, so I probably don’t actually know what I’m talking about, so will defer to your expertise.

I was wondering, though, whether you were under some kind of misapprehension that led you to believe that I, too, was enrolled in your freshman English class, as I keep getting emails updating me about the class content, homework assignments, online reviews, and upcoming quizzes.

See, the thing is, I’m actually done with high school. In fact, I graduated in 1982. (I’m going to guess, given your teaching style, this was many years before you were even born.) And from college in 1986, masters in 1988, and a doctorate in 2005. Now granted, none of those degrees required that I knew the difference between a linking verb and a helping verb, but nonetheless, I am no longer a student.

My daughter, on the other hand, is. And while I recognize the importance of a parent encouraging and supporting their child, including making sure that their day is well structured, they have adequate sleep and healthful meals, I don’t believe that it is the parent’s responsibility to be checking that every single bit of homework is done. See, I believe that is the child’s responsibility. And the sooner we let the CHILD know that, the better off everyone would be. That includes them, you, me, their future boss(es), their future spouse(s), their child(ren), etc. etc.

They have a job to do, and that is to be a student. You have a job to do, which is to teach them, and to stimulate and engage them enough that they want to do the work and do it as well as possible. And I have a job to do, which IS NOT TO DO THE WORK FOR THEM.

See, this is how it goes. Only Daughter gets home from school. I ask her how her day was, listen, give her a hug, watch her get her snack, ask her if she has homework, if she says yes, ask her when she plans to do it, ask her if she needs me to take her phone for a while to help her keep from getting distracted, and then I sit at my desk and do MY WORK while she goes and does HERS. And if she doesn’t do her work, she doesn’t get a good grade, and then she realizes that it might affect her dream of getting into medical school some day, and the next time it comes around she tries harder. AND I DIDN’T REALLY HAVE TO DO ANYTHING. It’s a beautiful system. And from what I read from the latest in child development research, probably the best one out there.

I’m actually surprised you haven’t read it.

Let me help.

Click here

And here.

And here.

I could go on. But I won’t.

The thing is, you’re the “expert” in this field — shouldn’t you have read them already?

Maybe you were too busy sending parents emails about the next review: Indefinite Pronouns!

Blergh.

06
Nov
15

More better feminism

Give us a twirl.

Duh.

Clearly you have issues.

 

03
Nov
15

brilliant

This.

And not just because it’s in the title.

02
Nov
15

oh, THAT’s what I’m doing

better pay

Getting them jobs.

I thought I was teaching them stuff.

 

26
Oct
15

today’s feminist non-rant, aka on my Facebook feed today

This:

indiangirls

(click on the picture to read the article)

Then this:

gsteinem

(“…If you add up, in terms of the numbers of people, I would say that competing for [the] No. 1 [concern] would be violence against females worldwide. If you add up all the forms of violence, whether it’s domestic violence in this country, which is at an enormously high rate — I mean, the most dangerous place for a woman in this country is her own home, and she’s most likely to be beaten or killed by a man she knows — or it is FGM, female genital mutilation, or it is female infanticide, or honor killings or child marriage. … “)

and this:

iceland

Too bad that only the last one was from 40 years ago.

And somewhere else.

 

15
Oct
15

what’s wrong with this picture?

Ann Taylor Loft

Marisa fit — for women who are shaped like women

“Perfect fit if hips are proportionate to your waist.”

Sigh.

atloft%22skinny%22pants

I can’t even look at them. It hurts my eyes.




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